Friday, December 21, 2012

Cardboard Bike Helmet

Here is an interesting design for a helmet made of cardboard. It looks interesting. I know cardboard is stronger than it looks, at least end on. I do have questions about the durability though.  They did mention that it would have a plastic shell. Also the cardboard is treated to be water resistant. I don't know if the plastic shell covers the inside? Otherwise you might get mushy cardboard where it touches your sweaty head. Still I am always excited for new and cheaper helmet options.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Bike Lanes

I really like having bike lanes. I think they are great, and do make riding safer. Often though, the bike lane was just leftover space between the lane and the gutter. It ends up filled with rocks, glass, water, grates, and other debris. Another unfortunate side effect is that everyone seems to think a bike must ride there. So when a cyclists needs to move out of the bike lane it seems to anger drivers.

This is the story of a guy who was ticketed for not riding in the bike lane. It is an amusing look at the hazards that often populate the bike lane.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Exercising Your Mind

I like commuting to my job on my bike. When I arrive I am pumped up and excited to get the day started. (Also cold and wet on the days that it rains.) There has been a lot of research about how exercise helps your brain. It really does seem to be one of the best things for problems like depression. Here is some new research that says cyclist may be better than other forms of exercise.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Christmas Disaster

The Christmas Disaster ride was yesterday. I love any chance I get to do something crazy and unexpected. This ride/race was that and more. There are some nights that are just so awesome you can't help but love your life.

Of course that isn't the way I was feeling when I got to the start. The meetup was at Twilight Exit and by the time I got there I was soaked and freezing. It was raining and in the mid thirties. I had a lite windshell on to keep out some of the rain. My gloves were soaked through freezing my hands.

I had hurried over because I was afraid of being late. I need to remember that nobody does anything on time around here. By the time we left though the rain had stopped. It was still cold, but at least it was dry.

I hadn't been to a Disaster before so I wasn't quite sure what to expect. To make this worse, the rules were complex which only added to the confusion. From what I understood from Ben, who was running it, this was intentional.

I headed out for the first checkpoint which was at the end of Lake View park above the switchbacks. There were actually two spots that fit this description. I was one of nine people who selected the wrong one. Whoops.

Then it was off to the Arboretum for a round of golf. Nine "holes" or destinations to reach. Each scored in order of who got there first. When the group started I headed off in front to head for one of spots I didn't think anyone would be going for. But then everyone was following me. That would have worked except I dropped my chain on the way and a bunch of people passed me. I ended up getting there 6th. My best scoring was 3rd. At the hole I skipped because I thought everyone was going to head to it, I came in 4th. I guess the whole group skipped it as I rode by. There I go overthingking things.

At the finish line Ben had a couple of "reindeer games" to play and make up a few lost points. I won a couple of these. One by jumping into the ship canal... at night... in December... It wasn't that bad actually. Though I did push my way into a spot by the fire.

From there it was over to The Zoo for prizes and gift exchange. I even won an award. Not for winning the Disaster race though. (Ended up in 3rd place, even after my swim.) My award was for wear shorts and a t-shirt in all weather, handed over with the admonition "get a coat hippie".

The whole night was a blast. I want to give another thanks to Ben for putting this on. Also thanks to everyone who manned a checkpoint in the cold. It was an awesome evening. I am looking forward to doing it again next year!


Friday, December 14, 2012

I am tired of the "chaos"

I am not tired of the chaos on the roads. I actually like that. It means I have to be on my game when I leave the house every morning. You never really know what is going to happen out there. Each day is a different group of trucks and cars driving by. I can't be sure how they are all going to react. My way to deal with this is to be predictable and aware. The chaos also means that my ride is a bit different each morning. This morning I didn't know the lower Spokane street bridge was going to be open. It never gets boring.

What does get boring is all the crap I read about the coming bike caused chaos. Could we stop already? Chaos is the state that we currently exist in. There are laws, but that is just camouflage for random and bizarre behavior. Everybody does it. Quicks stops. Unexpected turns. Moving without any warning. This is the world that we live in.

