Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Soleri Bridge

Yesterday, I rode Hardiboi over to Scottsdale to attend the dedication of the Paolo Soleri bridge. I took several photographs, but only one of the striking, primary pylons:

Nuts! It's the old thumb-in-the-lens trick!

As luck would have it, another Arizona bike rider (and a better photographer than me), John Romeo Alpha, was also there for the dedication and put up a spectacular post about it in his blog: Soleri Bridge Dedication in Scottsdale. In addition to the great photos and videos, JRA did a terrific job of outlining Soleri's philosophy.

JRA's blog, One Speed: Go!, is one of my favorite places on the web for an even more important reason than either his marvelous photos or his excellent writing. The way he approaches the Argument-for-Bicycling is much more effective than mine. I tend to skewer the bicycling opponents with facts and logic, and while this works great for winning the argument it isn't very good for convincing those non-riders who are on the fence about whether we should spend tax money on bicycling infrastructure.

JRA's style is typically one of gentle admonishment. If you come away from any of his on-line discussions about bicycling without believing we should devote much more money to bicycling infrastructure, well, you're a hard-hearted, illogical SOB who should be charged extra for every gallon of gasoline you buy!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Where Did YOU Go Today?

This morning, I was sitting outside one of my favorite haunts: Starbucks ...

I was utilizing the Official BluesCat Communication System to surf the Web, visiting one of my favorite web sites: the Recumbent Riders Social Club. One of my buddies there, Rydabent, who lives up in Lincoln, NE, was bemoaning the fact that it was 28° up there and his Stratus recumbent was gathering dust. When I got back to the house, I couldn't help but rub it in when I replied:

"I feel your pain, Rydabent! When I read your post, it was a bone-numbing 63° F!

"After a couple cups of hot coffee and a hot Panini sandwich, I gutted it out and rode up to the bike shop ...

... "where I bought a pair of knee warmers in preparation for commuting at 5:30 AM during January and February.

"'Do you want to wear them ... now?' the gal asked, with a really strange, quizzical look on her face.

"I looked down at the thermometer on the bike computer of Bluetiful. It now read 68° F.

"'No,' I whimpered, 'I think I'm good.'

"(Sorry guy, the blast furnace that is a Phoenix summer does weird things to your head; I can't help but revel in the gorgeous fall and winter temps around here.)"

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Keira's First Trailer Ride

Took my 1-year-old granddaughter for her first REAL ride in the Schwinn Scout trailer. We've put her in it before, but she really didn't look comfortable, so we stuck to wheeling it around like a stroller.

Since she doesn't yet have a helmet, I kept the bike down around 5 mph and just went up and down the street while her mom waited nervously up on the porch.

This time she absolutely loved it, and was all smiles (Which served to calm her mom down). She waved to the crowd like a beauty queen in a Fourth of July parade:

I told her we'd go a lot faster once she got a helmet. In the meantime she'll stick with hamming it up by blowing kisses to the audience:

What a cutie, eh?

Pizza Delivery Bike

Stopped off at California Pizza last night to pick up dinner. Saw this parked out front:

When I went in, I asked about where they made deliveries with the electric bike, and the hostess said they used it to take orders to a lot of the stores in the tony shopping mall and even to some of the multi-million dollar homes in the area adjacent to the mall.

I would ride that bike! Especially if it meant meeting a hot celebrity in the bargain!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Shocking Arizona Statistics

Some folks on the BikeSpeak forum are still insisting that I'm advocating unsafe cycling practices. Some even have agreed with the non-biking "experts" that the "fact" that "3.8% of bicyclists hit from the rear" is a negligible statistic that we really can't do anything about.

I've alway been suspicious of the 3.8% "fact." It never seemed to track right with my personal, anecdotal experience driving and biking in Phoenix. So, I went to the AZ Bike Law Blog - 2009 NHTSA Statistics.

There were a total of 25 car/bicycle fatalities in Arizona in 2009. I confirmed that in 11 of those accidents the rider was hit from behind. There are 3 other accidents which are sort of sketchy about what actually happened because, of course, the bicyclist is dead and there are no other witnesses. In only one of those 11 accidents did I find that the bicyclist was at fault because he swerved into traffic (although the reason he swerved is unclear). In three of the those fatal accidents the bike rider was in a marked bike lane.

Okay, so if you discount those three accidents in which my brief research could not discover the accident particulars, and even take out that one where the bicyclist swerved and "was at fault," that STILL leaves 10 accidents out of 25 when the bicyclist was in the "right" --- even riding in the bike lane on three occasions --- and was hit from behind.

But no matter WHO was at fault, that statistic means 44% of the bicyclists killed in Arizona in 2009 were hit from behind.

Does ANYBODY STILL want to argue with my contention that sometimes yer just flat safer on the sidewalk?

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Most traffic laws were created by people who drive, but don't bike; as a result those laws do not take into account the special vulnerability of bicyclists, pedestrians and even motorcyclists.

Hey! My fire extinguisher is still FULLY CHARGED!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Here Come Da Traffic Law Judge

Okay, so I'm not a judge, but I am an opinionated old goat, and in this day and age that seems to count just as much. I was taken to task by someone on another forum (someone who's opinion I usually respect) about my belief that some traffic laws currently on the books just simply are not safe for bicyclists to follow. This person feels that bicyclists should obey ALL traffic laws ALL of the time, and that is something I simply cannot agree with.

Y'all already know my take on riding on the sidewalk as a result of my comment about The Solidly Safer Sidewalk. I will say, without hesitation, that even if it were illegal to ride on the sidewalk in Phoenix (as it is in other communities around the world) I would still ride on the sidewalk and risk a ticket: in order to be safe, sometimes you just have to break a law which shouldn't apply to your vehicle in the first place.

The web site Bicycle Safety has this to say about Collision Type #10: The Rear End:

"A car runs into you from behind. This is what many cyclists fear the most, but it's actually not very common, comprising only 3.8% of collisions. However, it's one of the hardest collisions to avoid, since you're not usually looking behind you."

