Thursday, January 25, 2007

Get A Light!

“Hey Moron! Get a light!” I regretted the words almost the instant they’d left my lips. The unlit cyclist was bundled up in a dark hooded sweatshirt and riding an old Magna and my bike’s own lights had very little to reflect off of. So when I did finally perceive the rider and swerve to avoid him, I guess my reaction was understandable. He mumbled something like “Sorry” as we passed, still a bit to quick and close for comfort. But as my adrenaline levels dropped to normal and I reflected on this dim and sudden encounter, I felt bad about my choice of words.

First off, beginning an exchange with “Hey Moron” really does nothing to predispose the listener to hear the rest of your message. But more importantly, I don’t think this fellow had the means to act on my advice, even if it had been delivered in a friendlier and more constructive manner. He might have been on his way to some low-paying job, or maybe he was jobless. I probably had more invested in my left shoe than he had spent on his entire bike. Dashing off to the bike shop to pick up a headlight and a rear blinkie is something I would do, but it would probably never make it to the top of this fellow’s economic priorities.

The old proverb says "it is better to light a single candle than to sit and curse the darkness." A few years ago in Portland, Jeff Bernards thought about the problem of poor, unlit cyclists. He scraped together some money and started a program called Get Lit. I called up Jeff, got the scoop on his program and decided to make the same thing happen here in Washington.

Planet Bike has agreed to supply lights at a very reasonable cost. For each $25 we raise, we can equip two low-income cyclists with front and rear lights. And until March 30th, 2007 the Bicycle Alliance of Washington will match every dollar donated to Get Lit (up to $2,500). So if you donate $25, you basically are buying lights for four low-income cyclists.

And that’s the point of this note. I’m asking you for money. If you ride your bike at night, you should have lights. If you don’t have lights on your own bike, take care of that first! But if you have taken care of that and you want to do something to make the streets and trails safer for all of us, send $25 to:

Bicycle Alliance of Washington
Get Lit Program
P.O. Box 2904
Seattle WA 98111

Make checks payable to “The Bicycle Alliance of Washington” and make a note that this is for the "Get Lit" program.

The goal of the program is to specifically target low-income cyclists and we’ll be working with groups like Bike Works and the Union Gospel Mission here in Seattle and similar groups statewide to make sure the lights go to the truly needy. We’ll be out on the roads and trails giving out lights in Seattle, Spokane, Everett, Bellingham and other places were there is a need. It’ll be nice to replace the words “Hey moron! Get a light!” with “Hey buddy, need a light?”

Kent Peterson
Commute Program Director
Bicycle Alliance of Washington

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Brad Hawkins: The Fleeting Beauty Gone

My pal Brad Hawkins has this wonderful habit of sending out these occasionally over-the-top bits of bicycle prose that make me go "Damn! Can I post this on my blog?" And Brad, generous soul that he is, has thus far always responded in the affirmative. Today is one of those days, so the blog is blessed with another Brad story.

I will editorialize slightly and say that I always figured that when I appear in visions I would more like Yoda speak and not sound so old-Testamentish. But then my spirit guide is an old turtle who told me he probably does not exist, so I really have no right to question Brad's tale.


Dear Friends of the Wheel,

No, this is not an invitation to rise up from your soft pillow and groggily chase me down on some crazy ride. Today, I give you a ride report. A ride report that speaks to the highs and the lows of human existence. I will tell you of a righteous desire to serve my fellow man that turned horribly askew.

I took off for a church meeting from my house at 6:35 PM, January 23rd. The night was balmy, almost 50 degrees. My Surly powerful under my legs and with a light tail wind, I found myself zipping along at previously unheard of speeds. Traffic was easily conquered as they were stopped completely on Mercer street east bound and Fairview North and West bound. It was a cyclist's delight.

Cresting the top of Eastlake, I chased down two cyclists who were also making excellent time. Just before I arrived, one took the lane to miss a parking car and was honked at uninterruptedly by some little coupe all the way to the red light. After honking so insistently for the better part of 30 seconds, the coupe turned left and had to yield and wait for oncoming traffic. Strangely, the coupe didn't honk at the red light nor at the oncoming traffic. The other cyclist and I just looked askance.