This isn't a car vs. bike thing either. Cyclists go the wrong way. Drivers run red lights. (I have almost been hit by two this week.) Pedestrians step out into the road without looking. It is time to face the fact that we can't make people follow the rules all the time. (Have you ever seen a car go the speed limit on the West Seattle Bridge?) Even if we could make all the people do that, animals don't listen. Try telling a moose to put on a reflective vest and stop running the wrong way down the streets at night. Each road user (drivers and cyclists) has to be prepared to stop or avoid objects all the time.

This isn't easy. I understand, because I feel the same way when I get behind the wheel. I want to get to the store before it closes. I want to pick up my girlfriend before she gets mad that I am late (again). I want to just get home so I can have a little dinner and relax. Having to go slow because the conditions don't allow me to go faster is frustrating. Needing to be vigilant for cars, bikes and pedestrians makes driving much more like work. I have to push myself to relax and take my time. I struggle to be aware of my surroundings at all times, but I do it. I know that is the cost I pay for being able to go 60mph.

That isn't what I hear in the media though. It is always that bicycles cause chaos. Not that drivers need to get off their cell phones and pay attention. Where is the call to stop fixing pot-holes until drivers can learn to use a turn signal? When do you hear someone asking to stop building more highways until drivers stop speeding? But cyclists hear this same message every time a new bike lane is put in. Or whenever a traffic signal is changed to make it safer.

When someone writes that bicycles are wreaking havoc on the roads, what the person is telling you is "I am a dangerous driver." What make it worse is that it proclaims to other drivers that this is okay. The problem isn't that people must pay attention when driving, it is that cyclist are the cause. They aren't big enough. They aren't bright enough. They are too nimble. For someone who has built their life around the notion that driving a car is a right, having to really think about how badly they drive can be scary. Instead it is easier to think it is someone else's fault. When you put it into print, or on the internet, it feeds the fear and frustration. It leads to cyclists being harassed and run off the road. Being yelled at and run into. All the while the driver is thinking that the man in the paper or the guy on TV said it was okay. That cyclist had it coming.

That brings me to my point. To the journalists, pundits, and commenters out there, before you go running your mouth off, chew on this. When was the last time you were driving in a car and were scared by a bicycle? I mean you thought a cyclist was going to kill you? The answer is never. Sure, that cyclist riding the wrong way down the street with no lights on is shocking, but not deadly. I haven't seen any reports of a driver who has been killed by a cyclist. Don't give me any crap about dangerous bikers while you are wrapped in 2000 lbs. of steel. If I can ride with nothing to protect me but a pair of aluminum wheels between my legs, you are going to be fine. Embrace the chaos. Be prepared for it. Slow down, pay attention, and relax. If we can do that, we are all going to get there just fine.


Saturday, December 8, 2012

Interesting Blog

I found the blog Bikeyface the other day, and so far have quite enjoyed it. It is mostly drawings from a cycle-commuter on Boston. Most of it is practical advice for both cyclists and drivers. I hope you enjoy it.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Engineering a City for All Road Users

I found this TED talk, and I am very impressed with it.

I think there is an interesting point here about the competition of cars vs. bikes. Roads used to be for all public users. Walkers, cyclists, horse riders. With the advent of the car, the concept of the road went from "ours" to "mine". The attitude has changed from roads as a place for gathering, protesting, and selling to something that is for cars only. It has gone so far that special pedestrian areas had to be created. With the general use of sidewalks, the prevailing view came to be that roads were for cars only. This is a viewpoint that I believe is both false and dangerous. I like that this talk points out both how recent (>100 years) that idea is and how it has never been true. The roads are "ours". They are public, and for everyone to use.

I also enjoyed the idea of "desire lines". People, weather in cars, walking, or on bikes, travel in a way that makes their travel as fast and efficient as possible. When pedestrians jay-walk, or cyclists run red lights, it is because the rules and the infrastructure isn't there to support them. If you  are driving and see a cyclist acting badly, the best thing to do is to call your representatives in congress. Tell them there aren't enough cycle paths. We are just starting to engineer cities that cater and encourage biking. That make roads safer by reducing the number of cars. It also brings back the community that once existed before we locked ourselves away in boxes of glass and steel.

Finally, I want to make a point that I will probably make over and over again on this blog. The roads are for all people. When you are driving, you should be looking out for cars, motorcycles, walkers, joggers, runners, cyclists, skateboarders, rollerbladers, city buses, school buses, taxis, horses, carriages, pram pushers, construction workers, animals and hot dog stands. There is a place for all of these on the road. As a driver you have to be able to stop. You can't assume that you can pass, even if another road user is going slower than you want. If you can't drive safely, you shouldn't be driving.


