Tuesday, October 7, 2008

On Miss Manners and Parking

Commutebybike had an interesting post today about "The etiquette of bicycle parking". As a former messenger, I'm not a good person to emulate, or
ask for advice. I'd lock up to the first halfway decent thing I could find, make my drop and/or pickup, and then amscray to the next one. Time is money when you ride for a living (also true when you race). If I scratched something, blocked a passage,
or pissed people off, it really didn't matter too much.

I did learn quite a bit about the art of parking my ride, how to lock it up
effectively, how to swear in a humorous, and colorful manner, and ride a bicycle in city traffic. Lessons that came in handy when I started to work in an
office and chose to commute by bicycle

I didn't bother sharing any of this info with the folks on the post, instead prefering to tame it down a bit for mass consumption, as follows:

"A few random thoughts on this:

1) Bikes in an office space are not "icky". "Icky" is the sight of 5 foot tall, 350lb people wearing tight jeans and stretch pants.

2) Lycra in the office is no problemo, provided the wearers are height/weight proportional. If not, see comment #1.

3) Over the years of using a bicycle for transportation, I've locked my ride to everything from trees to statues to parking meters to abandoned car bumpers. I've had to dress for work in bathroom stalls, storage rooms, conference rooms, and boiler rooms that smelled like a zoo. It's VERY encouraging to see so many businesses providing lockers and shower facilities. And allowing us to protect our
rides by bringing them inside. Too many bicycles get stolen nowadays.

4) My wife works in a bike shop, rides to work every day, and just brings hers inside. We plan on opening a shop next year. All employees will always be
allowed to bring their bicycles inside. AND given a bonus for riding to work. After all, why would you want to buy a bicycle for commuting from a sales person who drives a car to work?"

Why indeed? Mrs Flyer is the only one in her bike shop that rides a bicycle to work on a daily basis. One of her co-workers did for a short time, as have others. But
not day in and day out. The majority simply give their bicycles a ride to work, attached to their cars.

I do feel for these people. They have lives that are "too busy" to easily fit in riding a bicycle. Or, they are intimidated by the traffic where they live. Or they really WANT to ride, but Something Always Comes Up during the day, and the opportunity to ride is lost.

My advice is always the same - Park Your Car for a week, and try riding instead. You will find it's possible, no matter what the circumstance. Not always easy, perhaps. But possible if you put your mind to it and just get on and ride.

Driving your bicycle around on your car reminds me of when you were a little kid and wore your football helmet when you watched the game with your Dad. Cute, yes.
But it didn't make you a football player.

You became a football player when you snapped the helmet on that first day in High School practice, and then went out on the field and whaled the crap out of your teammates and they whaled the crap out of you.

But I digress. Mrs Flyer and I will always be out on the fringe of the rapidly coalescing Bicycle Commuter scene. We are both a hellish combination of former racers, past and present wrench spinners, ex-cowboy and ex-cowgirl,
Critical Mass riders, track riders, and fixed gear fiends. Just add Jack Daniels to complete the mental image.

So the possibility of joining in with the company Bicycle/Ped Coordinator on a Courtesy Mass ride is something that is completely, and utterly, doomed from the start. After reading a few of the other comments on the "Bike Etiquette" post,
I'm considering bringing a typical Messenger "rain bike" ride to work and locking it up to my desk.

We have the perfect frame for this in our stable of rides at the Flyer homestead: a beaten-to-crap maroon 1980's KHS frame we picked up a few years ago on eBay for $30.00 and made into a fixed gear. Scratched all to hell, it's appearence has been
enhanced by Tampa Bay Bucaneers Football Stickers, Phil's Tenacious Oil streaks, a "Somewhere in Texas a Village is Missing It's Idiot" bumper sticker on the top tube, and the obligatory "One Fucking Speed" chainstay sticker.

Just the thing for the department full of Soccer Moms and Young Career Dads that I work with while we are getting ready to open our shop.

After all - it's the perfect counterpoint to the average bloated Suzy Sixpack SUV. And it's only fair - us criminal, fringe, bicycle riders should be represented in the workplace, too.

No one would say anything to me. Our Human Resource person already avoids me
like Hemmoraghic Fever, so I wouldn't hear anything from her. She's worried I'll push for bicycle racks again, and with the push to outsource and downsize jobs, everyone is running scared around here.

Better not to say anything at all, and just act like you don't notice
anything. Otherwise the Crazy Guy who rides a bicycle instead of driving a car will want us to give him $20 a month for riding his bike to work, and, well, we simply can't have that now, can we?

