Monday, May 26, 2008

Zen and the Art of Cycling: A Wally Crankset Tale

(Image from Luton on Flickr)

Mary and I were dissecting the Sunday newspaper when the squeal of ancient Mafac brakes announced his arrival. Wally walked in the front door, wrapped in a bedsheet.

I knew I'd regret asking, but couldn't stop myself. “What now? Aren't you kinda old to be pledging a fraternity?”

Nope,” he replied far too brightly. “I have a great new idea for a career!”

'Career' was Wally-code for a scheme. Mary rolled her eyes and stomped off to the kitchen.

I waited, though it was all I could do to keep from saying are-you-outta-your-mind for the umpteenth time.

Some British guy said that we should think of bicycling more as a religion than as transportation or recreation. I've just taken that to it's logical conclusion, and this is the result.” He waved his hand to indicate his bedsheet. “It's not a scam. It's not about the money, though the money is pretty good. It's about raising cycling consciousness!”

When Wally says 'it's not about the money', believe me, it's about the money. I was not about to get suckered into one of his flim-flams again.

Wally, this isn't the sixties!”

Yeah, I know that, but most of these kids don't, and the ones old enough to have lived through the sixties....well....they don't remember it either but for different reasons.”

The radio played softly in the kitchen. Mary was listening to an oldies station as Archie Bell and the Drells crooned “The Tighten Up.” Wally listened intently, seemingly transfixed by the music.

A few days later, I was getting my usual morning coffee at Larry's Cafe. Wally, still clad in the same bedsheet, was holding forth in a corner booth as a couple of rapt co-eds leaned forward to catch his every word.

The journey begins and ends at the same place. The destination is unimportant, but the journey is, so it doesn't matter where we're going. What matters is what we learn along the way.”

I couldn't believe they'd listen to his crap, but there's no accounting for taste. The next day the scene was repeated, but the gathering was larger.

Cycle – it means that your feet move in a circle. Your wheels move in a circle. Your journey is a circle. It tells us that all life is a circle without beginning and without end.”

My kids and I had watched the same Disney movie.

We travel on air. We inhale and exhale air. Air can be our friend when it pushes us from behind or our enemy when it opposes us. Though it's invisible and insubstantial, it can be a powerful force.”

I didn't wait around to hear about earth, fire, and water too.

Wally developed an entourage composed almost entirely of young and not-so-young women similarly attired in sheets. Somehow they made it look good, unlike Wally who resembled an upright, rumpled bed. Still, there's no denying they found him attractive. How does he do that? It's another of life's mysteries.

One other mystery was solved when I saw him leaving Larry's on his battered Motobecane. I wondered how he managed to ride the bike without the floppy sheet catching in the spokes. He wore cycling shorts underneath and tucked the sheet in around his waist. The ladies did the same, though it was a hot day, and honestly, they didn't wear much. The rolling pack of exhibitionists probably gave our local constabulary – Fred and Ethel – matching coronaries.

Wally's acolytes congregated on street corners near the university and accepted donations from passerby. They just stood there playing old sixties music, never dancing or hopping up and down like Hare Krishnas. Nope. They were solid, middle class, Midwestern cult members who moved with all the grace of fishsticks in togas. But whatever they did, the money rolled in.

I was having my coffee at Larry's one morning when Wally and company arrived. Larry looked at him and said, “Some guy from the IRS was here looking for you. Said he'd be back later today.” Wally blanched and mumbled something about checking his bike. He turned quickly and went back outside, his entourage forgotten.

Larry's eyes twinkle when he lies and they were twinkling especially brightly that morning. “Was that true?” I asked. “Did an IRS agent show up here?”

Naw!” he chuckled. “I just like messin' with him.”

I went outside to explain to Wally but he and his bike were gone. His improvised toga lay discarded on the sidewalk. It probably added too much drag. I can only hope he hasn't gone south into Mexico again.

My most humble thanks to the following for the inspiration behind this tale:

You Look Nice Today

Archie Bell and the Drells

Boing Boing


Sunday, May 25, 2008

Tulsa Tough: Law Enforcement

I've been told that due to the large number of complaints from area residents during the 2007 Tulsa Tough tours, there will be greater law enforcement presence on area roads this year.

