Archive for category adventure

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%*).

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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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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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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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The Secret of Cycling Pants Shorts | for Thomas

A friend sent me a message yesterday suggesting we meet up for a ride and that I teach him the secret of cycling pants. I’m not exactly sure what he was looking for (a explanation of why we wear Lycra? Or some secret to finding the right pants?) so I’m going to make a few assumptions, including that he meant “shorts.”

Like finding the right tire pressure or lubing chain or quality bearings, cycling shorts are all about FRICTION. Specifically the attempt to minimize FRICTION. When it comes to tire pressure or chain wear or crappy bearings friction is that annoying little beast that makes everything just a bit more difficult (of course a certain amount of friction, specifically between the tire and the tarmac, is required, but too much is…well…too much). Things are a bit more…urgent.

Just ask Tom Boonen.

Of course, a good pair of shorts offers other benefits, but none of them matter quite as much as the reduction of friction. So, buy a pair of shorts that fit and, for the love of everything good, get rid of the plush saddle.

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in the saddle…

I’ve set out in the rain and come home dry, or mostly dry.

I’ve sat comfortably behind big men, the ones that are as wide as Volkswagen Beetle.

I’ve dropped those same men.

I’ve been dropped by women.

And old men.

I’ve set out in the sunshine and come home wet.

I’ve stopped, not because I needed to rest but because I wanted a moment to take it in.

I’ve sat up when the gap was too big.

I’ve had road rash.

I’ve run red lights.

I’ve been defeated by headwinds.

And Coleman Valley Road.

I’ve stopped for wildlife.

I’ve been honked at.

And yelled at.

And waved at.

And smiled at.

I’ve slowed down to chat with strangers.

I’ve taken turns at the front.

I’ve been stopped by the police.

I’ve underdressed.

And overdressed.

I’ve suffered.

But mostly, I’ve had fun.

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Act Now!

After a week of rain we’re getting a break from the late winter this week (rumor has it that it might rain again tomorrow but, it’s going to be almost 70°). It’s about time y’all start thinking about commuting.

Lucky for you, between now and Sunday you can go to Santa Monica Mountains Cyclery and trade in that SUV for a bike.

Customers can pick out a new bike at the cyclery — which features a giant flat-screen TV, leather club chairs and an espresso maker, not to mention some sweet two-wheeled rides — then head over the Ford dealership. They’ll trade in their cars, get a check and head back to the bike shop. Any leftover money goes back to the customer.

If I only had an extra car.

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On the rain

First, let me apologize for how quiet it’s been around here recently. Kurt and I happened to go on family vacations at the same time this year (not together) and that, a week or so off of work, always comes with a week of frantic preparation and a week of frantic catching up. Or, at least, that’s my excuse, I think Kurt’s probably still lost on some beach in Hawaii.

I spent about 8 days on the California Central Coast and, between beaches, drives down to Big Sur, trips to the aquarium and shuttling around my wife’s 15 year-old half-sister, I managed to get out for a couple of bike rides in pretty fantastic weather.

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I returned home only to find that the rain we’d been missing all winter was due to arrive just in time for my (now dark) morning commutes,

Thirty minutes (or just under) is about perfect when you’re talking about riding in the rain. At 50° it’s not cold enough to get the chills and just as the water starts to slosh around in your shoes and breach the “water resistant” barrier jacket you’re wearing, you’re pulling into the parking lot at work and (careful not slip due to the wet tile, cycling shoe combo) heading into the locker room to change into some dry clothes.

Then, after you’ve hung up socks and jackets and laid out your shorts and jersey to dry in the back of your cubicle, people walk by your desk and say, “you didn’t ride today, did you?” And suddenly you become a hero, at least temporarily, for braving the elements and showing dedication to the cause. Or, maybe they add it to the list of things that make you weird, right after “wears Lycra in public.”

At least, that’s my experience.

,

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NAHBS Coverage | Day 1, Stuck Outside Sacramento

It’s the first day of NAHBS and the doors have opened for industry and media types (hey, that’s me) but I’m stranded just East of Sacramento proper. Why? Did I get a flat on my way downtown, has my huge red convertible broken down after it’s long trek through the desert in search of the American Dream, or am I stuck grinding out my 8 hours in the office?

HINT: It’s probably that last one.