But I digress. The real excitement came on the trip back. Upon starting from the stop light at Roosevelt and 45th, I started pumping down the hill in a 52/18 gear and was immediately rebuffed by a loud kerthunk!. I wasn't hit, I wasn't in pain, and I wasn't shot. All systems go. However, my right crankarm had sheared off the end with pedal intact and was laying behind me in the crosswalk. I picked up the pieces and walked the bike over to get some change for a bus ride.

Here's where things get fun: I got some juice, looked at my bike, and then was caught up in a vision, yeah a vision of great magnitude. In that vision, Kent Peterson came to me and spake thusly: "Oh great beloved Bradley, do not turn your cheek from the way ahead. Shed not a tear for this defective metal for it is as a tinkling brass in the eyes of the Lord. Cast your visage upon the distant space needle, get back on your bike, and ride with great purpose, for I am Kent, all powerful randonneur."

Realizing my options, I hopped on my bike, kicked down into much lower gear, and pedaled home with one crank. In doing so, I discovered some things. Namely, that I don't have anything approaching a rounded stroke, that nobody really pulls up with clipless pedals until something like this happens, that hills are really, really hard with one pedal, that your power output goes down 75 percent, and that nobody seems to notice. You're still some crazy cyclist out at night who would ostensibly be better served with a car.

Ride well, ride creatively,

Brad Hawkins


I will add just a couple of notes to Brad's story. First off, Brad has massive, powerful legs like a T-Rex. He regularly hauls his cello behind his bike in a trailer and I think this contributed to his amazing crank-snapping power. Second, his note arrived in my computer just as I was overhauling my Power Grip equipped pedals and I thought, "yeah one-footed pedaling is really hard with no foot retention." The streets are clear now and I'm back to riding with my Power Grip pedals and Shimano shoes instead of the bare platform pedals and Keens.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Toby's Coroplast Panniers & Fenders

Each year my employer, the Bicycle Alliance of Washington, holds a fund raising auction. While we were brainstorming to come up with auction items somebody came up with the idea that since I am somewhat infamous for my fenders and luggage made from recycled coroplast campaign signs, we could auction off a set of custom fenders and panniers. We auctioned off a lot of other, neater big ticket items but Toby wound up being the winner of the coroplast fenders and panniers. Toby is a good guy who works at Flexcar, another bunch of folks doing their bit to make this planet a bit more livable.

Toby has an old Specialized Rockhopper he wants to use as a commuter, so this past weekend I set it up with fenders and panniers.

I had half a dozen 18"*24" coroplast campaign signs left over from last fall's Proposition 1 campaign. The signs had a nice transit motif and I tried to make good use of the printed graphics as I shaped the fenders and panniers. I describe the basic construction of fenders at:

I decided to make the panniers in the shape of an isosceles trapezoid. Each pannier is 4 inches deep, with the top being 18 inches long and tapering down to a 6 inch bottom. This picture shows how I cut and scored one sign to make the main body of one pannier. Once cut and scored, I folded the pannier and secured the folds with nylon zip ties.

I cut some additional parts of signs to make the front and back edges of the panniers and to make a kind of inverted U channel to hold each pannier on either side of the bike's rear rack. I formed most of another sign into the lid, using smaller pieces to make a box-like lid. I used elastic bungee-style cord to secure the panniers to the front and legs of the rack and small bits of velcro are the latches for the lids.

The resulting panniers are very light and waterproof. These actually turned out to be quite a bit lighter and simpler than my previous duct tape panniers.

I put some reflective tape on the rear fender. I'm not sure what Toby has for lights but if need be, we can make some blinkie light mounts out of coroplast as well.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Cycling With Platform Pedals and Ordinary Shoes

Certain things in the cycling world seem to invoke extremely strong responses in many people. Helmets, bike lanes, Campy vs. Shimano, and fixed gears all have been known to split riders into opposing camps. But if you want some really spirited discussion, start talking about pedals.

