Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Another black eye for cyclists

Kyle Eidson has a letter in today's Idaho Statesman that's typical of many letters written by frustrated motorists, as they observe bicyclists who seem to not be obeying the law.

He says:

Memo to bicyclists, traffic laws pertain to you, too.

My heart goes out to the family that lost their family member. However, the majority of bicyclists that think traffic laws don't apply - think again. We're North Enders, and it's common that bicyclists don't signal, pull out in front of traffic, ride through the crosswalk.

Also, stop signs/lights do apply to you. Scenario, car stops, car goes, bicyclist passes by at 20 mph in front of you then turns around and gives a death glare like "how dare you, didn't you see me?" No we didn't, because you didn't stop. The same can be said at Downtown signals at any various State and (fill-in-the blank) streets.

One last request from Mr. Disrespectful Car Driver Guy, get out of the middle of the road. There are no bike lanes in the North End housing community, and there are a lot of cars parked on the street, understood. This doesn't give you the right to ride down the middle of the street. We would go around you, but you take your half out of the middle.

(He refers to the recent fatal accident where a cyclist was standing still in a bike lane, waiting for a green light, when she was plowed into by an H3 Hummer from behind. The driver of the Hummer has been charged with vehicular manslaughter.)

While I can't envision the scenario he paints, I appreciate his frustration with cyclists who think laws (of the land, and of physics) somehow don't apply to them. In fact, I bet I resent such cyclists more than he does, because they cause motorists to harbor a general feeling of resentment toward all cyclists. (The same way a few rednecks in pickups make me believe that all pickup drivers are idiots, even though a few smart guys drive pickups.)

I hope Mr. Eidson (and all Idaho motorists) understand that by law, cyclists are not required to stop at a stop sign. Although they are required to yield. That seems to be a matter of great confusion and misunderstanding. (Cyclists also have different rules at a red light. They must come to a full stop, but then they can proceed cautiously, once it is safe.)

Also, he should be careful when criticizing a cyclist for riding too far out in the traffic lane. Especially if that cyclist is trying to negotiate narrow residential streets with "a lot of cars parked."

I know people who have spent days in the hospital after being "doored" by somebody getting out of a parked car. I keep a respectful distance from parked cars for that very reason, and because a car could suddenly pull out of a parking space into my path. And the law is on my side. I, as a cyclist, have a legal right to the entire lane width if I need it for safe passage.

The law: "Every person operating a bicycle upon a two-way roadway shall be entitled to use the right-hand lane and shall proceed in the same direction of travel as other vehicles in that lane." It goes on to say that the cyclist should ride as far to the right "as is safe under the conditions then existing," but I reserve the right to make that judgment, since it's my safety or lack thereof. (Boise City Code 10-14-06; I'm pretty sure the law in all 50 states will be similar.)

When Mr. Eidson and other motorists see law-breaking cyclists, I sincerely wish they would call the police and complain. Only when there is a public outcry, will bicycle traffic laws be enforced. As I observed just a few days ago (here), the riding-against-traffic law has been enforced five times in five years!! Yet I see that law being broken every flippin' day! Like 'most everybody else, cops tend to think of bicycles as toys, not transportation, and cyclists do not get the attention (both positive and negative) that they so richly deserve.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

There oughtta be a law!

Actually, there is a law. (But there might as well not be.)

Here's how it reads:

A. No person shall operate a bicycle on a roadway against the flow of motorized traffic, except where permitted by official signs or pavement markings.
B. Every person operating a bicycle upon a two-way roadway shall be entitled to use the right-hand lane and shall proceed in the same direction of travel as other vehicles in that lane. On one-way roadways a bicycle may be operated in any existing lane.
C. The operator of a bicycle traveling at a rate of speed which delays a vehicle or vehicles following in the same lane shall be required, when it is unlawful or unsafe for the following vehicle to pass, to move as far to the right of the traveled roadway, or to the left where the bicycle is in the left lane of a one-way roadway, as is safe under the conditions then existing; provided, however, that when the bicyclist is within fifty feet (50') of an intersection, he shall not be required to move to the right or left until he has moved through the intersection.

