Sunday, February 25, 2007

Sunday Musette

Carbon Calculator

I came across this carbon calculator via bikelovejones in a post titled Treading Lightly.

We all contribute to global warming every day. The carbon dioxide you produce by driving your car and leaving the lights on adds up quickly. You may be surprised by how much Co2 you are emitting each year. Calculate your personal impact and learn how you can take action to reduce or even eliminate your emissions of carbon dioxide.

Now, my own carbon average is 4.25. That's less than the national average of 7.5, but far more than Beth's 0.5, which she attributes to not owning a car. I have a car, an older Ford, but I just don't drive much. In fact, I drive roughly half the national average per year, about 6,000 miles.

An epiphany in WalMart...

Yes, I held my nose and went into WalMart yesterday. I walked in a half-circle through the store until I reached the sporting goods section. I left there, and rather than retrace my path back to the front, I continued around the circle. That's when it hit me.

I'd discovered why men never ask directions! If I'd retraced my steps, I would have seen the same things a second time. Why do that? Just down that next aisle there could be something wondrous. Just down that next road there could be something that could change my life. Somewhere out there just over the horizon there could be something magical. But if we don't take that road, or step into that aisle we'll never see it.

There's no point in turning back or asking directions. Men are adventurers at heart. Magellan had already seen the east coast of South America. He wasn't about to turn around and see it again, so he ended up sailing around the world.

I explained all this to Mary, but she just rolled her eyes. If women had things their way, well, sure, we'd know where everything is, but we'd still be living in caves somewhere in Europe.

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Friday, February 23, 2007

They're after our nuts - part deux

It's bad enough that those panty waist cyclists are out clogging our streets. I mean, c'mon, just how masculine can a guy be when he's parading around in his underwear with his butt stuck up in the air. Us Real Men have to put up with all manner of assaults to our masculinity, from French food to tiny little cars that sound like angry, buzzing mosquitoes rather than ground-poundin' V8s pushing enormous hunks of steel down the road. Now the bastards wanna castrate my damned pickup truck! It's a TRUCK, not some Frenchified pampered tomcat, and there ain't NOBODY gettin' my nuts unless they pry my cold, dead hands offa them!

The bastards.

From Boing Boing:

Friday, February 23, 2007

Fool politician wants to ban truck nuts

A foolish politician with nothing better to do has introduced legislation to ban novelty truck testicles.
Doran says
 Images Yellow Maryland Delegate LeRoy E. Myers Jr. has filed legislation to ban the display of those oh-so-chic Truck Nuts and "anatomically correct" human or animal genitalia from the back of pick-up trucks.

From the WaPo story:

"People are making a joke out of it," Myers said yesterday. "But I think it's a pretty serious problem. You have body parts hanging from the hitches of cars. We've crossed a line."

Link (Via Obscure Store)

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Confound 'em!

Here's the perfect thing for the next time some motorist yells, "Get on the sidewalk!" It's a Shakespearean insult generator, guaranteed to confuse and possibly offend the errant motorist! (If he understands it, of course.)

Mine was: "I breathe defiance to thine ears!"

William Shakespeare would have been a cyclist, if they'd been invented in his time.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Go read this!

A tip of the hat to Oil is for Sissies! Here's a post about CAFE standards and the miles per gallon shell game. Go read it. Right now. Put the beer down and read it!

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Too nice....

It's too nice to be inside, too nice to be trying to write something. It's actually feeling warm outside! I've been cold for so long I've forgotten what how it feels to be warm. I enjoyed having the garage door open while I was doing that bottom bracket overhaul.

But there's a downside to everything, of course. I worked hard enough to feel warm, and now I'm entertaining thoughts of cutting my hair. It's long -for me - and it keeps me warm on those cold, dark mornings riding to work. Now, it's just in my way.

Worse, I'm thinking of going a step further, not just by cutting my hair, but by shaving my head. This is one project best done without ANY consultation with the female half of the family.

"It's easier to beg forgiveness than to ask permission."....Wally Crankset - a great American.

Later, maybe.

I gave some thought to procrastinating today, but decided to put it off until tomorrow.

I wrote this back in December:

...This week, my commuter bike began making a thunking noise in sync with the crankset. It could be: the bottom bracket, a pedal, a cleat, a loose crankarm, the saddle, or even the handlebars. Mysterious clicks, creaks, and thunks can be traced to any of them. What makes this one more annoying is that it comes and goes without any apparent reason. I checked the chain, chainrings, and cog without finding anything. This weekend I'll overhaul the bottom bracket. It's overdue anyway.

