Type 2 Diabetic. Cyclist Flâneur.   Coffeeneur.    Errandoneur
A bike / map geek with a gadget obsession and a high-viz fetish.

Friday, February 28, 2014

AARP Critical Mass of Dinosaurs

2/28/2014 #218 55m 28F
Well, to begin with, from Pearls Before Swine we have this visual explanation of the role of capes in the social hierarchy:

Started in the early afternoon at the Bastille in about 22F. Rode to the Swinburne Street trailhead and met YC. Rode out to McKeesport, just to the point of joining the Loop, then reversed. Back to the trailhead. Magnificent day, blue skies, not much wind, rather cold though.

Met several cyclists (total: six) at Dippy the Dino at Schenley Quad for Pittsburgh Critical Mass. Curiously, it's probably the highest average age ever for a C-M ride; only one of us was less than 50 years old. Just another group of old white guys, taking it out on the poor schlep drivers of America. Photo, "Dinosaurs", by PaulH:

The C-M ride was great. We rode from Oakland to the Point, and hung out a few minutes. General disapointment that the rest rooms were closed. Photo by PaulH:

and then returned to Oakland, without incident or casualty, which is always nice.

Rode back into downtown. Stopped at Market Square to take pictures of Congregation, which is a cool light show involved computer recognition of where people stand on a "dance floor" in response to computer-projected light cues, and then software draws lines between the nodes of individual positions.

Rode back to the Bastille at around 9pm, had the trail to myself.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Weather is a Cruel Chain-Puller; also, Madame Guillotine

2/25/2014 #218 29F 18m
Managed a short ride with world-famous cyclist YC from BigDogCoffee out to the Phantom's Revenge and back, sort of wedged between a client meeting and an evening class.

It was a very nice ride, not much wind and a few other cyclists were out. Riding with YC is always an education.

Highlight of the trip was coming across a guy wire strung horizontally across the Waterfront sidewalk, about six feet above the ground, securing a plastic tarp on a worksite to an adjacent sign post. That really could have guillotined a cyclist so (after we took it down) we went into the business and explained why they shouldn't do it that way tomorrow. They were very understanding about it.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Won't You Be My Neighbor? And Pocusett Street

2.23.2014 219# 38F 23m
Rode with my neighbor Jack today, his first outdoors ride of the year as he prepares for the MS150. Great day for it, light winds and cool.

Started at the Bastille and took a familiar route: Ft Duquesne Bridge, Blvd of the Allies, Jail Trail. Poked around the Swinburne St. Trailhead and "the chute" to familiarize him because he hadn't seen that before, then across the Hot Metal Bridge.

Continued out to Keystone Metals. Got to see one of the eagles flying circles. Just another Sunday noon flier, drilling holes in the sky. The icepack I saw yesterday at the Valley of the Shadow of the Eagles has significantly melted and we were able to ride through. Rode down to Costco and reversed.

On the way back, saw a heavy-lifting helicopter working around the FBI building or the GetGo on East Carson/837. I think it was a Sikorsky Choctaw H34. So old school.

Not nearly as many people out today, funny what a difference of ten degrees will do. It was still a very nice day. 23 miles. Also today: Pocusett Street, Pittsburgh's first street turned into a ped-bike only street, how cool is that?

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Marconi's Ride Through a Small World

2/22/2014 23m #220 43F

Back in the 20th Century, Marconi was remembered as the Inventor of Wireless -- but in the 21st Century, where wireless has taken on a new meaning for most folks, Marconi is much more likely to be remembered for his theory of Six Degrees and also as the Father of Kevin Bacon. It's a small world.

Started driving through Oakland, saw a friend of my daughter's walking on Fifth Avenue1. A few moments later I hit a pothole, sliced a front tire, spent a while waiting for AAA. The time passed well, and one of the advantages to being a high-viz Fred is you've got a lot of bright stuff to mark a disabled car with.

Ditched the plan to attend the bike flea market at the Wheel Mill, revised and rerouted to go to the Bastille and ride from there. Saw my friend L along the way2, a very pleasant surprise, stopped to say hello.

Met S at the Bastille. Rode the Chateau Trail and the Jail Trail, where we saw StefB3. Crossed the Hot Metal Bridge to REI and encountered South Side Soup Day. Met SarahQ4 and her son and husband (all the more special because her son designed the t-shirt for Soup Day).

Departed SouthSide to ride down to Costco. Several gaggles of trail-newbs out today; young, earnest, enthusiastic, no technique. I was going to write a hakui about it, but then I wondered if a doge presentation isn't more appropriate.

