Thursday, May 28, 2009


I stumbled across a website called “How not to get hit by cars” which I thought I’d check out. After all, I’d like to know how not to get hit by cars, wouldn’t you? I thought the website had a lot of good information, but I have to admit that I got distracted from it by the Great Cycling Safety Controversy.

Apparently, not everyone can agree on how not to get hit by cars.

This is different from the controversy about whether you should wear a helmet or not when you ride. (You should, by the way. See how effectively I dealt with that controversy?)

The controversy seems to involve two schools of thought, one fostered by a man by the name of Bluejay and the other fostered by a man by the name of (appropriately enough) Foster who adds

M.S., P.E.
Cycling Transportation Engineer
Consulting Engineer,
Expert Witness & Educator in
Effective Cycling,
Bicycles, Highways & Bikeways, Traffic Laws

after his name, all of which sounds very impressive.

Mr. Bluejay (I’m sorry, that just sounds like someone out of a book by Beatrix Potter) doesn’t offer us any of his qualifications for dispensing safety information, he just dispenses the information and leaves it up to the reader to decide on its value.

So, what’s the difference?

Here is the crux of Mr. Foster’s philosophy:

Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles.

That is the guiding principle that cyclists should recognize and government and society should obey. But government does its best to prevent cyclists from recognizing this principle.

He goes on to add:

Bikeways neither make cycling much safer nor reduce the skill required. They probably do the reverse.

Government knows that bikeways don't make cycling safer, but it uses the public superstition that they do.

Well, I will admit to you that I know that a bicycle is classified as a vehicle with all of the rights and privileges and responsibilities appertaining thereunto. (If you aren’t a lawyer, how often do you get to use a phrase like appertaining thereunto?) I also have to admit that I like Bikeways (by which I am assuming the author means bike lanes). We don’t have many of them around these parts, but I like them.

Well, actually, we have one bike lane around here. It's about two miles long. Oh, and it isn't continuous. It reaches a corner and then disappears. Half a mile later, at another corner, it reappears. What you're supposed to do between those two corners, I don't know. Teleport, probably.

Mr. Bluejay’s method can be summed up like this:

Ride as if you were invisible.

It's often helpful to ride in such a way that motorists won't hit you even if they don't see you. You're not trying to BE invisible, you're trying to make it irrelevant whether cars see you or not.

In other words, wear bright colors and lights and anything else that will make you stand out, but assume that the driver of that car doesn’t see you and act accordingly.

I like this advice. I like this advice very much.

Mr. Bluejay also says that sometimes obeying the law may be hazardous to your health.

Here’s a question for you –

You are a law abiding cyclist on a two lane road. You want to turn left, but you have to wait for oncoming traffic to get out of the way. Do you:

  1. stay in the middle of the lane with your arm stuck out indicating your upcoming turn while hoping that no car is going to come up from behind you and plaster you across the pavement
  2. pull your bike off the road and wait for traffic to clear and then move across to where you want to be
  3. decide that you didn’t really need to make that left hand turn right there and maybe you’ll just keep going straight for awhile
A vehicle would certainly chose 1., right? But is it safe? You tell me.

On a group ride a couple of days ago there were about twenty of us. We came up to a stop light which changed to red on us before the entire group got across. Some riders ran the light, others hit the brakes and waited.

Everyone has different ideas, and thinking about them all is making my head hurt. I think I'll go for a ride. If I can figure what to do, that is.

See you on the road.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Say What?

Lunicycle’s recipe for success:

A couple of days of so-so nutrition and inadequate hydration topped off by an evening filled with stress and very little sleep. Then you go for a ride.

I tried this recipe for success myself just this morning, and it was absolutely successful if you want to ride like me. If you don’t want to ride like me (a thing which, by the way, I don’t recommend) then you might want to try someone else’s recipe for success.

I fooled the dogs and the wind this morning by dragging myself out of bed later than usual and thus hitting the road later than usual. I can imagine the wind having woken up and checked, finding me still in bed and rolling over for just that little bit of extra sleep that makes all the difference. Then, happy and comfortable, the wind wakes up and finds me out on the road. “Hey,” says the wind. “What do you think you’re doing out there without me?!” and the wind then comes to join me on the road.

Having learned (so I thought) something about this area of the county, I finally constructed a route for myself that wasn’t just out and back again, only to find that I don’t know this part of the county half so well as I thought. The route I had chosen was about ten miles shorter than I thought it was, so I had to tack on a randomly chosen loop to get the extra miles.

I spotted a guy being taken for a drag by his dogs. The man was standing on a skateboard holding the lashes of two good sized dogs who were jogging along nicely and pulling him behind them. This is the easy way to take your dogs for a walk, I suppose.

I also spotted a dead snake by the side of the road that was over three and a half feet long at the very least. This was a little startling. It was so startling that I kind of jumped (not a thing I recommend doing while riding a bicycle, by the way) a bit later when I saw what turned out to be a garden snake.

Okay, it was a garden hose but it might have been a snake.

I passed three other cyclists. I prefer to phrase it this way for my own self-esteem, but the fact is that we were headed in opposite directions. I don’t think I knew any of them, but I hope they were near the end of their ride, because one of them was covered in sweat.