Uh, gee whiz, "only 3.8%," eh? Gosh, considering that there are around 600 bicyclists killed every year on American roads, 3.8% means we might have saved "only" around 23 lives every year if those folks could ride on the sidewalk. Not bad, eh? Unless, of course, you're one of a group of about 23 "special" people!

Here's a suggestion from Bicycle Safety about avoiding Collision Type #10: The Rear End:

"The best way to avoid getting Rear-Ended is to ride on very wide roads or in bike lanes, or on roads where the traffic moves slowly, and to use lights when biking at night." (Emphasis is mine.)

Note that NONE of those suggestions work for the road pictured in The Solidly Safer Sidewalk.

Here're some other comments from Bicycle Safety about Collision Type #10: The Rear End:

"Avoid busy streets. One of the biggest mistakes that people make when they start biking is to take the exact same routes they used when they were driving. It's usually better to take different streets with fewer and slower cars. Sure, cyclists have a right to the road, but that's a small consolation when you're dead. Consider how far you can take this strategy: If you learn your routes well, you'll find that in many cities you can travel through neighborhoods to get to most places, only crossing the busiest streets rather than traveling on them." (Emphasis is, again, mine.)

I would LOVE to find a different way to the destination of the photo in The Solidly Safer Sidewalk, but, no, my destination is on the south-west corner of an intersection of the busy north-south road you see in the photo and another, just as busy and bike unfriendly east-west road north of this location.

And that apartment complex you see on the right? Where that driveway is? If you think you could ride into the parking lot and exit out the back into the adjoining neighborhood you can think again: every single business or apartment complex south on this road, for over a half mile, has a solid, six-foot block wall running the entire length of their property.

The soonest you can get off of this road, to head west, is at that traffic signal you see about a quarter of a mile down the road. It leads into a credit union parking lot and from there into a neighborhood road.

Another law which I find inapplicable to bicyclists, for safety reasons, has to do with the one which proscribes "California Stops" at stop signs and stop lights.

I make no bones about my opinion on this: If I'm rolling up to a stop sign or a red stop light, and there is NO cross traffic, I will slow down but I will NOT stop.

The reason is simple: Starting and stopping are the two most vulnerable times on a bike. If these maneuvers ain't necessary, I ain't gonna do 'em, ESPECIALLY if some motorist is pulling up behind me in the traffic lane, and ESPECIALLY if it is dark.

Rather than go into my OWN, lengthy dissertation on this, I'll refer everybody to the excellent, informative and entertaining video presented by Urban Velo at Bicycle Rolling Stop Animation – Idaho Stop Law. (The ONLY quibble I have with the Urban Velo presentation is a minor semantic difference: they feel "blowing through a stop sign" is something you do at high speed, whereas I feel it is something you do as a result of disobeying the law at ANY speed.)

Most traffic laws were created by people who drive, but don't bike. As a result those laws do not take into account the special vulnerability of bicyclists, pedestrians and even motorcyclists.

Bring on the flames! I got my fire extinguisher at the READY!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Dos Amigos

Last Monday I rode The Roadley up to Starbucks for a nightcap.

When I came out with my Chai Latte, I noticed a young fellow with a long ponytail looking over my bike. I surmised, by the backpack with the bike light on it, that he was the owner of another Giant which was parked a few feet from mine:

I was right, his name is Jim and for the next half hour he and I chatted about bicycles and various things. That well-used Giant of his is a REAL working bike: he frequently uses it in downtown Phoenix as the engine for his pedicab business. From his description, I believe he has a "trishaw" sidecar add-on, where a couple of key points of the sidecar frame bolt to the bike frame.

He was really interested in the inverted tread tires on The Roadley, along with that comfortable Brooks seat of mine. I was really impressed that he would work an 8 hour day hauling around 300 to 400 pounds of people on a bike!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tres Hermanos

I rode Hardiboi up to Target. When I came back out THIS is what I found:

If the riders of these other two Specialized hardtails hadn't been right there locking 'em up, I woulda thought the Boi had had PUPPIES!

Right after I had unlocked my Specialized, and was preparing to go, an older fella rode up on a Schwinn, looked around and asked me if Target was selling Specialized bikes now!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Solidly Safer Sidewalk

Over on the BikeSpeak forum, we're having a conversation about whether its wise, or safe, to ride on the sidewalk. I'm of the school of thought which believes there are certain roads which demand that bicyclists ride on the sidewalk for their safety.

I got a late start this morning, and I was headed south on a road which I ride almost every day. There was much more traffic than I usually encounter on this road at around 5:15 a.m., and I decided to stop to see if I could take a picture which would illustrate why I believe this particular road falls into the category of having a Solidly Safer Sidewalk. With a single shot, I got results better than I could have paid for! Look closely at this photograph:

The speed limit on this road is 35 mph, but I can assure you that not one of the three cars in the photo were going that speed or below. The Jaguar in the left-hand lane, the blue compact SUV in the center lane and the gray full-sized SUV in the right-hand lane were all going faster than 40 mph.

It is important to note that I framed this photograph looking south, and then looked back over my left shoulder to the north (so I could time taking the photo to catch these cars in it), the big gray SUV was still behind the blue SUV in the center lane. When the gray SUV began his pass by switching lanes, he was parallel with my bike sitting on the sidewalk. If my bike and I were in that right-hand lane, rather than being safely on the sidewalk, I can almost guarantee you I would have been run down by the gray SUV.

And there is an element in this photograph which supports that contention. Look closely at the photograph again and tell me if you can see what it is.

Also look closely at that nice sidewalk ahead of my bike. The driveway just ahead of me has all of the landscaping set well back of the roadway, which allows me a clear view of automobiles pulling up to the road, and provides them a clear view of me approaching on my bike. The next driveway opening is far enough down the road that I can safely spin up to full speed and then have plenty of time to slow down when I reach it.

This is a textbook case of a road with a Solidly Safer Sidewalk.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Bluetiful Is A Good Girl

This morning I rode Bluetiful to grab some coffee and breakfast. Then headed over to The Bike Barn to have them check on the handlebars; they seemed a little loose.

