Monday, September 26, 2016

evidence: "share the road" turns out to be total bullshit

It's long, but worth the time.
Because it says what so many of us already know in our guts:
"Share The Road" is a marketing tool benefiting car drivers.
"Share The Road" was designed to placate bicyclists and walkers who want meaningful infrastraucture change and law enforcement protections faster than most cities can or will implement them.
"Share The Road" is a meaningless phrase, a wish, a suggestion without even the teeth of societal guilt.
"Share the Road" is total bullshit.

Read why here:

Thursday, September 22, 2016

refugee bike project UPDATE

So, on a day when the rest of the news of the world was really getting me down, the cure was to tune up the remaining bikes on hand for incoming refugees. This project has been ongong since the spring and I've processed nearlt twenty bikes since March.
I could use a few more adult bikes, U-locks and fenders if anyone in the Portland area has them to donate (I have NO budget to buy bikes at this time).
Shoot me an email and let me know.
I will put this project on hiatus from November through February, and resume collecting and fixing up donated bikes in March.
Thanks and happy riding!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

messenger bags for non-bikey travel

I like messenger-specific bags.
The best ones are made of cordura, reinforced with double-stitching and bar tacks at the stress-points, have a waterproof lining and are large enough to offer some flexibility in what you choose to bring on any given trip.

For the last four years I've used a Chrome "Ivan" backpack, now the largest roll-top backpack they make. Dimensions of 21" wide x 23" height x 7" deep make this a pretty darned roomy bag, and yet, thanks to its slimmer profile I've been able to fill it and slip past the ticket agent and get it on the plane as carry-on. But it barely makes the cut for most airlines' carry-on restrictions.
It meets are the criteria listed above, but when you fill it to capacity it becomes less comfortable to carry due to the "yoke" system used for the shoulder straps.
Plus, in recent trips where I've had to be gone for up to a week at a time, it simply won't hold enough to get me through a week of classes, workshops, services and shows unless I want to wear the same three shirts, one pair each of slacks and shoes the whole trip and still have room for multiple books, music, teaching accessories, cords and laptop.

 So I've been casting about for an even larger backpack that's messenger tough, yet sized so I can sneak it aboard as carry-on in addition to my guitar (which MUST be carry-on).

For the last several months, I've been taking a hard look at Chrome's Warsaw II messenger backpack. This thing is built to serve professional bike messengers, with a shape and [flat volume] capacity of 24" x 25" 6" (more if you expand the compression straps and stuff the outer pockets and "hidden" compartment, too), allowing them to transport even huge cardboard boxes by bike. I'm not ever going to transport anything that large, and certainly never on a bicycle -- those days are happily far behind me now -- but the capacity means it could be the ticket for those week-long road trips where I'd like to get away without needing a checked bag.

This week, I scored one used for roughly half of what a new one would cost, with free shipping, online. It arrived today, and when I sat the two backpacks side-by-side, I realized that, even with the loss of some top-loading capacity (The Warsaw is not a rolltop, but has a long buckled front flap), the Warsaw II still has more capacity for the thigns I'm likely to carry. Sneaking it past a ticket agent might be a little harder -- the bag is not as slim-lined and has squared sides and bottom -- but I might be able to make it work because when it's all closed up it's height is a little shorter than that of the Ivan. It seems worth the risk. So I 'll use it on the first of my fall and winter mini-tours this year, and I'll report back with a comparison.  (And after I do, one of these two bags will be for sale.)

Friday, September 16, 2016

Evidence: Why carbon is silly, reason 219.5

From the local racing listserv, posted this morning:

" is with a heavy heart that I announce the death of my rear wheel. It gave up the ghost about 25 minutes into the first Trophy Cup last week. Then, while I was landing a sweet remount after some fancy barrier footwork, the wheel said, "That's enough. I've given you all I can. Goodbye." 
Cracked carbon is a sad thing. I will bury it somewhere on the slopes of Alpenrose [race course].

If you have a tubular rear wheel, rim brake, 11-speed compatible, I'd love to buy it from you for a reasonable price. I can go carbon or alloy. I don't care if it matches my front wheel. Everyone loves a frankenbike."

So, what have we learned from this?
Based on the racer's apparent willingness to replace it with yet another carbon wheel, nothing.

(Below: just a few of many photos I found online of destroyed carbon wheels..)

When I raced 'cross and short track, I did so on a steel singlespeed mountain bike, with alloy (you know, METAL) wheels. I bent a rim a few times (technically I could've qualified for the Athena class if one had existed at the time). In all cases, I was able to true the rim up enough to ride again. I made those wheels last three seasons before I had to find a replacement set.

At this point, if I were feeling peckish, I stick out my tongue and wiggle my fingers and go "nyah-nyah" or blow raspberries or something like that. But these pictures speak for themselves.
And while the demands of off-road racing are pretty intense on both man and machine,  the fact is that much of this damage is being cause by riders who weigh less than I do/did. So either they're really, inappropriately aggressive in their riding style, or racing off-road on carbon is simply not the best idea.

