Tuesday, January 31, 2006

OBC and Bike Lanes

Michael Schooling asked if the Oklahoma Bicycle Coalition has a position on bike lanes. This was my response:

I could be wrong - and if I am, someone will undoubtedly be along shortly to correct me! - but I don't believe OBC has taken any formal position either for or against bike lanes. There are several reasons for this. The coalition is just that, a coalition, and it should encompass a wide range of views. But more importantly, the coalition exists to educate cyclists, motorists, law enforcement personnel, bureaucrats, planners, and policy makers about safe, efficient bicycle use and operation.

You will hear the argument that education obviates the need for expensive facilities like bike lanes. You'll hear that the difference between crash rates on streets equipped with bike lanes and those without is negligible. And you'll hear that if lanes are installed, many more people will use bicycles for transportation. Each has vocal proponents and detractors, yet it's not the purpose of OBC to support or oppose those arguments. We exist to educate.

My personal opinion is that bicycle lanes are an expensive solution to a
negligible problem. Many believe that such lanes make cycling safer because that magic paint stripe somehow reduces the risk of being hit from behind. But that risk is very, very low to begin with. If I recall right, less than 8% of all cycling fatalities involve being hit from behind, and the majority of those happen after dark to cyclists without lights or reflectors. Intersections account for roughly two-thirds of fatalities, yet bike lanes make intersections and crossing movements more complicated. Finally, the build-it-and-they-will-come argument is not supported by facts. We've spent ever-increasing amounts on facilities like bike lanes (but also including linear parks and other cycling amenities) yet the number of cyclists has remained relatively flat (when bicycle sales figures are used as an estimate of the numbers of new cyclists).

I can't think of a better way of demonstrating the safety of cycling than by riding regularly on our streets and roads. It's isn't rocket science. It doesn't require super-human abilities. We routinely educate our children in Driver's Ed classes because we believe that they become safer drivers. No one would seriously propose building roads expressly for inexperienced or uneducated drivers, yet some propose just that for cyclists, as if we're incapable of learning. We should insist that our children get bicycle education in middle school, when they're old enough for good judgment skills. And we should insist that every club in the state get some of their members through a Road1 course too, because it's never too late to learn a
little more.

While it's true that as an LCI I have a financial stake in this, let's just say that I'm still very far on the debit side. (My spouse has pointed this out on several occasions, as spouses do.) I don't think any of the instructors in Oklahoma have made enough profit to call bicycling education more than an expensive hobby rather than a business. Yet despite some of our differences, we share a common view of the future of cycling here in Oklahoma, and we have a shared passion for cycling as both a transportation mode and a refreshing recreational choice.

Brian Potter wrote about bike lanes next to limited-access roads:

...AASHTO standards for bikeways call for anything referred to as a bike lane to be five feet wide. Personally, I prefer very wide outside lanes with relatively narrow shoulders (think idealized rural highway) or relatively narrow lanes with rather wide shoulders--in either case, bicyclists can ride in a space, either sharing the wide traffic lane or moving just over the line, which has been swept clean by the movement of motor traffic. On wide shoulders, the rumble strip should be further away from the lane stripe to allow safe cycling in the clean zone.

I think it's important to point out something that Brian mentioned in passing. AASHTO has standard engineering guidelines for bike lanes and other such facilities. Far too often, local public works departments want to build something on the cheap, and don't realize that by doing so, they increase risks to cyclists and incur liability for the local government by ignoring the guidelines. Shoddy, poorly designed and poorly maintained facilities are nothing more than a sop to local cyclists, intended to buy their silence.

We had one such proposal here in Tulsa. Archer Street is part of the city's bicycle plan, yet Urban Redevelopment wanted to install angled parking along it in order to accommodate more cars. Angled parking is a hazard to both bicyclists and motorcyclists. As an 'alternative', they drew up a bike route that twisted around through vacant lots, back alleys, and sidewalks in order to make the route 'safer' (and get those pesky cyclists out of the way of 'important' motor vehicle traffic!). The INCOG bicycling subcommittee reviewed the plans and opposed them vigorously. And it's at the planning stage where cyclists themselves are most effective in changing outcomes.

Brian called these planning meetings the tedious nuts-and-bolts of advocacy. And he's right. Poring over engineering documents is hardly exciting. But it's far easier to get changes made at the planning stage rather than after they're quite literally cast in concrete.

Ask Crankset!

Here's something that may be an occasional offering on CycleDog. Ask Crankset! is an advice column written by an experienced cyclist, Wally Crankset, who answers all your cycling-related questions!

Dear Mr. Crankset,
I met a guy at the local coffee shop and we seemed to hit it off well. He seems nice, very athletic and trim because he's a cyclist, but I'm wondering a little bit about his legs. He shaves them! He asked me out to dinner, but I'm worried that he might be...um...not really manly, if you know what I mean. What should I do?

Dear Uncertain,
Truly committed road racers shave their legs. There are lots of reasons for this, but mostly it comes down to tradition. Don't worry about it. Instead, invite him to your place for dinner and make something with lots of pasta. A racer's heart lies directly through his stomach. Good luck!

Dear Mr. Crankset,
My fiance is semi-retired and looking for something to do with all his time. Frankly, he's underfoot entirely too often and it's interfering with my singing career. He's been a cyclist all his life, but now he's talking about a career in politics! The last thing I want to do is hang around in Washington as a politician's wife! What should I do?

Dear Vexed,
I fully agree with you. No one wants to be the spouse of a politician! But changing his mind may take some planning. Try to set aside a quiet evening. Light some candles and pour him a glass of wine. Then make him a nice dinner, preferably something with lots of pasta. Afterward, have a heart-to-heart with him, and recommend he get a more honorable job, like a pornographer or an internet spammer. He'll come around!

Dear Mr. Crankset,
My husband gets grease stains all over his clothing when he works on his bicycle in the garage. I've told him again and again to be more careful, but he simply ignores me! He doesn't have any other bad habits. He doesn't smoke, drink, swear, or chase other women. He doesn't hunt or fish. But he's such a slob I'm ashamed to be seen with him! Every piece of clothing he owns has a grease mark or a what he calls a chainring tattoo on it! What should I do?
Mrs. Clean

Dear Mrs. Clean,
What are you complaining about, woman! The guy doesn't smoke, drink, or chase other women AND he doesn't hunt or fish! What's a little grease? Tell you what, fix him a nice dinner with lots of pasta and count your blessings!

Dear Mr. Crankset,
My girlfriend wants to start doing training rides with me, but I'm afraid she doesn't have enough road savvy or good conditioning. What the best way to tell her that I'd rather train alone?
The Intimidator

Dear Intimidator,
Crush her on the very first hill you encounter. Break her spirit and her will. Reduce her to a quivering, teary mess, then send her home to make you a nice dinner with lots of pasta.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Chain lube

This was a response to an e-mail, and I've posted it here as a basic explanation of chain lubricants and how to use them. Now, I know some of you have esoteric lubricants consisting of things like rancid yak fat rendered over a slow-burning fire of horse dung, or something 'borrowed' from a space shuttle launch. But this is intended for general background information.....Ed

I think James wrote something about chain lubrication earlier this week, and said he was using WD40 as a chain lube. I meant to reply at the time, but things intervened as things do, and I forgot about it.