Friday, November 2, 2012

The Soup

It is really fall here and the winds have turned. In Seattle that means rain. It has been wet outside for most of the last two weeks. For me that means a lot of soggy rides to and from work. It also means that my summer tail wind on the way home has vanished.

In its place is a wicked breeze blowing from the south. On nights when it is raining it feels like riding through soup. I can't complain much though. I love to ride in any weather. Rain and wind won't stop me. Dark nights won't stop me. Cars and trucks won't stop me. It feels good to know you can ride through anything.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Oh, Lance.

The UCI has stripped Lance Armstrong of his seven Tour de France wins. I am not surprised by this in any way. I am also not that angry. This was coming a long way off. I hope Lance's efforts with philanthropy go better.

What was surprising was their decision to leave the winner spot vacant for those seven years. This is a bigger gap than for either of the World Wars. I can't think of a more telling sign than that. Professional bike racing is broken, and everyone knows it. I have discussed before my ideas for how to fix the issues. I hope this provides a good place to start that discussion.

Sadly I don't think anyone is going to make any real changes to the way races are run. Sure there will be talk about "getting tough" or "cracking down" on doping. In the end I just think it will end in more testing but won't more effective. The problem is the way the races are run, and the culture surrounding them. Adding more tests won't solve that problem. I hope UCI has the courage to find and fix the real issues to their problems.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Oregon Bicycle License

A guy in Portland is proposing a ballot measure to require licenses for all cyclists in Oregon. The proposal (which has not been finalized) is said to include licensing for both riders and bicycles. It is interesting that this started after a street was closed due to the number of car/bicycle collisions. I didn't see anything to indicate the collisions were caused by cyclists breaking the law. Because cars keep running into bikes, cyclists need to be licensed?

I am dubious that this would actually do anything to increase safety. I don't think the reason that cyclists break the law is that they don't know them. They do it for the same reasons that drivers do. Because it is faster and makes their life easier. Licensing someone doesn't change that equation. Sure, stricter enforcement measures might reduce the behavior in some instances. I doubt it would be to the benefit of the drivers. The truth is that both sides break the law. If the enforcement were done evenly, I think cars would come out the worse for it.

The law also makes the assumption that it is the cyclists breaking the law that causes the majority of accidents. I realize that cyclists breaking the law do cause accidents. I just don't think that accounts for most bike/car collisions. The times that I have been hit, or come close aren't times I have been doing something illegal. Mostly it is drivers not being aware of bikes when they are making turns. Knowing that it is illegal for someone to crash into me, isn't going to help them see me any better.

It seems like the real effect of this measure will be to discourage people from cycling. Not only would you need a license, which most people I know have, but you bike would need a license plate. Each bike. It isn't just about the cost either. There is the paperwork to fill out and the lines to wait in. We don't need more incentive for people not to ride.

Maybe that is the real intent of the law. It would make driving easier if there were less cyclists. My guess is that is the reason it has seen so much support.

I am not sure the backers are even conscious that this is the intent. I would say they believe they are making the world safer and better. The thinking is if cyclists can't be bothered to follow the rules and get licensed they shouldn't be doing it. That will keep drivers safe from having to deal with them. 

At its core this is a classic debate about the "other". It is natural to think that problems are caused by someone else. I understand why drivers feel this way. Bikes are hard to see. They go faster than you expect. They come out of tight spaces a car can't get through. No doubt, bikes make driving more difficult. That problem isn't going to get any better. The number of people commuting by bike doesn't look like it is going to go down anytime soon. To my mind, drivers have a choice. They can learn to drive with bikes around, or stop driving.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Problems with the Tour de France

As I was writing yesterday about Lance Armstrong, I found myself thinking about the Tour de France and its problems. I couldn't help but think there was a better way organize a race. I realize that, as an outsider, I have as much right to criticize the tour as I do the Catholic church. That said, it hasn't stopped me from telling the Pope what to do (not that he listens). Nor will it keep me from explaining a my ideas on this blog.

