REVOLUTIONS- biking in NJ
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.
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.
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?
Wednesday, 22 February 2006
As I ride my Schwinn Tempo fix around town I notice a good many cars nearly running me over. They have gotten used to seeing me at the stoplight, in the left-hand turn lane, or heading down the street and keeping pace with them through traffic. However some still can't figure it. Why do I ride in the cold?
The first part and result of our automobile culture results in a focus on oil. You hear the antiwar frewaks say it all the time -- "we went to war for oil!" Actually all wars are destructive, if they only realized how much oil was expended in this war -- and it isn't over yet -- they'd shut up, because, as the old sayin' goes, better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than speak only to prove it.
Recall that picture in the newspaper of a soldier in Iraq heatign a cup of coffee over the exhaust of a Tank? Probably the most expensive cup of coffee ever made considering it costs hundreds if not thousands to gas those suckers up. Where do the shells they fire come from? They have to be shipped -- more oil expended. And manufactured, which -- due to America's stunted nuclear power industry -- usually means more oil wasted... And these guys think that war is about profit? The only ones who ever profit from war is the undertakers. And so they keep on saying it, and I laugh because I ride my bike so I don't really use a lot of oil. But the guys (and gals) saying these sort of foolish things do. The term "limosine liberals" is pase'. Now the thing to do is put that John Kerry bumper sticker on your Humvee (after the electiuon, of course) and then complain mightily every chance you get about how Bush is going to war for oil. Oil that you are wasting in your bumper sticker covered Humvee, an I correct, mon ami?
The second part of our auto-centric culture is a rejection of the bike. Regular people, we are told, shoudl drive or walk. The bicycle, on public streets, is ridden only by, A- Someone training for a triathelon, and therefore Superhuman, or B- A bum whose license was revoked and therefore has lost his privledge to drive, and hence, is Subhuman. Most cyclists are niether -- I am certainly not -- but the facts don't stop the bias. The joke is that the guy on the bike, who doesn't waste oil, is thus frowned at by the humvee drivers. Though I'm no liberal -- although perhaps I could be considered at times a student of "classical liberalism" -- I inadvertently, when on my bike, embody most of the supposed virtues of the left, without intending to; environmental awareness/lack of pollution/not using gas or resources/ rebelling against "the system". Yet I don't ride for any of these reasons. I just do it for fun.
The liberals (and conservatives, to be fair) in their tank size vehicles that nearly run me over are obviously guilty of small minds in addition to short attention spans (the only explaination for them nearly killing me on a roads several times). How else could they make the arguments they do and then get into their cars on a daily basis just to travel two blocks -- while angrily fuming over the "dood on the bike" who is in "their" space?
The only war over oil is taking place on our streets. It seems the more of it some people use, the less they use their manners.
Wednesday, 11 January 2006
1-11-05: A recent picture on the cover of the New York Sun highlighted the "ghost ride" to memorialize cyclists killed while riding. Another article in the Village Voice highlighted the issue. While the Voice is normally an atrocious liberal rag, I find it's coverage of the cycling issues to be much better than most of the mainstream media, on par with that of the Sun, which fairly told both sides of the "cops seizing parked bikes" issue during a recent crackdown.
However, this being another eleventh -- Januaery 11, to be exact -- I think of other memorials, like those for the victims of Sept. 11 terror. What was the purpose of those memorials? To honor those who died, true, but beyond that memorials -- even those for the dead of centuries past -- are a cal to action. The ancient Greek sagas of heroism in war call across the ages, making the reader's soul stir to bravery. More recent death's such as the Sept. 11 victims make hte purpose of memeorials clear -- they provide an emotional grounidng for the action needed to ensure that the deaths never occur again in a similar fashion. They provide a reason -- and justification -- saying, in effect, "this is why we do what we do now". And they spur us to do it.
Any memorial that does not stir the spectator into a participant in some way is a failure. Any memorial that just says, "here person X died", is a bland excuse in a noble tradition's clothing.
Memeorials, then, are only useful -- in emotional, philosophical, and practical terms, if they spur action. Therefore the ride -- a small ride of only a hundred and fifty or so -- is noteworthy for getting it's picture in the NY Sun and other papers. But if it results not in any action, by those who see the pictures, or witness the ride, and it's memorials, it was as if it had never been.
So what needs to be done?
While I don't often agree with the Voice -- as stated -- it's coverage of cycling issues is exemplary. Same goes for the Sun's article on seizure of bikes which I have commented on earlier. The news media as a whole could take a cue and get a clue, about the life and death issues involved.
