Monday, July 30, 2012

Why Ride a Touring Bike? 15 weeks, Skinny Tires and The Orphan Master's Son

Here's my trusty Giant Iguana bicycle, purchased in the early 1990's. It's sensible and reliable, serves well for trips to the grocery store, visiting friends and going to the gym.  Since it weighs about 100 pounds, it really should count as exercise by itself.  Think of it as a mini van.

A real giant iguana
Here's my other bike.  It's for "touring".  We bought it in 199-something from a friend for a song when our children were small and I had illusions about keeping up with them. Think of it as a Fiat Spider.

Note that it's hanging from the ceiling to save space.  The Man of the House rigged this up.  He's very handy.
The "Head Badge" (bike talk for logo) on my bike.  A Vintage Bicycle site dates this 1990-96
This bike's sole purpose is to race around.  Compared to the Giant Iguana, it is light as air.  It requires special shoes, which I like because they make my feet look small, although they are hard to walk in.

Riding this bicycle also requires special clothes.

Would you wear these pants? 
No, that is not Kotex in the middle.  It is padding.   
After a few miles you're grateful for it

Note the gloves, fingerless so you can shift gears, and nice if you fall off because they protect your hands from scraping on the pavement, a.k.a., as my yoga teacher says, from bicycle stigmata.

There really should be protection for knees, too, because the special shoes "clip in", meaning they snap onto the pedals.  Disconnecting in an emergency usually takes longer than it takes to hit the ground.  Knee pads, however, aren't de rigueur.  Look:
Tour de France.  Thank you for the photo

Perhaps road raspberries are a badge of honor?  Or perhaps, if you crash the rest of you is so messed up your knees don't matter?
Photo credit Atomic Gator

I'm reading a novel about North Korea, The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson -- really good by the way -- which puts racy bikes into perspective.  When fishermen in the book come across brand new Air Jordan Nikes floating in the ocean, they can't figure out what they're for.  For exercise, one of them suggests.  Imperialists drive everywhere and have so much food that they have to exercise or they get fat.  Some even do it for fun.

It is fun.

Clearly though, there are simpler, cheaper, safer ways to exercise and have fun, even on a bicycle. So why ride a touring bike?  And honestly, a fify-mmph woman riding a touring bike is maybe a little ... ? OK, maybe downright foolish.  Why, in fact, would anyone get on something with tires as wide across as dimes, balance on the white line on country roads while hay trucks suck you into their wake, pickup truck drivers give you the finger, and Buick drivers honk and brush your shoulder with their mirrors?

I think it makes more sense for an old person to ride one of these risky business machines than a young one.  Squish your private parts on that hard seat for a couple hours and for sure you're going to jeopardize the next generation, and besides, if you're just starting out, you shouldn't want to do things that might cut your time on earth short.  Of course, none of us wants to do anything that would make us a burden to our children.

Let's just say, people who ride this way are optimists.

And beside, it's ---  anyone want to fill in here?  I have my reasons, but this post is getting long, so I'll pull a Charles Dickens Serial: To Be Continued.

If you ride a lightweight bike, and clip in and all the rest, why do you do it? If you don't, feel free to try to talk sense into me, but be forewarned, I'm in pretty deep.

Week 15 of 104 rides in 52 weeks.  Last week rode/commuted 7 times.  Grand total since April 15 start date:  42 (12 rides in the bank).

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

OW. Week 14 and a Book Review

"You cannot fully appreciate the shape of the 20th century if you did not once share its illusions."
                                                                                                                               Tony Judt

Crashed today.

It was a slow motion, one minute you're up, next minute you're down kind of thing.  300 or so motorists drove by my sprawl-out, and I wavered between hoping someone would stop and hoping no one would. No one did. All those drivers politely turned their heads and made a wide swing around the lump on bike path.  Fine. There was nothing a few Bandaids couldn't fix anyway. 

                                                    Photo credit: click from

It was tempting though to go back to bed and pull the covers over my head, or at least drive.  Nothing like seeing the old sunglasses crash ahead of you onto the pavement and realizing that could be my head; but it wasn't.

