Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Bulls and Bikes

Riding a bike back and forth to work gives one lots of time to think. For the most part, that's a good thing. If your not careful though, you can find your mind wandering to some pretty strange places.

Case in point. The other day I was riding home from work and happened upon this...

This got me to thinking. Would I ever consider hanging a pair of "bull balls" from my bike. Upon further consideration I came to the conclusion that "bull gonads" and "bike riding" are actually diametrically opposed. I guess that's why you never see bulls riding bikes. It's not because they don't have hands to properly grip the handlebars. This puzzle is not solved by the fact that they don't make helmets with holes designed for horns to stick out of. The answer to this mystery lies not in the reality that they don't make "bull shoes" much less ones that integrate with clipless pedals. There is but one - correction - two reasons that bulls don't ride bikes and they can both be found lying gently in the nether region.

Furthermore, If in the unlikely event I felt obliged to supplement my masculinity by hanging a pair of bull nuts from my bike, I certainly wouldn't choose an injection molded plastic version that you buy at a nickel and dime store. No - if I were to embark upon such a desperate path, it would be the BIG BRASS version for me. Yea - I know - they are more expensive. Yea - I know - they would be added weight. But - come on now - we are talking about my manhood after all!! Aren't we??

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Bike's Story?

If bikes could talk, oh the stories they could tell. Take this bike for instance...
I first saw it on my ride home the previous night. I was riding through a park, when my peripheral vision caught a glimpse of it on the perimeter of the glow of my headlight. I only saw it for an instant, but was immediately struck by the oddity. It was parked, exactly as it sits in the above picture - all alone, in the pitch black of night, pulled into a parking spot and resting on it's kickstand. What was it doing here? Where was the owner? That evening I was tempted to turn around and get a better look, but it was dark and in an isolated part of the park - I was tired, anxious to get home and not particularly inclined to being mugged in the event it's rider was of ill refute. I kept riding.

The next morning, on my ride to work, I was surprised to see the same bike, in the same spot. I was tempted to turn around, but was running late. I kept riding. That same afternoon on my ride home, there it still sat. Now my attention really peaked. It was daylight, I was in no hurry and I had no where to be or go. I stopped riding.

It was an old Peugeot that had certainly seen better days. It's chain was black with grease and grime. It sported steel rims that were rusted and while I did not spin them could tell were far from true. The handlebars were unwrapped and exposed. The tires were thread barren and the front one was flat. This bike had been around the block a time or two and was most definitely in need of a little TLC.

If bikes could talk, this would be one whose old, rusted wheels I would sit at and listen intently to it's tale. How old was it? How many miles passed beneath it's wheels? What was it's top speed? What paths had it taken? How many riders had it known? I would most certainly hear stories that brought a smile and still others that caused me to discreetly wipe away the tears that involuntarily trickled down my cheeks. In the end, I would be forced to bid this old steed farewell and hopefully walk away a better bike rider for having made it's acquaintance.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

I Have To vs I Want To

This past Tuesday, I drove my truck to work for the first time in almost a year and a half.

It was raining, but I've ridden in far harder rain.

It was cold, but I've ridden in far colder temperatures.

The reason I drove is far more complicated. It all started with this...

...rubbing brakes. For the last couple weeks I've been having trouble with my wheels rubbing against my brakes. The previous night, I decided to rectify this situation in preparation for the upcoming commuting week. When I put these new brakes on my bike, I realized that I had to move the pads all the way to the very end of the arms to barely clear the tires. As the pads wore and became wider, they started to infringe upon the tire. I tried an assortment of adjustments to no avail, become increasingly frustrated and desperate in the process.

It was getting late, I was tired, cold and hungry, but I couldn't stop. I had to ride to work the next morning. My other bikes were either in the middle of preventative maintenance or remodeling, so they were unridable. This bike was my only option. It had to be fixed. I had to ride to work.

