Sunday, September 21, 2014

The run down on the run down.

Dear Mr Snob,

You know I love you. You would have to be completely out to lunch to have missed the fact that I am a big fan of yours, yet clearly you are as sharp as they come. Everyone knows that laughter is the best medicine, and you are a true master of wit. I love that you manage somehow to get your point across with a laugh, even though you might be covering a serious topic of conversation.  Satire makes it simpler, somehow, to broach subjects which incite strong debate, and you do it so well.  But Friday's post was a huge departure from your usual fare. And as much as I love you, and will always remain a loyal fan, I really have to have a word with you...

Though you're a satirist, you have every right to approach serious topics with serious intent. Please just keep in mind, however, that you have a lot of influence, not only within the cycling community, but across the board, at least as far as transportation is concerned.  So when you take off your satirists's cap to play the serious journalist, you ought to do so with integrity. Especially if you plan to also play self-appointed judge, jury and executioner to a fellow cyclist in the always ugly kangaroo court of public opinion.

What happened, anyway? It is abundantly clear that Detective Mennen has a hate-on for us, and for you in particular.

Why does he hate you?  Probably because you have such influence AND you are a lowly, almost universally revilled cyclist, but why did you let him push your buttons? Did you really have to jump on the "let's all hate the cyclsist" bandwagon?

I can't speak to the incident itself, because like you I wasn't actually there. I have heard various details from several different sources. I heard again and again that the cyclist had the light. You vilified Mr Marshall for pushing for a personal best in a park where there are lots of people. You said "There seems to be some disagreement as to whether this latest cyclist had the light.  However, that doesn't matter.  It's a park.  You know people are going to cross against the light, and if you choose to ignore that inevitability the blame should fall on you."  Really?!  So as cyclists we are now responsible for the irresponsible behaviour so many pedestrians display?  Are you kidding?!  I yield to pedestrians, and I do my best to avoid the ones who step out into my path without looking, but if they don't look before walking out in front of a moving vehicle, the driver is not at fault, and neither, frankly, am I.
I have never ridden a bike through Central Park, so I can't precicely speak to the circumstances, but here in Vancouver, Stanley Park has a roadway through it, which I prefer over the multi-use seawall path the majority of cyclists use.  I choose the road for the simple reason that on my bike I am a vehicle, not a pedestrian.  As such, I typically travel at the same speed as the cars.  In Stanley Park, I have to speed by quite a margin in order to keep up with traffic, but nobody is complaining about the speed at which the cars drive. Well, except for me, perhaps. I don't understand how it could possibly be wrong for me to push for my personal best on the very same road that the cars speed on, simply because some pedestrians might  cross where they shouldn't, or because they might possibly be too lazy to look up before they cross onto the road.  I can't count how many times pedestrians have crossed onto the road in front of me without looking up, simply because they don't hear a car coming.  If Mr Marshall had been driving an electric car, and if he had hit the woman who wandered into his path in that circumstance, the NYPD would have done what they always do and declared that there was no criminality suspected.  But somehow because he was riding a bike suddenly he is to blame?!  I can't believe the double standard, and I was deeply disappointed that you failed to call them on it.

I am sick and tired of being treated like public enemy number one when I am not doing anything wrong. Yes, I push for my personal best at every opportunity, and unfortunately I have to do it at risk to MY OWN life and limb every single day as I ride in traffic on public thoroughfares. I play nice, and yield when I should.  I try to ensure that I create goodwill on the roads, so I signal, and I thank the drivers who are courteous. I try to be visible and predictable. I have a life, though, and can't often escape all the way out of town to hit the highways as you insist I should. And when I can't go out before six in the morning, when the traffic is light, I sometimes ride in the middle of the afternoon. How dare you suggest that I haven't got the right to ride hard and fast on the city's public ROADS, along with the cars that travel much faster than I?! It's downright ridiculous.

