Friday, September 30, 2005

Friday Musette

Mikhail thought I might be interested in this article on the Treehugger site.

It's an article about cycling and air pollution, and the exposure that a cyclist faces by riding in proximity to motor vehicle traffic. While it's true that cyclists may be exposed to various forms of pollution from cars and trucks, the overall health benefits of regular exercise likely outweigh the risks. That's mere assumption on my part, though.

Still, there's a kind of street theater in the idea of a cyclist riding while wearing a pesticide respirator, for instance. These are the big rubber face pieces with 2 cartridge filters attached to either cheek. I have one at work for painting and hazmat. Toss in a pair of goggles, and you'd have that authentic Darth Vader look!


I was nearing home yesterday afternoon, rounding the bend at the bottom of our hill, when my neighbor Chuck came up alongside on his Harley-Davidson. I waved. He yelled hello, then I was up and out of the saddle, sprinting away from him! He caught up and we rode side by side up the hill at 20 mph. Chuck had it a little easier than me. He wasn't even breathing hard! He won the sprint too, but only by half a bike length. And I've been having leg cramps and pain ever since! The ego writes checks the body can't cash.


Theres a guy with a PA system in his car on morning commute. He always says something as he goes by, and it's always something friendly. Maybe I could carry a megaphone, and ask him to come ride with me some morning.


It's been a week for headwinds, leg cramps, Icy Hot, and whiskey. I had a headwind both ways when a front went through at mid day. I really don't like days like that. They leave me feeling puny.


The county sheriff's deputy who I call Officer Cupcake has been haunting the back roads I travel going home. I've seen him several times now, so it's probably not coincidence. He really is a dick. Every time I've seen him, he's immediately pulled over the very next car he sees. It's a 35 mph speed limit out there, and it's unlikely the motorists were driving at much more than that. It's probably only a matter of time before he stops me again. I'm not looking forward to it, but I'll review the relevant cycling law in the meantime, and maybe even print up some handy copies.


Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Cult of the Fixed Gear Revisited

John asked:
"Does converting a road bike to a single speed (with freewheel) count as halfway to fixed gear? That's as far as I've been brave enough to go. I'm a little afraid of fixed gear because I've had some knee problems."

Believe me, I know about knee problems. I have trouble with my right knee due to a type of arthritis. Cleat alignment is absolutely critical to pain-free cycling. For that matter, middle age brought myriad aches and pains. It's a rare day when something doesn't hurt, but then, I've broken a lot of bones along the way too. They make excellent barometers!

A single-speed is akin to a fixed gear, but it doesn't work the muscles the same way. When I first start riding fixed, the muscles at the top outside of my thighs hurt. I'm sorry, but I don't know their names. I think a short ride on a fixed is a more intensive workout. Oddly, I feel 'loose' after a fast spinning ride, something that doesn't happen with a geared bike.

Sheldon offers this: His knowledge far exceeds mine, and this page is a primer in doing a fixed gear conversion.

There's a quick and dirty way to discover if you'll like riding a fixed gear. It's cheap too! If you have an old freewheel-equipped bike with horizontal frame ends, simply remove the freewheel and spin on a cog. I highly recommend a lockring over the cog for safety's sake. If you get a 3/32" cog, you can use a regular derailleur chain, otherwise, with a 1/8" cog, you'll need a 1/8" chain too. Remove the derailleurs and controls. Install the chain on the inner chainring. This will give an adequate chain line, though it's unlikely to be perfect, it will work. Do not remove the rear brake. It's better practice to keep it for safety in the event that the cog spins off as you try to slow down. Total cost for all of this should be around thirty to forty dollars (assuming you already have an old bike to modify!) Some of the guys on the fixed gear list go dumpster diving for suitable bikes.

If you decide you like the set up, you can substitute BMX chainring bolts. They're shorter, so you can use just one chainring. You'll probably mount it on the inner surface of the crank arm. Change the spacers on rear wheel, making them even side-to-side, and re-dish the wheel. Your chainline should be fairly close to perfect. See a copy of Barnett's manual for an in-depth discussion of chainline.

Gearing is a personal choice. I have 2 fixed gears at present, one set up with a 42x20 for bad weather commuting, complete with rack, fenders, and lights, and another set up with 47x18 for faster rides and fun. In fact, I rode the 47x18 to work today since I only needed to carry my lunch and a few work clothes. I've gone as high as a 52 or 49x18 on that bike for time trials, but I wouldn't ride a bigger gear like that regularly. I value my knees too, so I'd recommend using a small gear at first. Something between 60 and 70 inches should do fine. Because there are no 'dead spots' at top dead center and bottom dead center, you can climb in a much larger gear than you would on a freewheel equipped bike. In other words, you can climb with less effort on a fixed gear for an equivalent gear size. My knees are acutely aware of this!

I rode a Paris Sport track bike back when I lived in Pittsburgh. It had a 62" gear, if I recall right, and that worked out OK for the hills. But I was also a lot younger then and about 40 pounds lighter. That 42x20 on my current commuter may seem small to some, but it's perfect for getting into the ever-present Oklahoma headwind while carrying baggage.

It takes some time to adapt to riding a fixie. You may be a bit anxious and fearful for the first couple of rides, and I suggest you stay away from traffic until you feel comfortable. Practice someplace quiet, away from traffic. Clipping into the pedals, or getting into toe clips may be a little problematic at first. Double-sided clipless pedals are a real plus on a fixed gear. Stopping and slowing take a little more planning too. I approach intersections cautiously. Long, steep down hills are another place to be cautious. You'll find that the pedals can spin well above your ability to slow down by holding them back. There are two solutions for this. Use the brakes or avoid going that fast in the first place.

Starting is easiest if you bring one pedal around to give you a good down stroke. I do this by lifting the saddle with one hand while bringing the pedal around with my clipped in foot. Some people can apply the front brake, push forward with their hands lifting the rear wheel slightly, and bring the pedal around, but I've never done this well. Do whatever works best for you.

