Wednesday, July 30, 2014

In Which Bikes Are "Shared"

Yeah, yeah, I know -- your friendly neighborhood Bikeist has been slacking all summer -- even missing a post entirely on Monday.  Not due to laziness, though, I was on the road -- DC and Richmond, so there was no time to post.  And, as you all know, there's been all the tumult -- changing houses, changing jobs, changing saddles, and, now, changing bikes after discovering a hairline fracture in the frame of my Secteur.  This whole summer has been totally out of whack -- no rhythm, no routine, no Bikeist!  (Although, there were still some pretty darned good posts mixed in despite the chaos.)

Hopefully, that's all about to change.  Holland's Bikes called to let me know my new frame will be here this week, so I will soon be back on a brand new Secteur!  Woo-hoo!  Once they get it assembled, and I'm back on a creak-free saddle, I'm hopeful that my world will return to its previous state of orderliness. 

Speaking of DC, though, it was not a completely bikeless experience.  In fact, it  provided me with my first opportunity to try a U.S. Bike "Share" program.  I put "Share" in quotes because I don't see what's so "sharing" about requiring me to pay to use a clunky, 1,000 pound bike. The fact that I had to swipe a credit card  and pay $7 to purchase a 24 hour "membership" and was then charged an additional $14 for my two hour ride hardly seemed in the sharing spirit -- fleecing was a little more like it.  For almost the same price, I was able to get a Specialized Allez for a full day from Uni Bikes when I visited Boulder last fall.

Granted, the first 30 minutes of every trip taken during the "membership" period is free, but 30 minute intervals are not conducive to touring the sites in DC.  I guess, if I was savvy enough, I could have turned in a bike every 29 minutes and then taken another one -- but what a hassle that would have been!

Anyway, despite my gripes, from all appearances, Capital Bike "Share" is working swimmingly.  I saw Bike "Share" bikes everywhere I went around town, and was amazed at how many of the "docks" were empty.  It's a much better deal for locals who purchase real memberships and keep their trips short.  Seems that many DC-dwellers have incorporated these bikes into their routines and lifestyles (although, it's hard for me to understand why anybody who rides regularly wouldn't just get their own bike rather than pay to ride a Bike "Share" clunker).

As for the experience itself, it wasn't as bad as I had expected (hell, even if it was a poor excuse for one, it still was a bike -- and you all know how I feel about bikes).  The dock was easy to figure out, so it took me less than 2 minutes to become a 24 hour "member" and "share" $7 via credit card so that our nation's Capital could, in turn, "share" one of its bikes with me.

After punching the code given to me by the machine into the dock holding my bike, it was freed.  I adjusted the saddle (which was extremely simple thanks to the good quick release) and practiced a little bit on the sidewalk before heading off.  Another nice feature of the bike was that it comes equipped with front and rear lights that blink continuously while the bike is operated.

The goal of my ride was to check out the Metropolitan Branch Trail that heads all the way out to Silver Spring from Union Station.  So, from the Whole Foods on 22nd, I made my way over to the Mall where I followed Constitution up to the Station, discovering these cool statues along the way:

There, I circled around back where I found the trail entrance which led me up to an elevated path that paralleled the Metro Line.  The path was in good shape, using what seems to have been a Metro access road.  I especially liked this mural I encountered after the first couple of miles:

 I followed the trail out to Catholic University where I climbed a decent-sized hill before turning around, just to see what climbing would be like on one of these behemoths.  I don't recommend it.  I made it to the top, but it took every fiber of my being to keep those wheels spinning.  My reward, though, was an exciting descent back down the hill on a bike I wasn't sure I'd be able to stop if necessary.  The brakes really sucked, so I  just let it fly -- the difference between descending on this bike and my road bike is comparable to the difference between riding a smooth, modern, steel roller-coaster and an old-fashioned wooden one.  The new one is faster, but the old one can be even more exhilirating.

