Saturday, March 31, 2007

Riding With Mark Vande Kamp

Mark Vande Kamp and I have a lot in common. We both grew up in the midwest. We both have somewhat philosophical natures. We both are bike nerds who ride longish distances for fun. We both have cute wives who are somewhat understanding of our needs to sometimes go out and ride even though we both have jobs and families and there are many other things we could be doing.

So this morning Mark and I go out for a small ride, the kind of ride we do when we don't have much time. Christine has commented that "the two of you together do dumber stuff than either of you would do on your own" and this explains why I'm awake at 5:00 AM and out the door at 5:50 AM to meet up with Mark.

Of course it's raining, this is Issaquah and we get more rain than Seattle and this is the last day of March. But I've got a good yellow rain jacket and rainlegs and lights that shine on the wet asphalt and of course it's a good day to ride.

I ride west on the roads that make up my usual commute route but early on Saturday the traffic is lighter and the houses are darker than what I'm used to from my weekday routine. Routine isn't the right word for my route, however. No matter how many times I ride these roads, I see something new. It took me a while to learn this, to slow down and look, to be here now, wherever I happen to be riding. This light, this rain, that bird there and the wind from the north are unique to this moment.

Familiarity does breed a certain efficiency, of course, I know the crack in the pavement at the next corner, I know how long this light will stay red. And memory flavors the ride, I know the house that often smells like bacon will probably smell like bacon again an hour from now, but now I only smell the yard's spring plants and damp earth. This is the news I do not see on television or hear on the radio, but somehow I think it is important for me to learn this right now.

The waves are lightly white-capped as I roll across the bridge and the rain has pretty much stopped now. The wind is just below the speed a gull needs to hover, but one is trying anyway and slowly drifting north.

I'm at the Seattle side of the bridge at 7:00 AM and Mark is there two minutes later. Our plan is vague, involving heading north into the wind and turning back at some point. The main goal is to ride and chat and have Mark be back at his home around 2:00 PM.

We ride up alongside Lake Washington and through the Arboretum. Our conversation ranges over a variety of subjects, as it always does, and we discuss cycling, as we often do.

"I have a question for you," I preface and then I follow with "you bike commute every day, right?"

"Pretty much, yeah"

"OK," I say, "so what I want to know is this, and use whatever scale makes sense. How often do you have, let's call it a 'bad' interaction with a motorist?"

Mark grasps the question right away and his answers show the clarity of thinking I've come to expect from him. "First off," he says, "I'd say Seattle is pretty good. And I'd put the 'incidents' in two categories. The first is the intentional. The guy who yells 'get the hell off the road' or who blatantly buzzes by. That's rare. Maybe like once a year."

"The second kind," Mark continues, "is more common but still not all that common. That's the, uhh, ignorant driver. The don't know how close they came by me, they turn without looking, things like that. Those kinds of things still don't happen that much, maybe once a month?"

"I thought you'd say something like that," I say. "I tend to classify the second type of thing as more oblivious or distracted rather than ignorant."

Mark nods, "Yeah, that's more what I meant."

"I'd say my numbers and sense of it are similar," I say and then I go on to tell him about a former colleague. (Since I'm recounting this in a public forum, I'll make up a name for my former co-worker. I'll call him Barney.) Barney and I both worked at the same place, we both bike commuted, similar distances over similar routes. But at least once a week Barney would come in fuming, with a tale of a close encounter or a hostile shouting match. Of course, it was never Barney's fault, he just ran across morons. But I had a similar commute and I'd have an incident maybe once a year while Barney would have one every week. Maybe some of it's luck, but maybe some of it's Barney. Barney would always race every where, Barney was in the zone, his MP3 player cranking out his favorite tunes. But the problem with being in the zone is sometimes you're zoned out and the rest of the world keeps happening.

And I'm too old to worry about being fast. And too lazy to pack my life full of other places I have to be right now. I have enough to do being right here, right now.

We're riding on the Burke Gilman trail now, a place that I try to avoid on sunny days for the same reason Yogi Berra avoids Coney Island, "nobody goes there, it's too crowded." But early on damp Saturday it's not too bad. Mark and I discuss the recent "Sound Off" spurred by a recent article in the Seattle paper about the Seattle Bike Master Plan. I point out that while of course we had some motorists calling for the banning of cyclists from the roadways, we also had at least one moron cyclist calling for the banning of pedestrians from the Burke Gilman trail.

"I tend to treat other users of whatever road or pathway I'm on the way I'd like to be treated," I explain to Mark.

"Hmm," he replies drolly, "I'm not sure that's an original thought."

"Yeah," I admit, "I do think I read that somewhere!"

We talk about the "red light thing." The "red light thing" is this. Some cyclists run red lights. This drives some motorists crazy. The fact that some motorists bring this up in almost every "bikes on the road" conversation drives some cyclists crazy. For example Paul Dorn writes about it here:


and here

Paul argues that motorists speed and do all kinds of other not cool things and that even if every cyclist came to a full and complete stop for every light, we still wouldn't get respect. Paul believes organizing will get us respect.

