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03/10/13
Simple Rules
Filed under: general, rides, unfortunate events, mixed-terrain
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 12:56 pm

I’m rewriting this a day later.  Mostly, because I really don’t want it to sound like a rant. The simple truth is that etiquette is a slippery topic in this world today, and it tends to slide like a frozen salmon off to the side of things.

The problem is that etiquette itself can be way overdone, and leads to things like 17 utensils for the 6 courses of an aristocratic meal at the estate.  In other words, it tends to be a self-reinforcing prison itself. 

What I’m really speaking about is trail etiquette.  Manners. Awareness of other users. Being able to place oneself in the shoes of another.  See the world through their eyes.

Not saying we all have to agree, but it’s helpful to realize ours is not the only boat on the water.

Now, I’ve mentioned egregious examples before, both on trails and on the roads. But on yesterday’s loop, a cluster of experiences brought this up again.

I’d been riding east for a while, into a cooling headwind.  Both to regain a little core heat and the fact that I seldom miss an opportunity to divert onto trails, I nudged the Quickbeam onto the lower trails at China Camp, much against my better judgement.  You see, it was about 11 am, and that has always been dead center in the “magic hours”. 

This is something I’m not sure I’ve written about before, but my long-held belief is that on Saturday/Sunday between the hours of 10 am and noon, on any trail system in general and the China Camp State Park trails in particular is high tide for bad behaviour.  It’s best to avoid things during this time.  Something about how long it takes everyone to descend from out of the area via auto combined with the need for blowing out the workweek. 

I’d much rather roll the trails at daybreak or sunset midweek, when you can find turkeys and stunning displays of light and shadow. But, here I was and the trails did call.  So, diverting past a few groups of Mountain Dewbies and folks tinkering with heavy hinged bicycles, I ambled onto the dirt.

Now, even on the weekends, trail users do disperse onto the options pretty well, and though I did hear some chatter there weren’t any clusters. I chatted with a couple hikers.  Enjoyed the carpets of deep red Indian Paintbrush which had bloomed everywhere the sun reached.  Meandered and passed a couple single riders.

Then the onslaught began. Couple of brisk pass-bys from the other direction with nary an acknowledgement of my existence.  Adults who didn’t even say “hey” back. Followed by a few kids - who were actually very well mannered, both announcing my appearance (”rider up!”) and mitigating their speed and direction.   Then the wagon train hit - easily 20-plus riders in nose-to-tail position, cruising my way and having no intention of yielding trail.   Many jerseys from a well-rostered “Trails Coalition” were in evidence, but manners, not so much.

It didn’t really bug me too much.  I know the dynamics of groups and when you are rolling in a pack, it can be dangerous to suddenly slow or stop.  And they weren’t at race pace to be sure.  It’s also easy to feel safe and protected, trusting the rider in front of you to pass back info about trail conditions and other users. 

Except this group was as mute as they come.  And I could see on the other side of the horseshoe-shaped bit of trail that some hikers had been similarly pinned down.  The express train passed and I rolled back onto the trail.  Jockeyed past a couple more 5-10 rider oncoming groups and eased up to the hikers.  We would be be spilled out onto a wide, open parking lot area in another 30 meters, so I eased up and followed them.  We all made it to the bridge which ends the trail, where one rider patiently waited for our exit and a couple others trails-ed a bit in the parking lot so as not to create a bottleneck. 

I have no idea why the fourth guy decided that was a perfect time to roll onto the bridge and pass us.   The bridge is reasonably narrow - though enough room to pass two bikes if both pay attention.  But it was a stupid, needless breach of trail etiquette.  More so since it was obvious that the two hikers in front of me were a little older.  Even more so since there were three riders waiting for us to exit.  Which took all of another second.

So, yes.  I did ask him the general question, “What the HELL?” and pointed out he could have shown a little courtesy and waited a second.  Since I tend to ask questions in three, I may have also asked him what the heck he was in such a hurry for.

Generally disgusted, I rolled over to the restroom and upon my egress there found the hikers in close proximity.  Took a moment to apologize for the behaviour of that fellow and we chatted a bit - since they’d been speaking Danish on the trail and I’m always on the prowl looking to hone my accents.  We had a nice little chat, enjoyed the excitement of a small girl who was riding for the first time without training wheels.  Had the opportunity to assure them that, yes, you could ride the trails with smooth, small-seeming (i.e. not monster-truck) tires.  We all agreed that we were dead-center in the worst possible time to enjoy these trails.

But, I really didn’t think I should have to play ombudsman for the bicycle users on those trails. Problem is that I have a bit of a proprietary feeling for the park.  It’s close enough that I ride there a lot, throughout the year, for many years. I’ve broken down the edges of water-filled potholes  in the winter to let them drain and put branches over inopportune
short cuts to discourage further use.  It has been great to see the FOCC group come together to insure funding for this special resource.  What’s funny is that it seems that this interlude took place during a “Gala” ride for a trails coalition.

Easily 98% of the time, things are good and users are aware and attentive.  The very small percentage of times is what becomes the bad press and tools to close things down.  This is as important to solo riders  So, if you are planning a group outing - anything more than you and (s)he and thee - think about these guidelines:

Know Your Rights! (which suddenly brought this into my brain - not really the most memorable Clash song.)
Bikes yield to Hikers
Bikes yield to Horses
Uphill traffic has the right of way.

So, if you see hikers coming towards you. Slow. Be ready to stop.  Make eye contact and pay attention to body language.  Most hikers do not understand that we may have the balance and skill to remain motionless if our feet aren’t on the ground. If the hiker yields their right of way to you, thank them. Because they yielded their right-of-way to you.

The uphill thing - c’mon, it’s common sense.  It’s harder for me to regain momentum as an uphill rider than it is for you to access gravity on a restart.

Spread Out! (with a tip o’ the voice to Moe Howard)
Three is good.  Five is a lot.  More is a train.  If you have a group of 20 riders, break it up.  Let different groups lead a section.  But, particularly to hikers, any large group of riders on tight trails is like standing on the edge of the station platform while the express train screams past.

Make Some Noise! (No. There will not be a Quiet Riot link here.)
Here’s something to try.  Next time you go out with a friend on the trails, start walking your bike on a narrow trail while they wait.  Have them shove off a couple minutes later and roll up on you (without coasting) without announcing their presence until they are a couple feet behind you.  Yes, I’ll wait while you clean your shorts.  Bikes are quiet, eh? (Well, it is one of really good public services provided by squeaky full-suspension bikes with squawky disc brakes…extremely audible trail announcements.)

Now, put two hikers talking loudly together, or a runner with a set of headphones and what little chance they had of noticing your arrival is totally gone. 

Whistle. Use a bell. Sing. Snap your brake levers. Particularly at blind corners.  Let the world know you are there.

Talk!
This is different than general announcement noise making.  Talk to people.  Let them know you are really a human in there.  It’s harder to hold a grudge against someone who lets you know they love the weather, or saw a wild turkey, or are enjoying the wildflowers.  Be a human.  To me when I’m riding - especially if I say “hey there!” to you - and to other trail users.  If you have to wait at the side of a trail for a human centipede of hikers to amble past, see if you can make a few of them laugh. 

I get it on the roadways, where you can’t always be heard over traffic and there’s still the stigma of roadie-ism, where for some stick up the chamois reason it’s uncool to wave.  But, if you and I are the only people on a trail, you really have to try to ignore me. Makes me wonder why you want to put so much effort into that act.

That’s it for now.  Enjoy the ride!

1 comment
06/18/10
Oh That Crackly, Crackly Carbon…
Filed under: general, unfortunate events
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 10:42 am

There are few things more unsettling than the idea of catastrophic part failure on a bicycle.  In that realm, broken cranks, stems, bars and especially forks are the true sweat-inducing considerations. Everything else, you sort of think you could work through - I’ve had rims crack, chainstays break, frames come apart at the bottom bracket, high speed front wheel flats… all reasonably adrenalin-inducing moments.

