Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Ultimate commuter? Quite nary but close

When my wife and I agreed to drop one of our cars we knew I needed reliable transportation.  At the time we only had my 1988 Trek 800 that I had converted into a dropbar mountain bike and then hodge-podged a bunch of pieces together on it.  I affectionately called it The Dirty Gertie:

There's Gertie in all her Century riding glory!

There is an up close of her better side
While Gertie was a fun bike and a great learning experience in bike repair, and the black hole that a bike can become for the dollars and time, I realized she was inadequate for what I needed.  To get her into fighting shape for the winter she needed a complete overhaul of her drive line, and what it cost was more than I wanted to spend.  So off to Village Cycle Center to talk about commuter bikes, and off she went to greener pastures and newer butt cheeks.  

I like to think of myself as an educated consumer, however I sometimes wonder if I am annoying to a sales person.  I hope not!

I really like Trek bikes, whether vintage or brand new, and I knew I wanted a 26" mountain bike because I already had 26" studded tires for the winter.  Plus 26" bikes were waaayyy cheaper than the 29er and Fat Tire siblings.  And the 650b bikes....what the crap is that about anyway?  Whatever.  I poked around Treks website and found their 3500 series bikes came with a high (numerical) range of front chain rings which made more sense because I was commuting and not climbing mountains on the bike.  I also wanted disc brakes, which they came with a basic mechanical set; empowered with this info (or armed if you are in bike sales) I went to VCC and started asking questions.

What I found online is the 3700 series and the 3500, but the 3500 was cheaper and the gearing just made sense, in fact I mentioned this to the salesman and he pulled 2 bikes to verify.  We both learned something that day; he learned the 3500 is geared for flatlanders, and I learned that I am glad I read before walking in.

Because when in doubt shouting "I'm ridin heeryah" is better.
I REALLY liked the 2014 3500 because of the coloring.  It is a screaming green with orange and black accents.  I figured I already like to border on the obnoxious so why not go all the way.  However they didn't have my size and weren't getting them in, so I dropped back one year to the 2013 3500 Disc.  I got fitted and took a 19.5" frame.  Looking back I should have gotten a 21.5" since I fit over the frame, now the seat height on my 19.5" is all but maxed out.  However it is still comfortable despite the smaller frame, and if I ever took it out on a dirt trail I'd have frame I won't bottom my nuts out on.  (silent shudders abound)

Sexy matte paint and stickers
Being my first disc brake bike I was interested in seeing the differences between rim and disc brakes.  To say it is night and day would be a lie, there are some differences but honestly I am not comparing apples to apples.  My Trek 1.5 has the Tiagra levers and a nicer caliper for the rim brakes, whereas the 3500 has a bottom shelf mech-disc brake setup that works but I couldn't honestly compare to the better brakes.  While it does stop the same despite any external (read: weather) circumstances and influences, they are lacking in the all out power.  I can lock the brakes up, they are relatively quiet, and the are responsive.  Perhaps I wasn't ready for the level or modulation on the brake levers but I cannot complain, just sometimes feels like I pull more to stop.

The paint is by far my favorite aspect of the bike.  I really like the matte black, green and white.  I really feel Trek does wonders with their color schemes, even for the low end bikes.  I could honestly see myself keeping the frame and outfitting it down the road with all new components.

"Ronto" in all his commuter glory.  And yes the taillight is turned, because 2 year old that's why.
I have named the bike Ronto, yes after the Jawa's transport animals in Star Wars....again geeking out into the Force.  But he is a tough bike that will roughshod over any terrain, at least those scary curbs in Chicago.  The shifting is done with the Shimano SIS Tourney line and is relatively responsive.  I ride this everyday, Monday thru Friday, in all weather conditions.  And with the winter onset in Chicago as I type this, this will become my main transportation when our car is unavailable....which is like always.  But the shifters and derailleurs keep right on clicking, needing minor adjustment at times but nothing noteworthy.

The front suspension fork is a nice perk most of the time, however it is chincy but works for a street ridden transport-use bike.  I have ridden on some minor dirt trails, but I don't see the fork handling too much.  I have thought about going to a solid fork but for now I'll ride with it, after all I do have the Trek Care Plus coverage on it.  The only thing I don't like about the fork is it is a spring loaded fork so it tops out easily, even when "crawling" down a curb or bump.  Also under a hard kick off pedal I have found myself hanging a front wheel because it will kick so hard.  I know I could lessen the pre-load in the spring, and I have, but I am by no means a small man, so less preload means my nose is sagging.  Literally.

