Commuter Rigs of the Early Days

I started commuting by bike daily around 2003. I rode from Reston to Falls Church in Virginia along the W&OD. This was pre-smartphones and ride tracking apps. I don’t have many photos from back then. A few though from the archives. [1] The first was my daily rider for several years – A @gary_fisher HooKooEKoo. It belonged to my Uncle-in-law and i inherited it when he passed away. I put a Surly rigid fork on it, flat bars cut real skinny with bar ends – pretty much to mimic the hoods of a drop bar bike. I eventually rode it into the ground. I stripped the bottom-bracket threads and I thought it was done, so I gave it a hero’s send off [2] and figured that was it.

I didn’t want to give up though and researching on the internet I found out that you could re-thread stripped BBs the opposite way and use a EuroItalian bottom bracket. So I found a shop in Maryland – College Park Bikes – who said they could do it. The bike lives on now, sitting in my garage. Around 2004 we moved to Annandale and I had the dream commute to Falls Church – we lived literally on the edge of Wakefield Park, so I could get an MTB rip in on my way to AND from work.

[3,4] Here’s a few pictures form those commutes. First, a Schwinn Moab that was actually my wife’s and way too small for me, and second, a nice slice of trail in Wakefield. When the Gary Fisher first died, a buddy of mine sent me a beater MTB frame and fork from Colorado – a Schwinn High Plains. I built it up as a drop bar single speed. [4]

I rode that to work for years and it was in the stable until just last year when I finally sold it. As with every bike I’ve ever sold, I regret it now, but it seemed like the right thing to do at the time. Never sell bikes, kids. We moved to New Brunswick in October of 2006, and in January of 2007 was one of my first commutes here – on a fixed-gear beater Specialized MTB that I’d bought off Craigslist in DC for $100 [5].

It was -28ºC in this photo. I’m finding it really hard to believe I’ve been commuting for over 15 years. You’d have thought I might have stopped then. I’m sure my fingers and toes wish I had.

Commutes Are Coming

Commutes are hopefully coming. Being that during the school year I need to get home in time to be there for my youngest two when they get off the bus, I don’t have the time, even with an adjusted work schedule, to ride the bike to work like I used to. There was a several year stretch when the were little and Mrs. Designer was still at home that I commuted pretty much every day, year round. We were even a one car family for awhile. I really miss it, so whenever there’s s school holiday or occasion that I can commute during the school year, I make an effort to do so. This year, we aren’t travelling anywhere for March Break, so this is one of those chances to get in a few days before summer and schools out. Being New Brunswick, and being winter, no idea what weather and/or road conditions will be. As such, I’ve prepared two steeds. The Disc Trucker if the roads are clear and iceless enough and the Pugsley if it gets ugly and it’s easier to take the snowmobile trail. 

Cross is Coming, Have No Doubt

Really, if you think about it, that’s kind of a dumb saying.  I mean, I get it and all, particularly in a motivational sense but really, in one way or another, cross is always coming.

I was listening to a talk the other day on the Buddhist concept of the ‘5 Hindrances’. The talk is here if you’re interested, but the quick breakdown:

According to Buddha – or at least him and everyone that’s been writing his stuff down since the 6th century – there’s 5 things getting in your (my, anyone’s) way. Way forward, way to ‘enlightenment’, way to your goals – whatever – take your pick:

  1. Sensory desire (kāmacchanda): the particular type of wanting that seeks for happiness through the five senses of sight, sound, smell, taste and physical feeling. Sometimes also referred to as ‘lust’.
  2. Ill-will (vyāpāda; also spelled byāpāda): all kinds of thought related to wanting to reject; feelings of hostility, resentment, hatred and bitterness. Also sometimes referred to as ‘aversion’.
  3. Sloth-and-torpor (thīnamiddha): heaviness of body and dullness of mind which drag one down into disabling inertia and thick depression.
  4. Restlessness-and-worry (uddhaccakukkucca): the inability to calm the mind.
  5. Doubt (vicikicchā): lack of conviction or trust.

