Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Rough Rider

It is funny how some things work in some situations yet not in others. For example spaghetti and hot dogs would not be on anyone in the US's breakfast menu; yet when served in Haiti, it is quite delicious.

The same can be said for my bicycle. In Los Angeles, going from the Southbay to Santa Monica, it makes complete sense, is functional, and of course, unlike the guy riding it, looks cool. Put this same bike into the back of ones' gas-pig, drive 12 hours east into the desert of New Mexico and this same practical, quick, and comfortable bike becomes rather foolish. Tires: (we have not gone far enough east to call them tyres) way too hard and narrow, basket: vibrates so much on the rough pavement that it began to self destruct, single speed: so wrong for climbing miles of relentless incline.

I am visiting my folks who live out side of town and there is a preponderance of gravel roadway. As I am accustomed to a bit sand, the loose gravel is ok yet 28mm road tires are not the way to go. When I get out on the actual "paved" road, it is more like gravel that is being held place by some blackish stuff. It is rough. The kind of rough where a kidney belt might be in order.

That brings me to the hill. This bit of "pavement" in the middle of the desert, heads down to town or up to the mountains. I have been heading towards the mountains each morning at dawn. Needles to say it is up hill; one of those hills that gets steeper and steeper as it goes. With the elevation at 4500ft above sea level, I was winded within the first mile. Standing on the pedals, hunched over my fancy French style handlebars, I barely made it 2/3 of the way to the top (or where the pavement ends).
Multiple gears would be good.

Now I have been here a few days and can make it to the end of the paved road with only one rest break. I have removed the basket to preserve it from being torn apart. I actually saw this little piece fall off. I love the desert and New Mexico has long been a second home for me. Life brings us changes and challenges, I feel like we have to get up each morning and ride towards the mountains in the East as the sun rises and not get too caught up on what we ride. It is more about how we ride; how we see who and what is around us, how we take on the challenge of the day.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Case For Baskets

First off I must apologize for abandoning this blog for so long. Perhaps we can call it a summer break. Mimi and I did even take a break to celebrate our 20th anniversary with a trip to San Francisco.

Now break-time is over and it is back to work.

Next or second off I must say thanks to Bike Snob NYC for putting my entry to his "Cockie" of the year contest and a link to my "Radio Bikes" story on his blog. I was so excited. I tried to explain it to my coworkers and all they could do was shake their heads and mutter something about me being a dork under their breath. So I am feeling very famous.

Thirdly and where I am at now is the first anniversary and completion of the "Sonic Flyer".

That is right my red bike I ride to work everyday is now (in it's phoenix like rise from the ashes of crappy old tenspeed-dom) a year old. To celebrate I finally had the new headset I bought a few months back installed by my friends at my LBS. The headset is to me one of the most boring parts on a bike so I was in no hurry to get put on. I purchased it in a moment of panic when my old headset was out of adjustment and I thought "oh that's it, It's done for." While the old headset was kind of rusty and one of the spacers was a now unused cable-stop, it worked fine, so my new one is really me succumbing to the great American consumer mentality. Someone has to keep us afloat. Also it looks nice.

What does not look nice is the basket I put on the front of my bike. Yes I have gone all Rivendel and zipp-tied a big basket to an old aluminum rack on the front of my bike.

The Bike Snob chides basket users for their smugness, and he is right. my smugness quotient has gone right through the roof. It is so uncool yet so functional.

The extra weight in front is spooky at first but once you get used to it, the ride seems smoother. Then when I get to the store on the way home, I can take on two grocery bags. Of course I try to have a reusable bag in my kit. I mean what bike dork is going to be caught in line at Whole Foods with out a reusable bag!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Bike Dork: Behind Bars

While I was diverted from my usual route today with a trip to Vidiots on Pico. My ride home was as usual until I reached Dockweiler Beach. The same area where I "fell" a few weeks back. I knew something was up as I had received a call before I left work from my boss Bill warning me not to take the beach route, and that everything was messed up trying to get south of the airport. It was all could do but retain my smugness when I said "yeah thanks for the heads up, but I am on my bike today"… So, when I got to the parking lots at Dockwieler and noticed the police and police tape and news crews up on Vista Del Mar. I was all like, "hmmm". Then I over heard one of the news guys saying something about gang activity and observed a bunch of young men, in the south parking lot, lined up alongside cop cars, hands behind their backs.

