January 22, 2021 § 12 Comments
For over a year and an half I did all of my errands by bike. This meant that, in very short order, I wound up with not that many errands, especially when you live at the top of a steep hill that it takes a couple of miles to reach.
The last few weeks, since returning from Texas, I’ve been riding as a passenger in my girlfriend’s car to do things like buy groceries. I never thought too much about it, except this one little detail: In a car you always buy more stuff, because on a bike you have to haul it all home on your back or your rack. How many potatoes and what size milk carton are real issues.
Yesterday she and I were talking. “I need a new cutting board,” I said.
“Let’s go to TJ Maxx,” she said.
“It’s the shop you’ve walked and ridden by about 10,000 times that says ‘TJ Maxx.'”
“Yeah, but what is it? A kitchen store?”
She looked at me like she often does. It’s a look that says, “He’s fucking with me. No, he’s a moron.” She took a breath. “TJ Maxx is a store that sells stuff that everyone wants. Everyday stuff. It’s cheap and the stuff is usually really nice.”
“Cheap and nice? I smell a rat.”
“Well we don’t have to go. I just can’t believe you’ve never been inside a TJ Maxx.”
We got in her car and drove up to the store. It was 10:00 AM and they had just opened; the store was empty except for us. At first it looked like any old Target-type box store. But when we got to the kitchenware my mind was blown. Pots everywhere. Twenty kinds of spatulas. Twenty kinds of mixing bowls. Glass food storage thingies by the zillion. Everything you could want, and tons that you couldn’t, in infinite variety and color. Want a Minnie Mouse spatula that’s too tiny to even flip an egg? Check. Seven kinds of iron teapots? Check. Eight different varieties of wooden cutting boards, all for less than $20? Check.
“This is sick,” I said, happily.
“Yes, she said. It’s TJ Maxx.”
I got my cutting board but did not stop there. There was a great little saucepan with a lid. There was a cool wooden spoon. There was an electric water pot. I kind of lost control, and blinked stupidly at the $75 bill at checkout.
“Are you okay, sir?” the clerk asked.
We got back in the car and I realized what had happened. I’d been car-ed. That’s what happens when you go to buy something and come back with a bunch of stuff you didn’t need and only vaguely wanted. Never happens on a bike. Ever.
That guy standing on the side of the road waving his arms￼
March 2, 2020 § 17 Comments
I was just riding along.
I had left home at 4:30 and was making great time. I had a 2 PM appointment in Pacific Beach, about 123 miles away.
Past Dana Point I ran into a woman who was riding from San Francisco to San Diego. She was a former hotshot wildfire firefighter, and works for the forest service. She was riding pretty fast on a mostly loaded bike.
We started talking and she remarked about how different it was to wake up every day and know that you had to ride your bike. I was inspired by her solo trip. She had also ridden a big chunk of the north coast route. Solo. Like any hotshot firefighter, you could tell she was really tough.
As we passed through Carlsbad, a group of cyclists came in the opposite direction. I looked to see if I knew any of them. “I know a lot of cyclists in San Diego,” I said by way of explanation. It sounded pretty fake.
Another mile or so later there was a guy standing on the side of the road beside his car waving his arms. “That’s my best friend!” I said excitedly. It sounded even more fake. However, the person was none other than my best friend Michael Marckx. He had seen us riding along, passed, and pulled over. We hugged, then stopped and had coffee while the firefighter continued on. So, not fake after all!
On the way back from Pacific Beach I got hungry, and I stopped in at pizza port for a large pepperoni and mushroom pizza. I ate it in about 15 minutes. A table of five or six women sitting next to me stared.
I took my tray filled with crusts up to the counter. “Do you have any take-home boxes?“
The counter guy looked at the crusts. “What for?”
“These are dinner,” I said. I went back to my table and boxed up the crusts. The women looked disgusted. Or jealous. Or both.
There was another man off to the side who was also watching me. It was early afternoon, he had a small half eaten pizza, a bowl of salad submerged in a tsunami of creamy dressing, and five empty beer glasses on his table. I wanted to tell him that I didn’t think the salad was going to do what he wanted it to do, but I said nothing and left.
After all that riding the pizza would not digest and it sat in my distended stomach like a pizza baby. In Encinitas I got hungry for a smoothie so I stopped at the smoothie shop. To pay, I had to take out the pizza box which rattled as if it were full of bones.
“What’s in there?” the counter girl asked. I opened it and showed her the crusts.
“Dinner,” I said.
She looked at me like she thought I was going to ask if I could go around back and rummage in the dumpster. As I rode through Encinitas I saw a familiar face, Tom, the guy who works at Campagnolo I thought, but since he wasn’t wearing a bike costume I wasn’t sure. I stopped. “Hey, are you a cyclist?”
