Friday, August 31, 2007

The common toolbox gremlin...

I was alone in the house. Mary and Lyndsay were at the grocery, so I figured it was a perfect opportunity for garage time. My fixed gear commuter needed a quick clean-and-lube. It's always a good idea to check the chain tension at the same time.

I sprayed the chain with WD40 to loosen the crud. It's a great cleaner but as a lubricant it won't stand up to the pressure on a chain. I scrubbed with a rag while being careful to keep my hands away from the rotating cog and chain ring. The wheel was out of true so I made a mental note of it. After the solvent evaporated, I applied some chain lube and wiped off the excess. As I turned toward the toolbox for an adjustable wrench, the phone in the kitchen rang.

I went to answer the phone, taking the wrench along in my hand. Mary wanted to know if we needed a few items she'd left off the shopping list. I checked for her, then went back to the garage. “Now, what happened to that adjustable wrench?” I mumbled to myself. “I had it just a moment ago when I answered the phone.” I went back into the kitchen to look for it. It wasn't near the phone or on the counter top or the table. I checked my pockets too. After a few minutes of fruitless searching, I went back to the garage. I could use a 15mm combination wrench just as easily. The adjustable would turn up – sometime.

The chain tensioning went quickly, then I gave the wheel a spin prior to truing it. But when I reached in my pocket for my spoke wrench, a Schwinn Centennial tool that I carry because it doubles as a bottle opener, I was astounded to find it missing! One should never be without one's bottle opener just in case there's a cold beer in the vicinity. I'd had one or two the previous evening, so there was a chance the tool was sitting on the kitchen counter, probably right next to that missing adjustable wrench. So I went back to the kitchen. “No luck”, I thought, “but maybe I left it in a jersey pocket after riding home.” So I went to look in the laundry basket.

I keep my cycling clothes separate from the family laundry. It's easier than sorting through a big pile of clothes. But when I looked though my jersey pockets, the spoke wrench was nowhere to be found. The basket reeked, though, so I thought it would be a good idea to dump it in the washer. I did that, added detergent, and turned the washer on. “Now what was I doing before I started this? Oh yeah, the wheel truing.”

Back in the garage, I found a Park spoke wrench and set to work on the wheel, but before it was finished, Mary and Lyndsay pulled into the driveway. I went out to help them unload groceries and to do a little discreet peeking for goodies. That went quickly. In a few minutes I was back at the repair stand. Of course, the Park spoke wrench was now missing too. “It probably ran off with the Schwinn tool”, I thought, “and they're now living in sin in some other state.” I muttered darkly about toolbox gremlins and decided the best course of action was to have another beer.

The Schwinn spoke wrench was sitting on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator next to a cold bottle of Rolling Rock. The Park spoke wrench turned up a week later on the floor of the Chevy. The adjustable wrench is still missing.

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Science and the Zen of traffic...

I met a direct descendant of Sir Isaac Newton recently. You remember Newton from high school physics. He invented calculus and was famous for his observation, “Objects in motion tend to stay in motion, and objects at rest tend to stay at rest unless acted upon by an outside force. What the %#@*'s a bicycle doing in my lane?”

Or at least that was his great-great-great-great-grandson's observation.

I was on my way home from work, grinding along through waves of heat rising up off the pavement. Eighty-sixth street is a 4 lane arterial that goes slightly downhill. Normally, riding on an arterial is pleasant and uneventful because it's so easy for overtaking traffic to pass my slower bicycle. However, that afternoon I had a line of traffic on my left that included a school bus. Up ahead, in my lane, a pickup truck slowed and stopped at a red light. The cars on my left stacked up at the light too. Sir Isaac's great-great-etc grandson was some distance behind me, probably planning to pass all that stopped traffic, that is, until he saw that pesky cyclist over on the right. He laid on the horn, a pitiful bleating noise that was so puny and wretched that I thought at first it came from a side street or was from farther away.

I looked around, but no one was obviously honking nearby. I slowed for the truck ahead but didn't have to stop because the light changed to green. There's another red light less than 100 yards away, or less than 100 meters for those of you with a rational set of weights and measures, so I didn't try to jump to top speed.

Now, I figured that Sir Isaac's not-so-great grandson wanted to keep his momentum and not have to slow for those cars in the left lane. But the truck in front of me wasn't about to vanish into thin air, so his intention to keep moving was irrelevant.

That's when I heard the reedy voice of Zen Master Poo inside my head. “Turdhopper,” he whispered, ”Snatch this Snap-On 15 inch adjustable wrench from my hand, a tool known for its combination of strength, balance, and fine, heavily chromed finish, and go smack that asshole upside his head.”

I dismissed his advice. “Master Poo, go away! And don't call me Turdhopper again you old fart! I thought you advocated non-violence anyway.”

Well, yeah, you're right. But I know this guy. He took the parking space next to mine at the gym last week, and the butt-head dented my BMW! Just take the damn wrench!”

I ignored him and his voice faded until it was lost in the wind. I pointed to the left-hand lane as Sir Isaac's intellectually challenged offspring continued to lean on his horn. It's impotent blare grew weaker as either the horn or the battery gave out. Of course, it was too hot to wind down a window, so the famed mathematician's misbegotten progeny had to content himself with shouting inside the cab of his pickup accompanied by wild gesticulations as an added bonus, like a mime with Tourette's syndrome.

I smiled and waved as he finally got the message and passed in the lane to my left. His eyes were about to pop out.

The CycleDog corollary to Newton's First Law: The truly stupid tend to remain stupid.

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

The doldrums...

