Sunday, January 25, 2009

Open source transportation

Lifted from the Salvagetti site, which means that Scott probably wrote it


Think of that. Bikes have been designed in most countries of the world. And the end goal that all of these countries are working on is the perfect bike. Everyone is experimenting and sharing and learning and growing. The only other example we have thought of is LINUX... "

This is a fascinating connection that I had not to date made. I am a big Linux enthusiast, and I am a big bicycle enthusiast. I had not considered bicycling "open source" transportation until now, but now that I think about it, it definitely makes sense.

I will continue to meditate on this.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


I'm building a library. It will be the most authoritative collection of material about bicycles and pirates on either side of the Mississippi.

The list below serves as a "suggested reading" list and as a plan of acquisition in the development of the collection.


The Man Who Rode His 10 Speed Bicycle To The Moon
Bernard Fischman
I read this book when I was in the 5th grade, and it has haunted me ever since.

Traffic: Why We Drive The Way We Do (And What It Says About Us)
Tom Vanderbilt
Incredible insights into, observations about, and factoids regarding the most complicated and dangerous thing that most people will ever do, and spend hours each day doing.

Urban bikers' tricks & tips : low-tech & no-tech ways to find, ride, & keep a bicycle
Dave Glowacz
Amazon | Library
This is the best book about commuting that I've read. Just like it says in the title, it is chock full of low-tech and no-tech tips. It's heavily illustrated and very accessible. The grand theme of this book is "All you need to ride a bike is a bike." You don't need hundreds of dollars of Lycra or spandex.

John Forester
Amazon | Library
This is my bike bible. An authoritative guide to bike mechanics and politics. It's my first reference when I have a question.

on cages, and liberation therefrom.

In the cyclist's jargon file, an automobile is often refered to as a cage, and one who drives an automobile is a cager. It is an interesting play on the roles of ownership, for if one is in a cage, then one is obviously confined, restricted, without liberties. The cage contains its captive. The captive does not own its cage; it is subject to it and inferior to it. The Cars R Coffins group elaborates on this line of thought.

Automobilers though immediately regain some control when they are called cagers. A cager must be "one who cages," or one who drives a cage. Now the driver again has some ownership of the car.

However you chose to look at it though, the implication is obvious that riding a bicycle is liberating. 

And it truly is.

A lot of Pirsig's comments on quality, as it pertains to his motorcycle rides, apply directly to bicycling.

One begins to measure "good time" with an emphasis on "good" and not "time."

And, possibly most importantly, by losing the barrier between you and your environment, you seamlessly become part of your environment. Without the windshield in front, the roof overhead, and the doors on your sides, you are no longer merely passing through. Feeling the wind on your face and smelling the aromas around you make you feel like a participant in the symphony of your surroundings, not just a guest, or a visitor trying to get from point A to point B.

It makes your trips and commutes feel purposeful and intentional. It's mindful commuting, in the tradition of Buddhist mindfulness.

So it often does feel like when I talk about bicycling, what I'm actually doing is talking about weather. But that's okay because a large part of cycling is weather, and being mindful of it and participating in it and embracing it.

And all over the world, strangers talk only about the weather.  
-Tom Waits, strange weather

But speaking of weather, I think this kind of two day combination may come to typify Denver for me: lethal amounts of ice, snow, and wind on Monday; clear, sunny, and 50 degrees on Tuesday.

That kind of severe variation isn't healthy or stable. Denver weather has Dissociative Identity Disorder.

On Icy Roads

On icy roads

Scary is allowing yourself to gain momentum for an descent on what looks like a clear road, only then to notice the icy patch directly ahead.

Scarier are the trucks and SUVs that glide through intersections even though their wheels are not moving.

Still scarier are the careening agent-of-death taxi cabs who seem neither to notice nor be effected by the road conditions.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Lots of snow.

It snowed this morning. Snowed, as in my coworker's 15 minute drive downtown instead took her an hour to complete.

I contemplated my commute for a while, and rode up and down my block a few times to test out how slippery the roads were. I ultimately decided to go for it, mostly because while it was a little slippery and pretty windy, it didn't actually feel all that cold. And I didn't have to leave until after 10am, and by that time it had stopped snowing.

That ride though was probably the most difficult one I've done yet.  There were a couple of slushy downhill parts, during which I was not 100% confident in the control I had over my speed and over my stopping abilities. That was a bit unnerving. I dismounted and walked across several intersections because the accumulation of slush and ice just seemed way too forboding. I, for the first time, rode the pedestrian overpass at one particularly severe dip under the railroad tracks.

I fell twice. Technically. I don't consider either of them legitimate falls though. 

Fall number one happened after I had already come to a complete stop at a red light. I stopped concentrating on my balance and traction for a second, because, you know, I was stopped -- and then Boom. I teetered and slipped and laid my bike down on its side. 

Fall number two was half intentional. When I made it to the end of my commute, I celebrated by ripping through the fresh, virgin snow in the company parking lot, basically doing donuts. I attempted to cut my rear wheel hard enough to make it skid laterally, because I wanted to see it push the snow. I succeeded, and maintained control for, oh, about three seconds before dumping over.

Having accomplished that, I went inside.  I was only about 15 minutes late, which is not that bad considering all the factors.

Two things helped me navigate the terrain. 

Firstly, the extra weight in my rear panniers (Merry Christmas, me!) offered me a little extra stability.  Many, many times I felt my rear wheel slip, and then immediately dig in again. I rarely had to do more than a minor shift in balance to regain traction.

Secondly, I don't think I got out of what I think of as my "granny gears" the entire time. Which is to say I went slowly, but not infuriatingly slow by any means. In fact, at times, the automobiles around me were not going a heck of a lot faster than I was.

My ride this morning left me considering two things:

1.  I think I need an "Incliment Weather" bike. Not neccessarily a Surly Pugsley, although that would be pretty flippin sweet. But some kind of mountain bike for sure. My 32mm tires aren't really appropriate for this kind of riding.

2.  As my ride progressed, I began to really get a feel for the road. I could feel my traction, and I could tell how much I was, or wasn't, gripping the road. It made me wonder about how a good, wide-tired fixed gear bicycle would feel in these conditions. I assume one would feel a much closer connection with the road.


In other news, Jimmy Carter had two of his bicycles stolen in Atlanta. Ain't that a bitch?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

My commute this morning was my first ride of the new year.

I was horrible at riding during Christmas and New Year. Basically, I didn't do it.

The ride this morning was kind of difficult because my knees are stupendously sore after attempting a reckless increase in distance on my long Sunday run.  They are both sore in a place that feels frighteningly like the ACL tendon.

I'm icing them every chance I get.