REVOLUTIONS- biking in NJ
Saturday, 15 April 2006
4/15/06 - Returned from MA and a bit of biking up in New England. As my geared Trek cyclecross bike's odd shaped aluminum tubes wouldn't fit safely on the car carrier I decided last minute to take my Tempo fix. I left the flat bar on which proved a mixed blessing.
The flat mtb bars provided comfortable upright position but on longer road rides I found myself itching for drop bars, primarily because the area -- near my folks' old hometown of Sharon, Massachusetts -- was so rural, and road bars would've offered more hand positions. Nevertheless the bike performed admirably, and the riding weather was great; clear skies and hot with a nice breeze.
Upon returning to NJ, however, I discovered a cruel joke from our legislature, a belated April Fools' prank of a law: The government wants to make it against rhe law to smoke in bars and diners now. The absurd allegation of second hand smoke related illness is used. By the same token it should be against the law to chew gum inside, I suppose, and people trying to disentangle their footwear from secodn hand gum stuck on the floor could trip and fall... the irony is double when you consider that NJ has done nothing to bolster bike use. Promoting outdoor activities like cycling could have a great more posative impact on health and well being -- mental and physical -- than simply attacking an unhealthy, though legal, behavior. The government, however, has been content to attack things it views as *not* healthy, while doing nothing to encourage things with *are*. To those who say niether falls within the rubric of just and limited government function I assent that you are entirely right, but if you are going to have the government do one of the other which is more beneficial -- and less infringing?
Ticketing the reckless drivers who terrorize the roadways and often discourage many from casual cycling in America -- especial New Jersey, one of the most populous and car-crowded states -- would in no way infringe on anyone's rights. The motor vehicle laws already exist, and mostly for sensible reasons. Simply enforcing them rather than tolerating dangerous driving would give a boost to cycling, walking, maybe even jogging. Feeling less likely to be mowed down, the citizenry would be more prone to go outdoors for fun. In addition to promoting healthy activities without doing anything outside it's legitimate limits, this apporach would have the added benefit of saving the lives of many motorists as well.
Instead, the government wants to tell you you cannot smoke in bars or diners. Supposedly not smoking will make everyone healthy. Maybe it is a start. But not if they continue climbing into Humvees to drive a block and a half to purchase a carton of milk, which is what our car culture -- and dangerous road conditions which discourage the "average" citizen from going by bike -- result in.
Fat, inconsiderate, reckless, dangerous drivers wasting thousands of barrels of oil idling in traffic, who are forced by their government to smoke less, are simply fat, inconsiderate, reckless, dangerous drivers wasting thousands of barrels of oil idling in traffic, who are forced by their government to smoke less. Maybe they are healthier than if they smoked that extra five cigarettes whilst int he bar, but overall there is no real change in attitude or method to how they go about their lives.
Then there is the ultimate irony: You take somebody who rides a bike everywhere -- maybe for fun, maybe for transportation, maybe both -- who also smokes occaisionally.
That cyclist rides 25 miles in blizzard conditions and upon his way home stops for a cup of coffee. With his coffee he wants a cigarette. After having braved negative wind chill and deep snow by bicycle, he is forced to take his coffee outside, because to have a smoke with it inside would be unhealthy. Meanwhile, the very people making these laws are probably unmitigated couch potatoes themselves, who drive around in Ford Explorers and spend the winter month's watching their old speeches on C-Span.
When at least one of them gets outside and bicycles to work through the month of January, then perhaps they have earned the right to tell a guy who does, that he can't smoke with his coffee because it isn't healthy.
But don't hold your breath. New Jersey's political climate does not reward consistency.
Saturday, 8 April 2006
Topic: fixed gearing
Riding the Tempo fix lately to spare the Pista from the rain, with the 45x17 gearing but with flat mtb bars (cut off 2" at each end). Also using regular (non spd) pedals. The setup is perfect for around town and trackstanding at stoplights.
The setup has drawbacks; the flat bar is less efficient on climbs, but the bike handles admirably on town and downtown streets and for rides of 20 miles or less -- basically local stuff -- it excels. the riding position of the mountainbike handlebar is an advantage in heavy traffic.
Basically a perfect commuter, the bike has allowed me to witness some fascinating days lately. Still need to manage a clip on rear fender but aside from that it's working well.