All in a days work for us. Right now, both of us are much more excited about this month's Critical Mass ride, since it coincides with Halloween.
Mrs Flyer rode into work today and found out that a new costume shop just opened up around the corner, so it's just all too perfect. Do the Mass, then out to Oregon for a month of wrench spinning.

We'll leave the question of bicycle parking etiquette to Miss Manners. Just don't forget the chainstay stickers.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Crises? What Crises?

Here in Southeast our gas "crises" is getting noticed on the National media. Th following ironic statements illustrate the absudity of the situation we have put ourselves in here in the US:

"Right now, I'll pay anything for gas," Jenkins said. "I don't care if it's $5 or $6 a gallon. I need it."

Just like any drug addict - you need your fix, and will pay anything. So what's the response of the dealers?

Authorities in North Carolina and Tennessee said they were investigating reports of price-gouging, while Georgia's consumer affairs office has subpoenaed sales records from 130 gas stations because of similar complaints.

Sure. That's what drug dealers do - hold on to the supply for a while, jack up the prices, then clean up. it's simple supply and demand. I don't blame the oil industry and retailers - they are just being capitalists. It's what they do.

"I was just in Atlanta yesterday. There is no gasoline in Atlanta, in Charlotte, in Chattanooga. It's like a Third World country," former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Sunday on ABC.

Oh, come on, Newt. There is gasoline here. The problem is people have been brainwashed into thinking they need cars for every trip. If we had decent public transportation, sidewalks, and bike friendly roads and paths, this wouldn't affect us much at all. This situation is happening because you guys in charge never bothered to appropriate the money we need. Too busy pushing the "tax cut" agenda. "Contract with America" is supposed to mean just that -
not just something for your rich buddies.

Kathy Burdett, 49, of Forest Park, said the shortage ruined her weekend plans to visit Stone Mountain with out-of-town guests. "I didn't go anywhere all weekend and we kept close to home," said Burdett, who had to hunt for the gasoline
her friends needed to make it home to Tennessee.

C'mon, Kathy. Mrs.Flyer and I went to Stone Mountain last weekend. We rode bicycle out from Midtown, saw the sights, then rode back. If you guys rode bicycles regularly, you could have done the same thing. Not in shape for the ride? Hop onto MARTA and go visit the Aquarium, the High Museum, Fernbank Museum, World of Coca Cola, any of the Atlanta attractions - they are all on MARTA stops. No gas

But - yeah, driving home is another thing. Too bad we don't have that High Speed Rail between here and Tennessee. Good old Boy Governor Sonny killed that deal. The State of Tennessee would have given us access to the river and all the water we need so bad in exchange for that. Instead, Sonny tried to strong arm the river access with an old 19th century treaty, and screwed that up, too. Nice work there.

Even in Atlanta, a city notorious for long commutes and traffic, some drivers were turning to public transportation.

FINALLY!!!!! Can using bicycles be far behind?

As she waited in a gas line at an Atlanta station, 27-year-old Kasheeda Washington said she planned to start taking the bus because driving from her home in suburban Marietta to two jobs in Atlanta and to classes at the downtown
campus of Georgia State University had become too expensive.

I ride to Marietta and back every day. You could do that, too. Or, you could take one of several bus lines to the Arts station in Midtown, hop on the subway, and get off at the GSU stop. You could bring a bicycle with you to get around, too. All of the buses have bike racks on them, and MARTA allows buses all day, any day.

"I would have never thought this day would come when I would have to wait for gas," she said.

Kasheeda, get used to it. In your lifetime, this will be the norm. Park your car - get a decent bicycle. Demand adequate mass transportation and fast rail service from our elected officials. If they don't do anything, vote them out and vote in someone who will.

This is a "crises" only if you rely on your car for anything beyond a trip to the bathroom. It hasn't affected Mrs. Flyer or me at all. I sat in a meeting this morning and listened to people commiserating about gas prices and rumors about which chain was going to get gasoline.

I just smirked and said "I'll give you a good deal on a used bike".

Monday, September 29, 2008

Oilpocalypse Now

Here in the Southeast we are getting a preview of things to come. There has
been a gasoline shortage going on in our area for the past three weeks. Since I use a bicycle and don't drive at all, I wasn't really aware of this until Mrs. Flyer pointed it out tome. People in her shop have been spending the majority of their free time driving around in search of filling stations that aren;t dry, and
as a consequence have been arriving to work late, or not at all. Including the store manager.

Putting aside the irony involved with bike shop employees that need to drive a car to work, it brought home the fact that there isn't enough gasoline for all of the millions of drivers in the Greater Atlanta area. And this means that there are 6 million gasoline addicts in constant search for a gasoline fix. And they are competing for a drastically limited resource.

