Thursday, June 26, 2008

Aren't you happy to get here safely?

I'm on the road at the same time and on the same route every morning. I see the same motorists day after day.

I know when the Crotch Rocket Kids are coming because their motorcycles have a distinctive high-pitched whine. These two guys ride to work together every day. They're normally in echelon and I think that's probably a good idea on a relatively narrow road.

There's Dinky Boy in an econo-box that sounds as if it's powered by a lawn mower engine. The car seems to be taller than it is long.

I saw Scooter Guy most mornings last summer, but I heard he was involved in a crash with another motor vehicle, and I haven't seen him since. When I arrived at work that morning, some co-workers were waiting out front to see if I was on the bike. They'd heard about the crash north of the base and were concerned that I was involved. I suspect there may have been some betting going on. I liked chasing Scooter Guy when I had a tailwind.

Black Helmet Guy rides a Harley. It makes the usual thumpa-thumpa exhaust sound. Fortunately, the bike is still equipped with original mufflers so it's not terribly loud.

White Helmet Guy rides a quiet Harley too. But he's a dick. He's blasted by me very close while laying on the horn. There's a problem with daily commuting – especially when our hours are the same. I watched for him on my way home one afternoon, and then hooked him as he was passing. He reacted by going over into the on-coming lane. I could hear him yelling but I couldn't make out what he said. (For those who may not know, hooking is an illegal maneuver in bicycle racing. Normally, it's done during a sprint when a rider is trying to pass. The leading rider does a quick wobble that forces the overtaking one to slow or change his line. Hooking can easily result in a crash. I would imagine that hooking could be considered an illegal maneuver under our traffic laws too, but I've never heard of anyone being charged with it.)

I saw something this morning that was simply mind-boggling. As I approached 46th Street from the north, the light was green but I knew from long experience that I'd never get through it. The dump truck driver behind me, however, was undeterred by the prospect of the light changing. Sure enough, well before we reached the intersection, it turned yellow and then turned red. The dump truck never slowed. The light had been red for at least a second before he got to the stop line. He barreled on through. Cross traffic had quite sensibly remained stationary when their signal turned green. But the truly amazing thing was that the dump truck driver applied his brakes in the middle of the intersection, slowing as he exited it to the south, and then immediately turned left into a diner parking lot. He was willing to endanger several lives in order to save a minute or two in getting to those biscuits and gravy.

It wasn't over yet.

Cross traffic started moving. I waited for the light to change. More cars and trucks were queued behind me. The light changed, giving southbound traffic a green. Again, I looked on in amazement as traffic coming from my left didn't slow down. Five cars and trucks ran the light well after it had turned red.

An all-too-common complaint from motorists is that cyclists don't stop for red lights or stop signs. It's beginning to look as if motorists won't be bothered with them, either. There's a huge difference between a 250 pound vehicle and one weighing 2000 pounds or more when it comes to a collision.

While I locked up my bike at work, another co-worker was getting out of his car in an adjacent parking space. “Aren't you happy to get here safely some mornings?” he asked. I gave him my usual boilerplate answer – that I'm more concerned with dogs and skunks on the road than motorists, and that the most dangerous part of the ride is the trip across the parking lot. But after watching the mayhem at that intersection, I'm not so sure of these pat answers.

Later in the morning, I saw a letter from Jerry Rink in the Tulsa World. He complained about encountering a bicyclist doing '5 mph in the middle of the lane.' He yelled at him to get over and the cyclist informed Rink that he (the cyclist) had the right of way. Rink had the usual bitch about cyclists restricting traffic, but went on to say this:

“I'd have liked to run him aside if it weren't for the legal problems!”

I think there's clearly an implied threat. If Rink met a cyclist when there were no witnesses around, how could we expect him to react? Would he react as angrily to a tractor or a couple of motorcycles rolling along slowly? I'd suspect he would not, if only because a farm tractor could destroy his car, and annoying motorcyclists is a good way to acquire a large boot print in the door. Cyclists are fair game, however, because it's unlikely that we can catch him.

Motorists have a common assumption, sometimes called the universal law of speed, that presumes they can go as fast as they want to, whenever they want to, and that anything that causes them to slow down is inherently un-American, anti-social, and often times downright evil. Going slowly is a sin. Cyclists are big time sinners and their low speed causes other, presumably upright citizens to fall prey to the same lack of morality. Or some such bullshit.

A cyclist's relatively small size and obvious vulnerability makes harassment easy. I think that laws requiring a minimum of 3 feet minimum separation when passing a bicyclist is a good first step. South Carolina recently went further with 56-5-3445. It's a misdemeanor to harass, taunt, or maliciously throw an object at or in the direction of anyone on a bicycle. LINK (In Oklahoma, it's a felony to throw an object at a motor vehicle. No similar provisions apply to cyclists, however, since a bicycle is a “device” not a motor vehicle.)

An obvious question about these laws has to do with enforcement. In my experience, unless a police officer witnesses the offense, it's difficult or impossible to bring charges. That may be changing as more cyclists use small, unobtrusive video cameras like the Oregon Scientific ATC2K. I'm thinking about getting one, though not for pursuing scofflaw motorists.