Entering the Valley of the Shadow of the Eagle just short of Keystone Metals, which lives in a world of persistent shadows and low temperatures, there was still quite a bit of snow and ice on the trail, which led to a 75-yard walk.

Stopped at Costco, still no bike racks. Sigh.

Returning, stopped to photograph a brand new drainage field across the trail, just southeast of the startup office incubator park along the Baldwin Borough Trail. This has been a trail segment chronically covered in water (and ice). In fact, it's the site of my most recent wipeout. They've built a drainage field on both sides of the trail and put a culvert underneath the trail. This is really excellent.

Hot Metal Bridge, Market Square. We intended to see the light show, but cancelled in favor of my getting my car (now riding on the spare) to a tire shop during daylight. Crossed the Ft. Duquesne Bridge, rode around the football stadium, prepared to take a left at the Science Museum.

Eagle-eyed blogger RustyRed saw us at the traffic light from her seat at the elevated T-station and took a picture of us5, in the lane, waiting for the light.

Joined the Chateau Trail. Saw a gentlemen cyclist wearing a kilt again. I'm assuming it's providing a skort-type cover over his bike shorts - although that's the whole mystique, isn't it?

At the trailhead, met Chris6, Marko7, and Yale 8. Wow.

I will note that my cars fail me a lot more than my bikes do.

This music was big (when I was little) and I remember going to the '64 World's Fair and hearing it:

footloosenote: Yes, we know Marconi did not coin "six degrees of separation".

Friday, February 21, 2014

It's Like A Heat Wave with a Tailwind

2/21/2014 42F 220# 12m
Rode to pick up my car from a garage today, where it was getting a new engine installed. Which is probably a metaphor of some sorts.

Great ride, although the spin up Marion Hill was more work than it was the last time I was here. Extra bonus: Strong tailwind on the outbound leg, drove the car back on the return leg. About time I beat the wind for a change.

Came across this new-to-me mural in New Brighton on my way over to pick it up, very nice:

I was way overdressed for 40F. My feet were overly warm, so were my hands, and I was really sweating quite a bit as I climbed. I need to relearn forty degrees.

Great to ride, sort of disappointed at my deconditioning.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

It's The Way You People Dress

2/20/2014 19m 220# 50F
Fifty degrees with piles of snow means lot of melting, water over ice, unusable sidewalks and trails, streets with usable lanes but no shoulders. You have to assume the puddles you can't see through have potholes in them.

What a glorious day, with a strong north wind. Departed the Bastille and rode to the Jail Trail, which was in pretty good shape except for the area right around the Jail. Took the Hot Metal Bridge over to REI, stopped to see if there were any end-of-season deals on ski goggles for riding the bike.

A woman came out of REI as I was locking up the bike, she looked at me and sort of chuckled. I wasn't sure what to make of that, but she was quite open about laughing at me. I didn't know exactly what to say, but I didn't want to let it pass so I said, "No really that's OK, a lot of people laugh at me". She said, No it's not you personally, it's the way you people dress. I don't think so.

My self-esteem is plummeting. Two days ago my friend CharlieF nominated me on Facebook as a spokesperson for Surly Bikes new plus-size bike trou. Immediately after that, some well-centered friends started asking me how I like them etc, so they completely believed it. Thanks for the support, guys. Now this lady walks out of REI chuckle-shucking at me. Damn. And I wasn't even wearing my bike shorts.

I've been having problems getting my front derailleur to shift onto the small ring; my prime LBS has laid hands on it without full effect, and I've annointed the mechanism with a can of WD40 with insufficient improvement. Seeking a second opinion, I rode over to a SouthSide bike shop that I've always wanted to poke my head into. Derailleur's shot, they assured me; time to replace it. Didn't have one in stock. Sorry, dude. Ride safe. Oh well.

Departed and rode over to Thick Bikes, which I've never had my bike in the back of before. Asked if they could interrupt what they were doing to take a look. Oh yes, they said. Took it in the back, looked at it. I was really impressed at the way their mechanic approached the question: thoughful, diagnostic, didn't make any assumptions, a real journeyman wrench. Not only did he fix the thing, but he tweaked it and healed it and it never ever shifted this nice before.

He asked me if there was anything else he should look at, and I said no but thanks. When he brought the bike out he explained what he'd done, and told me a small nugget; said the bottom bracket I have on there is probably 2mm narrower than optimal, so if I replace it I should look for a slightly wider one. Explained that the current one is throwing off the ideal chain line for the chain rings. I love this guy.

