Monday, September 29, 2014

Tour de Fat Diego

Were you there this Saturday oh bikeist denizens?  The multi-various bike tribes of San Diego converged upon Golden Hill Park for this year's iteration of New Belgium Brewing Company's touring carnival, the "Tour de Fat," celebrating two of our favorite things:  bikes and beer.  And what a scene it was!

It all kicked off at 11 am as thousands of bikeists set off on a two mile, costumed, slow-motion, bike parade through Golden Hill and North Park.  Every imaginable type of bike and rider was represented:  cyclists (mostly incognito on their back-up beater bikes, but their spandex gave them away), hipsters (on fixies, of course), low-riders (complete with bike-gang style jackets), collectors (spotted at least 2 bikes dating from the 1930's), once-a-year-riders (especially the rider who managed to crash within the first 200 yards), exhibitionists, and drinkers (perhaps the largest group represented).  Bikeists all, though, for embracing the pure bike joy of the event.

Once the arduous course was completed, the kegs were tapped and the party got rolling.  Inexpensive New Belgium beer flowed, with proceeds going to support bike organizations in San Diego.  On display were various forms of bike sculptures:

-- and -- best of all -- there was the "bike corral" filled with various bike creations that anybody could take for a spin.  This one was my very favorite:

How cool is that?  It actually worked!

Loved this one as well:

I actually saw three brave (braver than me, that's for sure) souls get it going.

Add in several stages with live music, a super-competitive "slow-bike" race, and a line almost the length of the park for new release beers (this is San Diego, right?) and you have bike and beer nirvana.

Best of all, though, were the high-quality people drawn to this huge bike and beer attractive nuisance.  No surprise there, of course when you blend my favorite things:  bikes, beer, and San Diego -- all things that are associated with laid-back, cool people.  

The event was as close to perfect as can be -- my only criticism is that we have to rely upon a Colorado brewer to bring us all this bike and craft beer goodness.  You hear me Stone?  Ballast Point?  Blind Lady, isn't that a bikeist on your house brew?

Come on, San Diego brewers, this guy shouldn't have to wait a whole year to pull out this get-up again!

Kind of took the whole "fat" thing a little bit too literally, don't you think?

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Three Feet Revisited

Back by popular demand (yes, several loyal members of the fan base did, actually, demand this) -- it's the Bikeist's highly polarizing, extremely controversial post on California's notorious "Three Foot Law."  

It finally became effective this month, so I'm republishing my February post in its entirety for your edification and reading pleasure.  Any complaints should be directed at the Governor's office and not this poor, defenseless, blog.  Enjoy --


Thursday, February 6, 2014

Gimme Three Feet, Gimme Three Feet 

Mister . . .

 Have you heard the big news California bikeists?  Governor Brown signed a controversial bill into law that requires driveists to maintain a three foot buffer when passing those on bikes (effective this September).  Hurray!  Now we are 100% safe on the roads and will never get hit by a reckless, inattentive, texting, drunk, nearsighted, angry, psychotic, sleepy, or just plain lousy driver ever again!  Right?


And, I'm sure this law will pack plenty of deterrent punch to make drivers think twice about breaking that magic three foot bubble, right?  Well, um, not exactly.  The fine for coming within three feet is actually a "whopping" $35.  Really?  The fine for "jaywalking" in San Diego is $100 (and I'm still fuming over the $77 ticket I got on Broadway back in 2002).  Let me get this straight -- the person who poses no threat to anyone but themselves gets nailed for $100, but the one who comes within inches of taking out an innocent fellow human being who happens to be on a bike gets a fine that is about 1/3 that?  I'm starting to feel like the law considers us bikeists to be somewhat less than human.

And, wow -- has this new law ever  brought the hating hateists (more fully described in my "Hateists" post) out of the woodwork.  The LA Times devoted an entire column to the vitriol on display when they reported on the new law:  "Is 3 Feet Asking Too Much?".

They were also on great display in reaction to this piece broadcast on KPBS just yesterday:  "Will It Make Roads Safe Enough?"

My favorite is "Commus" who seems to think that people who ride bikes don't pay taxes, so have no right to use roadways, and offered this gem:

"The moderator is even prejudiced dragging out his sob story of being hit but no mention of his position in traffic"

This seems to imply that he deserved to get hit.  Does it get any more hateful than that folks?  No empathy for someone who actually got schwacked by a car, and an attitude that seems to say that bikes which mix with traffic are fair game.  I, generally, see more compassion displayed toward stray dogs and cats that run out randomly into traffic . . .