Up close and personal with the treads.
The saddle is comfortable, especially since I sit up straighter than my roadie, the X1.  The grips and bar layout is nice, and there is some slight adjust-ability to the shifter positions, but I haven't felt the need to mess with that.  The brake levers COULD be slightly longer, but they reach far enough I can easily get 2-3 fingers on them, or rest one all the time.  The ride is nice due to the 2" tires, and the tread holds it's own unless it is really loose dirt or wet, then you can find yourself spinning the rear wheel or power sliding.  The gearing in the cassette and chain ring is excellent in my opinion, I always have a gear whether drafting a truck and needing some top end, or riding directly into a frigid wall of air pushing back at me.  Dang you wind!!

Like I stated above, the only aspect I don't like is the tires.  The Bontrager LT3s are great for dry pavement, hard pack, and non-wet grass.  However if you throw water under them and you aren't going straight you better be prepared for some sliding.  I have found myself on a specific turn at the bottom of a short, but steep, hill sliding when it is wet out.  Also around turns when I haven't slowed and need to lean the bike.  It is almost as if the tread ends and I am riding on the sidewall.  The tires, at least the rear one, seems to like to eat sharp objects despite my best avoidance.  I have found a small steel wire in the tire and a tiny piece of maybe I just need to ride over bigger pieces?

I have thrown on a top tube bag, run a Cygolite taillight, a Magicshine 808E and Cygolite Metro 360 front light, and Planet Bike's SpeedEZ ATB fenders.  The biggest issue in outfit the bike was finding fenders that fit, and that a rack won't either, but that's for another post.

Overall I am very satisfied with my purchase, more so that Trek has their Trek Care Plus which basically means I am covered for 3 years on anything going wrong with the bike, anywhere there is a Trek dealer.  That's great because there might be some moving about the country in the near future and I am not about to drive back to Chicago to get the bike fixed.

North Branch Trail - Cook County Forest Preserve

Like many on the NW side of Chicago, I use the North Branch Trail, or NBT for short.  It allows a rider limited road crossings, a few bridges to march up, nice scenery and (usually) friendly path users.  I grew up riding from the Caldwell and Devon entrance to the Oakton bridge with friends.  As kids we thought going to Oakton was really far, now I am barely warmed up!

The trail has always been well maintained, and the CCFPD responds to requests for repairs when you call in.  Obviously this being a well used trail means the FPD wants to keep people coming back so they can prove the need for tax revenue.  I haven't ran into any problems other than a few times people will use the trail to cut around traffic....

According to the FPD police these gents are "regulars"

But there are plenty of places to stop and snag a photo that isn't someone being an unsafe imbecile.

Even on crappy, floody, fall days it is still pretty.

One thing to be aware of as a cyclist is the plethora of runners early mornings.  A friendly "on your left" and a "thank you" seems to go a really long way.  Like REALLY long way.  I can't say I have ever had an issue because of that; I have seen other riders go flying past silently without so much as a grunt and scare a runner.  That, in my opinion, is rude and dangerous.  I don't understand the mindset of why saying something is too hard for some, but I can't police the world.  At least not yet....

The other danger is the wildlife.  Many a time I have unexpectedly come upon a deer in the middle of the trail.  Now if you haven't hit a deer before on a bicycle just ride into a short wall.  Go on I'll wait...

A deer will launch you over it's back, glance at you, and walk away with no frogs given.  (See that, keeping my swear surrogates relative!)  I haven't been tossed yet, but I have run into a deer, they are solid beasts, and where there is one there is usually more.  Also the raccoons and their fellow critters are small, but they are darty little buggers that will head for a tire.  That means you have to be aware, especially in the evening times when they are out foraging for food.  I try to remind myself that I am in their house, and I don't want to cream one because cleaning guts off my bike isn't something I am excited about.

Riding later, like the afternoon and early evening, will also mean you are faced with the human critters.  Kids, and many times inattentive parents, can make things troublesome.  That means you'll need to slow down, like way down, almost to a point you are doing the balancing dance as you roll.  Not that this is a big deal, but if you don't plan accordingly your Strava times will suffer.  So just make sure you roll in the early morning.

