Sunday, December 28, 2008

Food! Glorious food!

(CycleDog photo. Some rights reserved under a Creative Commons license.)

A photo of our table at Christmas really doesn't do this justice. You need to smell the bread baking as well as the ham in the oven. The photo was taken just before the table was loaded with food and that ravenous horde (my family) arrived to destroy it. Even now my stomach growls in anticipation, because the left over ham is in the crock pot with Lima beans, and there's more bread baking in the machine.

My Dad wouldn't eat ham and Lima beans. He called it 'depression food' as he and his family ate far too much of it during the Great Depression. Mary and I think of it as simple comfort food, a reminder of family and friends who are far away. That's certainly appropriate at this time of year.

On New Year's, we'll have pork and sauerkraut, another family tradition. Here in Oklahoma, the traditional meal is beans and cornbread, and although I like it, Jordan and I are the only cornbread fans in the family. Cornbread with jalapenos....mmmmmmm.

And since CycleDog is nominally about cycling, think of this as an easy way to get some big carbs for those early January rides.

Winter bicycle commuting accessory?

(Full size image available from Momentum via Gizmodo.)

I rode a Paris Sport track bike with a saddle like this. an impression. I should have been more wary about riding a saddle labeled as the "Marquis de Sade" model.


Friday, December 26, 2008

Wells Lamont 'SUG' Sport Utility Gloves

(All photos from CycleDog. Some rights reserved under a Creative Commons license.)

I wrote the following three paragraphs to customer service at Wells Lamont.

I bought a pair of SUG high visibility gloves for bicycle commuting. These have a reflective patch on the back and I've found that very useful as I ride to work before dawn. By rolling my wrist, I produce a 'flashing' turn signal. You should market these to bicycle shops.

Unfortunately, I wore a hole in the forefinger of one glove while replacing a drive belt in my car. I'm not complaining! Sure, the glove was damaged, but my finger was fine. I'll take that trade.

And I'll be going up to Atwoods for another pair later this week. You have a good product that offers good value for the price.

Here's their response two days later.

Thank you for your email. Your suggestion to market our gloves to bicycle shops is a good one!

Wells Lamont takes great pride in providing high quality gloves for our loyal consumers - we are delighted to hear your positive feedback.

If at anytime you have a question concerning our gloves, please contact us .

Thank you for your interest in Wells Lamont gloves - we look forward to meeting your needs for premium quality work and garden gloves.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Black Christmas

(Black Christmas tree from

Sometimes I despise this season. The unrelenting stress wears me down. I'm irritable and it doesn't take much to make my temper flare.

It was a few days before Christmas. I worked outside and in the garage most of the day. When evening finally arrived, I was cold and tired. I pulled off my boots and gratefully sank back across the bed, thankful for the warmth and a bit of relaxation.

Mary walked in and announced that I had to pick up a Christmas tree at WalMart. Instantly, my mind was black with anger, but I'm still a dutiful husband. I pulled my boots on, bundled up against the cold and wind, and set off for Wally World.

I usually deal with anger and stress by going out for a bike ride. But since I've been tiling the floors this fall, my knees are hurting almost constantly. Riding only aggravates it, so I've avoided riding my bike. I'm avoiding stairs for the same reason. Going without regular exercise adds to the stress and causes depression. Regardless, I do not want to do permanent damage to my knees.

The drive to Wally World passed quickly. I parked the truck and struggled across the parking lot like Doctor Zhivago on the Russian steppes. The wind went through my clothes, leaving me chilled to the bone despite the heavy winter coat and sweater. I thought hateful things about WalMart, Christmas trees, and marriage as I walked. The thoughts brought little warmth.

There were few trees left. Some were obviously twisted and would be impossible to balance on our stand. Others were scrawny, “Charlie Brown” trees that no one wanted. I found a six footer sitting alone in a corner. The trunk was straight, but several branches were broken. “No matter,” I thought. “We'll just turn that side toward the wall anyway.” I took the tag from the tree and went inside to pay for it, annoyed at the idea of exposing my hands to the cold while I tied it onto the truck.