Friday, 24 March 2006
Idiots to the left of me, morons to the right...
3/24/06 - As near death experiences go it was essentially a practical demonstration of what one philosopher once called "the resolute confrontation of death".
Coming down Main St. in Chatham on my Pista a car making a left at the light hesitated, as if wanting me to go through. As I was going straight and had the right of way anyhow, I did so. The car waited until I was directly in front of him then floored the car.
I narrowly missed getting run down, then narrowly missed crashing into a car on the sidestreet who was waiting at the light while trying to dodge the ignoramus. Whether the driver saw me I have no idea, he may have been talking on a cellular phone. The vehicle did have out of state plates.
That was bad enough, but then returning from my ride it happened again....
I was going over a bridge that spans NJ Transit. The bridge bottoms out at a mutliple intersection, and cars bearing straight have a yield sign to traffic coming across the intersection from the bridge. And old granny with white hair pulls right out in front of me.
Quickly going in front and around her, I pointedly asked her if she'd prefer to be steering a wheel chair as I could easily arrange it. The woman was already gesturing angrily at me even before I said anything -- a sign that she had seen me coming, expected me to stop despite having the right of way, and was angry that I got in the way of her violating the traffic laws.
Both cases are bad -- to parphrase an old line, it's a case of idiots to the left of me and morons to the right -- but in retrospect the old granny is worse. Why? She knew she was supposed to wait, saw me coming, and went anyway.
This is the sort of actions expected from yuppies in BMW's and "fast and curious" types in souped up Honda 2-doors, not little old white-haired ladies in hornrims. The unlikely suspect -- an old granny -- turned my mind again to the subject of idiot drivers, a thing it does freqently, but only out of necessity.
At times I wish there was a way to publicly post all the license numbers of the cars whose careless, reckless, illegal driving habits have nearly set me up for a closed casket special. Perhaps I should begin a web page for this purpose -- kind of like a motorist "meagans law" so other cyclists and drivers can know who to avoid -- and police can know who to look out for.
In the meantime, it's a sad commentary on the state of our disintegrating social order that an old granny -- who was no doubt raised before American roads became combat zones -- has been affected by that same "road rage" mentality.
If a harmless old granny is that bad, the drag racing kids in souped up sportscars are probably ten times worse. And one can only wonder what their
kids will drive like.
I shudder to think of the roads we will leave behind for future generations of American cyclists.
Thursday, 23 March 2006
New Jersey Streets via trackbike
I take the pista out through the intersection and down the road over the Passaic, dodging a truck stuck in traffic and then avoiding a Mercedes coming the other way who must not have realized his turn arrow had turned red. It is a sunny day in NJ and I had just saved myself a long walk home. Swapping out the seatpost on the bike for one with less setback, I found – mid-ride – that the bolt of the new old one had been stripped. Fortunately, a NAPA Auto Parts store – the irony was lost on me until now – was open at 8:05 in the morning and I replaced the bolt and nut. It wasn’t perfect – the top of the seat clamp was much wider than the nut so I had to wedge a pebble between the two to hold the nut while I tightened the bolt with an allen key – but it worked all the way into Summit where I was able to park the bike, grab a cup of coffee, and relax for a few minutes before heading to the post office to drop some mail. I have been hauling mail from my office for a few days now and don’t mind but I wanted to get it over with today. I hopped on the Pista, clipped into the ultegra pedals, and rolled away. When I got home I replaced the bolt with a real one and stowed the NAPA one in the parts box. Then I ate lunch, went out, and got back on the bike…
Tuesday, 21 March 2006
Topic: RIDE REPORT
3/21/06 - Picked up a Bianchi Pista at the NJ Bike Show on Sunday 3/19/06. Rides great but needed some tweaking... Now it's set up with black vinyl griptape, a road seat and a front brake w/ a cross lever. I put on a pair of old school ultegra pedals and swapped the stock 48t chainring for a 42 to give it 42x16 gearing... after 2 days with the fast but hard-to-get-going-from-the-stoplight 48x16 it's an improvement. Oddly enuff the bolt spacing appears to be 130 not the usual bigger track width, and the bike -- tho it came with a singlespeed chain, did not come with track width drivetrain.
