Monday, August 10, 2009

Adventures in West LA Cycling

Been awhile since I posted here. To the seven of you subscribed on Google Reader, my apologies.

I had an "interesting" weekend riding. I didn't intend for it to be interesting in that way, but that's how it turned out.

My wife's sister is away in Europe, so we got to house sit in her apartment in Brentwood, a rather upscale neighborhood in West Los Angeles. In Brentwood, the cars trend Bentley, the bikes trend Serotta & Calfee, and the whole area says, "My wealth - let me show you it!"

Fortunately for cyclists, it's also a pretty great place to ride. The nearby city of Santa Monica has plenty of bike routes, paths, and lanes, and the city is laid out on a grid pattern, making it super easy to cycle places.

But let's get back to Friday night, when my wife and I were late to something called the Venice First Friday festival, a festival where fancy food trucks park on a trendy avenue and dish out food to young hipsters.

You can see where I'm going with this. Hipsters + Foodies + Trendy Part of Town can only equal one thing: fixies!

And not just fixies, but Critical Mass too!

Since we were late, we chose to drive to Venice. At first it was cool to see several hundred CM riders take the streets, run red lights, and intimidate motorists. I was cheering on their bold display of two wheeled activism, and I was chuckling at all the frustrated motorists. Even my wife thought it was cool.

And yet, within 20 minutes, as we scoured the Venice neighborhoods for a parking place, I came to hate these outlaw cyclists. I don't know what their deal is, but the only law they follow is their own.

I'm hyper-conscious for cyclists when I'm behind the wheel of my 'Ru, yet these CM riders would literally pop out of anywhere: off a curb and then in front of you...skid-stopping a corner and nearly hitting your door...behind and all of the sudden on the side of you, then skid-stopping in front of you on their way to another red light run.

I realize this behavior is part of the whole CM manifesto - the streets belong to cyclists as much as motorists - and I don't particularly care that they aren't wearing helmets or riding with brakes (it's their health and body after all), but what I'm concerned about is how they give all us cyclists a bad name.

I was literally embarassed that night to call myself a cyclist. I obey the laws (except for stop signs at vacant intersections). I signal motorists to telegraph my intentions. I have good situational awareness. I don't ride to intimidate or dare cars, I ride defensively.

I was glad when we finally left that neighborhood.

Anyway, Saturday was a whole lot better. I saddled up on the Swobo Dixon bike and hooked the dog trailer to my wife's Diamond Back. We cycled down to Santa Monica, enjoyed some sushi, then rode to the beach. Otto von Bisbark had a wonderful time:

By the end of the ride, my wife was feeling the pain. I would have pulled the trailer but I'm trying to sell the Swobo and didn't want to mark up the seat/chain stays anymore than they already were. We rode 22 miles on Saturday and she was pooped at the end.

Sunday turned out to be even better than Saturday. You see, on Sunday, Brentwood was holding their yearly Brentwood Grand Prix, a criterium on a particularly picturesque road in downtown Brentwood. Hundreds of cyclists were racing in the various categories, and we enjoyed the excitement while eating a delicious, $70 breakfast right on San Vicente.

The racers inspired me to get out and ride, and fortunately I had taken my Seven with me. So at about 11am, belly full and wife willing to let me go for a few hours, I took off down San Vicente toward the ocean. That road has a bike lane for its entire length, and I must have averaged 23 mph for the course of it. I had a wonderful cool sea breeze in my face and the waves of other cyclists to make it fly by.

I next turned south onto Ocean Avenue. Ocean Avenue gets quite busy with tourists, but that didn't phase me. I kept my pace up, riding in my lane past slowly moving traffic until I got stuck at a red light and saw something that stopped me dead in my tracks.


It couldn't be.

Wait a minute.

Yes, it could.



It's the Lone Wolf of BSNYC Fame!

I could scarcely believe my eyes. There he was, the fabled Lone Wolf, right there in front of me in all his natural glory. This time, the legendary Wolf wasn't "palping" his prized Lotus Steed; rather he was on some sort of beach cruiser bike with a gigantic aero dam on the front (you can see him here). His full mane was on display though, and there was no mistaking that I had captured the elusive Lone Wolf.

Then the light turned green and I got honked at before I could take a picture. :(

I'm sure I'm not the only one to have spotted him, but I now can say for sure that the Lone Wolf does exist. He may be more elusive than Sasquatch, but he does exist!

As I pedaled away, full of optimisim for the future of our sport, I had every reason to smile. Great weather, felt good on the bike, riding on routes I had never ridden before, and seeing the Lone Wolf.

That is until about 10 miles on down the road when I was right hooked and ended up on the trunk of a Lexus. I cursed at the driver, checked myself and my bike for damage (there was none, thankfully) and pedaled on down the road. I was nearly right hooked a second time just a mile past that. I learned a valuable lesson: don't ride on the same road as tourists. They are idiots who have no idea where they are going and don't look before they are turn.

