Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year

Since getting waylaid by a cold I've been doing some reading on this and that and a little bit of riding.
Today was beautiful and I went out for about 4 hours of leisurely riding around the city. I was particularly interested in watching my two wheeled brothers and sisters since reading WABA's "Resolve to Ride Responsibly".

From what I can tell nothing has changed. I'll be queued up with the cars and some "scofflaw" biker will dash down the middle into the intersection while he does his oh too cool balancing act before darting across the intersection at the first opening.

The entire day I saw no bikers stop at stop signs or red lights (except when they had to so as not to get flattened).

On the other hand I saw the usual amount of cars turning right on red without stopping, speeding, dashing through the intersection hoping to beat the red light...



Usually I get a lump of coal but not this year. I must have been a good boy 'cause I got an iPad for Christmas.

So off I went reading reviews of the thing and comments to see what people thought of it and how they use it. Oops. The comments were a war zone with one group calling it a toy and style over substance and the iPad users defending it. Geesh.

I did learn one thing. I've learned that this group of people are as focused on fashion and style as teenage girls. Apparently this subculture exists to bash Apple and think all users of Apple products use them to make some kind of statement about fashion or to be seen with them to be cool or something. 

Well, I'm not about to look a gift horse in the mouth. I am now stylin', fashionable AND cool! Who woulda thunk it? Certainly not me, and I can't take any credit for it because it was handed to me. But here I am all cool and shite and I still don't know how to use the thing. This is like totally awesome!




Came across an article about Pirate Bay and how those boys are up against it. Again the comments were unreal. I remember the argument for "free" music by these tools but now they've passed that on to the movie makers as well. 

I guess when you're looting you look for any justification you can but these tools are short on critical reasoning. Reminded me of some of the comments about the WABA pledge. Some of those tools actually used the argument that until the laws are enforced for cars they'll continue to break the law anytime they want. 

I don't like this reading thing. Makes ya realize there's a bunch of bozo's out there among us more reasoned folks. I'd rather be out riding and ignore them.

Tomorrow brings a new year. I predict not much will change.




Thursday, December 23, 2010

Cold

As much as I dislike riding in the cold I dislike getting a cold more. I haven't had one for years but I got a whopper a few weeks back. Kicked my butt good. Don't know if it was flu or even if it's flu season. Then we had snow and by the time I felt like riding again it's all icy and crap and I'm finding it difficult to get going.


That's a picture of a big snow storm. If I showed the snow we had that kept me from riding I'd be admitting to wussing and that's not happenin'.

I know there's folks out there that will take that kind of down time and read up on quantum mechanics and other quality pursuits but I'm a country boy and spent most of my time watching YouTube and iJustine and lousy action movies on Netflix, browsing the web and doing my yearly winter site search for the best way to ride in the cold.

A well prepared rider.


There are many reasons to dislike winter riding but co-workers snide remarks are near the top. Every time someone asks "did you ride today" there's the unspoken "you moron" at the end. They really want to say it but a sense of propriety keeps it in check. 

There's never a problem of warmth as there's plenty of heat from the toes up, the problem is always the fingers. The palms rest on the handle bars and cut off the blood flow and those digits are just sittin' out there waiting to turn black. I've tried about every glove there is and found the lobster style works best for me.



My current glove, the Pearl Izumi lobster glove.

The other option when riding in below freezing weather is to not wear head covering, just the helmet. This allows the brain to freeze and then you don't much care what the heck the temp is. Try it. You'll roll along thinking "Dude, this is like a totally awesome day!". A cold brain is a numb brain and a numb brain is a happy brain.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Fall down go boom

My riding technique is nearly flawless and my "bike awareness" level is top notch. I'm as good as it gets. That's to say as good as it gets as long as I never do anything where I could possibly lose control of the bike. When it comes to the "take no risk" theory of biking I stand without peers.

So, being the master of the bike with near perfect form, I'm always surprised when I crash.
Now I haven't crashed in a few years but I read this article in the New York times and I got to thinking. Have I ever crashed bad enough to make me think of quitting the bike?

The worst injury was several years back when I was riding to the ear doctor's office and I was going along a path I often take when suddenly a big ol' hole (BOH) appeared.


Some one had decided to put in a new bit of sidewalk right at this particular point where I switch onto it for a block or so and hadn't bothered to inform me. The metal plate that was supposed to cover the BOH had left a bit of a gap off to the right which I was able to find without any difficulty.
My front wheel disappeared into the BOH and I was airborne.


Being of sound mind I analyzed the situation and decided a roll was in order. My analysis of the situation had taken longer than I thought and my roll was a tad late. Instead of landing on my back left shoulder and rolling with it I landed square on my left shoulder and only managed a good thwack. There was no roll.

After a once over I figured all was well and was off to the doctors but there was this growing pain in my shoulder.
The ear doctor asked me what was wrong and after telling him he took a look and told me that I'm an idiot because I clearly had broken my collar bone, there being a big lump there where bones were trying to make their way to the surface.


The emergency room was packed and I was impatient and thought, hell, I'll go to my regular doctor. Well, a week later I finally called since I could no longer sleep and the pain was getting worse.
A reprimand, sling and pain pills and a few weeks later I was back on the bike.
I never thought of not riding again.

There was the time I was mountain biking and over cooked a sharp downhill turn to the left and landed in some thorn bushes. That wasn't so bad actually. I lay there thinking, ok, I'm in one piece, this could have been worse.


