Trees of Corn-CG Post #614, August 1, 2021

I grew up in a town where corn was processed into high fructose corn syrup, and later, ethanol. If you were to remove the corn molecules from my being, I would probably be a much smaller person. Corn was what the air in my hometown, and the towns around it, smelled like. Alcohol, ethanol, cornstarch, corn syrup and other corn products were made there. I now live within a few minutes’ walk of many acres of corn. As the Eastern Seaboard is built by the sea, this land is built by corn and soybeans. Corn goes on. not for acres here, but miles.

And this time of the year gets a little monotonous riding the bicycle in the country. Not only does the tar melt up from the oil and gravel roads, but the view is much the same wherever you go. Because here, the corn stalks grow to be more than eight feet tall. Corn is grown right up to the road ditches. Corn also puts out a gallon of water vapor per plant, per day. That makes things a bit humid here, as well. Cycling can feel like riding in a sauna. But corn pays the bills around here, and provides the oil that keeps the wheels of agribusiness rolling.

So if you see this blog being a bit more urban and suburban, it is just because I am waiting for the corn harvest to give me back safe, quiet roads with a view of what is around me. I am also keeping out of the way of farmers, so they can get their business done. I still get a chance to roll my wheels along, because of the extensive trail system in my town, which is a real blessing this time of year. Along with the bicycle co-op, the trails are a great help to me as I am tending to ride more. ‘Tis the season. Soon enough will come the bicycle paint, polish, and finish season, also known as fall. Believe me, I am taking my time with that this year, and progress on the Raleigh Competition will be made.

Computer Time-CG Post #613, July 28. 2021

I’m thinking about returning to cycling computers. Phone apps just aren’t cutting it for me. Strava is a little data usage heavy, and other apps have reliability issues. Sometimes they do not start, and sometimes they lose connectivity during rides, and sometimes the same ride shows as different distances or characteristics. Cycling computers do a good job of consistently recording rides and times and distances. They always record when in motion. providing the battery works. I am usually pretty good at keeping up with battery changes.

There are also many cycling computers that are wireless. I have even seen cycling computers built into a bicycle light, all of which charge via USB. That might be nice for a cycle commuter. I already have a nice set of cycling lights, more suited to suburban and rural settings (read searchlight). I have some nice old computers I may try out, but I think I should order some wheel magnets first. Cycling computers have their drawbacks. You have to enter a wheel diameter number, often, so the unit knows how big your wheels are Even then, tire size may make a difference. A manual may be necessary, but often these are found online if not with the cycling computer.

I think the use of a cycling computer will allow me to use the smartphone for things like phone calls and instagrammery. It will also save on my phone minutes each month. I will get more consistent metrics. I also have the tendency to ride a little faster when I can see my speed at all times. As a former sail boater and skier, I often think of my rides in terms of my presence at desired way points at certain times, and monitoring my speed effectively in that manner. Just another way to keep an eye on my progress, I suppose.

Although I am now a recreational cyclist, I still enjoy the use of data to improve my efforts. I think that cycling computers will be a contribution to that effort. The efficient gathering and use of data will help me improve where I need improvement, as well as point out those areas where improvement may be required. I am mainly interested in gaining more distance than speed, but if speed improves into the bargain, that will be all right as well. I think that everyone likes to know how well they are doing. and good monitoring of performance over time may lead to some good analysis of trends that may be affecting your cycling.

As Good a Time as Any- CG Post #612, July 25, 2021

Any time I’m riding the bicycle is a good time. I’ve been extending my rides a bit lately. I enjoy a bit longer ride from time to time. I have stayed on the trail this summer, due to the heat and melting tar and gravel roadways. That can make quite a mess of your bicycle in short order. Do not make any mistake about it, though, the trail has many mulberry trees along its length, which also can be quite messy. Just not to the extent and permanence of oil tar. Fenders help a great deal. But then fenders must be cleaned, and as many of those are made of plastic, petroleum distillate tar removers may not be a good solution.