So, naturally, human behavior quickly descends to the lowest common denominator. All of last week, we both witnessed scenes straight out of a Mad Max-Martian Invasion-apocolyptic movie. People cutting each other off at the pumps, cursing, and leaning on horns was commonplace. I saw a fist fight at a station by the perimiter highway, and there was a report of a gunfight at another. People were cruising around, looking for tanker trucks to stalk to their destinations. (If you are low on gas, why would you drive around, burning your supply, without a guarentee of getting more?) There were several abandoned cars along my commute route, and I passed several people with gas cans on futile hikes to filling stations whose pumps were roped off.

On our Saturday training ride through the Buckhead Hills, we saw more cars than we ever have early on a Saturday. "You know what's going on here, don't you? They are all out looking for gas", said Mrs Flyer. And right she was. We passed a filling station on the top of a hill only to be greeted by a line of cars stretching in both directions.

Amazing. How much longer does a sane person put up wih this before they start investigating alternatives? How much longer do you hang on to the dead cat that is the automobile culture? Right now, it smells pretty bad, and it will only get worse.

The Critical Mass ride was a lot larger on Friday. Many new faces, and not just returning college students. For the first time in recent memory, we got
all positive vibes from people along the way, and only one incident of token harassment from APD. I attribute that solely to the number of people, estimates would be about 220 - 250. The ride was pro peloton size, and there were too many of us to fit in the back of all of the paddy wagons in the county.

With the economic system on the verge of collapse, gasoline in short supply, and peoples confidence in the ruling party badly shaken, the time is
ripe for a change. Some people are starting to "get it" - that bicycles CAN be a way to get from Point A to Point B. And do it on a daily basis, not just a weekend ride with the kiddies on the Silver Comet Trail.

The cycling revolution is happening from the bottom up, affecting lower income groups first. But as it reaches upwards into the American Middle class, it's
going to reach the point where we will get real change. That will take some time, and will be extremely painful. Our society has been structured around unlimited automobile travel for 50 years. Changing that beavior is going to take, well time. And when time runs out, based on what I saw this week, is going to make me head for the mountains. Or the nextr flight to Europe.

The probolem here is complex. It's not just that we have become addicted to gasoline, we have also changed from a Do-It-Yourself to a Hire-Someone-Else-To-Do-It societyWe don't mow our own lawns, clean our own homes, nor cook our own meals,
we pay someone else to do it. If a household item, piece of clothing, or appliance breaks, we throw it away instead of repairing it. So the whoke mentality at work is precisely the opposite of what's needed to solve the crises. I wonder if we are going to have bicycle rickshaw service in the cities, with portly middle class people hiring young people and immigrants to pull their fat bods around the streets.

And it's all so unnecessary. Those of us that are old enough remember a time when it was NOT like this. We rode on streetcars, walked, and yes, rode a bicycle to get around. A long trip meant taking a bus or train. We had then what we need now. Most of the civilized world still does it this way. Some of us - mostly in the big cities in the Northeast, Chicago, and the Northwest - get around in this manner.

We don't need to rely on each of us having our own automobile. It's a very carefully crafted myth that has been foisted on the public. It's time to put an end to this myth. We can all make a change, and we can start making it now.

Like all change, it can be scary. Depending on my bicycle instead of a car was a scary proposition for me. It literally kept me awake at night when I was preparing for it. I can't begin to imagine what it's like for people that have never been physically active. The prospect of giving up the easy freedom of the car for the physical exertion involved in walking or riding a bicycle is probably frightening on a visceral level.

Yet, here in the Southeast, it's not beyond the realm of possibility to see a change. We see more cyclists, and MARTA is having to put more trains on
duty on the weekends. But many - too many - still cling to the old habits. It's time to give them up. If we ever expect to get out of this current mess we find
ourselves in - and it's all related - then we need to let go of the old and bring in the new. What we are getting here in the Greater Atlanta area is a preview of what's coming for the rest of the US, and it ain't going to be pretty.

Today I passed a gas station just before I reached the office. The red lights of cars waiting in line stretched down the road, out of sight. And the sound of angry drivers blowing their horns carried on the breeze, like the sound of cattle going to the slaughterhouse.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Full Moon Fever

This is a full moon week. When I was on my way to work Monday, the clouds parted, I saw the moon, and knew I had to prepare for the worst.

I’m not superstitious. Well, not totally. After all, I grew up in an extended family that was part Irish, Welsh, and American Indian. There were lots of stories about spirits, ghosts, lepricauns, and other supernatural things. But the full moon thing is based on personal observations on the behavior of people. Years ago I was a Boys Club director, and got quickly familiar with the pattern of the kids behavior taking a turn for the worst during a full moon. It was so bad that some of the staff refused to come in, preferring to take their chances on calling in sick and huddling behind barricades in their homes.