The best thing to do is start off with the problems apparent in the race. Many of the issues actually dovetail into one another. The issues with doping are the most notable. With so many top competitors using, it means that something inherent in the way races are run encourages that behavior. Part of the reason for this is that racers have been required to work harder as the years have gone by, but do less. Each cyclist is highly trained, but for just one thing. This makes the actual race fairly boring. Just because something is difficult doesn't make it interesting. This is also the only team sport in the world the crowns an individual winner. In a competition otherwise devoid of exciting action, this leads to a focus on the superstars. A team captain has to be faster than everyone else in the team, or he won't be captain. That pressure seems to push riders to do things they otherwise wouldn't, such as doping. That brings us full circle to the original problem.

There are ways to deal with those issues however. I have come up with a few ideas that should resolve the problems above. Admittedly, I don't have any evidence to support my claims. However, I do think races set up this way would be more interesting to watch. It would bring cycling much more in line with the normal sort of riding that people do every day across the world. I imagine these rules would also reduce the pressure to cheat.
  • Have the team race be a team race. Make the time for the team be  the time that it takes the first five members (of a nine member team) to cross the finish line. Any member who fails to finish a day would be out for the rest of the Tour. That would force teams to select members who are good at various sorts of riding, both flat and mountain stages. Since more than half of a team's members would have to finish quickly, managing the abilities and energy level of the team would be important. 
  • Have the individual race be an individual race. This isn't a contradiction of the previous statement. It is a proposal for a second race just for individuals. Maybe start two hours later, or the next day? These unsupported riders would only compete against other unsupported riders. While we are adding races, why not a couple for the ladies as well? Seeing women racing around France must be at least as fun as seeing men do the same.
  • Eliminate all team cars. The only vehicles on the course should be those there to film and an ambulance or two in case of injury. Any bike race that requires you to use a car is a joke. That would mean the riders would have no spare parts or repair man. They would also not have a manager guiding them along. The teams, and especially the captains, would have to step up and keep themselves on pace, hydrated, fed and in good repair during the day.
  • Each racer can only use one bike for the whole race. Okay, they could change out a worn chain or tires between days. The frame and other components would have to stay, however. This would force riders to make compromises in their bikes that make it the best velocipede for various types of terrain and conditions.
  • Teams (or individuals) must make their own repairs while racing. Flat tire? Carry a few patches or a spare tube. Again this would force the riders to make exciting choices. Like giving your good wheel to a stronger team member with a bent rim.
  • Finally, the penalty for being caught doping should be a ban for the team and all members. Maybe for just the one race, maybe it is for several years. That would put the pressure on teammates to ensure that they all stay clean.
I think these rules would change the Tour into something worth watching again. Each team would have to work together to win. They would have to use their individual strengths and overcome their weaknesses. The team captain wouldn't have to be the best rider, but the most respected leader. Intelligence and management would be important again. The riders may try to specialize in mountains or flats, but they would still have to know how to fix their own equipment. Even the equipment would be much more like regular cyclists ride because it would have to be reliable and good in many different conditions. Better yet, the drama would be back. Riders might have to choose to give their bike a stronger rider, like Rene Vietto did. Or cobble together a broken bike as Eugene Christophe had to. I know that change is scary, but for professional cycling it is time. A few simple changes would revolutionize and revitalize the sport. It would make the Tour de France the epic challenge that it should be.


Monday, August 27, 2012

Lance Armstrong and Doping

Last week Lance Armstrong gave up his fight against the USADA. He said he would no longer fight, or even respond to the charges. Many people have claimed that this is a sad day for cycling. It has divided many people over drug use in the sport. Curiously missing from the announcement was any denial of using performance enhancing drugs. The closest he comes is the statement: 
I have been dealing with claims that I cheated and had an unfair advantage in winning my seven Tours since 1999. 
Not once does he say that the claims are untrue.

True or not, I think he was right in saying there was no unfair advantage. For the seven tours that Lance won, all but two of the top five riders in all of those have been involved in doping in some way. If one thing is clear, it is that doping is something you do to compete in this sport. It isn't something you can blame one person for.

Taking performance enhancing drugs is part of the structure of the races themselves. The way things work, this type of abuse is encouraged. Not openly, but because there is so little "edge" it is becomes necessary to dope if anyone else is. Peeing in a cup doesn't fix the problem either. It just means an arms race between tests and drugs used to mask results. The real issue is that the incentives to use are too great. Not using drugs is worse than the risk of getting caught. That makes doping a systemic problem in the sport of road cycling.

