the challenge of wind

wind

Today’s ride was breezy.  I used to curse the wind in my face because it made me work harder, especially uphill. Now I see it as a challenge.  Wind strengthens my legs,  It strengthens my resolve.  It strengthens my lungs.  It makes me work harder, then I feel like I’ve accomplished something when  I get off my bike.

What are your challenges?  How do you feel when you conquer them?

Feel free to leave comments.

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find out your state bike laws

Do you know the helmet requirements in your state?  Does your state require you to have a headlight and a taillight after dark?  How about a Safe Passing Law?  Are you absolutely required to stay in a marked bike lane?

Find out here:  STATE BIKE LAWS.  Click on your state and find a plethora of information.

Ride safely and have fun!


urban trail etiquette

keep left keep right

Does that look problematic?  Not if everyone is going in one direction, right?

I do a lot of urban trail riding.  The trail system in my city is paved and well maintained and it’s used by walkers, runners, skateboarders, rollerbladers, and cyclists.  Learning how to navigate well-traveled urban tails is a bit of a learning process.  Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way:

  1. Definitely keep right if you’re cycling.  Even when you’re going faster than others, there may be someone coming from the opposite direction, right at you.  Don’t hog the center of the trail.  Only move over when passing.
  2. Don’t get too hung up on which side others are walking.  Who wants someone being scoldy and telling them they’re walking on the wrong side?  It’s worth it to be kind.  They may be new to the trail system.  And you may need their help someday.
  3. Slow down when you approach to pass someone who is slower than you are. Many people feel intimidated by cyclists.  Buzzing past them doesn’t help anyone and reinforces the “asshole cyclist” image.
  4. Use a bell and your voice.  When you approach someone going slower than you, use a bike bell and your voice.  Tell them of your presence.   I’ve had several people say that the traditional “on your right” can be confusing – does that mean move right?  Does that mean stop?   I say “behind you” and “passing” because as you can see from the picture above, walkers and runners in my city can get confused and they can be on either side of the trail. I let them pick which side and I go around.
  5. Be visible.  Wear bright colors.  When riding in and out of sunlight on tree-lined trails you can blend into the shadows.  When riding at dusk or dawn or on cloudy days it helps to use your lights.  Part of defensive riding is being visible.
  6. When riding in a group, keep aware of others who may want to pass you. Look behind you often.  Also, ride in single file unless you know there’s absolutely no one around.  But be aware.
  7. Ring your bell at intersections.  Yes, even trail systems can have intersections or blind corners.  It never hurts to preemptively ring your bell in case someone is approaching and can’t see you.

You can meet people who have earbuds pumping music so loudly that they can’t hear you when you try to let them know you’re passing.   I ring my bell and I look for a hand wave or some acknowledgment that they hear me when I signal my presence, but if they don’t seem to have heard me I assume they can’t hear me and I approach with caution.  I also nod or wave when I pass.  It keeps the trails friendly.

Sometimes you’ll meet people who hate sharing the trails with cyclists.  If they hassle you, just tell them to “have a nice day,” and move on.  Engaging with people who are angry leads to no good outcome.

Most of all, enjoy your rides.  Don’t let the jerks get you down.  The more you ride, the better you become at knowing your trail system and the regulars you see every day.  It becomes a community resource.


helmet or no helmet?

I’ve been reading a lot of discussion lately about helmet use in Bike Shares.  Most of them encourage or require helmet use.  And predictably, most people who use bike shares (up to 80%) don’t wear them:

“There’s been a lot of back and forth about this,” Fischer tells Shots. “Wearing a helmet is a good idea because if I’m going to fall off my bike and strike my head, I’d rather have a helmet than not.” But it’s not clear that the lack of a helmet should completely deter somebody from biking. “We want to increase people’s ability to get exercise and do things that are environmentally sound,” Fischer says.

That dilemma is one reason mandatory-helmet laws are so rare. No state requires adults to wear them, and only 21 states require them for younger riders. In Washington, D.C., they’re required for anyone under 16. The argument goes that requiring a helmet doesn’t increase helmet usage so much as decrease bike riding. And studies have shown that the more bikers a city has, the safer biking in that city becomes.

Do you wear a helmet?  What are your reasons?  If not, why?  If a Bike Share program requires helmet use do you think it discourages ridership?

I am an obsessive helmet wearer. Two years ago I had an accident and I landed hard enough on my head and face that I was knocked unconscious.  I woke up surrounded by cyclists and paramedics.  Two years later I still don’t know what happened but it appears I braked hard to avoid something in the trail, and I most likely flipped over my handlebars.  The doctors said my helmet saved me from brain damage or death.

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As you might imagine I always wear a helmet and I encourage others to wear helmets as well.  It doesn’t detract from the sheer fun I have while riding.  But others see helmet requirements and laws as an impediment to the sheer fun of riding a bicycle. What do you think?


non-pro (but vital) tip

Please, everybody, wear something bright, especially if you’re in and out of shadows.  I almost creamed a runner on the trails today.  She was in the shade wearing grey.   The dappled sun on the trails is very pretty in the morning light but boy howdy, it’s hard to see people unless they’re wearing something bright.

Right now neon colors in regular clothing seem to be everywhere in the stores, so it’s easy to pick up some t-shirts in bright colors.  I just bought some super-cheap ones at Target.  Being visible is the very best safety measure you can take (besides not riding like a fool, heh).

Another safety tip: most bike stores have reflective tape.  Hardware stores do too.  Cut a few pieces and attach them to your helmet, the sides of your bike’s frame, and your fenders (if you have them).  You don’t need a lot of reflective tape – just pieces will be enough to catch the sun or a car’s headlights – but they can really add to your visibility.  Always assume you’re hard to see. Sometimes you really are.

Ride safe out there!


A Women’s Tour de France

Do you want to see a women’s version of the Tour de France?  If so, here’s a petition.

Quote:

For 100 years, the Tour de France has been the pinnacle endurance sports event of the world, watched by and inspiring millions of people. And for 100 years, it has been an exclusively male race (there was a separate Tour Feminin in the 1980s, but it lacked parity, media coverage, and sponsorship). After a century, it is about time women are allowed to race the Tour de France, too. While many women’s sports face battles of inequity, road cycling remains one of the worst offenders: fewer race opportunities, no televised coverage, shorter distances, and therefore salary and prize money inequity. We seek not to race against the men, but to have our own professional field running in conjunction with the men’s event, at the same time, over the same distances, on the same days, with modifications in start/finish times so neither gender’s race interferes with the other.

There’s more in the petition link.


the most beautiful sound

The most beautiful sound when riding is the silence of a clean bike chain.  On my first ride after I’ve cleaned my chain I strain my ears to hear that familiar squeaking and maybe a little bit of rattling but I hear birds.  I hear the creek bubbling over some rocks.  In the distance I can hear car traffic but the silence of my bike chain and the ease of pedaling with a clean chain is a little piece of nirvana.

I’m a little bit obsessive about my chain, I’ll admit.  Once upon a time I had no clue how to maintain anything on my bike except for tire pressure.  And even that I more or less ignored unless my tires looked like they were getting a little flat.  Horrible, I know.  But over time I learned a little bit of basic bike maintenance – how to fix a flat, how to adjust the brakes, how important it is to have a clean chain.  And now the single most thing I can do to boost my riding performance – and my mood – is to ride with a clean bike chain.  I can’t help but smile as I pedal along.

And then I can enjoy the birds and the bubbling creek.  Sometimes I hear the hum of those bugs that sound like they’re buzzing; I always forget what they are.  And feel the breeze on my face while I effortlessly pedal along.

Ahhhhhh.  Cycling bliss.

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