One of the nice aspects of Bike "Share" is that you can return the bike to any docking station, so, rather than retracing my path, I abandoned the trail half-way back to its entrance and followed surface streets back to my hotel -- using streets with well-marked bike lanes and even one of DC's new "bike-tracks" when I got to M Street:

I loved these!  They're appearing all over the city, creating a meaningful buffer between cars and bikes.  Local news outlets are reporting that bike ridership is up, and I could instantly see why.  When you can use dedicated lanes this safe in the busiest parts of the city, people who would otherwise not bike will be drawn out.  My hotel was on M Street, and I witnessed a constant stream of bikes heading to and from Georgetown through the bike-tracks -- something I never saw when I lived there five years ago.  It reminded me more of Copenhagen than the DC I remembered.

I've always said that DC is surprisingly bike-friendly thanks to the suburban bike paths that lead to it like the spokes of a wheel.  But, with this kind of bike infrastructure taking root in the heart of the city, it seems that our Capital is truly taking a leadership position when it comes to bikeability.  Nice.

Now, if they could just put some real bikes in those docks . . .

Monday, July 21, 2014

Taking The Bait

Just when you think all is wrong in the world - violent conflicts, biblical weather patterns, civil unrest, and the Padres just keep on sucking -- but then, a story comes along that puts a big smile on your face.  For me, that story came today when I learned on ( that Coronado's "bait-bike" program had nabbed four bike thieves.

What is a "bait-bike" you ask?  Well, I'll tell you -- it's a bike planted by the police department with a hidden GPS tracking device inside it.  When the thieves head off with the bike, the cops are alerted and can catch the culprits within minutes of their heinous, callous act.

How great is that?  Bike thieves have operated with near impunity on Coronado since I first arrived here in 2001.  Such a difficult crime to investigate.  This technology may, finally , turn the tide.

In this case, the police caught four people in a truck in possession of one of the bike they had planted.  I just hope that they used an expensive road bike so that these low-lives can be charged witj a felony.  

Even better is that the PD named the dirt-bags:

1- Nicholas Donahue (03/02/1980)
2-Martha Donahue aka Tracy Kern (06/02/1978)
3- Matthew Ward (05/12/1982)
4- Judith Johnson (08/30/1959)

I just wish that they did what they do in San Francisco and posted their pics as well -- these fools deserve public shaming and we deserve to know who the thieves are in our midst.

The next step in our technological battle with bike thieves will have to be private citizens installing GPS trackers on their own bikes.  Looks like there are a few already on the market, but I haven't found any reviews yet as to which are the best.  There are few things more frustrating than having a bike stolen (as I know, all too well from personal experience -- but, I can hardly imagine anything more satsifying than being around as the cops cuff the perp who rode off with my bike.  Oh, if only!  I'd almost be tempted to leave it unlocked just for the chance at such pure joy.

So low-life thieves, which one of these is the bait-bike?  Hmm, I wonder.  Feeling lucky, punk?

Friday, July 18, 2014

In Memorium

Born:  September 2012
Deceased:  July 2014

Rest in Peace faithful, although brittle, 2013 model Specialized Secteur Triple.  You served me well over thousands of miles, including massive chunks of the California coast and nightly commutes all the way around San Diego Bay.  Your sudden demise due to a hairline crack discovered beneath the weld adjacent to the seatpost came as a shock to all -- except those who had speculated your incessant creaking was from just such a crack.

The Secteur leaves behind a Bikeist and a garage full of old bikes that will have to press on to fill the huge gap left by this sudden loss, at least until Specialized supplies a replacement frame in accordance with its renowned lifetime frame warranty.

Condolences can be left via comments to this blog post.  Gifts may be forwarded care of The San Diego Reader.  Otherwise, please give the family space to grieve during this dire, mournful time . . .

Monday, July 14, 2014

Riders Fall And There Goes "Boom"

How does the old saying go?  "The squeaky wheel gets the grease?"  Well, what about the squeaky saddle?

I know you have all been sitting on pins and needles waiting to see if my secret mechanic solved the squeaking problem that two new saddles, a new seat post, and multiple bike shops could not.  Spoiler alert:  he didn't . . .