The Wild Night of Destruction

This all culminated in the Infamous Night of Destruction, when the kids literally ran wild in the CLub. It was October, so we had the impending Halloween Night adding fuel to the fire. I have foul, but distant, memories of horros that included:

- water balloons knocking out a surgeons windows in his Mercedes Benz

- the complete destruction of the Game Room after some kids:

- broke in to the adult liquor locker and drained the contents which led to:

-the establishment, and subsequent discovery by the staff, of the "Secret Sex Room" in a storage area over the stage in the gym. Complete with mattresses.

These are things that I never want to repeat. Not in this lifetime.

So I knew we were in for it this week. Mrs Flyer knows this, too. She was a nurse in a hospital. Every bizarre patient in the city showed up during Full Moon Week. So we braced ourselves for the worst. Here is sample of what we have had to face – so far:

The Bicycle Thief

Not the movie – the real deal. A well-dressed young guy wearing a Georgia Tech shirt walked into the store and wanted to look at a top-of-line Team Fuji carbon frame bike setup with full Dura Ace components. He had Ritchey pedals mounted, and then asked for Sidi shoes with LOOK KEO pedals. Mrs. Flyer remembers seeing the sales person helping him, and thinking something was funny about the way the kid was acting. But she was involved in dealing with another nut case, and couldn’t help out. The sales person was finalizing the deal, counting up the commission in his head, and had only to check out his customer with the shiny new bicycle. The kid said he wanted to just ride the bike around the store while the salesperson was going to the register.

Fatal mistake for the sales person. As soon as he got to the counter, the kid accelerated in a way that would do Robbie Mckewen proud, and bolted through the automatic doors. The sales person tried to give chase, but could never compete with Fuji’s finest ride. The kid got to his car, threw the bike in the trunk, did his best Steve McQueen out of the parking lot, and then ran three red lights. Two days later, the store is still waiting for the police to show up.

The Case of the Lop-sided Dragon

Although Mrs Flyer is nominally a manager, she often pitches in to spin a wrench when the maintenance department is backed up or a wrench calls in sick. Yesterday she had a request for new headset from a guy that looked like the spitting image of Jerry Garcia. She suggested, and sold him, a Cane Creek S-2 threadless. He asked for th headset to be mounted, and she just tore out the old one, then installed the new one and brought it out for him. That’s when Jerry freaked out.

“NONONONONONONONONO” he shrieked as he jumped up and down. “The dragon MUST be straight or all is lost!” he bellowed, nearly in tears. He made Mrs. Flyer spend about 10 minutes getting the logo on the headset lined up to his liking. “Crazy bastard doesn’t know the difference between a dragon and a salamander” she muttered as she sipped on cold beer after work. “Maybe he knows something we don’t know” I replied.

Incident at the Rock Quarry

I notice that the percentage of “close passes” goes up during a full moon week. A “close pass” is a car that comes within the three foot zone recommended by most bicycle advocacy groups and Safety Councils. I don’t usually get freaked out by cars that come close to me. Back in roadie days I was used to pulling bidons and bags out of team cars while we barreled down the road, and as a triathlete I jumped into the slipstreams of passing cars and officials motorcycles to get a few seconds draft. In big races you constantly have to watch out for team cars, officials, and photographers, and they pass alot closer than three feet. But here in the South, you have to keep the eyes in the back of your head focused for some of the worst drivers in the USA.

This week I have car after car go whizzing by my elbow. Most of this occurs on Atlanta Road in the afternoon. It’s an undivided four lane road, one of the major arteries to get from Marietta to Atlanta over the river, and during Rush Hour is filled with motorists on their cell phones, or texting, or reading the Bible, or playing with themselves. I have seen all of these actions, and more, during my eight months of full-time carless commuting. Ask me about the guy and his goat sometime.

I work a weird time slot that sees me riding into the office at 5:00AM and leaving before 3PM specifically to avoid as much traffic as I can. This usually works out pretty well. Not too many people n the road at these hours, and it plays the percentages of good-to-bad driver in my favor. I have found over the years that 9,999 out of 10,000 drivers are at least semi-conscious and try to avoid you – if they see you. But, once in while, you run into an asshole.

It was right before the bridge over the Chattahoochee. There is a rock quarry on the right where trucks come and go during the day. There is a long, steep, downhill run to the bridge, and even on my fixed gear track bike I can get my speed up over 30 MPH. Then I can swoop over the bridge ahead of the traffic and into the relative safety of Atlanta. That’s where the road that immediately widens with a large hard shoulder. But right before the bridge there is the section with the quarry, and a raised curb that makes no sense on a relatively rural section of road.