In the years I've been riding, I've ridden various kinds of pedals. Like most kids, I started riding with simple platform pedals and whatever shoes I happened to have. As I grew up, I learned more about how "serious" riders rode. I raced in the days of nail-on cleats and toe clips and later tried various clipless pedals. I do like being able to pull up on the backstroke and feel more secure when attached to the pedals but ultimately found I was more happy with Power Grips than clipless pedals. I explained my logic behind this choice here:

The recent snow and ice here was enough to make even pedestrian propulsion something that required extreme levels of vigilance and this inspired me to get a new pair of some very tready shoes. My new Keen Targhees work great for hiking the trails of Tiger Mountain and the slick sidewalks of Seattle but the very tread that makes them great for hiking keeps them from sliding easily into my Power Grip pedals. I could just use my usual Shimano touring shoes for riding and reserve the Keens for hiking, but I wanted to try riding with the Keens, so I dug a pair of big old mountain bike pedals out of my junk pile and slapped them on my bike.

Friday was the test commute. It felt a little weird but the grippy shoes and grippy pedals made it easy to keep my feet just where I wanted them to be. Mostly I wanted my feet to be on the pedals, but on the super slick section of the Bellevue Slough ice-field, I could deploy one foot as an outrigger. My feet didn't lift off the pedals on the backstroke but it did feel a little different. My commute times in winter are never fast but this different choice of pedals and shoes didn't seem to add any time penalty.

But my cycling colleagues are appalled. With the Power Grips I was merely eccentric, but with no obvious foot retention, I seem to have crossed the line into the land of the whacko. I'm turning my back on some obvious efficiency and somehow that strikes some folks as being really, really wrong.

I do think that foot retention does add some efficiency but I don't know that it's always needed. For some instances, like winter or a bike that you just are hopping on to go to the store or work, do you need to have your feet strapped in? I don't know what the answer is for you and I'm not sure that I even know what the right answer is for me. For now, I think I'll keep experimenting with the big pedals and grippy shoes, but I think I'll probably switch back to my Power Grips and Shimano shoes in the spring. My Shimano shoes are also pretty "normal" walkable shoes.

Both Jill and Doug are people who ride through weather that most folks only watch from the comfort of their warm homes and they use platform pedals. Over at Cyclelicious the questioning of the clipless faith has prompted a discussion of the virtues of clipless pedals. And the saga continues...

Keep 'em rolling folks, whatever you've got on your feet. There are lots of ways to turn those pedals.


Friday, January 19, 2007

Carry Freedom Bicycle Trailer

I found this really cool thing via End Pavement. These folks are giving away plans for a DIY bike trailer. Check it out at:

Monday, January 15, 2007

Riding Advice For Beth

Beth is planning on doing the Get Your Guts In Gear Ride next summer and wrote me asking for advice. She agreed to let me post her note and my response here.

Beth wrote:


Hi Kent -- I hope this finds you well.

I'm writing to ask you for some information and ideas.

I am a daily bike commuter with a RT commute of around 9 miles. In between rides, I spend a 9 to 11 hour day on my feet. I eat a Merely Decent diet (like you I'm probably not a "nutritional role model") and my only real addictions are to my morning coffee and the Sunday NY Times Crossword.

There is a Big Ride coming up this summer that I would like to do. It's the CCFA's Get Your Guts In Gear, the big fundraiser for the Crohn's and Colitis foundation( 210 miles in three days, averaging 70 miles each day. The route (attached) promises to be pretty, with I assume some Big hills. The fundraising will be easier for me than the riding. Really. That's why I'm writing.

I did do one great thing last year and that was riding 2,000 miles before December 31 (I'm shooting for 2,400 this year). So I know that its possible for me to do a ride like this successfully. What I'm looking for is some good, sound information on how to prepare for such an event, how to carefully work up to it without hurting myself in the process. The bugaboo is that, having Crohn's disease, I cannot predict when I'll have good days or bad days. But I accept that as just something I have to deal with. All I hope to do is my very best, no matter what comes up.

Is there any specific idea that you can offer that would be useful here?

Thanks in advance for your suggestions.

take care -- happy riding

--Beth Hamon


I replied:


Hi Beth,

It's great that you've picked out a goal and the ride looks really neat. One of my son's friends has Crohn's disease so I know a bit about the disease and the issues you face. I'll try to advise you the best that I can.