“Yeah,” he said.
“Seth,” I said.
We laughed and chatted and I continued on.
That was pretty much my day. I stopped in Oceanside and checked into a motel, 156 miles or thereabouts. Serendipitous meeting with friends, new acquaintances, and a pizza baby.
Just riding along.
Carmaggeddon Day #151: What are you doing here?
February 24, 2020 § 6 Comments
On Friday I had to go to Santa Ana for a mediation. If you are unfamiliar with the mediation business, it’s yet another brick in the wall that fences off the courts to ordinary people.
Time was, you had a problem, you couldn’t work it out, you sued, you went to court, a jury heard your problem, rendered a verdict, and everyone went home to groan or gloat. Nowadays going to court has for the most part priced out all but the very richest corporations with the very biggest disputes. Doubt me? Go to a federal courthouse any day and you will enjoy silence and emptiness that is generally only found in deep space.
The not-yet-rich people, because they can’t afford to go to trial and lose, wind up in mediation. Mediation is a private affair. It’s non-binding and if the parties can’t agree at mediation the case lumbers along towards trial.
One of the biggest mediation outfits is Judicate West. They charge several thousand dollars for a couple hours of a mediator shuttling back and forth trying to raise the defendant’s offer and trying to lower the plaintiff’s demand. If you’re okay with a fully private court system that is crazily expensive and further reduces access to the public justice system, Judicate West works just fine.
But what I really can’t stand about them is their bike parking.
On Friday, Day #151 of my carmaggeddon, I had to ride from PV to Santa Ana. It’s not long, only 2.5 hours, but it’s plenty long in the sense that by the time you get there, you’re glad you’re there. Leaving home at 6:05 was very peaceful. The streets were quiet and the air was cool.
Rolling through the middle of Long Beach about an hour later was also pretty nice. Traffic had picked up but when you are bike commuting it’s merely a fact of the road rather than something that impacts you directly. On the bike you still roll to the front of the line no matter how many cars there are. Big parts of PCH in Long Beach have a bike lane stripe, and from 2nd Street, which turns into Westminster–a straight shot all the way to Santa Ana–there is even a fake bike lane that goes along for a couple of miles before it dumps you out, helpless and unprotected and with virtually no warning, into the traffic lane. Great job, bike safety infrastructure advocates!!!
Which I don’t mind because, vehicular cyclist.
I had one car the entire morning beep at me, a tuned Civic. Otherwise, the No. 1 lane on Westminster is wide enough that, when your bike is properly lit, you can troll along with zero problems.
Until, of course, I got to Judicate West, where lawyers pay thousands of dollars to drive up in their Teslas and bargain for their 40% cut of the client’s settlement fee. I rolled up into the little plaza, lights blazing, looking for the bike parking.
An obese and nasty security guard ran out. It’s rare that people run nowadays. They’re generally not fit enough and there’s generally nothing important enough to run for, but a cyclist in the plaza, man, that’s enough to get even the most corpulent and sedentary among us up to a full gallop.
“Hey!” he shouted. “Hey! You! Do you have business here?”
I was wearing a backpack, a white dress shirt, khaki slacks, black shoes, and suspenders. My bike was all sparkly and orange. I’d shaved and had even gotten a haircut in the last couple of months. Did I look that suspicious?
ANSWER: YES. YOU’RE ON A BICYCLE.
“I do have business here, unfortunately,” I said.
He eyed me for a second, sizing up me and my story. “With who?”
“With whom? Judicate West. I’m looking for the bike parking.”
He deflated for a second. It had looked like he’d get to start his day by running off a homeless bike person. “It’s over there,” he waved his hand towards the parking garage.
“In the back. Next to the green cage.”
I turned around.
“Hey!” he shouted again. “Get off your bike and walk!”
Because there was no one in the plaza and I might … what? Run into the tree?
I dismounted and entered the garage. At the back was a big fenced in area covered with green netting. Next to it were those horrible front-wheel bike racks, where you can lock your wheel but nothing else so that anyone who knows how to use a quick release can walk off with the rest of the frame and the rear wheel.
Of course since it was Judicate West and no one had ever ridden a bike there before, I was able to lean my bike sideways against the entire rack and loop my cable through wheels and frame. Even this third-class citizenship was pretty good, though, because it was closer to the exit than all but the the reserved “executive” parking spaces.
At the counter on the 16th Floor I had my second best human interaction of the day, the one I love best. The receptionist said, “If you give me your parking ticket I can validate it for you.”
I smiled broadly, right pant leg still rolled up. “No thanks,” I said to the rather full lobby. “I came by bike.”