WD40 is not a good choice for a chain lubricant. It's not designed to stand up to the pressure generated in a chain. However, it's an excellent choice as a chain cleaner, maybe not as environmentally friendly as one of the 'green' cleaners, but still better than kerosene or carburetor cleaner.

Simply rotate the pedals backward, and from the front of the bike, direct the spray into the chain as it goes around the chainring. Wipe off the excess and let it sit for a few minutes so the propellants can evaporate.

It's a good idea to wear safety glasses while spraying these chemicals.

There are two major types of chain lubricants: wet and dry. Wet lubricants like plain motor oil or Triflow tend to attract dirt and they'll permanently stain your clothing. Besides, chainring tattoos are the mark of a tyro. I used Triflow for years because it really does work well. Dry lubricants, on the other hand, are mostly wax. They have to be replenished more often than wet lubes, but they don't attract dirt, and for the most part, they don't leave stains. (More on that in a moment.) The boutique lubes are mostly clear waxes, but I've started using Amzoil's Metal Protectant Heavy Duty (MPHD), a brownish wax that costs far less than boutique lubes. It has the disadvantage of building up on chainrings and cogs, leaving a ridge of hard to remove brown wax. It's a very good idea to wipe down as much of the chainring as you can after applying this stuff. And because it's a brown color, it will stain clothing, but not to the extent of wet lubricants. MPHD is also suitable as an undercoating, and I've used it inside my steel frames to prevent corrosion.

One other thing about Triflow - it was originally developed as a lubricant for military arms, and will stand up to immersion and even salt water far better than any oil. I've used it to lift difficult-to-remove black powder fouling. It will withstand heat and pressure, so it's an excellent choice for a firearm.

Why is chain lubrication important?

The chain is the cheapest part of the drive train. As it wears, it causes wear on the chainrings and cogs also. Dirt is a fine abrasive that accelerates the process. So if you want to avoid replacing the expensive bits, keep the chain clean and lubed, and replace it before it reaches it wear limit.

The wear limit (or chain stretch as it's sometimes called) is 1/8 inch over 12 links.. You can measure that easily with an ordinary ruler. A brand-new chain will measure precisely 12 inches over 12 links. One that's ready to be tossed will measure 12 1/8 inches. Just measure between pin centers.

It's not always necessary to replace a cog along with the chain, but if you experience crunching noises and pops after replacing the chain, it may be time for a new cog too.

A clean, well-lubricated chain runs quieter and shifts better than a dirty one. Sometimes you can even feel the difference when pedaling. A clean chain runs smoother, where a dirty one causes noticeable vibration in the pedals.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Greetings and salutations...

I meant to include this in yesterday's musette, but I was pressed for time as Blogger was scheduling an outage and I had just minutes to finish that post.

We've all heard the traditional "Get off the road!" and "Get on the sidewalk!" from passing motorists. My personal favorite was the guy who called me a "F*#%@^* LIBERAL!" as I was riding home from work. In Oklahoma, them's fightin' words. He was right, of course, since I AM a liberal, and everyone knows that cyclists have less environmental impact, use less fossil fuel, and as a result, do not support using the government and the United States military to make the world a better, safer place for multi-national oil companies and those automakers who manufacture SUVs the size of a house. Conservatives, on the other hand...oh, wait...never mind. If I go into that the black helicopters will be hovering above the house again and the NSA will tap all my phones. I hate it when they do that.

A close runner up was the woman who called the cops because I was (gasp!) RIDING A BICYCLE ON THE ROAD! There are a surprising number of people who believe this is illegal. Worse, they'll offer us 'advice' on how we should ride - usually facing traffic - not knowing that's a suicidal maneuver. One guy told me I shouldn't ride until all the local roads had bikelanes. Fat chance. My bullshit detector was ringing loudly.

In this populist state, motorists would love to have bike lanes to get us pesky cyclists off the roads, but they'll NEVER vote to fund them. I've written about this before. Some of our utopian facilities advocates have a hard time with this idea, probably because it's reality-based. So if Oklahoma cyclists want to ride, they ride on the road. Some discover that it's actually comfortable and safe to do so, despite all the dire warnings from the facilities crowd. But I digress.

Yesterday, a passenger in a truck leaned out the window and yelled, "Go ride on a road that doesn't have f******* cars on it!" This despite the fact that there was no on-coming traffic and passing me was relatively easy. Maybe he's intends to start riding too, just to get another car off the road and show solidarity with us cyclists. And honestly, it would be good for my ego to ride past someone who's obviously overweight, red-faced, and struggling to pedal along in bib overalls. He may have been chagrined about being late for his night school welding class, but you really have to respect someone determined to better his lot in life. Regardless, I waved as he drove off, still red-faced and shouting something unintelligible. It's good to know that someone respects and appreciates us cyclists.

I could be wrong, of course. His comment will go down as one of the top three anyway.

But don't get the idea that all Oklahoma motorists are red-necked morons. Only SOME of them are, and they're a tiny percentage of the people I see every day. There are folks at the other end of the spectrum too, like Steve McCoy.

For months, a guy going north on Mingo Road would use the PA system in his car to yell a greeting each morning as he passed. "Good morning, bicycle guy!" I came to expect it and looked for his car. We waved. It's always pleasant to see someone friendly on the road. But I hadn't seen him for a few weeks until this morning.

As I approached the railroad tracks on the edge of town, a white-bearded guy leapt from his parked truck and sprinted to the roadside. "Good morning, bicycle guy!" he yelled.

I stopped and we did introductions. Steve works here at the maintenance base too, but he's just changed shifts. "I finally got off midnights", he said. And I told him I'd done 5 years on midnight shift too, and I was happy to leave it behind.

I won't see Steve in the mornings anymore, but it's good to know that there are people like him out on our roads.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Wednesday Musette

On coffee...

I just finished my afternoon cuppa to get me through the post-lunch doldrums.

"The voodoo priest and all his powders were as nothing compared to espresso, cappucino, and mocha, which are stronger than all the religions of the world combined, and perhap stronger than the human soul itself."...Mark Helprin, Memoir from Antproof Case, 1995. (BRAIN quote of the day 20JAN2006)

I'll have to get a copy of this book from the library just on the basis of that quotation.

One lung or two?

A friend was diagnosed with emphyzema a few years ago. He continued smoking for two years afterward, until he needed supplemental oxygen. Last summer, he had a lung transplant. My friend was an active middle-aged guy with few bad habits other than smoking, but now he looks 20 years older.

Before the transplant, he was tethered to an oxygen generator all the time. But he tried something that may be of benefit to cyclists. He was using 'pressure breathing' - a technique that builds up air pressure in the lungs, forcing more oxygen into the bloodstream. I'd read about it in connection with high-altitude climbing. My mother-in-law started using this too, since she was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis.

