Thursday, August 28, 2014

Oh Robin, We Hardly Knew Ye . . .

All right already people!  Some entire countries (and certain Congresses that shall remain nameless) take all of August off.  A poor bikeist takes a couple of measly posts off and you'd think the world was coming to an end.  Well, based upon the non-bike-related news out there, it seems like it might just be, but let's get a grip -- The Bikeist has been recharging his batteries a bit this month, but is not going anywhere.  That's right adoring public -- you're stuck with me.

That said, it was still a pretty productive month -- with two of my most popular posts ever ("Patches" and "Tour de Zeke") (figuratively) going to press, and with The San Diego Reader even literally publishing the former:  "No Patch For You" (on a real printing press even!).

As I have alluded, world-wise, it's been a pretty crazy August -- so much high-profile volatility on constant display.  And, to only make things much worse, in the middle of all the tumult, we lost someone who practically defined joy and kindness to millions.  I knew Robin Williams' passing was huge the second I saw an article announcing his death pop into my Twitter feed.  However, I'm not sure anybody could have predicted the overwhelming world-wide out-pouring that followed.  I have never seen anything (aside from 9/11 and the O.J. chase and trial) dominate the internet, all media, and the public's consciousness the way this story did.  Of course, I wasn't alive for the assassinations of JFK and MLK, though, but neither was the internet. There were, of course a (very) few trolls out there who questioned all the attention and grief over the loss of a "mere" actor.  But, that's what trolls do, right?  They're nothing if they are not being contrarians (well, they're nothing, anyway), and what could possibly be more contrary than spitting on the corpse of someone who was so universally revered?  How could anybody question the importance of a figure so well-known and who brought sheer joy to billions?  Presidents last, at most, eight years (even though Bubba just doesn't seem to ever go away, does he?).  Great Generals and Admirals serve, nobly, for decades, but really only enter the public consciousness for a short while at the very end of their careers, when they get those third and fourth stars.  Even the greatest athletes last about 10 to 15 years.  Robin Williams has been making us laugh out loud and kept us transfixed to screens large and small since the 1970's!  A true, working actor (and Julliard trained at that), he was a constant presence in films, on tv shows, and, especially on the late-night tv talk-show circuit.  He transcended categorization and appealed to all demographics.  His humor spanned the lowest of low-brow (fart and potty jokes), to rapid-fire, cerebral references to history, current events, and popular culture woven into manic, seemingly improvised, stream-of-consciousness soliloquies that took your (and even his) breath away.  He could be the zany, sit-com alien, Mork, who appealed to children and adults alike, while still possessing the discipline and acting genius to garner multiple Academy Award nominations and an Oscar for his role in Good Will Hunting.  He could (and did) connect with anybody, regardless of their background or sensibilities.  So, I guess it kind of makes sense that the world was rocked to a halt by the passing of this incredible man.  We all felt like we knew him -- his ubiquity and the profound way in which he moved us (particularly through uncontrollable laughter) forged unique sort of intimacy that goes beyond the ordinary connection we make with most (all?) other public figures.

Of course, as it turned out, we didn't really know him at all, did we?  The funniest man who ever lived was also the saddest.  There were hints, of course.  Anybody who has ever been around mania, knows that for all the up, up, up, there's an inevitable crash to balance it all out.  Those of us who followed Robin Williams' career more than casually were aware that he had battled substance abuse and periods of depression.  These folks are always at risk.  Even when they seem to have gotten a handle on their demons, they are always a drink, fix, or episode away from potential self-destruction.

Another thing that was not well-know to casual fans was that Robin absolutely loved bikes and biking (sound like anybody we know?), owning "more bikes than [he] could count" and riding at any and all opportunities.

Again, not a surprise to me as, from what I have seen and read, intense exercise regimens are one of the absolute best ways to fight addiction and/or depression.  Look at Robert Downey Jr. for a fine living example to support the research that has indicated that endurance exercise creates pleasurable dopamine-like reactions in the human brain (runner's high anyone?) akin to the affects of drug use.  Thus, when somebody says they are "addicted" to biking, they are being more literal than you might think.

As Williams himself put it: 

"My favorite thing to do is ride a bicycle. I ride road bikes. And for me, it's mobile meditation."
In other interviews he gave direct credit to biking helping him to kick cocaine.