These are the dog days of August, days that are too stinkin' hot to do much outside, other than ride back and forth to work. Even then, with the heat index above 110F, I don't want to ride my bike. The alternative would be to write more, but that's been a struggle recently, too.

I'm stuck in the doldrums. Writing has been difficult because I lack good ideas. I still have a passion for it, and that's something that has been a constant since I started CycleDog. I hesitate to post about other bicycling-related news items, because all of us can get them from so many sources. It's hard to do something original, and I really don't want to copy someone else. If you want late-breaking news, I urge you to read Cycle-licious, Masiguy, or BRAIN.

The worrisome part of all this is that I've lost my enthusiasm for bicycling advocacy. I've considered giving up my LCI certification also. The lack of real progress at the state and local level has me very frustrated and even angry at times. Realistically, I know that change takes time, so perhaps the frustration is more due to impatience - and everyone who knows me will attest to my lack of patience.

Still, it's annoying to have the same arguments over and over with the paint-n-pavers. They're not interested in reality-based arguments, or as one of my co-workers said so well, "Facts - however interesting - are irrelevant!"

I'm disheartened by the apparent abandonment of the bicycling subcommittee at INCOG. I hoped we could get some input on projects that impact area cyclists, and improve on them before they were quite literally cast in concrete.

I've all but given up on the Oklahoma Bicycling Coalition. OBC spent a lot of time and effort pushing the Share the Road tag, but I have doubts that it was a good effort, an effort that actually benefited Oklahoma cyclists. It was a good PR move, though. Since then, the OBC has managed to get some laws passed that actually work for cyclists, so again, maybe I'm feeling frustration from impatience.

Finally, and this is probably one thing that weighs heavily on me, I just haven't thought of anything funny for far too long. I enjoy writing comedy and I miss it when it's gone. There's no way to force it, so again, I end up frustrated. Maybe this is writer's block. Maybe I need more caffeine. Maybe I need more sleep. One thing's certain - I won't look for inspiration in a bottle of booze. I've been to the brink of that alcoholic precipice once and I will not go there again.

In a few weeks, the wind will switch around to the north. Temperatures will drop and with a little luck, we'll get some rain. Bear with me a while, and let's hope the weather changes for CycleDog too.

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CNN's "God's Warriors"....OT

(Image from Krajewscy Online)

"We're on a mission from God."

Sometimes, television lives up to its promise of bringing us important news and information. So it was with "God's Warriors" which aired on CNN over three evenings earlier this week. Christiane Amanpour's documentary covered some of the issues swirling around fundamentalism in Jewish, Muslim, and Christian religious movements.

Now, I'm not going to get into a critique of the production. I'll leave that to other sources. But if you haven't seen this, I urge you to do so. You may find much that is disagreeable. You may discover some sympathetic views of other religious groups.

I'll paraphrase one thought, and that's the idea that fundamentalists believe they are on a mission from God. And since God cannot be wrong, neither can they be wrong. This justifies suicide bombers, abortion clinic bombers, and terrorism that targets children.

CNN will be re-running this series, so watch it if you can.

(We return you now to our regular bicycle-related programming.)

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Local News: Tom's Bike Shop

Tom Brown has been working on his new store, a bike shop right in the middle of Cherry Street in Tulsa. I haven't talked with im about it yet, but I know one of the guys installing his heating and air conditioning. He's kept me abreast of developments.

But imagine my surprise this morning at 5AM when the clock radio clicked on and I heard on KWGS - our local public radio station - a brief 'thank you' for sponsorship money from Tom's! Better yet, they mentioned BOTH locations, leading me to believe that the new shop is open.

I have to remember to call Tom and ask him about it, and if the shop is truly open, I have to see it this weekend.


“Ya ain't from aroun' here, are ya?”...SATIRE

Some time ago, Kiril the Mad Macedonian and I had a discussion about the relationship between cycling and politics. I said that the act of riding a bicycle doesn't indicate one's personal politics, and I still believe that's true. However, in Ben Warner's posts on the same topic, he said that the two are inextricably united, if you look at it from the standpoint of cycling and government services. Sure, there's a role for government in encouraging more people to use bicycles for transportation and recreation, but this is unrelated to personal political views.

In modern society, though, nearly everything has a political connotation. I choose to blame Karl “Turd Blossom” Rove for this, but feel free to pick your own personal demon. So how is a cyclist with left-of-center political views best able to express those views while riding a bike? Now remember, I'm in Oklahoma where someone with moderate politics by east coast standards can be labeled as a wild-eyed liberal. The word is an epithet here. I've even been called a liberal in traffic, along with other, less endearing labels. Atilla the Hun would have been a leftie here.

With that in mind, I wondered just how a cyclist could demonstrate his political views without resorting to something as crass as a bumper sticker, not that there's space to apply one anyway, unless we stick them diagonally across our backs. Even MY butt isn't wide enough for that. Oh sure, we can blow through stop signs and red lights as a symbolic rejection of bourgeois middle class values and their arbitrary limitations on personal freedom. We can ride without wearing helmets in defiance of the encroachments of the nanny state. We can ride on sidewalks and terrorize all those plodding pedestrians with their straight-laced complacency. We can ride the wrong way, going against traffic in protest of our nation's current political and economic direction.

Nearly all cyclists do those things already. The challenge is to find something different, something that sets the truly committed liberal cyclist apart from the crowd of wannabes.

