Michael

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Homepage: http://talkingtreads.wordpress.com

Car Grammar

This concept helmet includes headlight, turn signal and brake light.

via clusterflock

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my favorite things

I’ve never really understood yoga pants. I’m not sure I’m supposed to. For a while I wasn’t even really sure what yoga pants were, then my wife discovered Lululemon. So, now I know and I’m broke.

All reports are that yoga pants are the most comfortable pants a woman can wear in public. This is why the world is suddenly filled with women who have never practiced yoga but are always dressed for a pop-up yoga class. It’s also, I think, a major reason why there’s a dress code at my office.

Last winter I splurged and bought myself a pair of wool cycling tights from the now defunct Lab-Gear. This winter, I’m beginning to understand just how women feel about yoga pants. I never want to take them off.

If it were acceptable for a guy to wonder around in what amounts to a pair of long underwear, I probably would. I’ve worn them under jeans at softball games and to the snow. I’ve worn them on my bike, of course.

In the winter, anyway, I couldn’t live without.

Pop by Lab-Gear’s new venture, Eleven Vélo. I’m not sure you’ll be able to convince them to make you up a pair of wooly bottoms, but I’m sure they’ll have something you’ll love.

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don’t be that guy

There’s this guy. You might know one too. He’s a lot like you or I. He rides his bike on the same streets. He gets overtaken by impatient F-150s. He’s a cyclist. There’s one major difference, though. Unlike you or I, he tends to get hit by cars; frequently. Most of the time, he comes away without any serious injuries (which is more than I can say for his bikes – carbon fiber, it turns out is the real victim here).

When I first started riding I thought maybe this guy spent more time on busy roads than I did. But slowly, I began to think there might be something else, something that didn’t have anything to do with where he was riding or what he was wearing (more garish colors than I). It was when he told me about his 4th crash involving a car that I began to wonder if, perhaps, it was the way he rode.

It turns out, I might have been on the right track. Last month the City of Minneapolis published a study that examined 2,973 bicycle-motorist crashes that took place over a 10 year period and one of the many interesting bits of data they uncovered was that the cyclist involved is, at least partially, at fault in 59% of all crashes (motorists were, at least partially, at fault in 63.9%*).

Screen Shot 2013-02-05 at 6.10.01 AM

If you’d asked me a few weeks ago I’d probably have guessed that cyclists were at fault in about 30% of all accidents. I’ve seen a lot of motorists do a lot of dumb things (I’ll even admit to being a motorist doing a dumb thing once or twice) and it’s easy to assume, because they’re the more vulnerable of the two groups, cyclists are always the victims. But, you have to admit, it sort of makes sense.

I consider myself a careful cyclist 95% percent of the time. During my commute, I’m alert and cautious and often yield even when I have the right of way. I check driveways and think about how to react when the unexpected happens. These things don’t make me invincible, I know that. It is nice to know, perhaps, they do make me a little safer.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not blaming that guy who gets hit by a car once a year for everything. Some of it is bad luck and some if it is bad driving and, maybe, some of it is bad cycling. It is nice to know, as I’m riding my 25 pound bike next to a 2 ton truck, what I do makes a difference.

* Adds up to more than 100% as in some crashes both motorist and cyclist share fault.

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Take Action!

lab_advocacy_alert_header

From my email:

Dear Michael,

Our partners in California, including the Safe Routes to School National Partnership and the California Bicycle Coalition, are encouraging everyone who wants to improve cycling in the state to sign this petition to Governor Jerry Brown TODAY! The petition seeks improvements to a significant Active Transportation funding proposal by the Governor and deserves your attention.

Yours sincerely,
Andy Clarke

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The Confession

As some of you might know I was recently banned by the International Blogging Committee for use of performance enhancing substances. For years I have denied use of said substances. Some of you may have seen me last week give an interview where I admitted to the charges and, more or less, begged to be reinstated as a blogger. Many of you, however, missed my interview because it aired opposite some old guy talking to Oprah about things we all already knew.