It was at this point that I stopped and considered my state of mind. Here I was, forgoing rest and food all because I had this perception that I had to ride to work. I started riding to work because I wanted to and now it had become this inward obligation. What was I trying to prove? Who was I trying to impress? I had become a slave to myself. That simply would not do. I dropped my tools, straightened up, turned off the light and walked out of my garage. "I'm taking the truck tomorrow", I said to myself. Not because I have to, but because I want to. It was time to break this vicious cycle of bike commuting out of obligation so that I could get back to bike commuting out of love.

When I got home that evening, in a much calmer state of mind, I switched back to my older brakes that had longer reach and the bike was ready for me to ride to work the next day. Not because I have to, but because I want to. I plan on making sure I keep it that way in the future.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


One day this week as I was leaving work, a young man, wearing slacks and sporting a backpack came running by. I don't see that many joggers at this time of day, much less ones dressed as he was. However, it was neither the time of day or his attire that drew my attention. The most unusual thing about this man's actions was the fact that he had his pants legs rolled up and was wearing no shoes or socks.

The temperature outside was well down in the 30's and this guy was running completely barefooted. Furthermore, he wasn't running on the grass, but on the hard, cold pavement. Furthermore still, he wasn't running on the part of the road that was swept clean of debris by the automobile traffic, but he was running along the edge where sand, rocks, glass and steel belt treads collect. I ride Kevlar belted tires and I don't even venture into that area of the road. Every once in a while he would stop, brush off his feet and keep running.

I stood there and watched him until he disappeared into the distance. Thinking this was the last I would see of this unusual stranger, I continued on to my bike and readied it for the commute home. As I was riding, you can imagine my astonishment and excitement when I gazed ahead and saw the barefooted jogger in front. After a couple of blocks I caught up with him and as I pulled alongside asked the question that had been burning in mind since I first laid eyes upon him...

"so, I'm just curious, are you running barefooted out of desperation or desire?"

He chuckled softly at my inquiry and responded...

"desire. It's actually more efficient."

I lied and told him I understood and then continued on my way. As I rode, I couldn't help but think that this barefooted young man was not much different than myself. I'm sure there have been a many a motorist that pass me as I ride my bike in the heat, cold, rain, wind, sleet or snow that have wondered the same thing of me, do I ride out of desperation or desire. I'm sure it's equally as hard for them to envision giving up their atmosphere controlled cars and riding a bike to work as it is for myself to consider taking off my shoes and running.

We have a natural tendency to look at things that are unfamiliar to us and come up with a plethora of reasons why not.

Running barefooted in the cold will cause your feet to get frost bit.

Running barefoot on the hard unforgiving road is hard on your joints.

Running barefoot in trash will cause you to cut your feet and suffer an infection.

We are quickly able to dismiss the unfamiliar as ludicrous and those who engage in it as idiots. As a result, we miss out on some amazing experiences because we don't have the courage to take our shoes off.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


I ventured out to my bike after work earlier this week. It was cold and had been misting / sprinkling / sleeting all day. I was taken aback to observe that a fine layer of ice coated the top of my seat and icicles hung from it's perimeter majestically. I did not have my camera so was unable to record this image for your pleasure. As I stared at this icy spectacle one thing but kept running through my mind...

"it's gonna be a cold a$$ ride home!"

Upon closer inspection of my frigid steed, I noticed that this fine sheen of ice and accompanying icicles also covered my top tube, handlebars, pedals and brakes. Using my fist, I broke away what ice I could. It was no easy task and no matter how much I wailed upon my bike, it was not entirely effective. I finally managed to chip away enough ice to mount my lights, get the brakes in some semblance of working order and transform the surface of my pedals to something less than an ice skating rink.

On the ride home, my warm a$$ was effective at melting the ice that remained on my seat so that I was treated with a nice big wet spot on my posterior. Conscious of this as I stopped at the grocery store, I took of my jacket and tied it around my waist. I didn't want the other patrons to take notice and their imaginations run wild. Thus erroneously concluding, with disgust, that I was not in full control of my faculties.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Out With the Old - In With the New

Today was my first commute to work in the new year. As I pulled out of the driveway, I could hear the shipyard's whistle signaling the start of first shift. My place of employment is no less than 5 miles from my house, but it's whistle resonated eerily clear in the crisp morning air. It was as though it was opening its arms in the distance and beckoning me to come.