My 25 mile ride wrapped up, I returned to Brentwood and enjoyed the Pro Men and Women's races in the Grand Prix. Boy those cats are fast as lightning!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Cyclist shot by blowgun dart

Over on Bike Forums is an odd, disturbing and, yes, I'll admit, amusing story of a cyclist who suddenly experienced ass pain while on a ride in the Seattle area. He stopped, explored his posterior, and pulled this out:

This anecdote takes the whole Cycling Harassment Story Genre to a whole new level. Someone leaned out of a car (or was on a sidewalk I suppose), grabbed a blowgun, and shot this guy with a dart tribal hunter style...IN. HIS. ARSE.


That dart is pretty fierce looking- I echo some of the posters there who say it could have hit an artery, or an eye, or, god forbid, his man parts. What kind of messed up individual could shoot a cyclist with a blowgun dart? I ask you!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Ad Copy for the new Madone compared to other bike ad copy

Got this in my email with a very serious looking Lance Armstrong next to it, presumably endorsing the new Madone 6.0:

The all-new 6 Series Madone stands alone in every performance category. Weight. Stiffness. Comfort. Handling. The 6 Series Madone is the most technically advanced, exquisitely performing, and meticulously refined road bike we’ve ever made. More than three years in development, the 6 Series went through over 70 design revisions before arriving at a frameset worthy of becoming the next Madone. It’s the ultimate ride for pro cyclists like Alberto Contador, Lance Armstrong, and Levi Leipheimer. And it’s the ultimate ride for bicycle aficionados, discriminating enthusiasts, and those who simply want the best.

Holy buzz-word city batman!

Compare that to the ad copy for my Seven Alaris:

With quiet confidence and understated appeal, the Alaris is a versatile high-performance road frame designed for greater affordability. It features our Integrity 325™ straight-gauge titanium, which draws on nearly 30 different tube sizes to create the most refined ride characteristics in its class.

How about the Specialized Tarmac for good measure:

FROM THE SPRING CLASSICS to the Grand Tours, the Tarmac has proven itself to be the professional rider's bike of choice. A world championship and a Tour de France green jersey lend proof to our claim that no frame is lighter and stiffer.

Finally, the Giant TCR Advanced SL:

The legendary precision of handcrafted, engineered Advanced SL-grade composite makes this the choice of Team Rabobank. Its sleek integrated seatpost, massive MegaDrive rectangular downtube and PowerCore bottom bracket/chainstay area deliver unmatched pedaling stiffness and efficiency. Custom engineered exclusively for the Shimano Di2 Electronic system.

Cervelo has certainly won some fans in recent years. Let's see what they have to say about the S3, their top of the line general purpose road bike:

As the inventor of aero road bikes, Cervélo continues to lead the category. Aero road frames are the most difficult frames to design, as they have to be everything in one: aero, light, stiff, comfortable. Cervélo has worked to optimize this balance between the various requirements since its inception 13 years ago.

For the S3, the engineers at used the R3 seatstay technology, rotated the stays 90 degrees and gave them a proper Cervélo aero shape. This reduces the weight, increases the vertical compliance and improves the aerodynamics. Sounds simple, but the structural design is extremely complex, which is why only Cervélo has such stays. The chainstays were also redesigned to optimize aerodynamics. Finally, the cable routing system (ICS2) is the first to have cable entries through the top of the toptube without sacrificing shifting performance.

Hmmm. They all kind of sound the same don't they? Which to pick? After all, all four bikes are built more or less the same as double diamond bikes from 100 years ago, so which one is really better?

Let's see what happens when we mix all the ad copy/marketing speak into, which should show us the prominence of certain marketing buzz words in the combined text above.

Voila, I present you the 2010 road bike buzz word generator:

Now aspiring bike builders/marketeers should be careful using this buzz word generator. You don't want to mix words like "massive", "stiffness", "PowerCore" and "bottom" too much, at least not without their proper context.

Also, you should note which words are used too much. Apparently one of our bike builders is really found of the word "aero" and "aerodynamic," so much so that it appears large than their model or even company names.

Finally, for those like me who are "discriminating" "aficionados" who enjoy "quiet rides" "alone", looks like one of these bike builders has focused their marketing muscle on us. See, it's not all "meticulous refinement!"

What a piece of work this guy was

The 20 year old who allegedly struck a group of club riders, killing one and injuring two others, had been arrested before for driving while intoxicated. That and more from today's article in my town's newspaper:

Marco Antonio Valencia's alleged collision with a group of bicyclists that left 43-year-old Joe Novotny of Stevenson Ranch dead and two others injured followed a series of crashes and close-calls along Bouquet Canyon Road, witnesses and investigators said.

About 11 a.m., Saugus resident Sheldon Haselwood said a dark blue Ford F-150 nearly sideswiped him. Haselwood pulled up alongside the truck at a Bouquet Canyon Road stop light near Central Park and looked at the driver.

"It was this kid. He was sitting kind of low in the seat, his eyes were kind of puffy," Haselwood said. "He looked over at me and gave me a ‘peace' sign."

