This is a shameless attempt to save the the most advanced civilization in
history from imminent self destruction by eliminating carbon emission,
dependence on foreign sources of fuel,obesity, hypertension and diabetes.
Cycling accomplishes all those things at once and helps us develop a better
understanding of ourselves, each other and our relationship to the cosmos.

Oh, horse puckey!
I like to ride bikes, have been doing it all my life.
The rest of that crap is just a fringe benefit,
and the blogosphere gives me a chance to share my interior
monologue with virtual rather than imaginary friends.

Friday, February 17, 2017

EL NINO strikes down winter again

      Things are just getting good around here.  It's mid February in Michigan, the snow is gone (along with local skiing) the temps promise to be in the forties for the next week, I took the Hillborne out with regular tires yesterday.  Maybe Phil from wherever-I-can't-pronounce was wrong.  We know it's not global warming because that stopped on January 20th, but  warm weather crawls over the snow squeezing it out until the only ice left is near the snow mountains at the edge of the parking lots.  So I am going to switch out the studs on the Hunq and start really riding to work. 
   The fact that we have riding conditions at an odd time of year had not deterred the advocacy season from marching forward.  Renee and John (right and left) from out local bike club awarded our Mayor Hopewell (a cyclist himself) and the City Commission with the Annual "Friend of Cycling" award 
for approving the 5ft passing law.We all expected it to be difficult
 but the Commission passed it with a 100% vote.   
Along with that,  KATS, the area transportation study which dispenses federal funds,
held a Q&A opportunity for the public to provide comment and suggestions over their proposals.  I got there at the end but the crowd had been large during the day and suggestions for development of active transport throughout the area proved to thoughtful as well as various.
But despite it all we have run into this glitch, where a neighborhood in the student ghetto has stopped  the city's initiative to widen walkways and add bike lanes.  Ostensibly, they got upset to know that some trees were being removed, but there is a tavern owner who is worried about losing a few parking spaces for a few weeks.  They will probably go around in circles for a month or two before that work resumes.  Ultimately trees will grow back and more pedestrians and cyclists will spend more money than motorists driving past.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The mouths of babes.

 During my part-time retirement gig as a substitute teacher I had a a class of freshman students with nothing but an exam review to keep their attention.   Being scatter brained hormone laden creatures with the attention span of gnats, I had a little trouble getting them focused at first. My reputation as a notable eccentric had preceded me, so a couple of them asked me about cycling.  One asked specifically why I rode my bike to school.  I explained first that I had found over the years that riding my bike was as convenient as driving within a 5-10 mile radius of home.  I asked them to tell me why somebody might choose a bike over driving a car.
Their list of reasons was pretty impressive;  
They first listed Exercise, which would be obvious, 

One popped up with "showing off a fancy bike!"  well I'm guilty.  We're all gear snobs in our own way.  Even those on the cheap like to brag about how little they spent building their cool commuter.

Then saving money, I elaborated for them that since I drive about 10K miles per year less than average, and the IRS allows about 60 cents a mile for car expense, I have about $6000 per year to spend on other stuff.

Next, the list under Environmental issues included less gas usage, fewer resources used, as well as less pollution. 

Surprisingly one of them said it was safer (most people assume that cars are safer, but this little whipper snapper knew the truth).  I applauded and told them I was 10 times less likely to be injured on my bike than in a car according to studies by the CPSC and NTSB.

But when I asked them for more, they ran out of answers and stared.  They could come up with nothing more than 8 reasons. 

When I told them I enjoyed it, it was more fun than sitting in traffic, they simply looked shocked. That focused them, they were dumbstruck.  It had never occurred to them.

    Faced with 9 good reasons to ride a bike, I asked them why they  would choose to drive.
They came up with nothing.  Not one of 30 kids could think of a reason to justify driving a car.  There might be hope yet!  I finally suggested Social Acceptance.  They stared.  I explained we have been taught by advertising for years that we need a car to be part of society.  It's part of our identity, others drive and we want to be like them. 
     In the great scheme of things this  won't keep them from getting their licenses and impressing each other with cars their senior year, but they gave themselves something to think about and I got a quiet classroom.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Less is more except for holiday sales.

