Thursday, July 31, 2008

Screaming into the surf...

I've just read Dave Moulton's latest post about Critical Mass, about how the demonstration has lost whatever effectiveness it might have had. After all, lots of cities are trying sincerely to make cycling safer and more convenient.

He is dicouraged by the excesses of the CM participants. He's afraid those excesses will "get someone killed."

When I write about the car wars or Dave Moulton does, we are not reaching the folks who are creating problems for the rest of us. We are preaching to the choir, as the saying goes, damning Corporate America in a roomful of leftists. We get a big hand from our audience, but we won't change anyone's mind.

My old motorcycle friend JT, who has jumped into bicycling eyeball-deep, is stunned when he sees the scofflaw antics of some cyclists. I'm sure you've been startled just the same.

Tamar says that every day as she rides to work she sees cyclists riding the wrong way on one-way streets. In Denver, there's a quiet, safe street, perhaps marked "bike route," one block away.

I see cyclists on the bike path, entering tight, blind corners, drinking water, one hand on the bar by the stem. They're unable to steer or brake if someone appears suddenly on their side of the path.

You've seen as many examples of adolescent carelessness as I have.

Who knows where these pedalers think they got license to ignore traffic laws and courtesy, but they do ignore both. And they're defensive and likely to flare up when reminded that, well, there are laws and ways civilized people behave.

They only care about how civilized people behave so they can do it the other way.

Those folks don't read Dave Moulton's blog or mine. Much as we resist generalizing about them, the inescapable truth is: they are pissing in the pool.

Dave Moulton is afraid of a backlash against cyclists nationwide, open season on us. We know we aren't the ones doing the things that upset drivers, but folks who look like us do them every day. I think they relish doing those things and would do them even if doing the right thing was easier.

If they bristle at criticism or helpful suggestions about their riding, and if they don't read Dave's blog or mine or ever hear a view contrary to their own, how are we going to open their eyes?

If I run into my neighbor on the elevator, I have to be careful not to get him started. I'm the only bike rider he knows, I'm sure, and he cuts me some slack. But he hates cyclists. He and millions of other Americans. So many of us act in a hateful manner.

What do I say to my neighbor? Do I say, dude, chill, it's only a few. It's that bad-attitude minority that is making the rest of us look bad.

If I say that, am I telling the truth? Is it a minority? Or has the bicycle become a symbol of rebellious, don't give a damn, in-your-faceness? What did the bicycle do to deserve such a bunch of losers aboard? What did we do to deserve them? How long do these people's movements last?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A coupla things...

First, I have been surprised by the supportive tone of the comments about my friend B's actions when he was accosted by an irate motorist. I expected a chorus of "what'd he expect?" He did reap what he sowed - he has cuts and bruises to prove it.

But the guy who treated him so badly is realizing that feeling empowered to abuse just anyone can result in imprisonment. Sad that it's just the one guy. We need a TV show about angry drivers getting their comeuppance - instead of another show about guys beating up one another.

On Sunday, Tamar and I on our motorcycle joined seven other riders for a glorious loop in the mountains. We rode to the summit of Mt Evans at 14,000ft, where it was 39 degrees.

The pace, the level of passing aggressiveness and the company were all perfect. Why tell you this?

Because I have been on one group ride after another, on both bicycles and motorcycles (all three major Denver area bicycle clubs and a local high-end motorcycle club) and not enjoyed even one of them. They felt dangerous or raggedy-ass. Or some of the participants were ill-mannered.

I became afraid that I was growing old, mean and characteristically gloomy. Too quick to criticize. Impossible to satisfy.


Think I'm relieved?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

A provocative story...

Received yesterday from my Denver friend B (M is his wife):

On Thursday night M and I were on a 10 mile ride to a meeting with friends and back. Most of the ride we rode down S. Pearl from I25 south towards our destination at Hampden. When we got to Harvard Gulch we had to cut back over to S. Logan Street.

There were lots of cars parked on the southbound side of Logan and it is one lane in each direction. At the top of the hill we were passed by a very angry driver in a small white souped-up Subaru with fancy wheels and tires and a loud muffler.

As he accelerated around us he must have been doing 45 to 50 in a 30mph zone. There is a laser speed sign there because speeding is a problem with the rush hour commuters traveling through the neighborhood.

He honked and yelled at us. As luck would have it he was immediately caught in traffic at a red light and we traveled down the hill passing him.

