Tuesday, March 31, 2009

March Riding Report

31 days of riding in March; 455 miles accumulated. I haven't ridden 30 miles in a day yet this year, but it should happen in April if the water don't rise.

We're into that time of year when we're surrendering the "solitude" of nearly-empty paths and lanes, for the lovely days and the fair-weather multitudes that follow.

Monday, March 30, 2009

It's New! It's Improved!

Saturday I ended up doing an "unscheduled overhaul" on my bicycle.

I usually replace some components this time of year, particularly the drivetrain. That stuff takes a beating over the wet-and-dirty months.

My hand was forced by: 1) a broken rear rim, and 2) a front brake that went non-functional.

I build my own wheels, and I believe I've gotten pretty good at it. (It's partly art, partly science.) However, there's no denying the fact that skinny-tire components weren't engineered for riders who are 6'3" and 240-250 pounds. And no matter how well-built those wheels are, they fail. (I haven't broken a spoke in a long time. It's almost always the alloy metal around one of the spoke nipples that fatigues over time, and eventually pulls loose.) I keep a couple spare rims in the garage, and some extra spokes (plus a full, ready-to-ride-on rear wheel, just in case). I have a cheap truing stand. I can swap out rims and have the new wheel ready to ride on in a couple hours.

(How can you tell if it's a good wheel building job? I consider it a job well done if it starts out true, the spoke tension is relatively uniform - as measured by my precision "hand-i-mometer" haha, and if it doesn't need frequent follow-up adjustments and/or spoke replacements.)

My front brake cable was frayed. It's always nice to discover the problem some time other than when I'm doing the survival panic stop. (Whew!)

So as of Saturday afternoon, I'm riding on new rear wheel, with well-adjusted brakes, new chain and cassette (almost always replaced in the spring), and swapped-out skinny tires (the fatter/knobbier tires are on the hook in the garage 'til next November or so). Oh - and new handlebar tape! (Yellow and black leopard print! Edgy!)

It's not as "pretty" as a shiny new bike, but when I'm looking forward, the effect is similar...

Well under $100 invested, and other than a few tires, tubes and patches, that's all the maintenance my bike will need for 2009.

"How sweet it is!"
- Jackie Gleason

Sunday, March 29, 2009

What a difference an (Earth) hour makes!

Boise's high temperature on Saturday, March 28 - 57 degrees (4:53-6:53pm) I ran errands on my bike, in shorts and t-shirt.

Earth Hour - Saturday, 8:30-9:30pm

Boise's high temperature on Sunday, March 29 - 42 degrees (2:53-4:53pm) Brrr!

Coincidence? You decide.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Tailored bike, or off-the-rack?

There's an interesting article on the Idaho Statesman website about a service that anatomically matches bike to bike rider.

The $200 service includes "two hours of interviews and flexibility tests, notation of past injuries, videos, sensors attached to pivot points on the body, an analysis of a rider and their bike in motion." It's not stated, but I assume if a replacement part is needed for optimum fitment, they sell you a longer seatpost, or different crank arms, handlebar stem, etc.

It's an interesting concept.

And I'm sure a Lance-Armstrong-type would benefit greatly from being totally "dialed in"... or better said, having his bicycles dialed in to him.

Is it worth the money? Or is it more for the folks who wear the "team" lycra jerseys and spend $150 extra for titanium skewers that are 10 grams lighter than the steel ones?

Maybe I'm "old school." But I've always figured if you find a frame that's pretty close to the optimum size, the rest is just a matter of fine-tuning 'til you feel most comfortable.

Perhaps if I regularly rode century rides, or otherwise spent several hours at a time in the saddle, I'd benefit more from something like this. As it is, the only time I feel really uncomfortable on a bike is when I'm riding somebody else's bike. (Like when I tuned up my daughter's cruiser bike last weekend, and took it on a short test ride. Wow! Fish out of water! But only because I was way too close to the pedals, and my knees were coming up between those cruiser handlebars and bumping my chin.)