In other words, if you run red lights and stop signs, expect to be ticketed.

Most of the tour riders have nothing to worry about, of course, but the sub-five hour pack riders will have to exercise caution.

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Sometimes you really have to slow down...

...and smell the honeysuckle.

I was riding home from what's likely to be my last overtime shift for quite a while, and I was grinding away into a modest headwind while climbing a slight grade. Up ahead, a horse and rider were approaching on the opposite side of the road. Equestrians are fairly common along 56th Street North because there's a polo facility and a couple of pastures. I've met some working cowboys along there too, using their horses to round up cattle.

Once, while riding in Amish country in Pennsylvania, I spooked a young horse when I waved at the buggy driver. The horse jumped sideways in the traces and nearly overturned the buggy. After that, I was very careful when approaching horses.

And today's encounter was similar. I could see that the horse was getting skittish as I got closer. Finally, I stopped and put my foot down. "Hi! I didn't want to scare your horse."

The rider grinned and said, "I thought this horse needed to learn about bicyclists, so I was hoping you'd keep riding."

The horse didn't say a word. But he was much calmer once he figured out that I wasn't a threat. Both ears came forward and he slowly walked closer, stopping only a few feet away.

That's how I met Jim McCall. His horse hadn't been ridden for awhile and he needed to be exercised. Jim is a bit older than me, a retired fleet service guy and it turns out he worked for the same airline as I do. How he figured me for an airline employee I do not know. But there's a good chance he's seen me riding along that road at the same time of day month after month.

We talked about horses and business. We talked about retirement and the changes that brings. We talked about kids and spouses. His wife died last year. I expressed my condolences. Jim said he stays pretty busy unless he's at home with nothing to do. He was quiet for a moment and looked off in the distance. I can only imagine his thoughts.

We had a fifteen minute conversation standing there on the road. A couple of cars went by. It's not uncommon to have a motorist wave as they pass, a friendly gesture that at first seems puzzling to 'city boys' like me.

Jim and I parted and I pushed off toward home.

When I opened my email later, I found messages detailing the harassment some cyclists experience. Drivers in NYC honk, yell, and make rude gestures as a cyclist tries to make a left turn. Another rider says the rednecks in Florida throw objects and swerve at cyclists.

I suspect that Oklahoma has as many rednecks and impatient, rude people as Florida or NYC, on a percentage basis at least. Population density is much lower, though. Maybe that's an essential part of the formula for relaxed cycling on backroads. There are fewer people and as a result, they're more easily identified, or even as approachable as Jim.

Or maybe we cyclists need to slow down and wave at those passing motorists. Smile. Ask "How are you?" and be willing to spend some time listening to the answer. It's a way of deliberately turning your back on the hurry-up inherent in modern living. Take some time to smell the honeysuckle, and say hello to Jim and his horse.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Living with blonds: Part 3411

Mary had a tiny spider on her shoulder. At first, I thought it could be a tick, so I moved quickly to catch it. The spider jumped into her hair, but I caught it between my thumb and forefinger without crushing it, and then released it outside.

The spider gave Mary a bad case of the willies. She HATES spiders. "I don't like those insects!" she said.

I couldn't let that pass. "They're not insects. They're arachnids."

"Iraquis? They're Iraquis!" she exclaimed.

Lyndsay had been quietly watching all this, but that last bit doubled her over with laughter.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Tulsa Tough Kid's Challenge

Skills and Drills Clinic

Sunday, 19MAY2008

This was the final skills and drills clinic for the Tulsa Tough Kids Challenge. The instructors were: Brian Potter, Ren Barger, Richard Hall, and myself. We had numerous volunteers assisting with registration, helmet and bike fitting, and even police officers from the Tulsa Police Department and the Tulsa County Sheriffs Office.

Jordan went along for this one too, and it's a good thing he did. Some of the kids in my group had ill-fitting helmets or bikes with minor mechanical problems that required immediate attention. Jordan stepped in for me and kept the drills rolling while I took care of the problems. He's easily approachable. Kids like him. He's a fine assistant to any instructor. And there's no denying he worked hard because he dehydrated badly like I did last week. Just know that I'm proud of him for helping so much on Sunday.

