Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Kristin Armstrong Rolls with Chocolate Milk!

I've been seeing the bicycle-oriented billboards around town, promoting chocolate milk.

And this evening for the first time, I saw the teevee commercial featuring Boise's Gold Medal Cyclist Kristin Armstrong, promoting chocolate milk as bike fuel. Fantastic!

Kristin says, "Chocolate milk is my secret weapon! The protein helps me maintain healthy muscles and the carbohydrates help refuel my muscles after I exercise. This, combined with milk’s vitamins and minerals, is important for my overall health."

I've enjoyed chocolate milk for my entire life. But now I can stand on the street corner and drink it proudly, rather than being sneaky about it!

(The only thing that would make this picture even more beautiful is if Kristin was advocating washing down a donut with that chocolate milk! Remember John Belushi's Decathlon commercial... "Little Chocolate Donuts"?)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Caltrops are antipersonnel weapons, with sharp points arranged so that one is always pointing skyward from a stable base. According to the Wikipedia, back in the day (as early as 331 BC), they were used to slow down the advance of human troops as well as horses, camels, and war elephants. In more modern times, their use was expanded to also damage pneumatic tires.

Hmmmmm... sound or look familiar?

The Wikipedia goes on to mention "the plant Tribulus terrestris, whose spiked seed case can also injure feet and puncture tires."

Yep, my friends. Goathead Season is once again upon us. The vines are at their peak, and the seeds are getting crispy. (I don't know where that fancy name came from, but "tribulus" immediately makes me think of "tribulation - distress or suffering resulting from oppression or persecution.")

Goatheads can be totally discouraging for bike riders. I average about 25 flat tires a year, and 20 or so are goatheads. I personally know people who have given up regular bike riding as a direct result of surrendering to the goatheads.

Reader boisecynic contributes this:

"My latest pet peeve is goatheads, or rather, property owners being too lazy to get rid of them.
"I ride to school every morning with my kid and we try to keep to the sidewalk. One property had a 20 foot long section of goatheads so we were forced into the street. As you may know, eventually goatheads make their way out into the street too. After fixing several flats, I took matters into my own hands, went over there with a long-handled floor scraper and scraped the sidewalk cracks from which they were growing. I threw the large mat of offensive pricks onto the property's driveway, where they still remain 2 weeks later. It's a vacant small office, not a home."

I had a small goathead infestation going at a far corner of my lawn (next to the street... of course!), earlier this year. I have no idea where they came from, but they will not be growing on ground I manage! I took the garbage can out and carefully pulled maybe 20 small plants (before they had mature seeds, thankfully) and canned 'em. Then I canned all the seeds I could find. (In years past, I used to patrol several right-of-ways along the roads between home and school. Kids' bike tires are definitely goathead magnets.)

My friend Tara was telling me she pulled and canned several big plants, then used her shop-vac to vacuum up the seeds. (If you don't get the seeds, the plants will be back the next spring, if not sooner.)

Boisecynic's excellent advice: "To all you cyclists out there who hate goatheads, you can call the Ada County noxious weed department at 577-4646. They have the authority to force property owners to abate the nuisance, as goatheads are on the State's noxious weed list. They will also take care of goatheads in public rights-of-way. We all pay for this service in our property taxes..."

I've never called the Weed Hotline. (I've thought about it.) I will give it a try and report back.

Previous commentary on Goatheads:
- Man's Ruin (03/2007)
- The Goadhead Czar (05/2007)
- Bike Rider's Burden (04/2008)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Is bike ridership up?

That's the question ACHD (our local highway district) will be trying to answer this week, by doing bike-rider head counts at various strategic locations.

More info HERE.

Since their baseline counts were done in the month of April, it doesn't seem like very high-quality research. But I'm no expert. (I would expect the numbers to be substantially higher in September 2008, than in April 2007, not only because more people are riding bikes on account of high gas prices, but because September is a more solid month weather-wise, than April.)

You local bike riders - if you see an earnest-looking person with a clipboard and a little hand-clicker as you do your riding, go around the block 3 or 4 times to artifically inflate the count! (Of course I'm jesting.)

Sunday, September 21, 2008


I'm somewhat of a numbers fetishist. I derive mild amusement from something as simple as watching my monthly mileage meter turn over 222.22 miles. Or even 131.31. Yeah, I'm easily amused.