The tech there discovered that it wasn't the clamp, but the top nut on the head.

Rode home and parked her in her spot and ....


The back tire went flat immediately! Now, how often does that happen? Your bike doesn't make you stop out on the road, in the heat, to change a flat, but waits until you are in the air-conditioned comfort of your great room to let you know she needs maintenance!

Looks like the old tube was just dried out. The hole in it was on the inside, next to the rim. The rim strip was in place and none of the spoke heads were sharp.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

AWOL Because of WORK

Yeah, yeah, I know. I haven't posted anything new in quite a while. Well, I got an excuse: work has dominated almost every waking moment for the last month and a half.

On July 29th, I had to take all of the equipment, and the rack, from our present Goodyear, Arizona, office ...

... and move it about a mile down the road to our new office location. And I had to do it in about two hours! With only one guy helping me! And we had to dodge raindrops the whole time!

Only when we were finished did the clouds part and I had a gorgeous sunset as I boomed back to the Phoenix office ...

We are also upgrading our Internet speeds by putting in fiber optic cable at our new Goodyear office and our Phoenix office ...

If you look closely at the rack on the right in the above picture, about a third of the way down from the top of rack you'll see two bright blue lights, one above the other. These are my new Dell KACE KBOX management and deployment systems. In between the Goodyear move and Internet upgrades, I've had my office full of spare workstations ...

... You can't see them all in the above photo; there are a total of eleven workstations in all on the bench and on my desk to the right. I've been installing, testing, reconfiguring, etc., in the remaining free time that I've had during this last month.

Today, I finished. From now on, barring any physical hardware problem, I will have to visit each of our 150 workstations only once, and that will be to set up the systems so that they will boot from the network cards in them and Wake-On-LAN; a process which takes all of about a minute.

Then, I can upgrade the machines from Windows XP to Windows 7, install our Office suite software on them, install our two CAD software systems on them, install the GIS software, and install all of our utilities and any new programs on them ... from the comfort of a workstation in my office.

From that workstation in my office, I can boot the machines, shut them down, log into them ... literally do everything I can do from the keyboard, mouse and monitor which are attached to the machines.

Oh boy! I'll have more time for playing with my granddaughter, riding the bikes ... and posting to my blog!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

WTF was THAT??

I was taking my morning ride, just before the sun came up. It was bright enough out that even the 100 lumen NiteRider headlight was hardly visible as more than a faint oval on the pavement, so I had the Blackburn set to blinky-mode.

About three blocks ahead, I saw a shape on the neighborhood street I was riding. It looked like something was sitting in the regal position of an Egyptian cat god, but I was having trouble believing it was a cat and I couldn't put my finger on why that was so. I went another block before it hit me ...

This guy is BIG!

He turned and looked at me. He did indeed have the large, upright, pointy ears of a feline, and his eyes flickered blue-green in my flashing headlight. He did not let me get any closer, but got up and gamboled off to the right in a typical catlike, coiled-back run. He had to be at least three feet long from the tip of his nose to the end of his bushy tail.

I slowed as I approached where he had disappeared behind a low, decorative block wall. There he was, sitting on top of the wall about fifty feet away, watching me. He was in that same royal position, and I had the height of the blocks to use as a reference to estimate his size. He was about two feet high from the top of his head to his rump. His coat was gray, and had some stripes across his cheeks and along his back.

I slowed further, reaching into my handlebar bag for my camera, but that was just too much attention for him and he disappeared.

I thought I knew all the critters in Arizona, but THIS guy was something I've never seen before.

Oh yeah, and I didn't see the little Barking Rat this morning, or last night for that matter. Hmmmm.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Canine Quandary

Folks who know me know I have no love for dogs of the Barking Rat variety: pomeranians, toy poodles and --- especially --- chihuahuas.

For the last few days, on my morning ride, I have been chased for a couple of blocks by one of these noisy little abominations. I've been riding my 'bent, and that is the ONLY thing which has kept the little vermin from going to Doggie Heaven; if he were to chase me while I was on one of the mountain bikes, and I couldn't simply outrun him as I can on the much faster recumbent, I would slow down and the second he made a lunge at me I would squash his obnoxious little head onto the pavement. So, until now it has been just him and me; him yapping at me and fruitlessly chasing me, and me laughing at him and telling him the next time I pass I may have a couple of mousetraps which I'll use as caltrops to end his miserable little existence.

A couple of things have started to bother me. He seems to be widening his territory, so it now includes the route my wife takes when she is walking with our granddaughter in the stroller. If he were to start charging my wife, I would make sure he went to Doggie Hell. The other thing is I think the little twit has a collar, so he may be either lost or gets out of his yard by accident or on purpose.

My quandary centers around whether I should be a nice guy, and hoof it over to the area and see if he leads me back to his house and I can talk to his owner, or should I simply call Animal Control and be done with it.

You should all know that I tried the former strategy once before for another dog which got loose and charged my wife and me as we were walking our dog. That didn't turn out so well, as I almost got into a fistfight I would certainly have lost (the guy was a head taller than me and outweighed me by at least 100 pounds; plus his two sons were right behind him).

So, whatta y'all think?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Biking in the Arizona Heat

(This was a post I made to the Bike Commuters site; some folks said it might be nice to see it here.)

The Arizona desert presents a unique set of challenges to the summer bike commuter.

For the vast majority of the year, unless your commute to work is very, very short, there is no way you can do it without having shower facilities. While other areas of the country face the challenges of high heat AND humidity, the desert has incredible heat but very little humidity. You WILL sweat as your body attempts to not only cool itself but also deliver moisture to the surface of your skin to protect it from drying out and dying. As that sweat dries quickly, and leaves behind a patina of dirt and body oils perfect for bacteria growth, you WILL stink and stink REALLY well. No amount of baby wipes are going to be able to deal with that, you need a genuine water stream which will get into every sweaty nook and cranny of your skin.

