Drivers VS. Cyclists

January 17th, 2010

Silly? I think so.

The tension between drivers and cyclists seems to be heating up. Some jackass even started a Facebook Fan Page called “There’s a Perfectly Good Path Right Next to the Road You Stupid Cyclist” that is currently getting a bit of notoriety. If you read through some of the comments, you’ll see a lot of drivers who talk about wanting to kill cyclists — or at least about how much they enjoy honking their horns at us or flipping us off. Of course, drivers aren’t the only ones saying stupid stuff on the page. One cyclist took it so far as to let people know she carries a gun while she rides and how she is looking to shoot at aggressive drivers.

Yesterday I was contacted by someone from https://www.sharethedamnroad.com/ asking if I wanted to share links with them on this blog (which, I guess, I’m doing in a way right here). These guys are selling riding jerseys saying things like “Share the Damn Road” or “Don’t Honk at Me.” Frankly, I think this is a flawed approach and these jerseys are more likely to inspire honking and other bad behavior than discourage it. I’m going to assume that most cyclists realize this and that these guys won’t be around for very long.

Let’s face facts — there are a lot of stupid people in the world, and many of them drive cars. Plenty also ride bikes and some are even serious riders. I hate to say it, but I’ve seen several cyclists — ESPECIALLY ON ORGANIZED RIDES — whose behavior justifies anger on the part of drivers. It is as if all of the sudden, riding 6 abreast or riding down the middle of the lane is just fine. I do realize that endorphins seem to have a negative impact on mental acuity, but there’s more to it than that. These cyclists put themselves and the rest of us at risk.

This poses a problem. While I’m confident that I could hold my own in a physical altercation with an angry driver who decided to stop his car and get out to try and demonstrate how tough he is, chances are that’s not going to happen. They are much more likely to choose the more cowardly tactic of yelling, throwing or using their car as a weapon. I have no doubt about who is more likely to prevail then and it isn’t the person wearing Lycra.

If you are a cyclist on a group ride and see a fellow rider acting like a fool, let them know in no uncertain terms what you think about the fact that they are putting YOU in danger. Finally, if you are a cyclist who actually carries a firearm while riding, do yourself (and the rest of the pro-gun community) a favor. Keep that fact to yourself or, at the very least, don’t go online and write about how you plan to shoot at aggressive drivers. Part of being a responsible gun owner is knowing when you can/can’t should/shouldn’t use lethal force. If you’ve received proper training, you’ll understand why going online and telling the world how you want to cap people is not too swift. If you haven’t received this type of training, you shouldn’t be carrying a gun in the first place.

At any rate, this season I’m expecting the very real potential that more drivers will feel OK about acting like jerks around cyclists (after all, now they have a place on Facebook where they can tell all their friends how much fun they had running a cyclist off the road). It might be valuable to think in advance of how you will respond. After a few years of trial and error, I’ve come up with my own theory on how to treat a rude motorist — ignore them completely. If they honk, yell or whatever, don’t give them a response. Even flipping them off shows that they’ve gotten to you, and that’s what they want. If they do something that endangers you or your fellow riders, get a license plate and call it in. It’s that simple. If they stop and threaten you, that’s a different story — then it is time to defend yourself in whatever way the situation demands.

Beyond that, act as an ambassador for cycling. If there is a car behind you, get over to the side of the road and wave them past. If a driver shows you a courtesy, be sure to signal your appreciation. Respect the rights of other drivers, but also make sure they respect your rights to be safe. If there’s a bike lane, use it, but if the bike lane is full of debris, don’t. If you need to take a lane, do so. For example, if you are going to make a left turn, own the turning lane. Don’t allow yourself to get pushed off to the left-hand section of that lane.

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If You Like Cycling, You’ll Love the FredCast

January 16th, 2010

I’ve mentioned on this blog how much I enjoy Bicycling Magazine. It has great information and is particularly well-written. A few weeks ago, while getting the iPod ready for an upcoming business trip, I decided to give Podcasts another look.

I’m very glad I did because I discovered another excellent source for all the latest and greatest cycling info — the FredCast. The FredCast is all about cycling. It covers news, professional racing, reviews and tips for endurance cyclists. Particular attention is paid to “high-zoot” bikes and gear, which is fine with me, so long as I’m not driven to actually purchase any of it. The host is also a major Mac geek, which I appreciate now that I’ve pretty much drunk that Kool Aid.

On my flight from Seattle to Calgary, I found myself getting into the FredCast so much, I was actually disappointed that my flight wasn’t longer (and I was on one of those little Horizon Air Turbo prop planes, so that’s saying quite a lot). If you use an iPod or iPhone, you can download the FredCast via iTunes. If not, you can go to the FredCast Website and download it as an MP3 file, or just listen online. The FredCast is put out weeklyish and is free. Check it out.