The 43-year-old got on his cell phone and started following the truck, reporting information to sheriff's deputies.

Haselwood said the truck kept drifting across lanes, running up onto the sidewalk and the median. At one point, Haselwood and Highway Patrol officers said, Valencia ran into a chain-link fence near David Way.

And after every misstep, the truck would stop, back up, then start down the road again.

Haselwood said he followed the driver as he began weaving back and forth on the narrow, winding stretch of Bouquet Canyon Road past Plum Canyon Road. The truck skidded and crossed into oncoming traffic as it took the road's blind curves.

Several cars had to swerve onto the shoulder to avoid a head-on collision, Haselwood said.

"We come around the curve and then there's about 10 guys on bikes," he said.

The truck crossed the double-yellow lines near the Big Oaks Lodge and slammed into the single-file line of bicyclists on the opposite shoulder, Haselwood and investigators said.

"They had no place to go," Haselwood said. "My wife's screaming as he's taking these bicycles out. The last guy in the line gets hit by the truck. This guy flies 20 feet ... doing sommersaults in the air."

The truck sped off, and Haselwood lost him. He pulled over to help the bicyclists; one had broken his hand, another was leaning up against a rock, panting, with back injuries and the third, Novotny, was lying face-down, motionless.

"I couldn't - I just couldn't believe it. It was like watching a horrible movie," he said. "When you see it in real life, it was like - it just didn't seem real to me, that it was really happening. That this guy was lying right there in front of me and I was putting the blanket on him."

Simply awful.

The Velo group has invited me to their board meeting this Sunday. I think we're going to try to plan a silent memorial ride for Joe Novotny. I hope we'll take to some of the larger streets in town and get a police escort. I want people to notice us, to realize they have to share the road and be alert when they drive. This isn't the only bicycling accident in the last few days- indeed, it's the third incident in a month.

Unfortunately it came too late for Novotny. I hope Valencia goes to prison for the rest of his life.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Another hit and run, two cyclists injured, one dead

This is just awful...since I heard the news I haven't been able to get it off my mind:

One bicyclist is dead and two more injured after they were hit by a drunk driver near the 39000 block of Bouquet Canyon Road of the Angeles National Forest this morning, according to Santa Clarita Valley sheriff’s deputies.

“It appears the drunk driver ran into a group of bicyclists that were riding in the canyon,” said Sgt. Brian Allen, of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station. “Two of them were injured and taken to the hospital, and one additional bicyclist was killed.”

After some trouble locating the driver, deputies and California Highway Patrol officers found him further north along Bouquet Canyon Road, Allen said.

I ride Bouquet Canyon road all the time. It's one of the prettiest canyon rides in these parts, and offers a challenging climb followed by a swift descent. At the top of the ride is Bouquet Reservoir (pictured above), which is a reservoir in the Los Angeles Aqueduct system (built by Mr. Mulholland himself). The Bouquet Canyon loop, pictured below, is a very popular ride, it's even mentioned Great Los Angeles County Bike Rides.

The cyclists on this ride were part of Santa Clarita Velo, THE local cycling club. I've ridden with them a time or two; they are all experienced, sharp, and skilled cyclists, many of whom race. That they got hit by some drunk asshole on a Saturday MORNING just makes my blood boil.

I'm thinking of organizing a silent memorial ride to call motorist's attention to cyclists. I've sent an email to a cycling advocate here in town and I'll see what she says. I'd like to get a couple of hundred cyclists out on our local streets, riding slowly as a group to city hall. In other communities, such memorial rides have captured some media attention. The main purpose would be to tell motorists we're here and they must be alert, aware and careful when they drive.

This drunk driver could have hit me. I was thinking of riding Bouquet yesterday but decided on a shorter route.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Track racing with road bikes

You know how one of Bike Snob's central themes is how ridiculous it is to ride brakeless track bikes on the streets of NYC?

Well at the tail end of a ride with my brother yesterday, we tried to use our road bikes on a track.

If that isn't ironic enough for you, we didn't even use our road bikes on a true cycling track. No, we raced my $4,000 Seven and his $800 Trek around a high school track 'n field track for one mile.

Turn about is fair play after all.

Track riding on a road bike is a remarkably smooth if a bit odd experience. The track at this high school was somewhat spongey and coarse, which meant I had excellent grip as we hammered our bikes through the corners, though there was probably increased rolling resistance which slowed us down.

When I ride with my brother, we often do odd things like this. We'll go hammer out a good climb, some fast flat riding, and then cool down on the way back, but he'll often want to stop and eat, visit his work (he's a waiter) or talk to some friend and show off. Riding on the track was just the latest in these after-ride diversions.

The Soul Cyclist isn't above such trivialities. Afterall, he's caught in between the world of newbie/Fred cyclist and almost-there-but-not-quite club rider. I still wear SPD MTB shoes for road riding for the simple reason that I like to walk around a bit during breaks from riding.