You'll discover very quickly that you cannot stop pedaling and coast. The bike will remind you of this quite forcefully! I found that I stopped pedaling whenever I went to sit down on the saddle after standing. I learned to keep pedaling when I crossed railroad tracks. And since I'm riding a road conversion rather than a track bike, I've learned to slow down a lot for corners. I do not want to snag a pedal! Track bikes usually have higher bottom brackets and shorter crank arms, making for less chance of a pedal strike.

Sunday, September 25, 2005


(This is from the Christian Science Monitor. I like the article in that it seems to strike a fair balance between bike lane advocacy and vehicular cycling. If anyone doesn't know already, I come down on the VC side....Ed)

'Sharrows' aim to help cars and bikes share roads

Special lane markings alert drivers to slow down and guide cyclists to a safer spot.

By Linda Baker | Contributor to The Christian Science Monitor

PORTLAND, ORE. – In the late 1990s, bicycle lanes were painted on streets in northwest Portland, a high-density neighborhood less than a mile from downtown. But congestion at traffic lights made reducing space for automobiles impractical in some areas. As a result, the project left a nine-block gap in the bike network.

Caught between the need for a continuous bike lane and the demands of drivers, Portland transportation engineers finally came up with a solution. Next month, the city will fill the gaps in the network with new shared-lane pavement markings, called "sharrows." Stencils of a bicycle with two chevron markings above it will be painted, two per block, in areas too narrow for a bike lane. The idea is to keep cyclists away from parked cars while promoting awareness of their right to use the road.

"The sharrow sends the message to cyclists, 'yes, you are welcome here,' " says Mia Birk, a principal with Alta Planning + Design in Portland and lead author of a recent study on shared-pavement markings in San Francisco.

Pioneered in Denver in the mid-1990s, sharrows are attracting the attention of transportation officials around the United States. But the markings are controversial. In June, Boulder, Colo., became one of the few cities outside of California to install the shared-lane markings; that same month, sharrows were rejected by the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Devices, an organization that sets national traffic standards.

"We have a litigious society," says Ms. Birk, explaining the challenges of implementing bike-friendly street designs. "It takes a progressive traffic engineer to say 'I'm comfortable enough to take a risk.' "

Some cycling advocates say sharrows will preempt the installation of bike lanes, which often entail hard-fought battles to remove a car travel lane or on-street parking.

"Once sharrows are accepted, they will become the preferred solution," says Kevin Jackson, who sits on the Bike and Pedestrian Committee in Sunnyvale, Calif. "Not because they are better, but because they are politically expedient."

The principle behind sharrows is simple: They reinforce existing rules of the road. In most states, cyclists are required to stay as far to the right as possible, except under unsafe conditions. One of these conditions is when the travel lane is too narrow for side-by-side passage of an automobile and a bicycle.

"The most dangerous place for a cyclist to be in a narrow travel lane is far to the right, because you are in a 'door zone' and motorists think they have enough room to stay in their travel lane and pass you," says Roger Geller, Portland's bike coordinator. "Every cyclist who has stayed right on a road has had the experience of a car passing 25 miles an hour within six inches of his left elbow. At the same time, should someone [in a parked vehicle] open the car door, you're right there."

Portland decided to experiment with sharrows, Mr. Geller says, after the Alta study found the marking provided a statistically significant benefit to cyclists by encouraging them to move left and center. The study was commissioned last year in an effort to improve cycling conditions on San Francisco's crowded streets. Since then, the California Traffic Control Device Committee, an advisory body, has recommended that the marking be adopted by the entire state. Over the past six months, San Francisco has stenciled 500 sharrow markings on city streets and by the end of the year will have 2,500.

"Cyclists are very positive about the marking," says Mike Sallaberry, San Francisco's bike facilities engineer. "They like the fact that something positions [them] in the road." The city has also embarked on a campaign to educate cyclists and drivers about the markings, he says.

Oregon's automotive advocates also support the sharrows concept. As gas prices rise, more people will ride bikes, notes Elliott Eki, public affairs director for AAA Oregon. "If sharrows are well placed," he says, "they will help cars and bikes share the road more safely."

Shared-lane markings have gained acceptance in some European and Australian cities. An Australian report published several years ago on "bicycle friendly zones" - the sharrow equivalent - suggested that shared-lane markings can be more effective than bike lanes in encouraging cyclists and motorists to pay attention to one another. The report also says the markings slow traffic and encourage all modes to share limited street space.

Sharrow opponents say the more important issue is removing on-street parking to create room for bike lanes. "What you need is bicycle space," says Mr. Jackson, noting that activists recently persuaded the city of Sunnyvale to switch from sharrows to a bike lane on one major road.

Geller himself questions the value of sharrows for beginning cyclists. "Cyclists who ride in the center are typically the strong and the brave," he says.

Friday, September 23, 2005

The Friday afternoon commute...

Ah, Friday! It couldn’t be more perfect unless there was a full moon today too.

One of the great things about riding back and forth to work is that you get to meet some unusual, off-beat people, the kind you wouldn’t associate with in any other situation. I’m talking about people so profoundly stupid, it’s amazing that they’re able to breathe unassisted, let alone get a driver’s license.

I met just such a guy on the way home today, again, in that lovely stretch of 129th just south of 86th street. He came up behind me, gunned the engine a couple of times, and when that didn’t intimidate me sufficiently (or at all, for that matter), he passed in the right-turn lane, yelling something unintelligible as he went by.

My beat-up Bianchi is worth more than his clapped-out old car. But the gods smiled, and the light at 86th changed to red. I caught up to him.

“That’s a right turn lane back there!” I said. “I’m not supposed to ride through it.”

He was livid. “You’re not supposed to be on the road at all! You don’t have a license to use it, and if you do, you’re supposed to ride on the left, facing traffic!”

Then he hit the accelerator and went through the red light!