So, today, I actually got around to overhauling that bottom bracket. It was LONG overdue! And I believe I've found the source of the click. The spindle in that bike is a Campagnolo Record that's easily 30 years old. It's developed a pit on one end, and that pit is fairly deep. That's all - one pit in an old, high-mileage Campy part. The bearing cups appear to be fine as are the bearings. (I was out of 1/4" ball bearings, otherwise I would have replaced them.) Given some of the prices for old, collectible Campy parts, that complete bottom bracket assembly may be worth more than the bike.

I'll have to replace the spindle soon, probably when I put the bike up for the summer. But 30 years of use is impressive. I kinda doubt that newer cartridge units will last as long. But then again, I probably won't find out. There's an equally old Dura Ace spindle out there in the garage that will fit the Centurion's bottom bracket. And the Dura Ace has almost no wear on it!

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Saturday, February 17, 2007

Prefromence ehnancing drugs....

OK, in the interest of full disclosure, I have to come clean. I've used performance enhancing drugs.

There, I've said it. I feel SO much better, though Dick Pound will probably denounce me now.

I was a competitive swimmer back in high school - not a great swimmer, though. Right before a meet, our coach handed out 'butterfly pills', antacids that were supposed to prevent hurling. Vomiting in the pool is definitely frowned upon when you're sharing the water with team mates and competitors. It's good form to make it to the side of the pool and hurl in the scuppers if you can't run to the men's room.

It was common for someone to upchuck during practice. I once swam thorugh a cloud of spaghetti after it had been on the menu at lunch. This was not especially appetizing, despite the high chlorine level in the water.

We had sugar pills too, supposedly glucose that would provide quick energy. They tasted like Sweet Tarts. Chances are they were nothing more than candy.

I've abused alcohol too. It improved my pinball game and made me far more attractive to women, though I know that last is hard to believe. I'm starting at the top of my game, so to speak, and a couple of drinks only adds an extra layer of gloss to an already shiny exterior. (Mary rolled her eyes at this. I can't imagine why.)

These days, when I have a glass of wine in the evening, I make sure the front door is locked. That way I don't have to fend off hordes of beautiful women intent on ravishing me yet again. I can snore in uninterrupted peace.

What really sparked these thoughts about drugs and performance was a biographical piece on the late gonzo journalist Huster S. Thompson. He used copious quantities of drugs and alcohol to fuel his writing. I can't do that, of course, though it's certainly true that I use some drugs - mainly ibuprofen and antacids. Alcohol just makes me sleepy.

The other thought in tandem with the above is that I feel I'm in a slump right now. Writing has been a chore rather than something I enjoy. Writing comedy is hard when the ideas have to be forced onto the pages. I love it when a piece seems to flow from my fingertips into the keyboard, but that hasn't happened recently. So, I've been toying with the idea of changing my preferred performance enhancing drug, strong coffee. Usually, I drink the dark roasts like Italian or French. Lighter roasts have more caffeine, however, and I'm wondering if the extra jolt would help fire my imagination. It may be something to investigate this weekend.

In addition to feeling mentally down, I'm physically down too. My knees have been painful for about 2 months. The right one felt as if it would buckle at any moment. I've been walking slowly and taking stairs very gingerly. Even stepping down from a curb had to be done carefully.

So I haven't ridden my bike to work for over a week. It seems this relative ease has helped them heal. Or at least the worst of the pain seems to be gone. I'll be back in the saddle on Monday.

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Saturday Musette

First, there's this from the New York Times:

Cycling Race Says It Failed to Test for EPO

Published: February 17, 2007

LOS ANGELES, Feb. 16 — In only its second year, the Tour of California, which begins Sunday in San Francisco, has become the country’s most important professional cycling event, attracting more than 1 million spectators last year and a field of riders this year that ranks as the strongest ever assembled for a race in the United States.

But the issue of performance-enhancing drugs hovers over the sport of cycling, and over the race.

Last year’s winner, Floyd Landis, will not compete this year as he battles allegations that he used synthetic testosterone while winning the Tour de France last summer.

And now, organizers of the Tour of California, who boasted after last year’s race that no riders tested positive for banned substances, have acknowledged that riders were not tested for what has become the sport’s most abused drug — the blood booster known as EPO.

