Thursday, December 31, 2009

2010 - Jubilee Year for the Bike Nazi

Happy New Year!

"We're gonna break out our hats and hooters..." - Steely Dan

Congratulations! If you are reading this, you likely survived 2009.

In an earlier life, I was somewhat connected to cars for my local transportation. Like most folks, I dealt with the expense of buying gas, insurance, maintenance, etc., and also with the blood-pressure inducers like traffic, finding a halfway-close parking spot, etc. (I can actually remember getting excited when I could find a free parking spot within a block or so of the office. Of course, that was only on the days when I prevailed over the Missus, on who got to use the car for the day. We were always a 1-car family.)

It was January, 1986, when I decided I'd had enough. My friend and colleague at the office, Betty, was a dedicated cyclist, and she lived farther away than I did. (Her commute was about 8 miles each way; I figured mine to be about 3 miles.)

When I bought the new bike, the Missus was skeptical. She thought the money could be better spent elsewhere.

But Betty's example, and that new bike, changed everything. (Betty found a job far away, and I haven't seen or heard from her in more than 10 years. But I still think fondly of her and will always credit her for "showing me the way.")

2010 is my 25th anniversary year of being a dedicated transportation cyclist. 130,000+ accumulated miles is pretty good evidence that it wasn't just a passing fad.

I didn't keep track back then, but it's a pretty safe guess that 2010 is also the 50th anniversary of my bike riding. I can still remember the shiny red bike that awaited on that Christmas morning long ago... most likely 1959, when I would've been 6 years old. And my memory is that the training wheels came off about the time the weather was getting nice again... would've been '60. (How time flies when you're having fun!)

Be careful as you celebrate the new year! Let's all ride lots of miles in 2010!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Ankle-deep Snow

I had mixed emotions this morning about my transportation, as I trudged the few blocks to the bus stop.

On the one hand, it's pretty nice to be in a big sturdy bus with a professional driver, as motorists with widely varying skill levels negotiate the slippery roads.

But on the other hand, I love "powder cycling" in freshly-fallen snow. Even if it's slow going... and even though those same drivers are sharing space.

Not many bicycles out today... although if I'd been riding, I would've seen that I wasn't the first rider in most cases. (It's pretty rare to not see any bike tracks at all... unless you get up with the dairy farmers.)

Speaking of dairy farmers, even this guy's John Deere cruiser bicycle looked to be socked in for the day. (Photo snapped in downtown Boise, as I walked from the bus stop to the office.)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Bicycle Tales

A bit of bicycle-related Bad Craziness over the Christmas holidays.

Teen's holiday ends with bicycle burglary

A 17-year-old Redding, CA, youth didn't get his desired bicycle for Christmas. So early Saturday morning, he broke into the Chain Gang Bike Shop and stole one. It must've been a nice one - $3800. Along with $1800 worth of parts and accessories. A cop responding to the alarm saw the punk riding away.

Bummer - that throws him off Santa's "good list" for 2010, I'm expectin'.

Story HERE.

Report: Man gets stitches after bicycle beating by ex-wife's boyfriend

Guy wishes his ex-wife a Merry Christmas and heads off down the street, on foot (in Fort Myers, FL).

Ex-wife's new boyfriend - a transient - follows and bashes him sadistically, using bike for bludgeon.

Old husband went to the emergency room for stitches; cops are still looking for new boyfriend.

No word on whether the bicycle was damaged.

Story HERE.

Man catches on fire during a bike ride in Wilmington

According to the Wilmington (NC) Police Department, a 40-year-old guy caught fire while riding his bike.

All they've been able to ascertain so far is that apparently he lit a cigarette and flared up. He's burned from the chin down. Hopefully he'll recover and more information can be gathered.

Story HERE.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

We came 'round the bend!

Did you notice? The sun came up 30 seconds or so earlier today, than yesterday! We've successfully gone past the shortest day of the year, and the days are getting longer again. Before you know it, we'll be griping once again about how oppressively hot it is.

(To my many south-of-the-equator readers... sympathies! Your days are getting shorter now, suckas!)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Parable on Perspective

The father of a very wealthy family sent his son on a trip to the country with the express purpose of showing him how poor people live, and perhaps giving him more appreciation for his own opulent circumstances.

The son spent several days and nights on the farm of what would be considered a very poor family.

Upon his return, the father asked his son, “How did you like the trip?”

“It was great, dad.”

“Did you see how poor people live?” the father asked.

“Oh yeah!” said the son.

“So, tell me, what did you learn from the trip?” asked the father.

The son answered: “I saw that we have one dog and they have four. We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden and they have a creek that has no end. We have imported lanterns in our garden and they have the stars at night. Our patio reaches to the front yard and they have the whole horizon. We have a small piece of land to live on and they have fields that go beyond our sight. We have servants who serve us, but they serve others. We buy our food, but they grow theirs. We have walls around our property to protect us, they have friends to protect them.”

The boy’s father was speechless.

Then his son added, “Thanks, Dad, for showing me how poor we are.”

There is much we can learn from this little tale (which a friend shared with me). Decide for yourself how it applies to you.

Here's the "Bike Nazi" spin...

Motorists, as a rule, look upon other forms of transportation as undesirable... fit only for those whose pathetic circumstances don't afford the luxury of a single-occupant motor vehicle (with heated seats and climate control).

(Am I wrong?)

As I rode the bus this morning, I reflected on how nice it is to have somebody else - a trained professional driver - maneuvering those slushy, crowded roads. No windshield to scrape; no reason for a pre-departure warm-up ritual. No gas to buy, no insurance, no maintenance, no depreciation expense.

When I ride my bike, I'm particularly rich! (Both with money-staying-in-pocket and otherwise.) Health-enhancing exercise! Good scenery, often with nature encompassing on every side. No traffic jams - EVER! (What is that alone worth?)

I should be more grateful to motorists... they help me keep things in perspective and realize how blessed I am to not be one of them!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Nude NYC bicycle protest frozen out

HERE is an odd bicycle story.

A bike lane in an "Orthodox Jewish neighborhood" in New York City was recently closed. Apparently because neighbors ("where Jewish women wear hefty skirts and long-sleeved blouses and men wear heavy coats and hats, even in summer") objected to seeing women riding bicycles in shorts. (I'm sorry, but I just can't identify with that sentiment at all! nudge-nudge, wink-wink)

Angry cyclists planned a Sabbath topless protest. Not very conciliatory, those NYC cyclists.

But surprise of surprises - a "fierce snowstorm" sidelined the plan. Instead, they wore plastic breasts pinned to the outside of their jackets. I'm no expert, but I can't help but believe the protest lost some of its impact.

Can't we all just get along?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Finished for the Year

I've done all the cycling I'm going to do in 2009. (5784 miles for the year, accumulated over 339 days of riding... not too bad.)

"Hey, wait a minute!" you say. "How can you stop, when there are still days left in the year? What kind of Bike Nazi are you??"

It's not by choice.

I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in August. Which wasn't much of a surprise - there is a huge genetic predisposition to prostate cancer in my family. Which in a way is a good thing... since I halfway expected it, I've been getting annual checks for probably 15 years, and this year my number came up.

Prostate cancer is a big deal. More men die from it, than women die from breast cancer. But detected early, it is very treatable.

On December 15, I fell under the knife of the da Vinci Surgery Robot, piloted by a very
capable surgeon. It is some amazing technology... although it's considered a major surgery, I was up walking in less than 24 hours, and was released from the hospital in less than 2 days. I took a few days off from work, but will be back Monday - riding the bus.

I haven't yet discussed bicycling with my doctor, although he knows it's somewhat of a compulsion for me. The topic will come up Monday, no doubt, and I expect he'll say 6 weeks off the bike, I'll counter with 4 weeks, and we'll compromise at 5 weeks.

I'll get the pathology report on Monday as well... their best guess as to whether the surgery totally eradicated the cancer. I expect the prognosis to be positive, and expect to keep cycling for many years.

YOU MEN - if you're over 40, get checked! The PSA (blood) test is quick and inexpensive, and early detection could save your life, like I'm sure it has mine.

---

UPDATE 12/21: EXCELLENT NEWS!

Pathology report: "no capsular penetration or extraprostatic extension identified." In layman's terms... there is every reason to believe that the tumor was completely and successfully removed.

The doc cleared me to resume total normal activity 2 weeks following the surgery. But suggested just to be on the safe side, I might want to give the bike a month off. I'm good with that.

I am very blessed.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Winter Wonderland riding

The weather seems to be breaking a bit in these parts.

Yesterday it actually got up near freezing! And we got more snow. I hooked a big inflatable vinyl "inner tube" to the back of my old clunker bike, and towed my granddaughter Mackie around the park for 15 minutes or so. It was a blast! She complained that her neck was cold, but she enjoyed scooping up mitts-full of snow as we zipped along.