Flatted out the rear tire so I just swapped wheels - thru on my suzue hub/mavic open pro combo with 36 spokes and a 25c duraskin. Mad improvement. Fin tuned the seat position to spare the fam jewels and adjusted the handlebar tilt, then tightened up the headset. It's now awesome and rides ten times better - tho it rode great already. Frame is very quick in traffic.
Been riding it nonstop since to work etc. and am itching to take it on it's first longer ride now that it's got a more manageable 42x16... I did ride it to grab a cup of coffee a few towns over and got the usual stares from non bike people who must've been surprised to see a chrome bike with no gears.
Monday, 13 March 2006
Strange days for indie cylcists
3/13/05 - Noticed a post on the fixed gear gallery bicycle forum (www.fixedgeargallery.com)
about the recent spike in warm weather and felt compelled to make a comment about global warming "scarologists". The result was worth to behold. Several people posted responses, ranging from "the President and Michael Chricton have their heads up their @sses" to touting the melting snows and glaciers as evidence. The most telling was the one statement that we should "forget about" the "hockey stick graph" and look at other studies. The graph in question was produced to show an apparently recent jump in global temperature (hence the name -- it resembled a hockey stick on it's side). The downside was that this graph was based on either dishonest of flawed research; no one attempting to replicate it could get the same results twice. The refutations, however, are dismissed as unmportant or "discredited" because one person involved supposedly worked for the energy industry. But if that's a conflict of interest, what do they have to say about all the scareologists who either work for or receive government funding -- funding they can only attract if they make the problem seem like a immediate and worldwide threat to life as we know it -- and a government that will benefit substantially, in terms of power gained, from any new regulations?
Moreover, beyond prefacing any recognition of the refutations with the word "discredited" (it wasn't but that's what they say) the global warmers also say to just ignore the graph for good or ill and look at "other evidence". But saying to forget about the graph and look at other evidence -- when the graph was *the* most compelling evidence, and all the other evidence is proported to illustrate the exact same thing as the graph -- is like saying, "okay, I'm wrong, but I'm wrong". What's the point? The point is if you are brazen enough about these things people will assume you are correct, sort of an updated "big lie". It may be that the people making these assertions are unaware of the fact that both examples they gave are identical, and so saying to ignore one and focus on the other is like saying ignore both; or, they may be counting on their audience not noticing this.
The reactions also contained examples of begging the question (i.e., circular argument) and other philosophical errors, such as appeal to authority, which was evident in "let's see, 10,000 scientists vs. two media whores" -- meaning the President of the US and author Michael Chricton.
Even *if* all 10,000 of those scientists are experts in climate (they aren't, but let's *suppose* -- it seems the thing to do these days) -- ten thousand people are just ten thousand people. Human beings. Capable of making errors. Like the infamous graph they'd love to forget, which was touted before government meetings and summits by officials from all over the globe, before someone found it was bogus.
The result? Rather than address the errors ? and the ideological motivations that led to them ? they?d rather just forget them and ?move on? to other examples of the same muddy thinking. The terrible irony is that anyone who disagrees with this hard-line orthodoxy of ?global warming? which is so prevalent in the cycling world, so otherwise focused on independent thinking, is attacked as a shill for the Republican party. There?s irony for you ? parrots accusing a dissenter of parroting.
It may be that a NASA study shows one thing, and a study of tree frogs another. But the big picture is that ?global warming? is no more proven fact ? or even a theory ? than global cooling was 30 plus years ago. At best, it is a theoretical assertion. And the burden of proof in any debate is on the one making an assertion ? especially of this magnitude.
Sadly, there is no debate, because no one wants there to be. The bike world is one protected, in large part, from the idiocy to which much of the modern world is susceptible; bicyclists can see the pointlessness of their SUV driving neighbor?s behavior, or of a society that tells them they are sub human unless they own a pair of 200$ jeans and an Ipod. Sadly, on this issue, though, the green trend of the bicycle world ? seen as a sort of ?counterculture? reaction to the sometimes spendthrift consumerism of the rest of the modern world ? is not a rebellion but an ideological iron curtain.
The result is that a theoretical assertion is presented as fact, and any critic is faced with a dizzying array of logical fallacies ? starting with being asked to prove that ?global warming? is *not* real.
