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


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


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


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


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


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.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Lone Warrior

Of all the trails in DC,  Capital Crescent is the worst.  I try to avoid it at as much as possible however I sometimes have meetings in Bethesda and it's the quickest way to get there.  Such was the case this morning.
I left early as is my want so didn't see a lot of the commuter bikers.  Had 3 "real bikers" pass me and all nicely managed to not give any signal at all.  I like consistency.
After my meetings I had some early lunch, stopped to load the panniers with about 50 cans of cat food and headed home.  Couple of miles in and a  strange event unfolded.  A lady running with her baby runner carriage suddenly found the little one climbing out of it while he was entangled in the strap that's meant to keep him in.  The carriage was going nuts, the lady was trying to grab him, he was crying, another runner was trying to stabilize the carriage, a father and his 3 little ones on bike stopped behind them, I stopped as they were all over the road and...

... a real biker (RB) appeared.  Coming up behind the father and kids he swung left around them then right around the frantic mother and helpful runner while they wrestled with keeping the carriage upright while trying to get the crying baby untangled.  He gave no warning of course before suddenly yelling at the mom and runner (mere feet from them) which startled them and they jumped right in his way.  At this point he swung way right off the trail, narrowly missing them.  He was none too pleased.

And I don't blame him.  C'mon people!  Pace pace pace!  RBs work hard to get a good cadence and to have to suddenly change it because some damn little bugger wants to play Tarzan... well.  I think we can all agree that he had a right to be annoyed.

So, 8 people - 4 adults, 3 little ones and one infant - are stopped on the trail.  The infant is crying, the mom and helpful runner are doing a bizarre dance with the carriage and infant and no thought that maybe slowing down and seeing what's up enters the mind of the RB on his mission.  The world is blocked out as our lone warrior struggles against the clock.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Oh Lance

Tomorrow's NY Times will have an article that the Fed's now have more than Floyd Landis who say Lance doped.  Click on the link to read it.

Lance says he'll deny it to the end of his days.  If that holds true, whether because he never did or because he did and he's a stubborn man, and he seems like a stubborn man, then this is dead in the water.

Has anyone been convicted of this on hearsay?  Bond's hearing isn't til next year but that also includes obstruction of justice.  I doubt anyone would have known about Marion Jones had she not got a case of the truthies.

But that's neither here nor there.  What is interesting is how some folks just can't wait to see how it plays out.  Take bicycle.net, which is where I found out about the article.  Notice how they can't simply report this but they have taken the liberty to bypass this whole due process thing.   Their slogan is "attitude is everything" and by golly they mean it.  Apparently their attitude is guilty until proven innocent.  Personally I find it to be a relief that we have folks out there that are willing to stand as judge and jury.  The courts are filled with frivolous law suits anyway.  It's a frickin waste of tax payers money.

No, let's have "journalist" be the deciders.

I am a little disappointed in their namby pamby way of presenting it though.  They've dropped a few key words to let you know how they feel without actually coming out with it.  C'mon kids, don't dance around yellow journalism - proclaim the man guilty already.  Stop with the candyass hemming and hawing.  Attitude is everything.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Pack Pace

One of the things that impresses me about the pack is their dedication to, well, the pack.  When they have a good pace going there is nothing more important than keeping it.  I've seen them in action on the W&OD in Virginia quite a lot and there is nothing that will slow them.  If you're out for a Sunday walk with your better half they'll expect you to move to the right and, for your own safety, do so.  Of course it doesn't matter how far to the right you go because the pack will still buzz you.

Now from New York we have evidence that even little old ladies can't slow them.  You gotta hand it to the tool that hit her.  He knew what was important - staying with the pack and keeping that pace.  Now that's dedication.  

There are other types of people that could care less about hurting little old ladies. There's thugs and muggers and robbers and punks and bullies and shysters and scum. They will leave the scene as well, but usually over something trivial, like going to jail. No, this guy had his priorities straight.  There's nothing as important as pack pace.  

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Shins and bike share

I can still remember those times when my foot would slip off the pedal and I'd get a shin full of hurt.  I was probably about 15 the last time that happened.  What changed is I started using cages and I've never stopped.  Well, I never stopped putting something around the foot so it would stay where it belongs.

