Saturday, September 6, 2014

New Arlington Blvd Bike Path

It’s a new bike path…. big deal!  Actually this one is kind of a big deal.  Building new bike infrastructure is all about connecting transportation corridors.  There are almost always good, safe routes to get from point A to point B.  Sometimes these established routes take people far enough out of their way that they take the quicker, more dangerous route, or choose another mode of transportation.  

So when a new bike lane or bike path is created that completes a transportation route, it is kind of a big deal.  

In Arlington, Virginia, Pershing Drive has been an established East/West route for quite a few years.  Unfortunately it kind of dumped off at Arlington Blvd with a rather sketchy frontage road/sidewalk lane to complete the route into Rosslyn or Washington, DC.  People used it, but it was never easy, or as safe as it could be.  


The wonderful folks in Arlington County added a separated bike path that connects Pershing Drive and the Arlington Blvd. Frontage road.  It is less than a mile of path, but it completes a cycling corridor that connects a neighborhood where many people depend on bicycles to Downtown Washington, DC with a route that is easy, safe and fun to ride.  That’s the holy grail of bicycle infrastructure…. easy, safe and fun.  

The people stuck in bumper to bumper traffic might catch a glimpse of happy people on bicycles on that path and get the idea that riding a bike to work might not be so impossible.  They’ll have plenty of time to watch the bicycles pass them by.

Thanks Arlington County, BikeArlington and all the volunteers that have pushed for better bicycling in this region.  Y’all make me happy.


Wash Cycle:
Arlington County Bike Map:

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Choose your thoughts wisely. Your actions will follow them.

I’ve heard that Courtland Milloy wrote a column in the Washington Post that encouraged violence toward cyclists.  
What was in Mr. Milloy’s column?  I honestly don’t know for sure, because I haven’t read it. Nor do I intend to.  I’ve read many responses to it… enough that I get the gist.  

If you take it at face value, Mr. Milloy uses ignorance and an over-inflated sense of self importance to promote hatred and violence against people that he doesn’t understand.  "Bicyclists are in front of me.  Many of them don’t obey traffic laws.  I’m important and need to be at the front of the line.  We should all be violent toward cyclists.  We’re justified in feeling this way."

Using ignorance and self-importance to promote an “us versus them” atmosphere and justify hatred and violence is nothing new.  But it is a thought that we should challenge before we make it our own.  It is the same thought patterns that have resulted in the most horrific actions taken by mankind over the centuries.  I’m not saying that Mr. Milloy is on the same level as those who took part in the Holocaust, Rwandan Genocide or the abuses at Abu Graib prison, but the roots of his thought patterns have a lot in common with those used to justify those dark times in human history.

If DON’T take Mr. Milloy’s column at face value, then things get worse.  We see things like this in the media quite often.  Writers and editors look for someone outwardly hate and vilify for personal and corporate gain. Since hatred based upon gender, sexual preference and race is less sympathetic in the media than it once was, they can pick on someone else:  Cyclists, for example.  Some readers will agree.  There will be a large, but acceptably offensive public discussion and people will read the awful column.  The column’s web site will get lots of hits and the advertisers will be thrilled.  When a suitable amount of outrage has been expressed, the newspaper can publish a well thought out article countering this column, and lots of people will read that and people will think the newspaper is balanced and fair again.  Best of all, the newspaper gets LOTS of hits and the advertisers will be happy.  

I have friends and acquaintances that work at The Washington Post.  I apologize for taking such a realistic view of their publication.  Stories like this happen once every year or two… sometimes in print, sometimes on radio talk shows.  They blow up, stir up, blow over and fade away.  Advertisers love it!  Not too many really think that it can do much harm.  