Now it has been windy as of late along the coast of Santa Monica Bay. Very windy. When the wind blows a good 35- 50 mph out of the west - northwest we get sand drifting across the bike path.

I am not complaining; this is just what happens, and if you ride, you deal with it. Along some stretches of bikepath you ride for a half mile or so of 1/2 inch to 5 inches sand on the path. Past 5 inches for a few yards, I think you have to get off and walk your bike.

Because of this sand I have been looping up past the entrance shack and cutting through the RV campground to avoid a heavily drifted section of bikepath.

This is now a crime scene. There are people in their RVs doing what ever it is they do as they "camp" in their boxes. There are cyclist down on the path. There are people all over the place; it's LA there are a lot of people here trust me. As I loop along, two LAPD officers with their car blocking the road are like: "Hey you can't go here." (even though there are a ton of people going there already). And I am all like skidding to a stop and and saying: "Great, you want me to take Vista Del Mar (insanely fast and narrow 4 lanes of shoulder-less cycling horror) so you will have an actual dead body to deal with?!" Not only am I a bike dork, I am a dramatic bike dork. Cop shrugged, "Yeah what ever…"

This of course brings me to what is really on my mind: my new handlebars.

While at the time of the beach gang riot, I was still riding these svelte bars untaped, they are as of yesterday, taped and shellacked and looking good. Why you might ask did the dork spring for new handlebars, and what was wrong with the "old" ones. Well you may ask.

To me handlebars, and seat (or saddle in bike dork-ies) are the two most important parts on your bike. Funny as they are most often an afterthought with cranks and wheels seeming to get a lot of attention. After all the seat is where you put your butt, and handlebars where you put your hands; two of the most sensitive areas of the body.

The bars I had been riding since I built the sonic flyer where as far as I can tell original to the bike. Alloy "Randonier" style marked Sake Randoner SR.

This is a handlebar designed for touring that splay out wider in the drop section of the bar. They are very comfortable, allowing one to ride deep in the drop without rubbing your forearms against the top curve of the bar. While I like these bars, I found that because of the bike frame size I was stretching a bit far out in the drop position, and also when riding with my hands on the brake hoods. So for example in heavily trafficked sections of my ride, when I wanted to have my hands close to the brakes, I was also sort stretched out with my neck crooked up. Not awful, just not so great.

My new bars are "Portuer" bars from Velo Orange. They had them made after an old French front cargo bike design. I find them to be very comfy. I positioned my Campy style brake leavers out on the front curve of the bars creating a second hand position. I feel like these bars have set me free… ah yeah kinda dorkish

Friday, May 28, 2010

Ride to Work / Work to Ride

So it was Bike to Work Week. And I celebrated by riding to work for a change. Actually it rained on Monday and Tuesday. That was ok. I braved the mighty Southern California storm, getting moist on the front side of my body while the back remand fairly dry - not quite sure how that works but it was a bit wet on those days.

Thursday dawned with all of the promise we come to expect from the greatest state in the the Union. I was feeling rather flushed with the prospect of the culmination of Ride Your Bike to Work Week at hand. To continue this story we need to rewind a few days to last Thursday, when I noticed my front tire was running a bit low. I pumped it up on the way home, but found it to be almost flat in the morning. I have been rolling on 23mm "Specialized Armadillo Technology" tires and had not had single flat since I put them on the bike eight months ago. That is great and I think they are excellent tires. The down side with these tires is they wear out after a few thousand miles and my rear tire was showing the red casing all down the middle. I was thinking, yeah I will take care of that later. It turned out that my leak was due to a faulty valve on the tube. I put on my spare tube, and that was that. Flash forward to Sunday and I am riding over to meet my beautiful wife Mimi at a "Healthy Lifestyles Festival" in Manhattan Beach when I hear cathuckity thuckity thuckity from my rear wheel. This is what i found:

So of course I had used my spare tube two day earlier and had not made it to the bike shop for another. I walked my bike over to my LBS, got one tube (why only one? just a dork I guess) and put it on.