The only sad thing I see is that this would have been a great opportunity for the Lance Armstrong to actually be the hero people look at him to be. Not to fight the charges, but to admit to them. To show the world the hidden side of professional cycling. If he had the courage to overcome cancer, I would hope he has the courage to be honest about the choices he made. This might have had a greater impact on it than even winning seven Tours.


Friday, August 17, 2012

Why I ride

Date: August 16th, 2012
Song of the Day: Holiday in Spain, Counting Crows

If you ever want to know why I ride, this video should sum it up pretty well.

The day was beautiful and the night was even better. Riding with other people in costume. I am the one riding off in the sombrero. How many of you can say you have ridden a bike off a ramp, off a pier, into a lake?

Cycling doesn't have to be about how fast you go, or how quickly you get there. I admit, I do like going fast. I like pushing myself. The problem is people get so serious and uptight about it. Sometimes it is all about what you are doing and who you do it with. The only thing serious here was the fun.


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

On Running Red Lights

There is an article in the New York Times where the author admits to running red lights on his bicycle. He also explains something the biking world has known for some time. It is what I call the Cyclist's Dictum. That is, a cyclist may treat a traffic signal one level lower than that for a car. So a red light becomes a yellow light. A stop sign becomes a yield sign. The article in question mentions some quasi-philosophy to justify it. I have my own ideas on the matter. These ideas aren't based on philosophy, but more on practical thinking.

First off, let me say that I run red lights every day. I also go through stop signs without stopping completely. In fact, I violate the letter of the law most any time I ride. This doesn't make me unique, most cyclists I see act in a similar fashion. Nor does it make me a menace. My riding is not a danger to others. If I am doing it right, keeps me safe as well. For starters, when I go through a light, I make damn sure no one is coming. This is because my life is at stake when I make the decision. My incentive is to keep me safe above all else. Beyond that, I tend to go through red lights or stop signs slowly. Usually less than 10mph. This gives me lots of time to stop in case of something unexpected. In other words, violating the law doesn't make you or me less safe.

Second, everybody who drives breaks the law. Cars run red lights. They don't stop at stop signs. They speed. They change lanes without signaling. They cross the yellow lines to pass. I know this because I see it each day. You may be a great driver. You may not violate the law much, but there is no such thing as a perfect driver. The next time you drive try and count how many violations of the law you make. How often were you speeding? How often did you cross the yellow lines? How many yellow lights did you go through where you could have stopped? How many stop signs did you just slow down for? I don't want you to be arrested for these actions. I would just like you to be aware of how you drive. Having bikers and drivers each thinking the other is acting illegally is stupid. The truth is nobody gets it right. It is too easy to blame the "other" for things that everyone does.

My third point is that drivers want cyclists to go through red lights. No driver will ever say this, but nobody actually wants cyclists to follow the rules. I have never once been thanked for waiting at a red light with the other cars. On the other hand I can't count the times that I have been honked at for not getting out of the way when the light turns green. Drivers may be jealous that a bicycle is much more nimble in traffic, but trust me nobody wants the traffic mess that comes from cyclists actually obeying the letter of the law. I would wager that for any city the average amount of cyclists who commute to work in a day could grind rush hour to a halt. All while being completely "legal". That doesn't happen because the cyclists who ride every day are generally courteous to drivers. When there is enough space, I move over to let cars pass. When there isn't I generally pick a lane and ride in the middle so you can see me. I signal when changing lanes. I stay off the sidewalks. Not stopping for red lights means that I can save some speed and not keep drivers waiting. I agree, this isn't legal, but it is practical. Everybody wins.

Forth, this logic goes the other way as well. I want drivers to be illegal if it makes me safer. I watch cars every day drive over the yellow lines when passing me as I grind up Avalon. That doesn't make it any more legal than running a red light, but if it puts a few more feet between your car and me I am all for it. I would rather have a driver thinking about my safety (or their insurance rates) rather than what is strictly legal.