My friend Bert was sitting in a bar one afternoon, not an unusual occurrence, when another patron approached and said, “You're Ed's friend, aren't you? I gotta tell you, he ain't right.” Then it hit me. The best illustration of a cyclist's adherence to progressive, liberal politics would be to simply refuse to turn right! It was a flash of brilliance! In one bold sweeping turn, a cyclist can show his total contempt for those neo-conservatives motoring along behind the controls of the largest SUV the world has ever seen, if you consider our government as a gaudy, chrome-encrusted motor vehicle gobbling up the world's oil and loudly demanding ever-wider roads and parking spaces that accommodate it's enormous girth.

Just say NO to right turns! If we categorically refuse to turn right, we send a message to those honkin' neo-cons stuck behind us in traffic. But how do we manage to get anywhere by only turning left, you ask? It's easy! We make 270 degree LEFT turns!

Isn't it simple! Try this on your next ride and I guarantee your politics will be readily apparent to all those running dog imperialist lackeys! I've done this and found that motorists are astonished that someone would demonstrate their liberal credentials in such a positive, emphatic style. Many of them honk, yell words of encouragement, and wave their fists in the air showing their total agreement with our progressive agenda. It feels good to be at the cutting edge of a new movement in American politics.

Meanwhile, other left-leaning cyclists continue riding on sidewalks or against traffic. They routinely ignore stop signs and red lights as they've probably done since the invention of our two-wheeled conveyance. It's time they embraced the 270 degree turn as yet another outward sign of their inner politics. When our country stops its headlong turn toward the right, we'll resume making normal right turns. But until that golden day arrives, make your statement with a 270!

(An addendum to the above: I'm almost certain that some cyclists, when painted as left-leaning, neo-communists, will think to themselves, “Ah ain't gonna ride like no damn pinko liberal! Ah'll stop at red lights, stay off sidewalks, and ride with traffic rather than look like some damned commie bastard! That'll show 'em!” If that's the case, my job here is done.)

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Local news...

Duh! That's the sound of cognitive dissonance. Congressman John Sullivan was here in Owasso for a luncheon with the Chamber of Commerce, and among other things, he talked about widening US169 from Tulsa to Owasso. Presently it's a 4 lane limited access road with heavy traffic during the morning and afternoon rush. The C of C is all for it, of course, because more cars and more motorists equate to more money flowing into town.

But is it worth doing? If more people move here and attract more businesses, businesses that look more and more like Dallas, according to the congressman, is that really better for the people who live here? I mean, we could have an IHOP, a Denny's, an Olive Garden, and a JC Penney's - just like the suburbs of Dallas, or Pittsburgh, or Atlanta, or any other cookie-cutter community you can name.

Aside from the issues of sprawl and its consequences, there's more about the good congressman's visit, and that's his statements about reducing our dependence on foreign oil through a National Energy Policy. Excuse me, but I thought Dick Cheney and the oil companies settled all that in a top secret meeting on whose agenda and conclusions none of us - not the public, not the federal regulators, not the congress - have received any information. Besides, congressman, didn't you just get through telling us we need bigger roads for more cars? How does that equate with energy independence?

There's another account of our congressman meeting at the Lion's Club. A pair of activists somehow eluded the Lion's tight security and asked Rep. Sullivan some pointed questions...until..."
At this point the Lion in charge lost composure and blurted out that "we don't discuss
politics at the Lions Club."" That's hysterical! And I'll bet it's true. They probably don't really discuss politics. They just reiterate whatever claptrap Faux News is spouting that day, while heads nod in agreement.

Here's a link to the Blue Oklahoma piece.

What follows are excerpts from the TBJ article. The whole thing hits all the usual right-wing talking points, except for their rants about our taxes being too high and government being too corrupt. I guess that when we're running a war on borrowed money and the Republicans have been in control of the government for this long, it's more than a little embarrassing to take careful aim and shoot oneself in the foot.

TBJ Article
Widening of Hwy. 169 Could Begin in Late 2008
Neighbor Newspapers

Congressman John Sullivan is still amazed whenever he comes to Owasso and sees how much the city has grown over the past decade. He continued that praise Wednesday afternoon during the Owasso Chamber of Commerce's special Legislative Luncheon Series at the Bailey Education Foundation.

...Sullivan said the widening project for Highway 169 could begin as early as next year, or, perhaps, 2009.

"Right now, we are going through the appropriations process on 169 and we're getting the money authorized and we are being successful with that," Sullivan said. "We want to make sure that we get everything completed and done the right way. Everything is looking good and I'm working hard along with other members of my delegation to get this project going."

Sullivan said a series of tests and studies will have to be completed before actual construction can begin. Studies such as environmental impact studies and engineering studies to make sure that no flooding will occur if you block off flooding or storm water run off will have to completed before the current four-land highway will be widened, Sullivan said.

..."Owasso is booming. I remember a decade ago when there wasn't much growth. Now you drive through and see the same stores and restaurants that you see in Dallas," Sullivan said. "What's good about the 169 project is that we can show the growth of Owasso and the need to have a highway that is more safe and helps the economy. That is the main criteria when we look at these road projects. This is not a frivolous deal, it's something that is desperately needed."

Among other topics Sullivan addressed; he said the country needs to come up with a National Energy Policy to help reduce the dependence on foreign oil.

Sullivan said the United States gets 60 percent of its oil from foreign countries. He said the solution to spur domestic production of oil is to start drilling in the Rocky Mountains as well as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska.

"The reason we haven't opened up ANWR is there are nine or so Democratic senators who are running for president who get up in the morning and shave, including (New York Senator) Hilary (Clinton), and they see the next President of the United States in the mirror," Sullivan said. "Those democrats have to please the trial lawyers, labor union bosses and the environmentalists. If we start drilling in ANWR, we can produce at least two million barrels a day, maybe more. That's the same number of barrels we were importing from Iraq before the war."