 In one of my favorites, embedded below, from just a year ago, Jon Stewart absolutely gushes about how great Robin looks, with the actor giving full credit to biking.  Even better, he gives his own hilarious (of course) take on New York City's bikeshare program.  Imagine if he had started his own bike blog -- it might have been even bigger than this one!  (But, that's really not possible, though, is it?)

This is how I'd like to remember Robin Williams -- happy, healthy, free-spirited, and, of course, crazy about bikes --

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Bikeist on Vacation

In case you were wondering (how could you not be?), the Bikeist has been absent due to a spontaneous mini-vacation to capture the last bit of summer break before the little bikeists head back to school -- camping on Catalina Island.

Long-suffering wife to Bikeist as we set out:  "You're not planning on renting a Mountain Bike and disappearing on this trip are you?"

Bikeist:  "Umm, err, no -- hadn't even considered it . . . "

Images flashing through the Bikeist's brain as he stammered out his response :

Oh well -- I love my family even more than my bikes (so that's a lot!) -- probably good to vacate the bike along with everything else for a few days --

R.I.P. Robin Williams, Bikeist

Here, we will pause and offer a couple of days of web silence in honor of Robin Williams, a true Bikeist in every sense --

More on Robin and biking to come . . .

Thursday, August 7, 2014

"Tour de Zeke"

It is an extremely happy Bikeist who is typing this post for your reading enjoyment this Thursday evening.  Gone is the defeated, humiliated, rider who was stranded and shunned by cyclist after cyclist (yes, I do mean "cyclist" in the perjorative sense) on Saturday.  In his place is the triumphant rider who, finally, got his new frame on Tuesday!  Woo-hoo!

Big thanks to Tyler at Holland's Bicycles for getting Specialized to honor its lifetime frame warranty, and to Martin for stripping my cracked frame and expertly re-assembling my new one.  Try getting an on-line bike store to do that for you fellow bikeists!  Not going to happen . . .

The bike is gorgeous - not my signature, black, but silver with black racing stripes, so, close enough.  Even better is that it's an upgrade -- Specialized didn't have my exact frame, so they sent an "Elite" model instead, which has internal brake cables and "Zertz," vibration-dampening, inserts in the seat-stays (as well as in the carbon fork).  Very nice.

Best of all -- the creak is gone people!  So good to ride in blissful silence --

I took her for a quick spin Tuesday evening, right after picking her up, and did IB and back on Wednesday to see what she had (plenty), but the real Christening, for both me and the bike was this morning when we both did our very first "Tour de Zeke."

Zeke was first introduced to the San Diego, national, and international biking public via one of my most widely read blog-posts ever (  As detailed there, Zeke is a San Diego treasure -- a true renaissance man with an insatiable curiosity and a passion for bikes and biking.

I met Zeke as I have met so many of my local friends -- while commuting on the ferry to downtown starting back in 2001. He was on the ferry (and still is) every Tuesday and Thursday morning.  He was drawn into our circle of regular ferry-riders by his buddy, Al, a DA at the time, who consistently plays "Bert" to Zeke's "Ernie" (or Abbott to his Costello as the case may be).  While we were all heading off too work, Zeke, of course, was not.  He spent his Tuesday and Thursday mornings making his way around the bay at his own, particular, pace (to the beat of his extremely unique drum) while we all went off to change and/or save the world from the comfort of our offices.   There have been so many days that I wished I could just forego the office and follow Zeke around the bay instead.

Al, I'm sure felt the same way, but did something about it.  Already qualified for a 100% retirement, he stopped providing essentially volunteer prosecutorial services and officially retired to devote himself to adventure kayaking and some biking.  Thus, on Thursdays, we commuters had both Zeke and Al to look forward to as they brought their comedy routine on board before launching off on what we dubbed, of course, the "Tour de Zeke."  To our great amusement, Al, to this day, grouses over the greasy spoons and retirement centers that Zeke insists on dragging him to for breakfast each time they ride while Zeke prods him by asking him and the group seemingly naive questions about current events and the state of the world at large.  Great fun to witness their act in person!

Zeke and Al have been keeping their Thursday ride going for a good decade now, picking up a few groupies along the way such as Larry, the "Don" of Coronado biking, and Dan, the world's most conservative human outside captivity, whose existence can be attributed to nature demanding that someone like Zeke have a complete antithesis in order to maintain some sort of cosmic equilibrium.