I have been hit by cars several times, and have been injured from a large pothole that was surely exaserbated by the large volume of truck / SUV traffic here in NJ so I sympathize with the NYC riders. I have one leg a half inch shorter than the other, and a shoulder that will never be quite as good as new.
Drivers need to be held accountable for what they do. The media can help -- oftne a media call to action preceeds a political response. This is usually a bad thing -- rushing headlong into political choices soles to placate the papers -- but it can be used for good. If the people lead, as the saying goes....
Our society takes people who could never ever pass the bakcground check for a gun and sets them loose on the streets in 4-wheeled bullets ready to hurt others.
Drivers also need to be better educated and trained. As drivers, they are trained from the moment they get their license to look for other cars; often they look right past bikes or pedestrians and do not see them.
Drivers also find bike speed harder to estimate than that of cars. Drivers therefore need to be taught that bikes are there, and that they are not stationary fixtures of the landscape; bikesa can get up to like 60 mph, but realistically, a geared road biker will usually get up to 30 mph on an open road and a fixed gear such as I ride in the winter can easily get up to 20 mph sprinting in traffic. Cruising speed varies; some average 17mph on road bikes. If drivers were aware of this they might realize the follow of trying to get in front of that "slow moving" bicycle, especially on a crowded street where the car's average speed might work out to about the same!
"Just the other day" -- and this could be any day, 'round here -- I was almost hit by a car. I been hit several times. One of my coworkers got hit by a car that stopped short on a 40mph street right in front of him with no turn signal. Okay, technically he hit the car, but whose fault was it? No turn signal, dead in the water in the middle of a street? These drivers need to be careful. The cyclists are already careful, but we aren't mind readers!
If drivers ed (do they still teach that?) was updated with a section on bikes and new drivers started out right, while old ones are reminded -- and punished when they kill or maim someone -- it would be a start. If that doesn't work we can always start breaking the fingers of drivers who don't use turn signals...
Wednesday, 12 October 2005
The Cops Stole My Bike (and other tales from the street)
Imagine you lock your bike, go into a store, and come out. As you emerge you find someone using a powersaw to cut the lock off your two-wheeled ride. Chances are it's a bicycle thief, right?
Not in New York. According to a page 4 article in the New York Sun, NYC police had nothing better to do this past week then drive around Brooklyn stealing bikes.
Said the paper: "Police confiscated more than two dozen locked-up bicycles ...after local businesses complained that large lcusters of bikes around the Bedford Avenue subway station were impeding sidewalk traffic".
According to the Sun, police used everything including circular saws (!) to destroy bike locks and remove the parked bikes. And though some bikes were locked to MTA property near the station entrence -- which is appparently illegal -- the vast majority of the bikes taken "did not appear to be impeding traffic".
The absurdity of this act is surpassed only by the stupidity and outrageousness of it. Even if the structural integrity of the bike is not rendered useless -- a dented cut or cracked frame -- or the bike otherwise destroyed, the damage -- and potential damage -- is astounding. The police who cut the bike locks with power saws and threw the bikes into a van are unlikely to care about any damage they do to the bikes. And the bicycles' owners are unlikely to be reimbursed for any damage.
This sort of thing would make sense if the bikes had been left abandaned for weeks. Maybe even days. But we are talking about bicycles that are simply locked up. Imagine coming out of the store and finding that your car's windows had been smashed and it hauled away because someone thought parking it there might obstruct traffic? At least when they tow automobiles they don't damage them deliberately -- and they don't tow them unless they are illegally parked. Many of the seized bicycles were locked to posts -- a practice the NYC government claims is illegal, but which is actually advocated by the Police Department, in a brochure urging citizens to "lock your bike" to reduce theft.
This comes on the heals of a court ruling in which Manhattan Judge William Pauley III ruled just a month past, that seizing bikes at the monthly "critical mass" rides through NYC were illegal seizures.
Thankfully, not everyone is cheering this nonsense. Someone ont he city council introduced a bil this past summer which would require the city to give 36 hours notice before confiscating "unattended bicycles", according to the New york Sun.
Even here, though, the wording is a blatant attempt to make the cyclist look culpable. Parked bikes are not abandoned bikes -- locking a bicycle is not leaving it "unattended". The word conjurs up images of careless cyclists ditching their bikes. Clearly the outrageous seizures wouldn't be a big deal if the bikes were abandoned. So why use such wording?
Well, is a locked bike "unattended"? If so, does that mean that when you park your $50,000 car and lock the doors, it is sitting "unattended", fair game for anyone who wants to damage it or haul it off?
Meanwhile, here's one cyclist hoping this nonsense does not spread to New Jersey.