Well, I work for a bike advocacy organization, the Bicycle Alliance of Washington and we are doing what we can. And I can tell you this: I spend some of the time that I could be using to help mentor a new bike commuter or get another bike locker installed somewhere or teaching someone how to adjust their brakes answering phone calls like the one I got from a woman who opened the conversation with the words "Cyclists drive me crazy!" You guessed it, one of things that made her pick up the phone and call us was the "red light thing."

I didn't tell her that some drivers speed. I did tell her that some cyclists run red lights. And that yeah, that's against the law. I also told her that I don't run red lights. I stop at them. She said that she's never seen a cyclist stop at a red light.

That may be a true statement.

Now I believe that cyclists have stopped at red lights in her presence but she hasn't seen them. We notice bad behavior, not good. In the classic movie Casablanca, Peter Lorre's weaselly character Ugarte says, "you despise me, don't you?" and Humphrey Bogart replies "If I gave you any thought I probably would."

As cyclists, I'm sorry to say, we are often the Ugartes of the roadway. We like to think that we are cool, or noble, preserving the planet, setting an example and sharing the road. The truth of the matter is that much of the time we are ignored. We don't even register in the consciousness of many of our fellow road users. And, unfortunately, most often the cyclists who are noticed are the ones who are behaving like jerks.

Some drivers are jerks. Some cyclists are jerks. I have very little control over anyone's behavior but there is one person I try to control.


I try not to behave like a jerk.

As I said earlier, Mark and I are very similar. We have similar riding styles and philosophies. And today we are riding along the trail. I ding my stupid little bell to let pedestrians know I'm coming up behind them and Mark calls out "on your left." We ride without incident.

At Woodinville we leave the trail and ride up the hill and out into the country. We talk of many things and roll down at least one road that we don't know. We manage to find Lost Lake, a location that ironically assures us that we aren't lost and then follow Fales Road to Highbridge and then ride across the valley to the town of Monroe.

It's 10:30 now, the time Mark had picked for turning around but the schedule allows for breakfast at the Hitching Post. Breakfast is wonderful and just the thing for a couple of guys who are not nutritional role models.

We roll back across the valley and go our separate ways. Mark heads back to Seattle and I roll down the valley toward Issaquah. I cross back over the river at Duvall and ride the Snoqualmie Valley Trail south. An eagle watches over the valley from the bare branches of a tree under a clouded sky. Dogs are walking with their people along the trail. It's a good day to walk and it's a good day to ride.

I'm home a bit after 2:00 PM.

Friday, March 30, 2007


In the 1990s I wrote a series of articles and columns that appeared in my friend Bob Bryant's excellent magazine, Recumbent Cyclist News. There have always been some recumbent enthusiasts who believe that recumbents should and ultimately will be the dominant form of bicycle. While I don't think that will ever be the case, that "what if?" discussion was the seed of this story.


by Kent Peterson

When you work for the world's top selling bicycle magazine, dealing with wackos is just part of the job. Usually Bob is the guy stuck talking to the nut-cases but this week he'd taken the RCN jet to Bermuda with the models for the annual "Women of Recumbency" photo shoot. It was up to me, Nicole and Billy the intern to get the current issue out the door. Nicole was off getting vital office supplies while Billy and I were wrestling with a tricky issue of layout, so we didn't notice the stranger until he cleared his throat.

"Billy you pinhead!" I said, "you've got this picture of the carbon Bachetta backwards. Look, the drive train is supposed to be on the right side!"

"Gee boss," Billy sniveled, "you sure are cranky before you've had your coffee. I hope Nicole gets back with those lattes soon."


Billy and I turned and noticed the stranger for the first time. His face looked normal enough, but his clothing was unusual. His shirt and shorts seemed to be made of some kind of thin stretchy material that clung tightly to his skin. The shirt was garishly colored and it had pockets in the back while his black shorts appeared to have some kind of diaper-like pad built into the seat. Frankly, the total look of the outfit was ridiculous but over the years I've learned that it really is best not to judge a book by its cover. I managed to keep a straight face and shot Billy a look that made it clear to him that he'd best do the same.

"May I help you?" I asked.

"Yes, yes I think you can. Dr. Bryant, I presume?"

"No," I replied, "Dr. Bob is out of town. I'm Mr. Peterson and this is my associate Billy. What can we do for you?"

"Actually," the stranger began, "it's not so much what you can do for me, it's what I can do for you. You see, I've got a bicycle design I think you'll find very interesting..."

"Hold it right there Mr., uh-mm what did you say your name was?"

"Oh, where are my manners?" The stranger fussed. "The name's Backer. D.F. Backer."

"Well, Mr. Backer, no offense but we're kind of busy here. Maybe you could call back next week and make an appointment." This was pretty much the standard brush-off we've developed over the years. It seems like every George, Tim or Gardner thinks he's the next great bicycle designer and sooner or later they all come to let us in on the ground floor of their magnificent idea. And they pretty much all expect Bob to fork over some cash to help turn a silly impractical sketch into an even more improbable reality and they never believe us when we tell them that it just doesn't work that way.

But Mr. Backer wasn't so easily dismissed. "But I've come such a long way. Just give me five minutes."

"Well," I wavered...

"Great!" Backer beamed. "Come outside and I'll show you my bike!"