One mother asked if I had an operator's manual for teenage boys. It didn't dawn on me until Monday – when I began writing this – that she was commenting on my son! I had to say that if I could write something like that, I'd have a yacht or an island of my own. Apparently, Mary and I did something right as far as parenting is concerned, but for the life of me, I don't know what it was. “As the twig is bent...” A friend said that by the time they're 16 or 17, we're just along for the ride.

Would it be possible to invite some kids from this year's group to attend next year's 'classroom' events? Perhaps we could solicit teachers to have a writing contest or something similar in order to select the most persuasive kids to assist with our pitch. At their age, peer pressure can work to our advantage.

To that end, we need to keep an idea file for next year. I set a reminder in MS calendar.

We need some people to perform an effective gatekeeper function. Brian said to trust the registrars, but they were perhaps too lenient in allowing some to attend. We had one family show up with their daughter who'd been registered, along with her two younger brothers who most likely were not, but I had no way to verify this. I think they were no older than six and they were a pain-in-the-ass to deal with because they simply would not listen until I bellowed at them. Next year – turn away these very young kids outside our targeted age group. We need to turn away kids who are not dressed appropriately, re-scheduling them for a later session. I had one kid wearing flip-flops. There may have been more. That may be a PITA for the gatekeeper, but it makes our job easier. No one wants to be the bad guy, the one who says 'no' to anxious parents and kids, but it's a necessary function.

I think that we should plan out the classes differently, allowing more time between sessions although that would stretch out the day. The kids need to be rested and fed before class, so maybe schedule two classes at mid-day. Give the staff an hour break over dinner, and have an evening session.

The kids seemed more anxious, hyper, and whiny this time perhaps because it was later in the day. The warehouse was hot and I had a few who wanted to take breaks for water every few minutes. “How many minutes left?” one asked repeatedly. That last group probably hadn't had dinner either and that's sure to make kids cranky. It makes me cranky!

And finally, Ren said she had a temper tantrum due to being so irritated by some of the kids. That didn't really qualify as a temper tantrum. I use Conan the Barbarian as a model. "Kill your enemies! See them run before you! Hear the lamentations of their women!" Now, that's a tantrum! I really need to wear more furs. Where can I get a battle axe?

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Owasso YMCA cycling

From the Owasso Reporter:

The YMCA Leisure Cycling Club will meet at 6:30
PM on Mondays, 6PM on Wednesdays, and 7AM
on Saturdays. The group gets together to ride nearby
routes and areas. They start and finish at the Owasso
YMCA, 8300 N Owasso Expy. Rides will be on average
20-25 miles.

There is no need to sign up, just show up.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Wednesday Musette...

(Image from Earth Science)


George commented:

I was wondering if you got sucked up into a funnel cloud.....tornadoes must get old after awhile.

We get them in PA, just not as much as you guys do.”

Oklahoma has some of the best weather radars on the planet as well as a very effective warning system. The National Weather Service here uses advanced doppler radar that shows both precipitation and wind direction. The radar image is developed from multiple sweeps with the antenna tilted at different angles so the radar gets a 'cross section' of a storm. It used to take about 5 minutes to process all the information, so a 'live' radar image was actually 5 minutes behind, but I understand the processing times are shorter now.

Radar pulses travel in a straight line, so the farther they are from the antenna, the higher they are in the atmosphere due to the curvature of the Earth. In order to know what's going on under a storm cloud, spotters are necessary. I was trained as a spotter many years ago.

I lived in Mercer County in western Pennsylvania before moving to Oklahoma in 1987. I was there when multiple tornadoes crossed over from Ohio one spring day in '85 or '86. Youngstown television stations reported the storms and tornadoes just as we lost power. Mary and I went down to the volunteer fire department to listen to the county-wide VHF fire net as the Greenville squad followed a tornado northeast across the county. The fire department was the only place in town with a generator.