This is my first NAHBS – or will be if I make it there tomorrow, which is the plan – and I’m certainly missing out on the pre-show excitement of traveling to a new town, meeting new people and, really getting excited about handmade bikes. Twitter is filled with updates about getting together and pre-parties and post parties and during parties and group rides and hand cut steel. And as every bike blogger descends on the convention center this morning for the first looks at the show, I’ll be in my cubicle toiling away.

As the day goes on and NAHBS posts go up on other sites and their site traffic increases and ad dollars flow in by the truck load, I’ll be sitting here oblivious to it all. Then, as the show opens to the public and the media and industry types become more faces in the crowd and the day winds down, I’ll get off work. And sure, I’d have plenty of time to run on down to the convention center, do a quick run around the exhibit floor and maybe grab a quick beer with a few of my twitter/blogger buddies (you know who you are) but I’d be home after bedtime and when you have two young children, bedtime is a big deal.

So, in the morning, I’ll probably get up at a reasonable hour. Dress up in my some clothes that scream AMATEUR BIKE BLOGGER! and head on downtown. Maybe make it to the show by lunch. After that, I have no plan, but, I’ll keep you posted.

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I came, I saw, I survived.

At the San Francisco Giants’ games of my youth the old men with browning hats filled with small orange pins were everywhere. They were the real fans. The fans that made Giants so much better than Dodgers fans. They were the fans that showed up and stayed until the bitter end. The Croix de Candlestick pins were proof.

As a kid I wanted nothing more than extra-inning baseball (bonus baseball!) and dreamed of earning myself a cap full of pins (not that I’d ever wear it, only the old guys did that). I know I must have earned at least one of the pins which were handed out for simply surviving the stick into extra innings on a night game, but I have no idea what I did with it.

Cycling can be like that too. We all have our stories of glory (or folly). Forty mile-per-hour winds. Rain. Fog. Temperatures below freezing. (The first organized ride I ever participated in was Bike around the Buttes and if you give me enough time, I’ll tell you about how there wasn’t even hot coffee left at the end!) Commuters can be the worst.

All winter people at work have to hear me say things like, “of course I rode today.” And, “oh, it isn’t that bad.” On rainy days I say, “the wind is the worst, at least it wasn’t windy.” And on windy days I say, “oh, well, at least it wasn’t rainy.” Mostly, I’m being honest. The weather really usually isn’t as bad as it seems. But there’s a little posturing too; men who wear Lycra in public will do that.

It happened to rain today. It was one of the few winter storms we’ve had all year. Today, I happened to drive to work. Those two things were not related.

I drove to work so that I might avoid passing out in the middle of my 8 mile commute. A thing I was worried about because illness had limited my food intake for the previous 48 hours to a few crackers, a few bites of pasta, and ½ bowl of soup. I was tired and weak and I really wasn’t sure if I’d survive. Also, my wife insisted.

So, I didn’t get Croix de Commute this morning. I’m forced to tell everyone that asks that, “no, I didn’t ride my bike today.” Instead I drove through the rain, stopped at Starbucks and walked through the back door of the office mostly dry. But, unlike those Croix de Candlestick pins which, unless they’ve started giving them out for merely suffering through an entire football game (the agony!), can’t be earned anymore, I can suffer through the elements another day. If I feel like it.

Update: Title added.

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Riding again: new goal.

Mont Ventoux. That’s my goal. Three ascents from three villages in one day. This September.

I had my first back treatment appointment with Stefaan Vossen earlier this afternoon, I’ve been given a shoe insert to help undo my imbalance and I’ve got another seven appointments booked in over the next 4 weeks, after which it’ll go down to 1 appointment per week. He’s confident he can not only get my back and pelvis re-set to how it should be, but that I’ll be able to start training in as little as 4 weeks.

That means, all being well with my back healing as my fitness gradually improves, I’ll have roughly from mid March until September to get myself in the shape of my life. Six months… Doesn’t seem like a lot. This is going to take some epic training effort and a lot of hill repeats on Cleeve Hill. I’ve never been more excited to put my body through hell, I wish I could get started now but I’ll have to make do with writing up a training plan. It’ll be a company trip to Mont Ventoux some time in September – I don’t yet know the date – with a couple of us Dair peeps taking some cycling-keen clients along for the ride.

Super, super excited. Can anyone point me towards a decent 6 month training plan for this sort of thing that I can adapt?

-Sera

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