      A few months ago I mentioned there would  be fewer posts on this blog since I am not the type to be repetitive, and once traveling season is over, and I start pretending to work, the commuting process does get repetitive and you guys have heard it before.  Less must mean more .  There's no real goal or number here but when I cut down my drivel, readership went up.  In fact it tripled.  No coincidence, word must have gotten round that there is a lot less bullshit to sift through so it might be worth it.  Or there is some other sensible reason, but sense is not part and parcel to my program so we'll just move on and get over it.
I went on a shopping spree for the holidays.  
I've developed an unnatural affection for Chrome products  but I can't help it. 
They make stuff that works and lasts and fits the way I ride and the places I go.  They had a lot of useful items marked down and a big bonus discount for ordering during the holidays.   From the left, I got another Duramap hoodie, a work shirt, new IKE wind shirt and a pair of boots.
The  hoodie is just like the grey one I have just a different color but for a cycling hoodie they are ideal and the hood actually fits over a helmet.  The new shirt is a novel and reversible quilted work shirt.  It has buttons for closure.  One side is a quilted beige color while the other is a smooth blue slate.  It weighs practically nothing, is warm, wind resistant and the rear pocket doubles as stuff sack.
I have a feeling this is going to be a traveling staple.
The windshirt is the same design as one I have in blue, but a second one at this price is a great idea.  I got the farmer plaid color to go with blue jeans and, like the other, this has a double zipper and zippered cuffs as well as vented pits and reinforced wind block on the inside. I love it.
The new shoes are quilted and lined with fleece for cold weather as well as having secretly reflective black trim.
They have the same forged soles and stiffened insoles as do their other bike shoes.  They seem to be really warm and waterproof.    Altogether this little self induced Christmas present was a real bargain. If you don't keep an eye on Chrome products, you probably should.  Their stuff is made for cyclists who actually go places other than their car.  At regular prices I would have paid nearly $500 for these four items, between the clearance markdown and the special holiday incentive I paid only $160.  
Now I'm all replete in my new kit with the plaid wind jacket and Rivendell pants I look like a real biker and will probably embarrass any number of spandex hamsters, for any number of reasons.
I understand the aero skin suits and all that but she still needs a helmet.

Even Cippo' uses appropriate headgear when he's
 rockin' the stylish kit on his ride back to the team van.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

2016, time to pedal forward

        I woke up this morning to realize another year went away last night.  It has been an eventful one which started just like this one with a "Hair of the Dog" ride sponsored by Rupert's Pub.  It's a myopic event where everybody meanders around the downtown area for a bit before enjoying a pot luck buffet and few beers while discussing how close they came to last year's goals.  I get left out  of those conversations since I don't keep track of mileage.  I tell them I went places and saw stuff but have no idea how far or how fast.  I wonder if they enjoyed it more knowing they must improve this year to reach last year's goals.
        Last year started like this one will.   A few months of frigid commuting when I was noticeably alone on the streets if not for the court appointed cyclists struggling to the liquor stores.
After the months of winter commuting to my part time gig as a teacher and listening to the daily remarks about how impossible my ride to work was each day,  I was ready for spring break.
       Making the pilgrimage to Cleveland was like cycling through all four seasons in a week.   April in Michigan and Ohio is changeable but you really can't appreciate how changeable until you live outdoors on a daily basis.  I started in a freak snowstorm, went home and restarted the next morning.  The weather changed to unseasonably warm and beautiful,
back to freezing rain and snow and back to just plain cold and dry.  Despite the trip being both interesting and surprisingly scenic,
 the weather was the the most challenging of any trip I  have taken.  I finished the quest and, no, I didn't have tickets to a Cavalier's game.  Nothing trivial here.