(From the Boise City Code, Section 10-14-06. "It's in the book!" I'm sure most jurisdictions have a very similar law.)

One of my ongoing pet peeves is that bicycle laws are not enforced. In fact, they are routinely ignored by many totally-irresponsible cyclists, and by many totally-irresponsible law enforcement officers, unless an accident is involved.

(Now... you read some laws, and you wonder what the lawmakers were thinking. But Section 10-14-06 makes perfect sense - it is a VERY well-crafted law!)

I've even called and complained about against-traffic cyclists (because they routinely place me in very hazardous situations!) - I've been told, very matter-of-factly, "That isn't a priority violation for us."

Well, folks... I decided to do some research.

I submitted an official request... asking the folks at the Boise Police Department to tell me how many times "Section 10-14-06" has been enforced over the last five years.

I got the response in the mail yesterday.

Five tickets (!!) have been issued in the City of Boise since November 2002. Three in 2003, one in 2005, and one in 2006. (And just one of 'em was for the "riding against traffic" part.)

That does a lot to explain why I see so many doofuses on bikes, riding against traffic. The Police Department should be ashamed of their totally lax enforcement. I'm betting if the police chief rode a bike for transportation, against-traffic bike riding would get higher-priority attention.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Winter Bicycling Challenges: Slippery

Winter Bicycling Challenges: Cold
Winter Bicycling Challenges: Dark

Some laws can be changed.

Others can't. Like gravity. And inertia. And the one that says when it drops to 32 degrees (F; 0 degrees C), water turns to ice. All of those laws must be reckoned with, when the weather turns cold and wet.

It's somewhat of a tradition in these parts. On the first day of the "slippery season" - when below-freezing temperatures combine with moisture to put that shiny, slippery sheen on the roads - the TV people find a state cop to interview, out on I-84. He'll stand in the blowing snow and warn people about fast driving... while standing in front of a shiny but upside-down squashed Hummer or Suburban.

Some motorists - usually in their big ol' SUVs and 4x4 pick 'em up trucks - are under the delusion that if they have snow tires, they can safely navigate on slippery roads, in heavy traffic, at the posted speed limit (or higher).

The biggest true danger us cyclists face on slippery days is... clueless motorists. (I s'pose clueless motorists are the biggest danger, every day of the year, no matter the weather.) In other words... I can survive a bike crash. In fact, if I crash my bike, there's a very good chance I can get up, dust myself off, and ride on to my destination. But if some out-of-control clown in a 2-ton steel missile rolls over me, it could really spoil my day!

How to cope?

[FIRST - be aware of your risk-tolerance level. No matter what you do, and what measures you take, there is always the chance that things can go badly. (Observe that poor lady who was stopped in the bike lane a few weeks back, and never knew what hit her. It was a Hummer H3.) If the potential reward isn't worth the risk, hang it up for the day. ]

When it's slippery for me, it's slippery for everybody else. If I'm riding down a straight thoroughfare, free of intersections, I figure cars will also be traveling straight, and will be less likely to go sliding out-of-control. As I approach intersections, I watch for ANY approaching traffic from ANY direction... intersections are where things happen on slippery days.

Snowy days are the one time I ride as far to the right on the pavement as I can (rather than hugging up close to the traffic lane). I go much more slowly than when the road is dry, with right-hand poised over the (rear) brake lever. (If you lock up the rear wheel by braking too hard, you might be able to correct the problem. If you lock up your front wheel, it's usually all over.) I'm not hesitant to get on the sidewalk on a slippery, snowy day, if one is available. (If a vehicle slides out-of-control, I'd rather he bounce off the curb, than off of me!) If you're lucky enough to have a dedicated bike-pedestrian path, a slippery day is a great day to put it to use.

Of course, there are other hazards besides motor vehicles. (Although none as potentially life-threatening.) If the snow doesn't melt on the first day - and it usually does in these parts - often there's "frozen slush" to deal with the next day. That can be some nasty stuff, causing you to involuntarily and suddenly change course, bounce off your saddle, etc. Depending on how deep the snow is, other hazards - even curbs, etc. - can be hidden under the white blanket. And, of course there is ICE.

