Saturday, April 29, 2006

Surfin’ Safari

It rained here yesterday. We had nearly continuous light to moderate rainfall interspersed with bands of heavy downpours. I watched it on the radar console at work, hoping that I’d get a short break between those heavy bands for my ride home. I was lucky. It was a wet ride, but at least it wasn’t cold.

I’d had the foresight to put a rain jacket in my pannier along with a pair of full-fingered gloves and my windbreaker. The temperature was about 60F (15C) with the wind out of the east. My rule-of-thumb is to add an extra layer under the rain jacket. I don’t mind getting wet if I can stay warm.

Sure enough, within the first mile I was very wet. The rain soaked my bandana under the helmet. My shoes and shorts were wet, but the Centurion’s fenders kept most of the grime at bay.

I rode north, thinking about the huge puddle that forms at the first railroad crossing. The crossing is at an angle, so I have to zigzag to cross it safely even when it’s dry. In the wet, it’s more treacherous. The puddle forms every time it rains, or when the lawn sprinklers are on at the business next to the road. It complicates the crossing slightly, requiring an extra zigzag.

So I was spinning along, looking at traffic and thinking about the upcoming maneuver. I forgot about another, smaller dip that collected a puddle. That is, I forgot about it until I was almost on it. Just then, a pickup swung over the centerline to pass. It threw up a wall of water, a tsunami that crashed right down over my head! The shock woke me up better than any cup of coffee! Maybe he was being a dick. Maybe it was inadvertent. Regardless, all I could do was laugh. I was already soaked so what’s a little more water?

I could have ridden that wave all the way home. Naturally, that gave rise to a tune in my head that matched the pedal tempo.

We’ll all be gone for the summer,
We’re on safari to stay.
Tell the teacher we’re surfin’
Surfin’ USA.………….the Beach Boys

Sometimes, riding in the rain can be a lot of fun!

Friday, April 28, 2006

Seventh Sense...revisited

This really does involve that 'seventh sense' I wrote about earlier this week. Now, here in America, everyone is entitled to an opinion, yet I get the feeling that if an infinite number of monkeys sat in front of an infinite number of typewriters it's entirely possible that they'd write the complete works of Shakespeare. But first I suspect they'd stumble across blogging.

In a country that claims to celebrate individuality and freedom of choice, there's huge social pressure to conform, to become part of the herd, and to think, act, dress, and behave identically to every other herd member. This guy would have us believe that the socially responsible among us would give up our bikes for automobiles, if only to avoid inconveniencing motorists.

Perhaps it's not going to come as a surprise that he has comments turned off.

A Practical Alternative to the Bicycle

As I was stuck in yet another line of traffic this morning, I couldn't help thinking "Wow, if only this fucking moron riding a bike was familiar with the work of Henry Ford*"

You see the motor car is a practical, environment friendly alternative to a bicycle, and yet this clutz with his shiny yellow jacket is completely unaware and is ruining mine and everyone else's journey to work. If only someone would tell him.

"GET A CAR" I scream as I finally fight past him. Nothing. Too stupid, doesn't understand.

You see instead of riding a bicycle, getting in the way of all the vehicles that are paying road tax, forcing them to constantly stop and start and burn more fuel than they should have to, causing pollution and creating a huge congestion problem, these people could actually use the very mode of transport that they are getting in the way of. The car.

Riding a bicycle does not ease congestion, it makes it worse. It does not reduce pollution, it increases it. All bikes do is stop traffic flowing, they create more pollution by forcing cars to constantly brake and accelerate, cause accidents that cost lives, and ultimately get where they were going slower, scruffier, and one hundred times stupider than those people who did the decent thing and got in a fucking car and drove there.

There's more, but why bother? I'll muster as much feigned sincerity as I can and say, "I feel your pain."

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Seventh Sense

The Seventh Sense

“I see stoopid people!”

