AB1371, CA’s 3-Foot Passing Law Passes Senate

Good news!

From KCRA.com:

SACRAMENTO, Calif. —The state Senate has approved a bill that would require drivers to stay at least three feet away from bicyclists when they are passing in the same direction.

Lawmakers approved AB1371 by Democratic Assemblyman Steven Bradford of Gardena on a 31-7 vote Monday, despite Gov. Jerry Brown’s veto of a nearly identical bill last year.

The governor had said he is worried about the possibility of increased crashes if drivers cross the center line or slow down too much to pass cyclists.

Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, who carried the bill in the Senate, said California is one of 32 states that have so-called “safe distance laws” to protect bicyclists, but at least 22 states specify the three-foot buffer as a safe distance.

Read more: http://www.kcra.com/news/bill-mandates-3foot-buffer-between-cars-bikes/-/11797728/21658704/-/xx0tcp/-/index.html#ixzz2dD68FrDZ

How many times have you been nearly run off the road?  Have you had drivers swerve towards you in order to intimidate you?  Have you even had your handlebars clipped?

I hope Jerry Brown doesn’t veto it this time.  I have to say, his reasoning last time was bullshit.  If you have to cross the center line to pass a cyclist when there’s oncoming traffic, wait until the traffic clears.  It isn’t rocket science.  If you’re too stupid to figure that out, how’d you get your driver’s license?

We have a right to the road.  Respect us and we’ll respect you.


more about women and cycling

Within its ground-breaking report about women and cycling, the League of American Bicyclists presented:

Wow:  60% of 17-28 year old bicycle owners are women!  I surely didn’t expect that statistic.  The growth in bike commuting is also pretty impressive:  56% growth in just four years.  And check out Myth #9: men are not necessarily the face of cycling advocacy; 45% of paid staff at advocacy organizations are women.  Also? There are 630 active women’s cycling blogs.  We really are on a roll and the momentum is building.

The report can be downloaded in .pdf form here:  Women on a Roll.

Here are some of the health statistics from the report that I find most encouraging:

  • Bicycling just 20 miles per week reduces women’s risk of heart disease by 50%.
  • Active commuting — biking and walking — reduces women’s risk of cardiovascular disease by 13% (compared to 9% for men).
  • Women with an active commute of just 30 minutes were half as likely to suffer heart failure as women who didn’t have an active commute.
  • Women who walk or bike 30 minutes per day had a lower rate of breast cancer.

I overcame serious illness through cycling and I’ve stayed incredibly healthy over the last five years of being car-free.  I haven’t even had a cold in five years!  I can certainly attest to the incredible health benefits I’ve seen in my own life.  I feel healthier now than I was at half my age.  A little creakier maybe, but definitely healthier and much more fit.

Also described in the report: the five Cs of women’s bicycling:  comfort, convenience, confidence, consumer products, and community.

There is a lot of good information there. Please do yourself a favor and take a little bit of time to read it.  It’s inspiring!  I’m sure a lot of you already know much of what’s outlined in the report but having it laid out so clearly in one comprehensive report and with excellent references is eye-opening.  And it motivates me even more!  I hope you are equally as inspired as I am.

Ride to live; live to ride!


the road can be a battlefield

This week I read a couple of sobering stories about cyclists and the dangers we face.  The reports are out there if you only look.  They are ubiquitous; there seems to be a lot of cyclist hate in the world. 

Certainly there are assholes of every stripe in the world but it consistently astonishes me how much cyclist hatred there is.  Yes, there are jerks who take chances, run lights, cut dangerously in front of cars, play chicken, etc.  You name it; there are plenty of examples.   There are also assholes behind the wheels of cars all over the road.   However, as cyclists we are painted with the same brush and we’re assumed to be assholes before we have a chance to prove otherwise. 

I could say that we need to ride defensively and yes, we should.  But no amount of awareness and consideration can prepare you for something like this:  Avid Cyclist Grabbed, Dragged by Man in Passing SUV:

Jana Kinsman, 27, had been heading north on Kimball Avenue to check on a friend’s cat in Albany Park just after midnight. As Kinsman passed Wrightwood Avenue, an SUV rushed her.