I looked over at Billy and shrugged my shoulders. "OK Backer," I grumbled, "you've got five minutes." Billy and I followed the man with the silly clothes out to the RCN parking lot.

I have to give Backer points for originality; his bike was like nothing I'd ever seen before. The bike had two large wheels and an absurdly short wheelbase. Instead of having a boom out front, the crank was located a few centimeters in front of the rear wheel. The frame stretched upward for no apparent reason and I didn't see anything that even remotely resembled a seat. A small wedge of plastic topped a metal tube protruding from the top of the frame, but I couldn't conceive of anyone voluntarily perching on that tiny platform. The front of the machine sprouted a wildly curving collection of metal tubes that looked like the remains of a particularly messy accident involving the trombone section of an unfortunate marching band. I could only assume that this was the steering mechanism of the unusual contraption that Backer insisted on calling a bicycle.

Billy and I stared slack-jawed at the machine and it took me about thirty seconds before I could even formulate my first question: "How the heck do you ride that?"

"It's easy!" Backer exclaimed as he threw a leg over the machine and began riding it in wide circles in the parking lot. Despite the machine's bizarre configuration, Backer rode it with apparent ease and the wide grin never left his face as he answered the questions that now tumbled from my lips.

"Isn't it uncomfortable?"

"Not really." Backer explained. "My weight is supported not only by the saddle, but also by my hands and feet. It might feel strange at first, but once you get used to it, it's fine."

I wasn't convinced. "I don't think I'll ever be comfortable having a wedge of plastic shoved up my butt." I scowled but Backer only laughed.

"Don't knock it until you've tried it. Actually, I believe this kind of bike will appeal to the folks who like to 'Think Different.' I'm going to market them here under the brand name 'WedgeE'."

"But it doesn't have any suspension," I countered. "It's got to have a really harsh ride on rough roads."

"That's not really a problem," Backer replied as he drove the machine straight for a set of speed bumps. Just before he hit the bumps he stopped turning the cranks, bent his elbows and lifted his butt off the saddle. The bike bucked as it hit the bumps but Backer hovered an inch or so above the saddle with that annoying grin still plastered on his face.

"Whoa, that was cool!" Billy exclaimed. Even I have to admit to being somewhat impressed.

I wasn't completely sold on this device, however. "Look here Backer, I'll grant that your machine has some interesting features, but you've got to admit that it's an aerodynamic disaster."

"Well," Backer said "I really can't argue with you on that point. But it's not as bad as you think. If I grab the bars up here and stretch my back out flat, I cut through the wind better." At this point Backer grabbed the part of the handlebars that looked like the slide section of a trombone. Even though he was still grinning, he really didn't look comfortable.

"Come on Backer, you don't expect me to believe people will ride around all stretched out like that!"

"Actually," Backer replied, "I know they will. I've seen hundreds of riders on bikes just like this one..."

"OK, OK." I'd had enough. "Look here Backer, I've given you your five minutes and I'll even grant you that your machine has some interesting features but you don't expect me to believe that there are other bikes like this out there. If there were bikes like this anywhere in the world, I think I would have heard of them by now."

"Oh no, " Backer said, "you wouldn't have heard of these because they don't exist in your world... yet. You see, I'm really not from around here."

I was pretty sure by now that Backer was an escaped mental patient, but that didn't explain where he'd gotten his strange contraption. While I was pondering this, he continued rambling on. "No doubt you're familiar with the quantum worlds hypothesis?"

"Yeah," I grunted. "SciFi stuff. It's the theory that different events actually spawn of different realities. So there's actually some world out there in some dimension where Hitler won World War Two. Stuff like that, right?"

"Exactly!" Backer beamed. "But trust me, that Hitler world isn't very conducive to the interests of an inter-dimensional entrepreneur such as myself. However I've found a very interesting opportunity between your world and a place called Earth. Your worlds are so very close, they really only differ in a few bits of technology."

"And you come from this place, Earth?"

"Oh heavens no!" Backer laughed. "Their world is even more primitive than yours. Neither of you have invented the mechanisms of inter-dimensional travel yet. I'm merely a businessman. I make my living by exploiting economic opportunities I perceive existing between similar worlds."

"But couldn't you make a lot more money selling this inter-dimensional technology to these various worlds?" Of course I wasn't buying any of this for a second but even though Backer was an obvious wacko, he was at least an interesting wacko.

"Where I come from they have pretty strict rules against that. Simple one-for-one technology swaps between parallel worlds are easy but you wouldn't believe the paperwork involved in trying to get anything really complicated through to you people."

"But doesn't the fact of your telling me all this violate some kind of Prime Directive?"

Backer laughed again. "Oh really, you must watch too much TV! Prime Directive, that's rich. It's more like a really complicated tax-code. We can tweak around the edges but it's really quite hard to change the world in any significant way."

"Tell me about it!" Billy injected sarcastically.

I shot Billy another one of my "put-a-sock-in-it" looks and then said to Backer, "OK, so your scheme is that you'll make money selling these, uh-mm what did you call them..."

"WedgeEs" Backer and Billy both said simultaneously.

"Yes, WedgeEs. You think you'll make money selling them here?"

"Yes, I do," said Backer earnestly.

