Wednesday, November 30, 2005

CycleDog: The Next Generation

I've been thinking about taking CycleDog to the next level, away from a computer-based, written communication to a more ethereal, direct-to-the-user form. There are considerable advantages for all of us. It would save me substantial amounts of writing time, and readers would get CycleDog without having to log on to their computers. CycleDog would have a direct, psychic connection into their minds.

I know, I know. Most of you don't believe you have psychic abilities. So we'll do a simple test. Think of these three words, and associate them with a picture in your mind. "Mutton-chops." "Ham." "Boisterous." Now, you immediately pictured Bob Roll, didn't you? For those who imagined Hillary Clinton or Ann Coulter, please consider emergency psychotherapy. Soon. Don't even bother to read the rest of this.

The next time something funny about cycling occurs to you, that'll be me doing a little testing. Feel free to giggle, chortle, or even guffaw. I have that effect on people, even when I'm not thinking of anything particularly funny. For some reason, they just can't control their feeling of mirth when I'm around, even when I haven't said a word.

Anyway, once I perfect the new, improved Psychic CycleDog, it will be universally available and completely free of charge. Think of it! You could be walking down the street, riding your bike in the park, or even taking a shower when a Psychic CycleDog piece flitters into your mind and you just about fall down laughing! Now, this is probably not a good idea when you're riding or showering, and the other people in the park might think you're a cackling maniac, but the joke's on them! You'll be one of the in-crowd, getting CycleDog directly into your head!

If I can figure out how to include some psychic ads, I'll be swimming in cash very shortly. Unfortunately, there's no way to opt out at present, so everyone will be getting CycleDog and the ads. And since we're facing a mid-term election next year, I'm considering putting political ads on CycleDog too.

But there's still hope!

While you can't opt out, it's an established scientific fact that aluminum foil hats block government mind controls rays and other psychic phenomena. So by lining your helmet with convenient aluminum foil, you can prevent a nasty fall or some other surprise. I'd expect that as this becomes widely known, aluminum foil supplies will be depleted very rapidly, so stock up now! In fact, it's probably a good idea to buy stock in Alcoa because it's undoubtedly going to skyrocket!

Remember, you read it here first!

Gotta go. Nurse Ratched says it's medication time.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


Well, the Ford is finally back from the shop. I could have bought a very nice bike with what I paid for the repair, but since Number One Daughter is the regular driver, I'd rather spend it on the car.

The original problem was a coolant leak. I looked at the hoses and sensor, but couldn't locate it. The engine compartment is more than a bit cramped. There's little clearance anywhere, and when I couldn't spot the leak, the best course of action was to take it to the pros.

As it turned out, the radiator was the least of my problems. About 2 years ago, the battery cracked and leaked acid. I tried to clean it up as best I could by rinsing everything off with copious amounts of water from the garden hose, but it wasn't enough. Acid found its way into the wiring harness for the radiator fan and the main distribution box. When I looked at it in the garage, most of the insulation was gone. The distribution box is right next to the battery, and if I recall right, the main power into it is not fused. Under the box, there are 4 input wires roughly the diameter of my pinky. None of them had a shred of insulation, and they sit right next to the fender. They could have shorted out at any time, causing a fire or a battery explosion.

I've seen a battery explode just once when a car hit a curb. It wasn't even going fast. It just slid off an icy road into the curb. The battery mount failed, allowing the terminals to contact the fender. Within a few seconds, the battery overheated and exploded, lifting the hood up to the safety catch. Worse, the battery acid hit the partially opened hood and shot out in all directions with considerable force. Anyone near the car would have been sprayed. This stuff will eat through your clothes in a few seconds. Imagine what it can do to your eyes and skin.

Don, the technician who did the repair on the Ford, said that I should have used baking soda to neutralize the acid, sprinkling it everywhere around the battery, then washing it down with lots of plain water. It still could have gotten into the wiring due to capillary action, but the damage would have been much less. By the time I found it, the acid had already covered most of the wiring and eaten away at the concrete in my driveway. Strong stuff.

I mention all this because many bicycle lighting systems are run with sealed lead acid or nicad batteries. Either way, the electrolyte is powerful. Nicads use sodium hydroxide, if I remember right, and it's as caustic as the acid in a lead-acid battery.

Many of us overcharge nicads and they can explode as a result. In fact, a lot of house fires are attributed to battery charging systems. So far, I've blown up a cordless phone and a water-bottle battery. The cordless phone flew across the room when it went. The water-bottle battery burned up the charger. Fortunately, it was on a ground fault interrupter that opened when the charger shorted. Otherwise, we may have had a fire.

Please be extremely careful when handling leaky batteries! Be wary when a battery seems to be getting warmer than usual while it charges. Your eyes, your skin, and your family are worth far more than a battery or a charger.

Monday, November 28, 2005

My favorite Martian...

I just got back home after being abducted by aliens - again. I hate it when they do that.

It happened early this morning as I rode to work. The sonic boom alerted me to the presence of yet another alien space craft entering the atmosphere. They cleverly concealed their flying saucer behind the pecan grove and waited until there were no cars in sight. Then they pounced!

My bicycle and I were whisked up into an open hatch on the underside of the saucer. It happened so fast I didn't even get my feet out of the clips! Since I was still pedalling, I went careening across the cargo deck where I knocked down a couple of aliens, and crashed into the tractor beam control panel. The little green men were dazed, so I quickly reversed the controls on the panel to send me back down to Earth. My crash had broken off several handles, but with the aid of my trusty Campagnolo 'peanut butter' wrench - a tool seemingly designed to do nearly everything - I performed some quick repairs and made my escape!

And I wasn't even late for work. Imagine that.


Actually, I spent entirely too much time in front of the television set this weekend, watching an endless series of sci-fi movies. Hence the 'favorite Martians' bit above. The Ford is still in the shop, so the whole family was here most of the time. Number One Daughter was having withdrawal symptoms since she couldn't go shopping. On Saturday, my friend Wade loaned us his Chevy Blazer. Mom and daughter were promptly out the door.

Sunday afternoon was a little scary. The wind came out of the south in the morning at about 20 mph. It steadily increased, with 60 mph gusts by mid-afternoon. The oak tree in the front yard was tilted over so far I was afraid it might uproot and fall. Another tree toppled over down the street. A neighbor lost a good portion of his roof. There was a tornado watch just north of us. I watched as toys, leaves, garbage cans, and anything not firmly nailed down went flying up the street.

And all I could think about was what a lovely day for a tailwind ride! I would have been in Kansas in a very short time! How sick is THAT!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Court trip next stop for bus rider

Finally. The 'real' newsmedia is catching up with this story. If this stands, we'll have what amounts to an internal passport that's required for travel anywhere, not just at airports. You can be stopped for identification when you're merely walking down the street.

Our country has gone barking mad. George Bush's version of America really sucks, unless you're in that top 5%. His wealthy campaign contributors don't have to put up with this crap.

There's a link to the newspaper. Excerpts follow.

Sunday, November 27, 2005
Denver, CO

Article Launched: 11/27/2005 01:00:00 AM

Court trip next stop for bus rider

By David Harsanyi
Denver Post Staff Writer

Deborah Davis doesn't consider herself a hero. Certainly not a modern-day champion of the Constitution. Yet, in her own way, she might be a little of both.

Two months ago, this 50-year-old mother of four was reading a book while riding to work on RTD's Route 100. When the bus rolled up to the gates of the Denver Federal Center in Lakewood, a guard climbed on and demanded Davis, as well as everyone else on board, produce identification.

Perhaps it was that inherent American distaste for producing papers on demand, but Davis, who had gone through this drill before, decided to pass.

"I told him that I did have identification, but I wasn't going to show it to him," Davis explains. "I knew that I wasn't required by law to show ID and that's why I decided I wasn't going to. The whole thing seemed to be more about compliance than security."

According to Davis, the guard proceeded to call on federal cops, who then dragged Davis off a public bus, handcuffed her, shoved her into the back seat of a police car and drove off to a police station within the Federal Center.

...Gail Johnson, a volunteer ACLU lawyer who practices at a prominent Colorado criminal defense firm, will defend Davis without charge. She expects the government to arraign Davis on two federal criminal misdemeanors, if not more.

The first states that citizens must "when requested, display Government or other identifying credentials to Federal police officers or other authorized individuals." The second says that citizens must comply with "the lawful direction of Federal police officers and other authorized individuals."