The technique is very simple. Inhale normally, but when you exhale, purse your lips. If you narrow the opening enough, you have to forcefully expel the air, increasing the pressure in your lungs and increasing the O2 level in your bloodstream.

I've tried it, and it seems to help when I'm going up a long grade or into a strong headwind. On the other hand, since I'm concentrating a little more on my breathing, it just may be taking my mind off the suffering the rest of the body experiences!

One last thing - if you smoke - please stop. I know it's extremely hard to do since nicotine is so very addictive. But this affects everyone around you, just like any other addiction. The difference is that it simply takes longer to destroy a life.

Broken spoke.

I broke a spoke on my fixed gear sometime yesterday. Usually I hear a 'bang!' that announces the broken spoke, but I didn't hear one this time. It may have happened in the morning when my balaclava muffles some sound. Regardless, when I noticed the steady tick-tick-tick at wheel speed on the way home, I pulled over to take a look.

A left side spoke in the rear wheel broke just under the spoke head. I got it out of the wheel because I'm always afraid of an impalement hazard if I should fall. The wheel wobbled along nicely, not hitting the brake pads. I put the bike in the garage where I'll fix it this weekend.

I rode the Bianchi to work today. It's almost sinfully plush by comparison! The Brooks Professional saddle is like an old lounge chair, and the rise handlebar seems like it's WAY high. But I've been on the fixie so much that coasting seemed unnatural. Now unwelcome, mind you, just unnatural!

Maybe this is a sure sign that you've become a dedicated bicycle commuter. You have a regular commuting bike and a back-up commuting bike.

When I've spent a day wearing binocular magnifiers, poring through technical manuals, and poking at a computer's innards with an oscilloscope probe, a opportunity for a bike ride is very, very welcome!

Team Discovery

I was again overlooked for the team presentation by Discovery this year. Oh well, maybe next year. I've pointed out previously that it's a better use of advertising money to hire some...ahem...slightly pudgy racers because we provide much more advertising space than those skinny guys. Plus, we're slower so the fans have ample time to read all the logos and write down telephone numbers and web addresses. What's not to love?

...and speaking of money!

The advertisements on Cycledog have brought in a whopping...um...well, it's not exactly whopping. Let's just say that in another hundred and twenty years or so, I'll have enough for a full-Campy custom bike. I can't wait!

One local cyclist raised much, much more simply by panhandling. Still, I can't see myself sitting along the road somewhere with a tin cup and a sign that says "Need $200 for Easton EC70 handlebars!" - part of this month's Buycycling magazine's "Nip and Tuck Your Ride". Who in their right mind pays $200 for handlebars? On the other hand, there's the oh-so-affordable $180 jersey.

Maybe I have junk store values to go along with the junkyard dog mentality.

Monday, January 23, 2006

I'm a MAN, not a hamster, dammit!

Velo-City is about a bicycle facility proposal, a real pie-in-the-sky bit that imagines the use of large, clear plastic tubes elevated above street level so that cyclists would be separated from all that 'dangerous' motor traffic on the street below. Like most facility ideas, it probably introduces more problems than it solves, yet it's an intriguing idea because it's a people-sized version of those Habitrail tubes for pet hamsters! Imagine it! Plastic tubes connecting people with their home, workplace, and all the other destinations they require. It almost eliminates having those pesky cyclists on the roads.

Of course, I can offer a few improvements.

The system would need a Habitrail grocery. Cyclists could push little levers in order to get food pellets. If a bell rings, will they start salivating?

There should be a Habitrail gym that includes a little wheel the people could run in, assuming they don't get enough exercise riding their bikes in the tubes.

It wouldn't be complete without a Habitrail disco lounge where Habitrail people could meet in order to reproduce their kind (with apologies to the late Frank Zappa, who thought of this first!)

NITWITNESS TRAFFIC BULLETIN: "...and in-bound bicycle traffic is heavy in the A-12 tube just north of the A-9 junction, but it's moving rapidly. Stay tuned for more NITWITNESS traffic news!"

Logically, the system would need a Habitrail church where they could repent after an evening at the Habitrail disco, capped by spending the night in a Habitrail No-Tell-Motel.

Habitrail may have some problems in a hot climate. Imagine the heat buildup inside a clear plastic tube on a hot summer day, especially in a southern location. It would probably require air conditioning. Wihout it, the heat and humidity would combine to produce a Habitrail 'fungal spore duct' that would smell like a nasty old pair of sneakers, except you'd get to be INSIDE those sneakers! Now there's a lovely thought.

NITWITNESS TRAFFIC BULLETIN: "There's a 15 bike pile up in the A-12 bike tube. You may want to take an alternate route. Police, lawyers, and ambulance crews are on the way. This is NITWITNESS NEWS bringing you news you can use!"

Grades would be a real test of physical condition. Putting up some signs like "Slow Puny Traffic Keep Right" may help. We could adopt the skiing term 'bunny slope' for those slow lanes, and coin a new one, the 'wolf lane', for the fast riders. Come to think of it, some people call commuter cyclists "gutter bunnies" now, so it wouldn't be much of a stretch.

Interchanges could be lot of fun, though. Imagine a Habitrail traffic circle with sloping walls, almost like a velodrome. Fast traffic would be circulating at the bottom, with entrances and exits up near the top. You'd enter, dive down the banking to merge with traffic, then shoot up the wall at your destination. What's not to love?

NITWITNESS TRAFFIC BULLETIN: "The A-12 bike tube pile up is now estimated at over 50 cyclists! Please, if at all possible, avoid the area. They just keep coming, piling up in heaps inside the tube, their spandex clothing in tatters. They're like lemmings, rushing headlong to their death! Oh, the humanity! Our chopper will be on the scene momentarily to bring you live coverage of all that shredded clothing! Remember - you saw it first on NITWITNESS NEWS!"

How about a Habitrail shopping mall? The stores would all connect through a bunch of little tubes, with clothing stores, food courts (equipped with those ubiquitous little lever-and-pellet devices, of course), shoes stores, in fact, every necessity for modern living, except for a liquor store.

And what about those liquor stores? Habitrail liquor stores come in two models, the seedy-edge-of-town model run by a chain smoking guy who hasn't bathed since the Nixon administration, and the upscale-booze-with-ferns model that sells imported wine no none can afford. By the way, the upscale model doesn't offer bicycle parking, but on the other hand, the seedy guy doesn't care if you bring your bike inside.

Just like the interstates, we could have Habitrail service plazas. They'd be like little truck stops with bad food, overpriced tourist junk, and, after sundown, Habitrail hookers!

All kidding aside, it's an expensive, imaginary facility for imaginary cyclists. I'd rather see money spent to benefit existing cyclists than imaginary ones.

There are a lot of people who would ride a bicycle for transportation 'if only'. They want a facility or some space for their exclusive use, separated from all that nasty car traffic. And, really, they'd use a bike more if only it had some way to carry more things like groceries. Or if it had an extra seat so they could pick up the kids from school. And it would be nice to have three or four wheels so it couldn't tip over. And it would be much better if it had some sort of bodywork to keep the sun and rain out. A radio would be nice too. And a small motor, so you wouldn't have to sweat doing all that pedalling. Oh, and an air conditioner and heater too. And a very loud horn to get all those annoying cyclists out of the way.