Overall the NBT trail is a great ride, for fitness or family, and for a picnic.  Just be aware we, and humans, are in someone else's house and need to treat it that way.

And a send off picture from a frosty morning commute on the NBT.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Car-free ≠ easy, but a lot less traffic

So my wife and I have been down to one car for about 5 months now, and I haven't driven myself to work in the same amount of time, and only had to be driven a few times.  We originally went to one car because our ancient Camry with a lot of miles needed more love than it was worth.  Granted my background is in automotive repair, but when it came down to where we were at with my wife being pregnant with our second due at any time, the cost it would have been in a shop, chasing around and ordering parts, and then actually doing the work on a car that was needing another $500 in tires and a windshield.....we decided it was best to sell that car.  So after 180,000 miles we put on it, away he went.

We will miss you Gideon and you'll always have a place in out hearts.....
just no longer our wallets.

I live a little over 4 miles from work (currently, there maybe job changes in the near future), most of my commute is on industrial back roads or a MUP (multi-use path) through a local forest preserve.  The rest is on a well ridden city main street with a marked bike lane, and a split residential and commercial street.  In reality I have more to worry about from wildlife and pot holes then my former fellow "ragin' cagers".  (Side note:  I use that title in jest, simply because I was one at one point)

My trip takes about 18 minutes on average, and I do stop for the lights and stop signs.  If I were to blow either of them I would probably be to work in about 2-3 minutes quicker, really not worth it to me to garner resentment and carry the stigma of a "typical scofflaw cyclist".  I still will filter to the front of most traffic stacks, so I still enjoy that perk.  When I drove my morning drive was anywhere from 15-30 minutes dependent upon NOTHING LOGICAL.  Seriously, it could be dry and sunny, pouring rain, or some mixture of water falling from the heavens and traffic would not be dependent upon that.  An example would be this morning, traffic was backed up about 3/4 of a mile for no logical reason....although I ride right past at about 20 mph, snickering but feeling the former pain.

OK so I fibbed....19.9 mph.  However science has proved that is still faster than "Traffic".

My ride fro the same time as to, but before would take 20 to over an hour.  The hour plus commutes usually came when this rare form of white matter would fall from the skies.  No one could predict it, even though it came EVERY YEAR, we were always surprised (Christmas colors on purpose).  This matter had an effect on anyone who sat behind a wheel operating a vehicle in the form of complete forgetfulness of how to operate said vehicle.  The safest thing was to only let the vehicle idle along at speeds approaching negative.  Granted I haven't ridden this season in the snow, but I'd imagine my commute might extend another 5 minutes.

What I have experienced is pretty awesome.  Mentally I am more clear, I feel happier, have more energy (on most days, I have a 2 year and 5 month old as I sleep is disruptive anyway), and I feel healthier.  Even on really wet days I only lose 1-2 minutes on my commute times mainly because I take turns slower (see the blog about my commuter Trek 3500), but that is probably more because of the tire tread than anything else.  I also look forward to riding to and fro places, and I am enjoying the challenge of riding daily and working out extra (I run and do HIIT).

However it isn't always easier, traveling when going further distances requires more planning.  I have had to ride almost 30 miles for an event very early morning over the summer.  Most of the time it is pretty straight forward, but sometimes travel takes me places I have never been before, i.e. I am looking at my phone or waiting for GPS to catch up to me so I can find myself for that 30 mile trip mentioned just prior.

Although cycling does help one find themselves in an existential kind of way....but that's best for another time.

I now stand here on the edge of everything I've wanted, and I'll find myself....
in wet shoes and a soaked diaper.

The other issue comes in when I have to be somewhere, my wife needs to car to shuttle the boys to things, or there is a time constraint.  Chicago has a great public transportation system, when running on time.  I don't mind taking it since I did a lot as a kid and got around pretty efficiently, so as an adult (term applied loosely) I don't mind it.  I do have more heebie-geebies about locking my bike up than I do about taking the train anywhere, because Chicago.

However we make do; recently our youngest had to go in for some surgery on his skull since he was born with some plates prematurely fused.  We made do by borrowing my parent's car for the weekend, which was a huge blessing.  I did, however, find myself hating traffic once again since I was driving into the downtown area to visit them at the hospital.  My normal auto use during the week is usually to and from church and to the grocery store with my family or my eldest.  Otherwise I don't drive, so I "forgot" about traffic and the frustration that it brings, but I surely don't miss it.