My poor brother, however, still has to wear his Reeboks because we can't find any size 16 road or MTB shoes that don't cost 1/4th the price of his bike!

By the way, he beat me around the track. I may dominate him up the hills, but our brief sub-3 minute 1 mile sprint around the track revealed I can't sprint to save my life.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Terrible cycling collision in my area

I wrote this for another blog I run:

Josh Premako has a story I wish I never had to read:
Members of a Valencia church are walking by faith after one of their own was the victim of a hit-and-run while bicycling and wound up in the hospital with major spinal injuries on the holiday weekend.

Kevin Mather, 26, of Saugus, was one of 11 men from Copperhill Community Church who were on a 55-mile bicycle ride Friday morning.

About a quarter-mile north of Le Chene French Cuisine on Sierra Highway, Mather had gotten ahead of the rest of the group.

When Ryan House of Newhall rounded a curve in the road, he saw Mather's yellow bike laying in the middle of the road and cars pulling off on the shoulder.

Mather was sprawled out on the side of the road, bleeding from the head.

The victim's church has already set up a blog where friends and family can read updates on Kevin's condition. Turns out none of Kevin's riding buddies saw Kevin get hit; he was a stronger cyclist than the others and had pedaled far ahead of them. Here's how one friend describes Kevin's condition as he lay bleeding in the street:
I jumped off the bike and saw Kevin lying on the side of the road perpendicular to Sierra Highway with his head in the ditch. There was the entire mirror of a SUV or truck next to him that had broken off the vehicle that hit him. Ryan and one of the motorist were on the phone with police and paramedics. He was lying there by himself and I put my hand on his hand and prayed again for him. He had massive head injuries and it looked like his helmet was the only thing holding the top of his head in place.

So what about the motorist who collided with the cyclist? He allegedly left the scene of the crime, only to return later. The 37 year old man is from Agua Dulce and was driving a Chevy Silverado truck. If the account above is accurate, it sounds like the truck's mirror hit Kevin and fell off.

Now get this: the motorist, Emilio Ramirez, hasn't been arrested. Isn't that outrageous? I thought leaving the scene of a collision (I say collision rather than accident because this was no accident) was a crime; you can't just return later after realizing a part of your truck remained behind at the scene.

What's more, if Kevin's friends' accounts are accurate, Ramirez passed several cyclists on his way up Sierra Highway before he struck Kevin. That should have alerted him to the fact that cyclists were riding on the popular route. He should have been more careful.

The CHP has the investigation so here's hoping they keep us up to date on the status. This man should be punished for what he's done; there is no excuse for leaving the scene of a collision. Cyclists have a right to ride on public roads and it's up to motorists to pass them with at least a few feet of clearance, according to the California Vehicle Code.

I wish Kevin the best and I hope he has a speedy and full recovery.

Monday, July 6, 2009

A car free mini-vacation

So I know the seven of you who read this blog are waiting with baited breath to see how my cycle trip to Ventura County went over the 4th of July weekend.

It went great! Not only were there no mechanicals (thank goodness), but my wife kept up a good pace and, most importantly, had a great time.

As I blogged about here, this wasn't a tough route. 53 miles total with only 1,400 feet of elevation gain/loss and gradients of 2% or less, it was pretty easy for me at least.

The heat on the return leg, however, was pretty tough. Highs were in the upper 80s which meant that the temp was at least 100 degrees on the black tarmac of the highway.

Other than that though, we were treated to some excellent views of the Santa Clara Valley, one of the nation's top citrus producing regions. Citrus smells permeated the air as we pedaled our way through. Here's a brief slideshow:

Now unlike say, the Epicurean Cyclist who boldly rides out into the middle of nowhere and survives on his wit & planning alone, my wife and I are not campers. We stayed at a hotel in Ventura and were able to pack pretty light. The cheap Avenir panniers I got on Amazon worked well and stayed put on my skinny Tubus Luna rack. All told I probably carried about 30 lbs of clothes, toiletries, and other stuff on the way there.

I was concerned about the rear wheel on the Jamis but I had zero problems. Not even one flat!

Anyway we were able to avoid the use of a car for the entire weekend, even as Ventura filled up with tourists and the streets became gridlocked. We'll be doing this again, for sure, once the weather cools a bit.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Motorist vs Cyclist, Round 1, Fight!

Ran across this piece in Urbanite Magazine, a periodical serving the fine people of Baltimore. The article asked cyclists and motorists to share their experiences riding/driving on Baltimore's streets. Here's a few I found entertaining and interesting.

The first is from a motorcyclist and is addressed to cyclists:

Many folks believe there is something about two-wheeled transport that amplifies the self-righteousness in human beings, something about gravitational harmonics intermingling with the brain’s snoot receptors. But I ride a two-wheeled conveyance and have been unaffected by this blight. Of course, my two wheels came with a motor, making them fit for travel on public roads. I think a more rational explanation is that Spandex doesn’t allow excess arrogance to radiate naturally through the body and instead squeezes it out the mouth.