I was flying down the hill in a racing crouch, along the top tube, when I sensed him behind me. Then I heard the engine – not on my left shoulder, but in my right ear. This is never good – it means the bastard is directly behind you. Then the air horn went off, and I heard the Jake Brake – that percussive sound from the Jacobsen compression brake on the diesel – kick in. And I knew I was going to get hit. He must have been on the phone, or texting, or naked from the waist down and playing with himself, or just a mean assed hillbilly. But I was going to get hit. And I took the one path I could – bunny hopping the curb at 30MPH, and steering the bike through the scrubby grass and doing a Fred Flintstone to come to a stop. I actually tore two furrows in the ground from my SPD cleats.

Mr. Hillbilly Asshole never slowed down, and never stopped. He just turned into the quarry entrance. I checked my shoes, hopped back on my ride, and passed on down the hill to the river. Fighting off every urge to turn into the quarry, hunt down the Hillbilly, and stomp his dumb ass into the ground.

The Week In Review

Today is Thursday. All I want is for the week to get over. I have a longer route home that goes over some steep hills with 10% plus inclines, but has the benefit of being way off the main drag and has little traffic at the times I ride in and out. I may use it this afternoon, just to hedge my bets on this crazy lunar cycle.

And I’m not the only one that can’t wait for the week to get over. I’m sure the boys and girls at AIG would probably like to forget this week ever happened, along with the gang at Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, and Freddie Mac, and Fannie Mae. Oil is going up again, and gasoline prices will be sure to follow. This will continue to accelerate as the Winter Heating season is just starting. The first frost of the season is going to happen tonight in the NorthEast.

Yet, people still refuse to acknowledge reality. A recent poll here in the AJC indicates that 80% of drivers will still not consider using MARTA busses or trains. And bicycles? Fuhgettaboudit. A recent letter to the editor in the AJC compared bicycle commuting to hang-gliding in the relevance to solving the Atlanta traffic problem.

Funny, because the small city I’m going to in Oregon for bicycle mechanic training has bicycle lanes on every single major road in the town. They are putting the finishing touches on an off-road paved bicycle path that connects every single town in the Rogue River Valley. And they did it because pretty much everybody out there rides a bicycle. It’s important to them.

That’s the big problem here. Bicycles aren’t important to people in the South, and in many other areas of the USA. They want greasy food, big cars, and bigger trucks. Most of the people nowadays look like somebody over-inflated them with an air hose. They don’t walk, they waddle.

.I’m really praying for gas to go to $8.00 a gallon, as it is in most places in Europe. Then, and only, then, will we ever get adequate mass transportation, upgraded railroads that link up our cities and towns, and breaks for cyclists in the form of bike lanes and bike paths.

Until then, we just have to keep dodging the hillbillies, watching out for the bike thieves, and taking the back roads on the way home during Full Moon Week.

Oh yeah, and make sure the Frigging Dragons are ON STRAIGHT!!!!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Unless you have been off of the planet or in a coma the last few days, you are already aware that Lance Armstrong has announced that he intends to return to bicycle racing next season. It's not official yet, but more than likely he's going to reunite with his old partner in crime, Johann Bruyneel, on the Astana squad.

So what's up with this? Why did the guy who is the most successful American Tour de France rider of all time, financially set for life with plenty to do, decide to get back into the unending Soap Opera of ProTour cycling? And does he have a chance of winning again?

Can he win the Tour of California? The Tour of Georgia? The Dauphin? An eighth Tour de France? At 37?

Yup, yup, yup, and absolutely.

His age is being held agaist him by the "experts"? Bullshit. Being 37 is not a handicap in an endurance sport like cycling. There are many examples of older endurance athletes competing - and winning - at this age. Mark Allen came back to the Hawaiin Ironman at 37 after a year off and won his sixthworld title. Erik Zabel is still competing - and winning - on the cycling protour - and at the velodrome in the "off-season" - at 38.

While it's true that younger athletes can recover quicker,there has always been strong evidence that it takes several years of practice and competition before your body gets used to the demands of long distance racing, Unlike strength and power, endurance just takes time to build. Looking at the career of Lance Armstrong's Tour championships, one of his strongest years was 2004 at the age of 34. According to the scuttlebutt we get from friends and oldracing buddys we know in Austin, he has still been training hard, and the recent Leadville 100 race shows he can still bring it.

And unlike that race in Leadville, road cycling is a team sport. You can't win if you don't have a strong team. Assuming it's Astana,he will be joining a powerhouse that rivals the old "Le Train Bleu" of USPS. With Kloden, Levi, and Contador on the team, there will be no lack of riders to assume the role of "super-domestique" to help pull him up the high mountain passes and launch him to stage victorys. His time trialing was always top notch, from the time he was an oustanding junior triathlete through his entire procareer as a roadie. If he trains like we always has - a man possessed and consumed with attaining victory - then the time away isn't going to matter.