While I can find a ton of reasons we should have kept both cars, I don't regret it.  While I can say my mental energy at times has to go towards how to dress, what to bring, how to pack for a day trip, having to plan for all types of weather, and how much longer I need to build in to get somewhere, it has been a blast and I am very excited for the winter.  I know Chicago is known (at least in Chicago....shut up Alaska) for bad winters, I am very excited to be that nutty cyclist rolling on by.  The only goal is to stay upright and continue on safely.

Oh, and do so sans traffic.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

XX2i France 2 polarized sunglasses

I am a big proponent of wearing eye protection when needed, that includes riding.  The few times I have ridden without something over my eyes I always seem to end up with something I don't want in them!  I have been wearing either glasses or contacts since I was 10 years old, so I am accustom to something sitting on my face and in front of my eyes.  I also know some people HATE things on their face, so your choice.

I also am light sensitive; meaning I always seem to be squinting in daylight.  If you have ever been on a long road trip, driven or ridden into the rising or setting sun, or just been outside for an extended period of time on a sunny day you know the tension headaches you can get from squinting the whole time.  I especially despise it when squinting with a headache in Chicago traffic when I do drive....still don't understand it.

I have used everything from the cheapo gas station grabs when I am on the road and left my sunglasses at home, to my Oakley Antix with the Iridium polarized lens, and everything in between.  My Oakley Antix have seen better days and the lens is pretty messed up.  There are scratches, chips, and missing the outer film.  While this doesn't destroy the lens in it's entirety, it does cause cloudy viewing.  When I looked at the cost to replace the lens I was unpleasantly surprised, usually over $100 for the Oakley brand lens, cheaper if I wanted something that may or may not work.

In steps XX2i.

I subscribed to their email list and around rolls a 50% deal on any order, so I start poking around their site.  I am all about the obnoxious so the screaming orange really appealed to me.  I also wanted polarized lenses, they had both.  I wasn't a fan of the France 1 or the USA 1, but I wasn't sure about the France 2 either.  Reason being is I "suffer" from something called cranium enormous, meaning I have a big head.  Any childhood nickname revolved around my head size, buying hats was a joke because most fitted caps don't fit unless it is an 8".  I liked my Antix because they looked normal on my head despite their larger frame, so I was worried about the France 2s looking like I was wearing a pair of Harry Potter's childhood glasses.  Thankfully that was not the case.

The color is very subdued online, but that is OK because I prefer the "SEE ME" flair to it.

The company is based in Cali and the glasses are made overseas.  When I placed my order I was very excited to be getting some glasses since at this point I couldn't wear my Oakleys unless it was super sunny out, otherwise the damaged lens screwed up my vision.  I was originally given a date of a few days to ship, which turn into a few weeks overall.  I did email them but their communication was slow and the emails were usually short and rather unfriendly reading.  They didn't give a real answer until about a week and a half of promised ship dates were missed and they asked if I'd be OK to change from the blue tinted polarized lens to the brown.  I agreed and then a few days later they shipped out.

I had it shipped to where I work so I wouldn't have to wait to get home; yes I know lame, but who doesn't love to get stuff at work!

The spread....
It showed up neatly packaged and on time for a postal delivery.  The glasses come with a soft carrying case that can be used as a rag to clean them, a sports band for those stuck in the 90s, and a "hard" case.  I put hard in quotes because while it is a plastic lined, canvas feeling case it isn't hard.  It can be squashed if you were to sit on it, for instance, and isn't hard like my case is for my Oakley Gas Cans.  It will do the job of protecting your glasses and has a zipper instead of a snap hinge like many glasses come with.

The nice thing about the case is it has slots for holding more pairs of lenses.  The France 2 allows you to swap lenses on the go, and XX2i has a myriad of different colors and styles, from lightly smoked lenses to yellow to full reflective to polarized.  I like that I don't need to have multiple pairs of glasses, I can have multiple lenses.  Huge deal if you ride all year round, I fully plan on getting some for the winter months that aren't going to be tinted but so my eyes are protected.  The case does a good job of having the room for another 2 sets of lenses, and they are inexpensive.   The replacement lens for my Antix is $130 on Oakley's site, the lenses for my France 2's run $25 and up.  Can't touch that!

