Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Tour de France of Football Games!

So, you're probably thinking to yourself "What a stupid analogy Bikeist!  Football and Cycling have exactly nothing in common!"  Well, either that, or like everybody else out there, you're just sitting there staring at your preferred device wondering when Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus will finally get together and go on a cross-country crime spree -- effectively blowing up the interwebs forever!

For those of you in the distinct minority, though, the Super Bowl and Le Tour have more in common than meets the eye.  Besides the facts that they are both the biggest events in their respective sports, watched intently by millions of rabid fans around the globe, and akin to national holidays for their host nations -- there is the additional fact that they have long been the premier venues for displaying what humans can do when fed ridiculous amounts of performance enhancing drugs.  The big difference, though, is that, while sports fans, the media, governments, concerned moms, the Vatican (I think), and the Bikeist, have expressed universal outrage at the scandalous use of PED's in cycling (and baseball), nobody seems to care when it comes to football.  It took until 2011 for the NFL to actually get a (supposed) testing program in place, but did you know that, according to the Bleacher Report, they don't even test for HGH?  Think about that when you watch these tractor-sized behemoths flying around the field trying to concuss each other into submission.  

Remember this guy fellow Bolts fans?

That's supposed to be a wide receiver people!  Defensive linemen weren't this big when I was a kid (which was still the "modern" era of football)!

Now this is what a wide receiver is supposed to look like:

I know what you're thinking -- "He went to USC, so he doesn't count!"  Hey -- USC or not, you can't argue with the Hall of Fame people.  Where is David Boston these days anyway?

With all the talk about safety in the NFL, how safe is it to allow these already impressively large, fast individuals pump themselves up to super-human proportions?  Of course, the league probably takes solace in the fact that they are giving the fans what they want, but so, too, did the organizers of the Gladiator contests in the Coliseum and of public executions in the stadiums of Afghanistan.  At some point, there is a moral obligation to not feed the blood-lust of the masses.  I say all this as a lover of all sports, including football, but -as with cycling- the more I watch and cheer every year, the more I start to feel somewhat complicit in the fraud being perpetuated by pretending they are not artificially enhanced and in the abuse the competitors subject themselves too (by ingesting unsafe drugs and competing without adequate safety precautions) for my enjoyment.

That all said, I'll be glued to my seat this Sunday just as I am every year . . .

Break, break . . . (that's Navy jargon, folks, for "let's change the subject a bit)

One of my favorite Super Bowl traditions is "Media Day," when they subject the players to legions of reporters from around the world who ask them inane, uninformed, questions for several hours.  My favorite moments of Media Day are usually when foreign reporters (who know NOTHING about football) put their ignorance on display to the utter confusion of the poor players who have no idea how to answer them.  In that vein, I have this fantasy (now that I'm a full-fledged member of the national media) of showing up in spandex with bike in tow and asking all of the participants only bike-related questions.  

Bikeist:  "So, Peyton, what do you ride?"

Manning:  "Well, you must be familiar with my ads that air on a continuous loop during any and all breaks during any and all NFL games -- you know, where I drive along talking to the car?  So, of course, Peyton Manning's ride is a Buick."

Bikeist:  "No, what do you RIDE, not drive?  A Roubaix?  A Madone?  Do you prefer a classic Bianchi perhaps?"

Manning:  "I don't get it.  (To handler) Who is this guy anyway?  I just told you I drive Buicks -- not European cars."

Bikeist:  "Mr. Manning, I'm not talking about cars, I'm talking about bikes."

Manning:  "Is this guy for real?  Who cares about bikes.  I'm about to go play in front of the entire world and try to not have my spleen ripped out by a bunch of hopped-up science experiments in cleats, and he wants to ask me about bikes?  I'm out of here . . ."

Bikeist:  "Where's that Richard Sherman dude?  Maybe I can get him to call Alberto Contador "mediocre" (which he is, as well as a cheat) . . .

Finally, to complete this special Super Bowl edition of The Bikeist, here is a (way too long) interview of Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe as he discusses his transition from NFL superstar to avid cyclist:

Monday, January 27, 2014

Hateists . . .

I'm not quite sure what it is about bikes that brings out the worst in certain people, but I never cease to be amazed at the aggression (passive or otherwise) and derision targeted at me and my fellow bikeists for, seemingly, no other crime than being on two wheels.  The only group I can think of that is more unfairly targeted for their choice of transportation would be all those young punks on their damned skateboards (just kidding skateboardist friends, regular followers of this blog know that I am hooked on long-boarding).  Now, I'm not talking about negative reactions to illegal or dangerous behavior -- if you get honked or yelled at for running a red light, or buzzing baby carriages on a sidewalk you deserve the negative reaction.  And, I simply don't buy the notion that the sins of lawless bikeists should somehow be visited on poor, law-abiding, me.  First, I find it to be massively hypocritical for those who prefer motorized, four (or more) wheeled transportation to condemn another group of road-users for their failure to universally obey all traffic laws everywhere and at all times.  Look at yourself in the mirror driveist -- can you honestly say that you obey 100% of traffic laws at all times?  You never so much as creep over the speed limit?  Even on the freeway?  Even when you're late?  You always keep right and pass on the left?  You signal every turn and lane-change?  You always keep two car lengths between you and the vehicle in front of you?  You get the picture.  When it comes to disregarding traffic laws, bikeists have nothing on driveists.  More importantly, though, it is simply illogical.  If I get cut off by someone in a Prius (even, though, another thing that amazes me is how many complete pricks drive Priuses -- aren't they supposed to be friendly tree-hugging types?) do I hold it against the next dude who happens to come along in a Prius?  No.  Despite the fact that so many of his holier-than-thou cohorts are huge schmucks, I give him the benefit of the doubt.  You probably do to.  

