Monday, November 30, 2009


I found this strange device in my garage. It was all chains and wheels. It seemed vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t quite place it. The wheels made it seem as if was meant to be pushed or ridden, and it was easily narrow enough to straddle. I tried that, and what I originally took for a seat was so darned uncomfortable that, for a moment, I doubted that it was meant to be a seat at all.

It had these two sticky out bits (not that I want to get too technical on you) but they seemed awfully skinny. Then I found these odd shoes in my closet which, believe it or not, had metal sockets on them that the two skinny sticky out things fit neatly into with a satisfying click.
Deciding after all that this odd but strangely familiar device was some sort of vehicle, I decided to go for a ride on it. The temperature was about thirty two degrees out, but I found all of these odd clothes in my closet. Getting dressed was like getting ready for a deep sea diving adventure. I wonder if the knights of old had so many things to put on.

Shorts. Heavy tights. Under armour. Jersey. Vest. Gloves. Toasti Toes. Balaclava. Wool socks. Shoes. Booties. Helmet.


Wait a minute. Tights and booties? Yep, we cyclists are a manly lot.

“Are those your cycling gloves?” my Lovely Lovely asked.

“Nope,” I said. “They’re cross country skier’s gloves, so they don’t have padding everywhere I wish they did, but they’re the warmest gloves I have.”

They are, too.

I thought that it was really cold in the garage. Then I stepped outside and the wind hit me. Oh, my goodness. It was cold with a capital brrrrrrrr.

By the way, I called this bi-sicle because it was like a popsicle. See? It sounds bicycle but it was really cold out and people would get it because they would…um…think of a popsicle…which is…really…cold? No. That didn’t work, did it? Never mind.

I was not the only crazy out on the road in the freezing cold this morning. Quite early on a saw I guy jogging. Now, if I shaved my head totally bald and it was that cold out, I think I would have had a hat on. He obviously disagreed.

What with the heavy clothes and the wind and the cold and my lack of saddle time lately, it was hard going. At one point I started pushing hard and my legs cussed me out and then asked me what on earth I thought I was doing.

Scenes of Star Trek went through my head. The real Star Trek.

“Scotty, give me more power!”

“I canna do it, Captain.”

Then, about twelve miles into the ride, my body suddenly woke up. It was amazing. I could almost hear the click as the machinery kicked in. All of sudden, I was a cyclist again. The pace picked up, I felt my blood pumping. It was great.

There’s a particular stretch of road where I always try to push the pace as hard as I can and maintain it. Today it was a little more difficult, and I had to resort to the “until I reach” trick.
I’m going to keep this pace up until I reach that sign. Okay, now I’m going to keep the pace up until I reach that mail box. No, that mailbox is too far away. I’m going to keep this pace up until I reach that clump of grass. Okay…

I passed a guy riding the wrong way down the road, perilously close to the yellow line. I mentioned him to my Lovely Lovely who asked, “Was it a cyclist of just a bike rider?”

She has learned well.

It was cold and hard and really really fun. I’m still alive after all.

Now all I have to do is get back out for another ride sometime this year. That would be great.

See you on the road.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Science Geekery

Are you as much of a science geek as I am? (If you are, congratulations. If you are more of a science geek than I am, you have my pity.)

If you are, you might enjoy this website that I stumbled across. Have fun.

Yesterday my Lovely Lovely said the sweetest words a woman can say to her husband: I think you should ride more. (Granted, this could mean that she just wants me out from underfoot, but I think it more likely that it means that I get really grumpy when I don't get to ride.)

See you on the road. Maybe even today.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Is there such a thing as good music to ride to?

I ask this question because I have serious doubts about the advisability of having earphones or earbuds on or in whichever particular orifice you choose to use for you listening pleasure while out riding the roads. I have been known to wear an mp3 player while riding around my subdivision, but I don’t ever wear one while riding anywhere else. I like having my ears free to listen for approaching cars, dogs, alien spacecraft, elephants, whatever might happen to wander by, really.