Flash forward to this Thursday, Bike to Work Thursday. My smugness quotient was peaking as I packed my work clothes and whatever into my bottomless Ortlieb pannier. I set out as usual and as I reached what is just about the half way point on the ride, I felt a strange lumpa lumpa feeling from the rear wheel. So there I am at Dockwieler Beach, not far from the stinking RV camp with the jets going overhead, about as far from a bike shop or anything as I ever am as ride to work. The bike dork with his bottomless bag of tricks should have what it takes for this situation. He is a seasoned commuter. He knows better than to ride without a spare tube, or at least a patch kit, tools and a pump. Oops.

So here it is: you might recall few months back I stopped to help another cyclist with a flat only to find my tube of glue totally useless. Since my Armadillo tires seemed so invincible I had not bothered to get more glue. Result: no tube, no patch. 23mm tires require a lot of pressure at least 100 psi. if you get a puncture the air goes out quick. There was still a little air left so I tried my crappy $12 Performance Cycle pump. The nozzle fell apart rendering it useless. At this moment I get a text from Mimi saying "It's bike to work day" Texted back my situation. "Do I need a ride?" "No"

I started walking. I enjoy walking, but riding is better. I walked to Playa Del Rey. I figured I would walk to the bike shop on Lincoln in Marina Del Rey a few miles and then I would only be a little late for work. Passing through the area where some folks park to use the beach, or fish off the bridge, or ride the bike path; a fellow sitting in his car called out "Hey mon what happened to your bike?". I looked over at a guy sitting in his car with cycling gear, some sort of rejuvenating beverage concoction in a tupperware container in hand and dreads. He was all sweaty. "I flatted" "Here mon, can ya use this?" he pulls out a spare tube and a pump. As I walked over to his car, I noticed a sharp looking Italian road bike in the back.

I thanked him, and set to work changing out the tube. As I worked we talked cycling. His name is Alex and he is from the Virgin Islands. Wheel off, tire off, tube out, check tire, tube in. As I am inflating the freshly changed tube, I suddenly hear "tsssssss". "What happened mon?" The dork that I am, I was so busy chatting with my new friend that I forgot to check if the tube was seated properly and I had left a section of tube pinched between the bead of the tire and the rim. At this moment as I am standing there in utter disgust and embarrassment, all my gear, tools, upside-down bike spread out on the side of the road.

At this moment another cyclist totally kitted out on a brand new full carbon BMC enters stage right. He slows and loops back. "So what's the problem here?" I explained the situation with some shame. He responds, "My ex-wife got a flat on her bike, she called AAA." "Mon, did they come?" "I don't know, she's my ex-wife" He proceeded to grab the wheel out of my hand and berate me as he fixed my tire, providing me with yet another tube, As he was working I asked "What do you do for a living bust people's chops?" "I am a freelance movie producer." "That totally figures." "See this is why the big boys use full finger gloves" he said as he pushed the tire into place without any tools. He used his CO2 inflator and within 4 minutes he was done. "Your tire is shot you need to go out and buy three tires and four tubes, rotate your tires as they wear, and always carry a tube." All I could do was nod and thank him.