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

Pardon me while I slip into something, um, flashy...

Here's an expensive solution to another readily avoidable 'problem' - being seen at night. This jacket is supposed to cost about 100 pounds. Dunno what that is in dollars, but regardless, it's spendy. Also, I'd have to wonder how long it would last in regular commuting use. We get wet and we move a lot, making life difficult for electronics, wiring, and batteries.

There's a video of the jacket in use at the bottom of the article.


The cycling jacket with built-in brake lights and indicators


It's every cyclist's nightmare - it's dark or getting that way, you have just given a hand signal, but will other road users have seen it?

Well, they will now, thanks to an innovative jacket with flashing indicators on the sleeves and brake lights in the back.

Its inventor Michael Chen has landed a design award for the high-tech coat and hopes to find a manufacturer to produce it on a mass scale.

Amber indicators are triggered to flash by a "tilt-switch" when the wearer raises their arm to give a hand signal.

And a device called an "accelerometer" is used to turn an LED, woven into the jacket's back, green when the rider is moving forward or red when they apply the brakes.

London-based Mr Chen, 28, got the idea watching cyclists in the capital. He said: "There is a lot of hostility from bus and cab drivers towards cyclists.

"Cyclists are brave. It is so dangerous without bike lanes. When I visited Korea last year, I noticed their cities had better bike lanes than London."


Stumbled across this...

It's a discussion of bicycle use as an indicator of perceived safety on the streets, specifically by measuring the numbers of female cyclists. This is certainly an interesting idea worth further reading. I don't know that I'd refer to women as an "indicator species" because the blonds in my house would probably get huffy and women like 'Wendy' would pop a gasket or two or three.

I'm not a fan of using anecdotal evidence to support an argument or position, but it's hard to deny that increasing the numbers of bike racks around area businesses indicate more customers arriving on bicycles. Businesses don't spend money on something that goes unused, not if they want to stay in business. I would be overjoyed if the rack in front of my building was crowded with 8 or 10 bikes rather than my lonely Centurion.

My thanks to Ben Warner of Community Indicators, where I first stumbled across this information. I've included links to Richard Layman's blog and the original story in the Sacramento Bee.

Community Indicators


Saturday, August 18, 2007
Indicators on Two Wheels: Measuring Bicycles?

...For the record, here's the first couple sentences of the MySpace article: "Bicyclists are social indicators. The number of people riding and commuting by bicycle can tell us something about the communities in which we live in." While I suspected that was true, I wasn't quite sure what that "something" was.

After all, in one part of the area I live in, we have an extraordinarily high number of accidents involving bicyclists. Anecdotally, I've been told by someone working in the field that the number of bicycle accidents are proportional to DUI's resulting in suspended licenses, leading to a rise of "bicycling while intoxicated" that can be more deadly than being back behind the wheel, though less of a threat to others. But I don't think that's the "something" that the number-of-bicyclists indicator would tell us.

Then I ran across Richard Layman's blog. He references a Sacramento Bee article called Cycle City? in which Peter Jacobsen "points to a key 'indicator species,' the female cyclist. Their numbers on the road, he argues, are a direct measure of the perceived safety of cycling and its likelihood to catch on with the general population."

Bicyclists as a measure of the popularity of bicycling doesn't seem like such an exciting indicator. But bicyclists as a measure of perceptions of safety and of urban renewal and the development of neighborhoods? That's a lot more interesting.

Sacramento Bee


(Excerpts follow)

Cycle City?
Sacramento streets gearing up for cruisers and commuters
By Tim Holt - Special to The Bee

Published 12:00 am PDT Sunday, August 12, 2007

Is it possible that sprawling, car-oriented Sacramento is becoming a bicycling town? A larger version of Davis?

Health writer and dedicated Sacramento cyclist Peter Jacobsen thinks so. To make his case, he points to a key "indicator species," the female cyclist. Their numbers on the road, he argues, are a direct measure of the perceived safety of cycling and its likelihood to catch on with the general population.

Using this test, one can make the case that Sacramento is on the verge of becoming a cycling town, with midtown as its incubator. Cycling by both sexes is much in evidence in midtown, and it has a decidedly retro, back-to-the-future look. Twenty-somethings there are embracing colorful "cruiser" bikes -- those fat-tired bikes that hark back to the days when newspapers were delivered on two wheels.

...And midtown is a logical incubator for cycling. It's where trips tend to be shorter and more easily manageable on two wheels. Midtown is packed with destinations for younger folks, with lots of restaurants, bars and nightclubs.

...The Census Bureau reported that a 2005 supplemental survey of U.S. commuters ranked Portland first and Sacramento tied for fifth among major cities in the percentage of commuters who traveled by bicycle. For Sacramento, that's 1.8 percent of all Sacramento commuters, or 3,305 cyclists.

There's more-recent anecdotal evidence that suggests cycling has grown in popularity since then. To keep up with demand, bike parking spaces for City Hall staffers have quadrupled, from 10 to 42, over the past two years. Bike racks are sprouting up all over midtown in front of restaurants and coffee houses. Participation in the Million Mile May campaign, which encourages Sacramento cyclists to rack up as many miles as they can in one month, has doubled since 2005, from more than 2,000 participants to 4,133 last May.


Thursday, August 16, 2007

This just in...

League Responds to U.S. Transportation Secretary's comments on PBS

Transportation Secretary Mary Peters talks about infrastructure problems and travel initiatives.

