Tuesday, December 16, 2008

On toughness

I ride in all weather. I rode this morning when I was pelted with freezing rain and then watched it switch over to fat, lazy flakes drifting down and melting on the wet pavement. The roads are wet and sandy and disgusting, and I arrived at work with sopping shoes and sand caked up and down my pants legs.

That doesn't make me tough. Toughness is a thing you see during races like Paris-Roubaix or the Tour de France. I am not in the top 30% of tough bicycle riders, probably.

And of course, you ought to ride when you feel the urge to ride. There is no mandate. There is no measure of worthiness to spinning your wheels in unpleasant conditions. There is no enhanced riderness to be gained. No one is keeping score.

For me, riding in inclement weather is a way to test myself. I don't have the time or talent (or inclination) to ride stage races or find other ways to push my limits. But setting off on even a ten mile ride in freezing rain and sleet puts me almost immediately at a place of discomfort that I find interesting. It's an easy way to test my my limits.

And I enjoy it. If I was genuinely uncomfortable, I wouldn't do it.

I am merely at a place in my cycling life where I like suffering. I like climbing. I like the pain in my quads. I like to arrive home wrung out and then stumble up the stairs for lack of juice in the legs.

It's a beautiful place to be, this masochistic phase in my cycling. But it doesn't make me tough.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Creating something out of nothing.

I have no time. This may not be a true statement but that's how it feels. I haven't ridden in over a week. It's been super rainy, super cold, and my nose just won't stop running.

My fried "Da Robot" may be reading (most likely the only person reading this anyway) and be frothing with his rabid bicycle fanaticism that "this is not an excuse! You must ride!" I am aware that there are tougher rides and I'm aware that people in worse shape make their rides. However, my bike commute isn't a battle of the will. It's not a competition. It's not medal of honor. It's how I get to work. It's fun. Freezing, soaking wet, dripping snot, and sitting on a bus for 45 minutes is not fun. No thanks.

I can wait a week till the rain lets up a bit. I can bide my time until my cold goes away. My commuter ride will return. I'm not really that concerned. There is something that's begun to gnaw at me tho. It hit while I was looking at a bike magazine, looking at all those pictures of pretty bikes. I miss my road bike. I miss my too small, 8 years old, hard on the arms and ass road bike. I miss my bike shoes that aren't even road bike cleats. I miss rides where I get the thrash out of my legs and settle into a nice cadence and let my mind wander away. All of it. I miss the good and bad of it all.

Now here is where the "I have no time" comes in. You see, the hard part of riding my road bike, has been trying to figure out how to get time to ride my road bike. How can I make the time to get back on my road bike? I think I have figured it out. If I can have my gear set up and ready to go, my clothes laid out, my route planned, my food packed, my water bottle filled...If I can get all the noise out of the way, I can just wake up and go. This means I would probably just need to scrap out 2 hours on a saturday morning. I can do this.
So, I'm planning on working on my road bike this week after the baby goes to bed. Get my gear together. Find my spare tubes. Looking on Google maps for some good rides. Work on creating some time where there doesn't seem to be any.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The chicken, the egg or the day off the bike

I have been strong this winter. And warm. I have been on top of my game, such as it is. I have enjoyed riding on the coldest day and the wettest day, and I have taken as compliments the incredulous looks of my coworkers as I stride through the office door with my helmet in my hands.

Yesterday, I took the day off.

It was raining, and I'd been developing a cold. I thought a day off was a reasonable response to the facts on the ground. But today I am more sick. I called in to work and let them know I was staying home.

And the rational part of me knows that had I ridden yesterday I'd have gotten soaked and frozen and quite possibly hypothermic, but there is a nagging suspicion in the back of my mind that had I ridden I would have woken up strong again this morning.

Did I ride myself sick? Or did I get sick from not riding?

Even now, sunk into the couch in pajamas and a sweatshirt, I have this hankering to go out for a ride. I coughing up relics from past civilizations, but I'm dreaming about climbing hills. I am thinking about ways to get in more miles.

Am I sick? Or am I just unwell?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Giving Thanks

I am thankful for bicycles in all their various forms and shapes. I am thankful to that fucking genius cave man (or woman) who chiseled the first wheel out of stone and rolled their ass across the pre-historic nothingness, probably to get a pre-historic latte, while wearing a pre-ironic fur of some sort. Way to go, cave person!

Gobble! Gobble! Motherfuckers!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Recreational Suffering

Here in New England winter started last week. The morning temps were in the 20s and the wind howled. Coming suddenly as it did (it had been nearly 70 the week before), the transition was a bit painful. But I'm not one to complain. I ride, so I rode.

Then yesterday my friend Sam suggested we take a long afternoon ride, so I geared up and rolled out with him about 1:30. At that point the temperature was about 35. We headed West, into the wind. Our route followed a steady 5 mile climb, not steep at all, but very gradual and constant and somewhat tiring even in good conditions. We had a head wind, roughly 15 miles an hour, which, at that temperature makes for some tough riding. Our faces went numb. Our legs ached. We sweated out into our wool over-garments.

It's 13 miles out to Bedford from my house. It took us an hour, and when we arrived my back was beginning to cramp from see-sawing exertion, pushing uphill into the wind. Probably my form sucks, in as much as I can be said to have "form."

And I wondered to myself, "Why am I doing this? Is this fun?"

It was.

We stopped for coffee on the way back, and then of course, we got a 5 mile downhill with the wind at our backs.

Today it's 50. Tomorrow almost 60. Next week, it'll probably snow.

Monday, November 17, 2008

In the system.

So the town where I live put in bike lockers. Pretty nice ones too. You have to go to the city's parking office and buy a card. Then you have to put money on the card and you're good to go. Unless you need directions. 'Cause you don't get those. That's a whole other Kafka-esque local city government process. Fortunately, it's pretty easy to figure out how the bike lockers billing system works. You only lose about 10 cents off your card wrestling with it.

So I have a card now. Which means I can park my bike downtown and not have to bring it to work with me each day on the bus. It also means the cretins of my town can't strip it. Actually I'm going to stop right now and point out how crazy it is to lock a bike in a steel cage. Remember when you were a kid and you'd leave your bike all over the place? For the youngins ever see a movie where people just leaned their bikes up against a wall or left it laying in the front lawn? That really happened. People would do that. No one would touch your bike. It wasn't theirs. Now-a-days, it's like bike thieves are everywhere. I actually feel like I'm pushing it having a bike in my backyard that's not locked to a tree. And I have a big dog too!

Ok back to the thing with me having a bike locker card. I have a card. I also have new fenders for the rain. I also have velcro reflector strappy things for my pant legs. I wear my helmet and wear a yellow jacket. Honestly, I rode to the bus stop today looking like I fell out of the Bike To Work brochure. There I was, smartly locking up my bike and waiting for my bus. Just like the city council dreamed I would be doing when they decided to put in bike lockers.

This should be very wrong feeling for me. The "leave me alone. I'm not like you - and I don't want to be" charm I am instilled with really hates being a tool. So looking like the picture out of a brochure is un-settling. However, I don't really feel like a dork. I suppose I could ride with my lights off or something to be rebellious, but I think my whole riding downtown and taking the bus really may be the "right" thing to do. Given the problem of how to get to work, I think my morning ride and routine is one of the most right actions I can make all day. Only good comes from it. It's an action where nobody gets hurt. It really is a nice way to start a day and that over-rides everything.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Zen of Bicycle Maintenance

There's not actually any zen-ness to bicycle maintenance. As I understand Zen, zen is not to be understood, and just because something leaves you feeling all mellow and serene, doesn't mean you or it are zen in any way. This is just another example of how willing we are to pluck something from another culture we don't understand and project our hair-brained ideas all over it.