Well, I don’t suppose I know for a fact that it was sweat, but he was certainly covered in something, and if it wasn’t sweat, I don’t want to speculate about what it was. It was good to see other riders on the road, even if they were headed away from me and I couldn’t draft off them.

I got back to the neighborhood a mile short of the distance I wanted with some very tired legs indeed, and I forced myself to ride around the neighborhood as hard as I could go. I actually passed my Lovely Lovely sitting on the porch and didn’t see her. I was too busy acting as my own coach, which basically means fussing at myself to keep the pedals spinning around at a reasonable rate of speed. I don’t know why I did this, but it seemed to help.

Today’s ride end up being harder than I anticipated (or possibly I was weaker than I anticipated – it pays to think of all the possibilities) but even a hard ride is a good ride. (Sometimes a hard ride is an especially good ride.) I ended up with a good distance and a good pace.

Now I’m going to get some rest.

See you on the road.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Group Ride!

Has it been awhile since I’ve been on a group ride with my fellow Seyboros?

This is a rhetorical question, which in this case means "a question I already know the answer to."

Well, I guess it has been awhile, because when I let it be known that I was going to go on the Memorial Day ride, I was counseled by Jörg to wear a name tag and was greeted with shouts of “Hey! New guy!” after I arrived.

I pulled my bike out of the back of the 2000 pound beast, only to notice that my computer sensor had fallen to the ground and my chain had come off. How appropriate.

It was nice to be greeted by people, even if they couldn’t believe their eyes.

Once we got moving, we had a great time, if a bit peculiar in spots. For example, I’m used to hearing shouts of “Dog left!” or “Car up!” but “Cow right?”

That’s a new one on me, and I thought it was a joke, but, no. There was a small cow trotting along beside the road. It was following the fenceline and sticking its nose into every crack in the fence, apparently trying to get back in where it hadn’t gotten out from and unable to figure out how to do so. (When we rode back by at the end of the ride, it had apparently found the way.)

I could hear snatches of conversation all around me. Triatheletes were trading battle stories. Roadies were talking of dogs of the past. Work stories, cycling stories, family stories, laughter, they were floating all around me, and I thought back to my first ride with the club. Somehow, I hadn’t known that cycling would be so social. I had this idea in my mind of everyone riding along, together, but each in his or her own world, and the nonstop conversation surprised me.

How do you tell if a hill is hard or if the pace is difficult? The conversation stops. But let the road level out or the pace slacken a bit and it’s back again.

We have a good time together out on the road.
I eventually found myself riding next to Lisa. While we were on terrain unknown to me, we were practically in Lisa’s backyard, and she had more than a passing familiarity with every dog on the route.

“Okay,” she’d say, “There are four dogs who live just on the other side of that bend, and they will run at you.”
She was right, too. Dogs must like Lisa a lot. They chase after her everywhere she goes.

There was one dog that got encouragement. It was a very small puppy, but it exploded into barks as we went by, and people began calling out, “Come on, dog!” This may, in future days when this dog is no longer so small, prove to have been a tactical error.

We passed a field full of cows, stately matrons all, who watched us go by, heads swiveling slowly to keep us on view. (I later passed these same cows in the 2000 pound beast, and they ignored me completely. Apparently they are only interested in cyclists.)

I was treated to the sight of a rider I didn’t know playing with her helmet as she rode. This seemed odd to me, and then a wasp flew out from underneath it! Apparently it had flown in through one of the air vents and she had been trying to get it out again. I'm sure both the wasp and the rider were happy that it succeeded.

We rode twenty miles out to the Bentonville Battlefield, which turned out to be closed on Memorial Day, go figure, hung out there for a bit and then pedaled twenty miles back home.
The talk ranged from theology to cloning to turkey nutrition to dogs I have known to what it’s like to work in a prison to cows to home life to…well…pretty much everything really.

I can’t guarantee that everyone had a great time, but I think they did. Even the rider with the (fortunately painless) wasp in the helmet, allergy rash, bug bites and, to top it all off, a bloody knee from a classic clip related slow motion fall in a parking lot. Hey, most of us have done it, and you guys who haven’t, there’s still time. Just wait.

It was great to do a group ride again. I was urged to do another one before next memorial day, and I think that’s good advice.

At the end of the ride, Jörg asked, “How are the legs?”
The legs are fine. I’m ready to go again.

See you on the road.

Friday, May 22, 2009

No Harm, No Foul

This is the design on my favorite T-shirt. I found it at threadless which may possibly have the coolest T-shirts on the planet. I thought of this T-shirt because:

A) I was wearing it yesterday

B) I went on a ride this morning

C) Someone I know came perilously close to running out of gas this morning.

(I would like to point out that I was sympathetic and not at all smug about this.)

The wind must have stayed up late last night, perhaps watching The Weather Channel or reading a book by Margaret Mitchell. Anyway, the wind surely slept last this morning. I can just see it all snuggled up under the covers while I quietly climbed out of bed and hit the road for an easy ride bright and early. At some point out on the road I must have made a noise or something, and the wind rolled over, opened it's eyes, blinked a bit at the alarm clock (which apparently hadn't gone off) and the leaped out of bed with a yell and a realization of being late.
Well, it made up for lost time, flying out with a rush and joining me out on the road.