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Tulsa's Community Cycling Project

(Image from Urban Tulsa Weekly)

Urban Tulsa Weekly has a very complimentary article on the Community Cycling Project. Major kudos to both Sandra Crisp and Ren Barger. Here's a excerpt:

Two Wheels to Stand On How a "bike kitchen" is helping the city's homeless get back on their feet


Most of us have cars and, though they might not all be as sexy, sporty or as nice as the Joneses, they still afford us the independence we need to live our lives, go to work and stand on our own two feet (rising gas prices notwithstanding).

And, we tend to take that independence for granted most of the time, except when the inevitable wear and tear or a mechanical malfunction grounds us for a few days until the repair shop restores our autonomy.

For many of Tulsa's homeless, though, lack of transportation is all that stands between them and self-sufficiency.

"That's a big issue for the homeless," said Mack Haltom, associate director of Tulsa's Day Center for the Homeless, about the role of transportation in rehabilitation.

"There's plenty of work for folks, but city buses don't always get them where the jobs are," he added.

That's why Haltom and many of his colleagues sing the praises of the Tulsa Wheelmen bicycle club's Community Cycling Project.

"It meant the difference between working and not working, in many cases," said Gloria Dialectic, a Day Center caseworker.

As CCP coordinator Ren Barger explained, the program provides bicycles, including all the necessary equipment and a full day's worth of safety training, with an entire year's worth of service thrown in--all absolutely free of charge.

Prospective benefactors can contact Barger at


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Monday, June 23, 2008

Monday Musette (Short)

Monday morning.

I've had a cold for the last few days, and in fact, I spent most of the weekend trying to sleep through it. Sunday night, I asked Lyndsay if I could use her truck in the morning as my Ford is still in the shop.

So I drove to work in a thunderstorm that would have drenched me on the bike. Chances are I'd be sick as a dog tonight.

But the funny part was when I arrived at work and was walking down the hall to the shop. My friend Rich was going the other way. He said, "Ed, you look really different with your clothes on!" Then his brain caught up. "Oh, wait, that didn't come out right!"

And the other thing...

Some time ago, I did a bit of satire about the Soylent Energy LLC approach to increasing our supply of bio-fuel while simultaneously attacking the problem of over-population and obesity.

On Sunday, The Nation ran a story by Barbara Ehrenreich extolling the benefits of utilizing liposuction as another means of producing more bio-fuel. Well, maybe Babs is a long-time CycleDog reader. We can hope, can't we?

Anyway, I'll have to send her a note.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Tour of Pennsylvania

(Image from Tour of PA)

The inaugural American Eagle Outfitters Tour of Pennsylvania Presented by Highmark Healthy High 5® kicks off Wednesday in Philadelphia and finishes Sunday in Pittsburgh. In between, the tour covers some terrain I've roamed while fishing or cycling. There's beautiful countryside and some gut-wrenching climbs. I wish I could be there.

Saturday's stage, as shown on the map above, goes within a couple of miles of the town where I grew up. I know those roads and I'd love to watch a race along them.

Link to maps and stage profiles.

If you get the chance to watch, please write something in comments. I'll try not to be too envious.


Saturday, June 21, 2008

Saturday Musette


The following items are not specifically related to bicycling, but since I have a general interest in transportation, I've included them here. I'm especially excited about the mini-truck bill because small, fuel efficient vehicles have great utility here in Tulsa. The average commute is about 5 miles, so these small trucks and vans will be popular......Ed

(Image from KTUL. Note the bike rack on the front of the bus.)

Tulsa Transit Mulls Route to Suburbs

By RHETT MORGAN World Staff Writer

Tulsa World, 6/20/2008

Owasso and Collinsville are excited about a proposed bus route to downtown Tulsa.

The Metropolitan Tulsa Transit Authority is considering the addition of an express route from Collinsville and Owasso to downtown Tulsa.

Leaders from each city support the single-bus line, which would cost the suburbs a combined $40,000, said Tulsa Transit General Manager Bill Cartwright.

"Representatives from both cities are excited about the idea and feel like it's something that they need to do and implement as soon as possible," he said.

"I think that they feel pretty confident that that's going to happen."

Approval from Owasso's City Council and Collinsville's City Commission is needed for the plan to go forward.

Neither town has placed it on a meeting agenda, although that could happen this summer.

(Link to more)

(Image from Off Roaders)

Urban Tulsa Weekly, JUNE 18, 2008

First of Mini

New law paves the way for Japanese mini-trucks to roam Tulsa streets


They're somewhat of an exotic species here in Tulsa, but Japanese mini-trucks might soon be as prevalent in urban and suburban Oklahoma as they are in Asia, thanks to a new state law that passed this year.

"They're like European smart cars, but Okie-style," state Rep. Don Armes told UTW.

...They're currently in use as off-road vehicles by an unknown number of ranchers and farmers throughout rural Oklahoma, but some are predicting that mini-trucks' miniscule appetite for gasoline will make them a common sight in Tulsa and other urban areas within the next year or so, once they're legal.

They get between 30-40 miles per gallon, depending on the model.

...They max at about 55 mph, though, so they won't be allowed on interstates or turnpikes, but they should be perfect for getting around Tulsa's city streets.