I chose to live my life differently.  My world is bigger than me… much bigger.  It includes humanity, which I love, even though people do stuff that I don’t like.  I’m able to love the people, while not loving some of their actions.  It makes forgiveness possible.  I’m fortunate that there are people who forgive me when I’m wrong.  I live in a world where I work pretty hard to have positive interactions with EVERYONE that I meet.  I don’t always succeed, but I always try and I get it right the vast majority of the time.  I arrive at home at night and keep score of my day based upon how many people I treated fairly and kindly.  I rejoice and am grateful for every one who did the same for me.  I learn from the times that I don’t do so well and improve next time.

Sounds  a lot better to me than being ignorant, self-important, hateful and violent.  

Please take a moment to choose how you’re going to live your life tomorrow.  Make that choice wisely, and in accordance with your highest sense of right.  It makes a huge difference to me how you choose.

Thanks!  I love you.


Thursday, June 12, 2014

My Beast of Burden

I’ve had a bunch of questions about my main commuter bike lately thanks to photos that I’ve had on Flickr and Twitter.  It is a rather odd bike, so I’ll lay it out here.  This is the bike I use most often for doing advocacy work for Washington Area Bicyclist Association.  I pull their advocacy trailer and carry all the stuff I need for doing outreach events.  It is not unusual for me to have 4 panniers on this bike or the trailer out back.  I don’t often do both at the same time.  It is, after all, a fixie.

Frame/Fork: Steelwool is the builder.  Tweed is the model.  They’re Canadian.  I don’t think it is made anymore.  It is lugged Tange Prestige with an Eccentric Bottom Bracket so that it can be run fixie or single speed.  There are brake mounts for discs and cantilever brakes.  It is generally a road geometry.  There is room for 35mm tires with full fenders and enough rack mounts to make it a good beast of burden.  Even with fenders I don’t have toe overlap.

Cockpit: All selected for durability — Headset = King NoThreadSet, Stem = Thomson X-4 mountain bike stem, Bars = Zipp Service Course.  The bars are my favorites for comfort.  I actually use Shimano Ultegra shift/brake levers.  The shifters are not hooked up to anything.  I broke my wrist last year and shifting the front derailleur works like physical therapy for me.  I can just ride around shifting all day.  My wrist is MUCH stronger as a result.  I use an Avid BB7 Road front disc brake.  It is super noisy when wet or humid.  The braking power is great though.  

Wheels: They’re simple and durable.  Paul Component Engineering hubs with Velocity Deep V rims.  32 spokes laced 3 cross in back, 2 cross and radial up front.   The wheels  are many, many years old and have been on at least 4 different bikes.  Continental Gatorskin tires… 700x32.  They’ve got almost 10,000 miles on them, so it is time for them to be replaced.

Drivetrain: Ultegra crank, Sugiono chainrings, Surly double fixie cog.  SRAM 8-speed chain.  There are actually 2 different gear ratios that I can use.  The chainrings are 46/44 the cogs are 17/19.  Since there is 2 teeth difference between the respective rings and cogs, they use the same chain length.  I just drop the rear wheel, move the chain over, then reinstall the wheel.  I’ve never actually used the 44/19 combination before.  Pedals are Time ATAC mountain bike pedals.

Seating: Thomson Seatpost (the most durable and light that I know of.  Specialized Toupe saddle.  I know it is a race saddle, but it is arguably the most comfortable I’ve used.  I spent 3-5 hours a day on this bike and it needs to be comfy.

Other stuff:  Racktime Racks: They’re light, durable and have decent carrying capacity.  Racktime makes many different bags and baskets that click into the top of each rack.  I use the large basket in back and a small laptop bag up front.  I can use the basket in back and still hook up panniers.  I usually ride with front panniers only because on a fixie, it makes it easier to get out of the saddle to climb if I don’t have weight on the back of the bike.  

VeloOrange fenders: They are reasonably priced and give great coverage.  They don’t rattle.  They just keep me dry.

Exposure lights: They’re durable and bright.  They’ve been with me for years, get used daily and have never failed me. 

