Some bike musings

Back in 2011 I decided to invest in a decent bike, and got myself a Trek FX 7.2. This is a hybrid or fitness style bike that has flat handlebars, a 3x front chainring, and decent but basic components. In the past 8 years I’ve put almost 3,700 miles on that bike. I’ve been increasing the yearly total a lot over the past couple years, and it started to get me thinking about if it’s time to invest in something new.

IMG_0249.JPGI did purchase a used fat bike this winter, but that’s a very specific purpose, and I don’t use it as a daily rider most of the time. What I’m considering is if it’s time to move up to something more akin to a road or gravel bike. I know that a little bit of what holds back my power output is the general design of a hybrid bike. They’re meant to be all-purpose, which means that they don’t excel at any single use. For the most part that works when I’m doing general riding around to breweries, or running errands, but for any longer rides that get upwards of 30 miles, I feel like I could be doing better.

My friend Abe asked why I don’t just modify my hybrid into something else, but there are a few key things that I want to change that would just be too cost prohibitive on this bike. Also, at the end of the day, my Trek FX 7.2 is a $600 bicycle, and trying to ask it to be something more, just doesn’t seem fair given it’s price point. So what am I looking for? A few key things.

  1. I’d like to move over to a drop bar style bike, that puts my hands in a better position for longer rides. It’s more natural for your hands to sit in the relaxed position on a drop bar handle than typical flat bar style.
  2. Moving over to a 2x chainring and drive set seems like something that would fit my riding style better. I tend to hang out in one gear on the front all the time anyway. In fact, my fat bike has only 1 chainring, and I can still manage to climb most hills with it just fine. A 2x would give be some chainring sizes that might be better for power transfer, especially over longer distances.
  3. Curiosity about a different style of geometry, and it can affect my riding. I need to do more research into frame geometry, but I know that moving from a hybrid to a road or gravel is going to give me a different riding experience.
  4. A upgraded experience. Most gravel bikes start in the $1,200-1,500 price range, which is a big step up from where I’m at, and often includes nice disc brakes.

I did do some test riding a few weeks ago at one bike shop, and started getting a feel for what the different bikes ride like, but I wanted to put the question out to the internet at large.

What’s your go-to bike style? Why did you choose it? Did you move away from one style to another? What else should I be thinking about in all of this?

Quick Review: KÜHL Parajax jacket

A couple months ago I started my search for a nice lightweight shell to use when running on cool mornings, or in light rain. I finally made my choice, and I’ve been using the KÜHL Parajax for the past few weeks while Minnesota has been transitioning from Winter to… kinda Spring? Suffice it to say, we’ve been having some odd weather this year, and so having a nice shell has been a huge benefit.

DSC09978-2.jpgI had been weighing my options for a while and settled on the Parajax for a couple of reason. First, like the Houdini it folded into a pocket, but unlike some of the competition the Parajax has a couple of really nice front pockets that have zippers. It was this pocket configuration that really sealed the deal for me.

DSC09985I’ve taken the Parajax out on quite a few runs now, and I’m really liking it. It’s very lightweight, and breathable, but like most shells it helps trap heat next to your body to keep you warm. My usual strategy is to wear it for the first 1-2 miles of my run, and then stow it before it gets too hot that I soak the inside of it with sweat. I missed the window on one particular run and by the time I had taken it off, it was pretty wet inside. Thankfully, the material dries really quick and easy, so all it took was airing it out once I got back home.

DSC09982I haven’t yet tried it in the rain (beyond a quick picture for this post), but like most of these shells, it’s mean to be water resistant, not fully waterproof. For something that is fully waterproof I’d need to look at other option. I’m OK with that though, and I’m sure if I got caught in a rain storm it would provide enough protection to help get me back to safety.

The Parajax is a bit more expensive than some of the other options, but you can usually find it on sale, or discounted with a coupon. It’s a great, durable, jacket and my only regret is waiting so long to pick one up.

 

Getting out of IT… a little bit

This past week I left my job and started a new one. That seems to be a somewhat common theme in my life, as I’ve done a lot of job hopping, but this time I moved into something a bit different than what I’ve been doing in the past. For quite a while now, I’ve been an IT Manager, running teams of infrastructure engineers keeping operations going. I’ve had teams as large as 14 and as small as 3. One thing has been constant throughout it all though… doing whatever we could to keep systems up and running.