Not so with bikes.  Whether it's a bus on Broadway trying to see how close it can get to me without crushing me like a bug, drivers revving their engines or honking behind me after I signal and take the lane where there's no shoulder or to avoid the door zone, or the ignorant, angry, old lady who went out of her way to lower her passenger-side window to yell "Bikes belong on the sidewalk!" as she passed me last month -- we don't get the benefit of any doubt with certain people -- just senseless hostility. 

Check out this video of a British bikeist getting schwacked  by an impatient driver to get a taste of what I'm talking about:

I'm not sure what was worse, getting hit, or the verbal tirade he was subjected to for having the audacity to impede the progress of the impatient driver with his bike (and vital organs).  

I guess some of this is just a product of humans being humans.  For as long as there have been tribes, clans, etc., there has been a natural hostility, mis-trust and irrational hatred of "the other."  Those who are not like me or part of my tribe pose an existential threat.  So, to a driveist, the person pedaling along on two wheels is to be reviled simply for being on two, non-motorized wheels as opposed to four combustion-propelled ones.  "Look at that freak, Martha! -- Biking along the side of this busy road -- who the hell does she think she is?! -- Damned bikes!!"  I'd like to think that humans should be above such base, irrational, attitudes, but if that were the case, the world would be rid of racists, sexists and homophobes by now, right?  

Beyond the base, unevolved, unenlightened, driveists amongst us, though, I think there are many who are simply jealous of us.  That I can understand (a little).  There's a lot to be jealous of.  As they are trapped behind windshields, fighting congestion, rush hours, construction, constant accidents, and each other, they look out and see us doing something fun, healthy and free.   I, myself, feel a twinge of jealousy any time I'm trapped doing an errand in our car and I see a fellow bikeist out on a ride.  Of course, my jealousy doesn't translate into anger, though -- it just takes my mind to its happy place -- my next ride.  So, I do what my dad taught me to do any time I approach a bike traveling in the same direction -- get (at least) my two left wheels across the median as I pass, or wait until it is safe to do so, and then pass giving a wide berth.  The self-loathing types, though, aren't as charitably inclined.  The bike rider represents what they wish they could be and a reminder of how miserable their sedentary existence is.  They don't like their jobs, they don't like their commutes, they don't like themselves, and they wish they exercised more, ate better and had more fun.  So, passive aggression gets the better of them.  Rather than give the bikeist some leeway, they drift toward the rider just to let them know they are there.  Why should they be alone in their misery when it can shared and cast upon an unsuspecting, defenseless, bikeist?  Misery loves company, right?  Uggh!

Then there's the lady who got in my grill at Underbelly after my Saturday ride last week -- just bat-shit crazy.  After I finish my long Saturday ride (60-80 miles that always requires me to catch the ferry from Broadway back to Coronado afterward), I like to stop in Little Italy to reward myself for my efforts with a hearty lunch.  My favorite post-ride treat has to be the ramen at Underbelly (corner of Kettner and Fir).  Besides the facts that they have a fantastic beer list and creative, delicious food (Belly of the Beast is the bomb!), this is a great spot to stop after a ride because of its on-sidewalk seating.  Since nobody wants to lug a heavy u-lock on a long ride, it's nice to find a place where you can easily keep an eye on your unlocked bike while ordering/eating.  Even nicer is that Underbelly participates in San Diego's Bike Commuter Discount Program -- offering generous discounts to any patron who arrives on a bike -- look for this sign at participating businesses:

Most Saturdays my bike fits nicely along the wall adjacent to the walkway leading into the entrance.  Last Saturday, though, there must have been a hipster convention in Little Italy, because the line extended the length of the walkway and out onto the sidewalk.  Because I do my best to be polite and courteous at all times (unlike certain driveists I encounter every Saturday on my long rides) it didn't even cross my mind to try and get the hipsters to move out of the way so I could stow my bike in its usual spot.  No worries -- there's a tree adjacent to the sidewalk, near the curb, that provides a fine alternative to the wall for propping up the bike.  So, I leaned my Secteur against the tree completely out of pedestrian traffic.  I then took my place on line with the hipsters, patiently shuffling every few moments toward the ordering counter and noodle nirvana.  About twenty minutes later, I was sitting at the large open window facing the street (to keep an eye on the bike) happily slurping a huge steaming bowl of noodles.  The communal nature of the seating at Underbelly, invariably leads to me getting embroiled in conversations with my neighbors, and this Saturday was no exception.  So, whilst engaged in a deep conversation of the relative merits of the microbrews on tap, somebody managed to come along and tie their hyper-active labradoodle to the very same tree that was holding up my bike.  This offended me on several levels:  (1) as a life-long dog owner/lover, I bristle at anybody putting their dog in a situation where they can get hurt (stay-tuned for my future post on dog-walkers/joggers/riders who don't keep their dogs short-leashed and to their right on bike-paths); (2) the owners of this (awfully cute) bouncy, energetic, mutt clearly had even less regard for the property of others than they had for their own dog; and (3) it's just stupid to tie your dog up next to something he's more than certain to knock over (probably on himself).  

So, while still engaged in deep conversation with my neighbors, I involuntarily glanced toward the street - just to make sure my bike was still there.  It was, but, so was a labradoodle?  How did he get there?  He was whimpering and bounding back and forth on the other (street) side of the tree focused upon getting the attention of his masters (presumably, somewhere inside the restaurant).  Instantly, I knew this wasn't going to end well.  Just as I was excusing myself from my new friends to go move my bike away from this unexpected threat, the labradoodle managed to get his leash caught on one of my pedals, knocking down the bike (of course) and eliciting a yelp from himself.  I hurried out of the restaurant, quickly untangled the leash from my pedal, picked up my bike, and then looked up expecting to see the owner(s) rushing out as well.  Nothing.  Have to admit I was a little pissed off at this point.  Not only did these folks have complete disregard for their (beautiful) dog and my (beautiful) bike, they were paying no attention to him whatsoever.  Still, I kept my anger in check (really).  I called into big the window - "Does anybody know whose dog this is?"  That's when she came charging out -- all 5' 3" of her.  