So, it was significant, or at least amusing, that I turned over 123,456 miles on September 21, 2008 (today).

That's cumulative miles, since I started tracking and logging bicycle miles back in 1986. And I didn't actually get to see the odometer roll over on that number. I've probably worn out 4 or 5 bike computers since '85, and I reset 'em to zero at the beginning of each year anyway. But I've kept a month-by-month log of miles ridden, as well as a cumulative total. And I've watched that 123,456 thing approaching for a couple months now.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Welcome Newbies!

There have been a lot of "new" cyclists on the highways and byways this year. Particularly in all the familiar places, like the Greenbelt. (I ride a short stretch of Greenbelt on most afternoons... a couple days ago, I felt like I was in bumper-to-bumper Greenbelt Traffic!)

Surely it is due to $4 gas.

After all, that's really the only thing that has significantly changed in 2008, comparing with previous years.

Danielo has boldly predicted that they'll fade as quickly as they blossomed, and return to their total dependency on motor vehicle transportation. Time will tell - gas prices have dropped a bit, and the days are getting shorter and cooler. (For me, it's hard to imagine surrendering the satisfaction of bicycle transportation for a car, but I'll concede that others have not seen the light.)

Many of the newbies probably haven't ridden a bike AS TRANSPORTATION for years and years, if ever. People forget the joy of childhood bike riding as soon as they get that driver's license, and never look back. But maybe that's changing.

I say WELCOME!! One more bike almost always means one less car!

As a somewhat experienced transportation cyclist, I'd like to share some suggestions that I believe will enhance your bike transportation experience. The more you enjoy riding, the less likely you are to slide back into motor-vehicle dependency.

1. Know the BIKE LAWS AND REGULATIONS, and be willing to follow them.

If you live in this area, Boise's bike laws can be reviewed HERE (PDF), and Idaho's HERE. No matter where you live, it is illegal AND STUPID to ride against traffic! (Sorry - I know I'm the proverbial broken record on that one. Probably because I play "bike chicken" almost every day!)


(There's some "bike philosophy" to ponder as you're riding.)

3. Be prepared to deal with flat tires.

One of the very few disadvantages of bikes, as compared with cars, is the increased instance of flats. You WILL get flat tires - don't be one of those poor, forlorn people who ends up taking his bike on a walk! (Flats can be minimized by taking precautions. But you WILL get flat tires if you ride a bike. This time of year - prime goathead season - is particulary risky.)

4. Oil that chain!

Apparently many people believe that bikes are totally maintenance-free. Not so! Sure, their maintenance needs are a fraction of the typical motor vehicle, particularly expense-wise, but they do need some care, and the occasional inspection.

Sometimes you'll hear a bike approaching from a block away - squeak-squeak-squeak... (Pausing for shivers up and down the spine.) A couple cents' worth of oil - even 30-weight or 3-in-1 - would greatly improve the aesthetic quality of your bike ride. I oil my chain every 2-3 weeks, or after it gets wet. (In many cases, I s'pose the rider probably isn't even aware. I see more and more cyclists with their little white earplugs jammed in. Good luck with that!)

Our communities would uniformly be better places if more people depended less on motor vehicles for all of their transportation needs. Particularly for the short jaunts. I wish safe and satisfying riding to all my sister and brother cyclists, whether they've been riding for 45 minutes or 45 years!

Text messaging = dead brain?

I was riding up the street yesterday - a street with a nice wide sidewalk alongside.

Three youths who appeared to be high school age were walking in the same direction, one on the sidewalk and the other two in the gutter pan. (I'm not sure why all three weren't on the sidewalk; there was plenty of width.) The two in the street were slowly drifting away from the sidewalk, and farther out into the street.

By the time I overtook them, the two youths in the street were almost halfway between the sidewalk and the center stripe. And I determined what had their undivided attention. All three were staring intently at their handheld digital devices, and punching the buttons.

I responded in what seemed like the appropriate way, with a loud "MOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" (A confession: when I encounter cows in the road and am by myself, I do the same thing. It's a greeting.)

They looked up momentarily, saw where they were, and meandered bovine-like back toward the sidewalk, still concentrating on their handhelds.