From Wikipedia

So I’m chugging along, listening to Vinny break it down in his talk and it occurs to me, one of my things is Doubt. I’ve got doubt. I’ve used doubt. I’ve used doubt a lot as a reason to not do work. Sometimes to not even start. To not even plan.

By using my doubt as an excuse, I could get out of committing to things, plans, and actions due to my lack faith that I could follow through or complete them.

“Yeah, I don’t think I can do that. ” So just don’t try. Problem, solved.

You could also tag this as a fear. A fear of failure.

I’ve been working on what David over at Raptitude calls ‘getting better at being human’. Overhauling things. Working on fitness both mental and physical.

In the physical sense, I found I needed a goal, and something specific. ‘Loosing weight’ and ‘getting in shape’ were too arbitrary, they weren’t cutting it.

Last year, my goal was to ride my bike across an island in one day. I managed to do it, but I knew even then that I hadn’t really trained for it. I said I was going to, but I didn’t. I showed up for the ride and winged it. I made it, barely. A learning experience for sure, and one not to be dismissed.

I’ve always dug the sport of cyclocross. I like the brutality of it. The combination of various bike and athletic skills. The fact that it is, for the most part, carried out in weather and conditions that most people in their right mind would want nothing to do with.

I’ve ‘raced’ cross twice over the years. The first time I was mostly concerned with nabbing goofy handups and for the most part finished feeling terrible. In hindsight, this was a perfect example of doubt winning. I had no faith that I could actually ride well in the event, so chose to just go for the door prizes.

The second time, I was in slightly better shape, tried to focus more on riding, and did better. It was a ‘success’ I guess, in however you’d determine entering a C Cat cross race and finishing without dying or major injury would be a success. I certainly didn’t place, nor did I have any delusions that I would. And I definitely had the feeling that I had no idea what I was doing.

A few months ago I came up with an indoor trainer program to see if I could stick with it. I managed to do so for the most part, and even made notes on my daily progress, revised goals and expectations – like a real grown-up.

So I decided to look further out. Now, cross season is the new goal. I hear tell there’s around 6 races planned in New Brunswick – well 6 VeloNB ones anyway – so I’ve decided to give the season a go. I don’t know exactly how many I’ll be able to hit yet, but we’ll see. If memory/history serves me, they’re all pretty much within one day driving distance of me.

More interestingly, I have no idea how I’ll determine what success is. Is it starting? Is it finishing more than one? Is it placement? I don’t know. I think I will figure this out as part of the process. And really, the process – the commitment – is what I’m working on here. I can’t remember when, or even if, I’ve committed to something this long/far out before. (For those not in the know – cross season usually starts around September.)

Today starts the first phase. I’ve found a 12 week cycling base-building training program from a source on the web.  After that I’ve got another 12 week program in the coffers as well as an 8 week cross-specific program. I’ll decide where to go after the first 12 weeks. In addition I’m sprinkling in some mobility and strength training where there’s spots to slot it in the 12 week program. Add in some changes in diet and nutrition I’ve been working on and continue to tweak and the numbers/tracking geek in me is pretty excited. I plan to keep track of things, make notes, revise as needed. Revise as needed vs. quitting – will be the key to defeating Doubt.

I don’t really know how I’ll measure success. I’m not deluded into thinking I’ll win whatever category I enter, or even make a podium. I’m not really sure what my concrete goal is. Doubt would have me just not even try since so much was unresolved.

Maybe that’s the goal, just making sure doubt doesn’t win between now and the start line.

I think in some respects success will be showing up and making sure I finish feeling like I did my best and did the work between now and then justice.

It’s Friday, Mofos: Therefore, JAZZ.