I joined the line snaking toward the checkout. Just ahead of me stood a young mother with a baby in her cart's child seat and two more small children maybe 4 or 5 years old. Like me, Mom seemed stressed out and harried, but then she turned from the clerk, looked at her kids and smiled. The two older ones were dancing and singing about Christmas and Santa Claus, making up the words as they went. The baby watched from the cart, then looked toward me with a huge toothless grin.

Who can stay angry when confronted with a smiling baby? My anger blew away on the warmth of that smile, and I smiled in return. The other kids capered and sang about Santa, happily excited at the upcoming holiday. The baby's eyes twinkled.

Moments later, I was in the parking lot lashing the tree down. Sure, it was still cold and the wind was fierce, but that was all on the outside. Inside, I was warm and happy.

Merry Christmas.


Friday, December 19, 2008

It's my birthday...

We're going out for Italian food.

I'm wearing a white shirt.

This could be ugly.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Cui bono?

Cui bono?” is Latin for “who benefits?” Regular CycleDog readers know that I believe bike lanes primarily benefit motorists by moving cyclists out of the way. Motorists get to drive faster, and as we all know, anything that reduces speed is somehow sinful. Cyclists receive no real safety benefit from this, though as this study points out, many believe they're safer. Studies like this are much like asking a fire-and-brimstone preacher about his views on biology. His answer may be heartfelt and both interesting and entertaining, but it has little scientific credibility.

A more appropriate title would be “Survey Reveals Cycling Misconceptions” but then again, truthiness is what counts. My comments are in italics.

Texas State Bicycle Survey Reveals Danger Concerns, Cycling Perceptions


ScienceDaily (Dec. 15, 2008) — Bicyclists in Dallas, Houston and San Antonio are more concerned with being involved in vehicle crashes compared to bicyclists in other Texas cities, according to a survey conducted by the Center for Transportation Research at The University of Texas at Austin.

“This is quite intuitive, given the high levels of traffic congestion in Houston, Dallas and San Antonio,” said Professor Chandra Bhat, who spearheaded the survey and is one of the world’s foremost authorities on travel behavior. OTHER WORKS BY PROFESSOR CHANDRA BHAT?

In addition, almost 70 percent of the survey respondents feel bicycling is “very dangerous” or “somewhat dangerous” in terms of traffic accidents. (Emphasis added.)

Let's say that again, “respondents feel bicycling is very dangerous or somewhat dangerous.” This is like asking my elderly aunt if she feels safe driving in high speed traffic. It's an entirely different question as to whether she's genuinely safe. This is the difference between perception and reality, and if we're going to spend public money on bicycling facilities, let's spend in ways that provide real safety improvements rather than imaginary ones.

...The survey, sponsored by the Texas Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration, was conducted entirely online. The results should help establish planning guidelines for the design of safe and efficient bicycle facilities and environments in Texas and around the country.

Like any other on-line survey, the respondents are self-selected, so there's no semblance of a random sample of the population as a whole or even the cycling population in general. Furthermore, there's no way to prevent anyone from completing the survey more than once, thereby skewing its results. It's easy to delete any tracking cookie and retake the survey, so the results should be regarded as suspect unless another more scientifically rigorous study corroborates them. Until then, this one has all the credibility of a survey printed on the backside of a breakfast cereal box. Collecting people's 'feelings' about bicycling may be an interesting pursuit, but it should not be the basis of public policy. When have we ever established design guidelines for interstate highways, for instance, by collecting motorist's perceptions of safe design? Using that kind of reasoning, we should disband the FAA and let airline passengers decide if an aircraft is safe or not. Madness.

Respondents were 18 years or older living in more than 100 Texas cities. The sample included 1,605 bicyclists, of which 810 (or slightly more than 50 percent) used their bikes for commuting. The remaining 795 bicycled only for non-commuting purposes. Each group was presented with questions pertaining to their particular habits.

Again, if industry statistics are to be believed, commuting cyclists comprise only about 10% of all cyclists. The NBDA says there are about 50 million cyclists in the US, though they include anyone who's ridden a bicycle even once in the last year. Estimates of bicycle commuters vary from 5 to 6 million. So the Texas figure citing nearly half the survey respondents as commuter cyclists is highly suspect. To be fair, however, the differences may lie in the sampling procedure, so I'll have to read the original study if it's available. More on this later.