Wait! I've just had an epiphany! It came to me in a blinding flash! All we have to do is redefine the terms! Bicycles can be redefined as having from one to four wheels, and may even have a large V8 engine! They're ALL bicycles, therefore ALL ROADS ARE BICYCLE FACILITIES! What a concept!

Friday, January 20, 2006


(I began this on Wednesday, intending to post it that night. But things intervened family-wise, and I forgot about it until this morning – Friday – and as it happened, other events should be included. They’re at the end….Ed)

Each morning this week, a pickup truck buzzed by my elbow near the maintenance base. It’s been the same truck every time. Yesterday, he passed me just north of the main entrance, and I watched as he drove toward the north parking lot. I was too far away to catch up, and my goggles didn’t allow me to get the license number.

This morning, he did it again, but I was near the north gate, so I sprinted through the gate into the north lot. I’d lost sight of the truck behind some buildings, of course, but I cruised up and down the rows looking for it anyway. At that time of day, there are few pedestrians in the lot. Most everyone here starts earlier.

I passed one guy walking across the lot. He was watching me, and after I’d passed behind him, he turned to watch. I have a suspicion he may be the motorist. An innocent person wouldn’t have turned around to observe my progress.

Tomorrow, I’m wearing my glasses. If I get a tag number, I can identify the vehicle in the parking lot and find his employee number from his parking pass.

Our employer has a list of interesting ways to get oneself fired. One of them is Rule 32, which bars harassing, intimidating, or threatening another employee either on or off duty. I can identify this guy from his employee number on his truck, make a harassment complaint, and begin a most likely futile exercise in finger pointing. It’s like dealing with the cops. Unless an incident is actually witnessed by a living, breathing police officer, it didn’t happen.

Still, there’s one school of thought that argues for making the complaint despite the futility. It’s a figurative ‘shot across the bow’ – a warning against further attempts. The flip side is that it may make our mis-guided motorist angrier, and he’s likely to use that anger as aggression toward other cyclists.

On the other hand, I’ll admit that I hear the Queen of Hearts screaming, “Off with his head!” but I try to ignore it.

(Thursday morning)

I rode to work at the usual time and saw the usual motorists, but not my malicious motoring moron. (How’s THAT for alliteration!) I rode into a headwind and was pretty tired by the time I got to the base, probably too tired for even a shouting match.

(Friday afternoon)

I rode the parking lot again this morning, looking for Senor Moron. Sometimes I've called this "showing the flag" - a premptive effort.

In the afternoon, there was a grass fire over along US169, the freeway that parallels my route home. Naturally, a lot of traffic diverted from the highway onto what is normally a quiet 2-lane. Not today. Horns blared and middle fingers were raised at the cyclist with the effrontery to ride on ‘their' road. One guy actually stopped, said he was gonna kill me, and then realized just how BIG I am. I waved. He drove off cursing. Just south of 76th Street, traffic was backed up for easily a quarter of a mile, waiting to get through the T intersection. I normally wouldn’t do this, but I was pissed, so I passed all of them on the right just to show my contempt.

A fine time was had by all.

Friday Musette

Winter weather

Oklahoma is windy in the winter. I can almost count on south winds bringing warmer weather and north winds bringing the cold. That's exactly the pattern of the last week or two. But high winds increase the fire danger here regardless of their direction. It's tinder-dry out there. What's most worrisome is the fact that winter precipitation is our summer water supply. We're looking at drought conditions.

But back to the wind. My front fender vibrates when my air speed reaches 30mph. (As an aside, fenders extend the usefulness and utility of a commuter bike, and I'd be dearly happy if we received enough rain to make them necessary!) Winter brings powerful winds and I've been fighting them either coming to work or going home. Today, Friday, I get them BOTH ways! Oh, the joy.

I've been riding the fixed gear exclusively for the last month. That has nothing to do with machismo. The bike is geared 42x20, so it's hardly a big, manly gear, but it's perfect for carrying baggage, going up hill, and riding into the inevitable wind. Still, on days like today with a stiff headwind, it seems like riding uphill constantly, without the payoff of riding down the other side. Earlier this week, I fought the wind all the way home, struggling mightily up the hill to the house, and then stood slumped over the bike wheezing for a minute before trying to dismount. I was so fragged, I was afraid I'd topple over! It has to be the fault of the Public Works Department. They come by now and then to jack up the hill, making it longer and steeper. Surely it couldn't be ME.


Normally, I don't write about work, but just this once...

Last month, I received a set of extender boards that allow me to mount computer circuit boards outside the case of the unit for troubleshooting. I've been learning a lot more about the circuitry and how it operates. Now, before you go ahead and think there's a description in the technical manual, realize that while the descriptions do exist, they're not terribly detailed. This means I have to spend a lot of time with an oscilloscope probe, looking at signals. It's time-consuming, painstaking work, and while it's absolutely necessary, it's not one of my favorite things to do. There are a lot of blind alleys to investigate. Progress is slow and frustrating, and it's the slowness and fustration that eat at me.

That's what makes riding home so much nicer, despite the wind! Cycling as therapy? Hmmm....


There's a board meeting for the Oklahoma Bicycle Coalition tomorrow out in Stroud. Since I'm the membership director, I'll be attending. Stroud is along historic Route 66, roughly halfway between Tulsa and Oklahoma City. It's a small town that had a big outlet mall at one time, but a tornado destroyed the mall and it's never been re-built. I've been through town once or twice, preferring to drive the old highway rather than the interstate. As I recall, there are the usual small town businesses, some antique shops, and the Stone Cafe(?), a Route 66 landmark. Unfortunately, we're not meeting at the cafe, and since three of us are car-pooling, I won't get a chance to wander around.


Monday, January 16, 2006

Monday Musette...

Riding to work was a slog today. I felt slow and tired. The mild headwind didn't help, either. I've been feeling slow since Friday and I don't know why.

I cross a valley on the commute, and it's often 10 degrees colder down there. That's welcome on a hot summer day, but on a chilly winter morning, it only adds to the discomfort. I'm speaking figuratively here, because it was a balmy 48F when I left the house, but it was noticeably colder in the valley, and I was happy to have a light sweater along.

I was thinking about fatigue - actually, I was trying to think about ANYTHING except how lousy I felt! - and I recalled that fatigued drivers react about the same as slightly inebriated ones. Fatigue impairs judgment too. Cold also induces fatigue, so I presume that some cycling crashes must be due to its effect.

It happened to me once. I was caught by a weather change on a long ride. A front arrived sooner than expected, and I fought a headwind and dropping temperatures all the way home. As I turned left at a corner, thoroughly chilled and teeth chattering, I rode straight into the curb! I'd seen it coming, yet it just suddenly appeared in my field of vision. I didn't even try to avoid it. I toppled over onto the concrete, receiving extensive road rash on my right arm and leg. It wouldn't have been so bad if the surface had a smooth finish. But I'd landed on a traffic island, and in building it, the road department merely ran a street broom across the wet concrete. This yielded a good surface for traction, and was probably lots cheaper than putting a smooth finish down, but it had roughly the same effect as a cheese grater on my flesh.