Here's a tip on thorn bushes - once you've made the decision to enter them it's best to just keep going til you've reached the other side. Don't linger.
After I managed to free myself I still had to get my bike out. Blood was spilt.
A pretty miserable several days followed but all's well that ends well.
I never thought of not riding again.

Then there was the spring where I broke my foot playing tennis. Yes, it's true. Hard to believe I know.
Spring is not a good time to find oneself on crutches and I never thought of not riding for 8 weeks. I got some bungie cords and rigged up a little system where I could attach the crutches to the bike and get to where I needed to go, remove the crutches, and hobble about.
Worked great.
After being reprimanded by my doctor I reduced my riding to a few times a week and didn't mention it to him again. He thought I was being a good lad and laying about all hours of the day.
Worked great.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

the law of the land

Cranksgiving is happening in New York City. It's a charity ride where participants can donate money and also win prizes.

There are people who are offering cranks to those not much interested. In the DC area there have been quite a few flashers offering their cranks for public viewing. The only thing I can figure is these people aren't aware that you can ride naked with a bunch of other people and nobody will report you to the police. Just go get yourself an old bike and a long coat and ride along with the occasional flash and you're good to go. Blend in sort of thing. Same results but no jail time.

On two occasions this past summer I had teenage drivers yell at me to get on the sidewalk. This is in Maryland. At a stoplight one of them continued telling me that it's the law, I have to ride on the sidewalk. Now, I don't live in Maryland but I have read the bike laws a bit and can say with certainty it's not the law. In Maryland you have to ride on the street. I mentioned that if one is going to quote the law one should know it. Knowing what one is talking about gives the argument much more weight. Kids these day.



I thought of those two kids last week when I encountered the law. The last two blocks of my commute I take the sidewalk (in DC, where it's legal except for the business district). Last week a cop got out of his car and was crossing the sidewalk to go into a store and so I slowed as he crossed in front of me and he told me it was illegal to ride on the sidewalk. I was under the impression that knowing the law was kinda their business, what with all the upholding and such. I didn't mention the quote the law/know the law thing, him being a cop and all. Cops these days.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Gas

Oslo is taking your crap. They're not only taking it but propel you on your way with it.
I hate getting behind buses because of the smell. I can't help but wonder...

Today was a holiday so I went out riding. Weather was great. Rode over to the capital, visited a new bike shop and had some lunch.


On the way home I was taking the CCT out of Georgetown and heard some strange clicking noise on my front wheel. I slowed a tad to see if I could hear it better, leaning down a bit. I strayed a little but stayed in my lane. Stopping would have been too much to ask I suppose.

As I was concentrating on the noise a bunch of RT's (real bikers) were concentrating on giving it the gas, they came whizzing by me down the middle of the path. Not to the left but down the middle. Inches from me. One of them yelled "get the fuck over!" and when I said something like "huh?" another suggested I "learn how to ride!".



I'm not sure but I believe that being upright and going in a fairly straight line puts me in the category of riding. Perhaps there are maneuvers I've yet to master but I think if you were to see me going along you could say with confidence "he's riding a bicycle".

As to getting the fuck over, I hadn't the foggiest of where over was located. I could go over into the left lane but that's against the rules and would be bad form. Over to the right lay some nice grass but I wasn't on my mountain bike so he couldn't want me to go there. As much as I would have liked to help I simply did not have enough data to work with.

However I am gifted with a singular wit and so I offered that they should just get in fucking cars and be done with it. I thought this clearly a notch above "YOU learn how to ride!" and I was feeling rather pleased with myself when one of the last ones posed a question. "What did you say?" he inquired.

For some reason my wit went from singular to dim and I muttered some inanity at which point a few more pleasantries were exchanged and then they stepped on the gas and were gone.

Ah, so that's what they mean by learning how to ride.

Another beautiful day in the nations capital.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Cranks

Occasionally something silly grabs on and won't let go and insists on dying a long slow death.

Kilts
Beanie babies
Fixies

What is hip now will turn to scorn. Your friends will draw away from you. "That is so yesterday" will haunt your every step.





That's the problem with these things, today's cleverness is tomorrow's stupidity. Where ever you go there will be murmurs: "What was he thinking to do such an idiotic thing?".

No, if you're going to go off and do something idiotic it's best to do it on the dl. Something like the ThermaJock:

When out riding along in freezing weather, with the howling winds and the nose in need of a good absorbent and the tips of fingers and toes turning a nice shade of coal, it must be quite comforting knowing that your crank, which is nestled in one of the 3 warmest parts of the body, has that added layer of protection. 

This will never come back to bite you. Where one would brag about the new Karaneige collection they just purchased one is not likely to go showing off the latest in crank warmers. "Dude, you gotta see this!" will never be received by your friends with a hearty "Wow! Hey, can I try it on?".

But these good folks have missed an opportunity here. What is needed is an armpit warmer as well, another very warm part of the body that is being overlooked. The ThermaPit. They could sell a combo pack and call it the ThermaTool.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The arm of the law

Apparently in Long Beach you can be cited for violations even though the city was not able to help you meet your requirements to avoid those violations.

The Long Beach police stopped one of those mass ride things and ticketed people and took many bikes because of violations, including unlicensed bikes. You have to get your bike registered with the Fire Department but they ran out of stickers for the year so couldn't inspect any more bikes.

So there you are riding about as though all is well when the arm of the law reaches out and grabs you. It doesn't matter that another arm had run low on inventory and failed to ramp up for demand.  No, this arm doesn't know about that arm and this arm is usually of the few words type. Pleading your case won't do so you'll have to plead your case to another arm. That would be the same arm that found a 4 year old can be sued.