Wednesday, 5 October 2005
Bad Roads and Bad Cops
10-05-05: Riding home last night was another near death experience. The idiot PSE&G people have been tearing up the street with a criss-cross maze of patchwork, laying pipes and doing a crappy -- downright dangerous -- job of patching the road. But they usually didn't leave two foot trenches in the middle of the street.
Well, turns out they did.
Coming down the dark hill -- the streetlight doesn't work -- the rear tire of my Fuji Fix made a sound like a bomb going off somewhere under the rear axle. Pissed off and worried about damage, I kept control of the bike and slowed, preparing to stop when I got to the bottom and check for damage -- a broken rim, spoke, or flattened tire.
Just as I got done cursing the idiot that left a two-foot wide and nearly six inch deep trench across the road, unmarked with cones or anything, where there were no lights, the bike launched itself over the second tranch. It was all I could do to keep control of the bike.
For now, there's no damage. But the Mavic Open Pro rims, though sturdy, were not intended for dukes-of-hazzard style riding more suited to a BMX bike!
It is only a matter of time under these circumstances till something goes.
Here's the big joke: Someone suggested I report the unmarked bomb craters to the police who could issue tickets for not marking them with cones, etc. The joke is, there were two policemen there during the day when the construction was ongoing. Woulda' been nice if they did their job...
Thursday, 29 September 2005
Dancing with traffic
9-29-05: As September screeches to a halt, the leaves start falling, and the tail end of a storm [shades of the Gulf?] makes it's way across NJ, I finished fine tuning my FujiFix and took it for a spin.
The ITM bars, properly tilted, allow both nice positioning on the slope by the hood of the brake, and good use of the drops. The vinyl griptape I reused is nice and also relatively indestructible in terms of deterioration from sweat and rain. The brake cable is run from a Rt. side lever mounted on the left, so I took it off the front of the bat and ran it around the backside, then fine tuned the new cantis [NOS, outa the parts bin] I put on the bike the other day, in addition to lubing the cable/housing and the aero lever pivot to stop an annoying squeek. The result? The perfect bike for riding on all day rides, short cruises across town, going to/from work, or just riding along.
Most fixed gears are either trackbikes [or track bike clones, a la the Messenger culture] or road fitness machines. This bike is a bit of both; the one brake, fast but not over the top gearing, and the plain frame stripped of all decals but the headbadge, may seem to echo somethign of the utilitarian urban fix culture. However, the sloping top tube, dual h20 bottle cages, and cantis scream "tourer".
The bike is to me a two wheeled swiss army knife, a multipurpose vehicle. I daresay if I used the other side of the fixed wheel, installing, say, a 19 or 18t cog, all I'd need to do is flip the wheel to have an offroad worthy fix, with the addition of 32 or 35c cross tires, of course.
So how is the ride? Good. Better. Great! Each bit of tweaking paid off in improve hand position, less bakc and neck strain, more power up the hills from better seat positioning, and just plain all around handling. In the drops it shoots past parked trailers and landscrapers' trucks, busses, et al, yet cruises along effortlessly on the slope of the bars. It's stable at mad fast RPM but comfy at a slow riding-along pace.
Heading up the hill to Summit, i used resistance brakign estensively, only using the handbrake a few times; shooting around the inevitable parked UPS van, jaywalkers, stroller jockeys and the broad in the not-so-mini van who "floated" the stopsign. I stopped for the red lights, but most of the time didn't put a foot down; the light turns, and I'm off, on a mornign time trial through the streets of Summit, keeping a block a head of the motorized traffic behind me, slowing with my feet -- and the occaisional tap of the handbrakes.
I stopped for a cup of coffee, my legs a little heavy from powering up the hill I hadn't ridden on anything but my geared bike in a while, as my fix had been used mostly of commuting in town except for the occaisional longer ride. Saw a few people look skeptically at my "roadkill cycling" t-shirt and my wierd @ss bike. As I finished my coffee it started to rain. People took out umbrella sand ducked under cover. I laughed and mounted up my bike, ready to go dance with traffic again. The wind was blowing the other way; I could probably outrun the storm.
Monday, 5 September 2005
Why we ride
9-5-05: Last week clocked out at 115 miles on my rebuilt Trek 1000. Mavic rims and downtube shifters make an interesting combination; a relatively modern frame with modern radial spoke wheels and old-school shifters. But the shifters give it just the right touch of "old school"; that they are set on friction rather than indexing to accomadate the newer rear wheel, which postdates the shifters by at least a decade, is even more "retro". But it isn't retro for the sake of retro, it is "retro" -- in pursuit of a better ride.
How is that? Maybe I'm just a "retro-grouch". Maybe I just like the old ways... the same sort of "functional nostalgia" that drove me to purchase my lovely silver Lemond road bike, with it's old-style steel frame... But there is a method to me madness, the steel rides good. Just as old shifters do, even if they are on an aluminum bike...