Having said all that, I cleaned my bike yesterday, and I was shocked at how the five-minute wipe down I'd intended to give it turned effortlessly into an hour of minute dirt removal and lubrication. The bicycle, for all its perfection, still leaves a lot to be desired in terms of the exposure it gives greasy, metal, moving parts to sand and grit. I sometimes wonder if it would be easier to clean my route to work, rather than the vehicle that takes me there.

Smoothness and quietness and speed. Every dirty rag I make leaves me feeling smoother and quieter and speedier. My shop, in the basement, is brightly lit and only allows muffled sounds from the mayhem above. My kids hurling the couch cushions, terrorizing the dog, the TV singing the most horrible, syrupy sweet songs as puppets cavort and careen across the screen.

It's a dirty sanctuary. Frames and forks hang from the ceiling. Tools rest in all the wrong places. But I have citrus hand cleaner, and I'm comfortable there.

And miles to go before I sleep...

Friday, November 7, 2008

Cars fucking suck

My wife's car blew a head gasket. Total system meltdown. Smoke pouring out from under the hood. Other drivers turning to stare. Foul smells. A tow truck. A week without wheels. Kids to deliver to daycare. A job to go to. $2000 to fix it.

And so, I was mostly off the bike this week, except when using it to get to my parents' or sister-in-law's houses to pick up their cars to shuttle my family around.

If I began the week loathing the hulking masses of glass and steel that clutter our roadways, I've finished the week wholly convinced of their obsolescence. Not only are they ugly, obese and smog-belching, but they also cost too much and take too long to fix. Completely impractical.

Not only has our familial automotive catastrophe cost me valuable cycling time, but the large wad of liquid asset necessary to bring us back from the vehicular dead will seriously impinge on my ability to build up the pristine Surly Cross-Check I'm working on in the basement, thus deferring still more cycling-derived joy.

Today, Friday, I am back on two wheels. And grateful for it. Even in the rain.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Dressing for Success

Where I live, the weather is turning cold and wet. Unlike, the Cyclosaur, my blogging domestique, I have seasons to contend with. And so, at this time of year, the greatest challenge to my riding pleasure is having the right clothing on.

I should start by telling you that I am fairly oblivious to the cold. When other cyclists are decked out in wind-front tights, heavy jackets and balaclavas, I am often still in shorts. I guess I just run warm.

So this morning, when the temperature was in the 40s, I put on shorts, but topped with a long-sleeve jersey and a wool sweater. Because my mother, who watches my kids sometimes, said it was frigid-ass cold (my words, not hers) and the wind was icey and brutal, I added a light jacket, a fleece cycling hat and full-fingered gloves.

I was overheated inside of ten minutes. I shucked the jacket. And the gloves.

I believe that, in colder weather, the best clothing strategy is one that has you fairly cold for the first ten minutes of your ride. The idea is that you will warm into some sort of balance between too-hot and too-cold. If there is one thing I hate it's riding while bathed in sweat, which, in my experience, is also a bad thing to do in cold weather, because then when you stop riding all that moisture becomes a serious liability.

Breathability is important. There is a general clamor, in the cycling world, for wind-proof gear. I have some, but what I find, mostly, is that wind-proof means air-tight, which means too much heat builds up under there. I can only wear wind-proof if the mercury is south of 35 degrees. Or if it's raining like it's mad at me.

The thing that really makes dressing so difficult this time of year is that the weather is so goddamned variable. One day it's sunny and 55. The next day its 40 and raining. It's all over the map.

So every time I walk out the front door onto the porch, with my bike slung over my shoulder, it's really just a guess. Sometimes I turn around and head back in for more (or less) clothing. Other times I hurl myself into the meteorological void and hope I don't end up with hypothermia.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Of course it's fucking scary.

Found myself in a discussion with co-workers about riding in the city. Most them don't do it, cause it's too scary. And one of them used to do it, but doesn't do it anymore, cause it's too scary.

Well, of course it's fucking scary.

It's like being a minnow in a sea full of great white fucking sharks. There are doors swinging out to break your collar bones. If you fall off, you land on fucking asphalt. If someone farts funny while talking on the phone and smoking a cigarette, they can run right the fuck over you with a bump and a bump and thanks for fucking playing.

For some stupid reason, I catalogued my accidents for them, which just made them talk more about how scary and dangerous it was, and mostly I found myself agreeing with them. And for about half-a-minute I thought, "Christ, maybe I should stop riding every day."

And then I remembered a couple of the reasons I'm not going to do that.

First of all, it's fucking thrilling. You zip in and out and through and around traffic, all these stupid, drooling, going-nowhere cars, and it's like you're super-charged. You can't be stopped. You leave them all, sitting right where they were in their crappy exhaust and their dripping, wheezing enginey shittiness.

Second, it's great fucking exercise. I mean, I ride about half-an-hour to work and back twice a day. I ride to the store. I ride to AA meetings and to friend's houses. I ride. And I'm in great shape. Almost all my friends are fat. HA! You're fucking fat, and I'm not. Suck shit! I ride.

Third, you see parts of the city that you would NEVER see walking or driving or whatever other way you want to get around. A bike makes frivolous adventure much less frivolous. Like, "What's down that alley over there? I don't know. I think I'll ride the fuck over there and find out. It'll only take a second." The difference between an eight-mile route to work and a ten-mile ride to work is nothing. I take a little extra time. I see all kinds of different shit.

Riding is awful. If you ride, you will fall off. Hazards will come flying at you like buck shot. You will sweat and bleed, and your heart will race, and you'll get jacked on adrenaline, and people will roll their stupid ass windows down and shout the most awful things at you.

But you'll ride away. You're on a fucking bike, and they're not.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Back On The Horse

I'm riding again. It has been two days so far. I lost some strength! Very surprising. My breathing is hard but that's probably due to the sinus infection. But my legs actually feel it a lot more now.

I noticed it right away at the first climb. I hit it soft. Like the hill was made of deep soft grass. It was such a loss of speed that my brain lit up with, "uh oh. This is going to suck!" Now, I don't know how much strength I lost, but I still had much more than I did when I started biking. So, I was easily able to grind to the top, but it was exactly that, a grind. It used to be sorta easy.

I feel a sort of sadness now on my ride. The thing is I sorta missed the start of fall with my shoulder/sickness layoff. Now when I get on the bike and start my ride, it's dark out. Like the darkest before the dawn dark. I roll off the precipice of my driveway and plunge in with my weak flashing LEDs tearing at the dark. I channel my inner robot - who is lazily programed to not follow the rules of the road, and I take up an entire lane and roll through every light. I glide past darkened houses towards the next traffic light who is metering for no one. Finally, when I get to my bus stop I happily say good morning to the first person I see. Just so I can hear their response and assure myself I'm not a ghost.

What cycling gives me

Tuesdays I ride down through Harvard Square to the river and from there I take the path that runs between the slowly flowing water of the Charles and the fast running traffic of Storrow Drive. On one side, roaring, buzzing, honking traffic, on the other the river, Canada and snow geese, mallards, skittering pigeons and a smattering of people rowing their whisper thin sculls back and forth.

This morning I was rolling along, neither pushing the pedals hard nor dogging it, when I glanced off to my left and saw a giant blue heron standing in the shallows, stock still and stretched to its full height.