So I try to be aware of the effect of cold and fatigue. It can be difficult here in Oklahoma since the weather is almost instantly changeable. Headwinds can be chilling, even in moderate conditions. I've found that my legs cramp whenever the ride requires a long slog into the wind. Staying warm helps, so my pack always has leg and arm warmers. The leg warmers are useful whenever the road is wet too. They help alleviate the grime factor. A skullcap is in there as well, because the head is such an effective radiator. Wearing a hat keeps the rest of me warmer.

I'm thinking about all this simply because it may be raining on the way home today. I'm not a big fan of riding in the rain, but at least it's fairly warm. Today's high should be about 60F. That's a big, big difference from riding in the wet when it's 40!


Jordan and I were watching "Underworld" over the weekend. It's a vampire flick. The main female character wore a skin-tight cat suit through most of the movie. "Why do they make the girls wear stuff like that?" he asked.

"'Cause, in her case, she looks really good in it!" I replied. But then I got thinking about it. A good, working brain is a dangerous thing to have just lying around. Why would someone wear clothing like that? It has to be supremely uncomfortable since it's mostly plastic and probably can't breathe much. Worse, our femme fatale had to do a bunch of stunts wearing high-heeled boots. My daughter said that all the running probably ruined her knees, though to be fair, despite all the fistfights, knives, guns, and explosions, her hair and makeup remained intact.

All in all, it was a fairly bad movie with nary a bicycle to be seen.


There's an article in the USAToday about PETA opposing the use of horse drawn carriages in New York City due to a recent collision between a carriage and a motor vehicle that resulted in the horse getting euthanized. Never mind the thousands of motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists who die on our roads each year. Let's protect those horses by getting them off the street.

Sound familiar?

Let's protect all those cyclists by getting them off the street, too. It's for their own good.

Where I lived in Pennsylvania, some fool would drive into an Amish buggy now and then. The argument was similar - let's get those buggies off the roads for their own safety. Rarely did anyone seriously advocate getting the fools out from behind the wheel.

I'll have some respect for the PETA folks when they walk into a biker bar (the Harley kind, not the Masi kind!) and start throwing red paint around. That increased respect would most likely be earned posthumously.


From the NHTSA’s National Center for Statistics and Analysis 400 Seventh St., SW., Washington, DC 20590

"Pedalcyclist fatalities occurred more frequently in urban areas (66%), at nonintersection locations (67%), between the hours of 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. (30%), and during the months of June, July, and August (36%)."

I can see the relatively greater number of fatalities in urban areas because of simply greater numbers of road users, and the months and hours make sense too, since more cyclists are about at those times. But that 66% of fatalities occurred at 'nonintersection locations' is contrary to Forester's assertion that 85% of car-bike collisions involve crossing movements. And despite the fact that simple falls account for about two-thirds of all cycling injuries, it's the car-bike collisions that produce those fatalities. I'd expect that fatality numbers would be congruent with that 85% figure.

There's something missing here. Everything I've learned would indicate that the most dangerous part of the road is an intersection because that's where the crashes occur. But the NHTSA data contradicts that.

Friday, January 13, 2006


There’s been some discussion on several e-lists about riding on freeway shoulders. In some areas it’s legal. In others it’s not. And just recently here in Tulsa, Paul Tay was convicted of impeding traffic on a local freeway by riding his bike along it. I won’t go into the minutiae of the discussions, because in my opinion, they’ve devolved into a gnat-swatting contest.

In Oklahoma, the only roads that specifically prohibit bicycle travel are the turnpikes. But despite the legal aspect, is riding along a high-speed limited access roadway a good idea?

Some places in the west, the only road connecting two points may be an interstate highway. That’s one reason that cyclists use such roads. And quite honestly, I’ve ridden sections of limited access roads around the Tulsa area too, though it’s not part of my usual riding.

As a rule, I don’t like traveling alongside high-speed traffic. It’s very noisy and stressful. Some local motorists regard a broad, paved shoulder as merely another passing lane, for one thing. And another annoyance is the extensive collection of debris that accumulates. There’s no need to run a street sweeper along those shoulders because no one is expected to use them. Street sweeper sightings are rare enough around here anyway. So there’s an amazingly varied linear trash heap that requires constant vigilance on my part and a bit of quick maneuvering. And it’s that maneuvering that makes me nervous around overtaking traffic.

On the other hand, riding along a freeway is another form of one-man-Critical-Mass. Motorists slow down to gawk. “Lookit, Marge! A guy ridin’ a bah-sickle on the hah-way!” When one or two motorists slow down, others are forced to slow too. The chain reaction spreads back along the road and can last for quite a while, sometimes long after the cyclist is gone.

Street theater aside, there are a couple of dangerous points about riding along freeways. First, crossing on and off ramps is difficult and dangerous. Motorists are not expecting a cyclist in the lane or crossing the lane. They have little reaction time and that’s made worse when traffic is heavy. Also, many bridges have no shoulder, forcing cyclists to ride in the travel lane. When there’s a minimum speed limit, those cyclists are obviously in violation.

While I believe it’s necessary for cyclists to use the shoulder of limited access roads and the practice should continue to be legal, I don’t recommend riding there. It’s just not much fun, but I recognize that we sometimes have to get from point A to point B and the freeway is the only choice.

But what about a popular trail that runs parallel to a heavily-traveled road? Should cyclists be legally obligated to use the trail? Tulsa’s Riverside Drive is parallel to the hugely popular River Park Trail. Until a few years ago, a mandatory side path law required cyclists to use the trail instead of the road. Arguing against the law and advocating that fast cyclists use the road was not a popular idea, even among area cyclists.

The limitations of the trail become apparent on a nice weekend, when runners, skaters, joggers, pedestrians, cyclists, and dogs share a narrow strip of pavement. For fast road cyclists, Riverside Drive is much more appealing. Even a pudgy guy like me can ride at 20 to 25 mph with a tailwind, and there’s always some wind here. That’s excessive speed when mixed in with pedestrians. If I recall right, the crash rate for riding side paths is about 3 times that of riding on the road.

Still, there are some motorists and even law enforcement officers who are unaware of the change. And realistically, most of them wouldn’t care anyway. They simply want us off ‘their’ roads.

Give this some thought on your next ride. What roads do you like, and why do you like them? And what roads do you avoid?

One of my goals in writing CycleDog has been to attract new people to cycling, particularly cycling for transportation. I know there are people who’d try it, if only….fill in the blank. One big obstacle is the fear of traffic, so I may be writing more about this in the next few days. Or I might be writing comedy. It depends on how much coffee I manage to gulp down!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Did ya ever wonder...

I have an in-grown toenail. It's hurts a little bit, but mostly it's an annoyance. My cycling shoes seem to put pressure on it when I'm riding, not so much that I'd avoid riding my bike. It's just always there on the edge of consciousness, a nagging little pain that never goes away completely.

