My name is Jason and this blog is about bikes and biking, plain and simple. I don't claim to be a gear head, a former pro, a hipster or an afficionado. I just like to ride my bicycle.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Personal Space

Let’s talk about a very touchy subject called:  personal space. Outside the scope of certain friends and intimate relations it is generally considered rude in American culture to 'get up in one's grill' in the parlance of our times, or otherwise invade one's personal space. Even without direct contact, the sheer presence of one averse to the fundamental understandings of proximal relationships can make an otherwise normal occurrence very uncomfortable. The close talker, the casual shoulder toucher, the close passer, hand grabber, awkward chest looker...these are all creepy intrusions into the private sphere of personal space. Unless you're standing on a crowded bus, elevator or playing rugby people generally respect boundaries and try not to engage in too much unsolicited bumping, grinding, touching or encroaching.

So with such a well understood concept governing our interactions with strangers walking down the street or pushing our carts at the store, why then do we struggle to apply such courtesies to the road; its a mystery to me. Let's play a little Rorschach style game and try and figure this mystery out if we can.

What do you see here?
Clearly it’s a sign that says “Bike Route”, but what could be meant by this? It might mean…that the designated roadway is--a route for bikes. This would then mean that bikes could be routed along it, which thusly could also mean that people could actually ride their bikes on this surface (and in fact are encouraged to do so.) So if you happen across such a bike propelled by such a person on such a surface designated with such signage, then you should perhaps do your best not to run them over and in missing them narrowly show your disgust at their very presence on the same plane of existance as you with your colorful hand gesturing.

So now, how about this one?
This is a trickier one, while both symbolic and declarative its not entirely specific. “Ahead” is a very vague term in the grander sense of the entire space time continuum. But unless you are Steven Hawking (or his clone), then this sign means that BIKES have a LANE...AHEAD....generally meaning right freakin' there. This would indeed be separate from the normal general use lanes of traffic commonly seen on either sides of the dashed yellow line.

As in this picture for example:
Now clearly the symbols and copious use of paint show us the exact distinction of spaces for use by bicycles (hint:  it’s the one with the picture painted on the ground) and the other general use traffic lane (hint:  the one without the picture of the bike on the ground). Now you might think that such a sophisticated species with unwritten social mores around personal space would appreciate the actual designation of separate physical spaces as outlined by these markings. And yet not everyone seems to get this. Take this example:
Clearly law is not enough if the business people of the law cannot seem to unravel and decipher its tangled intricacies. How can I expect the average Joe to know the difference? Clearly the half dozen or more Joe's on my ride home from work today really struggled with the concept about as much as the professional law enforcement types depicted above. Well I suppose that’s the crux of it. Taken as a whole, the Bike Route, Bike Lane, Bike Pictures and Solid White Painted Line SHOULD suffice it to say to the general motoring public: STAY OUT OF MY DAMNED PERSONAL SPACE and yet that seems to challenge some who see this congruence of pictures and paint and think: passing lane, turning lane, parking lane, u-turn lane, my lane. Well guess what, its actually MY LANE, so its my space when I’m occupying it. That means get your close talking, shoulder touching, close passing, hand grabbing, chest looking, bike lane driving ass out of it!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Orange Ride

Today Bike Denver, and the Denver Broncos hosted the NFL's first bike to a game promotion. Called the Orange Ride, 4 large group rides left separate Denver area bars for a massive cruiser convergence at the afternoon's Bronco's Jets game. All told over 450 riders made the trip to Mile High Stadium for the pre-party and game. A stalwart crew of volunteers manned 3 shifts to organize the parking area, handle the crowd of eager bike riders and park bikes for the duration of the game.  Kate and I made the trip down to volunteer on the first crew and had a great time. Hopefully the successful debut of this event encourages not only Denver, but other cities to support the concept. Seeing the gridlocked throng of cars attempting to file into narrow $30 a spot parking near the field, the close in comforts of an easy bike ride and secure parking at the threshold of the stadium makes biking to the game the clear winner. If there are other Orange Rides in the future, I'd definitely recommend them.
Kate's Puch cruiser prominently displayed at the Orange Ride.
Bike Parking at Invesco Field at Mile High.
Denver B Cycle
One of the first rides to arrive.
Packing them in at the bike corral.

This ref isn't holding anything back.

Bike tail-gating for the Orange Ride.

Denver Mayor and candidate for Governor, John Hickenlooper leads the last of the VIP bike rides.

An entire herd of B-Cycles in the corral.

Wonderful bikes...over 450 of them.

A willing designated driver for after the game.
Unfortunately the warm weather, clear skies, rally towels and bike powered fan base couldn't cheer the Broncos to victory this afternoon. At least it was a great day for a ride.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

I'm a Person for Bikes...Are You?