Anyway, while the law is not going to create a magic bubble that will make bike riders immune to the drivers around them, and lacks any real financial deterrent value -- I still, of course, support it.  Get it into the learner's permit manuals and onto driver's license tests, and, maybe, we can change a few attitudes and train drivers to be mindful of bikeists.  Not everyone has had the benefit of someone like my dad teaching them to drive - who emphasized giving bikes as much leeway as possible since you never know when they might have to swerve to avoid a danger invisible from a car.  You'd think that trying as hard as possible to not kill others who share the road would be a matter of pure common sense, but for those lacking such sense, I guess the only hope is education.

Be careful out there bikeists - keep your eyes and ears open, watch your six, and give hell to every driver who doesn't respect your statutory, God-given, thirty-six inches!

Monday, September 15, 2014

I Want My Climate Back!

Seriously, people, what's with this stinking heat?  Did a brisk, sweaty, 12 miles after work today (pausing for 30 burpees at Glorietta Bay Park), but this heat has just taken the life out of me.  Just don't feel the creative juices flowing when it gets all sultry -- makes me wonder how on earth Faulkner, Clemens, O'Connor, Marquez, etc. got it done.

Then again, I am, finally, posting on a Monday, which must count for something.  Maybe it's an acclimatization thing.  Give me a few more weeks of heat and humidity and I might just finally pop out the novel I know I have in me.  "The Bike And The Fury" perhaps?

Thanks to a forward from my loyal fan base, though, I won't leave you empty handed:

If Cars Were Treated Like Cyclists
What if city infrastructure treated cars like cyclists? This is interesting to think about.

Yeah, what if it did?  I can't tell you how many times I have been spit out into the flow of motorized traffic by suddenly disappearing bike lanes (especially in L.A.).  Bike lanes are great and all, but what's the point if they don't transport you to a logical, meaningful, destination?

Of course, many of these lanes to nowhere were laid down during the brain-dead 1970's, when everyone (especially the architects who designed toilet bowl- shaped multi-purpose stadiums and various other utilitarian concrete monstrosities) was perpetually high on something or other in order to deal with having to wear polyester leisure suits and Watergate.  At least that's how I remember it.

Finally, speaking of brain-dead and infrastructure, check out this news report attempting to display the supposed chaos created by Seattle's first protected bike lane.  

More amazing to me than the supposed confusion is that bike-progressive Seattle somehow allowed NYC and DC to beat it to installing protected bike lanes.  Wake up Seattle -- less micro-brew and more espresso people!  Seems to me that you might be starting to suffer from a little 70's style malaise . .  .

Thursday, September 11, 2014

"Like A Fish Needs A Bicycle . . ."

What is it with Mondays?  Just can't seem to get my posts in on time for my legions of fans to kick their weeks off right.  Seems that social obligations keep cropping up on Sunday nights.  At least, I was doing something useful this past Sunday evening when I should have been blogging.  Biking through downtown to meet a friend I made during my Arizona adventure, I came across this:

Not, exactly, sure why, but this windshield art really threw me for a loop.  Didn't quite know what to make of it -- equal parts amused and appalled.  It was as if my Northeast sensibilities were internally battling with my late acquired So-Cal "whatever"-ness for control of my immortal soul:

Northeast self:  "What kind of knuckle-head shells out good money to adorn their windshield with mindless profanity?"

So-Cal self:  "But, isn't this what California is all about?  Informality combined with a rejection of east coast mores and classist social constraints --

Northeast self:  "There is a line, though, between good-natured informality and pure vulgarity.  Do we really want little kids to see this coming down the street?

So-Cal:  "But, look closer!  This dude (must be a dude) has not one, but two sets of rosaries hanging above the dash along with Cartman!  Brilliant!  The self-contradictions, piety, irreverence, and exhibitionism are pure Cali, dude!  F*ck yeah!"

And so it goes on and on in my brain (and probably will forever as this reformed New Yorker settles deeper and deeper into California culture) . . .

So, there was that.