So I stopped, because I could, because I wasn't in a car, in traffic, in a hurry, and sealed off from the world.

I stood and watched for about 10 minutes. What an incredible animal, almost four feet tall with its neck fully stretched, then stalking along the river's rocky edge, it's neck curled and cocked in a backwards S, ready to stab out at a fish. When standing its feathers laid smooth like a slick plastic rain coat. When creeping along in the hunt, its back feathers caught the wind and fluttered. Just amazing.

I love riding, just for the sake of it. I love the feeling of motion under the wheels. It can be effortless sometimes, like flying or gliding, but cycling also gives me a connection to the world and a flexibility that driving or walking don't.

Monday, October 13, 2008

I don't have to ride your bike.

I can be a snob. It comes naturally, a voice sneering and scoffing and laughing in the back of my head.

Why do people ride tandem bicycles? Why? Being stuck to another person is completely antithetical to my concept of the reason for riding a bicycle in the first place, that is to be independent and free. Every time I see a tandem, I cringe.

Why do people wrap themselves in lycra to ride across town to work? Are they shaving valuable seconds off their commute? Are they so consumed with the wicking of moisture and arriving at work dry as the desert that they must employ hundreds of dollars of technical fabrics to go to the grocery store? How you need bib tights and rainbow-bright jersey to pedal your hybrid to the coffee shop is a mystery to me.

Why do hipsters spend $3000 on fixed-gear bicycles? I've seen them. Why take a simple thing and make it into a carbon-fibered, space-age-engineered rocket cycle? You're just going to get falafel. Surely a simple steel bike would do the trick, even somewhat stylishly.

But these are all pointless questions. The pertinent query is: WHY DO I CARE?

I don't have to wear the lycra. I don't have to ride the tandem. I don't have to spend the money.

Each of us has our own crazy ideas. And, if cycling is about freedom and independence, then each of us is free to pedal whatever two-wheeled Frankenstein we want. We can dress like clowns or woodland gnomes. It doesn't matter.

It certainly shouldn't matter to me. And on good days, it doesn't.

Friday, October 10, 2008


Or even millimeters. They can make a difference.

For example, I ride in sneakers. I used to ride in a sweet ass pair of Sidi road shoes, but I got tired of schlepping extra shoes around all the time. When I switched over to single-speed it was part of an overall simplification of my whole way of riding. And so I began riding in sneakers. The sneakers I normally wear are Vans' Old Skools, a classic skate shoe with a toe cap that pushes the side of the shoe out about a millimeter- and-a-half. Just that little bit at the inside of my pedal stroke often brushes the crank and squeaks. Not only does it make an annoying sound, it also slows me down.

When I switch to sneakers without a toe cap (like slip ons or Vans' Eras) there's no squeak, and no drag. A millimeter-and-a-half.

Similarly, I recently switched out my handlebars. I went from the bullhorns I've been riding for about two years to a chopped down straight bar. My wife remarked on how narrow the bars looked, but they're actually an inch-and-a-half wider than the bullhorns, and the result is a little more stability in low speed turning and any time I've got my front wheel off the ground.

Try raising your seat to its optimal height, then pushing it up a further centimeter. Ride that way for a week and tell me you don't have saddle sores.

I used to crap on bicycle fussiness, that obsession with getting everything exactly right, and to some degree I still do. I mean, ride your fucking bike. Ride it. There comes a time when you're spending more time tweaking than actually riding. And that's just nuts.

On the other hand, the bicycle can be a deceptively complicated machine, a carefully balanced gyroscope with wide but not infinite tolerances. I am now coming to understand the ways small adjustments effect that balance. It has only taken me about thirty years of riding to begin to understand.

And that boggles my mind.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


First, please excuse my lengthy absence. Unlike my friend, the Cyclosaur, it's not that I haven't been riding. I've been riding more than ever. In fact, it's all the riding and thinking about riding that has made any effort to put riding into words seem so futile.

The truth is, I've been in a very excellent place vis a vis gliding along on two wheels.

It started with some changes. I believe I wrote a few weeks back about having popped a chain and then getting a new chain and that new chain grinding horribly against the chain ring, and anyway if I didn't, I should have, cause that's what happened. And I spent some days riding around with a 15mm socket wrench trying to get the grinding to go away by adjusting and readjusting and rereadjusting the chainline, all to no avail. I then flipped my wheel to the fixed ring, and VOILA, no more grind.

So I've been riding fixed, something I previously chose not to do, because I thought it was unsafe.

But my bike mechanic said something to me the night he replaced my chain that finally settled in about three days later, which is, "look, you say you have more control when you ride free, because you can stop pedaling, but the truth is you have less control. When you're fixed you can stop with your legs AND with your brake. When you're free you only have the brake, and you're almost guaranteed to go over the bars if you use it."

So I'm riding fixed. It's a change, and I'm learning to control the bike better, and I actually feel very comfortable with it now. What I needed to do was accept the change, to ride a different way and learn something new and see what I thought about it afterwards. I think I've spent too much time thinking I knew how to ride.

I don't.

I think I could pedal my whole life and only scratch the surface of it.

So then the other night I was looking at my handlebars (bullhorns with a single MTB brake lever mounted on the left), and I decided, on a whim, to swap out for straight bars. Again, at first I was uncomfortable, I'd lost the hand position I used to sprint and climb in, and I thought that was going to be intolerable.

Instead, I learned a new way to sprint and to climb, and what the straight bars give me is better lateral control of the bike. It's neat, not better or worse, just different.

And as a result of making some changes and learning about the way the ride is different, I'm really enjoying riding even more than I was before. It's motivating me to spend even more time in the saddle, and it strikes me that the worst thing I can do for my riding is to ever believe I know what I like, that I know how to ride a bike, that there is nothing new for me to discover.

Rather, I need to seek experience. I need to ride more, in different ways, on different routes, with a different attitude.

That is all.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Great. Now What?

My shoulder feels good. My tires are pumped up with air. My bag is packed. My jacket is laid out on the chair. I'm ready to go. But I'm not going. I'm sick. I can cough up scrambled eggs. I think it's eggs. It sure looks like it. I should try to get someone to try them. I'm not trying them. I mean, jeez, I just spit that crap out.

What if this was my mutant power. I spit scrambled eggs. What would that mean? I think I'd probably have to be a super villain. Well maybe not "super". Super gross maybe. But anyway I think I'd be a villain. I'd go into the bank and just ask for the money. All nice like. They'd say "no." I'd say "you sure?" Then I'd just start spraying out the scrambled eggs. Like a fire hose! Just hosing that place down like it's on fire! Then I'd stop and say "how about now?" and they'd be all "holy crap! Cut that out. That's nasty. Here's the money! Go away." Could be a good gig.

I could be a hero too I guess. I could just go to Africa or something and feed people, but really, who's that hungry?

I suppose I should write something about bikes and commuting now. I hope to ride my bike next week. I'm spitting up a lot less eggs today.
There. Done.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Where I'm Writing From

A bus via a car. That's my commute these days. I dislocated my shoulder again. Holy fuck that hurts. I super manned up tho. Told the doc I didn't want meds. Just put it back in. I have to go. I can't waste time in the ER. I gotta get home before this kid wakes up and unleashes her fury on being taken to such a wholly un-fun place as this.

So I couldn't ride. Not sure I still can but I'm going to next week. I have most of my mobility back but my arm is a little Tyrannosaur arm. It's there, but it's feeble and weak. I just need it to steady the handle bar and that's about it.