I couldn’t keep from laughing. I know I’m supposed to be more concerned about bicycling education, and I shouldn’t belittle some motoring fool simply because he’s as ignorant as a stone, but this was just too much. It’s appalling what some people believe to be true about cycling.

But what’s more interesting is the prevalence of irate motorists at that particular intersection. It’s like a magnet for loons. While stopped at the light, I’ve been told that cyclists must ride on the sidewalk. One guy said I wasn’t supposed to be more than 18 inches from the curb. Another said that I shouldn’t ride there until the city builds bike lanes. (I won’t hold my breath!) That was the site for the long, whining complaint from Miss Road Rage 2005. It’s also where I met the county sheriff’s deputy who wanted to get me off the road ‘for my own safety’ of course.

I can only hope that gasoline hits five dollars per gallon. It’ll make riding a bike so much easier after all that ‘unnecessary’ traffic clears off.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Cult of the Fixed Gear

I’ve written about fixed gears before now, and I won’t go into the process of converting a road bike to a fixie. Sheldon Brown covers it much better than I can. Converting an old bike to a fixed gear is a fine way to keep it on the road. Replacing all the drivetrain components can be uneconomical and a fixed gear conversion can save that bike from the scrap heap.

I like fixed gear bikes for winter riding, particularly with a small gear that makes me spin a lot. Since my speed is lower, wind chill isn’t a big factor. And winter is definitely coming. Why, here in Oklahoma, it’s already dropped into the 60s at night! Brrr.

My first fixie was a Paris Sport track bike. It was a cheap bike and looked it. But the geometry was pure track. The bike had razor-sharp handling, and it was a joy to ride. That is, it was a joy to ride for relatively short distances because the ride was harsh. Every little seam in the pavement was transmitted up through that stiff frame into my hands and butt. I felt every pebble and every pothole. Still, it was fun.

Since then, I’ve had several road conversions and I much prefer them to track bikes, especially for commuting. The ride is more forgiving and I really do value my comfort!

But why ride a fixed gear? What advantage does it have?

From a pure maintenance standpoint, fixed gears are easier to maintain since there are fewer parts. The drive train is simple, and chains last a long time. Another strong point is the rear wheel. Since it doesn’t have to be dished to accommodate a gear cluster, the spokes are evenly tensioned side-to-side, making the wheel stronger and enabling it to stay true longer.

Those mechanical benefits pale in comparison to the benefits a fixed gear rider receives. Common sense would seem to indicate that having only one gear for all conditions would put the rider at a serious disadvantage, particularly uphill or into the wind. Also, since the rider couldn’t coast, he’d never get a chance to rest.

Common sense is often wrong.

Fixed gear riders talk about feeling connected to the road, and there’s something to be said for that, particularly when riding a track bike. Every bit of effort put into pedaling is immediately felt powering the bike down the road. And there are some truly magical moments when a tailwind makes it feel like you’re running effortlessly on the pedals. The bike almost moves by itself.

Climbing is easier on a fixed gear because there are no ‘dead spots’ at top-dead-center and bottom-dead-center of each crank revolution. Momentum carries you through those spots, and it’s a pleasant surprise to find you can climb in a much higher gear than you would otherwise.

Your pedaling motion will be smoother as you learn to pedal in circles rather than squares. Most cyclists pedal by pushing down and pulling up on the pedals, but a fixed gear trains a rider to apply power much more smoothly. In particular, it allows a rider to feel the speed increase as he learns to pedal more efficiently.

An odd thing happens as you ride a fixed gear. Crank RPMs can increase slightly as you get tired. I think tired muscles become more flexible, more supple, and better capable of following the pedal movement. In order to go faster downhill, you have to learn to consciously relax. This brings one of the best benefits of riding fixed – a very relaxed, ‘loose’ feeling in the muscles that are so often tight and sore after a hard ride on a geared bike.

I can’t help it. I’m an endorphin junkie.

Still not convinced? Here are some other fixed gear resources:

Old Skool Track
Fixed Gear Fever
Medium gear time trailing
Fixed Gear Gallery

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

A perfect Wednesday!

I have a recurring dream that due to one thing or another, I'm going to be late getting to work. It's always a string of incidents too, like a flat tire on one bike, a small family emergency, a broken cable on another bike, and so on. One thing after another gets in the way of me getting out the door and off to work. I hate those dreams, and I had one this morning.

There are mornings that are just plain hard. This was one of them. When I swung my legs out of bed and they already felt sore and heavy, I knew it was going to be a rough day. I awoke a minute or so before the alarm went off. That's happening more often as I get older, and I got up to quiet the alarm before it woke Mary. I didn't want to get up, but like every other morning I've felt like that, I was up and off to work.

Riding felt good. It usually does. I spun along in a smallish gear while my legs loosened up. The sun was just reaching the horizon, traffic was light, and the wind was calm. It was as near a perfect morning as I could imagine.

I took the long route through Mohawk Park, expecting to see some wildlife along the way. By the time I reached the park, I was singing.

A word of caution: My own mother wouldn't sit next to me in church because I sang so badly. I haven't improved with age. The Bible says something about making a 'joyful noise'. I expect anyone within earshot would merely regard it as noise - LOUD noise.

Sure enough, once I entered the park I saw some animals. It was foggy and they were running for their lives at the approach of a bellowing madman! Who knew squirrels could run so fast or that deer could approach low Mach speeds?

Then I inhaled a bug.

I spent the rest of the ride in silence, except for the coughing and spitting all the way to work. My nose was running, making for some good experimentation in snot rocketry.

I desperately wanted a cup of hot coffee. I felt the need at a cellular level. Indeed, some cells were crying out for it, banging at the doors of my consciousness like one of those torch-lit mobs armed with all manner of farm implements in an old Frankenstein movie. The cells were pissed!

But I had to do computer modifications today, and shaky hands are not a good idea when doing a lot of tiny solder joints. Through painful experience, I've found it's better to do the job right the first time rather than have to fix it later. The cells would have to wait. I warmed up the solder station, put on my binocular magnifiers, and started the mod.