It turns out that if you've reached your 5th birthday, give or take a few months, you are quite capable of negligence and can be held accountable for your actions.



I hope the little buggers use their little arms to pull out their squirt guns and give them the ol' what fer before making a daring dash to freedom.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Tattoo who?


When I was growing up tattoo's were on crusty sailors and ne'er do wells. You saw a tattoo you crossed the street with some pep in your step.

Today the younger ones get them to rebel or to make a personal statement or from peer pressure. A close observer would conclude that they simply want to look like a bunch of tools. I've read that many consider it a side of them that people don't know. This could very well be.

On the other hand it's quite possible this is a side people don't want to know:


Then again, maybe they do:


Still, one wonders if the other side couldn't be displayed on a custom made t-shirt.

A friend of mine recently went off to an island with his wife and returned with a tattoo. Nothing major, just a small shape - no animal, vegetable or mineral - on his lower left calf.

I don't know if the idea of it surged new life into his aging soul - as if suddenly the spring would return to the step and the autumn years would be filled with warm breezes and bright sunshine - or it was an alternative to the comb over or perhaps a replacement for washing that gray right out of your hair. No matter, I felt that I could have stepped in had I known that such a daffy idea was brewing beneath that frosty top. But I had no inkling he was about to go off and behave like an idiot.

I was concerned. Concern is something that old people become quite familiar with as we get... uh ... old. Not the least of these is the loss of marbles. Losing marbles is as high on the list as it gets. Well, wearing Depends is up there too. And death. Ok, marble loss should be third on the list. But if you lose enough marbles then the other two are no longer a concern, right? It's all very confusing. Anyway, it seemed that my good friend had misplaced a marble or two and I wasn't at all certain he had put in a good search for them. He seemed pleased with his new look.

Even though the adorned calf had jolted me I was not to rain on my friends parade. I kindly told him it was pretty "cool". I asked about it, how did he decide on the design, did it hurt, what did it cost...

I've even found the perfect gift for him to go along with his calf tattoo:

Friday, October 22, 2010

Win a bike

Public bikes is having a contest where you can win a bike.

"What you need to do to enter: Tell us in ~200 words or less where you would take us and what we would do on a 90 minute bicycle trip in your hometown."

First thing I want to know is how long are they staying and how many are coming? Will I need to freshen the linens? Is a continental breakfast expected?

I suppose that folks back in my hometown in Ohio are out of luck, unless 3 times around the town looking at the same 3 landmarks is the kind of 90 minutes that folks from the west coast dream of.


Still, it's a fine looking bike and I'm sure they're all good people.

So, write up a little volume and send it off if you're looking for a new bike with friends attached.  

New York City. Seems they've got a bit of a bicycle problem. 

They just agreed to pay out a cool million for the way that some of their men in blue treated a mass of riders. Now they're going to crack down on scofflaw bikers because there's in increase in pedestrian/cyclist confrontations

Seems like a perfect time for a bit of that distance and heart and fondness thing. Cooler heads and such. Hard to imagine the men in blue are going to be all warm and fuzzy to some scofflaw toodling along on the sidewalk after dishing out a cool mil to some of their brethren.



Thursday, October 21, 2010

Europeans

The nifty thing about Europe (besides the Civilized riding) is the variety of bikes you can find there. The bike builders don't wait for someone to ask what kind of bike they'd like, they just go off and build the thing. One of my favorite sites/mags is Velo Vision because you get to see some of these things you otherwise wouldn't know existed. Here's a few I'd like to ride:

Shopping basket (Feetz bikes Netherlands)
The front leans into turns


Katz Switzerland (cool chain thingy)



Homemade England

I want one of these for winter riding!


Monday, October 18, 2010

Deer me

I like nature. I like animals. I don't eat them and figure they've as much right to their place on the planet as any of us. On my commute I've seen a lot of deer, rabbits and the occasional fox. When I drop down to the canal and take it the last 5 miles home I can see cranes and turtles and sometimes very large birds of prey - owls and buzzards (the big kind).

That's not to say that you'll find me in some small village gathering moss and watching nature do her thing.   I like my city life too. And that's the great thing about where I live, I'm a few miles from either.

The unfortunate part is of course that we have to intermingle and too often the poor creatures meet with one of the dreaded cars and we know who wins that engagement.  This morning one of the poor creatures came close to engaging a bicycle and I'm not at all certain who would have won that one.


I had just peaked a bridge over the beltway and was on the down side, going at a good clip. I had just checked my mirror for the dreaded cars and when looking back at the road saw something out of the corner of my eye. It was big and brown and coming straight at me from the right.

A deer had jumped the railing to cross the road and was midair and about to take the stuffing right out of me. Well. I like my stuffing and was fairly certain the deer liked its stuffing just as much. I soon was fist full of brakes and rear wheel sliding out into the road. I came to a very wobbly stop and the poor creature had landed a few feet in front of me and seemed quite startled as well as it's legs were flailing in all directions. We exchanged a brief glance. It recovered it's balance and bolted back over the railing and disappeared to from where it came.

I guess we were both too busy looking out for the dreaded car and didn't notice each other.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

stylin'

More of the new fashion trend for bikes I saw on Urban Velo.

I suppose when one has to have the last word then one dons one of these things. I've made it clear that I am not qualified to pass any judgement on current fashion. My personal taste in dressing hasn't changed much in decades. That does not mean that in any given year I'm not in fashion. Fashion is cyclical. If you saw me now you could well be viewing the cover of the fall 2013 catalog.