My point of this post was just to post and not be dead. I was hoping it would be a nice post but I know that the Robot got pulled over (AGAIN) this morning so his story is going to trump the hell out of mine. His tale of being stuffed into a police cruiser trunk and driven out to Quincey and hung out by his ankles over a quarry and made to give up his gang. Of course he wouldn't talk. So they dropped him and he had to hide below the surface and play dead. Luckily he found an air pocket in an old submerged refrigerator. So he waited till the air was gone and swam up to the surface and climbed out of the quarry and rode back to Boston to make a 10am meeting. It's a great tale. You'll love it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Bureaucracy (in)action

I wrote a note to the Mayor of Boston one morning in June:

DATE/TIME:6/13/2008 9:38:41 PM

SUBJECT:cycling in Boston

MESSAGE:Mayor Menino,

I appreciate the focus you've brought to cycling in the City of Boston, and I applaud what efforts you've made to make the city more friendly for cyclists. As an every day rider myself, I would suggest that the best thing you can do for cyclists is to enforce traffic laws. Many people I know who say they would like to ride their bicycles to work won't do so, because they're frightened by our traffic. Drivers run lights, fail to signal and generally flout the traffic laws anyway they want. I have never seen a driver receiving a moving violation in the City of Boston. Never. I believe that reining in Boston's renegade drivers would do a lot, not only to improve conditions for cyclists, but also for visitors to our city.

Anything you can do would be appreciated.
PunkRockBicycleRobot (not how I really signed it)

I received a reply today:

Dear Mr. Robot:

Thank you for emailing Mayor Menino. This email is to confirm we received your message. I will forward your concerns to the appropriate personnel.

Disinterested City Employee (not her real name)
Interim Communications Aide

So, wow! It took three months to get a form letter back from the city, essentially telling me that they got my note and will now forward it off into space, someday to see it collide with an errant comet or other piece of space debris.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Fallout

So, of course, once you reach a certain age, a simple bicycle accident is no long just a simple bicycle accident. The week after my mishap, I found I was very angry on the bike. I pounded on the trunks of cabs. I yelled at drivers who failed to signal. I was clearly shaken by the experience and taking it out on anyone who crossed my path.

Also, my wrist still hurts. I've been riding with a wrist brace on, which sucks and is uncomfortable. And because my body is older than it used to be, I can only assume this injury will linger into the winter. I'm off the bike today, trying to get it a little extra rest. Not sure what I'll do tomorrow. Probably not the smart thing.

Last Thursday I compounded my cycling misery with a mechanical on the way home in the dark. I was cranking along when all of a sudden I heard a POP-TING!! For a moment I thought maybe I had kicked a rock up into the frame, but then there was another POP, and the pedals went slack. I'd somehow blown the master link on my chain. The first sound was the face plate flying off and dinging the frame. The second was the link letting go.

Fortunately, I was just up the hill (and thus able to coast) from my bike shop, AND the lunatic who owns the place was still there, half-an-hour after closing time. So he slapped a new chain on for me. It's too bad that, in his haste to get me going (and thus get himself home) he mis-adjusted the spacing on the rear wheel, so that every heavy pedal stroke produces a horrible grinding sound that repeated dirtying of my hands has failed to fix.

That's another reason I left the bike home today. That horrible, horrible sound. It goes away if I flip the wheel and ride fixed, but given the dodginess of my wrist, that prospect held no little charm either.

The Cyclosaur sustained an injury of his own, which has kept him off his steel mount for some weeks. I wish he'd go ahead and tell us about it, but he's too busy for the likes of us. Me. You. And our silly hobby.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Man down!

Well, it finally happened. I got hit.

Fortunately, it was a side swipe and not a head on, and I saw it coming, so I was able to mitigate the damage. What happened is that I was riding fast up one of Cambridge's central thoroughfares (one of the ones I wrote about avoiding the other day) in the bike lane, when a woman in a Volvo passed me on the left. She then put on her right turn signal and cut straight across my lane, trying to get into the grocery store parking lot.

I yelled. Loud. She pulled her head out of her ass just in time to keep from cleaning me out completely, but I skidded into her front quarter panel, trying not to go over the hood. In the process I seem to have acquired a little road rash on the back of my right hand and a slight sprain of my left wrist.

When I got up off the pavement, I said something like, "Did you not fucking see me? Did you not fucking look? Let me answer for you. No. You didn't fucking look."

She mouthed the words, "Are you ok?" through the windshield (she didn't get out), and I said, "I'm ok." and rode off, cause I was pissed. Apparently I was also completely jacked on adrenaline. I flew the rest of the way home, oblivious to the pain in my wrist.

When I got home finally, I was talking a mile a minute and sweating like a fiend. It took a little while to settle down.

I can see that I was enormously lucky not to be hurt worse. Not to be killed. I mean, Volvos are heavy. They don't have to hit you that hard to do serious, even fatal, damage. The whole experience reinforces that old idea that it doesn't matter how careful you are. You can never tell what other people are going to do.

This woman should have seen me. She passed me. I was right there in front of her, and then next to her, and then bouncing off her front end. I was doing everything correctly. I was in my lane. And then bang!

Fortunately I have a day off the bike today (home with the baby), and a leftover left-handed wrist brace, from a previous injury. So, I'm braced up, and hoping to be healed enough by tomorrow morning to get back on that horse and ride.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The new one

eBay sold me this beautiful thing. I hope to have it rolling by springtime.

Monday, September 8, 2008

In the interests of sanity

In the interests of sanity, I have begun riding alternate routes. When I ride the same car and cyclist choked arteries every day, I find I end up yelling at drivers and shaking my head at helmet-less idiots. I don't know why I expect the world to be any other way than it is, i.e. full of idiots, me among them, but that's what happens when I force myself through the city's narrowest sluices along with the rest of the human detritus.

And so, many mornings, I ride out of the way, down Mass Ave. and up the river, pedaling slowly past the homeless who camp there, the tattered Canada geese who shit all over the path and the morning joggers who all impress me with their shear will to improve themselves.

That is a quiet, peaceful ride, despite Storrow Drive roaring its way alongside. I keep my head cocked to the river side. I watch the rowers in their sculls, gliding along the water, the mallards and cormorants sunning themselves. I gauge the wind by the ripples on the water and try hard not to hurry.

On the way home, I've been veering off the mainline, Hampshire St, that cuts through Cambridge, and riding up to Union Square, where the pavement is almost lunar with bumps and craters. Beyond that I catch Summer Street, which climbs the long hill to Somerville Hospital. No one rides that route because it's all up. Commuters don't climb if they don't have to. So I have it to myself, and I have to say it's made me stronger. What was once a lung-busting grind, is now a steady spin. With a wind at my back, I've even sprinted the whole thing.

What a feeling that is, to sprint a hill I once struggled to summit with my one stingy gear.

Sometimes the hardest thing to do while riding a bicycle is to just sit and ride. It is only too easy to get wrapped up in everything else that goes on around you, the lousy drivers, the weather, the heat. I am at my best when I just sit and ride.

Just shut the hell up and ride.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Fucking with 5-0

Yeah, so having learned little or nothing from the warning ticket I was written last week, I seem to be courting disaster by seeking confrontation/interaction with the police officers of our fair city.

On Thursday, I pulled up behind a cop car in Cambridge. We were both pulling on to Cambridge Ave actually, and he didn't signal. So, of course, I rode up next to him, and asked, "Hey, if you don't use your turn signals, why would anyone else?"