As I passed I flipped him the bird and said “smooth move a--hole.”

He yelled, do you want to “talk about it,” as he accelerated through the now-green light at Hampden. He cut in front of me on E. Jefferson, immediately jumping out of his car and running to me. He continued to scream and yell for a few minutes. I let him vent and only engaged him minimally.

As I started to ride away I was repeating his license plate number over and over. He said “What are you doing?” I said, “ Memorizing your plate, a--hole, so I can report you for road rage.”

He jumped out of his car screaming, “NOBODY calls me an asshole!” He chased me down about 100 yards and tackled me while I was still clipped into my pedals. The chickensh-t had his car keys between his fingers. He got in a few good shots before I got on top of him.

Several witnesses came running up. I said, “Call the cops.” The cops got there in about 3 minutes. M was really freaked out and had ridden to a nearby bookstore (where friends of ours were) to get help. The cops took witness statements first, then handcuffed him and put him in the car. I pressed charges and he was charged with assault. Fire trucks and paramedics were called because of the blood from my scratches and cuts. I am sore, but ok.

I guess I will see him in court in September.

I am not sure how I feel about the whole thing. I guess he could've had a gun, etc. etc. It could've been worse. I just don't like feeling vulnerable and just riding away. It doesn’t sit well with me.

I have never walked away from a fight. I have had my nose broken more than once. I have never been a “you should see how the other guy looked” kind of guy. I always won. I wasn’t too emotionally involved in this, so I didn’t have the urge to just stomp his a--. I just held on to him til the cops showed up. I guess I have too much to lose these days.

M is still upset and having bad dreams about this punk. Fortunately she is out of town for the weekend with her friend Pam.

I rode for 25 miles this morning early. I will see you on the ride in the morning.


Most of us, says the blogger, will condemn B for contributing to this violent incident. If he'd just kept his mouth shut and his finger down, it would have been over after the driver "honked and yelled."

B's life, as you may have perceived, was not always so civilized. He is wired to react, to get back into faces that are shoved into his. He "won't be laid a hand on," as someone used to say.

The driver is a bully. No telling how many cyclists and pedestrians he has terrorized. No telling how many he would have terrorized in the future, had not B stopped him. Certainly B could have turned him in via some Hotline; might work, might not.

No telling also if the driver would have hurt someone tomorrow or next week. He won't hurt anyone tomorrow unless he slugs his cellmate.

Had the driver been a schoolyard bully, terrorizing our children, our attitudes would be totally different. We'd condemn those who did not speak up, did not protect our children, did not try to stop the hostile behavior before it escalates.

I am not defending or recommending B's actions. I'm suggesting that we pretend that there are no bullies or bad people, though we know there are. We place the responsibility of policing them on folks who aren't there when the thing happens. We accept no responsibility at all. Not our job.

Is B-style behavior appropriate? Nope. Is our behavior effective?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Here to set a bad example...

As I thought further about the two guys on fixed-gear bikes who chose to ride in the lefthand, "fast" lane on Grant Street yesterday evening, I realized that they don't think about cycling the way that I do, the way many of my readers do. If they think about cycling at all.

We certainly think about cycling. We care about cycling. Our friends and heroes are cyclists.

We watch more Tour coverage than presidential election coverage. We follow the Race Across America. We care about safe routes for cycle-commuters in Sedalia, Missouri.

We love cycling, the idea of it and the reality of it. We want the best for it and its practitioners, short-term, long-term. We don't yearn for cheap victories over motorists, nor do we need to make statements about our steely nerve and natural fiber authenticity each time we ride.

We don't need the sidewalks or the fast lane on Grant. We don't need badges, stuff we can simply buy, to feel real. We are real.

We've been around Cyclingtown for decades. We try to take care of the place. We're boosters, I guess - proud of where we live.

Fixie riders and their sullen, scofflaw friends are overnight guests at a cheap motel out on the highway. They're just passing though. Tomorrow they'll be gone to whatever's next.

When I see them make cyclists look disreputable, I foolishly get disappointed. I don't know why I expect more. They don't know the ways. They won't be riding long enough to learn them.

It's unfortunate that all pedalers look alike to pedestrians, drivers and law enforcement. Sadly, if you ride a bike, folks figure you're a bike rider. That's the bad part.

The good part? Won't last long.