But, if that fork snaps off, you will be looking up before you know what hit you.

So, it’s with a fair amount of chagrin that I note this article (first cited by j. hirsch on the iBob list):
Velonews Article

Steered wrong? Racers concerned about broken carbon steerer tubes

by Zack Vestal

June 17, 2010

A
small but concentrated group of mid-Atlantic road racers have recently
broken the carbon steerers on their 2010 Trek Madone 6-Series bikes.
While the regional nature of the reports is probably a coincidence,
there does appear to be a pattern indicating that incorrect stem
installation — and even stem choice — could lead to catastrophic
failure. And at least one racer whose fork broke mid-race is convinced
that the 6-Series Madone steerers are prone to breakage even when all
of Trek’s instructions are followed.

Trek says installation and compatibility problems are at fault and
notes that the same concerns apply to carbon steerers from other
manufacturers. The company is working with the Consumer Product Safety
Commission on a consumer alert, and has made a running change to add
material to 6-Series Madone steerers.

In recent years, the CPSC has announced recalls of carbon road or
‘cross forks from Giant, Salsa, Felt, Novara, Raleigh, Redline, Cervelo
and Reynolds, although it’s not clear if any of these recalls involved
steerers breaking at or below the stem, as with the recent 6-Series
Madone failures.

All owners of forks with carbon steerers should pay attention to the
concerns raised and installation instructions when installing or buying
aftermarket stems.

The cracks begin to appear

Saturday, May 15, began like any other race weekend for Washington,
D.C.,-area Category 2 road racer Bryan Vaughan. He suited up and spun
to the start line of the Poolesville Road Race on his 2010 6-Series
Madone. The race traverses a rolling 10-mile road circuit with a
1.5-mile stretch of gravel and dirt road. The Pro/1/2 field was slated
to do seven laps.

Vaughan’s bike sits on the side of the road at the Poolesville Road Race.

Vaughan’s bike sits on the side of the road at the Poolesville Road Race.

On lap 4, shortly after entering the dirt,Vaughan pulled up on the
bars to accelerate. He felt the handlebars come off in his hands and
crashed hard into the gravel. 
(article continues - please click through
here)


comments (0)
04/26/10
Passing of Tom Milton
Filed under: general, unfortunate events, people
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 10:27 am

Tom Milton passed away while riding the Devil Mountain Double on April
24, 2010.  Tom was inducted into the California Triple Crown Hall of
Fame in 2009 in recognition of him completing 50 Double Centuries in
the California Triple Crown Series.  He was also known to many  cyclists as the owner of Selle An-Atomica.

There’s not a lot I can add which has not already been said better by those who knew him more closely.

The California Triple Crown  blog has  created an entry for folks to share stories and reminisces -
http://caltriplecrown.blogspot.com/2010/04/tom-milton-you-will-be-missed.html

There are also some very fine recollections from members of the San Francisco Randonneurs  in a couple of different threads here - http://groups.google.com/group/sfrandon

Events like this always give me pause, and are such a strong reminder to look around you each day, find those who mean much to you, and share those thoughts and love with them.

Each mile we get is a gift.

1 comment
09/17/09
St. Paul, MN - Stolen Rivendell Glorius Alert
Filed under: general, unfortunate events, rivendelica
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 10:46 am

Normally, I don’t post alerts for stuff out of my geographic area, but this one bit a little close to the bone - Grant Peterson’s daughter’s bike (and her friend’s bike) got heisted in St. Paul.  Now, the Glorius is certainly a noticeable frame - even if they paint it over with roofing tar it would stick out - so if you live in that area, keep your eyes peeled and notify the proper authorities -

The following is copied from the Rivendell website -
http://www.rivbike.com/blogs/news_post/156



Red Glorius stolen in Saint Paul

September 17, 2009

When
a daughter’s bike gets stolen, a dad a couple of thousand miles away
does what he can do to help get it back, and this is that.
My
daughter is a student there, and her red Glorius (mixte) with cream
head tubes was stolen from a rusty fence (it was U-locked to it, and
they uprooted the fence-section) on Portland and Saratoga Aves.
September 16.

Brooks saddle, Schwalbe Marathons…Albatross
bars…but basically, if you see a red Glorious around there, a 52,
that’s it. I don’t know how to go about getting it back, but I want to
do what I can, and Put the Word Out seems to be the extent of my
influence.

A reward, too. I buy bikes, too–they don’t come free
to me–and she rode the bike all last year and so far this year, and
she liked the bike a lot, and it’s just a bummer.

Keep an eye out for  it. Maybe it’ll show up on eBay or Craigslist.

You
know, on one hand, it’s better that she lose her Glorius than maybe a
bike-poorer person. But she got attached to it, and she wants it back,
so I’m asking for help locating it. There will be a reward, sure. I
don’t know. Something.

The same day one of my daughter’s
roomates also got her bike stolen. It was a dark olive green All-Pro
(brand) non-mixte with upright bars, black saddle, white grips. Maybe
the same guys (sexist but statistically probable assumption) took it,
too.

Anyway, it’s not tragic, but it is sad, and it is my
daughter and it is her friend, and I think we can all relate. Thanks
for any help.  Grant


comments (0)
07/09/09
Some Smatterings
Filed under: general, unfortunate events, rivendelica
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 4:44 pm

Not much update yet on things - still haven’t really felt like pulling the bits off my bike to check things. Mostly this is because I’m trying to catch up on a less-than-productive work week last week, combined with the start of a couple of classes this week. 

This “time” you speak of, she is an elusive creature, no?

But, there are some good things to report on the meat-bits front, I reckon.  Last night, I could actually see folds at my knuckle when I straighten the finger out, so it seems like the swelling is going down a bit.  I’ll spare you images this time around, as now it really just looks like a sewing project gone horribly awry.  The doc is pretty sure that I sprained my Teres Minor, as I have some strength and motion in certain directions and pain in other specific angles. My neck is clicking and popping a bit, but in a good way so far - more dropping into better alignment as swelling reduces.  Will probably get to see my chiropractor pretty soon since he won’t be working against the tissuue quite so much. Ice has continued to be my friend. 

I’m really happy that the general antibiotic course is over with.  That stuff was making me a bit dopey, which didn’t assist in the whole trying-to-work efforts of last week. Actually have had a few moments of sharpness this week, which never should be taken for granted.

Hopefully, the grumpy/funky mood of not riding will not infect me. The yoga (still very light and careful) is helping, certainly, but the “Not-Riding-Jim” is potentially a Kilkenny cat and so I’m watching him very carefully…

In nothing else, it would be nice to get a light ride in so I can change the beeriffic photo that has remained my most recent on Flickr since last week.  Not quite sure what angle will be comfortable…  Zeus with the moustache bars? Singlespeed mtb? Get the cables rigged on the Hilsen? Sounds like Saturday’s project.

Meanwhile, a pretty cool bicycle model (or two) has been announced by GP over at Rivendell Bicycle Works: The Roadeo.  Announced first over on the RBW “Knothole” journal, he clarified and elaborated on some points after it kicked up two vigorous threads on the iBob list and over on the RBW Owners’ Bunch list.  (While I’m thinking about it, do kids grow up reading about Bronco Nagurski anymore? Of course, I read a lot more about football players back then.)

The announcement is pretty exciting - having refined the larger clearance for bigger tire models with the Saluki/A. Homer Hilsen/Sam Hillborne, they created a model at the other end of the spectrum.  The Rambouillet had previously been their “lighter” road model, but if you read through the description, it was always thought of as a versatile road bike that wanted to see trails and trickier topography.  The limit really was brake reach, which got solved first through the use of a 650B tire size (Saluki/584) and then with the advent of the Silver Long Reach brakes (A. Homer Hilsen). 