...Legal issues notwithstanding, you have to wonder what ever happened to common sense? What exactly were the guards, who merely glanced at the IDs, doing? Is there a "no-bus rider" terrorist list in Lakewood? And if there is, how would the guards be able to differentiate between real and fake IDs?

...If safety at the center was a question of national security, why have a public bus route running through the facility in the first place?

...So let's hope more Americans act like Deb Davis, not another partisan hack acting the victim, but an average American who questions government intrusion into our private and public lives for freedom's sake.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Papers please!

That 'please' is just for show. It doesn't really mean anything. I was under the impression that the Supreme Court ruled that police couldn't ask people to identify themselves unless they had probably cause to do so. Silly me. The Patriot Act apparently gives them the authority to do just that at any time. In effect, you must have proper documents to travel anywhere, not just on airlines. This is really a form of internal passport. If you want to use public streets, you better have ID, and you better be ready to show it on demand.

George Bush's version of America really sucks, unless you're part of that wealthiest 5% of the population.

Boing Boing

Woman charged for refusing to show ID on a public bus
By Mark Frauenfelder

Mark Frauenfelder: Bill Scannell says: "On the 9th of December 2005, a Denver woman is scheduled to be arraigned in U.S. District Court. Her crime: refusing to show ID on a public bus. At stake is nothing less than the right of Americans to travel freely in their own country.

"The woman who is fighting the good fight is named Deborah Davis. She's a 50 year-old mother of four who lives and works in Denver, Colorado. Her kids are all grown-up: her middle son is a soldier fighting in Iraq.

"One morning in late September 2005, Deb was riding the public bus to work. She was minding her own business, reading a book and planning for work, when a security guard got on this public bus and demanded that every passenger show their ID. Deb, having done nothing wrong, declined. The guard called in federal cops, and she was arrested and charged with federal criminal misdemeanors after refusing to show ID on demand.

It's a FEDERAL offense to refuse to show ID to a security guard? Has our country gone barking mad?

Friday, November 25, 2005


My Ford Contour is in the shop for repairs. It started leaking coolant about a week ago. I looked at it but couldn’t find the source of the leak. The hoses were OK, but the leak seems to be coming from inside the radiator. Sure enough, the radiator had to be replaced.

But the garage found another problem, one that I probably would have missed. The wiring harness to the radiator fans had been eaten away by battery acid. The battery cracked and leaked about 2 years ago. I’d tried to wash away all the acid I could find, but I’d missed the wiring harness. It could have caused a fire. Since my daughter is driving the car most days, I was glad the mechanic found it.

Regardless, he couldn’t get the car finished on Wednesday. I left it at the shop and rode my bicycle home.

We have just that one car, and Mary needed to get food for Thanksgiving dinner. We walked to the grocery Wednesday night. It’s an easy 10-minute walk. I carried my enormous messenger bag to haul stuff. Mary did not disappoint me, and I was loaded down like a pack animal on the way home. My shoulder is bruised from the weight!

I’d been planning to drive to the beginning of the TCCP ride down in Tulsa, but without the car, that obviously wasn’t going to happen. So I decided to ride the Giant instead.

I awoke at 5AM with a crushing headache. I was dehydrated. It would make the morning that much harder. I loaded some canned goods to donate to the food drive. After a small breakfast and some coffee, I pushed off for Tulsa just after dawn, messenger bag slung over my shoulder.

Brian Potter, Gary Parker, and Sandra Crisp showed up for the ride. We didn’t have any runners this time, and Sandra was the only one who drove to the start.

At 8AM, The Gang of Four left McClure Park to ride along 11th Street to the Salvation Army pickup on 31st and Riverside. Traffic was very light, and it was a pleasure to ride along 11th Street. It was one of the alignments for Route 66 through Tulsa and it’s peppered with Historic Route 66 signs. This really is a pleasant ride in light traffic.

We dropped off our food donation, then went north toward downtown, intending to ride the new Osage Prairie Trail up to 56th Street. Brian peeled off as he had to meet his father.

Gary, Sandra, and I rode along the new trail, still unfinished in places, but smoothly paved along its length. It’s a rails-to-trails project that will eventually extend all the way to Barnsdall through a lovely scenic valley. I’m looking forward to it.

A couple of miles from the end of the trail, Gary’s wife, Barbara, called and offered to pick up him and Sandra. We’d been riding into the wind so they would have had a tailwind going home, but Sandra was getting dinner together for her family, and she was pressed for time. She truly appreciated the lift.

At 56th Street we parted. I rode home alone and bonked with a few miles to go. My legs felt like they were on fire and my speed dropped from an easy 15mph to a tortured 12! I drank the last of my water and kept grinding away into the wind.

When I got home, I was very hungry. I made some pancakes and coffee for brunch. Jordan inhaled his. The kid is a bottomless pit for food.

My legs still felt like wood after brunch, so I made a “Dad’s Cocktail”. That’s 2 ibuprofen chased by a double shot of espresso. It works! I felt much better, but even with all that caffeine, I still fell asleep an hour later. I’d put in about 40 miles for the morning, half of it into a moderate headwind, so the nap was welcome.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving!

(Way off-topic, and without any cycling content whatsoever!)

Our family is having a turkey dinner tomorrow. For once, Mom is healthy. There have been times that my daughter and I had to make dinner, and one time we had to go out for dinner as Mary was too ill to cook. It looks like it'll be a nice day here tomorrow - sunny and in the 50s.

She bought a turkey breast from Schwann's. It's packaged in a plastic bag. All you have to do is put it in a pan with a little water, I think, and bake it. I've done them before and they're very good and very easy. You don't even remove the breast from the bag!

Holidays are hard on us. We both come from big families that had enormous dinners on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. Do you remember that television ad with the line, "Bring out the second turkey!" My family actually did that. I am not exaggerating. We had a mob to feed. But when we moved to Oklahoma, Mary and I were alone. That had some good aspects in that we had to learn to depend on each other, and I believe it made us a tight-knit family. Still, we miss those big family dinners back home. I think back on those afternoons that I spent in my teens so incredibly bored with all those old folks around. Now, I'd love to spend a few hours with them.

So enjoy the holiday. Cherish your spouse and hug your kids. Sit around the dinner table telling stories that they'll remember long after we're gone. That's what holidays are all about - family.

Von Franken Ride/Run/Ride

The Tulsa cycling advocacy group and the Tulsa Community Cycling Project are having a ride in conjunction with the Von Franken family fun run that benefits the Salvation Army food drive. The run begins at 9AM Thanksgiving morning at 31st and Riverside in Tulsa. The ride begins from McClure Park at 8AM.

Everyone is urged to bring canned goods to donate to the food drive. We can help to haul goods too, if needed. Anyone who wishes to do a ride/run/ride can leave their bicycle with the advocacy group for security. That means the big guy - me - will keep an eye on it!

Of course, any donations to the Community Cycling Project are welcome. We have been working with several social agencies, providing bicycles, accessories, and Road1 instruction to various clients. Most of the material has been donated by shops and individuals. For the first time, we will be getting matching funds from INCOG next year, so any cash we can raise is most welcome as it will provide considerable leverage.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Readin' and Writin'

I hated writing back in school. It was so tedious, so boring, and such a chore that I despised doing it. Who cares what an adversarial participle is? No one spoke English as our teacher, Elsie Schwartz, believed it was supposed to be written, and since television and radio were both replacing newspapers, written English was soon going to be dead anyway.

Elsie had other ideas. She insisted that we learn to avoid ending sentences with a prepostion, lest we incur her wrath and withering sarcasm. She had us learn ten new vocabulary words each day. We had to know their definitions and use them in a sentence. She got a little annoyed when the entire class started using all ten words in ONE sentence! It was even better if we could include a pun or a deliberate mispronounciationism. Elsie suffered all this with ill-concealed annoyance, but she absolutely drew the line at word definitions from Groucho Marx. "Bigamy" got me in hot water.

Groucho's character, Otis, had just proposed to two women. "Why, Otis, that would be bigamy!" Margaret Dumont exclaimed.

"Sure it would", he replied, "it would be big of you! It would be big of me! Let's be big!"

As it turned out, Elsie was not a Groucho fan. Imagine that.