These days I use cages and Power Grips.  My commuter (Trek Soho) has Power Grips.  I like them because you can slip in and then turn your foot a little to get a tighter fit and because it's easy to get that foot in and out.  I've tried clip in's but that's more than I need and these do the job just fine.

Yesterday I saw something along the same lines called Feetbelts.  They appear to work exactly the same as Power Grips but have a slightly different attachment system.  I'd like to try them but they're out of stock.  Looks as though it's a home based business with a couple of guys making them by hand.  From what I can tell from the pictures they have on their web site they might have a more solid connecting system.  I've managed to free a Power Grip from it's housing on more than one occasion and it's a pain to stop and redo it.  So I'll give them a go if I can get a pair.

Went to the hill today just to get out a bit and passed a couple of the SmartBikeDC locations.  In the first one there was only 1 bike and in the second 4.  Business would appear to be a boomin!
I'm not sure what to make of this bike share thing. I suppose if I lived 40 miles outside of the city it would be really convenient to get around when I'm in the city. They must be doing something right because they have a dozen of them in Europe and the one in Stockholm has 2000 bikes.
Also passed Bike and Roll which is a bike rental place. I see them all the time but had never been to their stand before. They have a lot of pretty good quality bikes (I think they were all Trek's). So if you're ever in DC...


I don't get it.
Ok, it probably has something to do with the years rolling by.  This year I'll be... well, let's just say that I'm running low on future.  The years roll by and one starts realizing that the "list" needs trimming.     Some of the things I've had to trim:

being a hunk
being rich
being cool
retiring early
spending the day riding and playing tennis

That last one is still a possibility but I'll need to retire first and you can see by item no. 4 that that ain't happening anytime soon.  And worse, by the time that does happen my body isn't likely to take to day after day of that stuff.  It's none too happy right now.

Anyway, I don't get it.  Why would someone ride a bike with no brakes and no freewheel? I ask because the other day I saw a fellow on one of these things hauling ass down Wisconsin Ave pedaling like a maniac.  If this boy was in control it was a damn fine acting job.  I wanted to turn and chase him because I just had to see him at a stop light but there was too much traffic for me to get across.

I've read about them.  They seem like the perfect bike for that polo thing which is pretty cool.  But you take away the polo and what the hell?  Aren't these like the first bikes we had as kids?  The ones with the pedals on the front wheel?
I guess I should ride one before being too critical but I gotta say, that's not likely.  They seem like dangerous and ridiculous all rolled together.  Even though I'm old and have given up on "cool" I still mountain bike often and, when you think about it, that in itself seems dangerous and ridiculous.  But this is a whole new level.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

MiniVelo's - IGH's - The Pack

There's a bike that's pretty popular in Asia called a Mini Velo.  It's kind of like a circus bike, but cooler.  I don't know why it's cooler, it just is.  Cannondale makes one called the Hooligan.  Dahon has a few - Bullhead, Hammerhead, Silvertip and Smooth Hound.  Those are the only ones I know of that are available in the states.  Melon, maker of a couple of folders, had some in the works but have decided against production.  Damn.  I was all over that Tetra.
Melon never to be models 

Me likes me some internal gears.  My commuter is a Trek Soho with a Shimano Nexus 8 and a belt drive.  I like it's simplicity, lack of maintenance and cockpit.  I'm sold on the IGH (internal gear hub) 'cause basically I'm an idiot when it comes to mechanical stuff.  The down side is changing a rear flat requires extra tools and is a PITA.
My folder is a Downtube SA 8, which isn't as nice as the Shimano but nice nonetheless.
Shimano has an 11 speed coming this fall.  I'm hopeful they'll be showing up on some mountain bikes as well as some city bikes with front forks.  Much as I like my Soho it's a rough ride.  

It's summer in DC.  That means hot and humid.  I remember DC back when trails were empty during these dog days.  No more.  I rode to Herndon Sunday back and it was 100.  Sure, there weren't as many people as there would have been had it been 80 but people there were. 
I had left early so I would only have the heat on the way home.  In the beginning there were few people (and little sun) but as soon as the sun rose the packs started appearing.  And passing.   
What is it about the pack that when they have a whole lane to pass you they still choose to pass with only inches to spare?  I'm sure they're out trying to beat their personal bests and those inches will make a difference.  This must have something to do with pack mentality, the old "lynch mob" thing.  They are probably helpless in this situation and have no control over what they do, much like lemmings, they simply must follow the leader.