In short, in the one area that matters ? ideas ? the bicycling world is stifled by an ideological orthodoxy. Like all orthodoxies, when unchallenged this leads to intellectual stagnation. The sad fact is that were it not for this the world could learn so much from cyclists. But all this sort of lock-step thinking does is make us look like, at best, like ignorant tree-huggers and knee-jerk reactionaries -- and at worst, intellectually dishonest scaremongers.
Part of it is the cultural influence ? despite their status as rebels due to their chosen form of locomotion many cyclists are young and therefore have emerged from schools rife with environmentalist propaganda and politicized science.
One has only to think back to all the predictions some of these "scareologists" (the writer of "the population bomb" comes to mind) have made that were proven utterly wrong. It is a track record typified by the hockey stick graph. Maybe that is why some so eagerly want to forget "the graph" and look at other examples of essentially the same thing: It is the perfect symbol for the global warming industry, and hardly a flattering one.
I'd say for all his media whoreness, Chricton is at least more honest. His books are at least marketed as known fiction. But at least cyclist proponents of the global warming scare are not hypocrites; they ride rather than drive frequently. The same cannot be said of most scarologists. But being consistant about being wrong is not proof that one is right.
In the meantime, it has become so "green" in the bike world these days that, to paraphrase the old Kermit song, it's hard not to be. Hard times cometh for those of independent thought on two wheels.
The Hip -- and the Hipsters...
Topic: RIDE REPORT
3/13/06 - Today's Monday. Last night I removed the braze ons for the shifter bosses from the downtube of the Tempo. Well, the right side one. Came out a-okay. Will do the other side soon. Saturday, the 11th, I went for a long ride using my new drivetrain... over to Summit, down the long way, and then back around and along Mountain Ave... the harder gear ratio made some of the hills difficult but I kept going!
When I stopped for a cup of java in Summit, I ran into a few locals. One dood asked me, how does a bike without gears work. I explained and he said "ah, it's a fixed gear? I've seen them like that down south," and then he added "it seems to be a trend with the college kids, they can't have gears."
This made me wonder, come to think of it, is it a "trend" to ride? Possibly; most bike companies are now offering a singlespeed or fixed gear bike -- some are even offering track bikes -- and not all those bikes arew intended for the 'drome. Some will hit the streets. Companies like Surly continue to make gear, cogs, and wheels for fixed gear riders. Is this a "trend"?
People think that because something is a trend, it's bad. This isn't always true. Crack cocaine was a bad trend. Fixed gear bicycles might be a good one! Moreover, just because late comers take to riding fixed because it is perceived as cool -- the so-called "hipsters" -- that doesn't remove from the originators of the hip-ness, the original riders, their own motive, which has nothing to do with looking cool and is all about fun riding.
Moreover, trends have a way of lingering. Some are addictive -- both crack and fixed gear riding come to mind. Obviously a crack addiciton is a bad thing -- it interferes with a person's quality of life, clouds their mind, and may kill them.
A cycling addiction, however, is fun, provides some measure of exercise and gets people out of their cars and officer cubicles into the air outdoors where they can relate better to each other and the world around them. It's a good trend, and anyone who stays in the "trend" will not remain a "hipster" very long. Once they see how much fun riding is they will keep it up even if it's hip-ness fades and it is no longer the "cool" thing to do.
Wednesday, 8 March 2006
Topic: tales from the garage
3/08/06 - swapped out the road width drivetrain on the Tempo to 1/8" track stuff. Surly 17t cog, FSA front chainring 45t, old track chain. So far, so good!
Saturday, 4 March 2006
Of stickers and big brother...
Word has it a bike parked with a sticker that said "this bike is a pipe bomb" caused a flurry of police activity recently:
"(from the AP article) Associated PressATHENS, Ohio - A graduate student was charged with inducing panic in a bomb scare at Ohio University over a sticker on a bicycle that read "this bike is a pipe bomb," which authorities figured out was the name of a punk rock band.
Four buildings on campus were shut down Thursday, streets were blocked off and a bomb squad was summoned from Columbus after a member of the university police force noticed the Patrick K. Hanlin's bike chained outside an on-campus restaurant about 5:30 a.m. The bomb experts destroyed the bike to find no bomb inside.