It may even have helped him. Competing in any sport at a high level these days is a year-round job. The stress of training year-round,travel, delaing with the press, dealing with finanacial mattrs, and balancing the regular "trivia of life" will wear you down. Having the time away from the sport gave him a chance to recharge himself mentally.

Poeple are also questioning "why"? Why bother when you own the record for most TDF wins, are financially set for life, and can do pretty much anything you choose with your life? Why bother with the high-stress life of Pro cycling?

Well, if you have ever been a competitive athlete, and been successful at a high level in your chosen sport, you already know theanswer to that one.

It's who - and what - you are.

When you are a professional athlete, and successful at a high level for a long time, it's no accident. Where you are is the product of alifetime of daily participation in your given sport. You train, you study, and you live the life. If you don't love it, are doing it because your parents want you to, or you just want the money, or just want the fame - you won't - and don't - last very long. Your chosen activity is a part of you -a very big part of you - and defines your life. Taking it away is a big loss. That's why age group competition is so popular. It gives us older boys and girls a way to keep training - and competing - when we are too old for open racing. It keeps us happy, beacusewe get to live the life we love doing what we love doing.

The man says he will race for free. I believe him. He wants to raise awareness on the Fight Against Cancer. I believe that, too. He hasn't said so, but his presence next year is going to be a huge shot in the arm for Cycling in the United States. it willsinglehandedly save the Tour de Georgia, sell a million more Treks, raise the number of USCF licenses, and make for some inspiringviewing on Versus.

Welcome back, Mellow Johnnie. All of us here in the shop missed you. The Tour hasn't had this sort of drama since you left:

The race, and cycling as a whole, needs you back.

Anybody want to buy an Astana kit?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

It's All Grist for the Mill

With 2008 rapidly turning out to be the next "Year of the Bicycle" thanks to higher gas prices, reporters are starting to write informational pieces on taking up cycling. The only problem with this is most of them:

-Don't ride a bicycle much, or at all and

-Don't know jack shit about bicycles and cycling

That doesn't stop them from writing about the subject. Funny stuff, but sad because alot of people will believe this crap. Here is an example from an article that recently showed up in the Washington Post, of all places.

Although she meant well, the reporter got into trouble by going to a local bicycle shop and asking a salesman for advice. Not to disparage bicycle shop sales people. Mrs. Flyer is one herself. But, she would be the first to tell you that some of the sales people will be , um, less than up front about their agendas. And some of them don't even ride themselves. Consider this advice the reporter from the Post received:

“Tip #1: If you're looking to ride a bike to and from work, consider a fitness hybrid or a cyclocross bike. The fitness hybrid is in between a road bike and a beach cruiser, according to Chris Peguese, who sells bikes at Spokes Etc., a bike store in Alexandra, Arlington, Ashburn and Vienna. It's recommended for commuting because "it puts you in a little more upright position so you're able to keep your eyes on what's going on around you instead of tucked down," he adds. This bike also offers a wider tire for stability for hopping curbs. "In terms of urban ride, it generally makes cracks and bumps more comfortable," says Peguese. The cyclocross is for people who want speed and efficiency but also like to beat up their bikes. These bikes also tend to have racks attached to them for carrying things like a briefcase or a laptop.”

Yup. Nothing like a 35 pound bike, like this beauty, to really smooth out that urban commute.

Perfect for an out-of-shape adult trying to get back into cycling. It works out OK if you combine a beach trip in Florida, a 4-pack of your favorite wine cooler, and Jimmy Buffet songs. Then keep the trip at around, say, a mile or less. Somewhere in the world there are a few pictures of me doing just that from the middle 80's in the off-season. I wasn't in any shape to emember at the time.But, I never said I was proud.

And then there’s cyclocross. You aren’t going to see a lot of racks and panniers in your average cyclocross race. Most cyclocross frames don’t have the eyelets you need for touring rigs. And why do people think that commuting requires racks, bags and 25+ pounds worth of stuff added to weight of a bicycle? Cyclocross is best when you have:

-lots of mud

-hills for the riders to run up carrying their frames and

-cavernous tents with drunken Euros swilling beer

Tip #2: If you're buying a bike to ride with a group of friends, pick the same type of bike they have. If you have the wrong bike, you might not be able to keep up with them.”

