Tuesday, November 30

Well, Winter Slapped Me In the Face

Today was the first really cold day I have ridden this season. I rode home last night and was frozen by the time I got there. It was probably around 30F degrees.

This morning CBS weather claimed 14F, however, I passed a digital thermometer which read 23F. And then as I rounded the mesa I caught a face full of bitter wind out of the foothills. Brrrrggg!

I have no idea what the windchill was as I crawled through Pleasant View, but it was enough for me to keep repeating to myself "it's just a few more minutes, it's just a few more minutes." My torso and arms were sweating, my face and ears felt brittle and the fronts of my thighs had begun that freezer burn thing.

I'm gonna say that these conditions were not hard core. No, talk to me about hard core when the temps drop below 10F and the wind/snow/ice is coming down like an avalanche.

I know I can dial in my dress better. I'm out of practice for cold weather riding. I just need to get my system back in sync.

Despite all that, I must have dressed better this morning than last night because I am not as cold now that I'm in a warm place. I warmed up much quicker. And there have been days already this fall when I was still shivering when I sat down in my cube.

Monday, November 29

Alexander D. "Pap" Ruff

I first learned about A.D. Ruff shortly before I left my home state of Kentucky for a job in Golden, Colorado. It was about the time I bought my first real road bike and had begun extensively exploring my backyard roads. I was 33 years old.

Kentucky doesn't have much of a cycling history. In fact, I would venture that obscure "Pap" Ruff is one of the two most notable Kentucky cyclists to have come down the pike. The other would have to be Joe Bowen of Bowen, Kentucky.

The written history of Alexander D. Ruff's life is painfully absent. There is little written and documented about his life and two wheeled exploits. But there is a history there, even if unknown to anyone still alive this day. How to uncover a history with no known record?

In July of 2010 I drove my family 1,200 miles east to our hometown to visit relatives and my wife and I took our bikes. In the back of my mind I had a scheme, to ride from Stanton, my hometown, to Owingsville to visit the grave of A.D. Ruff. I had ridden a portion of my planned route and it had been one of my favorite rides while still living in Kentucky. And I thought maybe if I could travel upon the backroads that "Pap" (as he was known) had pedaled and visit the town where he lived and died I might discern a little of the history that is unwritten about the intriguing figure.

Alas, obligations to family and the priorities of adult life left me unable to make the 60 mile round trip pilgrimage to visit the remarkable headstone in Owingsville Cemetery. I had seen a photo of the monument, but just seeing the stone was not my goal. I wanted to experience something that Ruff may have experienced.

Over Thanksgiving break of the same year I had a glimmer of hope that I'd make the ride, or an abbreviated ride starting closer to Owingsville if nothing else, but again, the desire to spend time with family and friends compounded with declining weather prohibited me from making the ride.

Instead I went out for a quick photo shoot on the Wednesday morning before Thanksgiving and ended up driving over to Owingsville to the cemetery.

When I pulled through the wrought iron gates I immediately saw the marker and parked my car. A few steps took me right up to the monument erected by the Kentucky Division of the League of American Wheelmen (now Bicyclists).

I tried to compose a thoughtful shot of the stone and bronze bike wheel, but it is what it is. There is little information on the stone itself. The inscription reads:

1827 1896



The bronze bicycle wheel which contains three wings and the initials LAW is the perfect balance of beautiful, yet simplistic. Its worth going to Owingsville to see the monument just for the wheel if you're a cyclist. If nothing else it is an elegant piece of public bike-related art.


Ruff lived in a world where men were diligently striving to refine and produce motor vehicles. Many bicycle makers and mechanics were delving into motor powered transportation while Ruff was working as a jeweler in Owingsville. The year Ruff died the famed Wright Brothers began manufacturing their own brand of bicycle in Dayton, Ohio. The profits from their bikes would fund their experiments in powered flight.

Three years before passing from this life "Pap", as he was known to his Wheelmen compatriots, rode cross country to see the newly designated Yellowstone National Park. In 1893 that must have been quite an adventure.

Imagine a countryside where there were no paved roads. There was no Rand McNally road atlases. Human settlement would have been more sparse and bike shops even more so.

The so-called "Golden Age of Bicycles" came into public consciousness in the 1890s, after the introduction of the "safety bike" and its availability to the masses in the late 1880s. You could imagine that a single, wealthy jeweler like Ruff may have thought the new machine a curious novelty to invest in. Cycling was suddenly accessible to all, with a replacement for the intimidating penny-farthing bicycles of previous decades. The safety bike would have made A.D. Ruff's Yellowstone adventure possible.

Tooling around Owingsville on a stylish safety Ruff would most likely have rested in the shade of the grandiose Bath County courthouse or leaned his trusty steel steed up against the newly built Owingsville Banking Company while he went inside to do business.

I wonder if Ruff was a self styled "cyclist" or if the bike was merely his mode of transportation in his day-to-day comings and goings. Did he love the freedom the bike offered, allowing him to roam about the countryside, maybe pedaling down to Preston or Olympia Springs to catch a train into Mount Sterling or Lexington, or was the bike strictly utilitarian?

Most Americans today do not refer to themselves as "motorists" though the title certainly applies. Did Ruff regard his bike with the same affection as your neighborhood bike hugger? Or did he see it merely as a means to an end, a way to get where he was going that did not need to be fed or boarded?