Kind of a long commute
January 9, 2020 § 17 Comments
Yesterday’s commute to Yucaipa using MetroLink + bike came out to just over 100 miles. I left at 5:10 AM and got home at 6:00 PM. It was pretty glorious, starting the ride in the middle of LA, then hopping off the train and pedaling from San Bernardino to Yucaipa.
There were snow-capped mountains in the background, zero traffic, wide roads, and even adventure. I got lost and had to pedal through an avocado grove as I tried to find my way onto a dirt utility road that “I was sure” led to pavement “somewhere.”
An angry farmwife came running out. “Get out of here! This is private property!”
I was already out of the grove and onto the utility road. “Sorry!” I hollered back. “I’m lost!”
“I don’t give a damn! DON’T COME BACK!”
The utility road was rough, so rough that I punctured my rear 36mm tubeless. It was my first ever puncture on a tubeless, and aside from covering my ass and backpack with sealant, it worked perfectly and I pedaled on. As I surmised, the dirt road led to pavement, then to a beautiful, short climb up Sand Canyon Road down into Yucaipa.
On the way home, while waiting for the train in San Bernardino, I ate lunch, a roast beef sandwich with cheese and bell pepper, bookended with two pieces of my homemade sourdough rye-wheat-seet bread. I washed it down with coffee.
Inside the train a guy parked his bike next to mine. “Hey, man,” he said. “How far you going on that thing?”
“About a hundred. You?”
“I don’t know how far, man, but I ride every day to the station, that’s about thirty minutes one way, then I get to San Bernardino, and that’s another thirty minutes to my job, so about two hours every day.”
His bike was a cruiser with fat tires and wide handlebars. “How long you been doing that?”
“Six months, man. I lost my car from a DUI. At first I was bummed because all my friends was like, ‘Man, you riding a bike? That’s bullshit.’ But then I lost a ton of weight man.”
“Yeah, I still got a little bit to go but I feel great now and my friends don’t say shit no more. They’re still real overweight, man. And you know what?”
“I used to be angry all the time. I had all these voices in my head, man. And since I started riding this bike, man, I don’t hear no voices no more. And I ain’t angry for no reason no more. It’s weird.”
“And you know what else?”
“My cholesterol and shit is way down, man. I ain’t got no blood pressure no more, neither.”
“Blood pressure sucks,” I agreed.
“Yeah, man. But you know what my old lady says?”
“She’s like, ‘You smiling all the time.’ She likes that a lot, man. When your old lady is like down with you being in a good mood then she gets in a good mood and you know what that means.”
“Indeed I do.”
He chuckled as if he were thinking of something pleasant. “Yeah, I used to be grumpy and scowling and shit all the time but now I’m just smiling. Like, I’m happy, man.”
“Why do you think that is?”
“Shit, man, I know why that is.”
He pointed to the bike. “This baby here, man. Right here.”
December 1, 2019 § 106 Comments
If you want to read a meaningless puff piece about cycling fatalities, check out this stinker by Peter Flax. It’s no surprise that it’s published in Bicycling Magazine, a publication that exists only to Sell More Shit.
What is a surprise is that Peter wrote it. He’s normally a great writer but lately his work has a pretty ugly corporate aftertaste to it, and this is perhaps the worst piece he’s ever written. Basically, he falls into lock-step with motordom, arguing that the solution to cycling fatalities is more bike lanes.
Which is crazy because the article he writes says exactly the opposite. It’s as if someone walks you through the principles of arithmetic and then announces at the end, “See? 2 +2 = 5.”
To sum up, the article claims that more cyclists are dying because of larger cars, more smartphone use, more people driving more miles, more cyclists, and Zero Vision (a/k/a A Bike Lane in Every Pot) has stalled. I’ll get to the ridiculous conclusion that we need more bike infrastructure, but first a word about the cause, singular, that Peter and like-minded advocates refuse to analyze: Cyclists get hit because motorists don’t see them.
That’s right, folks. If larger cars and more miles and more cell phone use were the cause of collisions, then we’d be seeing more car-on-car fatalities as well, or at least a parallel uptick in collisions. We see the opposite. Cyclist deaths have increased 37%, whereas auto fatalities are up about 14% over a 5-year period, less than half that of cycling deaths. While cycling deaths rise, traffic fatalities as a whole have leveled off; there was actually a 1% decrease between 2017 and 2018.
To repeat: Cyclists get hit for the most part because motorists do not see them. It’s that simple.
And it’s a horrible analysis for the purposes of Zero Vision advocates, because these people are convinced that the solution to not being seen is to create segregated bike lanes and the like, even as they admit that such programs are stalled, or that they are long-term, or that implementation will more less always be blocked by angry motorists … like Flax’s co-residents in Manhattan Beach, whose rage at losing a lane of traffic on Vista Del Mar resulted in de-striping a Zero Vision bike lane.
