Archives For Bicycling
I had every intention to use the summer to design and build some much-needed side tables for the house (the “just-put-your-mug-on-the-floor” thing is getting old), but shortly after finishing the raised garden boxes, my woodshop quickly turned into a bikeshop.
Late last fall, despite some significant reservations, Ray learned how to ride his bike without training wheels–just in time for winter. Then, during winter, he outgrew his tiny person bike. So in May, I purchased a new bike for him with the stipulation that I would not put training wheels on it. And within a few weeks, we were riding up and down the block together. And in no time, riding around town together. It wasn’t long before we wanted the whole family to join in on our adventures, so I set my wife up with a new bike for her birthday, order a bike trailer for Anya, and bought a bike rack for the car.
This sudden ability to bike as a family was impetus to bring a long-lost friend out of storage: my 55cm 1993 Bridgestone XO–1.
Got pulled over by a cop while I was riding my bicycle today. The conversation went as follows:
cop: “You go to school here?”
cop: “They teach you how to read at this school?”
me: “No, I learned that a long time ago.”
cop: “Perhaps you can tell me what S.T.O.P. means?”
Let me interrupt this conversation by saying this: I’m a stickler for safety. In the bike world, I guess that means I’m a geek. I wear a bright yellow helmet, a bright yellow and reflective jacket, my bags have reflective tape, I wear gloves, I don’t exceed the speed limit–even on downhills, I put on both front and back lights even if there’s a little sun left in the day. I generally stop at all intersections, particularly in residential neighborhoods. That I didn’t stop at this one was a lapse in judgement caused by the fact that there were no cars around. Except for the cop, I guess…I have no idea where he was hiding. We return to our regular programming:
me: “It means to stop.”
cop: “That’s right.”
me: “Look, officer, I’m dressed in yellow, I’m wearing a helmet, I’ve got gloves and lights on my bike…obviously I’m not unconcerned with safety. I signaled to indicate my turn even though there were no cars around.”
me: “There was a mountain biker in front of me. He didn’t stop either.”
cop: “Yeah–he did the right thing, he jumped the curb and made a right using the dirt path.”
me: “? OK”
cop: “Come to a stop next time.”
me: “I usually do.”
cop: “Thanks for pulling over for me.”
The owner of a bookstore downtown has a book set aside for me. Coming to this store almost always involves a nice, cordial chat with him, and quite some time has passed since I was there last. As I lock up my bike to the post outside his door, I think I hear shouting in the store. The windows and door are closed, so the sound is muffled, and I write it off as an idiot in the sports bar above the bookstore. The bookstore sells only academic books. While they probably have a philosophical text on shouting, it’s about as far from ‘a rowdy joint’ as Dubya is from ‘smart’.
I walk in and David, the owner, looks pretty stressed out. A man who vaguely resembles a portly Rasputin is leaning over the counter, staring at David intently. David utters an exasperated “Hey.”
I say “Hi, David.” I pause, thinking he’ll remember he has a book on hold for me. A few seconds pass. He remembers.
“Ah, yes, Marx. Just a second, it’s in back.” He gets out of his chair.
Rasputin chortles. “Marx! Marx! That’s a laugh!”
I think, “Oh great, he’s a psycho.”
David tells him very calmly, “Get out,” then wanders towards the back half of the store to get the book.
Rasputin starts lumbering towards me. “I love that idea and I love you, man. In fact, I love you so much I want to kiss the bottom of your shoes. In fact I’ll do it right now!”
He really does look like Rasputin. He’s got those eyes. I say, “No thanks, I’ll pass.” I look towards the back of the store for David.
The next thing I know, Rasputin is on the floor, grabbing my leg tightly at the calf, trying to lift it up. The fucker is serious. He really does love me so much that he wants to kiss the bottom of my shoes. I start losing my balance and I say, with increasing volume, “Let go of my leg. Let go of my leg!…LET GO OF MY LEG, GOD DAMN IT.”
He doesn’t let go. David rushes back to the counter and tries to pull Rasputin off of me.
I’m not a violent person. I’ve never “kicked anyone’s ass”, though I did fracture some guy’s ribs with a croquet mallet once (it was in third grade, he was a bully, and he had beaten me up many times before that). I don’t think I’ve ever thrown a punch. I’m about as far from ‘violent’ as Dubya is from ‘articulate’.
But I’m hopping on one leg, the other leg in Rasputin’s over-amorous grip, and I’m pretty close to falling over. I see that my shoe is right smack dab in front of his dirty puckered face.
It’s at this moment that I realize I can literally shove my foot down his fucking mouth, and I’m not abusing the term ‘literally’. As Rasputin muscles the sole of my shoe to his lips I visualize–really, I do–my foot retracting from the bloody aftermath of his kicked-in face. The image starts to suck me in, like a daydream, but in his boundless love for me, Rasputin is twisting my leg in ways not conducive to me remaining upright.
David pulls him off by the coat and shoves him out of the store. He apologizes to me for having to deal with it. He says, “The guy’s a psycho and he comes around here all the time. I don’t have the heart to call the cops on him. He doesn’t know what he’s doing most of the time.” I tell him as he rings up my purchase that it wasn’t a big deal, that I just hope the guy doesn’t come in here and cause some real trouble.
I leave the store and as I’m unlocking my bike, the bloody face image comes to mind again. It occurs to me that I think I would have done it, I would have gone mad-stompy on his visage if the scene lasted any longer than it did. I didn’t think I was in danger, really. It wouldn’t have been an act of self-defense.