Ice must be anticipated. If the temperature is 35 or lower, expect ice. The roadway can be slippery with "black ice," even if it isn't easily visible. I usually take a few steps down my driveway on an "iffy" day, just to determine the slippery-factor, before pedaling away.

The best strategy for staying upright on ice is... absolutely no sudden moves. Slow and steady is the way to arrive at your destination. If you find yourself unexpectedly on ice... go straight if at all possible, and "ride it out."

How about hardware?

The main limitation is traction. If Hummers, with their four 20-inch-high, 12-inch-wide tires are skidding out-of-control, consider those thumbprint-size contact patches that you, as a cyclist, are dealing with! And deal with it!

I'm fortunate to have a "touring" bicycle. And around this time of year I remove the skinny, smooth-tread tires and put on some slightly wider, treaded, comfort/touring/cyclocross -type tires.

When it gets really bad, I give the touring bike the day off, and hop on my old beater "mountain" bike, with its 2 1/4 -inch, aggressively-treaded tires. You can let some air out of the tires for a larger contact patch. If you're really serious, you can even get studded snow tires (in mountain bike sizes). That would probably make a difference on ice... but I'd still ride gingerly.

One note about new-fallen snow... it is a truly pleasurable experience to be the first one to make tracks in newly fallen snow. For you skiers, it's akin to being the first one down the mountain in the powder! Obviously you go more slowly than on a dry surface, and there's some effort in pushing the snow out of the way. But it's so quiet and serene... like riding on the clouds. It is SO worth it! (Just don't fail to recognize the potential hazards.)

"Slippery" can be dealt with on a bike. In fact, up in the north country, they even have ice-bike races! (In between seal hunts and igloo-building contests, I s'pose.)

A friend of mine described a harrowing winter near-disaster. Indiana Jones stuff. He was riding in downtown Boise, on either Bannock or Idaho near the Capitol building. He hit a patch of ice and went down... with a car coming up behind him. Thinking quickly (and with the adrenaline pumping, I'm sure), he stiffened out his arms and pushed against the front bumper of the car with everything he had. The car pushed him - and his bike - 20 or 30 feet down the road before it was able to come to a complete stop. I do not need that kind of excitement!


Monday, November 19, 2007

Lacy Little Nothing

This might be just the ticket for a bike-riding Victoria's Secret supermodel. The Arantix mountain bike; built in Payson, Utah. (A few miles south of Provo.)

If you've got $12K burning a hole in your britches, it can be yours!

The frame is obviously the unique feature; it's built of "lattice tubes" using what the builders call an IsoTruss design, of carbon fiber and Kevlar. (Click the photo for a larger size; a couple additional photos are available at the linked article, below.)

It's beautiful, but I'm not convinced it's very practical.
- How do you keep water from collecting in the ends of the tubes? (Not that the tubes would rust, but water would add unwanted weight, and would also potentially rust components - like bottom brackets and such.)
- Is it aerodynamic? The article claims the lattice "reduces drag and cross wind resistance." I'm not convinced. (The article also claims that the fully-assembled bike weighs 2.7 pounds and I know that's not true. The fork alone weighs more than 2.7 pounds!)

Currently it's built by hand; the geeks who build 'em (at Advanced Composite Solutions) hope to automate the process for cost savings within a couple years.

More info can be found by clicking here (Deseret News article).

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Morning Breaks

It was a sweet ride in this morning. The forecast was/is for scattered showers, and the pavement was wet. But no rain. Off to my right was a beautiful sunrise; off to my left was a Judy Garland -quality rainbow.

Here's the sunrise from the Americana Bridge, over the Boise River.

Dawn Fishermen - Americana

Click on the photo for a larger view. (In the larger size, a half-dozen or so fishermen are clearly visible. The Fish and Game dumped a big load of big steelhead into the river a couple days ago, and the fishermen and wannabe-fishermen are out in droves.)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

"Roadways to Bikeways"

The ACHD had another public forum on their Roadways to Bikeways project yesterday (Nov. 14).