I believe Ruff was a cyclist. He left a large chunk of money to the then fledgling Kentucky Division of the League of American Wheelmen and he has been commemorated for his support. I suppose its also possible that being single, without a family to speak of that he randomly chose the LAW as a beneficiary of his estate, but its doubtful. Pap Ruff died of pneumonia after a three day illness in January of 1896. It would seem that if he had made any provisions for his untimely demise that he consciously included a chunk of money for the Wheelmen.

He also designed a cyclometer. Its hard to imagine such a gadget prior to the turn of the 19th century, but Ruff, being good with his hands and inventive, patented the device in 1895.

I like to imagine that he roamed about the Kentucky countryside, much as I have myself. He must have been comfortable riding long distances, as it was said of Ruff that “there are few who can cover more ground in a day than he.” In his obituary in the Louisville Courier-Journal he was regarded as one of the pioneer cyclists of that century. That's quite a distinction to lay at the feet of a casual participant in cycling, especially during the Golden Age of Cycling.

The claim that he was a pioneer during such a pivotal time in cycling begs the question: why don't we know more about A.D. Ruff than we do?

I speculate that despite his activism, his invention and his pioneering of cross country cycling that Pap Ruff was just off the national radar and out of the limelight so to speak. Owingsville is a backwater. Even in Ruff's day the C&O rail line between Lexington and Ashland bypassed the hilltop town a few miles to the south through Preston. Who would have known about the exploits of a cyclist in his sixties except his friends and fellow wheelmen?

Arg! Pain!

I must have hyper-extended my left knee (or something) when Tom and I did out bike ride back in October. It began hurting as we climbed out of Sunset and has bugged me since.

And then after my ride yesterday it has hurt really bad, making me stiff-legged and limpy.

I opted not to ride this morning and rode in with Mandy and the kids, though I did bring the Hardrock with me in hopes of riding home.

We'll see...

This should have gone away a long time ago and that's what has worried me. My gut tells me I need to lay off it altogether for awhile, but not having the second car is going to make that difficult, or at the very least expensive.

Sunday, November 28

Meet the New Bike

Tom hatched this scheme where by both he and I could get a new bike. He bought a new one and I got his year old bike as a Christmas present.

I don't mind really. In fact, I am really digging the bike.

It's a Specialized Hardrock, orange and is currently featured in the background photo for this blog. He brought it out when they came last month and rode it when he and i did the Switzerland Trail.

I rode it out to the Golden Bike Park this afternoon and did the Gold Rush Trail and the pump track and then rode back via Eldridge and the Van Bibber Creek Trail. The bike rides really good.

Tuesday, November 23

Ain't Skeered

Slipping the surly bonds of earth

This is my nephew Ty, hitting one of the jumps at the Stanton city park's new skate park. At first I thought he had a big grin on his face while doing this, and then I saw the photo full size on my computer screen and had to chuckle at his expression. He didn't break himself, though my niece hit the puddle of standing water while turning and laid the bike down and did a belly flop in a half inch of water.

She was okay.

Then we decided to play in the water a bit.

Thursday, November 18

My Morning Commute

Here are some images from my current morning commute. When I return to work after Thanksgiving I am sure there will be less light so I wanted to get the sunrise over the lake while I still could.

It was relatively warm at 37F degrees this morning.

Along Ridge Road

Crossing over I-70

Denver sunrise

Wintry flora

The Cannonball in front of West Lake, Wheat Ridge

Wednesday, November 17

Hurry Up and Wait

We've lived along the railroad tracks for almost five months and until tonight I had not gotten caught at a crossing by the train.

I was approaching an active crossing on Tabor Road, there were three or so cars waiting northbound at the crossing and I was about a hundred feet away from the rear car.

And then a yay-hoo in an SUV ("For Sale" no less) squeezed past me within a couple of feet just to get ahead of me to stop and wait in line.

A) There was no one coming southbound on Tabor. The train was blocking all southbound traffic. The guy could have given me three times three feet. That's just common decency, simple consideration. "Oh, excuse me!" and give a person plenty of personal space.

B) THE TRAIN! He couldn't go on anyway. By passing me he gained absolutely nothing. He could have waited, he could have passed as soon as traffic started moving forward. He didn't have to squeeze in at the last second.

So I whipped around to the left, seeing his window open I pulled up beside the SUV.

"Where we you going in such a hurry?!" I cried.

His sloe-eyed gaze swung my way. "Huh?" He blurbled.

"It's three feet to pass!"

"Let's not get into this," He grumbled.

"You almost ran me over..."

"And you're four feet in the ****-ing lane!" He barked, cutting off my rant as he gunned the motor, following the cars ahead through the cleared crossing.

"MORON!" I called after him impotently.

I felt it necessary to call the guy out. He had no reason to cut it so close. He had the opportunity to pass with plenty of room and his rude and impatient behavior was completely uncalled for.

I could have left off the "moron" but otherwise I believe I was justified in calling him out.

Forced Choice

I tend to mentally refer to my choice to give up my car and commit to the bike as my primary means of transportation (my family still has one car) as a "forced choice."

It wasn't that I was driving happily along in traffic one day and decided that I would like to make a life change and merrily sold my car, never to look back. It was a choice mandated by our economic situation at the time, that persists to this day. However, in my defense, the choice I made was based on options that are a bit different than those that most people would consider in a similar situation.

When faced with the problem of either fixing or replacing my polluter we had options:

1) Spend over $700 to attempt to fix the car to the point that it would either pass emissions or we would have spent the minimum amount required to get a waiver. The car itself was worth about $700 and the emissions repairs would not improve the functioning of the car, increase its longevity (250k miles) or boost its gas mileage. The decision was that it was not worth putting at least $700 into the car. Not a viable option.