By the way, I love Batman and the Power Rangers too, but I don’t feel the need to dress like a low-rent super-villain with a foam hat and tap shoes. Does all of that gear make a difference for you? This isn’t the Tour de France—it’s rush hour (or it is for the rest of us). I’ll support anything that makes you less slow, but that 3/100th of a mile-per-hour you’re gaining doesn’t seem to be worth the CFCs generated shipping your space suit from Indonesia.

Ahhh ignorance! This coming from motorcyclist dressed in pink (see the photo on the website) representing a culture that spans the gamut from fast import bikes to big ass choppers.

In my town, it seems every other week a 20 something male has killed himself by speeding on his Suzukihonda Kataninja race bike. I think we've lost three this year alone.

Nevertheless, I give this guy points for making me chuckle about my weekend, non-commuting bicycling attire. My wife calls my bib shorts & jersey a "Penguin Suit," but I'm going to use "Low Rent Super Villain" costume from now on.

Next up from a road cyclist who got slapped on the head by a motorist while riding:

Back to you, Jerk. I know you won’t see this because you don’t read anything classier than a liquor store price list. If I could talk to you, it would be to express this thought: Fear Darwin. You are an evolutionary anomaly, having nothing in common with the vast majority of drivers who pass me safely and civilly, sometimes with a five-fingered wave. One day, your type will be extinct.

And may that day come sooner, rather than later!

In my neck of the woods, I know this type well. The 20-something, flat-brimmed hat wearing white male with the massive stomper truck all decked out with skateboard/aqua sport/snowboard stickers is common in these parts. Fortunately I've not had any trouble with them; maybe California drivers are more pleasant?

Finally we get to that age-old cycling/urban planning question. Are on street bike lanes superior to grade separated bike paths? This cyclist doesn't think so:

I am not a supporter of “sharing the road,” however. Putting bikeways on the roads in the same lanes as cars, as Baltimore currently does, is clearly not a viable solution. There is not enough space for cars to pass by bikes safely. Add to that parked cars pulling out or opening doors, cars pulling in to park roadside, double-parked cars and loading trucks, and buses pulling in and out, and even the experienced biker has a lot to pay attention to.

To me this is one of the toughest issues when it comes to cycling advocacy and planning. Someone like me is comfortable riding in the street with cars all around and few, if any, painted bike lines. In fact, most of the time I prefer it because I ride with speed and want to get from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible.

But the vast majority of people who ride bikes in this country do so recreationally, and I'm not sure I want them on the street in a bike lane with me. Better to push them off onto a separate bike path. Now the standard argument against bike paths is that they don't force bicyclists to learn to deal with vehicle traffic, which is a fair concern, because almost all cyclists have to interact with vehicles at some time.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Another take on "If Apple made bikes"

Last week, the Practical Cyclist blogged about what a bicycle designed by Apple computer might look like:

  • Frame: Probably hydr0formed aluminum, welded, with smooth-dressed joints. The finish would be anodized ("nanochromatic" colors to match the iPod nano?) and clear-coated. All cables would be internally routed. The frame would be set up so that a minimum number of sizes (maybe just two: small and large) would accommodate all riders. This presumes a maximally adjustable seatpost and stem arrangement.
  • Drivetrain: Internally-geared rear hub, probably 8 speed, with an automatic shifter working off cadence and speed scnsors integrated in the frame. Belt drive. Gear range for city hills.
  • Brakes: Internal hub brakes front and rear. (Yes, the hubs will be big, but it'll be a clean look and low maintenance. Speaking of which...).
  • Maintenance: Carbon or aramid drive belt good for 10,000 miles. Sealed bearings everywhere. Aramid-belted tires (possibly tubeless) with interior goo to stop slow leaks. All cables Teflon-coated. An absolute minimum of hardware exposed to the elements. Here's where that famous Apple attention to detail will pay off.

As a guy who's been in the Windows-side of IT for a decade and who's played with DOS-based computers since the late 70s (thanks dad), I've got a thing or two to say about this.

Now, no one doubts that if Apple were to make a bike, it'd be quite the attention getter as Practical Cyclist says. It might even solve some problems many cyclists don't even think of as problems. It might even attract new people to cycling, which is a good thing all around.

