An Open Letter to Bike Hating Drivers

So, today i had some down time at work.  The trainees are done with the learning the new roles, and they are actively working on claim files.  My role this week has shifted from training to support.  I am there to answer questions as they come up.

This means I had time to actually go to the Seattle Times and check out the news.  Low and behold, on the editorial page, was another rant about bikes on the road and how they do not belong there.  Now the chances of the person writing the letter seeing this blog is slim and none, but what the hell…. Continue reading “An Open Letter to Bike Hating Drivers”

Two-Wheeled Time Machine

Since I have started this blog in January, I watch out for phrases, comments or things I read that  will generate a post.  When I know the source though, I like to give credit where credit is due.  I was reading one of the many excellent stories written by Joe Kurmaskie, the Metal Cowboy, when I read that  a bike is like a time machine.  Once you throw your legs over a bike, you can’t help but remember some of the times you had as a kid riding your first bikes.

I was reminded of this phrase from Joe while commuting home on my bike Friday after work.  It was a great day!  After getting drenched on Thursday with a driving rain, it was warm, sunny and nice.  This means I was feeling good on the bike, pushing it a little, doing a little bike dancing to the music in my head, and having a great time.

During the ride, I saw two different riders that drove the time machine point home to me.

The first was a little kid, maybe 4 or 5.  This kid was pedaling like you would not believe, and had a HUGE smile on his face.  I could tell there were no worries in this kids head.  Mom was behind him jogging, pushing a jogging stroller.  As I passed him I yelled “Cool bike pal!” and his smile got bigger.

I will tell you I have had this smile recently on long down hills, when I have my hands nowhere near the brakes and I am FLYING like the wind!  Its a great feeling!  This is what I hope all of us felt as we were learning to ride or exploring the world on our bikes, and it’s what this little guy has ahead of him!

I said I ran into two people though. The second was an elderly gentleman I’d guess in his 80s, on a 3 wheeler, pedaling down the road to my house.  He was NOT going fast.  In fact, what I assume was his wife was walking next to him and keeping pace.  So in essence, the exact opposite of the little kid I saw.  With one exception: the smile.

It took me a while to figure this out.  I could tell there was something reminding me the kid.  This guy had an ear to ear grin!  Why?  I can only assume it was because he was on his bike, exploring the neighborhood, just like the little guy.  Once he straddled that thing, he went back in time, and he found the little kid that used to ride everywhere.  Who knows how mobile he in on foot, but now on a bike…  I nodded to him, just as I do all riders, and he nodded back, but again his grin got bigger.  I’d like to think it was because I acknowledged him as a peer.

I don’t know if its magic, bike karma, or the greek god of bikes that makes this happen when one rides.. When I ran or hiked, even though I enjoyed it, I didn’t have flashes of being a kid.  When I drive a car, its mundane, I can drive for hours, but it doesn’t transport me back to 16 when I learned how to drive.

Cycling is unique in this way.  And Friday renewed my hope for the future.  Lord knows I will never be a little one learning to ride for the first time ever again.  Hell, my next big milestone is when I get too old to drive safely and I have to give up my license.  These two people showed me (old and young) that no matter what, as long as I can sit and move the bike by pedaling, that I will ALWAYS be known as THE WIND!

Its summer time everybody, get out there and ride, and remember what it feels like to be a kid!

A Tale of Two Bike Racks

Those who have followed my blog for a while know that I like to walk at lunch time.  I eat my lunch quickly at my desk or in the lunchroom, then rain or shine I head outside.

Now in my previous job at the, Holy P, I would walk to the wetlands park near my office and commune with nature.  It was nice to get away from the office and hear the birds sing.

Well now I am at the Mighty P, right in downtown Seattle.  Nope no wetland park here, but I still get outside, let the wind blow in my face, and see what there is to see! 

Now instead of nature, I was erratic drivers dodge thrill seeking jay walkers.  I watch helmetless bike riders bobbing and weaving through traffic as if they are bullet proof.  There are panhandlers, and fashionistas, smilers and scowlers, brand new high rises and an old Greyhound bus station.  All of this makes walking fun.

Also, being one of the best biking cities in America, there are bikes locked up everywhere.  Bike racks, street signs, trees, fences, you name it, there is a bike locked to it.  It’s great to see, as it means there are a lot of people, like me, using two wheels to travel all over.

HOWEVER, all is not roses and gumdrops.

A few days ago I was walking, and stumbled over this:

 image

Yep, that person will not be happy.  I rounded the corner and found this:

 image

Now I am thinking one of two things here.  1) The person is being ultra-safe and took the wheel with him/her while the bike was locked , or 2) The person who took the rest of the bike in the first pic wanted the wheel to complete his newly stolen one.   You know, back in the old west they use to hang horse thieves, how’s come we can’t do the same with bike thieves?  (Git a rope!)

This had made me give serious thought to where I leave my bike.  I have been known in the past to (ok this morning even) to leave the key to my bike lock IN the lock itself.  Other times, I have even just left it thinking “Oh I will be RIGHT out.” I am very lucky that my work bike rack is in a garage, with cameras and security on site!   