A conversation ensued. Sort of.

He told me I was a jerk and that I should worry about myself, to which I replied, "I do worry about myself, which is why I'm asking the question."

That didn't go over so well, but I didn't get arrested. I will say that I maintained a respectful tone of voice during the whole exchange. I apologized if he felt I was asking an unreasonable question. I think he just acted like an asshole cause he knew I was right. Either that, or he was an asshole.

Then, yesterday, on my way home, I had a cop step out in front of me in Boston. I slowed down. Apparently he hadn't seen me, probably cause he didn't look. I followed behind him for 10 or 15 yards, at which point he glanced over his shoulder and said, "Oh, sorry," and stepped out of the way.

I said, "Hey, you've got a gun. I figured I'd let you go first." He smiled and said, "Don't make me use it," but he was laughing and clearly wasn't flustered. Nor did he feel it necessary to let me know that he was a cop and that I shouldn't be talking to him. A nice guy.

I rode on.

But again, it all has me thinking about the way the city works, who is in charge, why we've given them the power and whether or not they deserve it. Is there any better way? I still see it as sort of a free for all. With all our laws, even simple things like traffic laws, there seems to be little black and white, little rhyme or reason. Or perhaps I just have trouble with the gray of it. Maybe I'm just not intuiting what I ought to be doing, how I ought to behave.

So I'll just keep pedaling. I'll just keep climbing the hills and coasting the turns and hoping not to get crushed.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Breaking the Law

I completely neglected to mention on Friday that I got a ticket for running a light on my bike. I came through a busy intersection in Cambridge, and there was a bike cop detail there snaring cyclists for blowing through the light. I didn't even wait for them to pull me over. I just rode right up to them. They seemed surprised.

They said, "Do you know why we stopped you?" And I said, "Of course, that's why I just stopped." I admitted my wrong-doing. I implored them to write an equal number of tickets for motorists failing to signal and driving in the bike lane. They said they would do that. I took my ticket and left.

That ticket bothered me. I simmered and steamed all the way to work. I won't go into all the reasons, because truthfully, I deserved the ticket. I broke the law. Every reason I can and did cook up is just my ego screaming for the world to be different than it really is. There shouldn't be so many cars. Cars should drive better. Blah. Blah. Blah.

There are red lights. You're supposed to stop. I didn't.

Not only did I not stop, but I willfully blow through lights. I posted here not that long ago about lights and small rebellion I make against them. This ticket (which turned out to be just a warning after I looked at it more closely) provided a fresh canvas for me to work out my feelings about laws and lights and bicycles and cars. I mean, what if I got a ticket every week, at $20 a pop?

Would I continue my scofflaw ways?

Probably not. $20 a week is $80 a month less to spend on bike shit. That what law enforcement types call "effective deterrence." So what does that mean about quality of my rebellion? If I can be silenced for $20 a week, I must not be very rebellious, eh? I suppose I could just not pay the tickets. I mean, are they going to take my bike? Suspend my license to ride? My license to ill? I could call their bluff.

I could end up being thrown in Cambridge City Jail, ignominiously, for failure to pay up, have my shoelaces taken away. Imagine explaining to the felon next to you in the holding tank that you're in for blowing off bicycle violations. I'm thinking he'd ass rape you on principle.

A friend of mine, after I told him about the ticket, told me he doesn't speed anymore. And I asked, "Why? Too many tickets?" And he said, "No. None. It's just easier to do the right thing. Much less to think about."

You know, I fancy myself some kind of cycling outlaw, some sort of cutting edge urban warrior. But you know what I am?

A commuter.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Wet vs. Sweat

I have rain gear. Good stuff. Marmot pants, a Cannondale jacket, the kind of stuff that will keep you dry under most conditions. But this summer I made what was, for me, a radical realization. In the summertime, when it rains, I don't want to stay dry. I want to get wet. Wet is nice. Wet is cooling. Wet is (somewhat) clean.

If it's pouring rain and I put on my rain gear and ride home, it's like jogging through an 8 mile long steam room wearing a garbage bag. I arrive home just as wet and ten times as stinky. Then I have to wash my rain gear, because it's nasty from the inside out.

So now I ride out into the rain in shorts and a t-shirt. When you're expecting to get wet, getting wet isn't at all unpleasant. It can actually be quite fun. The only catch is you have to have a pair of designated rain shoes, shoes you don't mind soaking, packing with newspaper and then soaking again. Mine double as law mowing sneakers.

Another thing to consider is your head, that knobby bit on top of your shoulders. On rainy days I like to wear a cycling cap under my helmet. I pull the brim down over my eyes, and that keeps my clear glasses from getting all rain-dappled, like the TV camera in center field during a rain delay. I hate not wearing glasses. In the city, no glasses usually means picking small rocks out of your eyeballs, especially if you run up on the bus, which I always do.

So my new rule is, no rain gear unless it's under 50F degrees. Cycling cap. Clear glasses. And a wet attitude. Remember when you were a kid and you wondered what it would be like to walk through the car wash (I always did). That's how a good summer rain is in the city. It's like a car wash. Water falling on you. Water spraying up on you. Cabs and cars splashing you from the sides.

Of course, this is all much more pleasant if you're riding home, rather than to work, where trying to de-soggify yourself in a bathroom stall is always less than effective and often serves to frighten your co-workers. I've thought of getting one of those little chamois towels Olympic divers use, but thus far I've made do with paper towels and a lingering moistness. It helps that the people I work with have come to expect me to look like a slob and smell kinda funny.

I'd be curious to hear how the Cyclosaur deals with rain out there on the West Coast. He probably dons a wet suit and some hemp footwear, tosses back a wheat grass juice and then takes the bus.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Good, the Bad, the Bus

There is no worse feeling than getting stuck in that small space just behind the bus in summertime, heat pouring off the bus's rear mounted condenser, exhaust trailing in the air, and no room to slip by on the right.

There is no better feeling than dropping the bus on a sprint to a yellow light, and leaving it, idling, behind you.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Getting faster

I'm getting faster. No doubt about it. One of the things I'm noticing with my new single speed is how on my toughest climbs what used to seem like the perfect gearing could be a bit taller.

I have a nice big turn that rises up on my way home and for the last few days I'll be about to charge up and notice I have a road bike on my rear wheel. I won't go down that easy. You're going to have to pass me on the uphill! Thing is, they never do.

I get out of the saddle add all the speed I can and then sit back and let my legs burn. Next thing you know I'm at the top and they're not on my wheel anymore. I'm off and flying.

I think I'm going to swap that 42 for a 44.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

I got a new bike.

I got my Swobo Del Norte a bit over a week ago. First off let me say it's incredible looking. The totally understated gun metal grey frame mixed with the flashy red powder coated rims is stunning. People comment all the time. It's not what people expect a bike to look like. I'm gaga over the looks of this bike.

The second thing that needs to be said is this is a sweet commuter bike. I have to ride about 4 miles to catch a bus. Not that long of a ride. But the roads sorta suck and I do hit some decent hills. The Del Norte is the perfect tool for the job in my case. The cro-mo steel frame and the 700x32 tires soak up the bumps. I like to think of the bike as cruiser bike-lite. It's so comfy. The gearing is 42 up front and 17 in the rear. A bit easy, but perfect for the commute. I wish I had a bigger front crank on the flats but on my uphills I love it. I routinely reel in other bikers on my ride up hills now and I'm usually weak on hills. New bike confidence and having no choice about shifting to the "right" gear has probably improved my climbing attitude.

