Friday, December 26, 2014

Dirty little sneak

      I have a confession. I've been cheating on my bike. Don't get me wrong, I love my little Schwinn, I'm not selling her anytime soon. But... I've been cheating on her, looking at other bikes, ogling different frames, pondering different pedals, gazing on different gears, and even, dare I confess? Yes, dreaming of a riding a different saddle.
     I shouldn't be that ashamed, I know many cyclists who have more than one bike, some bikes are better suited to different things. I, however, have always been true to one ride at a time, making one bike work for all things. Its not a marriage, not exactly, and not like my bike is an animate object to be jealous or angry with me, but those little bells do sound a bit condemning these days.
     You see I've been thinking very hard about getting a folding bike, better suited for my commutes than for grocery runs. Pinkie Pie, my current ride, is great for those. Her frame can stand the weight of the trailer, her basket is lovely for Mac or a smaller bag. However, she's a big girl in terms of weight, and pushing her up Greenwood has begun to strain me, and lifting her onto the bus rack hurts my shoulders. A folding bike makes sense for my commute in many ways, and for my random adventures near and far, should the sun leave me bereft of strength, or the journey too much, resorting to public transit would not become a perilous chance of dice (how many times after an event have you waited and waited for a but with a free rack spot?)
     In fact, it was, on the bus on my way home, where I began looking again at other bikes.
     "Oh, look at her rack," I whispered, not realizing I said it aloud. The mother across from me shot me a nasty look and, conscious of my error, I quickly turned my phone to show her the bike. She smiled, probably feeling better she wasn't sitting across from a pervert.
    The gentlemen to my side inquired as to the bike I was looking at and I showed them.
    "That looks expensive," one of them frowned, "Set you back about two thousand, am I right?"
    "Nope," I smiled, "She's only a hundred sixty four, not counting tax of course,"
    "You're kidding me," he exclaimed.
     "Oh no, folding bikes aren't just for rich folks, more for every day folks," I said. The woman sitting next to the mother craned her head, and I showed her the bike.
    "Oh, I could use that," she said, "Except on the hills, those little wheels," she shook her head. I laughed.
    "Actually, its better to have little wheels if you have a lot of hills," I explained.
    "How's that?"
    "You ever notice how quick a rabbit or a dog goes up a hill?" I asked, "Its because of how they're pushing their weight up. We walk upright, so we're pushing a different fulcrum to achieve momentum,"I showed the motions using my hands, "Smaller wheels keep you close to the ground, and they my make better use of the surface ratio,"
    "Won't it just collapse on you someday?" the other man asked. I showed them a couple videos of folding bikes, showing how they worked, and the conversation moved to electric bikes and the difference between an assist bike and a full electric, and the different bikes we'd all had through our lives.
     The weekend before Christmas Ben took my bike out to help me haul a cat tree home for the kids. Sadly he didn't take any pictures when he brought home our tree that way, but we did get a couple shots of the cat tree.
     Even he agreed, while Pinkie is good for a haul, or a free style ride, she's not really practical the for the length a challenges of my commute. Which means, my dear readers, in the new year I'll be adding a new stead to my stable. Hopefully I'll be able to shake the gnawing sense of guilt.
    In the meantime, am I missing a trick, or does Seattle not have a bike podcast?

Saturday, December 6, 2014

No hands tight turns

Went on just a little ride today, Carkeek Park, a little holiday shopping. Ben came with, but Mac stayed behind, though the weather was nice we wanted to walk trails that dogs aren't allowed on. Normally I'd eschew any path where my dog wasn't welcome, but since we were shopping later anyway, my basket jingled emptily. We went to the park to pick out the spot we'd get married in this coming March, and I think we found the perfect spot. We already knew it was going to be there, we just hadn't found the perfect spot yet.

Oh, and the invitations came (if you like them, I got them on Zazzle, and you can customize your own variation)

On the way back as we rode I did, as I so often do, rode without hands on my handlebars. I steer fairly well, and can go quite a distance without my hands on the bars. I often do, sometimes to dance along to the music I'm listening to, or because I'm fishing something out of a pocket, or to pet my dog, or to perform a series of signals to indicate I'm going to be stopping and going left or right. As a little girl I broke my arm riding no handed so I'm well aware of the danger.

In fact, I was riding no handed, doing the 'V' for victory sign as a 7 yr old miscreant, when a bump in the pavement caused me to snap my left arm on the curb. Fortunately, my step-father can set a bone and the arm has never troubled me much, but I'm very grateful for that break, even if it was a miserable summer with a stinky cast.