I share a couple more photos from earlier in the week, snapped in the early AM on the ride into work. These were taken on the Ann Morrison footbridge.

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Tire lever warranty?

I was shopping for some tire levers. You know, for repairing flat tires.

I found some on the Amazon.com. $3.75... not too bad.

Optionally they offer a "2-Year Replacement Plan" for $5.99. Is it worth $6, to have the peace of mind? (Hahahaha!)



(I ended up getting some Pedro's levers - very sturdy looking - at the REI. Guaranteed forever.)

"Bike" Movie Recommendations

Are you trying to find a unique gift for the cyclist in your life? Or are you, perhaps, holed up in your hovel, waiting for weather to break so you can get out on your bike again? In either case, here are three of my favorite movies that have a "bicycle theme."

Pee-Wee's Big Adventure

I hope you've already seen it. I was mesmerized by it in the movie theater, and every viewing since has been enjoyable.

The plot, in a nutshell: "Ageless child-man" Pee-Wee Herman is living his idyllic life in his child's-fondest-dream home, making trips to the magic store, the bike shop, etc., on his classic pimped-out cruiser bike. But alas - the bike is stolen! Innocence lost! Pee-Wee embarks on a road-trip detective quest to bring the bike home. Classic happy ending.

Directed by the inimitable Tim Burton. Sight gags and hilarious dialogue at every turn. Music by Danny Elfman ("The Simpsons").

Totally suitable for all ages.

Breaking Away

I hope you've already seen it.


The plot, in a nutshell: Local kids in Bloomington, Indiana, have just graduated from high school, and are trying to decide what to do with their lives. They've been best of friends, and are trying to keep the posse together, despite their paths which seem to be going in different directions. Dave is totally engrossed in European-style cycling, from posters of his racing idols, to speaking with a faux-Italian accent, to shaving his legs. Because they are locals, they are spurned by the college kids, who dismiss them as "cutters." (A mainstay of the local economy is stone-cutting, on account of the limestone quarries.) The conflict between the "cutters" and the imported college boys escalates, and ultimately a judge orders them to settle their differences on the bike-racing track. Which is fine... except three of the four are totally incompetent as cyclists. Yet, they rise to the occasion.

Simple but engrossing story, fine acting, particularly by Paul Dooley, who plays Dave's stressed-out car-salesman dad.

Suitable for all ages.

The Triplets of Belleville

(I had not seen this until perhaps two months ago. My daughter recommended it and I love it!)


This is a full-length cartoon, but it's not Disney. It's in French, but it really doesn't matter; there's very little dialogue and the images tell the story nicely.

The plot, in a nutshell: "Champion" is a young boy being raised by his doting grandma. She's concerned because he seems totally bored with life... until she finds it hidden under his mattress. "It" is Champion's scrapbook of bike-racing heroes. So, she does what any doting grandma would do - begins training him to be a bike-racing great. During a bike race, he is kidnapped by some mysterious mafia-types, who enslave him in their bike-race gambling operation. (He and others ride stationary bikes, which are attached to an elaborate "virtual bike race" contraption.) Grandma follows the clues, and crosses paths with the Triplets of Belleville. Generations earlier, the "Triplets" had been the "French Andrews Sisters," but have settled into a life of obscurity and poverty. The four feisty old gals rescue Champion... Yea! Another happy ending.

Rated PG-13, and strangely, the cartoon is the one that might not be suitable for all ages. Young children might be disturbed by some rather grotesque (in a comical sort of way) imagery. (Frog stew!)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Christmas card riding!

Sometimes I think I'm riding through the scenery on a Christmas card!

We woke up to below-zero temperatures this morning. First time since '98 that it's dropped below zero in Boise. (Which leads me to believe the climate is indeed changing; when I was a kid, my recollection is that almost every year it got into the negative temperatures for at least a few days.)

The "bike garage" was pretty bare this morning.

When it gets so cold, it can actually get dangerous if you're not properly equipped. My gloves are marginal... my fingers got pretty numb, and my "pinkies" complained bitterly as they warmed back up again after the morning commute. (I've got some newer gloves that I haven't used yet; maybe it's time.)

Since the snow hadn't melted from yesterday (and subsequently refrozen) the riding wasn't too bad.

My correspondents have put on their studded snow tires; I'm anxious to get some riding reports. (Frankly, I'm always much more concerned about somebody in a motor vehicle sliding out-of-control into me, than I am about slipping and falling.)

We need to be aware of the additional hazards, and do our best to mitigate them.

I do more Greenbelt riding in the winter. Not only does it allow me to get away from motor traffic... typically there are also very few pedestrians and cyclists. Makes for some lovely solitude.

I snapped some photos yesterday, on a little loop I did. These were all taken within 15 minutes of downtown. (The geese were snapped on the homebound commute, late yesterday afternoon.)

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Monday, December 7, 2009

Powder Cycling!

We woke up to 2-3 inches of snow in these parts this morning... the first meaningful snow of the year.

Of course, it put the motorists into Pure Panic Mode, and the guy on the traffic report said, "Just stay in the left lane of the Interstate this morning, to avoid most of the accidents and slide-offs."

I gave the NEW bicycle a much-deserved day off, and aired up the tires on the "clunker." Other than the escalated concern about what some irresponsible motorist might do, the ride to the office was truly "winter wonderland"!

Pushing through powdery, fresh-fallen snow on fat bike tires is a beautiful thing. For much of the route, I was making my own trail in the snow off to the right of the main traffic lane. (Striped bike lanes become meaningless, of course, when covered by snow. And typically the cars occupy the bike lanes as they cower away from the center of the roadway.) Wherever the road wasn't straight, I took to the sidewalks, etc., just in case of sliding-out-of-control motor vehicles.

Once the snow melts and re-freezes, it's not nearly so fun. Especially if it lasts a few days due to a weather inversion, and goes from white to dirty gray. But we'll roll with the punches, huh?

I LOVE to live within "self-power distance" of the office! (If it gets really bad, of course... 5 minutes' walk to the bus stop. Worst-case scenario; I could walk to work in less than an hour. I'm lucky.)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Transportation Cyclist Christmas List

What are you asking Santa for this year? Santa told me he's FLAT BROKE, but maybe something modest might come my way.

These are some relatively inexpensive items that I have and enjoy, and perhaps you, or your favorite road-going bicyclist might enjoy. Enjoy!

Rearview Mirror

I've got a couple suggestions.

The CycleAware Reflex mirror sticks onto a helmet. (An eyeglass-mount model is also available.) It's relatively sturdy - an important consideration. I've tried mirrors with hard plastic components, and have snapped off the mirror, rendering them useless. The Reflex is built of "Gumby" stuff - a wire enclosed in rubbery plastic.

The "Take a Look" mirror is my current model. It can mount either on eyeglasses, or on a helmet visor. It is constructed of metal - stainless steel and brass - and should be durable. The mirror itself is excellent - better than the Reflex. Mine is on my helmet, and I've got to figure out some way to make the attachment more permanent. If I bump it, it falls off. So far I've been lucky and have quickly noticed. (I'm thinking I might drill a small hole in the helmet visor, so I can zip-tie it in place.)

Both should be available online, or at your LBS (local bike shop). Expect to pay $15 or so.

Taillight

I've been VERY pleased with my Planet Bike SuperFlash. It's more expensive ($25) than other models, but is extraordinarily noticeable... and ain't that what it's all about? Runs in blinky mode or on-constantly mode. Uses 2 AAA batteries, included.

Headlight

I blogged recently about my Akoray flashlight, from DealExtreme. It is awesome. I'm on the 2nd AA battery now. I might start using rechargeable batteries, but when a 30-cent battery lasts for 2 weeks, you can't complain. (Bob T uses rechargeables, but he rides with his light on, both night and day.) Mine cost about $14, including shipping.

Be sure to get some kind of mounting device - several are available at DealExtreme.

NOTE: Order now for Christmas - and HURRY! (DealExtreme ships from Hong Kong, so it takes a couple weeks to arrive.)

Winter Wear

I've got a balaclava and gloves, to keep my extremeties (fingers and ears) from falling off on those really brisk days. You don't need expensive bike-specific stuff, but find something that isn't so thick that you can't squeeze your helmet on over it. Mine is "open face" - the "Jackson's Convenience Store robbery" model tends to trap condensation and cause fogging on glasses. My gloves aren't too thick, either, and have a rubbery palm for good gripping.

I also have some yellow-lens glasses for riding when lighting conditions are marginal. Light yellow or clear works fine. (You want to protect those eyes - replacements are hard to come by!) I tried a set that has interchangeable lenses - dark, yellow, and clear. But for me, it's more hassle than it's worth to change the lenses, clean the fingerprints off, store the lenses, etc., when you can buy separate glasses for $6 or $8.