The important thing to me is, did this bike fill the need I had. So far it's an overwhelming yes. The bike is incredibly sturdy and has taken the beating of being tossed around under a bus and I have zero worries about pulling my bike out to ride home and finding parts all bent up. I was a bit put off by the big tires but I'm enjoying bombing over curbs and I'm not too worried about blowing out or bending a rim. This bike was at my price point and has delivered 100%.

This bike isn't perfect tho. I hate the handle bars. They're sorta bull horned. It's hard to tell from the pics on the Swobo website but bull horned they are. I like to ride on the brake hoods, but when I'm just cruising I like to have my hands on the bar and with that curve, my hands are now pointing inward and that puts my wrists in an awkward position. After a few minutes I have to go back to the hoods. Sucks.

So I got a new bike and I'm very happy. Having a new bike has brought me a new luxury as well. I now have two bikes. I can finally take some time and work on my road bike and not worry that I have it finished by the next day for my commute. So I'm intending to do some work on that bike. I'm not very good at working on bikes yet so this should be interesting. I'll let ya know how that turns out.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

That pain

Oh, Christ!! What is that pain in my quads?!?! I know. I know. It's fatigue. But WTF?
Am I just all out of muscle? Can I not go any farther or any faster?

Well, fuck that.

There's always more in the there, and so what if I can't climb the stairs to the bedroom later? I'm sprinting for this next light.

It's yellow. No. It's red. Shit.

I'm going anyway. It hurts. Ow. It hurts. But I made it. Why stop now? Keep sprinting.

Hey, it feels kinda good now.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Road

The road is not mine. The road is not yours. The road does not belong to cabs or buses or pedestrians. The road does not belong to the police or to the Hare Krishnas. The road is a common space.

Therefore, you can't be in MY way. And I can't be in YOURS.

The "rules of the road" are not rules that are enforced by anyone. Unenforced rules are not rules. They are ideas. Some good. Some bad.

The road is a random place where random things happen. Friends get doored. Tires go flat. Hills get climbed. Garbage blows around. Pedestrians move back and forth like water through a semi-permeable membrane. Lights flash and change. Signs say stop and sometimes people stop.

Traffic is neither good nor bad. Traffic simply is. Except when it isn't. Oh, to be the only one on the road, late at night, a chill in the air and fresh asphalt down.

I'm fast then, and no one is in the the way.

Monday, August 4, 2008


I think I've been infected by Da Robot's love of the single speed. Now that my commute has shortened and is in a more hectic traffic area, I find myself wanting a single. No gears to screw with and a sturdier bike that will be able to handle the bumps and holes around town. I honestly didn't ever think a single speed would be for me.

A lot of my desire for a single speed is now fueled by the fact that I don't have to worry about my gears getting banged around during the bus portion of my commute. I am NOT a good bike mechanic. If my back falls and the derailleur gets bent, I'm sorta hosed until I can get to a friends house who knows how to properly adjust such things. Not having to worry about that is really appealing to me.

Another thing I'm really into is the idea that this bike is just the faster lighter version of my cruiser bike. I love my cruiser. I would actually ride that on my commute but it's outfitted with a child seat now and I really like the attack position that drop bars will give me on a single. The reason I got my cruiser was it was a cheap bike that I didn't have to worry about. The single I'm looking at follows that same mode of thought. It's a cheap bike.

And last but not least and surely this can't be discounted, it's a new bike. Who doesn't want a new bike? This is the stuff Christmas mornings are made of. Just like new sneakers will make you run faster and you can can race your sister to the fireplace to prove it, this bike will make me get to and from the bus faster, safer, and cooler.

So I'm getting a new bike. It's just a matter of when.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Addicted to (the) speed

You know, I'm one of those single-speed band wagoneers. I just up and bought one two years ago. I was attracted to the simplicity of it. I had been a roadie, you know, the shoes, lycra, cyclocomputer and also an off-roader, front-suspended, cross country, shoes, lycra, etc. etc. etc.

I just got tired of all the stuff, of lugging shoes around, of suiting up to go anywhere, of worrying about my average speed and cadence. Sick and tired of it.

So single-speed, no clips, just made sense. And I was hooked pretty quickly. I thought originally that it was the simplicity of it, the purity that all the nerds talk about that got me. This morning I realized that it's actually the speed I'm addicted to. Riding single has made me faster. Not thinking about gearing has made me faster. Not having any components hanging on my bike has made me faster.

And I just love the speed. I love to sprint across the city, dusting cabs and commuters. I love the traffic weave. I love the twitchy steering and the lack of options. And, as I mentioned in my last post, I love the smooth, quiet hum of the straight chain.

I don't wanna talk about single vs. fixed right now. I'm not even sure it's worth talking about. If you love to ride, it doesn't matter what you ride. Ride a $6000 all carbon road bike. Ride a vintage three-speed cruiser. Whatever.

Me? I just wanna go fast.

Change Is Good.

What a mind shattering thing! My work announced shuttle buses last week that go from the city where I live to my office. This is so cool. I'm going to save HUNDREDS of dollars in gas, maintenance, and insurance (now that my miles have gone done). However, this totally throws a wrench into my cycling routine.

I'm not a recreational cyclist. I'm a commuter who loves cycling. I have a very hard time going on a "ride". In my mind I can't get over that I'm not going anywhere. I'm just going in some big circle. There is no point to it in my mind. People can give me great reasons to ride and I can think of some myself, but I can never convince my brain. I hope I can change this, but so far no good.

So a big thing thing in my life was my driving part way to work and cycling the rest of the way. I was doing about 17 miles round-trip. I had a safe park and ride to park in all day for free. I had a great route through some trees with a wide generous bike lane. I had a really good time and I was getting better at cycling. I was feeling really good about myself too.

However, with the money I'm saving from the shuttle and extra time I have to get some more work done on the commute (we have wifi!), it's like for me to bike to work, I'd be paying to ride. That's just money out of my wallet. I can't do that right now. So, my park and ride days are numbered for now.

This puts a two options on the table for me now. My first thought was to bring my bike to work (which I do anyway) and map out a local ride near the office. Ride in the morning before work. This is a pretty good idea. In fact I'm going to actually try it in blatant disregard to my brain saying it's just a big circle and what's the point.

There is a catch here tho. The more I ride, the more I want a new bike. However, the bus doesn't have bike racks. It's basically a big Greyhound bus. You have to stow your bike underneath and just let it roll around anyway it wants to. If there are other bikes in the hold, then well, they're going to hit against each other. Since most new bikes have carbon fiber all over them (my new carbon fiber seat post mentioned over and over again that if you breath on it funny you need to see your local bike shop and have them inspect it) I'm guessing having your carbon bike hit up and rub against other bikes for 35 miles each way isn't a great idea.

Ok, so maybe no new bike. But wait, it's the second option on the table! My commute to the bus station is only like 5 miles each way. I could still get a new bike! I mean if a new bike was what I really wanted. I could get a single speed! Robot keeps telling me about his bike and there is something very pure sounding about it. Plus, no gears and derailleurs go get bent up in the bus's hold. I dunno. I'm not like swimming in dough right now, but I like the idea!