Any logic or fact that points to something simpler, faster, and less expensive than a billion-dollar pork barrel infrastructure project gets ignored because Zero Vision advocates aren’t really interested in fixing the problem so much as they’re interested in the political process of allocating and spending the public pork. The best example? This incredibly damning paragraph in Flax’s article:
So while the NTSB analysis focused primarily on encouraging or mandating greater helmet use, as well as things cyclists, road designers, and carmakers should do so riders are more conspicuous to motorists, those factors don’t really explain why a serious, sustained uptick of deaths began in 2011. It’s not like helmet use had a major decline, or cities ripped out quality protected bike lanes, or high-viz apparel or auto headlights got worse. These factors, especially related to road design, might have an impact on fatalities going forward, but they don’t explain why more cyclists have been dying in the past decade.https://www.bicycling.com/culture/a29762318/why-more-cyclists-are-dying/?fbclid=IwAR3VHm7AINKjqaROowsfLjGH85QyH-ozTVmOHquWJMf0dUVVMbwOs0ugE2w
Let’s break this down. First, Flax lists the flawed NTSB analysis about how to decrease cycling fatalities. He rightly notes that encouraging or mandating greater helmet use doesn’t explain increased deaths. If more people are riding and wearing helmets, why are more people still dying?
But he lumps “things cyclists, road designers, and carmakers should do so riders are more conspicuous to motorists” together with helmets as if more steps to encourage cyclist visibility to prevent fatalities is the same as wearing more helmets to mitigate the effects of getting hit. They are emphatically not the same. Helmets, to the extent that they do anything, protect you after you’ve been hit. Wearing more helmets won’t decrease collisions, and the cause of cyclist fatalities is the collision. As advocates have long noted, putting the blame on the cyclist, “You didn’t have a helmet so you deserved to die after that soccer mom hit you while texting,” is the epitome of victim blaming and abdication of responsibility for making the streets safer for bikes.
No, the things that cyclists can do to be more conspicuous to motorists is the absolute core of savvy cycling because it’s the one thing we absolutely know: Except in the most extreme cases, drivers do not intentionally hit cyclists. They hit them because cyclists are inconspicuous.
The corollary to this is key. Whereas more helmets won’t prevent collisions, more conspicuousness will. And bike lanes do not foster conspicuousness, they shunt riders off to the edge, where poor design and narrow roads force riders into the door zone or onto the far edge of the bike lane, next to the giant SUV mirrors and bumpers of passing traffic. Bike lanes are especially hazardous when they are random tack-ons, as they are here in LA, where you have a nice, wide green stripe that cars generally respect … until the stripe goes away for no reason at all.
The only thing that will keep you off mom’s windshield is being seen. And the only ways to reliably be seen by every car are to 1) park your ass in the travel lane when it makes sense to do so, and 2) illuminate yourself like an emergency vehicle rushing to a train wreck. I’ve found that even when splitting lanes or playing gutter bunny, huge lights alert cars and they take pains not to hit me.
Flax’s conclusion that we need more bike lanes is as horrific as it is nonsensical. He concludes that the death of a rider in NYC has a silver lining because it has caused a push in major bike lane/infrastructure construction, even though fatalities continue to increase as bike lanes continue to be built. “Hi, ma’am, sorry your son got run over by that dump truck. Here is a bike lane for you along with that one he was in when he got hit. Enjoy.”
This idiocy is on me-too parade in places like Encinitas, where North County planners, in response to more dead cyclists, have approved construction of a short “protected” bike lane (materializes out of nowhere, ends randomly) that will protect cars, but not the riders who are forced to dodge moms, dads, kids, surfers, walkers, strollers, and other traffic funneled into the Zero Vision solution.
Why won’t people simply admit that the best way to prevent getting hit is to be seen, and spread the word? Unless you’re willing to build a national network of protected bike lanes, at some point every rider is going to see that dreadful “Bike Lane Ends” sign and know that she is back in traffic, to say nothing of riders who pedal outside the inner city limits of LA and NYC, which is virtually all of them.
Riders do a great job of teaching others to do things like wear helmets. Public shaming, private admonition, and a whole host of other peer-pressure tools are instantly brought to bear that result in near-uniformity in cycling behavior when it comes to helmets. Similarly riders do a great job of teaching others lane control and conspicuousness when they understand it.
When I began teaching lane control on PCH several years back, the leader of my riding club publicly scorned the effort as dangerous and crazy. This very guy now leads every weekend ride down PCH … in the lane, and everyone in the club now knows that you’re safer when you’re seen. This behavior has converted hundreds, if not thousands of riders on PCH to take the lane when it makes sense to do so. And it hasn’t cost a penny of public money or required a single drop of green paint.