This meant that while the Rambouillet had a lot of attractive features and fans, it was in reality pretty close to the Hilsen - perhaps more change of emphasis than of the basic design. 

But, a lot of folks have continued to ask for the Rambouillet and openly lament its disappearance from the Rivendell line.  However, the Roadeo seems to offer a lot of the Rambouillet’s zippiness in a lighter framed model.  It freakin’ sounds fast…  (and you should just read through GP’s description, if you hadn’t by now.)

The other thing which gets mentioned in that post is a newer, leaner, meaner version of the Quickbeam.  Which, if you haven’t figured out by now, is pretty much the bike I use for every type of riding.  There’s something about that aesthetic of using a limited system to find a certain richness of experience. 

Which, quite honestly, I’m looking forward to getting back to.

 

comments (0)
07/03/09
Impact Update/Rehash
Filed under: general, unfortunate events, bike commuting
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 10:13 am

First, I wanted to thank everyone who commented here, over on Flickr or directly via email. Your thoughts are much appreciated.

Attended my yoga class last night for some extremely light movement. Though my range of motion was comically limited, my arm and shoulder feel a little better today.  The joints are really tender still, my left shoulder continues to have some issues and my neck is not exceptionally happy, but it seemed to relax the muscle tissue a bit. Which helped me to sleep better.

That yoga is powerful stuff. I’m really glad I started it when I did.  It has given me some useful strength in the upper body, which feels like it must have prevented further damage to my upper body when I hit the road.

Plus, as my wife reminds me, I fall really well.

Which isn’t really a joke attempt.  You see some folks hit the ground like a sack of cement or a big sheet of  plywood.  All that force goes right into them.  You wanna roll.  Stick nothing out and roll.

Not that you have any ability to think about it in any way.  As the saying goes, this thing happened so fast, I didn’t have time to react.  (And, as fodder for another bit of writing, I kind of always thought I would have that time…)  One second I’m heading home on a bit of familiar road and the next there’s a flash of white and serious pain in my right hand.  I could hear myself vocalizing, can recall the feeling of my helmet contacting the ground (though it wasn’t the first point of contact) and a sense of pretty good impact - but in a very general way.  (Based on what hurts the most, my right paw must have been pinned briefly between my brake lever and the truck door, and I hit first on the left side of my arm and shoulder.  Must’ve rolled too, as I ended up lying on my right side in the roadway.)

I don’t recall going out, but the timeline is all screwed up.  I could hear people yelling to dial 911, but it seemed like there were a lot of people around me all of a sudden.  Someone was telling me to stay down.

The first thing I did, and this cracks me up, was run my tongue around my teeth to make sure they were all there. The doc later said it was a reflex action. 

So, there I was. The road felt really hot, but I didn’t feel like moving. My neck and back just felt wicked wrenched, and my hand really hurt. Someone appeared with a wet towel and put it on my fingers.  We all hung out in the street until the cops got there, which was danged fast. EMT’s pretty quickly afterwards.

Once they heard “back & neck pain”, they wouldn’t let me move either. Plus, the people who saw said I had gone out.  The best I could do was say I didn’t think I had.  At least I had “4 by 4″ movement.

Here’s the indicator:  It was only about this time when I asked about my bike.

I actually think that’s pretty funny.

Anyway, the police and emt’s were great. The ambulance ride was really disorienting, because when you are strapped down looking up feeling your weight move right and left, it’s hard to figure out where you are. The lights go over your head in the hospital pretty much like in the movies and shows.  The ER crew were pretty sharp, too.

The coolest thing in the ER were the spotlights.  They hold this Star-Trekky device right were they need the light and then press a button.  Something spins on the top of the handheld unit and these two high-intensity spotlights adjust themselves from the ceiling.

About halfway through the sewing, I thought the doctor was done.  I guess that I didn’t really get a good look at things back in the street. It seems like he did pretty good work - you can check it out if you really want to:


(Yeah, you’ll have to click through to see the real image.)

It’s looking a bit better now, still pretty swollen, but not quite so meaty.  I just have to remember to stop bending the damned thing.  Anyway, this typing is catching up with my hands, so that’s the report for today.

2 comments
06/30/09
Hands are Important, Too
Filed under: general, rides, unfortunate events, bike commuting
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 10:05 am

Didn’t mean for this to become an appendage-focused theme or anything, but I spent last evening getting my neck, shoulder and hand x-rayed and finger sewn up.

Seems it’s never a good idea to let someone suddenly open up their truck door into you and try to use your finger as the padding.  Especially when you are underway in your lane, heading for home at the end of day.  Go figure.

As I mentioned on the Flickr page,
you do get a nifty bracelet. And tie-job.

Other salient facts:
About a dozen stitches to sew up a pretty good laceration. Caught it
all on the paw and then tumbled. Got to ride in an ambulance on a back board with
neck brace until the xray’s convinced ‘em no bone breakage. Shoulder,
neck and hand were concern. The police have the quickbeam so I won’t
know until I pick it up today. Feel like I’m typing with mittons. Pretty stiff and sore today.

More later, got some errands to do, obviously.

15 comments
04/22/09
Local Bike Shop Theft - Fairfax, CA
Filed under: general, unfortunate events
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 10:22 am

Picked this up off the MCBC Twitter feed -  Sunshine Bicycles in Fairfax is  great shop that’s been there as long as I can remember. Keep your eyes out and make these bikes too hot to keep.


Sunshine Bicycle Center’s Photos - STOLEN BIKES - PLEASE BE ON THE LOOKOUT

- STOLEN: 2009 Cannondale Rize Carbon 2, LG, Full carbon frame, Black, Mix of SRAM derailleurs and Avid Juicy Ultimate brakes, - Serial number. T007530

- STOLEN: 2008 Trek Fuel EX 9.5, Carbon frame, Color is Carbon Black w/Red Accenets, 18.5, XTR crank, SRAM derailleurs.  Serial #WTU059T054D

-  STOLEN: 2009 Turner 5-Spot DW Link, LG, Iron Glimmer, Shimano XT Build Kit.  This “DW Link” bike is very rare and should stick out like a sore thumb.  - Serial # 8584

- STOLEN: 2009 Turner Sultan LG 29′er, White DW Link XT Build kit  This “DW Link” 29-inch bike is very rare and should stick out like a sore thumb.  - Serial# 8399

- STOLEN: 2009 Turner Flux DW Link LG, XT Kit, Red.  This “DW Link” bike is very rare and should stick out like a sore thumb.  - Serial # 8598

Here are pictures (follow link below for images) of the five brand new
mountain bikes stolen in a break-in at about 1:30 this morning at our
shop (Sunshine Bikes in Fairfax). 5 very distinctive bikes. Some items
left behind by robbers include leatherman, paint can, plywood, type of
items on a contractor vehicle, etc. Please notify us at 415-459-3334 or
Fairfax Police at 415-453-5330 if you have any info or see these bikes.
Location: Sunshine Bikes, Fairfax CA

link to see all 5 bikes is  here.

comments (0)
03/10/09
That Was the Weekend That Wasn’t
Filed under: general, brevets, unfortunate events
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 10:28 pm

Best laid plans of mice and men go awry…

Men plan.  Goddess laughs.

Ah well, that just makes it sound epic.  Fact is, there warn’t a whole bunch I could do. 

First off, everyone at work had been getting sick starting the week before last. Some damned cold/flu thing. My wife had gotten sick this past week, and I played the delicate dance of tending to the infirm while trying not to get too close.  I think I pulled it off OK - at least in the relationship side.  I know I was going through hand soap and Purell at a pretty brisk clip.  Trying not to get breathed on at work. Guarding my computer keyboard with a machete. Trying to watch my sleep so I didn’t get run down. Tending to the items on my list for the Davis 200K.  My working theory was that I had been fighting something the week after the CXSR race that I’d passed around.