As far as riding attire goes, here again the desert is a very different environment which requires a very different set of clothing. Wearing wicking-type Lycra or other synthetics is out, for a couple of reasons. Number one is the fact that you WANT your clothing to hold the moisture close to your skin. That moisture is the only thing protecting you from heat exhaustion. There is NO way, short of an IV bag and tube, that you can take in enough water to replace the water wicked away by these efficient fabrics. Loose fitting cotton clothing is the rule of knowledgeable hikers, backpackers AND bike riders. Ignore this rule — and head out on a sunny, dry, 110° day for a 30 mile ride wearing your skintight Tour de France jersey and matching shorts — and the mortician at the end of your ride won’t have to put any embalming fluid into you: he’ll be able to simply pop you into the coffin because you’ll be as desiccated as an Egyptian mummy.

The second reason for not wearing bicycle synthetics has to do with that shower I was talking about earlier. Man-made fabrics stink … period … and they stink to high heaven when the brutal desert sun forces them to deal with the accelerated bodily processes which fill them with sweat and body oils. A word to the wise for any of you Arizona Lance Armstrong wannabes who ignore THIS rule: take TWO showers at the end of your commute, you NEED them because we WILL smell you.

When the weatherman says the thermometer is going to go up above 105°, I will usually pass on riding my bike to work unless I feel 100%, have begun the hydration process the night before and passed on the beer and steak and other foods which require more water to process them. And if he says it is going to to be 110° or better, I stay off the bike between 10 AM and 7 PM; if the temperature at the airport is 110° you can bet the temperature out on the pavement will be 115° or better.

More Zoo Biking

I'm a big fan of the Phoenix Zoo. Not only is it a great place to see African desert and American desert animals, but when you buy a year's membership it is one one of the best entertainment values going.

As I mentioned a couple of months ago, they also have bicycles you can rent to tour the Zoo on two wheels ...

Or on four wheels if that is more to your liking ...

You can also bring your own bikes if you want ...

This time of year, you need to head over there pretty early in order to beat the heat and actually see some of the animals. With a Zoo membership you can get in one hour earlier than everybody else, at 6:00 AM.

My little granddaughter is almost old enough to ride in the Schwinn Scout trailer, I can hardly wait.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Crowded Parking

So, I ride up to the grocery store and, just before I park Hardiboi and lock him up, I snap a picture of the bike rack:

I go in, jaw with the security guard for a bit (hint: so he KNOWS who that Hardrock belongs to and will keep an eye on it), do my shopping, come back out and ...

More bikes, different bikes ... my gosh! Doesn't look like it'll be too long before the rack is packed. And then ... what's next? Fist fights for the plum parking slots on the end of the rack? Nasty little notes wedged between your cables and your frame telling you how you're taking up more than your fair share of rack space?

This has gotta stop!! Gonna haveta figure out some way of discouraging other riders from taking their bikes on errands!


Poor Man's Front Panniers

My wife picked up some of these black "green" recyclable grocery bags from Fry's Food and Drug. They're made out of polypropylene and have a aluminum foil inner liner which acts to insulate the contents somewhat. A plastic zipper serves to further protect the contents.

I needed to run an errand to pick up some Kleenex, paper towels and toilette tissue. This stuff was too bulky to all fit in my sling bag, so I popped a couple of these Fry's bags into the sling bag; figuring I could just fill them and hang them on the the Trekking handlebars of Hardiboi for the ride home. It worked out better than I had hoped:

By putting the loops of the Fry's bags closer to the handlebar stem, as you can see with the bag on the left, I could have the aft portion of the bag kick out farther away from the wheel. Moving the loops farther out, away from the stem as you see done with the bag on the right, moves the rear of the bag closer to the wheel.

Depending upon what the bag contains, and how it causes the bag to move in the wind coming by it as I ride, I can fine tune where I put the bag loops on the handlebars so there is no chance of the bag getting fouled in the wheel ahead or behind the front wheel fork.

Pretty neat, eh?

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Living Desert

I remember, back in the 1960’s, when my folks got their first color television set (yes, children, the ‘Cat is OLD), one my family’s favorite programs was Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color. Two of MY favorite episodes were the consecutive Sunday broadcasts of the 1953 full-length True-Life Adventures film The Living Desert.

The Living Desert has been both criticized and honored down through the years, but there is one thing about which both its detractors and fans agree: it showed that the deserts of the American southwest are teeming with life, not barren of it.

Growing up in Arizona, hiking and backpacking here since I was a kid, I have always been aware of the abundance of wildlife. I remember riding my English Racer to school one week and almost running over two different rattlesnakes on two different days. At our current house in central Phoenix, we have encountered all manner of critters: from snakes and scorpions to spiders and squirrels. About ten years ago, I discovered a Colorado River Toad making his home beneath a dripping hose bib on the side of the house.

The most populous desert denizens are the birds, and I was reminded of that last Friday morning as I took a Dawn Starbucks Patrol.

There’s all the chattering of the sparrows, finches and other nameless small birds; the multi-lingual voices of the mocking birds, who will dive bomb the neighborhood cats; the cooing of the Rock Doves (better known as Pigeons or, to me, Flying Rats). The best sound of all, though, is the plaintive cry of the Mourning Dove, which to me is the signature sound of the desert.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Saturday Afternoon Ride Was A Bust

I wound up with some CAR errands to run, didn't get back to the house until evening, and was too pooped to pedal.

Today, had a great ride in the morning, temp was 84°F. Did an errand pulling the trailer behind Hardiboi in the late morning, temp was 93°F. I may do a Tour de Starbucks this evening, after the temperature sinks below the magic 105.

Temperature right now is 107°F.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Waiting for ... Godot?

Okay, so I had a marvelous Saturday morning ride and the temperature didn't go over 81°F. It is now 105°F according to the Weather Service, 106°F according to the News and Weather applet on my Droid. I'd like to start an errand up to Target while the sun is still out, but my personal advice to myself has always been to stay out of the heat if the temp goes north of 105°F. Sooo ... I'm waiting ... waiting ...