And yet -- warning! anti-industry rant ahead! -- this is the sort of stuff the industry tries to sell a million racer wannabes in the interests of "research and development".  Please. The only thing the industry is really interested in is R & D for the elite racers who give their products the greatest exposure. They care nothing for the results of real-world "testing" that a 200-pound recreational rider would put a carbon bike through. All they want to do is sell him more stuff that will break so he'll have to buy more stuff.

Phew. End of rant.

My steel bike was heavier, true. And I was heavier, and slower, than most of my competition. But my bike lasted five seasons of off-road racing every summer and fall, and I had a great time even as I finished last most of the time. The bike industry does not care to hear about the last place finishers who had fun. They only want to persuade me that in order to get better, place higher, I need to -- yup -- buy more stuff. Ergo, carbon.

Is it a conspiracy? I'll let the more paranoid among me decide.
To me, it's just silly. And wasteful as hell.
We now return you to steel bikes.
Weekend forecast in PDX: RAIN. Which should make for some really fun afternoons in the mud.
Happy riding!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

big picture thinking: depression, reality, or both? (Long)

So in learning to live with clinical depression, one of the things I've struggled up and down with is the cyclical thinking that many with depression go through.
As a friend of mine whose sister struggle with depression [and, sadly, lost] commented: Depression can tell you lies.True enough. And part of my ongoing treatment/sekf-care involves discerning the difference between what's a byproduct of my depression, and what's a real thing in the world.

(I promise there will be bicycle content soon. Hang in there.)

For most of my life, many of my choices revolved around bicycles: riding them, repairing them, eschewing other forms of transportation. The lack of an available adult with a car compelled me, back in fifth grade, to choose a musical instrument that I could carry in my backpack or in a bicycle basket (sorry, cello).  If I wanted to sing in my high school's jazz choir that met at 6:45 am, I had to get to school on my own, since my father worked till 2am and the city bus didn't start running in time to get me there. When I realized that I could no longer afford the cost of automobile ownership, OR a monthly bus pass, I had to choose to ride into downtown on my bicycle. That was in 1990 and I have not looked back.

But more recently, things have been changing. And it feels like my job is to discern what's merely the depression talking and what is a reflection of the reality happening all around -- and inside -- me.

I'm fifty-three. I don't try to hide my age.
I have Crohn's disease. I no longer try to hide that, either (though in my earlier adulthood I did try to hide it because of employment worries. Now that I'm a freelancer, I can fire myself).
And I don't own a car.
For many years that has been totally fine. I rode my bike everywhere, every day, for decades.

About four years ago, things began to change inside and out.
Mood swings.
Less physical activity.
More fatigue.

It would take more than two full years to figure out there was something going on, and another year and a half to figure out what was going on. I had almost no support, and no mentorship professionally or otherwise, which meant I had to struggle and sort it out on my own. After a disastrous emotional breakdown and an eventual departure from an employer, I had come to understand, with medical help, that I was dealing with depression, chemically-based and highly likely coinciding with the onset of perimenopause. I was entering my fifties and after examining all the symptoms and struggling with talk therapy alone, I made the agonizing decision to begin taking anti-depressant medication under my doctor's care. It has helped a lot, along with ongoing mindfulness practice (difficult, since I have trouble focusing) and physical activity.
I rode my bicycle whenever I could, even though now I had nowhere to really go. Without the demands of a daily commute to an outside job, I had to make up errands just to go for rides.
And since the life of a freelancer with a wacky schedule can also be lonely, I ended up riding alone nearly all the time.

But over the last year, my symptoms changed again.  The fatigue increased, my appetite fell off, and I seldom wanted to leave the house last winter. Even on dry days I simply did not feel like getting dressed or riding my bicycle. I knew depression had something to do with it but I was treating that. My GI doctor suggested tests. He told me that my Crohn's had worsened and that I was also showing signs of IBS (Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome, slightly different from Crohn's but related). IBS, he explained can be exacerbated physically by the effects of SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder.
By then, the seasons had turned and the days were growing longer again. I forced myself to get out and ride my bike, even when every fiber of my being would prefer to lie in bed. I wasn't always successful, but when I did get out I was usually glad for it afterwards.

Since then, I have gained weight, and am now experiencing joint trouble that could be related to the advancement of the Crohn's (possible issues have included arthritis and fibromyalgia, both of which have auto-immune components).

In short, my body continues to change, and I continue to be challenged by a lack of desire to ride my bicycle, especially as the days grow shorter again. I still ride alone most of the time -- too many bathroom stops along the way make it difficult to invite folks to come along and I am dreadfully slow. But every now and then I can feel a return, if not to speed, then at least to my former pedaling form -- smooth, easy -- and I can enjoy the breeze on my cheeks.

New challenges continue to affect my riding. Seeing at night, even with ambient street lighting, has grown more difficult; and while the new meds have helped some, they haven't brought about anything resembling remission, so I still have to dash for the bathroom with little notice (just not as often as before). And I still struggle with depression.

