Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Riding Like the Wind

A few days back, I was motorcycling in eastern Oregon, and ran across these guys:


Anybody can ride enthusiastically with a sweet tailwind! (I'm Lance Armstrong when a 20mph wind is pushing me along!) But these fellas were riding enthusiastically, no matter which way the wind blew!


Training Wheels Off

August, 2010, is the last month my granddaughter, Mackenzie, needed training wheels.

As recently as a week ago, she was wobbly and tenuous as she rode in circles. But with practice it's taken hold, and now the only thing she needs a little help with is her start-from-stop. (I give her a gentle push, and she's off!)

We are fortunate to be very close to some public tennis courts. The asphalt in our driveway is fine, as are the neighborhood sidewalks. But the tennis courts are glass-smooth.

She still needs some practice before she's ready to take to the roads - you can't be weaving back and forth, trying to maintain balanace, when you're sharing the pavement with cars.

I have truly enjoyed sharing her enthusiasm as she's caught on.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Boris is back!

Musta been a substitute for the first couple days last week.

Boris was back at his post. (Actually he hadn't manned his post yet, but I saw his familiar car, and he was sitting in it. I look forward to exchanging "good mornings" with him over the course of another school year.)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Boris is gone!

For several years, during the school year I've enjoyed bicycling through a certain intersection and greeting "Boris."

Boris was the crossing guard. Although the intersection has traffic signals and crosswalks, he was there apparently to add visibility by wearing his hi-viz vest and carrying his stop sign as he accompanied kids across the busy streets.

I don't know where Boris was from, but he sounded like he had a "slavic" type accent, and English was obviously his second language - if he knew English at all. But he always had a cheerful smile, and countered my "Good morning!" with a "Goot morneenk!" back at me.

Often times, his wife (I assume) was sitting a few feet away in their car. And we'd exchange waves as Boris and I were exchanging our "good mornings."

Today is the first day of the '10-'11 school year... and there was a new crossing guard.

We exchanged "good mornings"... and I suspect we'll develop a casual friendship that never gets past the "good morning" stage. But that's all right.

I hope Boris is okay... I'll miss seeing him.

(Previous Boris commentary HERE.)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

"Car-Lite" Livin'

Practically speaking (from personal observation), it would be pretty hard for a family to get by without a family car, in a car-centric place like Boise, Idaho. There are destinations that the entire group travels to, across town or out of town. There are occasional heavy or bulky loads that have to be transported. Even the most charitable friend might grow tired of loaning you his pickup truck, if it happened every couple weeks or so.

For most of us, myself included, "car-free" isn't practical, but "car-lite" is something we can do.

Particularly in the summer, I go for weeks at a time without getting into a car, either as driver or passenger. But inevitably, I'll need to drive across town with the wife and kids (who are bike-averse). Or haul a load of Venturer Scouts to Donnelly. Or I'll have to get some bags of concrete mix or a stack of 2-by-4s at Lowes... and the car comes in handy. (Sometimes I amaze myself at the loads I can transport on my BOB trailer. I've carried everything from tomato plants, to bakery-outlet bread, to 2-liter soda bottles and ice cream, to shovels and rakes, to 8-foot sections of crown molding. But now and then, it just ain't gonna happen.)

A student, on the other hand, might have an easier time. Biggest load - might be all those books. The most distant destination might be the convenience store (with fake ID in hand). And - it's a significant hassle and expense to operate AND PARK an automobile on campus.

Boise State University just made it easier for students to go "car-lite." Starting this fall, students (over 18 with good driving records) can join ZIPCAR. Zipcar is a cooperative of folks who join up and have a fleet of cars available for rent, either by the hour ($8) or the day ($66). Gas and insurance and 180 free miles are included. (I'm assuming that's for the day - that would be some serious driving - even by a student - to rack up 180 miles in an hour!)

According to Wikipedia, Zipcar is "a for-profit, membership-based carsharing company providing automobile rental to its members, billable by the hour or day. ... [It is] the world's largest car-sharing service, sharing 6,000 vehicles among 275,000 drivers in 49 U.S. cities, Vancouver, Toronto, and London..."

Interesting concept. I hope it works out for Bronco Nation. (For non-students, on the website Boise is listed as a "Zipcar city," but it says "There aren't any Zipcars at Boise... Check back soon.")

Monday, August 16, 2010

Tour de Fat 2010

If you can schedule it, I'd strongly recommend you make time for the Tour de Fat. The parade is at 10am, at Ann Morrison Park. Other festivities follow.