Shoot, in the organized rides, bikes are just left on their own everywhere!

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Now I am planning to be much more careful.  I have a pretty long cable lock that I always run thorough the frame, and back wheel.  Granted, I could come out with the front one missing like the second picture, but at least it would be cheaper than a whole new frame, back wheel and cassette.

I am also going to look for places to lock up AWAY from the road.  It would have been easy for a pick up or van to pull up next to either of these bikes, grab what was loose and be gone in nuthin flat.  REI, for example, has indoor racks.  MUCH safer.  Shoot, I would even lock up there if I needed to and walk to the place I needed to be.

Or maybe I keep the bike with me.  My bank (US BANK, they are great!) allows me to bring the bike in the lobby.  No one can steal it that way.

Regardless, if you are going to ride TO somewhere and be off the bike (even if it’s to use the restroom) you need a lock.  Don’t be cheap on this.  Talk to your bike shop about what they recommend.  Two things are key to me.  It has to be: 

1) Strong enough to protect your bike from a quick snatch and grab (no lock will stand up to someone determined to steal a bike, but if its not easy, most will move on to easier pickins)

2) Easy to carry with you.  A lock does no good at all sitting at home.  I have a pretty big bag on mine, so its easy for me.  Some attach to the frame.  The bike shop can help a lot here.

When I was younger, my kid brother didn’t lock my bike and it was stolen.  I was mad then.  Now I would be devastated.  I am very attached to my bike (almost 12000 miles will do that).  So I will do everything I can to make sure I keep it!  I also need to record the serial number just in case the worst happens!

Either that or rig a remote control self-destruct switch!  Now THAT would ruin a thief’s day!  (Hmm maybe I can market that…)

Cycling Rules! Can you Obey Them All?

One of the very cool things I have discovered about having a blog for a while is that you don’t have to come up with all the ideas for your posts on your own.  My wife regularly sends me emails, articles and ideas whenever she stumbles on them while perusing the news each day.  The ever lovely Stacy makes a practice of posting great ideas on my Facebook page.  The best part, I’ve never asked, they share because they care.

This post is an example of this!  A friend of my wife’s sent her this link.  It to Velominati.com, the Keepers of the Cog.  These folks are serious bike racers, and I am pretty damn sure they wouldn’t look at me twice as the passed me like I was sitting still.  However, I checked out their rules, and I gottat tell you, I adhere to some, others not so much but DAMN they made me laugh!

A few I do adhere to, just to whet your appetite:

Rule #4

It’s all about the bike.

It is, absolutely, without question, unequivocally, about the bike. Anyone who says otherwise is obviously atwatwaffle.

I have to agree!  Riding is its own reward!

Rule #5

Harden The Fuck Up. 
Forgive the language, but this is why we ride, to get in shape, to be able to go farther, faster, climb better and see more!
Rule #6

Free your mind and your legs will follow.

Your mind is your worst enemy. Do all your thinking before you start riding your bike.  Once the pedals start to turn, wrap yourself in the sensations of the ride – the smell of the air, the sound of the tires, the feeling of flight as the bicycle rolls over the road

When you let yourself ride, when you don’t worry about work, life, family, money, or what’s ahead, just let the road flow and legs turn, you will be amazed how far you can go!

Rule #7

Tan lines should be cultivated and kept razor-sharp
Come the end of summer!  I have the classic deep and dark cycler tan!!  I wear it proud!
Rule #9

If you are out riding in bad weather, it means you are a badass. Period
Fair-weather riding is a luxury reserved for Sunday afternoons and wide boulevards. Those who ride in foul weather – be it cold, wet, or inordinately hot – are members of a special club of riders who, on the morning of a big ride, pull back the curtain to check the weather and, upon seeing rain falling from the skies, allow a wry smile to spread across their face. This is a rider who loves the work.
I can add no more!  Those of us that ride year round, understand this!  People call us nuts, but without a doubt we ARE badass!
Rule #25

The bikes on top of your car should be worth more than the car
Mine is worth 3 times the value of the car!!
Rule #55

Earn your turns.

If you are riding down a mountain, you must first have ridden up the mountain. It is forbidden to employ powered transportation simply for the cheap thrill of descending. The only exception to this is if you are doing intervals on Alpe d’Huez or the Plan de Corones and you park your car up top before doing 20 repeats of the climb.

I earn ALL my downhills!  I have spent hours to get to the top at 4 mph just to turn around and have a 20 mile downhill!

There are many MANY more.  Hell some of them I didn’t understand, some I regularly violate,  HOWEVER, those I’ve listed here I swear by.

Cycling has become a bike part of my life.  I have certain rules I stand by, and an independence on the bike I am very proud of.  I know my limitations, but I work hard to push the envelope, learn new skills, and take new challenges.  I am lucky to have a wife that supports me in my endeavors, and wants me to do well.

Take some time, read the rules, and tell me which ones you follow!