Yet I still find summer a great time to ride. It does have a lot of heat, humidity, and sudden storms. But it does not try to freeze me in place on the bicycle, as winter does here. Some precautions such as sunscreen, sun protection, drinking water in abundance, and rest breaks all make the experience as good as any in the more temperate times of the year. I also have been doing more riding in the morning. It gives me a whole different quality of light for photos and painting,as well as milder temperatures and sunshine.

I also see a lot more people on the trail in the morning, and that is simply sensible on their part. If I ride in afternoons in hot weather, it is because my morning is taken up with other business. The bike co-op will return after the floods, for a couple of weeks before repairs are undertaken, for which it must close again so new flooring can be installed and other repairs made to the building. Weather should be cooling a bit soon, anyway. The heat of summer tends to hit here in June and July. August provides some torrid days, but not on the same level.

New Plans for the Trail-CG Post #611, July, 21, 2021

The railroad tracks that cross the Constitution Trail in Uptown Normal have long caused the trail to make a long bend to go to the nearest railroad crossing and back to the trail. This was necessitated by the addition of high speed rail, and all the fencing involved. People are kept entirely off the tracks by fencing. This is almost as inconvenient as the removal of the old railroad tunnel beneath the interstate, which requires about a quarter mile jog just to get back to the trail alignment. This is inconvenient in some ways, but useful in others, and it provides a little extra distance for those seeking distance.

Normal’s town council approved the plan and funding for a large pedestrian and cycling underpass at the railroad station. That will provide direct access to the trail alignment. It will also reduce the need for long waits at the tracks. When this trail was developed, most of the traffic on this line, owned by the Illinois Central Railroad, was mostly the Amtrak trains with a few short goods trains and a few long haul trains. But since the upgrade to high speed rail and the ownership by the Union Pacific, this has changed.

Many more freight trains, especially double-stack container trains from a new yard near Chicago, have caused a great deal more traffic on this line. They move faster on the new heavy weight rail and concrete ties, but are also longer than trains of old. A tunnel will also make passenger access to both tracks easier, and make it easier to walk or cycle to the train. This project, largely funded by the state and federal government, will be helpful and beneficial to trail users and rail passengers alike.

This area has always been very supportive of rail travel, and passenger counts are very high at this station, as is the number of passenger trains to serve them. Ten trains daily, at the busiest Amtrak station in Illinois outside of Chicago. A holdover from the previous service provided by the Gulf, Mobile, and Ohio railroad, which was punctual, clean, and friendly right up until Amtrak’s takeover in 1971. It has been helpful that we have always had good rail service in the area. At some point I may have to make a trip to Chicago and take the bicycle along, just to see how that goes.

Green Tunnels, Deep Mapping, and the Bicycle-CG Post #610, July 18, 2021

I think that another benefit of cycle trail, especially rail-to trail situations, as that they provide a cool area in the urban heat dome. By doing so, they may lessen or break some of the effects of the urban heat dome, both in a micro climatic way, and possibly on a larger scale, were there enough such trails in a natural, tree lined state. The railroad, when these trails were its right of way, kept the trees and brush cut down to the ground. The ballast, the rocks between the railroad ties, did not tolerate vegetation well, so the railroad burned, cut, and chemically sprayed such vegetation to keep it down.

My cities do not do that, as they view the trails as a linear park. Everything is allowed to persist in a riot of vegetation along and above the trails for much of their length. Trees are also planted to shade the trail. Some places, the trail sides are impenetrable. Other places have footpaths and the like worn in by tradition and use. Much of the trail area feels cooler than riding on the street. It is also shadier in many cases. In this area, vegetation grows well, and becomes interdependent, some plants supporting, or living as parasites, off each other.

Notice the many layers and eras and types of buildings just in this section of Uptown Normal.