I thought about how she would have responded to writers like Samuel Clemens or H.G. Wells if they'd been her students. "Mr. Wells, you must learn to confine your flights of fancy or you'll never amount to much as a writer. Martians, indeed!"

English class took all the fun out of writing, and I didn't re-discover it until about fifteen years ago when I started writing for an amateur radio newsletter. I was learning a lot and having fun doing it, and that fun permeated my writing. (As an aside, I was writing on an IBM XT back then, and sending the copy to my editor via packet radio. I didn't have internet service!) Sometimes, a piece almost wrote itself, seeming to flow from my fingertips into the keyboard. Other times, it was much, much harder. My brain just seemed to be full of lead.

I enjoyed writing comedy, and as anyone who's read CycleDog knows, I still do. There's a special joy in taking something bad, like my traffic stop for 'impeding', and making it seem funny. I'm warped that way. But I'm sure that while on some deeper level it's a way of dealing with anger, I prefer not to dwell on the amateur psychology aspects.

My son is a very imaginative kid, and he too is having trouble with English class. I'm trying to get him to read more because reading and writing go hand-in-hand. He's far too fond of video games, but then, what teenage kid isn't? On those rare occasions he's been allowed to write whatever he wanted, he's done well. He likes military stories, so he's used that as a subject. And just like me, he's described the words 'flowing' from his fingertips. It's not a chore. It's nearly effortless.

Here comes today's hook.

I know that some CycleDog readers maintain their own blogs too. Those of you who do not should consider it. Writing is a skill that improves with use, even if it's only a couple of lines every day or two. If you feel passionately about cycling -and I'm assuming you do otherwise you wouldn't be reading this unless you suffered from an extreme form of insomnia! - then write about cycling. Write about whatever moves you.

There's no denying that Elsie was passionate about writing well, despite her joyless approach to it. Unlike her, I won't criticize your spelling, grammar, and mispronunciationisms. Come to think of it, George W. Bush, leader of the Free World and a creative inspiration in the use of language, would make Elsie throw her hands up in disgust, then develop a severe twitch! If GWB can play fast and loose with English, you can too.

Long ago, a friend said, "Never be afraid to make a fool of yourself!" It's good advice, and I make use of it often.

Monday, November 21, 2005

The Zig-Zag Man...

It was a cold ride to work this morning. The temperature hovered at
freezing. I rode along spinning easily in the small ring. No hurry. No
rush. Just an easy ride to work.

Under the pecan trees along Mingo Road, I spotted a flock of turkeys! I
know they're around the area because I've seen their tracks. But it's rare
to actually see a turkey. They stay well out of the open areas. For that
matter, the deer are doing the same now that hunting season started. This
flock was probably 80 to 100 yards off the road, but all 8 birds had their
heads up, watching me.

The real excitement came at the railroad crossing further south. It's
angled across the road, and it's very rough. Another cyclist fell there two
weeks ago. A witness said his front wheel simply followed the rail off to
the right. He fell heavily but didn't receive any major injuries, though
his face was cut up. I've slid on those rails twice, both times in the
rain, so I tend to be very careful when crossing.

The safest way to cross rails is perpendicular to them. Cross at a right
angle to the rails in order to give the tires less opportunity to slip.
Railroad tracks are bad enough, but some places still have streetcars or
trolleys. Their rails run parallel to a cyclist's direction of travel, and
often have a groove down the center that can trap a tire easily. I learned
to be extremely wary of streetcar tracks when I lived in Pittsburgh. They
can make intersections far more complicated.

The safest way I've found to cross this particular railroad track is by
zig-zagging across them. I move to the right-hand tire track, turn left to
straighten up across the tracks, then turn back into the left-hand tire
track. Today, I was about to do that when a pickup chose that moment to
pass. It's happened before. In Oklahoma, it's illegal to pass within 150
feet of a railroad crossing, but I've never heard of it being enforced. The
passenger side mirror narrowly missed my shoulder. The driver waved.

Whenever I approach tracks with a motor vehicle behind me, I signal that I'm
slowing. I did that this morning, or course. What do motorists think we're
doing? Why do they insist on passing even though we're obviously
maneuvering within the lane? It doesn't happen very often, but due to the
layout of that particular crossing, if I'm to cross safely it means I'll be
turning into the cars that are trying to overtake. It's unnerving to have a
mirror or a fender go blitzing by only inches away.

I can't think of a way to let motorists know I'll be maneuvering laterally.
Merely signaling that I'm slowing should be enough, but some of them just
don't get it. I've even tried zig-zagging twice, once by moving to the left
tire track, then the right tire track, crossing over the rails, then into
the left tire track again. I think that first movement - into the left tire
track - causes motorists to stay further left and allow me a bit more space,
but I'm actually thinking about zig-zagging a couple of times (almost Paul
Tay's infamous 'power weave') well before reaching the tracks. Motorists
may think it's a crazy-man-on-a-bike and give me even more room or stay back

Sunday, November 20, 2005

The CycleDog Privacy Policy

Fritz wrote about his privacy policy on Cycle-licious, so I though it would be informative to do the same here. It’s very brief – there ain’t one.

Now, before anyone gets all in a snit about that, allow me to explain that I’m a technological Luddite. I don’t know how to use tags or trackbacks, and frankly, I’m not sure I’d ever need that information anyway, so why bother? There’s a simple hit counter at the bottom of the page, and I get some feedback from StatCounter that looks like this:

Weekly Stats Report: Oct 24 - Oct 30 2005
Project: CycleDog
Mon Tues Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun Total Avg
Pageloads 101 72 73 53 83 43 66 491 70
Unique Visitors 62 56 62 43 57 33 54 367 52
First Time Visitors 37 37 46 25 33 23 41 242 35
Returning Visitors 25 19 16 18 24 10 13 125 18

Riveting stuff, ain’t it?

I write because I want to, and while there’s a kind of ego-gratification that comes from attracting a larger audience, I’d probably keep writing the same mixture of rants, comedy, and opinion even as that audience grows bigger. That doesn’t mean I’m impervious to ego-gratification. I’m hardly a saint. But in one sense, I wouldn’t want all that information because it could influence me to write toward that target audience. Does that make sense? Still, I gotta be careful about what I say or those black helicopters will be hovering over the house again. I hate that.

I had some targeted ads on here for awhile, but they went away. The code is still on the page template, but I suspect that I wrote about beer too much, and Google pulled the ads. But I only suspect that is true, I don’t know it for a fact. Regardless, I had lukewarm enthusiasm for ads, so it doesn’t bother me that they’re gone.

Now, the folks at Google, on the other hand, may have ways to monitor traffic here. That’s their business, not mine. But let me reiterate – I don’t collect information on readers. I don’t know how to do so, nor do I want to learn. I wouldn’t know what to do with the information anyway.

So, if any of you feel up to it, please feel free to post something in comments. Maybe my neo-Luddite view of digital privacy is naïve, but regardless, I’ll be posting something about cycling again, maybe tonight or tomorrow, or whenever a good idea rises up out of the sludge at the bottom of my coffee cup. Creativity runs on caffeine!

Friday, November 18, 2005

A money-making idea!

According to the DailyKos, the Federal Election Commission approved Advisory Opinion 2005-16, agreeing that the Fired Up! sites were entitled to the same press exception from campaign finance laws as are the New York Times, National Review and Sean Hannity.

This means that in the next election cycle, bloggers are free to endorse candidates for political office without fear of violating campaign finance laws. So in effect, we can endorse, say, a road cyclist over a mountain biker, or go on a rant about a candidate or political party being in the pocket of some multi-national oil company. We can do so without fear of a knock on the door in the middle of the night.

I'll be right back. Someone's ringing the doorbell.

Never mind. Forget what I just said. A pair of nice government agents in very expensive suits just told me that I can't do that. Then they got back into their black helicopter and flew off. Why is it that I never hear those things landing?

OK, so I probably won't get rich via campaign finance, though I'm not philosophically opposed to accepting large sums of cash to endorse a candidate here on CycleDog. At this point, even paltry sums might do. What I write here influences dozens of people. They influence dozens more, in turn, and it spreads like a virus or an Amway distribution scheme until it reaches the entire world!

So I really deserve that money.

Everyone should have a fallback position, though, a Plan B to implement when Plan A doesn't quite work out. In my case, even Plan B hasn't worked out since the devil said he was full up on souls this week. He muttered something about a busload of attorneys crashing into a televangelist’s convention and going way over budget on all the overtime pay for his staff. But he did say he'd put my name on the waiting list and get back to me soon.