I was wondering about the best way to treat this, so I looked for some websites. One of them had a series of gruesome photos of various toe and foot problems. Every description had a "See your doctor immediately!" admonishment. Every one! Surely when your toe is the size of a football, you'd have the sense to see a doctor about it, but these guys would have you in for an office visit simply for a bad case of mismatched socks! Podiatrists have bills to pay, but not at my expense.

That got me thinking about all the drug ads on television, too. Apparently, any problem can be resolved if only we have the right drugs. Antibiotics can cure infections. There's a host of things available for high-blood pressure and cholesterol. And don't get me started about Viagra.

Advertisers are required to advise patients of the side effects of each drug, however unlikely they may be. So in very fine print at the bottom of the screen, there's an advisory that covers all the bad things that can happen if you use the product. Often, one of the side effects is death. Yep, basically they're saying that if you use their product, you may die.

See your doctor immediately if you have:
Hives, rashes, uncontrollable itches, indigestion, malnutrition, frequent urination, infrequent urination, unexplained nightmares, foot fungus, follicular desalinization, myopia, flatulence, bronchial disturbination, or frequent mopery. Discontinue use if you experience hair loss, excessive salivation, auditory hallucinations, mood swings, foot fungus, halitosis, a sudden desire to read Chaucer, or unexplained death. Product may cause but is not limited to: sudden appearance of large, metallic spiders who sing opera.

Now, as far as I know, death is one of the side effects of living. No one gets off this planet alive, aside from some astronauts, cosmonauts, and a couple of guys in the Bible. So why worry about it?

There's no escaping the connection of drugs and cycling. I'm not going to dwell on the abuses in professional cycling, however. Since I'm primarily a recreational cyclist, I have to wonder if there are performance enhancing drugs for people like me. Now, it's undeniable that I could benefit from something that caused weight loss - not that I'm FAT - but I do carry a couple of extra pounds. OK, more than a couple. I'm a man who loves to eat married to a woman who loves to cook. Life is good.

I may do some time trials this year. So I could probably benefit from some drugs that alter space and time. Subjectively, that may make TTs a little easier. They're fun, if your idea of fun is pushing yourself well past your anaerobic threshold in an effort to put in a good time or blow up trying. Let's just say my times haven't been great, as attested by the buzzards circling overhead.

In my case, the risks of illegal drugs outweigh the benefits. I'm subject to random drug testing at work, so there's no way I'd risk my family over some dubious cycling achievement. I'll get high on "powerful gasoline, a clean windshield, and a shoeshine!"...a lovely line from Firesign Theater…or barring that, some strong coffee, a bit of alcohol now and then, ibuprofen, and the ever-present Icy Hot. That last stuff, Icy Hot, may not actually be a drug, but it's a powerful kid-repellent. If my bedroom reeks of it, my kids leave me alone to read or watch television in peace. I only LOOK dumb.

I'll have a strong tailwind on the way home this afternoon. That may be the best drug of all!

Sunday, January 08, 2006

A one-man Critical Mass...

Local police have stopped Tulsa’s peripatetic Paul Tay more times than I can remember. He’s a one-man Critical Mass. Through the Christmas season, he rode around town dressed as Santa. Or was that REALLY Santa? I don’t know.

Regardless, Paul is locally notorious for riding his bicycle along the shoulder of area expressways, often with a trailer in tow. This is entirely legal. The trailer sports various signs that have included his campaign for mayor, protests against the war, quirky humor, and a few things that won’t be mentioned here. Let’s just say he ran afoul of the ‘outraging public decency’ laws, and let it go at that. There’s a lot more of his stuff on Tulsa Indy Gazetter.

Paul has been stopped again for impeding traffic just recently. He’s been charged with making an illegal left turn, since Tulsa law has no provision for legal left turns by cyclists. He enrages both local motorists and law enforcement, and he’s a regular subject for ranting comments on morning chat radio.

Make no mistake about it – Paul Tay angers motorists and cops with his in-your-face antics. But as far as I’m aware, most of his actions have been legal. His biggest crime is simply being Paul Tay.

A judge overturned the ‘outraging public decency’ charge. While what he did may be offensive, he still has a first amendment right to do so.

It’s legal to ride a bicycle on the shoulder of expressways here in Tulsa. Paul was stopped for that when a police car blocked the shoulder, forcing him onto the roadway in order to pass. He was then cited.

Police officers have told him he cannot ride his bike in rush-hour traffic, or that he’s required to ride it on the sidewalk. Again, his only crime is being Paul Tay. It would seem these officers are ‘enforcing’ their personal biases against cyclists, rather than the law.

I can’t support Paul’s confrontational approach to road rights, but I fully support his right to ride on our roads, even if he’s a pain-in-the-ass while doing it.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

From my In-Box...

Something about this strikes me as not quite right. Why would they send me a solicitation for 'elite competitive athletes' when my competitive experience consists of slowly losing contact with the back of the pack after yo-yo-ing a few times? I dunno, maybe these guys really COULD help me. I'll have to think about it a while...Ed

For Immediate Release:

From Bogus Sports LLC
Broken Elbow, OK

Bogus Sports LLC is pleased to announce a new 24/7 service for all our clients. After extensive beta-testing, we are proud to add new services to our focused professional coaching and training for mission-critical elite athletes. We now offer a comprehensive, professional repair service for cyclists and triathletes. For the first time, we can provide our clients with branded mechanical support while they're in training or competition. Our fully stocked support van offers full-service bicycle repair capabilities from global suppliers, including spare wheels for competitive events. But here at Bogus Sports LLC, we go one step farther because our elite customers expect more from the leader in synergistic, multi-tiered services. Our mechanics are also fully-qualified attorneys, ready to file an injunction or a lawsuit whenever one of our clients crosses the finish line behind some other personal services client. Bogus Sports is the new paradigm, with dynamic, outside-the-box thinking that empowers clients who demand the best.

Here's what our customers say:

"Hot Damn! I finished third in a 10K race, and Bogus Sports was there for me! Your attorney filed suit against the other competitors, race organizers, and even the volunteers! And they did all that within minutes of the finish. I know for a fact the race organizer and his family are living in a rusted-out Studebaker under a bridge somewhere now! Thanks, Bogus Sports!"....Ernest T. Bridgewood Jr.

"I punctured toward the end of the bicycle section of a tri-event, and Bogus Sports not only changed out the wheel, their attorney/mechanic allowed me to draft behind the van as he threatened litigation against the race officials for permitting small pieces of glass on the roadway. Such hazards to life and limb could result in a major lawsuit. Sure, I didn't win the event, but I did come away with a nice settlement!"...Gibson L. Stankmeyer III

"At first, I was put off by Bogus Sports' win-at-all-costs mentality. But after they held a race official's wife as a hostage in order to get a better placing for a client, they won me over!"....Virgil P. Knaupkopf

"I thought things like this only happened in the movies. An official disqualified me during a race, and the next morning, woke up with a horse's head under his blanket!"....Vito "Big Stick" Ignetowski

Bogus Sports: We'll help you win, with whatever it takes! Demand the best. Demand Bogus Sports LLC and be a winner!

