cyclofiend.com - peripheral thoughts & notes

November 2009
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Loose Threads and Weird Interwebbishness
Filed under: general, interwebbishness, bike commuting
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 5:53 pm

There have been a few things going on the past couple weeks, and as I mentioned in this post, I’ve been working on a longish-and-ever-lengthening post on cranks. (Well, cranks, bottom brackets and interface woes. You have been warned…)  However, there’s been a bit of an issue in getting these things posted. It’s turned out to be odd enough that I’ve got to share it.  Sorry for the clipped prose, but I’m having to do this at work, between phone calls and dealing with reports.

Last time I tried to log onto my blog at home, the page kept timing out, rendering the notice that the server was taking too long to respond. Same for the blog itself. Ok. Tippity-tap and I start a trouble ticket with my friends at hostway.com.  They get back to me within an hour, saying they can’t see anything wrong, and it renders, pings and traceroutes just fine for them. I try the same and it doesn’t, doesn’t and won’t.  Hmmm….  I share this back to them and they quickly make some suggestions, and using a non-cached web relay, get the thing to work.

This all points back to my ISP at home, who I contact via their real-time chat.  The funniest moment was when the first person said that they couldn’t see the page either.  I took this to mean that it was doing the same thing, giving me hope (well, terror, actually…) that it was an ISP issue. So, I asked for specifics of traceroutes, what error messages she was seeing, etc. Instead, she finally admitted that she couldn’t actually check the website, as she was prevented from doing so at her job. That would be “surfing”…. Uh. OK.

Got kicked up the chain 5 times (this was the day before Thanksgiving, so I really didn’t think there would be anyone actually working who might be able to diagnose the problem.)  The last two people pointed me to a form on their company site which would request that a site be unblocked.  At this point, it had taken too long and I needed to move onto other things. I thanked them and moved on. Did the unblocking thing.

Got an auto-responder email by the Thanksgiving morning, explaining that that IP address was not blocked and that email should be getting to me if sent from them.

OK, what we have here, is a failure to communicate…

But, the pointer kept swinging back to my end, and something being weird. Finally after chatting via email with JimG, I realized that I had dumbly never tried bypassing my router.  Did that and  - BAM - spicy internet log in web page…

Rerigged the stuff and then dug into the router - a Netgear wired 614v4 model.  Reset, reset again, set up and dug through every permutation of menus and pass-throughs and everything I could think of, all for naught.  Finally, sometime later on Thanksgiving night, I found my way to the Netgear help bbs and found out that this was a feature* of this series.  In other words, for no apparent reason, my router will not allow this one website to communicate with my computer. Of course, this worked fine a week or two ago.  Seems they get senile and/or decide they just don’t wanna play any more.

Suggested fixes seemed to involve a router from a different company. Which I just wasn’t going to do on the Friday after Thanksgiving.  So, it’s still languishing and I’m not posting regularly.

*First Rule of Computer Manuals - A bug can be defined as a feature by documenting it.

But, if I was posting, one of my thoughts during a recent ride to work was as follows:

California has one helluva budget problem right now. Based on my informal, entirely non-scientific, visual survey on the way to work today, I think they could go a long way toward fixing that if they enforced the “hands-free” wireless telephone use regulation

“The first law prohibits all drivers from using a handheld wireless telephone while operating a motor vehicle, (California Vehicle Code [VC] §23123). Motorists 18 and over may use a “hands-free device.” The second law prohibits all
drivers from texting while operating a motor vehicle (VC §23123.5). The
third law prohibits drivers under the age of 18 from using a wireless
telephone or hands-free device while operating a motor vehicle (VC

A coworker got popped for this infraction earlier in the year, and it cost him more than $200, with added penalties.  I think I could have raised about $1800 on the way to work today, without even trying….

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Bad For KC, Good For Portland
Filed under: general, people
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 9:03 am

Sarah from Acme Bicycle Company in Kansas City forwarded me a link the other day.  I’ve always enjoyed getting her intermittent emails, reading her comments to the various lists I follow, enjoyed the hearty enthusiasm of the her flickr stream and receiving the submissions she’s shared with the Galleries (here, here, here, here and of course, here). 

But, I was saddened to read the news that Acme will be folding its tent. 

