Winter hiatus is over

March 21, 2009

“Hey, let’s be careful out there”  Sgt. Phil Esterhaus Hill Street Blues 1981

 – Montagues vs. Capulets

 – Hatfields vs. McCoys

 – Army vs. Navy

 – Road Cyclists vs. Motorists

Every winter, the long standing feud goes dormant.  Road cyclists become few and far between.  During that time, the roads are dominated by cars.  As the days get longer and the weather warmer, you start seeing the return of two-wheeled, human-powered vehicles onto the roads.  While the swallows return to Capistrano are welcome, road cyclists are not given the same embrace.  In fact, the treatment is closer to that of the Canade Goose, that a swallow.

Winter, as measured by the lack of cyclists, is around 4 – 5 months in duration.  This is long enough for the average driver to reclaim dominance on the roads and forget what it is like to live in harmony with other road riding creatures.  Then the first few cyclists return and dormant aggressive feelings start to return. 

From a cyclist’s point of view, the first few rides are not ones that are remembered for fluidity and gracefulness.  After months on the trainer, the balance is less than perfect.  Combine that with the poor conditions of the road along with left over sand from previous snows and you have a cyclist who may be a little less predictable by a motorist than normal. 

Over the past few days, I’ve already had a season worth of close calls.  Most are due to simple preoccupation with all the issues of the world and not seeing the lycra clad rider in front.  That I can live with.  We need to retrain our brains to place cyclists onto the radar screen along with deer and other non-automobiles that may occupy asphalt.  It’s the agressive, “You do not belong here attitude”  that is already in full swing.  Hard honks, speeding up to pass in order to take a hard right in front of my wheel, passing so close I can feel the side view mirror on the hairs of my arm.  These are a little over the top. 

This morning after another encounter, I came home to Good Morning America on the TV.  The show was running a weekly segment where you use three words to make a statement about yourself or what you believe.  You express yourself with a video.  I will use a picture to share three words with you.  I’ve added a fourth at the bottom.

Please

Please

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220, 221 whatever it takes.

April 22, 2008

 Jeff:  Guys don’t judge things other guys do. It’s separate from the friendship.  That’s the code that guys live by.  That’s Guy Code.

Audrey:  So with Guy Code you can excuse any bad behavior just to go to a sky box?

Jeff:  It was invented by guys.

Audrey:  You know if Katie were an old friend, I’d tell her. I just don’t know her that well.

Jeff:  Even if you did, you couldn’t.

Audrey:  Why not?

Jeff:  Because Ray told me and Guy Code demand that it go no further .

Audrey:  But you told me

Jeff:  I’m allowed to because of Marriage Code

Audrey:  That doesn’t make any sense

Jeff:  It makes perfect sense. Guy Code and Marriage Code can intersect. The information I gave you is covered primarily under Guy Code so again, you can’t tell Katie.

Audrey:  What about Woman Code.

Audrey:  Don’t make me laugh.

Rules of Engagement 2007

Ladies, if you read further, you may suffer feelings of confusion.  That’s because this post may not make sense or may remind you of behavior you recognized with the man in your life.  If you need interpretation, please ask your spouse, friend, or any man close by.  He will clearly understand this post but you will not understand his explanation anyway.

I have a good friend John who recently asked me of my thoughts on the Garmin Edge 305. Initially, I pointed him to a review over at the Suitcase of Courage blog.  The post was objective, well researched, and well written.  The exact answer to his question. Most conversations end there.  For me, that was the beginning.

I now knew John was in the market for a fairly high end cyclometer.  So I immediately started to talk him into the Garmin Edge 705.  The 705 runs about $200 – $250 more. What do you get for that money? Besides a color screen, not much.

You see, that is exactly the point.  Could I shame, him into buying the most expensive cycle computer on the market? Once you lay out the $350, there is no going back.  Do you really want to look at that monochrome screen and think.  “What if?” or “I should have.”

You see, my motives are simple.  They can be summed up in two simple objectives.

  1. Can I cause a conversation that begins with “Well it sounded like a good idea at the time.” or “But Jim said”
  2. Make myself look good by comparison. “Well, at least I didn’t go out and spend that kind of money like John.”

But you may wonder why I would want John to have a better toy than me? Isn’t the Boys with Toys thing a big deal? Exactly.  With his purchase, I can lay the foundation here at home.  I can remark at all the cool things the Garmin can do.  How cycling is my one real passion in life.  Then I’ll be prepared for the Garmin 706! No doghouse included!

Ha! Take that John. Mine can do everything yours can AND it can tell time simultaneously in Monte Carlo, Beverly Hills, London, Paris, Rome, and Gstaad.