Rode northwest along Carson Street, crossed the 10th Street Bridge, joined the Jail Trail back out to the HMB. Reversed back into town, crossed the Ft. Duquesne Bridge, took Chateau Street back to the Bastille.

It was so nice to ride without heavy gloves and a balaclava, and to be able to stop without getting cold in a moment. 19 miles, a most excellent ride.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Playing Guessing Games to Stay Alive: CGM & Medicare

I do not write often about Diabetes, because while I contend with it and live with it, I don't want to be primarily defined by that. I suppose most folks have at least one that, if not several of them.

This article at Texting My Pancreas, Continuous Glucose Monitoring and Medicare about a 65-year-old who lost an essential tool compels me to discuss my that.

So, for those of you who just arrived from another planet, diabetes is about a malfunctioning blood-sugar (glucose) function with your insulin, it comes in versions (Type 1 and Type 2), and for diabetics, staying alive involves monitoring your glucose levels. If a diabetic can monitor their glucose levels and then manage their inputs of food (and insulin, for Type 1s) then they're probably going to survive.

It all comes down to monitoring glucose. The 1990's way of monitoring glucose is: you prick a finger several times a day and use a sensor to calculate your glucose number. You get five or six datapoints a day. No trend info; you don't know if that 150 number is on an upswing or a downswing, you just know 150. It's not an exact science. It really is a high-stakes guessing game.

The blogger at Test, Guess and Go tells about her husband, who had a CGM (Continuous Glucose Monitor) from private insurance until he turned 65 and went to Medicare. Medicare will not pay for a CGM under any situation. Please click here to read more.

Action Item: Please contact your member of the House of Representatives and ask them to join Congresswoman Shea-Porter [D-NH1] and cosponsor, Congressman Matthew Cartwright [D-PA17] in asking Congress to pass H.R. 3710, the Medicare CGM Coverage Act of 2014.

And if I may go on a little bit further, since I'm writing about that.

The dirty secret is, industry makes an awful lot of money on test strips. They're about $1 each outside of WalMart. Do the math; $5/day for every diabetic in America; there's a huge incentive to not displace finger-pricking in routine American diabetic care.

What would displace finger-pricking in an age of Google glass, smart phones, FitBit and the Quantified Self Movement? Why, wireless continuous glucose monitoring. An internal sensor just under the skin, or an external sensor under a wristband, transmits a value every two minutes to your FitBit-wrist intermediate device. Sync it to your smart phone when you want, and upload your data to the cloud. See trend data, daily patterns, all the info you've never seen before. Take charge of your biochemistry in a way you never could.

In a world where you can insert an RFID chip into your dog (or aging parent) to keep track of them, coupled with the explosion of the diabetic population, the absence of consumer wireless CGM devices is shameful. A lot of people make a lot of money out of those prick sticks. Rat bastards.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Homestead, Braddock, Turtle Creek, Rankin

2/17/2014 #220 11m 32F
It was a good day to ride, a strong wind out of the south and bright blue skies. I started riding from the Pump House at the Waterfront, pre-positioning for a subsequent meeting.

Departed the Waterfront on 837 South and crossed the Rankin Bridge into Braddock, and rode down to Library Ave and the Braddock Cafe. I asked the young cook what's the best thing he makes and he suggested the buffalo chicken pizza so I said, please make me one, and it was very, very good.

I've just started re-reading Bill Metzger's book on the GAP and the history of Braddock and Turtle Creek so I decided to ride out to Turtle Creek. Departed Braddock eastbound and took this picture of the Westinghouse Bridge. A lot of people pass over it, I'm not sure how many pass under it.

Then I continued further along for a while through East Pittsburgh and into Turtle Creek. Reversed back into Braddock and climbed up into Rankin. I took this photo of the Carrie Furnace site, from the Palisades Manor housing project in Rankin, looking across the Carrie Furnace, with the blue Marcegaglia Steel facility across the river in the background.

Rode back to the Pump House, then drove over to attend a meeting of the Steel Valley Trail Council BoD. It was an honor to meet the good people who've done such awesome work in completing and maintaining the trails.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Doggerel Style

2/14/2014 28F #216 6m
In honor of St. Valentines Day, some kicky verses that other people wrote:

(to the mayor)
Road bikes are red,
And fixies are blue
We need more bike lanes
We're depending on you

Roses are red
Bike lanes are green
We prefer separation
Because drivers are mean

Roses are red,
bike lanes are iced,
if they were treated,
wouldn't that be nice?