My fifth and final point is that if we all break the law and we all prefer doing it that way, then what is the fuss about? There is this perception of cyclists as reckless scofflaws. We are, but in no greater a degree than cars. Part of this comes from the prejudice that cyclists are something else. Again, this is true. People on bikes are not cars and not pedestrians. Cyclists are a third thing. The truth is cyclists break the law no less and no more than cars. It just happens in a different way. That doesn't make bikes more or less safe than cars. It is just what makes our type of transportation practical and efficient. These violations are just as integral to bike riding as passing slower vehicles is to driving. Without it, the system stops working. So until drivers stop passing cyclists illegally, I will continue to run red lights.


Saturday, August 4, 2012

Dead Baby Downhill 16

Date: Aug. 3rd, 2012
Song of the Day: The Bicycle Song - Red Hot Chili Peppers

In case you missed it, the Dead Baby Downhill was this weekend. It is a crazy ride followed by an outstanding party.

I spent the previous night running around with .83. We rode out to Seward Park and set up a giant slip-n-slide. Even more bizarrely the guys set up an inflatable pool with jello wrestling jello. (It claimed it was non-toxic, non-edible, and only for the purposes of jello wrestling. I love that this is a product you can buy in this country.) I got home late, bruised, and still somehow dotted with blobs of green jello. I often rate my nights highly for doing something I didn't expect to when I woke up. This was a good night.

It didn't matter how tired or sore I was this morning though, I wasn't going to miss the DBDH. The ride was from the top of Queen Anne over to Georgetown. The organizers had asked people not to ride down counterbalance, the steepest section of Queen Anne Ave. Mostly this was out of concern for a couple hundred cyclists slamming into cars at the bottom. I put myself in what I thought was the back of the pack. I figured this way I could casually ride through the pack and look at everyone on the strange contraptions they were riding on. I even brought my camera to film it.

Turns out I was wrong. Just before the race I saw the six guys in front of me were all looking my direction. One of them said "You are facing the wrong way. We are going to run you down." So I turned around, and just a bit later the race started. I set off at a slow pace and someone screamed at me "You are going too slow." Now I am not a very competitive person, but occasionally it happens. This got me going. I began racing across the top of Queen Anne. Then it was down counterbalance. I don't think the cars at the bottom knew what was going on, and fortunately decided not to move a about 100 crazy people on bikes flew by.

Then it was down 1st Ave and across Denny. I took 2nd Ave through downtown, but a lot of other seem to have taken 1st. I think the lights are better timed there. By the domes, 2nd turns into 4th. I passed a group of people and thought I left them behind until I heard my friend Colin say "Don't look now, but you are pulling the whole group." I didn't realize it at the time, but I had about 8 people drafting off me. From there I really put the pedal down hard. I wasn't going to make it easy for people to keep up. By the time we hit the bridge over the tracks I was pooped. Colin passed me and I drafted off him until we got to the finish. I was later thanked by a girl for pulling her and a friend along. They were the first two women to cross the finish line. All of that from a guy who didn't want to go that fast. Whoops.

I had a blast at the whole party afterwards. They had a couple of stages of music. Some pedal powered carnival rides. I finally got to see some tall-bike jousting. Although my friend Scott busted up his knee in the finals. (Heal up quickly!)

I met up with some friends a bit later. We ended up getting Chinese food along 4th Ave at 2:00 in the morning. I was impressed to see the line of red bike lights riding back into the city. Boy, what a night.


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Bicyle Helmet Advice

A friend of mine recently asked me for advice about buying a bicycle helmet. The advice I actually gave was more rambling, but I thought I should compose my thoughts a little better and share it with you. So here goes.

There are two basic things to look for when buying a bicycle helmet.

Comfort: A bike helmet should be easy to wear. If it is so comfortable you forget you have it on, that is a good helmet. Most helmets can be comfortable on some people. The more they adjust, the more likely you are to be in that range where they are comfortable. So buying a helmet that is more adjustable is generally a good thing. For this, it is really going to help to go to a store and try a few on. The most common bike helmets also have big holes for ventilation. The need for this will vary by the type of riding you do. It is helpful if you are going very fast all the time, but not as much if you are stuck in traffic. They can also be worse if you are riding in the winter or in the rain. It is best to make sure you have the right kind of helmet for the riding you actually do.