By comparison, the warning system here in Oklahoma was light-years ahead. It's not perfect, of course, but I'm unlikely to be caught unaware by a storm. And when you consider the risk, we're probably more at risk when driving a car. I think annual tornado-related deaths are roughly equivalent to those that result from lightning strikes.



I've been working a lot of overtime. Here's my typical weekday:

5AM Alarm goes off. Get out of bed and get ready for work. Load email into laptop. Make a cup of coffee. Sometimes I get to drink all of it.

6AM Leave for work. Pedal, pedal, pedal!

5:30 PM Start homeward commute. Pedal, pedal, pedal!

6:15 PM Arrive at home. Change into yard work clothes. Do chores and errands like: cut grass, run trimmer/edger, act as family chauffeur, etc. May take an hour to an hour-and-a-half.

7:30 Take a very necessary shower.

8 PM Dinner.

8:30 to 10PM Write CycleDog. Answer email. Read various blogs. The Weather Channel is on the television with the sound muted.

10PM Watch the news, or at least the important part of it. Turn it off before the sports starts.

10:15 Sleep.

5AM Alarm goes off. Get out of bed and get ready for work. Load email into laptop. Make a cup of coffee.


Saturday will be much the same but I'll only work 8 hours rather than 10.

I'm becoming a victim of routine. This is getting old, but the overtime pay is nice. Mary has plans for it, mostly involving home improvements. Fortunately, this will run only through this month and end at the beginning of June.

Shall we dunce?

One of my co-workers complained about cyclists. “They're riding right on the road! I have to slow down, and then floor it to go around them! It wastes my gas!”

He's not alone. Lots of drivers have to assert their presumed superiority by using maximum acceleration to pass us sleek, swift bicyclists. I feel their pain at watching that gas gage dive into the red zone. Or maybe not.

And then there's the guy who leaves about 10 minutes early and walks out to the far parking lot to get into his truck. Then he drives back over to the building and parks near the door. It's almost impossible to get one of these spots unless you start work before 5AM. He walks back into the building and clocks out for the day. I asked why he did that, and he replied, “I don't want to have to walk that far to my truck.”

I could only stand there, speechless at the sheer genius of it all. Or maybe not.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

New advocacy post

There's a new advocacy post by Gary Parker on TAOBIKE. He responded to a recent newsletter piece from LAB about Complete Streets.


Crazy morning...

(Radar image from KTUL in Tulsa at 2100 hrs local time on 13MAY2008)

I am not making this up.

I left the house this morning after closing the garage door only to find a soft tire on the Centurion. I went back to the garage and switched my bag over to the Bianchi. Mary immediately popped out to see what I was doing. The Bianchi had low tires too, not from slow leaks, but because it hadn't been used for awhile. I rolled it outside, switched on the lights, and started up the street. The amber Vista strobe quit in the first couple of pedal strokes.

That's when I remembered that the two bikes have different pedals that require different cleats. I couldn't clip in.

Sigh. I turned around and went back to the house, propping the Bianchi up against the front of Lyndsay's Blazer while I ran inside to get the other shoes. Changing quickly, I was back out the door and out of the neighborhood when I realized my laptop was still sitting on the kitchen table.

Back at the house once again, Mary stared incredulously at my stupidity. I grabbed the computer and shoved off.

There was a headwind all the way to work and I was already running late. I tucked my head and went onto the drops, trying to set a good pace I could sustain into the wind. I arrived with 3 minutes to spare.

Changing into my work clothes, I realized my wallet wasn't in the jersey pocket. I've lost my wallet once and it's an experience I'd rather not repeat. With a sinking feeling, I called Mary to ask her to look for it at home. She found it sitting on the bathroom counter top. And she said she couldn't wait to tell her mom about me!

I disassembled the strobe unit at my bench, then re-soldered every suspicious solder joint I could see. If you ever take one of these apart, be aware that the main capacitor can hold a substantial voltage and jolt you better than any cup of coffee! I used my needle nosed pliers to discharge it, holding the pliers very carefully by their insulated handle. After the soldering it worked fine. Vibration work hardens solder joints and makes them crack.

My workday was uneventful. I'll take that, thank you.

But when I left work...