This thought is a very sombering one. I have to walk my bike down the street to the corner before I feel like riding it.
So after my long-ish bicycle post yesterday, I ride up to campus. Near the base of campus there’s a very short but moderately steep incline. Up I go, spinning in a lowish gear like I’m supposed to, and I crest the hill and pull over to make sure my bike bag (that green briefcase looking thing) is secured properly (sometimes I forget to push the locking tabs in).
Done. I get back on my bike and start heading up to central campus and there’s an intense pain in my left knee. Hunh?
I start walking on it and it hurts…there’s a definite spot right in the center of the kneecap that hurts when pressed. A bus shows up and I chicken out of the ride, load my bike on the racks in the front of the bus, and take it easy, feeling somewhat odd given the post to the etherblog I made earlier in the morning.
As I’m on the bus, the driver says “hey, that’s a nice bike! Kind of old, kind of new…” He goes on about the copper rivets on the leather seat and about the hubs and rims of the wheelset…clearly he knows something about bikes and he’s puzzled by the mix of traditional gear and high-tech gear my bike sports.
I say, “yeah, I like it. It gets me around.”
Fast forward to 4pm. I’m in a hurry to get from a graduate seminar on the west side of campus to a lecture somewhere near the middle of the campus. I bike up the hill. My knee’s still hurting but not as bad as it did in the morning. I reach the bike racks near the classroom and start locking my bike up. A man in his (late?) 40s walks by and stops, saying, “Now I have to get a look at this bike.”
He’s an art lecturer who has been teaching lithography at UCSC for ten years or so. He gushes about his Bridgestone RB-1 and starts asking me about my bike. He tells me how just a few weeks ago he tried to get his son a “ten-speed”-ish type bike but all every store carries now is mountain bikes. We talk about Bridgestone, Rivendell (the bike company Grant Peterson started after Bridgestone pulled out of the U.S.) and gear that works. He tells me to stop by his office sometime to chat. He says, “It’s really nice to see people are still into this stuff.” Today I sent him an email with a few links to some internet resources for cyclo-sophists.
All things considered, not so bad. (-1) full ride, (-1) knee for a day or two or three, but (+2) positive comments from total strangers and (+1) invitation to visit a lithographer who rides a Bridgestone. Eh, that last one should count as (+2).
Yeah, I know, I haven’t been posting much. Actually, I haven’t been on my computer much except for work-related stuff. I’m trying to occupy myself with things that require a lot of concentration–my ability to focus has apparently decided it needs a little space. Hopefully the separation is only temporary.
One of the things I’ve gotten back into lately is biking. No device drivers on a mountain bike. No httpd.conf files, no relational errors, no unexpected quits or kernel panics. Wait…no…my bike had a kernel panic when it got hit by a car a few years ago. Wait…no…I had a kernel panic when I got hit by a car while riding my bike a few years ago. So yeah, no kernel panics. If I could figure out a way to attach my pedals to Moveable Type, I’d be blogging a lot more often these days.
My bike, a 1993 Bridgestone XO-1, is a collector’s item. It’s not worth thousands of dollars or anything–they’re just odd beasts and not a lot of them were made, and mine’s in relatively good condition. It’s a road bike that takes 26” (mountain bike) tires–a sort-of-reverse hybrid (the way hybrids should be made, in my opinion). It’s not unusual for me to walk up to my bike when it’s locked on the street and find a small crowd of people standing around looking at it. Bike geeks, for sure, but I like bike geeks–I spend most of my free time in Portland, Maine at the bike store.
This was the first bike I’d ever built up from scratch. I found the bike bag, a pseudo-briefcase that clips onto the rack, from England. All in all, my bike has a lot of love, thought, and time put into it, and it’s hard not to get a little of that back each time I pedal somewhere.
Last week, a desire to improve the braking performance on my bike had me buying new cantilever brakes. Then I figured while I was at it, I might as well replace the brake levers too. And while the handlebar tape was off, hell, why not rebuild the entire bike?
So I did, over the course of two days, lots of grease, and only a little bit of frustration. I put a new small chainring on, got some new pulleys for the rear derailleur, treated my leather saddle, replaced the chain and the headset bearings, polished her up real good…the works. And when I was done, the new brakes I bought completely sucked ass.
They howled. Loudly. The slightest pressure on the brake lever and I could make my bike sound like it was disemboweling a live cow. Brake squeal is a fairly common thing and there are well-known remedies. I tried them all: toe-ing in the brakes (angling them on the rim), sanding the rim, sanding the brakepads, trying different brakepad compounds.
Futzing with brakes is not fun. It’s the only part of bike maintenance that I loathe. One, I’ve never really been good at adjusting brakes. Two, it’s a lot of trial and error, and it’s the frustrating kind of trial and error–the kind where you’re really just repeatedly shooting in the dark until something works. Three, my fingers almost always manage to obtain a blood blister or stab myself numerous times with a brake cable in the process.
Anyway, after a full day of futzing with the brakes, I took it to the shop at which I bought the brakes and levers and said “here, fix this.” And they did. I feel somewhat vindicated in that it took them–seasoned bike mechanics–a good 45 minutes and 7-8 test runs in the parking lot to get it working right.
So now I have my bike back and I’m riding again. And importantly, I’m stopping again. Quietly, quickly, and with little effort.