Most Americans are already familiar with the manufacturers that make them, like Mitsubishi, Mazda, Honda, Suzuki, etc.

(Link to more)

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Wednesday Musette

(Image of WW2 military musette bag from Wing.Chez-Alice. Website is in French.)



The Iowa State Association of Counties has placed a proposed ordinance before the Dallas County (Iowa) Board of Supervisors that would require any organized bicycle ride with more than X people in attendance to obtain $1,000,000 in liability coverage. That X is included because the model legislation doesn't yet specify how many people.

When I first saw this, I thought it was Dallas, Texas, because of the infamous attempt to legally bar cyclists from their farm-to-market roads (essentially all county roads) for dubious 'safety' reasons. The Texas bill was defeated.

Like cockroaches in a ratty apartment, bad ideas like this can spread quickly. It's transparently obvious that the intent is to shut down any group rides and it's a slap at RAGBRAI. The worrisome thing about this piece-of-crap 'model' ordinance is that counties may alter it into an even worse form.

Found via Today's Sermonette. My thanks to the mostly reverend for his help.

Wednesday Night Ride Update: Tulsa

Last Wednesday, a motorist assaulted a cyclist along the popular evening route. Various accounts agreed that he attempted to pass a large group, but before completing the pass he met an oncoming car. The motorist then forced his way into the pack of riders. Words and gestures were exchanged. The motorist accelerated away at the first opportunity. He encountered a lone cyclist, exited his car, and knocked the cyclist down. The group arrived and he fled. Allegedly, his tag number was not valid. It's just as possible that the eye witnesses garbled the number.

Associated Press and Fair Use

This may seem off-topic. Many bloggers rely on the concept of fair use in writing our thoughts and opinions. The basic premise is that it's legal to use small parts of a copyrighted work but not all of it. This is not a cut-and-dried issue because the courts interpret fair use on a case by case basis. The safest approach is to use the minimum necessary in order to make a point, and that's the approach I've taken here on CycleDog.

The Associated Press acknowledges this common understanding about fair use. However, they've gone one step further. AP now requires that anyone using excerpts of their material must pay a licensing fee according to the following schedule:

Excerpt for Web Use

"License parts of this article for republishing on your website or intranet. Pricing based on the number of words excerpted.
Excerpts are priced by the word."




$ 12.50


$ 17.50


$ 25.00


$ 50.00

251 and up

$ 100.00

I'm certain AP would take an entirely different line if, say, a celebrity or politician insisted the news organization pay a licensing fee to use their words or images. It strikes at the heart of a free press. Likewise, AP's licensing fee strikes at the heart of blogging. Some few of us actually make money from our blogs. CycleDog, sadly, is not one of them. If I had to pay to use their material, a couple of excerpts would break the bank.

Does that mean I'll avoid using Associated Press excerpts? Probably not. In fact, I may emulate them. Let's see....if I adopted a simple licensing fee of only $100,000 per word, a couple of quotations could provide a very nice retirement fund.

Okie blogger lurks

Taking cash from the unwary

Retires with new bike.

OK, that's twelve words or $1.2 million. All I have to do is get some gullible fool poetry connoisseur to copy it, and I'll be livin' large!

Found via Okiedoke.

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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father's Day

Do my kids know me or what? There's enough coffee here to keep me singing and dancing until Christmas! My limit is 2 or 3 caffeinated beverages a day, so this should last for quite a while. The chocolate, though, will have a much shorter shelf life. Better yet, all of it is dark chocolate, and Mary and the kids don't like it. That leaves more for me!

La, la, la, la, la!

Life is good.

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Zero Water Update

(Image from NASA. Three-fifths of the Earth's surface is water.)

In November of last year, I posted this about Zero Water:

I was in Home Depot this afternoon. A salesman offered a small cup of water from his Zero water filtration system, and showed me the difference between tap, bottled, and filtered water. His gadget looks like an electronic thermometer, but he says it measures the "stuff" in the water. He wasn't exactly sure what the "stuff" was, but he could measure it. Naturally, the Zero system guessed All the other water was between 90 and 170 on the stuff-o-meter.

Naturally, I made more snarky comments. My purpose in writing about this today is to re-visit that post, update some information, and frankly, apologize to all of you for getting it so wrong.

A few months ago, I found our salesman hard at work flogging Zero Water again. This time, I asked him to fill a water bottle for me to try. He did so quite graciously. I drank from it absently as I wandered around the store, and then stuck it in the water bottle cage on the Centurion for the ride home. I forgot to remove it from the bike until later that night.

That evening, I went out to the garage for something or other, remembered the water bottle, and brought it into the kitchen intending to empty it into the sink. Our elderly chihuahua trotted along to watch. He's blind in one eye, neutered, and due to an unfortunate accident involving a runaway vacuum cleaner, walking around on only three legs. We call him Lucky.

Anyway, Lucky had his blind side toward me and I tripped over him. The water bottle bounced off the counter top and the contents soaked the dog. He was terrified! Lucky ran to Lyndsay's room and refused to come out from under the bed until we offered his favorite treat, steak and eggs and a Budweiser. He seemed fine and we didn't think much more about it.