"That's my dog, asshole!  What's your problem?!"

"Well, it seems that you found it a good idea to tie her to my bike . . ."

"It's a him, you idiot, and that's no place to leave a bike - you cyclists think you can just leave your bikes wherever you like -  you should lock it up somewhere!"

There you go good readers.  Regardless of the disregard displayed by the the driver, pedestrian, dog-walker, jogger,  roller-blader, dog-tyer-upper,  etc., it's always the bike-rider's fault.  In this case, simply by brazenly propping up a bike against a tree that was clearly designed to be a dog hitch.

Speechless, I disengaged, moved my bike to the wall (which was now free) and moved back into Underbelly - with her at my heels.  She felt the need to follow me back to my stool and berate me for making a big deal out of nothing, with a continued barrage of expletives.  At that point, the bartender, Blaine, cut her off and simply pointed out that my bike had been there first.  She then turned her ire on Blaine.  That went on for about ten seconds before Blaine asked her to leave the restaurant. (How's that for bike-friendly?!)  She, angrily, grabbed her bag from her stool and stormed out.  As I headed over to Blaine to apologize for the commotion, the guy who had been occupying the stool next to hers came up and said "sorry about that" and headed out after her.  A middle-aged guy occupying a stool next to where they had been, turned to his friend and said "How'd you like to be married to that?" -- with hearty laughter resulting from all within earshot.

The laughter helped.  Adrenaline still flowing, though, I thanked Blaine, accepted the condolences of my new friends for the unfortunate altercation, and immersed myself in the comfort of my half-full bowl of, delicious, noodles.  Not easy being a simple bikeist in the city these days -- you never know when a hateist might randomly set upon you . . .

Thursday, January 23, 2014

So, What's Your Blog All About?

Been getting a lot of questions about the blog lately:

"What's it all about?"

"What is a 'bikeist' anyway?"

"When will you be doing a piece on the aerodynamics edge gained by leg shaving?" 

Seems that traffic is up.  Perhaps this is the turning point!  Perhaps I am finally going to get that big fat royalty check from Mr. Google!

Anyway, these questions (and more) were addressed in my first, ever, substantive post, "Origins" (first one was a quote).  Rather than make you dig it up, though (and since I think I may have had about two readers at that point -- including myself), I will re-post it (in its entirety) right here.  Yes, loyal readers, you are about to witness Bikeist history -- my first re-run!  Can't wait until I hit syndication -- that's where the real money is!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Post #2: Origins

Congratulations!  If you are reading this in September of 2013, you will someday be able to brag that you were there at the very beginning.  Yes, this blog is going to be HUGE -- it will, literally, blow up the interwebs.  Again -- Congratulations . . .

But, before I, inevitably, become a dominant force in the blogosphere and alter popular culture as we knew it, we need to get a few things out of the way:

First:  What is a "Bikeist" anyway?

Well, I'll begin by telling you what a bikeist is not --

Importantly, a Bikeist is not a "Bikelist":

(From The Urban Dictionary)


(Pronounced: 'bike-a-list') - Someone who rides a bicycle for both leisure and commuting purposes but with no understanding of or total disregard for the rules of the road/traffic laws. One who doesn’t use the proper hand signals when turning/slowing/stopping. A person who does not wear a helmet (or wear it properly). A person who chooses to act as a pedestrian when it suits him/her (i.e. riding on sidewalks, pathways, etc.). Someone who was simply given a bike by their parents and taught no rules or considerations.

Tom: "Look at that asshole over there. Riding his bike on that busy sidewalk."

Carlos: "Stupid bikelists!"

I have to admit that, as fond as I am of this web definition, the interplay of Tom and Carlos is what, IMHO, makes it one of the all-time greatest web entries ever.  Sheer brilliance!  Particularly, because it provides the perfect segway to my next counter-definition:


(Pronounced:  'Poseur') - According to my buddy Mark (who is from Kansas), whom I have proudly converted to bike commuting, he is a bike-rider and not a "cyclist."  Cyclists, to Mark, are the spandex-clad schmucks who zip by him on the Strand bike path without calling their pass and without slowing down for pedestrians, baby-joggers (God-forbid!), kids on bikes with training wheels, the disabled, the elderly, those in need of emergency resuscitation, or anything at all, for that matter, that interferes in any way with their preciously earned momentum.  Ironically, "cyclists," as perceived by the public at large (especially Mark), are viewed much in the same way that Tom and Carlos perceive "bikelists."

Here is a recent photo of the rear wheel of the commuter bike I helped Mark pick out a year ago (cyclists, avert your eyes, this may be too much to bear):

These two bike-riding archetypes have also, both, popularly been referred to as "Freds."  I love the term Fred, but, like the previous two terms, it seems to have been prone to frequent propagandist mis-use.  My crack research team has feverishly Googled "Fred" for a good ten minutes, and the best they could come up with is that "Fred" began as a derogatory term slung at seemingly novice bike-riders by bonafide, spandex-clad "cyclists."  Many a solo trekker, 60 miles into his or her umpteenth 80 mile segment of the Pacific Coast Bike Route has suffered the indignity of hearing "Fred" uttered under the breath of a poseur hidden amongst a gaggle of club riders breezing by in a sloppy "paceline" on their arduous 20 mile Saturday morning group ride.  Ironically, many Freds embraced the term as a badge of honor, especially those who could out-pace, out-climb, out-sprint most supposed cyclists whilst riding non-racing bikes in non-spandex clothing.  Ironically, many have also turned the term "Fred" on its head, using it to refer to the poseurs themselves -- Über-Freds being the apex of pure poseur ridiculousness.