So I’m bombing down the dark backroads of New Brunswick between the Hinterlands of Chipman and Fredericton last night and listening to jazz on CBC Radio2’s Tonic – you know – cause that’s how us New Brunswickers take the sting off an hour back and forth drive for a tough Atom Rec Hockey 8-0 pasting – and a few tracks stood out for me from the obligatory (though always excellent) John Coltrane and Ella Fitzgerald. Luckily the boy was too fully immersed in on the iPad in whatever ‘get your dude through to the next level’ game is hip right now to register a complaint with regards to my listening choice.

ton·ic [ˈtänik]

1. a medicinal substance taken to give a feeling of vigor or well-being.
synonyms: stimulant, restorative, refresher, medicine; More
2. short for tonic water.

1. giving a feeling of vigor or well-being; invigorating.

First off mellow out with The Bad Plus, doing an unexpectedly cool cover of Tears For Fears’ ‘Everybody Wants to Rule the World’. Yes, you read that right. A tasty cover for sure and Drummer David King’s delicious ride cymbal work merits a listen of this track alone.

Now that you’re chill, rocket to light speed with Dinah Washington grooving through ‘Destination Moon’. When this came on and Dinah kicked in the swagger, I was ready to jump on whatever vessel she wanted and teleport wherever she asked. Houston, I am smitten.

Get up, out, and blast off kids, it’s Friday!

Taking The 100 Thing Challenge.

I recently finished the book The 100 Thing Challenge in which it’s author, Dave Bruno, attempts to live for a year with only 100 personal items. He did this in response his  fatigue with what he called ‘American Style Consumerisim‘ and in an effort to simplify his life and make more room for the important things. I highly recommend you read the book, whether you opt to take the challenge or not, as it has some great insights in it with regards to why and how we buy and collect ‘stuff’.

I’ve decided to take up this challenge myself, for better or worse and have set a tentative date of May 1st as the point of no return. As such I’ll be spending the winter ‘clearing the baffles’ so to speak and whittling down my possessions to my 100 (or dare I say sub-100?) list. I’ll be trying to document some of the process here and in future blog entires if you wanna read along. So a heads up: Don’t buy me anything.

Coming up with the list does pose some unique conundrums – some of which Dave provides his own solutions for in the book. One of the tenements of the Challenge is that it is and will be different for everyone, there are no steadfast rules. As such I’ve a few issues to work out myself.


In his  book, Dave talks about limiting your clothes and counts each item of clothing as one item on the list. While I’d like to say I could do that, I don’t know if it’s as simple. For one, I live in an area of the world with a much different climate than him (San Diego vs, Fredericton, New Brunswick) and bottom line, I have seasonal requirements for more clothing items. Think LAYERS people, among other things. I’m not sure how I’m going to address this for the list yet. Currently I’m leaning towards counting categories or groups of clothes as one thing, i.e. ‘t-shirts’, ‘pants’, ‘hats and gloves’, etc. I do want to try and get rid of some of my clothes. I mean I have stuff in my closet that I never wear or I’m saving for one day, which I know will never come.

Bike Stuff

I have a lot of bike stuff. Both bikes and accessories. I’ve never had much guilt about it as I ride my bikes to work at least 50% of the time each year, even in lousy weather. My bikes aren’t super top of the line, but I have made some decent upgrades and especially when it comes to bike specific clothing/gear, I have in some cases bought quality stuff as it makes commuting in rain/sleet/snow that much more possible. I always have justified the expense of gear with the fact that it enables me to do more of something that is good for myself, the planet, and the pocketbook. That said I do plan to cull some stuff from the bike herd. I have a pretty good stockpile of ‘spare parts’ which I probably will never need and even if I do need replacements these are outdated. I hope to find some way to get rid of these without just trashing them.

This leaves me with my question of how this stuff relates to my 100 Things list. I feel that it’s important that I include it somehow and not exclude it offhand. For the clothes/gear, I’m leaning towards using the same method I mentioned above with regular clothes. That seems reasonable. With the bikes, well I’m thinking, realistically, I should count each bike as one ‘thing’. I mean, really I can only ride one at a time so any more than that are superfluous. If I’m going to keep more than one, I think I have to be willing to suck it up and count each one towards my 100 Thing list. I will probably include spare parts I do end up keeping for each bike as part of the bike, so essentially one ‘thing’ = bike and spare parts. We’ll see how it goes.