Sometimes I’m tempted to give up on trying to persuade or educate people. Those are the bad days. Sarcasm and sheer viciousness win out over my usual sunny nature. I’m a regular Pollyanna…with a switchblade in my pocket.

Cyclists meet an astounding collection of mouth breathers on our roads, people who must have received a driver’s license as a prize in a box of cereal. Surely they couldn’t have passed any sort of test! I’m talking about those who seem to believe that in their personal universe the laws of physics do not apply. The motor vehicle code is merely a list of suggestions. For that matter, motor vehicle laws are whatever enters their thoughts at the moment, sort of a psychic approach to legal issues.

“Get up on the sidewalk!” What cyclist hasn’t heard this one? It’s common here in Oklahoma too, except that I’ve had people yell that when there isn’t actually a sidewalk anywhere nearby. In fact, there may not be a sidewalk for miles. It makes me wonder just what they’re seeing out that side window. Oklahoma does have a reputation as one of the methamphetamine capitols of the country, after all.

“You need to ride your bike on some road that doesn’t have cars!” Just where would that imaginary road be, I wonder? And would it have sidewalks? Maybe I should just imagine myself riding there.

“There’s cars behind you!” I never knew that there could be cars behind me. Honest. I expected that I could travel on public roads and never encounter a motor vehicle of any sort. It was a rude shock to discover that I had to share the road with them.

On a morning commute, a UPS driver nearly pulled out in front of me from a side street on my left. I was turning into that street at the time. “Look first!” I yelled. “I did!” he yelled back. I know, I know. It’s easy to miss a 200-pound cyclist in a bright yellow windbreaker when he’s only fifty feet away.

“Young man, you shouldn’t be more than eighteen inches from the curb!” This was from an elderly gentleman and his wife as I waited to make a left turn at a signalized intersection. How could I make a left turn if I were only eighteen inches from the curb? I liked the ‘young man’ bit, though.

“You ought to wait until they build some bike lanes before riding out here!” I won’t hold my breath. My town will build bikelanes just after all the Baptists parade naked down on Main Street. Not that I’d want them, anyway. Bike lanes, that is, not naked Baptists. Oh, never mind.

One co-worker said that cyclists shouldn’t be on the roads because it’s too difficult to pass them in narrow lanes. I suggested that if he couldn’t figure out how to pass something as small and slow as a bicycle, he probably shouldn’t be behind the wheel in the first place. He was genuinely angry at the suggestion! His wife has totaled three cars. She’s still driving, but it’s the CYCLISTS who are the road-going menace?

It’s hard to maintain my sunny disposition while fingering the edge of that knife.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Eeeww! I feel so….decadent!

Gasp! I drove the car today. The chorus is leaving for DC this morning. I had to get Lyndsay and her baggage over to the high school. This required nagging her about leaving on time and almost required prying her away from the mirror that traps her every morning.

A word about teenage girls and baggage is in order, too. She was allowed one suitcase. It’s about the size of a steamer trunk and was seemingly filled with building materials. I may have to visit a doctor after lifting that thing. It’s a five-day trip and I believe she took a hundred and forty seven pairs of shoes. Her carry-on and purse are roughly the same size, big enough to conceal a SMALL family of illegal immigrants, and she has a pillow and blanket.

This will be a twenty-hour bus trip, but knowing teenagers, they’ll sleep through the first half of it.

Fortunately, we were early enough to avoid the chaos of the school parking lot. I dropped her off and drove to work. That’s when I started feeling decadent. I had a radio, a comfy seat, and….a heater! It was a chilly 50F this morning. That wouldn’t have bothered me on the bike, but in the car sitting still in the comfy chair, it felt cold.

Now, about that ‘mea culpa’ yesterday – I have to ‘fess up about the computer problems. Those of you who are knowledgeable about computers will probably get a few laughs at my expense. So be it.