So, what is a wanna-be bike blogger to do when confronted with all this divisiveness on what should be a simple task:  how to refer to one's own self?  Well, my decision was to do what I have always done -- pull something out of my butt.  Again, I set my crack team (really, no pun intended) to the task of marathon Googling, and they are fairly certain that the term "Bikeist" has never before been posted, listed, defined, conceived, or even uttered.  Thus, henceforth, I will forever be known throughout the land, sea, and air as:  The San Diego Bikeist.  Cue trumpet fanfare . . .

Finally, to bring my brilliant, historic, second blog post to an epic conclusion, I will provide you with my definition of a "Bikeist."


(Pronounced: 'bike-ist') One who is enthusiastic about bicycles and the riding of them.

That's me in a nut-shell.  And, more importantly, is inclusive of most all members of the various bike "tribes" out there - be they cyclists, Freds, commuters, Randonneurs, racers, fixie riders, mountain-bikers, bike mechanics, BMXers, etc.  While I intend to poke fun at members of all of the above factions (especially myself), this blog is not intended to purport that there is any single best or superior approach to riding and/or loving bikes. If you approach bicycles with genuine, unpretentious, enthusiasm, then this blog is for you.  You, too, are a "Bikeist."

Welcome -and- one more time -- Congratulations! 

Up Next:  "Bikeography"

Monday, January 20, 2014

Biking The Dream . . .

So, it's MLK Day -and- of course, I'm sitting here thinking about Dr. King and, well, bikes.  (There may just be something to my Long-Suffering-Wife's claims about my one track mind.)

As it turns out, though, the Reverend and bikes are indelibly stitched into the fabric of my daily routine.  My last post was devoted to my bike commute, focusing upon the morning ferry ride and the cast of characters I share it with.  As it so happens, my evening ride home around the bay starts with me crossing San Diego on the bike path that follows the trolley line and the City's 3/4 mile long MLK Promenade.

This wonderful linear park, stretching through the heart of San Diego's "Marina District," is lined with works of art devoted to Dr. King and his legacy as well as embedded stone inscriptions of some of his famous quotations.  Oddly enough, though -- despite the fact that the promenade is listed in some places as a bike path -- the only people who are not free to utilize the promenade are bike riders!  I have never seen it enforced, but there are signs at the beginning and end prohibiting bikes.  The parallel, dedicated, bike path makes this a non-issue for my commute, but still gets my goat as yet another non-sensical restriction imposed by those with an anti-bike bias.  Why shouldn't bike riders have equal access to one of the City's most beautiful, and inspirational open spaces?  When I see those signs, I can't help but contrast this closed-minded approach to my experiences with the monuments surrounding the National Mall (another great space with a strong connection to Dr. King), where bikes were welcome, and, in my opinion, are the best way to show out-of-towners the sights.  Shouldn't San Diego bike tourists have the same opportunity to roll from inscripton to inscription through the Promenade?

Of course, this, somewhat trivial, inequality pales in comparison to the epic struggle taken on by Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement.  It still irks me, though.  Easing that annoyance a bit, however, is the latest artistic installation to the Promenade, right in front of the Children's Museum:

Yes!  Bikes do have a place on the Promenade!  I'm a sucker for bike art (especially when it utilizes recycled bike parts), and this living installation, incorporating old rims into the Children's Museum garden, is one of my favorites.

But, what about Dr. King himself?  Did he like bikes?  Did he ride them?  Well, I set my crack research team on it, and they uncovered a 2010 Newsday photo gallery, with images of his 1967 trip through Long Island, NY. Look at how he chose to traverse Fire Island!

Even better -- check out this image of the good Doctor breaking free from the throngs!

You can only read so much into a picture, but I have often alluded to how I can feel the weight of the world melting off my shoulders as I hop on my bike to start my commute home, or head out on my Saturday morning ride.  While I can't possibly relate to or begin to comprehend the enormity of the burden carried by Dr. King, I CAN completely relate with the hint of playfulness and (dare I say) freedom displayed on his part in this picture as he appears to be leaning on the pedals to gather a head of steam.  He devoted his life to pursuing freedom and equality for all on a grand scale, but after seeing so many über-serious images of him over the years (usually surrounded by dozens, hundreds, or thousands of people), I just love this image of him capturing a moment of freedom for himself.  

I never feel more free than when I am on a bike.  I am freed from all of life's mundane worries, and even from the power of gravity itself as I defy it on my improbable two-wheeled transport that would just fall onto its side without the centrifugal force supplied by my pedaling.  As for Dr. King, the real world is still there waiting for me when I hop off the saddle, but, oh, what a joyful respite during those rolling interludes where time seems to have frozen and the laws of gravity itself have been suspended. 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

23 Miles All The Way Around The Bay Every Day . . .

I have previously mentioned that I am a dedicated bike-commuter, including a detailed explication of how my bike commuting self rose out of the fiery ashes of an '85 Chevy Celebrity:

Since that explosive beginning, I have ceded our one car to my Long-Suffering Wife (an excellent forcing-function), and commuted solely by bike.  I have done it all over the U.S. and world, with a small break in 2011 when I was in Afghanistan where biking to work just wasn't an option.  My favorite commute (bike-wise) would probably be the 14 mile (each way) journey I took every day for two years from South Alexandria to the Pentagon on the Mount Vernon Trail.  That, windy, woody, trail, that hugged the Potomac and traversed Old Town Alexandria had it all -- great scenery, twists and turns, quick climbs and descents, cool places for pit-stops, and an epic destination (The Pentagon is quite the impressive edifice and an incredibly enervating workplace).

