Thursday, December 31, 2009

Windy windy windy windy windy

Another day, another ride. How nice is that?

Before heading out I turned on the TV long enough to check the temperature. It was a balmy 50 degrees out. Not bad. I got kitted out and then headed out to the garage to put air in my tires, got hit by a blast of wind and immediately went back inside to put on more clothes.

It turns out that there is 50 degrees and then there is 50 degrees. I hadn’t checked the wind speed when I had checked the temperature, and, since the wind was blowing at 16 to 24 mph, it made a difference. Change the gloves for heavier ones, change the hat for one with ear flaps, add booties and a vest and then hit the road. It was still cold, but that was okay.

It was one of those days where, in the crosswind, your bike leans heavily to one side, in the headwind you ride like you’re Marley’s ghost wrapped in heavy chains and in the tailwind you fly along at a blistering pace. (There’s my Christmas reference for you.)

(Once, after having ridden in a thirty mile an hour wind – the cables on my bike were singing – I headed to the bike shop and talked about the ride with Steve. It turns out I had averaged nearly 18 mph that day. A customer overheard us talking and expressed amazement. Steve explained that I had probably ridden half the ride at 6 mph and half at 30 mph depending on whether I was headed into the wind or riding with it. That was probably about right, too. Steve knows.)

Most of the cars were really quite polite today. I did see one car – a white sports car begin driven by a young man in an orange hoodie. He was either very short or was slumped down so that nothing below his nose was visible above the steering wheel, and the hood of his sweatshirt was over his head and pulled almost down to his eyes.

That’s not suspicious at all.

I got pursued by a very hopeful brown and white dog, and the dog had reason to be hopeful since the evidence indicates that it could have had me for lunch any time it desired. It bounced at me and ran at me repeatedly, cannily blocking my path as much as possible, undaunted by shouts from me and squirts from my water bottle. I finally got away from it, but I admit to having a handful of rocks as I passed by on my way back home. The dog was chained up at that point. This is more regard than I am used to from dog owners, I have to admit. I can remember one time when a dog owner told him dog, “Get ‘em, boy!”

Here are some ways to tell if it is windy.

If you turn a corner and your speed suddenly drops by eight or ten miles per hour even though the road is still flat, it’s probably windy.

If you coast downhill and find yourself losing speed, it’s probably windy.

If you turn around and suddenly gain five mph with no extra effort, it’s probably windy.

If your vest, which you thought more or less fit you okay, suddenly turns into a drag chute, it’s probably windy.

But, you know what? At least you’re out riding, so good for you.

See you on the road.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Merry Christmas

So, it turns out that I have a blog. Who knew?

Well, if you’ve been reading this blog…or, rather…not reading this blog, you may know that I keep trying to ride my bike and life keeps getting in the way. (Mind you, I don’t like the sound of “life getting out of way” as that sounds uncommonly like something unpleasant. I have been getting outdoors a bit, though, doing some geocaching.

Lately I have been wondering if the name “Lunicycle” suits me. Not, you understand, because there is any doubt about the first half of the name. It’s the second half. Can you call someone who only longs to ride his bike a cyclist?

I finally did get a ride in (and there was much rejoicing). It was a brisk 50 degrees out, but there was very little wind. I figured my legs would be just so much dead wood, but it turns out they were still legs after all, and they were still up to propelling a bicycle around at a reasonable rate of speed. I figured I should enjoy that while it lasted, but it turned out that it lasted for the whole ride.

I rode hard all the way. Too hard, as it turned out, since I had to pull over and hang over the handle bars while I waited to see if my all to hastily eaten lunch was going to pay me a return visit. (It didn’t.)

When I got back home I was tried and quite surprised to find how fast my average pace was.

Well, maybe I can still call myself Lunicycle after all. What do you know.

Now, if I can just make good use of my vacation time by getting some more miles, life will be good, even if it does get in the way sometimes.

See you on the road.

Maybe I'll even have something to post tomorrow. Wouldn't that be a shock?

Friday, December 4, 2009

It Isn't Over Yet

I went to the bike shop today. I like going to the bike shop. I like seeming my friends. I like seeing all those rows and rows of gleaming bikes ready to hit the road. I even like the way a bike shop smells – an amalgam of metal, rubber, lube and who knows what else. Sweat, probably.

