While some are still reeling from his smackdown with Sean
This Salt Laker thinks his Mayor’s childish behavior is overshadowed
by the bicycle-friendly legacy Rocky Anderson is leaving behind.
Mags and I started tearing down a wall in our house on Tuesday night. It was an emotional thing for me. Not because the wall had sentimental value, but because tearing down a wall is an all-or-nothing venture. Once you’ve taken that first swing with a sledge hammer, there’s really no turning back.
Taking out that wall reminded me of mountain bike racing. Two years ago when I started racing in the expert class I put up a wall; I said I’d never be fast enough to race with the pros. Once a rider tears down that wall and races pro, there’s really no turning back.
Two days ago, Rich and Brad slammed my nose right up against my wall.
There was an unusual buzz Monday morning when I lined up with the usual gang of experts at the Stan Crane Memorial Race in Draper because Rich was a few feet in front of us with the pros. Brad was there too. Rich told me that Brad talked him into moving up. Bob joked that I was next, but he didn’t realize I was almost first. See, I was getting tired of losing to Brad and Rich and figured I’d move up and lose to somebody new. What better way is there to improve than to challenge yourself with stronger competition? You might say Rich and Brad pre-empted my pre-emptive strike.
I felt like Rich had stolen something from me, and I told him so. Not only had he taken my surprise move to the pros away, but he also took the luster off the prize of winning the expert class. Winning because your competition isn’t there isn’t much fun.
When the race started I was uneasy because I didn’t know how fast to ride. Should I try to catch some of the pros, who had a one-minute head start? That might cause me to blow up early. Or should I take it easy for the first lap, and give Bob, Paz and Sam a chance to stick with me then attack me in the later laps? My strategy all season had been to sit on Rich’s back wheel as long as I could and hope I had a chance to make a move, but now I was starting out on a race without a clear strategy.
My worries were quickly allayed when we got to the long dirt road climb. I locked out my front shock and settled in for the climb. When I looked back, Bob had dropped off and Paz was nowhere to be seen. I rode alone for the next two laps until I started catching a few pros.
I almost didn’t feel like I was racing when I was alone. It wasn’t much fun, but I knew if I didn’t make any mistakes I would win, which I did. My mom was there at the finish line and she was excited for me, but for me the victory seemed hollow. How long can I race as an expert now? It’s not much fun to race alone. Am I saying I’d rather come in last in the pros than ride alone at the front of the experts?
Am I ready to take that first swing of the sledge hammer?
I was nearly a victim of the right hook this morning. What’s a right hook? If you’ve ever ridden a bicycle in traffic,
you’ve likely experienced it. It’s when
a car eagerly passes you on the left and then makes a right turn right in front
Often the cyclist intends to go straight through the intersection when the
right hook happens, and it can usually be prevented by signaling and moving a few
feet left, if possible move all the way out of the right turn lane, to
emphasize your intentions to drivers behind you. But this morning I was in the right turn lane
because I intended to turn right. I
looked over my shoulder, signaled and moved left, so that I was in the center
of the right turn lane. But that didn’t
deter the woman in the SUV from hitting the gas, passing me on the left, then
making a right turn right in my path. This all happened within 30 feet of the intersection.
I didn’t get a chance to speak to the woman in the SUV, but if I had this is
what I would have said:
“You *$%!ing #@^*head. You almost @*?!ing killed me.”
I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t get that chance because that wouldn’t
have done anyone any good. The message
she needs to hear is this:
“What’s the big deal if, for half a block or so,
you can't get past me safely and are forced to drive behind me at, say, ten
miles an hour? It might make your trip 30
seconds longer. Do you really think
that saving half a minute is worth taking a serious risk of killing or maiming
Needless to say, a right hook can be lethal for the cyclist. So what can
you do to protect yourself from one? I
found these tips online:
Aware of Your Surroundings: Become familiar with the intersections and
drives where motorists are likely to turn. As you approach intersections
or drives, be aware of the motorists beside you and behind you. Look over
your shoulder to check for cars as you approach an intersection. Listen
to the sounds of their engine for sudden acceleration - this is a good hint
that the motorist is attempting to pass you before making a turn. Always
assume the motorist is a) turning, and b) does not see you.