This is surely a sign that there are more people biking. These good folks aren't making this stuff for the status quo. I doubt that the spandex clad warrior will be donning a black Callison with red edging on his/her next outing.


As I make my way around the city and surroundings I keep a sharp eye out for the interesting and unusual and can report that I have yet to see any interesting and unusual dressings.  I see the spandex clad warriors, the mountain bikers, the weekend riders on the comfort bikes but none of them have caused me to pull up and declare "Now that's stylin'!". For that matter I've yet to see any of the new designer bags and panniers. The one new thing I encounter are tools doing their bizarre fish tail brake dance on their fixies. 

The people I do see that are stylin' are older people, mostly women, on decades old bicycles with baskets in the front while sporting a nice garden wear sundress and well worn clogs. 



Maybe this is a European thing. But with a name like Casqu'En Ville it won't be long before it reaches the shores and is the next cool and hip thing. At least until 2013 when my stylin' makes a comeback.

Speaking of fixies, these good folk will sell you one for $299, speeding you on your way to angelic choirs singing hallelujah. 

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Dutch and the Americans

Recently a bunch of American city officials went off to the Netherlands to learn about how they got to where they are in terms of city biking.

There is some interesting information in the article but the big one is ignored. What they have ignored is the type of biking being done in these cities and towns: Civilized.



My neighbor has 3 girls and decided to encourage them to bike more. We are but a mile from the Capital Crescent Trail and from there it's up to Bethesda or down to Georgetown. He rounded them up and off they went with a plan to lunch in either or then make a leisurely return trip, happy in mind that all would enjoy the days outing of feast and fun.

Of course the poor man had to come to terms with the cloudiness that invades the minds of parents the world over. The very idea that he could take 3 girls on a short bicycle trip on a public path and all would be peaches and cream is the very definition of the clouded mind.

Apparently the littlest one is prone to a bit of the wobbly and a lack of concentration. I suppose this is to be expected from a 6 year old. The other two are prone to chatting and giggling and a lack of concentration. I suppose this is to be expected from 10 and 13 year olds. What the father failed to grasp was what was to be expected from the other bikers on the path.

The problem lies in the manner of biking we here in the US engage in. "Civilized" gives way to a more get out of my way attitude.



The parent, only out to spend some time and a nice lunch with the offspring, is not prepared for the mentality of the US biker. Leisurely is not part of the vocabulary.

The father complained to me about this approach and wonders how anyone can enjoy biking on these paths. Which brings us to the survey. In the article they say that 60% of people surveyed in the US would like to bike more but feel it's unsafe. They are referring to roads with cars. The Dutch are addressing this by going with more separate bike roads. The Americans see this as the way to go.

They are ignoring the one thing that will keep most of those 60% in their cars regardless of how many separate bike paths they manage to create: the US biker.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The dreaded car

I hate my car. I've hated every car I've owned. They're closed in and dangerous. My first motorized vehicle was a Harley Sportster I got when I was 17. I stayed on motorcycles and avoided the dreaded car til I was 33 when I got a Honda Civic. I got it because my job at the time required I have a car.

These days the dreaded car mostly sits. This summer it sat for a few months with the back window open. I was unaware of this. When I had reason to get in it I was met with an eco system in full bloom. There were cob webs from roof to steering wheel and my entrance covered me in the things. There was life in this car and it was flying and crawling all over the place.

I was getting in the dreaded car because I had to get it inspected which means you have to drive it. Upon arriving at the inspection house I was informed that my license had expired.

So the next day I biked down to the license renewal house and stood in line.  My turn came and I met with a nice lady who told me that I couldn't get it renewed. My first thought was that I have reached the age where you have to take a special old person's driving test. I imagined a test where I would have to slouch down in the seat to show that in the coming years I would be able to maneuver the thing while barely being able to see over the dashboard.



As it turns out it was worse. She couldn't renew it because the window for renewal had passed. I was now in the new driver category. Try to recall back to the day when you were a scrawny teenager entering the age of driving and all the excitement and trepidation that it brought. That same trepidation came to me with quite a start but with none of the excitement. The thought of failure loomed. To have to sit next to some grown up who would be barking directional orders while I nervously piloted the vehicle around a busy city was more than I could take. My brain reeled.



But I was getting ahead of myself.  First I had to pass a written test at which point I would be given a learners permit.  After that I had 6 weeks to practice driving before I could take the test. And I couldn't just go out and hone my skills on my own - no, I would not be allowed any honing without constant adult supervision. The idea of having to haul a properly licensed adult around whenever I wished to take out the dreaded car was as appalling to me as riding a fixie. I could not see how driving around with some dolt constantly reminding me of the laws of the road could be of any possible service. I don't like this driving bit when I'm alone.
 
Well, the time passed and I found that I wasn't a nervous wreck next to the driving instructor and all went as smooth as butter. I made no errors and we had a pleasant chat and a good chuckle over my predicament. Still, it was just another reason to hate the dreaded car.

Monday, September 27, 2010

When not to ride your bike

I had this little cyst on my back that turned into the world's largest and most painful boil of all time, like in ever.  So I went to the dermatologist today. It's about 80 degrees but raining so I'll just wear my rain jacket on top and my Keen's below and change when I get there.

She's a nice lady and says that she's going to inject a little something to numb it before she pulls out the knife.
So she does and all is going along swimmingly for maybe 45 seconds when the numbness seems to have ran it's course. I don't mention this to her, me being all manly and all, as she continues to dig deeply and I figure how long can this take anyway - like 3 minutes tops? So I grit my teeth and soon enough it's all in the past. I'm sweating like crazy but I made it with no worries.