I’m Back

April 16, 2008

I know I have taken a couple of sabbaticals in the last six months.  This one by far is the longest.  But I have an excuse, I promise.  Contributing to the delay has been some behind the scenes work that has allowed my to put my money where my mouth is. 

Anyone who reads this blog knows that I am passionate about the sport of cycling.  It is the most beautiful sport on the planet and it has withstood several years of non stop assualt.  While I think we have turned a corner, the sport is at a severe low in public opinion.  Therefore, I needed to do my part to help rebuild this sport.

Please note, my contribution is minimal at best.  I can’t let that stop me from doing anything I can.  Since the beginning of the year, I have been giving whatever help I can to several good people.  From trying to find a sponsor for a major ProTour race in Europe, helping a ProTour team get in contact with US sponsors to helping a great race continue to grow.

That great race is the Great River Energy Bicycle Festival.  aka The Nature Valley Grand Prix.  This race showcases what is great in cycling.  The folks putting on this race have done a lot of innovative things to broaden the appeal of cycling.  Look at the race design.  It does not try to replicate a classic European stage race.  It also does not run away from the appeal of European racing.  They have blended the best of European cycling stage races with American cycling stalwarts like the criterium.  This has created a race that is challenging to the riders as well as friendly to fans of all knowledge levels.

To bring in fans even more, they have done things like have volunteerswalk around in brightly colored shirts saying “Ask Me About Cycling” How many times have you increased a friends enjoyment of the Tour de France by explaining a simple concept like drafting. 

This year, the race wanted to use more social networking tools such as blogging.  Here is where I hoped to add a very small amount of help. This year, the Nature Valley Grand Prix has instituted two blogs.  The first is the Your Cycling blog sponsored by TRIA Orthopaedic group. This is a great Cycling 101 blog.  The second is for us race junkies.  It is called Pro Cycling Minnesota and has contributor list that is the who’s who of US cycling both men and women.

The design and content are the work of smart and dedicated people. Check it out, comment, join the discussion by adding your insights.  Show our future fans what kind of a community we are.

Oh, and buy Nature Vallley granola bars.  Tell them cycling sent you.


Cats and Dogs (Finale)

December 13, 2007

It might help if you read Part 1 for the back story. The premise is that most near death experiences are not caused by road rage or any deliberate act. What I am attempting to do is list the reasons so we can engage in discussions on how to make to roads safer for all who use them.

Today’s topic – “Et Tu Brute?”

Yes, it is not always the driver’s fault.  There is a piece of wisdom taught to those new to the sport of sailing.  While sailboats always have the right of way over power boats, that is little consolation to your widow.

When barrelling down that hill do you forget that we don’t ride on closed roads? Rolling through a red traffic light in order to break your best time on your time trial course is not the best way to finish the perfect ride. 

At the end of the day, I expect more cars and more cyclists on roads that will continue to suffer neglect.  Laws can only help after an incident.  It’s up to us to find a way for all of us to enjoy where the road ahead takes us.


Cats and Dogs (Part 3)

December 7, 2007

It might help if you read Part 1 for the back story. The premise is that most near death experiences are not caused by road rage or any deliberate act. What I am attempting to do is list the reasons so we can engage in discussions on how to make to roads safer for all who use them.

Today’s topic is  – The roads.

I’ve lived through a flood, countless hurricanes, and even a tornado. In all these instances, I had one constant, the ground beneath my feet. With the hurricane and the tornado, I was able to find a safe place to hide. low ground. In the flood, it was high ground. I have never experienced an earthquake so I don’t know the feeling of no ground. How can you mentally grasp a safety plan when you can’t trust the ground? I hope I never have to figure that out.

What I do know is the cycling equivalent. I have lost the trust of the roads. Over the years, the gradual decay is reaching the danger level. Many reports have chronicled the decaying infrastructure in this country. A 2003 report sums it up well. The report examining trends and assessing the progress and decline of America’s infrastructure was prepared by a panel of 20 eminent civil engineers with expertise in a range of practice specialties. In it, we received a grade of D+. Thanks for the plus guys!

The cause? Local and state budget deficits. So the cure is not likely to happen. I don’t want to get political here but I do want to meet the guy who convinced the roads department that tar and gravel (a.k.a. sealcoating) is an acceptable form of road maintenance.

loosegravel.jpg

As a driver, when I come up on a cyclist, I look at his/her movements to gauge how I might safely pass. The key is their line. I know that as I swerve, jump, and otherwise avoid the hazards of a crumbling road, I am scaring the heck out of drivers looking to pass me. Inconsistent moves are a cyclist’s worst nightmare. It’s going to take one misplaced zig or a pothole to make me the next hood ornament.