So I found my way to the People for Bikes website, an organization looking to build support for bike related needs at the national political level by collecting e-signatures for 1 million bicycle supporting individuals. Their major aim is to create demonstrative clout for lobbying local, state and federal legislators for enhanced funding and support for cycling related transportation projects. To accomplish this goal, essentially all they ask is that you sign their online pledge for support.  They don't give many more specifics than that, but at face value it definitely is a worthwhile effort. Below is some pasted info from their website as well as a link. If you're feeling inclined to be 1 in a million, then complete their online pledge.

"Every day, millions of Americans like us ride for their health, for the environment, for their communities, and for the pure joy of bicycling. But until now, only a tiny fraction of riders have stood up to help improve bicycling in America. is going to change all that. They're building a national movement with the clout and influence to get things done. That means promoting bike riding on an individual level, but also sending a unified message to our elected leaders, the media, and the public that bicycling should have their full support."

Check out their great new website to take a pledge for biking and learn how you can help:

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Case of the Dundies

"Is that a wadded up pair of boxers in your pants or are you just happy to see me?" Oh no baby its boxers, and you know why??? --cause its Double-Undies Day (Dundies...that's my new word. You heard it here first, add it to your spell check its going to be big...I've been big on firsts lately...maybe its my lack of racing turning me competitive in other, far more mundane, exploits...)

Dundies occurs when its so miserably wet and soggy outside that you get soaked all the way to the core by the time you get to work such that you either end up going ‘sans-culottes’ or you have to cart around another pair of boxers, briefs, panties (or worse) with you. I can’t recall the last time it rained on a commute IN to work. The summer occasionally boasts rainy rides home, generally preferable to the 90+ heat, but the Dundy day is a rarely experienced joy most common to spring and fall. Today it rained, heavy, cold, fat drops my entire ride in to work. Despite my rain jacket and pants, by the time I got to the office I was more or less soaked to the core; the tops of the legs really get the brunt of the rain hence the penetrating sodden condition of one’s boxers. My shoes likely won’t dry out for another day. My socks were still wet and cold when I put them back on for the ride home. My gloves…ditto.

And yet don’t get me wrong: I’m not complaining. A Dundy ride is almost a badge of honor. Ben at work also road in today, so the camaraderie in the bike room this evening was extra heightened; the commiseration in the morning’s dreariness and discussion of best lube for post-rain rejuvenation being the hot topics of conversation. Plus a truly dreary, gray, rain-fest of a morning ride only portends more ominous and inhospitable conditions to come: I love it. Not that I’m a huge fan of winter commuting (especially come April when I’m fed up with it), but right now its novel, new, a sign of the changing of seasons; time to really get down to business. Soon it won’t just be commuting by bike, on some days it almost becomes an exercise in survival or at least coping with wet drawers. So get out the good lube, the Swiss Army knife, those extra boxers and other survival gear; winter’s on its way, time to get ready!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

News Flash... and Random Aside

Below is a link to what may very well be the best story about cycling of all stories about cycling ever written. Now some of you skeptics might be saying to yourselves, "Surely not. Think of Lance's comeback from cancer tour victories. Lemond's gloriously narrow TT win over Fignon. Any of the cannibal or badger's celebrated exploits in the heyday of cycling nicknames. Or better yet, more stories of Spanish riders testing positive for eating bad food and Saran Wrap."  Well to those who would doubt I only suggest you follow the link and decide for yourselves. Perhaps I'm wrong...but I doubt it.

Greatest Bike Story Every Told

On an entirely unrelated the greatest bike story ever told that is...I would assert that while Volvo may indeed make the safest vehicles on the planet, these feats of Swedish engineering perfection attract some of the unsafest of drivers.  That's an opinion of course, I'm still doing my homework on the figures but I'd say I'm definitely on to something. If you need empirical evidence for your own then by all means get on a bike and ride around the Denver Highlands around rush the bike lane...preferably with children about (Those Volvo's are magnets for children, I saw a commercial on it once.  And I almost saw some serious magnetic power this afternoon but not quite in the manner the makers of Volvo may have intended.)  Apparently the 'safeness' feature of this guy's Volvo must have been an option he decided he didn't need; in favor of a better stereo, wood paneling, a talking map or something important like that. Maybe Volvo needs a disclaimer at the end of their ad with the taxes titles and fees gibberish. Something like, "Safety implied. Not standard for morons."