In the meantime, I've gone to Plan C. This is the one where adoring fans and manufacturers shower me with swag. Given the vast influence of CycleDog, this should be a cakewalk.

But first, a brief digression.

Long, long ago, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, I worked in a bike shop back in Pittsburgh. Bicycles were carved out of stone back then, though there was this new material that promised to revolutionize the industry. Unfortunately, the UCI ruled that wood was against nature, and we couldn't use it.

I had two customers, Greg K., and Andy R., who rode year-round. That's a tough act for Pittsburgh in the winter! Andy was qualifying for Paris-Brest-Paris. Greg didn't own a car so he used his bicycle for daily transportation. Both of them were high-mileage riders, being outside in all sorts of weather. They were the ones I turned to when I needed to know about durability.

One of the best salesmen I met simply walked in the door one day, handed me a spray can of lubricant and a stack of technical documents, and then left. He'd given me a sample of Tri-Flow (called Tri-Flon back then, if I recall right). I asked Greg and Andy to try it. Within a week or so, they both wanted more. I tried it on a black-powder pistol and was impressed with the results. Black powder is notoriously difficult to clean and highly corrosive.

When the salesman returned, I bought a case. It sold quickly.

And this brings me back around to Plan C. Some bicycle commuters are out in all kinds of weather. We don't often put in the long miles that professional racers do, but we ride a lot nonetheless. And our needs differ enough that we benefit from equally specialized equipment. It makes sense to have that equipment tested by the very people who are the target market.

That's where I come in. Here's an open offer to bicycle and accessory manufacturers. Send your stuff to me, I'll use it for a while and write about it. If it's really good, a small fee will cover my time. If it's really putrid stuff I wouldn't give to my brother-in-law, I'll still write a glowing report - for a much LARGER fee and give it to my brother-in-law anyway. If I ran a bicycle-related magazine, I'd even put that copy opposite a full page ad for the product, so maybe I should reconsider putting ads on CycleDog. I'm only in it for the money!

If this doesn't work, I'll have to go to Plan D, which involves trying to take over the world, again. If any of you want to help, I'll send you the secret decoder ring that lets you see the current plan encrypted in today's episode of Pinky and the Brain. The rings are available for a small fee, of course.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

My take on Critical Mass...

Kiril – the Mad Macedonian – writes a blog called The Cycling Dude. In the last couple of days, he’s decided to speak out against Critical Mass, citing the political leanings of some CM apologists as his impetus. (As an aside, ya gotta love somebody who calls himself the Mad Macedonian! I wish I’d thought of that.)

This morning, Fritz of Cycle-licious fame, asked my opinion of CM. Here’s part of my reply:

...somehow I don't see cycling as advocating any particular political viewpoint. Sure, there are some who ride as a statement against Big Oil and consumerism, but there's a much larger group that rides simply for the fun of it, or the exercise, or to save money.

Later in the day, Kiril contacted me with more of his thoughts about CM. I won’t post them because they’re rather long, so here’s a link to the Mad Macedonian. This is my reply (lightly edited):

Kiril, you and I are at the opposite ends of the political spectrum, and I really don't have any problem with that. We're both cyclists, and that supercedes political interests. Who knows? We may even disagree about cycling, but if we can do so respectfully and without descending to personal attacks, our arguments are stronger. I may disagree vehemently with someone's ideas, but I rarely malign their character.

Like you, I find CM disagreeable in the coyness with which they approach their intent of disrupting traffic, disobeying the law, and just generally raising hell. But I'll admit there was a time in my life that I would have reveled in the anarchy. I'm older, and presumably, wiser now. If a group of motorists acted in a similar manner, no one would extend them any sympathy when the police arrested them. No one would accept their self-serving justification as mitigating the offense. Why should we treat cyclists any different?

The Chainguard site has a slogan: Same Rights, Same Rules, Same Road. When I wrote about CM earlier this week on the state advocacy list, I said:

What constitutes a critical mass of bicycle riders? Two riding side-by-side? A group of 4 or more riding two up? A bigger group? Or can a critical mass consist of just one cyclist riding legally and responsibly, thereby showing the motoring public it's entirely possible to negotiate traffic in safety and comfort?

I'm thinking about this from the standpoint of how many cyclists are necessary to have an impact on motorist's thoughts and behavior. I submit that a critical mass (lower case!) can consist of merely one law-abiding vehicular cyclist.

I don't think the simple act of riding a bicycle requires any political agenda, so in effect, I take a simple approach: I ride my bike because I like to ride my bike.

But there was a time I would have reveled in the anarchy of a CM ride. Blowing through intersections en masse and pissing off motorists would have been a cheap thrill. Does that really advance the cause of cyclists? If we believe in "Same Rights, Same Rules, Same Road" it certainly doesn't!

An individual or a group can be a critical mass simply by riding responsibly.

Kiril, I've been a road cyclist since 1972. I learned the hard way about riding on the road, and I my learning curve went way up when I took the Road1 and LCI course through the League of American Bicyclists. Riding a bicycle isn't a death-defying feat. Cyclists are not near-suicidal thrill seekers. Yet many of them are absolutely terrified of riding in traffic. I think CM represents an over reaction to that fear, and it's a chance to 'take revenge' against all those motorists whose transgressions are real or imagined. The unstated principle seems to be that unless cities do something to accommodate cyclists, then the anarchy will continue. In my opinion, even if a city were a cycling Mecca, the anarchy would continue. It's just too tempting to the yobs among us.

I became an instructor through that LCI class. We stress the importance of riding predictably in traffic. Traffic law is all about predictability. When anyone operates outside the norms, he creates problems for himself and others on the road. And when a cyclist’s fear causes him to ride unpredictably, he jeopardizes his safety instead of enhancing it.

Critical Mass is this same fearful behavior amplified by the number of cyclists. It won't produce positive change in government policies or motorists behavior. The most effective approach is to get involved in government. Sit in those boring committee meetings and pore over planning documents. The dull nuts-and-bolts approach clearly doesn't have the panache of raising hell in the street, yet it's a better way of producing results. And more to the point, it actually works.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Welcome to Middle Age...

In response to this - Welcome to middle age. If you get here without an 'interesting' medical history, you haven't lived enough - ItsJustMe wrote:

I've heard that a few times. I have to respectfully disagree, to some extent. I'm just starting into middle-aged at 42, so I may be speaking prematurely, but I really have no health concerns, no chronic pain, I take no meds, I do what I feel like and don't hurt the next day. I eat whatever I feel like, neither gain nor lose weight, and my blood numbers are all on the low side of nominal.

I feel at least as good now as I did when I was 20. I feel like I've been active and do everything I want; skiing, cycling, hiking, camping, etc. I've done my share of stupid stuff. I've never broken any bones, even with all the idiotic crud I did while growing up on a farm and climbing dangerous places.

Some people just are lucky in their combination of genetics and in picking the right dumb stuff to do that doesn't break limbs, or in just not being clumsy at the wrong time.

Reading around here, it seems I should go out and find something really stupid and dangerous to do so that I can have broken bones and chronic pain, because then I "will have lived."

While pain is certainly part of life, I don't think how much physical pain you've managed to dole out for yourself by a certain age is necessarily a good measure of how much you've enjoyed life so far.

Somtimes, I try to write something light and funny, but it falls flat.

I certainly wouldn't advocate that someone go out and do something both dangerous and stupid, just to have some good stories or interesting scars. It's true I have some dumb days, but never THAT dumb. I do have a bunch of interesting scars, though, and I can play the scar story game pretty well. Not that I could beat Quint in "Jaws" with his story about the Indianapolis.

Mary and I both live with chronic pain, hers due to an adult form of muscular dystrophy, mine mostly due to a car crash back in 1983. A teenage driver was showing off for his buddies, lost control, and slammed into my friend's car. I was in the passenger seat, the classic innocent bystander. Both legs and one arm were broken. I can forecast the weather pretty well these days!

I'm aching because of the front that went through here this morning. But the best part is that when I ride, the pain is gone. I feel best when I'm outside doing something. It could be a bike ride, a walk around the neighborhood, or doing yard chores. Even at work, I'm up and down from my chair, walking along my bench, and generally moving a lot to keep my muscles loose. I think that staying active is far more important than we realize. Mild activity helps push the pain aside. We all know people who performed hard manual labor right up until retirement. They stay mentally sharp and physically active as long as possible. My own uncle, for instance, is in his 80s and he could probably still work me into the ground.