Cyclists don’t need infrastructure that’s never going to be built to keep them alive. They are perfectly capable of understanding concepts and passing them on, especially when survival is at stake.
But ridiculous articles brushing aside cyclist conspicuousness in favor of hiding cyclists from the traffic flow actively work to endanger more people, all under cover of a publication supposedly dedicated to cyclists written by a guy who ferfuxake actually commutes by bike.
The sad answer is that it’s easier to blame SUVs and cell phones sipping coffee at your keyboard than it is to take a Cycling Savvy class, move two feet over, and dump $500 into a legitimate bike lighting rig.
Oh, and don’t forget to wear your helmet. That’ll keep them from running you over, for sure.
Bike commuter holiday buying guide
November 29, 2019 § 20 Comments
I got a call from a cycling pal in Long Beach who I haven’t seen in a few years. “Dude,” he said, “I was reading your blog.”
No conversation that starts like this is ever good. Ever.
I steeled myself for the words “bully,” “asshole,” “defamation,” and “lawsuit.”
“Yes?” I said, trying to sound normal.
“Man, I read your post about new year resolutions and I’m getting the jump on it. You inspired me to start commuting.”
“Hell, yes. There’s no reason for me not to do it. My office is ten miles away and there’s a bike trail that practically goes from my front door to my office. I see people on it all day long and I’m always wishing I was out there, too.”
“That’s great!” I felt so happy. The conversation wasn’t going to be a demand for a retraction, and I now had proof positive that by blogging about commuting there were two actual people who had read any of it. In addition to reading, they were taking action. I felt like Adolph Ochs.
“But I got a couple of questions.”
My heart sank. Here it comes. “Yeah?”
“What gear do I need?”
“Yeah. What do I need to commute?”
“Uh, a bike?”
“Dude, I got that. But it’s a very nice road bike. Not sure I want to turn it into a commuter.”
“Check. Shoot me an email and I’ll send you a list.”
So he did, and I did. Here it is. When you are wondering what to buy yourself for Black Friday, or Purple Tuesday, or whenever, start here!
For a bike: Any bike will do as long as it has tars and pedals. I use my ‘cross bike because it is beefy and because I suck at ‘cross. A f’rinstance is the Giant TCX Pro, about $2,900. One fact is that if your commute is in LA, you will beat the shit out of your equipment. The roads are variable and you will wear shit out if you commute much. So eventually you might want to think of something sturdy AF if you’re going to be doing this a lot.
Tars: I’d recommend the IRC sand tire tubeless. They roll smoothly but are grippy AF. When I wore out my rear tar I got a different IRC and although I like it, it’s too much tar for urban roads. Key point for tubeless commuting, per Gary Z. and Boozy P.? Run the pressure low. I have 40 in front and 45 in rear. Never (yet) flatted.
Pedals: I could go on a long time about pedals. Boozy P. set me up with these beasties. They have competition-grade bearings which means they spin as well or better than your Look/Shimano clip-ins. Flat pedals develop a whole different set of muscles. You are mashing down all the time, and if you are practicing #fakestarts at the lights, you will start to grow new thingies in your legs. Flat pedals are way more comfortable because you can move your feet around as conditions require. They also strengthen the muscles in your feet, which is a whole ‘nother piece of awesomeness. Plus, the big platform lets you really mash. And mashing is the best.
Pants: Pants are a big deal. Jeans get sopped with sweat and sag and rub. You’ll need suspenders, or at least want them in order to complete the #fakehipster look. I have two pairs of riding pants, both from BetaBrand. However, after getting them and liking them very, very much, I found out that Chrome makes what look like equally or perhaps more awesome pants. Bike pants stretch, don’t get soaked easily, look #fakedressy, and have all the pockets you need to store stuff. Most crucially, the paper over the plumber’s crack that likes to creep out when you’re hunched over the bars.
Suspenders: You can go low-rent and get clip-ons, or you can get button suspenders. They look better and don’t come unclipped, but they are a pain in the ass to take on and off the pants. You’ll need to take your riding pants down to the tailor and have her sew on suspender buttons. If you’re one of those people who’s always suffered from droopy pants, these are the best. Plus, no plumber’s crack, ever.
Shoes: With the above pedals, your tennis shoes might not cut it because the pedals have little pegs that hold your feet in place. You’ll feel these pegs through a soft or thin sole and it won’t feel good, especially at about mile 50. Normal shoes are also very flexy and it kind of sucks to be giving away all those watts to the thin air. Fortunately, Adidas makes an MTB shoe that you can walk in, has a stiff, thick sole, and only vaguely looks like it belongs in a coal mine. I wear the Adidas Five Ten Freerider.