First off, I'm going to talk about temperament and personalities and methods. Some people are really schedule driven, very systematic, planners. They have time lines, schedules, and lots and lots of numbers. They can tell you how many calories they consume per hour, what their resting pulse rate is, what the rolling resistance of each brand of tire is, etc. And these methods work great for them.

I'm not one of those people. From what I know of you, from your blog and list postings and previous notes, I don't think you are one of those people either. I guess one way to describe the way I work towards a goal is more like the way a musician or a writer works. I practice. Shorter rides are like rehearsing the scales or writing drafts of stories. I experiment with things, but I go more by feel than by numbers. I practice rather than train. Of course, this is an over-simplification. There are numbers I track and calculations I make but at the heart of my methods it's heart more than heartrate, and what is over the next rise is more of a driver than the number on the computer. But sometimes, of course, I turn the pedals a few more times just to watch the numbers roll.

So I guess I'm saying that I don't think you should be mastered by the numbers but don't throw them out either. You asked for concrete advice and here I'm getting all philosopical on you so let's get some concrete examples and see if they help.

Your trip is 210 miles. You can look at that like it's a lot and you should look at it with enough anxiety that you'll prepare, but not so much fear that you are overwhelmed. I always aproach big numbers by playing with them until I see that they are doable. Let's take your ride apart like this:

It's three days. Each day is about 70 miles. 70 miles still seems far.

Now I know you don't think of yourself as a fast rider but you don't have to be fast to do this ride. How fast do you ride to work? I don't know but let's try calculating 10 miles per hour. You may ride faster, you might be a little slower but 10 mph makes the math easy and it certainly isn't a killer pace.

At 10 miles per hour, it'll take you 7 hours to ride the day's distance. Note that's butt on the bike, actual turning the pedals time. You'll stop some to eat, to look at the scenery, to rest, to pee, to do other things. Call all that three hours. So that's 10 hours. Doesn't that seem doable? There are 24 hours in a day. So you'll have 14 other hours to do all the other stuff and get ready for the next day. Even thinking about bad stuff, going slower up hills, having flat tires and so forth, this still seems doable. Doesn't it?

Let's talk about hills. First thing, I think I've ridden every road you'll be on. Yes there are some hills (including a nasty one right after the ferry dock on Whidbey Island). But that's what gears are for. Gears let you trade time for ease. With low enough gears, you can get up anything, it's just a matter of time. Now you don't have an infinite pile of moments, but you've got enough time to do this. One thing I learned early on is to not worry about going fast but try not to go slow. The best focus you can put for whatever training time you have is to work on going up hills. Everybody slows down on hill climbs and everybody can go fast going down hills. You will slow down on climbs but if you practice climbing, you can get faster. Even if you don't get faster, you'll get more comfortable with climbing.

Work on climbing and ride your bike with the gear you think you'll have on your ride. If you are used to your bike being light all the time and it's heavy for your ride, you won't like it. But if you are used to riding your bike with your stuff, if that is the way you have practiced, it will feel right. And if you are carrying too much stuff, you will learn that from your practice runs. When I raced the Great Divide, I'd ridden the previous 6 months with all my gear on my bike. I practiced a lot.

Here's another piece of practical advice. Rest is as important as practice. I think of it this way. Going out and climbing the big hill is like putting in an order at the muscle factory. Your body goes "hey this sucks, I should be stronger." But you don't get stronger then, you get stronger when you rest, when your brain is shut down and your body is going "now what do I need to rebuild? Oh yeah, let's slap a little more muscle on those quads. And that back was twinging, let's work on that!" If you don't get enough rest, those orders don't get filled. So you need both. You need to work to put in the orders and you need to rest to fill those orders. So don't feel like you are slacking when you need to rest. Rest is really important.

Here's another huge thing: Food and water. Learn what it takes to keep you going. Again the numbers folks calculate all this, I literally go by my gut. But I always make sure I've got food and water with me. One of the best bits of advice I ever got was from John Stamstad, the ultraendurance racer who first set the Great Divide MTB record. He said "be sure you have a variety of flavors and textures of food with you." If you get to a point where you can't stand the thought of another sweet gel, you can probably eat some salty chips. The food thing is the biggest thing. Figure out a range of things that work for you.