There's a group I see riding past the maintenance base now and then. It's the Tulsa Bicycle Club, out for one of their weekday rides. There's a lot of gray hair in the bunch! They're mostly retirees who meet somewhere, ride out for lunch, and ride back. I've joined them on a few weekend rides. They're not fast, but they go out in all sorts of weather.

When I retire, I want to be able to do things like that, and the key to being active after retirement is to be active before retirement. Sure, I have some bad days when I'm aching and miserable, but on the whole, I feel better by riding or walking whenever possible. Too many of my co-workers have retired and sat on the couch, unable or unwilling to go out and be active. Some others have retired in order to do something they feel passionately about. I ran into one of those guys a few months ago. He said he doesn't know how he got anything done while he was still working. He's that busy!

So while I may whine and moan about these aches and pains, I wouldn't wish them on anyone. I'm almost always hurting somewhere, but the pain is something I've learned to live with. It usually responds to a little heat or ibuprofen. And it's not like I have many alternatives. Please don't take that as a statement of depressing resignation. Pain doesn't drag me down into depression. Its just something I have, an itch that I can't scratch.

Monday, November 14, 2005


There's another CycleDog out there somewhere. But it's not an old bicycling dog like me. It's dog food. Do a Google search and you'll find it quickly.

Now it would be nice if there were a CycleDog energy bar, a sports drink, and maybe some other products proudly emblazoned with that cartoon of my face. I won't hold my breath, though. And I was going to say that it would be doubly nice if the products were suitable for both people and dogs, but I know from experience that dogs view most 'people food' as a special treat. Mollie, my Springer Spaniel, liked chocolate chip cookies, Italian bread, and even sauerkraut! I tried to understand her fascination with Milk Bones by trying one. Believe me, Milk Bones will never be a popular supplement for cyclists. They're only a little harder to chew than a Power Bar, but at least a Power Bar can be used for an emergency tire patch.

I'm fond of telling people that my bike runs well on beer and Italian food. And although I write about beer a lot, I really can't drink much of it. Years ago, I was diagnosed with pseudo-gout, a condition aggravated by the proteins found in beer, red wine, red meat, and cheese. Trust me, pain is an excellent behavior modifier! If I over-indulge, my hands, knees, and big toes provide some truly excruciating pain.

Welcome to middle age. If you get here without an 'interesting' medical history, you haven't lived enough.

Getting regular exercise provides one bright spot. My body needs more protein, so that allows me to eat just a little more of the things I love. Still, a week or two off the bike due to bad winter weather, and my knee swells up like a football. Or at least that's how it feels.

My doctor says that having a drink at my age is actually a good thing. The alcohol is a diuretic, too, and that reduces my blood pressure. I certainly don't need the calories, but there's no way I'm going to drink 'lite' beer. If I have to limit my intake, I want good stuff! Diet beer need not apply.

My beverage of choice these days is coffee. I’ll have two strong cuppas in the morning, and sometimes another in the afternoon. When I get home, it’s usually a cup of decaf after dinner or after an especially cold ride. Again, the doc told me to limit my intake of caffeine, so just like beer, I want the good stuff. Lately that’s been French or Italian roast because I like the intense flavor. And one side effect of the longer roasting is that these coffees have less caffeine.

Our bodies run on carbohydrates. Sure, the latest diet fad is 'low-carb' everything, but for cyclists, carbs are like gasoline. We can eat pasta, rice, and potatoes as basic fuel. They're the long-burning sort. Sugars are short-burns. Most of the sugars found in fruits are the quickest energy sources. If I recall right, glucose can be used directly and fructose almost as quickly. Common table sugar is sucrose and it takes just a little longer to kick in because the body has to do some chemical tinkering first. Regardless, it's a faster energy source than the complex carbs in a bagel, for instance.

I'm fond of Italian food, but I like Mexican and Chinese too. Actually, I like pretty much anything, and that was one of the problems. I ate entirely too much. One reason for getting back into cycling was to lose some weight, and I've done that mostly through mild exercise and watching the portions on my dinner plate.

For instance, Mary made King Ranch Chicken tonight. It’s chicken, veggies, and cheese over tortilla chips. Granted, it’s probably off the chart with sodium and fat, so the best approach is to limit my portion. But I don’t WANT to do that! I want to eat and eat and eat until I’m full and sleepy.

And that’s exactly how I got up to 245 pounds.

In the kitchen just now, Jordan was getting himself a large second helping. At fifteen, he can afford to eat like that. The kid’s a bottomless pit for food! But he’s growing rapidly too, so I can’t complain. He offered to put more on my plate, but I controlled my greedy little appetite.

I can hear the ice cream singing from the freezer. Was it Odysseus who had himself lashed to the mast so he could hear the Sirens song? I could lash myself to the couch, but Mary would probably think I was getting weird again.

Oklahoma weather...

Thomas said:

Geez, you make me feel like a real wuss! I was just complaining this a.m. that it was foggy and 56-ish with some light mist on my morning commute. You northeast riders are tough. ZERO F? I am inspired.

What makes me crazy here in Oklahoma is the constantly changing weather. Honestly, we had record highs last week at almost 90F! A few days before that, it was just above freezing. My body has a hard time acclimating.

Once, I told my mother-in-law that I'd been out for a ride wearing shorts in January. She's still in Pennsylvania. "Oh, you could do that up here!" she said.

"Right!" I replied,"And they'll find my body when the snow melts!"

When I lived in NW Pennsylvania, the temperature would often drop below freezing at Christmas and stay there for weeks at a time. I adapted to that, and frankly, it was much nicer than the 'pig weather' of late autumn or early spring. November could be cold and wet, and when it hovered just above freezing, the chill reached to the bone! Colder temperatures were more comfortable because the air was dry.

It seems strange, but the best days I spent outdoors in the winter were on cross country skis or my ratty track bike. A calm, sunny day on hard packed snow with the temperature in the 20s is something every cyclist should experience. The air is crisp and clean. There's so little humidity that distant objects are clearly visible. The sound of a dog barking carries a long way, and the smell of wood smoke even farther.

I don't miss the pig weather, though that's what a normal Oklahoma winter is like. We don't get much snow here, but we do get ice storms and I will not ride in those conditions. I'm not afraid of falling or slithering around. I'm afraid of the Oklahoma drivers who go into a complete panic at the sight of snow or ice. Body shops and tow trucks do a brisk business when it gets nasty. Fender benders are so common, the police won't come to investigate one unless it involves a drunk driver or a city vehicle. The drivers are supposed to go to any local convenience store, fill out an accident report, and mail it in. If they need a ticket, the city will mail it to them. I am not making this up!

I learned to drive in snow and ice. To many who drive in such conditions up north, the behavior of Oklahoma motorists in a snow storm is mostly comical. People drive as if the laws of physics do not apply in their special case. As a result, every intersection has a wreck. Every ditch has a car or two at the bottom. Even straight stretches of road have cars off in the ditch as drivers either lose control crossing an iced-over bridge, or they have to swerve to avoid someone who's just turned a car into a hockey puck.

Would you want to ride a bicycle in those conditions?

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm still a little crazed. I took my pseudo-cyclocross bike out one afternoon as the rain was turning to snow. I rode out east to a park with some paved trail and a lot of mud. The streets were just starting to get slushy as I came home. I was wet and filthy. Mud stuck in clumps to my legs and back. The bike was an unrecognizable mess. But I had a very good time. Motorists stayed well away, giving me ample space on the road. They knew a maniac when they saw one!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Winter riding...

Winter Riding Skills.

I’ve spent a little time sitting on the pavement wondering. One moment I was riding along just fine, and in the next second I was skittering along an icy road on my butt. What happened?

I rode regularly through the winter when I lived in Pittsburgh, PA, partly in desperation from cabin fever, and partly as a result of the guilt I felt from all that holiday over-eating. I rode in rain, wet and dry snow, slush, ice, and sleet. Pittsburgh had a lot of trolley tracks and Belgian block streets (think of them as biggie-sized cobblestones) all of them treacherous in the wet. Belgian blocks are especially dangerous in icy or wet conditions due to their rounded tops.