Worse yet, how dare you condemn me as some sort of moral reprobate because I track my efforts on Strava?  I don't understand what your problem is with Strava. Had you ever given it a shot, or had you even bothered to ask a few questions of anyone who actually uses it, you would know that it deducts the time you spend at a stop from your ride, so that there is absolutely no incentive for riders to blow through stop signs and red lights. In fact, the chance to catch your breath is pretty good incentive if you're actually pushing your body hard.  But there have always been cyclists who don't like to stop, haven't there? Long before anyone ever even imagined Strava.  In fact, my understanding is that you yourself sometimes take a red light with a grain of salt. So it is ok to blow through a stop sign or even a red light as long as you aren't actually pushing your body as hard as you can, and just so long as you aren't tracking your ride?  That's absurd.

I have always ridden as I do. I have to strive for my personal best because my medical condition is only kept under control when I am super-fit. Strava hasn't suddenly made me a different person, but it has provided a community of sorts, full of people who understand the kinds of challenges I deal with daily, people who support me where the rest of the world fails.  I long ago stopped caring what the average person thought of me, but I worked hard to develop a community of souls who understand who I am and why I live the way I do.  I figured your blog was just that sort of place, but maybe I was wrong? Look.  I know the type of rider you are objecting to, but that guy has been around a lot longer than Strava has, and that rider isn't necessarily the man in question here.  Strava is a tool, nothing more, nothing less.  The internet is a tool, too, and sometimes people are exploited at the hands of others who use it malisciouly. But put the shoe on the other foot for a moment, would you? How would you adapt your life to a world where people claiming the moral high ground insisted everybody just turned the internet off in memory of the people who have suffered at the hands of the assholes who use it unwisely?

It's true. Even in the most unexpected places...

My heart goes out to Mr Marshall.  He may well have made a mistake, and perhaps he should have chosen a different path that day, but there is no real evidence that his actions were criminal in any way, shape, or form.  Still.  After what was probably one of the worst moments of his life, he then had to deal with the hatred and judgement rained down upon him from you and all of the rest of the sheeple too happy to join you in tarring, feathering, and hanging him out to dry. For shame, Snobbers. You've been a naughty boy. You would do well to offer him a humble, heartfelt, and equally public apology. Either that, or you're due for a proper spanking.

But I am not holding my breath.  Guess in the end, the best I can do is to go out and do what comes naturally... best I can.  And I'm not even a little bit sorry.

Friday, September 19, 2014

What I did on summer vacation: Hornby Island or Bust

Ha!!  I wish.  Hornby it is.

photo here
Well, what do you know? Looks like school might finally be back in session next week, after more than three full months without classes! It looked like the teacher's strike would drag on indefinitely, but they surprised us all with a negotiated settlement this week, so this is officially the end of summer. What better time to tell you what I did on my summer vacation...  ready?

I rode my bike!! Surprise! Mostly we stuck around town, checking out the local attractions.  You know, like the Flying Beaver.  Everyone should visit the Flying Beaver at least once.  So that's what we did.  Then we set out dark and early one morning with our hearts set on Hornby Island.

We crossed the Lion's Gate bridge and rode through West Vancouver along Bellevue Avenue to Horseshoe Bay as the sun dawned on a gorgeous new day.

The grass along the seawall in West Van is so lush it's just psilly.

There's nothing silly about BC Ferries, however.  Specially not their new and anything but improved schedules and sky-high fares.  It can't possibly be true, but it seemed the walk on plus a bike price was twice what it was last year. It was certainly substantially more expensive. No wonder the lack of ferry traffic is starting to weigh heavily on several coastal communities. I am sure glad we were paying for neither a truck, motorhome, nor trailer.

But at least bikes are first on, first off (for the most part).

Outside Nanaimo (No-Mind-Oh) we were shooting for the moon,

but settling for Sexcessories in Parksville

they have both a front AND rear entrance, y'know.

After exploring Parksville we out for Qualicum Beach

slower than I'd like it.

You can see Hornby from Qualicum Beach.  It's encouraging to lay eyes upon it. Even with a way to go yet, it's a sight for sore eyes, or at least it is if you've been there before so you know what's in store.

And it really is a looooooooong haul, hauling a trailer all the way 

to heavenly Hornby Island,

though twelve hours and three ferries further along from our 6:30 A.M. start we did finally arrive safe and sound.