ACHD - is Ada County Highway District. It is the public agency in charge of building and maintaining most of the roads and other public thoroughfares in Idaho's most populous county.
Roadways to Bikeways - is a project aimed at making our community more bike-friendly. It seems to mostly be focused on the infrastructure, and specifically adding more connections between multi-use roadways and the limited network of dedicated bike/pedestrian facilities.

I didn't attend "Open House #2" (yesterday's meeting), but links to the information that was presented can be found here. (Click on any of the "Open House #2" documents.)

I attended "Open House #1" a couple months back, carefully reviewed the presentations, filled out the questionnaires, etc.

While I think it's laudable that ACHD is sincerely trying to improve connectivity to the dedicated bikeways, and I support their efforts (and I use those bikeways whenever it's practical), the reality is...

According to their website, ACHD is responsible for some 1800 miles of roads and streets in the county, and 120 miles of "bike lanes, recreational pathways and wide road lanes for motor vehicle and bicycle use." Transportation cyclists have destinations that don't happen to lie along those 120 miles of bike-oriented corridors. ACHD's focus and goal must be on making all 1800 miles of roads as bike-friendly as they can possibly be.

While it's impractial to envision all 1800 miles of roads with bike lanes (contrary to what some so-called "bike advocates" advocate), I believe these actions would be a good start:

- Making intersections bike-friendly. Many of our intersections are controlled by what's called a "ground induction loop" - a low-tech metal detector. When a big chunk of metal hovers above the loop, it asks for a green light. But bicycles frequently don't get noticed by the loop. ACHD makes an effort to mark intersections when people call and complain (with a yellow paint-stripe directly above the loop). But ALL of those intersections should be inventoried and regularly marked, just as a matter of procedure.

- Educating both motorists and potential cyclists that BIKES BELONG! Not only on the 120 miles of dedicated pathways and lanes, but on all 1800 miles of roads in the county.

- Combining the education with an enforcement effort. Bike traffic laws need to be vigorously enforced before bikes will ever be perceived as a legitimate form of transportation. (Currently, most bike-infractions are ignored, unless an accident is involved. And there is a lot of pent-up resentment among motorists, when they deal with cyclists running red lights, riding against traffic, weaving from lane to lane, etc.) And motorists who act aggressively toward cyclists, are unwilling to yield lawful right-of-way, etc., also need to be educated through enforcement. (Rednecks in pickup trucks and Rice-burner punks don't give me much respect when I try to explain... but they might listen to the Man in Blue.)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Autumn in Boise

I'd invite you to check out my current "Boise Bikescapes" photo collection; I've recently added some nice autumn pics. Click here to link.

3-Ann Morrison overlook 2

3-bike and red tree

God is the ultimate artist; I'm just happy to be there to enjoy some of His work.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Winter Bicycling Challenges: Dark

Related: Winter Bicycling Challenges: Cold
Coming soon: Winter Bicycling Challenges: Slippery

(This is a LONG one... but hopefully worth reading.)

Appropriately, we just switched from Daylight Saving Time back to Standard Time.

(It's obvious that our friends in Congress are not tech-savvy, or they'd realize that their arbitrary change of the DST rules has a profound impact on computers, VCRs, TV sets - pretty much anything that has a built-in electronic clock. But that's a different topic.)

Which means it's dark at go-home time, rather than at leave-home time. For a month or so - at which point it will be dark at both times, for 3 months or so.

And I'll get "SAD." You know - that "Seasonal Affective Disorder" stuff.

Isn't it amazing that the illness-abbreviation would spell out "SAD"? Because when you think about it, it makes you feel kinda sad. I'm glad it's "Seasonal," and not "Midwinter Affective Disorder." Or worse yet, "Brightness Affective Disorder."

Oh - I'm digressing again. Sorry.


It poses particular challenges to cyclists. To see... and to be seen.