"Well, I've got to tell you Backer, I don't see it. It's a fundamentally flawed design and around here superior products win out. Billy can tell you a lot about that. Billy, why don't you tell Mr. Backer about how you dropped out of college and tried to make a computer system to compete with what Jobs and Wozniak were doing?"

"Ah Boss..." Billy begin whining but now it Backers turn to look dumbfounded.

He looked closely at Billy and muttered quietly "well I'll be damned..." His bewildered look quickly turned to one of resolve. "Mr Gates," he said, addressing Billy formally, "would you like to go into the WedgeE business?"

"What would it pay?" Billy queried cautiously while I added "Look here Backer, you can't just waltz in here and start hiring away the RCN staff!"

"I'll double whatever Dr. Bob is paying you for starters," Backer said briskly. Billy and I both looked at him like he was crazy but I could tell Billy was intrigued.

"I'll want to see some money up front and I want my lawyers to work up the contracts," Billy spoke quietly, with an intense
resolve I'd never seen in him before.

Backer laughed. "Of course," he said, "I'd expect nothing less."

I, on the other hand, didn't know what the heck was going on, much less what to expect. I didn't even know if Billy really had a lawyer.

Backer and Billy exchanged business cards and then Backer rolled away on his crazy contraption.

When Nicole came back with the lattes, Billy told both of us he'd decided to quit the magazine.

"I'm going to miss you," he said pointedly to Nicole.

I got the impression he wasn't going to miss me at all.

"C'mon, Billy," I cajoled, "you've got to at least help us get this issue done."

"You and Nic can get it done, I've got a business to build."

And with that he walked out the door.

I recounted the story of D.F. Backer and the strange bicycle to Nicole.

"Wow," she said, "do you think he'll really be successful selling those things?"

"Not in this world, Miss Kidman. Not in this world."

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

200K Haiku

I've written my share of ride reports in prose, but for last Saturday's 200K, I decided to do something a bit different. I've long been a fan of haiku and I've even had a few published, so I figured why not write a few haiku to convey a bit about the 200K.

If you want a couple of good prose reports, check out these two:

Nat Pellman's:


Chris Lowe's:

Gary Snyder knows
randonneurs rise earlier
than students of zen.

Riding to the ride:
Uneventful except for
Two jaywalking elk.

Not much is needed.
One gear, one crank, two pedals.
Quick and persistent.

Rando wool fashion,
Even on Saint Patrick's Day
More blue shirts than green.

Ti bike, wool jersey
Leather saddle, GPS.
Still have to pedal.

Suburbs awaken.
More climbing past Dash Point.
Pack away warm clothes.

The river, the road,
the riders and their machines,
all in one valley.

The ride's real challenge?
The Black Diamond Bakery.
Too tasty to skip.

Road to Greenwater:
Randonneurs and frog voices
Return every spring.

Randonneur's pit stop:
Sandwich, Cheetos and Ice Tea.
Who cares what gas costs?

Randonneur ethics:
The fast leave water bottles
for those further back.

Feeling pretty smart
watching the rain drops roll off
plastic-wrapped cue sheet.

Rewriting Pink Floyd
wearing wool in the drizzle:
comfortably damp.

Rain and wet manure
remind me to be grateful
for Wayne's good mud flap.

Greg and Mary's true
secret chili seasoning?
It's 200K.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Mark Boyd: Three Repairs for Touring Cyclists

On the Bicycle Touring List, there was a discussion of various bicycle repair manuals and resources. Mark Boyd, who has toured many thousands of miles, offered this perspective, which I've reprinted here with his permission.

I read books about bike maintenance back around 1970 when I first got into bikes and learned a lot from them, but I already had a strong background in doing fairly major - work that I wouldn't dream of attempting today ;-} - repairs on automobiles. Bicycles are much simpler and easier to work on than cars, so it was easy for me to move from repairing cars to repairing/rebuilding bikes.

The fact that I already had a pretty good set of tools helped, but the main thing I had was mechanical empathy. I already knew how to relate to a wide variety of mechanical things. You can't get that from books. You get it from building and working on things, if you get it at all, and most people, including most bicyclists, never seem to get it.

As others have pointed out in this thread, you only need a small set of skills to handle the large majority of things that happen on a tour. The three most common issues I have had to deal with on tour are:

1. Fixing a flat tire. You need to carry tire irons (2), a patch kit, a spare tube, and a pump. I've been know to carry multiple sets of all of these on tours in remote places.

See: for a good tutorial on fixing flat tires.

2. Replacing a derailleur or brake cable. The difficulty in doing this is dependent on whether it a front or rear cable and on the type of shifters you have. The only tool required is the appropriate - carry a set - allen wrench(s) if you have cables pre-cut - by you or your bike shop - to the right length.

After you have physically replaced the cable, you also need to adjust the derailleur or brakes. This can be a real pain, especially with indexed shifters. This repair definitely needs to have been practiced before you need to do it on the road. If you know what you are doing and have precut cables, it takes maybe ten minutes. If you have never done it before, you'll need incredibly good mechanical empathy to be able to figure it out without someone, who has done it, helping you. Get that help before your tour and carry pre-cut cables!


