Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Chapter 8: We All Were Once All Bike Commuters Once

Laddy and Jake had many summers together before graduating high school.  It was around this time the two boys went their separate ways although cycling remained a part of their lives, in different ways.

While in college, Laddy didn't like walking across campus to class, and he detested asking for rides from other kids in the dorms.  Too many times he reached out for a ride to grab a bite to eat or for a lift to Wal-Mart.  Soon the responses seemed the same, "Dude, find someone else, a taxi, or get a bike.  Just stop asking me, ok?"

"No more asking for rides," Laddy told himself.  It was time he returned to what he loved and enjoyed; it was time he found a bicycle to tool around on.  After all he thought, "There are lots if kids here riding bikes."  He only needed to find some wheels, not a perfect bike, but one that could transport him to and fro to complete simple, daily tasks.  

Following this last rejection from his dorm room mate, who refused to "carry him" to work.  He immediately ran down to the coffee shop and grabbed the school's free newspaper, "what may be for sale or for trade," he thought.

Laddy flipped through the want ads, scrolling up and down the column, "Damn! Nothing."
His next move was online.  He pulled up the local craigslist and found what he needed, an inexpensive, older bike that had a rear rack and a handlebar bag.  There was only one problem; this "perfect" bike was a brakeless, single-speed, raspberry horror-show.  The color was cool with Laddy.  Bicycles that are painted unpopular colors didn't grab much attention, but a single speed bike without brakes, "that's a horse of a different color," he muttered to himself.

He called the number listed and haggled a bit on the price before seeing it live.  They agreed on $150.  The seller, an older fella, with a large scar across his forehead, and a dark tan had been a bike messenger in the city for a few years during the 1980's.  The raspberry monstrosity got him through many sticky situations and cost him little to maintain.  The old fella share a few stories about dodging cabs and buses, and the occasional police officer who scrambled at times to ticket the messengers for taking shortcuts on sidewalks or going the wrong way up one way streets.  The old guy smiled when he told Laddy his war stories.

Laddy asked him about the scar across his head.  The old messenger touched the scar on his head, and slowly said, "Oh my,"  and continued to rub his face, while smiling a bit.  "I got distracted while heading uptown."  He continued the story and his face turned red, "Yeah, I saw a beautiful young lady, and I couldn't help but look at her.  I forgot to watch ahead and flipped over the handlebars as the bike rolled into a deep pothole."  The seasoned messenger shook his head, "My bean took all the impact."  He concluded his tale of woe, "Always wear a helmet; keep yourself safe above all things."

 Laddy nodded in agreement, and asked about maintaining a single-speed bicycle.

The retired bike messenger said, "To be a successful messenger in NYC, you had to have a reliable bicycle with no downtime due to mechanical failure."  Pointing to  the raspberry nightmare, he laughed, "She doesn't look like much, but she was always got the job done, and she will do the same for you."

He reached out, pulled her off the hook on the ceiling of his garage; holding onto the headset, he rolled her over to Laddy and said, "Take her." 

She was beautiful.  The raspberry color was strange, even a bit effeminate, but with the slightly dirty white handle bar tape, drop bars, and a well broken in leather Brooks saddle, the raspberry horrow-show was a delight.  Laddy's heart beat with excitement to ride her.

Laddy did take her.    He handed over the $150 dollars and climbed aboard his new, yet well used, raspberry stallion.  He circled around a few times in the messenger's driveway.  Laddy fell in love instantly. He pedaled forward then backward.  The beauty of a single speed bicycle is its ability to move forward and backward, to apply the pedals simultaneously to balance the bike in a single place much like a helicopter hovering above a battlefield.  His heart beat faster still as he joyfully pedaled away.

The old messenger hollered, "Be careful going down hill, Laddy, you gotta back pedal REALLY HARD to slow her down."  Laddy raised his right hand and waved in acknowledgement and rode off into the sunset back to campus.  He thought about his first bike ride with Jake and recalled that summer night on the beach and the beautiful lady in blue.

Til next time,  Laddy and Jake will see you on the road.