Bhat said the transportation sector accounts for about one-third of all human-generated greenhouse gas emissions. Within that sector, travel by personal vehicles accounts for nearly two-thirds of those emissions. And only 0.9 percent of all trips in the United States are made by bicycle, and the number drops to 0.4 percent for commute trips -- despite the fact that a significant amount of trips are deemed short-distance and can be made using a bike. A 2001 National Household Travel Survey revealed that 41 percent of all trips in 2001 were shorter than two miles and 28 percent were shorter than one mile.

Read that again – personal vehicles account for two-thirds of all greenhouse gas emissions AND cyclists comprise 0.9 percent of all wait for it!

Bhat’s research attempts to understand the reasons for the low bicycling use and inform the development of appropriate and effective strategies to increase bicycling, thereby cutting down motorized vehicle use and carbon dioxide emissions while promoting a healthier, more physically active lifestyle.

There! It was inevitable. He trotted out the shop-worn argument that increasing bicycle usage will result in a reduction of greenhouse gases. Let's see, my schoolboy math skills may be a little rusty, but if I've figured this correctly, tripling the number of bicycling trips will reduce greenhouse gases by an astonishing one-and-a-half percent (roughly). It seems to me that by setting the thermostat a little lower and driving fewer miles, we accomplish the same thing. I still drive about 6000 miles per year, so if I drive 60 fewer miles, I've reached one percent. While it's depressing to admit, gasoline prices will have a greater effect on greenhouse gas reduction than any effort we make at encouraging cycling.

One finding that may have immediate relevance is that individuals who have a more positive perception of the quality of bicycle facilities have a higher propensity to bicycle to work.

Bicycle commuters who deal with motor vehicle traffic on a daily basis are more likely to have a higher positive perception of a given roadway than recreational or casual cyclists, making the presence or absence of facilities irrelevant.

Finally, there's this whopper:

...Bicyclists prefer no parking on their route, which is logical because parking reduces sight distance. If parking is necessary, they prefer angled parking over parallel parking. (Emphasis added.)

Angled parking is a nightmare for anyone traveling on two wheels. It's even worse if some benighted planner puts a bike lane right behind all those car bumpers, putting cyclists in the worst possible lane position. I think the AASHTO manual specifically recommends to avoid routing bicyclists directly behind such parking. Developers, on the other hand, absolutely love angled parking because they can fit more cars along a given length of street. So you have to wonder who completed the survey, cyclists or someone else.

Cui bono?



Thursday, December 11, 2008

It can't happen here...

...except when it does.

(Flickr image from Amanda Aaronson on Phoebemum. Used by permission. All rights reserved.)

We all like to think that our favorite mode of transportation is so well-established that no one would dream of simply banning us from the roadway, yet in Los Altos Hills, CA, this is precisely what happened - despite state law forbidding local governments from doing so.

A great outcry from concerned cyclists caused the city to reverse its decision. Read all about it on Cyclelicious. Fritz deserves kudos for running this story.


Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Tuesday Musette


First, a note about yesterday's 'Cuppa Joe' post. As any regular CycleDog readers know, coffee is my drink of choice these days. I thoroughly enjoy my morning cuppa. But it's annoying to encounter some folks who would impose the pretensions and snobbery of the wine crowd onto something as simple as coffee. And I can't resist taking potshots.

Regardless, over Christmas break I'm going to try some truly fresh-roasted coffee from Double Shot in Tulsa. Who knows? Maybe I'll have to get a pinkie ring and start nattering about the insouciance of a 2008 Ade d'Gator.

Reality-based planning

PM Summer writes the Cycle Dallas blog. Lately, he's been under fire for stating the obvious – that bike lanes are meant to benefit motorists rather than cyclists. This has upset some True Believers in Austin.

He has been unwilling to kowtow to the accepted wisdom that bike lanes are the wave of the future and must be embraced by all without reservations. I suspect he may believe that the Earth is not flat and he may have something to say about the Emperor's new clothes – the heretic. Naturally, since he's thinking for himself and following the best practices that would benefit cyclists, he must be punished. Some of the facilities crowd have worked themselves up into a genuine snit over his audacity in stating his views in public as the comments at this link will show.