2) Replace the car with a used/new one. The car I had at the time, a '93 Subaru Legacy, did not qualify for the "cash for clunkers" program and we couldn't afford to go out and finance an adequate new or used car at that time or now. Not an option at all.

So most people, at this point…what would they do? I think most people would have either paid the $700 to try and fix the old car and most likely would have just thrown $700 away or they would have gone out and over-extended themselves in financing a used car that most likely would not have met their needs.

I was unwilling to do either. We didn't have the money to just dump into a car with a quarter million miles on it, and we really, really couldn't afford to finance anything remotely adequate for our needs (and that would likely continue to pass emissions).

The remaining options included:

3) Use mass transit. My seven mile commute at the time would have taken an hour on the bus. I would have had to change buses at least once, and the schedule would either put me at work an hour early or five minutes late.

4) Take the remaining family car to work every day. This would have left Mandy stranded in a two bedroom apartment with both kids all day every day. While feasible if necessary, it was not an ideal situation and would have been very inconvenient on days of doctor visits, grocery shopping and the like. Feasible, but not preferable.

5) Mandy would have driven me to work and picked me up every day. This would have doubled my commuting expenses. Absolutely not an option.

6) Ride my bike. I list it last, as a literary tool (I know…), but actually it was my first choice. It made sense before I analyzed my other options and then I only gave the other options additional thought to strengthen up my justification for committing to using the bike as my primary means of transportation. It was a big commitment and the stronger the justification the more likely I would hold to it. This was really the only viable, consistent option.

My "Plan B" at first was option #5. And I chose "Call a Friend" frequently when the weather was bad or when I was too lazy to ride. "Mandy? Will you drive me to work?"

Now I really have no Plan B. Plan B is to fix or mitigate whatever thwarts Plan A. Wake up to a flat? Patch or change the tube. Cold? Layer. Rain? Shell. Snow? Goggles. Ice?! Slower commute speeds. Mandy is working part time now and needs to car to get the kids where they need to go and to be able to get around herself. Its either me or her that would need to find an alternate mode of transportation.

The closest we could come to behaving within the conventions of social normality would be for her to drop me off in Golden when she drops Lily off at the babysitter with my bike, and then I'd ride home. Otherwise she would be making three trips to Golden each day, one to drop me and Lily off, one to pick Lily up midday and one to pick me up in the afternoon. That just doesn't make sense.

While we were forced to make a choice, we allowed ourselves an option that most people wouldn’t consider. and it has worked out very well for us. For a time while Mandy was staying at home and home schooling our son we were saving enormously on transportation costs. Very little gas, very little wear and tear on the car and not much of an inconvenience for anyone but myself, and for me it was a preferable inconvenience.

So when I complain about my situation please know I am not complaining about my choice to ride a bike, but that there were no other truly viable options. If we had previously chosen to live a greater distance from my job (as so many people do) or if there were not roads and routes conducive to bike commuting then my choices would have been limited, and less than desirable.

Our society and culture dictate that a car is "necessary" and that anything contrary to convention is strange and therefore not worth acknowledging by civilized people. We have built a world around cars and we have become disturbingly dependent on them. And our attitude toward people who cannot participate is typically one of disdain.

Well, take a long hard look in the mirror and ask yourself where you would be without your car. Would you be stranded out in the prairie, twenty, maybe even thirty miles from your job? Could you walk to the grocery store? The bank? The doctor? Would riding a bike even be feasible? We've cut ourselves off from the things we need to survive, leaving ourselves with only a tenuous connection via the oil guzzling automobile.

Tuesday, November 16

A Letter to John Boehner

Mr. Boehner,

I am a county employee in a western state. My wife is an out of work special education teacher and we have two children. We are a one car family and we rely on my commuting by bike daily to exist in this economy.

We moved from Kentucky in 2008 where the opportunities to adequately provide for a growing family are sparse. But in moving to a large city we became subject to vehicle emissions testing, of which we support. However, our second car would not pass emissions and was not eligible under the cash for clunkers program because it got high gas mileage.

Regardless, we were a one income and two car family. We could not afford to maintain or replace our polluter. Since my wife is a stay at home mom and has been home schooling our son we decided it made the most sense for me to ride my bike to and from work so she could have instant access to our remaining vehicle.

I now ride to work every day, snow or shine, whether I want to or not, whether I feel like it or not. We have no other economic option. We have however discovered that it is an economic benefit to our family for me to ride my bike. We save a lot of money on gas not bought and upkeep, car insurance on a second car and my stress levels are way down since I avoid the heavy traffic of the main roads on my way to work. We do still pay into the automobile transportation system with our family car and therefore we feel our tax and fee dollars should go as far as possible in support the needs of ALL of our family, not just those that are sitting behind the windshield each day.

I would strongly encourage you to support legislation that gives tax benefits to those who use alternate forms of transportation (especially a highly efficient means such as the bicycle) as their primary means of transportation. I realize when I choose to ride my bike, even though I have a registered car, that I am subsidizing those who travel upon the road in more costly manners. I am vacating a parking space, reducing congestion and my dollars are still at work even though I am not increasing the size of potholes or necessitating snow removal. In short, the fact that I ride a bike to work benefits me, my family, my co-workers, the community and the country while hurting no one.

Thank you in advance for your consideration in this manner.



Please write Mr. Boehner yourself and express how important his support of cycling as a viable means of transportation is to you.

Friday, November 12

Golden Bike Park

Lily and I scouted out the new Golden Bike Park early this afternoon. We were there around noon and the place was desolate. Snow shadowed the north sides of the berms of the pump track. We looked around and took some photos and then headed northeast to pick up Mandy and Boone at school.