My career was mostly about the “business of IT”, or how to run Information Technology in the best manner. That means that, for the most part, what I’ve been doing for the past half a decade could be done anywhere. The details are different, but the tasks my teams would do are the same. Keep servers up-to-date and running, as well as patched. Manage large storage arrays and virtual environments. Develop processes for intake of work, and build out a robust private cloud infrastructure. It’s good work, and a job that I was pretty good at. But I’m at a point where I’m done with IT.

That’s why I jumped at the chance to take on something a little bit different. I’ve joined Metro Transit as a Transit Technology Coordination Manager, with a role to help build out our technology strategy and governance, but from the business side. This means that I’m no longer involved in operational work, but am upstream from it, thinking about how best to use technology to solve business problems. I’m a part of our strategic initiative office, and I get to help build out our governance process from the ground up. It’s going to be a lot of work, but it gets me closer to my strength, which is using technology to solve real problems.

I’m also excited to be back in a standard day-job that doesn’t result in 2am phone calls because Citrix is down, or a storage array crashed. I was never very good at being an incident manager, and it was my least favorite part of operational work. I’m much happier being a strategist and planner, and leave operations to folks who are more gifted in those areas.

It also means that most of the time I’ll be working in Minneapolis, which is a huge perk for me from a transportation perspective. I have many more options for biking, trains, or bussing, and on many days my car will probably sit dormant at home. People who know me, know that I’d like to do more environmentally, but when I live in the suburbs, it’s hard to reduce my impact with how car-centric we need to be. This job helps me reduce my impact, even just a little bit.

I’m excited for this new journey, and looking forward to charting a different path for a while. Hopefully, this will be a the start of a long a enjoyable job that I can stick around for long-term.

Quick Review: The Expanse

A few weeks ago the wife decided to start watching a new series. At first I wasn’t interested, but eventually I decided I wanted to check it out. The Expanse is a sci-fi series that originally launched on the SyFy network, but after three seasons was cancelled. Amazon has agreed to pick up Season 4, and so all the previous seasons are not available on Prime.

The premise is that in the future, humanity has colonized the solar system, and there is an uneasy truce between Mars and Earth. Caught in the middle of this struggle are the Belters, who inhabit the moons and asteroid belt of the outer planets. These Belters are often seen as commodity labor, working to provide resources to the two giant warring factions.

The story begins with a rebellious daughter of a corporate CEO going missing. Through the entire first season we follow the journey of two different groups that are trying to find her, that eventually come together. Throughout the story you learn more about the world that these people inhabit, and a large portion of the show is about the political dealings of the major factions. Although there are action scenes, this is really a noir-style sci-fi show, that deals with the gritty reality of a solar system on the brink of war.

We’re part way through the second season, and so far I’ve enjoyed what I’ve seen. On the positive side, there are a lot of great storylines that are woven together throughout, and I loved how they come together. The political drama is pretty typical, but Shohreh Aghdashloo delivers the goods when it comes to playing the high-stakes game of brinksmanship. For me, she is the absolute best part of the show. She presents a visage of dignity and calm, but can get her hands dirty with the best of them.

On the negative side, some of the acting is a bit wooden, which is often typical for shows of this caliber. Similar to shows like Arrow, once you invest in a main character, you’re pretty much stuck with them, even if they don’t grow as an actor as much as you hope. I am still optimistic that the main character, James Holden (played by Steven Strait), will eventually develop more depth beyond righteous do-gooder with family issues.

I’m looking forward to finishing out the first three seasons, and then see what Amazon will do with it going forward. If you’re in the mood for something sci-fi, that’s not just guns and ship battles, The Expanse is a worthwhile watch.

Some north shore photography

I haven’t done a pure photo post in a while, so I decided now’s a good time. I was on my way back from volunteering at the Spring Superior Trail races and decided to hit a few cool spots along the way. Particularly, Gooseberry Falls. I put an album up over on my SmugMug. Enjoy!

North Shore May 2019