She then tells me that it was fairly nasty and it will ooze for about a week and that I need to go get me some mini tampons to tape on it to soak it up. Wait a second here, confound it, what did you say? Tampon? Yes, apparently they do this soaking up thing quite well and when one has scheduled themselves a week of oozing it's the only way to go.



If I had known about this I would not have done my John Wayne-bite the bullet-tough guy thing and just cried like a girl and been done with it. I was in such a state that I forgot to find out what kind to get. Do I go with scented? Pad? Is any specific color better for absorbing ooze?

She then told me that tomorrow before I shower I'm to take off the bandage then pop in the shower, pull the string that's inside me (string? what string?) which is soaking everything up and will apparently start a major ooze of it's own when pulled. After I shower I'm to start with the tampon system of soaking.  And I'm not to shower at all today.

Not shower all day? So I'm all grimy from the ride in, I sweated profusely during the digging and scraping and now I'm going to ride home collecting more grime and sweat and road ick and I can't shower until tomorrow? By tomorrow I'm going to smell like a small town on the Cuyahoga.

No, the dreaded car would have been the better choice today.

Update: the week passed and the tampons worked as advertised. No lasting harm but I did find that I felt vulnerable and emotional all week... and chatty... still, all is well.
I keep wondering though why all of my clothes seem to make me look fat.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

See me

It's an odd thing this night time riding. Well, early morning riding. About half of my commute is in the dark, then dawn and some good light toward the end.
I have blinking lights and show me the road lights up front. I have lights all around my helmet, little buggers that flash away in the darkness. In the back I use 3 very bright flashers and a white see me light. It's a surreal scene and it's surreal to be in it. I look ridiculous.


I see quite a few bikers with some lights to no lights. One hearty fellow (he's the one constant as the weather takes a turn for the worse) always rides in the road next to the bike path and never has a light.

Then there are the mysterious riders who have a blazing headlight and no tail light. This puzzles me. I can understand wanting to see where you are bound. The open spaces await and who knows what they hold in waiting. On the other hand there are the spaces covered and something is always gaining on you, as the old baseball player said. Satchel? I'm not sure but I'm going with it. Satchel said never look back, something might be gaining on you. When it comes to bikers truer words have never been spoken. And it's big and weighs several tons and has a tool as a guidance system who is talking on one of those mobile phones, is half asleep and late for work.

From where I'm sitting, which, if you'll recall, is on top of something that looks as though it's straight from the Big Top, this is asking for trouble. These behemoths can travel several feet simply by the dolt in charge of them moving their steering hand an inch or two. No, a headlight only will not do. The only sane approach is to grab their attention early and make them take notice, snap them out of their personal morning fog and jar them into paying attention. Even if it makes us look ridiculous.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Bags

Like most guys, I think anyway, I like bags. I have lots of them. I buy bags to put my bags in.
For my bike I have panniers and trunk bags. I mostly use the panniers in the winter to haul all the extra clothes and in the summer I use a trunk bag that has small fold out panniers which I mostly use when stopping by the cat store or human store. I like cats too. I have two of them and since they let me sleep in their bed I usually treat them pretty darn good.

I've noticed a recent trend in some bike shops - the fashion bike bag. This got me to lookin around on the web where I found all kinds of bags. There's bags for cruiser bikes,  there's designer bags, bags that "go from bike to body", do it yourself bags, bags just for women, all kinds of colorful bags, purse bags, messenger bags, retro bags, eco friendly bags, hand made bags and custom made bags and design your own bags, solar bags, shopping bags, briefcase bags, yoga bags, there's even an umbrella that can be converted to a shopping bag or a seat cover for a bicycle.



Which is all fine and often dandy. If someone wants to cruise around with some of these things hanging off the side of their bike then that's fine with me.

The only thing I concern myself with is carrying bags that can carry what I need it to carry. The key is to not pick up more stuff than you can stuff in.

Few years back there was a cold spell where the snow we had would thaw during the day and freeze at night. Even though I'm a hearty soul I tend to stay away from ice, especially since I leave in the wee hours of the morning and can't see the stuff. So I had taken the dreaded car for 4 to 5 weeks when we had an above freezing night. Naturally I took the bike into work.

It was great of course.  And as the daytime temp's climbed into the low 40's I was looking forward to the ride home.  I figured since it was so nice out I'd stop by the store and load up on some groceries as well.

We've all heard that one should never go shopping when hungry and this is generally good advice. But I was hungry and strolling around the store and before long I had managed to pick up a couple of this and a few of that. As I was wheeling my cart out of the store I paused because I couldn't remember where I had parked the dreaded car. For some reason the helmet that was strapped to my wilderness pouch didn't register and I stood there all confused. Standing and being all confused is something one becomes familiar with as the years pass. You can see us in the parks and on the sidewalks of your neighborhood.  Do not panic.  We're usually just trying to put 2 and 2 together. Give us a few minutes and soon we'll be moving along.



This was a case of not having the right bags. Actually it was a case of not having the right number of bags as I had left that morning with only one pannier, since it was going to be a balmy day.

I ended up riding the 4 miles home with an amazing amount of food stuffed into one pannier and my jacket bulging out like Kirstie Alley post Jenny Craig. For some strange reason I had loaded up the frozen food items in my jacket and not the pannier and they began to thaw, being next to my body heat, which resulted in me having really really cold things pressing against my body and the overloaded pannier was very intent on taking us into the traffic and every time I would take a hand off the handlebars and try to adjust the really really cold things away from my body the overloaded pannier would try to regain control of the whole contraption and take us back into traffic.

