Monday, May 30, 2005


My voice started coming back over the weekend. It’s been a raspy whisper for two weeks. I slept a lot and that may have helped. But I still can’t shout. Mary, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to be improving. She goes to the doctor’s office tomorrow.

Riding to work today was very different since it’s a holiday. There was very little traffic. In fact, the 4-lane arterial at the base of my hill had no cars at 7 AM. None. It was eerie, almost like one of those end-of-the-world movies.

(Which reminds me of something in “28 Days Later”. The protagonist was supposed to be a bike messenger, yet after waking up alone in the hospital and wandering around London, he does all of it on foot. Wouldn’t you think a bike messenger would immediately look for a bike?)

So why am I at work on a holiday? Airlines never sleep. Besides, we have good coffee in the shop. Actually, we lost several holidays in our last negotiation, so here I am.

There was one annoyance while riding to work this morning. Something in the Bianchi is squeaking. I thought it was the baggage rack and I tightened it the last time I used this bike. But it still squeaks. Oddly, it seems to be at the pedal rhythm, yet when I hit a bump, it squeaks then too. I’ll have to lubricate the drivetrain and tighten the pedals, bottom bracket, chainrings, and even the saddle to try to get rid it.

I had another annoying ‘tick-tick’tick’ in the Fall a few years ago. It only happened in the morning. I never heard it in the afternoon. The ticking noise was at pedal rhythm even if I changed gears, but it stopped when I stopped pedaling. This all happened in the pre-dawn darkness, so I couldn’t see the source of the problem. I’d tightened the usual suspects to no avail. Finally, on a cold, blustery afternoon, one of the first that season, I discovered that the noise was coming from the metal zipper pull on my jacket! As I pedaled, it swung in against the metal zipper and made the ticking noise! My upper body bobbed just enough to keep the rhythm going. When I stopped pedaling, the noise stopped too! Aargh!

Yesterday, I started putting my old Schwinn High Sierra back together. I overhauled all the ball bearings, and installed a single chainring up front and a single freewheel in the back. The rear wheel should be re-dished, but I didn’t have the short spacers needed to do that job. I’ll have to go by one of the shops later this week. This bike is going to be my grocery store runner. Eventually, it’ll have a rack that can accommodate two grocery sacks. Since the grocery is only a half-mile away, it’s a quick and easy errand for a bike. In fact, it may actually be a faster trip on the bike.

The front end shudders under braking, though. I think this may be due to brake pad misalignment, because the back ends of the pads are contacting the rim before the front does. But I was running out of time to fool with it last night. I think there are some usable pads in my toolbox/junkbox, so I’ll replace the old ones later today if possible.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Random thoughts on a Saturday morning.

Someone on the fixed gear mailing posted a rant about ‘posers’ riding fixies. I guess that unless you’ve been riding fixed for less than ten years, you don’t qualify as a ‘real’ fixed gear rider. Likewise, I’ve seen disparaging comments made toward the lycra and spandex crowd by those who ride for transportation wearing work clothes or old Bermuda shorts. Maybe they’re the SPD sandals demographic. And there are the mountain bikers who wouldn’t dream of riding on the road with all those cars. “Too dangerous”, they say as they zoom downhill past trees within inches of their handlebars.

Why can’t we all just get along?

Because we can’t.

I really don’t care how someone dresses when they ride a bike. Back in my boy racer days, a guy wearing a suit and tie dropped me on a climb. It’s a humbling experience. Granted, it was a hot day and I’d put in a lot of miles before reaching that hill, but it was humbling nonetheless. My point here is that we can’t judge another cyclist’s merits by his attire.

But we can and do judge other cyclists on their behavior. This is one reason I dislike doing group rides. I see things that set my teeth on edge. Cyclists routinely run red lights and stop signs. They yell “Clear!” when the head of the group reaches an intersection, and the rest follow like lemmings. They cut corners and ride on the wrong side of the street.

These behaviors become habits, and habitual behavior can get us hurt or killed. I was in the habit of running a stop sign in my neighborhood until I nearly ran into a car. The intersection was ‘always’ clear, so why even slow down? It was a stupid, dangerous habit.

