Sunday, September 25, 2011

How to love your kitty more using a Brompton

Hop on your Brompton, ride to the store and get'em some Catnip. That's how!
Actually, dried catnip is probably better for kitties than the live plant. We bought these plants to grow them near the front door of our home to keep the mosquitoes away.

Did you know that Catnip oil is much more powerful a bug repellent than Deet?

Hope you had a great weekend!

Peace :)

Cucumber Pachidi

For dinner last night and lunch today, I made several dishes. One of the new ones was Cucumber Pachidi. Pachidi is a dish of yogurt mixed with chopped up vegetables. Many times, Pachidi is garnished with mustard seeds, curry leaves and cilantro.

Recipe:
Grate 3 Persian cucumbers (any young cucumber will do).
In a large dish, mix the grated cucumbers to one or two cups of natural yogurt.
Garnish with spluttered mustard seeds, fried urad dal (white lentils), cilantro and chopped ginger.
Add salt to taste!
In addition to the Cucumber Pachidi, I prepared Spicy Red Lentils, Green Beans Paruppu Usili, Cabbage Curry, and Spinach Kootu.

Last seen on an unsuspecting plate with a pair of parathas, as shown below :)

Bon appetit' :)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Chasing the sunset

This afternoon, I took the Americano out for a 20 miler. I headed west towards the DFW airport, starting out on the back-roads of Coppell.

As the weather has cooled down considerably, I was actually wanting to ride while the sun was still out. I had ample opportunities to slow down and take photographs.

So, this post is a collection of photos of all the things I enjoyed seeing this afternoon. You may not find a lot of wordy descriptions!


Brooks Heaven 1
Brooks Heaven 2
"Ladies and Gentlemen, we will be on the ground in a few minutes ... "
Strange finger eating Sunflower plant
Counting down the minutes
Let me take you down, 'cause I am going to ...
Sunflower Fields: Take 2

As far as the eye can see
Magical sky 1
Magical sky 2
Rocking out!

Hope your day was a great one too!

Peace :)

PSA: Royal Hazard

I see lots of cyclists (by DFW standards, of course) on Royal Lane, some heading east and some heading west. I ride Royal lane in Irving during my daily work commute. Sometimes, I take Royal on my pleasure rides as well. Royal is a fine road to be on, much of the time.

During today's ride, however, I came across some serious cyclist hazards on Royal --- huge cracks in the asphalt. I have pictured them below, in three pictures, to further emphasize how hazardous these cracks can be. This is on Royal Lane in Irving.

I have a 700x34 Schwalbe Marathon Plus on the front wheel on the Co-Motion Americano. While this is not as wide as the rear tire on this bike, it still ain't no skinny racing road tire. As you can see in the picture below, the crack is wide enough to swallow the whole wheel. Rats!
The rear tire is a Vittoria Randonneur 700x38. Fits right in the crack. Yikes!
And notice that the crack slowly narrows down, further down the road, as seen in the picture below. This is a serious hazard, indeed. A fine way to get one's wheel(s) stuck in this rut and go flyin' over the handlebar.
This is a serious hazard folks. In both lab's cycling courses and Cycling Savvy's course, they do talk about road hazards like these: you got at'em at an angle and minimize the chances that you wheels get stuck in the rut. One can talk about these until the cows come home, but in real life the best way to avoid them is to be vigilant. When riding, scan the road surface ahead for hazards, often!

These cracks are on Royal Lane near Freeport, just before getting to Freeport, when you are headed east on Royal.

I suppose I would be alright if I was driving a car or riding the Thorn MKII, which have wider tires than my Americano. But most road bikes don't.

Be safe out there!

Peace :)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

New, but not new!

New publication of an old story...Trip to Lake Lavon on ACA's website...

Peace :)

Meet my new associate, 64A!

I have been toying with the idea of a bicycle trailer for a while. In a recent post, I even mentioned how I was toying with the idea and entertaining the notion further by testing the installation of a trailer-hitch on the Thorn MKII. After researching a variety of trailers, including Bob, Avenir, Burley, etc., I finally made up my mind and ordered the 64A model bicycle trailer from BikesAtWork last week.

