Tuesday, September 29, 2009

More Like This Please

New York City built a protected bike lane to solve the problem of how to make biking along the approach to the Manhattan Bridge safer for bicycles. After completion, bike traffic more than triples.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Although I still don't know exactly where I finished Sunday, there is a terrific article in today's Chicago Tribune about cyclocross racing that grabbed my interest.

My favorite quote (from a related article, How cyclocross races work) describes exactly how I feel during the early part of each race:

"I've never started a 'cross race and not felt like I was over my head within the first two minutes," says racer and shop owner Lou Kuhn.

My feelings exactly.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Jackson Park Cyclocross

It was a great day for a race. Mild temperatures and little to no wind was going to make finding excuses difficult. Paul and I arrived at the park just around 8:00, about two hours before our race (40+ Masters). We got the bikes off the car, put the wheels on the bikes, suited and helmeted up and took a few easy laps before registering. Easy, right? This was going to be a beast of a course (aren't they all?) It was very similar to the layout that I remembered from two years ago, but the organizers had added a few tricks. My favorite was using the baseball field to ride from home to second base (approximately). There was also three fence posts laid across a slight uphill spaced about two bikes lengths apart. This was easily ridable, but with low pressure in my clinchers, I thought it would be a pinch flat hazard, so I decided to run it. This also turned out to be faster for me. I guess the running I had been doing the last four weeks has helped.

Two laps, a couple of additional practice runs in the maze and it was time to register. Kudos to the Chicago Cross Cup for adding pre-registration this year which made the process fast and easy.

After some food and a few more laps, I notice that there's about 20 minutes to go before the race. I dismount the bike, feel a pull and hear a noise. I look at my saddle and half of it is pointing upwards. I try to fix it and  get it snapped back on the rail and see the real problem:

Inauspicious Start

It's either going to be a short day or a bad ride. I brought spare tubes, a spare tire, tools and Paul brought a pump. Who thinks to bring a spare saddle? Would the mechanics tent even have one? I headed over to the Get a Grip Cycles tent and asked Mike, who wrenched at my local bike shop for a couple of years. Jeff says: "Take mine, I'm not racing. Looks like it's the same one, too." This is Jeff who saved my day:

Thanks to This Guy (and Mike)!

And damned if it wasn't the same saddle, just a much newer one! Comfortable too! Jeff and Mike take nearly no time to fix me up and I head over the the start. It's a big field and with the trip to the tent and the last minute repair, I'm near the back. Heck, I'm going to wind up there anyway so I might as well start here.

The start was, as usual, fast. We rounded the first turn into a wide grassy section and then we all bunched up rounding the fence leading to the infield. We entered the infield at less than a walking pace so I decided to dismount and run it. This was a good choice, passing a number of racers and getting back on the bike without incident. I did fall on the first lap, back by the water where the shade kept the grass moist and slippery (how did I miss this on the practice laps?) but what would a cross race be without getting some grass and dirt in the shift levers? On a later lap, I would pass a guy who must have brutally missed the entry turn into this section as he was furiously putting one of his shoes back on.

As the race wore on, my body was getting more and more beat up. Some of this was probably muscles that hadn't fully healed after a spectacular endo at Kettle Moraine a few weeks ago which, I'm sure, also didn't like being fallen upon in lap one. I did get into a reasonable rhythm as the race wore on. I wound up running the fence posts each lap to save my tubes and make up time. I also decided to ride the dirt infield after running it the second lap. I figured it was better to ride it and save energy rather than try to make up some time running it and tiring myself out. The rest of my skills seemed pretty good to me. I did make one poor remount, missing the sweet spot of the saddle by about 3 inches aft, but, luckily, no major damage done.

I finished. Tired, beaten up and happy to get the first cross race of the season under my belt. We did hang around about 45 minutes after the race. Time to change, eat and for me to get a few pictures. The results weren't posted yet, but I think I might have cracked the top 75th percentile.

Just two weeks to DeKalb!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

James Martin Apologizes (sort of)

Thanks to the Fredcast on Twitter, I see that James Martin has attempted an apology. I am cut and pasting it here in its entirety just in case he changes his mind and takes it down:

Regarding the The Tesla Roadster Article...
May I take this opportunity to apologize for any offence I have caused through the article in last weekend’s Mail on Sunday. It was never my intention to offend the many cyclists who share our roads across the country. What was intended to be a humorous piece was clearly misjudged. Further more I do not condone any form of reckless driving.
Once again, I am sincerely sorry for any upset caused in relation to this article.
James Martin

As apologies go, this one rates about a 3 out of 5. You see, it wasn't his fault for taking pleasure in running a couple of cyclists off the road and writing about the experience. It was that we cyclists didn't realize that it was meant to be funny and not an encouragement for drivers to act similarly. Now I don't expect, as a result of this article (and others like it), that some driver somewhere will do the same. But I do believe that making light of driving recklessly near cyclists encourages the feeling that cyclists are not supposed to be in the road and are barriers to get around no matter the risk to the cyclist. Share the road means that bicycles have to share it with cars as well as cars have to share it with bikes.