There are, however, many people who disagree with me. They say that having music with you on the ride can be very stimulating. Keith, for example, likes to have some good old fashioned rock and roll, and, if he doesn’t have an mp3 player, is likely to start singing. Lisa says that an mp3 player is great, because that way if Jörg and Dave start talking politics, she can simply reach for the volume control and listen to her music instead.

(Editorial note: having a dyed in the wool republican and a yellow dog democrat on the same ride can make some quite interesting conversation, and other people have been known to toss statements out just to get such conversations started. It can be something of a spectator sport.)

(Editorial note on the editorial note: Jörg and Dave are great friends, so the spectator sport is never in any danger of becoming a contact sport, and I find the conversations they have entertaining to a high degree.)

(Editorial note on the editorial note on the editorial note: this post has too many editorial notes.)

But I digress. I was talking about music, and, while a conversation can have its own music, that wasn’t really what I meant.

Music can certainly stimulate you and get your legs pumping, and it just might help you keep the pace high or make your way up that hill, but it can also take your attention away from the ride. I have heard people listening to music say, “I made it up that hill and never even noticed it was there.” They seemed to think that was a good thing, but I disagree. You’re supposed to notice the hill was there, just as you are supposed to noticed the other people on the ride with you, the wind, the deer than just ran across the road in front of you and the SUV that’s coming up from behind. It’s all part of the ride experience, and I generally don’t want that experience to be submerged in music. I can listen to music at home.

If you’re on a ride with your mp3 player and the other people on the road have to repeat what they said to you more than once because you couldn’t hear them over the music, then you aren’t really on the ride with them at all.

However, if I am on a little recovery ride around the neighborhood on the hybrid, I do tend to listen to music. There are only a few miles of road, and I have to go over them again and again. There are also very few cars, and they tend to be moving very slowly.

So, what is the best music for listening to while riding?

I have to give first place to The Tannahill Weavers. If that doesn’t get your legs moving, nothing will.

Beyond that, the Penetrators, the Torquays, the Diamondheads, the Atomic Mosquitos and groups of that ilk are all excellent listening. And, as always, The Ventures.

If you haven’t heard of some (or any) of these groups, then we don't listen to the same kinds of music, I guess.

If you listen to music on a ride, what do you listen to? Speak up. Now’s your chance.

See you on the road.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Group Ride

What about a Saturday 9:00 am ride? You can’t possibly have to work then.

Well, as it turns out, Jörg was right. I didn’t have to work then. I did have to play for a wedding that afternoon, but that was another story, and I was sure I could squeeze in a ride in the morning. (My Lovely Lovely was less certain, mind you, since there were things around the house that needed to be done, but we worked that one out all right. She is, after all, lovely lovely.)

There was a nice group there: Jörg, Bobby, Dr. Bob and Bob, Karen, Lisa, Tom, Mike, Keith and Rick. (Bob, not to be confused with either Dr. Bob or Bobby) and Keith took off to do a mountain bike ride. They planned to swing by Wal-Mart to pick up some other riders (wow, they really do have everything you need at Wal-Mart) but the rest of us planned to hit the road. No one in living memory could recall the last time that Rick, Dr. Bob and I had all been on a ride together.

It was what we call a “social ride”. That is, the pace was easy so everybody could just enjoy the morning and chat. I had a great time. (I don’t know about anybody else. After all, I got to chat with them, but they were reduced to having to chat with me.) We took a route that I hadn’t been on for awhile (mind you, lately it feels like I haven’t been on any route for awhile) but which I remembered well. The temperature was in the mid sixties and the wind was certainly present but not brutal, and I got a chance to catch up with some people. (Socially speaking, that is. Even I didn’t have to catch up physically, since the pace was too gentle for anyone to get dropped.)

The weather prediction had been for no rain, and it was almost wrong. We could see the clouds ahead of us as we came in, and the sky spat a little bit, but nothing major.

As we were riding in over the last mile, I recalled a lesson I had once heard someone given on when it was inappropriate to sprint.

If someone tells you they aren’t going to spring, you shouldn’t necessarily believe it. That might merely be a tactic. But, if you’re attentive, you can tell when a (nonverbal) truce has been called and there won’t be a sprint. It is quite gauche to sprint at such times.