Despite my (ahem) limited riding schedule of late, I somehow managed to run out of chamois cream. I figured that, while I was there, I would also pick up some carb-boom (apple cinnamon if you really must know) and ogle all the lovely toys I couldn’t possibly afford to get.

Steve and Dave were both there. “Hey, do you remember this guy? Didn’t he used to ride with the club?”

That would be me. Did I mention my limited riding schedule already? I did, right? I thought so.

Looking at the chamois cream I laid on the counter, Steve asked, “Given how much you’ve been riding lately, does this stuff taste as good as everyone says it does?”

In the course of the conversation, the approaching end of the year came up. People are looking at closing out their mileage logs for the year and people (and, by people I mean me) are looking at their rather dismal mileage totals and vowing to do better next year. (Hey, If I can just get in a couple of thousand miles in the next three weeks, my mileage total for the year will look fine.)

So, what about you?

Do you live in one of those unforgivingly cold places, so your bike is already languishing in the garage? Or do you live in one of those luxuriously warm places that earn you the undying enmity of everyone who lives in one of those unforgivingly cold places, so you’re trying to figure what all the fuss is about? Or do you live in one of this in-between places – sure, it’s cold, but you can still ride.

(While we're on this topic, check out Cyclin' Missy's blog.)

Of course, but you can still ride is rather in the eye (legs?) of the beholder. I know people who will cheerfully (or grimly) ride when the temperature is in the thirties and other people who won’t put on lycra if the temperature dips into the sixties.

As for me, well, I just bought all that chamois cream. I guess I’ll have to use it somehow. (No suggestions, please.) I have two weeks off over Christmas, and I intend to see how many miles I can get before the year is over.

Weather permitting, of course. (Jörg says, “Don’t be a weather weenie.”)

Pretty soon it’ll be time to break out the winter cap with the ear flaps. I may look like a goof (and I was forced by circumstances to stop worrying about that a long time ago) but at least my ears won’t fall off.

See you on the road.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Nice Day

The temperature in Honolulu (motto: Nicer than where ever you are) today is 78 degrees F. I’m not in Honolulu, though. The temperature where I am (motto: We’re not Honolulu) is 61 degrees F with a ten mph wind. Mind you, I’m not complaining. After all, the temperature in Akureyri (motto: We're running short on consonants) is 34 degrees F and the temperature on Pluto (motto: We may not be a planet anymore, but they didn't name Mickey Mouse’s dog after Jupiter, now did they?) is -387 degrees F, so it could be a lot worse.

By the way, and completely off the topic of cycling, is anyone else bothered by the fact that Pluto and Goofy inhabit the same universe? I mean, Goofy is anthropomorphic and (more or less) sapient and Pluto is pretty much just a dog. It’s disturbing, somehow.

Anyway, I got off work a bit early today and had time to squeeze in a ride, so that’s what I did. (I didn’t quite get off early enough to ride with anyone else, unfortunately, but a solo ride is a still a ride.) It was one of those rides that’s great from the start. The first pedal stroke out of the driveway was nice and smooth and my body said, “Oh, I remember this. I like this.” (This was a far cry from my last ride.)

About three miles into the ride, I spotted another cyclist. He was cruising down the hill I was getting ready to climb, but that wasn’t his fault, I guess, so I gave him a wave. (Now, be honest here, do you ever, when you see someone riding toward you, sit up and pedal hard no matter how tired you feel or how windy it is just to make a good impression on a complete stranger? No? Me neither. Really.)

I cruised past a church which I remember well. I paused there once on a blazing hot day to sit in the shade, have a drink, and eat something. I can’t remember what I ate, but I remember that it had more or less melted in my pocket.

A little later I was heard that rustling sound that may indicate a dog on the run. I glanced over, but it was pretty obvious that there was no way a dog that brachycephalic (hey, I’m a biologist. We all talk that way) was going to catch me, so no worries.

This was not the case on my way home, alas. I was riding along and kind of daydreaming when two medium sized dogs came after me shouting threats and indicating a desire to see the color of my insides. I was feeling good, so I hit the gas and then a fist sized knot of pure pain formed in my left gastrocnemius. Okay, calf muscle. Sorry. It’s habit.

In other words, I had a choice between trying to pedal more or less one legged to get away from these dogs or stopping to work out the cramp, thus letting said dogs catch me. I decided to keep pedaling. I may have said one or two things out loud at the time…I don’t quite remember. The dogs gave up and the cramp passed but I could feel little twinges in that muscle all the way home.