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Fake Plastic Watering Can

And a fake plastic IV bag, and fake plastic flowers for the Tour de France victor. I'll be the first to say I really will be glad that Andy Schleck has a tour victory to his name, however I would have preferred to see him win it outright. I never like to see professional cycling in the mainstream media as the main stream usually is the one carrying all the trash and filth and plastic 6 pack rings. Speaking of floating the AP was kicking up a storm of 'things in Contador's blood' stories. In the near future if Contador eats asparagus and his pee smells weird the NYT will link it to doping. He's done for, mark my words. But did Contador dope? Did Armstrong? Is everyone in the ProTour peloton cheating the sport? Hell I'd have kept doping myself if I were still racing, but instead I prefer having the occasional beer and riding slowly to nowhere in particulars: its more amenable to my delicate system and beer either comes in aluminum or plastic.

Just when it seemed that the sport of cycling was resurrecting itself through the biological passport, increased controls, virtuous sermonizing of the 'highroaders' et al, we're back in the mire with a potential second Tour de France overturn in what is really a handful of years. Some will decry the integrity of the sport and insinuate that cycling represents one of the lower steps in the caste system of professional athletes: "They're all cheats!" some will argue. And these pessimists might be right, yet we've heard Olympic medalists admit to doping, we've seen major league sluggers carted before Congress to testify as to their use of steroids and we've got a full on investigation into Lance and the glory days of American cycling's past. It seems professional athletes will do just about anything to win, even if it means cheating or damaging their bodies. But doping aside there are other headlines which call into question the integrity of 'sport'; play and call stealing accusations, college athletic scandals, NFL players cited for violence off the field (against men, women and even dogs), adulterous sexual exploits of one pro golfer, etc, etc. Some unscrupulous characters are attracted to professional athletics.

But aren’t there unscrupulous characters everywhere? Certainly there are cheats in every arena. However I would suggest that what separates the industrial or political cheat from the athletic one is that whereas industry operates within certain parameters and guidelines, conduct wherein somewhat subject to the sentiment and mood of the people, games and sport have clear rules. If you know the rules then everyone can play the same game, and on some levels aspire to the same greatness as that of the professional: fair is fair. We then take the exemplars of sport and hold them up on a pedestal in a manner different than heads of business or other successful professionals. There is something to the achievements of an athlete that any lover of sport believes they can relate to; as we’ve all tried to the play the game and can therefore appreciate the magnitude of success for these rare, gifted individuals. So it’s a bitter taste to choke down the discovery of impropriety in our sport.

And the real cynics might argue, "Well, what do we care?" And as jaded a question as that may be, its actually worth asking. What type of conduct do we expect of professional athletes? Are we really attracted to the integrity of the competition or the spectacle? While many might suggest that it is the integrity of sport and honest competition that attracts us to watch grown adults play children’s games, we cannot deny the degree to which sport has become a very lucrative spectacle. And to this extent perhaps we’ve essentially allowed the snake into Eden. Are we really naive enough to presume that the million (if not billion in some cases) dollar industries of professional athletics could be conducted 100% in the clear and above board? No longer is the bedrock of sport just the contest of one athlete or team against the other; there’s a lot of money underlying that contest. And while the NFL, PGA, MLB and UCI would like to uphold a standard of competition that promotes fair and honest sport, does the monetary aspect of professional sport make this all but impossible? Its one thing perhaps to enter an event where the winner takes the prize. It becomes quite different with team sports involving sponsorship deals, salaries, bonuses and expectations of victory far different than the simple enter and win athlete. Even in amateur athletics, as in the case of the Olympics, athletes drawn by the power of the sponsor’s dollar do some intriguing things. Once they get Lance maybe they’ll go after that sub-sandwich peddling swimmer guy; he can’t be natural either.

So Contador gets tossed out of cycling along with Floyd and Lance and the countless others who ‘cheated’ and played that game and lost it. Maybe while they’re at it they can drag down all of the other idols like George Hincapie, Jens Voigt, and Carlos Sastre. Then what? The reputations of all the heroes are marked by caveats. Schleck gets an asterisk title in a race he did not win, but now technically did. And then next year everyone will suspect him of cheating, or at least they’ll hold their breath and hope that he’s not all the while secretly ‘knowing‘ that he did should a test come back positive. Will we get to the point where we can no longer watch two racers climb a mountain and think that one is, if not both are, cheating? Will we soon be able to watch home runs fly out of baseball stadiums and records fall without that nagging thought in our head: was that real? Or will sport become like magic acts: we all know we’re being deceived yet we seem to go along with it for the sake of entertainment. That’s what we’re all paying for in the end isn’t it: the sponsor, the athlete the fan? We’re paying for entertainment and I suppose that’s indeed what we’re getting. “Are you not entertained?”

I stole that last quote from the movie Gladiator. I also stole the title of this post and theme for the first sentence from Radiohead. As a talent-less, hack writer I felt compelled to do so. I know it was wrong. I feel really bad about it. I will never do it again.  You can have my Heisman and my Yellow Jersey if I ever get one.