Needless to say I did arrive home in one piece.  The lesson here is obvious - buy any darn bag you want, even if it does make you look like a tool, just make sure it's big enough to haul what you need haulin.

Girlfriends

As surprising as it may be to some of you, older people do indeed like to be in the company of the opposite sex. As much as they try our very souls we simply never age to the point where they are no longer worth the trouble.

And trouble they are. If I had news that all the ladies were taking the low road I'd be first in line for the high. They are a crazy lot and beyond understanding. They bedazzle and beguile us with their wiles then leave us wondering what the hell is on their minds.

The problem lies in the fact that men are simple creatures. Basically we're looking for something to eat, preferably with some kind of cheese or gravy sauce on top, a game to watch and the occasional roll in the hay. Women are under the impression that there is more. This creates friction. They will go off and read some magazine that has this months list of 10 things they don't know about men, take it to heart and then try to fix us.  This creates more friction.

A woman can buy a piece of clothing then try it on with every other piece of clothing she has to see how they go together. This is fine. The problem occurs when she drags us into the thing by asking us how each and every one of the combos looks on her. This usually occurs during a game. She knows we're distracted and can't give her the full attention that this fashion show deserves, yet she persists. The other oddity is that every day she sees the way we choose to dress ourselves. We do not possess the necessary skills to judge an ensemble. Knowing this one can't help but be puzzled by how she can value our opinion.

Another area where they are trouble is when they want to do the things we do to increase "quality time". If you play sports then you know what I mean. When I first met my girlfriend she told me that she bikes. Splendid, said I. Let's go for a ride sometime.
Silly me.

On our first ride the problems were immediate. Moving from spot to spot was adventurous. She was capable of starting off but only after several shaky beginnings, then once rolling she could only pedal and focus straight ahead. She could not coast. She gripped the handlebars like an alligator clamps onto its prey, making her progression a rather jerky affair.

Stopping had it's own peculiarities. She could manage the brakes ok but the entire feet on the ground thing had gotten the better of her. Not really knowing how to do it she would take both feet off the pedals and wait til she tipped to one side or the other. When the tipping didn't come fast enough she would remove herself from the saddle and proceed to use the bike as a Draisine, running along with the thing while trying to keep her legs out far enough to not whack the pedals.

On further investigation she revealed that she had only recently started biking and had never ridden one as a child.

In the past I've had girlfriends who wanted to play tennis because I play and actually taught it for awhile. Usually this would result in one summer of reduced play time while I spent hours and hours with her trying to teach her the finer points of the game, or at least how to hit the ball. Fortunately this would pass after a summer and their interest would wane.

Biking does not allow for this. Even a bad biker can enjoy the ride. Now the weekends of heading out for a 40 mile ride must be planned around a 10 mile, stop for lunch, jaunt in the neighborhood.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Wilderness Pouch

I'm not exactly what one would call fashionable.  I don't do "pretty" very well as evidenced by the way I dress myself.
Like all men I tend to grab what is handy when I don't have anywhere special to be.  But it's not like we men don't have standards.  When we get up on the weekends we're not going to just throw anything on.  We'll grab the first shirt we see and give it a quick sniff.  Sometimes it might take two sniffs.  If it doesn't pass after two sniffs then we grab the next shirt.  After one passes the sniff test we'll check for stains.  A small stain or two is nothing to worry about but if it has a big stain we'll usually move on until we find a good one.

Now, since I pretty much bike everywhere - which means going to the store, doctor, work... - I have to concern myself with making sure I don't forget important things like keys and wallets.  And since I'm old I also have to carry some small reading glasses with me.  I also have to carry a badge to get into work and my iPhone and old people pills and a few other odds and ends.

So how do I do that?  Well, I use a wilderness pouch.  It's more a concrete wilderness but it serves the same purpose.  Now wilderness pouch has some varying definitions but mine is to carry my crap.  Here's a few pictures:



Some people give me a hard time, especially at work.  They call this a "fanny pack".  Well, no.  This is a fanny pack:


What I wear is more along the lines of this:

You can see that Hulk is in the middle of the concrete wilderness and he's prepared.  He has his wilderness pouch.

Some folks will say that it makes you look like you have two ass's.  The truth of the matter is I don't have one ass.  One of the great AHA! moments in my life was when I was biking to work one morning and it was about 12 degrees outside and the wind was howling and I was thinking "I'm a moron, I'm going to freeze my ass off." and it hit me that I don't have one.  I haven't worried about it since.
And I also use as a convenient way to carry my helmet:


So there you go.  Bulging pockets?  No.  Bulky backpack?  No. Purse? NO! Satchel? No.
It's small, it carries everything I need and it's got a cool name.

3 feet

The "Three Feet of Space" law that is popping up around the country brings up an interesting question.  What is the distance that a biker must use to safely pass the slower movers on the MUP's?
From what I see real bikers (RBs) have no problem acting like drivers when they're on the MUP's.  They buzz pedestrians all the time.  They weave in and out of traffic.  They won't slow down for anything.
The only difference between the RB and the obnoxious speeding lane weaving aggressive driver is that the driver will slow in congestion.

