Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Many Less Cars

I want there to be many less cars in my city, Boston. They stink. They pollute. They're big. They're unwieldy. They're unsafe. They're ugly. They make people fat. They make people angry. They are, an awful lot of the time, unnecessary.

And so I have devised a plan to eliminate large numbers of automobiles from the city. Eliminate half the parking.

We can all tut-tut at people who drive a mile down the road to the post office or around the corner to the coffee shop, but those places are set up to drive to. In fact, though Boston is absolutely choked with cars, we just spent $14 billion to make it easier and faster to get into the city by car. Last year, though 4% of the population commutes by bicycle, there were just two city blocks of bike lanes in the entire city limits.

It's just too easy to drive, so people drive. I would do the same thing, if I didn't already hate cars and driving, so I can't really blame them.

So, if we eliminated half the parking, I think we could significantly reduce the driving (and traffic), because we'd make it less convenient to drive and more convenient to ride or take the bus/train. This will seem Draconian to some, but to me, it seems completely Draconian to allow 40 feet of roadway (two parking lanes on either side, two traffic lanes in the middle) to bisect crowded urban areas. So take 10 of those feet and give them to cyclists and pedestrians. Widen the sidewalks. Lay bike paths.

This will serve to lessen pollution and noise. It will turn our city back into a walking place (it's got to be the geographically smallest "big city" in the country.) It will cause us to interact with each other more and thereby become nicer (I'm stretching now), and it will help us be less fat.

And it will help me not get hit and crushed, which is something I am actively afraid of, though I go right on cranking my way back and forth across the city as if I'm invincible.

Monday, April 27, 2009

My stupid ego

This morning I rode up behind a woman on a slick all carbon Fondriest. She was all lycra and Sidi road shoes, and not the cheap ones.

I rode along behind her for a minute, during which time she horked one back over her shoulder that swooped back toward me in the wind and just missed my foot. I said, "Hey, careful up there," and she laughed and apologized and I said, "That's alright. You missed me that time."

So then we came to a light and she held up and I darted across, and I sort of assumed that she'd catch back up pretty quick, on account of she was riding the space shuttle and there I was on my slightly over-geared fixed ride.

But as I pedaled away I had this evil feeling come over me. I didn't want her to catch up.

Now, I don't know where she was coming from. She might have been warming down from the half century she rode before I even woke up. She might have just been finishing a cross country trip that started in San Francisco.

But in my tiny, reptilian brain, I wanted to beat the roadie. So I put the hammer down. And let me be clear that my hammer is one of those tiny, cute hammers that ladies sometimes keep in the utility drawers in their kitchens. So I put that down and rode away and kept riding and she never caught me, and when I turned off the main drag I looked back and saw her back behind me a couple hundred yards, and for some stupid reason I felt good about that.

Monday morning and I'm having imaginary races with oblivious roadies on the way to work. When my legs start to go later in the week, I'll think back on this and laugh at myself for being so stupid.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Friday Video

"Like a flea on a dog...."

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

When the dog bites, when the bee stings...

So things aren't going that well today. I mean they're not going that badly. I don't have cancer. I'm employed. The people who love me all still love me, I think.

But my clients are acting like assholes. They're sending me snarky emails. I had a bad dream last night. It's going to rain again today. Whine. Bitch. Moan. Gurgle. Splutter. Barf.

And it's funny, and only really worth mentioning, because every time I start to feel crappy, I have this strong urge to go out and ride my bike. That's my happy place.

It looks like I'll be riding home in the rain. I can't wait.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The difference between me and people who know how to ride.

I have been riding bicycles since 1977, I think. I've ridden BMX, banana seat cruisers, road bikes, mountain bikes, urban bombers, single speed, fixed gear, beach cruisers, and loved them all. For a while, when I was mountain biking a lot, I practiced observed trials. If you don't know what trials is, it's a bike handling discipline based around navigation of an obstacle course. Your feet are meant never to touch the ground. These courses may consist entirely of a pile of large boulders.

I practiced lateral hopping, climbing stairs, spins and pivots, hopping to table tops and park benches, etc. etc. etc. I was not very good at any of it, despite many hours frittered away.

This guy on the other hand has mastered the force of gravity, made it his bitch, locked it in a small cage in his basement, to use as he will, whenever he wishes. Behold his magic:

And then go ride your bike.

Monday, April 20, 2009


Hi, I still write. So you can shut up now, stupid Robot, with your doom and gloom IMs "So you've quit the blog?" I've been crazy busy the last few weeks. But I also did some interesting bike things. Namely made my Swobo into a fixie. When I say "made", I mean flipping the wheel and throwing on a 17 tooth ring, but for a second there it sounded like I was handy with a wrench. Which is cool.

My take on the fixie? I hated it. All the things I liked about my commute were pretty much negated by riding fixie. I like to coast. I like futz with my jacket. I like to reach into my pockets and pull out my phone and look shit up while I ride (I'm a retard). I like to screw up getting my feet in the clips and then coast while I flip the peddle over and slide in. These are things that do not occur with the fixie.