My First Ride

Can you remember your first bicycle ride?  I can.  It was the summer of 1973.  My mom and dad bought me a two wheeler with training wheels.  The two wheels were made of hard solid rubber.  The seat was deep green and made of plastic; the frame was lime green.  It was ugly, but to a 4 year old it was beautiful.

My dad took me out to the backyard patio and started the process of holding on and letting go as I wiggled in the seat, tipped back and forth, and then, BAM, I actually pedaled unassisted for a few revolutions.  It was time to hit the street and go for distance w dad's help.  The Big Wheel was a toy of the past now.

I don't remember how long it took that day to go completely solo, but it couldn't have been too long since time flies when you're having fun.  It felt like I had my first three speed the next day.
Oh my, my first three speed.  My first "real" bicycle.  It was blue; it had a white banana seat.  The seat bar was tall, if it was two feet high it was five.  The handlebars were tall too, chopper like. The shifter sat in the center of the cross bar (the ball buster).  Wanting to be like Eval Kneval, I shifted all the time hoping to get just a little more speed.  The speed existed in my mind which raced up and down Hyman Ave always believing to be the fastest cyclist in the neighborhood.

What a feeling!  Doing things for the first time.  Riding all over the neighborhood.  Riding to grandma and grandpa's house or jumping on your bike, heading for the  5 & 10 for a pack of baseball cards was independence. Traveling by bicycle was the best experience a child could ever enjoy.

Any baseball cards I didn't want (usually Yankees cards), I placed onto the spokes with a clothes pin.  The card clicking against each spoke, faster and faster, click, click, click, made my three speed a motorcycle.  Zoom, I could go as fast as I wanted, as loud as I wanted.  The louder the rattle, the faster the bicycle spun.  Oh what fun.

Once dad let go of my Lightening Lime bicycle, he not only taught me the virtue of patience, but he taught me to trust my ability to accomplish the impossible.  Riding a two wheeler for the first time gave me a taste for adventure.  I could go anywhere, anytime.

Enjoy the adventure.  Til our next adventure, I will see you on the road.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Hope of Spring

Ahh... Has spring finally sprung?  Not yet.  Although we have had some wonderful weather just prior to the official date of the season of winter thawing into the seasom of spring, we were blasted by serious snow and brutally cold weather.  Running outside, well for me anyway, was not gonna happen.

These past few days of warmer weather has been nice, yet the rain keeps me indoors.  I am not a fan of running in the cold or the wet.  Today, I am sure those runners who stepped outside to run had a pleasant experience.  The temp was moderate, around 40.  The rain still hung above them in the clouds.  However, here I am still inside hoping the temp climbs to 45 or I will ride the cycle trainer again.

The Clash sung a song entitled,. Should I Stay or Should I Go in the 80's... I run this refrain in my mind whenever the weather sits in limbo between nice and not-so-nice.  What will I do?  That is the question of the season.

Should i stay IN or should I go out?  I remain uncommitted to this point.  If I had a running partner to motivate me to run outside, it would not matter the conditions outside because we are in it together.  We can chat and have a coffe at the runs end and put our mind right for the days ahead after such a catharsis.  Yet, running solo, to me, is a quagmire.  It's lonely, quiet, and long (regardless of the distance).  My mind only drifts to the end, but its still the beginning.

I miss those friend runs.  I wonder if someone may ever run w me again asking, "Hey, lets get out there today although the weather is frightful, we can do it and persevere Mother Nature's wrath.
If you have a running buddy, gey outside and run.  If you run solo and see another solo runner, gain some courage and run alongside him or her.  Who knows, maybe he or she wanted a running buddy just like you.

Til then, I will see you on the road.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Since My Last Post: Too Much has Happened

Well, here we are in 2017.  Several months have passed since my last post in September of 2016.  The primaries ended, the election of Donald Trump has been completed, and I started shaving with a straight razor; I also moved my running and cycling indoors.

I will start with the weather.  Although the snow has not been my obstacle to running or cycling outside, its been cold.  I cannot run outside when the temperature dips below 40 degrees, and I cannot cycle outside yet in the winter because I am still collecting the necessary gear to accommodate the cold breeze of winter cycling.  I made one attempt to cycle in the cold, the temperature was 28 degrees and snow was lightly falling. I wore my running gloves that did not possess the capacity to keep my hands warm while riding.  My fingers froze.  I  turned around and rode briskly home after four miles.  I hope to acquire a nice pair of cycling gloves once I meet my other priorities like paying taxes and such then I will attempt another cold ride.