A very close second (bike-wise, but FIRST people-wise), though, would be my current commute to and from downtown San Diego.  The day starts easily enough, as I live near the bike path that hugs the golf course, crosses underneath the Bay Bridge and takes me to the 0655 ferry each morning after 1.6 miles.  The commuter ferry is one of the best little secrets in San Diego.  Subsidized by local government, commuters ride for free up until 9 am.  We are provided a special ticket (to prove we rode before 9) that entitles us to a free ride home at the end of the day.  What a great deal!  Check out the schedule here:

Once I board, I head upstairs where I sit with the same group of hard-core riders I have been riding with (off and on through deployments and transfers) since 2001.  We talk sports, politics, bikes, home-renovations, island gossip, etc., and share the triumphs and tribulations of our lives with each other 15 minutes at a time as we start our work days together.  I feel as linked to my "ferry friends" as I do to any group I have ever served, played, worked, or lived with.  Gary and Terry, the effervescent, heart of the group, even host an annual Christmas Party for all who commute on the ferry.  Best party of the year every year!

Lately, with the incredible winter Santa-Ana conditions we have had, the morning Ferry Captain has made the ride even more fun by narrating the (spectacular) sunrise over the mountains to the east and playing Strauss' "Also sprach Zarathustra," (theme from the movie "2001: A Space Odyssey"), the first flourish of which is, appropriately, called "Sunrise."  John and Jeff join in as guest conductors and spot-on air-drummers (as Chris smirks at them).  Our buddy, Tim, would be joining in, if not for the elbow he shattered on the messed up railroad crossing on Taylor adjacent to the Old Town Transit Center (Get well, Tim!). 

After playing the flourish, he then plays a different sun-themed song every morning ("Sunshine on my Shoulder," "Walking on Sunshine," "Here Comes the Sun," etc.).  Literally, an epic way to start the day!  (And a welcome respite from the drone of the usual safety recording we have all memorized).

If it's a Thursday, then it's "Tour de Zeke" day on the ferry.  

Zeke is a uniquely Californian character on a par with Jeff Bridges' "The Dude" from "The Big Lebowski."  A tall, wiry, ageless, retiree (we think), Zeke is an avid bike rider, kayaker, amateur inventor, and outdoor adventurer who did some time in the Navy, managed a Marina, and built his own windmill (affixed to his place in IB). 

Yes, a Quixotic character who builds (vice chases) windmills!  We all look forward to Thursdays when Zeke rides up the Strand from IB to join us on the ferry before he leads his usual group of Zeke Groupies, --including his buddy Al (a retired DA), Larry (the Don of Coronado biking himself), Dan (the most conservative human outside captivity, a former USC volleyball player who occasionally bikes all the way from San Diego to the USC campus for matches, and the antithesis of Zeke), occasionally, Tim Sr. (an unbelievable endurance cyclist, estates attorney and hopeless Dodgers/USC fan) and various other guest riders -- around the bay (usually stopping for the cheapest most gut-wrenching breakfast Zeke can find).  Zeke takes a genuine, active, interest in everything we have to say, steering Thursday's 15 minutes of conversation into the oddest of places.  The best is when we can get Zeke going on his various adventures, including his atempt to bike from Santa Barbara to San Diego with nothing but raw cookie dough to fuel him.  Zeke still hasn't quite figured out why he got so violently ill along the way . . .

Once we part our ways as we depart the ferry at Broadway (site of San Diego's "Big Dig" -- a two year -so far- seemingly endless effort to install a fancy sidewalk "promenade" along a couple of blocks of Harbor Drive -- they built the entire Pentagon (world's largest low-rise office building) in a mere 17 months, yet this sidewalk has taken over two years!  Keeping it Classy San Diego!) I go off to defend truth, justice, and the American way for 9 or 12 hours or so before hopping back on the bike to traverse the entire Bayshore Bikeway ( around San Diego Bay back to Coronado.  Words can't capture the bliss I experience as the day's travails melt off with each pedal stroke Southward as I leave them behind at the office and fall into my steady cadence.  Best therapy ever!

I do this every day (unless I have some some sort of, rare, evening commitment).  My first time through San Diego, I tried doing this commute the reverse way (around the bay from Coronado to San Diego in the early morning).  I found it hard to get that commute done every day.  It required an extremely early departure, showering after the ride before work, and provided too many easy excuses for skipping it (morning meeting, hit snooze once too many times, out late the night before, etc.).  I tried doing the same upon my return (with similar results), until I had the revelation that I had no excuse to not do it each and every night.  With my little bikeists embroiled in after-school activities, there is less impetus to race home, and our Pentagon experience pretty much conditioned the family to me having a long evening bike-commute anyway.  

The only impediment to my evening commute might be the fact that I, invariably, leave work in the dark for much of the year.  However, the crucial piece of gear I picked up for navigating even darker conditions in Virginia has made this a non-issue.  After years of squinting at night at the useless beam thrown out by my AA battery fueled Cateye lights, I sprung for a NiteRider helmet light.

  • This thing, literally, turns night into day.  The lithium-ion battery is super-light (truly don't notice it) and, best of all, recharges via the USB port on my office computer.  You could, of course, mount it to your handlebar as well, but I'm just not a fan of handlebar lighting.  You'd feel the same way if you did 23 miles in the dark every night being blinded by the indiscriminate strobes mounted to the handlebars of your opposing bike-commuters.  Not only does the helmet mount give me the ability to point my beam around curves (and at any perceived obstacle) -- it also allows me to point it at the ground as I approach on-coming cyclists -- saving them from the blinding power of the NiteRider.  Put your light on your helmet people!! It's safer for you and everybody around you!

    No time to give you a turn by turn account of my nightly sojourn around the bay (that will be covered in a future post).  So, I'll leave you with an image from tonight's commute.  I actually mixed things up tonight, and broke off from the Bikeway to meet my family for fish tacos at the end of the IB pier at Tin Fish (their grilled halibut taco is second to none).   This was my view as I waited for my Long-Suffering-Wife to arrive with our little bikeists. 