After we got home I suggested to Boone that we go back to the bike park so we loaded his and Lily's bikes in Gump and headed west back over there.

As the sun sank toward the horizon we cranked around the pump track. It was a lot of fun and it was a surprisingly good workout. Boone rolled around enjoying just going over the jumps and I pushed Lily around, holding on to the back of her seat and running her over the jumps and around the banked turns.

I ran a couple of laps on Boone's bike and then I did it, I decided I'd head up the trail and drop into the "beginner jump line." I headed up Main Street, cut off on Miner's Alley and did ok until I got to the bottom and the first table top jump. One nanosecond I was thinking "Here I go!" all set up for a sweet jump and the next nanosecond my face slammed into the ground and the wind was knocked clean out of me.
Best I can figure the front wheel slipped in some soft, deep dirt on the edge of the firm part of the track and I just went down.

The kids were on the opposite side of the pump track and didn't see me go down. I got up gasping and I staggered over to the kids, wheezing, taking a mental inventory of all my appendages.

At first I was afraid I had broken my jaw or my cheek, and I was worried about my left wrist as well. I sat down in a heap by our stuff and asked Boone to look at my face and tell me if it looked bad. I got a seven year old's shrug.

Once I got my breath back I stood up and got back on the bike. I kept palming my face, feeling for oddities or excessive pain. It seemed ok.

Both kids did a few more laps and I felt better as the minutes wore on. I had been worried initially that if I was seriously hurt it would have been difficult to get both kids and myself back to the car. It was a five minute walk from where we were.
In the end we had fun. Boone had a good time and I'm guessing by Lily's screams of joy as we raced around the pump track that she had a great time too.

We'll be back!

Thursday, November 11

Movie Review: Bicycle Dreams

I've recently watched Ride the Divide and Race Across the Sky 2010. I've known about the Ride Across America (or as it is commonly known RAAM) since I bought a book on long distance cycling which referenced RAAM frequently, and in the course of watching and reading about the two other movies and events (Tour Divide and Leadville Trail 100 respectively) I came across a movie called Bicycle Dreams which is a documentary of the 2005 RAAM.

While the Tour Divide and the Leadville 100 both appeal to me on a deep level, the RAAM is something I feel I could do without in life. Maybe, if I were younger, single, no kids...maybe I would decide I was crazy enough to get on my bike in San Diego and turn it east and try to beat some other crazy people to Atlantic City, New Jersey 3,051.7 miles away. The winner typically makes it in 8 to 9 days.

However, watching the movie, while not inspiring me to go sign up for the race, has helped me to understand a bit why I am drawn to endurance events and activities. The film focuses a lot on the racers' thoughts about why they do endurance rides.

To sum it up and not go into an individual analysis of each of the riders it is this: you ride to you limit, wherever that might end up being.

Some of the riders talk about the realness of the experience, that our society avoids real experiences and that by taking on the challenge of a ride like RAAM that the participants are stepping outside what is normal, and as ordinary people they find they can do extraordinary things.

Despite the message the movie was revealing I found myself uninterested. At first the film labored along like a cyclist up a long 6% climb. And then one tragic event, which changed the tone and pace of the film, and which you can see also changed the tone and pace of the race in 2005 drags you in and from that point on you are hanging on for dear life, sharing the saddle, and the pain, and the delirium of the ride with the racers.

I still feel like Ride the Divide and Race Across the Sky 2010 have more profoundly affected me as a cyclist and as a person who is compelled to find my own limits. But Bicycle Dreams examines in more detail the reasons why, the motivations behind and the strength it takes to find a way to keep going, days after comfort should have taken over and stopped all forward momentum.

This movie shows you how a person can be stripped down past ego, past willpower and then build themselves back up to a person who can face and meet a seemingly insurmountable challenge.

For me, the most heart wrenching scenes were of one rider after he found out about the earlier tragedy in the race and how he struggled against himself and his crew to find the strength and will to go on. He felt betrayed by his crew because they withheld information from him that profoundly affected his will to continue and finish.

In silence he continues for a short time before finally, and defiantly stepping out of the race.

My favorite part is when Chris MacDonald explains how endurance races appeal to us because they get us out of our comfort zone and how they contrast our modern convenience filled lifestyle. He describes a feeling of people missing something that they can not identify but that is very tangible and how that translates into the desire to test our limits.

The movie follows the standard format for cycling films. Since cycling events involve individuals with unique motivations, experiences and backgrounds and since they follow a linear path through time and space it is difficult to step out of the format, and for that you can forgive the filmmakers. I think they do a fantastic job of getting into the minds of the riders and showing and explaining what is going on under the helmet.

This film is on par with Ride the Divide and Race Across the Sky 2010. I would recommend it to any cycling enthusiast or any endurance enthusiast.

Tuesday, November 9

Let There Be Light

The positive response to my initial post should be a solution(s) to the problem.

Honestly, if Erzinger has/had sleep apnea without knowing it there is little that could be done for the initial offense. The hit-and-run aspect is a different story. He knew he hit something. He didn't stop right away and check to make sure it wasn't a kid or a deer or even a lowly cyclist. He knew enough to pull into Pizza Hut and call roadside assistance and put the broken parts of his luxury car in the trunk.

But the best defense in this case IS a good offense. Let's assume for a moment that Erzinger was just distracted, and the story that followed was a fairy tale designed to preserve his dignity and pocket book and that in fact he had been Brett Farve-ing it while doing 70 in a 55 zone when he hit Milo. What could Milo have done to keep from getting hit in an apnea-free world?