Traffic going north on Mingo Road was unusually heavy, and of course I had to encounter an impatient truck driver who insisted on passing me and the cars behind me in one go. It was ultimately futile, though, because all the traffic was backed up from the stop sign at 76th Street as far south as the Bird Creek bridge. That's easily three-quarters of a mile or more. So I passed all the stopped vehicles including Mr. Impatient. Normally I wouldn't consider passing on the right even when cars are stopped. But this is a two lane road through a pecan grove. No sidewalks, no driveways, no parking. A few of the motorists saw me coming up on the right and they moved slightly to the left. I waved my thanks. Other times, motorists have moved over to the right to prevent me from passing. It's just simple cussedness, I guess. They move at no more than a walking pace, maybe 4 or 5 miles per hour. I ride by at about 10 mph, certainly no more than 12 mph. I'm always nervous passing like that.

So....I arrived home ahead of the storm front (yes, we're under another severe weather alert) and it was probably my only bit of luck for the day. I've had a shower and dinner, and I think I'll spend the rest of the evening hiding under the blankets.


Monday, May 12, 2008

Master of Plumbery (OT)

(Image from Shreiner Plumbing)

Sunday was a holiday. The grand tradition here at Chateau CycleDog requires that either a family member is ill or we experience some kind of calamity on every holiday. Wouldn't you know, everyone is healthy, so a disaster awaited us.

I thought we'd get through the whole day without incident for once. It was not to be. Lyndsay was in the middle of making dinner when she said, “Hey! There's water leaking from under the dishwasher!” Sure enough, rusty-looking water was slowly seeping out across the kitchen floor. I turned off the hot water tap under the sink, after removing boxes of detergent, bottles of cleansers, scouring pads, numerous rags, cat toys, Jimmy Hoffa's dessicated corpse, more boxes of detergent (most of them empty), ant traps, and a couple of tubes of 'ant medicine' – boric acid mixed with sugar. I discovered that the under sink valve leaked unless it was fully opened or fully closed. Oh joy. I get to fix that too.

We sat down to a nice dinner. I enjoyed it thoroughly, but when I checked the kitchen floor again, it was wet. Turning off the water didn't have any effect on the leak. It continued its inexorable push across the floor, though I'd dropped several newspapers to sop it up. That's when it slowly dawned on me that the dishwasher may not be the source. I pulled the refrigerator out from the wall and there it was! Water dripped slowly from the ice maker line. I tried to turn it off, but the drip was not to be denied. The valve was shot.

Water ran from the the refrigerator, along the baseboard and under the back of the dishwasher, emerging from under its front panel. It was 6:30 already. The hardware store closed in 30 minutes! I turned off the main water supply valve, grabbed a pair of adjustable wrenches and set to work removing the ice maker valve. Deep inside my brain, a small voice screamed endlessly about the distinct possibility of breaking a pipe off inside the wall, but I shoved it down, sat on its chest, and drove a #3 Phillips screwdriver through its heart. Big screwdrivers are very useful.

Fortunately, the pipe didn't break. With the removed valve in hand, I jetted off to the hardware store. I found a replacement quickly and hurried home. The ice maker valve is the lowest in the house, so the rest of the system was draining through it. Lyndsay had a pan under it, catching the water. I installed the new valve and tightened everything, and then turned the main supply back on. It held! No leaks!

I have recurring nightmares about werewolves and Russian paratroopers. But the worst ones involve plumbing disasters and feature plungers, drain augers, overflowing toilets, and things that squish under foot in the night. I come by this honestly. There have been too many nights when Mary wakes me to fix a stuffed toilet or kitchen drain. There's nothing quite as romantic as running an auger under the kitchen sink at one o'clock in the morning because someone who will not be named tried to put half a ton of sauerkraut through the garbage disposal. Lifting a toilet off the floor to discover a couple of toys inside it runs a close second.

I am a master of plumbery with only one major failing. I have to learn how to show more butt crack while I'm working. Maybe it will serve as a deterrent.