Then there's this from Velorution. It's a great idea, a search engine that looks for your stolen bike on E-Bay and Craigslist. Unfortunately, it only operates in the Portland area for now, but I can see that this has tremendous potential, not only for recovering stolen bikes, but it could be used to search for all those special items we want. Say, a vintage Masi or a Bianchi of a particular color. I think these guys have only scratched the surface.

velorution: Anti-eBay

The Independent reports that 1200 bicycles are stolen every day in the UK. This is the result of a survey by Direct Line Insurance. Marianne Promberger alerts us that the CTC, using different methodology, arrived to the same number for 2005.

The interesting bit in the report is this:

Almost a half of second-hand bicycles are bought over the internet, where people are far less likely to ask about previous ownership

It is not clear what percentage of second-hand bikes are stolen bikes. However it is a sad truth that there always is a large number of unscrupulus people willing to buy stolen goods. Finetoothcog, a new website, may point to a possible solution for victims of theft.

Finetoothcog takes over the menial task of scanning sites where most stolen bikes are reoffered. Like a ‘fine tooth comb’ the fine tooth cog covers the electronic sales methods and keeps you informed of bikes for sale similar to the one you describe. It sends you an email digest each evening and provides a web interface to viewing what bikes are for sale similar to yours

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

More so-called advocacy...redux

Here's a post calling for cyclists to show up at a meeting in Cobb County, Georgia, in order to defend their right to use the public roadways. Apparently, there's a popular cycling route that some believe is unsafe - because cyclists ride two abreast. Can you imagine that? It can't possibly be safe...and it slows down it's definitely not safe...and sometimes a driver has to wait to go around a large group of those pesky it's obviously not at all safe for those bicycle riders to be on the let's make it safer by forcing them over onto the shoulder.

This has absolutely nothing to do with making driving more convenient. Nothing. Not at all. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

One truism I've learned from other advocates it this - policy is set by those who show up. This doesn't necessarily imply that it takes large numbers of people to influence public policy. It takes well-spoken, committed people who want to make a difference. And if only motorists show up, you can predict the outcome.

Attempts to restrict our rights are depressingly common, as this post from last week demonstrates. But the most egregious part of it - to me, anyway - is the role of so-called bicycling advocates buying into the hypocrisy about restricting our access for our own 'safety'. Jim Smith's version of bike advocacy (SAFE) is nothing more than a sock puppet for motorists.

"...As Jim Smith, chairman of the SAFE bike advocacy group, aptly put it, "Taking the road when there's a designated 5-foot bike lane is like declaring war.""

"Now SAFE is firing its own salvo at the boorish behavior, advocating for a state law requiring cyclists to ride in designated bike lanes where they exist and prohibiting them from riding side-by-side in those lanes."

SAFE is an obvious shell organization, a ruse to claim that cyclists themselves want these restrictions. But there are other advocacy groups that are best categorized as Uncle Toms, and apparently the Cob County organization is one of them.

There is a committee of cyclists that is allowing Cobb County to chip away at our rights because they are scared. ...We need to stand up to the Cobb County commissioners, Commissioner Thompson and the cyclist committee, who were not elected, are deciding what they think is right for us.

The cyclist committee is saying they agreed on a voluntary single file rule. Thompson and the homeowners are saying this will this be a county ordinance. I think both are dangerous and either will start to erode our rights to be on the roads.

...The law says we are allowed to be 2 abreast. While I always make room for motorists to pass me, I do not want a motorist coming up behind me and buzzing me because he incorrectly thinks I am in the wrong.

If it is to be an ordinance, as Thompson told the AJC and MDJ, then we are giving up rights granted us by the State of Georgia. State law says those rights can only come under local authority if we are provided dedicated and exclusive bike lanes, which we do not have on Columns. If we set precedence by allowing them to take our rights, they may just keep on doing it.

My good friend Gary says we have a responsibility to speak out when confronted with "toxic talk". When cyclists are threatened with restrictions to their basic right to use the public roads - those roads we ALL use, regardless of our transportation mode - we are obligated to speak up and speak up LOUDLY!

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Monday, February 12, 2007

...and while I'm thinking about it...

A Happy Birthday to Charles Darwin - who would be very old today if he wasn't already dead.