Over the next couple of weeks, Lucky ate much, much more than usual. He looked muscular, and we were astounded to see that his leg appeared to be regenerating! A tiny pink doggie foot appeared on the end of the stump. It grew rapidly into a fully functional leg! Even more astonishing, he regained the sight in his lost eye.

Just this week, we found out that Lucky is the proud papa of several new litters of puppies in the neighborhood.

So, folks, I was entirely wrong about Zero Water. It was important to set the record straight.

I had a vasectomy many years ago. I wonder if....


Friday, June 13, 2008

"Controlled Chaos" in Norman, OK

(Image from Jalopnik, with an article about $5/gallon gasoline in CA)

Metro Brokers of Oklahoma, a local real estate company owned by Gwen Holmes, offered $2/gallon gasoline as a promotional stunt. The limit was 8 gallons and it would be sold between noon and 2PM. The line of vehicles waiting for cheap fuel stretched for nearly a mile according to the Norman Transcript article.

I liked this:

Another man, who looked like a retired college English professor, sat on his bicycle watching the rows and rows of automobiles wait. At one point he sniffed the air, which at times was thick with smell of gasoline and exhaust, and glanced at a large SUV about 10 yards away from him. The massive black Suburban was running, all of its tinted windows were rolled up tight and a small lake of water from the vehicle's air conditioner flowed behind it until it disappered beneath the hordes of waiting cars.

"Pretty ironic, isn't it," he said.

Three police officers were on hand to keep order. Is that the scent of panic in the air? How long until we see fuel riots?

One solution - ride your bike. You'll buy less fuel, absorb less craziness, and find that life goes on without minute-by-minute reliance on an automobile.


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Response to the editor - Tulsa World

(Howler monkey image from Wilderness Classroom)

An anti-cycling letter showed up in the Tulsa World this week. Here's a link to the original, and if you have the stomach for it, there's the usual assortment of howler monkeys in the comments section. But I've included this highlight since it's the heart of the letter. Mr. Vollertsen's recommendations for suitable things to yell at cyclists:

Hey! Get a headlight!

Get a tail light!

Get brake lights!

Get signal lights!

Get mirrors!

Get seat belts!
Get a license tag!

Get liability insurance!

Get street legal!

Get over!

In the real world, what a cyclist most often hears as a motorist shouts through a window is something like “Baggawoggahakkaboff!” The best response is to wave and hope that they're not late for their remedial English lessons.

But I wrote a straight-forward response and sent it to the World, after carefully removing all my snarky comments. Here it is:

Conrad Vollertsen's letter illustrated an appalling level of ignorance about safe, practical bicycle operation.

First, the public roads belong to all of us regardless of our transportation mode, provided we operate our vehicles legally. So let's cover some basics of bicycle law.

Bicyclists are required to have a headlight, tail light, and rear reflector if the bicycle is ridden at night. There are no requirements for brake lights or turn signals. Simple hand signals are legal and effective, just as they are for motorists. Some cyclists equip their machines with mirrors, though there's no legal requirement to do so. For many, it's easier to just turn their heads and look for overtaking traffic.

Tags and insurance are more important for motorists than cyclists. Motorists kill more than 40,000 people every year, so tags and insurance are a way to provide some accountability. Cyclists, on the other hand, seldom kill another road user. A bicycle doesn't menace people and property as does a motor vehicle. If it did, similar licensing and insurance would be required.

Finally, I'll address his last complaint, that bicyclists should presumably get over on the right and out of his way. Most lanes in Oklahoma are no more than 12 feet wide. If a cyclist rides in the right hand tire track, he'll have roughly a third of the lane to his right and two thirds to the left. If Mr. Vollertsen wishes to pass, he must leave a minimum of 3 feet clearance between his car and the bicyclist. He'll have to wait until there is no opposing traffic, cross the centerline, and pass the cyclist. I'm sure Mr. Vollertsen remembers that it's always the responsibility of the overtaking motorist do so safely. Cyclists have no obligation to get out of the way, and in a typical lane, they're safer when overtaking traffic must slow down and wait to pass. Safety always trumps convenience regardless of how many wheels you have.

A local advocacy group teaches safe, effective cycling. I'd like to invite Mr. Vollertsen to attend a class and discover fun, practical two-wheeled transportation.

See? I'm not always sarcastic.

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I been tagged! Oh, noes!

I've been tagged by Ron at Cozy Beehive!

The idea is to go to the closest book and on page 123, copy sentences 5, 6, and 7.

My first attempt was unsuccessful. Since I was working in the kitchen at the time, the closest book was "Foods That Heal." It's a cookbook but it's only about 100 pages.

The next closest was "Betty Crocker's Cookbook." Unfortunately, there's a full page photo on page 123.

The next one was "The Taste of Home Cookbook." Paydirt! From a recipe for pork chow mein:

"Remove; keep warm. Add carrots and celery; stir fry for 3-4 minutes. Add the onion, cabbage, and spinach; stir fry for 2-3 minutes."

Is it any wonder I have trouble keeping the weight off? Chow mein sounds good, but I think we're having tacos tonight.