As you can see, the nose piece moves and helps keep
the glasses where you want them

The camera phone still won't catch the awesomeness of
the orange color.
One of the nice features of the glasses is that you can custom fit them to your head.  Both my Antix and Gas Cans don't have anyway to adjust the nose piece or ear pieces.  You just hope they stay in place, which they usually do except if you sweat like I do.  Once I have that rolling sweat going I am in a battle to keep most sunglasses on my head.  My France 2s have adjustable, rubber coated ear pieces and nose piece.  They are easily moved to adjust height on your face, grip around the nose, as well as tightening or loosening their grip above your ears.  I have also noticed the ear pieces are narrower which means they fit around my helmet strap without any issues.  Both my Oakleys will dig into my head and cause discomfort after a while.

They also fit my head really well, so my fellow large cranium individuals, rejoice!  You won't have to spend a small fortune on sunglasses that don't accentuate your head size, only your cool factor.  They fit well and the polarization is great, on par with the more expensive Oakleys.  Not as nice as the high end Iridium lens, but it holds its own.  Better than my standard smoked lenses in my Gas Cans.

As for finish, well they don't cost $250 and that is obvious.  Some of the edges aren't perfect, the lenses are a hassle to remove and they both don't come out the same way.  Meaning one came out really easy and the other took some finagling to get out.  They don't have a hinge that will break away instead of breaking, so I'd suggest not using these in a situation where you will have a lot of physical contact.  The adjustable nose piece can get out of whack easily, so you might have to move those around from time to time.  The coloring was even all across the lens and frame, and the rubber parts were a really nice white and seem to repel getting dirty.

The cool thing about XX2i is that they offer a 1 year trial period, meaning you can return them in that time, and a lifetime replacement on the frames and lenses.  That's right, lifetime.  You break or scratch them, they replace them.  Now I have been pretty rough with these over the last few months but I haven't had any issues or scratches so I haven't put that to the test.  I will say they are a great alternative to the more expensive brands out there, especially if you are on a budget or lose sunglasses easily.  The warranty doesn't seem to have a rival, and overall they are a good buy.

My only complaint was with the time it took to get them to me.  Had they been forthcoming with the fact they were waiting on parts I'd understand.  I work in a field where we can be backed up because we are waiting for raw material, which then screws everything up!  However if that is the worst of it, they will get my business again because they made up for it in a great product.

2014 Trek 1.2 vs 2014 Trek 1.5

So if you mosey on over to Trek's website you can take a look at the specs and such on the 2014 Trek 1.2 and 1.5.  Things are apparent like the colors of the bikes as well as the difference in how the bike is equipped.  Outside of that the bikes are almost identical, except the tires.  The 1.5 has some Bontrager R1s on it, which are very nice indeed.

I originally picked up a 1.2 from Village Cycle in Chicago.  This was my first new road bike and first with the fully integrated STIs, up till now I was rolling around on some ST2300s on my converted mountain bike.  The shifting is a vast improvement over the 2300s, but I found it finicky and not really supple.  At least not as much as I would have expected it to be.  The other issue I found is the trim setting is no where near as nice on the Sora shifters as it is with the Tiagra.  The 1.2 also only has 9 speeds instead of 10; I know, doesn't sound like a big deal but the gaps are apparent when you are looking for that gear to spin in at a consistent speed.
The picture doesn't do it justice, honest.

The 1.2 I feel has better paint, at least color wise.  It was a eye popping blue and white, white bar tape, and matching black and blue rims.  The paint had some metal flake in it so it really shone in the sun and was a definitely highlight of the bike.

The seat was a little lacking and I feel too padded for a road bike seat.  I eventually swapped in a Selle Italia SLR Flow that feels really nice, there'll be something about that in the near future.  The seat is also wide, so beware my fellow narrow butt-boned peeps, you'll want to change out the seat or face saddle sores.