Sunday, May 11, 2008

Tulsa Tough Kids Challenge

This is from Gary Parker, one of the LCIs who participated in each of the Tough Kids Challenge events and taught at yesterday's Skills and Drills Clinic. I was there too, and my post follows......Ed

Dear TaoBIKE Team,

Thank you for your wonderful effort on behalf of the kids participating in today's Tulsa Tough Kids Skills and Drills.

Brian Potter took the lead. The agenda arrived at earlier was very efficient. Four groups of about 20-plus kids moved through the activities quite efficiently. This was due in great part to teacher/coaches Richard Hall, Ren Barger, and Ed Wagner.

Ed's son Jordan participated providing examples of the skills assignments. Several of the Tulsa Bike Patrol were also on hand. Adam was there from the outset with some shop mechanics.
The sequence of events went very smoothly with greater skill for delivery of services being acquired with each successive group.

A special shout-out "Thank you!" to Brian joining me for my bike ride back to the River's Edge at 21st and Riverside.

From the three sessions of helmet fitting through riding in a straight line, stopping-starting and turn signaling, and a big finish with two by two riding of the entire group around the warehouse as they monitored their spacing and speed.

What a great day for Tulsa kids and Tulsa bicycling.

My appreciation to all of the folks that made today's Tulsa Tough Kids bike event such a wonderful happening.

Gary Parker

Jordan and I left early on Saturday morning for the Skills and Drills Clinic. The Tulsa Tough is giving away 300 Trek bicycles to local kids this year. We helped to assemble them and we participated in the classroom portions at several local schools. Jordan was especially valuable because as a teenager, he's closer to the elementary kids ages, and he's more approachable than an adult. I think he enjoyed the attention too.

The LCI cadre did an amalgam of Kids 1 and 2. We held the clinic in a warehouse this year, the same warehouse that we'd used for bike assembly. It offered some advantages since we didn't have to be concerned about the weather. But the floor was smooth finished concrete, so we had to adapt the drills for the reduced traction. Instant turns were out, as well as the rock dodge. That proved to be a good call because some of the kids showed poor bike handling skills on the serpentine course, and naturally, some were overly aggressive. Fortunately, no one fell and we didn't have any collisions.

The first group was a the largest with about 75 kids. It was important to stay on message and keep track of time. Brian had allotted 15 minutes for each section, along with a 5 minute break at the mid-point. It was a challenge to keep the kids focused and get all of them through each drill several times so they could develop some proficiency. I talked with one parent and described it as “trying to herd cats.” For the most part, the kids were focused and attentive.

The Tulsa Police Department sent 5 officers from their bike patrol unit. These folks were wonderful! They helped with helmet fittings, stopping drills, and even acted as pedestrians at one point. I'm not sure if the kids paid more attention to the instructors or the guys in uniform, but there's no doubt in my mind that the police officers were very effective in a bicycling education role. (We talked briefly about the IPMBA and LAB's Road1, but that's a subject for another time.)

There were some heartbreakers too. One boy was worried because his mother wasn't there. “She never comes to anything with me,” he said. I could hear the hurt in his voice. One girl had broken her arm the previous weekend and was in a hand-to-shoulder cast. She very gamely wanted to participate, but we were worried that she wouldn't be able to control her bike and she could fall, re-injuring the arm. I had to tell her she was excused from the class. She had tears welling up in her eyes. At least she has a new bike even if she can't ride it yet.

We had a few kids with learning problems. They required more one-on-one instruction, and we worked with them as we could. But we had two kids who didn't know how to ride a bike at all. The parents were told at the classroom sessions that we did not have the time or staffing to teach beginners, yet they signed up to get that free bike anyway. Some parents gamed the system too. They arrived at the warehouse, received their helmets and bikes, and then disappeared as soon as possible. Perhaps they saw little value in the instruction, but in a perverse way it benefited the kids who stayed because we could spend more time with them individually.

Finally, a word about the volunteers. The LCI group didn't do this alone. The Tulsa Tough operates with a network of volunteers, people who donated their time to unload trucks, assemble bikes, handle administrative chores, and even take out the trash. It truly is a team effort because none of us could accomplish our tasks without the others. A well deserved thank you goes to St. Francis Hospital, the Tulsa Crime Commission, Adam Vanderburg (owner of Lee's Bicycles), and the hundreds of people who worked together to bring this event to area kids.