Should be down below the magic number around 7:15 PM. Sunset is at 7:34 PM, so I have a chance!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Calling All Arizona Bicyclists

ADOT is conducting a survey for the State Highway Bicycle Safety Action Plan. Go to the ADOT Bicycle and Pedestrian Program page and make sure you fill it out!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Keira Discovers Bicycles

Here's what happens when your Mom and Dad are sitting on the couch about ten feet away, and you have learned to crawl on all-fours really fast, and Grandpa's recumbent bicycle --- with that nifty double-length chain --- is in the other room not five feet away:

Looks like she did a dandy job of making sure there was plenty of chain lube on it:

She was so happy, spread it around on the carpet, and on herself ... made her Grandpa so proud she's obviously really into bikes!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

AH! A True Holiday Sunday

Got up late, took a leisurely ride to Starbucks for a Caffè Mocha and a Fruit and Cheese Plate.

Puttered around the house, ran cleanups/defrags/malware checks on the computers.

Around 2:30 PM, hopped in the pool with granddaughter Keira and her mom and dad:

Hopped out of the pool, showered up, maybe take a trip back to Starbucks this evening.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

That's MY Lane

I've mentioned this on the BikeSpeak forum, but not here because I was originally kinda embarrassed about it. Now, the embarrassment has faded.

I was on my way home last Tuesday, approaching an intersection right at the point where the bike lane had just ended, and I was almost pinched into the curb by some guy in a newer Audi. He zoomed past me, straddling the white line between the right-hand lane I was in and the left-hand lane, and pulled into my lane so quickly that I didn't even have time to downshift.

I shouted "Hey!" as I got the bike slowed enough so that I didn't rear-end him. Didn't see him even glance back my way in his rear-view mirror. I saw just enough space between the side of his car and the curb to get my bike up beside his passenger side door, and noticed it was going to be a couple seconds --- the traffic light at the intersection hadn't changed and there were two cars ahead of him --- so I coasted up next to his right-hand rear-view mirror and shouted "Hey! That's MY lane!"

The guy acted he didn't even hear me or see me (which I find hard to believe, my wife says my booming voice would wake the dead from the last century); he kept his eyes fixed on the vehicle ahead of him.

So, then the Ol' Cat does something REALLY stupid, folks. I pulled ahead of his car, and put Bluetiful sideways directly between the front of his Audi and the bumper of the car in front of him. I looked over the hood of his car, directly into his eyes, pointed to the pavement in front of his grill and shouted "This is MY LANE!"

I KNOW he saw me then, because his jaw dropped into his lap. So did the jaws of the four occupants of the car right next to him.

About this time the light had changed and the cars in front of us had left. I gave the guy one last deeply-angry-glare, put my foot into the pedal ... and of course was reminded immediately that I was in the 7th cog on the rear cassette. I wobbled like a drunk forward, but finally got up enough speed to clear the intersection still on the green light and got into the bike lane. The guy passed me, and gave me a little wave that looked somewhat sheepish.

I berated myself all the rest of the way home for putting myself in an even MORE vulnerable position as a result of being pi$$ed off, but most of my buddies over on the BikeSpeak forum are of the opinion that I was in no real danger and I've come to agree with them. The late model Audi was white, and unless the guy was smoking crack I doubt he would have wanted to get my blood all over his car. The traffic light was red, he was stopped and had nowhere to go so I doubt if he would have struck me and dragged when things got going again.

I think next time that happens I'll just sneak up behind the the guy's car and hock a king-sized loogie on his back window.

He'll get the point, I'll laugh my butt off and I won't be in any danger.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

A Better Computer Mount

I've only got about ten miles on Hardiboi since I mounted the bargain Bell Platinum 15-Function Wireless bike computer I got at Target and described in One More Computer Story.

As I mentioned in that blog post, unless your line of sight is perpendicular to the surface of the computer you see ghost images of the other features available on the LCD, even if they are not "on" or "lit." That presents a major problem with the original mounting point on Hardiboi:

As you can see, open real estate is at a premium on the Trekking Handlebars, and even the open areas come with some mounting challenges as a result of the proximity of the shifters and brake levers. The only way the Bell could mount required the LCD to be parallel to the ground, which meant it was at exactly the wrong angle to be seen from the saddle.

With the Trekking Bars on The Roadley, I solved the problem by simply using the loop mount for the Specialized Speedzone computer:

I wondered if I could use a Specialized loop mount with the Bell, so when I was in the LBS getting a new tube last Thursday I asked the owner if she had one of those loop mounts left over. She searched her back room, and boxes of spare parts, and came up with a loop mount for a wired Speedzone:

I gave her five bucks for it (usually a full mounting kit for a Speedzone, including the loop mount and the handlebar mount, runs around sixteen dollars), took it home and cut off the wire. I strung two small Zip Ties through the mounting plate for the Bell:

I then carefully centered the Bell mount on top of the loop mount and strung the ties through the loop mount base:

Cinched everything up nice and snug:

Snipped off the extra lengths of Zip Tie, popped the handlebar stem cap off the bike, put the loop mount on the stem and fastened the stem cap down again:

A perfect custom mount which allows me to tilt the Bell computer to just the right angle in order to see the LCD clearly:

Friday, May 21, 2010

Over the Century Mark at Last

The National Weather Service said we hit 101°F today in Phoenix.

About halfway home today the thermometer on the bike computer hit 100°F.

About a mile later, when I had just turned south, the temperature bounced up to 102°F.

It didn't go below the 100°F mark all the rest of the way home.

Summer is here at last!  

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Racing the ... Thermometer?

At around 4:15 this afternoon I pulled Bluetiful out of Luxury Bike Parking in my office and headed for home.

The bike computer said the bike had been enjoying a nice, cool 70°F temperature.

About a mile from the office I headed down through The Rescue UnderPass:

Temperature had jumped up to 97°F.

About the time I hit the Six Mile Mark ...

... the bike computer read 99°F.

I turned south and the temperature dropped to 97°F again just before I pulled into the LBS.

When I came out of the store with my new tube, the temperature was down to 91°F.

It had crept back up to 97°F again by the time I reached the front door of the house.