And...drum roll please...CycleDog is closing in on 50,000 hits! Yes, I know that some of the political blogs get that many before lunchtime, but I'm still tickled.


There are some "never leave home without 'em" items that every cyclist should carry, that is, unless you like walking home now and then. The essentials include: spare tubes, patch kit, pump, and tire levers. These days I consider a cellular phone an essential too. Besides the tools and spares, you need the knowledge of how to use them properly too. These items are the bare minimum, sufficient to allow you to ride home rather than walk or call for assistance.

Some other useful tools and spares are: a tire boot, Allen keys, a multi-tool, and a spoke wrench with a spare spoke and nipple. A tire boot is used for lining the inside of slashed tire. It simply reinforces the cut area and keeps the tube from blowing out. You can make a boot from a section of old tire, some duct tape, or even a dollar bill - though a paper bill will work only if it stays dry. Allen keys, a Y tool, or a bicycle-specific multi-tool will allow you to tighten most fasteners. Some of the multi-tools come with a chain breaker, allowing you to repair a chain and keep on riding.

Spoke wrenches and a spare spoke may allow you to repair a broken one on the road, but in my experience most broken spokes occur behind the gear cluster, making roadside repairs a problem. If your frame has enough clearance, you can simply twist a broken spoke around one of its neighbors, thereby eliminating it as an impalement hazard. Some racing frames do not have clearance for a wheel with a broken spoke, so a broken one render the bike unusable. But if you’re lucky enough to be able to ride it, be gentle going home and watch for potholes and railroad crossings. Repair it immediately, because the wheel is seriously weakened when a spoke is absent. Be aware, though, that when a wheel starts breaking spokes, it's often a sign that it's near the end of its service life.

Other add-ons might include a zip tie and a first aid kit. Zip ties are handy when some handlebar tape starts to peel off, or if a snap or buckle breaks on a pannier. And if you should happen across a huge adjustable wrench or other found tool along the road, you have a way to carry it! A first aid kit is self-explanatory. Carry one and hope that you never need it.

Obviously, if you're merely going for a day-long ride, you need fewer tools than someone bound for the edge of civilization, say, Borneo, Africa, or Nowata, Oklahoma. Plan accordingly.

Those listed above are the bare minimums. I probably carry more tools than the average cyclist, first, because I tend to break things, and second, because I ride older bikes most of the time. Some tools are for specific bikes or tasks, like my fixed gear commuter. While it would be possible to draw up an ideal list of tools, these are the contents of my bags. I actually emptied them to look! I ride 4 different bikes, so rather than have 4 tool bags, I just move the tools from bike to bike as necessary. You'll notice some redundancy because I often forget just where I stashed a tool, so I add another one. This makes for a heavy pannier!

I carry a single pannier for commuting, almost an oversized briefcase that was originally intended for police use. In the outer pocket, I have a sawed-off piece of shovel handle, my dog re-alignment tool that has been used only once in all the years I've carried it. The tool has a lanyard for easy access. There are two Maglite flashlights, one AA and one AAA. They have the spare batteries for my handlebar lights since I commute in the dark most days. I use the old backpacker's trick of removing one battery and reversing it, so if the flashlight is accidentally turned on, the batteries do not discharge. There's an offset wrench for an old-style Campy "micro-adjusting" seat post. (I fitted a new Brooks Pro recently, and I'm still fiddling with it.) On a mini-carabiner, I have a Campy 15mm 'peanut butter' wrench, and both a 13mm and a 15mm combination wrench. The peanut butter wrench will tighten crank bolts and track hubs, but I prefer a thicker wrench for the hubs because it's easier on my hand. The other items at the bottom of the bag are: Park plastic tire levers, a spare cell phone battery, a set of Allen keys in 1.5 thru 8mm, and a plastic bag. The bag covers my leather saddle and seat bag when the bike is on the rack outside. Trust me, birds like Brooks saddles!

The seat bag contains: 2 spare tubes, a patch kit, a 6" adjustable wrench, steel tire levers, a quick stick, and a Cool Tool wrapped in an old bandana. Again, the 6" adjustable wrench is there to save my hands. But the quick stick and Cool Tool may require some explanation. The quick stick is designed to force thin, high-pressure tires over the rim. It saves my thumbs. Cool Tools may be out of production by now. It's a large, heavy multi-tool made from very hard steel, unlike so many of the newer, smaller multi-tools. Cool Tools have a thin adjustable wrench suitable for pedals; 4, 5, 6, and 8mm Allen keys; a chain breaker, a Phillips head screwdriver, a spoke wrench, and a 14/15mm socket. The Cool Tool is not rustproof, so that's why I carry a plastic bag to cover my saddle and seat bag. Also, I keep this tool and the tire levers wrapped in an old bandana. It prevents the tools from rubbing through my spare tubes and gives me something to clean my hands after a roadside repair.

