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.