“Say Goodbye to Acme Bicycle”

According to the text, the migration will be westward to Portland.  But, it does sound like there won’t be an Acme, Pt Deux in the city of roses.  But, I’d find it hard to believe that Portland’s bike culture hasn’t gained a significant member. Despite the geographic improbability, I did think that somehow I’d find myself in Kansas City someday, and know exactly what was first on my list to visit.

Anyway, good luck to you Sarah.  Safe journies and keep things real!

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Cop-Out Post
Filed under: general, cyclocross, video, interwebbishness
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 11:41 am

Oh, heck.  I’ve been writing a short blog post about cranks which seems to be expanding like the blob.  Since it’s still not done, here’s something someone else did that made me spit coffee on my screen -

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Marin Watershed Workday
Filed under: general
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 10:38 am

Every winter, folks descend upon the trails of Tamarancho and China Camp State Park for trail maintenence workdays.  I’ve never seen this occur for the Marin watershed (which may be more of a function of me not being in the loop), but whether due to budget woes or the powers-that-be finally figuring out that the cycling community is generally very amenable to pitching in an helping if you ask for it, the webbernet just coughed up this announcement:

Join Marin Municipal Water District, Marin Bicycle Coalition and Marin Mountain Bike Patrol for a morning of Habitat Restoration on Mt Tamalpais. Help remove invasive plant species from oak woodland and grassland habitats. Every person has the chance to make a difference by practicing environmental stewardship. Give back to the land you enjoy so much and have fun while doing so!

Meet at the junction of Shaver Grade and Hidden Meadow Trail 9am on Saturday December 5th. Bike to the trail head or hike in from Natalie Coffin Green Park or Lake Lagunitas Picnic Area. The volunteer event runs from 9 until noon.

Please pre-register for the event so we will be prepared with ample tools, staff and snacks. Dress for changing weather and bring a hat, work shoes, a water bottle and lots of friends. We provide snacks, water, instruction and inspiration! Consider bringing your lunch to enjoy on the watershed after the volunteer event.

To register or for further information, please contact our Volunteer Coordinator at (415) 945-1128 or e-mail volunteerprogram@marinwater.org . Heavy rain will cancel; call the volunteer line for cancellation information the morning of the event.

Don’t forget the Tecnu….

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Big City News, Little County News
Filed under: general, bike tech, bike commuting
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 2:07 pm

The LA Times has been publishing a number of  interesting articles on bicycle-specific topics of late. It’s nice to see the tone of the articles dealing with bicycles and cyclists as real, adult issues rather than the all-too-common ranty article describing a  caricature/stereotype “lycra-clad Lance/Lemond wanna-be…”.

Imagine: LA Bicyclists in the Driver’s Seat, One Day a Week

Bikes and cars: Can we share the road?

which generated some online comments here.

Physician accused of deliberately injuring two bicyclists is convicted

When Ford rejects you, make a bicycle

Read ‘em and if you have the interest, comment favorably to the editors.  Let them know that you are a cyclist and appreciate higher quality writing on these issues. One of the bylines to keep an eye on is Jerry Hirsch, who, in addition to having bicycle #100 in the Current Classics Gallery, is also a fine writer.  When I read his stuff (and most of what gets published in the LA Times), I am reminded again about the dearth of quality newspaper writing in the SF Bay Area.

However, the papers here do manage to occasionally surround a story.  The Marin IJ recently ran an article on an issue which has been a little out of public awareness - broader trail access in Marin County.  For those of you who haven’t studied mountain bike catechism, the mountain bike was invented in Marin County* and then uniformally banned from all trails but the widest vehicle access  roads (called “fire roads”).  There were significant public battles played out, and folks with the strongest opinions dug in across from one another reminiscent of World War One trench warefare in the Somme.   As the profoundly anti-bicycle-access-in-any-form folks created noise and cited disproven studies, two curious anomolies popped up - China Camp State Park allowed bicycles on singletrack trails (indeed, created a network of singletrack trails) and Tamarancho Boy Scout Camp created a pay-for-access system of even more singletrack goodness.

In the ensuing time period, most people realized that bikes weren’t the issue as much as continued development and proper trail design (combined with regular trail maintenence efforts, which the cyclists seem much more predisposed to engage in).  Bicycle riders learned how not to spook horses or hikers, and everyone seemed to get a helluva lot more reasonable.