Perhaps if we call on the great minds of America, we'll be able to come up with uses for discarded leather seats, mid-calf pants and huge, rolltop messenger bags. When the glow goes off the fad, no one will want any of those things.

Sometimes, what glitters is a polished copper rivet, glistening in a dumpster.

Preaching closed-circuit to the choir

Here's still another link to Dave Moulton's blog. Dave's latest post warns against riding on the damn sidewalk, and I'm passing along that warning, despite my reservations. No one who reads Dave's blog or mine needs to be reminded of the stupidity of riding on urban or even suburban sidewalks.

Maybe no one who can read needs to be reminded.

Yesterday evening, Tamar and I watched two local fixie riders, side-by-side, taking the left-hand (fast) lane on one-way Grant Street, just as if they had a parade permit. Much as I hate to open this can o' worms again, SO many fixie riders have their brains resting on their Brooks.

If those boneheads ever get a brain scan, doctors will detect traces of Proofhide. The doctors will be baffled but the rest of us will nod our weary heads. Not a difficult diagnosis...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

From friend Corey, who finds the cool videos

This link will take you to a blog site bursting with cool videos. This one features a huge team of '50s Italian motorcycle policemen demonstrating their skill and timing. Amazing...

Don't neglect to watch Cat Adopts Baby Bunny! Ahhh...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Fifty years and 60 million Honda Super Cubs

Here's a link to an article on the Web Bike World (motorcycle) site trumpeting the 50th anniversary of the Honda 50cc Super Cub. In the early '60s, the "nifty, thrifty" Honda 50 made motorcycling cool in the US for the "nicest people" you read about in Honda ads.

If you look at the first one and the 60 millionth one, the family resemblance is inescapable. Fifty million of those tiny bikes and half a century in production. Bravo, Honda!

To the races...and back home

Here's a link to Dave Moulton's new blog site. Dave's latest post talks about and illustrates (with terrific ancient photos) '60s British cyclists, including Dave himself, traveling to and from races on their road-commute-time trial bikes. Their everything bikes.

They'd pedal to early morning time trials, bikes fitted with lights and luggage racks and heavy clincher wheels, their lightweight racing wheels mounted to the bike on each side of the front fork.

At the race start site, they'd switch wheels and remove rack and lights, ride their 10mi or 25mi or longer distance, then change everything back for the ride home. After tea and cookies at the finish, if my limited experience at British club time trialing is any indication.

We don't do it that way any longer, huh? I'm concerned that with fuel at four dollars a gallon, cycling will be stingingly expensive for many US club riders, whose bikes travel to and from every ride in or on their cars. Shame to mount lights or a rack on a new Madone.

Simply isn't done...

Sunday, July 20, 2008

For the perfect balance of fuel efficiency...

For those of you who haven't been watching the Tour de France on Versus, the title of this post is part of the first line of a SAAB ad, repeated three tedious times each time the ad is aired.

The ad tells us (three achingly boring times) that SAAB's turbocharger recycles energy from the exhaust but fails to mention that every turbo in turbo history has done that same thing. It's how they work. The Corvair Monza turbocharger did it 40 years ago.

If you ever doubted that advertising is the trumpeting of the ordinary, witness the SAAB ad. Or just watch Tour broadcasts and let the SAAB ads prove it to you.

It's Sunday so the Tour is on CBS, not Versus. I watched, meaning I watched maybe 30 or 40 commercials so I could see four minutes of coverage of today's first Alpine mountain stage.

I watched twice as many minutes focusing on the publicity caravan as I did of today's stage, when the yellow jersey changed hands. Better I would have beaten on my fingers with a mallet.

If you watched the Tour coverage, I hope you chose to stay tuned for the broadcast of the MotoGP motorcycle race, also today, from Laguna Seca Raceway, near Monterey, California.

If you did, you will have watched no lingering shots of the Monterey countryside. You would have seen no interviews with winemakers or local young women riding on floats and hawking household goods. You would not have seen any pre-race wastes of your time.

When the cameras found the race, the riders were on the grid. Fifteen seconds later, the race was on. The on-board camera shots were brilliant. You could watch the edge of Valentino Rossi's rear tire as it (1) shredded from the heat of trying to maintain traction, or (2) picked up bits of rubber from the track.