We were only there for two nights and a day, but we definitely made the most of the time we had. We started off the morning with a quick trip to Ford's Cove for a few supplies, 

and we couldn't help but notice how the Fall Fair was in full swing.  It's a tight-knit community, this one, and yet we were welcomed all around.

There were a few farmers' peddling there wares

but most of the stalls belonged to artists and artisans.  You could find jams, jellies, and preserves galore, along with jewelery, candles, t-shirts and more.

It's a truly peaceful place, 

with a remarkably laid-back attitude.

We had lunch at the fair, and then set off to explore the island and its many grapes.

They grow like weeds round here, so you'll find a fair few wineries if you keep your eyes open. The pub by the ferry landing called The Thatch, but it should be called The Vine, cause the deck is covered with them.

The original plan had been to sail to Hornby from Vancouver, but that fell through, and when it did, we decided to ride instead. Probably just as well, because it was such a lovely weekend that there really wasn't anything in the way of wind. 

You probably already guessed that I was okay with the change.  My legs like a good workout, and we managed over three hundred kilometers in three short days.  And while a calm, sunny day might make sailing difficult, it sure makes for great shadow play.

I love Hornby for lots of good reasons, not the least of which is its cycling culture.  I fit right in, and that's always a good feeling.

(a fun rack in Fanny Bay along the way)
It's one of my favourite places, Hornby, so even though the ferries have become prohibitively expensive,

I will always try to find my way back again.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Are you longing to feel carefree? Try going car-free. It makes a world of difference...

Some philosophers will tell you that the world you see, and indeed the very experiences you have, are nothing more than a reflection of your own self, your thoughts, your values, your beliefs. Science argues a certain amount of objectivity, but even in the hallowed halls of higher learning, you get what you are looking for. Seriously. Your hypothesis defines your very experiment, and thus your results.

So people who are looking for reasons to be offended will always find them, and people looking for giant reflective jelly beans may find themselves equally successful.  I started riding bikes for transportation a few decades ago, and at the time my choice was definitely not well understood.  Most people thought I was stark raving mad.

a group of reflective jelly beans should be sheen, and not herd.
And here in Car-Crazy Canada, that theory is still predominant, though if you are (like a jelly bean) well-red, then you know that life isn't actually black and white,

and maybe, just maybe that attitude toward cycling is shifting a little.  The Province newspaper is the territory of Vancouver's own brand of Ford Nation. You can easily find an article highlighting how many cyclists have struck pedestrians, and how incredibly dangerous the bike is to a person on foot, but no one in that organisation has gone out of their way to point out how cars are most often the issue.  They are the number one cause of death for all sorts of segments of society across the planet. No one. Not. Ever. The Province has long trumpeted anti-bike lane sentiments, and has an illustrious history of publishing articles lambasting cyclists and our terrible behaviour, and yet this week alone saw several articles on bikes and cycling, none of which were completely derogatory, and what's even more surprising is that two of them actually graced the front page!

Reflectiveness is a state of bean.
Do you suppose there's hope for us yet?  Sure Canada leads the world in the degradation of pristine tracts of intact forests, because of our addiction to the oil and gas industry, and yes, most people are so unbelievably brainwashed that they can't begin to imagine their lives without their precious, stinking cars, but change is slowly and inevitably having its way with us.

Change is a Love Bandit
For many years now I have had to come to terms with the fact that plenty of people hate me.  You know it's true, too, that cyclists occupy the very bottom rung on the road totem.  Pedestrians in this country are given diplomatic immunity.  They can walk out in the middle of the street without even checking to see if traffic is coming, and if you hit them, well you're in the wrong.  And they don't like cyclists cause they can't hear us, and so they have to actually look up from their cell phones to see if we're there.  And motorists hate us because they might have to slow down for a minute before they pass us on their way to the next red light queue. But that's okay.  I don't really care what they think of me any more.  I don't care if they think I am a failure because I choose not to sink a small fortune into a BMW, insurance, and the expensive dinosaur remains required to run it. From where I stand, all of the sheeple sitting in those silly planet-consuming beasts and getting fat round the middle are the ones afflicted with a sad brand of madness.