Biker Fox

Tulsa television station KOTV has a story about local bon vivant Biker Fox getting arrested over the weekend. Facts are scarce, but the people never let inconvenient facts get in the way. The comments thread is over 400 and rising. It's astonishing and a little depressing to wade through all the venom and hate. If you go there, wash your monitor afterward.

Here's one gem:

cant believe im posting this, but i really did not do anything illegal, about a year ago fox was on memorial acting like an idiot as usual, so i went home and got my camcorder and put an old texas license plate on my car, came back but couldnt find him, a mile later, there he was, i dud a u turn, fired up the camera and accelerated to about 50 mph, approached him and slammed on the brakes about 10 yards from him in the other lane, he jumped off the bike, and went absolutly ballistic, threw his bike, helmet and a water bottle at me, all while i was taping it. i want to youtube it so bad but im afraid ill get sued. I did the same to paul tay but didnt tape it, made him drop,duck and run at 55th and memorial, funny stuff!!

And this:

Whenever I see him and he rides in the center of my lane in traffic, I honk and yell at him and encourage my children to do the same. I now have my 3 yr. old yelling bikerfox SUCKS!(but in a christian way, this is the bible belt ya know)

I'm sure he wouldn't mind if I sent a 45 caliber hollow point whizzing by one of his kids, would he? It's only meant to scare 'em. No harm, no foul, right?

This is allegedly from Biker Fox. There's more on his blog:

Bf was riding his bike in the right lane. Stopped at 68th & memorial. Pike rides up on a bicycle I coudn't believe it. He says he is going to write me a ticket for not having a light on the back of my bike in the middle of the day. At night I have 2-3 flashers. So we stop he starts writing me a ticket, I said why are you being such an a.h. and harassing me. He said go sit down there now. I laid my bike down when I did Channel 6, my front tire barely touched his rear tire. He said you just assaulted a Police Officer. Your kidding right? So while I am kneeling down he proseeds to put me in a choke hold. No warning nothing. He keeps saying stop resisting. Resisting? I am flat on my face. About to pass OUT! Finally he Knocks me out channel 6 but thats ok right Channel 6. You trust all the Police right?, keep in mind he has been harrassing me for 8 years & counting. He is the ONLY cop to write me a ticket in the last 15 monthes. Now thats not Police Harrassment and Brutality. Man I can see bloggers are usually haters on the internet. Thanks to the many whom support me. Doing the right thing when your about to soar with the Eagles brings out the Snipers.

Come on haters yopu just make me stronger. When the Judge Finds out the police are harrassing me again She will throw it out. Maybe the D.A. will get tired of the Police harrassing me. The will finally put a stop to this one cop. Just one Pike. The dishonest bad apple.

I know there are a bunch of keyboard commandos who show up and spout nonsense on any open forum. They exhibit jaw dropping heroics and boundless courage from the safety of an anonymous Internet posting. Such people are fools, of course, but like an iceberg that's only 10 percent above the surface, they give us an indication of the hidden anger on our roadways.

Bicycle Commuting Aftermath

On Monday, I rode to work for the first time since early October. Persistent knee pain has kept me off the bike. In fact, it's kept me off my feet as much as possible. Laying tile is not a prescription for relieving pain, believe me.

The Cycling Gods put on their frowny face and gave me a moderate headwind in the morning. Temperatures were in the mid-forties. But in the afternoon, they smiled. It was about sixty degrees with a very stiff south wind blowing at 20mph with gusts up to about 35! I flew! I had the usual delusions of turning pro – until I turned and had a cross wind. In an inattentive moment, one of the gusts sent me into the on-coming lane. Fortunately there was no traffic, or I would not be writing this.

I had a compelling reason to ride. Mary and Jordan are both sick. Mary's been fighting a cold and sinus infection since before Thanksgiving. And we thought Jordan had a cold until he popped a fever and started vomiting on Sunday. He had to see the doctor, so my car had to be available. He had blood work and a chest x-ray. The doctor commented that he's one very ill kid just now. We'll probably know what he has later today.