Got caught in a pretty hammering downpour on the way into work last Monday, but had warm duds at work and access to a handy heater vent, so everything was actually toasty by the time I got dressed for the return ride. Another shorter ride on Tuesday felt good.  The tires arrived from RBW, got mounted and everything bikey was teched and tuned by Thursday evening.

On Friday evening, I packed the bags with food, made the ride sandwiches, filled the bottles, made the coffee, rode the bike a couple miles to make sure everything was still dialed, lubed the chain, sat down for dinner and suddenly began to feel very, v-e-r-y, vvvveeeeerrrrrrryyyyyy tired. Like falling asleep with my fork in midair kinda tired.

I was pretty sure this was not a good sign.

It seemed that everything was ready to go except for the rider. And I was really too damned tired to care. Which was good, I reckon, as it brought out a more zen acceptance line of thinking. My thought on Friday night as I set the two alarms for 4:30 AM, was that it was going to be pretty clear one way or the other.  Either it was a momentary discharge or there was going to be no way of riding.

It must’ve been about 4 am when I woke up.  It was before the alarms went off.  All I knew was that I could barely swallow and some weird spherical antannae had formed where my nose used to be.  Clearly a “No-Go.”

Turned off both alarms.  Fumbled around and found my phone, which was set as a backup alarm and turned that off. While that was opened, I tapped out some twitter thing, erased the cursing and then tried again.

Back in bed.  Slept until 1-ish on the first sunny and reasonably warm Saturday we’ve had in a while, caught parts of some VH-1 documentary on the history of Heavy Metal (music, not the magazine) went back to bed until Sunday noon, watched part of some movie that didn’t make any sense when you fell asleep through parts of it.

Tonight (Tuesday) most of the other symptoms are gone, though my coughing bursts are becoming legendary.  I’m not quite energetic enough to be antsy, but that’s probably the next step.

Ahh well.  At least the bike is patient…

1 comment
10/11/08
Weekend Update
Filed under: unfortunate events, people
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 1:40 pm

I’ve mentioned Ken Y. a couple of times.  He’s on the Rivendell list. He used a Quickbeam to ride the Trans-Iowa, and has been using the same bike to run up an amazing string of commute-to-work days over the past year. This is not some wimpy, SF Bay Area commute like I have.  The guy has to deal with serious Minnesota winters. It’s been awe-inspiring and more than a bit humbling to read his postings.  And he just keeps on commuting.

Well, until yesterday, it seems.  Looks like he got tapped by a car on his Friday homeward leg. 

Not a lot of specifics, but it seems to be part of a rather disturbing trend in that state.

His blog is here, and it might be nice to drop a comment or wishes his way.  My personal belief is that his string continues - it shouldn’t be broken by events such as  this.

1 comment
09/05/08
Dave’s Bike Blog
Filed under: bike tech, unfortunate events, people
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 10:14 am

I’ve got a little more time with my morning coffee, but I’m not at all happy about it. It’s because one of the writers I enjoy is turning off the tap.  A little over a week ago, while catching up with online postings, I ran across this post on Dave Moulton’s Bike Blog -

The Party’s Over
DateMon, August 25, 2008

It is time to call it a day. This weekend I made an extremely tough decision, to quit writing here on this blog.

For the simple reason I have run out of things to write about, or rather worthwhile stuff that people want to read.

People like the tech stuff, and history. The tech
stuff, I have just about covered it all. The beauty of the bicycle is
its simplicity, you push one pedal down and the other one comes up.

(continued here)

This got me all grumpy pretty quickly. I felt some anger towards those folks who had found it so easily to diss him in the discussion groups, or others who had popped off with flippant comments on his blog.  That passed before too long (helped with a couple of decent rides), but what remained was the same sense of sorrow that you feel as you finish a book which you don’t want to end.

My feeling has been that there is too little quality writing that accompanies bicycling. Yes, there are examples well-written tech manuals and wonderfully captivating stories of adventure while on bicycle tours. There are journalistic high-water marks in race reporting - Sam Abt’s stories of bike racing chronicled details and imagery during a period when you couldn’t find anything other than the odd result in the stats page of the sports section.

But all of that is essentially non-fiction.

The examples of quality cycling fiction pretty much begin and end with “The Yellow Jersey”. 

Compare that with the body of work in fly fishing, as an example. For every slightly different book on “how-to”, there books which are stories - “A River Runs Through It” for example - where the story is about people, wonderfully fallable, beautifully limited and wholly human.  Fishing runs through it in a natural way, but doesn’t overwhelm the story.

I think it takes a special type of writer to achieve that - well, hell, of course it does, Mr. Obviousman.  For all the wonderfully timeless stories which have been written, there are roomfuls of pages consisting of derivative dreck.  Roderick Haig-Brown, one of the finer angling writers, described himself as a writer who happened to fish.  The implication was that most of the others were simply anglers who were trying to write.

And to wrangle this little thought arc back to the topic I’d started, one of the things which I’d enjoyed about Dave’s Bike Blog was that he was a writer, in the best sense of the word. He words always flowed clearly in the support of the ideas, much like that quiet guy on the group ride who just eases along next to you, smoothly spinning just one gear lower than you. The history and stories he’s shared often captured a slice of cycling most of us never encountered first hand.

I understand too that as a writer, it’s tough to give away free samples all day. My sincere hope is that he’s pulled back a notch on the public front to put together another book, that he sees a storyline that runs through the events he’s seen and experienced.  Hey, a guy’s gotta hope, right?  Maybe this short story is the harbinger of a larger work to come.

AJ, The Cyclist and a Large Brown Dog - by Dave Moulton

In the meantime, he’s created a tremendous resource for cyclists.  If you haven’t had an opportunity to do his, visit his blog - he’s archived it both by chronological order and by topic.  Oh, yeah.  You can also buy his book

In the meantime, I’m going to keep a sharper eye out for Dave Moulton, FUSO and Recherche frames on the road. And, I’ll probably reread some stuff too.  In the meantime, Dave, thanks for the art you have made.


comments (0)
08/18/08
Your Mountain Bike Etiquette Moment
Filed under: general, rides, unfortunate events
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 9:08 am

This past weekend had a high percentage of chore-catchup tasks. Rugs to steam clean, garage sections to clean out, rooms to be reordered and reclaimed from tides of inevitable detritus. All stuff we’ve needed to do for a while. At least we’re getting the spring cleanings done before we hit the honest fall.

I snuck in a breeze-buffeted road-n-trails ride on Saturday afternoon, and then an honest-to-goodness MTB ride on Sunday evening. The cool kids were out finishing up the SF Randonneurs 200K to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of RUSA, but even if I had the time to join them, I’m pretty sure I lack the reserves right now. Saturday’s ride had been no more than an hour and a half, and I definitely felt it. Adding another 9 or so hours to the effort would be a serious pipe dream.

But, I wasn’t really too worried about that - I’ve been in better riding shape before and may be able to approximate it in the future.  Right now, it’s all about taking small bites and chewing thoroughly. Enjoy the ride - something that is seldom an issue for me on a bike. 

And so, I found myself tiredly spinning along the road Sunday.  Nudged along by a helpful tailwind, seeking the trails of China Camp. Knobbies buzzed on pavement and my brain notched into the pace of the ride. Reaching the entrance, I pedaled past what seemed to be more cars than expected for late in the day.  It was a weekend, which gets my radar tuned a bit, and the extra vehicles pushed that up another notch.  Easing onto the trails, I rolled past some hikers, said “hidy” and looped around behind the campground area.