Tomorrow, it's supposed to hit 100°F for the first time this year! Yeeee, haaaaah!

(Note: the above photos were taken at different times during this last year. I was too busy racing the ... thermometer ... today to stop and take pics!)

A Parked Flat

Last night, I'd packed the panniers and topped off the tires on Bluetiful in preparation for this morning's commute.

I was back in the bedroom, prepping for bed, and I heard a loud noise like a big bag of BB's being emptied onto the tile floor.

It freaked the cats out.

My son, my daughter-in-law, my wife and I started scouring the front room, looking for the source of the noise. Finally, I checked the tires on the bikes. The 20" front tire on Bluetiful should have had 100 psi in it, but it was really spongy; couldn't have had more than 20 psi. I bent the valve stem from side to side and could hear air escaping.

I've always had problems with this tube, I could never get the valve stem to seat properly in the hole in the rim. It was always canted slightly forward, as if the tube were thicker on one side and was causing the stem to lean. Evidently, leaning against the side of the rim hole like that caused a groove to be carved in the side of the stem and it finally gave way.

My son commented that he guessed I wouldn't be riding to work in the morning. At which point I whipped the spare tube out of the seat bag on Bluetiful and asked him "Why not?"

Sunday, May 16, 2010

One More Computer Story

I was strolling through Target last week, and I stopped in the bike accessories section. They had a Bell Platinum Wireless 15-function bicycle computer there at a regular price of $19.99. I had a $20 Target gift certificate which I'd gotten for my birthday in April, and thought I might give it a try.

This is not the old circular Bell FreeFit 15-function wireless (which seems to be universally panned), but a new design in a more-or-less rectangular housing:

Followers of my blog will recall that I was satisfied with the Specialized Speedzone I had on both The Roadley and Bluetiful, until a stretch of rough road bounced the one on Bluetiful right out of the clip and underneath my rear wheel: RIP, Speedzone.

Y'all will also remember that I have been less than impressed with the replacement Trek Incite 9i: New Computer for Bluetiful.

Question: How does a 20-dollar bike computer, from Bell, stack up against a 45-dollar computer from Specialized and a 70-dollar computer from Trek?

Answer: Pretty darn good a week into testing it!

The Bell has more features than the Trek or the Specialized. It is much more sensitive than the Trek: I have the fork sensor attached to the right-hand fork of Hardiboi and the computer mounted on the left side of the handlebar stem and have had no problems with the computer failing to sense the wheel turning.

The Bell instructions are far superior to the instructions from Trek or Specialized. Here's a quote from the Bell instruction manual: "Make sure bracket tab is facing toward bike as shown in illustration." (Emphasis is mine.) There was almost no text at all in the Trek manual, but in the Bell manual it is as it should be; text backed up by illustrations.

Not only are the illustrations in the Bell manual very informative (one pair of drawings shows the correct AND incorrect way of mounting the sensor to the fork), but they are very well done. You can actually tell which way the zip-ties are supposed to go.

I have expressed my belief that there is a design flaw in the mounts of the Trek and the Specialized, in that the computer slides upward into the clip. That was, in fact, why the Speedzone popped out of the mount when I hit the bump: the stops are at the top of the clip, so there is nothing but a set of friction bumps to prevent the computer from sliding down out of the clip and off the bike. The Bell computer has it right, the computer slides downward from the top into the clip, and is retained by a little thumb tab. In order to fall off the bike, the computer would have to slide upward all the way past the rails. I can't imagine a bump severe enough to cause that to happen!

There is no Bell warranty on the product, but Target has a standard, 90-day return/refund policy.

I have only one complaint about the Bell. Unless you are directly over the LCD, and your line of sight is perpendicular to the surface of the display, you can make out ghost images of the other features. In the picture above, you can see an example of this as the "SCAN" feature (which was NOT on at the time) is visible in the upper left-hand corner. In bright sunlight, if you are viewing the display at an angle, you see almost all of the features as plain as the features which are "lit".

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Bicycling Challenges

The ride home yesterday was filled with challenges. Not only did I continue to have problems with the Trek bike computer on Bluetiful, but I was almost taken out by an airhead woman in a white Mercedes. I had started across the street, in a crosswalk, talking to an attractive young female pedestrian walking beside me, and this lame ... er ... person whipped around the corner and sped past me less that a foot in front of my front wheel.

I shouted out something appropriate, gave her the Universal Sign of Disgust (which I KNOW she saw because I could see her eyes in her right-hand rear view mirror and she tapped her brakes), and continued across.

The pretty pedestrian smiled ever so slightly and asked if I was okay. I said "Yeah, I just needed to vent."

Good news is that I didn't get hit ... even better news is I think I figured out the problem with the bike computer: the sensor had slid down the fork slightly so I believe the spoke magnet was too far away from it to trigger it.

The computer worked fine today, and nobody tried to run me over.

Didn't see that cute pedestrian, though.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Bike Computer Problems

I'm having some issues with the New Computer for Bluetiful. Hopped on her this morning and got two blocks from the house before I noticed it hadn't turned on. All the rest of the ride in this morning I messed with the sensor on it.

It's a cheap looking little plastic shell clip-on magnet, rather than having a nice, metal screw clip housing. And, like I said on my blog, it ain't very sensitive so ya gotta have it just right on the spoke. If it gives me fits this afternoon on the way home I'm going to fire off a complaint to Trek.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

BluesCat RV Test

Hooked the Schwinn Scout trailer up to Hardiboi and took a trip up to PetCo. Bought a 44 pound bag of cat litter ("40 pounds and 4 pounds FREE!") and put it in:

The trailer seems cavernous!

Going home, on the uphills I hardly even noticed it back there. Most of the ride, however, is slightly downhill and that's a different story. Whenever I would squeeze the brakes, I could feel a slight push. As I went over the speed bumps, I would feel the Scout tug at the bike --- ever so lightly --- when the trailer wheels hit the bump, and then the trailer would give the bike a bump of its own when it came down off the hump.

Again, I never felt like the Scout was going to send me out of control, but then I kept my speed down around 12 miles per hour.