This was my first ride with the new Kool Stop Tectonic brake pads on the Surly. Now I'm no marketing whiz, but doesn't tectonic mean plates that slip, slide and cause disasters?

I've never been happy with the brakes on the Surly LHT. I've changed the mechanism, etc. These are the best brakes I've ever had on the bike. Color me happy.

Another big thing happening in Pittsburgh is Lyft, which is people giving others car rides for money, with pink moustaches (on the cars) and fist bumps. I'm getting in front of the trend by putting a pink moustache on my bike, now before all the cool kids do.

Took a picture of Sir Samelot with his Valentine's Day finest on. Rode around downtown. Traffic (car) lanes were pretty clear, shoulders and bike lanes were impassable.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Top Pick and Fly6

2/10/2014 20F 12m #220
Today was not a great weather-day for riding, it was a bit cold but I had such a Jones to turn the pedals that I had to get out and it was great.

I did have a moment on a big downhill to reflect on the wisdom of ski goggles, which I've never used, because I found myself closing one eye and then the other to avoid having pain in both eyes due to the cold in the descent. At the bottom my forehead was aching from it. Next year I might invest in some ski goggles, all the cool kids are wearing them.

Took a simple loop through town and around the obligatory W-Mart. Stopped at the Credit Union and went to use the interior ATM machine because I wasn't sure my fingers would work at the outside machine. Pro Tip: Don't enter the Credit Union or other financial institution wearing the balaclava. Trust me on this.

Departed and rode home uneventfully which is a good thing, and 12 miles done. I feel like I'm shortchanging my audience on this blogpost, so I'd like to leave you with this KickStarter video for the Fly6, a rear blinkie with an integrated video recorder. The video is titled, Top Pick and comes via Jon Webb.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Broke Chain, Spliced Same

2/5/2014 #220 29m 24F
As a DC rider mentioned on Twitter, today was a great day for riding: cold but not too cold, lots of visibility and some blue sky, dry, a breeze but not windy.

Departed the Res for Moon Township. Just living the dream. I had a moment of physical clarity where I felt at one with the bike, my pedal stroke was smooth and strong, the pedaling seemed effortless.

That's when I noticed that I'd busted the chain off the bike on the crest of the last hill.

I had the tools to fix it, and there was enough left to splice together. It wasn't a bad time for it to happen, really. Just a bit cold on the fingers. Anyway, while working the chain it struck me this blog post would be the perfect time to finally get to riff on every sailor's dream log entry, "Sighted Sub, Sank Same".

Continued on my way, but I'd be 1/2 hour late for a Starbucks assignation. Had some Youthberry Tea, which is available now that Starbucks has assimilated TeaVana.

Departed Moon and crossed the Ohio River at the Sewickley Bridge, and rode to the world's best ABS, the Ambridge Bike Shop. Bought another chain, and I think that from now on I am going to strive to keep a new chain in the tool kit.

Departed via the newly opened Ambridge-Aliquippa Bridge, pedaling home in twilight. The spliced chain was doing very well, until I was about a mile from the Res in the dark, when it became ensnared in the crank-arm, which is kind of hard to do.

Far from being a goat-rope, this was a tremendous ride. The mechanical challenges and the low temps were mitigated by having the right equipment for both. 29 miles.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Enjoying two new routes

2/04/2014 28F 26m #220
Tuesday's ride started at the Bastille. The NextStormOfTheCentury is inbound and I thought I'd check out the trails before losing the use of them for a few days.

The Chateau Trail from the Bastille (aka Pittsburgh SCI, nee Western Penitentiary) down to the Casino was okay - some clear stretches with intervals of 1" of snow/permacrunch. Rode the Jail Trail, which was lousy by the Jail and much better for most of the trail to the Hot Metal Bridge.

Rode the Steel Valley Trail (Baldwin Borough Trail, Keystone Metals, Sandcastle) and it was not good. Probably 2" of snow, frozen bumps and ruts, good exercise but not a fun ride. As usually happens, it deteriorates from the big orange triangle that serves as a river navigation marker down to Costco.

Stopped at Waterfront Starbucks for a cup of coffee and a WiFi Break, just to make sure everything is correct everywhere on teh InterTubez.

Rather than return via the Steel Valley Trail, I crossed the Homestead Grays - High Level Bridge (which I have not biked often). It was a great transition across the Mon River. Left at Homestead and right at the foot of Murray, took my newly discovered Bartlett and Greenfield route down to Second Avenue at the chute and rode into the Swinburne St. Trailhead. I love that route from Squirrel Hill to the Hot Metal Bridge.