“A car pulled up really close next to me — this big maroon-purple Tahoe — and it was pushing me against the [parked] cars and I couldn’t do anything,” Kinsman said. “I couldn’t brake or swerve. I was pinned between this moving car and this other car.”

Someone reached from the rear passenger-side window, Kinsman said, and grabbed her messenger bag, which was slung across her back.

“I started screaming. I didn’t know what else to do,” said Kinsman, who said she’s been cycling in Chicago for about six years. “I could hear them laughing like it was a game or something.”

After a few seconds, Kinsman’s bike smacked into a parked car. The man lost his grip on Kinsman and she fell to the ground — hitting her hip hard before bouncing onto the left side of her body.

Bystanders rushed to help Kinsman, who laid on the ground until police, paramedics and her roommate, Brent, arrived.

“My arm hurt really bad, and I was too scared to move,” she said.

Kinsman, an avid cyclist who works as a beekeeper and freelance illustrator, doesn’t have health insurance. She turned down an expensive ambulance ride in lieu of a taxi trip to Swedish Covenant Hospital. She was badly bruised, doctors said, but no bones were broken.

Who in the world would do something like that?  Why would anyone think that was a good idea, or a fun thing to do?  

I’ve been yelled at, chased, honked at, clipped, and nearly run off the road.  I’ve been forced to stop and I’ve pulled my pepper spray on a guy and threatened to use it.  I had an asshole in a giant black pickup truck road rage at me because I dared to flip him off when he clipped me and honked his horn in my ear.  He kept passing me, then turning around so he could continue to heap invectives on me, veins bulging in his forehead, spittle flying, u-turn after frightening u-turn.  The amount of rage he spewed scared the hell out of me. Unfortunately I had a load of groceries and I wasn’t very nimble; I had to take his abuse until he tired himself out from screaming and he peeled away, spitting loose gravel as he tore out.  Must be pretty sad to be that insecure and nasty.

At that time I didn’t have the police department’s phone number programmed into my phone; I do now.  I also have steeled myself to ignore even the most egregious insults while I ride.  These people want a reaction.  They get off on fear.  And I’ll be damned if I give that to them. 

But I’m fortunate so far that no one has physically accosted me.  It’s all been verbal, other than the guy who physically stuck his arms out, forcing me to stop or run off the trail.  I think the best I can do in a situation like that is to stay as calm as possible, don’t talk back, don’t react.  Don’t give them the reaction they want.  I’m working on the blank stare. 

But for crazy people who might grab a cyclist like the story I linked above?  There’s no way to plan for that.  But I’ll be damned if I let fear stop me from riding. And neither should you.  Take as many precautions as you can – don’t ride by yourself late at night, be aware of your surroundings, make sure you can be seen with bright colors, lights, and reflective tape.  Follow traffic laws and show by your actions you are a responsible cyclist.  Stay on lighted roads as much as you can.

But please take the additional precautions of programming the police department’s number into your phone and keep it handy (or use bluetooth).  Carry pepper spray.  Make your camera app easily accessible on your phone in case you need to record a license plate. Plan your outs.  Be prepared for how you’ll react when you will be yelled at and insulted.  Because you will be hassled.  It’s a given. 

And each time you get to your destination safe and sound, breathe a sigh of thanks to the universe; that you survived to ride another day.  It’s a scary world out there and we all need to have our wits about us. Be safe, be smart, and enjoy your right to the road. 


bicycling stats: how do you ride?

Bicycling Magazine asked its readers how they ride, where they go, how far, and how often.  One thing is certain: more people are riding bikes for more purposes now than ever.  Bicycling is no longer only a leisure activity.  Many people commute to work and ride bikes to run errands.  Many people live life on their bikes.  Are you one of them?

Some of the statistics, excerpted:

How often do you ride your bike to and from work?