I passed a jogger on the way. We gave each other a neutral sort of wave. We’re both out exercising, but each one of us was convinced that the other had the wrong idea about how to exercise. Still, that doesn’t mean we can’t be friends, right?

I chose a hard road going out – hills and hills, and I rode the same road back home again. Hey, if you’re going to ride, you might as well ride hard. (Steve says, “If you still have breath to talk, you’re not riding hard enough.”)

The ride was short, not much over 20 miles, but it was a lot of fun. Please, sir, I’d like some more.

See you on the road.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

You're Welcome...?

Powering up…zap…crackle…

…all right, Igor…

Throw the Switch!

Sarcasm generator ON

Now, maybe it's the fact that I'm a bit under the weather today (which has nothing to do with the fact that it's very cold and rainy so I won't be riding) or maybe I have just reached my annoyance tolerance level, but...

I have heard from a lot of people who don’t think that bikes should have to share the road with cars. I am beginning to think that this is a good idea. Mind you, my solution and their solution may not be identical.

I remember having a conversation with a woman who said, “I think people should be allowed to ride their bicycles all they want, so long as they don’t do it on the road.”

“Where should they do it, then?” I naively asked.

“I don’t know.” The unspoken finish to that comment was, “And I don’t care.”

Lest you think that I’m being unfair by including an unspoken comment, take my word for it. It was hanging in the air will almost bell-like clarity. Here’s a blog I came across where things are spoken very clearly indeed.

It is often suggested that automobile drivers should learn to share the road with bicyclists. In my opinion, it is foolhardy and dangerous for bicyclists to be on the highways with motorists, period. Bicycles no more belong on roadways than autos belong on bike paths.

Well, you can’t ask for much more clarity than that, can you? So, pray tell, why not? I'm sure the writer will enlighten us.

Bicycles are slow, small and difficult to see; autos may weigh tons, and, with their automatic transmissions, are powerful and fast at a light touch of the foot. There is a question of timing and visibility here; and should a tragedy occur, proof of who is at fault would do nothing to mend bodies.

Now, the interesting thing about this comment is that it shows some understanding of the situation. The last line, especially, is the writer speaking the truth. Good for him. And yet…

Too many cyclists are clueless as to rules of the road — either for automobiles or for bicycles. This complicates matters for motorists, who are required to pass a written examination on rules of the road, and pass a road test to obtain a driver’s license. And young teenagers are required to attend a 30-hour driver-ed course, to boot. This is gross and unfair to motorists, whom we expect to share the road with bicyclists.

Well, hold up there, Tex. Does the guy think that cyclists don’t drive cars? As a matter of fact, nearly every single cyclist that I know has a driver’s license and has thus been through the driver’s ed course and has taken the written exam and road test to get that license. As a matter of fact, the vast majority of cyclist do know the rules of the road.

Mind you, they don’t always obey them, but that isn’t because they don’t know them, but that's a whole other post which I probably won't write.

This unfairness is magnified immensely when contrasting the mandatory costs of having the two types of vehicles use our highways. Registration and license fees, taxes and a sensible insurance package with liability and collision coverage may cost in the thousands of dollars for a responsible car owner but perhaps zero for unwitting cyclists. Should a bicyclist be the cause of an accident, there would be no mandatory liability insurance for any injured parties; in all probability too, in court, the cyclist would walk.

Okay, I was spluttering so hard I had to clean up my keyboard after I read this one. (Don't dwell on that picture for your own sake.) The cyclist would walk???!!!!!!! Everybody has their own opinion…but some of us know the facts.

Even drivers of automobiles say they are afraid to drive on the highways. Yet they have the car’s protection and the stability of four wheels. “Driving is no pleasure,” they say. They will even say, “It’s crazy out there — like a racetrack, a war zone.” No one owns the roads; bicyclists are permitted and certainly welcome on them. Still, it is folly and dangerous for them to be out there.

Bicyclists are certainly welcome on them. Well, isn’t that nice.


Are we, in fact, welcome on those roads?

Well, regardless, I intend to keep riding on them. I hope you do, too.

My solution to all of this is to get more drivers on bikes. After all, the vast majority of us know what the road is like from behind a windshield, but there are a lot of drivers out there who have no idea what it's like over the handlebars. Now that's a situation that needs to be rectified!

See you on the road.

Tomorrow I shall be happy and light :-)