Since the Scout is built to tote two kids, it is pretty wide. Going through the entrance to PetCo was no problem, but as I entered the house through the front door I had to make sure I was perpendicular to the doorway: there is less than an inch of clearance on either side.

So far, I'm pretty happy with the Scout.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Bikes Unsafe in Drive-Thrus, Really?

Last Monday, 4/26/2010, in the evening after work I rode over through the drive-thru at my nearby Walgreens on The Roadley and dropped off a prescription for my wife. Around 7:30 that same evening I rode back through the drive-thru again to pick it up and, well, here's the description of what happened as it appeared in the message I sent to Walgreens via their corporate web site:

For several years I have ridden my bicycle through the drive-thru at my local Walgreens. The most any of the pharmacists or clerks have ever said is "you be careful out there." Today, however, when I pedaled in to pick up a prescription I was told the next time I came to pick up a prescription on my bike I needed to park it and come into the store. (Nothing was said to me when I pedaled in to drop off the prescription just a half an hour before.) I was further informed it had to do with "safety and liability issues." I find this curious, because I don't know of a single instance of a bicycle/car accident in a drive-thru, much less a business being sued on account of it. There is no posting about "No Bicycles in the Drive-Thru Lane" at this Walgreens. I would think that your company would be at the forefront of promoting the healthy lifestyle of bicycling. Furthermore, in Arizona “a person riding a bicycle on a roadway or on a shoulder adjoining a roadway is granted all of the rights and is subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle” (Arizona Revised Statutes Section 28-812). If I have all the rights of a vehicle out on the road, why would I not have those same rights in your drive-thru lane? I have not been prohibited from using my bike in the drive-thru lanes at six different businesses in my area, including my bank. Could you tell me what the corporate policy is regarding this issue?

On Thursday evening, 4/29/2010, I received a phone call from the manager of that Walgreens store. He said the note had been passed on to him by corporate. He said he did not see anything wrong with my riding my bike through their drive through lane, and he would inform the rest of his staff of that. He explained he thought it was a concern for my safety, but he added that I had made some good points in my message and maybe his staff was being overly concerned.

He added that he hoped I would take regular safety precautions such as having lights on my bike, and I assured him I always wear a helmet and have a taillight and two headlights on that particular bike.

He went on to say he had been unable get a reply from his corporate office concerning company policy of bicycles in drive-thru lanes, but said his understanding was a business could prohibit bikes from using drive-thrus just as they could prohibit pedestrians from using them.

I told him my understanding was an Arizona business could refuse service to anybody they chose, for no reason at all. I added that I didn't believe that would be very smart customer service, and I did not think they were exposed to any additional legal liability by the presence of my bicycle in their drive-thru. He agreed.

My wife thinks I'm a troublemaker, what do y'all think?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The BluesCat RV

Well, it isn't a big Winnebago, but I decided to add an RV component to the bike stable:

See, the panniers and the rack pack are perfect for commuting, but I don't take either of my two commuting bikes to the grocery store because of all the other gear I'd have to strip off of them in order to keep them safe. And the only gear I have to carry stuff on Hardiboi is the sling bag, so REAL grocery shopping is out of the question.

Some other bike riders have talked about their trailers and how well they work, but I've always been put off by the price. My son mentioned he had seen these Schwinn Scout trailers in Target for $160. Not bad: standard 20" spoke wheels with Kenda tires, 100 pound capacity, converts to a stroller, two child capacity.

As I thought of my little 8-month-old granddaughter, the idea was especially inviting as a way for her and grandpa to share some bicycle time together once she got old enough to sit up and walk.

I went past the display in Target today and saw they had them on sale for $147, so the hook was set and I was pulled in. Attached the bike mount to Hardiboi:

I rode around with the trailer empty and did not even notice its 24 pounds hooked to the back wheel. I then put a cinder block in the seat of the trailer and rode around for a bit; I could feel the trailer "nudge" me when I applied the brakes, but there was never a control problem. Sometime this next week I'm going to put some more weight in it and try a longer ride.

Yee, haaah! I hear the theme to the Beverly Hillbillies playing in the background!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Curses! Weatherman Foiled Me AGAIN!

Was gonna hop on Bluetiful yesterday and ride to work on Bike to Work Day.

The Weatherman said thunderstorms were due in around 1:00 PM, and since I have NO desire to be sitting on an 85-1/2" lightning rod during a thunderstorm I opted to drive.

The whole day was cloudy, with a nice breeze; cool and hardly a drop of rain ... and not a single lightning bolt.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Bike the Zoo?

When my mother-in-law was here a couple of weeks ago, my wife and I went to the zoo with her and my son's family. They have bicycles you can rent, everything from single bikes to 6-passenger, four-wheel rigs: The Phoenix Zoo: Pedal Boats & Bikes.

They seemed pretty expensive ($12 an hour for a single bike) to me, but I did see a lot of people riding them.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Okay, Okay, I'll Be Fair With the New Computer

I have noticed a few things I do like about the new Trek Incite 9i computer. Number one is the fact it appears to be very accurate. Checked it against a city traffic control radar station along my route home and it agreed perfectly, even at speeds as low as five miles per hour.

The second thing nice about it is that when the spoke magnet passes by the sensor, the computer automatically wakes up. The Specialized SpeedZone didn't do that and sometimes, in the early morning dark, I would be pedaling along for almost a mile before looking down and noticing the computer was still asleep.

The LCD contrast on the Incite 9i is much better than on the SpeedZone. I don't have any problem reading the information in the bright sunlight.

See? The Ol' Kat is actually very fair! ;)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

New Computer for Bluetiful

Friday (4/9/10) I bought a new computer for Bluetiful. It's a Trek Incite 9i:

It has the same features as the SpeedZone, with the addition of a thermometer. It cost fifteen dollars more than the SpeedZone. Just like the SpeedZone, it slides into the mount from the bottom, but the Incite 9i seems to clip in much more securely than the SpeedZone did, so I'm hoping hard bumps won't knock it loose.