My soldering instructor back in tech school worked for NASA at one time. Let's just say he was very, very fussy. I don't have to meet NASA specifications, but the standards here are nearly as high. Those of you who fly commercially benefit from high-reliability soldering, even if it's a PITA for those of us who do it.

Two hundred and forty solder joints later, two hours had crept by. The computer ran OK on the test station, and I settled into my chair with a strong cup of French roast. The cells were grateful.

Life is good!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Reprint from Cyclelicious

(This is a reprint of a piece on Cyclelicious. Used by permission. As I learn more about blogging, I believe in sharing what I've learned. So, with that in mind, I reprint this information here. I read Cycle-licious every day via the Avantog service on my ancient Palm IIIc. It strips away the photos, saving precious memory space. But since Fritz wrote about these other ways to stay current on selected blogs, I'll have to learm more and do some experimenting...Ed)

Full or partial feed?
I provide both a full and partial feed, but I'm considering converting the partial feed on Feedburner into a full feed. For those subscribing via the Feedburner feed: Is the lack of a full feed a real hassle for you? Cycle-licious is heavy on photography, but these are not currently included in the partial feed that most of my readers subscribe to. If enough people comment I'll probably switch to providing a full feed on Feedburner.

For those of you who manually visit Cycle-licious every day: I thank you for your loyal patronage, but for the sake of your time you really should consider using a feed reader. I use Bloglines because I use multiple computers and it works well, but there are plenty of good readers out there (and plenty of lousy ones as well). Feed readers allow you to read all of your blogs in one place and they only display the blog entries that you haven't read yet. I provide easy one-click subscription under "Feed Me" in the sidebar to the left.
posted by Fritz

(I didn't include the 'Feed Me' link that he refers to, so you'll ahve to visit Cyclelicious to follow it.........Ed)
Delete It Cancel

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Stupid Driver Tricks: Part Two

Yesterday morning, like most mornings, I rode along a 4 lane street going west. It drops down a small incline, and about half a mile further on, I make a left turn to the south. There’s a culvert half way between the hill and the turn. It’s my decision point. If traffic is heavy, I try to get into the left lane at the culvert. If it’s lighter, I wait until I’m a little closer to the turn.

But today I dithered. There was traffic overtaking, but it looked as if there was a break I could slide into and make my turn. I checked in the mirror a couple of times and saw all the cars move over into the left lane – all except one. A black Chevy Impala accelerated hard, moving past the line of cars on the left, and overtaking me very quickly. I suppose the driver saw the ‘open’ lane as an opportunity to floor it.

There was just one problem – one of those pesky cyclists toodling along in the right hand lane. (Ever since making the acquaintance of Miss Road Rage 2005, I’ve been fond of that word – toodling!)

So what’s a driver to do? Testosterone wouldn’t allow him to slow down, so he sort of half-merged into the left lane, splitting the lane like a motorcyclist. And that would have worked nicely if there hadn’t been that left turn up ahead and he hadn’t neatly wedged himself between two other cars with little room to spare. Other motorists were slowing for the turn, and Racer Boy had to spike his brakes to keep from rear-ending someone. Much horn blaring ensued, lots of flashing lights and single-digit salutes, too. He narrowly avoided a collision, a matter of inches, not feet.

Racer Boy floored it again, moved back into the right hand lane just in front of me. “And like that,” Verbal opened his hand, “He was gone!” (Kevin Spacey as Roger 'Verbal' Kint in “The Usual Suspects”)

Who has such an important job that they have to endanger everyone around them in order to save a few seconds? What is it that inspires a competitive instinct when some get behind the wheel?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Local fauna

A friend back in Pennsylvania said there are three kinds of cross-country skiers: racers, tourists, and bird watchers. He was looking at me pointedly as he said this, because I’d just finished my first-and-only cross-country ski race, coming in well behind the pack because I’d gone over the side of a hill and literally had to hug a tree to prevent a long, painful fall. If it was remotely possible to crash and burn NASCAR-style in a ski race, I could have managed it.

I’m marginally faster on the bike, but there’s still time to see a lot of wildlife when I’m riding back and forth to work. I’ve seen foxes, skunks, deer, coyotes, armadillos, hawks, owls, opossums, and raccoons. I’ve been stalked by the deadly chupacabra, and narrowly missed the elusive and venomous Oklahoma snow snake.

Last fall, a buck came wandering off the side of the road, his neck swollen by the rut. His head was down, following the scent of a hot, female deer, no doubt. As I got closer, I could hear him singing the deer version of “I’m In The Mood For Love!” I gave him a lot of room. Dealing with testosterone crazed deer is like engaging a belligerent drunk in a bar fight.

Another animal that requires a lot of space is the common skunk. Skunks ALWAYS have the right-of-way! If you challenge that idea, keep your speed up. Skunks haven’t learned to lead their targets – yet.

One morning, I was stalked by the deadly chupacabra in the pre-dawn darkness. I never saw it, of course, because no one ever sees a chupacabra, but I knew it was there in the bushes. It crashed along parallel to the road, toppling small trees and parting the brush like a knife. My adrenaline level increased my speed until I was sprinting flat out.

Another fearsome animal is the venomous Oklahoma snow snake. They lurk just under the snow surface, waiting for an unwary victim. The only protection is to remain inside when it snows, stay warm, and drink a lot of bourbon. Snow snakes HATE bourbon! I’ve explained this to She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed, but she just glares and hands me the snow shovel. The woman is heartless.

I’ve inhaled bugs of unknown species and origins. You may not want to know this, but some of them are kind of tasty. Don’t ask which ones. I’m not about to do a taste test to find out.

My garage is infested with Vittoria beetles, locally known as tire ticks. They attach themselves to my tires and slowly suck the air out of them. Why they do this and what they do with the air is unknown. But if I leave a bike out there for a couple of weeks, the tires will be almost flat due to the ticks. If you experience a similar problem, the only solution is to remove the tires and send them out for proper disposal. Just send them to me and I’ll take care of the task for you, especially if you have high-quality, premium tires. Trust me, I’ve had a lot of experience at this.