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Tips and Tricks for the Garmin Edge 705 GPS Bike Computer

January 14th, 2010
I could not love a human baby as much as I love this device

I could not love a human baby as much as I do this computer

Last year I took the lead on planning rides for Team Fartlek as we trained for Cycle Oregon. At first I used Microsoft Streets and Trips to map out the routes. I’d print maps and directions for most of the crew and we’d use them to try and find our way. Dealing with maps and directions on a bike pretty much blows. We ended up stopping and checking constantly and, more often than not, we’d still get at least a little bit lost.

Mid-season I switched to the Garmin 705 GPS bike computer and that all changed. Truth be told, this is probably one of the coolest and useful gadgets I’ve ever owned. So much so that I’m not even sure it is properly classified as a gadget.

It is a killer cycling computer that lets you monitor and track any piece of data you could possibly wish to track including heart rate, cadence, speed, incline, altitude, etc., etc., etc. On top of that, it is also a GPS that provides turn-by-turn directions of planned routes and keeps track of everywhere you ride. If you want a detailed review, there are plenty to be found online. The purpose of this post is to let you in on some of the things I’ve learned about how to use this device. Because as awesome as it is, it works best in the hands of someone who learns its little nuances.

1) Map your route using either the Garmin MapSource software or something like MapMyRide. I like the Garmin software a bit better, but use MapMyRide because I can share the maps with my team and they are able to print them out for themselves. I can also embed MapMyRide maps in my blog, which is an excellent feature. Either way, when loading the route into your device, be sure to download it as a GPX file. This will allow you to get turn-by-turn directions. If you use one of the older types of files, you will only be able to see the route on a map (which is still helpful, just not as cool).

2)  Have a good idea of where you are going and carry a back up map — and use your head. I do place a lot of trust in the device. However, I don’t trust it completely. This is especially true if you are going on a road or path that is not on the mapping software. For example, MapMyRide can’t deal with ferry crossings very well. One ride I did last season was an out-and-back with a ferry crossing in the middle. It worked OK going out, but on the way back it got confused and tried to direct us to a bridge 10 miles away (that also happens to be closed). That would have been bad.

3)  You need to remember to press start when you begin your ride. Turning it on isn’t enough. If you don’t hit start, many of the functions will still work, but the device isn’t collecting all the data and it isn’t guiding you along the route. If you hit start too late, chances are good the device will try to direct you to the start of your route. That’s not good. If that happens, the best thing to do is to reset, start pedaling, then tell it to start navigating WHILE YOU ARE RIDING. As it is calculating, it may recognize that you are following the planned route and  start navigating to the next way point. If not, you’ll still be able to follow the course by using the map, but turn-by-turn won’t work right.

Let's face it, sometimes, getting lost is just plain undesirable -- particularly when you are wearing Lycra tights

4) If mapping a route that starts and stops in the same location, consider putting the start point and the stop point in two different places. Put the mapped starting point a quarter mile or so down the road from the true starting point and the mapped stopping point a little beyond the real stopping point. If the computer thinks you’ve arrived at the stopping point at the beginning of the ride, your turn-by-turn wont work (as it thinks you are done with the ride). If you try to reset, the device will sometimes try and take you back to the start as explained above. Also, if you start in a parking lot, map the start point on the road so you don’t have to ride around in circles finding the place the GPS thinks you are supposed to start.

5) While the device’s software is really good, Garmin did one thing that was really goofy. The computer allows you to look at two screen’s worth of data fields (each screen lets you look at up to 8 pieces of data such as speed, cadence, heart rate, etc.) at a time. You use the toggle switch to go back and fourth between the screens when riding.

You choose how each screen is set up in the “Data Fields” menu. In that menu, screens are marked “Bike Computer 1″ and “Bike Computer 2.” This may lead you to believe one screen is for one bike and the other screen is for another bike. Not so. You can use both screens. If using multiple bikes, build a profile for each bike. Then, before your ride, choose which bike you are using. Both screens work for the bike you choose. To switch between bike profiles, you can hold the mode button down for a few seconds and you’ll be able to make a selection. This shortcut is not in the instructions.

I’ll update this post (or create a new one) as I learn more. If you have any tricks of your own, please feel free to share.

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Cyclepasion Calendar — Product Review

January 11th, 2010

More about the women than the bike, the cyclepassion calendar is still very pleasing to the eye

I was very excited when my Cyclepassion Calendar arrived today. The photos are lovely and it is a little larger than I expected. The models are all beautiful women in skimpy outfits who also happen to be professional cyclists from Europe. Of course other than that and the occasional bicycle-related prop, it isn’t immediately obvious that the calendar has anything to do with cycling.