Picked myself up. Got back on.

On my mind, egging me on: Tony Judt's last book Thinking the Twentieth Century.  It's a series of conversations between Judt and his friend Timothy Snyder in the last two years before Judt's death from Lou Gehrig's disease. Judt was a prolific writer and historian, a frequent contributor to the New York Times, the center of much controversy.  He insisted on "speaking truth to power" and was one of the few New York intellectuals to publicly oppose the 2003 Iraq war.  He was a pragmatist among media hysterics. As a prescription for economic instability, climate change and rogue states, he recommended the almost boring remedies of constitutionalism, rule of law and social democracy. 

"The choice we face in the next generation is not capitalism versus communism... but the politics of social cohesion based around collective purposes versus the erosion of society by the politics of fear".

Fancy words for:  we have a choice between doing things to help each other, and doing things because we are afraid people will do (bad) things to us.

Flirting with potential head trauma by cycling in the city is not exactly speaking truth to power, but we do what we can. Choosing to bicycle or walk is the opposite of buying an Uzi and waving the 2nd Amendment flag.  It's neighborly, healthy and saves gasoline, things our society sorely needs, and if it in any way, shape or form puts me in a category with a journalist who struggled to speak the truth as he saw it practically until the day he died, hurrah.  If there are bumps and scrapes along the way, c'est la vie. 
Skinned knee meet Thinking the Twentieth Century
Week 14 of 104 rides in 52 weeks.  Last week took a lake break in the mountains and did not ride at all.  Grand total, same as last week:  35 (7 rides in the bank)

Friday, July 13, 2012

A Week at the Lake: Week 13

 Hot sun, cold lake, no cell service.  No cycling but who cares?  

  Week 13:  three commutes by bicycle.  Grand total:  35 (9 in the bank)

Monday, July 9, 2012

Tidy Person Meet A New Kind of Dirty, Bicycle Cleaning 101: Week 12

Completed week 12 in a quest to commute by bicycle at least twice a week for a year.   How is it going?  Pretty good.  Last two weeks, eight commutes and two long rides, puts the total at 27.  8 in the bank.  Time to up the ante with a touch-the-chain experience.

In honor of cycling idol, Bike Snob NYC...
... who disapproves of people who pay for basic upkeep, I decided to try Bicycle Maintenance Step A, clean the free wheel and chain wheel.  The words free wheel and chain wheel were not in my vocabulary before last weekend (thank you Bicycling for Beginners), but the parts in question were in my consciousness because they get gunky in winter.  If you let them go long enough you can't lock up without getting black stuff on your pants.  

Fortunately the Man of the House knows how to do this and has the appropriate equipment:

Degreaser.  Don't let the citrus part fool you. This stuff can melt your toenails.  Wear gloves. Doesn't smell very good either.  Keep the garage door open.

Something to put degreaser in.

A nifty device for cleaning the chain.
Chain cleaner in action.  See? Nice and shiny.  Do not look at the floor underneath.
Free the free wheel by taking off the quick release for the wheel.  Had trouble with the springs.  They are quick little things.
Another handy tool.  It has teeth.  (Yes, me without gloves.  Regretted it.)

Really get in there.

A little clean up on the spokes.  Mm-mm. 

Uh oh. A snag.  Chain ring wouldn't fit over clips on pedals.  Couldn't find the right wrench to get the clips off.  Cried.  I was about 2 hours into it by then. Maybe high on Citrus Degreaser. Solution:  realized that the bike shop could take the clips off the pedals in three minutes, probably for free.  Gave up on chain ring. 

Beautiful, huh? OK, maybe not, but there is a lot less noise down in the nether regions.  No more ominous grinding.  Would I do it again?   Mayyybe.  Okay, yeah.  Next time, for time.  Under 90 minutes or bust. 

Happy riding.
For better pictures and step-by-step directions, check out the Triathalon Newbies siteAcknowledgments and thanks to the Man of the House who let me get into his stuff, provided instructions and then wisely retreated to the man cave.