Every day: 30%
Several times a week: 30%
Several times a month: 12%
Several times a year: 11%
Never: 17%

Do you wear a helmet when you ride for transportation?

Always: 80%
Almost always: 9%
Sometimes: 4%
Almost never: 2%
Never: 5%

Not including your commute, how frequently do you ride your bike for transportation?

Every day: 13%
Several times a week: 31%
Several times a month: 26%
Several times a year: 18%
Never: 12%

All statistics from Bicycling Magazine’s Reader Survey.

There are more interesting statistics in the link, so check it out! Where do you fit?


the joys of lycra

I used to be one of those women who said, “Nope, huh-uh.  You’re never gonna catch me wearing lycra bike shorts.  No way.”  The usual neuroses that have followed me all my life were at play:  My thighs are fat.  I don’t want anybody looking at my butt.  You’ll see all my cellulite.  I’ll be so exposed.

Then I tried padded bike shorts.  Hoo boy, what a joy they are!  For one thing, they’re constructed so they fit best when you’re actually sitting on a bike saddle, so the waistband doesn’t pull down in back when you’re riding.  For another, having your tender bits cushioned is a comfort every cycling woman should enjoy.  It’s divine to be comfortable and to feel cushioned.  Nothing’s more uncomfortable than cycling in regular jeans with a big fat seam chafing right there.  Ugh.

But what if you’re still not comfortable with the idea of skin-tight lycra bike shorts?  What if you feel too exposed?

The good news is you have more options today than ever.  I started with a cycling liner, much like padded underwear.  A liner can convert any pants or shorts into cycling shorts.  I even wear mine under skirts.

There are cycling skorts, which have the liner built in.  These are stylish and functional and you arrive looking good; not feeling like a jock.

Or maybe you want shorts to look like regular shorts, perhaps some with pockets? They’re available as well.

For me, what I wore on top has never made too much of a difference as long as I had a sports bra underneath to control discomfort when riding over bumpy terrain.  I tend to buy brightly-colored tops made out of technical fabrics for running and yoga rather than cycling because I’m cheap.  However, there’s a lot to be said about having a pocket in the back of a cycling jersey for your ID or a kleenex.  Just make sure you can be seen, so avoid all-black or dark clothing.

Whatever you wear, you need to feel comfortable so you’re not thinking about your clothing rather than having fun and watching the road or path in front of you.  But as someone who swore up and down I’d never be caught dead in “ugly” cycling clothing, I’m glad I explored lycra bike clothes.  I vastly prefer wearing them now.

What about you?  What do you prefer to wear when riding?


my chain was yelling at me

My poor chain.  It complains when I don’t keep it clean and happy.  I’ve been pretending I didn’t hear its murmurs but the complaining was getting louder.  Finally it started yelling and I gave in today and made my chain happy by cleaning it.

This post is all about how I clean my chain.  You may do it differently.  You may be one of those incredible experienced people who take your chain completely off and soak it, take your back wheel off and painstakingly brush each cog, etc.  But I’m not.   I live in an apartment so I don’t have a backyard hose.  I’m not sure I could put my chain back on if I took it off.   I know how to do some basic bike maintenance and repair but I’m no pro, and I accept my limitations.  Plus, I’m lazy.  So if I don’t have to take my chain off to get it clean I’m happy.

You can find all the products I’ve mentioned here at REI.

So here’s how I do it. I use a product called White Lightning Clean Streak.   It’s a “dry” de-greaser, which means that you don’t need running water to use it.  It’s a spray-on product that dissolves grime.  The grime drips off so make sure you use it outside and make sure you put some rags or cardboard or something underneath your bike – I learned the hard way that the gunk will drip off and make a mess on my apartment balcony’s concrete (sorry, apartment managers!).

clean streak

The can comes with a fine spray “straw” of sorts to attach to the nozzle; I recommend using it so the spray doesn’t get everywhere.  It’s great at making sure it only goes where I need it.

