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.