Why use old shifters? First, they were in the parts bin, and fit on the frame. Second, they worked -- when set to friction rather than indexing -- with the newer derailieurs and rear cassette. But beyond that, friction shifting makes for a special ride...
Friction shifters offer finite control, they teach you how to shift. Those who've ridden a friction-shift bike can tell you they have no more difficulty getting the bike "in gear", and no more instances of misaligned or misplaced chains, then a rider on a indexed shifting bike, either downtube or STI. This is because after a while you can actually feel if the bike is in gear, and know just how to move the lever to acheive the right alignment. Tis isn't some mystic skill learned from long forgotten Jedi... it is basic coordination, and it becomes intuitive after a short while. But many riders, who've never used friction shifting, are unaware of it.
Why do we ride? Is it the gear, the tech, the equipment? Do we ride so when we stop, we can look at our bikes, and say "mine costs more than yours?"
Riding isn't about the gear, the equipment, or the wallet. It's about the ride
, and what started out as a bike rebuilt with old parts out of necessity -- because that's what I had in the parts bin -- turned into a whole new experience, a reminder that any decent bike can be that special ride, even if it has a mongrel parts group or junk-find shifters.
Oddly enough the bike not only looks racier -- albeit older -- it rides better than it ever did with the original STI shifters. It no longer has that new bike look, though it has a better than new ride -- it has the look of a b ike that has been around gthe block, no pun intended. Maybe the improved ride is the new rims, or the fact that since the last time the Trek was built up with gears I've learned some finer points of bike adjustment, resulting in better ride position? Not sure... but it rides better, quicker, and is a lot more fun. Part of it is the old-school connection. I think a lot has to do with me building it up the way I want it, something I couldn't do when it was new as it came as a complete bike.
As to the shifters? Downtube shifters are sneered at by technology-obsessed racers as obsolete, and any bike shop mechanic or salesperson will point out the advantages of STI. But can a downtube-shifting bike compete? ...
So why do we ride?
Most likely the folks at the LBS [local bike shop] would laugh at my build-up, but the parts spec, though mongrel, delivers that special ride...
Old but new; retro, not to be different, but in pursuit of that feeling of connection to the ride. When I cip into the pedles and take off on my Trek 1000, old though it may be, and its parts older still, I feel that connection.
That feeling has to come from a connection between rider and ride, person and bike, cyclist and the road. Once you got it, you got it. It's why we all ride, whether we're heart-rate-counting tri junkies or leisurely "recreational riders".
Why do we ride? Chasing that special feeling, that elusive buzz that comes from tires moving over asphault, the click of that chain snapping into gear, the feel of weightlessness as you shoot through a turn leaning just the right way.
That buzz need not come from a $5,000 unobtanium bike. My Trek is proof.
Whatever you have, whatever sort of parts it's got, get it on the road this Labor Day. Ride your bike. I drool over carbon fiber Campy Record parts as much as the next guy when reading a catalogue. But then I put the glossy ad section of the bike mag or parts catalogue away, go out to my garage, see my Trek 1000, and smile. It may be neither "new" nor expensive, but it's just the way I want it, and helps me catch that elusive buzz that always seems to wait around the next bend of the road.
Sunday, 4 September 2005
Another 100 miles
9-4-05: Ride Report - Trek 1000: Over a hundred miles into the bike's reborn future and it rides better than new.
Better still, I have been riding it constantly for the past week, putting on a hundred miles int he last six days, just doing what I normally do. That's without and long rides, just riding around and going to work.
I even got my friend Patty on a bike, introducing her this weekend to clipless pedles for her B-day after taking her on a 20-mile ride around the area. Her mom, a large and in charge old-school Italian woman, was unimpressed. "What are you riding for? You gonna kill yerself!" Followed by some words in the old language which I was sure were an unjustified slur on my ancenstry. Reminds me once of a fat kid I overheard talking when I stopped my bike at a store for coffee a few weeks ago. "I want a expensive bike," said the one kid, eyeing my ride -- I think I rode the Lemind that day. The fat kid with him says "No way Joe, they look stupid".
As I ride out this morning, I'll thank my lucky stars that I can still do this -- that I can still ride. There are two kinds of people in the world; those who think bikes "look stupid" and can't see the point in riding, or those like Patty, who will enjoy riding and have fun doing it, given the chance.
As gas prices hit plus-$3 a gallon, there is a oppurtunity to try and turn some of the Joes into Pattys. Already, one fellow at my work has asked me to build him a road bike to ride to work.
For the bicycle, it's later than you think.
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