Rode the Jail Trail and First Ave inbound. Stopped at Point State Park for a bit to watch the few bits of river ice drift by.

Crossed the Ft.Duquesne Bridge and used my other new fave route, Western Ave and Chateau St to get back to the Bastille. 26 miles and a great ride.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

RIP Bicycle Cortege for Mr. Snitger

Family members on bicycles lead the funeral procession for Mr. James Snitger, 99, in Beaver PA on Monday morning. Mr. Snitger was the founder of Snitger's Bicycles in Beaver, PA.
Family members on bicycles lead the funeral procession for Mr. James Snitger, 99, in Beaver PA on Monday morning. Mr. Snitger was the founder of Snitger's Bicycles in Beaver, PA.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Life in the Plowed Lane

2/3/2014 24m 28F #220
Great ride today. Started at the Bastille. It had snowed in the City during the morning, so as we started at 1230 we were off the trails and in the lane, because there was snow buildup along the curbs.

Rode to the Casino, past the stadiums, and out River Road. All the drivers were very cooperative, as they usually are in substandard conditions - except for one fool with PA tags FLY-1419, who seemed to think that with no opposite direction traffic, he still needed to provide a tight pass with his horn blazing. I tried to overtake him to correct his misunderstanding of the 4-foot rule - he seemed to think it was four feet between the cyclist and the driver of the passing car - but I wasn't able to catch him. I sympathize with the unfortunates who have to spend time in proximity with this misbegotten blackguard. I did enjoy the sprint.

Rode across the 31st Street Bridge, and started out on Penn Avenue and checked out about a dozen murals to update the inventory on pghmurals.com. Rode out on Penn and Friendship to East Liberty and Larimer. I love the Persephone mural, and it really stood out against the snow-covered ground.

Rode into Homewood and checked two murals there, and then over to Point Breeze, the Food Co-Op and the nearby World Headquarters of Fiks:Reflective to check my favorite green-woman mural.

Took North Braddock to Regent Square, and Forbes into Squirrel Hill. Turned left onto Murray and right on Bartlett in a bit of an area navigation experiment. Was very pleasantly surprised to learn that Bartlett and Greenfield was a very pleasant way to get from Squill to the Jail Trail at Swinburne Street, I really enjoyed that transition.

Joined the Jail Trail at Swinburne Street and it had been wonderfully plowed, a beautiful wide span of dry pavement. Passed the Hot Metal Bridge and I was just reflecting on my good fortune, that somebody had paved the Jail Trail for me. Came upon this scene and realized that the glass was only half-full.

Abandoned the Jail Trail in favor of riding on Second Avenue inbound. Yo guys: you don't want to clean the Jail Trail, that's OK; I can take the lane on Second Avenue, no problem. It was an exhilarating inbound transition and (consistently) all the drivers were very courteous.

At Grant Street we transitioned to First Avenue inbound to the Point. The sun was out, there were blue skies, it was all good. Crossed the Ft. Duquesne bridge and rode around the football stadium. One of the traffic lights was kaput and there was a police officer directing traffic, looked like she'd been out for a long time so we gave her a snack bar. Took Western Avenue and Chateau back to the Bastille.

A really enjoyable ride. 24 miles.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Reflections: What a Difference A Day Made

2/1/2014 #218 22m 35F
Started at the Bastille with a promise of a warmer day and the forecast held true. What a difference a day made in riding conditions.

Rode around down to the Ft. Duquesne Bridge in a bit of sleet/sow, and rode over to Point State Park. Took a picture with Fred Rogers admiring the LHT from across the river:

Rode around Wood Street and the "academic village" for a bit looking for a mural; no luck. Went outbound on Fifth to Gist Street, where it looks like James Simon has signed this artwork at Gist and Fifth:

Rode over to Sir Samelot, no V-D decorations yet. Alas. Rode up Kirkpatrick Street, which I've never done before, into the back end of the Hill District and checked a few murals. Came down by the hockey arena, inbound on Fifth, knocked around downtown a bit. Rode the Jail Trail out to the Hot Metal Bridge. The wind was calm, so where the ice had melted there were some good reflections off the river surface.

Continued northwest through the SouthSide, joined the trail near Station Square looking for some more river reflection photos. This is Heinz Field.

This is cool, you can see the seamy underbelly of the Ft Pitt Bridge in the reflection on the water.