For comparison the Trek 800 converted, lovingly named the Shrek Antenental Contilope, mainly because I originally built the bike with parts from a Schwinn Continental and the Trek 800 Antelope.  It was slightly too small so it is up for sale and may find a new home in about a week.  Still rode the North Shore Century on this, commuted like crazy, and before I converted the bike to a drop bar I rode the single tracks at Peninsula State Park in Door County, WI.  All around great bike and I can only hope it goes to a great new owner.
What I used to roll around on.  Great ride, but a size too small

Well after about 2 weeks on the 1.2 it was ready for the 30 ride tune-up that Village Cycle offers on their bikes bought from them.  Well I logged onto their website to get their phone number and lo-and-behold they are having a sale!  On all their bikes?!  What!  Well, lets see what they have going on.  Hmmm, they have my 1.2 for over $100+ cheaper than I paid, but that 1.5 is now within my original budget....I gave them a rang.  See Village Cycle doesn't allow test rides, but they do give you 7 days to return any bike for a refund, and 30 day exchange on any bike.  So I inquired as to whether I could get store credit in the difference or the exchange for the 1.5.  Well, they said bring it in for the 1.5, and so I did.  Plus the 1.5 was $10 lower than my original price on the 1.2, they gave me $10 store credit....whaT?!  Very unexpected.

Right after one of the first rides.


There is a major difference in the shifting between the Sora and Tiagra in areas like smoothness, precision, the material used in the shifters, and the feel.  Where the Sora uses more plastic, Tiagra uses more metal and you can feel the difference in shifting response as well as braking.  The bike stops more solidly and the shifting needs little to no additional pushes to take up any slack.  Plus you are able to, though not fully, shift under some power.  With the Sora it seemed I had to all but stop pedaling, or really lightly spin, to get it to shift without skipping.

The Tiagra allows for the rider to almost use the full cassette in both the big and small rings without any chatter, thanks to the trim features on the front derailleur.  I get some very slight chatter if I cross-chain from the small to the 2nd smallest gear, and it does rattle when in the smallest rear in the small front.  The big gear allows for one trim in and you can almost run the full cassette there as well.  With the quick shifting you can move around the cassette and chain rings with ease and not miss a revolution.

The tires on the 1.5 were a big improvement, although not huge, they did grip better in turns and felt more locked to the road that that of the 1.2.  Taking turns at higher speeds, sharp maneuvers and grip when wet were improved, even though the R1s didn't have any "tread".  They have a sort of bumpy surface but not the traditional cutouts like the tires on the 1.2 had.

July 4th ride with some friends; such a glorious morning!

Overall if a 1.5 is within a price range it would be well worth it.  From what I was told Shimano will be updating its line of shifters and derailleurs in the upcoming year.  That means Dura-Ace becomes Ultegra, Ultegra 105, 105 Tiagra, and so on.  The 2014 Sora was basically Tiagra from the last update.  Could be interesting to see what the 2016 models come with.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

What's this all about? Why another blog by a cyclist?

I am sure if you are reading this you have read other blogs, some probably a lot better looking or formatted than this one.  Maybe by people who have been blogging for years or are journalists for a living.  I will tell you I have been blogging for a couple of years, since my first born can into the world in 2012, and I am far from a journalist.  If you don't believe me just wait until you see the spelling, grammar, and other errors that will pop up that I will miss.

Plus I type with a Chicago accent according to my wife, don't know what that exact means or if it is an insult or not......I'll roll with it.

Why do I want to blog about cycling?  For a few reasons.

  1. It is healthy.  I dropped over 50 lbs and kept it off because of cycling.
  2. It is good for the environment.  Now before you label me a tree hugger I still own a car, I work in the automotive racing industry, and I will eventually own another race car.
  3. It is a good financial path.  My wife and I chose to sell one of our cars that needed work.  Why?  Because we live less than 5 miles from where I work, the car needed more work than was worth it (over a grand for a 14 year old car with 200k+ on it), and we don't NEED 2 cars.
  4. It is a great stress reliever.  My family and friends notice I am much more relaxed, I don't complain about parking, and the city of Chicago meter parking doesn't apply to me.  Plus what traffic?
  5. Did I mention no traffic?
  6. I feel I bring a unique view to cycling in Chicago.  I cycle for commuting purposes but also enjoy a fast ride clad in lycra with other cyclists.  I have lived in the city since my birth, and have the viewpoint of being a cyclist AND a motorist (cager).
  7. I bring a view on being a bigger guy (6' and 220 as we type this) and know what it is like to ride with groups of the skinny-minny racers in tight clothing while I am not equipped like they are.
  8. And other reasons I am forgetting......

I plan on reviewing products, services, shops, paths, and anything else that can bring a Chicago specific and centric view to cycling.  I hope to allow for ideas to flourish in anyone who reads this blog, as well as allow for other riders to know what Chicago for some is all about.  I don't pretend to speak for everyone, nor will I speak for anyone other than myself (duh!), but I am sure many will be able to relate.