Fritz says that if you break the chain,something dire will happen. Of course, I had to add to his list:

Dick Cheney will offer to take you out bird hunting.
You'll wake up one morning to discover Mormons camped in your living room.
Your friends will refer to you as "that cute little bald man."
The Fl@t T1re G0ds will be annoyed with you.
The Library Police will kick in your door at 3AM demanding you pay $2.55 in fines or face extraordinary rendition.
Dr. Wally Crankset will show up at your house for dinner and (if female) you'll be named in his next divorce.

So who to tag? I'll only name two - George, The Bike Riding Donut Guy and SiouxGeonz at Urbana-Champaign Bicycle Commute. I already have Wally at the dinner table most nights.

What else could go wrong?


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

This just in...

I received a sketchy report of a motorist/bicyclist altercation on the Wednesday night ride. A group of cyclists was climbing a hill side-by-side when an overtaking motorist decided to pass. Unfortunately, he met an on-coming car and forced his way into the pack. Insults and gestures were exchanged. The motorist pulled over, got out of his car, and assaulted a cyclist. Other cyclists arrived and the motorist fled.

More details as they become available.


And now a word from our sponsors...

Note that Bob, a stylishly dressed cyclist, is wearing 'old school' cycling gloves and oh-so-trendy leather pants - perfect for hot afternoon rides on his vintage fixed gear conversion. However, his significant other, Madge (green dress) is somewhat put off by the foul odors wafting up from his gloves. (Image from

Do you have difficulty staying hydrated on long bike rides because your gloves stink and you can't bear to bring them near your face?

Does your spouse insist you remove them outside and leave them there? Preferably downwind so they don't remove the paint from the siding?

Do local kids beg for your old gloves when they need catfish bait?

You just may have funky glove syndrome!

Don't despair! We can help!

Introducing Glove Ree-New! A radical approach to combating those nasty, funky glove odors.

Dr. Walter Crankset, Professor Emeritus of the Physics and Cosmetology Department at the University of Southern North Oklahoma extension campus at Broken Elbow, developed this exciting new product to eliminate funky glove syndrome. This patented process uses ions that lock onto odor and break it down, rendering it harmless. What's more, the effect lasts for days!

Order now and we'll include a bonus can of Glove Ree-New! That's 2 cans for the price of one!

But wait, there's more! If you order in the next 30 minutes, we'll send you a free can of Fritz Spritz, Dr. Crankset's miracle taint remover! This amazing product eliminates road rash, saddle sores, cuts, scrapes, stains, and even repels mosquitoes! (Use as directed. Not legal for sale in red states.)

Dont' miss this incredible offer! Call now!

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Monday, June 09, 2008

Monday Musette

Image of classic brass bicycle bell from (where else?) Rivendell Bicycles. I want one!

You've got bells

I tucked this away back in April and forgot about it.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Open Letter to a Hybrid Driver

Dear Blue Honda Insight Driver,

I'm sorry we got off on the wrong foot this morning and had words. When you beeped at me, I assumed the worst and I apologize for giving you the "WTF" arm signal and stink-eye. I don't doubt that you are a cyclist and bicycle commuter too, but if so, you should have plenty of experience with drivers beeping their horn at you from behind. Sure you just wanted to warn me you were there because some people can't hear your hybrid coming, and I appreciate the concern for my safety, but you know as well as I do that a beeping horn almost always signifies a driver wanting a cyclist out of the way. Perhaps I am special, but I practice spatial awareness while riding, and I saw your headlights long before you were near me. And believe it or not, I really did hear your awesome hybrid approaching...

There was a comment after this post suggesting that hybrid vehicles should be equipped with bicycle bells as a more polite warning for cyclists and pedestrians. The more I think about it, the more I like the idea. But I wouldn't limit the application to hybrids. All motor vehicles should be equipped with bells.

Title 47 OS 12-401 (Oklahoma)

A. Every motor vehicle when operated upon a highway shall be equipped with a horn in good working order and capable of emitting sound audible under normal conditions from a distance of not less than two hundred (200) feet, but no horn or other warning device shall emit an unreasonably loud or harsh sound. The driver of a motor vehicle shall, when reasonably necessary to insure safe operation, give audible warning with a horn but shall not otherwise use such horn when upon a highway.

So a horn must be audible from at least 200 feet, but it cannot emit an “unreasonably loud or harsh sound.” Most cyclists have had a motorist blast a horn from close range, and to my way of thinking, that constitutes unreasonably loud or harsh. I once had an Owasso ambulance sound its air horn directly behind me. The driver was returning to the FD, not on an emergency call, so the air horn was entirely unwarranted. Did I immediately dive off the road in response to his blast? Of course not.

How would I have reacted if the ambulance had been equipped with a friendly bicycle bell? I probably would have waved him by. The road had no opposing traffic, so in my opinion he was being a dick by blasting the air horn. A bell is a less aggressive alternative.

Besides, there's something very appropriate about a Hummer making ding-a-ling noises.


The seemingly relentless wind let up last night. I think we had about 10 days of 20-30 mph wind out of the south with gusts over 40mph. The morning commute headwind wasn't as strong as the afternoon tailwind, but with temperatures in the 90s a tailwind wasn't always welcome. It felt like a sauna.