Seat Bag

I have a permanently-attached seat bag, to carry a spare tube, patch kit, light batteries, chap stick, and a couple small tools. I got the Avenir Bigmouth in size medium, for the new ride. It's quite nice. May not be totally waterproof, but looks very water-resistant. Opens without removing. And it has a zip-open expander, so you can stuff your cellphone and a couple granola bars in. (I ordered it online. $12 and change.)

Fanny Pack

I carry my sack lunch, checkbook, pocket planner, a couple pens, glasses, and a big ol' freakin' knife (just in case!) in a fanny pack. Some folks use a messenger bag, but I prefer to economize on what I need to carry.

My choice is the Kelty Cardinal, for
a very specific reason... it can expand into a little daypack! So if I end up needing additional carrying capacity along the way, I'm not stuck. It has a little MP3-player-size zipper pocket, and stretchy nets for 2 water bottles. (I use the bottle holders for my digital camera, sunglasses, gloves, etc. The pack comes with 2 bottles, however.) If you shop around, you can find it for around $40.

(I plan on writing more extensive reviews of some of this stuff... just wanted to slap together a Santa list while it still matters...)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

New bike review on Epinions.com

I celebrated the 500-mile mark by writing a review of my new bike, and posted it on the Epinions.com website - HERE.

I like Epinions, because it's real reviews by real consumers. I've gotten valuable information there. (Of course, reviews by "real consumers" are a mixed bag. I'd say a large percentage of the reviews posted at Amazon.com range between grammatically flawed and unreadable. But... I better be careful! After all, I may be inviting readers to read my review with a particularly critical eye!)

Is 500 miles enough experience to write an in-depth review? Probably not. But it's probably enough to give me a very accurate first impression of the product... and I can always go back and add some notes a year or two later if it turns out the new bike is a real lemon!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

New bike - new motivation!

There's nothing like some shiny new wheels to knock a cyclist out of the doldrums. Especially after a month-and-a-half of riding the clunker.

In the 24 November days since my new ride arrived... I rode all 24 days and accumulated 464 miles. Several of those days were in the rain. At least one was in the rain, with 35-degree temperature, at night. (I rode over to my mother's place to watch the BSU-Utah State football game on her cable TV. Mom loves college football. She worries about me when I'm out there on the mean streets... but I'd feel bad if she didn't, I s'pose.)

November turned out to be one of my 2 or 3 highest-mileage months of 2009.

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(Bike with flock of seagulls in the background, Fairgrounds)

Monday, November 30, 2009

Hood-mounted airbag!

Could airbags mounted on the front of cars protect cyclists and pedestrians from careless motorists?

Europeans seem to think so.

A Swedish company has built and tested such a device, "that is designed to inflate outside the car upon front-end impact. It covers most of the hood and windshield, the most likely points of impact in a vehicle-pedestrian collision."

The Dutch Federation of Cyclists is calling for it to be installed on all vehicles, with a claim that it could prevent half the fatal injuries incurred by cyclists and pedestrians. (In 2006, 106 cyclists died in the Netherlands ... a country that is among the most bike-friendly.)

I'm a little skeptical.

For one thing, the researchers reported that in their crash-test dummy trials, a Fiat Stilo going 40 Km/H (25mph) and hitting a pedestrian would cause life-threatening injuries 18% of the time. That seems extremely low to me. (I sure wouldn't want to be hit by a car going 25mph!)

For another thing... with in-the-car airbags, the initial impact deploys the airbag while the driver/passenger's head is still flying toward the obstacle/impact. If the airbag deployed as the head is bouncing off the steering wheel or dashboard, or as the pedestrian/cyclist is bouncing off the car bumper or windshield... wouldn't the damage already be done? The airbag would just catapult the meat farther away from the point of impact.

How about just driving so you can avoid hitting pedestrians and cyclists?

Read more HERE.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

"We have met the enemy..."

"... and it is us."

Cyclists resent motorists because a few of them drive in such hazardous, inattentive fashion.

And motorists resent cyclists because a few of them ride in such hazardous, reckless fashion.

HERE is a story from Seattle: "A bicyclist is accused of plowing into a 6-year old boy who was crossing the street with his father."

The poor kid was in a crosswalk, and doing everything properly.

The cyclist was blasting down the road, ironically right in front of the Pike Place Market, on his "fixed gear bike that has no brakes." He ran a red light and collided with the kid. After the accident, the cyclist, Rafael Aranetal, tried to flee the scene, but witnesses detained him. He was charged with vehicular assault and felony hit and run.

The little boy's jaw was broken in three places, and is now wired shut. The doctors hope they can save his lower teeth. But they say he was lucky; if the impact had been in his temple instead of his jaw, he'd probably be dead now.

If you ride a "fixie" with no brakes on public roads... you are a moron, and no friend to the cycling community.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Crosswalk Countdown!

The Highway District has started installing a bunch of new "countdown" signs for pedestrians. They display how many seconds remain before cross traffic gets the green light.

(Which brings up a question. If a slow pedestrian enters a crosswalk, does he have the right-of-way until he gets to the other side, regardless of whether the cars have a green light? I would hope a pedestrian has legal right of way until he's safely on the other side. However... pedestrians must beware! More pedestrians get killed than cyclists. It can be dangerous to share the infrastructure with those talking/texting missile pilots!)

I really like the countdown signals, from a cyclist standpoint. If I'm approaching such an intersection, it tells me exactly how much time I have to make it through, and whether I should sprint or take a breather.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Fat Epidemic?

If current trends continue, according to a newly-released study, 43% of U.S. adults will be obese by 2018. And "obesity spending" will quadruple to $344 billion per year.

My first thought is... does "obesity spending" include the money spent for Twinkies, Chee-tos, Moon Pies, Super Size combo meals, etc? (nudge-nudge, wink-wink)

My second thought is... as the government takes over more and more of the healthcare industry, is there any reason not to expect "penalty taxes" on high-calorie food, fast food, etc? Or to take it a step further, perhaps we'll enjoy home visits from "health and safety inspectors," like in the UK, to make sure we're in compliance.

My third thought is... have you ever seen a "dangerously obese" person riding a bicycle? You sure see plenty of 'em wedged into cars!

Most Americans not only have to drive everywhere - they need to do it in a car with power steering, power brakes, power window-winders and power door opener-closers!

Is obesity a problem in this country? YES!

Is the problem getting worse? HECK YES!

I've said it before... when high-calorie food is cheap and plentiful and oh-so-tasty... and when there's a national obsession to avoid ANY form of physical exertion at all costs... the combination is often unwanted weight gain. It ain't rocket science: burn more calories than you intake - lose weight, intake more calories than you burn - gain weight.

More about the obesity study can be read HERE.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a specimen of zero-body-fat fitness! Look to a Lance or Kristin Armstrong for that. But despite the fact that I tend to be on the high end of the weight table, regular aerobic exercise has had a very positive impact on my health, as well as significantly increasing my reasonable food intake. If I gave up bike riding, and instead spent that time playing video games or watching TV, I'd have to make a radical change to my diet, or I'd have problems.

A bit about Saddles

Several years ago, I went on a nice long ride with a couple buddies.

About halfway into our ride, Mike's seatpost broke off. I've never seen that happen before or since; seatposts don't normally fail. So, instead of a seat, Mike had a jagged piece of steel tubing sticking up (plus a saddle to carry). Bum-mer!!

None of us was equipped with a spare seatpost. Or even with the proper allen wrench to loosen and remove the old one, for that matter.

We discussed the options. He could wait for a rescue vehicle to return for him, or he could soldier on, standing on his pedals the whole way. He decided on the latter, despite the obvious very real hazard, which was also a strong incentive to not relax or slip.

Mike was a regular Indiana Jones! Imagine being perched directly over that jagged impalement device, depending entirely on your leg strength to survive! He made it quite a few miles - we made it halfway back or so, before he could go no further. Mike waited; Jim and I rode on home, and a rescue vehicle was dispatched.

Yep - a saddle does a critical job, and no bike is complete without one.

But saddles are frequently misunderstood, particularly by non-riders.

When my new bicycle arrived (12 days ago!), friends admired it. But they'd immediately focus on the saddle.

"Do you like that?" they would ask, pointing at the very unusual-looking seat. And then they would ask me why such a nice bike didn't come equipped with a great big, cushiony padded saddle. And frankly, it's not easy to explain to somebody why wide and squishy isn't superior.

I've never given saddles the thought they obviously deserve. Although I know enough to understand that: 1) wide and squishy are not desirable traits in a saddle, except for maybe the most casual and infrequent recreational riding, and 2) you can't expect to be comfortable sitting on any saddle for 20 or 30 or more miles, unless you do it somewhat regularly.