Mary, of course, did her usual motherly hovering. She was up with him all night and didn't come to bed until I was getting ready for work. She may have had an hour's worth of sleep. So when I arrived at home in the afternoon, I told her to take a nap. She demurred, saying that she had to go to the grocery and get dinner ready. I said that Lyndsay and I could make dinner, and that she should lie down for just a little while. This all happened at 4:30. She slept until after nine.

When Lyndsay came home, I went to the grocery planning to make a simple dinner. Jordan needed easily digestible food, so I bought some Rice-A-Roni because it's one of his favorites. He likes kiwi and oranges, so some of them went into the basket too. The grocery has their own brand of Italian sausage and it's quite good with very little fat. I have to add some oil to the pan to brown it. I bought broccoli and cauliflower too. So our simple dinner would be Italian sausage mixed with the vegetables, along with both rice and Rice-A-Roni. As I expected, Jordan passed on the meat and veggies.

(A side note about complex carbohydrates: When I'm recovering from an illness, I get hungry for big carbs like cereal, bread, pasta, etc. It's probably the body's way of replenishing glycogen. So it may be encouraging to see that Jordan wanted rice and pasta last night. Here's hoping.)

It turned out well. I didn't burn anything or set the kitchen on fire. And the true test is that the kid's ate what I'd prepared. If my cooking doesn't please them, they won't say anything directly. They'll just go and get bowls of cereal later. All their complaints go to their mother, who has no hesitation to berate me when necessary.

After dinner, I cleaned up the kitchen and loaded the dishwasher. I'd been on my feet much more than usual and my legs were feeling it. I sat on the couch for about an hour, resting and tinkering with this laptop. Everything was fine until I tried to stand up. Someone had replaced my leg muscles with pieces of wood. My back, neck, and shoulders hurt. I rose slowly off the couch, got my legs under me, then straightened up with difficulty. The kids thought all of this was hilarious. I may yet kill them.

During the evening, thunderstorms rolled through the area. The wind switched around to the north and temperatures fell. When I left for work this morning, it was 52F. As I write this at 9AM, it's dropped to 39F. (At 1:30PM, it was below freezing, with ice and snow moving in.) Welcome to Oklahoma. The change makes my neck and shoulder hurt from an old injury, and my legs are sore but not stiff. The knee pain comes and goes. Ibuprofen dulls the pain and a cup of hot coffee is comforting.

And finally...

One truism in writing a blog is that if you're going to steal, steal from the best. “And finally...” is the “professional voice actor” intro to the last piece on every You Look Nice Today podcast. If you haven't listened to any of these, please do so. The last three have featured John Hodgeman as a guest and they've been more over-the-top than usual, though that's hard to imagine. My co-workers must wonder why I'm wearing headphones and laughing maniacally.

My thanks to George of Bike Riding Donut Guy for pointing me toward this podcast. And if I steal anything from your blog, George, it's meant as flattery, honest.

Monday, December 08, 2008

A cuppa Joe...(OT)

'Dave' sat on the other side of the table in the interrogation room looking calm but slightly annoyed at the disruption. He had better things to do. I studied him through the one-way glass for a few moments before stepping inside with my folder of documents and forms.

"Good afternoon, Mr.-----. I'm Sergeant Walters and I have to fill in some forms and ask you some questions. This is all just paperwork and background information, so you can refuse if you want. But your attorney will want this when he arrives, so we can save some time by doing it now. Have you been read your Miranda rights and do you want to proceed with these forms?"

I 'accidentally' dropped my pencil and when I stooped to retrieve it, the papers went onto the floor as well. I looked foolish, barely competent to wander around in public, and this made Dave feel superior to the whole situation.

"Sure, let's get this over with," he said.

Still gathering papers, I smiled. They fell for the ruse two times out of three. The smart ones never said a word.

I went though the routine in a bored monotone. I collected information we already had, like his address, phone number, employer, etc. It set the stage for the next part.

"We may be here a while, Dave. Can I get you a soda or a cup of coffee?" This lit the fuse.

"Coffee?" he scoffed. "What kind of coffee?"

I said we had some Folgers or maybe Maxwell House.