You may not know this but RBs have something no one else does, a certain type of magic that allows them use of the yellow strip down the middle of the path as their own private lane.  It's called the Maintain Pace Lane (MPL).  You can see this anytime you're on the MUP where there's congestion and the walkers and runners and most bikers have adjusted accordingly.  Some bikers actually queue up waiting for an opening.  And then an RB will come from behind blasting down the MPL.  No warnings or considerations for the others is necessary.  It's a right of the RB.

I saw these over on UrbanVelo and thought why not make them for the walkers and runners on the MUP's as well?




This is a great idea (except for when a good wind comes along or a n'er do well reaches out and grab one of those things), not only so cars won't buzz bicyclists but so RBs won't buzz runners and walkers.

So, aside from looking like a total tool, what's not to like?  

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Helmet

I think I'm a pretty good biker.
When riding on the road I stop at lights, I stop at stop signs. I use a "See Me!" light during the day.  I'm lit up like a Christmas Tree at night. I take side roads as much as possible. I'm always looking for a car to do something stupid. If I can't make eye contact I'll slow down or stop until I do. I signal.

On MUPs I slow in congestion. If I don't think someone has heard my bell, which I use early and often, I'll slow down in case some impulse strikes them to turn around or move to the left. I never use MPL's. I never think my pace is all that important (though I like to keep it as much as the next guy).

And I wear a helmet.

I've read a lot of the different arguments out there regarding helmet use. As law it reduces biking, statistics show that in countries with no helmet laws biking is greater and less accidents, etc.. I've read them all. And a lot of it makes sense.

I don't care. The way I see it is if I break my knee they'll be able to fix it or give me another one. I scramble my brains and I have to relearn the alphabet.

Now, I know the alphabet pretty darn well. I don't think I can say it backwards anymore but I'm pretty sure if you give me a starting letter I can complete it from there. It's as easy as ABC.

I have no intention of messing with that if I can help it. True, there's no guarantee that a helmet will prevent that (some say it might actually hurry it along) but I'm not willing to take that chance.



A friend of mine and his wife were out in Colorado with another couple and they rented some bikes. They rolled to a stop at an overlook to take in the view and the other woman put her foot down in some gravel. Her foot slipped and she fell backward and hit her head on a stone the size of a fist. She has permanent brain damange.  No helmet.

Freak accident? Sure. Would a helmet have prevented it? I don't know. I do know that, sadly, she's relearning the alphabet.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Crap

Bad day to bike in DC.
Normally I'll play some tennis in the morning then head out for a 20 to 30 mile ride. Today I was feeling a little lazy so decided to head downtown and then work my way over to check out the new bike shop, BicycleSpace.

Well, I forgot all about that savior doing his thing down there.  The place was filled with Beckerheads.
Now, I'm a live let live kinda guy.  Ok, I'm not.  But basically I realize that people are willing to be led. So let those who wish to make money off of them do so. Goldline. A fool and his money...

The bit that I caught (I couldn't help myself) is pretty much bringing "GOD" back into our country, our government and our schools. Well, now. I have a question.

In this great country we can worship who we want and where we want anytime we want.  We can build any church we want.  We can congregate and pray.  We can get a tv show to proclaim our faith and get people to support us with "donations". We can even build religious schools and universities if we get them accredited. And no one is going to stop us. No government rep is going to come and tell us we can't do that.  Ever.  All the government says is that don't expect what you want to believe to show up in public places. Sounds fair. Go do what you want to do but don't force it on the rest of society.

So the question is, why isn't that enough for these people?

Ok, calm down.  It's their city too.  And I welcome them.  Really, I do. It's a big country and it takes all kinds and tolerance is something we should all invest in. But, you see, they just crossed a line, they ruined my bike ride.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Mainstream

What will it take to get cyclists to be accepted on the streets of our cities?  Heck, what will it take to get them accepted on the paths in our cities? Apparently the bicyclist is pretty much despised everywhere you turn.

This article in the Guardian claims that police go after cyclists because the public demand it.  "Anti-social" biker behavior is as much of a concern as "more serious crimes". So in England bikers have pissed off enough people that they now get the kind of attention usually reserved for the more unsavory among us.

The fact of the matter is (and by fact I mean my opinion which I often consider to be factual, even if the facts don't add up) people who are moving don't want to slow down. If you see runners at lights they run in place.  Bikers will circle or just run the damn thing.  Cars will stop when it's pretty clear the light is red like 20 yards before they get to it. 10 yards is to close to call - don't start crossing that street just yet.

If you're going the speed limit and a car behind you doesn't think that's good enough they'll tailgate you. They may even honk or flash their lights. Bikers will simply resort to the MPL.  I don't know what runners do because I'm always flying by them but I'm sure their human nature isn't that much different than the rest of us. That is if you consider it human nature to go out and put a pounding on your knees and ankles and hips every chance you get.

Pedestrians are guilty as well.  True, when compared to the rest of this group they have the speed and mobility of Bill Buckner at first base, but their unpredictability still makes them a danger.  Even though they are probably the most innocent in so far as they're not going to hurt very many people, they do some pretty stupid things. They're like Whak a Mole, you just never know when or where they're going to pop out.

So the answer is it's never going to happen.  As long as people are moving they're not going to want to stop.  And with the trend toward brakeless bikes cyclists won't be able to stop anyway.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Chatting

We all like to chat.  Chatting fills the required amount of quality time we need to spend with out significant others.  It's useful at parties.  It is the raison d'etre for every teenage girl on the planet which they now can and do indulge in 24/7, thanks to cell phones.