3. Replacing a broken spoke. Now we are getting into a area that really require some skill, although you can usually - I have, several times - kludge it well enough to get to the next bike shop. Replacing a spoke may require a tool to remove the rear cogs as well as a spoke wrench and tire tools. All you need to do is remove the wheel, remove the broken spoke, put a new spoke in it is place, and true the wheel. You should carry three sizes of spokes, one for the front - I've never broken a front spoke - and one for each side in the rear. The ones that are most likely to break are the rear, drive side, spokes. They are also the ones that are hardest to repair.

Removing a front wheel is easy - loosen the brake, open the quick release and loosen it - damn lawyer lips! - and take the wheel out. The back wheel is more of a pain because of the chain and the derailleur. It is a good idea to get somebody to show you how to remove and replace the back wheel. If the broken spoke is on the cog side of the back wheel, you'll also have to remove the cogs. This takes a special tool called a hypercracker.

Truing a wheel takes skill that, at least for me, only came after I built my own wheels. Before that, I was able to get the wheel functional and ride on with a wobbly wheel (and lousy brakes) till I found a shop to true my wheel.

These three skill sets would take care of 99% of the mechanical problems I've had on tour. Of course, it is a good idea to minimize the chance of having these problems even if you are prepared to deal with them.

The broken spoke problem can be minimized by using good touring rims and spokes and proper wheel building technique. I haven't broken a spoke it my last 30000+ miles of touring.

The broken cable problem can be minimized by replacing the cables before the start of each tour. I don't bother since I can fix cables easily on the road. Of course there was the time I broke a front brake cable on tour...

The flat tire problem can be minimized by using good (Shwalbe or Conti) touring tires and by using flat resistant tubes and/or tube sealants. It is also important that you pay attention to the road ahead and learn to avoid, rather than ride through, debris on the road. I average > 10000 miles between flats on tour.

Most tourists do not seem well prepared for dealing with these common problems. I think the best way to be prepared is to have worked through each of these things with someone who does know how to deal with them. If you know someone who knows how, get them to teach you. If not, try to find a bike shop that has classes on bike maintenance and repair and take as many classes as you can.

Get a book too, and study it for background knowledge before you actually work on each of these repairs. And articles on Sheldon Brown's web site at have most of the background information you'll need.

Mark Boyd

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Some pictures from the SIR 200K

I haven't written a report yet or really edited the photos, but I slapped a bunch of pictures from yesterday's SIR 200K at:

Kent Peterson
Issaquah WA USA

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Planet Bike Cascadia Fenders

I've always had a fondness for the company Planet Bike. First off, it's a cool name. Second, they make good stuff. Third, they donate a percentage of their proceeds to bicycle advocacy. For example, Planet Bike supplies lights at a very reduced price to various "Get Lit" programs across the country.

Last week I got this note from Dan Powell who works at Planet Bike:


Last year you wrote review of the Redline 925 for Dirt Rag. That bike comes spec'd with a set of our Hardcore Freddy Fenders. You liked the fenders but stated that you didn't like the mud flaps. We've heard that from others, especially folks like yourself who live in the Pacific Northwest. Well, we listened, and since then we've been working on a new fender, The Cascadia. You can check it out here:

I know you ride a ton, and was wondering if you'd like to try out a set, and give us some feedback? Let me know.

Daniel Powell
Planet Bike

Now of course I consulted my handbook of bloggers ethics and said "no way, man. You keep your fenders." No wait, I didn't do that at all. Instead, I replied with this note:

Hi Dan,

Those look like some nice flaps. It's nice to see you incorporating user feedback into your designs. You probably also know that I'm semi-infamous for my ugly home-brew fenders, see:

but I'll be more than happy to review your fenders on my blog. These days, most of what I write starts out there ( ) but sometimes it gets picked up by other print publications. BTW, the guys who you should really get to check out your fenders are the fellows at Bicycle Quarterly. They are fussy, but they know their stuff. I've cc'd a couple of them on this note.

If you want to send me a set of the fenders, send them to my office address which is:

Kent Peterson
Bikestation Seattle
311 3rd Avenue South
Seattle WA 98104

Thanks for thinking of me and all the work you guys do. We'll be placing an order shortly for a bunch of your LED lights for our Bicycle Alliance Get Lit program.

Kent Peterson
Commuting Program Director
Bicycle Alliance of Washington
P.O. Box 2904
Seattle WA 98111

A few days later the UPS man shows up with this box that contains this:

Note that in addition to the fenders, Dan included a nifty Planet Bike beanie. Here's a min-review of the beanie: it's warm and acrylic and fleece-around the ears and it's probably a mind-control device designed to make me write nice things about Planet Bike. Oh wait, maybe it's the nice products and responsiveness to customers that's making me do that.

I haven't ridden the fenders in the rain yet but I did cut the coroplast fenders off my bike and install the Planet Bike Cascadia fenders and I've ridden them on a couple of commutes. So these are my initial, fair-weather impressions.

The fenders are nice and solid and they look great. I'm currently running huge 700*40 Specialized Hemisphere tires on my ancient Novara CX cyclocross bike and the fenders clear those tires. The Hemispheres have the same rollout size as my winter Schwalbe 700*38 studded tires, so the Cascadia fenders should clear those tires as well.