But come on...for those of us who like to tinker, an Apple bike would certainly earn the title "EPIC FAIL." Here's my predictions about what an Apple bike would look like:

  • No 4mm bolts for water bottle cages, you'd have to have a special star screwdriver, purchased at the local Bike Genius bar in the Apple Store
  • They would invent a new tire size, thus making it all the more difficult for bike shops and bike geeks to stock replacement tires/tubes. Hello 27 and 3/8 inch tire, goodbye 700c, 26" or 29"!
  • Basic things that all bikes do would be missing from the first generation of the new Apple Bike (think Copy/Paste on your iPhone).
  • You couldn't ever upgrade your Apple bike. Brake pads worn out? Tough, buy a new bike or send the entire bike to Apple for replacement. Want to change out the bottom bracket, handlebars, or saddle for something new and lightweight? You just voided your warranty friend!
  • Any local bike shop that stocked the Apple Bike would be required to have its mechanics Apple Bike Certified (ABC) by attending training in Cupertino. Nevermind if you were a mechanic on Team Discovery in 2002, that's not good enough for the Apple Bike.
  • Little things would be out of place. Like the Quick Release lever would be on the drive side of the bike. The seat post would oddly use three bolts, not two, or four, or one.
  • New names: Apple would invent new names for things that already have names. Steering would become "Gesture Based Cycling," pedaling would become "Human Power Assist"
  • The Apple Bike would be announced with much fanfare and anticipation by Steve Jobs as the "One More Thing" but it wouldn't be released for at least six months. Upon release, it would immediately sell out, grace the cover of Time Magazine, and cause bike/computer geeks to once again roll their eyes as the full force of the Reality Distortion Field takes effect
  • A new sub-culture of Apple Bike Enthusiasts would loudly proclaim on the internet and elsewhere that the bicycle really didn't exist before Apple came into the market, that the Apple Bike is Bicycling Perfection. They'd probably even get a lycra-clad racer to star opposite the Mac Guy in new Apple Bike ads.

Now don't get me wrong, I love Apple and their fans and I think an Apple Bike would be a pretty interesting concept. But a bike from the "Think Different" company would certainly trend in the same direction their technology products have gone: towards proprietary technology, methods and processes. It's what makes Apple, Apple.

Even so, bring it on. I'd love to take the Apple bike Practical Cyclist describes for a long spin before returning to my tried and true steel Jamis.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Enjoyable Video

Just makes you want to quit your job, sell all your stuff, and move to Europe, or Asia, or anywhere there is smooth tarmac, big blue oceans, and rolling mountains:

Great production values in this video too. At first I thought it was a Rapha commercial but I think it's really just an ad for a cycle-tour company in Tenerife.

Hill Therapy

It's late June in Southern California and that means the heat is starting to come on.

Yesterday temps reached 102 here in town. Granted that's a dry heat, but it's still scorching.

Now is the time of year where it's really important to get out on the road early, preferably before 7am. Riding early also helps you avoid the turbulent high desert winds that plague this area in the afternoon.

Of course getting out on the road at 6:30 am on a weekend is easier said than done. As Dave Moulton discusses in a great blog post:

I love to ride my bike, but for some reason hate getting ready to ride my bike. It seems to take me on average about 45 minutes, half an hour if I rush; from the time I decide to go for a ride, to actually walking out the door with my bike.

If I procrastinate over getting out for a ride, it is never over actually riding, but because of this chore of getting ready. How long does it take to throw on a jersey and a pair of shorts, you may ask?

For me it takes about an hour to get ready, mostly because I, ummmm, try to cleanse myself out first, if you know what I mean. No one wants to have to go number 2 in the middle of a 60 mile ride, so I try to take care of that before I leave.

Anyway back on topic: I finally left at about 8:30 am yesterday morning and by then it must have been 85 degrees outside with little to no wind. I decided to ride about 20 miles and focus on climbing:

It's been said that cyclists hate two things: hills and headwinds, but in the year I've been cycling, I've come to really enjoy hills. Not while I'm riding up them, mind you. In the middle of a climb I hate the sport of cycling, I hate that I'm suffering while pedaling up the hill, and everything in me says to turn around and take the easy way back.

But I don't.

Because I love hills. It's therapeutic for me. Everything melts away: money problems, jerks at work, the latest fight with my wife, worry and concern about the future. All those problems and worries just sink into the background of my mind, and my sole reason for existing at that moment is to climb the hill. One more turn of the cranks, one more push all the way up the mountain.

It's odd because once I summit the mountain and go downhill or when I'm riding fast on the flats, my mind wanders back to those problems, those nagging issues that I can't seem to escape from.

But on the mountain it's a different story.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Planning my 4th of July Ride to the Beach

My wife and I want to do something adventurous and different for the 4th of July and it just so happens some friends of our's have invited us to celebrate at their house on the beach.

So we have decided to ride there. No big deal for me, and I'm pretty sure my wife can handle the distance (about 52 miles). Here's the route:

If you click the "Show Elevation" button, a new window will pop up with the elevation profile for this ride. It's a complete breeze- all downhill on the way there, and gradients (if you can call it that) of 2 or 3 percent on the way back. Piece of cake!

I've ridden about half this route before, and it offers some truly wonderful cycling. Once you leave the main highway, 126, you can get on some paved farm roads that butt right up against wonderfully-smelling orchards, long tracks of organic crops, and much more. Here's some photos from my last ride in the area:

This was on Guiberson Road, notice the orange trees to the right.

My only concern about this overnight trip is that it will mark the first time I've done cycle touring. Usually I'm just out and back, never packing more than spare tubes, multi-tool, driver's license, money, bank card, and cell phone.