Friday, January 06, 2006


…or the quasi-religious significance of iconic objects among indigenous self-delineated semi-nomadic sub-populations.

I'm not usually superstitious, except for my fears about the chupacabras who lurk in the woods along my commute route and those pesky alien UFOs, but those fears are based on experience. I've had far too many incidents that can only be explained by the presence of aliens from outer space or goat-sucking vampire creatures. And I won't go into a discussion of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and His Noodly Appendage because people get so cranky about religion these days, particularly here in Oklahoma, surrounded by various species of Baptists.

No, I'm going to talk about really baseless superstitions. I know they're foolish, but I still go through the rituals nonetheless. It can't hurt, can it?

This is really stupid. I put on my cycling shoes the same way every morning. I put the pair down in front of me on the floor, and then put the left shoe to the left of my left foot. Then I put on the right shoe, snug the laces down just right and tie it in a double knot. There's a strap that covers the knot too. Then I repeat the process for the left shoe. If I'm lucky, I can do all this without being attacked by a marauding housecat as all those laces are in my hands. I never change the procedure. Something bad may happen.

Whenever I add something new to the kit, I wonder if it brings good juju or bad juju. Any new item could precipitate disaster. Strangely, this never applies to things that are genuinely necessary, like a patch kit, a new tube, or some new tire levers. A new helmet, on the other hand, brings with it a feeling of impending doom until it's been used for a while. Maybe juju dissolves in sweat.

But the worst items on my superstition scale are tools. I carried a Campagnolo 'peanut butter' wrench for years. This is a 15 mm wrench designed to tighten crank bolts. It has a wide, flat handle suitable for spreading peanut butter. Hence the name. I carried that wrench religiously but never used it on a ride. I carried a Campy T wrench too, a 6mm T handle with an 8mm socket on one end. I never used it either.

I decided it was stupid to carry tools that I didn't use. They went into the toolbox and came out only when I was working on a bike in the garage.

It happened on the Tour de Claremore a couple of years ago. The group stopped at a highway crossing, and one of the guys noticed his crank arm was loose. And of course, no one had a tool for it. I resolved to carry the peanut butter wrench again, and actually did so for a couple of months before coming across a deal on a Cool Tool. The Cool Tool has the requisite sockets for both 14 and 15 mm bolts, a chain breaker, spoke wrench, adjustable wrench, and a couple of Allen keys. It's heavy and kind of clunky, but it will do most quick repairs that can get me home. And I've never used it. The tool is quietly rusting away somewhere in my bag.

I've started carrying the Campy T wrench, too. I've decided it has great religious significance, particularly in light of Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" which postulated Henry Ford as a deity and the T as his symbol. Maybe it'll fend off them chupacabras. It can't hurt.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Thursday Musette...

HereNT wrote in response to:

Maybe the flavors of coffee and whiskey play together well.

Maybe? I don't think there's any maybe about it. You, sir, have just inspired me to have a second Irish Coffee (Jameson, cream, and espresso) this morning!

I had the first of the flavored coffees this morning. It was Southern Comfort, and in the name of fairness, I won't mention the manufacturer. Let's put it this way - I love my children very much, and I truly appreciate the coffee as a gift - but in all honesty, this stuff tastes like it has a good dollop of floor wax in it! It tastes much like Glo-Coat smells. But like I said, I love my children very much and I'll drink this stuff just to show I appreciate their gift. Such is the life of fathers everywhere.

Sometimes it takes a while for a new flavor to become acceptable. It kind of grows on you. But this coffee won't do that. It could grow on me, but it would have to grow like a fungus. Still, I could have shiny Glo-Coated

I've had good Irish coffee. But there's no way I'd adulterate Jameson with anything but an ice cube and maybe a dash of river water. Maybe. I'd treat Bushmill's the same. But they had a whiskey in Ireland that I've never seen outside the country. It's called Paddy and it was served in every shot-and-a-beer pub I was in. Calling it whiskey may be a bit of a stretch too. It was industrial grade, or perhaps a solvent meant for removing floor wax. Regardless, after two or three shots, no one cared.

A brief note about walking and driving in Ireland: Everything you know is wrong. They drive on the left, remember. When you cross the street, you'll automatically look in the wrong direction and step out in front of a car. When you come to a cross road, you'll look the wrong way for approaching traffic. Street corners are a problem when driving too, because you'll find yourself going into the wrong lane. You'll turn the wrong way at roundabouts. This can get VERY exciting, believe me! Alcohol compounds all these problems, and alcohol is abundant. I lived within walking distance of the pub and preferred walking over driving after closing time. I never rode a bike over there because I was still recovering from a very bad crash.


I held my nose and went into Wal-Mart. I was looking for some goggles to wear when it's cold enough to make my eyes teary. That's been a problem this winter whenever the wind comes from the side. One of my co-workers has a pair of smallish goggles, smaller than ski goggles so they offer better peripheral vision. I found a cheap pair in the big box store. My daughter scolded me for using them. "You have to wear glasses to drive, Dad, so you should wear glasses to ride too! You're always going on about how cyclists have the same rights and the same responsibilities as drivers, so you should wear your glasses!"

I locked her in the garage.

Well, no, actually I didn't do that, but it was tempting. She had a point. I'm nearsighted, but it's not so bad that I can't see well enough to ride. When my eyes tear up, my vision is blurred worse than going without the glasses, so in a sense, the goggles are an improvement. They fog up when I stop so I may put some Rain-X on them, as soon as I FIND the Rain-X somewhere in the bowels of the garage.

Way off topic!

Gran Turismo 4 is an exciting alternative to television. But it's unnerving to watch my fifteen-year-old son hurtle down the track, hitting every other vehicle and most of the inanimate objects. He calls it "winning Jordan-style" and I truly hope this isn't indicative of his attitude when driving a REAL motor vehicle.

Commuter notes

We've had unseasonably warm and dry weather in Oklahoma. I'm sure everyone is aware of the wildfires here and in Texas. But another result to the weather is the onset of 'spring syndrome' when a lot of the motorists drive around with their windows down and offer helpful advice to us cyclists. Things like "Ride on the sidewalk!" or "Get the **** of the road!" or my personal favorite "G** D*** LIBERAL!" Normally this doesn't happen until later in the year when it's warmer, so let's hope the weather turns foul soon. I'm not a big fan of riding in the rain like a Flahute, but it would be very welcome. On days like today when the winds reach 30 mph, a fire can outrun the fire department.

Bike Sluts

I followed Fritz's link over on Cycle-licious to the Slut-O-Meter. I don't know if I should be elated or depressed by a score of 8.72%. But then, it's not really important anyway.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Confession is (allegedly) good for the soul.

I'm an addict.

There, I've said it. That actually wasn't too hard. Now, before you think less of me, I'll admit that I'm addicted to two habit-forming substances: caffeine and endorphins. Chocolate is way up there too, but it pales in comparison to the others. Today, I'm only going to write about coffee.