If a humorous piece misses its mark, it is typically the fault of the writer, not the reader. I'd like to see Mr. Martin take some responsibility for that. I would also like to see this apology appended to the end of the original article in the Daily Mail. And, in an ideal world, I'd like to see him have to ride a bicycle into London every day (saving the "£8 for the privilege") for three months donating the savings to driver education and write about the experience.

One can dream, can't one?

Moron James Martin

Oh. I see. It was just a joke:

When the Guardian contacted Martin yesterday, he declined to comment, but a source close to him said he was only joking.
Cuz, you know, it's funny when a motorist runs a cyclist off the road and then writes about it giving him pleasure. And now it seems that the Daily Mail has cut out the last few paragraphs of the article which 1) detail Martin's offensive and stupid antics and 2) makes his comments about hating cyclists even more out of place in the review of the Tesla.

Do they have editors at the Daily Mail?

Monday, September 7, 2009

How Not to Ride

I've never seen "What Not to Wear" but I think I can deduce what the show is about from the title and the fact that it airs on TLC. Today, I was thinking about "How Not to Ride" as a possible blog post and then perhaps as the sole subject of a blog. Think about it. An entire blog dedicated to learning from and being entertained by the mistakes others make on a bike. I'm not talking fashion mistakes (like men wearing arm warmers with sleeveless jerseys). Instead, I want to explore errors of judgement like the guy who, while riding along at 20 MPH, decided to smack in a loose bar end on his road bike leading to the cycling equivalent of a self-goal .

The reason I was thinking about How Not to Ride was that I was remembering my trip yesterday to Kettle Moraine. Those of you who know me or read the blog know that in a typical year I put in thousands of miles on my road bike and hundreds of trail miles on my cyclocross bike, but only dozens of miles on my mountain bike. I love mountain biking and would do more of it, but the local trails are rather limited and it's 3-hours round trip to get to either Kettle or Palos. Yesterday, being the middle day in a three day weekend, gave me an opportunity to do something different, meet some friends and get in some handling practice that I hoped would serve me well when Cyclocross season begins in two weeks.

We started on the white loop, which had a few challenging sections and sharp turns, but I was pretty much in cautious mode, rode it reasonably well and felt pretty good when we regrouped at the end. I took some advice on how to take the sharp turns smoother and faster and we went off on the blue loop.

My handling was getting better and things were coming together nicely for me. I was climbing the hills well and descending a little faster, but still cautiously. We hit the most technical and difficult section of the trail and I was getting a little cocky. Still, I managed to keep the bike upright and mostly under control.

That is, until we hit a particular descent. First of all, let me ruin the suspense and mention that I didn't break any bones or bike components. I don't remember exactly how it happened, but it seems that I was out of the saddle as I began the descent and hit a rut which pitched me a little forward. Not much, but enough that when I hit the next rut immediately after, I went all the way forward and knew this was going to end up badly.

The rider behind me had a great view of my crash. I think she described it as spectacular. I wound up next to my bike on the ground in front of a tree. I was in front of it because it didn't move when I hit it. Nancy said my feet were up in the air when I hit the tree. I remember my back hitting the tree and I must have slid down it like a cartoon character. The tree left it's mark on my back in a red scrape reverse image of its bark starting at my left shoulder and ending above my right hip. This would appear to give the angle at which my body hit the tree. As I think about it, if I was going to hit that tree anyway, having endo-ed right before impact probably have saved my body and bike a lot of damage.

As I lie on the ground thinking that I really wish I hadn't done that, I began a quick self inventory. I remember thinking that the fact that I wasn't in any immediate pain was a good sign. I said out loud, "I'm OK, I think". I collected my wits for a moment and began to move and sit up. Still no sharp pains, but I felt some tenderness in both calves, more on my right one than my left. It felt like they had been hit with a blunt instrument (which, I guess, a tree qualifies). My biggest worry was injuring my back, but there was nothing besides the scrapes. The only damage to equipment was a large tear on the back of my jersey and a bent derailleur which Brendan fixed for me in about 30 seconds.

I got up and walked around and realized that I was quite lucky to have had such a spectacular fall and not any significant injuries. We rode back to the parking lot. I arrived quite a bit later than the rest of the group taking my time and walking down the one remaining steep rocky hill. I said my goodbyes and headed home. I got in about 90 minutes of riding and had to be home by 2 so it was a good time to leave even if I didn't crash.

At home, there was ice, Vitamin I and rest. Today I got out and did an easy road ride. I noticed that I had also hurt my left shoulder when I attempted to signal a turn. As I expected, I'm slightly sore in a number of places that I didn't feel yesterday, but the legs are better and I think I'll be able to get in a run or two this week in addition to my morning rides.

As for Kettle. I can't wait to get back to ride the blue trail at my pace. I got too aggressive for my skills and paid for it. Luckily, the price was rather cheap.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Short URL

Hey. I've got me a new short URL via my friend at Cyclelicio.us. It looks like this: http://cycl.me/ILF