Every so often, you hear about a night-time accident involving a motor vehicle and a bicyclist - the cyclist ends up mashed, squirrel-like, on the road. More often than not, the bicycle has no reflectors (or mud-covered reflectors), no lights, and the rider is dressed in dark clothes. And
frequently riding in the wrong direction. It's hard to fault the car driver in such situations. (Maybe Darwin was right, huh? About that "natural selection" thing.)

Here's what is required in this jurisdiction (Boise City - Code Section 10-14-03):

When in use at nighttime, a red reflector on the rear visible from a distance of three hundred feet (300') when directly in front of lawful upper beams of a motor vehicle, and a forward-facing white light attached either to the bicycle or the bicyclist which is visible from a distance of at least five hundred feet (500') in front of the bicycle. A bicycle shall be equipped with a front-facing white or yellow reflector when the bicyclist uses a generator powered light which is unlit when the bicycle is stopped.

I imagine most places have similar rules. If they don't they should.

Let's start with that headlight (or "forward facing white light").

Headlights can be anything from a tiny LED "micro light" clamped on your handlebars or even handheld in a pinch, to a $500 HID light with an external battery pack.

The smallest lights are likely visible from 500 feet - if the other guy is paying attention. On the upside - they are better than nothing, if you get stuck out after dark. (And I'm sure most of us dedicated cyclists have had a change in plans, and found ourselves in the dark unexpectedly.) On the downside - they provide little, if any, assistance in lighting your way. Something as insignificant as a pothole, or even a manhole cover, could cause you a major problem if you don't see it.

At the other end - those HID lights are so bright they'll peel paint at 100 yards! Well, not really, but they will have other roadway users flashing their brights in your direction, if you don't have them properly aimed. The downside? Who's got 500 bucks for a flippin' headlight?!!

There are a myriad of choices in between... from downright-bright LED lights powered by throwaway batteries, to rechargeable handlebar lights, to generator-powered lights, to helmet-lights, to multiple-beam high-powered incandescent lights with an external "bottle battery."

My practice (and advice) would be to ALWAYS carry an "emergency" headlight, that will at least alert other roadway users of your presence. (I carry a little "keychain light" in my flat-tire kit. I've also been known to carry a small 2-AA flashlight, when I've been pretty sure I'd end up after dark, but had not yet installed the "real" headlight.) During the "dark" season (typically mid-October to mid-March??) I install my "real" headlight. Currently, and for the past 6 or 7 years, it's a 10-watt incandescent handlebar-mounted light, with an external rechargeable battery. (For comparison purposes, a car's low beam is supposedly 55 watts... but those 10 watts are plenty bright for 20-mph travel.) It's supposed to be good for 2 hours or so of continuous lighting; when I'm just using it for the evening commute, a couple weeks can go by in between charges. (And it's just a matter of plugging it in overnight, to charge it back up. You know it's time when it starts losing some of its luster.)

(I've got friends who are seriously into the mountain biking. But they hate crowds, so during the summer months they use similar lights, and head for the hills just as the sun is going down. Their lights throw plenty of brightness to navigate the single-track... so you know they'll be quite adequate for rolling down the pavement.)

I'd say expect to spend $60-130 for such a setup (depending on features, and how bargain conscious you happen to be).

A note about generator lights. When I was a kid, I had one on my "lightweight English 3-speed" bike. I never cared for it. It was one of those that has a gnarly little wheel that rolls against the sidewall of the tire. I didn't like that it went off when I was stopped, and it whined, and it seemed to effect rolling resistance more than you'd think.

Nowadays, some commuter/touring -oriented bicycles have some kind of hub-mounted generator, and possibly even a battery or capacitor for energy storage, so the light doesn't go off when you stop. I have not had experience with such a setup. It looks rather complicated and expensive. If somebody reads this and has had experience, either good or bad, please post your thoughts.

Taillights. A reflector is all that's required, but I'd never venture out in the dark without a taillight.

There aren't quite as many varieties. Most are the blinky-LED types. And I believe they are quite effective... at least I know I can see a bicycle rider from blocks away, if he's got such a taillight, and the lens is clean, and the batteries are fresh. (I don't do a lot of night riding, but in blinky-mode, one set of AAA batteries lasts for a season.) I leave my taillight mounted on the bike all year 'round. It's tiny and lightweight, and better safe than sorry.