Part I : Assembly of the trailer
FEDEX delivered the unassembled trailer kit package at our door today.
Contents of the package --- the unassembled trailer (to be called 64A, from now on)! Every piece in the package came very nicely packaged. No fancy packaging material was used and I was so happy to see that old newspaper was put to good use by BikesAtWork. Most of the packaging was recycleable. The coffee in the blue "Peace" mug, was not part of the package from BikesAtWork.

I have my reservations about putting together furniture, entertainment centers, etc., primarily because of bad experience with many a manufacturer. Here are some of my experiences:
  1. I found that a key piece or two was missing in the kits.
  2. The diagrams / instructions were horribly written.
  3. The same generic assembly diagram was provided for each make and model of the product.
  4. More than one person was required to assemble the unit, contrary to the manufacturer's claim.
I have to say that my experience with assembling bicycle accessories, such as racks, kickstands, saddles, has been very positive. But, it is also a fact that many of my bicycle accessories came from Germany and England and very few of them were made in China.

I was very impressed with BikesAtWork's Quality Control. Everything was meticulously labeled.
BikesAtWork did not beat around the bush when it came to recommending using tools other than what was supplied by them as a part of the kit. For instance, they were not bashful in pointing out that a racheting tool will expedite the assembly process.
BikesAtWork reused bicycle tube packaging material and rubber bands made of inner tubes, to package their spare parts for the trailer! Brilliant recycling!
The design of the trailer is a very clever one, IMHO. By using the grooves in the channels of the trailer, BikesAtWork made the use of a second spanner/wrench unnecessary. I did not have to recruit my wife to help me during the assembly and I did not have to act as a contortionist during the assembly.
I did use my racheting wrench, which made tightening all the bolts and nuts, much easier.
I am proud to display the BikesAtWork logo on my trailer. It exudes good quality, American workmanship, all over.
It took me roughly an hour and a half to complete the installation, to my fullest satisfaction. Here is the assembled 64A trailer on the Thorn Nomad MKII.
Next, I took the 64A for a test ride to Home Depot. I needed some potting soil and most importantly some plywood to make the floor for the trailer.
20 Gallon plastic tubs were on sale at Home Depot, so I grabbed a couple of them and a couple of Rubbermaid Roughneck 18 gallon tubs. Added to the list were two bags of Organic potting soil. You may notice the odd positioning of the flag on the 64A. This flag is from my Cannondale T-800, which I parted with, last summer. I have to make a bracket to mount it on the 64A. You can see the 1/4" plywood on the 64A, underneath the plastic tubs and the potting soil. However, the floor has not been properly installed on the trailer yet. You can read about the floor installation in Part II of this post.
I tested the 64A on a ride of about 6 miles today. I did not have any problems at all.
It is not very hard to maneuver the 64A in turns. However, I find it a bit hard to push the bike backward, akin to getting out of a parking spot in reverse, for instance, a little bit hard, for now. I am sure I will figure it out eventually.
The 64A does not make the ride wobbly, unlike my experience from my last trip to PetSmart. It is true that I did not carry 70 LBS of cargo today. However, even if I carried that much or more, I doubt it will be a problem with the 64A.
I did not find hauling the 64A strenuous. I was hoping it would not be strenuous, but I really wasn't sure until I hauled it around a bit today and to my relief it wasn't hard!
Initial Observations:
  1. The 64A is a very well-made bicycle cargo trailer. It has a cargo capacity of roughly 300 LBS and it is built like a tank:
    • The 64A is build on custom-extruded 6061-T6 aluminum frame channel.
    • The 64A uses 16" Skyway wheels, which are mounted on a galvanized steel axle.
    • The 64A uses pneumatic tires with Kenda tires as the default option. I may upgrade these to Schwalbe Marathon/Plus, like I have done with Meera and Brahma, when the Kendas wear out.
    • The 64A has a oversize towbar (6 cm) which reduces flex. When I rode today, I did not feel any flex at all.
    • The 64A attaches to the bike using a TIG-welded stainless steel hitch, which uses a 3-point attachment system, making it really secure.
  2. One of my fears was that the trailer would be hard to haul, but it is certainly not the case with the 64A. I am not saying that the trailer is featherlight, but for its intended purposes, it is definitely not too heavy and it rolls pretty good. I actually do not want a trailer that is featherlight, given I intend hauling a lot of cargo on my bicycle trailer.
  3. The 64A is can be configured in two different ways, in order to carry shorter versus longer loads:
    • for heavy, short loads less than 5' 6" (1.67m) long --- move the axle forward
    • for loads from 5' 6" to 9' (1.67m to 2.44m) long --- keep axle at the very end (as I have setup my 64A)
      • read this for more details
  4. The 64A can be made shorter into a 32A (cargo bed length: 32") or expanded into a really long 96A (cargo bed length: 96").
Part II : Installation of the Trailer Floor
While I was at Home Depot, per BikesAtWork's recommendation, I purchased the following items to install a plywood flooring on the 64A:
  1. two 32"x15 and 7/8" pieces of 1/4" thick plywood
  2. 3/4" pipe clamps - 6 pieces
  3. 1/4"x 3/4" bolts - 6 piece
  4. Locknuts and washers  for the bolts in # 3 above
The installation of the flooring was actually very easy. The pipe clamps are attached to the support beams and the axle, which are in turn attached to the plywood flooring using the bolts and locknuts. It is easy to see how it was done from the pictures below:
Close-up of the top of the flooring. The shiny object above the wheel is the mudguard/fender.
Another view of the top of the flooring!
Remark:
All plywood is not made equal: I thought I bought two pieces of plywood that were very true and had them cut using the precision saw/tool at Home Depot. However, to my disappointment, the plywood pieces were a bit warped, in spite of two sets of eyes examining them for warp. As a result, the flooring is not 100% flush and even, but the plywood is only 1/4" thick for Pete's sake. So, it is not a major boo-boo, but I will probably be more cautious, if and when I replace the flooring.