The fixie is always "on". You're either pedaling, skidding, or falling. Any other activity you want to be doing must include one of these. That didn't work for me (see things I like listed above). I feel I gave the fixie a good shot tho. I got pretty competent on the riding fixie. I even stopped trying to coast (don't do this) out of habit and got pretty good at controlling my decent speeds with leg muscles. Actually, I need to stop and relate to you an episode that occurred on the first day I rode fixie.

I was coming down this huge hill and and immediately got going super fast and my legs were just being yanked out from under me as I tried to use my leg muscles to control the speed of the bike. Things were going south fast, so I let instinct take over and I took my feet off the pedals. This is a bad idea. To get my feet back on the pedals, well it was like trying to jump out of a moving car and into a instant sprint to match the speed. I can't do that. (I tried. You just fall flat on your face and it hurts really bad.) So I just went down the hill with my feet sticking out in the air. When I got to the bottom of the hill I was all "Phew! That was crazy!" Never once did it occur to me to actually use my BRAKES to modulate speed. Ugh. Like I said fixie isn't for me. My brain just isn't wired up for it.

So last night I switched my bike back to it's original form. Then I rode it to the bus stop this morning. I coasted down the big hill over looking the ocean, scratched my nuts, and started fucking with my phone trying to see what time it was. This I like.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The continued sound of one hand clapping

I appear to be the only one here anymore. My comrades have abandoned the bloggery. I am sorry. You're stuck with me.

So...one last thing about pro cycling, and then I'll drop it until something really exciting happens. The Amstel Gold Race doesn't count.

Did you see Paris-Roubaix? F'ing crazy. Crashes. Smashes. Attacks. Tactical blunders. Mechanical meltdown. That race is like the cycling equivalent of Thunderdome. Tom Boonen showed he was the strongest (and smartest) on the day. He didn't let any of his Quick Step teammates get too far up the road without him, which is what he did at the Tour of Flanders, and that cost him (but not the team) the win there.

This time he rode on the front, which is always smart in PR, because when the inevitable mass pile up happens, you don't get caught in it. He also attacked at just the right time to break up the lead group. If Pipo Pozzato had really wanted to win, he should have put in an earlier attack. Instead, Boonen made the moves and rode his luck to win the prize.

Luck played a huge part as well. Flecha crashed and took two others with him, also holding Pozzato up, though again, Pozzato should have known better than to be on the back of the group over the cobbles. Then Hushovd crashed into the barrier. I mean, how embarrassing is that? It's too bad, too, because Hushovd probably had a chance at outsprinting Boonen in the end.

Great race. I'll watch it again and again.

Finally, I learned something very, very interesting last week about those Northern European cobblestones. It seems that ships leaving from Belgium and Northern France some centuries ago, would fill their hulls with those cobbles as ballast for the trip across the Atlantic, dumping them in New England and refilling with valuable cargo. The cobbles, or pavé as they're known in France, were then used to pave roads here.

Even on the street I live on, when a pothole goes deep, say 8-12 inches, you can see the cobblestone road underneath. So, it's sort of thrilling to think that, on a daily basis, I'm riding over top of the same cobbles that have been such a huge part of European bike racing for the last century and a half.

Wow. Just re-read that. I'm quite a tool, aren't I?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Roubaix DAY!!!!!!

No video. No trenchant analysis. No fanboy drooling.

It's Paris-Roubaix today, the best bicycle race ever.

Watch it on Versus at 5pm EST.

Or, if you're in Europe, watch it on your television. It'll be on.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Too Goddamned Dope Not to Spread

Steven Hamilton from The Day Is Over (2004) from Elliot Van Orman Productions on Vimeo.


I watch bike videos. I read bike blogs. I follow pro cycling. I cycle. I ride road and mountain. I have a cruiser. I have two fixed gears. I like bikes and bike stuff.

One of the things I see a lot now are fixed gear focused blogs that post videos of various young folks performing tricks on their track bikes. Of course, the track bikes are mostly modified for trick-doing. BMX stems. Beefed up rims, etc.

And I think it's super cool. Totally inspiring to see a group of people doing different things with their machines, pushing the bounds of balance and timing in cool new ways.

I wonder to myself, "What would it take for you to learn to do trick X or trick Y?"

I answer, "It would take riding around all day on my bike practicing and falling down a lot."

And then I think, "Gosh, I sure do wish I could spend my days riding around, practicing tricks and falling down."

Seriously. I wish that.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Back Problems and Messengers

I have not been here for a few days. I have not ridden a bicycle since Friday morning. It was then that I stood up funny and my back went into spasm. This is what 37 years of playing like a five-year-old will get you.