I must say, that overall, 2016 was a splendid year.  My family moved from one side of Syracuse to the opposite side, and we transitioned the children to another school district and established ourselves as connoisseurs of local ice cream parlors; I learned that Lune Chocolate makes the best chocolate and ice cream sandwiches in Central New York, possibly the state.  As a cyclist, I started to enjoy hill riding since hills seem to dominate the roads around here.  I discovered the beauty of Cazenovia Lake and how beautiful it could be to live on a lake.  I love taking a spin around the lake.  The homes are gorgeous.  This summer, I will make a couple of cycling goals:  1.  to ride round Skaneateles Lake, 2. to do one bicycle over night at a local campground, maybe two.

Regarding politics, I sure hope Donald Trump can do what he says, "Make America great again."  It will be an arduous task to overcome the obstacles of the left who seek to push their agenda of street rebellion and anarchy.  The streets will become more and more violent as The Donald commences the implementation of taking America back from the Democratic thugs who plunged our nation into a socialist abyss of handouts and relative responsibilities.

Abortion, health care, and the environment are the abodes for leftist ideologues who manipulate an uneducated public that no longer pays attention to the meaning of words nor the long term affects of "government"actions.  People forget that  government programs do not work.  They have never worked.  They have never saved anyone any money, ever.  It was the government that gave us HMOs, Health care did not get any better nor did it get any less expensive.  As a matter of fact, since Medicare, medicaid, and HMOs were established, health care has gotten more expensive and less effective because, now, there is a guaranteed payor-- the government and an insurance company.  The costs have become divided, not less expensive.  So, now there is a move to increase the cost to the insured (patient) to alleviate the cost to the government payor and the insurance payor unless the insured (patient) is part of an inclusive government system like medicaid-- aka Obama Care's state exchanges.

Trump, will fail to restore our nation to the fee-for-service health system of the past because our citizens fell for the lie that fee-for-service is not affordable and is exclusive when, in reality, its the fee-for-service system that breeds lower prices and restores the "practice of medicine"to the physician.  Think about it?

Health care is my largest issue with Mr. Trump because, unlike most Americans, I know what he will do.  He will create a large interdependent, interstate insurance program that will be 100% regulated by the government and ensure "universal" health care comes to fruition.  The only winners will be the wealthy and the politically connected.

With that said, Trump will have a positive impact on smashing the highbrow attitudes of the mainstream media and lifting up the conversation among Americans to speak plainly again.  In short the pc language of the left will fade.

Last, shaving with a straight razor is just awesome.  I can now shave without an expensive replaceable cartridge system.  One razor and months of shaves before another honing that will last months again.  Beyond cost of blades, the entire process of wet shaving (that is the phrase used for "old time" shaving) is relaxing.  The lathering of shaving cream in a mug, the slow process of shaving the face with care, and the use of balm and after shave has raised my level of hygiene to a higher level.  This past year was a throwback year of sorts.  I wear bow ties (only the tying kind) once a week. I shave with either a DE razor or a straight razor.  The past is the new future.  I believe its important for Americans to know that the past holds the keys to our success as a nation.  Sometimes we cannot return to old methods, but where we can restore the past, we should.  Old customs like self-responsibility, self-discipline, and self-restraint are always virtuous and will always improve who we are as people and therefore who we desire to be as a nation.

Keep riding your bicycle.  Keep running.  Stay fit. Til next time, I will see you on the road.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Helmets and Mirrors

Bontrager Specter is my light and airy helmet.
After reading my last post about the dangers of cycling on the road and in the park, crash safety may have entered your mind.  How do I or any rider for that matter, keep safe beyond being cautious of all the obstacles and possible scenarios that could arise while pedaling along for the morning or evening ride.  I wonder about safety too.  A helmet and a mirror are nice additions that may make a ride safer.