Cats and Dogs (Part 2)

December 6, 2007

It might help if you read Part 1 for the back story. The premise is that most near death experiences are not caused by road rage or any deliberate act. What I am attempting to do is list the reasons so we can engage in discussions on how to make to roads safer for all who use them.

Today’s topic is Distracted Drivers – gadgets.

Way back when in 1993, I decided to buy a driving machine. In fact, the ultimate driving machine. I had a good job and my wife and I were still young, carefree, and childless. I bought a BMW 325i and traded in my reliable, practical Honda Accord.

I bought the car from a small BMW dealer run by German family who recently came to the US. When buying the car, I remember my first mistake. I was sitting in the driver’s seat looking around the interior and I asked a seemingly simple question. I think this question nearly killed the owner of the dealership. The question was. “Where are the cupholders?”

After a brief pause, the owner looked at me with a mixture of emotions. He carefully chose his words and through his thick German accent he told me. “A car is for driving. If you get thirsty, stop and get a drink. When you are driving, you should be driving.” “Oh,” is the only thing I could think of to reply. Even today, look in a BMW. What few cupholders exist are clearly put there as an afterthought to the American market. In my current car, I have two cheesy cupholders. I imagine the fight in the design room being similar to asking a chef at a 4 star restaurant to make a child some Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. In contrast, I counted my the cupholders in my wife’s minivan. There are 17.

I tell this story because there is a lesson. When driving, drive. Along with the 17 cupholders in the van, there is a DVD player, an iPod hooked up to the radio, a cell phone charger, a small drawer with a few emergency snacks when running all over the place. When does she have time to drive?

I’m no better. While I don’t have beverages, I’ve been known to use my Blackberry while chatting on my other cell phone. I’ve done this in Manhattan traffic as well as on the New Jersey Turnpike. I’m not proud but I find that my only spare time is in the car. My commute is no longer the solace I described in my first post. It is an office on wheels. My actions must seem incongruous with my Share the Road license plate holders.

On top of all this, add the new kid on the block. The GPS system. Is there room in our minds for this piece of equipment? I also read where there is a “Heads-up display in the works that projects information on the windshield. This is not an FA-18. This is a car.

Is it possible to take the advice from that German car dealer? If we just drive the car and focus on just that task, there should be plenty of room on the road for us cyclists.


Cats and Dogs

December 5, 2007

I am not a huge fan of Bicycling magazine. This month’s issue really stands out with a well written piece called Broken. David Darlington outlines in his piece the current issues facing both riders and drivers as we look to co-exist on roadways that are struggling to handle increasing traffic.

The good news as pointed out in the article is that cycling fatalities have remained constant over the years. I have no reason to doubt those figures even my gut tells me that every passing day brings more and more close calls. I’ll also state for the record I think most drivers are good people and are not out trying to reclaim the road. So I’ll focus my thoughts on how to make the figures even better.

I have several thoughts on this topic so I’ll probably break them up into segments over the next few days. Here is my first point of consideration. Distracted drivers – zoning out.

I am old enough to remember when a commute served a special purpose. A time to unwind and transition between working Jim and home Jim. Back in those days it was pre laptop and pre cellphone. When I left the office, I left the office. My briefcase may have had some papers that needed reading but when I drove, I let the workday fall by the wayside.

Today, our lives are so crazy that when driving, our minds are focused on everything but driving. We leave the office with a million and one things on our minds that take us into another world. Combine this with longer commutes and you have a recipe for a zoned out driver. When you get lost in your own thoughts, your brain goes on autopilot. Have you ever “come to” on your commute and wondered how you got there?

A brain on autopilot is a dangerous thing. It is programmed to see car things. Everything else gets filtered out. I remember reading a study that explained this phenomenon. If I ask you to get me the jar of mayonnaise from the refrigerator, your brain calls up a picture of the jar. You open the door and your brain, on auto pilot, scans the contents for that item in the picture. Everything else gets filtered out. If the jar is actually a new squeeze bottle then you will most likely not see the mayo. Men are most susceptible to this type of filtering. Go ahead ladies. Have fun with that one.

I’ve had this happen to me. I was riding over an overpass when a car exited the freeway.  At the top of the ramp, he was looking to take a right onto the road I was using. He stopped and looked right at me. Then he accelerated and nearly ran me over. After apologizing profusely, he said he never saw me. I was filtered out.

I find the most dangerous roads to be like the one I just described. I call them tweeners. They lie between the highway and residential neighborhoods. People exit the highways where the autopilot works well as there are only car things allowed. Once they exit, the brain has not yet engaged and the speed tends to be high. By the time a driver pulls into a neighborhood, most are human again.

With all the stresses in our lives, how do we coexist?