In my pocket, there's a Schwinn centennial edition spoke wrench, sized for Japanese spokes. It has a bottle opener, too, for those rare occasions when a bottle of beer magically appears in my hand. This particular magic trick seems to occur every day in late afternoon. I have no explanation for it.

I've seen recommendations for matches, a Powerbar, money, a space blanket, and latex gloves. One recommendation was for a survival kit that would fit in an Altoids box. And that's a good idea if you travel in the backcountry. Even for a road cyclist, an emergency space blanket may be a lifesaver. Latex or nitrile gloves could be used for keeping your hands clean while fixing a chain, or they could protect you from blood or other body fluids if you have to render first aid.

Over many years of practical experience, I’ve formulated Wagner's Inverse Law of Tools: The one tool you desperately need will most likely be left at home. The solution is to ride in a group. That way, someone else probably has it.

At Christmas, I received a hand-held Topolino Device, that highly coveted gadget that every cyclist wants. When fired, it emits the "fate-worse-than-death" ray and converts modern cars to purple 1955 Fiat Topolinos with 500cc engines. The drivers sport clown suits and big, red noses. At least I think it does, because the instructions are in Italian and I can only go by the pictures. Unfortunately, the batteries in mine are dead and they seem to be proprietary units. If anyone knows of a source, please let me know.

Having a tool in your fist is only the first step. Knowing how to use it properly is an altogether different one. Describing how to perform a repair is beyond my ability, in print anyway. Besides, there are some excellent repair resources available. Here are a few:

Web-based resources
Park Tools has an excellent repair section that covers nearly everything a home mechanic needs to know:

Jim Langley was a professional mechanic who wrote a maintenance column for Bicycling magazine. See the links at the bottom of the page too!

Sutherland's manual is a standard reference book for shop repair.

Barnett's manual is the bible of bicycle mechanics. It covers almost everything anyone needs to know about bikes. The manual is pricey, but it’s also the most comprehensive one in existence:

Richard Ballantine’s “Richard's Bike Book” The first edition of this book came out in the 1970s and it was one of the first books I read about bike repair. If I recall right, there was a lovely photo of a Condor on the cover. I still want a Condor! Anyway, my copy is lost, but I suspect you can find one in a used bookstore. There’s an updated edition titled “Richard’s Ultimate Bicycle Book”.

Eugene Sloan 'Complete Book of Bicycling" was my introduction to the art and science of wheel building. My copy is hopelessly out of date, but there’s still plenty of good advice between its covers.

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Telephone survey...

I answered the telephone and took part in a survey regarding the Tulsa City-County Health Department. The woman on the phone sounded like someone's elderly aunt or grandmother, otherwise I would have hung up on her. I don't like surveys, generally. Too often telemarketers use them as introductions for their sales pitch. Call me at home and try to sell me something, and you'll be listening to dead air almost immediately. I have little patience for telemarketers.

But as I said, this woman sounded different, so I stayed on the line. She asked hard questions about the focus of our health department. Which is most important - reducing teen tobacco use, fighting obesity through education, inspecting restaurants, or preparing to fight infectious diseases? In my mind, all of them are important, but reducing tobacco use and fighting obesity are the top two. I'm hard pressed to decide between them, however.

Tobacco is responsible for 435,000 deaths per year in the United States, so it's clearly a public health issue. Those deaths are preventable. If we discourage teens from using tobacco products, presumably we can reduce the number of deaths in the future. Here's hoping.

Obesity (and the various diseases that accompany it) is estimated to cause between 280,000 and 325,000 deaths per year. Again, these deaths are almost entirely preventable. We’re fat, lazy people who don’t want to hear about diet and exercise. We’d rather spend enormous amounts of money on magic pills that with dubious promises like “LOSE WEIGHT WHILE YOU SLEEP!" (Actually, we do lose weight while we sleep. It’s called dehydration.)