Such a taillight will cost $5-30, depending on how fancy-schmancy (and shopping the sales).

Beyond lighting, what can you do to improve safety while riding in the dark?

- Wear bright/light clothing. A white jacket can be seen WAY farther away at night, than a black one. Better yet - wear clothes with reflective material. That reflector stuff can be seen from blocks and blocks away, when headlights are aimed in your direction.
- Reflectors! You can get a sheet of peel-off sticky reflectors in various shapes and sizes for 4 bucks. Put 'em all the way around on your bike, helmet, etc.
- Multiple headlights and/or taillights, if you really want to get serious.

A few months back, I was driving the wife's minivan one night. I saw something coming up the road toward me. Frankly, it looked like those UFOs in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." I bet it was a mile away, when I first spotted it! As it got closer, I was able to identify it. It was a guy riding his bike (on the sidewalk!). He must've had 4 headlights, and twice as many blinkie-LED lights in both red and amber. His bike was totally covered by those little reflector-stickers... he had 'em twisted around all the tubes like a barber pole! He had some white saddlebags covered with reflectors and lights. He was wearing white clothes and a highway-worker reflective orange safety vest.

That might be overkill - but that guy taught me a lesson. You CAN be totally visible at night! (I bet that guy does not get smashed like a squirrel, even if he's riding up the road in the wrong direction or whatever!)

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Seattle - ponying up the $ for bikes

An article on today's Seattle Times web edition: Seattle's big bike plan gets a green light. (Link to article here.)

Seattle - already one of the bike-friendliest big cities you'll find anywhere - has approved (and funded!) a plan to "raise the popularity of bicycles."

They plan to spend $27 million (of a $365 million transportation levy) for bike facilities, including 118 miles of new bike lanes and 19 miles of trails.

There will obviously be naysayers. In fact, I found a link to the article on a website that was criticizing such wasteful spending. (The thinking man obviously knows that all $365 million should be spent on more pavement for single-occupant motor vehicles, right?)

Would $365 million build 137 miles of new roads? I'm guessing the answer is no.

It is estimated that 2.5% of Seattle residents use bicycles for transportation (up from 2% in 2000).

My favorite part of the plan: "... a $300,000 safety-education program will begin, combined with tighter enforcement on motorists and cyclists ... The outreach may include posters, classroom materials and neighborhood meetings. Direction signs will be installed along bike routes, pointing the way to neighborhood shopping districts, trails and parks."

I wish our local leaders (and law-enforcers) would realize the importance of bicycle education and enforcement... my consistent opinion is that we are much more lacking in that, than in bike-friendly infrastructure.

In my opinion, Seattle's elected officials are showing leadership, boldness and vision. Perhaps in 5 years, when gas is $5 or $6 a gallon, and the roads are more crowded than ever, and bike ridership has crept up to maybe 5%, it will seem like they made a good move to start their project with 2007 dollars.

There is absolutely NO reason why Boise shouldn't be better-known as a "bike city" than Seattle. We have the geography. We have the infrastructure, and far fewer obstacles that are already built in. We have a better climate! Do we have the will?

I'll support politicians who are outspoken in their bike-friendliness. I voted today - and my "I voted" sticker is now proudly displayed on my bike helmet. I ride and I vote!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Winter Bicycling Challenges: Cold

When the days get shorter and the temperatures drop, the year-round cyclist is presented with some unique and potentially deadly challenges. I'd classify them into three groups:
- the "cold" challenge
- the "dark" challenge
- the "slippery" challenge

(Here in Boise, we are typically blessed to have short winters, where the cold and slippery factors are relegated to just a few days each season. But on those days, they must be recognized, respected, and dealt with.)

"Cold" might be the easiest of the three to mitigate.

I jokingly tell people that when I'm bicycling in the cold, I "resist the urge to lay down under a tree and rest for awhile." To somebody who has survived an ordeal-by-cold, that wouldn't be so funny; one of the symptoms of true hypothermia is lethargy, and I'm sure many a victim has intended to "just get a little rest" and then move on.