Our newest computer is a Dell I bought through an employee purchase plan a few years ago. Yeah, I know. “Dude! You’re going to D(H)ell!” I’m thinking about putting a prominent label inside the case that says “Forsake all hope ye who enter here!” Lyndsay used it, and over time it accumulated a boatload of junk. It was bloated with adware and she didn’t run the anti-virus program for months at a time, never mind updating it. I decided to take the nuclear option and re-format the machine.

I had all the operating software for it, of course, so it would merely be a matter of taking the time to reload everything. That was a nice, comforting thought that I would return to later on. “What the hell was I thinking!!!” I’ve NEVER had a re-format go smoothly. This one was true to form.

Right after that DOS command, FORMAT C:, the fun began. I had the original operating system, a Windows CE disk expressly designed for Dell. I’d tried to use it on another computer, but the program would not install on anything other than a Dell. OK, I can live with dedicated software, but sometime since we received it, the software password had gone missing. No problem, I thought, I can just install Windows 98 instead.

The operating system installed without any further drama. I installed various programs from back-up disks, but when it came time to try to connect to my ISP, the modem wouldn’t work. I found a corrupted modem driver and some other drivers that weren’t right, so after tinkering with them I tried again. No dice. The modem remained stubbornly silent.

That was a month ago. I fooled with the machine now and then, but it rapidly exceeded my frustration threshold. Sometimes, Windows discovered two modems. Sometimes, it changed the COM ports. Regardless, the modem wouldn’t work. Finally over the weekend, I stumbled across the Internet Connection Wizard, a Microsoft program that connects to their servers and provides a list of ISPs in the area. This re-configured the modem and drivers (I’m assuming) because it not only connected to the MS server, but it allowed the machine to connect to my ISP too.

Happy, happy, joy, joy. Now all I have to do is finish updating from the MS site and add the rest of the software.

Meanwhile, my other home PC went squirrelly too. Same fix – reformat. Same problem – no modem. Same solution. The monitor took a hit too and now it has a bad case of pincushion distortion, but I know someone who can fix it. I am not and have never been a TV technician.

But wait! There’s more!

While all this was going on, I was commuting with my laptop. A word of caution: Laptops do not like to be exposed to the vibration on a bicycle, and it’s difficult to pad them sufficiently. I know someone who had a nice Olympus camera fall apart from the vibration.

As an aside - aircraft electronics are subjected to much more vibration and extreme temperature changes. We can simulate that in the shop by allowing units to get very hot under power, chilling them in a freezer, or hitting them with hammers. Really! I tap on computers with a small hammer to provoke vibration-related failures. Sometimes I’m tempted to use a much larger hammer. I’ve resisted that impulse.

Most consumer electronics cannot withstand the abuse for long, and sure enough, my laptop went flakey too. Several keys went away. Try writing anything without using a T, for instance. The mouse pad developed a mind of it’s own and the A drive became very, very temperamental. This is an old Compaq. It has a modular construction, so the fix is to clean the connectors with alcohol. After that, it works perfectly.

There’s another older laptop at home. It’s so old it has a monochrome display and it’s running Windows 3.1. And it had a similar problem with the keyboard. I’m planning to put some technical manuals on it – once I find my null modem – and it will be a dedicated bike computer out in the garage. But I can’t resist the temptation to tinker with it. I may try to install some version of Linux on that one. We’ll see.

I’ve learned a lot from tinkering with these old machines. Mainly, I’ve learned that I need a better checklist of the necessary software and procedures before I do another reformat. That’s a project to start in the next few days. For now, I just want to breathe a big sigh of relief!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Mea culpa

I haven't written much recently. There are a variety of reasons for that, chief among them family responsibilities and computer problems. We're reaching the end of the school year with banquet and concerts to attend in the evenings. But I've had recurring problems with my home PCs and the laptop at work. It's been an annoying time.

I'll write about THAT probably tomorrow.

Meanwhile, since No.1 Daughter is leaving for college in the fall, we have to find a laptop for her. That's a fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon, looking at computers and comparing features, only to have a new glut of computers in the Sunday paper.