In short, it’s come down to behavior.  If you blow past trail users of any type (or run into them like a doofus), your behavior is inappropriate for the conditions.  (And if ride trails and have never seen the IMBA Rules of the Trail, take a moment and read/refresh your memory.) 

The interesting thing is that in the comments section of this article -
Supervisors tackle Marin trail conflicts
there are a whole host of very familiar names to anyone who has followed Marin County trail politics.  Same old folks peering over the edge of the trench.

The encouraging thing is that the poll on the page was running roughly 70% - 30% in favor of more trail access for bicycles. It certainly is time to have a reasonable conversation about these things, address real issues like behavior of the trail users - everyone from littering hikers to folks who let their dogs chase wildlife to brain-dead cyclists and insensitive equestrians needs to realize the effect of their actions.

My personal belief is that a competent rider on a ~30 pound bicycle with working brakes has a lot more control over their momentum than a rider on a 900 - 1100 animal which has a separate and differently responding brain. (And yes, I do ride horses now and again also.)

One of the scariest moments I ever had on a trail was nearly being trampled by two riders galloping their horses where they shouldn’t have been doing so. But, the conclusion I drew from that was the riders were exhibiting antisocial and dangerous behavior.  Maybe they didn’t have a nickel’s worth of brains between them.  Maybe they were playing out some equestrian fantasy.  Maybe they just didn’t think I had as much right to hike the trail as they did to ride it. Whatever.

I don’t draw any further conclusion from that interaction than most - some people are self-centered jerks oblivous to what effects their actions are having.   That type of behavior wasn’t appropriate, but it doesn’t mean that most of the trail users aren’t respectful and safe. It’s the simple and easy interactions which get forgotten.

*this is the catechism - I realize that there are other reasonable theories as well…

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All Saint’s Day Ride
Filed under: general
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 11:09 pm

Out and about on a ridiculously gorgeous day.  In November.  With little wind and dry streets. Started the month one for one, and this is the 5th ride in as many days, which feels good, though a bit tiring.

A month layoff is really nasty, as you definitely drop a notch or so, but your brain won’t let you off the hook.  It seems to remember how you could climb a bit faster and keep things rolling on the flats. It’s that damned grey matter which thinks it would be a good idea to sit and grind up a couple of climbs which probably were doable last month, but definitely took a bigger bite today. 

In other words, I’m feeling it a bit tonight.

The other part, I’m sure, stems from using a coastable, many-geared drivetrain system for the past four months. With the Quickbeam running a fixed setup, when you ride for a couple hours or so, you are actually riding the whole time, just to state the obvious. Not that I’d want to change that.  And while it makes you stronger, reminds you how to be comfortable when you are pedaling at a ridiculous cadence down some hill that you didn’t really register for the last couple months, and strips away the unnecessary whining, it also has its weakening aspects. 

I noticed it immediately on the hills, the momentum of the bicycle feeding back into the drivetrain until you feel somehow lifted and you begin to climb like you’re dreaming.  No weakening there, but it does convince you to just squeeze a little more power out.  Of course, when you get back on a coastable bike, your image of yourself as a king of the montain gets more than a bit tarnished.  Climbing fixed is an almost illicit thrill. 

The more sinister bits lie in wait at the bottom and top of the pedal stroke, where after months of riding a fixed-gear system, you end up letting the cranks do the work a bit.  It’s actually easy to loaf with a fixed gear setup, let the momentum pull your feet through the toughest parts of the pedal stroke to maintain power.

But, that’s probably a few weeks off.  Today, I picked a slightly hillier route towards the bridge.  I was able to breathe a bit deeper today, and didn’t have any bad coughing jags while out on the road.   I’d hoped to make it all the way to the bridge today, but had started late after some chores, looped around a bit and realized that the engine probably wasn’t willing today.  And by the time I’d gotten home at 4:15 or so, the cars had already been turning on their lights in some of the more shaded areas of the county.  Dang, it ain’t summer no more.

Alas, the season of dark commutes has descended upon us again.  Not that I haven’t been running lights on the way home recently, but the end of Daylight Savings has ensured that the evening rides will be well and truly dark.

But, even though sore and a bit worked, it was great to be out.

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