But I didn’t start writing this as a rant about the stupid things we cyclists do. No. I really wanted to focus on what unites us rather than what divides us. And the one thing that we need in a universal sense is the simple right to use the public roads. Trail advocates, bike lane zealots, and mountain bikers may not agree, but there comes a time when every cyclist has to leave the bike lane or the trail and reach his destination on public streets. If he’s too timid to attempt this on his bicycle, he’s effectively cut off from those destinations served by public roads.

Some of the obstacles to riding on the street are self-imposed. “I wouldn’t ride there. It’s too dangerous”, we tell ourselves. Some cyclists go so far as to tell other cyclists where and when they should ride. Brian, one of our LCIs, was scolded by another cyclist for riding on the road instead of the shoulder. Someone yelling “Car back!” every time a motor vehicle approached followed me on a local group ride. He was getting angry because I was riding side-by-side with a friend and I didn’t dive for the curb.

Honestly, I’ve been getting angry recently because of rude motorists and stupid cyclists. I started flipping off the horn honkers and assorted other idiots, even though it does little good and merely escalates the situation. So on my homeward commute, I made a conscious effort to be nice. Some fool in daddy’s enormous SUV started honking and I merely waved – using all five fingers for emphasis. He didn’t honk again. I gotta remember to do that, rather than let my anger show.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Stoopid Driver Tricks…

We’ve all had them: the right hook, the left hook, and the oh-my-god-I-swear-I-never-saw-him-officer as they pull out in front of us. Lately there’s been another one that’s getting me a little concerned. It’s the suicidal pass-the-bicyclist into on-coming traffic. Honestly, this is getting to be far too common.

It happened again this morning. A pickup came up behind me, and rather than slow down he decided to pass, despite the line of traffic in the on-coming lane. A woman in a car actually had to stop to let the fool complete the maneuver. To make it worse, he went down the road another hundred yards and pulled into a parking lot. In order to ‘save’ a few seconds, he endangered himself, another motorist, and me. Sometimes I hate stupid drivers.

I tried to yell “Asshole!” as he went by. But my voice barely rose above a whisper. I’m still not over last week’s cold, so the yelling wasn’t audible or effective.

The other suicidal move that seems to be on the increase too, it the follow-the-leader maneuver. The first car passes a cyclist, then every car behind him passes too, regardless of whether they can see what’s ahead. I’ve seen this one performed into on-coming traffic, over the crest of a hill, and around blind corners.

I’m almost certain that if a collision occurs, one of the motorists will try to blame the cyclist. “He was a swervin’ all over the road! I was just trying to avoid him!” Yeah, right.

On Friday, as I rode along our brand-new four lane arterial, a woman came up next to me in the passing lane and laid on the horn. I hoped the light up ahead would change, but it stayed green. She sailed through then made a left into a bank drive-thru lane. I caught up to her.

“Ma’am, please don’t do honk at cyclists. It’s rude.”

“I didn’t honk at you!”

“Yes, you did, just west of the railroad tracks.”

“Well, if I did it was an accident.”

“I don’t believe that, ma’am. Just don’t do it.”

“Well! You’re entitled to YOUR opinion!”

What is it about driving a car that turns normal, intelligent people turn into morons? I used to think that a driver’s intelligence was inversely related to the square of the available horsepower, but riding around professional drivers changed my mind. I’m talking about gravel trucks – the heaviest thing on the road here in Oklahoma. Those drivers know where the corners and sides of the trucks are. They know how much space they need to brake or accelerate. Over ten years of near-daily commuting, I’ve had just three incidents with the big trucks. For the most part, their drivers are competent and safety minded. It’s the amateurs out there who worry me.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

I got them Nyquil blues again, Momma…

We had thunderstorms Wednesday night. The thunder woke me at about 4AM. When I got up a little before 6, there was steady rain. By the time I left for work, it was down to light rain. I looked at the radar and it appeared the rain was about to taper off. Sure enough, just after I arrived at work, it stopped. Lucky me.

Riding in the rain isn’t terribly uncomfortable provided you don’t mind getting wet and you can stay warm. I carry a cheap vinyl rain jacket for those occasions, and sometimes I’ll let a bit of air out of the tires for better traction. My legs develop cramps when it’s cold and wet, so I try to have some leg warmers or tights available too.