The first thing a cyclist must do when riding on the street is to wear a helmet.  All helmets are good and will protect your head to some degree.  The differences are not in safety per se, but in comfort.  For instance some helmets are light and airy while others my be heavy and hot (do not allow for max airflow).  Wearing a helmet is a must when riding on roads although not a law for adults or children above twelve years old.  The speed of going down hills require a helmet as far as I'm concerned.  A small stone, twig, or pot hole could throw you off the bike.  Wearing an helmet may prevent a serious head injury, but you will still be hurt. Road rash is not prize. While I ride in the park, I do not always wear a helmet since I ride at slower speeds and feel comfortable with the odds of staying on the saddle rather than sliding across the gravel.  Moreover, if I am passing through the park as a brief respite from the road on a long ride, I will remove my helmet to cool off from the breeze as I ride from one side of the park to the other.  Not wearing an helmet in the words of Kramer, "Is quite refreshing."
Similar version on my Cannondale CAAD 8

The other item that enhances the safety of cycling is a mirror.  I recently purchased a bar end mirror so I could see cars and trucks approaching my bicycle from behind.  I used one for the first time today.  It was simple to install and gave me a broad view of the road behind me for quite some distance.  I still peaked over my shoulder or under my arm occasionally when I moved to the right, but now I had an increased certainty that the way was clear before I moved or turned.  The bar end mirror integrates cleanly with the drop bars on my bicycle and does not interfere with the bare tape.

So, buy a good helmet that provides high airflow to keep your head cool and is light.  Lighter is always more comfy.  Pick up a small mirror that integrates into your style of bike.  Safety first.  Be cool later.  The mirror provided surety that nothing crazy is approaching or that something crazy is approaching you and gives you time to consider a safe move to ride another day.

Til then, I will see you on the road.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Cycling Is Dangerous

The day always starts out the same, I wake up at 6:30 jump in the shower, throw on a suit, I slide up the knot of my tie, put on my contacts, and I hit the road.  Unfortunately my ride at 7:30 am is a a four wheeler, Chevy Malibu.   My Caad 8  and Surly LHT hang on the wall of the garage.  I can see their glistening clean chains sag as I leave the driveway.  I think a drop of oil falls to the ground like a tear drop from the large chain ring.

What can I say?  I love those bicycles.  I hate waiting to ride, but a man has got to do what a man has got to do, work.

Driving a car is dangerous.  As a matter of fact, my company mandates live driving courses and online courses to reduce the risk of a crash just as the drugs we peddle, hopefully, reduce a patient's risk to die of an MI or a stroke.  Yet, patients still die, and drivers still haves crashes.  It's impossible to eliminate risk while driving or while attempting to fool your body into believing it's in good health. Sooner or later, something will go awry.

I know I am an excellent driver.  I have not been guilty of an accident; however, I have been struck by other careless drivers.  I can recall a time when driving from Binghamton Hospital a woman was ancy and pulled out of a turning lane and crashed into my rear door and quarter panel.  The funny thing is, I knew it was about to happen.  Thank goodness my VW Passat protected me from injury.  A bicycle, unlike a car, offers no such protection.

I recall a moment when such an accident occurred while riding my bike as a twelve year old kid.  We had been playing touch football in the street (risking smashed teeth and broken bones), and my buddy's team was getting crushed.  He rode off like a sore loser.   I jumped on my bicycle in chase. He turned right at the end of the block and I followed close behind.  Tony eluded the jeep which drove on the wrong side of the rode, but I was not so lucky.

Turning to the right was the last thing I remember doing.  The jeep must have pulled to the left because I hit the back driver's side window.  I woke up in shock and in an ambulance.  I spent four days in the hospital recovering from countless stitches in my face and head accompanied by a broken collar bone.  Crashing is not fun.  However, like all 12 year old boys, I recovered from my injuries and learned to always pay attention.

So, today my ride through Onondaga Lake Park was an adventure.  My life passed before my eyes several times and a few dogs and kids were lucky to survive.

You may think that a ride in the park is peaceful.  You may even think that nothing can go wrong.  You may even believe that its safer to ride in the park than on the road.  That would be true if I had been Adam in paradise naming the animals one by one and quietly awaiting for the creation of Eve, but no, the park is a dangerous place.