Honestly, I think what all this blathering on is about, is that when you don't have an optimal ride to work, be it distance or bike friendly streets, you're forced to come up with creative ways to make bike commuting work. I could just drive to the bus station each day. I could easily park my car there, but that wouldn't feel right. I want to bike. I want to not use a car. I want to get that exercise. Mostly I want to feel the world go rushing by as I pedal faster and faster. I want to have the bike in my daily life. I think I need to have the bike in my daily life. So I'm taking these changes in stride and I'm going to try to find some bike goodness in them. I'll even try to share what I learn.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Victory, thy name is SRAM

Well, I went to the LBS and bought a new chain, an SRAM 9-speed, nickel-plated chain. I as assured that being nickel-plated was a good thing. Other than that, the dude who sold it to me didn't have a lot to say. I mean, it's a fucking chain, right. He offered me the KMC colored chains, red, blue, gold, etc., but I decided I'm probably not that cool. So I bought the SRAM.

It was $11.99.

It fixed my grinding problem. I cut it down from 114 links to 94 and then lubed it up with Chain-J (for the record, I really don't know what the best lube is for the East Coast misery we endure here), and VOILA! No more grind.

Happiness is a new chain. So clean. So quiet.

I bought a Surly Tuggnut chain tensioner too, but it won't go on right. The screw won't turn. When I get it on, it seems to grind against the hub of the rear wheel. I'm sure I'm doing something wrong, or the spacing is wrong on my wheel, or whatever.

It's a challenge for another day.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Trouble-shooting that grinding feeling in my right pedal

I ride a single-speed bicycle. It's supposed to be smooth and quiet. And yet, it is not.

There is a brief grinding in my right pedal on every other pedal stroke. When I really torque the pedals, it is more pronounced.

I took the machine to the bike shop to see if they had some idea. Was it a bad bearing in my bottom bracket? Perhaps a bad bearing in the pedal? A lose crank? The bike mechanic at my LBS first tightened everything in the neighborhood of the grinding, without either confirming or denying that he felt the grinding.

His efforts produced a tighter, but still grindy, drive train.

Another mechanic came over, a guy I trust, and he said that he thought the chain and chain ring were worn down. He offered to put a $20 chain ring on my bike. I demurred. I resolved to try to fix it myself and promised to bring it back once I had fucked it up, so he could do it right.

We laughed and parted ways, though I could see that he was irritated with me for letting him diagnose and then not paying him to repair. Whatever. Like I want a $20 chain ring. Doesn't he know I'm the modern day Fausto Coppi?

Something about his diagnosis just didn't ring true with me. Why would a worn chain ring produce a grinding sensation only at the top of every second pedal stroke? Chain rings are round. If there was a defect or worn spot, it would produce the grind on every pedal stroke.

I have been thinking about this, literally, for weeks without buying a new set of cranks and a chain ring. I did replace the pedals, but only because the ones I had were a little smashed up from all the times I've crashed that fucking bike.

And so, on the way home last night, I was obsessing about the chain ring and trying to ignore the grinding feeling and it was slowly driving me crazy and suddenly it struck me. The source of the problem is obvious. I have a bad link in my chain. The chain ring has 48 teeth. If the chain has 96 links (which seems about right) that would produce a grinding every other rotation of the pedals. A new chain costs $10.

If I prove myself correct, I am going to celebrate by buying a new chain ring. And probably a set of cranks.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Sickness

I am buying a new bike. That's less a statement about what I am doing currently and more a description of my general state at all times. I am buying a new bike.

What that means is that I am constantly trolling Craig's List, eBay, VeloSpace, et. al. looking at frames and parts. Mostly I'm looking for a new single speed, but I don't know whether that means an old, steel Italian road frame that I hang new parts on, or a new track frame, or one of these in-between kind of jobs like a cross bike with aggressive geometry or whatever.

Everyday I decide exactly what I want, and the next day I second guess myself. I am very susceptible to the advice of others. Even if they know less than I do, which is not much.

I have begun to feel bike sick.

Bike sickness is marked by an unquenchable lust for the next ride. Purchasing the next ride will only redouble the symptoms of the disease. Further, there is an inexorable slide toward malaise as you spend more time reading about bicycles than riding them. It is a most dire affliction. If not arrested at its outset, it can sometimes lead to working in bike shops. Don't let this happen to you.

The only cure is riding the bike you've got, preferably fast, then taking it home, cleaning it and taking a long, hot shower. Breathe in, I don't need a new bike. Breathe out, I love the bike I've got. Breathe in, I don't need a new bike. Breathe out, but maybe a single-speed 29er MTB will make me happy...

Monday, July 21, 2008

Of Hemorrhoids and Helmets

How the H-E-L-L do I follow the Cyclosaur's bloody sphincter?

Fuck it. I don't know. Just gotta get back in the locker room, push some weights, work hard and leave it all out here on the field.

Wear a helmet. Stop not wearing a helmet. As cavalier as I was about obeying traffic signals in my last post, I really think you ought to wear a helmet.

And by all means, cut it with the headphones. If you can't hear me giving you the "ON YOUR LEFT!" then there's a good chance you're going to swerve over and kill me. Forget about the cabs that want us both dead. Now you're dangerous TO ME!

And CHRIST! If you refuse to wear a helmet AND wear headphones while you ride, you're practically begging Charles Darwin to pluck you from the gene pool. You want to die. Do me a favor and don't die in the bike lane. Where will all the cabs park?

To be clear, I don't like wearing a helmet either. When I ride bike paths or other no-traffic routes, I will, occasionally go helmetless. This is, I think, a calculated risk, a low one.

But not wearing a helmet while riding in city traffic is begging for a shattered melon, a permanent speech impediment, a gimpy walk. I like your cycling hat. It's a cool hat. You look hip. Now put on a fucking helmet.


Sunday, July 20, 2008

The New Seat Post.

I got the seatpost. I got it last Friday. That's a fast trip from Kentucky to my door. Nice. Now it was a matter of getting time to get the seat out of it's box and on to my bike which considering everything that I have going on, was going to be a challenge.
On Saturday I spotted an opening and hit it. With UPS box in hand I went out to the studio in the back yard and went to work on my bike. First thing was to clean off all the grease. The Easton EC-70 instructions said to do this. I pretty much did everything they said. They repeatedly threatened my life every other sentence. I'm surprised they didn't say anything about how if I goofed anything up installing the post, the seatpost would kill me and then come for my family like Keyser Söze.
Well I cleaned my bike. Got all the old grease out and put in the seatpost. I used my new torque wrench (very glad I bought it) and tightened everything down after fitting it to my size. However, I was out of time. The test ride would have to wait.
Sunday morning arrived with me waking up far earlier than I would have wanted. I sat in bed and realized I was the only one up. This was a good time to ride the bike. It was a foggy California morning and I rode down to the ocean and rode until I was pretty much wet with a good slick of salty fog water. The seat post actually did deaden vibrations I was feeling. I was actually shocked. I sorta didn't think it would work. So there I was riding alone on early morning roads with salty ocean air and actually feeling kind of comfortable. Not bad.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Here's Where It Goes Off The Rails.

From time to time this site will employ blue humor. I should really say "brown humor". We love us some poop stories and jokes. Like this one:

So as you've read my ass has been hurting. Turns out I have/had a hemoroid. I say "had" because I went and took a big dump after lunch and when I went to wipe it was like I stumbled upon a double murder in my ass crack. For reals. Like two people were brutally murdered with a log of shit. Like they were bludgeoned to death in there. Just horrific.