He took off, I thanked Alex again and offered a few bucks for the waisted tube. "No man, it's cool. You can help some one. What comes around goes around." Put put my bike back together and made it to work without further incident. As an epilogue to this tale I went to REI and used my dividends for a new set of 28mm Continental Gatorskin Tires. 28mm is for sure the way to go much smoother ride.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sharing the Way

As I mentioned in my last post, I celebrated Earthday at Polliwog Park in Manhattan Beach. One of the booths was proffering free copies of a magazine entitled "Momentum". As you might guess this is a publication for cyclists. Unlike many cycling magazine covers featuring lycra clad men grimacing under strain of epic rides, the current issue of "Momentum" features a couple of alternative looking (one has a bit of red dye in her hair) young ladies sporting floral dresses and a guitar on a vintage tandem. While a bit light on content (like this blog) it is nice to have a free magazine with articles on real cycling, cycling advocacy, product reviews, and ads for cool stuff I need to know about so I can want.

From this magazine, I learned that the recently added markings on Hermosa Avenue in Hermosa Beach, are called "sharrows", and that "sharrows" have just been deemed official symbols for roadway marking in the US.

I also learned that there are very few municipalities using this symbol. When they appeared on my daily route a few months ago, I thought "oh nice, a picture of bike where I ride my bike, that makes me feel good about riding my bike". These symbols did not have any effect on how people where using their cars, but I was not expecting that they would.

A few weeks latter I noticed that along this road they had also put signs that say "BICYCLES MAY USE FULL LANE". While that is nice, it is not very realistic. The idea behind the "sharrow" is that cyclists and cars are to "share" the roadway. This is exactly what I do all of the time on every street that I ride. For a lone cyclist sharing the road is a matter of survival. Me using a full lane on Hermosa Ave is a nice idea but it really does not happen.

However,the change I have made is to obey the other traffic signals on this section of road with more diligence. For example, coming to an (almost) complete stop at stop signs. I figure if they are going to give me a lane and treat me as a serious means of transportation then I had better stop acting like the outlaw stepchild and be serious transportation. Now I am not saying I never role a stop sign in a quiet neighborhood with good visibility. I'm not saying I do not split lanes in heavy traffic. But at least on Hermosa Avenue, I try to behave better as I am being treated better. Well, at least there are pictures of bicycles on the road.

I have also notice these "sharrows" showing up in other places.

Am I to "share this metal vent thing with other vehicles? Really, passing with care is message we all can use. As Luke Skywalker says in "The Empire Strikes Back" : "I Care"

eh yeah kind of dorky...

Monday, April 19, 2010

Chain of Events

Sometimes it seems like so much happens so quickly one does not no where to start; what with the classics in full swing. Cancellara seems to be killing it; making for rather dull finishes for the Tour de Flanders and Paris Rubaix (unless you are Fabian Cancellara). It also leads to speculation on the "training" he might be doing. In fact I was on the way home yesterday and who was zipping past but "the Blue Rider". I called out "hey, it's you!" He slowed and we took the last couple of miles home through Manhattan and Hermosa Beach talking bike talk. He turns out to be Swiss and a Cancellara sceptic. I agree, it is hard to know how one guy can just get that far out alone, just dropping the whole field of the world's best pro racers. If they are going to juice maybe they should share it with a few other guys so it makes for a better end to these races.

So there's that, and then there is Bike Snob NYC coming out with his true identity and we are all shocked that he is a clever guy from Brooklyn, who is a writer and writes witty and sometimes wicked stuff about cycling. I know I was stunned. Still the guy is very funny and I have to admit to ripping off some of his blog style in a major way.

It turned out that this past weekend's celebration of Earthday in the Southbay was somewhat bike-centric. Along with a bike ride to the annual event held at Pollywog Park in Manhattan Beach, there where several cycling groups with booths. I also took note that when my dear friend Ann Barklow was receiving a lifetime achievement award for environmental service to the community, two other guys with yellow safety vests and those little rearview mirrors attached to their glasses also got recognized for getting a grant for $240,000.00 for cycling infrastructure improvements in the Southbay. I am not sure if that is a lot of money for that kind of thing or not. I do know that in spite of the economy it still would not get you a 2 bedroom apartment in this part of LA County.

And then of course there is my chain. My beautiful noisy SRAM Powerchain II made a louder than usual plink noise on the way in to work the other day, and I happened to look down at it the next morning (to enjoy the lustrous nickel plating set off against the matte black inner links no doubt).