Underwear with cycling pad: If you have a really short commute, you don’t need anything special. If you are sitting in the saddle for any length of time, or in the rain, or in the heat, you will get raw ass. I grabbed a few pairs of the Zoic Essential Liner; it’s underwear with a cycling pad. I find it a little bunchy, kind of like wearing a big ol’ maxi-pad, but it is thinner than bib shorts and they work just fine.
Lights: Okay, here’s where I get fanatical. Combined with lane control, this will make the difference between riding as a normal part of traffic and riding as a gutter bunny always on the verge of getting smushed. Please don’t be a cheapskate and get a nice bike before you spend every penny you can on lights. It’s dumb and lazy. The Christmas tree effect has changed my riding experience because cars see me and avoid me. Even the occasional punishment pass is fine because I know they see me.
Rear: Cygolite 150 x 2 for seat post and to clip onto your rear pants pocket. These little bastards shoot out crazy bright blasts that penetrate steel. I actually have three, one on my seat post and two clipped to my rear pockets.
Rear: You can’t be overlit. Apace Vision Seat Stay Light x 4 will clip onto your seat stays. Individually they are not super bright, but together, each one set on a different blink mode, they are incredibly hi-viz. And they last forever, are waterproof, and are cheap.
Front: In the past I’ve always used the Diablo MK11. However, its runtime isn’t sufficient for commutes of over eight hours or when, for example, I did the Sags Fondo and then rode home from San Diego; i.e. I need something that can run for 10+ hours. For normal commuting the Diablo is plenty of light; if you really want to do it right, get 2 of the MK11 lights and put them on your bars so that you have twice the illumination and they act like car headlights. You can also run one on strobe and the other on steady beam for night commuting. If you don’t care about weight you can go with the Toro MK11 and auxiliary battery pack. That’s my birthmas gift to Seth this year.
Please don’t skimp on the lights and please consider running your lighting rig, including the headlights, on ALL rides. The total cost of the best lighting setup is way less than an ambulance ride. I see so many cyclists now with daytime lights, which is awesome, but many of them use the cheapest, smallest, most worthless ones they can find … and pair them with $10k bicycles. So lame.
Lights and therefore survival require planning. I’ve found that the toughest part of commuting is being organized. If you chuck all your shit in a heap after riding and wait until the next ride to sort it out, you’ll have problems, especially with the lights. It has to become habit that THE RIDE ISN’T DONE UNTIL THE LIGHTS ARE PLUGGED IN FOR RECHARGING. Spend a few bucks, get a couple of power strips, and set up a dedicated light charging station. Otherwise you’ll wind up with uncharged lights or worse, you’ll leave them on your bike because they haven’t run down all the way, and they’ll die mid-ride. In the dark. With 20 miles to go. I’ve learned this the hard way. The ride’s not done until they’re all plugged in. It’s as important as having air in your tires, maybe more so, because without air you can’t ride, but without lights you are begging get hit.
Gloves: I ride with full-fingered Giro gloves but also have a pair from Pedal Industries by Todd Brown in San Clemente. My hands are thin and girlish; the PI gloves are a better fit for a thicker, meatier hand.
Backpack: I have a small commuter pack for clothes, laptop, and lock. It is the best bike backpack on earth. Unfortunately it was a one-off promo model distributed by FastForward and I don’t know where to get another. For a mid-size pack, and I’ve just ordered one, go with the Chrome cargo or similar (Timbuktu and Ortlieb make great stuff). Rolltop packs are the best for commuting, I think. They make it a cinch to quickly get and stow stuff on the fly. And when commuting, you’re always on the fly.
Socks: I usually use cycling socks with the Adidas shoe; they aren’t too thin and fit well, but you can go with a thicker sock, too.
Glasses: Your favorite cycling glasses. Mine are still the SPY Quanta.
Helmet: Nope but thanks anyway.
Toolkit: With tubeless you should still carry a spare tube and tools to put the tube in if you get a bad gash or the tubeless won’t seal for some reason.
There. You can start your shopping engine now.
New Year’s Evolution
November 25, 2019 § 10 Comments
I’m getting the jump on 2020.
Seems like resolutions for the new year are quaint. Studies show they don’t work anyway.
But what about a New Year’s Evolution? I kind of like that. Evolution isn’t as quick and it’s ongoing. Plus, you can (and will) break a resolution, but you can’t break evolution.
My New Year’s Evolutions are these:
- Ride my fuggin’ bike more.
- Depend on fossil fuels less in all things.
And because I am in a generous mood, I’m going to give YOU a list of evolutions to consider, in case you’re so inclined.
- Ride your fuggin’ bike more.
- Depend on fossil fuels less in all things.
- Ride your bike to the grocery store once a week.
- Ride your bike to the coffee shop once a week but not as part of a group ride.
- Ride your bike with your family to dinner once a month.