Like I said, it relented last night. We had thunderstorms and lots of rain. Some predictions call for 5 inches today and that's enough to cause flooding. I expect Mingo Road will be underwater this afternoon so I'll have to take the long way home. Oh, heaven forfend! Family and co-workers think I'm crazy for riding in the rain, but in all honesty, after the heat of the last couple of weeks some rain and cooler temperatures are much appreciated. It's supposed to be around 80F and raining when I leave this afternoon. I have the Centurion with its fenders and several plastic bags for my things. I'll be wet but not cold. The fenders keep the grunge factor down. What's not to love?

If you're going to commute by bike, get a set of fenders, or even a 'bad weather beater' for wet conditions.

One other thing – I had to remember that the ancient Universal mod. 68 sidepull brakes on the Centurion are severely compromised by wet weather as compared to the Tektro cantilevers on the Bianchi. These things do not want to stop when they're wet! Maybe that's not entirely bad because they can't lock up the wheel and cause a skid. Still, stopping distances are much, much longer.


Oklahoma's cross-state tour started Sunday. This year's route goes south to north through central Oklahoma, ending at the Kansas state line on Saturday. From the radar image, it looks as if the riders are under the same storm front we're experiencing in Tulsa.

I've lived in this state for more than 20 years, and I've never been on Freewheel. I'm basically a homebody, unaccustomed to being far away from family. Truthfully, I'd feel more than a little guilty taking a week away for myself. The kids have jobs and Mary isn't capable of riding, so I'd be on my own. It just strikes me as too selfish to take that time away from them. That's my own decision, of course. Others no doubt see it differently. I'm not implying that someone else who chooses to be off on a tour is being selfish. Far from it. I just wouldn't work for me.

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Sunday, June 08, 2008

Ah, 'tis spring and.....ew – what's that smell?

(It's been a stressful week, and for some odd reason, I've been dwelling on saddle sores. Don't ask.)

I find minor amusement in the fashionista approach to cycling. There's a segment of the bicycling population that decries the use of Lycra and purpose-built cycling clothing, preferring more 'normal' clothes for everyday riding. That may work well in a colder climate or for the occasional cyclist, but someone who rides everyday in all sorts of weather needs to use the proper clothing. It's the difference between a spin around the block and a long-term commitment. I intend to be riding tomorrow, next week, next month, and through the winter if my knee holds out.

Fair warning – I'm writing about body odor, saddle sores, and foot fungus today. This is a brief introduction to these subjects. I've provided some links to more detailed information.

Hygiene is important in prevention and cycling clothing has a role to play. If you're a devotee of “Copenhagen-style” cycling dreck, where short distance bicycling is a substitute for walking, the following does not apply. But in most American cities, cycling distances are longer, leading to more problems with sweat management. Here in Oklahoma, where temperatures are already into the 90+ range ( 32+ C) most days, even a modest distance of 2 or 3 miles will leave you sweat soaked. The idea of sitting around at work in fashionable-but-sweaty clothing as it slowly dries just strikes me as icky. There's probably a more technical term, but icky will do.

Body Odor

By itself, sweat has little odor. It provides an excellent growth medium for bacteria, however, and it's the growth of those organisms that produces body odor. Cycling clothes help to reduce their growth of by wicking moisture away from the skin more rapidly than most natural fibers. Wool is the exception, which explains its popularity in the pre-Lycra days. So one commuting strategy is to ride to work and remove your cycling clothes on arrival. While it doesn't entirely stop bacterial growth, it does help to slow the little buggers down. In the absence of a shower, a couple of baby wipes will remove or kill the bacteria.

Body odor won't keep you off the bike, though for some it's a real enough concern to be an obstacle to bicycle commuting. Saddle sores, on the other hand, can put you off the bike and into a chair (gingerly) for days or even weeks. I mention body odor because sweat produces it, and because sweat and the resulting bacterial or fungal growth has a large role in producing saddle sores.


The simplest type of saddle sore is an abrasion. These injuries result from friction often caused by seams in clothing. Cut-off jeans are especially notorious for this. Even cycling shorts can cause an abrasion if they have a fold or crease. Treatment is fairly easy. Clean the affected area and dry it thoroughly. Then apply a topical anti-bacterial ointment. It's usually best to do this before bed as there's no way to cover it with a bandage. If you plan to ride in the morning, add more ointment. This does two things: it kills bacteria and it reduces friction. Be sure your shorts fit properly. You may have to try various types to find the ones most suitable for your anatomy.

Since an abrasion removes the tough upper skin layers, it exposes skin cells that more susceptible to bacterial and fungal infections. Always treat an abrasion in order to prevent something worse.

Fungal infections

Often called jock itch, fungal infections are definitely worse. In the beginning, they feel like an abrasion but they don't respond to anti-bacterials and they grow steadily worse. And they do grow! They appear to be abrasions that never heal because the infection eats new skin just as fast as it grows. The area will be tender and very moist. These are the same fungi that cause athlete's foot, but the crotch gives them much more area to occupy. They like warm, dark, humid conditions. These fungi cause a distinctive odor. Let's be realistic and call it a stench. It's unmistakable. They do not respond to soap and water, actually preferring an alkaline environment. So it's important to remove every trace of soap. Oh, and don't think you can make the skin acidic with, say, vinegar and kill the little buggers. You'll howl and dance in the shower as your eyes pop out of your head. Guess how I know this.