Another thing I have noticed is the natural ability of the multi-use trail in deep mapping, a sort of acknowledgement of the deeper history of a limited space. Deep mapping involves stories, folklore, archaeology, history, natural history, weather and climate all of a very small area. The effect of a multi-use trail could be a good topic for such deep mapping, getting into the history of the railroad that came before, artifacts along the trail, varieties of flora and fauna, and stories and interviews of those using the trail, as well as a meteorological and scientific study of the cooling effect such an area might have on the urban heat island.

Knitted objects crop up along bridge and fencing along the trail, for some reason. I know of a bridge in Pittsburgh that is being covered in fiber arts, and I wonder if that inspired these little tokens, or just yarn bombing in general.

Good Morning!-CG Post #609, July 14, 2021

I tried something I do not often do today.I cycled before lunch. Since the temperature was going to get rather warm, I figured an early bicycle ride would do. I just followed a short course, an that fits my schedule better and allows me to do other errands in the morning. Many of my lifestyle patterns have been affected by Covid. My work schedule tends to shift about, and not all my regular destinations are still open or accessible.

I have been lucky to remain employed and busy through all of this. I have a bit more time for leisure. It is nice to have an opportunity to be able to ride on a regular basis. Cycling has become my main hobby. With constraints on time and availability recently, as well as a parts and bicycle supply issue ongoing, as well as the flooding at the bicycle co-op, cycling remains my main hobby. Painting and photography are allied to my being able to get out on the bicycle. So morning cycling has become quite convenient on days when I have time constraints.

Morning cycling finds me with more energy. I have cooler temperatures in which to ride. Fewer cars are on the road mid-morning. Weather in the Midwest in the summer often occurs in the afternoon, so I do not have to constantly check radar for thunderstorms. I also tend to follow schedules, and stick to those schedules, better in the morning. Because it is often necessary to make time in the day for your exercise, and stick to those plans. That way a bike ride just becomes part of the schedule, a good time for yourself and your fitness.

Little to Report-CG Post #608, July 11, 2021

I’ve had little to report on this week. I have had bad riding weather and hard times for the bicycle co-op following the flooding of a couple of weeks ago. All of this has taken up time for riding, and other life issues with work schedules changing and other social issues have had an impact on this weeks’ riding. The good news is that all of this will lead to new and better riding opportunities, a change of scenes, perhaps, over the long term, and who knows what in terms of future topics I can share.

Mostly, the weather has had its’ issues around here. With a few notable exceptions, we have had a cool and wet summer. This is a rare event in the Midwest. It is usually dry and hot by this time of the summer. But the usual atmospheric ridging that places a “heat dome” over the area has not occurred so far. The dryness of the west has not been evident here. We seem to get this weather every few years, it is rare, but not unique. The amount of rain we sometimes see in a short period of time is, however, remarkable.

Some better organized free time may well be coming my way, and some time off work as well. Perhaps things are coming back around to a new, and more acceptable, normal for all of us. Hopefully the current interest in cycling will also continue, and bring new folks into this fun way of transportation. Hopefully the infrastructure will keep pace with this. That will encourage more people to continue in the sport/hobby/pastime/lifestyle we all enjoy as cyclists. More cyclists arising out of this pandemic will assure some measure of better health for the future.

Multi-Faceted-CG Post #607, July 7, 2021

I am speaking more of my entire bicycle collection here, and not just my single speed. I made the Facet single speed from a model called the BioTour 2000, which sounds more like a late 70’s science fiction epic than it does a bicycle. It works far better as a single speed bicycle than it does as a 12-speed. It is nice, having a single speed bicycle for wintry weather when a derailleur might clog with ice or snow. It is also a simpler bicycle to ride. If the hills get too steep, time to get off and walk, another great form of exercise. I do not walk very well anymore, so I choose my routes carefully.

Another highlight is my recumbent cycle. It is a great deal of fun in all kinds of weather. It is a tricycle, a good way to ride to an event and have a seat when you get there. It is very slow on hill ascents, and has quite twitchy steering. But it is also quite fun to ride, and very low to the ground. That makes it feel like you are going faster. I also like my mountain bike, a Schwinn Sierra in black(or smoked) chrome from 1985. It is one of the few MTBs I have seen in a good frame size for me, and it is still restorable to its’ original condition.

