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 vroomen.white.design 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 Wordle.net, 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.