Over at the primitive camping parking lot, a pretty good gaggle of folks had collected.  There were bike stands and lines in the sand and little red-roped squiggles in the dirt, and I recalled that a skills clinic had been advertised for Sunday.  It seemed as though it was winding down, as most people were off their bikes, chatting and enjoying the post-ride vibe. 

I began climbing. Whatever else there is to say about singlespeeding, sometimes it’s just hard. Even the easy inclines bit into my legs and back, and I tried to find a cadence and some momentum. It wasn’t going well, but it was going. I paused at powerline point to gobble a clif bar - guess I’d forgotten to eat a proper lunch during my chores - and stretch a bit. While I wasn’t feeling great, it wasn’t gettting worse, and I rolled back onto the upper section of the climb.

The next bits pitch up a bit, and, as I should explain if you aren’t familiar with the trails, there are a couple of sections which are reasonably narrow. There’s really nowhere that two bikes couldn’t get by one another with a little bit of care. I’m working my way up, and have reached a section where the stakes area reasonably high.  The downhill side of the trail drops steeply away - such that you would have a long time to consider things if you went that way. The uphill side is also steep.  It feels like a wall as you ride past it. This section does have a reasonable line of sight, so that usually you can see other riders and avoid getting truly pinched.

I heard the clanking and chain slap of a full suspension rig before I could see it. The rider appeared, I put my tires as far right as I could and they breezed past with little room to spare.  A little too fast for the conditions it seemed to me, but not entirely off the charts. If I hadn’t have been slightly winded from the climbing efforts, I might have mentioned it as they went by. It was a tad annoying, but I wasn’t going to get overly vexed.

Things changed an instant later. A second rider came into view and all the alarms went on at once. The rider didn’t seem to have any of the authority or control of the first one and were coming in hot.  They’d hammered the brakes hard, and both tires skittered and locked on the loose rocks.  I had a front-row seat of the failing of a braking system - the tires need be attached to earth to slow down. It was a clear “oh shit!” moment, and I plastered myself against the uphill wall to my right. Avoiding the first rider had sacrificed my momentum and all I could do was make myself as small as possible. Through their iridium-or-whatever lenses, I could see the whites of their eyes growing as large as saucepans.  They had locked onto their target, and it was me. They are skidding and looking exactly where they are going to go.  I remember clearly thinking, “This is Bad.”

Nothing to do but brace for impact.

Which I did.  Full body flex and tension.  Hands on the bars.  Bent elbows.  Pressed against the side of the mountain. Maybe those years of Pop Warner and High School football would pay off.

We hit.  It starts as tire to tire and they glance off to my left. I see their bike lift into a sort of nose-wheelie and hear a solid “klock!” as our helmets hit.  Our bars tangle a bit and they bounce back to two-wheeled mode.  Silence. The dust settles a bit.

Before I go into the specifcs of what’s next, I’d like to say that this is not bad. I ride a fair amount on legal, narrow trails and periodically, there are user, um, “interactions”.  In all my years of riding, I’ve had very few and I’d much rather it be between members of the same user group (hiker v. hiker, equestrian v. equestrian, cyclist v. cyclist) than any kind of cross-pollinization betwixt them.  Most of the time, interactions are of the “Whoa! Dude!” variety - a sharp veer and maybe an arm bump. In fact, I’ve not had a tangle quite so intertwined as this one, which, though deeply annoying, seemed no one had been hurt and damage would be minimal. 

It did not, however, prevent me from hissing, “What the heck* was that?”

*I must disclose that I actually used a word of Anglo-Saxon origin which ended in the same two letters.

I’d also like to skip forward in time slightly to analyze the group dynamics involved here.  Only because I think I’ve seen this a great number of times while riding.  Enough to feel that it’s ready to be a theory. 

There were two more riders in this group who haven’t shown up yet. The lead rider was long gone. But, it was this second person who was not able to maintain control. In a group of four riders going downhill, inevitably the one with the skills ends up leading.  Oh sure, there are times when they relinquish control out of kindness, but generally, they are the point person.  The folks off the back are a little less sure of themselves, and once the lead riders go out of sight, they have found a pace that can comfortably hold.  It’s that second person who is always the danger. They probably have the skill set of the riders in the rear, but some chase-response has kicked into the reptilian portion of their brain, and they are doing their damnedest to follow the wheel of the leader. They are insulated in a feeling of adrenalin and safety, hyped on the group energy and out of touch with the reality of their riding conditions. This is a dangerous rider. They’ve probably gotten themselves a notch or two past their skill set - and I actually do think you can become a better rider this way - but if things go south, they are well and truly screwed.

Which is pretty much where we are now.  I’m panting - having been climbing pretty steadily in a big gear for the past four or five minutes.  Still plastered against the wall - not quite pinned, but I’m not moving any more and can’t easily go anywhere.

This is when the other rider says, “Why didn’t you give me right-of-way?”

I have a moment of zen clarity.  Of all the things they could have said, this was so far out of the realm of expected comments that I get a big bubble of thoughtlessness. It hovers for a second, then pops.

I look up and in a frighteningly calm and measured, but a bit hissish voice, reply, “Because uphill traffic always has right of way.  Don’t you know that?”

Silence.  No response. Guess they didn’t.

Which takes an annoying incident and makes it into an eggregious transgression.

Again, for those who don’t ride at China Camp, a bit of topographic background.  There are many places where the trail is more or less level.  After this climb, there’s a 4 or 5 mile runout which is basically contouring the hillside.  The slope definitely favors eastbound traffic, but I wouldn’t suppose to push an uphill-right-of-way issue for most of its stretch.  Same down on Shoreline trail, where the rolling curves mean that you have to be aware of your line of sight, make some noise and be ready for other trail users.  In other words, you work it out.

I’m also aware of mountain biking situations when the drop-in is tricky enough that you don’t push it.  I’m thinking about  chutes for the testosterone-testing, and they are generally best avoided in the uphill direction, simply because the folks coming down it won’t be able to stop, even if they have appropriate bike-handling skills.

This current situation is neither of those.  I’m clearly climbing.  I have right of way.  It’s always been that way, as the uphill rider has a harder time re-establishing momentum. There is adequate line of sight on the trail and enough surface to pass. 

“…give me right of way”? 

I’m plastered against the friggin’ hillside giving you as much trail as I can. Give you right of way…

They were riding in a manner which prevent them from controlling their speed within the event horizon. Worse yet, they made the common error of looking at that thing which they did not want to hit.  You go where you look.  Now they are pawing at my front brake which they believe is tangled in their cables. Since I can’t move my bike further to the right, I take a handful of stem and move their front wheel to my left.  Magically, we are no longer intertwined.

I just want to get out of there.

The other rider moves a little downhill.  I hop off my bike and begin pushing it. She calls out that there are two more riders coming.  I retort that I hope they are riding with a little more control.

They are.  They appear and see dust in the air and me pushing uphill, probably with those cartoon frazzled sweat drops and a tornado and “X’s” above my head. They ask what happened and I hear the other rider say, “We hit.” 

Both riders ease past me and the grade lessens enough so I can hop back on and pedal once again.  After a little bit, something seems wrong up front, and I find one of the brake pads got tweaked a bit. Easily fixed.  The rest of the ride passes without incident. In fact, the rest of the ride is great. I’m reminded once again why the singlespeeded MB-1 is one of the truly great handling bikes.  While riding, two points seem to distill themselves:

1 - Uphill traffic has right of way.  However, it is safe to assume that newer riders may not know this.
2 - Ride in control with respect to your event horizon.  This is constantly changing offroad, as trail conditions and line-of-sight both can suddenly shorten this variable. There is actually an appropriate cartoon by William Nealy in his book,  The Mountain Bike Way of Knowledge where he shows a brain travelling a couple seconds in front of the rider, which the admonishment to always ride with your brain two seconds ahead of you.  I’d scan it, but I can’t easily lay my hands upon that book this morning.