For many years, I've been riding perched on a Selle San Marco (brand) saddle. They have been "comfortable enough," and since they have had the same general shape, they've all fit OK. The critical measurement is the distance between "sit bones" at the base of the pelvis. Since "all pelvises (pelvii?) are not created equal," you'd think that saddles would come in S, M, L, and XL. But instead, the rider is stuck with the subjective task of trial-and-error. And good saddles don't come cheap!

In fact, since I'm "frugal," I'm sure a major reason I've been satisfied with my seat is, I didn't want to buy a replacement!

Ideally, we each oughtta get an x-ray and have an exact sit-bone measurement in millimeters. Then the saddlemakers could provide a saddle width to compare it to.

The new Touring 1 bike has a "Selle An-Atomica Clydesdale" saddle on it, standard equipment. And at the 200-mile mark, I'm quite optimistic that it will be the most comfortable saddle I've ever perched upon. The An-Atomica website is HERE.

Like the more-familiar Brooks saddle, the An-Atomica is made of thick leather which is suspended over a steel frame. Also like the Brooks, but unlike most saddles, there is no rigid, pre-formed base, so the saddle can conform to the rider's anatomy, rather than either matching up or not. The An-Atomica has a "slot" down the middle for pressure relief, and also to allow the sides of the saddle to move more independently. The tension of the leather part can be tightened or loosened for personal preference, and the steel frame acts like a "suspension," absorbing some of the bump-shock, etc. The feeling is almost like you're sitting on a tiny hammock. Very ingenious, and also very logical, if it's well-executed.

The "Clydesdale" refers to being built for >180-lb. riders. The saddle is made in Wisconsin, USA. (After a lifetime of producing wonderful cheese, those Wisconsin cows are given the honor of serving as comfortable saddles.)

That's my "200 mile report" on the new seat. I'll try to follow up after getting more experience with it. But I'm very optimistic. And my derriƩre thanks me every day! (-;

For more info... the late Sheldon Brown provides some great insight on saddles, and how to choose and adjust a saddle HERE.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Off-season cycling is UP!

As the days get shorter and colder, the vast majority of bike riders hang up the velocipede in the garage, and abandon it 'til they are beckoned by longer days and warm springtime weather. That has always been the case with bike riders at my workplace. (I confess a certain bit of unrighteous pride on the days when my bike is alone at the rack on a cold wintery day.)

This year is turning out different, at least so far. (Of course, the harshest winter weather is yet to come.)

Here we are approaching mid-November, and there are still 15 or so bikes regularly showing up.

What could cause it?

Might it be that my employer started offering a $20/month "perk" for bike-related expenses, for transportation cyclists?

I bet that might have something to do with it.

(That new benefit is a result of the federal "Bicycle Commuter Act." I've written about it before, including HERE.)

Might it be that we have a sweet new bike-parking facility, providing protection from both precipitation and lowlifes?

I bet that might have something to do with it, too!

(When a new multi-story parking garage opened in May, it included a room specifically for parking bikes. It's not heated, but it's totally out of the precipitation. It's free. Users need to sign up, and are provided with a "card key" that grants access, so only people who are authorized to park their bikes can get in.)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The new pump works

I was kinda wondering how long I'd go before getting a flat on my sweet new ride. I don't have to wonder any longer.

Day 4 - 77 miles. Goathead in the rear tire.

It's just by chance that I was prepared - this morning I thought I'd been pretty foolish to be riding without patch kit, tire levers, etc. (Waiting for a new seat bag to arrive.) This morning I put the necessary goods in my pocket... and had 'em with me at the fateful moment.

The new bike has Schwalbe tires - a couple of my correspondents swear by them. BUT... I'm not sure it has the really puncture-resistant models. They're called "Marathon Racing," and I don't even see them listed with the aftermarket Schwalbe tires. And... the thorn was right at the edge of the tread surface, where there's typically less puncture protection.

This has been a good year for flats, for me. This was only #10, in 5000+ miles of riding. I expect my good fortune to continue; in fact, I'd be happy if I ended the year with the 10-count.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Ahhhhh... New Bike Smell!!

It's been 8 years since I experienced the heady pleasure that comes with taking possession of a shiny new bike. I've got to admit, I'd forgotten how satisfying it could be.

The Missus called in the early afternoon and confirmed she had taken delivery on the box. Of course, the rest of the afternoon was interminable, until go-home time.

I unpacked it. It was generally pre-assembled as promised, but there was enough nickel-and-dime fine-tuning and accessory installation to help me begin forming a bond. (There is a minor gouge of the paint on the fork, but pragmatically I'm sure others will follow. I'll see if the insurance company can rustle me up a tube of touch-up paint.)

Unlike that new car, there's really not much of a smell associated with a new bike. But today ("the day after"), I've been grinning inwardly at how quiet and precise everything is! I put 25 miles on it, including 10 miles with Mackie in tow. It's gonna be all right.



(In case you're wondering, it's a shiny new 2010 Cannondale T1 touring model, size XL. I went with the yellow Planet Bike fenders. "Popcorn" colors!)

Friday, November 6, 2009

Safety-Wear Update

It's been 2 months since I started regularly wearing a hi-viz mesh safety vest on essentially all my rides.

In retrospect, the cost-to-benefit ratio is huge!!

It's a subjective thing, trying to determine how much of a difference it makes in actual safety. Up 'til yesterday, however, I'd only had one incident where I got the impression that a driver didn't see me. That was at a downtown intersection where I was on a thru street and the offender on a side street with a stop sign. She started out, then slammed on her brakes when she saw me at the last second. (Probably a combination of my looming, hi-viz presence and loud hollerin'. The driver was a little blue-hair lady in a big pearly-white Cadillac; she was probably too old to safely drive 10 years ago!)

I take comfort in looking down when I'm riding, and observing how VISIBLE that vest is! Even in the worst conditions... dawn and dusk... that bright color really stands out!

Yesterday, I was riding up Roosevelt Street - another "collector" with stop-sign side streets. Some airhead gal - late 20s or early 30s I'd guess, in a Subaru wagon with phone plastered to ear - pulled out from a stop sign, then jammed on her brakes mid-intersection when she saw (and heard) me. The vest is NOT a force field. But I am convinced that very few drivers will deliberately run into a cyclist. Anything I can do to avoid 'em telling the investigator, "I didn't see him!" is a good thing. I'm a believer! (Thanks, Bob T!)

An effective safety vest can be had for less than 10 bucks. What's that? 2 Starbucks? Just search for "hi-viz mesh vest" and shop away. (Or better yet, support a local merchant. I got mine at D&B; my friend at Boise Rigging Supply says they sell 'em, too.)

Oh - one other thing. A guy at the office is a big Oregon Ducks fan. One day he saw the vest and said, "Hey! You're wearing my school colors!" (Of course, pretty much EVERY color is an Oregon color...)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Power Lunch

Yesterday I rode to lunch with two colleagues from the office.

I was on my 25-year-old "Clunker," and Bob was on a 20-plus year old road bike. He has a stable full of bikes, but he says the old Trek fits him better than any of the others. So of the three riders, two had friction shifters... who woulda thunk?

Our ride took us southeast, mostly along the course of the Boise River, to the Crow Inn. Probably an 8-mile ride from downtown Boise. It was such a lovely day that we sat outside on the patio, where we ate generous portions of bad-for-you-but-so-tasty fried food.

Tom mentioned that he enjoys the change back to Standard Time, because sometimes the commute gets so boring, and the change provides a new view on the scenery. He told of how he'd ridden home in the dark the night before, and happened across a herd of raccoons, with their reflector-eyes.

Perhaps the bike commute gets somewhat routine... but consider the alternative. There are plenty of pathetic schmoes out there whose only hope for relief is if they see an interesting bumper sticker on the car in front of 'em. I'll take the bike ride, thanks.

When we started back, my front tire was low. %#*@% goatheads! I'm woefully unprepared on my clunker... no pump, no patch kit. But the tires hold so much more air, they take hours to leak out. (Bob had a pump, but we didn't get it out.) The day was so lovely, and the scenery and company so good, that even a goathead-induced flat tire couldn't spoil the good cheer I felt.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The "Noisy Cricket" of flashlights

If you saw the movie, "Men in Black," you will likely recall when the Will Smith character was issued his alien-fighting gun. It was diminutive in size, and Smith was scornful... until he pulled the trigger and blasted a big hole in a truck a couple blocks away.

Looks are sometimes deceiving.

At the recommendation of Bob T, who has NEVER steered me wrong, I ordered an LED flashlight from DealExtreme. The wait was somewhat agonizing [more about that later] but it ended Friday.

