Monthly Archives: January 2013

Bad Tire Plus No Time Equalls No Bike

During my ride home on Monday I noticed a very slight “thumping” coming from my back tire. I stopped and looked at it but it seemed fine except that about an inch of the outer layer was peeling away from the point of contact with the rim. I felt around the entire tire trying to find the bulge but it seemed fine so I just continued my ride home.

Once home I deflated the tire and took it partially off the rim and felt around to make sure the tube didn’t have a kink in it. I then re-inflated it and checked it very close for anything unusual. Again, it seemed fine until I put my weight on it, then it seemed to bump slightly at the same spot where the outer layer was peeling.

Bad Tire

This tear is worse than when I first noticed it.

I replaced that tire three months ago (read here) with a good quality tire that I thought would last longer. I did get about 600 miles out of it or more so I can’t complain too much but it does not seem very worn. It is especially nowhere near as bad as the last tire I had on there.

The real problem is not the tire at all. It is the weather. It is absolutely perfect right now. It is slightly cool on the way to work and just perfect on the way home. I need to be riding while it lasts but I can’t get the tire until this weekend. There is only one bike shop that is close enough to go to during my lunch break and they don’t sell 20 inch tires.

I thought about risking it and riding with the bump but ten miles is too far to push my bike home. I guess I will just have to wait until next week. Hopefully the weather holds out.

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It it Really Safer to Wear a Bike Helmet?

I read an article recently that said one of the arguments against wearing a helmet was that drivers are less cautious around cyclists who wear them. This reminded me of a Freakanomics podcast I once listened to where Steven D. Levit and Stephen J. Dubner argue that modern football helmets can be more dangerous, in some ways than the old leather helmets because (and I am going by memory here) the players will lead with their head in tackles thinking they are safe. They also argue that people wearing seat belts will drive more aggressively for the same reason.

This makes sense and I don’t dispute it but I also don’t think it applies to bicycle helmets. When I am riding my bike, I don’t take risks because I am wearing a helmet. Lets be honest, a helmet won’t make a bit of difference if a truck runs over you. But the real argument is weather drivers will take more risks around. I find that hard to believe. Drivers are basically good people and they don’t want to hit you weather you are wearing a helmet or not.

My real concern with drivers is that they don’t pay attention. That is why you, as a cyclist, must pay double the attention. This alone is worth more than a hundred helmets. I mentioned in my last post that I had four close calls on my way to work. The worst was when the Orkin Man ran me off the road while turning left onto the street I was riding on. None of those four people ever saw me. Monday morning, on the same street and in almost the same spot, a box truck turned left and ran me off the road. This time, even though the sun was up, I had my flashing headlamp on and he still didn’t see me.

The point is, none of these people were driving like idiots because I was wearing a helmet. They were driving like idiots because…well…that is how they drive, and while a helmet won’t save me from a major collision, it may be just enough when I are forced off the road and hit the ground hard.

With that in mind, I would say wear your helmet but remember that is secondary to caution and good riding skills.

 

 

Cycling Safety and Etiquette

On my way to work yesterday I was either forced to stop or move off the road by four different motorists who were not paying attention. In every case, I was watching the driver and expected them to see me after the incident and at least give me a wave as an apology. I was expecting too much. Not one driver ever knew I was there.

This brought to the forefront of my mind something I already knew. We cyclists are like ants on a sidewalk and if we are not careful we could get squashed.  We need to assume that our safety is one hundred percent our responsibility. I know there are laws protecting our rights on the roads, but as I mentioned my last post, The Ignorant Motorist, some people don’t know that.

There are two types of drivers that concern me most:

  • The distracted driver – This is the most dangerous person on the road. These are people who have other things on their mind and do not look both ways as they come to an intersection. Some people will drive over a sidewalk and then look to see who is coming. Every driver is a potential threat. Never assume someone will see you or obey the traffic laws.
  • The stressed-out driver – This person is wound very tight and the smallest thing will set them off. I recently  had someone lay on their horn because I caused them to slow one or two seconds early before their turn. Most of these people won’t try to run you down but they will try to squeeze past you when it is not safe to do so. This type of driver is more of a challenge.

My first suggestion is to carefully plan your route if you can. I use Google Maps or Google Earth. These programs can give you a street level view so you know what the roads are like. I try to keep my ride to trails, back roads and streets with bike lanes as much as possible.

My other suggestion is to consider the driver. Help them out as much as possible. If you are courteous to drivers, you not only keep them from snapping, you might even help other cyclists by giving that driver a more positive image of all cyclists.

If you are riding for time or trying to push your limits, you may not be able to do everything I suggest here, but do what you can. I always use hand signals when I ride so that drivers know what my intentions are. This helps both them and me. I also try to keep from slowing them down as much as possible. I have a mirror on my helmet so I can see when someone is behind me and I try to make it easy for them to pass. If they can’t pass because of traffic, I speed up. If they can pass, I might slow down so they can pass quicker. Sometimes if cars back up behind me, I will move to the sidewalk until the road is clear and then move back.

One word of caution. I sometimes tend to ride as far over as possible but have found this to be a bad idea for two reasons. When there is heavy traffic, drivers tend to try to squeeze past you without moving into the other lane, and there is a risk that you will hit the edge of the road and lose control just as a car is passing you.

I had a hard time finding specific data on how safe cycling was compared to driving but I did find this report  from the Department of Transportation. It reports that cyclists accounted for 1 percent of the traffic but 1.9 percent of fatalities were cyclists. This seems high but it also shows the District of Columbia as being the hardest hit. This indicates to me that urban cycling is much more dangerous.

This post is not ment to be pessimistic. I believe cycling can be very safe, even safer than driving, but only if you take responsibility and always pay attention to what is going on around you.