Lights. Bright. Flashing. Obnoxious. LED. Lights. With good, fresh batteries.

Even in bright daylight a good LED light can be seen a long way off. Yesterday I rode to the rec center to meet my wife to pick up my son so she could work out. I entered the park from the south and the bike path and she entered from the north on the street. From over 1,000 feet away she could see my blinking LED strobe. Granted, there was only about an hour of daylight left, so it was not full daylight, but regardless, she saw me from a great distance away through trees and chainlink fences.

She wasn't looking for me. She didn’t know I would be coming through the park at that time. I had left work a half hour earlier and she had also been in transit to get to the park for a little while. Our meeting from opposite ends of the park was pure coincidence. But it made us both feel better that I am visible from a great distance away.

I also use a three-mode blinking rear light and am considering upgrading to something even more obnoxious and offensive to better grab the attention of drivers.

A blinking or oscillating front and rear light combination goes a long way to make a cyclist or pedestrian unavoidably visible to fast moving motorists (and other cyclist and pedestrians for that matter).

Reflective clothing and gear further increases your visibility in both full sun and during low light times. I recently bought some commuter tires (Continental Touring Plus Reflex) that have a reflective whitewall. I didn't realize it when I ordered them, and I don't really like the way they look, but I'm thankful that I have them.

A lot of cycling and running jackets and pants have reflective piping or strips. You can also buy rolls of reflective tape to add to bikes, clothing, backpacks and other gear. Multiple lights increase visibility and you can often find cheap or free throw away blinkers at cycling events and shops that can enhance your visibility.

I recently acquired a new front LED light, the one my wife saw across the park last evening. It is a NiteRider MiNewt 250. It’s a bit pricey (caught it on sale for just under $100) but it is well worth its weight in gold. First off, don't point it anywhere near your face when you check to see how bright it is. You may lose some of your permanent vision. The thing is far brighter than any bike light I've owned. 250 is for 250 lumens.

I was prompted to research bike lights on a recent morning commute. I've been commuting in the Denver Metro area for almost three years now and up until recently the majority of my commutes have been along streets and paths that were well lit by streetlights and the like. This past summer we moved to a new part of town and my commute is along a stretch of wooded bike path with no lighting and with the LED light I had previously it was dangerous. The light (A Blackburn Quadrant that came in a pack with the rear Mars which is the rear LED I use now) was woefully dim and did not illuminate the path in front of me adequately. I felt that it wouldn't be safe to rely on that light for seeing, even though I felt like in flash mode it was perfectly adequate for safety.

I'm not so sure now. I'm really digging my NiteRider. In strobe mode it casts a flicker on road signs far down the road in front of me. It reflects off signs, metal cars, windows, trees and basically anything remotely reflective. Even if a motorist doesn't look to the left before pulling out they are likely to see the flickering reflection of my light as they look right. The Blackburn light just doesn't have that sort of power.

My cycling mantra is this: Be visible, be vigilant and be consistent. Being visible is the most important thing you can do. Being vigilant, always assuming that the car is not going to stop or not going to see you and reacting appropriately is equally important. I never assume a driver sees me and is going to let me go first when I have the right-of-way.Too many times I've seen them blow on through a stop sign when I did. And thirdly, you need to hold the line, not swerve into traffic even if it means hitting a car or pedestrian. Swerving into the path of the RTD bus you don't see coming up behind you is not a way to end your day. Stay the course so other travelers can predict what you are going to do.

In recent months I have grown more and more convinced that maximizing your visibility is the key to being safe on the bike. It's not the only thing you can do, but it is paramount when riding on the road.

Bicyclists Against Distracted Drivers

I'm torn what slant to put on this post. Should I post this to my cycling blog as a motorist vs. cyclist rant, or should I look at the bigger picture and rail on how this is just a wretched symptom of a truly sick society that values material wealth more than human health and life?

The cycling slant would be easier for me to write. And if I start on the big picture piece I am sure to get overwhelmed and give up because its just too...overwhelming.

Well, here we go. We'll see where it ends up.

On July 3rd, while cycling eastbound along the shoulder on Highway 6 in Avon, Colorado, less than two miles west of where I ended the Triple Bypass in 2009, Dr. Steven Milo of New York was struck from behind by a Mercedes sedan driven by Martin Joel Erzinger, a financial manager from Avon responsible for over a billion dollars in assets.

Over three miles away police picked up Erzinger at an Avon Pizza Hut. He was putting his sideview mirror and broken bumper in his trunk while Milo lay seriously injured on the side of the road. Erzinger had called for roadside assistance, but not for police or ambulance services. He claimed he didn't know he had hit Milo.

The defense says that Erzinger “might have unknowingly suffered from sleep apnea.” Convenient, because if he had knowingly suffered from sleep apnea he could be charged with vehicular assault on the basis of reckless behavior. “A person acts recklessly when he or she consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that a result will occur or that the circumstances exist.” --http://www.lawinfoboulder.com/areas_criminal_litigation/vehicular_homicide_assault.html.

The defense couldn't say for sure that Erzinger suffers from sleep apnea because he would still be responsible for his choice to get behind the wheel. No, they had to adopt (or concoct) some standard legal fairy tale that would absolve their client of ANY responsibility in the matter.

But the most absurd aspect of the whole case is that Erzinger is only facing misdemeanor charges, and not felony charges for almost killing and definitely leaving for dead another human being with his black 2010 Mercedes sedan. The reason he is only facing the lesser charge is because he is rich. Its that cut and dried.

