Sunday, October 31, 2010

Autumn Splendor

Miss Mackie and I accumulated 16 easy and beautiful miles together on Saturday.

Nothin' fancy... just a ride along the Greenbelt. We crossed paths with a few other souls; I'm always amazed (and somewhat gratified) that the paths aren't jam-packed this time of year.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Caloric Conspiracy!

This is the time of year that must challenge even Jared the Subway guy. (If you've got that blast-furnace metabolism, and have to eat constantly to just maintain your weight, you might not be so sympathetic.)


1) The weather is turning for the worse and the days are much shorter, making long and fast bicycle rides more of a challenge.

2) Starting with Halloween and going through Christmas, food seems particularly abundant. And I'm not talking rice cakes and celery. (Unless it's celery filled with cheese or peanut butter.) People get together and EAT!

3) I'm a little skeptical of that whole Darwin thing... that my great-great-great-great grandpa was an orangutan... and that his great-great... grandpa was primordial slime. But there is SOMETHING from our caveman past - some primal instinct - that makes us want to pack on some extra calories as the weather gets colder and lean times loom ahead. (I'm just speaking for myself. My observation is totally subjective, but I'm much hungrier in late October than I am in late July.)

A major fringe benefit of accumulating a significant number of bicycle miles is... you can pretty much eat whatever you feel like eating, without worrying about the weight repercussions. But at least for me, starting around October I need to at least exercise some "awareness," and pass up some of the delicious stuff that's spread out in front of me.

Maybe I'm particularly sensitive today... because last night I took the missus to Tucano's Brazilian churrasco. Oh dang, was that ever decadent!

We should change Halloween to July 31, and Thanksgiving to the third Thursday in August.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Driving with reckless abandon!

Yesterday in Magna, Utah (in suburbia out of Salt Lake City), a high school girl was celebrating her 17th birthday.

Apparently her friends painted polka-dots on the windshield of her pickup truck, and stuffed it with balloons as it sat in the high school parking lot.

Over the noon hour, she and a male friend were driving when she inexplicably swerved into the oncoming lane.

Tragically, electrical engineer / avid cyclist Karen Johnson was cycling with a friend in that oncoming lane. Seeing a pickup headed directly toward them, her friend swerved right off the road; Karen swerved left in an evasive maneuver. At the last second, Birthday Girl swerved right to get back into her lane and smacked Karen; she was dead before she got to the hospital.

It was unclear whether distractions, or limited visibility, played a role in the accident.

Deseret News story HERE.

What a tragedy!

The comments following the story are somewhat disturbing to me.

Sarah B says, "How tragic. This young lady's birthday will foreveer be marred by this."

Awwwww! That's so sad! Her birthday was spoiled!

How will Karen Johnson's family be "celebrating" October 19, from this year forward?

(I s'pose that other distracted drivers identify more with a distracted driver, if they've not ridden a bicycle recently.)

Many fingers of blame are pointed at the pranksters who painted the windshield.


It was Birthday Girl who assessed the situation and got behind the wheel, making the choice to pilot that 4000-pound lethal missile.

Several people call for more restrictions on teenage drivers.

I would agree, if I didn't see drivers of all ages making some really stupid and dangerous choices while driving. Teenagers may be less experienced and therefore less predictable in their reaction... but poor judgment comes in all ages.

"utopia381" (nice!) chastises commenters who were apparently a little too tough on Birthday Girl: "Such harsh words for people who have no idea what they are talking about. As tragic as the circumstances are we still don't know the whole story."

What details will make the story less tragic, oh wise one?

PEOPLE! YOU PEOPLE WHO DRIVE CARS! You have voluntarily undertaken some serious responsibility! It is YOUR responsibility - not anybody else's - to make sure that vehicle you are driving is operated in a safe manner! You could kill somebody with your car! If you are doing something stupid and kill yourself, that would be a tragedy, but those you leave behind could rationalize, "It's tragic, but I s'pose he had it coming." You do NOT have the right to be doing something stupid and kill somebody else!!! PLEASE get serious about your driving! If you can't do that, just hang up the keys for the rest of us.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Buffalo Bills Bike Commuter

Here's an interesting STORY about Buffalo Bills safety Bryan Scott - the only member of the team who bike-commutes to work.

He's only been at it since June... but it sounds like he's seen the light.