I’ll be the first to admit that this confession should have come sooner (let’s say sometime last week) but what they say is true, I have not only used caffeine and alcohol to fuel the content of this blog, but I was also part of a larger conspiracy to cover up the use of these substances by others on the internet. Today, I’m here to say what you already know but I’m here to say it out loud and with the cache of someone on the inside: If it weren’t for coffee and booze the internet would basically be a common room on campus at Brigham Young University.

That’s not what you people want.

They say that people vote with their wallets and it’s the same with the internet and, as long as videos by Hannah Hart remain popular, the International Blogging Community will never be cleaned up:

What I’m saying is that yes, I did cheat. Yes, I did use substance to unnaturally improve the quality of content on this site. Yes, I did deserve a lifetime ban. But you guys will not be rid of me that easily. I’m sorry I didn’t come clean sooner, but you guys forced me into it and, no matter what I say now, It’s not going to stop.

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why I’m thankful for cycling, 1

Cycling Oxford

I got an email today from the League (the League of American Bicyclists). First of all, let’s talk about how awesome it is that they go by “the League.” It sounds like some sort of group of cycling superheroes that rides around town painting bike lanes, handing out bike lights and using force to keep cars out of the bike lane.

Ok, but this post wasn’t about an idea for a crappy bicycle centric comic book, it was about being thankful for cycling. The League, in the email mentioned above, asked me why I’m thankful for cycling? So, I’m going to spend a couple of posts attempting to address that question.

1. The wind in my hair and all that jazz. 

Seriously. I spend 9 to 10 hours a day in a cubicle farm. Under fluorescent lighting. Surrounded by people who may or may not have washed their hands the last time they used the restroom. Lately, I’ve been riding “the short way” to work. That’s about 15 minutes. 15 minutes in the morning, 15 minutes in the evening. And sure, it’s cold, it tends to be dark going both ways this time of year, and road grime is only slightly more appealing than touching the door handle of the men’s restroom, but I’m outside.

That’s right, for at least 30 minutes a day, I’m outside. On my bike. It’s fantastic. So, I’m thankful for that.

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Get Off My Lawn

There was this fear, in the back of my head, that purchasing a single speed bicycle marketed for “urban” riding would slowly turn me into a hipster. I didn’t think it would happen suddenly, I’m not crazy, but I could see the slippery slope there:

1. Put a fixed cog on the flip-flop hub.
2. Buy a flannel shirt
3. Buy a knit-cap

And we all know that going from a knit-cap to drinking a tallboy of PBR in the middle of the day is pretty much instantaneous.

How surprised do you think I was when I realized that, instead of a hipster, I’d become that old guy with panniers riding to work?

Being the old guy isn’t that bad. I’m not complaining. Even on my single speed I can keep up with a lot of the kids on their fancy carbon fiber bikes, at least for a little bit. Cars don’t seem to be as aggressive toward me (perhaps it’s because they feel sorry for me?).

I feel like I’ve entered a new stage of my development as a bike commuter. Instead of getting on my sleek, light, fragile carbon bike armed with nothing but a Chrome Citizen, I drop a bag or 2 onto my rear rack, grab hold of my mustache handlebars and spin into work.

Most mornings, I’ll even take the short route (mostly because I’m running late). And, when I see that hipster kid in the flannel shirt, I want to tell him to put on a helmet and make sure he stays off my lawn.

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The Crash

So, we were pedaling along just fine. Some might even say we were just coming into form. We had readers and followers and twitters (there’s a chance we still have a few of those things) and posts. There were even a few of us that could be expected to post something a couple of times a week, at the very least, then something happened. There was a slight touch of wheels in the group and, it seems, most of us hit the tarmac, hard.

It’s true. Crashes are a part of the sport. Even if you’re not competing you can expect that, at least once, you’ll topple to the ground. It doesn’t have to be anything dramatic and, in many cases, it’s more embarrassing than painful. Maybe you went into a slick turn too fast, touched wheels with the guy in front of you, forgot to clip-out at the stoplight, hit a rock at slow speeds and pitched over the handlebars, or one of the things that happened to people other than me…after the crash the first thing we do is take stock. Broken bones? No. Excessive bleeding? No. Is the bike operable? Yes. Can I still ride it? Yes. Should I still ride it? Probably not. Will I still ride it? Yes.