Erzinger is apparently a pillar of the community, a boon to the wealthy who use his services. It would be cruel and unusual to subject him to a felony charge. How would he be able to pay restitution to the poor man he hit?

“Hurlbert said Erzinger is willing to take responsibility and pay restitution. “ But not suffer any legal or social consequences...not man up and accept his responsibility as a citizen, as a driver and as a human being. And I am sure he has assets that could adequately compensate Milo even if he were no longer gainfully employed.

And what of poor Dr. Milo? He was a visitor to Vail, which stands today only because of tourist dollars. Vail has no industry, no real commerce except the dollars of out-of-towners. Milo was casting his economic vote in favor of the town of Vail. Many people are stating they won't be doing that in the future because of this incident.

When they get in your way in Eagle County you just run them over. After all, Milo was just riding a bicycle. Why couldn't he act normal and drive a car like the rest of us? Freak. I bet he doesn't even own a car. If he paid registration and licensing fees like the rest of us then he would have a right to use the road as a vehicle.

An article in the Gilpin County News about the controversial Black Hawk, Colorado bike ban states: "cyclists do not contribute to highway funds as motor vehicle owners do through licensing and registration fees. "

Huh? That logic is flawed. I own and ride a bike. I also own and drive a car. I DO pay licensing and registration fees. And when I choose to ride my bike and park my car I am subsidizing all those motorists who buzz past, honk and yell obscenities out the window at me. Or, heaven forbid, run me over and keep right on going, not stopping until they get to Pizza Hut where they try to hide the evidence of our encounter and deny everything.

I'm sure Steven Milo owns a car. I'm sure his license and registration are current and that he generally obeys all the traffic laws. I'm not going to go so far as to venture that before his accident that he didn't also drive distracted. We all do at some point. We have to look down at our speedometer, gas gauge and CD player from time to time. I bet Steven Milo is much more aware of others on the road these days.

I wonder if Erzinger pays more attention to the road these days? Hopefully he's getting treatment for his sleep apnea.

In the public comment section of an article regarding three cyclist who were killed on a Quebec road by a motorist a user with the ironic handle “Benzornothing” writes:

“Bicycles are not safe and suitable for our roads; maybe 100 years ago along with donkeys and horses. I drive 50 to 60k per year on business by car, and when I see most cyclists drive through red lights, stop signs etc. I shake my head... and never surprised to see them on the front of the newspapers”

Does Benzornothing even see the cyclists who do NOT drive through red lights, stop signs, etc.? It would probably surprise him to see them on the hood of his Benz too, just like Benzinger in Avon.

Benzornothing states he sees MOST cyclist breaking the laws. I have a feeling the proportion of cyclist that break traffic law minor or major is very close to the same as the proportion of motorists who do the same. It has nothing to do with the mode of transportation, it is solely a matter of the behavior of the individual, whether behind the wheel or on the handlebars.

And again, I have a feeling both Benzornothing and Benzinger rarely see cyclists unless they are running red lights or sitting across from them in a courtroom.

The greater implication in all this (remember my initial dilemma?) is that our state laws allow this sort of thing to occur. In traffic violations it is very difficult to prove negligence or recklessness unless drugs and/or alcohol are involved, and many times even in those situations the offender gets off with just a slap on the wrist.

We should, as voters, as citizens, demand that laws protect us from the gross negligence of others. It should not be so hard to prove recklessness and it should be much harder to obtain and maintain a driver's license, especially after being involved in previous traffic infractions.

And someone's economic status should not protect them from due process of the law. If you cause someone serious bodily injury you should not be allowed to sweep the matter under the rug because you can grease the right palms or cry big crocodile tears and end up being the victim while the poor sod in a body cast ends up becoming the real criminal for expecting justice.

This is not really the exception these days, but seems to be the rule.

Monday, November 8

Movie Review: Ride the Divide

Since I tried my hand at reviewing Race Across the Sky 2010 I think I should go back for a moment and review the movie that got me going on this mountain bike racing kick in the first place: Ride the Divide.

My wife texted me to tell me about a movie her father had called in giddy pallor to tell her about, indicating that we would really like it. He had watched it on the Documentary Channel and couldn't stop thinking about it.

I got online and found that they had two copies at the Golden branch of the Jeffco library, so I stopped on my way home and checked it out.

It took us a couple of nights to find the time to sit through it but we were both amazed and thought it was a fine specimen of a cycling film. The soundtrack is stunning and works seamlessly with the rest of the film.

The human story revealed is not as heart wrenching as that displayed in RATS 2010, but you get caught up in the trials of the racers. And toward the end as Matthew Lee races for the border you find yourself sitting on the edge of your seat. You know he's going to make it, but you begin straining forward, reaching into the future to grasp the finish with both hands.

The first thing I said about the film to my wife was, "I want to do the Tour Divide!"

She suggested in a couple of years that we should both do it. I was struck dumb. My wife is not an avid mountain biker. In fact, she gave her mountain bike away a few months ago.

The music played constantly in my head from that day forward and I kept seeing the striking scenes of mountain bikes racing past the camera along dirt roads and trails with the awe-inspiring scenery of the Rocky Mountains splashed behind as the background. I started jonesing for a mountain bike.

When my in-laws came in to visits just a week later we watched the movie a couple more times with my father-in-law and it was obvious he was chomping at the bit to get out and do some biking while on vacation in Colorado. He had carried his bike 1200 miles on the off chance we could ride.