Missing my ferry friends now that I'm working on the "island," and with the excuse of needing to Christen my new frame, I finally did what I've been threatening to do for so many years, and decided to go into work a little late and get my daily PT in by actually doing the Tour de Zeke.  So, rather than bike down the street to my office, I headed to the ferry landing where I found Zeke holding court with his usual groupies.  We all boarded together and had a fine conversation with the king and queen of the ferry, Terry and Gary, and Jeff (of Howie Wowie Bike Tours fame) about the 3rd and 4th Street "Traffic Calming Workshop" - a true "only in Coronado" type of event.  How much calmer can we make streets that are filled with cars that have to crawl on and off the base during rush hour due to congestion?  Hard to get much calmer than a standstill.  Zeke seemed enraptured by the entire conversation and controversy . . .

Once we hit the San Diego side, we disembarked, clicked in, and immediately began pedaling south.  Having done this ride so many times after work by myself, it was really nice to do it in the company of friends - especially in lieu of heading straight to the office.  The conversation continued as we rolled (at a non-breakneck pace) and discussed matters such as bike infrastructure, graffiti, and the ridiculous rent-a-cops at Seaport Village who try to accost bikes that ride through there -- even early in the morning when the shops are closed and there are no customers.  When we got to the site of the demolished Chula Vista power plant, Zeke lamented its demise, opining that the structure should have been converted to low-cost housing and the rest of the property left open for people to erect makeshift shelters wherever they pleased.  Dan pointed out that TJ had already unsuccessfully tried a similar housing experiment  on its hillsides.

We pedaled on, and Zeke made sure to dutifully fulfill his role as tour guide by pointing out obscure things along the way that even a regular bay circumnavigator like myself had missed -- such as the monument to the moron who killed himself by racing his motorcycle down the bike path on the berm in IB in the wee hours of the morning, and crashing into a ditch.  Never noticed that before!

Before we knew it, we were in IB and passing Zeke's place (always easy to spot thanks to the big, home-made windmill on top) on the way to Dos Panchos taco stand, where Al always complains about how wretched the food is (it's not) before inhaling a breakfast burrito along with everyone else.  We were met here by two other Crown City riders and, of course, Zeke groupies.

After breakfast, it was back to the bikes as Zeke headed back down the street to his windmill and we headed back north to the real world.  Again, great to have company as we traversed the Strand. Riding in a group, we seemed to make it back to Coronado in no time at all, branching off where the Strand meets Orange Avenue and melting back into the populace and the non-biking portion of our lives.

I quickly showered and biked (of course) to my office, which somehow survived the early morning without my glorious presence.  As the day proceeded, though, I almost began to doubt whether I had really been out there on Zeke's tour this morning -- it all seemed so dream-like -- probably because I've been saying I'd do it for thirteen years now and can hardly believe I finally did. 

Can't wait to do it again . . .

Monday, August 4, 2014

Patches? We Ain't Got No Stinking Patches!

Went to go pick up my new Secteur right after work on Friday.  Guys at the shop said it would be ready, but (to my abject disappointment) Specialized had sent the wrong brakes to go with the new frame.  Sensing my despair, my buddy Jacob (or "Bojac" which is his biking nom de guerre -- click Here to check out his website), brought the bike out from the workshop so I could have a look.  

The bike was gorgeous!  Loved the silver and black paint job, and, especially, how it looked with my new Selle Anatomica saddle with gun-metal rivets.  Even better is that this newer model had "Zertz" inserts in the seat-stays as well as the fork -- something my older Secteur didn't have.  Awesome.  The experience was bittersweet, though, like visiting a beloved relative in the hospital.  So frustrating to have to watch Bojac roll it back to the workshop. 

So, Saturday morning, it was back out on the urban assault bike for my weekly long ride.  It always garners some odd looks and curious comments from club riders who haven't seen it before, but, once I get the heavy frame going, it performs perfectly well next to its carbon fiber grand-cousins.  As usual, I branched off from the peloton when we reached IB and headed around the bay to downtown.  After my usual espresso in Little Italy, I headed north, but only made it as far as Middletown, by the former Thomas Jefferson Law School, before riding over something that simply shredded a chunk of my rear tire, causing an instant flat.  Not one of those more subtle puncture flats caused by glass or something else sharp -- the air shot violently out of the tire instantly.