It's like having bees in your head.

Television lineup

I watch too much television. And I don't read enough, though I can claim that my eyes just don't want to stare at the printed page for long periods anymore. That's actually true. I love to read but eyestrain limits the time I can spend on it. Reading glasses help, but not enough. So I turn to television for entertainment.

I must be really, really bored.

Roughly half the fare on TV revolves around doctors, lawyers, or cops. The remaining half is composed of 'reality' shows. I have never watched a so-called reality show. Honestly, if all those people had to survive on a tropical island, tropical diseases would likely kill most of them. The rest would dine on the fat guys.

No, these shows are not about reality. If they were, we'd have shows that covered the grueling race from youth to retirement. We'd see someone navigating the perilous waters of multiple doctor appointments as they tried to diagnose a disease and treat it, all within the patient's ability to pay. We'd be treated to the spectacle of hypocritical politicians and businessmen turned loose in the backwoods, to be hunted by a pack of rabid consumers pissed off by high gasoline prices. There's nothing quite as terrifying as a bunch of housewives who've over-drawn the checking account in order to get groceries.

We need more cycling on TV, of course. How about a reality show that
depicts messengers trying to get from place to place, delivering packages while sorting out life's problems, sort of like the old "Route 66" or "Then Came Bronson". These road shows involved guys driving from place to place, encountering various troubled people along the way, and resolving their problems. Given some of the people I run into, we could probably do a street-level version of 'Star Trek"!

"Captain", intoned Mr. Spock, "Whatever that motorist is doing is beyond the realm of logic."

Sure, there's lots of sports on TV, but I don't watch them either. I knew a woman who said that most sports consist of "hit-the-ball-kick-the-ball-throw-the-ball-repeat-until-bored". I like to
participate in sports, but simply watching them is a waste of time. Mary says I'm obsessed with bicycle racing, but to be truthful, I fell asleep during yesterday's Liege-Bastogne-Liege coverage on OLN.

I've slept through a lot of movies too. It's weird to fall asleep during one and wake up after another has started. My brain tries to put the pieces together in some plausible way. This was kind of fun when the local TV stations ran westerns on Saturday afternoon - always a good time for a nap! Oaters are pretty much the same, so it was oddly amusing to fall asleep watching John Wayne and wake up to see Rory Calhoun.

Or how about a game show where the contestant must answer questions
correctly or their former spouse gets a mild electric shock? It would be a twisted version of the "Newly Wed Game" because we'd always wonder if the contestant gave the wrong answers deliberately.

I'm afraid we're going to be stuck with grasping, greedy trash like
'Deal/NoDeal" or insipid dreck like "Shaving With Celebrities!" - all of them requiring the intellectual ability of a toaster. No, I take that back. Toasters won't watch this stuff.

I need better reading glasses.

Sunday, April 16, 2006


When I was a kid, my mom baked bread once in a while. I’d get home from school to find a loaf of fresh baked bread sitting on the kitchen table, still warm from the oven. I’d get a tall, cold glass of milk, slice a chunk of bread from the loaf, and cover it with butter – real butter, not the fake stuff. Heaven!

1 and 1/3 cups water
4 cups bread flour
4 teaspoons sugar
1 and ½ teaspoons salt
2 and ½ tablespoons olive oil
2 and ½ teaspoons yeast

These are the ingredients in my bread-machine right now. It’s a simple recipe for Italian bread, a staple here on Sundays. This is supposed to make a 2 pound loaf. My kids enjoy it as much as I do, so sometimes there’s no bread left over at the end of the meal!

Bread is a comfort food. I’ve always loved homemade baked goods, unless I’ve tried to bake them myself. I made cookies once that were more suitable for skeet practice. Until we got the bread machine, my efforts at bread making were met with extremely variable results, though nothing ever exploded. Honest.