I almost forgot one of the most dangerous and easily overlooked critters – the Campagnolo centipede. They infest not only high-end Italian bicycle parts, but also parts from other manufacturers like Shimano, Huret, Zeus, or Ofmega. The centipede is nearly microscopic and difficult to detect, so if you suspect an infestation, send the parts to me as well. I’ve had considerable success at eradication.

Tire ticks and Campagnolo centipedes are often found in close proximity to each other, so if you have one type it’s likely you have the other as well. Just send all the parts here, and I’ll check them for you. Better safe than sorry!

Monday, September 12, 2005

The new television season

It’s that time of year again. The networks roll out their latest offerings, hoping that some will be mega-hits and scoop up those all-important advertising dollars. Most of the shows are destined for oblivion, many deservedly so. C’mon – how many cop/doctor/lawyer dramas can we endure? I gave up watching sitcoms years ago. I suspect their target market is people with the IQ of houseplants. No, that’s not quite right. Their target market is people who can be out-witted by common houseplants.

I’m not a “PBS-only” snob. I have my low-brow tastes too, like a strange fascination with South Park and even some cooking shows. Watching the Food Network makes me hungry. But there’s a cookie-cutter sameness to most of the stuff on the networks. Even the Howard Stern show is basically the same tasteless crap time after time, but it’s made Stern rich. Maybe it’s true that you can never misunderestimate the taste of the American people.

(MS Word does not like the word ‘misunderestimate’. Imagine that!)

Last year, Thursday evening in our house was cycling night. OLN ran two hours of cycling coverage and I seldom missed it. They’ve gone back to the hook and bullet shows, and cycling coverage has been scarce.

So what’s a fan to do?

We could petition the networks for some niche programming, say a doctor-as-a-triathlete show? Or how about an itinerant-mystical-bicycle-mechanic-who-shows-the-true-importance-of-non-violence-while-kicking-the-crap-out-of-the-bad-guys? Or we could have cops on bikes, fighting crime and…oh, wait; we’ve already done that.

See? It’s hard to come up with good, original ideas. That explains the blatant rip-offs of a successful show.

How about a-bunch-of-zany-bike-messengers-who-moonlight-as-private-eyes?

On second thought, maybe I’ll just stick with things like “The History of Beer”!

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Saturday Musette

Old books

I’m a sucker for old books. I rode around town today (Saturday), poking through boxes at garage sales and scanning the shelves of our local Goodwill store. At a yard sale, I found a copy of “Adventures in English Literature”, a 1963 edition in very nice condition considering its age. This was last issued in 1964 in the Tulsa public schools. The book is very dense, heavy in the hand, and the binding is stout. This book was made to last – unlike too many of my more modern, and vastly more expensive textbooks.

I rode my Centurion fixed gear with a small pannier on the rack. That prevents me from dragging home anything too big. And I feel better about buying something frivolous, but cheap, if I’m not burning expensive gasoline doing it. A text like this may not be frivolous, exactly, because I use books like this for reference material. But it’s not something I need desperately, either.

Almost immediately, I found a story by Eric Knight, titled “All Yankees Are Liars”, an account of a bicycle trip to an isolated village in Yorkshire. Trust me to find something about bicycling in a book of English literature!


Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA)

The Tulsa MDA office is organizing a “Stride & Ride” fundraiser. Here’s some text from their flyer:

“We are searching for men, women, and children to be heroes for the Muscular Dystrophy Association and all those we help. Your goal is to raise at least $63 (one minute of research) by riding or striding a mile in the air-conditioned comfort of Woodland Hills Mall on Saturday, January 21, 2006.”

Muscular dystrophy is an umbrella term used for over 40 different types of muscular diseases. I write about this because Mary has an adult form of MD. I’m thinking about trying to organize a bike ride that day. Given the wildly variable weather we can have here in Oklahoma, a ride could attract some die-hard cyclists, or some REALLY die-hard cyclists! But I suspect they wouldn’t let us ride inside the mall in “air-conditioned comfort”!

I’ve never organized a ride, so this could be a bit chaotic. This month’s issue of Bicycling has an article about ride organization, so once I get it back from one of my co-workers; I’ll have to read it.


We go from one end of the literary spectrum to the other. I have a copy of the Weekly World News here in front of me, the world’s most reliable newspaper. It says so on the front cover. No, I’m not going to write about the new airplanes made entirely of sponges. And no, I’m not going to cover the Amish attempt to take over the world (though who’d suspect until it was too late.)

I know some cyclists who ride shirtless in order to have a more natural tan, one that covers more than just the arms and legs. The tan on my legs, for instance, starts about mid-thigh and goes to the top of my socks. I have gleaming white, almost glow-in-the-dark feet!

For those of you who prefer to ride shirtless, carrying keys, money, and such is a small problem – but not anymore!

“Dr. Phillip N. Case came up with a new, convenient and less bone-crushing way of transporting personal belongings. ‘I call them Body Pouches’, said Dr. Case…Body Pouches are surgically created pockets designed to hold objects of various sizes.”….Weekly World News, Sept. 12, 2005, page 17.

So instead of wearing a jersey, you could simply stuff everything into 3 Body Pouches created on your lower back! Imagine the possibilities! In my case, it would give new meaning to “Hey! Look at that guy’s six-pack!” I could probably manage a twelve pack and be REALLY impressive!

I think I could write for these guys if I could only drink more coffee and alcohol.

Bike Commuting Excuses - Oklahoma Style

Overcoming bike commuting excuses

My thanks to Eric Doswell for getting this started!

In addition to the common excuses for not commuting by bicycle, there are some exclusive to Oklahoma. But before getting to them, we need to cover some basic pronunciation. Repeat the following aloud at least five times. The ‘proper’ pronunciation follows each word.