(Jason, the guy who does the mechanical duties for this enterprise, is fantastic. So I'll give it that much of an endorsement, for sure!)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Don't forget EARTH HOUR!

Earth Hour is this weekend!

Earth Hour - the environmental celebration for people who are committed to the environment... but not quite committed enough to do the whole Earth Day thing.

According to the official Earth Hour website, it's "the world's first global election between Earth and global warming," and "your light switch is your vote." At the website you can also "watch video and read stories about other witnesses and warriors involved in the fight against climate change."

According to them, no matter where you live, you observe Earth Hour Saturday at 8:30pm. They expect a billion people to participate.

They've obviously not thought this thing through very well. If we observed it at 3:30am instead, they could claim, like, 90 percent participation!

I'm not sure if the NCAA basketball playoffs will be going at 8:30pm - I'd be unwilling to turn that off. (Of course, I could still observe Earth Hour, I s'pose, as long as I watch TV in the dark, huh?)

Maybe I shouldn't poke fun at the Earth Hour people. Doing something, even for an hour, might "raise some awareness" and give people a pause to think about their lifestyle choices the other 8,759 hours each year. Unfortunately, a "lifestyle change" that lasts one hour a year will not warm or cool the planet... of that I am confident. (Even if everybody opened their refrigerator door for one hour!)

I guess I'm a little skeptical because on the surface it seems like one more opportunity for the posers to step up on the stage.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The "Idaho Stop" - Coming to Oregon?

While Idaho Governor Butch tries to come up with millions more in tax dollars to spend on Idaho roadways, next door in Oregon they are debating whether to legalize the "Idaho Stop" for cyclists. (We're famous!)

The "Idaho Stop" is the statute (49-720) that gives cyclists the right to legally roll through a stop sign when the coast is clear.

(In Idaho, a cyclist must come to a complete stop at a red-light signaled intersection, but after stopping, may proceed cautiously. If I understand correctly, Oregon's proposed legislation would allow cyclists to roll through both signs and red lights.)

Karl Rohde is the lobbyist for Oregon's Bicycle Transportation Alliance; yesterday he testified on behalf of the "Idaho Style Stop Law." A transcript can be seen HERE; he does a good job of explaining why the Idaho law is a good law.

For the record... I fully support Idaho's law. However, I also take full responsibility for correctly determining if it's safe to proceed. I realize the stakes are very high; if I make a poor judgment, putting myself in grave danger and causing stress and grief for another roadway user, I must shoulder the consequences since I only have myself to blame. A cyclist who doesn't understand the consequences, or isn't willing to accept responsibility, should stop at the signs and signals.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Shootin' Whistle Pigs

Lots of folks in these parts do a little whistle-pig hunting, starting around this time of year.

If you don't know what a whistle-pig is, it's a ground squirrel. A tiny rodent about the size and shape of a chipmunk, but not nearly as cute. They live in burrows in arid country such as this. (In other locales, "whistle-pig" might refer to a woodchuck, or marmot, or prairie dog.) They're called whistle-pigs because the males stand erect at the entrance of their burrows, and emit a high-pitched whistle to attract the "babe" whistle-pigs.

So, why hunt 'em?

Obviously not for food, unless you were starving-hungry. But rather for "varmint control." Farmers don't like 'em because of the damage they can do to a field. Also, there's no denying that bloodthirsty hunters shoot 'em just because they make good targets.

Change of subject.

The .50-caliber rifle.

If you don't know what a .50-caliber rifle is, it fires a bullet that's 1/2-inch in diameter and maybe 2 inches long, at a velocity close to 3000 feet per second.

What is it used for?

In the military, they might use it to shoot down an airplane or helicopter. Or to blast a hole through an engine block, thus disabling an enemy vehicle. Or for long-range "sniping" - hitting a target a half-mile or more away.

