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.



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.



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 $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.)





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.


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.


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

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

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