It’s about the only time I use the rear brake, except for panic stops. When you consider that every cyclist depends on a front tire contact patch about the size of a thumbprint, the last thing he wants is to have that front tire skid. Recovering from a rear tire skid is usually easy. But a front tire skid has immediate and very unpleasant consequences. The cyclist goes down.

At quitting time, my shoes were still damp even though I’d stuffed them with newspapers to speed drying. I’d forgotten to wring out my gloves and they were soggy. But it was near 90F outside, so I didn’t worry about getting cold. Actually, since the electronics shop is usually chilly, I looked forward to going outside to warm up! I probably should have washed the gloves, because they definitely smelled funky this morning. Maybe that’s why dogs chase us. They smell that nasty glove odor and think it’s something dead they can roll in.

I’m looking forward to the weekend. My kids shared their cold with me, and I’ve been sick all this week. The crud settled in my throat. I haven’t been able to talk much since Tuesday. I’m improving, but I’m really looking forward to taking a big slug of Nyquil tonight so I can turn into a green-tongued sleep monster. Really, I haven’t slept well all week. Nyquil knocks me out, but it also makes me groggy most of the next day. I don’t take it when I have to work. But the idea of a solid night’s sleep is very appealing.

Yes, all that means I’m sick and I still rode my bike in the rain yesterday. Maybe I’m a little sick in the head too.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Feet of clay...

My son apparently hasn’t grown up enough to see that his father definitely has feet of clay. I say that because after riding with me one afternoon, he said that I should consider trying for the Olympics! Maybe it was out-and-out flattery. Maybe the kid is shrewd enough to realize what a kick that is for a father, to hear something that seems like hero-worship. Regardless, it produced a glowing feeling.

There’s no way I could ever be Olympic material, particularly since the professionals compete now rather than mere amateurs. Even when it was an amateur endeavor, I wouldn’t have been competitive. My best time trial, ever, was 26:40 for ten miles, and that was nearly 30 years ago! I was happy to break 30 minutes in the last one. The fast guys around here are 4-5 minutes faster then me, and the pros are about 4-5 minutes faster than them!

I had those Walter Mitty dreams once, long ago. But I realized quickly that I had (and still have) an annoying habit that makes racing and training on a serious level a very difficult task. Every day, I get this gnawing, empty feeling right above my belt buckle. The only way to overcome the feeling is to eat, and the only way I’ve found to eat regularly is to have a regular job. Imagine that. I knew a few people who had family or girlfriends to support them. They rode every day, usually for hours. They were strong and fast, dropping me at will on the road or in a criterium.

But those words – “You should be in the Olympics, Dad!” – may be the only award I receive. And they’re enough.


No Ride of Silence for me tonight. I have the cold that’s been going through the rest of the family. It’s my turn. I’ve been coughing and sniffling, and my voice has a nice, raspy quality that sounds like I’ve had a steady diet of whiskey and cigarettes. Sometimes it’s even gone to a rumbling ‘Barry White’ mode. I’d be tickled if it stayed that way! Mary wouldn’t.

I’m drinking lots of fluids and taking some pills. I used Nyquil on Monday night so I could sleep, but that stuff made me groggy on Tuesday. It’s great to be able to sleep through a cold, but I hate feeling like a zombie the next day.


I’m considering changing the gearing on my Centurion. The 42x20 was great for the winter. It’s low enough that I can carry a lot of baggage and still get into a headwind. But with summer coming, I’d like something larger. I don’t need to carry as much when it’s hot.

I weighed the Bianchi once with full pannier, fenders, and lights, and it was nearly 45 pounds. The Centurion with its fixed gear is only a little less. And I weigh about 210 (as of this morning) so the combined vehicle weight is around 250 or so. Obviously, I don’t want to get on some huge gear. My middle-aged knees wouldn’t take it for long.

I set up the old Pennine for the Racing on the River time trial, planning to use a 47x18 for training, and then either a 49T or 52T chainring for the race. But we had to leave town for a few days, and I missed the TT. The bike is still set up with the 47, so I rode it to work yesterday, maybe not the smartest thing to do with a cold.

There was a light headwind in the morning. I could feel the extra effort pushing that gear into the wind. It wasn’t strenuous, but it was definitely more work that the Centurion. I had a tailwind on the way home, though, and like most days, the wind was stronger in the afternoon. I flew! Granted, I had only a Camelback Hawg and a seat bag instead of a big, heavy pannier. It felt wonderful!