I try to make my practice rides relate to my goal and when I'm riding my "big" ride I often think back to other rides to put things in perspective. When I rode Paris-Brest-Paris, a lot of my training was my 15 mile round trip commute. So it was 7.5 miles to work and 7.5 miles back. PBP is 1200 kilometers or 750 miles. So I got to thinking, it's like going back and forth to work 50 times. Somehow, that didn't seem so big. Riding in France, I'd see some sign telling me how far it was to the next control and I'd think of that in terms of how many commutes it was. Mostly I didn't think in terms of miles or kilometers, I thought about commutes.

One thing you really have to know is how it feels to be on your bike for a long time. So my advice is to work on building up your distance. The math guys have a some rules about increasing your longest ride by 10 percent each week and that might be a good starting point. I tend instead to come up with places I want to go. Sit down with a map and find something a little farther than you've been and pick a time to go there.

Don't take pain-killers. If something on your bike hurts you, your saddle or your bars or whatever, figure out the cause, don't mask the pain. Learn the difference between being in pain and being tired. Some stuff you adapt to, some stuff you have to adapt to you. Ride enough between now and the event to have all that figured out. Don't change a damn thing right before the event, that's just asking for trouble.

For the ride you are planning, you might not have to do any riding at night or in the rain, but over the years I've had great adventures in the dark and the wet. But you're already a commuter, so I figure you've got that stuff down.

About speed, in general, don't worry about it. But getting faster, especially on climbs, can make things easier. As I said before the best place to focus your energies is on hill climbing. The other thing you can do is work on little bursts of speed. Don't try to be fast all the time, but little pushes now and then (and always remember to rest) can help train you to get faster. Also, don't be afraid of low gears. Work on building up a good spin rate and as your muscles develop, you'll have a muscle memory of spinning. You'll just find yourself spinning bigger gears.

Finally, keep it fun. Maybe that means going out by yourself. Maybe it means riding with some slightly stronger pal. Maybe it means taking a break from the bike if you're sick of it and hiking up a mountain instead.

I hope some of this helps. I know it's kind of rambling but I wanted to respond quickly.

I think you can do this and I'm looking forward to the stories from your practice rides and the big ride.

Kent Peterson
Issaquah WA USA

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Sometimes, it's about NOT riding

One of the things I've tried to do with this blog is too keep it focused on bicycling. After all, I called this Kent's Bike Blog, not Kent's Blog of Political Views, Kent's Soup Recipes or Kent's Weather Blog. And since I haven't been riding these past few days, I was keeping mum. But then my friend Michael Rasmussen (the bike commuter, not the bike racer) sent me this pithy missive:

six inches of snow is tough to ride through.

Blog it!
or your coping mechanism...

OK Michael, even though my pal Tammy said it eloquently on her blog when she said "this is not the weather channel", I'm going to talk about the weather.

It sounds stupid when I say it this year, but Issaquah usually doesn't get much snow downtown. Yeah, the low mountains get a dusting and when you get up into the Cascades there is lots of snow but normally in the valley we either get cold dry weather or warm damp weather. But last week we got hit. Six inches of snow and temp has stayed below freezing for days.

I have studded snow tires but I also have a really lovely, concerned wife and a lot to live for. And while I can kind of slip-slide my way around, the thought of multi-ton SUVs slip-sliding around made even a macho-stupid guy like me think this over. Thursday I took the bus to work.

Actually, the bus I thought I'd take to work never showed up. The Sound Transit bus couldn't make it up to the Issaquah Highlands so they scrapped that run. King County Metro, which runs smaller buses equipped with snow chains, kept their routes running. I rode the 214 from Issaquah to Seattle, listening to the crunching of the chains on the snow and ice, looking at a lot of parked and sliding cars and trucks.