Which leads to sifting through what's real and what's not.

The news of the world comes across our newsfeeds every morning now; unless you eschew social media it's impossible to avoid. And amidst the bad news, there are more and more headlines screaming about how, socially, politically, economically and environmentally, we are all going to hell in a handbasket. Back in the day, I thought my choices about how I lived could make a difference, albeit a small one. Today, I am plagued by the sinking feel that choosing to ride a bicycle or use public transportation doesn't make a dent as long as so many other people drive cars and we insist on shipping freight by truck instead of rail.

It has gotten harder, scarier, to ride a bicycle in Portland, as more motorists move here and drive everywhere and crowd the roads. Incidents of road rage are on the rise, and more people die in bicycle-auto collisions now then just five years ago. I no longer trust bike lanes, and instead look for quieter residential side streets on which to ride. It takes me longer to get there but aI end up feeling less frazzled.
I feel older, and not at all like some kind of bicycle "warrior". These days, I'm just a middle-aged woman riding at a snail's pace and trying to stay out of everyone's way. It makes riding less fun.

My air travel, greatly increased since I changed careers four years ago, is adding to the carbon footprint that is contributing to climate change. (Friends tell me that thanks to all the years I didn't fly or drive, I've got some "points" to spare; but I am not convinced by that argument and I continue to agonize every time I must board a plane for work.)
Choosing not to shop but to instead wear clothes until they wear out, and looking for replacements in "Free" boxes isn't putting a dent in the amount of shopping going on in malls across the country.
This year, the two major political parties, corporations and the mass media have bent over backwards to help insure that the vote I cast has as little effect on the outcome of the Presidential election as possible.

So what am I left with?

I don't know.

Riding my bicycle and living more lightly and staying mindful will likely not change the world one bit.
So I either have to give up, or find other reasons for continuing to live as I do.
Besides keeping myself a little closer to sane, I'm not sure what's left.
The hard part about this is that these days bicycle riding feels less like a pleasure and more like medicine, an obligation. That really bothers me, and I don't know what to do about when my body isn't cooperating.
I've spent a lot of time agonizing, asking myself the chicken-and-egg question: Did I slow down because I changed careers, or did I change careers because I was sensing that I was slowing down? Maybe it's both. I don't know.
But I do know that I miss the way I used to feel -- physically stronger, emotionally and mentally bolder.
I don't know how to get any of that back. And that is what makes it so hard for me to know how much of my malaise is rooted in depression, and how much is rooted in the reality all around and within me.

I'd like to go for a ride, but my stomach hurts and I know I'll be spending more time in the bathroom this afternoon. And then, getting out and putting the physical effort into riding seems like a bother, pointless. So it's highly likely I won't ride today.

If you do NOT live with diagnosed depression, PLEASE do not write to me and suggest that I snap out of it. I have learned that depression does not work like that.

If you DO live with depression, feel free to contact me with coping strategies that have worked for you, to get you outside and moving even a little bit more.

Cheers and happy riding.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

the view from the inside: nothing but pain

This very interesting article came across my feed over the weekend:

This is from a UK-based industry insider publication. If you care at all about the future -- of bicycling, of consermer markets, and very likely of the world (yeah, I know, kinda dramatic) -- read it closely.

And then you'll perhaps understand why I think I got out of the industry just in time. Perhaps then you'll understand why I have no love -- or pity -- for manufacturers whose corporate bosses decided we needed TWELVE-speed cassettes, or electronic shifting, or any of the other doo-dads that have served to dumb down cycling so that people think they need a new bike every two years just in order to ride to the damned grocery store.

(Photo: yes, Virginia, that's a TWELVE speed cassette. Utter stupidity.)

End of rant.

THE quote from this article for me was this one:

"Life is not like the movies. I’m not going to get a call from any of the senior execs in the companies I’ve been talking about asking me for answers. And even if they did call, I don’t have any. There is quite possibly no solution to this. Maybe lower consumption is a permanent thing now. Given the state of the planet, maybe that’s what we are supposed to be doing."

Yup. This.

If you dream of a future in the bicycle industry, here's the real future: scavenging, rebuilding, repurposing. Based on what I've seen in the junk piles behind bike shops around town, you're probably too late for anything else.
But that doesn't mean it's all doom and gloom. It just means that the real action in the bicycle industry will happen more and more in an increasingly larger underground bicycle economy, one where cash isn't always king and where those with tools and skills will be alright for awhile yet.

(Photo: the latest in stupid: a folding mountain bike with carbon-fiber, tri-spoke wheels. WTF?!)
Happy riding.

Friday, September 2, 2016

salient points: biketown

Tip o' the chapeau to whomever shared this over at my Facebook feed.
The pro-Biketown folks may not like it, but it does make some salient points about marketing, access and privilege. Even if I'm not on-board with the loss of parking spaces -- and really, that's a drop in the bucket compared to what planners are doing with their new "car-lite" housing in inner eastside Portland -- I applaud the effort.