Bread, like pasta, potatoes, and rice, provides complex carbohydrates. That’s long-burning fuel for a cyclist. Given a choice between store-bought ‘air bread’ and homemade, I’ll take the good stuff, thank you. We all have to eat. We might as well eat what we enjoy most.

Since I’m a klutz at baking, I know every bakery in town. I know their best products and their over-priced ones. For a few years, Lisa worked in the grocery down the hill. She worked night shift, putting dough into the proofing oven, and had bagels coming out at 5AM, just when I was leaving for work. Sometimes I’d get them still too hot to touch, wrap them carefully in a bag, and ride off to work. On days when I drove, those bagels often didn’t make it to work. I have a problem with impulse control.

When I lived in Pittsburgh, I rode past the Nabisco plant and two bakeries on the way to work. When Nabisco made Lorna Doones – one of my favorites – it was very difficult to get by there! The whole street smelled like a freshly opened bag of cookies.

One of the bakeries would allow customers in before the place was officially open for business. If you had the exact change, they’d give you whatever was coming out of the ovens. These guys were smart. The ovens were located at the back of the building, but they’d built a duct the length of the shop in order to put the exhaust onto the street out front. The aroma caught me by the nose and led me inside. I stopped there often, wrapped hot baked goods in my newspaper, and then stuffed the bundle into the pocket of my anorak. If I was quick and the lights were in my favor, I could make it to work and have hot doughnuts and coffee. Life was good!

These days I try to avoid doughnuts. I really don’t need the fat. But the temptation is always there, nagging at me as I ride past the bakery on Main Street. I’m more likely to have a bagel now. Regardless, it’s all good stuff.


I broke my glasses yesterday. I was waiting for Lyndsay to get off work, sitting in the restaurant parking lot reading a book, and I'd taken off my glasses. I placed them up on the dash. When I went to put them back on, the temple snapped off. Granted, they've been through a lot, so I shouldn't complain. But breaking a pair of glasses annoys me almost as much as damaging one of my bikes.

I bought these about 5 years ago from Campmor. They had a clearance on Nikon sunglasses with titanium frames. If I remember right, these sold for about $40. I should have bought 2 pair. When the frames came in, I took them to the optometrist to have my prescription lenses installed. He did the work, but wasn't too happy about it. His titanium frames were much more expensive, and he wasn't making much profit. Tough. It's my money.

Naturally, these glasses are no longer in production so I probably won't be able to find another temple piece. This means I have to get new ones.

Lyndsay pointed out that I could get contact lenses, that is, she mentioned it when she wasn't laughing at me on the way home, driving with my glasses sitting cock-eyed across my nose. She has a good point. Her recent eye exam and contact lenses cost less than a new set of glasses. But I've never had contacts. I've worn glasses since I was about 10 years old, and I'm accustomed to having that protection over my eyes. For a cyclist, some sort of eye protection is necessary because there's always some dust, sand, stones, or insects out there on the road.

Grumble, grumble, grumble.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Friday Musette

Barry Bonds

Porfessional cyclists have paved the way for the ubiquitious I-never-knowingly-used-steroids defense that Barry Bonds has trotted out. Do you think if I were stopped by the cops with an open bottle of whiskey in car and a joint in the ashtray, I could claim that I'd never knowingly gone drinking and driving, and "Honest, officer, I thought it was an unfiltered cigarette that just tasted funny!"

Busy bees

On Monday, I'll drive my daughter out to Edmond for her freshman orientation at the University of Central Oklahoha. Anyone with a child about to graduate from high school is familiar with the procedure. I'm VERY tempted to take Mary along and let it be a mother/daughter event. Only one parent is allowed to accompany the new student. I'd also take a bike along, of course, so I could duck the whole thing.

As we reach the end of the school year, the social whirl ratchets upward. There are banquets and concerts to attend. The award ceremonies started a few weeks ago. For a parent, this is much like having bees in your head. The constant buzzing and incessant motion is maddening! We look forward to graduation - and a brief respite before college begins.