You watched the two class riders of the field, or the two class riders who had good tires, duke it out lap after lap, both riders leaving the track at one point or another, both bikes momentarily losing traction, both young men, Rossi and Casey Stoner, banging on one another, neither on a home track, neither with a significant mechanical or power advantage...and no one else close.

I love bicycle racing and I love the Tour de France. But watching the MotoGP today was such a superior experience. And I can hardly remember who the advertisers were...

Does SAAB understand that the Tour lasts THREE WEEKS? I didn't want a SAAB, or not a newish one, but I would not buy one now - they've insulted us. I can forget that TV is merely a device that lures us to our screens so we'll watch the ads, but I remember all that when I listen to the oily voice-over repeating the SAAB litany over and over and over.

The ad sounds glorious and tells us nothing. Nothing.

What do you think? Is it harder to ride the Tour...or watch it on TV?

I don't know why racers dope. Helps them over the mountains, I guess. They must know they'll get busted. I can understand why TV viewers might dope. Helps them through the SAAB ads.

Friday, July 18, 2008

David Brooks in the NY Times, writing about Teddy Roosevelt and John McCain

Bold added by the blogger... Brooks' words in italics:

Brooks is talking about Teddy Roosevelt's measured, fair-handed approach to governing. TR was enthusiastically pro-business (bully!) but would not tolerate business soiling the environment. Here's a link to the entire article, and the paragraphs that stuck out for me:

“The true function of the state as it interferes in social life,” Roosevelt wrote, “should be to make the chances of competition more even, not to abolish them.”

John McCain’s challenge is to recreate this model. He will never get as many cheers in Germany as Barack Obama, but for a century his family has embodied American heroism. He will never seem as young and forward-leaning as his opponent, but he did have his values formed in an age that people now look back to with respect.

The high point of his campaign, so far, has been his energy policy, which is comprehensive and bold, but does not try to turn us into a nation of bicyclists. It does not view America’s energy-intense economy as a sign of sinfulness.

While David Brooks is one of my favorite columnists, I do "view America's energy-intense economy as a sign of sinfulness." I see that many Americans will grab as much as their carts will hold - and fill their pockets as they rush down the aisles of life's supermarket.

It took four dollars per gallon to dull the shine of all that F250 and Yukon paint. Three-fifty wasn't enough. Everyone knows that the sourcing of dinosaur juice is more and more expensive and environmentally damaging. Everyone knows that we consume far more of everything than citizens of other nations.

No one wants to be the first to roll down a window, turn off the air conditioning.

Seems sorta sinful to me.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

I jus' wanna say....

I'd like to say once again that I'm grateful for the thoughtful comments you submit to my blog. Several of you are regular contributors of comments; thank you for making my blog a more provocative place to visit.

Even the comments that go against the blogger's grain are welcome. If I seem to bristle or get in your face post-comment, ignore the attitude, continue to read my obnoxious rantings and keep commenting.

Even if you have an old Brooks enshrined on your wall with an everlastingly burning candle in front of it. Even you. Thanks for the pro, and thanks for the con. I love the pro; I need the con.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Forgive me...

Yesterday's post, Watching her crash, may have led a few of my readers to suspect that I advocate helmet-wearing by cyclists. Forgive me for misleading you.

I meant guys like me: Mortal, fragile bike riders susceptible to injury or worse from unnatural contact of our heads with pavement or steel. For folks like me, I do suggest regular wearing of protective headgear. Makes sense. Lord knows: We might fall.

A few talented, lucky cyclists, a group I like to call supercyclists, need not trouble themselves with helmets.

If you are one of these supercyclists, so on top of your riding as to make a crash nearly impossible; if you are never surprised or frightened by the acts of other road or path users, please do not let my paranoia give you even a moment of hesitation. I didn't mean you.

I had the other ninety-nine point nine percent in mind: Men and women with scars and lumps and lingering memories of crashes ancient and recent. You're in another class entirely. Sorry.

Especially if you are among the elite - a grizzled, weary urban road warrior of the knicker sect, rest assured. I'd never try to influence you in any way. You are a Lord of the Stiff Hub, Emperor of Elm Street. I'm not fit to carry your axle wrench. Live long and whatever.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Watching her crash...

Five minutes after I put up the Stuff Breaks post on my blog, I got on my bike and headed south on the Cherry Creek bike path. I rode past the country club and turned south along University, ready to ride under the street in a specially constructed, curving pedestrian/bicycle underpass.