"Trust me, you know nothing about coffee - good coffee, that is - not grocery store swill. Good coffee beans are less than a week old from the roaster, and the best are only minutes old. I individually select the beans and roast and grind them within 5 minutes of brewing. The water temperature has to be between 195 and 198 Fahrenheit, and the water itself should come from a natural spring. I'm using water from the Joder family spring about 5 miles north of Mercer, Pennsylvania. The best coffee starts with the best water."

He went on about it for nearly 10 minutes. "Coffee has something to do with you being here, doesn't it?" I asked mildly.

"Yeah. That fool W---- just had to mess with me. He was being sarcastic, asking if my coffee mug was hand-thrown and made of clay dug from a hillside in northern Italy by arthritic grandmothers. Then the bastard switched my coffee for that sewage from the vending machine just down the hall. You can understand why I had to kill him."

The recorders got it all.



Saturday, December 06, 2008

Bike Lust

Sometimes the term "bike lust" takes on an entirely new meaning.


An alert reader pointed me toward the following:

(Image from

He said, "I'm not touching this one with a 10 foot pole, but maybe you can write something intelligent about it."

It's odd that he would mention 10 foot poles in conjunction with this BILF t-shirt. Could there be some sort of connection between over-endowed poles and, ahem, exotic bicycles?

Inquiring minds want to know.


Now you have to remember, that I'm in Oklahoma, the reddest of red states, where sex itself is barely legal and then only if you don't really like it, keep your eyes closed, and it doesn't resemble any form of dancing.


I am not making this up. Some years ago, a local baptist preacher agreed that his congregation would form a women's softball team, but insisted that they wear long pants and shirts with sleeves, as all that exposed skin might 'stir the loins' of male on-lookers. Worse, he insisted that visiting teams must adhere to his dress code.

Oklahoma is an Indian word for "This place is only about a mile from the Sun!" so sticking to his dress code would have required that all the participating women would slowly cook inside their own clothing. Speaking for myself, there's nothing very appealing about a sweaty, dirt encrusted woman yelling trash talk from center field, but there's no accounting for taste.


Such is life under the American Taliban. So you can only imagine the distress that the BILF t-shirt could cause here. I mean, it incorporates the letter F, which is suspect by itself, and would likely be banned if there were a suitable substitute. The acronym is indecipherable to most people here in the middle of the country, and when they don't understand something, they're 'agin' it. If by some unfortunate circumstance they did understand, the wearer would undoubtedly go directly to jail - despite the Constitution. After all, in the words of the Current Occupant, “It's just a piece of paper.”

Now, how about those L words? They undoubtedly sound salacious and that's only some of the Ls! Just like the Eskimos who have 3,011 different words for snow, we can't exhaust our vocabulary when it comes to words pertaining to sexuality. How could we possibly deny that we're highly sexualized beings? Except for those of us who are middle aged and married, of course. We just ride our bikes a lot.

(Image from Sydney Body Art Ride)

...and I really need to get out on the bike!


Friday, December 05, 2008

A good read

Just a quick note about some intriguing writing. I'm always impressed when someone can hit the perfect balance in sarcasm, and Jon Swift does it very, very well. He says, "I am a reasonable conservative who likes to write about politics and culture. Since the media is biased I get all my news from Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and Jay Leno monologues."

There's this from a recent post:

I know there are probably some uncompassionate and vengeful liberals who would prefer to see conservatives left to the vagaries of the free market, and even some conservatives who are too proud to accept government charity and would prefer to stick to their principles. But as President Bush showed us, in a crisis you are sometimes forced to abandon your principles temporarily to survive...Conservatives must face reality the way Bush and Reagan did and realize that the only way to preserve our ideals may be to sacrifice them for a time and reluctantly accept government checks. Once we have gotten back on our feet again, then we can go back to doing what we do best: condemning lazy welfare queens and berating the poor for not raising themselves by their own bootstraps.

And, no, I didn't fall for this one like I did that piece from Shelley the Republican. Sometimes I'm just a big, dumb mook.


Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Black Friday Blues...

The womenfolk were out shopping. I was bored. I could watch Eastern Yahootie State beat the snot out of Western Yahootie State, but why bother?

My commuter bike's computer had died. The battery failed - again. I decided to find a way around the problem. There was an old calculator with a solar cell in my junk box, but just for fun, I decided to try a bigger solar cell meant to charge a car battery.