But civilians can buy 'em, too.


Well... the price (close to $9000) will keep the riff-raff out of the market, I'm thinkin'. And based on a quick web search, it looks like a box of 10 shells will set you back $80 or so.

But those with the desire and the cash are typically either well-heeled collectors, or they enjoy some form of super-long-distance target shooting. (Rambo-types would need 2 - one for each hand.)

(More about this particular rifle can be seen HERE, if you feel so inclined.)

As an NRA Life Member, I not only support but relish the notion that if I chose to, I could have one of these monsters in my home arsenal. Is this a great country or what?!!

So... what does any of this have to do with bicycle transportation?

When I'm commuting to and from the office on my bicycle, and some yahoo goes by in his roaring, smoke-belching F350 super-dually turbo-diesel Xtra cab (or whatever), obviously headed for work just like me, it seems to this observer like somebody choosing a .50 caliber to go whistle-pig huntin'. It can be done - and I support the right to make that personal choice - but it just makes no practical sense.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

1K for '09

Friday the 13th... the day this year I arrived at 1000 bicycle miles. Continuing a genuinely strange phenomenon; almost every year I hit the 1000-mile mark in a 3- or 4-day window (2nd week of March).

It's strange because the most unpredictable weather of the year happens in January, February, and early March. It would stand to reason that the bike-riding would be equally unpredictable. And it is... but weirdly the short-ride days and long-ride days always add up to 1000 miles around March 11-14.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Governor Otter: Bike paths?.... NOT!

There's an AP story circulating about Governor Butch Otter's plans to spend Idaho's $1.24 billion slice of the Stimulus Pie. (Anybody who's paying attention has seen that Otter gathered several past governors to sit on the committee making the decision.)

Apparently when the notion of spending some $ on bicycle paths came up, Otter's budget man, Wayne Hammon, said, "The future of Idaho is not contained in the North End." Instead of bike paths, Otter wants to go with landscaping on I-84.

The story can be seen HERE, or several other places.

For readers not familiar, the North End is widely viewed as an "island of blue" in an otherwise red state. The Liberals (or as they prefer, "progressives") have holed up in the North End, an old, well-established neighborhood with narrow streets, big trees, and no visible garage doors. (Obviously that's mostly stereotype. People of all political persuasions are scattered through the city, and the state. But the North End definitely votes Democrat in the elections.)

I don't really understand Hammon's remark. And was it scripted that way? Are those Otter's words, or Hammon's?

I wonder because... the North End is not a part of town you think of, when you think of bike paths. It's a grid of 20mph narrow neighborhood streets, and few of them have bike paths. North enders probably ride bikes more than people in far-off neighborhoods, but that's likely because their destinations are nearby, relatively speaking. They are fortunate enough to live close to where they work, shop, seek entertainment, etc. (I'd say "go to church," but I'm sure Otter figures they're all Commie atheists. When in reality, only about 75% of them are that way. hahaha - a joke.)

Is "the future of Idaho" a place where everybody lives so far from their daily destinations that the only way to get there is by car? (Too far on a bike, nonexistent public transportation - just the way we like it!) If that's the way it's gonna be, then freeway landscaping will be nice - very nice!

$27/year bike registration?

Next door in Oregon, the House of Representatives is looking at House Bill 3008, which would require bicycles to be registered. $54 initial cost, and $27/year thereafter.

The revenue collected would theoretically be used for "bicycle related transportation improvement projects." I believe it's worth noting that the four sponsors of the bill are all from rural areas in Oregon. (And perhaps since they don't sit in urban traffic every day, we need to understand that they might see cyclists as "the problem" rather than "the solution.")

More information can be found HERE.

OSU Economics Professor Patrick Emerson has an alternative viewpoint on his blog - HERE. He says, "The appropriate public policy is to subsidize bikes, not tax them." (Emphasis added.)