This statement is sort of like saying you are going to get wet if it rains. True, you don’t want to show up on a mountain bike if your friends are going on a group road ride. Unless you are Lance Armstrong, and then it won’t matter. And if your friends are riding fixies, no way in HELL do you want to show up with a regular road bike. you will get heckled off of the planet.

“Tip #3: The best time to buy a bike is at the end of the year when many retailers have sales to get rid of old inventory. Peguese says bike manufacturers have already told them that prices of 2009 bikes will be going up 15 to 25 percent because of gas prices and higher demand for bikes.”

Yup. Buy the Bicycle That Nobody Wanted. Especially if it’s a 30 pound beach cruiser or a Cyclocross frame. You get the sense that there is a whole other subtext going on here. I’m immediately suspicious of a bicycle salesman that wants to push leftover bicycles at the end of the summer.

It sounds like the salesman:

-Wants to sell the leftover stock that’s on his “spiff list”. The ones he gets a higher percentage on

-The “spifflist” has a lot of cruisers and cyclocross models that the store owner wants to move.

“Tip #4: If you're going the used route, Peguese recommends Craig's List, as well as Phoenix Bikes, a non-profit organization in Arlington that trains kids how to fix bikes. They sell used bikes that have been fixed up.”

Like this local beauty that showed up on Craigslist:

And it's a recumbent, too.

Tip #5: If you're considering a used bike, take it for a few spins around the block to make sure it doesn't feel too big or too small. You could also go into a bike shop to get advice on what size bike would be good for your frame. If the bike frame is steel, check for corrosion like rust. "You want to stay away from a bike that has visible rust because if it's on the outside, there's a good chance there's quite a bit on the inside," Peguese says. If the bike has an aluminum frame, check for dents. You'll also want to stay away from those. With a carbon frame, you'll want to run your fingernail along the frame to check for scratches, which could mean that the bike has a hairline fracture -- also a no-no in buying a used bike.”

Sure. Five miles down the road and your butt will just love that aluminum frame. And that carbon frame beauty won’t be worth shit the first time you put it down on the pavement. And it may well be stiff enough to beat up your butt, too. At least with that rusty iron frame you can lock it up at Starbuck’s and not come out to find somebody ripped it off because it was a sleek carbon frame.

Cycling is a lot about using the right tool for the right job. Generalizing by frame material is impossible. You need to look at what kind of riding you do as well as how much you plan on using it. Then take it from there.

“Tip #6: Some bikes can be about as expensive as a small car. So Peguese says one way to cut back on the expense of a new bike is by going with a single speed, which requires less maintenance and will give you a better workout. A fixed-gear bike also requires less cash but you have to stop the bike with your feet rather than using a hand brake. This bike offers even more of a workout, says Peguese. "If you have a 10-mile commute, you're pedaling the whole way," he says.”

The first time this advice starts to make sense – for about two sentences. Then the whole thing disintegrates. Stopping a fixie with your feet? Maybe if you get a few messengers together with beer, pot, and extra time on their hands. Or are we talking about Fred Flintstone’s bike?

Riding a fixie on the street is fun and great training for a roadie or track rider. But it can scare the bejebus out of an inexperienced rider.

The following is a more typical first-time fixie experience for a non-cyclist:

With that whole top-tube thing, she's lucky she's a girl.

“Tip #7: If you're buying a bike for a child, make sure they can sit on the seat and comfortably reach the ground with their feet. The smallest bikes have 12-inch wheels and training wheels and can accommodate bikers as young as 3 years old. Once they turn five, you'll want to bump them up to 16-inch wheels. And then once they're around 7, they'll move into 20-inch wheels. These bigger bikes don't accommodate training wheels so you'll want to make sure they've learned how to ride a two-wheeler before moving them up to a bigger bike.”

Trust me, as a parent and a coach, your kids are off training wheels before you know it. Buy them some simple, unassuming bicycles for the first few years. They can go on to regular road or mountain bikes when they get older. If they are teenagers, they won’t want anything but a fixie, anyway.

As long as they watch out for that top tube.

This is just an example of how a lot of BS is getting slung on the ‘Net about cycling and bicycles. At some point in time, I’ll get into a conversation with someone, either on the ‘Net or in person, and I’ll get some of these “facts” parroted back to me. Mrs Flyer will get some earnest customer who will come into the shop and ask for a cruiser or cyclocross bike because of this. And then argue with her because they read all about it in the newspaper. All this will come from someone whose last bicycle experience was back in the fourth grade.