Sorry, to break your cherry like this, but I don't think it's fair to give you the impression that this sort of post isn't going to happen. I'm pretty sure my wife has just grabbed her head in disbelief and is hoping that none of her friends ever read this. But honestly, is this worse than me jumping in the Willamette River behind a JC Penny's naked yelling "I AM THE SNOWBUCK!" This was to be expected as exhibited by a previous pattern of behavior.

Instant Gratification.

So, where I last left off, I was dealing with a sore ass from my cheap aluminum bike. I really should say sore grundle/taint (use Urban Dictionary if you don't know what I'm talking about but you probably know). Anyhoo, I had taken steps to fix this. I have NO idea if my steps will fix anything. It seemed like a good idea at the time. I ordered a carbon fiber seatpost.

I went to Colorado Cyclist and ordered an Easton EC-70 Carbon seatpost. I read some reviews and the prevailing vibe was it didn't suck. I figured at about 100 bucks that's my price point to be allowed to make a mistake every few months. Besides, this wasn't going to make anything worse. I felt excited that this could be good. So excited that I splurged and got 2nd day air/error.

Why look how cute I am with my "air/error"! What's the error? Let me tell you! So I keep checking my mail. Looking for my shipment notice. The rest of the afternoon, the rest of the night, the next day, I keep checking then finally it ships! Hurray! However, I'm a bit miffed that it took so long to put in the mail but ok, things happen.

The next day I check the tracking info. My seat post is in Kentucky. I live in California. My seatpost was sent from Colorado. Uh. That's sorta in the wrong way. I mean you can keep going east and it'll get here I suppose, but... Ok. Maybe it's some sort of UPS hub? I dunno. To UPS's credit they did a fast ass turn around on moving the package to a plane on it's way to Oakland, CA.

So this morning I look at the tracking info and the seatpost is out for delivery. That's good. I'll have it for the weekend. Which is good. BUT, I had wanted it on Thursday - 2 days from after I ordered it. So I'm pissed. I'm not sure if that's ok tho. UPS did do 2nd day shipping. They were fast. Colorado Cyclist was not fast. I went under the assumption that something with a shipping upgrade would get put in the mail ASAP. I mean I chose 2nd day. Don't they think I would want it 2 days from the time of purchase? But maybe I ordered it too late in the day for them to process it? I can see that, maybe if it's not in the morning when the order comes in it has to go out the next day? But should I expect that maybe their website has the logic to say "Hey, you chose 2nd day air and it's too late in our day to meet that. Expect to get your stuff a day later." I'm pissed but not sure if I'm right to be pissed.

I can also allow that one of the reasons I am pissed is that 3 local bike shops didn't have carbon fiber seatpost even in stock. Performance Bikes had one but it was like 250mm. Way to short. So that doesn't count as in stock. Don't shops stock seatposts? I can see where they don't with them being 100 bucks and up. That's a lot of dough to tie up in an item that doesn't exactly fly off the shelves.

Ugh. So frustrating! I WANT SOMETHING! GIVE IT TO ME! I WILL PAY YOU! HANDSOMELY EVEN! Sigh, maybe I'll feel better when I get home and my post is waiting for me or maybe I'll be out of my mind pissed when I find out UPS wouldn't deliver because no one was home and they're closed on Saturday or something. Why is this gotta be so hard? Like I needed a 2nd pain in my ass.

Lights, Laws, Rebellion

Do you stop at stop lights? Do you go at go lights? Do you slow down at slow down lights?

As a Robot, I am programmed to respond to simple cues, such as colored lights. BUT!!!! I am a special kind of robot, a punk rock bicycle robot, and I have overridden this light-sensitive programming. I don't stop at lights. To be clear, I stop when stopping is necessary, as when automobiles are passing parallel to my path at great speed. I do that. Self-preservation is innate, even for a robot.

In general, however, I use traffic lights as advice. Sometimes the advice is good, and sometimes the advice is bad. There was a time when I never stopped at all. I was reckless. Then I had baby robots and began to think more of them than for my own wanton speed-lust. More and more often now, I heed the advice the lights give me.

This brings me to the topic of whether or not it is ok to disregard traffic lights. From a legal perspective, the answer is clearly: NO. From a moral perspective, the answer is probably also: NO. The lights represent the rules by which we all must live, and to ignore them is to erode the fabric of society.

From a practical perspective, the answer is probably also: NO. As cyclists we need the drivers of automobiles to respect us. As soon as they see us as annoying scofflaws, they begin driving in our designated lanes (though there are few of those where I live), pushing us off the road and generally operating their machinery as if we don't exist, all of which is dangerous for us. For that reason alone, we should probably all obey the lights.


If I wanted to wait through every red light I came to, I'd drive a freakin' car. Cycling isn't just transportation to me. Cycling is power and freedom. Sometimes, when no cars are coming, I exercise that power and freedom to zip off across a static intersection, leaving the befuddled drivers to worry at their radios and drum their fingers on sun-faded steering wheels. The immature part of me sees the streets as the place the us vs. them plays out. My running of lights is the middle finger I extend to those who choose to move on four wheels.

I am not proud of it, but it is in my nature.

You should not run lights. The lights are the law and running them is unsafe. Don't do it. Don't do as I do, unless of course there is enough punk rock in you to see that the fabric of society could use a little erosion, that those who drive cars are the ones who also make the traffic laws. Those laws are made for monstrously large and dangerous vehicles that seriously impinge on everyone's way of life, clogging our streets, polluting our air, bankrupting us in the name of selfish convenience.

Plato said that it was far more noble to rebel against bad laws than to adhere to good ones. It is by running lights that I express that nobility and slowly, slowly, slowly change the world I live in.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Kind of Robot I am

I am the kind of robot that rides bicycles, velocipedes, two-wheeled, gyroscopic transportation devices, or as I like to think of them, movement robots. They take me to my work. They take me to my home. I ride them with my little robots. My wife unit makes funny jokes about my preoccupation with them. Other places I take them include: grocery stores, cafes, the homes of friends, fire stations, churches, libraries, bike shops, et. al.

What the Cyclosaur has invited me to do is share what data I have about cycling with you, the human reading public. I will endeavor to format my data in a way that is pleasing to your aesthetic sensibilities. As I share a basic anatomy with you, or, at least, the male half of you, I should be able to provide some insight about not rupturing certain valuable, corporeal components, what you call "nuts." I will also, whenever possible, try to imagine what it's like to operate a bicycle while in possession of a vagina.

Very soon I would like to share my thoughts with you as regards the red, yellow and green traffic regulation devices you call "lights." That is all.

Hey man, what's up?

I'm not really a fan of comics that start with "the origin". I like to start with a good story. Some real suspense, a classic villain! Let the origin unfold around issue 6 maybe. But slowly, so by issue 25 maybe you can drop a HUGE bombshell! Something like, the main villain is the hero's father and HIS hand was cut off with a lightsaber TOO!

So that's what I'm hoping to do here with this here blog. Tho The Robot may do something else completely. Probably something that makes sense, is well thought out, and properly spelled. I will not reveal my origin story in these first posts. I will attempt to solve a simple crime and hint at my major villain to come.

If you're looking at this first post as a whole you may be thinking or saying (much to the annoyance of the guy in the cube next to you), "What?! 3 paragraphs? That's your opening salvo?" Yes. That is. Baby steps and all that. But since you may have read this far and I hope not aloud, I will give you a major hint at what a future post may be about! I have an aluminum bike and my ass hurts (yes I have a seat attached to the seatpost). What could possibly happen!? 

Wednesday, July 16, 2008