It's an easy case to make. Taxes should be levied for one of two reasons - either 1) to raise revenue that's needed by the taxing body to support the service, infrastructure, etc., or 2) to discourage an activity or behavior that the taxing body finds undesirable.

Surely bicyles don't take much toll on the infrastructure. And considering the alternatives, is bicycling something we want to discourage the citizens from engaging in?

I think I'll go with the economist instead of the politicians on this one.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Bad judgment

It's scary to consider that we share public roadways with people who have exceedingly poor judgment. Consider this story from SLC's Deseret News:

LOGAN — A man accused of killing two people while text messaging and driving has been sentenced to 30 days in jail and community service.

Court records show that Reggie Shaw was ordered to serve jail time but also instructed to perform 150 hours of community service, including speaking to schools about the dangers of text messaging behind the wheel.

Shaw, 22, struck a plea in abeyance with Cache County prosecutors. He pleaded to a pair of class A misdemeanor negligent homicide charges in 1st District Court. Shaw was convicted in connection with the deaths of two men in 2006. He was accused of text messaging while driving when his SUV sideswiped another, spinning it into oncoming traffic where it was hit by a truck. Both James A. Furfaro, 38, and Keith P. Odell, 50, were killed.

Prosecutors have said they obtained cell phone records that showed Shaw was texting from the time he left his home until the time of the crash. The UHP claims that Shaw continued to text message while being questioned about the crash.

Shaw's case will be reviewed on July 27.

— Ben Winslow

All the time, I see people behind the wheel of multi-ton rolling lethal weapons, for whom driving is a distraction from what they're really trying to focus on. Mostly yappin' on the cellphone with that glazed-over, faraway expression on their faces.

How sad for Mr. Furfaro and Mr. Odell, who had the misfortune of being on the road at the same time as this feckless moron. But at least he got some HARSH punishment, huh? 15 days in jail for each of the homicides, and community service. (Can he text-message while he's doing his jail time and community service?)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


It got up to 68 yesterday in Boise, setting a new high temperature record for the date.

Algore was right! (I say that in jest, of course. He may be right, but one day of unseasonably warm weather doesn't prove it, any more than a day or week of unseasonably cold weather proves him wrong.)

Once the sun went down, we got a significant and soaking rain.

I know - it soaked me!

I can't say I wasn't warned; I probably pay more attention to weather forecasts than most, except maybe farmers. But you've gotta get where you're going, and I happen to do most of that by bicycle.

Last night I was riding home from a family gathering. Some of my family members were surprised I was on my bicycle. (Why?) Some felt misplaced pity as I rode off into the rain and the dark. And I imagine a few people who crossed my path in their cozy, warm automobiles felt either pity or superiority or both.

But the ride was no problem!

I was adequately visible, with lights front and rear. I wore the Gore-Tex jacket. (The pants would've been nice, but when the worst-case scenario is a 20 minute wet ride, they aren't mission-critical.) When I got home, I changed into some dry, comfortable sweats and slippers. My shoes dried overnight, and I'm back in business.

And I enjoy the "payback."

Yesterday was one more day when I wasn't paying for gas, car insurance, depreciation, parking, etc. One more day I wasn't sitting in bumper-to-bumper.

More significantly, I'll declare confidently that I enjoyed that 68-degree afternoon more than my car-driving family members, as I went on a fantastic "lunch break" ride in shorts. I'm no psychologist, but I'll go out on a limb and say that since I occasionally endure a rain-or-snow-in-the-face bike ride, I probably enjoy the lovely, perfect days more than people who never experience wet-face, except in the bathroom. My "spectrum of experience" is far wider than the folks who choose to seal themselves up in a protective cocoon.

Today promises to be upper-50s, with the possibility of another evening rain storm. Maybe I'll be home before the rain hits. And maybe not. In either case, I look forward to it.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

February Riding Report

I chalked up 439 miles, on 28 riding days in February.

My winter tires are holding up remarkably well; they should easily go for another month.