We did get to ride and that only grew my desire to Ride the Divide. I know my opportunity is a few years off, especially if I continue working toward doing the Leadville 100 in a couple of years. For now the plan is on hold until we can afford (financially and otherwise) to take the time necessary to do the ride, and to prepare for the endurance aspect of the ride. The kids are young, and so are we, so we have time.

Regardless, the movie is inspiring. It makes me want to ride my bike a lot more. It has made my morning commutes more enjoyable, it has given me something to aspire to in the long run.

I'd give it five stars just for that alone.

Goathead Nightmare

Last night I dreamed I woke up this morning and when I got on my bike to ride to work I looked down and saw a goathead in my front tire. I reached down and pulled it out, hoping it had not punctured the tube, and I was rewarded with an immediate and powerful hiss of escaping air.

Moral: sometimes Its better to leave the darn thing in.

Total number of goatheads in my tires this morning: 0

Sunday, November 7

A Day in the Life

Yesterday we rode 17 miles up to and around northeast Arvada. We rode Pierce up to the Little Dry Creek Trail and took it west to its western terminus. Then we wandered over to the Rainbow/Pomona Lakes Trail and then jogged north to pick up the Discovery Trail. Then we beelined back down to 76th, then a few blocks west to Pierce and we took it way back south.

It was a fun four hour tour and the kids had a blast at a few playgrounds. We took it easy today and just drove over to Van Bibber Park and let the kids play on a playground for awhile.

I usually don't like daylight savings time, but this year it seems like its going to work out in my favor. Waking up at 6am in the morning is going to be much easier.

I'm going to haul the trailer to work in the morning so I can pick Lily up from the babysitter tomorrow afternoon on the way home.

I'm continuing my Leadville 100 training this week. I have set some fitness goals for 2011. I am going to start eating better. I'm going to lose at least twenty pounds and be more fit in the process. I've set some specific goals for myself as far as riding, but more specifically I want to be healthier and just get off the junk food soda trend I've been on for...well, ever.

The week is starting out good.

Saturday, November 6

On Goatheads

Right after I moved from Golden to Denver as I was searching for a good commute I had a major problem with tribulus terrestris or as it is more commonly known around these parts: goatheads. AKA puncture vine.

Before moving to Colorado I had very few flats. In fact, there was only one instance where a flat left me with no option but to walk my bike.

But as I sought a direct and efficient route to work I began getting flats. There was one day at work I arrived with a firm tire and mid-day a co-worker noticed I was flat.

He was also a cyclist and he indicated I probably had a goathead. He turned the bike over, ran his fingers along the tire and found one. He explained that until I got the goathead out of the tire that I would continue to get flats. Made sense.

The pinnacle of my goathead woes occured on a day when I was riding back to Denver from work and heard two firecracker-like pops within a few seconds of each other as my tubes were popped by the offending barbs.

I pulled over as both tires went flat only to discover seven goatheads between both wheels.

I learned to patch tubes. I tried getting a tire liner only to have it rub through my tire where it overlapped. I bought carbon tires for $35.00 each. I also altered my route.

My co-worker had explained that goatheads are like caltrops, with a spine always pointing up. They are tough and sharp enough to go through most bike tires.

He said to avoid tufts of vegetation poking through the pavement or concrete that could catch goatheads blown along the ground by the wind, to ride in the well traveled portion of the bike paths where most of the goatheads would have already been picked up and if I kept getting them on one route to change routes.

He also suggested that it is possible to pick one up, have it break off in the tire, but not puncture the tube. And then later as the tube naturally loses air or if you hit a bump hard the remainder of the thorn can be driven on into the tube.

I believe getting the carbon tires and altering my route were the right combination. I have had very few flats since. My goathead experiences are few and far between these days. I also try to keep an eye out for them before I get a flat. If I see one in the tire I know I'm going to need to pull it out and possibly fix a flat.

The other day after Mandy and I returned from our ride with Lily we had picked up a couple in one of the bike trailer tires. By the time we got back home from picking Boone up at school the tire was flat.

I went out this morning to fix the tire so we could go ride today and I had no trouble figuring out what had happened.

They are nasty little buggers and while I hate picking them up, I have gotten so good at avoiding them and fixing flats that finding one now is almost a novelty. I will admit I'd rather find them at home after a ride than during.

Friday, November 5

Leadville or Bust!

Today I began training for the Leadville 100.

It's Leadville or Bust baby!

I have set a two year plan for myself and I'll tell you why: volunteers get preference for the next year's race. Instead of taking my chance with the lottery I think I will volunteer in 2011 and then ride in 2012. It's not really that I don't think I can be ready by August of 2011. I trained for the Triple Bypass between January and early July of 2009. And I didn't put nearly as much preparation into that ride as I shoulda, woulda, coulda.

After watching Race Across the Sky last night I was inspired. I was so inspired that I rode my fastest time on my morning commute since we've lived in the new house. It only took me 45 minutes to do the 9.3 mile ride (uphill both ways) and I felt really good. Of course I can feel the room to improve. There were times when the road was relatively flat but I was lagging because of the climb I had just finished. I need to get back into my old hiking mentality.

In my early twenties I would go out hiking alone and I would tromp down the miles like I was on Bataan. I'd pound up the hills, only adjusting my speed when I could barely breathe, but then when I reached easier ground I would, instead of stopping to rest, continue on at a slower pace for a minute or so until my breathing had recovered and then continue on at a faster pace.

It's a good tactic and kept me in really good shape for a long time.

After my ride this morning I did about 15 minutes of legs and abs in the workout room. Its much harder for me to motivate myself to do that, but if I can I think I might just be able to get in the shape I want in ten or so years.

