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.