For the racing and touring bicycles, the Trek 600 is my best, as stated in the previous post. The Raleigh Competition will probably, when finished, compare favorably. It is all 531 steel, with many Campagnolo components. I am told, however, that the Suntour Sprint derailleurs I possess will work better on this bicycle than the Campagnolo group. The Raleigh Sojourn is best at carrying things, followed closely by the Panasonic. The Diamond Back is my fastest upright bicycle, and is fun to ride over shorter distances. The Bianchi may be getting a chrome front fork soon, and we can then do proper testing. Preliminary testing sure does make this bicycle seem like a good distance events bicycle. None of these bicycles are worth a great deal as they stand. But they all add their characteristics to my greater enjoyment of cycling.

High Quality Trek- CG Post #606, July 4, 2021.

Mostly, I am defining quality as a fitness for the intended use. I have to admit I have a favorite among my bicycles. The Trek 600 is my favorite bicycle. It is faster, more comfortable in terms of geometry, and has been retrofitted into being the most modern bicycle I own. It has brifters and outboard bottom bracket bearings. It is made of 531 steel. When I was still commuting, and the bike shop still abutted Constitution Trail, I bought this bike for about twice the expense of a good meal out. It was in good, but original, shape then. I modernized it over the years, as changes became necessary.

This bicycle has certainly been fit for the intended use. It was a well made frame with Reynolds 531 steel on the top tube, down tube, seat tube, and head tube. Often this is marked as 531 CS, or “Club Set”. The stays and fork are of chro-moly steel. The stay set and fork are made in America, some were made in Japan and shipped here for final fabrication. The lugs are all cast steel. I think, in 1984 dollars, these were about a $500.00 bicycle, equivalent to $1300.00 today. That is a great deal of money for a bicycle. But bicycles, with good maintenance, can last a lifetime.

I have to say the bicycle, as it came, was rather high geared. That was only a slight problem, as the bicycle was also light and comfortable. It would be a problem with higher hills. I changed out for a wider range of gears in the rear. Still nothing compared to the gearing you see in today’s bicycles. And this bicycle is totally silent. Nothing like the gearing you hear today, which sounds more like a Shimano fishing reel than it does a Shimano bicycle wheel hub of yore. Even after a couple of overhauls, this bicycle has presented no issues. And that is why this bicycle stands out among the others. Great quality, fit, and finish.

Cycling Amid the Waters- CG Post #605, June 30,2021

The trail was closed due to redevelopment. It would have been flooded anyway.
It looks like the trail will be higher this time.

I had a nice ride the other day, after yet more rains. The Normal Parks and Recreation crew did a fine job of clearing the trail after all the weather events of the past week. This is usually the thunderstorm season. It continues for a while, though. I am hopeful that damage from wind and flood are kept a little more in check as the season continues. I feel some communities, especially those which have experienced aerial flooding, could use a bit of a break. I checked on some places near me, and decided to take a bicycle ride uptown to see what was going on.

A lot of yards abutting the trail had been turned into bayous. The stream that runs under the trail was also streaming a great deal. I got the impression that the water there had been a great deal higher than when I saw them. Even the ditches alongside the trail as I climbed the ridge were showing where they had overflowed their banks and run over the trail to the road, leaving a trail of detritus in their wake. I also saw that the main trail was also quite surrounded by water in the area. It was a very impressive show on the part of nature, as was the last post.

I was on the touring bike, the Raleigh Sojourn, again. I figured I had better have a sturdy bicycle when I am encountering the unknown in these situations. The bicycle did a fine job of taking me on a short jaunt to the railroad station and return. That is a fun little ride. I am on the trail the whole way. I often see friends and relatives as I ride. Many of these folk no longer ride the roads. I try to avoid the roads when flooding is going on, or just after the flooding. Previous posts have detailed the frustration of riding down a road only to find the bridge or culvert washed away. In all, I was glad of nice ride on the trail, and glad it had already been cleared.