I should have guessed that, having been a faithful companion on so many rides of late, the wind would not abandon me this morning.

I also apparently left the house in a rush this morning. I had a vague idea that I was forgetting something, and that something turned out to be my phone. I don't really like being out on the road alone without a phone, and a parade of past problems danced in my head.

For some reason my brain was especially fixated on times when I had been dropped on a ride. The most spectacular one involved a whole group of us, twenty miles in and going hard. We came to a lovely long downhill and then everybody opened up - big gears and high cadence. We flew down the hill, then we rounded a corner and the road flattened out and nobody slowed down.

Well, almost nobody.

I watched the group streak away over the horizon while I pedaled as hard as my little feet would go. Then I just settled in to ride the fifteen miles back alone.

Now, why I should be worried about getting dropped this morning, given that I was all alone, I don't know. I have never dropped myself on a ride. In fact, I always wait for myself if I'm having problems.

I got chased by a single dog, but this dog had a rough sounding voice and no wind. Perhaps this dog smokes too much. In any case, knowing it's own limitations, it waited until I was quite close before it leaped out of hiding, barking and darting toward me (like a poor imitation of the stealth dog), but all it took was a slight increase in speed to leave it behind.

Other than that, the ride was nice and calm. I did pick a very bumpy road to travel down, so there was a long period during which I had to listen to my water bottle rattling in the cage as if I were riding my own Paris-Roubaix. I got passed by a school bus and had the slightly surreal experience of having to stop for a stopped bus while on my bike. Hey, the law is the law, right?

All in all it was a pleasant ride, and I didn't need the phone I didn't have. I wasn't motivated to get up early, but I did it anyway, and now I'm glad I did.

Another day, another ride.

That's the life.

See you on the road.

And I'll bring my phone.

Just in case.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

I Got Passed by a What?

Ahead of me was a curve. Fortunately for me, it was still some distance ahead of me, because I watched a bright yellow sports car streak around the curve, crossing the yellow line to occupy the space where I would be in a few minutes. This did not comfort me. I was even less comforted when I watched a pickup truck do the same thing on another curve. This sort of thing gives me that little prickly feeling in the small of my back.

I also watched a man drive a port-a-potty around. It was a school bus, one of the short ones, with most of the sides removed to turn it into a mutant flat bed vehicle, and, strapped to the back, was port-a-potty and something mysterious under a tarp. (Given that they had no problem showing everyone the port-a-potty, I was curious to know what was under the tarp.) I was headed on way and the port-a-potty was headed the other, just two ships that pass in the night, or so I thought, but, about fifteen miles later, we passed again. (I’ll grant you, I can’t guarantee that it was the same vehicle with the same port-a-potty, but I’m willing to bet that it was.) I don’t know where the port-a-potty was going, but I do hope that no one was waiting impatiently for it to arrive.

Later on, while in the belly of the 2000 pound beast, I was passed by the port-a-potty man again. I was struck with the idea that he was driving his port-a-potty all around the county. I imagined crews of construction workers getting excited because, at last, the port-a-potty man had arrived. Perhaps he should have had music like the ice cream man does. Well, maybe not.

I dressed in layers this morning because it was fifty degrees out when I hit the road. Thanks to the majesty of the wind, it wasn’t long before I was working up a sweat. Off came the vest. Down went the arm warmers. The lovely cap with the ear flaps was replaced with a lighter weight cap. (By the time I got to that point, I didn’t have anything else I could safely take off, so I left it at that. You’re welcome.)

I had another good ride, and I’m hoping to hit the road bright and early tomorrow morning for another one.

This is the way to spend your time off.

See you on the road.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Oh My Goodness

I believe that the wind was blowing approximately 527 miles per hours (848.124 kilometers per hour) this morning. I grant you that I didn’t actually measure the wind speed, having carelessly left my anemometer at home, but I estimated the wind speed based on how hard the ride was.

I decided to go exploring this morning and to find a particular school. (There was no reason for this decision other than to give my ride a turnaround point.) I had only been to this school once, and that was in the 2000 pound beast and by a different route, but I was confident of my ability to find my way there on my own.

My confidence was entirely misplaced.

I never did find the school, but I did find the airport, and I had long wondered where that was, so I suppose that counts for something. (I shall claim it as a victory.) My first clue that I was on my way to the airport was when I found myself on Airport Road. This was eventually followed by a sign pointing the way to the airport, and that was followed by the realization that the airport isn’t actually on Airport Road. Silly me to have expected such a thing.

I discovered a variety of interesting signs, though. I saw a sign that was about two stories tall and had a very nice spiral staircase leading up to it. It turned out to be a sign for a metal fabrication company. This same company had three driveways, each one labeled by a very stylish sign decorated with the company’s logo and name. Two of them then had the words “no entrance” while the third said “entrance.” What struck me about these lovely signs is that the three driveways were only about five feet apart and all led to the same tiny parking lot. It seemed like a bit of overkill. I also saw lots and lots of signs for people who didn’t want other people trespassing on their property. These signs seem to be quite popular.