Even though we all like to chat, women like it more. No, that's not a chauvinist talking. According to Dr Luan Brizendine, a female psychiatrist, "Women have an eight-lane superhighway for processing emotion, while men have a small country road." Her book, The Female Mind, explores this phenomenon. On any given day women are likely to say 3 times more words than a man.  Apparently this triggers something in their brains that gives them a rush. They like it.

For some reason I rather enjoyed speculating about why women talk so much more than men. Knowing there is scientific research that says it's a chemical thing makes me yearn for the old days.

Science's explanation certainly explains what I saw yesterday on my commute.  This summer I've seen quite a few more regulars going into work (I live in the city and thus go out to work).  Of them there's two of who ride together pretty much every morning and even though there is a bike path right along the road they ride in the road.  Since they seem very eager to get to work I certainly have no problem with that as anyone who works that hard at getting to work should be able to use any means available.

 


Today was different.  Today they were riding side by side, and ever so slowly, while they... chatted.  Both were upright with one hand on the bar and the other free for emphasizing, while they took more than half the lane.  There must have been 15 cars behind them and not a one of them seemed real happy.  

It would be bad form to look on this in any way other than nature running its course and them simply doing what they do - getting a good buzz on.  

Monday, August 23, 2010

9 Day Traffic Jam

There's news out of China that a 9 day traffic jam is in progress:

According to China's state-run Global Times, "traffic authorities were still trying to cope with days-long congestion on a major national expressway, nine days after traffic slowed to a snail's pace."
60 miles long.  Could last up to 6 weeks.
When I look at the pictures I'm thinking that this isn't out in the middle of nowhere. There's tall buildings all around.  Questions arise.  Who was the architect of this highway? Where are the exits?
How can a traffic jam last for weeks?  What happens when the petrol runs out?  Do they declare it a parking lot and charge by the hour?


At what point do people stop blowing their horns?  Day 27?  Day 28?  Where do these people do their business?  What happens when hundreds of people say "Honey, we're walking!"? 
There's got to be a front of the line somewhere. What are those people doing?  Sight seeing?  Talking on their iPhones?  Doing their lashes? Somebody up there has got to make the decision to start running that red light.
Word is that the locals are selling food along the highway, at exorbitant prices. If they're smart they will look into the soap and water market, toothbursh and paste market, the portapotty market, the clothing market, portable TV's, iPads, batteries, deodorant...
If I were there I'd head over to the nearest 100 bikes shops and start loading up on the cheapest bikes they sell.  I'm betting you could get a pretty good return on your investment.


This would be a great ad for a folding bike.  "Stuck in a month long traffic jam?  No problem! Open up your trunk and take out the best most fabulous form of transportation ever devised by mankind!  20 seconds of unfolding and "See Ya Later Suckers"!".

Sunday, August 22, 2010

LBS

I'm fortunate to live a few miles from 5 bike shops, 3 of them are within 2 blocks of each other.
Recently I picked up a beater for $10 just to play around with.  Occasionally I get this thought that maybe I should learn more about the wrenching side of the bike. This is usually followed by one of two things:

1. the urge passes before I've done too much damage
2. a few days later I have to take it to the LBS so they can undo whatever the hell I did

This bike was working ok but the front wheel was hosed.  So I ordered a cheap wheel off the web.  When it arrived it was a bit out of round so I tied it to my folder and hauled it to one of the clustered LBSs.
I took it to the back and asked if they'd true it and the guy gave it a spin in his hands and said it had been "hit by something, like a car".  I told him it was brand new and just a bit out of round  He told me that it can't be trued but I might try next door.

I couldn't quite figure out why I should try next door because if it can't be trued it can't be trued. But off I went.

I figured there were 3 possibilities:

1. They have some special machine that can true brand new wheels that have been hit by something, like a car
2. They have mechanics who specialize in truing brand new wheels that have been hit by something, like a car
3. They won't be able to true it because, even though it's a brand new wheel,  it's been hit by something, like a car, and tell me to try next door

So I go next door.  Guy gives it a spin in his hands and says "Sure, pick it up tomorrow."

But, what about the car?  What about it not being trueable?  It seems that next door doesn't have special machines or special mechanics, just some hard working helpful people.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Two wrongs

Every time a cycle story hits the news there is a little war that rages in the comment section.
Bikers run stop signs, stop lights, go against traffic, my taxes pay for the road... you know the list.
Well kids, cars run stop signs and stop lights and they cause one helluva lot of damage when they do.  In fact cars kill 3,300 people a day around the world.  That's 1.2 million a year.
Of the top 25 causes numbers 6 and 7 are running red lights and running stop signs.
No. 1 is distracted driving, 2 is speeding.

So we have millions and millions of people in 2 to 4 ton missiles who break the missile's guidance system by doing stupid things like talking on the phone.   They are the number one reason that 3,300 people die a day.
The no. 12 reason is wrong-way driving.  That's right, enough cars go down roads the wrong way and kill people to be no 12 on the list.
There are over 6 million car accidents in the US every year.  That's roughly 16,500 a day.  They account for 55% of spinal injuries in the US.  Roughly 40% of those accidents are rear-end accidents.  Many of these people suffer permanent disability.

Ok, enough with the statistics.  It amazes me that people can get so worked up over bicycles breaking the law.  No, two wrongs don't make a right.  The law breaking bicyclists should be called out for their behavior.  It just seems to me that there is a more serious issue here.

And, I own a car.  I average about 3000 miles a year in it.  I average around 6,500 on my bike.  My taxes pay for that road too.

Odds of being in a car accident?  1 in 4.  Odds of being killed in a car accident?  1 in 140.