My commute usually went along arterial streets because they were direct and fast. But I had another route for really foul weather that meandered through side streets and alleys. It worked well for most bad weather, until we had an ice storm overnight and I tried to ride the Belgian blocks. Traction was an iffy thing. That morning I rode out onto them and fell immediately. I tried to stand up and my feet shot out from under me! Down on the street again, I heard a woman behind me laughing at my predicament. Then she stepped off the sidewalk onto the cobbles, and she went down too! We ended up crawling off the street. It was the only way to go.

Wet snow and slush offer about as much traction as wet pavement, but they tend to accumulate on the brakes, frame, and derailleurs, eventually freezing the mechanisms. Fenders help some, but they clog with ice too. I kept cheap derailleurs for winter conditions and swapped them for my good ones when spring arrived. A liberal application of WD-40 helps to prevent ice build up, but it isn’t a cure all. Eventually, I started riding a fixed gear that required little maintenance, a solution I returned to last winter. I highly recommend a low-geared fixie for winter riding. A low gear means slower speeds and less wind chill. Also, since you're pedaling constantly, you stay much warmer than you do on a geared bike.

Deep snow is much like riding in sand. It’s hard going and the front tire tends to slip sideways when turning. The tire compresses a layer of snow as it travels forward, then slides down and to the side as it turns left or right. This is disconcerting even at low speed. I never tried it going fast.

My favorite was dry, hard-packed snow. It gives almost as much traction as dry pavement, but you still have to be careful at intersections because the heat from car engines can melt the surface slightly, causing a glassy, wet ice that is very slick.

Curiously, motorists seem more courteous toward cyclists brave enough to face truly harsh conditions, even when they’re traveling in the only available space – a tire track through the snow and slush. Maybe drivers think that anyone riding a bike in that kind of weather has to be a little crazed in the first place. But in Oklahoma I hesitate to ride in traffic on snow covered or icy roads. Motorists here have too little experience of such conditions, and they make too many mistakes.

Staying warm.

I usually don't have a problem with cold hands or feet in the winter. I'm a big guy at 210 pounds, but let's be kind and call it 'thermally efficient'.

It's easier to maintain summer’s hard-won fitness rather than being forced to re-gain it in the spring. You can do it by riding through the winter. Gathering the necessary clothing is not terribly expensive and it's certainly more fun than being in the gym. You probably have most of clothes already, but a couple of additional items make the difference between a chilly ride and a comfortable one.

The key to winter riding comfort is layers. Multiple, thin layers provide both warmth and versatility.

The first layer against your skin should have good wicking capabilities. Polypropylene, silk, or wool are all good choices. Even cotton long underwear will help, provided you don't get wet from rain or perspiration. Cotton doesn't insulate when wet.

The mid-layer provides most of the insulation, and in general it should be a synthetic. Vests, synthetic sweaters, and even cotton sweatshirts (within limitations) will work here.

The outer layer provides wind and rain protection. Gore-tex is nice, but it's pricey and frankly I've never used it. I stick with simple windbreakers.

Ok, here's my kit at temperatures in the 60s: Shorts, jersey, long-sleeved poly shirt, arm warmers, and the ever-present doo-rag. It offers some versatility. If there's a strong headwind, the arm warmers stay on. If there's a strong tail wind, they come off and the long sleeves get rolled up. Think of the arms as your radiators, 'cause I'll be coming back to this. Socks are almost always CoolMax or wool.

With 10 degree temperature drop, I'll add tights, full gloves and a wind breaker. Again, windbreaker and gloves are optional depending on the wind. Also, I'm partial to the double-fronted, bib type tights. They're more expensive, but they last a long time, and they provide more warmth. The tights are the only expensive items I have for winter rides.

In the 40s, I add a skull cap under my helmet and a vest, and sometimes a neck gator, depending on the wind.

Below 40, I substitute a wind-blocking balaclava for the skull cap, substitute a sweater for the vest, and wear ski gloves rather than thin cycling gloves or work gloves. And I switch to heavier wool socks.

My temperature limit these days is a little below freezing, though I've ridden to work when it was 18F once. The cold is hard on my knees.

If you're comfy and warm before you start the ride, you'll be roasting after you warm up. (I once made the mistake of wearing a heavy down parka while cross country skiing. It turned into a sauna at 10°F!) The trick is to learn to judge just what you'll need at that point, and put up with feeling a little chilly for the first couple of miles. As I've gotten older, I prefer staying a little warmer than necessary, so I shed a layer into my seatbag or a pannier. There's a climber's adage—it's easier to stay warm than it is to get warm—and I live by that in the winter!

A couple of other points: If your hands and feet get cold, wear a hat. If I recall right, 25% of your blood flow is through the head, making it an effective radiator. Also, think of your torso as the furnace and your extremities as radiators. Keeping the torso warm (with a vest, for example) forces the body to try to dump excess heat by putting more blood out to the extremities. This is an effective way to prevent cold-induced
cramps too.

Another comfort item for cold morning rides is a vacuum-insulated stainless steel water bottle filled with strong coffee or cappuccino. Believe me, a hot drink can be very welcome!

One last thing: You’ll find you ride more slowly in the winter. This is probably due to the extra clothing and the related drag, but riding slower is a good thing in itself. It reduces the windchill effect unless you’re riding into a ferocious headwind. Be kind to your knees and spin. Save that hard-earned fitness from summer, and plan on being tougher and faster next spring. Be kind to your bike too. Stay on top of drivetrain maintenance, paying special attention to cleaning and lubricating your chain regularly. For that matter, consider riding a single speed (or even a fixed gear for the truly crazed!) and save your ‘good’ bike for summer.

Have fun! This is a great time of the year to ride!

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Warning: Driving Kills

Here's another cars-as-public-health-menace piece, this time from AlterNet. I really like reading AlterNet because it collects a bunch of liberal viewpoints on one page, similar to Bloglines.......Ed

Warning: Driving Kills

By Andrew Simms, Resurgence. Posted November 12, 2005.


"Cars cover and suffocate our lives but somehow their dominance is also strangely invisible. Our unique adaptability as a species has enabled us to acclimatize to their staggering "everywhereness," and not see it as odd. Were the car a disease it would be an epidemic. Yet, spellbound, we embrace the great destroyer and design our lives, communities and countryside around it. We welcome cars into our lives when, rationally, we should be emblazoning them with public health warnings in the same style as cigarette packets. Driving can seriously damage your health, or Driving Kills."

I'm not anti-car. I own and drive a '96 Ford Contour when I can pry the keys from my seventeen-year-old daughter's clenched fist. But I honestly prefer a bicycle for personal transportation. In the wilds of suburbia, that's not always the best choice when I have to get the whole family somewhere or if there's a lot of stuff to haul, like groceries.

Since I make a living as a kind of mechanic, I'm fond of using a tool analogy - use the right tool for the job. When time is limited, there's a number of people to move, or if there's a big load to carry - use a motor vehicle. But when I need to get myself to work, make a library run, or go out for coffee, I choose the bike. Sometimes I walk to the grocery for those milk-and-bread-and-eggs errands.

My friend Sandra calls this being car-lite rather than car free. It's an apt description.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Build it, and they still won’t come.

Bike lane advocates like to use the argument that if only bike lanes were available between X and Y, many more people would use bicycles for recreation and transportation. They greatly fear riding in traffic. They’re afraid of all those motorists and all those cars. If only bike lanes were available, riding would be so much safer.


Instead of trying to lure hypothetical cyclists up off their couches and onto the roads, maybe we should be concentrating on existing riders, real cyclists who use our roads every day. Imaginary ones are OK if you’re playing computer games, but real cyclists need real solutions to real problems.

Nationally, we’ve spent ever-increasing amounts on bicycle facilities like bike lanes and linear parks with multi-use trails, yet the number of adult cyclists has remained relatively flat. The bike lane advocates would have us believe that if only we spent more money, the masses would give up their cars and use bicycles at least some of the time.

Fritz of Cycle-licious fame, rode in Austin, Texas over one weekend. His observations are hardly a scientific survey, yet they speak volumes about the state of cycling in Lance Armstrong’s hometown. Fritz wrote:

With two exceptions, every cyclist I saw was riding on the sidewalk, even roadies in full road kit and a whole pack of sweaty mountain bikers with hydration packs, helmets, and high-end full suspension bikes. Where do you need full suspension in Austin? The first exception was a recreational cyclist on a road bike. The other exception was a Latino going the wrong way and hugging the fogline.