Flats are normally no big deal for me -- I've repaired dozens and dozens of them on road and trail-sides, and always try to have everything I need in my saddle bag ready to go.  Thoughtlessly, like the dad in "A Christmas Story, " I sprung into action, removing my back wheel and levering the tire from the rim in no time.  

The hole in the tube was easy to spot, so, all that was left was to apply a clear, glueless, patch, reassemble and pump to get on my way.  But, when I unfolded the paper backing from the tiny "Flat Boy" case that was supposed to have my patches, I soon discovered that I had none.  I scratched and scratched at the glossy paper, hoping to find a clear (almost invisible) patch, but it turned out that I had given my last one away to someone I helped out on the Strand a couple of months ago.  Wish I had remembered that!  Damn!

Again, as an experienced rider, I wasn't too worried.  Just as I had given away most of my patches -- bike karma would surely take care of me since basic bike etiquette dictates that you always ask a stranded rider if he or she needs anything (such as a patch) as you bike past.  In fact, in all the situations where I have previously had everything I needed to make a repair, I have had to constantly turn down assistance from concerned biking brethren and sistren.  Riders are usually so good about this, that the offers become almost annoying after a while -- not Saturday, though.

Instinctively wanting to preserve some of my dignity, I didn't jump into the adjacent bike lane and start waving down riders in a fit of desperation.  Instead, I non-chalantly sat down on the bench-like area pictured above, fully expecting an offer of assistance to come shortly.  My upended, disassembled bike spoke for itself (a veritable bikeist distress signal), and couldn't be missed by riders coming from either direction.  As I was sitting down, a dude in full "kit" on a racing bike zipped by with nary a word.  "Hmm, that was odd" I thought to myself.  "Guess he was in the zone - or something."  Then the parade continued -- one rider after another, many looking directly at my bike as they pedaled by without offering anything whatsoever.  All of them had saddle-bags (where one would normally keep a patch kit).  I just sat there -- staring blankly ahead.  Actively trying to make eye contact seemed like a desperate act to me -- shouldn't have to.  So many riders in the past had shouted "need anything?" to my back as I repaired my bike myself.  

After rider number 10 blew by, I decided to share my above photo and plight with my Facebook friends, to their amusement, of course.  At least their cajoling and second-guessing kept me company as riders continued to consciously ignore me.  Not rider #11, though -- I swallowed my pride and made imploring eye contact with him as he approached.  He stopped, but didn't have a patch.  He had a French accent and was riding his friend's (very nice) Allez which had an empty saddle-bag.  As he rode off, rider 12 blew by.  Rider 13 was kind enough to at least say he had nothing to help with as #14 impatiently passed him saying nothing.  

This was beginning to feel like a social experiment.  I decided I'd just wait it out and see just how callous America's classiest city had become.  After several more mute poseurs rode by, I decided to go stand right out next to the street, leaning against a street sign where riders couldn't possibly ignore me.  That's when this guy came by:

This, Bikeist fans, is what bad bike etiquette looks like.  Notice how he specifically glances past me at my disassembled bike.   This is exactly what all his poseur friends did -- pathetic.  What is happening to our society -- or, more importantly, bike culture within that society -- especially in San Diego?  What I have always loved about this place is how open, helpful, and friendly its natives are.  Who are these self-involved schmucks on multi-thousand dollar bikes who have displaced the casual "dudes" who drew me in to SoCal as my chosen home?  They remind me much more of the riders who used to ignore me in DC when I got flats, but that was to be expected there, and, truth-be-told, a much higher percentage of those type A+++ spring-butts actually offered me assistance than did the heartless riders on San Diego Avenue on Saturday.

All told, I waited there, fruitlessly, for almost two hours before finally giving up (and, then, only because I received a text alert of a thunder-storm watch -- otherwise, I was willing to wait until dark to play out my little social experiment).  I don't mess with lightning, though (after a traumatic high school experience when the biggest dick in the world, Shop Rite manager Terry Litts, made me bring in metal shopping carts in the middle of a thunder storm at threat of losing my minimum wage after-school job) -- so, with my tail between my legs, I gave in and called my long-suffering-wife who came and "rescued" the mighty Bikeist from his desperate plight.  Over thirty riders had passed by, with a mere two even acknowledging me.  Probably just bad luck, and statistically anomalous, but it sure felt like an indictment from where I was sitting --

Oh, the shame of it all . . .