There wasn't nearly as much snow in Seattle. Mark and John both rode to work but most of my human-powered friends opted for transporting themselves by pedestrian or mass-transit means. The Safeway Dot Com trucks couldn't deliver in the snow and ice so Christine has a mini vacation for the duration of the foul weather. Even the Seattle International Randonneurs, a group most folks would call stupid-tough, cancelled their Saturday ride.

And so I've been taking the bus, walking around and spending time with my wife. The pictures here are from Saturday and the snow has barely started to melt. And while we were out, new flakes began to fall. The gears of this world have not quite ground to a halt but it is a good time to hunker down. I am hiking down snowy trails, taking pictures of frozen things, buying grippy boots and re-learning how to bundle up. I am staring at maps and plotting summer adventures.

And we made a big pot of soup last night.

I recently wrote to a friend that rest is as important as riding. Some times it is the time not to ride. Now is one of those times for me.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Alert Shirts

Over on the Touring List, Mike Bates mentioned some nice, high visibility wicking shirts. Right now I'm hunkered down in sub-freezing Issaquah with 6 inches of snow and ice still on the roads but I'll be ordering some of these high-vis shirts for my summer riding. Mike generously OK'd my reposting of his note and picture here.

From: "Mike Bates"
Date: Fri, 12 Jan 2007 17:14:45 -0500
Subject: Re: touring clothes

The best deal in touring shirts by far are the "Moisture-Wick Performance Shirts" from

They are cut like regular t-shirts (not tight fitting) and are available in sizes from Small to 5XL. They are also available in ANSI safety lime or bright orange with no logos or advertising. Here's the best part; they cost $7.99 for size small through XL. 2XL through 5XL cost slightly more. At that price, they are disposable if they get stinky.

I have no connection to them other than a happy customer. You can see me modeling a sporty 3XL (Ha!) model in ANSI lime at I've had several comments from people I met on the road that they had NO trouble seeing me in those shirts.


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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Jandd Andrew Messenger Bag

I've wanted a good messenger bag for quite a while. I don't make my living zipping packages all over town and for most day to day cycling I prefer to travel light or carry stuff in luggage on my bike. But if you park your bike in the city and don't want to leave a bunch of luggage hanging on the bike or if you've got the occassional big random load, a messenger bag is a handy thing to have. So I've always been eyeing bags and quizzing my messenger pals. So yeah I've seen the really cool bags from Chrome and R.E.Load and folks like that. And it seems like every hipster and his brother has a Timbuk2 bag (not that there is anything wrong with that) and they seem to be pretty decent as well. And the good folks at Aerostich make a couple of messenger bags as well and when I was back in Minnesota in November I almost bought one.

But I'm fussy and frugal and I kept looking, figuring out what I wanted in terms of size and features. Around Christmas time I was looking at the Jandd website and saw that they had their Andrew messenger bag on sale for $60. Even at the regular price of $80 it looked like a good deal. Over the years I've bought various Jannd bags and everything I've ever gotten from them has been really nicely designed and well-made and on the web it looked like the Andrew bag passed my "Goldilocks porridge test" (not too big and not too small) so I ordered the bag.

I've been using the bag for a couple of weeks now and I like it. It's not too heavy but really solid. Mine is black so I added a reflective yellow triangle and a blinky to make it show up better in traffic. The rubberized strap pad is something that a lot of other companies charge an extra ten bucks for and it really is comfy and combined with the cross strap it keeps the bag right where I want it. I've worn the bag in some really heavy rainstorms and everything has stayed dry.

If I was a pro messenger and taking the bag on and off dozens of times a day, I'd want a quick release buckle on the main strap. And if I was going to make this bag perfect, I'd probably design it with a lighter colored lining (Timbuk2 does this with their bags) instead of the inky blackness that seems to swallow up small items. But in general I'm pretty happy with the Andrew bag.

I don't have any great links that kick back any money from sales of any of the Jandd stuff. They are just a good company that makes good stuff like the Andrew bag. They also make a very handy frame pack and a really big seat pack. I've had those bags for years and they're still going strong.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

My Amazing Friend Scott

I'm fortunate enough to know some really neat people. One of the coolest guys I know is a fellow named Scott. Scott and I have never met in real life, but we've traded emails and talked on the phone. And we visit each other's blogs. I just noticed that I didn't have a link to his blog on my site, so I just fixed that.