University police charged Hanlin, 28, on Thursday after he came forward as the biker's owner, OU spokesman Jack Jeffery said. The charge carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail.
Dean of Students Terry Hogan said authorities responded to the sticker appropriately."
Some folks -- even on the online bike forums, where the benefit of the doubt is normally given to cyclists -- have described the bicycle owner as an "a--hole".
But "a--hole" isn't really a fair description.
But is this REALLY any more "a--hole-ish" than a band named Anthrax -- in hindsight considering the anthrax attacks and scares? True, that band's name obviously predates the incidents but nevertheless isn't maintainign the name just as crass as calling a punk rock band "Bike is a pipe bomb"? I think if we "sensitize" our culture so much and tiptoe around each other we might as well declare a police state right now, or surrender to terrorism, one or the other. This isn't like making a bomb threat orally or leaving a threatening note; it was a sticker, clearly in the same class as those bumper stickers Americans put on their cars every election cycle -- in other words, it wasn't WRITTEN by the cyclist FOR THAT OCCAISION -- as bomb threats are. This was a case of authorities reacting to a bumper sticker, end of story.
How the authorities going ballistic over a bumper sticker, then destroying someone's property, and THEN charging the property owner with a criminal offense (!) can be described by anyone as an "appropriate" reaction is beyond reason. This jem of wisdom from the dean of students is, to paraphrase Bertrand Russell, a view so absurd that only the truly educated could subscribe to it.
The name of the band may be crude, and the wisdom of the dude parking his bike with such a sticker in these tense times could be questionable, but since that IS apparently the name of a band this is hardly the same as yelling fire in a crowded room. The error is as understandable as the error of a cop profiling the wrong person getting on a plane, if you catch my drift. Understandable, but if you have to blame anybody for the result blame the gung ho cop. I don't look like the stereotypical terrorist but some homeland security prick opened my suitcase last time I flew, found the Turkey we were taking to Grandma's for Thanksgiving day, and, unsure of what to do, announced "dead animal!" In seconds we were surrounded. Surely there was a bit of panic but whose fault is it, is turkey-packing a crime?
More direct comparison: Years ago my car had a tiny sticker in the window I printed up to deter thieves. It said, in a rather James Bond-ish fashion: "Vehicle Alarm triggers self-destruct mechanism". No one broke into my car -- probably cause it was a POS -- but I didn't get surrounded by coppers either.
The irony here is that while authorites closed off the street, destroyed someone's property, and charged a man who is perhaps guilty of no more than bad taste and poor judgement with "inducing panic", there are very real crimes going on out there. As any channel-surfing newswatcher could pointedly advise, the riots over those Danish cartoons have already claimed too many lives -- and may soon find their way to the US. Similar "outrage" from the self-righteous following Rushdie's infamous book int eh 1980's led to the bombing of two American bookkstores. But while these religious fanatics are inciting very real violence and panic, the focus is not on the dead victims and flipped over buses -- nor the potential threat for the violence to hit American streets. Rather, the auhtorites are concentrating -- like a rather megolomaniac Inspector Clousseou -- on a college grad student's punk rock sticker. With protectors like these, who needs enemies?
Friday, 3 March 2006
And art mirrors life...
...or so the old saying goes. So after a hiatus of more than a decade I tried my hand at painting. Last time I did this I was a kid but it turns out drawing wasn't visual enough to show the things I wanted to capture... tiny snapshots of soul, including, of course, the bicycle.
This evening did a small one of an old barn I used to frequent, the owner of which used to have a bike shop of sorts. Guy had all sorts of old junk... centrepull brakes, inch pitch chainrings, old cruisers and roadframes..... mind you, none worth much, I bought some stuff off him but the most important thing to me now, over four years later is looking back at a fun rainy afternoons pent mulling over the treasures of old bikes in a musty barn. It's gone now, they tell me -- some guy in a truck took the whole lot, but I still got that memory and this kid in a candy store feeling it came me to see all those old bikes stacked there, find somethin' I thought I might like, and ask the old bird "what da'ya think it's worth?"
The pic below is a pit of the one a did tonite (distorted by the process of copying a few times and shrinking to fit these margins), might post the whole thing on another page of the main site if I feel like it...
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