More Info

Peters cited "bicycle paths" as a prime example of the waste
Last night on the PBS NewsHour with Jim Leher, DOT Secretary Mary Peters was interviewed by Gwen Ifill.

Peters, when asked about a possible gas tax increase, repeated President Bush's response - No, there can be no tax increase because Congress is wasting the money they already get. Peters cited "bicycle paths" as a prime example of the waste because bicycles are not a transportation use of the gas tax money.

It is disappointing that the administration is attacking Jim Oberstar for his efforts to get the Minneapolis bridge repaired along with raising all the funding for transportation maintenance, by using Oberstar's support for bicycles as a weapon.

The League of American Bicyclists feels strongly that this should not go without a response and we have sent a letter to Secretary Peters voicing our view. Click here to view our response.

For those of you who feel strongly about bicycling issues, we would also urge you to contact the Secretary to share your personal viewpoints.

To view a copy of the program click here

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Michael Wallis, Route 66, and Stephen Colbert!

Image from

This could be fun. Michael Wallis had done much to popularize Route 66, and since Oklahoma still retains more existing miles of the original road than any other state, it would seem a natural draw for tourists whether they're traveling on two wheels or four. I've bicycled on portions of the road between Tulsa and Claremore, and I've driven on it as far west as Edmond. Honestly, it's like stepping back in time.

There's another Oklahoma author, Jim Ross, whose Oklahoma Route 66 covers the road and its various alignments in great detail. For a bicycle tourist, this book is a treasure trove of imformation.

And finally, there's Jim Foreman's Riding the Joad Road that I've written about previously. It's an account of riding the old Route 40 as the Joad family did in Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath. Oh, go read Steinbeck too. Literature is good for you.

Tulsa author to appear on ‘Colbert’

(Link to full article)

By JAMES D. WATTS, JR. World Scene Writer

Tulsa author Michael Wallis will explain the “truthiness” of old roads Wednesday, when he appears on “The Colbert Report,” airing at 10:30 p.m. on the Comedy Channel (Cox Cable channel 61).

Wallis recently published “The Lincoln Highway: Coast to Coast from Times Square to the Golden Gate,” a history of the cross-country highway dubbed “The Father Road.”

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Monday, August 13, 2007

A semi-serious idea...

I had an astounding idea! In addition to the lucrative marketing potential that CycleDog represents, what with it bringing in tens of dollars every year, I could develop another revenue stream by renting out my expertise as a long-time bicycle commuter. Think about it. The car magazines do long-term testing of various automobiles. I think the motorcycle magazines do something similar. So it's only logical that bicyclists should have access to long-term testing information as well.

I wouldn't want to test high-end racing bikes. I don't have the expertise for that, and besides, racers generally don't intend to keep the same bike on the road for years and years. Commuters, on the other hand, ride them until they're completely worn out, then re-build them and ride them some more. I suspect that commuting and comfort bikes are growing niche markets for the manufacturers, so it may be worthwhile to provide the prospective buyers with information on long term use, maintenance, reliability, and durability.

Bike of Doom is performing destructive testing on a department store bike, something I'd given some thought to attempting. But since my weight is in the Clydesdale category, I'd hesitate to rely on a Bicycle Shaped Object as a daily commuter. I'm averse to those long walks home alongside a broken down, unrideable bike. Been there – done that – don't wanna do it again.

I think it would be a good testing approach - me (or any other year-round commuter) atop a purpose-built commuting bike on Oklahoma's notoriously bad roads. If the bike survived “Ed's vertical crush test”, it would be subjected to various road surfaces, most of them not terribly smooth. It would bake in the summer sun and freeze in the cold of winter. Since my job involves torturing small electronic devices until they puke and die, a job that I've become adept at doing, I'd be especially merciless on bicycle electronics. Heat, cold, dust, rain, and vibration are the road to Hell for electronic devices, and we have all of them in abundance here, sometimes in the same day. Oklahoma is actually an Indian word for this-place-is-only-a-mile-from-the-sun, which seems true today since the outside temperature is about 105F and the heat index is somewhere around 115F.

Now, I'm not going to offer big, splashy ads right alongside the copy for a particular manufacturer's product, not unless that manufacturer wants to spend a boatload of money for ad placement. I'm a whore, just not a cut-rate one. And it's funny, but I seem to recall seeing full page ads for products right next to an article purporting to 'test' that product, but I don't quite recall the name of the bicycling magazine. It'll come to me.

Still, some questions about methodology come up. Should long-term testing be performed as if the tester were an average cyclist, unskilled at bike maintenance and repair, or should regular, thorough maintenance be the norm? The car magazines follow the manufacturer's recommendations, yet when I think of it, there are no recommendations for similar maintenance intervals from bicycle manufacturers. I'm not over-zealous about maintenance, except for drive trains. Most of my bikes get a yearly overhaul at best. I know of people who overhaul hubs, headset, and bottom bracket if the bike gets ridden in the rain. Professional team mechanics do this as a routine, but I doubt it's a good idea for amateurs. So there's a maintenance spectrum that ranges from zero to anal-compulsive. Where should that balance lie for a product test?

I'm open to ideas if any of you want to put them in comments.

Bike snob post

Go read this! It's the funniest thing I've seen in quite a while, and I'm soooo envious!


I posted a comment begging him to submit it to Buycycling.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

A question of manners...

Velochick posted about the male habit of stepping in to assist a female with a mechanical problem. I've included some excerpts, but the whole post is well worth reading.