I plan to use this trailer every weekend, for getting groceries and other household items. I will keep you updated of my findings along the way.

I hope you are having a great week!

Peace :)

 PS. I have been off work for the last 3 days due to a minor glitch in my health. I am almost back to normal and I plan to get back to work on Thursday this week!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Busy

Dear readers,
Hope y'all are well!
I have been very busy with work and other matters that I have not had much time to cook anything new and post about it here. My apologies!

However, you may rest assured that I am well taken care of, thanks to my lovely wife! For example, here is a sneak peek at today's lunch: Mashed Caulifloweratoes, Steamed Spicy Broccoli and Super-Spicy Tofu Sticks. Yummy!
Hope all is well with y'all!

I will be talking to you soon through a new post!

Be well!

Peace :)

Weighing my options

So, officially, Brahma is my lightest bike.
With all the goodies on Brahma, it is a delightful 32 LBS, trust me :)

Peace :)

Nice Catch, Brahma!

Nice catch, Brahma!
Nice catch - Brahma!!

I guess both sayings make sense :)

Peace :)

Intended 50

Last weekend, on Saturday, I set out to ride to Whiterock Lake with Brahma. It was a reasonably pleasant day and I was really looking forward to the ride. I took the usual route: Valley View Lane to Harvest Hill to Willow to Hillcrest to Medical City to the Whiterock Lake Trail at Royal and Greenville Ave.

I stopped at Starbucks off Forest Lane near Medical City to quench my thirst and use the facilities, as usual. On my way out the coffee shop, just before I got on the trail, I almost ran over the object pictured below. I am so glad that I did not!
The yellow striped line may be new. It is a great addition, IMHO, as I have noticed many a racer-wanna-be driving their bicycles discourteously and dangerously on this trail.

Just in case you didn't know: The signs along the trails, such as the one pictured below, has a number on it, which provides the emergency personnel of your position on the trail. You may be able to see it if you zoom in.
Before too long, I was at Northwest Highway, very close to the lake. I was gonna take the detour and get to the lake, but life had other plans for me. I was starting to experience symptoms akin to the ones you get if you have a kidney infection. I couldn't quite tell if I was, by chance, dehydrated, even though I had consumed close to 60 ounces of water by then.