Bicycle: (bah-sick-el)
Tire: (tar)
Car: (car)
Fire: (far)
Barbed-wire: (bob-whar)

Now, put it all together. “I was ridin’ mah bah-sick-el past a car tar far when I hit the bob-whar.” If you’ve got the inflection right, go on to this list of excuses. Remember to enunciate clearly, Pygmalion, ‘cause you ain’t in Kansas anymore!

Here’s the list:

· My gut hits the frame when I ride. It's very uncomfortable. My knees hit my gut too, giving me some large, ugly bruises.

· I can't find a rifle rack to fit my bike.

· My neighbors at the trailer park laugh until they hyperventilate and fall down.

· I breathe so hard I choke on my beer or swallow my Skoal, and once my teeth fell out.

· I'm having trouble finding SPD compatible cowboy boots, and regular boots slip off the pedals too easy. That happened once and I went careening off the road, and fell through a barbed wire fence, getting cut pretty bad in the process. Fortunately, I didn’t spill my beer.

· My Wranglers get caught in the chain, and the seams have cut my…uh….never mind.

· My belt buckle is only the size of a small manhole cover, and it reflects sunlight into oncoming drivers eyes, causing them to swerve all over the place. Well, that and it puts a lot of pressure on…never mind. Does this numb feeling ever go away?

· By the time I get to the bar after work, all the good seats are taken, not that I can sit down anyway.

· My girlfriend, Mary Sue Ellen, can’t sit beside me on the seat, and they don’t make a seat that can hold a ‘full-figured’ girl.

· There ain’t a bike shop in town that carries a four-wheel drive with lots of ground clearance and a trailer hitch.

· They claim that things are bigger in Texas. That ain’t true. They’re bigger here in Oklahoma, and I WILL NOT wear them silly-ass shorts!

· This stupid machine ain’t got seatbelts! That’s a joke, son. I ain’t never wore seatbelts!

· I got attacked by a hawk! It tried to take that dead pheasant that’s attached to my cowboy hat!

· The wind going by makes my cigarette burn so fast it scorches the end of my nose.

· My dog, Ole Blue, chased me on this here bicycle. He don’t like bicycles much and was barking and growling. I stopped to let him catch up and see that it was just me on this thing. He caught up all right, and now I gotta find some place to rinse off these Wranglers and my boot! Damn dog.

· Wal-Mart won’t let me ride around the aisles while I shop, even though I’m a regular.

· My brother, Earl, used to ride one of them mountain bikes. His last words were, “Here! Hold my beer and watch this!”

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Bees do it...

Jordan asked one day, “What kind of video games did you play as a kid, Dad?” I had to explain to him that there were no video games when I was young. In fact, the first one I ever saw was Pong, and it came out after I graduated from high school. We played board games like Clue and Monopoly.

I tried to explain to him about black-and-white televisions too, but I don’t think he believed any of it.

We had three commercial channels and PBS. A friend from Minnesota said he had two - if one of them worked that day.

The staple on Sunday afternoons (after football season ended) was Marlin Perkins and "Wild Kingdom". “While Jim climbs down in that pit of hungry crocodiles, let me tell you about life insurance!” Marlin chirped. I watched a lot of nature shows on PBS too.

Now, kept that in mind while you read the rest of this!

The city of Tulsa has a law requiring cyclists to signal continuously while turning. It also has a law requiring cyclists to keep both hands on the handlebars at all times. This would seem to make it difficult to get a drink from a water bottle let alone ‘signal continuously while turning’.

I was pondering the absurdity of this one day when a tiny voice said, “While Jim fights off that swarm of killer bees with a fly swatter, let me tell you about life insurance!” In a flash, the solution popped into my head!

Bees indicate the distance and direction to a nectar source by doing a “waggle dance”. They shake their abdomens vigorously while climbing the honeycomb at an angle. This tells the other bees where to find the goodies. They all take off together and sting the hell out of Jim, whose head is just outside the hive.

I thought we could apply this same idea to signaling! A cyclist could keep both hands firmly on the bars, lift his ‘abdomen’ up off the saddle, and waggle it on the side of the bike where he intends to turn. It’s utterly simple!

Overjoyed by this discovery, I shared it on a local e-list with other cyclists. One of them was greatly offended! “My children read this and.….." He went on to say that the whole idea was inappropriate, rude, an affront to public decency, etc. I suspect it conjured some unwholesome mental images of a large, spandex-clad ‘abdomen’ waggling back and forth.

Maybe he should get his kids to turn off “South Park” and watch “Nature” instead.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Wednesday Musette


I’m seeing more commuting cyclists on the roads nearly every day. Too many of them are sidewalk riders or wrong-way riders. But yesterday I saw something that sent a chill up my back.

I turned north onto 145th Street and noticed another cyclist topping the hill just to the south. I slowed so he could catch up. It was Wally (not his real name), a guy I’ve ridden with a few times. He’s done a couple of things that bothered me, like riding in circles at a red light rather than stopping and putting a foot down. He’s a bit of a hothead too, and coming from me, that’s says a lot!

As we approached 66th Street, a pickup was overtaking. It passed safely well away from the intersection and slowed for the stop sign. I had to deliver that letter to Anchor Stone that I wrote about yesterday, so I was going to turn right. Wally was going to turn left.

The truck stopped, his left-turn indicator flashing. Without slowing, Wally moved into the oncoming lane and turned left, turning inside the truck! When he exited the turn, he was in front of it! I’m sure that driver was surprised and maybe a little pissed to see such a maneuver. He certainly wouldn’t have been looking for a cyclist coming up on his blind side like that.

Sometimes, cyclists are the source of conflicts with motorists. It seemed especially ironic in light of the letter I was about to deliver.


Rod Harwood donated a fixed gear bike to the Community Cycling Project. I freely admit that I’m a little biased in favor of fixies, but I have to wonder if we’ll be able to find a suitable client for this bike. I definitely do not want to put a novice on a fixed gear!