The stainless steel mounting hardware is solid and I really like the fact that both the front and rear fenders use V-stays for extra stability. The rubber mud flaps are stiff enough to stay put and do their spray-deflecting job but flexible enough to bend if you catch them on a curb.

While the flaps are long, I wish the fenders themselves were just a bit longer. I used an old randonneur's trick to make the rear fender extend further. Instead of adding material to the mud flap, I cut a four-inch long section of coroplast and added it to the front of the rear fender with a zip-tied. This coroplast piece keeps road spray off the front derailler and I zip-tied the bottom of the coroplast piece to the chainstay bridge. The top of the coroplast piece and the front of the fender are held to the seat-tube and away from the tire with another zip-tie. This rotates the whole rear fender back and puts the mud flap into a position where it should do a good job of keeping road grime off of any following riders.

I mounted the front fender with the bracket on the back side of the fork crown. Mounting the fender this way puts the rear of the fender and the flap about an inch and a half lower than mounting the bracket on the front side of the fork crown, so the flap should do a better job of keeping my feet dry.

The fenders are nice and rattle-free and they certainly look better than my home-brew coroplast fenders. As my friend Jan has pointed out on several occasions, while coroplast fenders are light weight, in terms of aerodynamics, a nicely shaped fender is much better.

Now all I have to do is wait for a rainy day. Given where I live, I don't think I'll have to wait too long.

Tai's Ti Bike

Tai Lee owns several very cool bikes and his latest is what he calls "Tai's Ti Bike from Taiwan." He built it up from a Taiwan-built titanium Redline frame that had been laying around Elliott Bay Bicycles for a couple of years. It is a very nifty bike and since I had my camera with me today, I told Tai that I'd make him "blog famous."

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Cue Sheet Club

M. Tot.LegInstructionsKm TotalLeg
0.00.0Start at Greg Cox's house (Control #1)0.00.0
0.00.0(N) 144th Ave SE0.00.0
0.30.3L(W) SE 240th0.50.5
5.75.4L(S) Russell Rd9.28.7
6.10.4R(W) Meeker9.80.6
6.70.6ST Thru light onto Reith Rd (Becomes 259th)10.81.0
9.12.4L(S) 16th Ave S.14.63.9
10.31.2BR(S) Pacific Hwy S.16.61.9
11.41.1R(W) Dash Point Rd.18.31.8

If the first rule of Fight Club is that no one talks about Fight Club, the first rule of Cue Sheet Club is that everyone talks about cue sheets. Actually, I think the rule is that everyone complains about cue sheets.

Many bike club rides and virtually all randonneur events use cue sheets, yet it seems that at every event there will be at least one person at the sign-in station who will stare at the cue sheet as if it is an artifact written in ancient Martian. They may have trained for months to ride this event, obsessed over gearing and tires and lights and food, but the idea that they might have to read and follow directions while riding simply never crossed their mind. So they stuff the paper into their jersey pocket and follow the person in front of them. While this Blanche DuBois approach of relying on the kindness of strangers often works surprisingly well, it strikes me as being at odds with the self-sufficient spirit of randonneuring. Nonetheless some fast friendships have formed from these navigational alliances and a fair number of great blind leading the blind stories have resulted from cue sheet mis-cues.

On other end of spectrum from the Cue Sheet Virgin (CSV), we have the Cue Sheet Obsessive (CSO). The CSO has measured tire roll out to the nearest millimeter. The CSO has the cue sheet loaded into a GPS unit. The CSO has studied Google maps of every meter of the route and has printed a copy of the cue sheet out in a font that is scientifically calculated to provide the best balance between compactness and legibility. If you are a CSV, you want to be following a CSO. Be aware, however that throughout the ride the CSO will update you on exactly where, when and how the cue sheet is in error.

In between the CSO and the CSV there are the mass of men and women who somehow cope with the cue sheets they are dealt. For many folks, a plastic bag and a binder clip keep the cue sheet dry and in view. Others manage to memorize a few lines of instructions and pause periodically to consult the cues and refresh their memories. Some folks have a map holder on their handlebar bag.

The thing about cue sheets is that they tell you where to turn based on how far you've gone. Thus, the key to using them is to have a sense of how far you have gone. For most of us, that means using a cycle computer of some sort. If you are one of those folks whose "not into that whole numbers scene, man!" that's cool but know this: you forfeited your right to complain about the cue sheet when you decided to show up on a cue sheet ride without a computer. If you can ramble your way through the course in a comfortably vague way, more power to you but if you complain, somebody is going smack you upside the head with a GPS. You have been warned.

I have to confess that at various times I've been each of the kinds of folks I've talked about here. I've been the clueless cue newbie, the obsessed mathematician, the crunchy granola dude. I'm riding a 200K this weekend. I think my computer is pretty closely calibrated and I've taken a look at the cue sheet. I'll probably even print it in a font I can read and put it in a plastic bag that I'll attach to my handlebars with a binder clip. I might not even make any wrong turns, but I can't promise that. I can tell you this, however, I know that I'll be involved in at least one conversation about cue sheets, and I'll be puzzled by at least one intersection.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Lessons From A Bike Crash

First off, don't panic folks. This is an old picture from an old crash, years ago. But some lessons bear repeating and I was thinking about this today because of this exchange I had over on the Touring List:

From: "Kent Peterson"
Date: Sat, 10 Mar 2007 12:18:43 -0800
Subject: re: helmets and recumbents

"Douglas Coulter" wrote:

> I've almost given up using a helmet on my recumbent trike
> because the type of impacts aren't the same as a bicycle.