Cycling, or any other cardiovascular exercise, can be part of any weight-reduction plan. My doctor says that anything that increases our heart rate, gets us up off the couch - and away from the refrigerator - is good for us. He recommends walking, cycling, or skating. If I recall right, an adult should get 30 minutes of exercise every day. If that means a trip to the gym, well, OK. But it's much more pleasant to ride a bike back and forth to work, killing two birds with one two-wheeled vehicle.

There were other questions about public health issues, the health department’s website, and the “Don’t Bug Me” program aimed at preventing the spread of cold and flu. I hadn’t visited the website for over a year, so I was pleasantly surprised to find the restaurant inspection information had been restored. At one time, you could see the complete field report for any restaurant in Tulsa County, and you could search the database by community. It’s changed now. You can sort only by the restaurant name and you don’t see the report, only a summary. Still, it’s good information.

I used the site to look at the inspections performed on some local restaurants. It was especially revealing to see which ones had repeated violations for the same offenses. I’d visited 2 that left the back door open for ventilation in kitchen area. That open door invited every housefly in town right into the food preparation areas. I refused to eat there. Both those restaurants are now out of business. Another one had multiple violations for rodent infestations. I don't eat there, either.

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Gettin' nekkid!

Just for Fritz, since he mentioned it a few days ago - here's a photo that took a great deal of research. It's Sherry Lynne White stripped completely bare! I won't crow about it or anything, but I'm surprised that it took so long to unearth.



Sunday, February 04, 2007

Bicycle haiku...

Fritz on Cycle-licious suggested some shameless link-baiting by using bicycle related haiku. He's more of a student of the art form than I, but here's my offering anyway:

Wheels spin happily
Sudden hiss of punctured tube
The long walk homeward

Doesn't it make you wanna scream?

(Monday afternoon)

I decided to tinker with that haiku today.

Wheels spin happily
Sudden hiss of punctured tube
Starts the long walk home

It's fun playing with words. I think the second version is gooder.


Saturday, February 03, 2007

More so-called advocacy...

I expect this kind of crap from a motorist's organization, or some local yahoo whose only practical cycling skill is the ability to balance one. But the SAFE bicycle advocacy group seems to exist to promote motoring interests, not cycling. I tried to find some further information on SAFE, but apparently they're not a big web presence. If anyone in Florida has better info, please feel free to post it in comments, or e-mail it to me and I'll post it.

This 'advocacy' group wants cyclists to be restricted to a bike lane and prohibited from riding two abreast.

This has very little to do with making conditions better for cyclists. It has everything to do with making driving more convenient (i.e. FASTER) since motorists wouldn't have to slow down for all those pesky cyclists.

It seems to me that there are already packs of motor vehicles out there, slowing down more 'important' drivers. Why not force them to drive single file in the right hand lane - on a divided, 4-lane roadway, of course - since that would be so much safer for EVERYONE on the roadway?

The newspaper calls this a "fair, sensible request". Tug your forelocks and bow down to your betters, you pesky cyclists, and be thankful that Uncle Toms like the SAFE advocacy group are looking out for your interests!

Bicycle Safety

South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Posted February 3 2007

ISSUE: A bike group peddles a law that would stop pack riding in bike lanes.

(T)he push to make Florida more bicycle-friendly won a big victory last year, when the Legislature passed a law requiring motorists to give bicyclists a full five feet of space when passing them on any public road. Those noble causes are getting run over, though, by the road-hogging habits of so-called pack riders, who are giving all cyclists a bad name.

You've seen them: The helmeted riders who move in packs, sometimes 20 and 50 at a time, going at their own pace, chatting along the way, taking up an entire lane of traffic, ignoring traffic signals and showing no concern for the line of cars behind them that have to fight oncoming traffic just to get by.

...As Jim Smith, chairman of the SAFE bike advocacy group, aptly put it, "Taking the road when there's a designated 5-foot bike lane is like declaring war."

Now SAFE is firing its own salvo at the boorish behavior, advocating for a state law requiring cyclists to ride in designated bike lanes where they exist and prohibiting them from riding side-by-side in those lanes. It's a fair request, and considering its source and the added safety it would bring to the state's roads, the Legislature should take it up without delay.

Sharing the road takes cooperation, and sometimes it takes legislative action to enforce it.

BOTTOM LINE: A fair, sensible request.