This reminded me of a co-worker at the trail shop, a woman who had more high-altitude and high-angle climbing experience than the rest of us combined. Two guys came into the shop and wanted a male employee to assist them with some tents. Sara went right ahead because the rest of us were busy. She showed them various tents and explained their advantages and drawbacks. Finally, after enduring the condescension long enough, she was putting a tent away. She rolled up the stuff sack, put it on the end of the rolled up tent, and said, "This is just like putting on a condom. You do know how that's done, don't you?" The rest of us employees were howling with laughter.

But there's a serious aspect to Velochick's post, and that's the common guy habit of trying to help any woman with a mechanical problem. In some cases, it's true that we assume (wrongly) that females cannot fix a broken mechanical device. And in some cases, that's actually true. My wife and daughter are not at all mechanically inclined. But to her credit, my daughter Lyndsay wants to learn.

So that condescension aside, there's another common male response to the 'flat tire' scenario, particularly when the guy is older and has children of his own. (And yes, I'm talking about ME here!) Let's call it the Dad response. I wouldn't want my daughter fixing something alone on the roadside, and I don't want someone else's daughter to be in that situation either. I'd stop and offer to help, and even if my help wasn't necessary, I'd wait until a woman was on her bike and moving once again. Maybe that's a different kind of attitude or another form of condescension, but it's what I've done in previous situations. Maybe that's an old fashioned attitude, but it's mine and I'm unlikely to change.

Besides, like Gary - a retired teacher - has said on numerous occasions, "We grab every teachable moment." I don't claim to know everything about fixing bikes, but I'm very willing to share what I've learned. Repairing a flat tire is a common job, and there are some little pointers that make it easier.

Still, if I met someone like Becky, I'd probably be shocked at her reaction. Again, that may be more an indication of my age and my attitude toward women.

Go read the whole post, and give some thought to your own behavior.

(Oh, and as I finish writing this, Lyndsay is going back to work after her lunch break. She gets off work after 10 tonight. I said that if she's alone going out to the parking lot, she's to call me and I'll come to meet her. "Yes, Dad." she said in that flat way that implies she's heard it dozens of times already. I'll say it again next weekend too. I'm a Dad.)

From Velochick


Wrench Yourself

...Standing over the bike, I lifted up her front end, slipped out the offending wheel, and began to align the replacement with the dropouts. To my right, I hear a friend say something to me and I pause, mid wheel-change, to turn my head in his direction and respond. By the time I look back down at my wheel—about five seconds later at best—there were not one, not two, but three guys kneeling down, all simultaneously trying to put the wheel in for me.

My jaw dropped. One of them said, “Here, let us give you a hand.” Biting my tongue, all the familiar annoyance began to swell up. The things I immediately wanted to blurt out: “Thanks, but I can manage; just because I’m a girl doesn’t mean I’m one of those cyclists who can’t change a flat—I fix bikes for a living!”

I know all of those would come out rude, like I’m being a bitch. So I attempt to be gracious and say nothing, letting the boys put the front wheel back in for me. Me, the girl who won’t let anyone else so much as adjust her derailleur.

...Becky (not her real name) is a seasoned cyclist who has been riding for many years and knows her fair share about bicycles. She’s put in time as a messenger, and she is the kind of girl who fixes her own bike. While out on a long road ride several months ago, she and Jeanette had to abruptly come to a halt at the side of the road. Becky had a flat. This being no reason for alarm, they stopped to stretch their legs, and Becky began to change her tube.

“I think she had just taken her rear wheel out when a group of guys started riding past,” Jeanette continued. One of the gentlemen slowed to a stop next to Becky.

“Do you need some help with that?” he asked her politely.

What followed was a barrage of four-letter words and insults as Becky literally began screaming at the guy who had stopped.

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Tuesday Musette

Just two items today.

Football: Threat or Menace?

I fully expect to hear something like this on a television station here in Oklahoma one day:

Nuclear war has broken out in Asia, but first here's our coverage of today's OU football game!”

Football is the new paganism with its own pantheon of gods, demi-gods, saints, demons, imps, and a succubus or two. In case anyone is wondering, I'm just a bit testy this morning and it's all because of football.

Number One Son is a football fanatic. He lives, eats, breathes, and sleeps football. If he's here alone, the television is tuned to the NFL all-football-all-the-time network. He may not be capable of spelling common English words, but he knows obscure football statistics and trivia. I think he's insane.

Of course, he plays football in school, and his first day of practice was yesterday. The football demons decided that it was necessary to have a 'midnight' practice. Yes, you read that right. They practiced until well after midnight. Jordan called at 1AM saying he was ready to come home. Mary shook me awake and I was off.

Traffic is very light at one in the morning. I arrived at the field house in a few minutes, spotted Jordan waiting, and promptly made the run back to the house. Along the way, we spotted a cyclist wobbling along 86th Street, wandering from lane to lane well ahead of us. I slowed down, thinking he might be drunk, but after a few stylish zig-zags, he made a left into a neighborhood street. Need I mention that he had reflectors but no lights or helmet?

We got home and I fell back into bed only to awaken at 3AM with my sinuses dumping into my throat. I hacked and wheezed. A hot cup of tea (Red Zinger, no less!) helped me breathe properly once again, and I dozed off.

The alarm went off at 5AM, as usual, and I swung my legs out of bed feeling bad again. No ride for me today. I drove to work instead. And it's just as well that I did. I was so tired that I fell asleep at my workbench once or twice.

The Rest of the News...