I opted for the AKOray K-106 model. (SKU #28546) $13.99, including shipping. (Bargain!)

When I opened the padded envelope and saw it, I wasn't overwhelmed. It's dark gray and machined out of aluminum, I believe. It's about 3.75 inches long and .75 inches in diameter. It has a chintzy-looking pocket clip, and a green control button on the tail cap. The lens is supposedly made of glass... a good thing, IMO, because it's less likely to get scratched up.

Since I'm something of a flashlight fetishist, I've got several small flashlights, including 3 LED models that use one AA battery (as does this AKOray). It seems like every AA-LED flashlight I've gotten has been meaningfully brighter than the previous, as the technology has improved.

I put a battery in the AKOray and pushed the button.

WOW!

This is a bright flashlight!

Light output is supposed to be up to 230 lumens. It totally drowns out a Gerber "Firecracker" LED light that I got a couple months back at REI. (And it seemed "bright enough" before the AKOray arrived.)

It is advertised to have 60 minutes of life from a battery, on the high setting. (When the power is on, you can half-depress the power button to switch modes, which include bright, medium, dim, "SOS," and strobe flasher.) I'm sure batteries last longer when a lower power, or strobe-mode, is selected.

On the bright setting, this light is far brighter than any other LED light in my collection. It rivals a big D-cell "cop flashlight" I have. Definitely more than adequate for headlight duty. I anticipate using it mostly for headlight ("seeing") or strobe light ("being seen"), depending on the situation. Oh... and it should make a fine flashlight for camping and such, too.

I immediately ordered two more of these.

Of course, for bicycle duty, you need to mount it to the bike.

Bob T suggested the "universal nylon mount" (SKU 12000, $2.21). I also ordered a plastic "universal bicycle mount" (SKU 08274, $1.54).

The 12000 is the ultimate in simplicity... a piece of rubber with two grooves for flashlight and handlebar stem (or gun barrel, or whatever), with 2 velcro staps to hold everything in place. It is designed for the light to be mounted in parallel to the tube it's being hooked to... like a handlebar stem.

The 08274 snaps into place on the handlebar, and the flashlight holder screws down for tight installation. (Although the snap-over is a little loose for my handlebars... but still functional.) It is designed for right-angle mounting - like on handlebars.

I'm going to try to rig the universal (velcro strap) mount on my brain bucket, so I can have the option of a helmet-mounted light.

Time will tell:
1) real-life battery drainage,
2) long-term durability.
I will report my findings.

A little about DealExtreme... they are based in Hong Kong. Air shipping is included in all prices. The stuff I ordered arrived in 2 shipments; the mounts maybe 10 days after I ordered and the flashlight took a couple weeks longer, because they were on back order. If you need something now, DealExtreme probably won't work for you. Check out the website... they've got a little of everything. Actually a LOT of everything. (I happened across a combination prophylactic/electric-shocker gizmo... that might surprise somebody, huh? I didn't order it.)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Will the Task Force result in improved Cycling Safety?

[This one's pretty big, so here's the "Executive Summary": The Cycling Safety Task Force released a report with recommendations on how to improve cycling safety here in Boise. I like their recommendations, but question whether there's the "political will" among those who can make a difference, to do more than give it "lip service."]

The city's ad-hoc Cycling Safety Task Force has just released its final report.

It can be seen and/or downloaded HERE. (NOTE! It's pretty big - 71 pages, 4+mb PDF file. In traditional government fashion, I counted 19 pages that are essentially blank.)

The report says they used the LAB "Six Es" approach:
1. Engineering (road improvements, bike lanes, signage, signalization, visibility, maintenance).
2. Enforcement (code changes, enforcement priorities, penalties).
3. Education (cyclist/motorist training, promotional programs, publications, officer training).
4. Encouragement (Promotion of cycling as a healthy and environmentally sound method of transportation and recreation).
5. Equality (cyclists’ ability to utilize roadways and access all destinations).
6. Evaluation (continuous improvement).

My hat is off to the task force; they obviously had the best of intentions, and every one of the recommendations makes sense to this citizen/cyclist.

Except for their proposed redefinition of "bicycle." They want to change the definition to "include tricycles and other multicycles." Friends... the "bi" in bicycle means two! Even an edict from the City Council won't change that!

(It's kinda like redefining the word "marriage." But that's a whole 'nother discussion that I won't participate in, at least on the BikeNazi!)

I suppose it's easier to change the definition of "bicycle" in the City Code, than to alter every line of the code where "bicycle" is mentioned, to include "tricycles and multicycles." And I'm probably just being picky.

Highlights include several new proposed laws:
- "Reckless bicycling" is added to the Code, and classified as a misdemeanor.
- "Bicycle Licensing" is recommended. The intention is to aid in recovery of lost and stolen bicycles. They would charge an administrative fee to be determined by the City Council.
(A note - the City already has a voluntary registration database, where users can register their bikes via an online form at the City website. I did, several years back. So far, it apparently hasn't helped in recovering my bike which was stolen on Sept. 27.)
- Bike violations are infractions. Currently most are misdemeanors. Changing them to infractions makes them "civil" rather than "criminal," and reduces the fine to $5 plus court costs. (I believe the theory is that cops will be more likely to issue infraction citations, than they have been to issue misdemeanors.)
- "Three-foot rule" is added. "Whenever possible," a motorist must leave "a safe distance, but not less than 3 feet," between his vehicle and a bicycle/cyclist when passing. (The "whenever possible" renders the law non-enforceable, IMO.)
- Harassment of cyclists and pedestrians. It becomes a misdemeanor to threaten or throw (or otherwise expel!) stuff at walkers and riders. (Frankly, it's sobering that we might need such a law.)

Here's the problem with the changes in City Code, as I see it...

In a civilized society, laws are sometimes necessary to compel civil behavior. (In a perfect world, where everybody is responsible, they might not be needed at all.) Unfortunately, like parents who scream vile threats at their kids, but never follow through with punishment... laws that are enacted but not enforced are WORTHLESS! Until there is a change of heart by our law enforcers, who have shown no institutional will to enforce laws on cyclists (or on people who victimize cyclists), precious little will change in the real world.

And obviously the police can't be everywhere; we also need a general change of attitude on the part of the citizenry. But education and enforcement are the only way to get us slowly steered in that direction.

I'd be in favor of everything the Task Force recommended. (Except maybe their redefinition of "bicycle." I don't want to have to replace my Webster's!)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Rollin' up the Zeros!

Yesterday, October 27, I hit 400 miles for October. No big deal; I've ridden at least that far every month this year.

Today, October 28, I hit 5000 miles for the calendar year. A little bigger deal. (2009 is the 17th year I've ridden at least 5000 miles... and the 7th consecutive year.)

Yesterday I also hit 130,000 cumulative miles, since I started keeping track in 1986. I s'pose that makes me either "fairly unique" or "freakish," depending on point of view. I've sure enjoyed most of those miles!

When I rolled over 100,000 miles back on September 1, 2004, I speculated on whether I'd ever hit 200,000. It seemed a LONG way off. Still does, but not quite so far now. Maybe I can do this thing, if I stay healthy and exercise due care.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Where the Wild Things Are

(No, this is not a movie review.)

While I love on-street transportation cycling, the "off the beaten paths" also have unique charms.

On Friday, 10/23, I spotted a little doe on my ride home.



(Ironically, the I-184 "Connector" passes by perhaps 2 blocks from the very spot, and in the distance I could hear the drone of engines, and tires on the pavement. Well... they've got their climate-control and surround sound and cellphones to take great joy and satisfaction in... and they get to read the bumper stickers on the cars in front of 'em. Even more ironically, many of them were headed for their "country estates" where they live so they can commune with nature... except by the time they get home from the commute, it's after dark.)

Bambi raised her head warily, then went back to grazing as I snapped a couple photos. She couldn't have been more than 15 feet off the bike/pedestrian path.

This afternoon (Monday 10/26) within feet of where I snapped Bambi on Friday, I spotted some nice birds. I recognized the blue heron. Also a kingfisher, which flew off before I could snap... and which was probably out of photo range anyway. Also this white bird - an egret, perhaps? Can anybody identify the species?





I rode on. Took a detour through the cemetery to enjoy the beautiful fall foliage, which the Canada geese were also apparently enjoying. Bunches of 'em. Life is good.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Offensive

While looking for some other information, I happened across this little tidbit on Page 129 of the Boise City Feb-May 2009 Budget Report. (The document - PDF - can be seen HERE.)

It's in the section where ValleyRide's year-to-date results are reported. (ValleyRide being the local public bus transit provider.)