I saw a sign for a subdivision where there was nothing but trees and grass. (Near my home is a sign for a subdivision, and they actually had laid out roads and put in streetlights. There are no houses there, but the roads and the sign have been there for five years. It's a bit ghostly, somehow.) The sign I saw today was apparently not even for a phantom subdivision, because there was nothing there but wilderness, and the sign is quite weathered. Perhaps it's a sign of sheer optimism.

At one point two dogs came out into the road after me while I was riding uphill into a headwind. (It really felt like most of the ride was into a headwind.) Nice, eh? Fortunately for me, these were tiny little dogs with tiny little legs whose top speed was apparently about five miles per hour, and I even I can beat that.

On the whole, the ride was dominated by two things: the smell of manure (I was riding past a lot of farmland – always a plus when you’re pushing yourself hard and trying to suck down a lot of air) and the wind. By the time I was done, my legs were toast, but it was a nice long ride, and I’m ready for more. Well, I'm not ready for more just yet, but I will be soon.

How about tomorrow?

See you on the road.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Walk and Ride

In honor of bike to work week, I ended up walking to work. I suppose that’s a bit messed up, but that’s how it is. Work, by the way, is about six miles away from home, so it’s a bit of a hike. The problem was that circumstances beyond my control (or at least beyond my awareness) meant that I had to leave my bike at work a while bike, and a good opportunity for getting it back home again was slow in coming. Today turned out to be the day.

The six miles are practically all on the same road – two lanes, with the speed limit ranging from 45 to 55 mph and no shoulder. It actually isn’t a bad ride (assuming the traffic is right) but it’s a bit difficult to walk. This is largely due to one two mile section during which the road is bordered by corn fields and wheat fields and then a bunch of trees.

There is a ditch that runs along the road maybe 18 inches away. It is generally filled with black water and a variety of plants. The ground between the road and the ditch slopes downward toward the ditch, so the footing is a bit uncertain, and the thought that, if you stumble one way you get smacked by a car and if you stumble the other way you end up standing in the black water is a bit disconcerting.

The most beautiful section, where woods border the road on both sides, is the worst for walking, since it’s unmowed and the grass before the trees is lush, thick and very high. At one point, I was standing there as a truck towing a very large farm vehicle (large, in fact, than the lane it was occupying) came toward me. I wanted to move farther away from the road, but something that seemed quite large was scuttling around under the plants just there. Nice.

I finally got to work where a few little details had to be taken care of, then I climbed in the saddle and headed back home. Unfortunately, my bike had been here for rather longer than I realized, so the tires were a bit soft. Well, it was only six miles. I could live with that.

(My first group ride was also my first 20 miles ride. It was hard, but I enjoyed it. My bike was still so new that it was due for a free servicing the next day. I went in an told Steve about the ride, and he said, “You might have enjoyed it more if you have more than 20 pounds of pressure in your tires.” That was how I learned you have to check the air in your tires a lot more often than I thought you did.)

The ride home was more fun than the walk to work, but, as you can imagine, I didn’t push the pace at all. I just cruised gently along on my soft tires. I don’t know what kind of picture I present all kitted out and riding my road bike. I probably look like nothing on this earth, but I was struck at that moment with how I must have looked just then sitting up on the hybrid and wafting my way along in comparison to how I look pushing the pace into a headwind. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde ride bicycles.

I was also a bit concerned, as I rode back along the route I had just walked, to notice how many dead snakes there were right at the edge of the road. Hmm. So how many live snakes were there hidden in the grass I had walked through earlier? Best not to think about that.

Steve says, “Any walk over a quarter mile sucks. That’s why I always carry a spare tube.” Well, all I can say is that riding back over that road was sweet. My legs were tired and my feet were tired and I was glad to be pedaling instead of walking.

I’m ready for a real ride now, though, and the weather and my work schedule may combine to allow me to get it. I hope so.

See you on the road.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

An Apology to the Wind

It is possible that something in my last post may have been construed as complaining about the wind. What I wrote was, "The wind sucks." Now, I can see how, taken out of context, this might sound like an insult, so let's put that quote in context. The entire quote was:
Lactic acid burning
Muscles push the pedals hard
Today the wind sucks
Hm. Even taken in context, that sounds like an insult, doesn't it? Well, then I was clearly misquoted. (Yes, I know that I was the one quoting myself, but that's just being picky.)

So why all this concern on my part? Have you ever heard a parent say, "If you don't stop crying, I'll give you something to cry about?" Well, the wind decided to accompany me for my entire ride today, and it was made abundantly clear to me that it was not actually windy on my last ride. Yes, there may have been a slight breeze blowing, a gentle zephyr barely disturbing the air, if you will. I know this because today is was windy.

Not that I'm complaining, mind you. I would like to make that abundantly clear, just in case the wind has an internet connection and decides to check out the blog.

The other interesting occurrence today was that I saw the following message painted on the road:


Well, this was obviously quite flattering. Do I have a secret admirer? Mind you, the "again" would make one think that I should know who wrote the message.

Then I began to consider it a bit more. Will "U" be mine...this sounds like sheer laziness. Am I not worth the extra effort of actually spelling out the word "you"? Or did the individual in question not know who to spell the word "you"? Either way, this did not seem promising.

Then it occurred to me that, since there was no name attached to either end of this message, just possible it wasn't intended for me. Well, that could be confusing. Again, was this just laziness? Or does the writer have such a colossal ego as to think that the person for whom the message was intended would automatically know it?