At least they were on foot, and therefore not posing much danger to anybody but themselves.

Unlike the conductor of the ill-fated commuter train in Los Angeles last week.

And unlike motorists, whose text-messaging behavior is arguably more hazardous than that of chemically-impaired drivers. (See article HERE.) Half of all drivers 18-24 in the UK admit to texting-while-driving. I'd guess the numbers are similar this side of the Pond. ("Grownups" don't seem to exercise any better judgment, although I'm sure they fancy themselves as much more responsible than kids when they're texting-while-driving.)

As a road-going bicyclist, my biggest fear is that I'll be victimized by a distracted or impaired driver.

I can ride legally and predictably, and be in the right place on the roadway. I can try to be highly visible. I can be watching out - riding defensively. (Including regular glances at my omnipresent helmet rear-view mirror.) But I can't fully compensate for the bad behavior of a driver who has chosen to impair himself, whether it be through chemical intake or total lack of attention to his driving.

I'd much rather deal with cows in the road!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Moonlight Riding

Is the "Harvest Moon" in September, or October? (Maybe it used to be September, but now it's October due to Global Warming, huh?)

On of my life's little unusual pleasures is the occasional moonlight ride on the bicycle.

Traditionally I pick a route where I don't have to share space with motor vehicles, just to be on the safe side. (And also to get away from the din of motor traffic.)

My favorite route is probably on our Greenbelt east of town. Starting from the Warm Springs Golf Course or thereabouts, and riding out to Sandy Point. Summer and early autumn is particularly nice, when you can hear the grand summer chorus of crickets and frogs.

Although it's not the safest practice, I personally like to ride without the lights, depending on the moonlight for illumination. When it's shining bright, it provides plenty of shine for seeing the pathway and other denizens of that pathway (both other users and the critters that cross much more frequently at night). The moon-illumination and the quiet both contribute to an almost other-worldly experience.

Last night, I rode a loop out around the airport on Gowen Road, and watched as that big orange moon came up over the foothills. Awesome! Then I took Broadway down to Federal Way, and got on the bike/pedestrian path to complete the loop. (I had my blinky taillight going for safety, although traffic was extremely light. And was carrying a handheld flashlight, which I turned on at appropriate times. In a few more weeks, the handlebar-mounted headlight will go on for the "dark" months.)

NOTE: I do not endorse the notion of riding at night without a headlight, particularly where it's important that you be seen by other roadway users. It's stupid and illegal to ride in traffic without lights. The only time I feel comfortable in that mode is when I'm out of traffic, and when I'm intimately familiar with my route.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Mileage DOWN this month

Sorry for the extended silence - I hope my readers/friends haven't lost interest. (That happens quickly, in our attention-deficit-disorder society.)

For ten days this month - from 9/2 through 9/11 - I was off on my annual MOTORCYCLE adventure. (I bicycled on 9/2 before I left, and on 9/11 after returning, but completely missed 8 days.) Now I'm back in the saddle again, and it feels great.

I don't know if it's related, but it probably is - after I've not bicycled for a few days, I have a tendency to get really BAD leg cramps, particularly in my hamstrings (back of thighs). When combined with sleeping in a small tent that severely limits mobility, that's a bad combination. I spent a couple nights sweatin' and groanin', and anxiously hoping the cramps would subside. (Which they always do after a few minutes.) I can't help but think it's a change in physical activity level, combined with a reduction in water intake. Normally, I probably drink 4-6 quarts of water per day; that drops WAY off when I'm motorcycling, although I try to make an effort. (A water faucet isn't always right at hand.)

I don't mean to sound like I'm complaining. The adventure was fantastic... my path took me to Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and back home through Utah again. For interested parties, my favorite photos can be seen HERE.

Since I got back, I ran 35+ miles worth of bike-errands on Friday and took my granddaughter on a sweet 15-mile Greenbelt ride on Saturday. I hope to get back into the groove here. (Although frankly, if it weren't for the finances, I could probably see myself spending 6 months each year on the road on that motorcycle. Maybe someday...)

Monday, September 1, 2008

August Riding Report

613 miles, accumulated on 31 riding days.

(Golly! Weather-wise, what an awesome summer it has been in 2008!)