The "speed" or masterlink had snapped and somehow I managed to make it to and from work with the chain in this condition. As I had kept the old chain I just put it back on and road to work. On the way home I stopped at my LBS and Chris flipped me a new speed link free of charge. I asked about the overall noisy effect of this chain and he said it may take some time to break in. Well the chain is working fine but the noise is still driving me nuts.

Ehh…what a Dork.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Pride Before the Fall

This evening while riding home from work, I fell off my bike. This happened while riding a section of the Southbay Bike Path that runs along Dockweiler State Beach. I was traveling at speed, quite close the right edge of the path when a lack of concentration on what I was doing… namely riding a bicycle, caused me to veer a bit to much to the right. Once off the pavement 23mm tires are not very good. At this point I found myself unable to maintain forward momentum in the beach sand, and I keeled over. The only thing injured: my pride.

It is this section of bike path that abuts the Dockweiler State Beach Camp Ground; an RV park tucked between the Scattergood wastewater treatment Facility and Santa Monica Bay, and under the flight-path of LAX.

People actually camp with the smell of poop, and the roar of jets taking off to the far flung corners of the earth. A couple of campers watched me go down from the comfort of their beach chairs. I got up with both arms in the air giving a victory salute. They laughed long and hard.

Growing up, one of my heros was Tintin. We had a stack of hard covered adventures that took us around the globe fighting drug runners, despotic regimes, solving mysteries, and saving loyal friends from sure death. "The Black Island", "King Otokar's Scepter", "Flight 714", "Red Sea Sharks", and my favorite "Tintin in Tibet".

One book I never had as a kid is one of the earliest of Herge's efforts, "The Blue Lotus". This takes place in 1930s Japanese occupied Shanghi. In it,Tinitin comes up against a gang of drug running imperialists and first meets his dear friend Chang who figures into the story of "Tintin in Tibet". My wife got a copy of The Blue Lotus a few years ago and I was reading it recently and was delighted with the depiction of Tintin making a daring getaway on cool looking bike.

Just today, I was thinking of this image and went back to examine it. I noticed right away that my hero was riding what looks like a brakeless fixed gear.

I am a big fan of single speed riding and while I have "gone fixed" for a few thousand miles, I can not however recommend brakeless riding. It's cool and hip and all, and if that is how you like to ride, then cool, but I can assure you that a freewheel and good brakes make for way more fun fast urban riding. Tintin has just grabbed this bike off the street and and making a daring getaway on this dope looking track bike. Looking over his shoulder to check for his pressures, he is totally unready to preform a skid stop when he reaches the intersection and here is the result.

I am glad that he was wearing what looks to be a helmet of some sort.

Previous to my "fall" I had been making great time. Dropping a young guy on his new Fuji carbon road bike. Zipping past a young lady on a Felt. Rather than letup and enjoy the sunny evening I pushed harder checking my cadence by counting against the clock. 85 rpm ok but I can do better… Like my hero, thinking about who I had left in the dust left me in the sand.

What a dork!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Chain of Thought

I recently got in touch with an old friend from whom I had not heard in quite some time. Though he recalled that I had been a messenger in Boston, (back in the day) he had not remembered me being that into cycling. This is true. It was the only practical means of transit, and it enabled me to have a job to which I could show up most of the time. I rode everywhere and in all weather. Winter snow and ice, no problem, dress accordingly and take it easy. I did not really care about bikes or cycling. I was aware of pro racing only because that was the time of Greg Lemond's Tour victories.

My bike at the time was a nameless "racing" frame that had ended up in the shed behind my parent's house in suburban Massachusetts. Nameless wheels, coaster-brake, "english" bars, big basket up front. I never worked on it other than fixing flats. I do not even remember cleaning the chain.I did not want to upgrade my bike, it worked fine until the seat tube finally cracked at the bottom bracket. Other bikes followed. None were an obsession.

So why, now that I am on the down hill section of life's course, have I become so taken with cycling? I now clean my chain every other week. In fact I just put on a new chain. It is a nice SRAM Power Chain II with a speedlink for easy removal.