Dave talks about this in his book and his final solution to the problem was to simply say he had one ‘library’ that encompassed his books. The ‘library’ counted as one ‘thing’. I’m ok with that. I don’t have a lot of books, but I have some that I’m fond of, and some I’ve even worked on or designed, so I’ll be keeping them. I still think there’s some that could go, and will, but I’ll be sticking with his idea of one ‘library’ counting as a thing.


I’ve got at least 900 CDs. Up until about a month ago, they’d been in boxes in the basement for the better part of 2 years. By example that would mean that really, according to the 100 Thing Challenge, I don’t really need ’em and they should go. Part of the reason they were in boxes is simply because I had no logical place to store them while I refinished my basement. But as time passed, I’d kinda forgotten about them. I would think about them sometimes, on several occasions even digging into boxes to pull out specific ones to burn to my iTunes library, but the simple fact is that the bulk of my music (all 140GB of it) now resides on my computer and I don’t see any going back. I’ve talked from time to time with Lyn about taking the CDs to the used CD joint and just making a few bucks (prolly far few than I think they’re emotionally worth, sniff, sniff) but then I’d be done with it.

As a designer, I’ve got a huge attachment to the album art, sleeves, liner notes, and packaging that these represent. The physical object is hard to let go of, even I really have no need of them anymore. Several times I’ve said to myself that I’d get rid of them once I’d burned them all to my computer but the reality is that not only would that take forever, it would eat up huge volumes of hard drive space I don’t have. I’d have to buy an external drive to hold it all and it seems I’d be just setting myself up for a huge heartbreak when that drive eventually takes a huge shit like they all eventually do. (One thing working on computers all my life has taught me is that no information stored anywhere is permanent, it can go away in the blink of an eye and we should all accept this fact, it makes things easier.)

Right now, my current frame of mind is to go through them, cull the really meaningful and/or out-of-print ones and either keep those or burn ’em to the Mac and sell/dump the rest. We’ll see what happens. I’ve thought about applying the ‘book library’ idea here, and calling this ‘one music library’, but the difference is, I can easily convert these physical CDs to digital files and save the space/clutter. To do that with books I’d have to actually re-buy the books. I’m not sure I’m down with the ‘audio library’ idea. Like I said, we’ll see.

One idea I am toying with is if I do ditch all the CDs, trying to do something with the artwork from inside them, some sort of mural or something. I dunno. Haven’t fully flushed it out yet. I have some that are autographed as well and thought those would be kinda cool if framed nice.

Tools/Lawn and Garden

Although Dave talks about ditching his fine woodworking tools and streamlining his toolkit down to a few essential tools, I’m not gonna go that route. I don’t harbor any fantasies of ever being a fine woodworker, but what I do have is an hyperactive DIY drive. Being that we live in a pretty rural area and in addition to getting extreme satisfaction from doing stuff on/around the property myself, it saves money, I try to do as much home maintenance/renovation as possible myself. (I’m currently in the midst of an – ahem – 2 year basement refinish that is about 50% done. Hey, I work on it when I can.) I’ve accrued a pretty good arsenal of tools, but I’m also adamant about maintaining them properly so hopefully they will last indefinitely. Self-sustainablity and resourcefulness, I think Dave would agree, are both 100 Thing Challenge compliant. And even if he doesn’t, as he says so many times in the book, this is my list, not his.

For the above reasons, as well as the fact that all of the stuff is used for the benefit of everyone who lives here not just me, I’ve decided to not count tools, hardware and lawn and garden stuff (snowblower, lawnmower, etc) in my 100 Things list. I consider that stuff ‘household’ goods.

So the whittling down will commence. I’ll post up my list and revisions of it leading up to my May 1st date once I have it going. Stay tuned.