Anyway.  No damage, and maybe the other rider learned something.

5 comments
03/21/08
Cupertino Crash Follow Up on VN.com
Filed under: unfortunate events
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 8:45 am

Worth a read:

http://www.velonews.com/article/73458

comments (0)
03/12/08
Memorial Ride - Matt Peterson and Kristy Gough
Filed under: unfortunate events
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 9:27 am

Over the past weekend, a tragic event occurred, claiming the lives of two SF Bay Area cyclists. Further news continues to unfold making this seem even more senseless, if that’s possible. This is a reposting of the Memorial Ride announcement which has been distributed via the NCNCA email list, among others. Please follow through to the links for specifics and confirmation of details.


Kristy Gough and Matt Peterson Memorial Ride

Team Roaring Mouse Cycles and Third Pillar Racing Team are holding a
joint memorial ride this Saturday March 15th, to honor the lives of
Kristy Gough and Matt Peterson, our two teammates killed on Steven’s
Creek Canyon last Sunday while on a training ride. We welcome friends,
family, fellow cyclists and all those whose lives have been touched by
Matt and Kristy. Our ride will include a visit to the site of the
crash site for those to share their memories.

When: Saturday, March 15th

Where: Leaving from Foothill College
12345 El Monte Road,
Los Altos Hills, CA 94022

Google map to location: http://tinyurl.com/2b6qvb

**We kindly request you do NOT drive out to the crash site during this
time, as we need to keep cars to a minimum in the area, given the road
conditions.

Time: Meet at 2:30pm, ride by 3pm

Length: 30-45 minutes to the crash site. Base pace (ie, mellow). No drop.

Route:
Start @ Foothill College (Parking Lot #1, near the football stadium;
see link above for map)

- Left on El Monte
- Right on Foothill Expressway
- Continue on Steven’s Creek Canyon
- Return

Route directions via Google: http://tinyurl.com/2pc8pf

 **Press are welcome to attend, however we request respect during our
ride. It would mean the most to us if press were to accompany us on
their bikes, as we are all cyclists this week.

http://rememberingmatt.blogspot.com
http://thirdpillarracing.com

comments (0)
12/05/07
Dang, That Ain’t Right…
Filed under: general, photos, bike tech, unfortunate events
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 5:43 pm


The sun had pushed through the last day’s haze and things were good.  Oh, it did feel clumsy and wrong for a bit, as all the reasons I’ve mentioned recently have had me mostly not riding for the past few weeks.  Leaden legs and weird, chewey coughs at inopportune moments.  But, the first slug of rain had passed and it felt like I was getting back on track, riding to work and all.  Indeed, I’d sent in my registration for the SFRandonneurs 200K, which is less than 60 days away.  Mileage of any kind would be good. 

Felt a little better as I hit the last climb before work. Pedaling out of the saddle, nothing punchy or sudden as the calf is still weird and quirky.  Just hitting that nice fixed-gear body wieght low cadence rhythm.  Going uphill under my own power.  Resetting the needle, carefully, so it wouldn’t skip.

An odd image popped into my head about halfway up.  The road is narrow, at its worst about 10″ or less to the right of the fog strip.  It’s not exceptionally dangerous, as line-of-sight is unobstructed, but it is a place to be careful.   It’s not a place to contemplate the image of tires sliding out and falling into the way of traffic.  Yet, that was the picture that played out in my head right then. Sort of freaky, but concentrated on breathing, balance, not riding on the still-slick-with-rain painted stripe. As the thought passed, I chalked it up to being off the bike for too damned long, the product of being a little stiff on the bike.

Another 100 yards or so pass.  I’m maybe 3/4’s of the way up now and suddenly things fall badly amiss. The bike lurches oddly, my left leg is up in the air as I try to correct. The distinct sound of traffic is audible from behind me. Something kicks in and the bike goes right and everything falls left.  I hit pretty hard, but land well, hand still on the bar, rolling up my arm to my shoulder and then on my back.  I’m actually on the ground, completely off the roadway, and look back to see three cars which have come to a stop behind me. Thank goddess for a trifecta of non-multi-tasking drivers.  I get up as quickly as I can, spy my left pedal and a little nubbin of crank out in the roadway.  Fetching that, I encourage the drivers to come around, but to my suprise, two of them pull over to make sure I’m OK.  The more tenacious person asks specifically if I’m alright and won’t leave until I thank him and assure him it looked worse than it was.

 I do a quick waning-adrenaline system check, and everything seems intact, other than a single knuckle of the little finger. Digging out the pencam, I find the batteries have drained, so no ActionNews on-the-scene images…

But here are a few from later, after I talked my wife into extending some errands she had been running.  I used my better camera, so you can click through and see it with pretty decent resolution (click “All Sizes” once you jump through to Flickr)

  

Pushed the bike over the crest of the hill and then eased into work with one pedal and a brake. The few folks who noticed gave me an odd look.

For those of you who are keeping score, it was a Campy GS (Grand Sport) crankarm.  It appears that the failure started right at the end of the inletting near the pedal. I guess it’s a nice place to obscure cracking and certainly a fine area to create stress risers.

Dang.  I was really looking forward to a nice, easy scenic loop home tonight.

5 comments
10/26/07
Calling All Cars! Calling All Cars!
Filed under: unfortunate events
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 8:42 am

Be on the lookout for a stolen bicycle!

(Posted to the RBW list by Doug - I just know there are a lot of Bay Area centric folks who wander through this page, and hope to get the word out far and wide)

My step-daughter’s 650B conversion was stolen on the afternoon
of October 25th, in Palo Alto, California.  It is pretty
distinctive, so if you hear about it or see it, please let
me know.

    Green Peugeot mixte frame with custom “FINGLAS” decals
        and a Peugeot headbadge
    Berthoud steel fenders
    Albatross handlebars with cork grips and
        Rivendell silver bar end shifters
    Grand Bois tires
    Veolcity Triple-V rims
    Terry Liberator X saddle.
    Rivendell Pa canvas panniers

Thanks!
_______________________
-Doug Shaker       doug(overat)theshakers.org (y’gotta cut/paste/correct the email)

comments (0)
08/16/07
One ‘o those things
Filed under: general, unfortunate events
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 10:18 pm

I put off writing about this for a few days - still not sure I can get it right, so you may have to excuse some cyclical thoughts or dead-end threads. Initially, I didn’t want to write because I still felt angry and thought that would come out too strongly.  Then, I began feeling like it probably didn’t matter enough.  Might be correct on that second thought, but here goes:

I got threatened on my commute Monday. The verb choice is not made lightly.  I’m used to oblivious brush-back passing, and the odd honk here and there.  As I’ve written before, it’s my assumption that auto drivers will do the dumbest thing at the worst possible moment, and that theory is too frequently supported by real-world examples. But, there aren’t  many direct interactions. Heck, let’s be honest - most of my commute miles take place in marin county, CA.  If you aren’t familiar with the area, suffice to say that the nickname “mellow marin” has significant historical accuracy.  You can still find hippies here, and among some circles, it’s a place where Whole Foods is regarded as a Wal*Mart equivilent.

It’s  also where many of the silverbacks of cycling live - Gary F, Joe B, Richard C., The Original WTB Gang of Four, et.al. - and although they are associated with the rise of mountainbiking, they have all lent their weight and expertise to the establishment of a national model bicycle commuting program.  We, as cyclists using the road for transportation, have to be among the luckiest of riders in the US, gaining funding, respect and awareness when many simply hope not to be run off the roadways.