Then, yesterday, completely out of the blue, U2 (the best band to ever grace God's green earth) went and changed the world as we know it.  Unless you've been hiding under a rock somewhere, you should surely know that, unannounced, Bono, the Edge, Larry, and Adam suddenly decided to make their new album (the first in five years) available to the entire world for free.  No kidding -- the biggest band in the world and one of the greatest commercial successes ever, decided to forego the millions they could make (even with pirating) from selling their music by just giving it away instead.  If you have an iTunes account, the album is waiting there, in your "purchased" items for you to download.  Best of all, the album is awesome!  (Don't just take my word for it, check out this glowing review from the New York Times).  With a direct homage to The Ramones, hints of The Clash, and perfectionistic studio engineering reminiscent of the Beatles at the height of their powers, this FREE album provides an incredible shot in the arm to 21st Century Rock & Roll.   Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Why'd they do it?  Not sure, but my #1 guess would simply be because they can.  They don't need the revenue from music sales, and are sure to make a ton anyway when they tour.  The timing also seems very interesting to me amidst the on-going debates about whether file-sharing/piracy is killing Rock & Roll and song-writing in general.  My two cents is that free music is actually improving the music scene.  As with so many other industries, computers and the internet have torn down the economic barriers that used to keep start-ups from entering markets previously dominated by ginormous corporate entities.  Through YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, blogs, etc., (not to mention professional editing/producing capabilities available on laptops and PC's), bands no longer need a label in order to get discovered and/or develop a following.  Will they get the same benefit of previous generations of getting to live off of the royalties of songs/albums recorded decades ago for their entire lives?  Probably not.  But, like U2, they can get by as working musicians (okay, U2 is doing a little better than just "getting by") -- giving the recorded music away, but making money off of their shows and commercial endorsements.  I have no problem with this.  Why should becoming a recording artists guarantee one a life of unbridled wealth and excess anyway?  If you love making music, just do it.  Maybe you can make a living off of it, maybe not.  I almost got to the point of making a living off baseball, but the fact that I didn't is no tragedy because I simply loved playing -- just as I love riding my bike!  Money or no money, I don't see the incentive to create great music ever going away, especially since the #1 reason most males join a band is to meet girls . . .

Oh, yeah, bikes, that's right, got a little diverted there.  It's U2, though, folks and they transcend all genres and categories.  I, at least, started with a biking theme, and, that is also how I will end:

Oh, and --  ". . . this is 40!"

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Bikeist Vortex?

Why no Bikeist this past Monday?  Labor Day people!  Would have posted a place-holder to let you all know, but that would constitute "work" which I'm pretty sure is illegal on Labor Day --

Anyway, not easy to post when you're stuck in the world's longest traffic jam (or what seemed like it) all the way from Flagstaff to Phoenix along I-17.  I know, I have cited about a thousand reasons why I have only transported myself to work via bikes for 19 years, but #1 (by a long-shot) is my complete loathing of getting stuck in traffic.  My personal hell.  Oh, what I would have given for a bike!  Of course, the bike wouldn't have been quite so pleasant once I got back down to the Valley of the Sun and its toasty 112 degrees of pure fun.  Note to self:  every holiday weekend, every living soul in Phoenix (who can't afford to fly to San Diego) gets in an endless line of SUV's to crawl up the mountains to Flagstaff/Sedona on Friday night and then turns right around and starts heading back to Phoenix when they finally get there on Monday morning. 

Lucky for me, despite this torture, I still managed to fit in some amazing biking during this trip to watch my buddy Mark (yes, the same cyclist hating guy from Kansas featured in my very first post!) get promoted.  Us being in the Navy, promotions are always followed by "Wetting Down" parties -- and this one didn't disappoint -- went pretty much all weekend.  For those of you still trying to remember who Mark is, here's his unfathomably rusty cassette:

Oh, the horror!

Flying in the night before the festivities gave me ample opportunity to get up early the next morning to hit the amazing red rock trails in Sedona.  Doing a little research before-hand, I discovered the Bike & Bean, a coffee/bike shop in Oak Creek (right near Bell Rock) that rents top-shelf mountain bikes and also runs the Red Agave mountain bike "resort" across the street.  Some of the best trails in Arizona lead out from right behind the Red Agave's A-frame units.  Unfortunately for me, the Red Agave was sold out for a wedding, but the Wildflower Inn (a cheap, clean, motel with an incredible view of Bell Rock) actually shares a parking lot with the Bike & Bean.  Absolute best thing about the Inn, though, is their new basement tenant:  Famous Pizza & Beer.  As a born and certified New York pizza snob, I was dubious about the pizza (which wound up being delicious), but thought I had died and gone to heaven when I creaked in after my insufferable drive from Phoenix to discover a freshly hung chalkboard listing about 15 different craft beers on tap!  Score!  Bikes, trails, beer, pizza, gourmet coffee and a bed all co-located within walking distance of each other all for my personal enjoyment!  It must have been my own personal Sedona vortex that led me to this spot (or something like that) -- what an awesome micro-vacation within a mini-vacation!  I sat with the owner who is a huge hop-head and learned that he had just moved in that week.  The man knows his beer -- Stone, Green Flash, Dogfish Head, Ska, Great Divide, and even some Belgians were all on tap.