I appreciate that the underpass is there, because crossing University Boulevard is sketch indeed. But I don't like the underpass; In its new, redesigned, supposedly safer form, it's nearly as scary as crossing University on the surface, playing dodge-'em with the mall-bound cars.

I followed a man and woman on racing style bikes as we approached the underpass. From a few bike lengths behind, I watched them disappear onto the ramp down to the curve. As I started down the ramp, I watched her bike go out from under her.

He was off his bike and kneeling next to her as she lay there on her back making hurt noises. She was holding her head; she'd evidently hit it on the pavement pretty hard. I raised my arm to stop bicycle traffic behind us, and groped around for my phone. Another guy on a bike appeared and was already dialing.

The husband cradled his wife's head in his hands. Riders approached from both directions and had to be slowed. I tried to help. While I did, I looked around to see if she'd broken her helmet. I realized that neither she nor her husband had been wearing helmets.

I left there after a few minutes, realizing that I was of no use on the scene. I was de-tuned, as motorcycle riders say, meaning dispirited and suffering a loss of enthusiasm. I did my ride anyway. As I approached the underpass on my way back, I saw a workman I'd talked to earlier.

He told me the woman had gone away in an ambulance. He also said that her tire had been flat. Whatever the cause of the crash might have been, I thought, had she been wearing a helmet she'd have been back on her bike in moments, or maybe walking around trying to clear her head.

Not riding away in an ambulance.

No telling what damage she did to the back of her head from that little crash. Probably, if we pay attention, there are lessons to be learned from her misfortune. Right? Anyone have an idea what we could learn? Can I see a show of hands?

An email correspondence about breaking bike parts

Hi Maynard!

This morning I took my first ride since returning from The Tree Trek. On the fixie -- 45 miles -- it went pretty well. OK, there was an injury involved but it wasn't mine.

I'd ridden through Palo Alto, picking up a seat bracket (Palo Alto Bicycles) and continued up to Woodside (Robert's Market - yum!) and down Mountain Home Road to Old La Honda when I noted a bicyclist walking, turning from Portola Valley Road onto Old La Honda.

"Need any help," I called.

"Do you have a cell phone?" he responded.

So I stopped, handing over my cell phone before I noted his left foot was drenched in blood.

"What happened?" I asked.

He handed me half of his crank. The left side had, quite literally, shattered where it joined the bottom bracket, flipping up and slicing the crap out of his leg, just behind his left Achilles tendon. The wound was about 1/2 inch deep (really deep Maynard) and blood was seeping out quite heavily.

The rider was about 70 years old. I sat him down, handed him a protein bar, got him water from his bike (which was absolutely unrideable) and dragged out stuff from my kit, starting to clean up the wound. It was a mess.

At that time a car pulled onto Old La Honda and I waved. It stopped and provided more paper towels, some antibiotic wash and ointment and a cotton handkerchief I used to bind up the wound.

MEANWHILE he used the phone to call a taxi. I stayed there until the taxi came -- 45 minutes later!

It definitely was NOT an emergency but this guy had real trouble standing (besides, I kept pushing him back onto the ground -- he had no business putting weight on that foot / ankle -- and I was worried about a chunk being taken out of his Achilles).

So finally we got him bundled into the taxicab, bicycle in the trunk, and he headed for acute care -- it wasn't quite ER level, he seemed fine except for the gash, but definitely needed to be scrubbed, disinfected and stitched up (a bit of super glue would have been enough for me).

Never seen a crank fail like that but, no doubt, it's happened before -- particularly when you put LOTS of stress on them, standing. I'd have thought you might bust a chain instead.

So my ride got a little longer then planned -- fortunately Debra had fresh tunafish waiting when I got home. That and a very, very chilled beer made for a good "recovery."

So watch dem cranks sir, watch out!

more later, Jim

Hiya Jim!

Let me see...

I've had two or maybe three frames crack. Two crank arms and one bottom bracket axle. The one time my bottom bracket axle broke the pedal and crank were still attached to my shoe when I got the bike stopped. Banged the inside of my thigh.

Stuff breaks. I never liked to take cranks off and on because each time it stretched the alloy and shortened the life of the crank arm, I thought. When stuff was pantographed, etched with the maker's logo, it would fail where it was etched. I'm sorry for the dude's injury, sucks, but it does happen, more often than you think. The scariest things are carbon forks... They just break.