Add Image

I'm not sure I am happy with this chain. It makes noise on the Shimano freewheel cog. It's the kind of noise that's not that loud all of the time, just when I crank hard or power up a hill. Metal on metal, and it bugs me a lot. I tried it on the (Shimano Dura-ace) fixed cog and that was worse.

I have a good chain-line. The old chain made little or no noise but got stretched to the point where I could not tension it by pulling the wheel back in the dropouts. So what is it? It's making me nuts. This chain was supposed to make my life better.

My pastor likes to say "Nothing created can complete us." But really, I have this feeling that if I could only get the bike setup just right. I mean a new set of brake pads. Come on now I NEED those right. And over the last couple of weeks I have noticed a funny feeling up front and I went by the shop and sure enough a new headset is required, the only moving part original to the 1981 frame. All else has been carefully researched and ordered and put together to create the perfect…

...ah yeah right. So I am a dork.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Racing Home

Unlike say walking or running, when you ride a bike, you can actually get somewhere useful in a reasonable amount of time. It takes me about an hour to ride 16 miles home from work each day. An average speed of… well 16 miles per hour; not very fast but respectable. Some days it takes a little longer; head winds, traffic lights, taking the time to interact with other cyclists or picking up two green enchilada plates from La Playita, all can add to the overall time required to get home. Now I do not have a speedometer, or bike computer, and I only rarely time my ride. I found myself becoming a slave to the clock and I know if I had a bike computer I would for sure become a a freak about my cadence, speed and any other facts those little gadgets spit out. I love to ride my bike and while I have done it professionally, (I was messenger in Boston back in the day) I'v never been a racer. I am not very fast and not very competitive, or so I thought.

Since I have been commuting I have noticed this thing where I see a cyclist ahead of me, and I pick up my pace. I know this is foolish. One should find ones pace and stick to it. Yet there I am, pouring it on to catch whoever is ahead of me.

Where does this come from? Nine times out of ten it turns out to be an older guy on a expensive road bike and I end up feeling bad about passing him with my single speed. I mean if it is a young guy, or even a kind of not so young, but has not actually figured that out yet guy like me, it would be ok but those guys are more likely to be zipping past me.

This brings me to The Blue Rider. For over a year on any given evening, I have been passed on the way home by a guy on a dark blue single speed. It is a nice bike. Modern corm-mo steel frame, flat bars, no frills. Now being passed is one thing, but this guy tears past me. I have on several occasions tried pursuit, and was left panting in the dust. The Blue Rider is fast. This lead me to thinking less than nice thoughts about him. The nefarious Blue Rider creeping up behind me on the bike path with his rather bright headlight casting weird shadows of my form in the darkness. Then he pounces. He is next to me not even long enough for a greeting (and none is offered) and then off into the night leaving me to stare at his Cat Eye tail light winking mockingly at me.

On one occasion we were waiting together at a traffic signal. He was all looking off and ignoring me. I even asked "How's it going?". No response. That is just not done. The Blue Rider… my nemesis.

A few days ago he nipped past me as I slowed for the light at Abbot Kinney and Venice. I followed in hot pursuit, but was losing ground. He snapped the left onto Marr St. I followed but hooked a right on the little foot-path that connects you through to Mildred, a short cut. He took Oxford. We arrived at the light at Washington simultaneously. The light changed promptly and he got off ahead of me. This is where I pick up the official Southbay Bike Path. "That's it, I'm not racing, this guy's just jerk anyhow" I told myself. I kind of let him go. As we approached the next intersection at Admiralty Way, he slowed as the light was against us.