You probably won't hear a lot from me about this ride for a year or so, but I plan on keeping it in the back of my mind. I need to climb baby, climb! I foresee a few pre-work Lookout Mountain rides and Genesee crawls in my future. I can revisit Guanella Pass, Berthoud (and Colorado Mines Peak finally!), Squaw Mountain, Evans…and some of the big rides I didn't make while training for the TBP and rides I've discovered since then.

The prospect of volunteering for the race is actually kinda exciting in itself. That's not something I've ever considered in the past, but I think it is something that will end up being as important to me as the ride itself. More to come on that later…

Thursday, November 4

Movie Review: Race Across the Sky 2010

Tonight I went and saw the premier of Race Across the Sky 2010, a film about the Leadville Trail 100 MTB race this past year.

First off, a movie about mountain biking should not make you cry. And it wasn't because a sweet bike got trashed in a crash.

I knew that by going to see this movie that I would want to do the ride. I want to do the ride.

Unless you've been in a long distance organized ride you can't really imagine how the people shown in the movie feel. And that was my problem. I did the Triple Bypass in 2009. When they showed riders hugging their family at aid stations or crying as they were pulled off the course, or suffering as they labored up a climb I teared up.

I was shocked that I was struck with emotion over those things, but I knew exactly how those people felt. And I want to feel it again. I know that to do the ride is to plan to suffer, to concede to unnecessary pain, to hit the bottom of the barrel and start scratching at the wood. But I still want to give it a go.

The music varied but included a lot of pounding, workout appropriate punk-ish music that drove the film forward to the inevitable showdown between Levi Leipheimer and Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski on the Powerline climb.

And while the film showcased the big name stars of the Leadville 100 a great deal of it highlighted the real heroes and stars of the race/ride, the unknown riders who had fought personal and quiet battles in their lives before they ever got to the starting line in August of this year.

It was particularly heart wrenching to see the ride officials calling the cutoff time and stopping riders who had not made it in time. Some cried as the official cut off their wrist bands, some calmly thanked the volunteers while suppressing the obvious emotions roiling below the surface. One man chuckles as he says "Get this thing off of me!" as he holds out his wrist. The theater audience erupted in laughter.

Hands down a great movie. I can't imagine non-cyclists wouldn't also be fascinated by this film. And even if cycling is not your thing, the adventure and the triumph of the human spirit that occurs on those dirt roads high above treeline as the riders gasp for more air and fight to just finish is amazingly well portrayed.

Smashed Routine

I rode over 300 miles last month and the majority of those miles were commuting. I did a couple of long rides but otherwise that was my 9-11 mile commute everyday coming and going.

Monday and Tuesday nights I rode the half mile from work to church to meet Mandy and the kids and then we drove home together. Wednesday through Friday I rode both to and from work. So I was getting about 80 miles a week in.

This month my counter shift has changed and it makes sense for me to ride to Golden with Mandy in the mornings as she drops Lily off and picks up two kids that go to school where she now teaches and where Boone attends. So now I say I am carpooling. They would be coming to Golden regardless and if I leave at 6:00 to ride to work I can't help Mandy get the kids ready.

If Mandy weren't picking up the other kids and it weren't so cold I could take Lily to the babysitter in the bike trailer and then head to work. And I can foresee that being the case in the future. For now, for Lily's sake it just makes sense to carpool in the mornings.

So I am losing about 50 miles a week of riding. Its not such a big deal, but I am really starting to miss it. I think I'm going to have to work hard to make up for the lack on the weekends, or I'm going to have to start going to the workout room at work in the afternoons.

Tuesday, November 2

Racing All Over Arvada

Rode a bit today.

I voted last Friday, so having the day off for elections was just gravy for me. Mandy and Boone had school so Lily and I had the day to squander on leisure. So we did.

I loaded her up in the bike trailer this morning before the chill had left the air. We rolled east into Olde Towne down 57th and locked up the bike/trailer at the library.

First stop was La Dolce Vita, a coffe/ice cream shop in town. We hung out as Lily ate her bagel and drank her milk (in a coffe cup) and I sucked down a mocha latte.

Afterward we walked around town and got some pics before heading south through Water Tower Flats, a New Urbanism seed on the south side of the railroad tracks.

Then we picked up the Interurban Trail and traversed it west over to Garrison and we climbed over our ridge and then down to Ace Hardware. We rambled around the shopping center, checking out a gun shop, a thrift store and then we headed to the tractor park.

While Lily was playing Mandy got home from school and texted us. We beelined home for lunch and then got ready for another bike ride, this time to the polling place for Mandy to vote and then we took her on the ride Boone and Lily and I did the other day.

Of course today, without Boone we made great time and we cut through town on Grandview, picked up the RCT near its junction with the CCT and then headed east to the Little Dry Creek Trail.

Mandy got to see the Concrete Canyon and we cut off on Pierce instead of going all the way to Carr. Pierce was a more feasible option, the climb over the divide between Little Dry and Ralston Creeks was less severe and the bike lanes were more continuous.

We raced onto our street and back into our yard just in time to jump in the car and go pick Boone up at school.

It was a nice long day with a lot of mileage.

Monday, November 1

I Did Not Pedal Here

I miss my ride already.

No, my bike was not stolen. I switched shifts, so now I have to be at work at 7:30 as opposed to 9am. Since Mandy has to drop Lily off in Golden at the babysitter's now anyway I rode with them and they dropped me off with my bike at work.

I'll ride home but not to work.

I've got to cut back on my calorie intake!