His blog is called Large Fella on a Bike and while he's still a large fella, he's 162 pounds less of a large fella than he was at the start of 2006. Yep, you read that right. Scott lost 162 pounds last year. As my wife Christine commented "Wow, he's really got stick-to-it-ness!"

But it's not his weight loss that makes Scott amazing. If you read through his stuff you'll find that he's a persistent, interesting guy. He writes with great honesty about things that piss him off, things that delight him, things he can't figure out and things that lots of folks struggle with but never put into words. And he did an awesome series of interviews with bike frame builders a while back. Check out the FBQ series on his blog.

Scott and his family were a huge help to me when I raced the Great Divide but just knowing that there is somebody like Scott out there is a great day to day inspiration.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Morons, Maniacs, Evangelists and Taoboys

In my part of the cycling world, and perhaps in yours too, these are the dark days. It may be cold or dark or wet or windy or maybe your favorite roads or trails are buried under meters of snow. And even if, by virtue of geography and fortune, these aren't your dark days, you probably at least understand about times of which I speak. These are the times that try men's (and women's) souls.

And in this age of blogs and electronic forums, of high-speed Internet and instant messages, when we cannot ride we talk in bits and bytes. Messages fly back and forth at lightspeed while our Litespeeds lie dormant or spin out kilometer after boring kilometer on stationary trainers in cold garages. Even if you are out and riding on your Pugsley or your SnowStuds, it is the hard time and you have to guard against bundling too warmly in smug satisfaction. These are dark and cranky times for us all.

I think about this and I write this with both hesitation and repetition, for these feelings and thoughts recur every year about this time. On the lists and the forums and the meetings I attend, one message is repeated, loudly and insistently and often not civilly. It is the mantra of the dark days: "You're doing it wrong!"

On the randon list right now you will find that riding with any kind of support is so very wrong. On the iBOB list you will find that your fondness for threadless stems and tig welds is some kind of moral flaw. On any recumbent forum you can stop by any day and find out that most of the world's bicyclists are complete idiots, except for the low down and laid back, and even then most of them have committed the unpardonable sin of choosing the wrong brand or model of recumbent. And if you ever want to find out how really wrong you are about bicycling, try being a cycle activist and try to get something done like draft a bicycle master plan for your city. Then you find out that if you either wear or don't wear a helmet you are an idiot. You will find that bike lanes are either saving people or killing them (it depends on who is yelling at you right now). You will also find that Critical Mass is either enlightening the masses or laying the seeds for the eventual banning of bicycles from the streets. And Effective Cycling could save the world if only people wouldn't think we were lunatics...

In all these heated discussions I try to keep in mind the word of a very wise man, a man named George Carlin. George's great observation came to him when he was driving. George realized that he always drove perfectly, at exactly the proper speed for conditions. Anyone driving slower than he was obviously a moron. And anyone who sped by him, of course, was a maniac. It's so simple. The world is filled with morons and maniacs.

It's very easy to think that way. Easy, and most probably, wrong. Why in the world should I think I've got it right? Everybody is somebody else's moron or maniac, why should I be different? If you're riding your bike in conditions that would keep me at home, well then you must be a maniac. If I'm out there and you're staying put well then you're a moron.

Nope, I don't think so. Maybe I don't have a lock on the truth and maybe my evangelising my position won't sway you. Maybe I'm not a moron or a maniac and maybe neither are you. Maybe we are all what Buckminster Fuller called "experiments of one".

I don't think I'm a moron or a maniac and I'm really not sure of much. But I am sure of this. I'm not normal. But I also know that it's fine not to be normal. The old taoboy Willie Nelson wrote, "There is no normal. There's only you and me."

My heroes have always been taoboys. I don't have to be normal, I can just be. And I don't have to make you be like me and you don't have to make me be like you. We can disagree and this time of year, we'll argue and post and pontificate because that energy that other times might go into riding has to go somewhere.

Sometimes it goes into long-winded, kinda preachy blog posts.

Sorry about that.

Keep 'em rolling,