I caught him at the light. We stood in silence, waiting. Then I spoke out "Nice day." The Blue Rider double took as he turned his head and said in quiet voice "Yeah" This was not the snarl of an evil opponent, this was an almost shy voice. "I see you out here pretty often." I continued. "Yeah every night" he replied. I nodded "You sure are fast.". He shrugged sheepishly and said "My wife, she gets mad if I don't get home on time." We laughed and with that the light changed. He was off opting for the smoother but heavily trafficked Admiralty Way. I took my time on the bike path and where it comes back out on Fiji Way I could see The Blue Rider off in the distance. Racing home.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Radio Bikes

A few years back, in a another life I was an east coast guy making a living buying and selling people's old stuff. My wife and I would drive up and down the eastern seaboard, combing yard sales, flea markets, auctions and antique shows for that which was old odd or unusual. One of the things that would always intrigue me was finding objects that had been customized or repaired in interesting ways. A chair being tensioned with twisted wire or a crystal bowl being held together with metal staples. I like the functionality, and when neatly exicuted, it can be aesthetic as well.

The bicycle is no stranger to such personalization or creative jerry-rigging. In fact this is where bikes dorks truly shine. Take for example this website devoted to fixing up old bikes. The single-speed gallery has been a source of inspiration for my current ride. There are however folks who push this basic fixing and customizing to another level. They are not simply putting a Brooks saddle and and fenders on an old ten-speed, or building the obligatory mohawkish tall-bike. Instead they are wrapping some part of themselves and their vision of the world into their build.

On a recent trip to New Mexico, I had the good fortune of attending the monthly EAA Chapter 530 pancake breakfast at the Las Cruces International Airport. Though there is nothing "international" about this airport except it's proximity to the Mexican border, the breakfast the EAA puts on is first-rate. Nice hint of green chiles in the eggs. My father is not an aviator but has been attending this breakfast for a number of years. There are plenty of mechanically inclined guys to share stories about mechanical and engineering feats.

I am my father's son and was delighted to see these bikes parked outside of the hanger where the breakfast is held. At first all I could think was "I've got to send pictures of these to the Bike Snob. He will love these." I never did get around to that and came across these images as I was organizing my photos.

What we have here are his and hers radio equipped touring bikes. Without the radios, these would surely be considered individualistically curated examples. A hand built Land Shark with Rock Shocks and a freaky cockpit configuration that would make a fighter pilot envious. A Light Speed with titanium frame and and Spynergy rear wheel and crankset I have never seen. Interesting bikes… But radios? Yup.

The couple who own these bike appeared to be retirement age and were only too happy tell about the ham radio system they have. apparently they had bigger radios in the past, thus the oversized boxes mounted on the areobars. they also admitted a bit sheepishly that one can now buy a pair of walky talkies that would do the same thing.

I watched them mount their bikes put on the helmets that have earphones and microphone built in, plug it all in and radio check as they took off.

I love bike dorks.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Bike Dork Goes to Court

Recently I received a notice for jury duty. Though I was not stoked, I was glad to be called to serve in Torrance, a few miles from my house. A quick ride. It is a few miles that I am glad I don't ride every day. The main streets in the Southbay are wide and drivers tend to take advantage of this by traveling at 50 or 60 mph. I just do not like that sucking feeling, as they whiz by.

With my bike securely locked to the nearly empty rack out front, I got in the line to enter the court house. The security is like the airport except you can keep your shoes on. My messenger bag however piqued their curiosity, and my Park Tool 15mm wrench/ bottle opener had to be checked at the door. This is the kind of silliness we come to expect from the authorities who protect us. One can not get upset about it.; better to just be nice to folks who have the the job of dealing with people who carry tools.

The jury waiting room and the courtroom itself where rather dank and chilly so left my dorky yellow jacket on. Full on Bike Dork. At least I had the sense to lock my helmet with my bike, and roll my pant leg down.

I would be a good juror. I have watched quite a few episodes of Perry Mason. I see how it all works. However at about 4:00 pm, on the second round of culling out bad jurors, The prosecutor cut me loose. At first I was relived; the case was likely to take 10 days or more. My work does not pay for jury duty. Then I thought "why me?" Was it my jacket? The only guy in the room in a safety yellow jacket... Or perhaps it was my chiding the defense lawyer for "dancing around" the issue with his civics 101 questioning. Of course your client is innocent until proven guilty. It was also stunning to see how many potential jurors did not get this basic American concept.