It was a pilgrimage to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  As I said originally, I have done sillier shit, but I endured snowstorms, freezing rain, single digit temperatures and freezing rain
to come home with a fucking t-shirt!
    The springtime became a typical renewal of enthusiasm for the "real" bikers who forsake their wind trainers and succumbed to the temptations of daylight savings time.  The club rides resumed in earnest and continued with fever until June 7th happened
The tragedy nobody in the world conceived.  Nine cyclists run down by a drugged up loser in a borrowed pickup truck.  5 dead and the others critically injured.  The driver faces trial for five counts of 2nd degree murder.  I spent the following week riding and answering calls from people all over the world expressing their condolence and concerns.
Even Lance Armstrong offered his notoriety to help publicize the tragedy by coming to help "finish the ride" with a group a week later.   It's a day nobody wants to remember but will never forget.  It makes us all aware how vulnerable we are to choices others make.
    I was traveling the country side on a previously scheduled trip where I was talking about it constantly; either on the phone with callers, answering e-mails or discussing it with people I met on the road.  The rest of June was a flourish of activity and fundraising.
The club donated all proceeds from our annual charity tour to the victims and their families. 
     At the end of June there was reason for another journey.  Returning to my college haunts in Kansas City for a conference was a good excuse to ride the legendary Katy Trail across Missouri.   I was able to have a reunion dinner with one of my former classmates and his wife.  That was a wonderful evening. Another special treat was stumbling into my first experience with a Critical Mass ride.
There were about 300 of us riding about the shopping and tourist areas of Westport, The Plaza and Brookside areas, taking over the streets for blocks until we paused for a break 
at one of Kansas City's famous fountains.  After a few days
 As trails go, the Katy is one of the better I have seen.  Winding through the Ozarks and along the Missouri river it was a trip you can make as quickly or as leisurely as you please.  A network of cottage businesses have developed to service the traffic from the trail system, accommodations are easy to find and the country side is scenic and rich in historical significance.
It was hot, and the shelter of the trail was a welcome relief from the city streets.
I was never really alone although some of my company was less than sociable.  No, those are not dogs but baby bulls and I was between them and their mother who was wiley enough to find her way into the woods.   It was one way to get the heart rate up while off the bike.
After a few days and some more luxurious scenery along the Missouri, I found my way to downtown 
St Louis for another train ride home.
     Being a well known eccentric I became an esteemed member of the Citizen's Advisory Committee
to the local Transportation Committee last year.  July afforded an invitation to the regional Transportation Planners Conference.   Does that sound like a party or what?  Well it's not, but fighting the nap jerks was not all that was accomplished.
A couple of days of meetings and (totally fascinating) public speakers had me all agog over their preoccupation with developing complete streets.  The changes being planned and implemented here should thrill anybody who goes places on bikes.  It will probably frustrate the majority of cyclists who will find parking in short supply for their BMW's adorned with rooftop Trek Madone's, but screw them.  The traffic engineers are seeing the light and developing better traffic patterns which will not only facilitate active transport, but encourage it.
The goal is in sight!
     In August I found an adventurous advantage to the Hunqapillar.  A bike like that gave me the means to dispense with planning routes.
Using all purpose 29er tires I finally learned the freedom of truly open road touring.  Granted, I was in Western Michigan and very familiar territory, but riding along I just pointed myself in the direction of my next stop and took whatever road looked interesting.  Occasionally, I glanced at the GPS on Google Maps,
but had no qualms about heading down an unfamiliar road as long as it was in the right direction.  It's a new form of freedom I am going to develop in the coming year.
     September brought about the end of the "season" as most cyclists view it.  We lucked out and had a perfect day for our annual anniversary ride for the local club.
In October I enjoyed another gravel run through the idyllic forests of Yankee Springs at the Barry Roubaix Grand Fondo.  And the fall marched forward into the advocacy season when the club managed to push our local administrators into adopting minimum 5' passing ordinances.  That was a great step forward
and I discovered the excellent documentary "Bikes vs. Cars" on Netflix.
Watch it.
I finally found the the tatoo I'd been waiting all my life to define me.  It was a good year, but  one best left behind after the murders and the  most embarrassing presidential election in the history of the American experiment.  Time to put it behind us and move on.