Perhaps this person has done a lot of good, though. Who knows how many people saw this message, thought it was for them and made up with someone they had become estranged from. Perhaps this message writer had done this on purpose with the intention of reuniting couples who had quarreled over some silly thing or other. Why, this was noble of the message writer, don't you think?

See what you see when you get up early and go for a ride?

Although I have to confess that my legs are a bit tired this morning.

Not because of the wind, though. I'd like to make that perfectly clear. The wind is my friend, and I am definitely not complaining about it.

See you on the road.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Poetry in Motion

So what's the best way to start what promises to be a long and busy Saturday? With an early morning ride, of course. Up at 6:15, eat breakfast (important not to forget that one), get dressed (really important not to forget that one) and out the door.

The weather report indicated 20+ mile an hour winds, and I believed it. If the wind feels really strong in the subdivision, then it’s definitely going to be something spectacular when I’m out on the road with fields on every side of me and precious little in the way to slow the wind down or block it.

As I started out, the sun was low, and I looked at my shadow in front of me. I have many times thought about trying to take a picture of it. I recently found out that Missy has had the same idea about her shadow, and I can remember Bobby (he who once chased a dog barking (Bobby was barking, not the dog)) pointing out our shadows on a hillside as we rode past and telling me how he always wanted a picture of that. It must be a cycling thing.

I turned so that the sun was off at an angle instead of straight behind me and saw my shadow grow long and thin. It looked like I was tiny and the tires on my bike were about the right size for a monster truck (or like the font tire on a penny farthing bicycle). (Yes, that combination may seem a big incongruous to some. I am okay with that.)

Then I passed a parked car and my shadow suddenly swooped in close to me and the shadow me looked like he had broad shoulders and large muscular arms. Shadows are definitely illusory.

When I made it out to the main road, I found that the wind more than lived up to my expectations.

I did discover that, this early on a Saturday morning, the roads I ride are almost bereft of traffic. I could hear the birds, the sound of my chain, the quiet whirring of the tires on the pavement. Periodically I caught whiffs of honeysuckle.

I found myself on Mt. Carmel Church Road again and decided to ride until I actually found Mt. Carmel Church. This would have been rather rough on me if the church had long ago been torn down or something, but I did eventually find it.

It was a hard ride. The wind seemed to be against me nearly all the time. I still haven’t quite figured out how that happens, but I know that sometimes it does, and this was one of those mornings.
I remember hearing about a cyclist who listens to books on tape while riding. He climbed a steep hill without even realizing it. He seemed to feel that was a good thing. I have to admit that I disagree. The pain is part of the ride, and sometimes it’s good to suffer on a ride. Besides, I like to be attentive to the ride itself. I don't want it to fly by without my realizing it. I like to hear the various sounds associated with it, such as those mentioned above, as well as the sound of a car coming up behind me should there be one.

I did find myself wondering what other cyclists think about when they ride. This occurred to me about the time I found myself trying to remember the structure of a haiku. Yes, I know this is an odd thing to be thinking about while riding, but it just sprang to my mind unbidden.

I did eventually recall that it’s 5, 7 and syllables and is supposed to have some reference to nature in it. Here, for your pleasure and amusement, or possibly for your discomfort and disdain, is the haiku I wrote right after remember the rules and while pushing my way into a screaming headwind:
Lactic acid burning
Muscles push the pedals hard
Today the wind sucks
I now invite you to submit your own cycling related haiku. Go on. Be brave.

I am writing these words on Mother’s Day, so happy Mother’s Day. Because it’s Mother’s Day, I stayed home with my lovely lovely and the rest of the family instead of going out on a ride, but I’ll be up early to get some miles tomorrow morning before I have to go to work.

See you on the road.

Friday, May 8, 2009


Because this is a generally humorous blog…

No, wait. Maybe that’s going too far.

Because this is a blog that generally tries to be humorous…

That’s better.

I thought we’d talk about death and injuries today, largely because I came across a website that annoyed me. Yes, I know that it’s dangerous to write a blog post while annoyed, but I’ll take the risk. The website in question was written by someone who can’t figure out why cyclists bother to wear helmets. He wanted to find out if helmets are really of any use.

So we thought we'd cast aside all the "it just makes sense" and "if just one life is saved" rubbish and find some real, hard numbers to evaluate the effectiveness of crash helmets.

Now, as a scientist (and a card carrying geek), I am all in favor of using real, hard numbers to evaluate things. On the other hand, I don’t think I’d automatically toss out “it just makes sense” and “if just one life is saved” as being rubbish. Anecdotal evidence isn't necessarily inaccurate.

So, on this website they compared fatality rates per 10,000 vehicles, per 1 million population and per 1 million miles traveled and compared cars, bikes, motorcycles and pedestrians, and they found that the death rates for pedestrians and cyclists were about the same for every million miles traveled (though cyclists were quite a bit more likely to be injured than pedestrians were). Oh, and they also found this out:

It turns out that alcohol is a major player in all fatalities, not just car crashes. Drunk drivers cause 40% of car fatalities; drunk riders cause 29% of motorcycle fatalities; drunk bicyclists cause 24% of bicycle fatalities; and drunk pedestrians (we are not making this up) cause 33% of pedestrian fatalities. Apparently, staying sober while trying to move, or not trying to move while drunk, are both excellent ways of improving one's odds of survival.