So I've been off the bike. And that kills me, because it's a big week on the European road circuit that I take as such an inspiration in my daily riding. There was Stijn Devolder winning the Tour of Flanders again. Ghent-Wevelgem was today. A Columbia sprinter not named Mark Cavendish won that, and then it's Paris-Roubaix this Sunday. The very best of the classics.

Ah well, I'll be healthy again soon and back to pounding the asphalt.

I wanted to say something about messengers today, too. I don't know why messengers have become such revered bicycle riders. Most of those I see don't seem to know much beyond how to pedal (not that they have to be experts). They're mostly young. A lot of them seem to smoke. They're getting around and delivering packages, and that's cool.

There is nothing wrong with messengers. Don't get me wrong. I'm not hatin'.

I just don't see why people think being a messenger gives you some profound cycling experience that other people don't have. Also, messengers are NOT a homogenous group. Like the broader cycling community, the messenger population runs the gamut. There are roadies. There are punks. There are Freds. There are guys (and gals) who just can't get another job.

But, just as I don't universally respect racers or cyclocrossers or recumbent riders, I can't see that messengers deserve some exalted place either. As near as I can tell, they are almost indistinguishable from urban cyclists generally.

My overall feeling is that everyone who rides a bike is pretty cool, even those older ladies with their horrible hybrids and their neon yellow crossing guard vests. I mean, they're getting it done, aren't they? They're pedaling. And that's cool.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Friday Video FUN!!!!

Tour of Flanders coming on Sunday. Here's a quick taste from last year's race, a nice win for Stijn Devolder. What the hell kind of name is Stijn? Belgian, motherfuckers!

Check out the NASCAR-styley crash highlights too.


When I went to bed last night I was empty. Quads? Cooked. Calves? Tight. Hamstrings? Like piano wire.

But I didn't feel too bad when I woke up, so I rode. I was tired and sore, but it's the Tour of Flanders this weekend, so I rationalized that if those guys can go out and suffer on the cobbles, then I could slog through a day of low energy and muscle fatigue.

Well, I failed to factor into the equation that I'm 37 and their average age is about 27, that they live and breathe suffering, whereas I just dabble.

So at some point I wrecked my back. I'm sitting here at my desk, ice packed and ibuprofened. I can hardly walk.

I'll try to post some video of last year's Tour of Flanders for your Friday video treat.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

There's a fight a brewin'.

As I poke around the innertubes here, seeking news and the glad tidings of fellow cyclists, I hear a rumbling, angry noise, the noise that precedes a rumble, an angry, rumbling, noisy, pre-rumble sort of angry noisiness.

Conflicts at Critical Mass events, between drivers and cyclists. Radio DJs advocating the automotive assault of road bound cyclists. Cyclists removing side mirrors with u-locks. Videos of drivers buzzing cyclists. Pending litigation. Low-level carping. Waving of arms. Shaking of fists.

Perhaps this is part of a natural progression, especially in our more crowded cities. Cars, those tyrannical beasts, are encountering more and more unpredictable, little, flitting cycley insects. A populace already pushed to the edge by their car-bound isolation and sense of asphalt entitlement are being shoved into the abyss by our (sometimes) well-meaning society of cyclists.

Perhaps we are reaching some sort of actual critical mass, a point at which cars have to really deal with bikes. There will be some necessary conflict. The rough edges of both populations will be planed smooth.

Maybe there's even a future in which we, the two-wheeled, will outnumber the four-wheeled.

I certainly hope so, but for my part, I can't advocate violence, no matter how much I feel drawn to it. I have engaged in conflict. I have shouted and waved fists. I have also, on better days, forgiven those who have cut me off. By and large, these road confrontations are born more from simple human frailty than actual malice.

I am always happier when I forgo the angry response. There may be a fight a brewin', but we don't have to show up for it. We just have to try to arrive alive and hope for a more cyclistic future, life in a velocipedic utopia.


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Product Endorsements!!!!

I'm loathe to sell anything for anyone. Ever. BUT...this winter I encountered two products, which I found unswervingly helpful in my pursuit of year-round cycling happiness.

And now I share them with you.

The first is a pair of knicker tights by a company called Black Bottoms. I'd give you a direct link, but their site seems to be frames-based (LAME!!!!!), so I can't do that. However, the knickers themselves are the warmest and most comfortable I've ever worn. They cost $72 from the site. I got mine, new with tags, off eBay for $35, but I think they're worth $72. In cold weather, I'd wear them every day.

The other is this. So warm, so comfortable. Again, I get them cheaper on eBay, like $30 each, but they're worth more. This base layer with a t-shirt got me through days as cold as 30 with no problem.

I'm not a big gear guy. I don't like to get all skin-suited to ride around town, but the winter demands a little gearing up just to make riding possible, sans hypothermia.

There's a lot of crap out there. I own some of it. But these two products were big wins for me, so I thought I'd share.

Another recommendation I could make is to search eBay for old wool cycling jerseys. There are a ton out there for cheap, and wool is good.

You're welcome.