Sure, it sounded great for the first several miles after I left the shop and the thirty or so I did on Friday, but when I branched off from the pack as I began to head north from IB on our club-ride this Saturday -- there it was again!  Slightly quieter, but that same, rhythmic squeak that has haunted my being for about a month now.  I know, I know -- you're all as sick of it as much as I am now.  I need to, somehow, move past it, but it's just this enormous, insurmountable barrier that has stunted my ability to suck any enjoyment, at all, out of biking -- except, of course, for last Wednesday!

As previously alluded to, last Wednesday's airing of Stage 5 of Le Tour may be the most compelling thing I have ever witnessed on a television screen.  Don't get me wrong, I take no pleasure in other people getting injured, but the sheer drama and spectacle of watching world class "athletes" randomly and frequently tumble off their bikes was just so gripping.  One second, they're all moving along just fine and the next, the Tour leader is down, again, and out!  Hmm, Team Sky, how are you feeling these days about leaving Bradley Wiggins out of the Tour? 

Great decision there, mates.  Were you buying too much into the "science" that suggests that the prettier cyclists are more successful?  (  Yeah, we all now he's pretty ugly, but he was having a great Spring, including his performance on the very course that did in your team leader on Stage 5!  Brilliant!

As a mountain biker at heart and a (hard-core) bike-commuter I guess the real pleasure I took from Stage 5 was watching professionals fail (miserably) in conditions I know I could navigate.  I will never (ever) be able to even approximate their miraculous speed or unworldly (even when unenhanced) climbing ability, but I sure can bike in shitty conditions!  Connecticut winters, DC winters, SYRACUSE WINTERS!  Mud, torrential rain, European cobblestones, ruts, pot-holes, etc., all whilst trying to avoid road-raged commuters in multi-ton vehicles bent on my destruction, all made Stage 5 look like a cake-walk from my perspective.  If there is one skill that I have that could be rated as professional-grade, it would have to be my ability to not fall down.  Just read my bikeography people (go ahead, I dare you) -- my bikes have been like appendages to me my entire life.  In fact, I sometimes feel more balanced and at ease on two wheels than I do on two feet.  That was not the case for oh so many riders last Wednesday, though!

What I truly found, compelling, though, was the skill displayed by the riders who managed to keep their balance in such harrowing conditions.  No surprise then, that the stage winner, Dutch-man, Lars Boom (what a name!) was a former junior cyclo-cross champion:

Look at that man!  Covered in grit and muck!  That's no priss -- that's a saddled bike warrior people!

It was so disappointing to listen to the whiners after the race complaining that they never should have included the Roubaix course on Le Tour.  Give me a break.  This is supposed to be the most, elite, most grueling, bike race in the world.  Shouldn't it test all cycling skills and not just time-trialing and climbing?  Bike handling almost looked like a lost art on Stage 5, except to the skilled riders who still do the Spring Classics.  Those classics are legit, professional races, and have every bit a place in Le Tour as Alp d'Huez.  Is it too bad that some favorites were done in by Stage 5?  I guess so.  But, that is part of what enhanced the high drama of the Stage.  So much better than watching hundreds of riders cruise along on flat, pristine, asphalt with no contenders making a move due to the impossibility, and wasted energy, of trying to drop the peloton on a flat course.  This was pure sport.

Next year, the whiners might consider training on cobbles and properly strategizing the best tires for conquering them -- assuming the organizers have enough spine to stick to their guns and incorporate some more cobbly stages. 

Finally, the #1 bestest thing about cobblestones -- no amount of steroids will ever help a rider to master them.  Pain-killers, maybe, but not 'roids!

Oh, and if you want to get a feel for what it would be like to ride Stage 5 yourself (as the Bikeist would have, undoubtedly done it!) check this awesome, first-person video out: 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Cobblestone Madness!

I fully intended to draft a substantive post this evening, but I'm too engrossed watching the best stage of Le Tour EVER!!!  The combination of rain and multiple cobblestone segments has turned Stage 5 into one of the most spectacular sporting debacles (behind yesterday's  Brazil implosion, of course) ever!  Tune in next week for complete, expert, analysis on why prima donnas on $10,000 bikes fall down in conditions bikeist commuters successfully navigate on a daily basis:

Awesome . . .