    Yes!!  It's January in So-Cal, and this is where my daily commute ended -- with fish tacos to boot!!  Life is good . . .

    Monday, January 13, 2014

    Out of the Vortex . . .

    So Jet Blue finally got around to bringing my long-suffering wife and little bikeists back from New York where they had been in the clutches of the "Polar Vortex."  I'm still not, exactly, sure what a "Polar Vortex" is, but think it falls somewhere between the Abominable Snowman and the Winter Warlock when it comes to wintry menaces:

    Anyway, I was very thankful when the Vortex (and Jet Blue) ceased holding them hostage (in a cave, I think) after a week (that's seven days, folks) of canceled and re-canceled flights.  They got back Friday night, so I was not about to head out for my usual Saturday morning 60 miler (if I knew what was good for me). 

    Not about to stay entirely out of the saddle, though -- instead, I fixed a flat on the Red Cannondale, do-anything urban-assault bike, and told the bigger of my little bikeists to grab her beach cruiser and head out with me (the littler one was nursing a sore throat and head cold cast upon her by the Vortex).  I balanced her new Sector 9 "Supertubes" longboard (skateboard) on my bullhorn handlebars (sort of like how I once transported baseball bats when I was a kid) and she transported our nearly-useless Boston Terrier/Chihuahua "Benny" in her basket. 

    We headed over to the Coronado Golf Course where we picked up the bike path and pedaled to Tidelands Park (right on San Diego Bay), on a glorious, sunny, 60+ degree morning (take that Vortex!).  We had been tooling around with the longboard in our alley before the girls headed east to visit the grandparents, but the park, with its endless wide sidewalks (encircling multiple playing fields) seemed like a good place for bigger little bikeist (and me) to get a real feel for the board, and each other (I have this weird theory that doing stuff with your kids might bring about a bond of some sort -- I know, I know -- crazy, right?).

    Anyway, as it turns out, I'm pretty much a natural long-boarder (skateboardist?).  Like paddle-boarding, cross-country skiing, or (dare I say), biking, I instantly loved the smooth, steady glide I was able to achieve on the board.  We found a less-trafficked part of the park, and took turns riding back and forth (with our nearly-useless mutt looking on with his usual, mindless, indifference).  Once we felt pretty confident in our abilities to steer without falling off, we then took turns encircling the big field (I knocked out my daily burpees whilst bigger little bikeist did her laps).  I even managed to do an entire lap without stopping (getting some wry smiles from other park-goers my age who seemed somewhat amused by a grown man (overgrown boy?) learning to ride a longboard with a big, stupid grin on his face (partially due to the joy of learning a new way to get around on wheels, but mostly because that's my default look . . .).

    Once our boarding (and, in my case, burpee) muscles had enough, we hopped back onto our bikes and proceeded directly to the ferry landing for gyros by the bay (and a frappe for bigger little bikeist).  We talked about board-riding technique, and nothing else in particular (with a little awkward silence when I tried to direct the conversation toward the plan to get caught up after missing a week of school), and took advantage of the excellent people-watching available at the ferry landing. 

    Then, after scarfing down the gyros, it was back onto the bikes for the mile-and-a-half back to the Bikeist Bungalow.   All told, we pedaled three (slow miles), boarded three laps around the park (with burpees sprinkled in), and burned a little more energy romping around with the mutt.  Not exactly a 60 miler, or a Strava-worthy workout, but more rewarding on so many levels.  Yes -- we are The Bikeists, and bikes (and, sometimes, boards) are our bond! 

    Thursday, January 9, 2014

    Cue Please!!

    A few posts ago, I promised to provide a review on the very thoughtful Christmas present I received from my little Bikeists:

    Made by Topeak, the same guys who make my awesome mini-pump (I promise, I'm not on the payroll! -- but, maybe I should be . . .), this handle-bar mount "dry-bag" fits my new iPhone 5s like a glove.  It's a cinch to install, and is easily removed from the handlebar bracket with an effortless press and a slide.  It solves the problem posed by so many other smart-phone mounts, in that they expose your invaluable portable computing device to the elements.  This is a true dry-bag, that easily seals like a zip-lock, but allows you to use the touch screen through the case itself.

    So, now that I have found the perfect mount for my beloved iPhone, what to do with it?  Watch a movie while riding?  Definitely not going to use it to play music (don't get me started -- that topic will require an entire post of it's own).  The obvious use would be to turn the iPhone into the ultimate bike computer - displaying real-time data to enhance your biking performance.  The problem, though, is that doing so requires one to set the display so that it doesn't go to sleep and keep the phone in constant GPS mode.  Even with my brand new iPhone's enhanced battery power, my first ride with the iPhone running the Strava app the entire time allowed me only about 2.5 hours of use.  Good for some rides, but not for a day in the saddle.  Also disappointing was that Strava (which captures all sorts of amazing data whilst you ride (average speed, elevation change, segment speeds, and even produces a map of the ride), does not display real-time speed, elevation or grade.  It's a great app to turn on and then leave your phone in non-display mode, but didn't make much of a bike-computer.  My Cateye, which only requires a battery change about every 1.5 years or so, provides better real-time information, while never running out of juice.

    Have to admit, though, that none of this came as a surprise.  I did not envision my iPhone replacing devices designed specifically to act as bike computers.  It's interesting to see what bike-computer apps can do (and I'll continue to test others out), but I think the real potential offered by mounted smart-phones is navigation.  For ages, we bikeists have been forced to cram maps and cue sheets into our pockets (where they oft get saturated to the point of uselessness), into saddle or tube-mounted bags where we have to constantly stop to pull them out, or in unwieldy handle-bar cases that can only show us one page at a time (inadequate for long rides through unfamiliar environs).  The smart-phone, with it's ability to display a map which follows us as we go, or display a cue-sheet that scrolls, provides an easy solution to the inadequate analog methods we have all used previously.  While simply having Google Maps available at my fingertips might be enough, I am on a quest to find the best bike-app to seamlessly guide me though a long ride through unfamiliar territory.  The goal is to find the perfect app before I tackle the Oregon coast next summer.  Until then, I'm open to suggestions ("cues" if you please) from my loyal readers . . .