And we get to do it again next week!

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Thursday, May 08, 2008


Local television news has a story about filling car tires with 100% nitrogen. Allegedly, nitrogen doesn't leak down as quickly so tires stay at a higher pressure for a longer period of time. This increases gas mileage. There's also a claim that nitrogen extends the life of the tire, but I suspect that if they're properly inflated – regardless of the gases inside them – they'll last longer too.

For a fleet operation, filling tires with nitrogen probably makes sense. If the claimed 3% increase in gas mileage is true, it translates into large cash savings. But the local business offering this service charges $39.95 to fill four tires. From where I sit, that may not be a cost-effective savings for consumers.

There's a solution, of course. I use a cheaper mixture that contains only 80% nitrogen in both car tires and bicycle tires. The only drawback is that I have to check the pressure regularly. That means using a pressure gauge on the car tires about once a week. But for a bicycle, the pressure has to be checked before every ride.

That brings us to the ABC Quick check. (You didn't think I'd skip a BikeEd moment, did you?) A is for air. Check your tire pressure before every ride. Yes, it reduces rolling resistance, but it also reduces the chance of a pinch flat. Spin you wheels and look for tire cuts or a rim wobble that could indicate a loose or broken spoke. B is for brakes. Squeeze the brake lever and ensure that there's a fingers width of space between the lever and the handlebar. C is for the crank and chain. Try to move the crank arms in and out, feeling for any looseness. Feel for a loose pedal, and see that the chain is in place. Q is for quick releases. Get in the habit of putting them in the same position all the time so you can tell at a glance if they've been moved. Returning to C a moment, when you first start out pedal gently to ensure that the chain is in place properly and no one has tampered with your derailleur levers, particularly if the bike was parked outside in a public place.

There are some costs associated with ignoring the ABC Quick check. Once, someone who looks remarkably like me fixed a flat tire, then pushed off down a hill. hadn't closed the brake release lever, so the caliper barely touched the rim. Naturally, the lever went all the way to the handlebar and he discovered the brake was pitifully ineffective. Doing the ABC Quick check would have prevented this mishap.

Another time, this same rider had a rear quick release partly open. The wheel was installed in an old frame with horizontal frame ends. When he stood to power away from a stop light, the wheel popped out and tacoed. While it's possible to straighten a wheel by supporting it on a curb and forcing the rim back into alignment, it's not a practice I recommend. Some of the neighborhood kids learned a wide variety of new and exciting words that day.

(Snark Alert!)

Here's a fitness idea that would also save money for big fleet operators, like cities that have a large number of police cars – get cops to check their air pressure at the beginning of each shift, and give them a bicycle pump for inflation. It's a win-win situation! Proper tire inflation leads to improved gas mileage and increased tire life. And as a side benefit, we get physically fit police officers with fewer health problems. (Except for TCSO who would need extensive training in how to use a bicycle pump in the first place.) As a taxpayer, I'm 100% behind this idea!


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Looking for the right tool...

We know that 'fear from the rear' is irrational and it drives much of the facilities advocacy. But today I'm not addressing the institutional problems of dealing with traffic engineers, bureaucrats, and planners. Instead, I'm looking at the reduction of irrational fear on an individual basis.

Most of us with long experience seldom fear riding in traffic, and when we meet someone wholly consumed by that irrational fear we may have difficulty understanding it. I know I do at times. Our first response is to say that the fear is unfounded or greatly exaggerated, but this does nothing to reduce it. We can offer facts and statistics, yet they're all ignored. That's the definition of 'irrational' - something that defies reason and logic.

Think of watching a horror movie in a theater, for example. Objectively, we know that it's nothing more than sound and flashing lights in a darkened room. Yet the fear it induces is real - at least until the house lights come up.

My industry used to offer Fear of Flying classes for potential customers. Again, we know that flying is a very safe means of transportation, but simply telling a fearful person that isn't sufficient. The company offered classes that gradually habituated these customers through a succession of experiences that eventually led to taking a flight. It worked on two levels, the rational and the emotional.