If you have a spouse who isn’t into the whole pin-up thing, she might argue that this is a little much. Also, as a calendar it is fairly minimalistic — basically a string of numbers at the bottom of the page corresponding to the number of days in the month is all you get. However, the weekend dates are printed in a larger font, so with a little effort,  you can figure out which days correspond with the dates. Since I use my computer for calendaring purposes, this is OK with me.

Finally, due to the weak dollar, this calendar is pretty pricey and the shipping cost is downright absurd. Fortunately, if you look carefully, you can find the calendar sold for a lot less on other international Websites.

Sooooo. If you like to look at scantily-clad cyclists, aren’t worried about the lack of cycling content, have an understanding spouse, a little extra cash and use an electronic calendar for marking appointments and such, you’re sure to love this calendar. I know I do.

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Good Deal for MapMyRide.com Subscription — 50% Off Gold Membership

December 28th, 2009

PDX Cycling Online uses www.MapMyRide.com for its maps. It is far from perfect, but it is pretty good (and improving). The next few scheduled posts are going to talk about MapMyRide as well as the awesome GPS Cycling Computer that is the Garmin Edge 705.

In the meantime, you can go right now and get the top level MapMyRide membership for 50% off — less than $50/year. Remember to use the GOLD50 code when you go to pay.

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Best Christmas Music for Spinning or Indoor Cycling

December 22nd, 2009

I’m checking the stats for this blog and my friend Shannon’s blog and I’m seeing that a LOT of people who are doing Google searches for “best Christmas music for spinning” or “best Christmas music for indoor cycling” are finding our sites. My fear is that the majority of the folks doing these searches are spin instructors trying to find something seasonal for a class. So, since you asked …

THE BEST CHRISTMAS MUSIC FOR SPINNING IS A COMPLETE ABSENCE OF CHRISTMAS MUSIC

For one solid month, we are assaulted with Christmas music in stores, restaurants, bars, coffee joints, on the radio, in elevators and in people’s homes. Do people REALLY need yet one more source? I can say with great certainty that they do not.

There are lots of reasons to dislike Christmas music. Consider the people in your class who work retail and have to listen to this shit for 8+ hours a day ON TOP OF all the nonsense they have to endure from idiot customers this time of year. Consider those who don’t celebrate Christmas. Consider those who simply dislike Christmas and everything it has come to represent. You have an opportunity to provide all these poor souls with the brief respite they may desperately need. For the love of humanity, give them that hour of peace!

Beyond that, let’s face the facts — most Christmas music just plain sucks. This goes double for the up-tempo tunes that would be the most likely candidates for spinning. Think about it. If there were a lot of really good ones, you probably wouldn’t need to be searching online for ideas. So please, do us all a favor and “Just Say No” to Christmas music in spinning class.

From all of us here at PDX Cycling Online – Happy Holidays!

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Kalkhoff Store Opens Today in Portland

December 8th, 2009

Kalkhoff's retail store is now open in Portland and test rides of Kalkhoff's amazing electronic bicycles are now available

Kalkhoff's retail store is now open in Portland and test rides of Kalkhoff's amazing electric bicycles are now available

Kalkhoff is a German bicycle manufacturer that has been making bikes for the past 90 years or so.  Their specialty is city/commuting/touring bikes and they build some real beauties (what else would you expect from German engineers?). They also make some awesome electric bikes.

Electric bikes, or eBikes, use an electric motor to supplement the power the rider applies to the pedals. The more power the rider contributes, the more power the motor contributes.

The result? Riders who pedal as hard as they do on a traditional bike are rewarded with a very fast, very fluid ride. Those who choose to pedal with a little less fervor than they otherwise might are still able to maintain a respectable pace. And for all riders, hills become a lot more pleasant. Getting sweaty on your morning commute is now optional.

The whole line of Kalkhoff bikes come with everything a serious commuter needs including an awesome lighting system, a bomb-proof rack, great fenders and brakes that would stop a truck. They also use top-notch components all around. These bikes are serious transportation and seriously fun!

Kalkoff Retail Store — Test an eBike Today!

Today, Kalkhoff opened its retail store in Portland and there is a large array of new eBikes just begging to be test ridden. I got a chance to try one out very briefly a few weeks ago and I had a blast. Operating the Kalkhoff eBike is the same as any other standard bike — it just takes a lot less effort to get up to any given speed. It is something any fan of bicycles, alternative transportation or things that are just plain cool NEEDS to try. Once you do, it will take you a while to stop smiling. Just be careful — if you try one, chances are you’ll want one. I know I do. Once I get the chance to put a few more miles on a Kalkhoff eBike, I’ll post a more detailed report.

The store is located in the Pearl District at 528 NW 11th Avenue.

Disclosure: As of this week, Kalkhoff has become a client of KoiFish Communications, which is the PR and Web marketing firm I run.