I received an e-mail from Susan Walker, editor of the Red Dirt Pedaler’s newsletter, “Wheel Issues”. Susan is staffing some rides for ABB this summer. She’s a sweetie and she says ‘dahlink’ like one of the Gabor sisters! I write a column for her and I really appreciate her light touch. If you look on their website, you’ll find links to some of my old columns and a lot of other good stuff. The next issue of Wheel Issues should be out in late October or early November. This is a kind way of saying the deadline is so far off I don’t have to panic….yet.

Here’s the Red Dirt Pedaler’s main site:

Here’s a link to Wheel Issues:

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

My thank-you letter

I promised to post this letter once I got around to writing it. So today I got around to it. It's easy to focus on all the mouth-breathing morons out there on the road, and too easy to ignore the people who make our rides more pleasant by driving safely and responsibly near cyclists.

Please feel free to cut and paste this. Adapt it for your own uses. I'll let you know if there's any feedback about it. Hey, I'm always looking for more material!

Anchor Stone Company
Owasso, OK



I'm one of the cyclists who rides 145th Street nearly every day. I've been doing this for a long time - about 10 years - at all times of the day and in all kinds of weather. And there's something that I've wanted to say about the truck drivers at the quarry.

You guys are great!

You're some of the safest drivers I've shared the road with in all these years. In fact, I prefer riding near the quarry rather than my alternate route, Mingo Road, because the professional drivers are more courteous and safety-minded. Believe me, cyclists notice.

With gas prices at all-time highs, there will be more cyclists on our roads, some of them terribly inexperienced. I trust that your drivers will treat them with the same attention and courtesy that I've seen.

Thanks again, and I'll see you on the road!

Monday, September 05, 2005

Apples and Oranges

Someone asked what kind of mileage my bicycle gets going back and forth to work. I said I’d never considered it, though I noted that the bike seems to run well on beer and Italian food. But the question kind of rattled around in my head for a while.

I like poking around on Usenet. You never know what you might find, so yesterday I was pleasantly surprised to stumble over this. Please note that MS Word has graciously cleaned up the spelling and grammar:

I am a fourteen-year-old freshman who just started my school year. I was fortunate enough to get into my dream elective, intro to industrial technology. This is the first time I have had access to a full metal shop and I am considering building a small jet engine. I only want enough to get up to 30 mph on a bicycle. How many pounds of thrust should it have and what kind of design would be best for a beginner? Right now I'm thinking a pressure jet would be the best. Pulsejets have moving parts that wear down to fast, ram and scram jets have to be moving really fast to even start, and turbo jets have complicated oil and cooling systems. Pressure jets sound like the best of each design and simple for a beginner to build.

Bret Cahill replied, after doing the math:

The thrust should be the same as the force delivered to the road from your tires when you are pedaling 30 mph. You can get an idea of that several ways…. power increases with velocity cubed. For example, if you can only pedal 15 mph then the power required to go 30 mph is 8 times more than what you can generate.
…This is the thrust necessary to go 30mph.

For comparison Armstrong goes just about 28 at 0.8 hp or 440 ft'lb/sec. Divide power by velocity to get thrust. 440/(28 X 1.47) = 10 lbs.

The reason you see very little jet engine propulsion of vehicles and boats is because air and gases are very light. The only way to get enough thrust is to:

1. Move a lot of air, which requires a propeller, which requires a shaft drive. If you have a drive you might as well run the wheels or a water prop.


2. Move the air fast, which uses a lot of energy. Kinetic energy is 1/2 mv^2 and yet vehicle propulsion only increases with velocity. The vehicle moves forward slowly while the jet exhaust mostly gets wasted as heat in turbulent friction, stirring up air for no reason at all.

Why a jet engine? Well, why not? I can think of some practical reasons to avoid a jet. They’re extremely noisy, for one, and they have some undesirable throttle characteristics, for another. A jet is so noisy it would be impossible to hear other traffic in the vicinity. Throttle lag is a big problem too. When you increase or decrease power, the turbine lags behind for a short time. This is not conducive to safe operation on a city street.

Still, there’s a guy in New Zealand who experiments with jet-powered vehicles - His neighbors are not fond of the noise, to put it mildly.

A more practical approach would install a small piston engine into a bicycle frame, gearing it to provide assistance at higher speeds. Before you accuse me of re-inventing the moped, consider that a moped engine works at lower speeds to accelerate the rider rather than maintain a higher top speed, and I’m thinking a practical top speed would be in the 35-45 mph range. This could be a good choice for a commuting bike. The rider would pedal to accelerate up to about 15mph, then the motor would assist in going faster.

For that matter, such a machine would be similar to a motor-pacing derney.

Once upon a time, Honda produced a 50cc motorcycle, a ‘tiddler’ in Britspeak. If I recall right, these bikes were capable of 70-80mph, and in fact, similar bikes are still available for racing and street use. Honda still lists the Dream 50R and the NSR50, though they’re strictly racing bikes in the US. The Dream 50R is way retro. I love it!

The reason I’ve brought this up is fuel prices. Mopeds and tiddlers deliver tremendous gas mileage. But one of my co-workers asked an intriguing question when I told him about running my bike on beer and Italian food. How can you compare fuel costs between a motor vehicle and a cyclist? Bicycle riders derive power from carbohydrates – calories – and it should be possible to calculate the ‘fuel’ consumption on an ordinary commute with the gasoline consumption of a hypothetical ‘average’ motor vehicle.

If I recall right, given my weight and average speed, a 10-mile commute burns about 150 calories. That’s one 12-ounce glass of beer. Rolling Rock longnecks cost about $0.67 each when I get a pack of 18, so my daily commute ‘burns’ less than $1.40.

By contrast, my Ford gets about 24mpg, and at today’s gasoline prices, the commute costs $2.58 in fuel alone. The difference is almost enough to let me have a third beer! But the ‘savings’ is wiped out if I have Guinness rather than Rolling Rock.

Friday, September 02, 2005

But wait! There's more!