- Ride your bike to work once a week.
- Swap out ONE car for ONE e-bike.
- Retrofit ONE of your road/cross/MTB/vintage bikes as a commuter bike.
- Ride with huge headlights at all times.
- Ride with huge taillights at all times.
- Control a busy lane once a week.
- Ride from the South Bay to DTLA once a month.
- Ride the bus with your bike.
- Ride the train with your bike.
- Use a Metro bike locker then walk somewhere.
- Ride with a friend/family to Union Station and have a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.
- Do one trafficky gnarly commute (full lights) through somewhere like Anaheim/PCH to Long Beach or Orange County from the South Bay.
- Do an East Side Riders Feed the Hungry Ride.
- Take a Cycling Savvy online course.
- Ride your bike somewhere and lock it up.
Do this list in 2020, starting now, and you’ll evolve. Guaranteed.
November 19, 2019 § 15 Comments
For years I’ve had it in my head that cagers in LA hate bicyclists. That drivers are the enemy. That as far as they’re concerned, the only good cyclist is one driving a car.
Yesterday, though, it struck me that I have been terribly wrong.
It’s true that there is a disturbing number of cagers who, when they see bicycle underwear, racy bikes, helmets, and Terminator glasses, go apeshit. I certainly haven’t imagined the decades of honks, middle fingers, punishment passes, offensive shouts, and physical altercations that have happened while being a #leakyprostate #mastersfake #profamateur cyclist.
I left the South Bay at 11:30, rode through downtown, had a meeting in the Fig/Cypress area, rode through densest LA crosstown traffic, crossed Hollywood to Beverly Hills to Santa Monica, had another meeting, then pedaled through insane 6:00 PM Santa Monica traffic, all the way down Arizona to Ocean, along the entire length of Main Street which was jammed bumper-to-bumper all the way into Marina del Rey and the marina bike path. I got home at 8:20.
It was the most extended traffic jam I’ve ever seen, literally stretching in a giant loop around the bulk of the LA metro area. But get this: I got honked at once.
And get this: I’m not even sure the dude was honking at me.
And get-get this: I had innumerable vehicles nudge their stopped cars to the left to make space for me to get up the gutter or to split the lane, and the couple of times I had gnarly, high speed, no-room-to-maneuver left turns with no space to change lanes (think hanging a left onto Argyle off Franklin, with 8 billion cars queued to get onto the 101), I made the move by simply putting out my hand in a “halt” sign and watching as traffic patiently let me cross two lanes of traffic and slot into the left-hand turn lane.
Equally telling, in the long stretch along Fountain Ave., which has BMUFL markings, my 16-17 mph speed and liberal interpretation of the numerous stop signs angered no one, engendered no punishment passes, no middle finger salutes, zero ugly honks.
What does it all mean? Here’s what it means:
- When you are riding with seven super bright rear lights, people see you from a long way off even when they are texting. And a big chunk of motorist rage is their shock and surprise at having you “come out of nowhere,” i.e. having to navigate your presence when they weren’t paying attention in the first place. This displaced anger is a large part of cager rage–they’re the ones at fault for not seeing you, and they blame you for it. Put on the massive rear lights and voila, the rage disappears.
- The brilliant, 1200-lumen headlights also explain why cars make space when you’re up against the curb, passing a hundred stopped cars as you skip to the front of the line. Your headlights blast their side and rearview mirrors, a/k/a THEY FUGGIN’ SEE YOU. And a lot of cagers are either cyclists or at least sympathetic to them or, perhaps, appreciative that one bike means one less car.
- Hair (or bald head). When you ditch the helmet you look like a person. When you wear the helmet you look like a Star Wars storm trooper. Remember them? They were the true villains of the whole movie. But underneath those helmets that fell off after Luke killed them with his blaster, they were actual people. It’s just that when you saw the mask you hated them because mask = enemy.
- Backpack. Storm trooper cyclists deserving of death look inhuman. Person on a bicycle lugging a backpack looks like a barista late for work, and a late barista means you may not get your coffee! It’s hard to feel superior to a storm trooper all sleek and shaved and getting fit while you’re gaining weight sucking down a mocha frap in a 3-hour traffic jam. But it’s impossible not to feel superior to someone who not only is too poor to own a car but who also has to carry a backpack en route to a minimum wage job. And when you feel superior, you often feel just a little bit nicer. At least you don’t feel consumed with rage.
- Jeans and t-shirt and sneakers. This completes the human outfit. #winning
There may be other factors involved. I’m sure they are. But yesterday wasn’t an anomaly. I’ve now crisscrossed some of the nastiest gridlock in LA, Orange, and San Diego counties, and my experience isn’t that motorists hate me, it’s that they see me. And once seen, for the most part I’m safely and patiently steered around.