Last night I had to jet home for the FFA banquet. Hot Ag chicks and grilled steak! I was happy with a big plate of food. Jordan was happy too, flirting with all the girls! But in order to be there on time, I had to do a near time trial pace. The tail wind helped and it took only about 25 minutes to get home.

I was cooked, but I felt OK until after the banquet. My legs started to cramp as I sat at the table, so I got some water and walked around until the family was ready to leave.

Later, Mary and I watched CSI - her favorite show - sitting on the living room couch. I had a bit of difficulty getting up. My legs felt like wooden posts!

I hobbled out to the kitchen for the poor man's muscle relaxant - a shot of bourbon and a cold bottle of Sam Adam's. Shortly after, I was fast asleep.

Ride to Work

I've met Brian Rice on the road twice this week. He commutes at about the same time and rides the same route. It's pleasant to have a conversation, especially on a morning like this one, riding into a moderate headwind.

I saw him half a mile ahead, so of course I had to catch up! But at least I didn't overdo it, like yesterday, and I stayed in a gear I could spin comfortably. He was delayed by a traffic light, and that helped enormously.

Tulsa Advocacy News

This isn't strictly news. It's more like background information.

Urban Development had a bicycling map of their plan for the Brady village area. It included sidewalk 'bikeways' as well as bikelanes. One of the streets is too narrow for 2 bikelanes, so the plan called for just one through that section. Can anyone see how this would attract wrong-way riders?

Fortunately, the plan is an old one that has apparently been discarded. Let's be thankful.

But it illustrates one of the biggest problems we face in promoting bicycling. There are numerous agencies, departments, and governments that are capable of designing and constructing bicycle facilities independently of each other. There's no overall plan. There's no requirement to have plans reviewed by actual cyclists. Would we design
a highway like that? Would we expect someone with little or no knowledge of motor vehicles to design such a highway?

The INCOG bicycling subcommittee is making headway. In Tulsa, each of the following has some say in facilities design: Public Works, Tulsa Parks, Urban Development, INCOG, River Park Authority, ODOT, FEMA, Tulsa County Parks and Recreation Department, and the sovereign governments of the various Indian tribes. That's probably not all the players, but it illustrates the complexity.

One problem is that an agency can develop and implement plans without INCOG's review, if there is no federal funding attached. INCOG performs a due diligence function, seeing that federal funds are actually spent on the proposals and not diverted elsewhere. ACOG has a similar function in central Oklahoma, I believe.

The point is that tax dollars, your money, can be spent on facilities that offer no real benefit to cyclists. A hodge-podge of different plans that aren't consistent only adds confusion for motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians.

The subcommittee tries to amend any ill-conceived plans we hear about, but it's not always possible. That's why we need to hear from area cyclists - the ones who will be most impacted by badly designed facilities. If you live in the INCOG service area and you hear of a bicycle facility, route, trail, lane or any other bikeway, please let us know.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Is anyone glistening?

There's an ad running on television that shows a woman sweating profusely while she dances. She's 'glistening'. The ad says guys don't want to glisten, so they'd best buy the product, whatever it is.

Sure enough, I don't glisten. I sweat. In fact, I sweat buckets. It drips from my hair and the tip of my nose. A small river runs down my back. Without a doo-rag, it runs into my eyes. Gosh, I wish someone made a product that would stop all that sweat!

But then I'd die of heat stroke.

Sweat is essential to regulating our body temperature. In a hot climate, the absence of sweating is a symptom of heat stroke and can be life-threatening. It requires immediate medical attention.