“Vote for Barbarino and nobody gets hurt!”…John Travolta as Vinny Barbarino in “Welcome Back Kotter.”

A woman I’ll call Miss Road Rage of 2005 posted this to one of the local e-mail lists.

I live in the great metropolis of Owasso, OK and like everyone else in this fast growing town, always searching for the fastest, shortest route through town when I come home from work in Tulsa Monday through Friday.

I quickly realized that exiting 169 N. off to 76th street, east to 129th and then back North on 129 (WAS) the fastest route home.

Well biker bubbas, this is no longer an effective route for me and the hundred other vehicles in front of and behind me that had the same ideas.

Now, I have to admire anyone who can get out on a bicycle in 100 degree temperature and try to kill themselves cycling but frankly, according to my Doctor, I can get the same health results on an exercise bike in the comfort of my A/C, but hey, each to his own and everyone has to have that "something" in their lives that feeds their pride and allows them to be part of a group or club and there is the scenery..

Anyway....I digress....Out of the brush comes this little guy with a grey beard, dressed in every bicycle accessory know to man, tooteling North on 129th. Now, when I say tootleing...that's what I mean. My definition of tootleing is 15 to 20 miles per hour. Unfortunately this happens to be a 2 lane road. Now folks, do you think this guy would take 1 minute to move off the road way so that the 80 cars behind him can actually go the speed limit and get home after a hard days work?? Well guess what? It AINT happenin! I mean, isn't there some kind of bicycle etiquette or courtesy that you folks practice? Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against bicycling, Like I said, I admire the tanacity, not to mention the O-Zone friendly rides that you have. But...there is a limit to one's patience. Imagine the road rage experienced in my car not to mention the other 79 behind me. day my son, on his way to work get's behind this guy. And yes...he too experiences this often on that road. He notices that a Deputy Sheriff has the guy pulled over and apparently an argument is ensuing. Now, being the good citizen that I am and trying to instill in my children the importance of respect for the public as well as law enforcement he was a bit confused but otherwise elated that perhaps he would not be late for work anymore following this guy.

So let’s see here…we have a mild implied threat of bodily harm from the ‘road rage’ motorist horribly trapped behind a slow-moving cyclist, along with eighty or so other road raging motorists. We have someone doing something important – driving home from work – delayed by a slow moving cyclist (also on his way home from work, but motorists, by definition, have more important objectives than mere cyclists). We have someone cheerfully applauding the actions of a law enforcement officer trying to force a cyclist off the public roads.

Maybe we should encourage our public officials to round up all these nuisance cyclists and send them to re-education camps, or the ovens, whichever is cheaper.

Isn’t it amazing that people who loudly assert their own rights are so quick to deny those same rights to others? You have the freedom to do just about anything you want to do in this country, except ‘delay’ traffic.

It’s interesting, in a perverse way, that motorists accuse cyclists of being discourteous when we take the lane. It’s always the responsibility of the overtaking driver to do so in a safe manner. Nothing in Oklahoma law requires a cyclist to dive out of the way of overtaking motor vehicles, yet some motorists seem to believe that they have that obligation. The public roads are just that – public – and they’re open to all lawful users, none of them superior to any other road user. Here in Oklahoma, it’s still legal to drive livestock on the roads! I’d like to see our impatient driver try to force her way through a herd of cows! But cows can total a car. Cyclists can’t.

‘Courtesy’ in this case means get the hell out of my way!

As I write this, gasoline just reached $3.19 per gallon. By the time I post it, the price may be significantly more. So far, I haven’t noticed fewer cars on the roads, or cars traveling at less than the speed limit. Miss Road Rage undoubtedly has her panties in a wad now due to the costs of fuel. She’ll be really ticked off at finding that same cyclist riding the same route again.

I’ve said before that I see the same commuters day after day. I didn’t realize I’d get the chance to piss off the same commuter day after day! And all I have to do is ride legally and responsibly. This is better than Critical Mass!

Friday Musette

Bicycle Commuting
I’ve had several people ask about bicycle commuting in the last couple of days. I’ve told them the hardest part is simply deciding to try it in the first place. After that, it’s just problem solving. There are people who’ve written volumes more about this than I ever could, so I’ll simply provide some references.

Tulsa Commuter and INCOG are local sites. The bikeleague is the League of American Bicyclists (LAB).
(scroll down to the fact sheet choices under commuting)

One of the best sites from the late Ken Kifer:

Personal News
I’ve had a busy week, again. The first couple of weeks of school are always hectic. We’ve had open house at the middle school and the high school and an FFA meeting since my son is taking Ag this year (more on that later). There’s also the start of Oklahoma’s major religious festival – football season – with practices, scrimmages, and games.

But there’s more. Wednesday morning, Jordan woke up with a lot of abdominal pain. Mary and I thought he might have a bladder infection. She took him to the doctor later in the day. He diagnosed appendicitis. We took Jordan to the hospital, and the surgeon did a lapriscopic(sp?) removal of the appendix within a few hours. Jordan stayed in the hospital overnight. Mom didn’t get much sleep, of course, and we were there again early Thursday.

Let’s just say the last couple of days have been stressful.

Jordan has to see the surgeon again next week. I told him that he should still report to football practice and support the team from the sidelines until he can return to the field. “And you can always hang out with the water girls”, I said. The water girls are hot. The kid brightened up considerably at that idea!

Oklahoma is an agricultural state, so it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise to find an agriculture program in the local school. Jordan wanted to take the course, and as part of it he had to attend an Future Farmers of America meeting. It was actually kind of fun with a camp-meeting atmosphere. It was definitely a hard sell, but the hokum made it almost charming. There were a lot of statements about making new friends, long-lasting friendships, and relationships that would be beneficial in both college and business. It sounded much like a fraternity rush party.

But Jordan put it in perspective, at least the perspective of any other all-American, red-blooded, sex-obsessed boy. “Look at all the hot Ag chicks, Dad!”

Methinks the boy has ulterior motives for enrolling in Ag.