Light yourself up. Take the lane. You will be surprised.
November 18, 2019 § 5 Comments
Before he abandoned bicycling and took up tennis, Derek the Destroyer always used to say “You race best on tired legs.”
In which case I’m ready to win the fuggin’ Tour.
My analog Stravver shows that I rode 7.9 fucktons last week. My easy day was a 35-miler to LAX and back, and my legs feel it. More than that, my mind feels it.
To quote Baby Seal, “You look like you’ve been used harder than an old dishrag.”
I’ve been thinking about that all morning, contemplating today’s calendar: a 32-mile jaunt up to Dodger Stadium, a subsequent meeting over by UCLA (adds 20-ish), and then the 25+ miles home from Westwood.
As Baby Seal was observing my rather haggard countenance, he asked “Have you noticed any changes since you started doing all this commuting?”
My answer was immediate. “I’ve gotten strong as shit.”
Because as long as the riding is endurance as opposed to intensity, more miles make you stronger. It’s that simple.
And it’s that complex, because the single hardest thing that people encounter when it comes to riding a bicycle is, surprise, riding the bicycle. All of the #socmed, #stravver, #powermeter, #data, #virtualcycling, ALL OF IT, is an ersatz for getting out on your bike and actually riding. But it’s an ersatz with this caveat: none of it works unless you actually go out and ride your bike.
To put a finer point on it, you don’t need any of that stuff to get stronger, faster, fitter if you go out and ride a lot. But if you don’t ride a lot, none of that stuff will get you anything more than very marginal gains. And it’s why lots of riding is what professional road cyclists have as the core component of their job preparation. First they have to ride 25 hours a week. Then they have to tinker with the data and the drugs in order to eke out the gains in bodies that are already operating at near-peak efficiency under near-maximal loads.
To quote, and re-quote, and re-quote Eddy Merckx. “Ride your bicycle more.”
But back to me, my wig, my flat pedals, and my gallivanting around LA in lieu of sitting in traffic:
- Tired all time but I go faster, longer.
- I need more sleep.
- My conversation is monosyllabic, i.e. grunting.
- I cannot eat enough, and the corollary: I eat all the time.
- Don’t leave home without suspenders.
- Chamois cream. Thank dog for chamois cream.
- Legs constantly ache from fatigue.
- Monthly budget for bath salts through the roof.
- Stronger core and back from lugging massive u-lock and cable everywhere.
- Mentally okay with any and all road/traffic/weather conditions (as long as it’s sunny and warm).
Okay. Monday, here I come.
Carmaggeddon #52, Is that a wig?
November 16, 2019 § 14 Comments
I had a meeting in Fullerton yesterday. That’s about 70 miles round trip. Biking from PV through Long Beach to Fullerton is about as urban as you can get, mixing it up with 18-wheelers, negotiating freeway on-off ramps, going from bike lane to no lane …
But here’s the thing. On the bike, you’re never late!
And even though the final miles home up Silver Spur-Basswood-Shorewood aren’t exactly pleasant, there were many, many happy remains of the day.
I stopped to ask a homeless dude with a broken bike if he needed any help. “Nah,” he said. “I’ll get it fixed. I’m just frustrated so I figured I’d sit on the curb and cool down.”
“Okay.” I remounted.
“Hey, man,” he said, sharply. “Is that a wig?”
Probably did 30 standing starts. Who says you can’t get a workout on your commute?
Rode the Coyote Creek Bikeway for the first time, from where it picks up at El Dorado Park in Long Beach to Orangethorpe. So quiet, perfectly paved, peaceful.
Got a great email from Todd Brown at Pedal Industries. He has seen the light and is now commuting to work. Check out his stuff. He’s local and a lifelong bike addict. NOT recovering.
Dinner. No dinner tastes as good as the one you eat after a 70-mile urban SoCal commute.
Smooth undercarriage. For years I’ve scoffed at chamois cream. I slapped some on yesterday because commuting wears your parts differently from regular cycling. That stuff works!
Lots of friendly cagers. Going through Long Beach a guy in a BMW pulled up next to me and gave me the hugest knowing smile. Lugging my ass up Basswood, a Prius slowed to 5 mph, put down the window, and the driver shouted “You got this, man!”
Coffee. When you are stuck in traffic in your cage you are just stuck in traffic. But when I started feeling pooked at about Atherton and PCH, I hopped onto the curb, parked my bike and had a cappucino. Boom!
Dude in the coffee shop remarked about my suspenders. “They aren’t a fashion statement,” I said. “They’re to prevent me getting a misdemeanor citation for public indecency.” He mused. “Belt won’t work?” “Belt won’t hold the pants in place when they get heavy from the sweat.” He mused some more. “You look like Johnny Appleseed,” he said.