Then we limp home hoping that no one we know saw the crash and that those who didn’t will think us tough and manly instead of clumsy and foolish.

It’s just slightly different if you leave your brand new bike on the roof of your car as you pull into the garage. The difference is in the shame and anger and feeling of stupidity that comes with crunching noise of house on bike violence.

When that happens, you don’t want to take stock. Opening the door and getting out to find that the force of the accident as used your carbon fork as a lever to rip the roof mounted rack from the top of the car and left it hanging, impotent, from the 2 remaining mounts is the last thing you want to do. When it happened to me I wasn’t even able to pretend to assess the damage before I dropped the mangled bike in the grass and tried to put my fist through the rear window of the car (a task I was, luckily, unsuccessful at).

Even now, a few weeks, a new fork, and a new brake caliper later, I’m angry at myself for letting something so dumb happen. Despite my wife’s claim that the whole incident was her fault (because we were shopping for a new bike for her and she was talking to me when it happened) there’s no one to blame but the man behind the wheel.

So, maybe it wasn’t a touch of wheels that derailed this site. Maybe it was something more controllable. Maybe someone left the damn thing on top of the car and drove it into the garage. Maybe it was me.

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It was only a flesh wound

There isn’t a picture. I didn’t think to take one. It never occured to me that this would be the end. You can imagine my surprise when I got the call.

“Mike?”

“Yeah.”

“I’m calling from REI about your Novara.”

“Yeah.”

“Novara is not authorizing the repair.”

The end result is (going to be) a new bike. Which is good for me, right? I was going to need a new crankset and a new cassette pretty soon anyway. And now I don’t need to install that cable and housing I have in the garage. And, I’m going to have a brand new bike.

But, Eva is gone. That cable stop snapped off clean. The frame was undamaged. Even the mechanics at REI thought it would be a simple repair, a couple of new rivets and I could be on my way. Instead, it was a flesh wound that festered and killed my bike. Now she’s off to some junk yard (or some clever REI mechanic is making her into a carbon singles speed – that’s what I’d do).

Earlier tonight I drove over to REI to finalize the return and order my new bike. Standing at the counter waiting for the mechanics to sort out my return I caught a glimpse of my bike through the open doors. They rolled it by, took of the pedals and that was it. She was gone.

We cyclists often talk about our bikes like they’re people. The bikes we ride get names and genders and have personalities. We feel guilty when they’re neglected and baby them whenever we can. It’s a special relationship. It’s probably not healthy but it’s the way we are.

I didn’t even get to say goodbye.

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Twisted Bib Shorts!

It’s bike month and we’ve not even made a single post. What is wrong with us?

The good news is we (at least some of us) are still riding our bikes and stuff. The bad news is that our real jobs of been occupying way too much of our time. But I’m resolved now to get on here and post something a couple of times a week. So, you know, keep checking back.

When I was young and attending a Catholic high school swearing was frowned down upon by the deans (so was walking around with an untucked shirt) and I came up with the idea of replacing the “uck” with “unny papers.” It seemed incredibly clever at the time and nobody seemed to question it when something happened and I said, “oh, funny papers.” Then I went to college and started using the “uck” part again.

Now that I have small children who tend to repeat everything I say, I try to avoid that nasty word again. And I do, mostly. Happily, while getting dressed to head home the other day I stumbled upon an incredible alternative to swearing that also captures my exact sentiment. I stepped into my bib shorts, pulled them up and realized the bib was all twisted. “Oh, twisted bib shorts.”

TWISTED BIB SHORTS!

So, when I tried to remove the pedals from my wife’s bike and broke the wrench (yes, I was turning it the right way) I yelled, “TWISTED BIB SHORTS!”

Of course, now my kids are going to have to explain Lycra to their friends.

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