Why stop there? The bigger array offered more power, so I could add a few extras.

Another junk box yielded an ancient TRS-80 type 200 laptop. The solar cell would easily power it, but for surges I decided to add a small battery too. With some Hall effect devices and strain gages, the computer could monitor speed, cadence, and various forces applied to the bike frame. I could actually measure the lateral stiffness and vertical compliance! Yes, it's real-world geekery, but I was bored. I fabricated brackets out of old bike parts, angle iron, and some bits stolen from kid's broken toys. It wasn't pretty, but for a quick lash-up it would do.

All that extra power only added temptation. I mean, what self-respecting electronics geek could ignore it? A few calculations revealed that I'd only be using about a quarter of the energy on hand, so I immediately added a few other goodies: a GPS system, a old video camera, and a cell phone for mobile Internet access. This all required more wiring and cables, of course, and the video camera needed a short mast since I wanted overhead shots.

So far, I'd stayed within the law as far as the FCC was concerned. The next step was going to be tricky. I wanted to rig up a proximity sensor that would switch on the camera as a vehicle approached from behind. I gutted my son's old toy baseball radar gun, but it was designed for very low power and short distances. More power would make it operate over greater distances, so I scrounged the magnetron tube from our old microwave oven. Now kids, don't do this at home. It's a job for a professional.

The maggie tube and power supply went onto the rear rack. I had to find a bigger battery and ended up with an old car battery back there too, as well as an inverter for the higher voltages required for the magnetron. An FCC inspector would have a heart attack if he saw this, and drafting closely could offer some hazards - like getting cooked internally. But this was just a quick lash-up.

A trial run was in order. I pushed the bike out of the garage and set off down the hill. It was immediately apparent that the extra weight caused problems. I wobbled wildly and steadily gained speed. The rear tire blew with a deafening bang! The wheel thumped a few times before all that weight on the front end caused the fork to collapse. I vaguely remember flying over the handlebars.

Witnesses said the following events happened in short succession. The bike had barely stopped moving when a short circuit caused the car battery to overheat and explode. Bits of casing peppered houses and cars. Someone called the cops, the bomb squad, the fire department, and presumably an ambulance in that order. The wiring and cables on the bike caught fire, resulting in a brief but intense blaze that actually melted the aluminum frame.

But like I said, that all came from various witnesses. I'm sitting in a cell at the local police station, waiting for an interview with Homeland Security about the alleged bicycle bomb. This is the bright side. At least I didn't have to go shopping.



Dear Dr. Wally...

(From this month's "Wheel Issues" the Red Dirt Pedalers newsletter.)

Dear Dr. Wally,

I have too many flat tires on my way to work. As a result, I'm often late. My employer is threatening to fire me if I cannot be on time. I'm thinking about putting some airless tires on my bike. Is this a good idea?


Deflated in Dawson

Dear Deflated,

Normally, I'd recommend finding another employer, but jobs are tight right now. I understand the attraction of so-called airless tires, however they're a bad idea for several reasons. Rather than flat tires which are relatively cheap repairs, you'll have wheel problems with more expensive repairs. A pneumatic tire absorbs impact and vibration. Without it, your spokes will loosen and your wheels will go out of true. You'll have a rougher ride, and in some cases, your dentist will put his kids through Ivy League schools as your fillings fall out.

What's the best way to avoid flat tires? Ride where the glass isn't. It's an awful sentence, but it's good advice. Ride in the right-hand tire track. Cars sweep debris away, depositing it on the shoulder or against the curb, so don't ride there.

Also, if you don't have a floor pump, get one that has a pressure gauge and use it regularly. Tires can lose a few pounds of pressure every day, so it's important to keep them inflated. This helps to prevent 'snake bite' punctures that result from hitting sharp edges on potholes or railroad tracks. Don't confuse this with snake bite punctures due to attacks by the wily Oklahoma Snow Snake. They're extremely rare, but if you encounter one you'll probably not survive anyway, so don't worry about it.

Finally, it's a good idea to leave early enough to allow for a quick tire repair on the way to work. You won't often need the time cushion, but on those occasional 'running late' mornings, it's a wonderful thing to have.

Next month: Vittoria beetles ate my tires!