This is local content. The Owasso Public Works Department unveiled engineering plans for 129th East Avenue. The street will be widened to 5 lanes running north from 76th Street to about half a mile south of 96th Street where it will join an existing 5 lane section. Construction is expected to begin in September. While the road work is underway, two lanes will always be open as will access to the neighborhood streets. The plan calls for a signalized intersection at the Sixth Grade Center and an improved signal between the high school and mid-high. The schedule calls for a 450 day duration to the construction and an additional 60 days for cleanup and landscaping.

(Link to Owasso Reporter)

For cyclists, this means riding 129th will be a definite improvement after the project is completed. The street is an average 2 lane now, and it can be difficult for motorists to pass. I've had more problems along that street than on any other around here. This is very welcome news.

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Another annoyed motorist rant...

It's one of those "I ride a bicycle too, but..." kind of posts. An obviously exasperated motorist is put out that many cyclists ignore the rules of the road. Excerpts follow:

Same Road, Same Rights, not the Same Rules

The mantra of bicyclists who ride in busy areas seems to be same roads, same rules, same rights. I personally loved riding my bicycle to work for the three years it was truly amenable.

...But...I am sick of bicyclists who want their cake and plan on eating it too. For goodness sake! Same rules. That what YOU keep telling me. The hardcore bicycle brigade around here wants me to ignore a third of THEIR message. I am sick of watching near misses as the rule about stopping at a red light is ignored. One way streets? Those rules do not seem to apply, either.

...With every near miss you make me angrier that my tax dollars are funding enhancing an activity for those above the law. (ie bike paths and the such)Like smokers, some leadership by example is necessary. C'mon y'all. If part of your platform is same rules, start abiding that. I know there are responsible cyclists out there, there just has to be. Will you guys please get out there and show the rest how it is done?

...C'mon y'all, teach these yahoos same roads, same rules, same rights. Put some emphasis on rules. Or just add another R. Same responsibility. I just want what you all want.Make cyclists live by their mantra.

Madam, I feel your pain. I can't count the times I've wondered why I continue to support all those motorists with my own hard-earned tax money - money that goes overwhelmingly to build infrastructure that reinforces the dominance of motor vehicles as a transportation mode and increases our dependence on foreign oil, pollutes our air, yadda yadda yadda.

Look, let's just cut to the chase. It's ridiculous to suggest that the actions of any individual reflect on those of his peer group. It's a false generalization. If one cyclist runs a red light, all cyclists are lawbreaking fools. It's the same as saying that one speeding motorist reflects badly on all motorists. You would likely object to being characterized as a road-going menace because I encountered another motorist doing something stupidly dangerous on my daily commute, so I won't attempt to tar you with that particularly wide brush. Please, if at all possible, return the favor.

I'm an instructor with the League of American Bicyclists. We teach people how to ride safely and comfortably in traffic, and no, we don't teach them to ignore stop signs or red lights, and we never condone wrong-way riding. Chances are, you've met us 'vehicular cyclists' on the road and you didn't give us much thought, just like you don't think about the 99% of motorists who operate safely and competently on our roads. It's the fools and nutcases who get our attention, regardless of their transportation mode. The rest just slip under our radar.

But if you really want to influence people in a positive way, ride your bike. Ride it legally, observing all relevant cycling laws. Learn when it's best to share the lane and when it's better to take it for your own safety. Take a Road1 course from the League and learn to be a confident, skilled cyclist. We can change our cycling culture, but we'll do it one cyclist at a time. Trust me, when passing motorists see the same cyclist everyday on their commute, a few of them will think, "Hey! I could be doing that!"

It's all part of our plan for global domination, but failing that, I'll take a bunch of skillful cyclists on our roads instead.


Monday, August 06, 2007

Monday, Monday....

We have an excessive heat warning in Tulsa today. The outside air temperature is 96F and the heat index when combined with the humidity is 105F. Later this week, it will be hotter, with air temperatures over 100F.

I didn't ride today, but it wasn't due to the heat. No, I woke up at 3AM, wide awake and almost unable to get back to sleep. I dozed fitfully until the alarm went off at 5. I hate mornings when I get up feeling even more tired that when I went to bed.

But I know from experience that riding in the heat is hard on the legs. It's hard on the whole body. My heart works harder just moving blood around trying to cool the muscles. Add high temperatures on top of that and it's easy to exceed the anaerobic threshold without even feeling like I'm working hard.

When it's this hot, I usually drink 2 water bottles on the way home, and pour a third one over my arms and chest. A quick dousing lowers my heart rate by 10 or 15 beats per minute.

Gotta go find that heart rate monitor...

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Sunday, August 05, 2007

About your shortcomings...

Spinopsys has a follow-up piece on the RTA ad implying that those men who engage in "hoonery" on Australian roads are, shall we say, less well endowed than the rest of us. This is illustrated in the ad by women holding up a fist with their pinky finger extended and slightly curled, indicating a flaccid or limp, uh, member.

"But the advertisement, aired for the first time last month, has raised the ire of some male viewers, who feel it is demeaning."

Now, here in America, instead of a complaint to the Advertising Standards Bureau, the whole thing would end up in court as some offended hoon brought a lawsuit. Of course, that would be picked up by the voracious writers at Law and Order in their endless quest to occupy every television frequency and every cable and satellite channel as part of their plan for global domination.

Plaintiff's attorney: Your honor, my client has been publicly humiliated by this egregious advertising on the part of the road safety authorities. He asks for five million dollars in damages for the pain and suffering he's experienced as well as a permanent injunction against the airing of said advertisement.

Judge (played by John Cleese): Right. Have the plaintiff approach the bench.

Plaintiff's attorney: This is highly irregular, your honor.

Judge: Get on with it. This is my court and I want the plaintiff in front of the bench.