We used to break rear axles too, in the Campy six and seven-speed days. Cassettes were a cure for those broken axles. Oh, I broke a pair of handlebars...maybe a seat rail or two.

Good on you for helping that guy out....


Hi Maynard

Obviously you WRECK bikes! I took a good look at the busted portion of the crank and it appeared to have started cracking at one corner, followed by a series of half-moon splits. There were also a few odd gear "marks" where the crank splines intersected with the bottom bracket. We used to investigate this stuff during Aircraft Accident Training at Navy Postgraduate School. If only I had a microscope. . . .

But one thing you mentioned got to me -- Carbon Forks. They just break? Where? How? Reason is -- I've got a front rack on my Filmore which "clamps" onto the front forks about 4 inches above the axle. It seems (?) that the forks are SOLID at that point but . . . . .

. . . . I would love to have steel forks but nobody uses 'em (much) anymore.

Meanwhile I'll take the Zurich out tomorrow (it's got a new rear rack -- Nitto -- a bit of a tight fit -- not what I'd design -- but the Zurich is NOT designed to be a luggage hauler) and climb up to Alice's -- again.
ciao jim

Hi Jim,

If you hit a squirrel on that Zurich, you may snap the forks at about the halfway point. At the races, I've seen a dozen, maybe two dozen, snapped-off carbon forks. They don't bend, as you know. People drive their cars into their garages with their bikes on top. Used to bend steel forks. A good framebuilder could straighten them. Carbon ones? Buy another.

When you looked at the stubs of broken cranks you could see a granular area that looked as if the forging was incomplete, and the area of progressive breakage. The square taper ones were not designed to be put on and taken off serially. But they usually broke at the pedal hole or where the logo was. Stuff breaks.

I was always a spinner, not a bruiser, and even I broke stuff. Never a fork though, and never a stem. Remember George Hincapie breaking a stem or steerer at Paris-Roubaix a few years ago; Trek kept the thing quiet post-crash...

I've never used off-brand stuff, or not since the '70s. Always Campy or Shimano. There was always US or foreign stuff available, but I never trusted it. As I reflect on it, I've never broken much Shimano stuff... Wheelsmith, in Palo Alto, had a show case full of broken bike parts, mostly Camp Granola.

Your friend, Maynard

Oh! Commenters... Is it okay to clamp a front rack onto carbon fiber forks?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Bike clubs: A lament...

Yesterday, I rode with the third of the three major Denver bike clubs. It was the Weds evening "noodle" ride, the social, no-drop, have-fun-or-it's-your-fault, don't-whine-if-you-crash, come-one, come-all ride.

It sucked. Like the "social" rides of the other two clubs, it was raggedy-ass and so erratic as to be dangerous. The same two or three guys, the "fast guys in the slow club," stretched the group into an intermittent line, even on the bike path at evening rush hour, where (correct me if I'm wrong) speed is so inappropriate as to be flat stupid.

New riders and even many veterans are sure they're supposed to maintain the pace of the "leaders," so they chase and chase, taking chances in bike path traffic, passing peds and skaters far too close, even drafting skaters as if skaters were pack-trained and trustworthy.

At one point I went to the front (except for the two Local Heroes six bikelengths ahead) and maintained a pace that allowed the ride to stay together. I figured: Other people will see that slowing the pace just a little will make a ride out of this.

But when I pulled off the front, the guy behind me jumped to catch the Local Heroes. No one had learned anything - except perhaps that I was a slow, feeble leader.

Before the ride, I heard guys talking about riding in race vehicles in Coors Classic stages in the '80s, but I never heard any of them offer help to a newer rider. I only saw the LHs go two miles an hour faster than prudent, two mph that precluded cohesion, that kept the ride from being a group ride.

It wasn't a group ride. It was the same guys as always, doing the same tinhorn, string-it-out trick at the front. Every club has these guys. No one says anything to them. No one says a word to anyone, if you ask me, that is not for effect: To demonstrate how cool the speaker is relative to his audience.

Years ago, I enjoyed club rides but hated club meetings. Now the rides are as bad as the meetings. Who'd ever have imagined....?

I've ridden with the Big Three Denver clubs at this point and found quickly that they all suck. They suck pretty equally. It's the same scary unhelpful bunch - with different faces and different bicycles.