I just reprinted that part because the concept of drunk cyclists (and drunk pedestrians) startled me, although I suppose it shouldn’t have.

Scientific studies can generally be divided into two groups:

1. Wow. I didn't know that - Viruses aren't actually living organisms.

2. No duh - Students who read do better in school.

I mention this because I would have thought that the concept that driving or riding or walking or operating heavy machinery or attempting to ride an elephant while drunk is probably bad is a "no duh" kind of result.

Now, let’s assume for the sake of argument that all of the data presented on this website is accurate. It is jam packed with table like this one:

Death Rate

Injury Rate

From cancer



From pneumonia/flu



From poisoning



From falling



From suffocation



While walking



From Drowning



While driving



While motorcycling



On horseback



While bicycling



Struck by lightning



While skiing



which is then summed up like this:

Nearly twice as likely to be killed by a horse, six times more likely to drown, 100 times more likely to die of pneumonia or the flu, than to be killed while riding a bicycle. More than twice as likely to be seriously injured in a car, and four times as likely to be poisoned, than seriously injured on a bicycle. And keep in mind, according to the CDC, only a third of those bicycle injuries are head injuries.

Well, how many of those riders who didn’t get head injuries were wearing helmets? How many of the riders who got head injuries were wearing helmets. I didn’t actually find that information on the website, so either I missed it or the author didn’t know, but it seem a relevant point to me.

And the conclusion to be drawn from the mountain of data?

Helmets save lives? Well, sure, occasionally they do.

Oh, well, if it’s only occasionally…

In the real world, biking is no more dangerous than taking the dog for a walk, and often even safer.

I’ve been walking a dog for considerably longer than I’ve been riding a bike, but I’ve never had any dog walking related injuries, and I’ve never met anyone who has had any dog walking related injuries. I have picked up a few cycling related injuries and I know quite a lot of people who have picked up cycling related injuries. I also know a couple of people who, if they hadn’t been wearing helmets, would probably be in a lot worse shape than they are today (one of those people being me). I’ll grant you that this is only anecdotal evidence, but it persuades me.

And the final word from the author of the website?

We feel no more need for a helmet than we feel the need to strap a lightning rod to our shorts. But then again, we don't bother playing the lottery either.

I’m not quite sure how to take this. Does this mean that the author feels like he needs to wear a helmet or not? I don’t know. I do know that I won’t ride without one, and I hope you won't either.

See you on the road.

Hopefully with a helmet on your head.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Book Report

I really have to watch what I read. I’m reading waaaaaaay too much heavy stuff with a great deal of social significance. That’s fine, unless it gives me delusions of grandeur and makes me think I can write something with a great deal of social significant. That’s when we’ll all be in trouble. So I decided to read something else. I vacillated between anything by P.G. Wodehouse (always a safe bet if you’re looking for something funny) and a book about cycling. That’s when I went to the bookshelf and realized that I have waaaaaaay too many books on cycling.

(Sorry about that. I think the aaaaaaa key is stuck.)

So I have decided to tell you about some of them.

A Significant Other: Riding the Centenary Tour de France with Lance Armstrong by Matt Rendell.

This is a great book, if you only read every other chapter. (Try it. You probably can’t make yourself do it.) Basically, Matt Rendell followed Victor Hugo Peña around while he was riding in the Tour de France on the U.S. Postal cycling team with Lance Armstrong. (The way the media covered the team, that should have been their names: The U.S. Postal cycling team with Lance Armstrong.) (Oh, and I don’t suppose he literally followed Victor Hugo Peña around, although, for all I know, he did.) (Whew. That was informative.)

Just about every other chapter is what happened on various stages and Victor Hugo’s thoughts about it. These chapters are fascinating. The other chapters were written my Matt Rendell, and they include some of the densest prose I have ever attempted to wade though, and I have read quite a few scientific journal articles, so I have some experience with these things. Try it for yourself.

The Rider by Tim Krabbé. (I hope that Mr. Krabbé appreciates all the work I went to in order to figure out how to type that é).

This is my favorite cycling book of all time. If it isn’t yours, you probably haven’t read it yet. It is an account of the Tour de Mount Aigoul (which is a race I had never heard of) written by a rider who rode it (who I had also never heard of, but what do I know?) and it’s wonderful. I have heard it referred to as a true account and I have heard it referred to as a novel and I have read it described as “hovering ambiguously somewhere between memoir and fiction” which is a very fancy way of saying, “I don’t know.”

I suggest that you try the English translation, unless of course you can read Dutch, which, after all, many people are quite able to do.

Why, you may ask, am I telling you about books when I got up at 6:30 this morning ready to ride despite that fact that a Labrador Retriever tried to walk all over me during the night? Because the idea of riding in an electrical storm just didn’t appeal to me somehow, so I went back to bed instead of getting all those lovely miles I had been looking forward to.

Oh, well. Maybe tomorrow.

See you on the road.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


We begin the blog today with a quote from one of the literary masters:

BUCKY: (Swinging an imaginary sword) HA! YA! FA-TANG! FA-TANG! OLÉ! This movie rocks! I would be such an awesome gladiator! All I need is a good gladiator name!