In urban or suburban surroundings, however, where assistance is generally nearby, cold is rarely deadly.

There is fantastic "active wear" available these days - designed for vigorous activity in cold conditions. Unlike the old days when you had to bundle up in your Eddie Bauer goose-down Mount Everest parka. (When I was a kid, I used to devour my dad's Eddie Bauer catalogs... nowadays I don't know if they even sell an expedition parka or sleeping bag. I think they're all shopping-mall yuppie-wear nowadays. Pathetic!)

A key to staying warm (or at least "not cold") is staying dry.

I've got a sweet bright yellow Gore-Tex jacket. (And matching pants, when conditions warrant.) It keeps me dry even in a downpour. Anything that's waterproof is also, by nature, wind-resistant. The jacket, and a layer of insulating material (thermal, fleece, etc.) are all I need for temperatures down to the teens.

(If you're not familiar with Gore-Tex, which seems unlikely, it has the unique advantage of being completely waterproof, while allowing water vapor to escape. It keeps the rain and snow out... while letting the sweat evaporate. So the wearer doesn't get clammy.)

Of course, my fingers and toes and ears get uncomfortably cold first, if not protected. (Your experience may vary.)

I keep my ears warm with a stretch-poly balaclava "ski mask." It covers my entire head and neck, except for my face, and the fabric is thin enough to fit (snugly) under my helmet. It keeps my ears out of the wind, and snugged-up against my head. When it gets around zero degrees, I sometimes get an "ice cream headache" as my sinuses get chilled... but I'm typically trying to get indoors ASAP when it's that cold. (I save the long bike rides for warmer days.)

I've got some Neoprene shoe covers to keep my toes warm. (Neoprene is the rubbery stuff they make skin diver suits out of. It's stretchy and rubbery, even in very cold conditions, and completely waterproof.) At one time in the past, I had some Neoprene full shoe covers. They stretched over my shoes, up to above the ankles, with a zipper in the back. For me, they were too warm... my feet felt like they were roasting unless it was really REALLY cold out. The shoe covers work great for me - they stretch over the front of my shoes and are held on just with a snug fit. They keep my shoes dry, even when water is splashing up from the road. (They would not be suitable for riding all day in the wet, but they work fine for my commuting-type trips, where I'm only exposed for a half hour or less.)

There are a hundred different varieties of gloves, to keep those fingers toasty. I wear a cheap ($10-15) pair of cold-weather bicycling gloves with grippy palms. (Ski gloves or mittens would probably work fine, too.) If you want to get fancier, you can get gloves with Gore-tex membranes for waterproofness, upgraded insulation, reflective material, little squeegee-things to wipe your glasses, etc.

My legs are usually the last part of me that gets cold when bicycling. Maybe (likely) it's the fact that they are working, and thus circulating the blood. Or maybe it's just that there's a lot of meat on them bones. I actually wear shorts comfortably down to the mid-to-upper-40s. (After a long winter, a sunny, mid-40s day seems FANTASTIC in the early springtime!) When the temperature drops below my "shorts range," I'll switch over to the classic bicyclist tights. (Available in a vast array of quality and price ranges, from $15 to $150... I generally can be found at the "cheap" end.) And if it's wet, the Gore-Tex over the top and I'm ready for whatever.

I'd love to hear how you deal with winter cold... unless you deal with it by wintering in Costa Rica. (Jealousy is not a good thing!)

Coming soon:
- the "dark" challenge
- the "slippery" challenge

October Riding Report

In October, I rode the bicycle on 31 days, and accumulated 638 miles. (The best month of the year, mileage-wise.)

Which puts me at 5252 miles for 2007. 6000 miles for the year is a possibility. (If the weather remains moderate - and thanks to Global Warming, there's a pretty good chance of that, huh?)

The last few weeks have been glorious. I feel a twinge of pity for the "fair-weather" riders who hang up their bicycles after Labor Day (at the same time they put away their white clothes - hahaha). Some of the best riding in these parts can be encountered in October... and so far, November is "bonus"!!