All that said, I've been trying again and again to find an acceptable, savvy club. And I've failed again and again. This is not a new phenomenon, dear reader. I can't think of a happy group with which I've ridden since I lived in Berkeley. I left Berkeley in 1997.

I remember those rides fondly but maybe...probably...I found fault with those rides in those days.

Maybe, is my point, it's me. Maybe I expect things from folks who look like cyclists that are unreasonable to expect. Maybe I have an ideal ride imprinted in my cyclist mind that does not exist in cycling reality.

Maybe rides like yesterday's fiasco, a ride that felt like another in a series of personal defeats, are what I have to look forward to in my last decade or so awheel.

Or maybe, as my smarter half Tamar suggests, I'm doing something wrong and repeating the effort time after time - with the same predictable result.

Maybe I need to step up to riding with racers on their slow training days. It isn't the speed of the club rides that ruins them; it's the scary unpredictability and ever-abruptly-changing pace.

I can hang in a smooth, steady group. If I don't have sudden demands made on my legs and dispiriting near-crashes to cope with, I can hang. I'm going to put this eternal club search behind me and find classy riders with weekly easy days. Tamar's right.

I'll be in touch about this.... Wish me luck.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Is it true? DO rich people ruin everything?

Here's a link to an article about the Bullrun, a more-than mildly offensive car race. Thanks once again to the NY Times...

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

For those of us who are over 40....

Here's a link to a NY Times piece by a guy who had a crummy day on his bicycle and thought of Tim Russert....luckily.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Two people - same problem

My neighbor, the guy I see in our parking garage, is upset at cyclists, as you've read in previous posts. He's been startled a few times by cyclists while walking on sidewalks he'd always thought were safe preserves for pedestrians.

And he's watched in frustration and anger as cyclists who were stopped next to him at traffic lights took off across the intersection before the light changed. My neighbor can't do that; why should those god-damned cyclists be able to? Isn't the law the same for drivers and riders?

He has never been hurt by a cyclist, never even brushed on the sidewalk. He has never been slowed in his motorized progress by a cyclist. He had to wait in his car until the light turned green no matter what the rider did.

He has not been injured or inconvenienced. His feelings have been hurt. Because he feels he is important and deserving of respect, when he is not treated as important he is hurt. He feels impotent and becomes angry. He just can't understand why cyclists behave as they do.

When I ride on the bike path or the road and I encounter other cyclists, I wave. When they don't wave back I feel hurt and baffled, sometimes angry. I can't understand why cyclists behave as they do. No respect.

Who am I to feel that cyclists should feel obliged to wave back at me? I don't know. Why should I care if they wave back at me? I don't know that either.

Am I lessened somehow by their non-waving? I am not. If no cyclist ever waves at me from this moment until I can no longer ride, will I experience pain or injury? I will not.

My neighbor and I are burdened by overgrown senses of self-importance.

If I want to wave at other riders, I can wave all I want. If he wants to stop at red lights and take off again when they turn green, he can do that unimpeded. No cyclist will prevent it.

I could recognize that my neighbor had not been injured or inconvenienced by the rude cyclists he told me about. I knew that the problem was his; he needs to be treated as someone special, someone who commands respect on sidewalks and at lights.

I did not realize I had the same need. I need reassurance that I am worthy of a returned salute, and all the cycling world should damned well know it. Sounds awful, explained that way, huh?

I'm grateful now that my neighbor chose me to unload on. I've never felt reluctant to unload on you, have I? Maybe you'll learn something about yourself from my not-so-well-founded bitching.

When we feel we've suffered personal injury but bear no losses or bruises, we may need to examine our values. Or maybe I mean value, singular: the overblown value we place on ourselves. Are we really injured?

If I'm grateful to my neighbor for illuminating his problem and mine, perhaps I should be grateful to each of the cyclists who didn't wave back. When I can genuinely feel that gratitude, I'll have made some progress... Wish me luck.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

My friend Corey's comments about waving...

Corey lives in San Antonio. We met years ago when we lived in the San Francisco Bay Area. Both of us ride bicycles and motorcycles. Here's what he had to say about waving among both subcultures:

I notice that when I'm on my bicycle and wave at motorcycles (which I do routinely), I get more waves back than when I'm on my motorcycle and wave to bicycles (which I also do routinely).