I'm not going to get sucked into a helmet debate and I know there are folks that will say "that's just anecdotal evidence" but this anecdote happened to me and I'm pretty sure that the fact I was wearing my helmet on a recumbent on March 13th 1998 is one of the reasons I'm here today and able to type this note. The story is here:

I don't have a picture of it, but the side of my helmet was planed away by the road surface. Without the helmet, the side of my head would have been planed away.

Note, I do not favor mandatory helmet laws but I do wear a helmet. So do the other members of my family. Helmets are not magical foam hats but there certainly are circumstances where having something that crumples to absorb some impact is very useful.

Kent Peterson
Issaquah WA USA

If we are lucky, we get to live and learn. I was lucky and I'd like to expand a bit on some of the lessons I took away from this particular crash. Let me add a little more detail to paint the scene.

I was headed east on Newport Way, on the northern edge of Cougar Mountain. This section of road is a long, gentle downslope with a decent shoulder and not many cross streets. It was shortly after 5:00 PM and the sun was low and behind me. I was riding as far to the right as conditions would allow.

A tradesman's van was parked on the right shoulder of the road. I saw it ahead of me. I checked my rear-view mirror, saw things were clear behind me and begin to move further to the left in the traffic lane.

What I didn't know was that the owner of the van was in the driver's seat of the van as I approached. He'd been finishing some paper-work or something. He glanced in his rear view mirror, checking the traffic lane, not the shoulder behind him, looked ahead and then pulled into the lane to do a u-turn.

As I was coming around, I saw the van pulling out. I pulled further to left but since he was pulling a full u-turn, I had nowhere to go. I slammed into the side of the van and bounced off to the left.

In this case, the van driver was pretty clearly at fault, pulling a u-turn when there was an oncoming vehicle, but stuff happens. I'm interested in what I can do to prevent such things happening in the future. So, onto the lesson's I've learned and things that I do since this incident.

This crash taught me a few valuable lessons about visibility. The number one lesson is that it doesn't matter how brightly dressed you are or how conspicuous you make your bike, if you aren't in a person's line of sight, they won't see you. I was going at traffic speeds, yet I was too far to the right on the shoulder. This is a clear example of why it is safer to "take the lane". Cyclists tend to fear being hit from behind, but collisions from the rear are actually quite rare. And a good percentage of those crashes from the rear, occur when the cyclist swerves into traffic to avoid something on their right. Taking the lane puts you where other road users are looking. Since my crash, I've become much more aware of the importance of proper lane position.

Here are a couple of good pages on "taking the lane":

I think the low sun also may have contributed to my crash. I was coming out of the direction of the setting sun. The driver would have been squinting against the glare. While I do all I can to make myself visible, visibility is a matter of contrast. It's hard to stand out against a backdrop of bright, low sunshine. While I can't entirely avoid riding at sunrise or sunset, I do as much as I can to avoid riding in the times of low sun. I may stay a bit late or leave a bit early to avoid such conditions. I really believe that with lights and reflective gear, it can be safer to ride in darkness than in the times of low sun.

Another lesson I've learned is to look and think further down the road and to slow down. My commute is not a race. On the roads and the paths, it's not worth sprinting for a light to save a few seconds. Like everyone, I still have to work on being patient, but rushing often doesn't save any time and trips to the ER are really time consuming!

I really try to follow the zen precept of "be here now." I don't ride with an iPod. I don't chat on the phone while I'm riding. I try to stay focused on what I'm doing.

I do dress like a dork. I wear a bright colored jacket or vest and I tend to have silly looking reflective bands on my ankles. I've got lots of lights on my bikes and I use them a lot. I've got a big reflective triangle on my bag. And I still ride as if folks don't see me because there will always be some time that someone doesn't see me. But I do everything I can think of to increase my odds of survival.

I've mentioned this before but one of the best bicycle saftey sites I've found is this one:

Enjoy your ride and ride safely.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Crash Course: What to do if you get in a bicycle accident

(Note: this article originally appeared in the September 2006 issue of Outdoors NW. It is reprinted here with the author's permission.)

Crash Course:
What to do if you get in a bicycle accident

by John Duggan

You might be on your club training ride, commuting to work or simply out riding with your friends, and when you least expect it, your worst fear becomes a reality: The minivan approaching from the opposite direction makes a left turn in front of you. You lock up your brakes and skid before crashing into the passenger side of the vehicle. You have some road rash but quickly realize you're still alive.

And then your adrenaline kicks in.

The minivan driver admits they didn't see you, immediately takes the offensive and asks why you were riding in the roadway and why you didn't stop.

The ever-increasing number of cyclists combined with the higher volume of motor vehicle traffic makes the above scenario a nearly everyday occurence in the Pacific Northwest.