This day, of course, there was no question of a sprint. It simply wasn’t that kind of a ride. So, I waited until we were all of three feet from the finish line and, just as pure silliness, nipped ahead. Mind you, I had to get up to nearly 16 miles an hour to do that. Whew. (This was a really social ride. We came in with an average pace of about 14.3 mph.)

The whole ride was great. I wish you could have been there.

See you on the road.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Two Wheel Trouble?

Two-wheel troublemaking: Have motorists let bicyclist 'rights' go too far?

Everytime this “writer” mentions cyclists rights, the word is always in quotes. I don't think he likes us very much.

For a decade, urban bicyclists have become more brash. In some cities, groups such as Critical Mass organized mass rush-hour bike rides that tied traffic in knots, delaying commuters rides' home by minutes or hours. They are hardly tactics that will win sympathy from drivers.

Well, that’s true. This may be how to influence people, but I don't suppose it's how to win friends.

In the aftermath and as their numbers have increased, cyclists have become emboldened to take over the road. That is, instead of riding to the right or on the shoulder, some are now riding in the center of the lane.

Taking the lane? Horrors!!

Two incidents underscore how they are putting themselves in danger. One incident involved a cyclist hit and killed by accident. The other case is a motorist who is alleged to have tried to make bicyclists crash into his car on purpose:

The writer is very concerned about the poor cyclists. That’s nice, isn’t it?

In the first case, a driver on the way to work struck a St. Mary's County, Md., bicyclist earlier this month and killed him, police told The Washington Post. The driver, a 20-year-old in her Honda Accord, told police she never saw the biker. But the accident might have been prevented if the 47-year-old bicyclist had been riding in the right, not in the dead center, of the lane, a major contributor to the accident.

Or course, the accident might also have been prevented in the 20-year-old driver had been paying attention to what was right in front of her.

In the second case, a Los Angeles doctor is on trial for allegedly slamming the brakes on his car to cause two bikers to run into him. They did, suffering bloody injuries. The doctor, Charles Christopher Thompson, was allegedly peeved over having to slow down for three bikers blocking his path, refusing to pull to the right and flipping him off as he passed. He is on trial for having pulled in front of them and, according to testimony, hitting the brakes so that bikes were sure to hit. One biker needed 90 stitches.

The doctor allegedly slammed on his brakes because he was allegedly peeved, but the cyclists didn’t allegedly refuse to pull to the right and didn’t allegedly flip him off? There’s certainly no bias in this writing, is there? What's the hippocratic oath say? First, do no harm.

By the way, that trial is now over. Thompson was convicted of six felonies: two counts each of assault with a deadly weapon and battery with serious bodily injury as well as reckless driving causing specified injury and mayhem. He was also convicted of misdemeanor reckless driving.

For a little perspective, Drive On sought out Jeff Peel, a program specialist heading the League of American Bicycle's campaign for Bicycle Friendly Communities. His contention is that the road is "not motorist space. It's people space." Bicyclists are road users, too, even if they travel at the fraction of the speed of a car. In fact, he says, that's good.

"The idea is you are slowing traffic, which may be frustrating to some motorists but making the road safer for everyone," Peel says. "Creating safer roadways and right-of-ways for all users sometimes requires taking space away from automobiles."

Taking space away from cars? Ouch.

Allegedly taking space away from cars.

When late to work, it pains a driver to slow down for a bunch of bicyclists hogging the roadway. In the past, you might have tried to steer around them. These days, they are right in front of the car.

Oh, my goodness, the poor driver. And those cyclists are hogging the roadway. Cars would never do that, now would they? Oh, dear, I guess the sarcasm meter is a little high today. Sorry about that.

It will be interesting to see how far this goes, whether bicyclists are allowed to stay in the middle of the highway. As the deaths mount, maybe it will become clear they need ride to the right.

Again, it’s all about the cyclists for this writer.

Okay, so perhaps I’ve been a bit sarcastic here, but is anyone else annoyed by the way this article was written? Or, for that matter, by my comments about this article? Let's be equal opportunity, after all.

You know, most drivers are not cyclists, but most cyclists are drivers. I’ve been in my car and late for work, but that isn’t the fault or the problem of the cyclist out on the road.