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Trouserless in Wonderland: A Wally Crankset Tale

It was a lovely day for a winter ride. The wind was calm for once, and although the temperature was below freezing, brilliant sunlight made it seem warmer. Wally and I rode out of Broken Elbow toward the hills north of town. I was dressed in winter cycling gear, but Wally preferred an old pair of wool trousers combined with favorite plaid wool shirt. The pants had seen better days and looked like they'd provided meals for several generations of clothes moths. But Wally was on an anti-synthetics binge, and he'd given up wearing anything that wasn't composed of 'natural' fibers. I figured a woman was behind it all, but I had more sense than to ask.

He wore a helmet despite its all-plastic construction, because the Super Bowl was coming up and he wanted to honor his beloved Minnesota Vikings. He'd stuck a pair of plastic horns on the helmet so he looked like a kind of wooly Viking himself.

"Wally, it's the Colts and the Bears this time", I said. "Minnesota isn't going to be there."

He ignored me. I figured he just liked the horns.

Wally rode his old beater, a Schwinn Varsity he called the Norway rat of bicycles. He'd converted it to a fixed gear. The bike was old and rusty, and it seemed to weigh a ton. Wally said it was like an old Pontiac with "road hugging weight" and he wasn't far wrong. The thing was a tank, with wide tires and pitiful brakes.

We followed the state highway for a few miles, and then started climbing into the hills on a lesser-traveled county road. The road was covered with hard-packed snow and it crunched under our tires. We were on the very first downhill when disaster struck. Wally was spinning furiously, trying to keep up with the fixed gear when his trouser cuff caught in the chain. The trousers disintegrated immediately, went around the chain ring once or twice, then the remaining pieces lodged in the back wheel. The sudden lurch gave my friend an inadvertent flying lesson, and just like Arthur Dent, he hoped to remain airborne by missing the ground. It didn't work, and he hit the roadside, tumbling through the snow until he slid to a stop. The Schwinn bounced a few times, then it too fell into a snow bank, its rear wheel hopelessly taco'd. A moth struggled free, desperately trying to fly in the cold winter air. Wally jumped to his feet. A single horn remained on his helmet. The long slide had packed snow into places that snow was never meant to be, and Wally was vigorously brushing it away, the cold giving him great incentive. He cussed a blue streak too.

"Gosh, Wally! Those pants ripped right off, just like one of those Chippendales guys!" Or so I'm told. I've never watched male exotic dancers. But I was deeply thankful for one small thing, a minor detail that made the experience a little more pleasant. Wally was not going commando that day. He had white long johns under those decrepit old trousers, and I'd thought it was just his gleaming white legs showing through all the holes.

But now the problem was how to get back to town. It was a long walk. I offered to ride back, get my car, and drive out to pick him up.

"OK, you go get the car. I'll stay warm by walking toward the state highway. But I'm not gonna leave my bike here. I'll carry it if I have to."

He could have leaned that old Schwinn up against a signpost. No one would bother with it. But Wally was always stubborn about his bikes, and I wasn't going to waste time arguing. It was getting colder and the sun would set in another hour or so. I gave him my new fleece vest to help keep him warm and set off for Broken Elbow, pedaling fast in an effort to stay warm myself.

Note to self: Never again buy a motor vehicle from any car lot with the word "Honest" in the title. "Honest" George Tirebiter, indeed! In a moment of weakness, I'd allowed George to sell me a classic 1964 Lincoln Continental. My 'classic' was temperamental, which is dealer-speak for an extreme pain-in-the-ass. It wouldn't start on rainy days. It wouldn't start on blisteringly hot summer days. We'd named it the "Carship Enterprise" because it was enormous. I suspected the engine was controlled by the phases of the moon, so I hoped as I pedaled back toward town that this week was one of the good phases, otherwise I might find a Wally-sickle when I returned.

As I rode home, Wally was slowly freezing back in the woods, regardless of the effort necessary to carry that heavy old Schwinn. He resorted to dragging it, using the front wheel as a handle. The hard-packed snow made the task easier, and after he'd crested that first hill, it was all downhill to the state highway. But the wind was picking up and Wally was getting very cold in what he quaintly described as his 'nether regions'. So he removed the plaid wool shirt and tied it around his waist, then used his belt to cinch it tighter. It looked like a ratty kilt. He threaded the seat bag from the bike onto the belt, in an effort to cover the gap in front and keep the wind out.