What’s next: I’m thinking of setting up a dynamo lighting system on this bike.  It would be nice to never have to charge the batteries on the light and also have a source of USB power to charge my phone or GPS while on the bike.  I probably need to rebuild the wheels.  They’re old and would benefit from new spokes and nipples.  Very few of my bikes are ever finished.  This one is one of the most complete.  There’s not much left for me to do with it. 


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

I raced the rain

I raced the rain home tonight.

As the clouds got darker, I decided to take the long way home. Still no rain.

I stopped early for stop lights and waited a little extra at stop signs. Still no rain.

I went out of my way to get more cat food, which I don't immediately need. It got darker, but still no rain.

My hopes peaked as the wind picked up and temps dropped. Still no rain.

Got home.... still not a drop even though the clouds were black and it was as dark as night. I was grumpy.

Luckily my wife wasn't home and I could go to the store for wine. I FINALLY got dumped on royally on my ride home from the store. Soaking wet and with a HUGE smile on my face, I pulled the bike into the barn.

I WON!!!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

It's okay to not ride in the rain.

Tomorrow is Bike To Work Day and there’s a 100% chance of rain.  

I love riding in the rain.  TONS of people do it.  It is normal and fun.  You should be careful and visible, but a little planning can make it safe and fun.  I have been mountain bike snorkeling in Cherry Creek Reservoir and ridden with through every imaginable form of downpour, including Hurricane Sandy.  When my new panniers claimed to be waterproof, I submersion tested them.  While I don’t recommend riding through a hurricane, I do recommend going for a ride in the rain!  I’m relatively sure that the human body is 100% waterproof.  I’ve never heard of anyone melting when they get wet.  

That said, I know it is unfamiliar for some people.  If riding in the rain is a small jump on the adventure scale for you, please consider riding to work tomorrow!  I think you’ll be surprised how much fun it is.  

That said, I know that it may be a step too far on the adventure ride scale for some new riders.  It’s okay to take your normal mode of transportation to work tomorrow.  Pick a day in the next week or two to ride.  Drop me a line if you’d like some company riding to work.  I’ll ride with you!

Have a great day!


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Let's Talk About Mentors

The author Terry Pratchett had one of his characters describe herself this way, “I’m made up of everyone that has ever changed the way I think.”.  For better or for worse, it rings true with me and I love that description. It fits in well with this topic.  

I had a good day yesterday.  I was reminded of one of my bike mentors when I was a little kid.  Paolo ran an old school bike shop in Denver from the mid 60s through the mid 80s.  When I’m talking old school, I mean old country, old school.  He carried a few lines of complete bikes, but his real business was custom steel race bikes.  His business was based on personal relationships with families like Compagnolo, Colnago, DeRosa and Pinarello.  He did his own importing by going to Italy twice per year to talk with these people and make the deals.  

What triggered this memory for me?  I was a trouble-making little kid on a BMX bike when I ran into Paolo.  What amazed me was that, like many Italian Masters, he wore a perfectly white, starched dress shirt to work every day.  Even the cleanest of bikes get greasy and oily.  Paolo never had a spot on his shirt…. NEVER!  He could listen to a customer for a few minutes, size you up with an experienced eye, and tell you exactly what bike you SHOULD have.  He’d then work with you to find the  bike that got you as much of the qualities of the ideal bike as you could afford.  

The first time I met him, he told me, “Only bike for you…. Colnago Master.”  I was riding a home-made BMX race bike that I’d cobbled together with parts that I could find, trade, and dumpster dive for.  I was 11 years old.  He was, of course, 100% right.  To this day, the only bike for me is a Colnago Master.  I still can’t afford one.  I will someday.  

He saw something in me that day that he liked.  By the end of the week I was sweeping the floors and taking out the trash for his shop.  By week two, he was showing me simple jobs around the shop that I could do that would make his life easier.  They were often things that he didn’t want to do… or things that, if he slipped up, might have gotten his shirt dirty.  But for every 5 or 6 dirty jobs that I’d do, he’d show me how to do something cool and inspiring.  I was hooked.  

