Thursday, July 21, 2016

Tag-along Bonnie

My granddaughter Bonnie turned 3 in February... and has outgrown the front-mounted baby seat that she's ridden in since early on.  So - we have graduated her to the Tag-A-Long bike.  (Or "choo choo bike" as she sometimes calls it.)

It was stored for a couple years where it was exposed to the weather, so I had a couple of rusted-up pedals to replace.  I lubed the chain, set the seat height as low as it will go, rotated the handlebars backward a bit... and we're good. Oh! I also added a handlebar basket, because she loves to collect stuff to bring home.

On our first ride, Bonnie was pretty excited.  "I can pedal!  I can pedal!"

The view probably isn't as good as it was before... but she can pedal.  (You know what they say about the sled-dog view: "Unless you're the lead dog, the view never changes."  I imagine her old grandpa partially blocks the forward view.)

We've probably ridden 30 or 40 miles using the Tag-A-Long at this point.  I'm still frequently admonishing her to "Hold on!" - much more important, now that she's no longer surrounded by bucket-seat and grandpa arms.  But so far she's done fine, including 20-mph rides down the hill.

The "I can pedal!" dynamic introduced a minor problem on our most recent ride.

Her bike has a freewheel - she contributes to forward motion when she pedals forward, but spins freely when she pedals backwards.  And she's discovered that pedaling backwards is less effort, so that's what she does most of the time.  So... we were riding along, me pedaling forward and her backwards, and I heard a "klunk" as something fell and hit the ground.  It was a pedal.  Her constant backwards-pedaling had gradually unscrewed it, and it fell off the crank.  (I obviously didn't tighten it up adequately when I installed it.)  I screwed it back in by hand, and finger-tightened it.  I tried to explain to her... "Pedal the other way, Bonnie!"  She tried to somehow cross up her feet, so her left foot turned the right pedal and vice versa.  (Dang!  I love young kids!  They are learning everything from scratch, and it's joyful to be part of that!)  I obviously didn't explain adequately... and before we got home, the pedal had hit the ground one more time... and was about halfway unscrewed a third time, when we rolled up the driveway.  I tightened it - hopefully it won't be a problem on future rides.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Stupid phones!

The motto of many, many "smart phone" owner/operators could be, "My phone is smart, so I don't have to be!"

30 years ago, mobile phones were a very rare novelty. The cell phones of the day were the size of a brick, were useful in very limited areas, and cost $2000. They did one thing rather poorly - make and receive telephone calls. And... most people did just fine without a mobile phone.

In 2016, it's rare to see anybody over 12 or so who doesn't have a "smart phone." And a meaningful percentage of those people seem to be totally focused on that tiny screen, all the live long day!

I challenge you to do your own informal inventory. Look at the people where you are... walking, standing, driving, bicycling, skateboarding, sitting... whatever. It's really quite startling how many will have one elbow cocked at 90 degrees to look at that phone... or in some cases, cradling it lovingly in two hands, like a precious infant or an adorable kitty. (As a mostly-outsider looking on, I can't help but wonder... WHAT could possibly be so interesting on that four-inch screen, that's far more enthralling than the real life all around them?!?)

Has the IQ of our society gone up, as "smart phones" have become ubiquitous? There's precious little evidence of that... and there are disturbing signs that the opposite might be true, in this observer's viewpoint.

FIRST: You don't need to know anything, if you can look everything up on your "smart phone."

SECOND: Observe some of the stuff that "smart phone" operators do, on account of their staring at their phones! They walk into manholes and fountains, and step off curbs. Worse... they get behind the wheel of their car, and maim/kill themselves and innocent bystanders. 30 years ago, I'm confident that collisions involving distracted driving were less common than they are today. (There have always been distractions... but the "smart phone" has taken distracted driving to a whole new disturbing level, and apparently our society deems the collateral damage acceptable.)

A couple weekends ago, I was bicycling through a nearby city park. It seemed there were considerably more smart-phone zombies than usual, standing or lurching about, staring at their phones. Turns out it was almost certainly related to the latest smart-phone craze - Pokemon Go. Oh, joy! Proponents are defending it: "Well, at least it gets the kids out of the house and doing something." Seriously? Is that where we are, as an enlighened society? We need some sort of smart-phone game to get people outside (where they stare at their phones some more)? (If you're interested, HERE is a video taken on a Baltimore cop body-cam. A driver sideswipes a cop car, and his declared reason is because he was playing Pokemon on his "smart phone.") Beam me up, Scotty!

[NOTE: The main reason I have strong feelings about "smart phones" is the tendency of their users to do really REALLY stupid stuff that endangers other people. I witness it up close and personal, almost every day. If they were only putting themselves at risk with their entertainment/lifestyle choices, I'd say let nature take its course! The smart will survive... the dumb, not so much. But "smart phone" users kill and damage both smart and not-so-smart indiscriminately. I sincerely hope we eventually attach some negative stigma to driving around killing people while phone-distracted... that would be a step in the right direction.]

Friday, July 8, 2016

Tour de France!!!!!!!

So, are you paying attention to this year's Tour de France?  Yeah, me neither.  There are probably Americans riding in it, and maybe even competitively.  Does Radio Shack still sponsor a team?  How about the U.S. Postal Service?  (That was a favorite irony... an organization with a reputation for being slow and uncompetitive, sponsoring a team in possibly the most competitive of all team sports.)

I'm probably like lots of my fellow Americans.  Lance, and Greg LeMond before him, provided an additional point of interest in something that had always been quite foreign.  We wanted to rah-rah for the home team.  And our golden boys - in their yellow jerseys - filled us with patriotic sentiment and probably sold a lot of road bikes.  (Huffys and such.  haha!)

Then Lance burst our bubble.  Turns out we were all cheering for a cheater.

However, more and more it seems that Lance's big peccadillo was "getting caught."  Everybody cheats... right?  It seems to be part of competitive cycling... at least on the professional level, where lots and lots of money is on the line.  You'd almost think the major players have "cover-up experts" who know how the tests go, and can advise the team on how to game the system.

This year, for the first time, I've been reading about a new kind of test... infrared scanning of the bicycles, to make sure they don't have an electric "helper motor" hidden inside the frame.  What the?!!?  (Of course, if they were secret, it would've been hard for Shimano to sell their Dura-Ace Helper Motor, as used by the Team!)