So, I did what any sane person would do: Call my wife to come get me, while I parked under a tree. And, like always, my wife came to my rescue! Thanks, Mon Chéri!
So, I have been off work for the past 2.5 days. I am much better now, but I was in bad shape Saturday through last evening, with an odd energy boost on Monday morning, which turned out to be a false positive, in a sense. I was bed-ridden much of the time till this morning, which gave me a chance to catch-up on reading more chapters of Effective Cycling. I started feeling much better this morning.

So, had I gotten to the lake and gone around it once and then ridden back home, Brahma would have done his first 50 miles in one ride, ever! That didn't happen, but that's okay.

There is always tomorrow (or next weekend)!

Good health to y'all!

Peace :)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

New thangs in Irving

BIKELID - Seen at the South Irving TRE station! I suppose this could be useful if you wanted to keep your bike out of sight, while you are away.
   
There was more than one of these BIKELIDs, but none was occupied. I prefer taking my bike on the TRE. But that could be just me!

The picture below shows the instructions for using the BIKELID. I wanted to see if I could, for the heck of it, park Brahma inside a BIKELID. It wasn't easy. The lid of the BIKELID was quite heavy and I had to hold the lid open with one hand and try to park the bike with the other. The lid simply will not stay open to facilitate parking the bike inside the contraption. Could that have been Operator Error? Sure, but ...

Next up: Electric Vehicle charging Stations seen near McDonalads in Historic Irving, right across from the South Irving TRE.

What's next? Bike Maintenance Stations? Or is that my wishful thinking?

Peace :)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Cycling Savvy - Part 2

Today, Steve A of DFWPTP and I drove to Dallas to attend Part 2 of the Cycling Savvy course. Our class started at 8 AM and driving our bicycles to the class wasn't a convenient option, especially given the starting time. On Friday, Steve and I took Part 1 of the Cycling Savvy class, and you can read about it here and here.

The two specific segments covered in Part 2 of the Cycling Savvy course were 1) Train Your Bike, during which we practiced many vital cycling skills, in a controlled way, in a parking lot,  and 2) Tour Dallas during which we put to practice many of the skills learned in the earlier parts of the course.

If I had to describe this class in just three words, I would say, "Holy Amazing Spokes". This was one heck of a cycling class.

Things that I loved about this class are:
  1. We spent a few hours doing Parking Lot drills, such as Instant Turn, Quick Stop, etc, which are taught in other traffic cycling classes such as the TS101. However, things that many commuting cyclists may be familiar with, such as fixing a flat tire, were omitted. I liked this aspect, especially given the plethora of resources for such information, both online and offline at LBS. 
  2. Situations presented to the students were real and very practical. We were briefed very clearly and thoroughly on what to expect and what to do (and possible alternatives) for each of the situations. We drove our bicycles through some of the busiest intersections of Dallas, including places where there were on-ramps and off-ramps, with our finely honed skills and the crystal-clear information learned freshly in the class, negotiating proactively with automobiles. While the TS101 and LCI certification other fine features, I don't believe this type of training was available in the TS101 and in the LCI certification.
  3. I have never been to a cycling class where there was a hands-on demonstration of the dreaded door zone. Below you can see Keri, the co-author of the Cycling Savvy course, demonstrating the same to us, students! How much better can a traffic cycling class get?

I did not see anything in Day 2 of the Cycling Savvy class that I did not like. Things were so well designed and executed even some "grumpy" students cheered up!
In all, we had a blast. The class was simply great!

Below are some random photos from the class! Enjoy!!

Richard - talking about a possibly random, but nevertheless important topic :)
Keri - fixing to teach her students the next important skill!

Practicing "shoulder check" - a very vital skill to a cyclist!
Keri - explaining the nuts and bolts of an "Instant Turn". I am telling ya, this woman can draw the entire DFW streets from memory :)
Waco - demonstrating an "Instant Turn".
Our class from today (all but one) - possibly exhausted after the rigorous training, but very much thrilled that we took the Cycling Savvy class.
It was a long day for me and Steve. But, I would say we both agree we had a lot of fun taking the Cycling Savvy class.

Peace :)

Chandra
LCI # 3059