I didn’t know it at the time, but this was the beginning of a formal apprenticeship…. old world-style.  I an hour or 5 in Paolo’s shop every day I could for many, many years.  I learned that it isn’t just what you do, but how you do it that matters.  I’ll never have his eye or his ability to stay clean in a sometimes dirty business, but I have that vision to strive for.  I learned to listen and learn every day.  I learned to give openly of myself with no expectation of return… something that I learned from many people over my years.  I learned that is the way to become the kind of person I want to be.

Last night I posted the clean shirt story on Facebook because I’d had a “clean shirt in the face of some very grimy bikes” kind of day.  My shirt was a vintage bowling shirt made of 100% rayon, but it was one of the rare days that I emerged from the shop clean when I should have been covered in grease.  By morning that blurb had 70+ likes and a bunch of comments.  That told me that I should write about it more and get your stories.  

I’ll post a link to this on Facebook, Twitter and the Washington Area Bike Forum.  I want to hear your stories about great mentors that have influenced you.  I want to know who changed the way you think.  :D  Please post a reply here, on Facebook, Twitter or the Forum.  

Lots of love to you!


Thursday, May 1, 2014

Good and Bad Excuses for Not Signing Up For Bike To Work Day.

There are good excuses and bad excuses for not taking part in Bike To Work Day.  I’ll start with the bad.  

I met a fellow at the intersection of Gallows Road and the W&OD Trail today.  It is a light that often takes 4-5 minutes to give a signal to let cyclists and pedestrians to walk.  

Me: Have you signed up for Bike To Work Day yet? 
Dude:  I’m okay.
Me: Cool!  BTWD isn’t about just you though. It is about making cycling better for everyone.
Dude:  Really.  I’m okay.
Me:  Do you like how long you have to wait at this stop light?
Dude: It doesn’t bother me. 
Dude behind dude:  It pisses me off!  What can I do to help???
Me: Signing up for BTWD helps all of the local bike organizations by getting a count of the people who commute by bike.  It is a way to stand up and say “I ride my bike for transportation… not just for sport or for fun.”  
Dude behind dude:  I’ll sign up.  
Chick behind Dude behind dude: Me too!
Me to Dude:  You still okay?
Dude: I’m okay.
Dude behind Chick: I’ll sign up! 

Jump forward 2 minutes.  I’ve given fliers to the other 10 people waiting for the light.  I walk back up to Dude.  

Me: Have a great ride!  
Dude:  I’m okay.

Now I don’t really expect to get enthusiastic support from every cyclist for Bike To Work Day… or any other event or initiative that I’m talking about.  This guy definitely had a view that we see a lot in the area… Complete and total focus on himself.  It is cool if you don’t want to talk about cycling stuff.  I get that.  People want their space.  I do tend to push a few buttons to make a point from time to time.  I didn’t expect this guy to change his song after the initial contact.  Him not changing his song actually helped me talk to the other people in line.  

Let’s get onto a good excuse to not sign up for BTWD.

I met a doctor tonight.  He’s a trauma specialist that works specifically with patients that have nerve damage.  HIs skills are unique and he moves between many hospitals every day… sometimes by helicopter because every moment he can save getting to a patient means that he has a higher probability of saving a life or a limb.  

There were others that had great reasons why they couldn’t sign up.  For me, “I’m okay” doesn’t really qualify in that list.  

If we meet face to face and I ask you to sign up and it is something you really don’t want to do, then just lie to me.  Tell me you’ve already signed up.  I’ll thank you and leave you alone.  Better yet, just sign up.   You won’t have to lie and you’ll feel good that you’ve helped the community.  You might even have a bit of fun.  

Nothing wrong with that at all.  

I love and respect you all…. even Dude.  :D