The Tour is sponsored by New Belgium Brewing Company, of which transportation cycling is a big part of their culture. (Oh - and they make Fat Tire Amber Ale, too, for the imbibers.)

Here's the "First Commandment": Put no means of transport before thy bike: Come by bike because not only are bikes fun, but they help stave off some of our most wicked ills: Traffic, laziness, and pollution. Tour de Fat has a solution: ride this day, every day, and definitely when Tour de Fat heads your way.

Boise is fortunate - one of 13 tour stops, most of which are in much bigger cities like Chicago, Minneapolis, Denver and San Francisco. Which speaks highly of our "bike community" in Boise.

I took my granddaughter last year, not knowing for sure what to expect. (And realizing that as a teetotaler, it might be of limited interest to both of us... we weren't expecting to stay long.)

As it turned out, the spectacle was well worth the effort of getting there. Wow! What an assortment of both humanity and "bicycles." (I use the term bicycles very loosely - they ranged from store-bought bikes to elaborately decorated store-bought bikes, to wildly imaginitive "Dr. Seuss Meets Rube Goldberg" contraptions.) The crowd was festive but not raucous - I never felt my granddaughter was in danger of being bruised, either physically OR emotionally. I'd rate it PG. May not be for extremely "sensitive" viewers, or the very easily offended... but for most of us, it's fine.

Comments from last year can be read HERE.

A nice YouTube video that captures the essence of the 2009 celebration can be seen HERE.

(It's very likely I'll be out of town on Saturday. But if I'm in town, I'm at Tour de Fat, at least for the parade!)

Intersection Encounter

Last week I was bicycling on a one-way arterial-type street (16th southbound, near "the connector"). I was in the bike lane on the right side of the pavement.

As I approached an intersection, a car that had been stopped (at a stop sign) began pulling out from the left side, on an apparent collision course with me. Assuming that the driver hadn't seen me (it happens!), I used my horn substitute - I shouted "HEY!!" - and covered the brake levers, ready for evasive maneuvering.

The driver slowed down about halfway across the intersection, allowing me on through. It was a woman - and her face was contorted in an expression of barely-suppressed rage. (Think "Cruella DeVille.") Her mouth was moving 100-miles-a-minute... thank goodness I'm not a lip reader!

I don't know if Cruella was angry because of my mere presence on the road, or because I hollered, or because I was holding her up and wasting her valuable time. (Or maybe she was mad about something totally unrelated to the intersection situation... who knows?) But she and all motorists have to understand something.

If I don't know whether you intend to proceed into my path, or slow down and allow me on by, or what... I have to anticipate the worst. It's not a matter of courtesy as much as a matter of survival. I'm confident if Cruella had pulled out as another car was approaching the intersection, she would've got at least honked at!

When you start rolling out into the intersection, you waste everybody's time, besides being the cause of unneccessary anxiety on everybody's part. Be a good roadway citizen and just wait patiently until it's your turn to proceed. Thanks!

Thursday, August 12, 2010


Are you superstitious?

Yesterday I gloated about the 3000-plus flat-free miles I had enjoyed with my Vittoria tire.

Today - at about 3017 miles - flat tire! D'oh!

UPDATE - "Later That Evening"...

My assessment that my tire was good for another 500 or 1000 miles was way off. Upon closer inspection... the red "Double Shielding" layer was showing through in several places. Time to swap out the tire. I replaced the 700x28 size with a 700x32... the odometer starts clicking tomorrow, on the new one.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

My New Favorite Tire

I can report that I'm really happy with a tire-ownership experience!

As of today, my rear Vittoria Randonneur tire has 3000 miles on it... and it still looks like it's good for another 500 or maybe even 1000 miles.

Over the years, I'd say I've averaged probably 1700 or so miles out of the admittedly "entry level" tires I've used. If I've gotten 2000 miles out of a $15 tire, I've felt pretty good about it. A few years back, I tried some Specialized "Armadillo" tires, after the guy at George's Cycles told me I could expect a "full riding season" out of them. I can't remember how many miles I accumulated, but it definitely wasn't a full season, and I'm almost positive it wasn't 3000 miles.

(I replace rear tires much more frequently than front tires... which I've often used for a full riding season. Must be those smoky burnouts I do, to impress the kids! Hahaha)

Also of considerable note... the Vittoria tires have "Double Shielding puncure protection"... and I haven't had one single flat tire in those 3000+ miles! Incredible! (Even with the Armadillos, and with the Continental "Top Touring" tires which were a past favorite, I'd get the occasional sidewall goathead. It may just be good luck... but whatever it is, I'll take it!)