But this time I need to carry a lot more- a change of clothes, swim wear, toiletries etc.

I asked the helpful folks at the Touring forum on for some advice. They seem to think I'll need a new wheel on my Jamis Quest if I want to pack that much weight on the rear wheel.

I'm going to check out a shop here in town to see what a single Mavic Open Pro wheel with casette would cost me. Otherwise I'm looking at the Nashbar cargo trailer here (towing a trailer wouldn't be as much fun but would take weight off the rear wheel) though that trailer hasn't received very good reviews.

If I decide to risk it, I'll probably just pick up these panniers and try to keep things as light as possible. I don't want my wife to have to carry too much on this ride.

Or I may just give up the road bike idea and bike there on my old Specialized Rockhopper MTB with slick tires. That would suck but it might be my only option.

Whatever the case I can't wait. Any of you ridden this entire route to the beach?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Cycling on Sidewalks

The City Council in the town I live in, Santa Clarita California, is set to take up and most likely approve a new cycling on sidewalks ordinance tonight.

The ordinance would allow cyclists to ride their bikes on sidewalks just about everywhere.

From the item on the Council's Agenda:
Staff has seen a growing number of inquiries from the community regarding bicycles on sidewalks for a variety of reasons:
Driving has become too expensive and more residents rely on other modes of transportation such as bicycling.
Current gaps in City trails force bicyclists to use sidewalks to make connections.
Some bicyclists feel unsafe riding on major streets that do not provide sufficient lane width for bicycles.
Parents are not comfortable allowing their children to ride bicycles on streets.
With the adoption of the City's Non-Motorized Transportation Plan in June 2008, the City dedicated itself to providing the infrastructure and policy support necessary to create a non-motorized transportation network. Developing a policy to allow bicycles on sidewalks complements the City's efforts to create a non-motorized transportation network. While it is the City's objective to encourage bicycling as a viable transportation option, any policy regarding bicycles on sidewalks must take into account potential public safety issues created when bicycles interact with pedestrians and automobiles.

There's a couple ways to look at this. Santa Clarita does have a very nice path and trail system, much of it Class 1 bike paths. But it is woefully incomplete and lacks connectivity.

So by allowing us to ride on sidewalks, they're helping us out, right? Or will this ordinance be an excuse to not develop bike lanes/paths in the future?

Earlier this year, the ordinance was shot down with the help of some local cyclists who noticed that the ordinance would have required cyclists to dismount their bikes and walk them through crosswalks. A friend of mine showed up at the Council Meeting, pulled out her SIDI race shoes, and said she could barely walk in them on carpet, let alone asphalt. She also mentioned that some cyclists are disabled and can't walk well (I think she was referring to some 'bent riders).The Council then delayed adoption of the ordinance and subsequently took out the walk through cross-walks section.

Overall I support this ordinance and will gladly take advantage of it (especially in places where the bike path dumps you out onto a sidewalk with no other options), but I hope it's not used as an excuse to retard development of more bike lanes.

Link to ordinance

Monday, June 22, 2009

Weekend Ride

The soul cyclist couldn't find anyone to ride with this weekend, so, once again, he rode alone.

My destination this time was an old favorite. It's a small desert community called Agua Dulce (Sweet Water) is northern Los Angeles County. You've probably never heard of it but you've seen AD's most striking feature in dozens of movie and television shows. That's right, AD is home to the Vasquez Rocks:

From Agua Dulce Ride

The Rocks, as they're known locally, have most famously appeared in several Star Trek episodes, including the latest JJ Abrams flick.

Anyway, riding to AD offers some moderate climbs, stunning scenery, well-maintained tarmacs, and lots of opportunities for speed. All told it's about a 40 mile round-trip making for a moderately tough way to spend a few hours.

I felt strong for most of the ride but I had to stop for breakfast once I made it to Agua Dulce. Just a bit hungry after fighting my way up those hills and chasing/passing a few cyclists.

If you live in the LA Region, it's definitely worth a trip. I recommend you head up Highway 14 and park at the Newhall Avenue park and ride. Or, if you fancy having a car-free trip, take the Antelope Valley Metrolink line to the Newhall or Santa Clarita stations.

Lance Armstrong wins Nevada City Classic

It's his first pro victory since un-retiring and comes just a few weeks before the start of the Tour de France.

The Nevada City Classic is a 1.1 mile course with only 120 feet of elevation gain according to Velo News:

The seven-time Tour de France champion went it alone with six laps to race, taking a lead of a dozen seconds as he churned out 2.5-minute laps on the 1.1-mile, seven-turn circuit with 120 feet of climbing per go-round.

Here's a good video of the race from YouTube. Zoom forward to about 3:20 to see Lance, Levi and Ben Jacques-Mayne duke it out

No video yet of him crossing the line, so this will have to do.

Here's what Chris Horner had to say about Lance's ride:

Alone up front, Lance was putting on a display of power that no one could respond to, and the crowd lining the course was going crazy, loving every minute of the show. Everyone knew that they were seeing a preview of what could be ahead at next month's Tour de France.