Style: It may sound silly to think style in a bike helmet is important, but it is. If you don't think you look good wearing the helmet, you won't. If you don't think you look good wearing the helmet, you won't. Again, it is best to find a helmet suited to your bike and riding style. If you get a full face helmet, that says you are going to be going off 20 foot dirt jumps at any moment. It looks pretty silly if you are on a beach cruiser. I won't go telling anyone about fashion, but just know that other cyclists and drivers will make assumptions about you based on what you wear on your head.

I do also have a few words on price. Be prepared to spend between $40 and $50 dollars on a helmet. There are less and more expensive helmets but that range is generally the sweet spot. For cheaper versions you are sacrificing comfort or durability. For more expensive versions you are paying for a name brand, an insignificant amount if weight reduction, or a "look".

Notice how I didn't mention protection? Pretty much all helmets are rated to soften the blows to your melon. Getting to a level where the helmet makes most impacts non-lethal isn't hard. The hard part is everything else. The comfort and the style. Any modern bike helmet you get will provide a decent level of protection. Beyond that, just remember that the best way to protect your head is to ride safe.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Tour de Watertower - 2012

Distance: 40 miles
Date: July 22nd, 2012
Max. Speed: 33mph
Song of the Day: Dayglow Vista Road - Minus the Bear

I only heard about the Tour de Watertower about a month ago. It is a race to the various water towers of Seattle. Of course, if you know anything about water towers, you might remember that they tend to be placed at the tops of hills. In effect this race was a trip up seven of the cities biggest hills.

The race isn't really a true Alley Cat either because the route is given ahead of time. This gave the competitors time to scout out various routes before the race. Not that I actually did that. It was still an unsanctioned event, so no streets blocked for the competitors. Much of the challenge is in the navigation of the city. Not just the best route to take, but how to avoid cars and stoplights.

Instead the race was a time trial. Cyclists were sent out every two minutes from Cool Guy Park. My slot was at 3:10.  From there it was right up the hill to Volunteer park. By the time I got there I had already lost my manifest. That is the piece of paper that means you made it to the stop. Whoops. I am still flabbergasted at my ability to loose the manifest before the first stop. It was too late to go back, so I had the guy manning the first stop sign my arm and took off again.

I went up to the water tower on Roosevelt, then made another mistake. I thought 85th would take me across the freeway. It didn't. I ended up going to 92nd before I could cross and come back.

After the water tower at Woodland Park Zoo I did do one thing right. I took the Aurora bridge. That saved me a few hundred feet of climbs. Though it was still a struggle to get from there to the top.

From Queen Anne it was down and up Dravus to the water tower on Magnolia. The ride down from there was amazing. The sun was out. The city and Elliot bay were gorgeous. I zipped through traffic and pedestrians all along the waterfront.

I did make another mistake in West Seattle too. I never looked up the cross streets for the water tower on the North side. Since I had lost my manifest I had to look it up on my phone. That took a couple of minutes, but I got there.

Then it was up to High Point. I live less than 10 blocks from the highest place in the city, so I felt like that was home turf. Getting to the towers there was no problem.

Then it was a race to the finish. I bombed down 35th. I will admit it gets a little scary screaming down that hill. Nothing scared me more than the fixed gear rider next to me though. He would stop pedaling to slow down. This would lock the back tire and the bike would fishtail. The sound was awful and I was sure the guy was going to wreck at any moment. Ride whatever bike you like, but I will take one with breaks any day.

I did make one final navigation error. I knew the finish was on Eastlake, but with no manifest, I didn't know where. I overshot the place by 10 blocks and down a hill. So to finish I had to come back up to the top. Urgh.

All in all, I had a great time. I could not have asked for a nicer day. It wasn't as grueling as I expected, either. I still felt good turning around and biking back to West Seattle. I would also like to thank Greg from Go Means Go for putting it on.


Tuesday, May 8, 2012


Welcome to Bikequestrian. I decided to start a new blog about my life as a cyclist. Some of you may have followed me here from my other site, MyLifeRebooted. I started that to record my travels around the world. Now that I am back and living a more normal life, I wanted to have a blog the reflect that.

That is the reason for Bikeqestrian. The posts in here are going to be about more of the day to day stuff I do riding around the city. I might include rants and musings about various cycling related activities. It will also include a re-cap of many of the bike related activities that I attend.

I hope you enjoy it.