ValleyRide experienced a tragic accident at 12:52pm on Tuesday, May 19, 2009. A ValleyRide driver heading to downtown from the Boise facility struck and injured a bicyclist on Orchard St. (behind the airport). The bicyclist later died from his injuries. At this juncture, the driver is on limited-duty, non-driving work ... At this juncture ValleyRide has provided (at our expense) additional counseling for the employee, four weeks of paid leave (prior to return to non-driving duty) and are working with BPD and officials to provide documentation and support for the investigation.

ValleyRide experienced a tragic accident? Well, lah-dee-dah! I guess at this juncture, we should feel a lot of sympathy for the poor, dear driver, who is obviously under a lot of emotional duress! Who wouldn't be, after drifting out of the traffic lane while adjusting his air conditioner, and plowing dead-on into a bike rider?!! (Since then - and obviously since this budget report was issued - the driver, Michael Perkins, has been charged with vehicular manslaughter. I don't know what his employment status is. Jim Chu - the cyclist - is still dead, and his wife, kids, and friends are still missing him.)

Bike riders and traffic laws

It's Safety Week at the office. Thursday's topic was Bicycle, Pedestrian and Parking Garage Safety.

Officer Riley of the Boise Police Department came and gave an interesting presentation. (He is an excellent spokesman for BPD; they should be proud of the way he represented the Department.)

Riley described himself as an enthusiastic cyclist, and is sympathetic to cyclists. His personal opinion is that everything possible should be done by a community, and its police, to encourage citizens to ride. But he also acknowledged that there are many officers who, if they were honest, would say bikes don't belong in the traffic mix, and that cyclists create problems.

He said officers obviously have a tremendous amount of discretion as to when to issue a citation, or even a warning.

I brought up the fact that against-traffic cyclists are essentially never cited, and that bike violations, both by and against cyclists, are routinely ignored by the law-enforcement community. Riley agreed that it's a problem, and said it would only change as the population of road-going cyclists increases, and there's outcry from the community. (Right after our springtime fatalities, there was a lot more attention given to cycling behavior... but now we're back to business as usual.)

Some things to consider (for this area; the law likely differs in other jurisdictions):

- the "roadway" is the part of the road on the inside of the "fog stripes." The breakdown lane is not part of the roadway, in the legal sense. So technically, bicyclists should be just inside the fog stripe, but as far to the right as "practicable." (Of course, most of us prefer outside the fog stripe in real life, when it's "practicable.")

- jaywalking - if there is a signal at the intersection to your left AND to your right, you have to walk to one of those intersections and cross in the crosswalk with the light. If you can't see a signal and a crosswalk in both directions, you can legally cross the street mid-block. (Yielding for traffic, of course.)

On the topic of bike laws...

HERE is an interesting piece: "How do we get bikers to obey traffic laws?"

The author, Christopher Beam, starts out by saying he "ran five red lights and three stop signs, went the wrong way down a one-way street, and took a left across two lanes of oncoming traffic." On his bike. He says, "Bikes occupy a gray area of the law. They're neither cars nor pedestrians."

He describes two philosophies of bicycle advocacy, "vehicularists" and "facilitators."

The vehicularists have the philosophy that cyclists fare best when they behave like, and are treated like, other vehicles.

The facilitators prefer special treatment, laws, and infrastructure for cyclists.

I can see merit to both notions, but I definitely lean to "vehicularist." As stated by Beam, "Vehicularists see the potential transformation of America into a Euro-style bike paradise not just as a far-fetched utopia but as an insult. Dedicated bike paths are an admission that the cyclist deserves pity and should be walled off from the world."

(I lifted the awesome graphic off of Beam's article, at slate.com)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Bicycling and walking in the United States - FACTS

This is somewhat interesting. Americabikes.org - apparently a lobbying organization - prepared a "Top 10 Facts on Bicycling and Walking in the United States." Original document (PDF) HERE.

These were the most interesting and meaningful, from my viewpoint:

- 40% of all trips in America are two miles or less, 74% of which are travelled by car.

- Americans spend, on average, 18% of their annual income for transportation. The average annual operating cost of a bicycle is 3.75% ($308) of an average car ($8,220).

(The original document cites the original source of the information. I can't guarantee its accuracy, but my personal observation makes me believe at least those two.)

Several of their "top ten" seem to be oriented toward dedicated paths.

As a proponent of transportation cycling, I'm conflicted on the topic of bikeways, "greenbelts," etc.

While they are wonderful for leisure and recreational cycling, walking, skating, jogging, etc., they are of limited usefulness from a purely transportation standpoint. For a bike to be a car-replacement, the rider needs to be able to safely and efficiently travel to and from the same destinations as motorists. There will never be enough money or real estate to construct dedicated bikeways to all destinations.

Recreational corridors are a great boon to any community. If a bikeway is available that will take me to where I'm going, I'll happily detour a couple blocks to use it. But those corridors are "frosting on the cake" - the cake being a roadway system that I can comfortably use going to all those places, as well as the ones not served by bikeways.

New perk for German cyclists?

Business at Berlin bordellos has taken a beating, mostly due to the worldwide recession. (Yep - the economy is even hurting the Ho Business.)

Maison d'Envie (House of Desire) is in a congested part of town, and the owner is offering a $7.50 discount to patrons who arrive by bicycle or public transit. The new policy began in July, and business is up!

Story HERE.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Long Way Home

It was glorious today... as good as it gets. I took the "scenic route" instead of going directly home.


(Pay no attention to the "beater bike" in the center of the photo!)

New taillight

Based on recommendations from correspondents, and on WWW research, I purchased a Planet Bike Superflash taillight at REI yesterday.

It's $25 pretty much everywhere... I took advantage of the 20% off member discount currently going on, so I got it for $20 plus tax.

If they'd had the "stealth" model (clear lens instead of red), I would've gotten that one. The LEDs are red, anyway, and the clear lens probably transmits more light. But red is all they had.

It is amazingly bright and the jittery flash pattern is attention-getting. (The first time I turned it on, I was looking directly at it... saw spots for a few minutes afterwards.) I doubt that anyone has been rear-ended while using the Superflash.

My intended use is for day-to-day riding when visibility is compromised - night, and early or late in the day. Or when I happen not to be wearing the hi-viz vest... which isn't often any more. (I'll post more about my vest exerience soon.) When I depart on a night ride, I'll supplement it with the Lightman xenon strobe.

It came in useful the first night. I went and watched the football game at my mom's place, and rode home in the dark and the rain afterwards. I was sporting my hi-viz jacket and hi-viz/reflector vest, the Strobe, plus the Superflash. Motorists gave me a wide berth. Very comforting to feel confident that I was being seen!!

(OFF-TOPIC: I was dripping wet - from the waist down - when I got home, but the jacket seemed to effectively shed water. Rain, and being wet, is overrated as a misery-inducer, in our comfort obsessed society. It would be one thing if you were wet for days or weeks at a time, like jungle-fighting during monsoon season. Or when combined with uncomfortable cold... but otherwise, you get wet, and you get dry. I deliberately got myself wet, earlier the same day! grin)

I will do some real-life comparison (my opinion, of course) between the Superflash and the Strobe sometime soon. Maybe throw in whatever taillight the replacement bike arrives with... golly, I hope I don't have to wait much longer!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Is it too late to stop Distracted Driving?

A couple weeks ago, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood convened a Distracted Driving Summit in Washington, D.C.

Among the speakers was Reggie Shaw, 22. On September 22, 2006, Shaw was driving-and-texting in Utah when his vehicle drifted across the center line of the highway, and the ensuing accident killed two other roadway users.

Well-publicized studies by University of Utah scientists indicate that cell-phone talking while driving (not texting!) is statistically more dangerous than driving with >.08% blood-alcohol content, the legal limit in most places. The NTSB estimates that last year, nearly 6000 people died, and more than 500,000 were injured, in accidents involving distracted or inattentive drivers.

Yet, the prevailing attitude seems to be, "I know it's wrong, but I'm going to take my chances anyway." Or, "Sure - but I'm a superior driver, so it's okay for me."

So - what came out of the Summit?

Federal employees have been ordered not to text-while-driving. And everyone else is being "encouraged" not to drive distracted.

LaHood: "Every time you take your eyes off the road or talk on the phone while you're driving -- even just for a few seconds -- you put your life in danger."

Your life?!!? If it were just the life of the person making the stupid choice, I'd say let nature take its course! Choices have consequences. The problem is, guys like Reggie Shaw end up killing innocents who were doing everything right.

Nayha Dixit's sister was killed in a distracted-driving auto accident. She says, "The people in the cars next to us. It's someone's sister, someone's mother. Is checking that text message more important than someone's life?"

There oughtta be a law!

Do we need a law, specifically banning or limiting cell-phoning or texting?

Many states seem to think so, and have passed such laws.