Cyclists aren’t always polite to the drivers of cars, which strikes me as unwise. If that driver gets ticked off and buzzes me or hits me, I’m going to feel it more than he will, so I’ll limit myself to a shake of the head at an annoying driver rather than a more emphatic gesture.

Still we can still ride, and that's all to the good.

See you on the road.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Bike Lane is Where?

City puts bicycles directly in the path of motorists

In one of the busiest shopping districts in Long Beach, California, bicyclists are kings of the road in an experiment that turns frustrated motorists into serfs.

Well, I guess we can tell the point of view of this article right from the beginning, can’t we?

The seaside city south of Los Angeles is encouraging bikers to get right in front of cars. It painted a five-foot wide green stripe down the middle of one of the two lanes in either direction of the Belmont Shore section of the city. Even though cars were whizzing by at 30 miles an hour yesterday, bikes were free to ride right in their path.

So, there is a bike lane and it runs right down the middle of the car lane. Interesting. I’m not quite sure how I feel about this as a concept. Let’s see how some other people felt about it, shall we? Somehow, I think the guy who wrote this article will tell us.

Some locals are livid about the experiment, which began in June.

That’s how.

"It's stupid. I can't even believe it," said John Cameron, who has lived in the area for 50 years. "To put them out in traffic is just stupid." It's slowing down traffic and putting bikers in harm's way, Cameron said

And it’s all about taking care of the cyclists, right?

adding that he rides a bike himself, but he says he always stays to the right.

Well, of course he does. That makes his opinion unbiased against cyclists, and that’s why he got interviewed for this article.

Long Beach is leading the pack as bikers assert more "rights" around the country:

“Rights?” In quotes? Really? Is that like saying cyclists are “smart” or “courteous” or “really good looking in those funny clothes”?

Drive On came to Long Beach to check out the bike vs. car feud after we reported last week how
more bicyclists are riding directly in the path of cars, instead of on the shoulder or to the right of the road. Bikers say it's sometimes unsafe to ride at the far right side of the road. But it in Maryland recently, center-of-the-road biking led to a death, a bicyclist killed by the car of a driver on the way to work one morning.

Which obviously proves that cyclists should never take the lane. After all, you only need one data point to extrapolate a theory from, right?

By installing the lane and other bike lanes around the city, Long Beach is trying to become a
bike-friendly city. The Press-Telegram, the leading newspaper in the city, reported that the city has won $11 million in federal funds to create bike lanes and other improvements. It has the nation's first Bike Station downtown, where commuters leave their bikes to take public transportation.

Nice. Bike friendly is good in my book. And in my blog, apparently.

One of the city's leading bike advocates, John Case, stands behind the experiment. "The green bike lane basically makes a statement to all car drivers in Long Beach that (the) vision embraced by the city council to be the most bike friendliest urban city in the USA means there will be changes in the urban street scheme to accommodate and encourage urban bike commuting," Case says.

“most bike friendliest?”

But the green stripe through Belmont Shore rankles many. Barber Mike Schafer, whose shop gives him a front-row seat to the bike action in Second Street outside, says the green lane is causing a lot of trouble. Bikers on beach cruisers are meandering along in the center of the lane, disregarding honking horns of the drivers being held up for blocks behind them, he says. One of them "just gave us 'the bird.'" For the bikers, "there should be signs saying 'Keep up with traffic.'"

Sigh. The driver who just got ticked off by another cyclist may be the driver who encounters you while you’re out riding.

Bicycle advocates say bikers in the center of the lane helps slow down traffic. But cars vastly outnumber bikes. Second Street can get 40,000 cars a day, compared to an average of 400 bikes a day when traffic was checked earlier this year, the Press-Telegram reported. About a dozen stoplights are only about 500 feet apart in the area, filled with bars and restaurants that make bikes convenient for getting around. Jeweler Dave Mancia says his customers are divided -- bikers like it and motorists hate it. And for him? "It's good but it can be dangerous," he says. He says he sticks to riding his bike in the alleys that parallel the thoroughfare.

Let's be careful out there, shall we? Bike lanes or not, a 2000 lb beast is an uncomfortable bedfellow.

See you on the road.