Monday, July 7, 2014

Still Squeaking

From a biking perspective, this has already been one of my weirdest summers ever.  Whereas I would normally have put in a thousand or so miles by now, I've been in a sort of bike limbo the past couple of months.  Don't get me wrong, I'm still in the saddle just about every day (the beauty of living a bike-commuter, one car lifestyle)  but nature and the powers that be just seem to be conspiring to keep me from racking up my typical summertime mega-mileage.  

Whether the move in May, the job change in June, or my littlest Bikeist's hospitalizations (she's doing great, by the way, almost fully recovered), life just keeps on happening to me.  Then, as you loyal readers already know, just as it felt like I was coming out of the other side of the tunnel, my saddle began squeaking to the point of distraction (for me and anybody unlucky enough to fall in next to me on our Saturday morning club ride).  As previously discussed, after endless attempts to eliminate the squeak through adjustments, oiling, voo-doo, etc., I concluded that the only reasonable solution was to buy a very expensive, solidly constructed, leather saddle.  The Selle Anatomica X got the nod, based upon the opinions of several Crown City Cyclists, some who ride it, and some who noticed it as the sadle of choice for Race Across America (RAAM) competitors.

So, I reached out to Selle Anatomica, which happens to be a San Diego company (how about that?!), and shamelessly begged for a free saddle based upon my prominent stature in the San Diego biking community.  After a little initial confusion ("the bike what?" -- "bikelist?"), they were so blown away by the opportunity to have a bonafide bike celebrity test their product that they offered to sell me the saddle at cost (same as they do for employees).  Score one for the Bikeist!  This blog hasn't made me rich yet, but we're getting there --

In a mere two days, I had a (gorgeous) Selle Anatomica X saddle in my possession:

So pretty!

It happened to arrive on a Friday, so, there I was Friday night, in the garage, carefully installing it to just the right position, with just enough tension (via the easy to adjust tension bolt under the nose) so it would be ready to go as I ser out with my club the next morning.  My minimal testing in the parking lot across from my house led me to believe that the squeak had finally been defeated.  But, much to my horror, as we started to get up to cruising speed on the Strand, south of the Naval Amphibious Base, the dude next to me asked what the deal was with my squeak.  I think I had been in denial up to that point (especially since the saddle, as advertised, was uber-comfortable right out of the box).  But, his observation burst my bubble instantly, and I quickly realized that the rhythmic eee-aww, eee-aww, eee-aww, was as bad as (or worse than) ever!


This, at least, confirmed for me that the issue was not with the saddle, but something else.  The hardware attaching the saddle?  The (brand new carbon) seat post?  A crack in the frame?  Thus, it was time to pull out the big gun -- had to go off-island and employ my secret-weapon bike-mechanic -- the guy who, through trial and error, always seems to be able to solve problems beyond the ken of mere mortal mechanics.  Drawback is that he can't just drop everything for my issues, so I had to leave my bike with him for the entirety of the holiday weekend.  I wound up doing some fun, shorter, rides on the (squeak-free) Urban Assault Bike during my 96 hours of liberty, but missed out on the several hundred I usually do 4th of July week. 

It'll all be worth it if my mechanic gets the squeak out.  Even if he can't, I really couldn't conceive of biking another mile with that incessant, grating, squeak shooting through my brain like a spike.  If he can't solve it, I'm just getting a new bike -- can't take this anymore!

I'll leave you all with a little piece of serenity from this morning's ride up to Cabrillo National Monument.  In the meantime, please pray for my bike . . .  

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Where Is The Bikeist?

Sorry Bikeist fans, couldn't post this Monday as I'm at the Spina Bifida Association Conference at Disneyland with my little bikeists and long-suffering-wife.  Interestingly, I have spotted many types of bikes at use within the park, from trikes used by maintenance workers, to the one used by these guys:


3rd of July
Watching baseball
On the sleeping porch
With the dog