I think it's because there is a stronger fraternity of motorcyclists than bicyclists. Riding motorcycles is a lifestyle whereas riding bicycles, for most people, is a pastime/hobby. Most bicyclists don't get "Colnago" tattoos and go to big rallies. Occasional centuries, yes; rallies, no.

There is more of an "us vs. them" mentality amongst motorcyclists. Most bicyclists (unless they also ride motorcycles) don't know the term "cager" and, for them, the fact that they are on two wheels does not mean that much (since they probably parked their SUV at the ride start and they will soon be back in their own cage).

Before cycling got popular, there was more waving going on. I think, back in the day, folks would get into cycling through clubs and cycling friends who would show them the ropes (and teach them about waving). Now, folks read about bikes in magazines, go buy a new bike and start riding on their own, not knowing that they're picking up bad habits.

I'm not sure that there's much that can be done about it. The nature of the sport may have changed, for better or worse, irreversibly. Maybe some of those who choose cycling will stick with it and join a club and become part of the tradition. Let's hope so.

Best, Corey

Friday, July 4, 2008

Waving. Again.

Last weekend on my motorcycle journey in WY and MT, I waved at everyone on a motorcycle and watched to see who'd wave back. I saw almost nothing but Harley riders, hundreds of them solo and in groups. Overwhelmingly, they DID wave back.

And I wasn't on a Harley. I wasn't on a Japanese bike, but at 140mph closing speed they probably thought I was. They waved anyway. Had they been able to identify my bike, (it's British) they would not have felt the same kind of scorn they exhibit toward Japanese bikes. At some H-D rallies, someone trucks in an old Honda. For a dollar, you can hit it with a sledge hammer.

But I don't believe they could identify my bike. Maybe they figured it was Japanese. I wore a helmet. Most of them did not. Still they waved. Ninety percent waved. No kidding. Nine percent of cyclists wave.

Why is that?

I don't think rider egos work the same way on powered two-wheelers. How else can you explain it? Is there some sort of competition among bicyclists, a cooler-than-thou ranking going on?

I wear cycling clothing but not head-to-toe matching team kit. I ride several brands of bicycles and notice no difference in the returned-wave ratio. I wave when the bike path is busy and on streets that don't see a cyclist once an hour. Same result.

If an obese plumbing contractor on a chromed-up Fat Bob who smokes, drives an F250 and hates imported motorcycles waves back at me on my Triumph, why won't a guy about my size, dressed like me, riding a bike just like mine and with a lifestyle almost identical to mine wave back? Huh?

July 4th and all's well...

I breezed through a little medical procedure yesterday, a routine preventative exam, but the preparation for it absorbed my attention for a day or so. Thus no new posts. Ah, but today...

Sunday before last, at our group ride breakfast, the owner of the organizing shop told a story about selling a fixed-gear bicycle to a new rider. The young woman had sold her car and decided to live on two wheels. She told him she already owned a bicycle helmet. She did not buy bicycle lights as he suggested. Scott feared that she was not interested in the use of either.

He feels there's a good chance that she'll take the brakes off the bike and ride brakeless and helmetless. She'll probably roll through stop signs and lights and brush by peds on sidewalks.

It's the style, after all.

He felt that if he did not sell her the bike she wanted, she'd simply go elsewhere and buy it. He also remembers her from the 'hood, having seen her several times entering or exiting a local bar.

I wrote a short piece about his experience and sent it to the bicycle trade paper, where it seems no one so much as read it. Certainly no one indicated that they'd read it.

I sent it to VeloNews. After a week, the editor asked me if I'd like to participate via that story in a point-counterpoint confrontation for VN's new Soapbox section (I think that's what they'll call it). I agreed and rewrote the piece slightly to position it so VN's editor has something to counter.

I think the topic will be something like "Are Urban Fixie Riders Good for Cycling?" Will they bring more motorist hostility down on us? Will they eventually become mainstream cyclists? Or are they only here to set a bad example?

It's exciting that VeloNews, a fine racing publication that has ignored utility cycling forever, is sticking an editorial toe in the water. Maybe more racers and racing fans are thinking about using bikes for transportation. Whatever their motivation, it's a super development.

If you recall, I told you that I was through with writing for cycling magazines. I'm reminded of the line that goes something like: Just when I think I've got out, they keep pulling me back.

I think that'll be cliches enough for today.

Thanks for your patience. More soon, very probably.