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!