Unfortunately, I've been in this situation twice, and both times I thought I wasn't hurt and could ride away. In each instance, approximately a mile down the road, I realized I was injured, my bike was damaged and I was looking for the nearest emergency room. By this time, it may be too late to gather the information you need to make a claim against the at-fault driver.

Through my personal experience on the bike as well as my experience representing injured cyclists, I have learned what you should and should not do if you find yourself the victim of a negligent driver. Keep in mind that as a cyclist, you are usually behind the eight ball.

In most bicycle/motor vehicle accident claims, I demand that the insurance company declare the bike and all damaged clothing and accessories a total loss and pay full replacement value. In most bicycle/motor vehicle accidents in Washington (Oregon may have different laws), regardless of who was at fault, the vehicle driver's insurance will pay reasonable and necessary medical bills and some wage loss.

Hopefully you will never find yourself in a situation where you will need to use this information, but if you do, now you will be prepared. Keep in mind that most bicycle/car accidents occur because the vehicle driver does not see the cyclist.

So be smart: Make yourself visible and ride safely.

-- John Duggan of Seattle is an avid cyclist and attorney who represents injured cyclists. He is a member of the Bicycle Alliance of Washington, the Cascade Bicycle Club and the Washington State Trial Lawyers Association. He is also a sponsor and member of the Byrne/Jet City Velo cycling team. He can be reached at (206) 343-1888 or

Sidebar: Bike Crash Tips

To preserve your rights, keep the following list in your saddlebag -- and remember to use it.
  • Do remain calm, collected and non-confrontational.
  • Do call the police and insist an officer files a police report. In the event that an officer does not respond, go to a police station and file an accident report within 72 hours of the incident.
  • Do get the vehicle driver's insurance information, address, phone number and license plate number.
  • Do get the name, phone number and address of every witness.
  • Do get the necessary medical treatment.
  • Do have your bike thoroughly inspected by a reputable bike shop.
  • Do take photographs of the accident scene, your injuries, your bike and all other involved vehicles (Your new camera phone may come in handy!).
  • Do not lose your temper or argue with the vehicle driver.
  • Do not minimize your injuries or your bike damage.
  • Do not give a statement to the vehicle driver's insurance company without first consulting an attorney.
  • Do not rush into any settlement until you know the full extent of your injuries and bike damage.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

SIR 100K Populaire

Our vet tells us that if given a choice, our cat Purrl Grey "would opt for a life of obesity." I think Purrl Grey has a lot in common with a lot of people. I suspect that if I didn't ride all the kilometers I do and stuck to my "not a nutritional role model" ways, I would probably be as round as one of Tarik's cats. Fortunately, I've fallen in with a group of folks whose ideas of fun include mapping out routes and riding lots of kilometers in all kinds of weather.

This morning I wake up early and find that the cat has broken her diet by breaking into my son Eric's stash of powdered sugar mini-donuts. Purrl loves donuts. I swear at the cat, clean powdered sugar and donut crumbs off the floor, secure the remainder of the donuts and look out the kitchen window at the rain. It's a good day to ride.

I leave home a bit after 6:00 AM and ride the 30 kilometers up to the Redhook brewery in Woodinville. It's about 40 degrees so I'm layered in wool and all three garments I wrote about in an article titled Good Gear for Bad Times.

In most crowds, I would be the most dorkily dressed fellow, but with the randonneurs, I blend right in. The SIR 100K Populaire ride is our most popular event (hmm... it's our shortest ride and it begins and ends at a brewery) and today we have well over 100 riders. The crew manning the check-in and the various checkpoints all pre-rode the course on various days. Eric has designed a new course that is exactly 100 kilometers long and he'd managed to find enough hills and quiet roads and even promises us a bit of an unpaved horse trail. Earlier in the week Mark and Narayan got to trudge through snow on their pre-ride but everybody seems in good spirits today. Peter and Max have coffee and muffins for everyone and we all check out each other's bikes and gear before we all take off precisely at 9:00 AM.

The ride is fabulous. The cue sheet is perfect, the organizers are perfectly organized and despite the gray conditions everyone I see is smiling. Even Dave Reed, whose fixed gear decides to toss its chain a few times is upbeat. And my pal Ken Krichman, who is never happy unless he's got something to grumble about, is happy to grumble about how the gearing on his three-speed Kogswell should maybe be a bit lower. Not that the gearing seems to slow him down at all, he motors on faster than many folks carrying far fewer years and far more gears.

Albert informs me that his Captain America tights get him more respect from the redneck pickup crowd. The theory is that good ol' boys may not think twice about harassing a cyclist, but the stars and stripes will make them pause. It's an interesting notion and Albert is sure the tights are effective. The tights are a bolder fashion statement than I'm willing to make and I saw what happened to Peter Fonda and his bike at the end of Easy Rider, so I think I'll stick with my existing (slightly) more sedate wardrobe.

The great thing about a club like the Seattle International Randonneurs is something I've come to think of as the power of positive peers. Alone, we might, like my cat, opt for a sedentary, donut scarfing life. But together, we ride.

And if you ride enough kilometers, you get to scarf a lot of donuts.