I rode slowly. Not because I was tired. Not because there was a headwind. Not because I was experiencing a mechanical failure. Not because it was uphill. I rode slowly in a feeble effort to postpone that inevitable embrace.

I finally arrived at work and my first order of business was to take down the old calendar where I kept track of my bike commuting days (Green = Bike, Yellow = Bus, Red = Truck)...

...and put up the new.

Looking at that blank calendar, I realized, with mounting excitement, that I have a lot of days to ride this year. It's good to be back.

Perfect Day for an Overhaul

When I awoke the morning after Christmas, the weather outside was indeed frightfully beautiful...

There would be no going out that day and for several days after. It was a perfect time to do a little PM on my Commuting Bike.

Over the last 6 months, I've ridden that bike to work everyday through all manner of inclement conditions.

It's been rained on, snowed on and covered with road grit.
It's been ridden on roads, dirt, gravel and sidewalks.
It's been ridden through pot holes, mud, 12" of standing water and 2" of icy slush.

Through it all, it has uttered not a word of complaint, but I can tell she's in need of a little TLC.

So it was up in the repair stand...

Cleaning the chain...

Repacking the hubs...

Gentle application of a little elbow grease...

She now shines bright, beautiful, greased, lubes and ready for work to start in the new year...

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A Wus I Am Not

We had major snow storm that started the evening of Christmas day and over the course of the next 24 hours deposited more than 12" of snow. As a result, we've been snow bound over the last few days and I was a bit stir crazy. To get some exercise, I ventured into my garage and was resigned to the fate of yet another ride on this...

As I stood there brooding over the fate that awaited me for the next hour, I heard a a quiet, almost indistinct voice behind me utter these words...

"don't be a wuss!"

I spun around to ascertain the source of such an accusation. This was what I beheld...

We eyed one another conspicuously for a moment and then I moseyed over to my gear and donned my helmet and gloves.

For the most part, the roads were clear...

...but there were a not too small number of patches of slush/ice which either necessitated slowing down and proceeding with caution or where it was I'll advised to ride at all...

I pushed on and ended up getting in a couple hours of good riding. I didn't break any speed records, but the scenery was breathtaking...

I even had a fan along the way, cheering me on...

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year Resolutions 2011

Happy New Year everyone. It's a time of new beginnings. No more resting on our past laurels or lamenting our shortcomings. The slate is clean. We start anew. When you have as many shortcomings as I do, well, the New Year is a welcomed thing.

This year my bike specific resolutions are as follows:

1. Increase my practical bike use - This is becoming an ongoing resolution of mine. I already ride my bike to work regularly. I occasionally use it for other errands, but not near as much as I could. I want to change that.

2. Lose weight - this resolution as well appears to becoming an annual one, a fact that I am none too pleased with. Hopefully this year will be the final time this one appears on my list.

3. Ride more centuries - last year I may have ridden one century (not even sure about that). This year, I want to change that. I like long distance cycling and I want to make that a staple of my riding once again.

4. Start riding across the country - I've been wanting to ride across the country for some time now. Due to work responsibilities and financial constraints, I've come to the unfortunate conclusion that taking two months off to ride across the country simply isn't feasible. While this is a tough pill for me to swallow, all is not lost. While, at this point in my life, I can't ride across the country all at once, I can at least start.

5. Increase my frequency of blogging - over the last two years, I've been posting on average of between once and twice a week. I'm gonna try to beat that this year. However, I'm not going to sacrifice the quality of what I say, just to beat some quota. If faced with a choice between the two, I will blog less.

You may have noticed that my resolutions do not have measurable targets. This is by design. I don't want to be a slave to my resolutions. I want them to serve as a guiding light to keep me focused on improving. Trust me, regardless of whether I have concrete goals or not, in the end, I will grade myself harshly.