But the Pennine isn’t to be a regular commuter. It’s enjoying an honorable semi-retirement. I use it only for TTs. The bike isn’t valuable, but it was my first racing bike, and it earned a special place. So chances are, the Centurion with it’s fenders and rack will undergo a gear change soon.


I hate it when things break. It seems like multiple things break at the same time. The car broke down last week, for instance, and my floor pump’s gauge broke too. The washer is on its last legs. The air conditioner is the original unit that the builder installed twenty years ago. It’s getting creaky. The carpet’s worn out and the roof needs to be replaced too. (Please don’t let it leak! Please! Please! Please!) Getting the car fixed cost as much as a new Bianchi Pista, and I’d surely be happier with a shiny new bike than a ratty old car. She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed has other ideas, a solid, non-leaking roof and a new carpet among them.

Why is it that after taking the family out for pizza one evening, and emptying my wallet in the process, I can almost count on needing that money for something else the next day? Now I don’t carry a lot of cash around, but that pizza money would have paid for the tire with the slashed sidewall that I got on the way home. Or the money spent on ice cream for everyone would have paid for a new tube. Instead, I’d be standing on the roadside somewhere, praying that a suspect patch would hold long enough to get me home.

Robert Heinlein wrote in “Glory Road” (IIRC) that government consists of 3 parts, the Dirty Tricks Department, the Nasty Surprises Department, and the Fairy Godmother Department. The Fairy Godmother Department consists of an elderly female clerk with lots of vacation time. She occasionally sets her knitting aside and does something nice for someone, but the rest of the time Dirty Tricks and Nasty Surprises are the norm.

Anyone who’s had a flat tire, only to find there’s no spare tube in the seat bag has been victimized by the Nasty Surprises Department. Anyone who’d ridden a nice, paved road, only to discover a ‘Road Closed’ sign and a mile of impassable mud ahead has been had by the Dirty Tricks Department.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

A lick and a promise...

"A lick and a promise" is an idiom maybe taken from German or Dutch. It means to do something quickly and promise to do a more thorough job in the near future - sort of like my garage. I do a quick clean up and promise to do a more thorough one as soon as I have time, like maybe when I retire.

This post is a lick and a promise. I want to put something here regularly, even if I can't do anything in depth right now. So the promise is that once things settle down at work and I'm not so stinkin' busy, I'll be able to write more. With that, here's a catch-all post.

I rode to Tulsa for an INCOG bicycle/pedestrian meeting on Saturday. Its purpose was to inform the public regarding INCOG’s bicycling and pedestrian planning. Aaron Bell and Jennifer Brown were there all alone when I arrived. Let’s just say the meeting was sparsely attended, possibly because there was a Freewheel training ride that morning. We talked about a lot of bicycle-related programs including the Tulsa trail system and bicycle education. I gave them a little more information on the Community Cycling Program because we were unable to do that at the formal INCOG bicycling subcommittee meeting.

The ride home was into the wind for nearly 8 miles. It was a long grind, but I just selected a smallish gear and kept the pedals spinning. Maybe that’s one bad thing about being here in Oklahoma. The mainly flat terrain offers little shelter from the wind. I was looking forward to dropping down into the Deer Creek valley because the trees would break it up a little bit.

Usually, after a long grind like that, I have to be concerned about leg cramps in the evening. I’ve found that staying hydrated is important, and that keeping my legs warm is equally important. Mary bought me a throw blanket last winter. I used it while watching television in the bedroom, and Saturday night it kept my legs warm. The kids thought it was slightly odd, but when I referred to it as my ‘woobie’ they broke down laughing!

In other news, it’s mating season for that oh-so-common Oklahoma species, the Red-Necked Doofus. The Doofus is most often located by listening for its plaintive mating call, “Getdafuckoffdaroad!” The call is more frequent in the spring, when folks have their windows rolled down, and is heard much less often in the dead of winter or the searing heat of summer. Ah, Spring! Soon they’ll be nested in a trailer court somewhere, adding more slack-jawed, dull-eyed kids to the population. It’s the species imperative – to reproduce their kind.