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The Mechanics of Cycling — Building a Relationship With the Boys in the Back

November 5th, 2009
Brandon Dryer is my favorite mechanic at my favorite Portland bike shop. He keeps my Seven running as perfectly as it did the day he brought it to life.

Brandon Dryer is my favorite mechanic at River City Cycles, my favorite Portland bike shop. He keeps my Seven running as perfectly as it did the day he brought it to life. Though the rest of the mechanics, the sales team and the fitters are all top-notch, Brandon is the real reason I’ve bought so many bikes from this shop over the past decade.

I get it. Price is important. But when shopping for a bike, if you really want to save a few bucks, shop around, figure out which bike is right for you, then buy it from the shop with the best service department in town. Even if the purchase price is a little higher, you’ll come out ahead in the long run.

The reason is simple — most bike shops will do minor repairs and adjustments for free. And a really good mechanic is able to do things like get a derailleur perfectly dialed in or a wheel trued in a matter of minutes. They can find and eliminate mystery noises that drive you batshit crazy. In essence, they can help you maintain oneness with your machine.

If I have to spend an extra $50 on the purchase price of my bike to have a really well-maintained bike that I might own and ride for the next 5-10 years, so be it.

What’s more, if you buy a bike (or tire or tube or computer or whatever) from a good shop and something is broken or not quite right, a good shop will simply swap it out with a working replacement. They will deal with the manufacturer so you don’t have to. Try that with an online bike store and let me know how you make out. Service like that has value.

Joshua Hutchens is my other favorite mechanic at my other favorite bike shop. He is also the owner. He likes sexy women, but he REALLY likes sexy bikes.

Joshua Hutchens is my other favorite mechanic at Cyclepath, my other favorite bike shop. He is also the owner. He likes sexy women, but he REALLY likes sexy bikes.

If you are someone like me who rides a lot, is hard on equipment and appreciates the sound of a perfectly silent bicycle, it pays to build a relationship with the guys in the back with the grease on their hands and the smiles on their faces.

The majority of bike mechanics are passionate about what they do. If you share their passion and treat them with the respect and reverence they deserve, they’ll go way out of their way to help you time after time after time.

 

Getting to know your mechanic

Building a solid relationship is pretty easy. Here are some of the things I’ve found that work well:

 Say “thank you” when they help you out
Let the shop owner know how much you appreciate their help
Name one of your bikes (or children) after them
Give them beer

Since some mechanics spend years or even decades at the same shop (or they actually own the shop) continued patronage is another great way to go. And since the perfect equation for the proper amount of bikes one needs is always N+1 (where N= the number of bikes you currently own), continued patronage is an easy thing to accomplish.

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MOOTS PSYCHLO-X — Titanium Cyclocross at its Finest

October 17th, 2009
XC

Cyclocross at the Alpenrose Dairy sure looks fun

I’ve been going to watch cyclocross at the Alpenrose Dairy on Wednesday evenings. It sure does look fun. It also looks tough. On Cycle Oregon, I occasionally see people my size and shape. I didn’t see a single one racing cyclocross. I’m sure one of the reasons for this is the way these guys jump back onto their bikes after running over the obstacles. Being light seems like a good idea.

My plan is to continue riding, working out and eating right throughout the winter and then spend the spring and summer training for Cycle Oregon 2010. If all goes according to plan, I’ll be ready to attack the 2010 cyclocross season with vigor. Even then, I’m already sure my chances of winning such a race — even at the beginner levels — are only slightly better than my chances of winning a stage in the Tour. However, it is possible to be competitive in the “awesomest bike ever” category from day one. Here’s where I know I can win (or at least place).

MOOTS PSYCHLO-X — Titanium Cyclocross Bike Porn at Its Finest

My quest to find the sweetest cyclocross bike ever ended before it even officially started. While visiting my pals at Cyclepath the other day, a beautiful titanium MOOTS caught my gaze. I’ve already concluded that a titanium cyclocross bike is the best (and really only) choice for me. This was among the sexiest Ti bikes I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen some beauties). It was bike-lust at its most extreme. When I got home I fired up the MOOTS Website and drooled a bit more. Then I checked out the MOOTS Rider’s Forum. These guys are fanatics. They make Harley fan’s seem passive in their devotion. So, that’s it. Let the yearning begin.

"Some day it will be mine, oh yes, it will be mine"

"Some day it will be mine, oh yes, it will be mine"

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2009 Oregon Handmade Bicycle Show — Bike Porn Central!

October 17th, 2009

The Oregon Bicycle Constructors Association’s Handmade Bicycle Show is coming. Do you like really sick bikes lovingly crafted by artisans from all across the country? Then you’re sure to love this event. As if that’s not enough, there is also beer.

bike_show_poster

This year’s event happens Halloween weekend and will be held in the Staver Locomotive building. For more information, check out the OBCA Website.

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