Treat these infections with an anti-fungal like Lamasil. Tinactin, or Micatin. If you continue riding, re-apply the ointment several times each day. It may take weeks to fully heal. Since these fungi are often transmitted from feet to crotch by washing, wash your feet last. If you shower in a locker room, use flip flops to minimize your contact with the floor.

Also, it's a very good practice to apply an anti-fungal at the first sign of an infection, when the itch or burning starts. Keep using it for at least 10 days per the instructions.


Zits form when bacteria penetrate the skin, most often through a hair follicle or a pore. They take time to fester into the normal, painful saddle sore, typically growing over the course of a few days or even a week, before becoming the familiar skin eruption. They can be painful far out of proportion to their size.

Road Bike Rider offers extensive tips on treating saddle sores while continuing to ride. They recommend that your saddle fits well and is properly adjusted. If you rock back and forth, you're providing a saw-like action. The fit of your shorts is important too. Their recommendations are excellent and I won't duplicate them here, so follow the link if you need more information. I'm taken with the idea of using a foam donut originally intended for corns or calluses on the feet as a way to reduce pressure on a saddle sore. But then too, I'm not looking forward to trying it.

Medicate. To help heal pimple-like saddle sores, check the skin-care section of a pharmacy for an acne lotion containing 10% benzoyl peroxide. Even better, ask your physician about a prescription for a topical antibiotic called erythromycin (brand name Emgel). We used Emgel during the 1993 Northern PAC Tour covering 3,400 miles in 24 days and completed the ride without a single saddle sore. Dab it on any “hot spots” right after washing.”

As with all the above, prevention is the best remedy. Wash your shorts regularly. Remove them promptly after a ride, and if you use them for commuting, try to allow them to dry before the ride home. Keep your skin dry when off the bike by using talc or some other form of drying powder. I used plain corn starch for years until my skin began reacting badly to it. You can adapt the same approach for riding. If it's a short distance, use talc to stay dry. For longer distances or in hot, humid weather, apply some ointment like Bag Balm before the ride. Some riders will apply a liberal coating of petroleum jelly to the inside of their shorts. I did this a long time ago for a couple of century rides. It really does work, but there's that icky factor to contend with when you pull them on in the morning.


Cysts, abscesses, or boils can occur when a pore or hair follicle becomes plugged and infected. Typically, they feel like a small, hard mass just under the skin surface. White blood cells attack them. They swell up, form a 'white head' and drain eventually. Sometimes, due to their size or position, they have to be drained by a physician. Boils may drain into the blood and this can be a life-threatening condition. They are very contagious, so if one erupts, it's critical to clean the affected area and apply an anti-bacterial. Some cases may require treatment with prescription antibiotics.

Other resources:

No animals were killed, maimed, beaten, sodomized, subjected to ridicule, or eaten in the production of this post, but it's still early.

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Friday, June 06, 2008

Tire irons

I have what may be an unnatural attraction to shiny objects, especially tools. Sure, a 15mm combination wrench with a black industrial finish is just as functional as a chromed and highly polished one, but given a choice, I'll take chrome. I have an assortment of wrenches in the toolbox and I'll always go for the Snap-On or Craftsman Professionals first. If wrenches could be described as 'sexy,' these ones have it. They just feel right in the hand.

But today I'm writing about the other end of the spectrum, one of the most ubiquitous, humblest tools in the box – the simple tire iron. They're the Rodney Dangerfield of tools, getting little respect unless they're missing. Try to change a tire using a screwdriver and you'll understand the need for tire irons.

But not all tire irons are created equal. Back in the 1970s, there were some cheap, shoddy ones made from stampings. They were a small improvement over a screwdriver but the stamped edges were quite sharp and capable of slicing a tube. I rounded the edges with a stone and reserved their use to dire emergencies. Thankfully, they went missing somewhere in the mists of time or possibly in the garage. Good riddance.

(All photos from CycleDog)

I acquired these steel levers at about the same time. There's no manufacturer's markings so I have no idea of their origin. The working end is thin and strong in order to deal with narrow road tires. The hook on the other end goes over the spokes. My only criticism is that they're prone to corrosion despite what appears to be chrome or nickel plating. Sure, they're 30 years old so they should show some wear. Sometimes I knock the rust off with a wire wheel and spray them with clear acrylic. They're my favorites. No, you can't borrow them.

(Slightly out of focus, but the rust is clearly visible.)

These Park tire irons are plastic. They work well but they're bulky. The working end is wider and thicker than the steel levers, making them a little more awkward to use on a narrow, high-pressure tire. I haven't managed to break them yet so they must be fairly strong. One plus – since they snap together into a unit, they don't rattle in the seat bag. No rust, either.

You may wonder why I have all of these. The explanation is simple. Each bike has a seat bag with one or two spare tubes, a patch kit, and a pair of tire irons. Each has a frame pump too, so I don't have to move anything from bike to bike. I used to do just that until the day I forgot to shift the bag and pump. That's one way of guaranteeing a flat tire and a long walk home.