Suckers. They don't get to experience the peace of mind that comes from stewing in your own endorphins for an hour or so on a bike.  Instead they get to inhale carbon monoxide from all that nasty traffic they and their fellow brainwashed compatriots genenerate whilst they suffer from the stress and disease born of too sedentary a lifestyle.

It is patently obvious that car-addiction is a government sanctioned state of affairs, especially if you live in a place like Canada, whose wealth is largely derived from exploiting natural resources with no thought for the future.  If anything else killed even a fraction as many people as cars do daily, you can bet the whole of civilization would move Heaven and Earth to put a stop to it, but cars?  Forget it. Seriously. When is the last time you were witness to an extended police crackdown on speeding and distracted driving?  When is the last time you saw a magazine article addressing the dangers of driving too fast?  But mention cycling and the next thing you know there's an exposition how we flout the law by running stop signs.  Ferfucksake.  When I pull up to a stop sign I look both ways and if the coast is clear I go.  If it isn't, I stop.  Because I can. Stop, that is.  A car takes longer to stop, so the driver of a car can't stop if they leave it to the last minute the way I can.  I still stop for the cars that are there first, and I still give pedestrians the right of way, but everybody figures I am a road terrorist because I don't always stop for an empty intersection.

I DO stop for sidewalk art. 
Do you know who the real terrorists are?  They are the jerks who go around talking about how they want to run people like me off the road. Or worse yet, the cops who ran a cyclist over TWICE and then tried to cover up their crime.  WTF is wrong with human beings? Are we really that easy to brainwash into moronic submissiveness?  Is it really that hard for people to read the writing on the wall?  Get. Over. It. Car culture is not sustainable.  Do you have kids?  Do you care for the future of humanity even one whit?  Wake up.  Of course our government sanctions car dependence. Government stopped being by the people and for the people a long time ago. Our government is just an arm of big business, nothing more, nothing less, and you should trust it about as much as you'd trust any multi-national corporation.  Think about it.  Do you really think that helping the very rich get richer still is going to help you out in the long run?  Ha. Don't be daft.

Fortunately, today's youth are wide awake.  They see what a mess we've made of things.  The only way to fight big business is with your wallet, and today's youth refuse to buy in to the bullshit. Blessed be.  Vancouver's rich old farts fought tooth and nail against bike lanes, but the city was smart enough to know that if you want to tempt the world's up and coming companies into doing business here, you have to make it liveable.  And it worked.  Google has recently come to play, along with HooteSuite, Amazon, Twitter, and Facebook.

In the capable hands of the next generations, we might just find ourselves on the road to real recovery.  (If we haven't cocked it all up too badly for them.) I'll tell you what, though.  The next time you get mad at me for slowing you down on your way to the supermarket in your massive SUV? Please.  Take a deep breath, consider the real cost of your reliance on those four wheels, and just for a moment, imagine the feeling of freedom you felt the last time you rode your bike.  It can be yours again, you know.

And the day you dare to give it a go might literally be the dawning of a whole new world... c'mon. It's great here in the saddle, really. It feels so good on every level.  Give it a go, even for a month or so. Do it. You know you want to.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Shock and Awwwww! Amped up for The Little One Hundred - it's a short circuit.

Watt's that you say?  Starting off this post with a battery of bad jokes?  
Guilty as charged!! 
How can I possibly rectify it?  Dunno... read on.

Sometimes you just have the need for speed, right? I sure do.

This one's for you, oh Fred of the Sea
There's nothing like it.  When you're pushing your body to its absolute limit and you're moving as fast as you possibly can, you're having a bio-chemical experience unlike any other, and I for one quite rely upon it. It has been linked to a slowing of the ageing process itself, strenuous exercise, and it certainly changes the way this crazy-assed body feels. I drip sweat till my hair is wet through and even then I want to go harder, and faster still.  It hurts, yet it feels so good.  I love how the bike really becomes a part of you when you're whipping downhill as fast as your legs will take you, and digging deep for just a little more.

And yet McDuh. I only just lately figured out that it's an aspect of my ambition, this need for speed. I have aspirations of being punctual; I am almost compulsive about being somewhere on time, and yet it seems like I am always running exactly two minutes late and am forever trying to catch the next light, just the same as the woman in the car next to me. And there you have it: the perfect sprinterval training program for babblegs of steel.