    In the meantime, though, a team of developers may have actually come up with a computerized device that does exactly what I'm looking for:

    I can't vouch for the "Hammerhead" because I don't have one (yet), but have to admit that I'm extremely intrigued.  I love the simplicity of the concept, though.  You pre-program it (I assume by USB link to your computer) to follow the route of your choice.  You then head out (without the need of an internet connection) and it uses GPS to give you silent cues at every intersection whether to go left, right, or straight.  Rather than pulling to the curb to study your map or cue sheet (or messing with your phone to figure out where you are and the best way to get where you want to go), you just keep on rolling.  Sweet.  While I have accepted map and cue-sheet consultation to be a necessary evil of bike trekking, I love the notion of having a trustworthy device that accurately cues me as I go to follow the route I have already studied or designed before heading out.

    Hammerhead designers, if you're looking for someone to beta test your device, I'm available!  Call (or text) me!

    Monday, January 6, 2014

    More on Bikes and Resolutions . . .

    Hope you are all doing your burpees out there, fellow bikeists.  No kidding, squeeze 30 burpees into each ride (stop 3 times and knock out 10) and you will become an unstoppable fitness machine!  My buddy (and fitness guru), Marc, ran an entire half-marathon in well under two hours with no actual run training.  He relied, exclusively on burpees and short (but intense) cross-fit workouts.  

    Beyond the obvious strength benefits, I have found it to be a great way to loosen up the kinks from all the muscles that are tensed, yet unused, whilst gripping the handlebars for dear life for hours and hours at a time.

    Enough about burpees, though.  I'm not the Burpee-ist  -- I'm the Bikeist (and proud of it).  It's especially important to be the Bikeist this time of year because there is a large segment of our population who have resolved to dust off their bikes and start riding them again in a fervor of New Year's excitement and optimism.  Unfortunately, too many of these folks just pull their bikes down from wherever they were left hanging and start pedaling without so much as testing whether the tires were actually properly inflated.  Once their bike fails, they quickly lose their enthusiasm, dejectedly walking their bikes back to the garages from whence they came.  These are the folks the Bikeist invariably encounters during the first days of January as he does his ritual commute around San Diego Bay, back to Coronado. 

    Friday afternoon (after I actually left work during daylight for once because things are still slow), I actually came across not only one, but two such lost bikeist souls.  I encountered the first resolutionist just as I made the turn Northward on the Bikeway onto the Strand.  She was straddling her fitness bike, with child seat and whining two-year-old attached, on the side of the trail as an older gentleman was trying to pump up her back tire with his mini-pump.  Having suffered through more than a half-dozen inadequate mini-pumps over the years, I guessed that this gentlemen was not having much luck (the pained, fatigued look on his face was also a hint).  I offered the, obligatory "need anything?" (bikeists always help other bikeists in need) as I approached, and got only the same, pained, look in return.  So, I slowed and asked "how about a pump that actually works?"  He smiled and waved to me to stop.

    He told me that he was getting nowhere with the mini-pump he had dropped a good amount of change for, and I told him I was not surprised, as, until I had acquired my current pump, I had never encountered a mini-pump that could put out even half the psi advertised on the packaging.  If there is any bigger source of false advertising in the bike accessory business than the capacity of mini and micro pumps then I would love for someone to bring it to my attention, so I could devote my next blog post to it.  I don't think it's possible, though, because it took me a good twenty years of trial and (almost completely) error to get a portable pump that actually worked.

    For years and years, I carried inadequate pumps, expecting only to get my tires up to about half-capacity -- enabling me to get home or to a bike shop with a real pump.  Even more maddening, though, was that these pumps required so much effort and torque that it was almost a miracle for me to inflate a patched tire to half capacity without snapping off the valve.  I am not a profane man, but I'm sure I put the "Old Man" from "A Christmas Story" (the second best movie of all time after "The Bad News Bears") to shame when I once snapped off a valve on the side of the Mount Vernon Trail in the midst of freezing rain one February. 

    All of this was solved, though, my Bikeist friends, when I bothered to ask my, genuine bike expert friend, Chris (he owned a high-end shop people!) what pump I should use.  He did not blink or hesitate in telling me to go out and get a Topeak Road-Morph immediately:

    This thing is, quite simply, awesome!  By adding a small tube, extending from the frame, they eliminated the torque issue.  You can torque the hell out of the frame without stressing the point of contact between the nozzle and the valve.  Additionally, there is a psi gauge built right into the nozzle!  I can't tell you how frustrated I have been in the past using mini-pumps and having to guess at whether I've reached a useful psi.  This gauge, along with pump itself is a God-send!

    Best of all,  I can easily top 100 psi with my road morph and have even reached 120 psi.  That isn't limp-home pressure, that's ride all day psi my friends!

    So, back to my story -- the gentlemen I relieved on the Strand was amazed at how easily I pumped the young lady's tires (they had both been at about 20) up to the max 80 psi.  She had set out with her toddler for a New Year's resolution ride without checking the pressure, and had resigned herself to pushing the bike home when she was about two miles from her house in IB.  Both she and the other (attempted) rescuer were so thrilled with the performance of my pump that they insisted I spell out the name so they could text it to themselves.  