So, you get cocky.  Or maybe you just forget.  I’ve run the events of Monday back through my mind, and unlike an earlier incident, cockiness on my part doesn’t seem to have played into it. The unsettling part was that nothing really did.  Here are the events:

I’d been working remotely from home all morning, and finally ran out of stuff I could do while wearing shorts and a dirty t-shirt. Wheeled the Zeus out and dressed very non-cycle-y - real person shorts and a short-sleeved collared shirt. It was a warm, sunny mid-day, and climbing over the hill to San Rafael, the sun felt good and I pedaled along pretty easily - thinking about the stuff I had to get done still.  Cresting out and beginning to feel the pull of gravity, cars pulled past as they tend to do.  The road is wide here, and when the Class 2 bike lane stops at the light, there’s a ton of room to stay out far enough to stay away from the door zone while in no way obstructing traffic. There’s a minor pinch point about halfway down into town, where there’s apartment construction at the narrowest point in the roadway.  But, by that point, it’s easy enough to be riding at traffic flow, so a minor interweaving lets everyone continue without slowing.

But, it wasn’t there that the first event caught my attention.

A small white sedan had been rolling downhill pretty slowly - they may have waited tentatively to work past me near the top of the hill, but passed without incident.  They seemed to exhibit behaviors of an older driver, other than moving at a noticeably slower speed than normal, no problems, but a certain carefulness that is less common these days.  Behind this car, a large, long blue pickup truck zoomed up and tailgated reasonably closely.  Again, par for the course.

Ahead, a  tractor with a backhoe pulled out from a side street.  There’s a considerable construction project starting on the side of the highway, and this was clearly associated with it.  The large tires hummed loudly on the blacktop and it dieseled its way down the road for a bit at farm-equipment speed, before positioning itself for a left-hand turn back to another section of the job site.  Traffic had stacked up behind the tractor as it waited for a gap in the traffic.  The slow sedan was directly behind it and the pickup tight to its bumper. 

At this point, there’s not enough room for the cars to pull around for an illegal right-hand pass.  I’m pretty sure (see above) that someone will try it, however, so I ease off the pedaling and cover my brake levers, ramp up my spidey-sense and watch for turning front wheels and brake lights dimming. To my suprise, no one goes for the idiot-move.  But, as I roll between the traffic and parked cars, I can hear someone yelling, “C’mon! GO! GO!” repeatedly. Turns out to be the driver of the pickup truck.  Passing his open window, a lion-sized dog suddenly barks with the resonance and sonic attack of a Johnny Ramone power chord.  Big damn dog to have a voice like that, I think.

I roll on down the flattening pitch, eventually getting caught by the red at the first stop light in town.  The cross traffic is too thick to make a right turn, and I’m going straight anyway. I’m positioned on the rightmost side of the left lane, because at this time of day, parking is allowed in the next block, and nobody uses the right lane except to make a turn.   There’s a cyclist on a neon green mtb waiting over in the center of the oncoming lane, which I notice because it isn’t quite where I’d want to be.  Cars move up from behind to make the right turn. Then I  hear a voice right in my right ear.

“I hope you’re ready to get hit.” 

It’s low and quiet.  And it’s very close.

I turn to find the driver of the pickup, window rolled down, staring right at me, sort of a crooked grin on his thin face.  The tawny colored dog, which I take to be a bull mastiff, moves clumsily but in an agitated manner in the back of his club cab. 

“You’re gonna get hit, you know,” he continues.  “You go out and play in traffic, you’re gonna get hit.” He smiled wider and nodded his head.

I’ve thought this part through a few times. I’m convinced that his meaning was, “…and I’m going to do it.”  I’ve heard people yell who clearly thought I was an idiot by riding in traffic - they have a tone in their voice that is clearly a warning, like you would give to a child you saw climbing the fence at Niagara Falls or the Grand Canyon.  This guy a foot or so away from me was either a very good actor, or truly felt that he represented the vengeful hand of his god.

I stare back at him.  I’ve got no where to go.  The dog barks again.  I’m a lot less worried about the dog than his owner.

This next bit is the only part I don’t remember clearly. I think I said “Just back off” or something similar.  Didn’t yell it, but said it firmly and directly, the way they tell you to say it when you are approached on the street and don’t want to be.

I should note that this type of interaction is not a frequent occurence.  While not a gorilla-boy, I’m not a bird-boned climber, nor a plodder who can’t catch up with a burst of speed.  I’m alert and aware on the bike and like to think that my physical presence is enough to dissuade folks from nasty outbursts.

I’m watching for the light, which is still green to the cross traffic.  Across the intersection, the mountain bike rider decides to become a pedestrian and eases forward, hooks a 90 degree left and wobbles though the crosswalk to the corner, then positions himself on the far right corner for the crosswalk north.

The driver of the pickup - a younger man than myself, wiry, like a skinny dry-wall hanging guy or roofer - is not in any way dissuaded by my physical presence.  Indeed, he’s continuing to tell me what a problem I am, ramping up his volume, calling me, among other things, a “fucking faggot”. 

The light changes about this time, and he’s back to telling me that I’m going to be hit. Meanwhile, oblivious cyclist on the corner rolls towards us in the crosswalk, pedaling slowly. The pickup driver is yelling now at me, and I am easing into the intersection while repeating flatly, “You need to relax, my friend.” (Although my voice is sounding tight and a little higher now).

As he is looking at me while hitting the gas and starting to turn right, he does not see the cyclist in the crosswalk at first, then manages to stop short with a squeak of tires, looks at at me gesturing with his left hand and yells, “You’re going to get hit, just like this idiot!”  More epithets follow as he gets a clear intersection, pounds the accellerator and screeches up  the road.  Then he’s gone. 

My pencam is stashed deep in my bag, so I pull out and arm the camera phone so that I’ll have something ready if he swings around. He doesn’t reappear at the next intersection, or up the roadway, and I realize that (a) I have no idea of what pickup truck model it is, or (b) his license plate. 

This second one irks me more, as I have good enough recall of the visuals on his truck to pick it out of a 50 car lineup - it’s been a long time since I was car-guy enough to know an F250 from a Silverado.  But, how the heck did I forget to get his license plate?  Oh, yeah, I was in the middle of an intersection trying to make sure he didn’t decide to change direction and follow me at ramming speed. Sometimes, Homer says it best:  “Doh!”

The adrenaline has kicked in pretty good on this one - I want to find him, track him down, give him what-for, then have him strike me in front of witnesses so I can sue him.  I know this is a fantasy. I’m conjuring up scenarios with much more clever retorts and wanting to lash back. I am also deeply embarrassed by these thoughts and wonder at the intensity of them. They burble up and distract me for much of the rest of the day.

Later that night, my wife had brought home a copy of “Tibet: Cry of the Snow Lion“.  We sat on the couch and watched horrendous histories and events being related - long imprisonment, beatings, cattle prods in places you don’t want them, planned genocide - and yet through it, as the Dalai Lama - as well as the nuns and monks who received these injustices, but were lucky enough to live through them - denounce and describe these actions, they are careful to point out that they bear no hatred towards the Chinese in general, or the people who specifically engaged in these actions.

It is awesome to consider that. 

And earlier in the day I’m here, in nice, safe California, ready to picture myself going toe-to-toe with this other person, who was clearly working out some significant set of issues.  Pretty unimpressive.

But, I guess I felt a little good because I didn’t actually start yelling back, raising the stakes until it became - to all outward impressions -  an inexplicable argument between two idiots.  But, maybe that’s a manifestation of unhelpful pride and ego.

It remains a funny balance - the desire to do something so you aren’t a passive target and the need to remain detached enough to act rationally and clearly, to anticipate where the real danger might come from and react appropriately.  It would have been nice to have the clarity of mind to have had the pencam out, remained calm and observant, and then snapped a shot of the rear of his truck as he went away. But, it didn’t even occur to me at the time.

There would’ve been a lot of fun things to do, I guess - take a photo of his face, for example, and tell him that it would go well with the police report - y’know, movie-kinda-lines that make you seem clever.