Though i did not get chosen, jury duty is no joke.The case was felony murder. It took my breath away to see this kid, he could have been one of my friends from MDL in Haiti. Made me think about the choices we make every day.

Stiff headwind on the way home. As I write this I realize I forgot to reclaim my wrench!

Dogh! What a Dork.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Bike Dork Entitlement Program

To many it may seem as if cyclists feel they have and or deserve special rights and privileges: special roadways, rights of way, even the right to bad fashion statements. It may seem as if the purchase of a bicycle comes with a certificate of entitlement. There may be something to this notion. The other evening on the way home, an SUV was carelessly advancing to make a right turn in front of me at an intersection. At the last moment the operator of this vehicle saw me and stopped short. As I crossed its bow I gave an open hand slap to hood. "Bad SUV!" That is just the sort of arrogance that gives cyclist a bad name. It is good to feel special but perhaps not so good to feel "better than"; and even worse to actually slap someone's car. The idea that any cyclist is "better than", say, a motorist, pedestrian, rollerblader, or stroller pushing nanny, is perhaps flawed.

Take for instance this out of my old home town of Boston stating we cyclists are "better" traffic. The writer of this may well be a smart cyclist; following the rules of the road, not being a dork. However, a person on a bike does not make traffic "better". Sure, less carbon, less cars on the road, I am all for that. But think about it, do we really want all of the people that currently drive their cars, getting on bikes? Think of all those self-absorbed folks yakking on their phones while riding the same way that they drive their cars. It would be like riding on the Strand in Hermosa Beach on a warm Sunday afternoon but all of the time.

Some things can bring out the worst in some people and cycling seems to be one of them. It is fun to ride as a group and feel the power of "us". This always seems to lead us to a "them". What almost always follows is "us" against "them" No matter who "we" are, there is always "them". Just look at what has become of the once noble "critical mass" rides. These rides originated as response to the injustices that lone riders were experiencing in traffic on a daily basis. Now I am all for cycling advocacy but when this is the result … oops. No group rides for you!

On the other hand, many of us are certain that because we are cyclists we are special (not better than), and therefore should have special rights. Nothing anyone can say will change this specialness for us. So for us what is needed is that program for certification of rights upon receipt of one's bicycle so that there would be no question of what we can and can not do. I name this the Bike Dork Entitlement Program in which, perhaps each "groupo" would have its own needs catered to. For example:

Upon purchase and delivery of any "road bike" the owner is hereby endowed with the right to:

a) Full lane use on all and any urban / suburban / or country roadway

b) Full and unfettered use of any multi colored lycra clothing

c) Full use of tortured facial expressions on and off the bike

d) May consume one (1) 12 oz. container of Michalob Ultra only after any 100 mile or more ride.

Upon purchase and delivery of any "mountain bike" the owner is hereby endowed with the right to:

a) Full and free use of any dirt trail on any property, any where any time

b) Full suspension.

c) Full neck beard

c) May consume at least one (1) 12 oz. container of any Microbrewed IPA after a ride.

Upon purchase and or curation of any "fixie" the owner is hereby endowed with the right to:

a) Full use of any paved urban or suburban space to bust dope trix or at least try

b) Full rights to wear bike messenger gear even if you are not

c) Must consume at least one (1) 12 oz. Pabst Blue Ribbon on any ride.

Upon purchase and or curation of any "commuter bike" the owner is hereby endowed with the right to:

a) Full lane use on all and any urban / suburban / or country roadway

b) Full use of any fluorescent safety vests, stickers leg, and or arm bands & headlamp

c) Full fenders

d) May consume one (1) container of locally (preferably home) brewed beverage of choice

Of course this is just a rough outline of what needs to be a much better thought out nationwide program that could educate cyclists and the public in general exactly where things stand and how we can all get along. Perhaps this program could be funded with some of the "stimulus money" that is floating around - after all we are entitled.