In other, other news, the international Ride of Silence is tomorrow evening. The Tulsa ride leaves from the West Bank parking lot at 7PM. I’ll be there. The purpose is to commemorate those cyclists who’ve been killed or injured on our roads, and to heighten awareness of cyclists. Last year, several hundred riders participated. This is not a Critical Mass ride or a protest. It will have a police escort, though how we’re going to pay them for the overtime, I do not know. We’ll probably pass the hat at the start. We had armbands last time for those who’d been injured or knew someone who’d died on the road.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Trucks on the bulletin board...

WOW! I haven’t posted for a while! Things have been hectic at work, for one thing. We have 3 employees out on medical leaves, and I’m cross-trained on 2 of their jobs. So in addition to my normal workload, I’ve been asked to help out with theirs. It’s not a lot more work, but it does make for a busy day. I’ve been physically and mentally exhausted. And it’s difficult to write when it’s difficult to stay awake.

I counted eight trucks for sale on our bulletin board, as well as one motorcycle, a boat, and a Honda Accord whose main appeal was thirty miles per gallon. It looks like people are getting rid of their gas-guzzling dinosaurs. And it’s about time.

Meanwhile, the company has added a new bike rack up at the north end of the complex in order to accommodate the increasing numbers of commuting cyclists on the base. This is a wonderful development! I’m seeing more cyclists on area roads all the time.

In other news, I’ve been asked about doing a Scouts bicycle safety lecture. Actually, the Boy Scout bicycle merit badge material is very good. It’s similar to the Kids1 and Road1 material from the League of American Bicyclists.

Last night, a neighbor’s kid wanted me to fix his bike. First off, I noticed it had no brakes whatsoever. The front wheel was off. The axle was stripped. The kid was riding it by simply putting the fork down on top of the axle. There was no way to fasten it, and I couldn’t fix it without a new axle. I refused to work on the bike. I hated to turn the kid down, but I don’t need an irate parent suing me over something like this. Then my fourteen-year-old son said that riding brakeless is the ‘style’ now. I told him if he removed the brakes from his bike, I’d disassemble the bike entirely until not one part was touching another.

Then I sent off an e-mail to our local police chief, telling him of the incident and offering my help with any safety-related approach they wanted to take. I know that enforcing bicycle laws is not a top priority of the department, and I wasn’t asking for that. I just don’t want to read about a kid riding out into traffic because he couldn’t stop his bike.

Two additions to the Yard Dogs from Hell stories: I had to use my stick for the very first time, whacking a dog that was intent on biting me. He backed off quickly. The other news is that a passing motorist bunted one of the dogs into a ditch. This dog bit a runner not long ago, so it’s demise will be unlamented. It would be nice if the ‘owner’ would be responsible enough to get it up out of the ditch and bury it, but it appears the dog is going to rot there. It’s close to another neighbor’s mailbox, so they have to be aware of the animal if only from the smell. This dog’s owner has said that (1) the dogs belong to his father-in-law, (2) the dogs belong to his ex-wife, and (3) the dogs just kinda showed up one day and he’s been feeding them ever since. So they’re not actually HIS. Wonderful people.

We did another Road1 course over the weekend for some social services clients. I’d worked on a nice old Takara mixte last week that went to one of them. It was a ’79 model and when I looked closely, it didn’t show much usage. The rims weren’t even scored from the brake pads. The bike was in like-new condition, so all it needed was some lubrication and adjustment. I pulled the bottom bracket assembly out just to check the grease. The Lubriplate was yellowed with age but not dried out. Lubriplate will dry out if it gets wet.

Sandra had worked on a Giant MTB and still had some problems with it, so I looked it over too. There’s nothing like another set of eyes to find something we’ve missed! It had some loose fasteners and one of the chainrings was slightly bent, but it worked OK. I’m sure Sandra was amused by my habit of talking to myself while I work! I mutter a lot and ask myself questions. Dunno why, but it seems to help me stay focused and on track.

Finally (and not bicycle-related) I got the prints back from my daughter’s prom. I’d taken pictures of her and her friends and their dates with my old Rolleicord IV – think BIG negatives! – and Lyndsay was pleased. She said the prints look so much better than the 35mm. The Rolleicord gives 6cm x 6cm negatives, and the lens provides much more detail than a smaller format camera. The only drawback is that it’s more expensive. Still, I get a kick out of playing with a camera that’s nearly as old as I am! Old bike and old cameras are a lot of fun.