First I spray the entire chain while slowly turning my pedals backwards:

spray the chain

I make sure the chain is dripping (hence the cardboard underneath).  Then I take a fingernail brush and I brush the top of the chain:

scrub above

And the bottom of the chain:

scrub under

I hold the pedals while I gently scrub back and forth on the same section a few times, then I rotate my pedals a little bit, gently scrub back and forth on the next section, etc.  If you can see one link of your chain that looks a little bit different, you can make sure you get the entire thing covered without losing your place.  Mine has a very bright connector link so I can easily keep track when I’ve gone one revolution.  Even so, if it’s very dirty I may have to go around more than once. I check to see if there are leaves or pieces of crud between the links and make sure I get those out of there.

I then spray the chain again as I did the first time, allowing the grime to drip off.  You may need to go through this whole sequence more than once if your chain is super grimy.

Now I check to see how well I’m doing by gently holding my chain with a clean rag and rotating my pedals to make an initial pass of my chain:

wipe chain

How clean is it?

dirty rag

Nice and dirty!  I keep repeating the above steps until it comes off mostly clean.  But before I spend too much time going over it and over it I clean the dirty cogs because I’m still ptobably transferring some grime from the gears to the chain. I start with the front:

spray front crank

I need to stick the spray extender thing in-between a lot of places to get all three of my cogs. I get on the other side of my bike and spray each ring from that side too.  I usually can see the gunk coming right off.  I keep spraying and rotating until most of it has dripped off. At this point I run the rag over the chain again to see how I’m doing.  Then I start to clean the back cog, rotating my pedals:

spray cogs

It isn’t too terribly dirty, is it?  It gets much dirtier in the winter.  Again I get on the other side of my bike and spray the cleaner from that side too, rotating my pedals.  Usually it takes a combination of repeating the above steps to make sure I’m not transferring dirt and grime from one part I haven’t cleaned yet to a part I just cleaned, but after going back and forth between the chain, front cog, and back cog, and using the rag to wipe the chain in-between, it gets pretty clean and SHINY:

shiny!

I know by the glare that it’s clean! I let it dry for a couple of hours.  At some point I rotate my pedals to make sure everything gets a chance to dry out thoroughly.  I then lube my beautiful clean chain.  In the winter when it rains I need the protection of a “wet” lube. I use T-9 Bicycle Chain Lubricant.  In the summer it’s very, very dry in northern California so I use a “dry” teflon lube.  I am trying out different products but one I like so far is Finish Line Dry Teflon Lube.  If you switch between a dry lube and a wet lube, just make sure you clean your chain thoroughly in-between.

When I lubricate my chain I hold the bottle over the chain on my back cog and I drip the lube down onto it while turning my pedals, wetting my whole chain.  I probably over-lube.  But I then let it drip and dry overnight and before my next ride in the morning I take a clean rag and wipe my entire chain down, rotating my pedals.  You want the lube to be on the little spindles of each link of your chain; not on the chain itself.  Over-lubricating your chain without wiping it off makes it a dirt magnet.  When you ride dirty your chain wears much faster and your cogs will wear out.  Save yourself the replacement costs and keep your ride clean and happy.

Tip:  When dripping anything on your chain and cogs tilt your bike so the cleaning product and lubricants aren’t dripping on your wheels.  You want your brakes to grip! 

When I’m done riding I keep a rag near where I store my bike and I wipe my chain off after each ride.  That helps it stay cleaner longer and gives me lots of free and happy pedaling in-between cleanings.  Depending on your weather and how much you ride you may need to reapply lube every week or two – run your fingers over your chain.  If it’s smooth but not sticky or gritty you’re in good shape. If your fingers are filthy when you run them over your chain, guess what time it is?  Time to clean again.  If they’re gritty you may not be wiping off well enough between rides. And by all means, if your chain is squeaky it needs lube.

Keeping your chain happy and clean is one of the best investments of time you can make for your bike.  When you get more practiced you’ll find that cleaning your drivetrain takes only about 15 minutes.  But you’ll be amazed at how much easier it feels to pedal, how much more energy you have, and how silent a clean bike chain is.  It’s a beautiful thing.