I was in Tom's Bicycles last week. He showed me these very nice titanium tire levers from King Cage. I just had to have them! Think of it – strong, light, and no rust! They're shiny too. I couldn't resist showing them to some of my co-workers. I was the cool guy if only for a few minutes. But they sparked an argument over whether the levers were solid rod stock or hollow tubing. It doesn't take much to get us started, obviously. So I wrote to King Cage and asked. Ron Andrews wrote back and said, “Ed, tubing, thanx, Ron.” I admire brevity. And my thanks to you too, Ron.

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Sunday, June 01, 2008

Tulsa Tough

It's been an interesting weekend.

Saturday, I was to work providing mechanical support for the Tulsa Tough on the century route. Jordan and I were to be in Ochelata. First, I forgot my box of parts and supplies. Oh, I had the tools, pump, and work stand, but no spare tubes, cables, etc. A quick call to Mike Schooling remedied that, though Mike did call me a dimwit but in a nice way. As it turned out, the only business we had was inflating a pair of tires. Jordan said he needed more 'action.' I think that sometimes the best action is no action.

Then the Ford's charging system light came on. I figured my alternator wasn't charging sufficiently, but the light went out on the way home. I thought that meant it charged the battery - until the engine quit a few miles later. Apparently, when the light goes out, it means THERE ISN'T ENOUGH VOLTAGE TO RUN THE IDIOT LIGHT ANYMORE, YOU IDIOT!!! It says this in the manual but it's in very tiny print. We called my friend Wade. He came up to US75 and SH20 and picked us up. I took the battery out since I had lots of tools on hand, and brought it home to charge. Then Lyndsay and I went back up there in her SUV to install the battery and bring the car home.

I can be thankful for one thing, though, and that's the fact that the system could have shut down somewhere out west of Ochelata where cellphones and radios don't work. We'd still be out there. It's the definition of desolate.

I gave serious consideration to hiding in the closet with a pillow over my head for the rest of the evening.

Sunday morning saw better organization. I transferred my equipment to Lyndsay's Blazer, being certain to include the parts box this time, and checked the map for the third or fourth time to be sure I knew how to reach the Keystone VFD. Jordan originally wanted to go along. He was to help me with the rest stop, then after it closed, we'd go to the start of the Tulsa Townie. He wanted to ride it with the kids he'd met at the BikeEd events. But he had a going-away party for a friend last night. All that free floating teen angst kept him up very late, so he couldn't find the energy to get his eyes open this morning. I pushed off alone.

At the VFD, we set up the sun tents and arranged tables. We iced down the drinks. Our amateur communications volunteer (sadly, I've forgotten her name and call sign) came over to tell us that a storm was bearing down on our location accompanied by 70mph winds and golf ball size hail. With a wary eye on the dark, ominous clouds, we hurried to finish setting up the rest stop. One of the firemen opened the truck bays and we hustled to move equipment inside. Last to go would be the tents. We collapsed the first one, but before we could get the other one down, the wind picked up and the hail arrived.

Sure enough, golf ball size hail stones slammed into the tent and the ground. A few were closer to baseball size. Big hail stones are very dangerous as they fall at one hundred miles an hour. These things can kill you.

So we were afraid to leave the dubious safety of the sun tent, at least until lightning was less than a mile away. Then the idea of standing directly under a bunch of aluminum tubing seemed just as precarious as the hail. One of the volunteer firemen put his helmet on and ran to the firehouse. Others put folding chairs over their heads. I used a clipboard.

We waited for the storm to pass. As soon as it did, we went about clearing off the twisted wreckage of the tent and began to anticipate the arrival of the first riders. It was not to be. The radio net announced the approach of another line of storms. The century riders were diverted east along the 100K route rather than west toward us. Most of the group decided to go backward along the route in order to look for stragglers and see if any assistance was needed.

The rain arrived along with high winds. Some low-lying areas were flooded and debris covered much of the road in places. I encountered a lone cyclist, Neal, who'd been separated from his group and somehow had continued west rather than east. Neal is from Enid. He was riding his first century. We loaded his bike into the Blazer and drove toward Tulsa. If Jordan had accompanied me, there wouldn't have been room for Neal and his bike. So it was a perverse sort of blessing that Jordan stayed home.

Driving was an adventure. At times, visibility was only a few feet and we crept along at a bicycle pace. Once, it was so bad we had to pull off the road and wait. I thought to put the Blazer inside a bay at a car wash, but apparently I wasn't the only one with that idea. Every bay was occupied.

And I did something very stupid. I drove through a flooded area, one that was probably too deep to cross safely. If the Blazer had stalled, we would have been in deep, um, water. I kept the engine revs up and we got through it.

Neal was on the phone with his wife. We met her in a parking lot and moved the bike to her van. They were off.

I drove home through gusty cross winds, the Blazer rolling from the wind forces. My neck and shoulder ached with tension. A cup of coffee and two ibuprofen were very welcome when I got home.

The weather caused the organizers to cancel the Tulsa Townie – the kid's event we'd been working toward since April. And most of the races were canceled except for the final three, I think. I would imagine that between the downed tree branches and other debris on the street, it would take some time to clear. Also, those police officers who were going to accompany the kids were likely re-assigned to emergency duties.

I'm looking forward to going back to work so I can get some rest!