The series of crashes and spin-outs taught me how to shift my core center and balance my weight in such a way that I could probably ride a unicycle (though I've no inclination to do so) and take turns barely moving my handlebars, the most hairpin curve doesn't faze me in terms of control. I can even keep pedaling under such conditions. I don't need to grip the mid-bar with my thighs, its a matter of moving your center of gravity to your butt, and using your hindquarters kind of like a rudder. Even with my hands on the bars I'm turning my back wheel just a smidgen before my front wheel. I learned to turn this way because, growing up, there was a spot we nick-named 'Dead Man's Curve' a near guaranteed wipe-out jut in front of the fire-station on the campus. Its since been fixed, but back in the day that turn would send you sprawling and tumbling, if you weren't clutching your breaks. 

I hated loosing speed, I hated riding my breaks down, and often when I was first learning to adjust them they would fail and force me to use my foot (in an emergency you can jam your foot to stop your back wheel by kicking your leg behind the seat and doing a door stop move on the tire*), So I adapted various methods until even Dead Man's curve couldn't kill my speed if I chose. Of course you should still slow down somewhat on turns, there's no need to arrive as a DOA.

Now, I've always been aware Ben is unable to ride no-handed, and I dunno, I guess the idea of committing to someone who can't whistle is one thing, but riding no handed is another. It took a bit of coaxing, and no small amount of courage on his part, but the Interurban trail is a flat and good place to learn the skill. 

After a few tries he was able to to keep going no handed, not long long stretches, but nothing to sneeze at considering. Its hard as well, to explain shifting your weight to the back of the saddle, and far easier to do on an upright bike than a mountain bike (though still easy for me), so it took a few tries, but hey, give the guy credit, he got there. It also highlighted, for me anyway, how long a person can ride without ever needing the things we consider essential, and to never underestimate it. 

With the weather being what its been lately (snow, rain, and then more rain), and after a pretty muddy trek, I think tomorrow is going to be spent cleaning my bike. Its been a few months and Pinkie Pie isn't at her best looking right now, she's more than a little muddy, and I'd be remiss if I didn't grease her chain. Its a shame to miss a rainless day of riding, but who knows, maybe I'll finish early and get a chance to ride out, I mean, I do have to check my work, right?

*Note: This is an EMERGENCY move only, you will wear down the rubber of your shoes super quick this way.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Show me your rack...

You've waited so long, you've been so patient. So here it is:


Shoreline, show me your rack. Not that one! I can see that one at the coffee stands. No, show me your bike rack. Is there a local business with a bike rack? Not many. In fact I can literally name every business in this town with a bike rack because those are the business I frequent the most. And even those racks are woefully inadequate.

For example, the Safeway on Aurora Ave. N, does indeed have a bike rack. However, the rack is not at all in any way shape or form, secured to the cement it stands on. Numerous emails and in-person requests have failed to get this issue addressed. Oh and watch out for rats when you lock up there.

There is not a single coffee establishment in Shoreline with a bike rack. Businesses that do enjoy bike business either didn't install them (came with the property) or rely on customers being willing to lock up to a sign. Have you ever made the horrible mistake of locking up to a handicapped sign because it was the only stable place to lock? I have.

Earth forbid you try to eat at a local establishment. You're definately lockig up to a sign now. Or a post of some kind. This pretty much tells every cyclist passing through Shoreline "Your money isn't good enough," you could be willing to spend hundreds in their establishment, your bike could've cost you thousands. But a place to lock up? Pshaw! Your own fault if you didn't have the luxury of buying a folding bike. Oh, and good luck taking that folding bike inside, as the news has so recently shown, someone could call the cops on you. I once went to that little Greek restaurant and grocery by the Goldie Casino and had to lock up by the dumpster. Talk about unappetizing.

With a critical trail running through Shoreline you'd think there would be bike racks and bike parking aplenty. You would be hilariously mistaken. In spite of the hundreds that pass through our fair city, few stop, few would want to stop, and even fewer would endure such elitist treatment. Never mind that lost business, the cyclists who would rather ride to or live in Seattle, Redmond, etc.. than deal with the crap Shoreline throws at them.

But I'm not just going to tell you what's wrong. Besides our just amazingly stupid bike rack design at City Hall which still has not been fixed in spite of numerous attempts to convince them its dumb as fuck,

No, dear reader, I'm going to give you a solution, nay the most simple equation to fix this problem:

For every 5 car spots there needs to be one bike rail. For every 10 parking spots there needs to be a bike rack.

No exceptions.

Its that simple. Businesses don't want to install them? Then those businesses don't get car parking allotted to them. Think your businesses doesn't need bike parking? Ask your employees. Rent your space of business? Demand the property manager install them.

Until there's a bike rack you can kiss off getting my business or getting my recommendation.

Now, show me your rack, baby.