Some of my BN correspondents swear by Schwalbe Marathon tires. I've heard nothing but good about them. And - they have the additional reflective-sidewall feature which is pretty awesome for night riders. But the Schwalbes are $45 or so per skin... the Vittorias go for $32 or so retail, and I paid about $22 for them, after discount, from a popular online retailer. (Begins with "N.")

I'm happy that I have 3 more Vittorias on the tire-hook in my basement. I may not have to buy another tire for a couple years!

(By contrast, I ironically ordered some "Michelin Select" el-cheapo tires at the same time. After barely getting 1000 miles out of 2 of them on the front before they deformed, I sent all three back for a refund. You win some, and you lose some...)

Friday, August 6, 2010

Joy Riding

I confess that I feel some disdain towards "toy bike riders." That's what I call the folks who love their involvement in mountain biking or road biking as a purely recreation or competition pursuit, but would never consider transportation cycling. Previous commentary HERE.

Despite my "holier than thou" unrighteous pride, riding for the sheer joy of riding is a pretty nice pursuit.

I was fortunate this week to ride some new territory.

I'm an advisor for a group of Varsity/Venturer BSA youth (ages 14-17), and we did our annual "High Adventure" in the Cascade / Donnelly / McCall area.

On Day 1 we rode to Lower Boulder Lake, a few miles east of McCall. It was a pretty good poke for us amateurs; probably 3.5 miles of steady, unrelenting uphill to get there, followed by the steady downhill on the way back. It tested both our stamina and skill.



The next day, my colleagues (who don't ride much in "real life") had had enough, but I needed more riding. So... I reconnoitered the area around our base camp near Donnelly, at the north end of Cascade Lake. It was sweeeeet!





Sunday, August 1, 2010

Mid-summer status report

I feel somewhat bad for not posting many comments over the past month or so. Just not much new to comment on, I s'pose.

A couple nights ago, the Statesman is reporting, a cyclist was killed in a late-night bike-car accident that mostly likely was caused by his low visibility.

How tragic! Also tragic on a lesser scale is the level of some of the commentary... one more chance for frustrated motorists to spout off anecdotes about rude/arrogant/stupid cyclists. Golly! Thank goodness that rude/arrogant/stupid MOTORISTS aren't a problem on our roads, huh? (The difference is... dumb cyclists are only killing themselves. Dumb motorists kill themselves and other people!)

It's good to take a moment to realize how INVISIBLE we can be out there, particularly at night! I'm totally convinced that nobody will deliberately hit a cyclist, but if they don't see you... all bets are off!

July was my third consecutive 30+ day, 600+ mile month. Feeling pretty good about that.

When I got on the scale on July 30, I was at 234 pounds. Yeah, that's a lot of weight for a bicycle to carry... but that's probably the lightest I've been in 25+ years. (I weighed 230 when I got married, 30 years ago. As recently as 2 1/2 years ago, I was over 270, even as a regular cyclist. No wonder I was bustin' wheels!) I've cut back slightly on the food intake... summer's here so I'm riding a lot. When I feel like a snack, I grab an apple or peach SOMETIMES, instead of M&Ms. Nothing more drastic than that.

(I'm NOT sick... my weight hasn't varied more than 10 or 12 pounds for over a year. It's just that it's currently at the low end of that variation. Of course, I'd have to lose another 20 pounds or so, to not be on the "overweight" part of the chart. I don't worry much about it, as long as I feel okay and my pants still fit.)

Mackie and I are putting a lot of miles on the Tag-A-Long. The other night we were riding home from the swimming pool, and she was falling asleep back there! Nodding off! (Scary!) I tried to scale up the conversation, and keep her observing things... and we made it home safely.

If things work out, in the next few days I'll do my first "mountain biking" in a LONG time. The BSA Varsity/Venturer young men I work with are planning some "high adventure" up around Cascade that will include an afternoon of all-terrain riding. Yesterday I dusted the cobwebs off my old Peugeot Canyon Express, did a thorough cleaning of the drivetrain, new chain, new derailleur cables... and adjusted the brakes. I'm taking some satisfaction in knowing that bike is 8 or 9 years older than the other riders I'll be with next week!

I hope y'all are getting in some QUALITY miles!