ROB: How about “Gluteus Maximus”?

BUCKY: I like that.

ROB: Yeah. I thought you might.

SATCHEL: Oh, you totally look like a “Gluteus.”

BUCKY: Thank you.

When you ride, there are three places where you contact the bike: your hands, your feet and your…um…nether regions. Now, we certainly spend time thinking about gloves and shoes, but most riders I know spend a lot more time looking for a good chamois. (Just in case you don’t know, the chamois is the lovely thick pad inside a pair of cycling shorts that makes the saddle easier to bear.)

The question of regular shorts vs. bib shorts is one that generates some enthusiasm, but not as much as whether or not the shorts have a good chamois or not.

Then there is the question of chamois cream. Do you or don’t you? (Only your hairdresser knows for sure.) If you do, what kind? And how much? After all, sometimes friction is a bad thing.

These are vital questions to some people. Let’s face it, if you have some enforced time off the bike, it isn’t your hands and feet that are going to hurt when you start back riding again.

Steve’s advice to me when I first bought a road bike:

“About the saddle…”


“Tough it out.”

Along those same lines, check out Sheldon Brown’s “Real Man Saddles.

Now, I am not saying that anyone should take the time to actually remember what you have read after reading the blog (it's your brain, do what you want with it) but if you do, then you may recall that, after some time off the bike, I managed to get quite a few rides in this last week. (Hooray for me!) This does have consequences of a gluteal nature. (In the interests of keeping things clean, we won't dwell on the nature of the consequences.) For this reason, I've been building up slowly to get myself reaccustomed to the pressures of the situation so to speak.

It's a small price to pay for the pleasures of riding, after all. Of course, sometimes I regret the fact that we have wooden stools to sit on at work instead of comfy chairs. There are things more uncomfortable than a bike saddle, you know.

Keith thought he had found the ideal solution the time he bought a woman specific saddle. (Being a biologist, I am aware that there are a few differences between the genders, but I still don't know what makes a saddle woman specific.)

I did learn a few things from Keith's experience, however. I learned that, according to Keith, that was both the most comfortable and the most uncomfortable saddle he had ever used. It was comfortable simply because it was comfortable. It was uncomfortable because there is a logo on the saddle that identifies it as a woman specific saddle and there are guys in the cycling club who can't resist the temptation to address the topic from time to time. Eventually, Keith abandoned the saddle for his own piece of mind.

Of course, after you've been riding for awhile, your nether regions do get used to it and stop hurting. (Unless you do the infamous double century - 200 miles in one day. I didn't want to sit down at all for a couple of days after that.)

Keep riding and it will all work out in the end, I suppose.

No, I really should apologize for that one, but it was just too obvious to pass up.

See you on the road.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Early Morning Onwards

A whole weekend and no time to ride.


Then Monday comes. I get off work a little early, get kitted out, fill my bottle and am on the point of putting on my shoes when events get the better of me. Errands that must be done now pop up and I have to put everything away and set to work.

The upshot of all of this is that I make the ultimate sacrifice today. I get up extra early so that I can get a ride in before I have to head out for the day. It rained hard last night and a 60% chance of rain was predicted for today, but when I rise with the sun, the rain is gone.

A quick breakfast and out the door and I have the wind in my face and my legs, which felt heavy yesterday, and feeling pretty good today, despite the early hour. Excellent.

I try to plan a route that won’t be too clogged with school traffic, and that worked out pretty well, too.

There was a Far Side one time in which a scientist puts on a helmet that lets him understand what dogs are really saying, and they are all saying, “Hey! Hey! Hey!”

I don’t believe it. Sometimes dogs have a definite message to convey. This thought struck me today right after riding up a hill into the wind. I was moseying along catching my breath when a huge German Shepherd said some truly unkind things to me from not far away and then bolted in my direction. Jerked out of my reverie, I started to push the pedals harder when I heard the sound of a chain scraping a tree and realized that this dog was not going to be able to make good on his threats.

You know, sometimes you can tell when a dog is serious and when he’s not. A playful dog can still knock you down, but while you’re lying there concussed he won’t eviscerate you. This dog was not that kind of dog, so I’m glad he was chained up.

I passed a herd of cows at one point, and a single cow lifted it’s head and looked at me. I looked back at the cow, and we started at each other as I passed, the cow’s head slowly turning to keep my in sight.

Why did this cow look at me when the others did not?

What she the only smart cow? The only curious cow? The only cow who’d never seen a cyclist before? The only cow who’d already finished her breakfast? After I passed, did she nudge the cow next to her and say, “Well, would you look at that?”

Today’s lesson in how to get strong:

1. Ride in the wind.

2. Ride uphill.

3. Ride uphill and into the wind at the same time.

That was my morning.

A group of three dogs saw me coming and set out in pursuit, but they never left their yard. I like these dogs.

I had the rain on my mind as I was riding, but the heavens didn’t open up while I was on the road. About three miles from home I was riding into a stiff headwind, and I could smell the rain in the wind. It was the leading edge of some storm that was headed my way, but it didn’t reach where I was until I wasn’t there anymore, so I didn’t get wet.