That emotional approach is one we should discuss. Our opposition has met with considerable success by using fear as a tool. Is there an equally powerful one we could use? (Of the seven deadly sins, I could only remember gluttony, sloth, and avarice, and they're not really suitable, though I'm well acquainted with the first two.) Demonstrating vehicular cycling techniques is a real eye-opener but it works best one-on-one. We need something with the emotional impact of 'fear from the rear' that will let us reach a broader audience. I suspect that if we can influence large groups of individual cyclists, the institutional problems offered by traffic engineers, bureaucrats, and planners will simply go away.

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Death under the trees....

Gentle rain fell as I left the house this morning. Slightly heavier than mist, it pattered softly against my skin and dripped slowly from my helmet. My glasses were covered.

I stopped for a newspaper, then pushed off toward work. Just after turning south into the pecan grove, a Chrysler 300 passed. Seconds later, I heard a thump and looked up in time to see something large splash into the roadside ditch. It was a deer, unmoving and apparently dead. The Chrysler stopped.

The driver got out before I reached the car. He walked quickly around to the right front corner to inspect the damage. In the pre-dawn darkness, it looked like the only real damage was to a running light which dangled from its wiring. The front clip, fender, and hood seemed OK, but it was hard to tell in the dark and rain.

He was OK, though clearly shaken about hitting the deer. I said I was sorry it happened, but I didn't really see the impact. And the deer was likely killed immediately or if it was unconscious when it hit the water, it drowned. I was not about to wade in after it.

I've had close encounters with deer in those wood too, both in the car and on the bike. So far (knock on wood) I haven't hit one. I should be thankful that since the roadside ditches are completely full due to all the rain we've had, they're effective barriers to smaller critters like skunks. I'm more afraid of skunks than deer.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Sobering news...

Go read this over on Fat Cyclist, then go hug your family and tell them you love them. Join us in a prayer for Elden, Susan, and their kids.

I don't often read something that brings tears to my eyes, but this one did.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Thursday Musette...

Tulsa Tough Kids Challenge

We did the last of the 'classroom' portions of the Kids Challenge events on Monday. Ren practically skipped out of the auditorium afterward, exclaiming, “We're done with the boring part!” She was giddy.

I watched the crowd during the Safe Escape presentation put on by the Crime Commission. It's meant to teach kids to avoid abduction. Surprisingly, every kid in the room was watching the video, but some of their parents were not.

The LCI group delivered a fairly tight presentation, after we'd muffed a few things in the first two. We learned from our mistakes and didn't repeat them. Who knows? If we did another two or three of these we could even look professional. But the Crime Commission show was a difficult one to follow. It was very slick and the pacing was superb.

My bike to work

It's been very windy the last couple of days. When I left work yesterday, the wind was so strong it propelled me north along Mingo Road at 20 mph! I wasn't pedaling, and even if I could, 20 mph is well above my rev limit on the single speed.

Naturally, I paid dearly for all that fun this morning, grinding along into a 20 to 25 mph headwind. That's one good reason to have a low gear on a single speed beater bike. It was just like riding uphill for seven miles. I was whupped when I got to work, but at least I didn't fall asleep. The Bianchi San Remo may be a better choice when facing a stiff headwind, but it doesn't have fenders. Our weather report was calling for rain. Of course, the rain has held off until this evening. I'm watching a line of severe storms forming off to our west. It's gonna be a bumpy night.


The company is calling for a ton of overtime this month. The planners want 70% of our units off the shelf and into the field by the first of June. Our supervisor said we need to add 15 people to do the work, but they're not bringing in another 15 people. Instead, the rest of us get to work our butts off to the tune of 58 hours per week. That's a lot of overtime. That's some BIG paychecks!

Mary has already decided that the extra cash will go toward home improvements, like new windows. Dunno if it will cut into my writing.

And finally...meatballs...on a stick.

This just popped into my head earlier today. Meatballs on a stick, served with spaghetti sauce or covered with melted cheese. I thought of it just before lunch. Imagine that.

Gotta shut down here. Storms are coming in fast.