Plaintiff gets to his feet and stand before the judge: Yes, your honor.

Judge: Right. Let's see it then.

Plaintiff: What! You want to see it? Right here?

Judge: Yes, come on, we haven't got all day.

Plaintiff: Well, all right. (Looks around furtively while rummaging in his trousers.)

Judge (bangs gavel): Case dismissed!

OK, maybe it wouldn't make it on Law and Order, but we can hope.


Friday, August 03, 2007

A detour through the Twilight Zone...

I'd promised to take Number One Son to the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety to get his learner's permit, so no bike ride for me today. Instead, I drove the car to work, hammered away at a computer and some other electronic equipment for half a day, and then left work before noon. Honestly, working half a shift on Friday isn't bad. I could make a habit of it.

I came home and woke Jordan. Yes, it was almost noon. Yes, he was still in bed. I sat down to eat my lunch while he got ready. That consisted of him throwing on the clothes he wore yesterday, and then sitting and staring at me while I wolfed down some sandwiches. He sighed heavily and often. The kid could give Al Gore some pointers in that regard.

Unfortunately, the nearest ODPS office was closed for remodeling. It's over in Claremore, an easy 15 minute drive. We had to go to Tulsa, Broken Arrow, or Jenks, and all those addresses are on the other side of town. We chose Broken Arrow, thinking it might not be busy.

Oh, contraire! When we arrived, there were no seats left in the waiting area. People stood around, leaning on the walls and sitting on the floor. A sixteen-year-old Elvis impersonator came in, if you can imagine an Elvis as big around as my wrist. His sneering lips curled back when he spotted the crowd. "We're gonna be here for the rest of my life!" he said in a loud Okie twang, shattering the whole Elvis thing.

It was a diverse crowd populated with Hispanics, orientals, a couple of suspected extraterrestrials, and the usual assortment of rednecks. Then it got weird.

Jordan's number was called after only an hour and a half of waiting. He had all the necessary papers: birth certificate, school enrollment affidavit, driving school enrollment certificate, successful completion of his eighth grade reading test (Really. This is required here!), and a personal blessing from the Pope. When we talked with the agent, she noted that the school enrollment form was for last year, not the coming year. I had to sign a form indicating that I would indeed enroll him in school this month. Now, we have compulsory school attendance, so I can't see the need for this form, but when dealing with a government bureaucracy, you can't question it. You simply have to comply whether it makes sense or not. I'm just glad we didn't need an affidavit from his substitute teacher in fourth grade who was only around for two weeks.

Jordan took the multiple-choice test. They photographed him and ran his index fingers over the biometric scanner. After more paper-shuffling and rubber stamping, we were finished.

Or rather, we were finished at the Department of Public Safety.

In Oklahoma, you have to get all your paperwork at ODPS. You get the actual learner's permit at a local tag agency. We drove back across Tulsa and went to the tag office in downtown Owasso. The wait there was only about 10 minutes. They photographed him again, with me wondering why, and they ran his fingers across the biometric scanner again. In short order, we were out of there with a brand-new permit.

Jordan wanted to drive home.

"No," I said, "you're not ready to drive on major streets." He grumbled and whined.

When we arrived at home, I had a glass of water, and then went to lie down awhile. I'd started my shift early and I was tired.

Jordan, meanwhile, tried to wheedle Mary into taking him driving. She said no, but he persisted. When I got up, the atmosphere in the house was a little bit tense, Then he started to work on me.

He has a date tonight, and he wanted to drive there. I said no - again - because it would involve driving on a major arterial. I was met with more frosty stares and heavy sighs. Just like a terrier after a rat, he'd try from one side and switch to the other, never giving up and never backing down. I was doing a slow boil when his sister got home from work and said she wanted to go with him. Better yet, she offered to drive. It prevented my temper from exploding.

I can see that the whole driving issue will be another bone of contention. Such is life for parents of teenagers. But after spending an afternoon waiting in line, shuffling papers, and meeting people I hope never to meet again, I've developed an new-found appreciation of my bike. It's just so much simpler.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Ban or restrict cycling?

Brian Potter, a good friend and local bicycling advocate, asked on the Oklahoma mailing list if we thought bicycling should be banned or restricted. This was in conjunction with the statement that local law often varies from state law here in Oklahoma, and most municipalities still have the obsolete "as far right as practicable" language. What follows is my response:

Cycling is already effectively banned on many of our roadways, Brian. When a rider says, "There's too much traffic" or "It's too dangerous" or "all those motorists are out to kill me" he's essentially banned himself from the road. When he rides on the sidewalk or hugs the right-hand fog line thinking that by doing so he's being safe or more courteous, he's accepted second-class status on our streets. When he says he can't get from A to B because there are no bikelanes, he's bought into our societal view of cyclists as inferior road users, with inferior rights and inferior expectations.

And most motorists, city planners, and police are perfectly happy that these cyclists accept their subservient position. It makes driving easier when cyclists get the hell out of the way. Even better, when the city provides a debris-filled substandard bike lane and forces cyclists to use it instead of the roadway, they get a two-fer. First, it gets bicycle riders off the roadway, and second it discourages them from using a bicycle more often.

But what's worse is when well-meaning but uninformed cyclists insist that limited monies be spent constructing poorly designed facilities, apparently believing that ANY project thrown our way is good. This reduces the pitifully small amount that could be spent on bicycle education - you know - the basic knowledge and skill that a cyclist needs when the bikeway ends - and that reduction allows for the construction of more half-baked projects, further reducing the numbers of those pesky cyclists.

It's a plot, I tell ya!

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