Lance rode across the finish line solo, which any rider will tell you is the best way to win. Levi finished third, and I think I was fifth, but with all the lapped riders it was getting hard to tell who was where.

I'm getting excited for the start of the TdF. So many questions and unknowns, should be a great show.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Bike Blog Roll

I've added my favorite cycling blogs to a column on the right side. You can find the gamut of cycling blogs here- from NYC fixie hipsters to BS NYC (who makes fun of said hipsters) to a Canadian mom who pedals around on her electra to a chic Bostonian woman who photographs handsome cyclists, it's all there.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Bianchi Regret

I want to run over my wife's Bianchi Eros with my Subaru. It was a bad purchase.

First off, let us all never forget that seat tube length is almost certainly of secondary importance to top tube length. My wife has adequate stand over on the Bianchi, the saddle is at a good height, and she can reach the pedals, but, since the bike was built for a man, the top tube is at least two inches too long.

I tried some adjustments- move the saddle closer, buy a $100 Italian-made 80mm 3TTT stem with the word Casati stenciled on it (because she's a style-hound, it has to be italian). Hell, I even rotated the bars up to the point where the Campognolo brifters are comically elevated in the air.

It works...and she's comfortable...for about 5 miles and then she just hates being on the bike. She's getting better about it, but obviously the bike was too big for her.

Speaking of Campognolo- I have to admit it's confusing as shit to shift with these brifters. The left brifter, controlling the front derailleur, has a real attitude problem. Sometimes the paddle will shift flawlessly- other times, it makes the motion but nothing will move on the derailleur. In fact, you don't even feel the brifter 'engage' the cable...nothing happens. I almost thought this was a safety feature. I can't reproduce the problem, I just know it happens now and then, and thus, my wife pedals on a downhill in the smallest chain ring.

Finally, I'd like to toss some monkey poo at all the component manufacturers. I never realized how hard it was for some people to grasp shifting. To us, it's second nature, but to someone like my wife, shifting involves interacting with a confusing mix of levers and buttons, the timing of which is very important.

How do you explain road-STI style shifting to someone? They just have to learn it. I can tell her to "Move the right paddle inward" to make pedaling "easier" but she just isn't grasping it.

Funny that none of the big three component manufacturers have grasped onto this- it takes some no-name Taiwan company to produce an STI road lever for use with an Alfine hub. That's something my wife could figure out and learn.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

False Advertising

Commercial for the new 3rd Generation Toyota Prius:

I like the ad and its creative use of people (parts of it were disturbing, especially the waterfall) but I'm sorry, a Toyota Prius is not "Harmony between man, nature, and machine."

There's only a handful of truly carbon-free ways for man to travel: sailing, pogo stick (heh), walking, surfing, and bicycling. Of those, only bicycling offers true "harmony" between man, nature, and machine and can go to the same places Prius can go.

Not that I'm digging on the Prius, but come on. Even if it is the cleanest, most effecient vehicle in the world, it's still a single passenger car that requires enormous infrastructure and space to support (think parking lots, highway interchanges etc).

Pirate bike lanes in LA

In this month's Bicycling magazine, there's a good article on a group of renegade cyclists in Los Angeles who have taken to painting their own bike lanes on some of the city's dangerous and long bridges.

The article says the cyclists are frustrated with the city's bike plan that promises much but has delivered very little.

I totally sympathize with these guys and I wouldn't characterize this as "renegade" behavior, but more like civil disobedience.

We cyclists pay taxes; parts of the road should be our's as well, especially when the government wants us to ditch our cars and try alternate methods of transportation.

Unfortunately the article isn't available online, so if you see the magazine in print, you should pick up a copy.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Celebrate the Lake Show and be more visible too

I recently attached a Los Angeles Lakers car flag to the Bontrager rack on the back of my Swobo commuter bike:

Not exactly “aero” but this bike weighs close to 40lbs and is already slow as a result.

Motorists seem to like the Lakers flag; I get the occasional honk, thumbs-up and even attempts to engage in conversation (at least during stop lights). I’m just happy they see me.

My new Seven, sidelined for now

I was so excited to post pictures of my new Seven Alaris on discussion forums around the web. Everyone likes to show off their new bicycle on BikeForums and other sites, and now it was my turn.

So I cleaned the Seven up, chose a scenic spot near my parents house, and got all jiggy with depth of field:Then I went over to Ars Technica and posted the pics, which turned out pretty well considering I didn't have my DSLR. Great light, hot Ti frame, cool looking bottle water holders and more.

It took about 2.5 minutes for someone to respond to my pictures and sarcastically ask, "ummm, does your bike shop charge extra for crankset bolts on your new $4,000 bike?"


Indeed, the new Seven is missing a crankset bolt. Perhaps this explains why it's already lost the chain twice.

I'm counting the hours until Bicycle John's opens tomorrow.