From the Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia

Sweat or perspiration, fluid secreted by the sweat glands of mammalian skin and containing water, salts, and waste products of body metabolism such as urea. The dissolved solid content of sweat is only one eighth that of an equal volume of urine, the body's main vehicle of salt excretion; however, excessive sweating may produce severe salt loss (see heat exhaustion). Human sweat glands are of two types, eccrine and apocrine. The eccrine glands, found everywhere on the body surface, are vital to the regulation of body temperature. Evaporation of the sweat secreted by the eccrines cools the body, dissipating the heat generated by metabolic processes. The release of such sweat is usually imperceptible; yet even in cool weather an individual will lose from 1 pt to 3 qt of fluid per day. Only when environmental conditions are especially hot or humid, or during periods of exercise or emotional stress, does the output of sweat exceed the rate of evaporation, so that noticeable beads of moisture appear on the skin. When such conditions are extreme, the body may lose up to 20 qt of fluid per day.

ln our culture, there's a curious ambivalence about sweating. On one hand, we're bombarded with messages about the social 'necessity' of smelling nice at all times. On the other hand, we get messages regarding the importance of rehydrating and the efficacy of various products. My son grasped the concept. "It's always problem/solution", he said. "If you sweat, buy this product. If you stink, buy this product. The main idea is to buy something!"

The ads would have us believe that any form of body odor is offensive. Guess what? I'm not afraid of offending people. In fact, I'll indulge in a generalization by saying that road cyclists are more assertive and self-assured than average, and that makes them less sensitive to offending others. I mean, it's hard to get worked up about a little sweat when you're riding in traffic all the time. Do motorists arrive at work worried that they might reek of exhaust and unleaded gas? Do
smokers need some product that makes them smell less like an ashtray?

The sweat issue comes up almost every time I talk to someone about commuting on a bicycle. "I'll sweat and there's no place to shower at work!" There are several ways to handle this. (And yes, this is where I fall into the problem/solution format!)

First, riding at an easy pace, say in the 10-12 mph range, is one way to prevent profuse sweating. That's roughly 5 to 6 minutes per mile. Use it as a rule-of-thumb to calculate commuting time. Morning commutes are cooler, and that helps too.

Going faster is always a temptation. My average is around 15 mph, a 4 minute mile pace. Since I'm 'thermally efficient', I sweat. Eliminating it is impossible, but there are ways to deal with it. But first, a brief digression.

Sweat by itself has little odor, but it provides a growth media for the natural bacteria on our skin. It's the bacteria that give off that distinctive aroma as they grow. Removing the media limits that growth. Showering is one way to do this, of course.

Wicking fabrics do much the same, removing sweat from our skin and denying bacterial growth. There may be some loss of cooling as the sweat doesn't evaporate directly from the skin surface, but as it evaporates from the fabric, it cools the air that contacts the skin. It may be a toss-up. Changing from riding clothes to work clothes removes the sweat and slows the bacteria, and it’s an easy alternative to a shower.

Some bicycle commuters use baby wipes or alcohol wipes. I tried them for a short time, but went back to merely changing out of my cycling clothes when I arrived at work. It’s what works best for me. Your preferences may differ.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

True Believers

We had Baptists in the house one night last week and they were intent on quizzing me about my religious beliefs. I need to get a big can of Baptist-Be-Gone and spray it around liberally. They're harder to get rid of than cockroaches. On the other hand, if they show up again (and I'm sure they will) I may start hitting the whiskey bottle and dancing in my underwear. That'll do it! The disturbing mental image of a slightly pudgy middle-aged man prancing about in tighty whities like Tom Cruise may be the only thing stopping me.

The Cult of the Flying Spaghetti Monster has been refreshingly free of schisms, sects, and hidebound theology. With a history stretching back all the way to last summer, this is a considerable feat! Though to be completely fair, we’re all looking for some good, hot sects. (Sorry. I just couldn’t resist!) Canoodling, after all, is based on the German word ‘nudel’ which is obviously a kind of pasta. Hence, the connection to the FSM and His Noodly Appendage.

In an effort to weed out the true believers from the great unwashed, I’ve composed this series of questions.

Do you prefer sew-ups or clinchers? True believers ride clinchers, preferably with black sidewalls. Effete, snobby posers ride tubulars. And Tufos are for wild-eyed heretics. In a perfect world, they’d be burned at the stake!