I know a couple of people who say they really need to get out there on their bikes, if only for the exercise. They talk a good fight, but when it comes time to throw a leg over the bike and head out the door, they always have some more pressing business. As a result, the bikes gather dust. The tires go flat and they get pushed to the back of the garage or the shed.

We all know the ‘if only’ crowd. They’re the people who would ride more if only:
- There were a bike lane from the front door to every possible destination.
- Showers were available at work.
- Bicycling didn’t require so much effort.
- Flat tires were an impossibility.
- There were no headwinds, no rain, no cold winter days, or hot summer days.
- Covered, secure parking was available.
- Motorists weren’t so rude.
- Cyclists didn’t look silly, or worse yet, like poor people.
- Local dogs didn’t see them as prey animals.

The list is endless. Guess what? The ‘if only’ crowd will NEVER ride bicycles regardless of the amenities we put in front of them. So why pander to these hypothetical cyclists? At best, they’ll put their bikes on the back of some enormous SUV, drive to a trailhead, and then ride around in circles. They ride for recreation and couldn’t care less about road rights or vehicular cycling because they never intend to ride on the road. Yet facilities advocates would have the bulk of the transportation enhancement funds spent to please such recreational cyclists.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not against cycling as recreation. It’s a wonderful way to spend a pleasant afternoon. What I oppose is the idea of spending most TE money to benefit just those cyclists who are terrified of traffic. Parks are lovely amenities, but they’re hardly a transportation facility. Why spend transportation money on them?

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Truly specialized bicycle tools...

The subject of bicycle tools and basic repairs came up on one of the elists. I started thinking about not only the basic tools, but some of the more exotic ones that I've acquired over the years. This usually happens because I'm faced with a job that I need another tool to perform. Some of these tools are used once or twice, only to sit at the bottom of the tool box for months or years. Other tools are absolutely essential. I use them again and again, seldom getting through a week without having them in hand.

Here's my list. Compare it with the off-beat tools you've accumulated.

Shop apron - never work on your bike while naked. Trust me on this one. Paint can be very difficult to remove from some areas, and solvents can be extremely painful.

Flippin' tire levers and safety glasses. Sold as a set of 3 tire levers and one pair of safety glasses, for those times when a tire lever simply will not stay attached to the wheel, springs free, and goes zipping past your head.

Antipodean screwdriver - Available in the Southern hemisphere only - Due to the Earth's rotation, right-hand threaded fasteners tend to come loose in the Southern hemisphere. This specially designed screwdriver prevents these mishaps.

Toque wrench - Essential tool for adjusting and retaining headwear. Available in Canada only.

WD40 can protector. A protective device that fits around a can of WD40 or similar lubricant, and prevents embarassing stains on the front of your trousers when you try to insert the red spray tube into the nozzle, slip, and shoot lubricant everywhere. Of course, the little red tube goes flying off somewhere never to be seen again.

A bunch of little red tubes for WD40 and similar lubricants. Do try to remember where you put them.

Archimedes lever. Very long carrying case included. Another essential tool for removing stubborn freewheels and bottom bracket cups, or nudging the planet slightly.

Metric adjustable wrench - a specialized bicycle tool, indispensable to the home mechanic and generally available only through authorized dealers.

Liquid Wench - Best exemplified by, "Honey! Get me a beer!" Use with care, and don't EVER call her a wench (if she's within earshot, anyway, not if you really want that beer.)

Solvents: Highly recommended: Rolling Rock solvent, Guinness solvent, and Jack Daniels solvent. Sometimes used in conjunction with Liquid Wench.

Loctite - a lubricant for an annoying rider's U-lock

Tire tick repellent - prevents infestations of Vittoria beetles, commonly called tire ticks. Left unchecked, Vittoria beetles will suck all the air from your tires.

Frame borer beetle repellant. These tiny insects eat holes through frame tubes. Infestations normally appear to be rust holes.

Toolbox gnome swatter - Similar to underpants gnomes, toolbox gnomes are responsible for most misplaced tools. You discover some critical tool has gone missing after just setting it down a minute ago, but it turns up 6 months later under the living room couch.

Instant Gunk spray - for those guys you ride with who have absolutely pristine bikes. It dulls the finish, adds clumps of sticky gunk to the chain, chainrings, and cluster, makes tires go lumpy, and unravels handlebar tape.

Masi-o-meter - capable of detecting genuine Masi's in order to prevent the purchase of a counterfeit. Can be fitted with the optional "Italophile detector" which provides the builder's name, age, period of employment, mother's maiden name, favorite foods, and a long, boring anecdote that only truly anal bicycle collectors find interesting.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Who was that masked man?

Did you ever walk by someone and think, “Gosh! I know that person from somewhere, but I just can’t figure out where!” It’s happened to me a couple of times. And it’s always someone I’ve been riding with recently. Without the sunglasses and helmets, we hardly recognize each other!

Fritz, over on Cycle-licious, says he’s a One Man Crime Spree. His post provided the spark for this one.

I’ve been thinking about a piece of street theater – and no, it’s not the idea of issuing everyone on a group ride a toy Uzi submachine gun again – this is different.

We have ozone alerts here during the summer. Local residents are advised to limit driving, refrain from cutting the grass or weed eating, and otherwise reduce their usage of fossil fuels until the weather pattern changes. We get a ‘bubble’ of stagnant air that traps pollutants. Fortunately, Tulsa has remained in compliance.

Naturally, one of the recommendations is to use some form of public transportation, walk, or bicycle to work. You’d think that polluted air isn’t the best for a cyclist. So I started thinking about respirators.

I use a dual cartridge respirator at work for handling some paints and solvents. This one is designed to prevent inhalation of pesticides too, I think. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to wear one of these in traffic? Let’s see, helmet, respirator, and some of those goggle-type sunglasses, and I’d have a strong resemblance to Darth Vader! Now, if only I had a gravely voice like James Earl Jones, it would be perfect!

Once it gets truly cold here, I could wear a stretch balaclava or one of those neoprene facemasks instead of a respirator.

Think of the effect on motorists! Here’s a guy in the next lane crazy enough to ride in cold weather while looking like a neon version of a Star Wars storm trooper. Would you mess with him?

It would be difficult to drink from a water bottle or shoot snot rockets, but it might be worth it!

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Impeding traffic: The Selz decision

Last summer, a county sheriff's deputy told me he could have charged me with impeding traffic here in Oklahoma. (See A First! - 11AUG05) As it turned out, the impeding traffic law applies specifically to motor vehicles. Bicycles are 'devices propelled by human power' or some similar language.

But this piece from Velonews is about Steven Selz. It was written by his attorney, Steve Magas. It is well worth reading in it's entirety if you have an interest in bicycling advocacy.

Excerpts follow:

Legally Speaking - with Bob Mionske: You gotta fight for your right to slooooow down

By Robert Mionske JD

This report filed January 30, 2004

Dear Readers,
In this weeks column I have chosen to highlight a critical bicycle rights case handled by fellow "bike attorney" Steve Magas. I am including Steve's personal account of this important case for cyclists throughout the U.S. in its entirety.

Dear Bob,
In the summer of 1999 I was asked to become involved in the case of a young man who had received a traffic ticket for "impeding traffic" in Trotwood, Ohio. Little did I know that the case would ultimately garner international intention, cause countless e-mails to be sent to the City of Trotwood, and generate an appellate court ruling that is extremely favorable to the nation's cyclists!

On May 14, 2001, the court of appeals decision in the case of Trotwood v. Selz was officially "published" in Ohio's law books. Virtually every lawyer in the State of Ohio had the decision on their desks with the other cases published on May 14. However, more importantly, publication of the case greatly increases its precedential value to future cyclists who wish to challenge traffic citations.

...The Prosecutor argued that, in essence, if you can't go 45mph on Salem Avenue, you should not ride on the road. The argument was that it was "absurd" for bicycle operators to be allowed to "impede traffic" because they can only go "...ten, fifteen, twenty, whatever, miles per hour and therefore become a danger to himself..." This concept of "protecting" the poor bicycle operator came through loud and clear from both the Prosecutor and the Court!