First off, walkers like to walk in packs, and while they walk, they talk with no regard that they spread out across the whole path.  I think these middle aged women are reminiscing about how poorly they played Red Rover, Red Rover.  They do not realize or don't care that a bicycle will be flying around a bend in the path and may need to navigate around them while breaking and hoping to avoid a tree and other cyclists or dogs.  Damn, don't get me started on dogs.

Those walkers also have dogs with them.  Many of these walkers, like the herds that walk together, make the mistake of attaching their dogs on long leashes.  We are talking 20 to 30 foot leashes.  With leashes that long, you may as well ditch the leash because its too dangerous.  A cyclist may do one of three things:  lose his head being cloths lined, have the wheels get wrapped up in the leash and do a header over the handle bars, or crash into a dog not realizing a two wheeled projectile is about to cream it.  So, my advice to the dog walkers is to walk your dog on a short leash so the puppy may live and I may stay out of the hospital.

Leashes.  I remember in the early 90's when overprotective parents used child leashes to keep their little monster and ADD kids from going rogue in the mall as not to lose them or have them be abducted.  I laughed then.  I always found it quite ridiculous to collar a child and treat him or her as a dog.  But now, after riding so often in the park, please tie these kids up.  If these free ranged kids are going to play in a high traffic area in the park, be prepared to have an injured kid because they will be run over, and it will leave a mark.   As an extra warning, don't let your small children ride scooters, trikes, or training wheeled bikes in these high traffic areas on the park path either because they become even more unpredictable.  An adult cyclist has no clue when one of these lil ones mat move into the bicycle's path.

Let me bottom line this for you; the park bicycle ride is dangerous. Its no "stroll in the park". Everyone in the park, everyone on the path must keep their eyes open and to expect the unexpected.  I know I do this.  If I didn't, the path would be littered with dead dogs, wounded pedestrians, and hurt kids.  I keep my eyes up; my hands on the brakes; and my speed moderate.  I dodge the obstacles while sharing choice words as my only outlet to release my frustration.

I like riding at the OLP.  I like riding the miles on the road, but to be honest, the park may be just as dangerous because others may be hurt who just dont't realize that Man was tossed from the Garden and no longer lives in peace.

Til then, I will see you on the road.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Riding with a Clean Chain

Today was the ride after my chain received a thorough cleaning and fresh lube.  Wow! What a difference.

The chain was silent while I pedaled along the shoreline of Onondaga Lake.  Changing gears, up and down the rear cogs, was smooth.  The only noise came when downshifting at the incorrect moments at faster speeds.  I really need to work on finessing the rear derailleur.  Otherwise the hum of the tires spinning upon the paved path was the mantra of the Cannondale Caad 8.

Besides being quiet, a clean chain offers significant less resistance; its easier to pedal which makes you just a bit faster and less fatigued.  I felt wonderful on today's ride.  I saw families of geese paddling along the shoreline of the lake; I sped by folks strolling along; I rode around the Wegman's playground anticipating for the kids to activate the mister and to offer a cool mist as a slight refresher as I slowly passed by.

What was the hero of this grand ride around the lake? It was my Park Tools chain cleaner with an assist from Finish Line dry lube (purchased yesterday morning from The Bike Loft East).  Just fill the cleaning chamber with degreaser and crank the chain on through.  Follow that up by rinsing out the PT chain cleaner, fill with water and crank the chain through again.  The chain sparkled.  A clean chain and a clean frame and wheels make a road bike look new.  A nice clean bike and a silent chain give me all the confidence I need to go for a ride while wearing all that tight gear; otherwise, I would be just some wanna be hack trying too hard to look like I know what I am doing.  LOL.  It is true.  A well maintained bicycle begins and ends with a well lubed chain/drive-train.  Viva the Shimano 105 group set.  

I couldn't wait to ride my bicycle this afternoon.  Its was a great ride. It was a great day.  Looking forward to installing the Shimano 105 carbon pedals on Wednesday.  The Shimano 105 SPD SL 5800 pedals and cleats are wider than the SPD pedals and cleats I have now.  My hope is too eliminate a pressure point on my left foot where the current smaller spd cleat created.  I will keep you all posted.

Til then, I will see you on the road.