I've said before that I drink far too much coffee at times. Most days it's only one or two cups. But every now and then, the espresso machine tempts me to over-indulge. What worries me is that coffee could be considered a gateway drug. Next thing you know, I'll be grinding the beans up into powder and snorting the stuff, or even mainlining espresso.

Looking around the kitchen, the addiction is painfully obvious. There's the above-mentioned espresso machine. There's a ten-cup drip coffee maker that holds temperature nicely, a critical item to good flavor. There are two French presses, a glass Bodum and a stainless steel Nissan. And there's the ubiquitous Melitta No.2 that fits perfectly on top of my stainless steel water bottle. (SEE STEVEN SCHARFF'S BICYCLE COFFEE SYSTEMS PAGE) Finally,a battered old percolator resides in one of the cupboards. It's seldom used, but I keep it because it reminds me of mornings when I was a kid. Mom made her coffee on the stove with a percolator. The aroma went through the entire house. I keep it for the nostalgia.

I have three grinders, two of the chopper types that use a blade to cut up the beans, and one ancient burr grinder that must be 25 years old. The burr grinder and one of the choppers will reduce beans to a near powder that works best in the espresso machine. Any of them can produce the coarse grind that works in a French press, but it takes a little attention to the timing with a chopper in order to get it right.

What got me thinking about all this was an article in this month's Tulsa Wheelmen newsletter. It may not be on the website yet, but there was a piece on winter cycling that recommended avoiding coffee due to its diuretic effect. While it's true that coffee is a very mild diuretic, I read somewhere that the hydration it provides more than offsets it. That may be on Steven Scharff's page too.

Still, I hate having a full bladder when I'm wearing winter kit. It takes a while to remove all those layers of clothing, and I sort of feel like a little kid all bundled up in a snowsuit. Anyone with children knows this! Mom gets them all dressed up to go outside to play in the snow, only to hear, "Mom, I gotta go!" There's something about all that spandex and lycra that prompts the bladder to send signals to the brain. Call it the 'spandex effect'. Adding layers intensifies it.

This discussion wouldn't be complete without talking about coffee itself. Coffee makers are basically useless without something to put in them - though a drip coffee maker is good for making iced tea too. There are probably more types of coffee in the kitchen than there are coffee makers.

My standard is French roast from any of several brands, including Starbucks, but I get coffee from other makers too. I know the whole idea of Starbucks offends some connoisseurs, but I really don't care. I like the taste. I like Italian roast also, but it's harder to find in local groceries.

Good coffee doesn't have to be expensive, though. I've had store-brand beans that were very good when ground and used immediately. They develop some bitterness if they're not used within a day or two. Eight O'clock is one such brand.

The very best stuff I've had is Kona from a restaurant supplier. I have no idea what it costs, but it was very, very smooth. A close second goes to a co-worker who roasts his own beans in a backyard oven. His coffee is very good too. He's got me thinking about trying it.

The kids gave me a bunch of flavored coffees at Christmas. Normally I'm not very enthusiastic about them, but I've never seen some of these before. There's a Jack Daniels flavor, for instance, that I'm going to try soon. Who knows? Maybe the flavors of coffee and whiskey play together well.

Not everyone adds cream or sugar to coffee. I like a bit of sweetness, and I've been seduced by the Irish custom of using brown sugar. And sometimes when I feel like having a treat, I'll use cream, REAL cream, not that stuff that comes out of a factory somewhere in New Jersey. I clearly don't need the calories and fat, though, so this is only an occasional indulgence.

A flask of hot coffee is a wonderful addition to a commuter bike on a cold winter morning. I heartily recommend it. Just be aware of that 'spandex effect' before pushing off!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Tips for Cyclists (Satire)

Cyclists need to understand that because they're socially, kinetically, and economically inferior to drivers in motor vehicles, they should adopt the mannerisms and demeanor of serfs, kowtowing to their betters. This is only right since cyclists, if they had any money or sense, would buy big, hulking SUVs like the rest of us. At the approach of one of their social superiors in a motor vehicle, they should dismount on the side of the road and tug their forelocks as the elite sweep by. Bowing isn't strictly necessary, but it's a nice touch.

Cyclists don't use fuel or pay fuel taxes. To be fair, the government should tax something they use, if only to help pay for the roads. Inner tubes, for instance, might cost fifty dollars. Yes, I'm aware of the tired old argument that cyclists pay their share of taxes too, but it's hardly the same thing. Sure, income taxes, sales taxes, and real estate taxes pay for the bulk of road funding, but cyclists don't pay them, either. They don't have jobs, so they don't pay income tax. That's why they can be out on my road impeding traffic at all hours. They don't have to work! They don't pay much in sales taxes because they're so damned skinny. They don't eat much, so there's not much tax to collect. And as for real estate - they don't have jobs, remember, so they don't own real estate either! Freeloaders, the lot of 'em!

Cyclists are pampered far too often. They get prime parking spaces for their outlandish, dirty machines in bicycle racks located conveniently close to the front doors of many businesses. Why would any self-respecting businessman do something so obviously dumb? Cyclists don't spend money. They don't have any; otherwise, they'd drive cars!

They walk into a store all grimy with road dirt, sweating profusely, and then expect to be treated just like any other customer. What nerve! Go get a shower first! Good Americans believe in proper hygiene. Americans shower regularly, sometimes three or four times a day, or whenever there's even a hint of sweat on their skin. For that reason alone, we should round up all those unemployed cyclists and give them a good scrubbing. While they're detained, maybe they could take some classes on basic social skills and maybe even some job training. Then they could get a decent job, buy an SUV the size of a small country, and get their silly-assed bicycles off my roads! I'm not kidding. Just the other day, I saw a cyclist blow his nose without the aid of a handkerchief. It was disgusting! Like I said, they
have no social skills whatsoever.

My girlfriend and I were stuck behind one of these fools in traffic. I said something about how guys look stupid in tight black shorts with their little tiny butts and muscular legs. She watched, mesmerized as his legs pumped up and down, and then after an awkward pause, said that she agreed with me. I think she was a little bit distracted, because she didn't sound entirely sincere.

But what really burns me up is this: my town spent good money on a park with some cycling paths. It's pretty. The path leaves the parking lot, winds around the settling pond, and returns to the parking lot. Sure, it doesn't smell that great since it's got a sewage plant on one end and a rendering plant on the other with a settling pond in between, but how the hell would a cyclist notice? For them, it might even be an improvement! But they won't ride their bikes there. They prefer clogging up my roads. It's only five miles out of town, too, and that's not a long drive. Oh, wait, they don't drive, so maybe THAT'S the problem!

So here's my idea. Have the government round up all the cyclists and hose them down for cleanliness. Have them take some mandatory classes that would lead to jobs, better social skills, and improved hygiene. And have them pay for all these by making them build those stupid parks so us good, honest, taxpaying citizens don't have to foot the bill for their foolishness. Anybody can dig. In fact, my very first job was ditch diggin' and despite that unfortunate incident with a carelessly thrown shovel that knocked me unconscious, it never affected me...much.

Sincerely yours,
George Leroy Tirebiter

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