In the meantime, I'm going to put up a bunch of cruiser and cyclocross frames on the Washington D.C. Craigslist site.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Starting Over

If you had told me one year ago that I would be riding a steel, fixed gear bicycle to work I would have said "no way". And thought that you were crazy. Last September I was busy getting ready for still another Ironman Triathon, and my cycling was just a part of my regular training program, I did not ride daily, I drove a car to work in Marietta, and on the weekends drove to Rome and rode 100 miles every Saturday. My choice of bicycle was a carbon frmae, lightweight TREK 5900SL set up with clip on time trial bars and equipped with 4 bottle cages so I could blow by the aid stations and save time in the race. I wore lycra bibed overalls and a racer cut bicycle jersey, never rode in the rain or on windy days, and definitely never rode at night. I always took at least one day off each week from any exercise, and every fourth week would cut my training in half.

I was, in short, a Tri-Geek. And a Middle Class dork to the nth degree.

What saved me from a fate of terminal Middle Aged boredom was a little green bicycle, a Mercier Kilo. I had owned a black Kilo for two years, and then sold it when I moved to the condo in Midtown three years ago. After the first year, when the fall arrived and the racing season was over, I wanted to get another singlespeed bicycle to train in the winter months. My first cycling coach instilled in us the belief that one should ride a singlespeed bicycle - preferably fixed gear - for at last 1000 miles before starting serious training in the Spring. I wanted to have a good season the next year, so I searched for a deal, and got one, on the Kilo.

Any serious racer tends to buy and sell cycles on a regular basis. Sometimes you change sponsors, and want to unload the models you no longer ride. Or you are looking for an edge, and if you can get another frame that is newer, stiffer, and lighter, then you don't think twice about pulling out the plastic, or selling one or more of the bicycle in your collection so you can make the nut on your new ride.

Triathletes are far worseabout this than roadies. Most tri-geeks come from a running background, and view bicycles the same way that Mr Toad viewed the automobile when he first laid eyes on it. They feel that if the blow as much money as they can on a high end ride, they can buy speed and a place on the podium.

They also tend to turn every race into the cycling version of Mr. Toad's wild ride. The old roadie expression of "twitchier than a triathlete in a Cat 4 crit" is dead-on in my experience. Some of my most dangerous rides on a bicycle have come going into a turn or a technical downhill in triathlons. Last year I had to pull a Lance 2003 and "Baha" through the grass to avoid a young woman trathlete who, for some inexplicable reason, came to a dead stop in front of me on a downhill run and looked down at her pedal. "Sorry" she yelled, as I bunny hopped over the curb and swerved around her, "I think I have a bug on me!"

Sure, honey. Good luck on finishing. Or surviving to see 30.

Lest I get carried away on race stories - and it's before Noon and I haven't even started drinking beer yet - The point is that I have been into a lifetime habit of acquiring, riding, and then dumping bikes to get yet another one. The green Mercier had a short time in my collection. It was set up with a ridiculously small gear, a 46x22, and used primarily to take short trips here and there around our neighborhood. I would up selling it to a fixie rider who coincidentally had just had his stolen out of his garage. He was a very happy man to get a virtually duplicate ride, but what he said to me was to prove to be a life-changing moment.

What he told me was that he used the bicycle as a replacement for a car. He went everywhere - rain or shine - on the little green bike. And he rode it fixed. He worked two jobs, one as a bicycle messenger, and without a ride, he wasn't going to be able to survive.

He wasn't a racer. He wasn't Ironman fit. I was old enough to be his father, and at any average criterium distance I could probably give him a head start and easily whip his butt. However, compared to him, I suddenly felt like a phony. He was a real professional cyclist. He rode a bicycle to make a living. Every day.

I realized I had become one of the people that i used to sneer at. I rode mine basically as a hobby. All of the age-group wins, Team USA photos, "All-American" rankings, really didn't mean anything. I was no longer a cyclist.

And I didn't like it. Not one bit.

So I decided it was time to go back to doing what I always did - simply ride a bicycle. Screw the SUV, the investments, the job. I wanted the adventure I used to have, and the passion for bicycling that I had before I quit racing, stopped spinning a wrench, and took up triathlon and office work.

Come to think of it, they kind of go togethor, don't they?

The short version is I sold alot of road and triathlon parts, put my bike in the SUV, drove it to Carmax, sold the SUV and road my bicycle home. Now I ride a bicycle everywhere. The 40 miles to work and back, to the grocery, restaurants, stores, errands. Rain or shine. Day or night. SOber or Drunk.

I own four bikes. Three are fixies. I still have the TREK, but I have a feeling it's time is limited. I startd riding at the velodrome, want to race track again, and I'm eyeing some of the Keirin frames. My wife quit her job and took one at a bicycle shop, and we will either open our own or I'll go spin a wrench again soon.

Happy? You bet! I got my life back.

Enough of the bio crap. On to the important stuff. Wilson 100 tomorrow in Senoia. I'm taking the Red Dragon.