(It's unfortunate that some people have such poor judgment, that they will do things that are dangerous or even life-threatening, unless it's illegal.)

Opponents say, "How about Inattentive Driving? Wouldn't that cover it?"

As I see it, the problem with a law as vague as "inattentive driving," is that its enforcement almost always follows an accident. The property damage is already done, the lives already left in shambles. How do you otherwise demonstrate that the driver was indeed driving inattentively?

Of course, a problem with specific laws is... unless accompanied by vigorous and high-profile enforcement, they will be ignored. California has a cell-phone law. It says you need to use a hands-free device. (A law with dubious value, IMO.) Yet here is California's First Lady, Maria Shriver, yappin' it up, much to the embarrassment of her Terminator husband.

A better comment by LaHood: "I strongly encourage the public to take personal responsibility for their behavior and show a healthy respect for the rules of the road." (Emphasis added.)

May it be so!

Other reading:
- Fox News article: LaHood Pledges to Crack Down on Distracted Driving, Warns of Fatal Consequences
- DOT Press Release: U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Announces Administration Wide Effort to Combat Distracted Driving
- Rodale Press article: Distracted Driving Addressed by Politicians, Scientists, and Advocates

(Hat tip to correspondent Bob T who kept rattlin' my cage about the Distracted Driving Summit. It is indeed one of the biggest obstacles to safe cycling.)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Life in the Soft Shoulder

My mid-80s (and purchased new!) Peugeot Canyon Express is a war horse. After my "ridin' bike" was stolen, I got it out of the lean-to shed, dusted it off (and pulled a few weeds and cobwebs off), aired up the tires, put WD-40 on the rusty chain, and rode.

Today I'll hit 200 miles, since that day. I've oiled the chain (with real oil, rather than WD-40). I patched a tire - goathead! (It had been so long since I last disassembled the tire that it and the tube seemed "chemically fused" - I had to gently peel them apart.) I've had to tighten the seat bolt a couple times. The post is much newer than the rest of the bike and has some sort of "shock absorber" built in, but that bolt (just under the saddle) has unexplainedly loosened. (Next time - Loc-tite.) Other than that... no problemo.

It's a little harder to roll those 2.1-inch tires than the 1.1-inchers I'm used to. My wrists are telling me they're not accustomed to the hand position, although it doesn't feel uncomfortable. The nostalgic "friction shifting" (remember?) isn't as precise or fast as the click-shifters. But I don't shift a whole lot.

I really miss the trailer! I can't pull it without the special Bob skewer, and the Peugeot has a solid axle with bolts, rather than the quick-release. Mackie is both patient and sympathetic. She tells me, "I'll get you a new bike, ba-dah." (She can say "grandpa" now - in fact she talks nonstop and can say 'most everything... but still calls me "ba-dah.")

Regarding the new bike - I've paid my $500 deductible. I'm supposed to get a replacement Cannondale touring bike with all accessories pre-installed, shipped to my front door. I'm antsy. (Hoping I'm not tempted to "break it in" when the roads are mucky.)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

What's "fun"? What's "comfortable"?

For some time, we had been planning a long weekend family camping trip, the first weekend of October.

The plans were originally formulated, I'm sure, on a 90-degree summer day. And with everyone anticipating some of that beautiful early fall "Indian summer" weather we usually enjoy this time of year.

A few days before the appointed adventure, the forecast was calling for unseasonably cool weather - in fact, it would probably be getting down below freezing overnight, in the higher-altitude destinations we were considering.

Based on past history, I had a foreboding sense of trouble.

And indeed, the email came, from my bride.

"I was just looking at the weather forcast for here, McCall and Wallowa Lake and it looks as if it will be cold, not just cool. ... I suggest that we plan on staying home."

Even though I understood the futility, I suggested some lower-elevation destinations for consideration.

The reply came, "It's supposed to be fun, not uncomfortable."

Now that really put me to thinking.

And I sent back this bit of "psychobabble," that I sincerely believe... and which has blessed my life.

Agreed!

But both "fun" and "comfort" are perceived individually. Some people have higher "fun thresholds" and "comfort thresholds" than others.

It's good to cultivate and expand those thresholds.

If you can have "fun" doing a wide variety of activities and in a wide variety of situations, you'll be much better off than if you can only have "fun" doing a very select and narrow set of activities. And likewise, if you can be "comfortable" in a wide variety of conditions, you will enjoy a much more comfortable life than if you need 70-72 degrees, and 30% humidity to be comfortable.

(I've previously commented on "comfort" HERE. And on "fun" as it pertains to cycling many times, including HERE.)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Gear Review - Nashbar Jacket, Lightman Xenon Strobe

A year or so ago, I purchased a Nashbar Premium Rain Jacket in hi-viz (NA-PJK at the Nashbar website). They say the "retail price" is around $80, but it's pretty much always on sale for around $40. It replaced my bright-yellow bike specific Gore-tex jacket, which wore out after 8 years or so. My comments about the Nashbar jacket are based on only a half-dozen or so wearings; the upcoming winter season will see major use.

What I like so far: The high-viz color is excellent. If it's precipitating, visibility is limited and everything you can do to be visible is beneficial. (If you get smashed, it won't really matter whether or not you get wet.) It also has some reflective piping. It would be nice if it had some big reflective patches, but I'll probably wear my bob-t-inspired hi-viz vest over it on most occasions. The fabric is very similar to brand-name Gore-tex in appearance and texture. (It kinda reminds me of that teflon thread tape on the inside. If you don't do plumbing work, that may not be helpful.) Next to the skin, it feels downright clammy; typically a long-sleeve shirt will remedy that. (My old jacket had a mesh lining which was very nice; the new one doesn't. That may have a bearing on how quickly it wears out; time will tell.) It's got a nice collar that feels a little like suede when it's zipped all the way up.

Just in case you're not familiar with Gore-tex... 20 or 25 years ago, it revolutionized outerwear. It's a membrane that's typically sprayed onto nylon; it has "micro pores" that allow water vapor to escape out, but prevents water drops from entering. The brand-name stuff is phenomenal; my experience with copycats is that they're good, but never quite as good as the original. This new jacket seems to follow that trend... it's probably completely waterproof as advertised, but so far it seems not quite as "breathable" as genuine Gore-tex.

Other features: It has a zippered pocket on the back. The back is cut extra long for bike coverage; the sleeves are also long... that can be a problem with jackets that aren't designed with the cyclist in mind. The cuffs have elastic and velcro adjustment. The waist also has an adjustable elastic cord. There's a velcro rain flap over the zipper. It rolls into a very small size for packing. (You could bungee it onto the bike for "just in case" rides. I also took it with me motorcycling last summer... but thankfully didn't get a chance to test it very much.)

What I don't like so far: Construction quality... ? Time will tell how it stands up. Every other bike jacket I've owned has lasted several seasons, and I hope this one does, too. The zipper seems like the cheap/flimsy model, but hopefully my first impression will be wrong. (Of course, it wouldn't be fair to expect a $40 jacket to be as sturdy as an $80 one, I s'pose.) Nashbar is very good about warranty... if you feel like you've been let down by something you bought from them, they'll let you return it for refund or exchange.

Correspondent and friend Bob T introduced me to the Lightman Xenon strobe light. As soon as I saw it, I knew if I could afford it I had to have one. I found it for $12.99 (!), plus shipping, at the "Code-2" website. (NOTE: It's marked as "closeout," so will likely not be available long-term.) Code 2 has it in blue or amber; I ordered 2 amber ones. The package arrived quickly, and with tracking info, etc. I can recommend the Code-2 folks based on my experience.

The light is larger than typical bike taillights; it's a triangle shape and each side is slightly longer than an AA-size battery. 2 such batteries provide the juice, and are supposed to last for 16 hours of operation. (I can't verify that yet.) It has a rubber-covered on/off switch on the back. It's made in China (what isn't?!?), but construction quality seems top-notch. It has a 2-year warranty. The $13 kit includes a vinyl storage bag and several mounting brackets; one nice feature, IMO, is that you can customize almost any mounting option, because you can spin it onto a "tripod screw." (I believe 1/4-inch coarse-thread. If you're not a hardware geek, that may not be helpful.) I have it attached to the rear rack on my old beater Peugeot with a couple of zip-ties. (Thank GOODNESS I hadn't installed it on my stolen bike!)

The documentation says it's visible for more than a mile; I believe that. It blinks 80 times per minute, which is slower than most bike-specific LED taillights. But it seems very bright, and I expect it's as good as any at penetrating fog and darkness.