Do you wear a helmet or go without? True believers wear helmets. Heathens do not. A baseball cap turned around backward does not count as a helmet unless it’s lined with aluminum foil to keep out the government’s mind control rays.

Do you prefer Campy or Shimano? True believers use Campy. Birkenstock-wearing heathens who go without underwear at all times ride Shimano.

Do you use clips and straps or do you prefer clipless pedals? Heathens with sore bums and S&M fetishes use clips.

Do you ride a multi-speed bike or a fixed gear?
It is widely believed that the FSM himself, despite the dangling noodly bits, rides a fixed gear. Need I say more?

Finally, have you been baptized by a can of WD-40 when the nozzle stuck? A can of cooking spray is a good substitute in an emergency.

If you answered ‘yes’ to all of these questions, please go burn one and have another beer. If any of the answers were ‘42’, consider getting immediate psychiatric help. As for the rest of you – on yer bikes ya lazy scum! Arr! Arr!

Monday, April 03, 2006

Fixed Gears & Road1

There's a discussion on the League's instructor list about fixed gears and the skills test for Road1. For those of you unfamiliar with it, the skills portion of Road1 consists of learning to stop and turn quickly. The instant turn is initiated by counter-steering, slightly bumping the handlebar forward on the side where you desire to turn. This momentary steering input causes the bike to heel over in the desired direction. So, for instance, if you want to turn right, push the right side handlebar slightly forward, then lean and steer into the turn.

But the question arose as to whether fixed gear riders could actually perform that maneuver without snagging a pedal. Furthermore, there was some question of whether fixed gear riders should be turned away from the course. Personally, I'd prefer that we develop better cyclists through the BikeEd program, and that means educating the riders regarding both their personal limits and the limits of their machines. We educate cyclists, not their bicycles.

Have any of you been turned away from a BikeEd class because you rode a fixed gear?

I'd hesitate if a student unacquainted with fixed gears showed up for a class expecting to ride it for the skills course. I have thousands of hours on a fixed gear, and in all honesty, the instant turn is much more daunting when you cannot coast. After snagging a pedal in a sharp corner, I'm well aware of the risks.


Given the current popularity (some would say 'fad') of fixed gears, it's almost a certainty that some of us will have students arrive on one. Which is better - turning a student away because the instructor is unfamiliar with fixies and afraid of their handling characteristics, or providing a cyclist with the information and skills he needs to be a better, safer rider? I'd come down on the side of making the students better riders, regardless of the type of machine they choose.

We've all had students who were intimidated by the instant turn. Learning it pushed their limits as a rider. They learned about the limits of their machines as well. It's no different for recumbent or fixed gear riders. We educate cyclists, not their bicycles.

Counter-steering isn’t a special skill, though it IS counter-intuitive to most people. I've told students that they already know how to do the quick turn. They just don't know that they know. They don't realize that they can deliberately initiate such a fast maneuver. Even some very experienced cyclists have trouble with counter-steering. But everyone who knows how to ride a bicycle already controls it via counter-steering, whether the rider is aware of it or not.

You may remember a book "Zen and the Art of Tennis" that said we over-intellectualize rather than rely on muscle memory. The idea is simply to think, "I want to go THERE!", focus on your destination, and your body will do it without further conscious thought.

I first heard of counter-steering in a study of motorcycle crashes long ago. When a motorcyclist (or a bicyclist, for that matter) tried to steer away from a car pulling out in front of him, he'd often drive right into it. The cyclist made a deliberate leftward turning motion that began a right turn and ended in a crash.

There’s a mistaken perception that a fixed gear cyclist is less able to perform these maneuvers. I don't subscribe to that idea, but I'll state quite plainly that the instant turn is still difficult for me on a fixed gear, mainly because I'm afraid of snagging a pedal.

One or two said they'd turn away a student who showed up on fixed gear or even a BMX bike. To my way of thinking, that's simply wrong.