"It's amazing, how you view the world differently. Places that you've driven before, you pass everything so quickly. Then, all of a sudden when you start bike riding, you notice little things just around your neighborhood. It's pretty cool."

His commute is five miles round-trip, but he figures he's riding 100-150 miles per week. He's got the high-end gear - a 17-pound, $7500 road bike. (So he may not have realized significant savings yet, in his transportation budget.) And he keeps the Escalade handy for those famous Buffalo winters.

(Story and photo from the Washington Post website.)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Stayin' alive for 82 years

There's a curious letter to the Idaho Statesman editor today, from Rodney Burwell of Boise. Here it is, in its entirety:

The reason I am still riding my bicycle after 82 years is that I follow one rule. I never do anything on my bicycle that would cause a motorist to take his foot off the gas pedal.

First of all, good on Rodney! You don't see many 82-year-olds straddling a bike, but I hope to fit that stereotype someday.

However... if Rodney has never caused a motorist to alter his velocity, he must either not ride very much, or he must have the flexibility to keep himself apart from motor traffic.

A transportation cyclist will not always have a dedicated bike facility. The matter of fact is, most of us are trying to share the infrastructure graciously and efficiently. I try to be where I should be, but from time to time, a motorist is going to have to cut me a little slack. I'm good with that, and the vast majority of motorists seem comfortable with the notion.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Stories of people who have seen the light

Boise is fortunate to be one of the host cities for the annual "Tour de Fat."

(If you're not aware, the Tour is a bicycle oriented weekend event sponsored by New Belgium Brewing Company, the "Fat Tire" brew people.)

One of the events is having one participant surrender his or her motor vehicle, in exchange for a sweet new bike and a pledge to adopt a cycling lifestyle for at least a year.

HERE is a good follow-up story about two people who made that commitment - Lisa Brady just a couple months ago, and Brook Slee in 2009.

How are they doing?

In a nutshell... GREAT! They have definitely dealt with some major adjustments, but both are absolutely satisfied with the change.

Lisa: "I accept that my hair doesn’t look perfect or I won’t get to work exactly on time every time ... [Biking] is just fun."

Brook: "It’s been a good thing for me and our family. We really have to plan better on how to use our time."

Both are in a situation similar to my own... they have a spouse with a car, who can provide the occasional lift of people and/or cargo. "Car lite" is more practical for most people than "car free," at least in the wide-open wild west.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Thoughts about maintenance

One of the undeniable advantages of transportation cycling is the relative economy of maintenance.

Parts are simple and relatively inexpensive. Problems are usually pretty easy to diagnose, and with a minimum of training and tools, the shade-tree bike mechanic can do most of his own wrenching. (About the only component I haven't replaced yet is a headset. And I've disassembled and cleaned and lubed a headset.)

I must confess... in the past, I've generally taken that "maintenance economy" to the extreme. Rather than practicing some "preventive maintenance," in many cases I've just gone 'til something broke, then replaced it.

With my "new" (as of last November) bicycle, I've tried to be more proactive. Once a month, I've given the drivetrain a pretty thorough scrubbing, using degreaser and a brush to knock the gunk back. (Figure it costs maybe 2 bucks and 20 minutes per session... it's not like my maintenance expenses have risen dramatically.) And I've also tried to replace or adjust stuff when symptoms first started displaying, rather than waiting 'til I was grounded until I took action.

And it has paid off. My riding experience has been more pleasant and more stress-free.

And in the long run, my new proactive approach may be more economical.

The new bike has "10 speed" drivetrain componentry.

Don't say, "Big deal! My Schwinn Varsity was a ten speed!"

The "new" ten speed is ten on the back, and two or three on the front! (I've got 30 flippin' gear ratios! Frankly, I'd be delighted with half that many, if they covered the same range.)

The ten speed cassettes and chains are correspondingly more pricey than the nine speed, and eight speed, and seven speed...

I'm still on my original cassette and chain, and I expect they'll last for at least a year. I hope they last 'til next spring; I'd hate to change out that stuff going into the bad-weather months.

I'm spoiled! If I spend $100 or $150 a year on bicycle maintenance, it makes me start sweatin'. But compare that with the cost of maintaining an automobile, to keep it providing reliable transportation. Ouch! (The wife's minivan needs a new catalytic converter - $825.10!)