The next morning I woke up early to this view:

I jumped into my mountain bike shorts, dry-fit shirt, and bike shoes -- loaded my stuff in the trunk of the car, scarfed down a fresh waffle (love free hotel lobby breakfast buffets with waffle-makers -- why don't all hotels have them?), then made my way across the parking lot to the Bike & Bean just as they were opening to pick up the fully suspended Santa Cruz I had reserved the week before. 

 I was greeted by the owner (a fellow New Yorker!) who made me a perfect double espresso as I filled out the rental paperwork.  He had a map ready for me and patiently walked me through his recommended ride for the morning.  When I asked him what drew him out here from New York -- he just looked around the shop and said "this, man!"  So jealous . . .

Next, I was out the door and on the bike.  Always a little weird re-adjusting to the feel of a mountain bike -- used to be the only way I rode, but I'm predominantly a road rider these days.  After whizzing around the parking lot a few times, it was across the street and through the Red Agave's grounds to the trail head.  The trail was flat and smooth at first, but, before I knew it I was climbing some steep, rocky inclines.  The slim-shady trail was supposed to have a good pay-off, but the twists and sudden, rocky rises were a little too technical for me without a guide or more time to learn the route.  So, I redirected under the highway to the trails surrounding Bell Rock which were much more to my liking.  Mostly smooth, and fast, this is what I had come for.  The kind of trails you salivate over watching mountain biking videos. 

I almost immediately came upon a small group of Canadian dudes who had flown in to mountain bike Sedona for a full week.  A local was acting as their volunteer trail guide, and they generously invited me to join them (always nice when mountain biking in a new place).   I got off to an auspicious start, though, as we hit the first quick rise.  Last in line, I followed the line of the rider in front of me who hesitated on the up, and then swerved around a boulder too big to hop over right in the middle of the trail.  My momentum carried me right into the rock and straight over the handlebars -- woooh!!!  Oddly enough, it was a great feeling -- probably because of the reminiscence and because I executed a decent roll and was none the worse for the wear.  Getting the first (and only) tumble out of the way relaxed me, so I felt much more in control of my adrenaline from that point.  Also helpful to my confidence was that two of the Canadians (who had been riding these trails all week) both bought it on the next rise (ok, it's not just me - this terrain is actually pretty challenging).

With our local "guide" shouting out cues as we went along, we soon got into a good rhythm, especially when we reached the top of the first climb and started descending a bit.  I love my road bike, but there is nothing like descending on a mountain bike -- it requires so much concentration as you react to every twist and terrain change -- your entire body and mind are engaged as one.

We strung together several, assorted, climbs and descents before getting to a point where it seemed like we were coming to the end of the loop as we hit a dried up river bed we had previously crossed.  At this point our guide simply said "follow me, you're going to love this, it's how I always end" as he headed back up a steep trail we had skipped earlier.  When we got to the top, he encouraged us to space out our descents (sort of like you'd do on a water slide) because he wanted to "shred" the trail all the way down.  I went last so as not to risk getting in his way and enjoyed an amazing, fast, red rock descent with no sudden drops or hazards to slow me down -- it felt like a roller coaster ride, without any sense of losing control or momentum.  Perfect.  My vortex had led me to the perfect confluence of pizza, beer, coffee, and mountain biking, and had culminated in the perfect red rock descent back to the trail-head. 

We took some shade at the rest area adjacent to the trail-head, introduced ourselves and discussed some of the highlights of the ride.  I looked at my watch and couldn't believe that I had started out four hours earlier.  It felt like I had just started -- although it was much, much, hotter than when I had set out.  Our guide said he never biked past noon in the summer (wise man) and strongly recommended that we follow his lead.  I needed little convincing because the long pause suddenly reminded me that I had been at sea level less than 24 hours earlier.  Time to head back to the shop for another jolt of espresso before hitting the road to Flagstaff and Mark-a-Palooza --

Lucky for me, this was simply the jump-start to an amazing weekend.  I try to incorporate biking into each and every trip I take, and this was one of the best moves I've ever made (thanks, of course, to the Bikeist Vortex that exists on the edge of Sedona).  Fellow San Diegans, my airfare to and from Phoenix was less than $200 on Southwest.  If you are looking for an amazing biking adventure, book a flight now, and head to one of the coolest (only?) bike shop/coffee shop/bike resorts you will ever find.  You won't regret it --

It's so good to be The Bikeist . . .