The Incite 9i does not seem to be as sensitive as the SpeedZone, nor does it appear to have the same range. When Trek says "23 inch range," they mean exactly 23 inches! Also, I have to tilt the Incite 9i to just the proper angle in its mount on the handlebar or it doesn't seem to work as reliably as the SpeedZone.

The installation and operation manual for the Incite 9i leaves a lot to be desired. As is the case with a lot of the documentation for new consumer products, they give you drawings of how to install it, but hardly any text. And the drawings are horrible. Also, the instructions for how to zero out the trip features (average speed, maximum speed, time ridden and trip odometer) are flat out WRONG! You change the mode to the TME item, not the TRP option (as stated in the manual), in order to zero the trip numbers.

If it doesn't pop out and fall off, I'll consider the purchase a worthwhile one. If it does wind up on the pavement, I'll buy a new SpeedZone and keep it in place with a piece of electrician's tape on it, and write a scathing letter to Trek.

Friday, April 9, 2010

RIP, Speedzone

Last Wednesday (4/7/10) I came smoking around a corner on Bluetiful and hit another series of new, teeth-rattling potholes which have sprung up on my route home from work. Once again they jarred my Specialized SpeedZone Wireless bike computer out of its mount on my handlebars. This time, however, it bounced off my knee, went down underneath the center of the bike and I ran over it with my rear tire. I retrieved it from where it lay face-down on the pavement, flipped it over and ...

The SpeedZone slides upward into the clip on the handlebars. I think this is a design flaw, because it means the stop is on the top, not on the bottom, and a hard bounce forces it down and releases it. When I go to get a new computer I'm going to look at something else. Luckily, I have all the information (odometer, tire size, etc.) written down so it should not be an issue setting up the new one.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Need a New Weatherman

The weatherman was predicting rain here, snow in the high country and fierce winds. So I decided it wouldn't be a good idea to ride to work today.


Here's the picture from outside my office:

I would have pointed the camera more towards the sun, but as you can see its just too dang bright! The breeze is really light ... feels good ... Weatherman ... yer fired!

Wait! It's April 1st! You don't think ... Aw ... NUTS!

(BTW, the picture was taken with my New Communication System.)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Altercation With A Motorist

If you have been following my blog, you will remember an altercation I had with a Phoenix police officer back in February: A Real Jaw Dropper. Originally, I was corresponding with an officer in the public relations department. She escalated the incident, turning it over to the precinct commander for my precinct.

He and I have been playing "telephone tag" ever since. He would call my home telephone number when I was not there, I would get the message and return his call when he was gone for the day. If only I could have given him my mobile number, but I was hesitant to do that because my three-year-old Motorola Q had started giving me problems. Finally, I acquired a brand New Communication System and was able to leave a voice message and an email with my cell phone number.

I didn't think anything about it for about a week, and then last Friday (March 26, 2010) my mobile phone rang and I saw “Private Number” as the source of the call. My own home phone number shows as “Private Number,” so I answered it fully expecting to hear my wife's voice. Luckily, I didn't answer it as a “Reverse Obscene Phone Call” (as I have been known to do) because the voice at the other end of the line was that precinct commander. He and I exchanged pleasantries and we both expressed how happy we were we could finally talk.

He continued by saying he hoped I would accept the apologies of the Phoenix Police Department, and his personal apology, for the actions of his officer that day. He explained that his research into the incident showed that I was correct about being in that lane, that was where I was supposed to be stopped in order to continue east across the street when the traffic cleared.

That answered my first question, which had been “Where was I supposed to be if not there?” My second question was “What training do Phoenix police officers get regarding the traffic laws pertaining to bicycles?” The answer to that question exposed the heart of the problem regarding the officer's mistaken instructions to me and his belief that I “didn't belong there.”

At the academy, police cadets get twenty hours of training regarding Title 28 – Transportation of the Arizona Revised Statutes. Title 28 covers ALL the laws regarding vehicles, licensing, traffic laws, truck transportation, fees, etc. It is a section of the ARS which takes up about 619 pages of the “condensed” version available at the local libraries. The academy emphasizes those sections which deal with the most important parts to policemen: DUI laws, rules governing traffic stops, search and seizure, licensing penalties, etc.

The precinct commander said when he got my email, he was almost embarrassed to admit he had to pull out Title 28 and review the portion of the ARS to which I had referred in my message. The fact that bicycles were historically such a small percentage of the traffic, and that these issues rarely came up, was what caused the incorrect actions on the part of the police officer I encountered.

I responded to the commander by saying I fully appreciated how important the other jobs were for the police, and when he asked if I wished to speak to the officer I assured him that my intent was certainly not to have him call some officer on the carpet about this; my concern was for my safety as a bicyclist and support by the police for my rights on the roadway as a bicyclist.

I then asked if he would like me to check around at the various area bike clubs, and with The League of American Bicyclists, for any training they could provide for the police. He replied he would be happy to champion my efforts with his department, would keep me informed about progress on the subject and looked forward to hearing from me.

I guess I have really stuck my foot into it now! LOL! I'll probably have to renew my membership in the League and track down one of their trainers in the area. Actually, I feel good about it.

Now THAT'S a Pothole!

So, last Thursday (March 25, 2010) I'm riding Bluetiful to work. Minding my own business ... and ...


Jeez! I thought a tire had exploded! Whatever I hit knocked one of my taillights right off its connection on the back of the rack bag and rearranged my headlights so they were pointing down towards the front tire.

I stopped the bike, put down the kickstand and popped the Blackburn headlight off the handlebars to use as a flashlight. I picked up my taillight about ten yards behind the bike, and used my Blackburn flashlight to see what I had hit in the road. I couldn't believe what I saw, so returning home that afternoon I took a picture of it in the daylight:

Here's a closeup of the edge of the pavement that I hit:

I think that little "pond" of water is covering a hand-hole next to the manhole. The top edge of the "pond" is around an inch above the surface of the water, and the "pond" is over an inch deep.

Checking the bike over, I don't see any sign of damage. I got so busy on Friday that I forgot to call the City and report it. They're usually pretty good about fixing these things.