    Good deed done, I hopped back onto my do-anything, urban assault bike (ironically, my road bike was at home with a flat) and continued my journey Northward.  After about only a mile, I came across Jay, who was pushing his Nashbar mountain bike back towards IB.  Again, I offered the, obligatory, "need anything?"  Jay feigned his commitment to push the bike all the way home, but gave into my insistence that it would be much better to pedal back.  Jay, the owner of no fewer than six bikes (between here and Alaska), and an experienced bike adventurer, had decided to take down his old Nashbar, titanium framed, bike and take it for a spin.  He bought it in the 90's, and that might have been the last time he had changed the tube from how hard it was to separate the tire from the rim!  The culprit of his flat was a, nasty, 3/4 inch long staple, but he had no patch-kit or pump to contend with the situation -- despite multiple treks through Alaskan rain-forests under his belt. 

    Jay, too, was amazed at how well my Topeak pump performed after we had patched his tube.  Like my previous beneficiaries, he vowed to pick one up at the first opportunity.

    I headed Northward, yet again, wondering if I would make it home before dark with all the wayward souls I might encounter.  I did, but was left wondering about all the poor resolutionists out there who would be giving up new found enthusiasm for biking in the next few weeks out of sheer unpreparedness.  Biking is GREAT for expanding your horizons, but when you get beyond those horizons and experience a flat without the proper means to get back home, the bike quickly becomes more of a hindrance than a source of salvation.  The first step to combat this is to avail yourself of the awesome, almost flat-proof, tires on the market today.  More importantly, though, you need to make sure you have good tire levers, patches, and a kick-ass pump on every ride.  With the recent advances in tire and pump technology, flats aren't nearly the hindrance they used to be, but are still an omni-present challenge that every bikeist must master.  Equip yourself properly, and you will come to relish flat repair as much as the Old Man from "A Christmas Story" did when his beloved Olds suffered an untimely flat (remember, he saved his real swearing for the furnace in the basement . . .). 

    Ride on, my friends!  Ride on . . .

    Thursday, January 2, 2014

    I Hereby Resolve . . .

    OK.  As a full-fledged member of the national media, I am not only obligated to do a "best of" piece, I also must (according to the Google disclosure I never read but clicked "accept terms" for) devote my first post of the new year to New Years' Resolutions.

    Fine.  This actually suits my purposes.  I have been meaning to bloviate a little about all-around fitness, and this presents the perfect opportunity --

    As much as I love, love, love biking, I have to admit that, alone, it is not enough to make you completely (or even adequately) fit.  Best evidence of this is probably to just look at the spandex-clad freaks who populate the professional cycling ranks.  Really -- take a close look at them.  Their arms look like pipe cleaners, and you can just about count their ribs through their jerseys:

    Never mind the image they strike when the jersey comes off --- Professional athlete or Auschwitz survivor?

    To complement the bony physique, obsessed cyclists also lose bone density in their quests to drop precious grams, resulting in osteoporosis -- no kidding!

    Face it -- as much as we love cycling, and as good a cardio and calorie burning exercise it is -- it is not enough, on its own to guarantee true fitness.  It engages a very limited muscle group, which quickly gets over-inflated, but allows much of the rest of the body to atrophy.

    Not to worry, though, my fellow bikeists!  You are not doomed to an emaciated existence.  I have a secret strategy to preventing the complete atrophy of your non-cycling muscle groups:  USE THEM!!

    As I am glad to tell anyone unfortunate enough to be within earshot of my booming voice (which pretty much covers most of San Diego County) -- life, at its most basic level, comes down to our ability to resist gravity.  At first, it's pretty easy.  Our cells divide and multiply at a rate that far exceeds the ability of gravity to hold us back for a good 25 years.  However, at that point, the tide shifts, and gravity starts to get the upper edge.  Don't kid yourself -- in the end, gravity is going to win -- it will suck all of us back into the ground from whence we came.  That doesn't mean, though, that we can't cheat gravity at every turn, and have a damn good time whilst doing so.  After 25, when we stop growing at a rate that exceeds the power of gravity to hold us back, it becomes more and more important to bolster our muscles in a way that best enables them to combat our natural, and ever-present enemy.  Every day that you can hop out of bed with no trouble at all is another day that you have defeated the indefatigable foe that is gravity.

    There are so many ways to get the upper hand on gravity:  push-ups, sit-ups, squats, lunges, jumping rope, etc..  I encourage you to do all of them.  However, as my friend and fitness guru, Marc insists, and has proven, there is only a single "exercise to rule them all."  That exercise would be the tried and true "burpee."  Developed by a dude named (you guessed it,) Royal H. Burpee, to test military recruits, it works just about every muscle in the body from head to toe.  My Air Force vet and NYPD Sergeant dad used to make us do a variant of this in our rec room called the "squat-thrust" which involved squatting, thrusting our legs out to a plank position, returning to the squat and then standing up.  Add a push-up from the plank and a jump from the return to standing and you have a burpee! 

    Marc converted me from doubter to true-believer with his "30 Day Burpee Challenge."  It consists simply of doing 30 burpees a day for 30 days.  You can break them up any way you want -- 30 sets of 1 -- 3 sets of 10 -- whatever, so long as you drop to the floor and get back up 30 times a day.  This is the sort of thing our ever-growing bodies took for granted as we hurtled toward 25.  The burpee is the ultimate gauge of our ability to resist gravity.  Master it, and you will get the upper hand on the devil that is trying to keep you glued to your seat!

    If 30 a day sounds like too much to you, then start with a single burpee, and add one a day for thirty days.  If you can't handle the "thrusting" motion at first, simply get down to the prone position and get yourself back up to standing with a "hop" at the end.  If you do this religiously, I guarantee you will see results.  Best of all - it will make you a better bikeist.  Consistently engaging all the muscle groups I neglect in the saddle has helped enormously with reducing my back and shoulder fatigue during long rides.  YES -- burpees not only help you to cheat death, they also make you a better bikeist!

    Happy New Year my fellow bikeists -- follow the resolution I have offered above, and you will have your best year in the saddle ever!