...I understand that the City of Trotwood was virtually inundated with e-mails about the case. There were various versions of "the facts" now floating around. The OBF paid for the trial transcript and we published that on the OBF website. I openly invited comments, criticism and ideas for the appeal and received dozens of emails, mostly friendly, about the case.

...On October 20, 2000, the Court of Appeals released its decision - a victory for Steven Selz. The court found a case in Georgia involving a slow moving farm combine. In that case, the Georgia court found that operator of a slow moving vehicle, which was traveling at or near its top speed, could not be convicted of "impeding traffic" under a similar law. The Court of Appeals compared the Georgia case to this one and stated:

In either case, holding the operator to have violated the slow speed statute would be tantamount to excluding operators of these vehicles from the public roadways, something that each legislative authority, respectively, has not clearly expressed an intention to do.
Publication of the court's decision on May 14, 2001 gives the opinion increased importance and precedential value. Virtually every lawyer in Ohio had the opportunity to take a look at it when it hit his or her desk.
Good riding,
Steve Magas

Our legal right to bicycle on the roadways should never be taken for granted or it may, one day, be taken away. Steve Magas should be commended for devoting his legal expertise on behalf of cyclists everywhere. Steve practices law in Ohio and can be reached at
Good luck,

Friday, November 04, 2005

BikeTexas and TxDOT Work to Repeal Bike Bans (UPDATE)

(Fritz over on Cycle-licious said he's ridden these roads and they're popular cycling routes....Ed)

BikeTexas and TxDOT Work to Repeal Bike Bans

In recent months, BikeTexas members informed Texas Bicycle Coalition of two bicycle bans in north Texas. Texas Bicycle Coalition has been working with the Office of General Counsel of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) regarding these issues.

The bike bans are posted on FM 455 in Anna in Collin County and on Keller-Smithfield Road, just off FM 1709, in Keller in Tarrant County.

Coalition staff is encouraged by the TxDOT general counsel’s opinion that there appears to be little basis in the transportation code for bicycle bans by municipalities. In fact, a 1989 opinion (Opinion No. JM-1109) from the Attorney General of Texas determined that municipalities do not have the authority to prohibit bicycles from operating on a state roadway, except within specific special circumstances including limited-access or controlled-access highways.

Both bike bans are on state-maintained roads. TxDOT is aware of the bans and upper management is considering the options.

It is very important to Texas Bicycle Coalition leadership and members that this issue be quickly resolved so no precedent is set. The Coalition has consulted with private attorneys and may consider legal action on behalf of Texas cyclists if these cities do not repeal the bike bans.

Community Cycling Project feedback

(Sandra sent this to the local advocacy group yesterday. I like it because it's an example of the best kind of bicycling advocacy - changing one mind at a time....Ed)

The letter below is from Kenneth Dodd (July 30, 2005 CCP Class taught by Brian, Gary and Ed with help from Tom). I received a call earlier this week from his case worker inquiring about getting a replacement head light for Kenneth. We have some extras here so I dropped one off on my way home on Monday. I received this letter today:


Dear Sandra,

I am writing to thank you all for the training and safety equipment. I was turning right, into my lane when a car apparently did not see me. The car turned sharply inside of me causing me to do the emergency sharp turn that I learned in your program. This emergency sharp turn saved me from being hit by the car, but I did hit the center divider that was curb high. My wheels hit the curb as I was pulling out of the quick turn, and this caused the bike to slam to my left throwing me into on-coming traffic. I suffered one cracked rib and tore a ligament in my right shoulder. However, because of the safety equipment you provided, (safety helmet) I was spared a certain injury to my head. I was able to walk away from this accident.

Thank you for the safety training, and the safety equipment. It played a critical role in accident avoidance and having a injury free head. Every since then I have often thought of your training.

Kenneth Dodd

P.S. Thank you for replacing the head light I broke during this fall.

Kenneth Dodd

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Kids say the darndest things!

I was riding home from work on Monday. A front went though in the afternoon. The temperature dropped and the wind came around from the north at 20-30 miles per hour. Naturally, I faced a headwind almost all the way home. About a mile from the house, I was pretty well cooked.

When I stopped at a red light on 86th Street, two teenage kids approached, walking on the sidewalk. They saw me standing in the center of the lane, waiting for the light to change.

"Hey! What are you doing in the middle of the road!" one yelled.

"Just going home from work, like everyone else", I replied.

"You're gonna get hit by a car riding like that!"

"No. I won't."

The light changed, and I rode off.

Kids only parrot what they've been told, and I've encountered kids like this before. The level of misinformation and outright lies about cycling is astounding. And it's difficult to counter when I'm waiting at a red light. Kids and adults believe that riding a bicycle on the road is an incredibly dangerous pursuit best left to those with a death-wish.

A few years ago, I was waiting for my son outside the elementary school. I worked an earlier shift then, just so I could meet him at the door at the end of the day. One of the fifth-graders told me with the certainty of the very young that I shouldn't ride my bike on the road. "It's too dangerous!" she said. "My MOM said so!" That settled it as far as she was concerned.

When these kids start driving, we'll have another bumper crop of totally clueless motorists telling us what's best for our safety.

Oh, the joy.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Will they never stand up to the carmakers and save our lungs?

Following close on the heels of James' post (GO READ THIS!, Monday, Oct 31), here's a piece from George Monbiot of the Guardian, a UK newspaper. He looks at the relationship between motor traffic and some public health issues. Could we be seeing a theme here? Are motor vehicles and their emissions a genuine public health hazard? If so, should we expect the medical community and more importantly, the health insurance industry, to get involved in cleaning up our air? And it truly is OUR air!

Link to original article.

(Excerpts follow)

Will they never stand up to the carmakers and save our lungs?

Air pollution kills many times more people than passive smoking, but Britain has failed even to meet feeble EU standards

George Monbiot
Tuesday November 1, 2005
The Guardian

It was fudged - stupidly and unnecessarily fudged - but at least they tried. The ban on smoking in pubs, though gutted by the prime minister's cowardice, will save some fraction of the bar staff who die every year as a result of passive smoking. The moral case is clear: people are being exposed to a risk for which they have not volunteered. While smokers have an undisputed right to kill themselves, they have no right to kill other people. This case being generally applicable, what does the government intend to do about passive driving?

...Since the great smog of 1952 forced the government to legislate, since coal gave way to gas and factories fitted filters to their chimneys, acute pollution crises of the kind which once killed thousands in a couple of days have not recurred. (Our nostalgia for the London peasouper, like the uproar over the disappearance of the Routemaster bus, betrays one of our national weaknesses: a romantic attachment to pollution.) Between 1992 and 2000, traffic fumes fell steeply. But in 2000 the decline in the most dangerous pollutant - small particles of soot - came to a halt. Since then the levels have held more or less steady (with a spike in the hot summer of 2003). The British government is in breach of European rules, and the European commission is in breach of any serious effort to do something about it. So 39,000 lives are shortened every year.

Surprisingly, passive driving strikes mostly at the heart, not the lungs. The effect is not clearly understood....a study of 4,000 children in Munich showed that those who lived within 50 metres of busy roads were twice as likely to suffer from asthma, and suffered more from coughing, wheezing and allergies. A massive study in Taiwan - involving 300,000 children - found that those exposed to the heaviest traffic pollution were 16% more likely to suffer from allergic rhinitis (hayfever, housedust allergy and the like). The most carcinogenic compound ever detected - 3-nitrobenzanthrone - is produced by heavily loaded diesel engines. Like the other cancer-causing molecules they emit, it is released in very small quantities, and no one yet knows what effect it might have.

...As a cyclist, these failures drive me berserk. I refuse to own a car, partly because I believe it is wrong to fill other people's lungs with carcinogens. And so, while the drivers breathe their filtered air, I have to sit behind their tailpipes, drawing their excretions - for I am exerting myself - deep into my chest.

...At least the bar staff can, though perhaps at the cost of unemployment, withdraw their labour from the cancer market, but what choice do I have, or does anyone have, short of living in an oxygen tent? Why, in this age of particulate filters and hypercars, do I have to fill my lungs with every known species of airborne fug whenever I go to buy a pint of milk? Is it so hard for a government, which seems determined to offend the entire voting public with its assaults on schools and hospitals, to stand up to a handful of motor manufacturers who no longer even operate here? Or must we believe that public health in the UK takes second place to the profits of foreign corporations?