The Ignorant Motorist

The first mile or so of my trip home is on a relatively busy road. It has two lanes in each direction with a center median but no bike lane, or even a shoulder to speak of. I typically ride on the sidewalk until I reach the Upper Tampa Bay Trail. Once on the trail, it is quiet enough for me to call my wife to let her know I am on my way.

This afternoon, I made it a few blocks from work and noticed several people walking on the sidewalk so I waited for the traffic to clear and then got on the road to go around them. There were two or three groups of people on the sidewalk so I decided to stay on the road until I passed all of them. The traffic was light because the bulk of the traffic was stopped at a red light about a block behind me.

That is when a car came up behind me and slowed to my speed. As it approached, I notice the window was open and a young man was sitting in the passenger seat. A young woman was driving and she leaned over to say something to me. I have had several people comment about my bicycle because, believe it or not, there are still people who have never seen a recumbent bike. I assumed I was going to hear a comment about how she liked my bike, but instead she yelled, “Hey! You need to be riding on the sidewalk!”

I was a bit shocked. I wanted to say, “Are you kidding me?” but she sped up past me before I could reply. I actually wanted to say something much worse and then I wanted to ask her why she had the right to be on the road and I didn’t, but the moment had passed and all I could think to do was yell “Thank You! and wave so she could see me in her mirror. Then I flipped her the bird. I know I shouldn’t have done that but she just irritated the hell out of me.

The funny thing was, I was not slowing her down. She had plenty of room to go around me. It was as if, in her mind, she was doing me a favor by letting me know bikes are not allowed on the road. Can people really be that stupid? And it wasn’t just her. Her boyfriend, or whoever he was, opened his window and went along with it.

I have always been amazed at two things: The height of human intelligence and the depth of human stupidity. These two fell into the later category. For much of the rest of the trip home I felt irritated by what happened. I was listening to an audio book on my iPod and had to keep rewinding it because my mind was wandering.

I am well aware that a cyclist can slow down traffic and I try to do my best to be respectful to drivers and minimize that as much as possible. In this case, I knew that I could pass all the pedestrians and be back on the sidewalk before the heavy traffic arrived. It didn’t matter. It seems there is always going to be that ignorant asshole that thinks the world revolves around them and nothing you do will make them happy.

I try to empathize with drivers, which is not hard to do because I am one, and I honestly don’t remember ever being upset because a cyclist was on the road, even before I rode my bike on a regular basis. The only exception would be when my wife and I came up behind a bunch of cyclist on a group ride. We were on a back road in an industrial area. There was no traffic so the cyclists had spread out across the entire road, including the oncoming lane, making it impossible to pass them, so we had to follow them at ten miles per hour for several minutes until we could turn. If there ever was a reason to roll down the window and yell at a cyclist, this was it, but we just patiently waited for our chance to turn and went on our way.

Sometime I think about moving to a small town in Wyoming where everybody knows one another and nobody is in a hurry, but then I would miss all the drama.

Dirty Helmet Plus Rain Equalls Bad Idea

I guess I let the cat out of the bag with the title I chose. I wanted to ease into my embarrassment gently so instead of laughing at my stupidity you would have sympathy for me. Then I thought, “The hell with it.” I will put myself out there as a bad example so you can not only enjoy a good laugh but also learn from my mistake.

When I left for work on Thursday the forecast was for a thirty percent chance of rain for my trip home. I understood this to be a seventy percent chance of staying dry. I also knew the nature of Florida rains tended to be brief and isolated. I thought if it did rain, I could go inside somewhere and wait it out if it was bad. What I didn’t consider was that those short, isolated rains were more a product of the summer, not winter.

When I left work there was a slight cold drizzle and it was pretty obvious that the rain was everywhere and it was not going to stop anytime soon. Fortunately, I brought my rain jacket with me so I put it on and gave into the fact that this was not going to be my most pleasant ride.

The rain seemed to gradually increase as I went and about thirty minutes into the ride it was a moderate shower. That was when my eyes started burning. Acid rain was the first thought that entered my mind but I knew that was crazy. Then it hit me: My helmet was dirty. It was then that I started tasting it and my ride quickly went from unpleasant to disgusting.

I cursed myself the rest of the way home because I knew I needed to wash my helmet but I always thought about it while I was on the bike, then I forgot when I got home, or I put it off because I was tired and then forgot later.

Perhaps I needed a wake-up call because I didn’t forget this time. In fact, I think I will start using my calendar program to remind me to do these important tasks. I’ll start tomorrow…if I remember.

New Year’s Resolution

I typically do not make a New Year’s Resolution because by February it is usually forgotten about. I am not the kind of person who has a planner or writes things down to remind myself that I need to do something. I’ve tried that but I forget to look at it.

I am pretty happy with my life now. Sure, I would love to have a lot of things but I don’t need much. I think my top two realistic wants are to lose weight and be able to work from home, but I am not going to make that my resolution this year because I am already working toward those goals.

One of the blogs I read is David Padfield’s All Seasons Cyclist. In two recent articles he mentioned that in 2012 he got 330,000 views on his blog and that he rode 6444 miles. I didn’t realize it until he mentioned it in his last post that he is 53 years old, four years older than me, and he is kicking my butt in miles (and readers) but I have four years to catch up.

When I was in my early forties I started developing signs of getting older: aches and pains, sluggishness, etc. I then did a lot of research and learned about healthy eating and since I started commuting to work on my bike, I have got more exercise than I have had in a long time.

I am by no means in perfect shape. I have been somewhat disappointed in my weight loss and I still have some stiffness, which I attribute to my job, but I have improved so much these last few years and I know if I stick with it I will get even better as I get older.

So my resolution this year is to stick with it and never give up. I am going to keep riding and keep writing and I hope by the end of the year I can put myself out there as a good example to others, just as David has done for me.