Saturday, March 31, 2012

Wind Blows

Three weeks ago I moved out of the suburbs and into the city. I have a new residence in West Seattle. It has made me a full time bike commuter. That leaves me a lovely nine mile ride every morning. That is if it is lovely out. Which in Seattle it often is not.

The first week it rained almost non-stop. One day it even went from sunny to rain to wind-driven snow. This meant that each morning I arrived soaking wet to work. I do have a place where I can shower and get changed though. I have even started to keep spare clothes and a dry pair of shoes in my desk. (I know that I could wear thick protective rain gear, but my experience is that by the time I have enough to keep the rain out, I arrive so sweaty that a shower and change of clothes is necessitated anyway.) In the evenings I would change back into the soaking wet clothes and shoes for the ride home.

This last week was a little different. It only rained one day. The biggest problem was the wind. Most evenings I would push my way though the soup on my way home. On Wednesday I was struggling to maintain 12 mph while watching guys go the other way at double my speed. It brought back memories of days in Iceland and Morocco. It couldn't help but remind me that "wind blows".

Why do I mention my travails? I do so, not to tout my own rugged demeanor, but to acknowledge my compatriots who are out riding every day. It is these inclement conditions that separate the hardy cyclists from those who like to bike only when the weather cooperates. It takes a tough person to get out on two wheels no matter what is going on outside.

These all weather cyclists are elite group. I have ridden through rain, wind, hail, and snow. I have pedaled through temperatures over 110° F. and below freezing. You don't have to travel the world to be one though. There are are riders out there from Fairbanks, Alaska to Key West, Florida who ride in conditions most others wouldn't dream of. To all of them I say "bonne route", and I will see you down the road.


Monday, February 27, 2012

FHR - 2012

Distance: 33 miles
Time: 2 hours
Average Speed: 16mph
Max Speed: 39mph

So the FHR was on Sunday. I love this race. It is fast enough and tough enough for my purposes, but casual enough that I can enjoy it. I went to the race last year and had a great time. This year was better because it wasn't raining. It was colder, but I will take clear and cold over rain.

I met up with the rest of the crew under the viaduct around 8:00. Then took the 9:35 ferry to Bainbridge. The ferry was full of cyclists. I am always impressed by the number of people who bike around here. It isn't a small number, and to see a bunch of them in one place is pretty impressive.

Once back on land Derrick kicked off the race with "I guess you can start." And we were off. I thought I would do pretty good this year. I have been putting in a lot of miles. Then again, I spent a week down in Houston and didn't ride. But I was able to keep up. After the first couple of miles I fell in line with Torrey, who is also from the .83 crew. We were pretty well matched and traded pull and draft positions. It worked really well for the first half of the race.

Halfway through the race is the traditional vodka stop. I had been looking forward to that the whole first half of the race. I needed a extra minute to catch my breath though, so Torrey took off without me. I also started eating some energy gummy bears. I am glad I did. The next thing was the big hill of the race.

I felt good about my performance up that hill. The lowest gear I have is 46-34, but I didn't put a foot down once. At the top it started to snow a bit. Actually it was more like really tiny hail. It didn't slow me down one bit.

On the down slope of the hill I fell in with another cyclist. He asked us what our "deal" was. His explanation was "You dress in dingy clothes, ride beater bikes, and blow the doors off of everyone else". Pretty much. You don't need spandex or dura-ace to go fast and have a good time.

The last six miles of the race I was running out of steam. I bonked really hard toward the end. Each hill my body kept telling me to pull over and take a nap in the grass. My average speed dropped form 18mph to 16mph, and there wasn't a thing I could do about it. But I didn't stop, I must have been through worse, right?

When I rolled into the finish line I headed straight for the chili. They warned me that it was just put on the stove so it wouldn't be that warm. It didn't matter. I needed food. My friend Sean, who finished a couple of minutes before me, was sprawled out in the grass. That seemed like a fine plan, and I did the same for a bit.

After the rest and the food settled in, I started talking to folks and congratulating people. It was amusing at that point to notice the cognitive impairment in other people. I had figured this out in my big tour. At the end of a long day I couldn't deal with finding a place to sleep until I had some food and a chance to sit for a couple of minutes. After the race people weren't very talkative or coherent until after a bit of chili and some rest.

All in all a great race. I am so excited to have been a part of it this year. A big thanks to Derrick for putting it on. Also thanks to the sponsors for donating gear.