Happy cleaning and happy riding!


equipment review – Trail Rail mounting systems

I’m not being paid for this review.

phone cradle

I entered a contest sponsored by Momentum Magazine for a Trail Rail cell phone/GPS cradle.  How useful!  I always cycle with my cell phone and I’ve been carrying it in a little frame bag. But it requires stopping and pulling my phone out if I need it for anything, including emergencies. I have dropped it getting it out of the pouch.  So I entered the contest, thinking this would be a useful piece of equipment.    Much to my happy surprise I won!

I received the phone cradle from Trail Rail but unfortunately the mounting ring was too large a diameter for my handlebars.  I contacted them, asking if they carried a mounting ring in a smaller size and they offered to send a couple of different configurations for free.  They were extremely helpful and they even asked me for a photo of my handlebars so they could make sure to send the correct mounting rings.

Not only did they send the correct rings but they also sent a low-profile adaptor since I planned on mounting the cradle to my stem.  The original cradle had a platform that adjusts for viewing angle. It’s very nice  but it sticks up from my stem and I bump into it when I stand on my pedals to climb hills.  The people at Trail Rail anticipated this when I told them I wanted to mount it on my stem rather than my handlebars, so they sent a low-profile mount.  However, I couldn’t get it cranked down tight enough.  But they replaced it, with apologies.  Working with these guys has been fabulous,  At every step of the process they solicited my input, they asked for photos, and they went way above and beyond to ensure I had a set-up that worked optimally.

cradle pepper spray

When I sent a picture of my handlebars they noticed the pepper spray canister I have taped to my handlebars within easy reach.  So they asked me the diameter of the canister and sent me a holder with a quick release clamp.

pepper spray holder

I also have a small tactical bag:

bag1

It fits a wallet or small digital camera and my keys.  I can put my cell phone in the bag when it rains. There are several useful pockets inside and outside and it can be attached to your belt when you walk away from your bike.

All of the equipment is top-notch and high quality and it’s built to last.  It isn’t inexpensive, but in this case not only do you get what you pay for, you get phenomenal responsiveness and service from the Trail Rail team. They honestly want you to be happy and will work with you every step of the way to make sure you have the best set-up possible. They welcome feedback and will keep tweaking things to make it perfect.

trailrail

I’ve been riding with these products for a few weeks now and I can say that I am very well-satisfied with them.  I am incredibly impressed with their customer service.  That level of responsiveness is almost unknown these days.  The fact that they went above and beyond for a customer who won their product rather than purchased it outright is a testament to their professionalism.

Here are some pros and cons I’ve found:

PROS:

  • High quality and rugged – these systems are meant to last forever
  • Extremely versatile mounting systems
  • Almost endless configurations (stem, handlebars, seatpost, seat rails, etc.
  • Smart designs – you can mount your phone and record your ride on video using its camera
  • Extra Allen wrenches, neoprene strips, and bolts are included.  This is useful; I dropped a tiny bolt on a ride somewhere.  I now have them all cranked down tight.
  • Highest level of customer service imaginable

CONS:

  • The instructions leave a bit to be desired.  If you’re technically adept it isn’t a problem but if you’re not, you’ll need some help.  However, they’re very happy to help.
  • The glue used for the neoprene lining the mounting rings melts in hot weather, but it is remedied with superglue. Do yourself a favor and re-glue them before you mount them the first time.  Then they’re nearly indestructible.  The company is working on this.
  • Getting the phone in and out of the cradle requires the use of the included Allen wrench.  There’s a quick-release mount for the entire cradle assembly, but not to separate the phone from the cradle easily.  I’ve suggested a quick release system or even a keychain Allen wrench.

I honestly cannot recommend these products and the Trail Rail team enough.  I am very satisfied, not only with the quality of the products but the quality of the service as well.

P.S. I plan to do more reviews when I try out new equipment so watch this space.