Running late gave me the need for speed, and made me a fast fred.  So I spent day two of my Wheelmen's deluxe weekend riding the Little One Hundred.  That's sort of like a criterium, except it's held on an exceptionally bumpy old 400 meter asphalt oval running track.

The day began in typical Vancruiser fashion, with a long and luxurious pre-ride liquid picnic, and a chance to check out what sort of wheels were kicking around.

This ride was nearly a non-event.  We had heard the day before that the guy who organizes these things had cancelled the Little One Hundred because he had to be out of town for the weekend.  We heard the news at August's Vintage Ride the day before, but we all decided that it might be worth it to head over anyways, just to see what sort of bikes came out to play.  Then, when it came time to start the race, we nearly didn't ride. We had some issues putting a team together, but managed to find a couple of people to ride with us, even if only for a few laps.

It didn't hurt that both of our last-minute team members were super strong riders. Thus we had the requisite four member team.  Not that it would have mattered. Since there were only a few teams there that day to ride, and since the whole thing was almost cancelled, the impromptu race organizers said that we could have ridden even if there were only three of us. According to them, it was a "No Rules" ride.

No rules?! Hooray!
So we entered the No Rules Little One Hundred. Remember, this is a Wheelmen event, where the bikes are the star of the show and the beer is always a close runner-up.  Except when it steals the spotlight, that is...

Passing the baton?
A little way into the ride we started to hear grumblings from the peanut gallery that ours wasn't a legal bike. We had the requisite 26" wheels, and it was a single speed bike, as per the usual rules.  But a few people were upset that we had drop bars.  They figured we should be penalized ten laps for riding a non-regulation bike in the no-rules ride.

And it is true, that our bike was better than theirs, but not because we were bent over drop bars. Even if we had flipped the handle bars over to make it an upright experience, we would have won, because our bike was geared properly for that ride.  After spending a bit of time testing out the bike on the track, we decided to run a 52, while everybody else was spinning wildly in the 40's. They didn't stand a chance.  Needless to say, we won the race with a fair few laps to spare, but even so, we weren't allowed to take home first prize. 

Holding D cup
I didn't care about the prize - after all, we weren't even going to ride when the race began.  But it was decided that our non-regulation bike meant that despite winning D cup, we weren't entitled to first prize. That went to the guys who came in second.  We won what was originally second prize, and at first I was really excited by the prospect, because it was a free bike painting.  I was all "Wow!  That's great!  Bea bike really needs a paint job!" but of course it wasn't an Electra paint job. Our winnings won't even cover the chainguard and fenders of the Electra, cause that bike is a serious pain to work on any which way you slice it.  Need to change the back tire? Better give yourself three hours or so. 

It is always good to dream, though.  I had visions of Bea looking all shiny and new, like lovely Alison's bike. She was our anchor for the Little One Hundred, riding the last five laps, wrapping up the race, and bringing home D lovely little cup for the lot of us.

That girl can ride. First prize, second prize or no prize at all, it sure was a fun ride, and a great day to be out under the sun, on and around bikes with a few friends. I can't think of a better way to spend an August Sunday.

Sooo many pretty bikes... I love to surround myself with people who are smarter than I am (it isn't much trouble) and with people who are doing what they love. Whenever I go to the Wheelmen's events, I meet the most interesting, inspiring people. People who love bikes as much as I do.  

Ha!  Who am I kidding?  They love them even more than I do! Some people love them so much that they MAKE THEIR OWN!

Come on. Admit it.  That's pretty cool, dontcha think? Making your own bike?!  Never mind that the seat height is tough to adjust, at least without a hacksaw...

I'm always satisfied when I can take a reasonable photo of a bike, never mind building one! Good thing some people excel at it, though, or goodness knows what I would do with myself.  I hate to think what this world would be like without my favourite, timeless machine.

There is a bike for every person, something to suit every taste.  If only everyone knew the joy to be had on two wheels...
A pugnacious ride. If they were in the race, they would be lap dogs!
...this world would be a much sweeter place.