But, in the real world, in this specific example, it strikes me that it would have raised the stakes in a dramatic and reasonably uncontrollable way. The pickup driver was going to be antagonistic, but he did leave. If I’d shoved a camera in his face, I’m not sure what would have happened. Ultimately, it’s best not to amplify a situation.

On the other hand, the phrase “loose cannon” comes to mind.  If he’d thumped that cyclist in the crosswalk, or if there had been a pedestrian up in the mid-block crosswalk when he was reaching escape velocity, the rest of his day would’ve taken on a very different texture.  He is still out there, obviously, and as I think about how he was going and turning, he had to have some local knowledge of the streets to have taken that right. I hadn’t noticed him and his big truck and dog before, out there either really having some deep-seated rage issues or at least enjoying jerking peoples chains (and those two things are pretty indistinguishable from a step or two back.)  But, I’m pretty sure I’ll note his license plate if there is a next time.

Which means it falls back my way again. I have no desire to “teach him a lesson” or anything so schoolyard. A situation can’t ramp up unless there’s two folks engaged in making that happen. Since the only thing I can control is my own attitude and actions… well, there ya go - personal responsibility  rears its ugly head. They say character is how you act when no one is watching.  It would seem to apply to this situation as well.

14 comments
01/09/07
Even When You’re Right, You’re Wrong
Filed under: general, rides, unfortunate events
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 11:37 am

Or, “I once again live through my own stupidity…”

Up and out early to get a brisk/easy 20 in before the day begins. On the way back, I hear the squeal of some oncoming vehicle testing tire adherence through the blind turns up ahead.  I’m in no specific danger, hopefully, as I’m on the straight and visible bit of road where the last turn empties out.  This means I have a front row seat to the performance as some single, clearly adult-by-age male in the family minivan cuts 3 tires (both left tires and half of the rights) across the centerline as he sweeps through the turn towards me. He’s back on his side of the two lane, double-yellow-striped road maybe 40 yards ahead of me - enough to wake you up, though not enough to induce panic.

So, I pop off.

Nothing really stupid, or so I thought.  But, I was on the tail end of the ride, feeling smooth and strong, which let some short-circuit in the cranial folds match up with the heady good-on-ya rush of excercise-induced endorphins.  I sit up and clap as he goes by. 

So much for my zen detachment.

About a minute later, as I’m up in the series of turns, a vehicle approaches reasonably quickly from behind.  I got a bad feeling well before he starts in yelling at me through the now-opened passenger window.  Of course, I wasn’t quite clever enough to have pulled out the pencam in advance of this event, and now I’m reluctant to take hands off the bars.  Manage to ignore him for a few sputtering curses and then finally point out that he was the one who was cutting the corners, not me. As you might have guessed, that worked about as well as you would’ve thought. He starts telling me how he wasn’t near me, that I should mind my own business, etc. Then he starts calling me a “busy-body”. 

I find this relatively humorous.  I’m blinking and reasonably incredulously pondering this oath, as I don’t believe I’ve ever been called a “busy-body” in anger before.  Providing proof that humans can parallel process, I’m also yelling back at him.

By this point, he’s been driving in the oncoming traffic lane for some time, on the fairly twisty curves of the road.  This can only end badly, and I start repeating that he’s on a blind curve.  Loudly.  Punctuated a couple times with less-than-polite euphamisms for mental inabilities.  At some point, it dawns on him that I’m describing where we are rather than where he was (so maybe the zen sense of presence has not completely atrophied), and he drops back and turns into a picnic area to turn around and leave me alone.

For  most of the ride home, I wonder about him and about myself. Whatever combination of job-hate, family and/or world frustration makes him go out and burn up the roadways so he can feel good and in power is not a good thing.  But, neither is mocking him.  Thank goodness he didn’t have the lack of control to give me a little nudge as we were rounding the corners together later on.  I had positioned myself a ways in from the edge, with its little 20 foot drop down to the beach, but at that point, it was damage control rather than intentional actions.

Again, I’ve proven two guiding principles from the farm:

“Don’t try to teach a pig to sing.  Wastes time and annoys the pig.”

and

“Never argue with a fool.  Folks may not be able to tell the difference.”

Man, I really didn’t want to write about something like this today.  Should’ve paid better attention when I read JimG’s “Two Wrongs…” post.

Be good.  Be smart.

comments (0)
10/08/06
Sour Grapes and Sweet Noodles
Filed under: general, rides, unfortunate events
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 11:13 pm

Made a darned-near lethal error in judgement this morning. Violated my most basic tenet of riding in traffic:

“Every driver will do the dumbest possible thing at the worst possible time”


I was in Sausalito, returning from a loop over the bridge to Crissy
Field. Dropping down into the populated area, it had been a
near-perfect run on the Quickbeam.  Spinning like a maniac but
feeling smooth, no cars chasing me or jumping ahead only to have to
slow down in the 15 mph signed chicane. As I descended the final bit
toward what was once The Valhalla, a car moved up from the side street.
They had a stop sign.  They didn’t.  I yelled loudly. The
driver didn’t even seem to look left before turning into my lane at a
significantly slower speed than I was travelling.

It’s Sausalito for crissakes - oblivious tourist-ville with distracted
and dangerous drivers the rule.  It was Sunday morning - how many
drivers still nursed their buzz from the night before.  Drivers do
not see bicycles or motorcycles. Ever.

Yet, for some stupid-assed reason, it didn’t occur to me to assume
they’d do the dumbest thing. As soon as that car appearred in my
vision, I should’ve known that they were a missle aimed at my sorry
hide.

Canti’s.  Full panic stop. Nice to know that if I need to, I can
skid stop.  Felt the fixed gears lock one foot forward, then the
other. Thankfully no contact, but I must’ve looked really large in
their rear view mirror when they actually focused on it. I must’ve kept
yelling, though I can’t really recall just what.  Something like,
“you just need to look!”

They accellerated a bit, and I did too, assisted by adrenaline and
gravity. They slowed as the road turned right on its final dip down to
the waterfront. Came to a stop.  I may have still been yelling. I
know I yelled at them as I passed them. Loudly and directly, probably
with the odd profanity tossed in. Emploring them to look before they
blow a stop sign. I was, in short really, really pissed off.

They stayed behind me all the way up Bridgeway watefront, and we all
collected once again at the first stop light, which had graciously
decided to turn red. They pulled into the left turn lane, maybe trying
to keep as much distance between us as possible.  A motorcycle
eased up next to me and the guy looked right at me. I said, “hi”. Don’t
know what or how much he saw, but depending on the version, he probably
thought I was the world’s largest asshole.

And maybe I was.  The adrenaline gone, for the next few miles I
wondered just how much good that had done. I’d like to think that I was
making the point for the “next” person - so that the driver might just
hesitate and, y’know, stop and look before jutting out into the
street.  But, then I found myself asking if I would’ve done that
much hollering if it had been 4 burly boys in the vehicle rather than a
couple of women.  I also am not sure how much of the anger was
really directed at myself for not riding smarter. 

Within a few more miles, I was spectacularly unimpressed by my actions.
Maybe it will make that driver look a little more carefully next time.
But, possibly I was just more evidence that bicyclists are just psychos.

Same ride.  I put in a decent hill climb over Camino Alto and
still had a few miles to motor home. The effort helped flush that event
from my mind (though I remembered enough to write about it…). 
As I settled in on the flatter roads of Larkspur, it struck me how
comfortable the handlebars were. They are Nitto Noodles - the stock bar
on the Quickbeam - and what really felt good was the “corners.” 
For the past few weeks, for various reasons, I’d been riding other
bikes with different bars. Getting back on these made me realize how
well designed they are. With the slightly swept-back flat upper section
of the bar, you end up with a luscious curve as the bar goes forward
onto the ramp area.  Perfect for my palms.

I rode for miles with my hands there, cradled by these wonderful handlebars.

3 comments