Wally admired his handiwork for only a moment, and then trudged onward. He thought about the summer's Scottish games as a way to keep his mind off the cold. We'd learned that it's not wise to laugh at a guy wearing a skirt when he's carrying a long, two-handed broadsword. But the games also exposed Wally to a far more dangerous weapon, one with a sinister reputation. Wally fell in love with the bagpipes.

"If I only had my bagpipes", Wally lamented, "I could MARCH into town with my head held high!"

Wally was attracted to strange musical instruments. He had no musical talent whatsoever, but that never dissuaded him from trying something new. His dog ran away when Wally started banjo lessons, and he was threatened with eviction when he tried to learn the accordion. The dog returned, only to find Wally enamored with bagpipes. After that, we could never determine if the dog was deaf or merely catatonic. He seldom moved from his lair behind the couch.

One day, Big Daddy's Funeral Home called Wally. They wanted a piper for a funeral. Wally was nervous so he had a couple of drinks first. They didn't help him play better, but they certainly helped him play LOUDER. A fistfight broke out between those who wanted to kill him and those who wanted to torture him first, then kill him. After the dust settled, most of Big Daddy's furniture was broken. Both Wally and the deceased were nowhere to be found, leading to rumors that Wally's pipes could wake the dead.

These thoughts kept him warm as he slogged along the road dragging the Schwinn.

I struggled trying to get the car to start. It caught and died again and again. The battery was weakening and I knew it wouldn't last much longer. I'd checked that the plug wires were tight and not arcing, and I'd even dug out a can of ether. As a last resort, I placed my "Thor: Norse God of Thunder" voodoo doll on top of the air cleaner. It ran a minute or two, and then dropped to a rough idle. But it kept running - that was the important part! Never underestimate the power of voodoo when it comes to old cars. Every mechanic has a voodoo doll hidden away somewhere, though they don't like to admit it.

It wasn't quite dark as the Carship Enterprise rumbled along the state highway. As I rounded a bend, I thought there was a drunk driver coming at me, but the car swerved back into its lane at the last second. Then I realized it was Broken Elbow's lone police cruiser. Fred and Ethel drove by and waved, with Fred laughing so hard he could barely control the car.

Sure enough, Wally was just down the road, hopping up and down and yelling at full volume! He clutched a broken axe in his fist. I gave some thought to simply driving on, but there aren't too many '64 Continentals on the road, and he'd surely recognize the car. I realized he'd wrapped the shirt around his waist, but there was fresh blood all over my new vest and most of his face.

Wally was furious. "Fred and Ethel just LEFT me here! I could freeze to death and those two wouldn't care!" His Schwinn was a battered wreck, and he still had a firm grip on that axe.

"I found this busted axe up on the hill", he said. "Someone was up there cutting a deadfall for firewood and they just left it behind. I figured I could use it to pop that wheel back into shape and ride home. So I was using the side of the axe to hit the wheel. It bounced back and smacked me in the nose!" That explained all the blood. Wally's nose appeared to be broken. He'd have a nice pair of shiners in the morning. While it's possible to pop a pretzeled wheel back into shape, it's best done by hand, not with tools. But Wally was never one to trifle with finesse when brute force was available.

"Ethel said if I fixed the bike, I could try to ride really, really fast and perhaps no one would notice that my trousers were missing! Then he laughed. They floored the cruiser and threw mud all over me!" Wally was still waving that axe around and yelling, so I didn't say anything. "Everyone says I'm crazy and that just not true!"

It was hard to refute that statement when he looked like a Viking berserker, the battered remains of his Schwinn lying on the ground behind him.

I was hesitant, but I still had to ask. "Um, what happened to your bike, Wally? Did Fred and Ethel run over it?"

He looked a little sheepish. "I lost my temper", he said, "and took it out on the bike. I bashed it and bashed it. It felt right at the time, but now I'm not so sure."

We loaded the bike into the trunk along with the broken axe and a couple pieces of firewood, then drove off toward Broken Elbow. It was snowing lightly, and with any luck, we'd have a quiet, uneventful evening.

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Friday, February 02, 2007

Pile, er, 'fleece' garments...

The Oklahoma City Outdoor Network News blog has a good piece on fleece garments. I keep calling them pile garments, because I'm an ole fart! This buyer's guide is well worth reading.

I don't know about the rest of you, but it seems I've been living in various fleece sweaters since Christmas. It's been COLD!