Because of its rather large size, I don't know that I would recommend it over some of the latest crop of bike-specific taillights, from companies like Cateye, Planet Bike, and Blackburn. Some of them are awesomely bright, and have attention-getting blinky patterns. At some point in time, I would like to do a side-by-side comparison. For anybody who is fanatical about being highly-visible, the strobe might nicely complement an LED or 2 or 3. (And the amber color would be suitable front OR back.)

NOTE: There is a "blogger controversy" right now. Some bloggers apparently do favorable product reviews in exchange for free products or other perks. I guarantee that these reviews are my honest opinions, as of the time of writing. I paid for this stuff! If somebody wants to send me some free stuff in exchange for a review, I will either review it or send it back. I wear size XL - hahaha! But I won't promise to favorably review your stuff... just honestly. My opinion. Somebody else might have a totally contrary (and therefore faulty) opinion.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Old Friend

My recently stolen Cannondale T2000 was like an old friend. I can't absolutely say it was my all-time favorite bike, but it was/is in the running for that title.

From the first day I rode it - in November 2001 - until the day it was stolen - September 27, 2009 - I accumulated 44,482 miles on it. I can confidently say that's more miles than most bikes ever roll.

After so much faithful service, it deserved to eventually be "put out to pasture," like the bikes that preceded it. I've got two road bikes hanging - in various stages of incompleteness - in the garage. I really should press one of 'em back into service.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

12 years of car-free commuting

When September finishes up each year, it marks one more year that I've not driven a car - even once - to and from work. The last day I drove a car was sometime in September 1997.

Unless outside forces intervene, that will always be the last day that this worker drove to work.

Some clarifications:
- Since 1986 I've been essentially car-free commuting. But I would drive ever so occasionally when my "excuse" seemed especially strong. For example, in 1997 leading up to September, I drove a car 3 times.
- I have also ever-so-occasionally driven a motorcycle to work. But I was 100% bike-commuting from October 2005 until August 2009. (In August, the doctor ordered me off the bike for two days.)
- I ride the bus every now and then. Once this year - in January.
- I don't want to imply that I live a totally car-free life. My bride drives a minivan and I go places with my family, who mostly cannot be persuaded onto bikes. Also I borrow the minivan when I'm hauling a load that won't fit in the BOB trailer. It would be truly challenging to totally give up automobile transportation altogether. But my bike is my chosen mode unless I think long and hard, and determine that the car or motorcycle is the most practical alternative.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Bike to school - break the law!

Saratoga Springs is in upstate New York, a few miles north of Albany. Last spring, according to this story, it was decided that bicycling or walking to (elementary and middle) school would no longer be permitted in Saratoga Springs.

A few students (with the support of their civilly-disobedient parents) have defied the rules by continuing to ride their bikes and walk. REBELS!

Golly! Is it any wonder that this country has an obesity epidemic, and that kids are fatter every generation?

(I'd like to see the specific statute, that declares citizens can't use a public, taxpayer-funded road to get to selected destinations. I'm guessing that if someone were arrested, it would be pretty easy to get it thrown out.)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Teddy Roosevelt and "The Strenuous Life"

The single reason I'm looking forward to the passing years is... at age 62, an American citizen can get a "Golden Age Passport" for free access to our National Parks, Monuments, etc. I LOVE the great and magnificent outdoor places! (Now if only I'm still healthy enough to be ambulatory... and if gas will stay below $10 per gallon... but I digress.)

And so I've been looking forward to watching Ken Burns' "The National Parks - America's Best Idea" on PBS.

Also, since I was a young kid, I've been a Teddy Roosevelt fan. For various reasons. Criminy! The dude is on Mount Rushmore! Isn't that enough??!? In addition, however, we share the same birthday. (I'm sure that's what first got my attention as a kid.)

Roosevelt was hugely instrumental in the early history of preserving our wild places as national parks and monuments.

He was sickly as a child growing up in the Big City. What originally brought him out west, as documented in "The National Parks," was his quest for "the strenuous life," as he called it. He got off a train in the badlands of North Dakota, hoping that huffing and puffing that clear western air, hunting buffalo and climbing mountains would improve his health. And apparently it did; he seemed to get more robust as he got older.

He once said, "If we stand idly by, if we seek merely swollen, slothful ease and ignoble peace, if we shrink from the hard contests where men must win at hazard of their lives and at the risk of all they hold dear, then the bolder and stronger peoples will pass us by, and will win for themselves the domination of the world."

Don't we see a tendency in society-at-large to "seek swollen, slothful ease," and to "shrink from the hard contests"?

Most of us are bound by necessity to jobs and such, which prevent us from setting out for a life of exploring and buffalo hunting. Me included. (Although I spend 50 weeks every year, looking forward to those couple weeks when I can live the Teddy Roosevelt Lifestyle. NOT buffalo hunting!) But how grateful I am for bike transportation! For a few glorious moments every single day, no matter what else happens, I can get a reminder that there are finer things in life than ease and relaxation.

The Beater rolls again!

Way back in the 80s, when I decided to commit to bikes-as-transportation, I went into the bike store expecting to buy a road bike. I was intrigued by the notion of "mountain bikes," but they were still a relatively new thing, and nobody knew if they would catch on.

They didn't have the (road) bike I wanted in the size I wanted, and my eyes fell on a Peugeot Canyon Express. The top-of-the-line Peugeot mountain bike. I took the plunge.

I can still remember taking 5-mile rides on it, around the neighborhood. Then getting ambitious and going 10, then 15. (Of course, I was riding to and from the office, but that was only 2.5 miles or so.) I can remember my first 25-mile ride, on a Saturday morning. Coming in on Hill Road I passed a couple guys on road bikes. They mocked me... but then disappeared in my rearview. (I don't want to suggest they were making an effort to catch up.) It was my primary transportation for a couple years, until I saw a shiny red Bridgestone road bike hanging in the bike store, in just my size... and at end-of-season sale price. (Of course, by then, mountain bikes were jammed into the bike shops, and road bikes were something of a rarity.)

That's all ancient history.

The "Canyon Express" has been collecting dust in a lean-to shed for 18 months or so. This morning it saw the light of day. I dusted off the thickest layer of grime and cobwebs. I squirted air into the tires and put WD-40 on the rusty chain. Just enough to get 'er rolling. Brakes? Check. Let's roll.

Amazingly, the old Vetta bike computer came to life and is keeping track of my miles.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

STOLEN BIKE!

This is too weird. My bike was stolen this morning!

I rode over to the church for meetings, like I've done week after week, year after year. I parked it in a hallway, just like always. (Unlocked... but inside the building!) When I got out of the first meeting, at 10:15am or so, there sat my helmet, on the floor right where I had left it next to my bike. But the bike was gone.

I assumed some rascal had moved it as a "practical joke." (Some joke! If that had been the case, I would definitely have explained that I didn't see the humor.) So I looked in the cloakroom, out back, in a few nearby classrooms. No sign.

I went outside, where a couple friends park their bikes (also unlocked... I guess we incorrectly assumed that God would watch over and protect our bikes). There was an unfamiliar fellow with Brent's mountain bike. I asked him what he was doing with it; he said, "Oh, I was just looking at it. I like bikes." I told him my bike was missing; he said, "Why would I steal a bike? I go to church here." I followed 20 or 30 feet behind as he walked around the corner, hopped in a dark red 4-door midsize sedan without a plate on the back, and went zooming away. I'm pretty sure I spoke with my thief. (I never saw my bike... but that's not a coincidence, is it?)

I've filed a police report; not optimistic, but maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised.

Thief: 35-45 years old, white, short brown hair (or "salt and pepper"), receding hairline. He was probably 5'10", 180lbs. He was dressed in a light brown long-sleeve shirt, buttoned all the way up. Dark brown slacks. (Looked to be "posing" as somebody going to church, I figure, so as to not arouse undue suspicion.) I'd love to see him again, in a police lineup.

The car: Dark read 4-door midsize sedan. I can't be sure, but I'd guess early 2000s General Motors. No license plate.

The location: 3200 Cassia Street, in Boise. (Across from South Jr. High.) Car was parked on Michael Street, just around the corner from Cassia.

My bike: 2000 Cannondale T2000. 58.4cm (I believe). Drop bars with yellow and black "leopard spot" tape, bar-end shifters. Planet bike fenders. (I'm pretty confident if you lined up every bike on the planet, I could pick mine out of the bunch, based just on appearance. I can tell you the make/model of pretty much every component on the bike.) Serial number 1C50197S2267T5U23. (Or that's how I'm guessing it reads... photo of the s/n below.) The rear tire has a slow leak; I pumped it up before leaving this morning, and figured I'd fix it this afternoon.

Could I be Christlike and forgive the guy? Probably. But I'd still like to have my bike back, and to see the criminal justice system run its course. And I'd like the guy to have "Bike Thief" tattooed on his forehead in great big letters... know what I mean?