All in all, a great ride and a great way to start the day. I’d do it again tomorrow morning if I didn’t have to be at work so early. Still, there’s always tomorrow evening.

See you on the road.

Monday, May 4, 2009

To Stop or Not to Stop

I don’t know how it is for you, but if I’m cruising along at a high pace, I hate to have to slow down. I’d much rather keep the high pace going, even if it hurts, than to slow down and then try to work my way back up to speed again.

I thought of this on a recent ride because I was keeping a good pace going, then the road curved and the wind changed, and I knew I could kick the pace up even high. Unfortunately, not too far ahead of me was a stop sign.

Should this be a moment of decision or should there be no question about what to do?

(This is like being in class on test day and hearing one student ask another, “Did you study?”)

Of course, with a stop sign coming up, I should stop. What’s more, this particular stop sign was at a blind intersection, so I should definitely stop, and I did, but I didn’t want to.

I can remember riding with a group when our road crossed a major four lane highway. There were cars coming, but they were some distance away, and each rider had to decide for him or herself whether to stop or to dart across. I was not one of the darters.

The prudent members of the group stopped and watched the reckless members dart across the road. (Or the wimps stopped and watched the real riders dart across the road. Take your pick. Because I know which side of the road I was on, I’ll go with prudence.) After the traffic passed, we crossed to the other side. (No jokes about chickens are needed here, thank you very much.)

The riders who had darted across had waited for us, riding in slow circles on the road, and, when we arrived, one of them said, “I’d almost rather get hit than stop.” I think the key word in the sentence must be “almost”.

This made me think of another point where a road we ride crosses the same highway. As the story was told to me, Bobby had just purchased a brand new and very expensive titanium framed road bike and was on his maiden voyage on the new ride. As the group was crossing the road, he hit a patch of gravel and laid the bike down. Cars were coming, and Bobby prudently (there’s that word again) jumped out of the way, leaving his brand new bike lying right there. He danced up and down at the side of the road in fits of agony as car after car whizzed past at fifty five miles per hour (we’ll assume they’re all law abiding citizens) and one after another nearly (but not quite) plowed into his new bike. At the first opportunity he dashed into the road, scooped up his bike and pulled it to safety. He reportedly didn’t ride that particular route again for many many years.

See why you wait?

I also think it was Bobby who nearly gave a dog a heart attack. This came up because of the stealth dog.

The stealth dog lived near a big red house. He would see us coming from quite some distance away and would then hide himself before some bushes right next to the road, his legs braced just like a sprinter before a big race. Then, as we rode by, he would burst out of cover and pursue us, barking his head off. If you forgot that you were in the area of the stealth dog, he could scare the bodily fluid of your choice right out of you. After an attack of the willies induced by the stealth dog had passed one day, Bobby proceeded to tell me about another dog that had chased the group and then turned around and given up. Bobby turned around, leaped off his bike and chased after the dog, barking at the top of his lungs.. With one look of mingled amazement and horror, the dog had tucked its tail between its legs and taken off like a scared jackrabbit.

I realize that has nothing to do with stopping at stop signs, but I never claimed to be organized.

See you on the road.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Weight of the Day

Sometimes you carry the weight of the day onto the bike. Yesterday was like that. I hit those first two hills and just had to grind up them slowly and ever more slowly, gasping for breath. Then I left the neighborhood and hit the main road, where the wind sucked the like out of me, and I just put my head down and pushed the pedals around. (I should say that I didn’t put my head too far down, since I do like seeing the road ahead of me.) It looked like I was just going to have to grind this one out, so I just tried to find a rhythm and settle into it.

Of course, what happened is what usually happens – my body woke up and the ride got easier.
It was hot and windy just like it’s been all week, but at least this time the flies weren’t lying to me about it being windy. Every single one that I passed was cracking and snapping, streaming out from the flag pole in a way that left no doubt at all about the breeze that was blowing. There is some comfort in that. At least I knew I wasn't imagining the wind.

The route I had originally picked out was just too short to help me unwind, so I lengthened it on the fly. I decided that I would ride down roads that were new to me and get some exploring done. I turned down an unfamiliar road to find that it was bumpy and rough. I could hear my water bottle rattling in the cage (and could almost hear my teeth rattling in my head). Then, after a mile or two, the road dumped me out someplace familiar. My journey of exploration just become a journey to places I go all the time.

I suppose at some future date I might glad to know that, from that point I can go that was instead of this way, but at the moment it was just kind of annoying. I turned around and headed down a new road. The wind was in my face, and the road was still rough. It was hard going, but sometimes you need hard going.

My favorite street name was “Winding Lane”, largely because it was about as straight a road as I’ve ever seen in my life. I also passed a housing development that I thought was called Stonehenge. This struck me as an odd choice of name, and then I realized that it was called Stonehedge. This struck me as an even odder choice of name. Stone…hedge? Does this make sense?

I can remember the most pleasant moment of the entire ride. I had riding into a head wind down a rough road and made a ninety degree turn. The wind became a cross wind and the road surface was as smooth as could be. Everything suddenly got easier. It was great.
I ended up with my longest ride of the week and one of the best. By the time I got back home, my bruised spirit was doing much better, and now the weekend is here.

I’m liking this.

See you on the road.