Positioning: As you approach an intersection, guard against the right
hook by riding on the left edge of bike lane. If there is no bike lane,
then take the lane as you approach the intersection. This forces the
motorists to make a more wide sweeping turn. Also, never enter an
intersection in line with the back bumper of a car. The motorist will be unable
to see you!
3. Maneuvering: Know how to do emergency braking, and quick turns,
as these two maneuvers can save you should a motorist suddenly turn into your
I did all of those things this morning and I still didn’t prevent the
right hook. I was fortunate that I didn’t
crash, but if I had I found this last piece of advice that I think every
cyclist should have in his quiver:
When the police arrive after your crash ask them "Have
you had any special training in bicycle-motor vehicle crash
investigation?" If they answer no then ask if an officer with such
training could carry out the crash investigation.
Saturday’s race was yet another episode of the Watch Chad Try To Stick With Rich And Brad For Three Laps show. The plot, which is getting kind of old, only had a few twists. I stuck with them for most of a lap and a half. Then I got dropped on the twisty, dusty, rutted descent during the second lap.
There were a couple a minor incidents early that could have really changed the outcome, but they didn’t. First, from the start something was rubbing on Brad’s bike. It sounded like he had a baseball card stuck in his spokes, (which gives me an idea for next week). You might say he had an audible tachometer.
Then my bike didn’t want to stay in gear, especially the big cog. It kept changing gears at crucial moments so I did something I almost never do—used my granny gear. Then on the descents I felt my rear tire rub on the chainstays several times. It wasn’t until five minutes into the second lap that it occurred to me that these two symptoms might be related. I stopped to check my rear skewer and sure enough it was loose.
Did mention this course was dusty?
Like I said, those two incidents could have affected the outcome of the race, but they didn’t. Rich won, which is what he gets for training all winter, but Brad, poor Brad…
There is a short but steep climb half a mile before the finish line at Soldier Hollow. Some riders call it the wall. It has been known to bring riders to tears. Not because it’s too steep or too big or too loose, but because after 26 miles your legs just don’t want to climb any more. Only the strongest riders climb it cleanly after three laps. That’s why, when I came to the bottom of the wall at the end of my third lap, I was shocked to see Brad walking his bike up. He might as well have gift-wrapped second place for me.
It was back to the granny gear for me, and I passed him three fourths of the way up then held on for dear life through the final descent, a couple of switchbacks and the sprint to the finish line. I could feel Brad’s anger as he gained on me. He wasn’t going to give me this gift without a fight and he was coming on fast but somehow—well now I know how—I held him off.
Needless to say, he was pretty ticked off. He showed Rich and me his bike. He was in the smallest chain rings, front and rear. That, friends, is not a good gear for sprinting. He said something about his shifter not letting him back up, which is why he was walking, and then he muttered a few things to himself and stomped off.
I don’t know Brad very well, but I know him well enough to say that he’s not the kind of guy to let something like this upset him for very long. By the time they were handing out our ribbons he seemed over it. I kind of feel sorry for the guy, considering the streak of bad luck he’s had at all the races this year. But I don’t feel too sorry about his bike failing him. He does own a bike shop after all.
Then there is Ryan. I don’t feel sorry for him at all. Two weeks ago he wimped out (his words) and signed up in the sport class, citing the wind and cold at Five Mile Pass that day. So Saturday’s race at Soldier Hollow was his first Expert race—ever.
He finished dead last.
He tells me the conversation in his head went something like this during his third lap:
“Just call it a day Ryan.”
“No way. Chad will call me a Nancy boy if I drop out.”
“What’s the use? The Clydesdales are catching you.”
“Why won’t Chad take me to more Bees games?”
“Daisuke is pitching today. Wouldn’t you rather be watching him?”
“Boy my legs are tired, that tree looks like a shady place to rest.”
He says the conversation was in his head. I’m pretty sure it happened out loud.
Like I said, I don’t feel sorry for Ryan at all. In fact I’m a little envious. He entered the race knowing full well he didn’t have much of a chance. But he entered because he wanted to have fun, challenge himself and find areas to improve. He said he felt greater satisfaction in finishing an expert race than in collecting another ribbon in the sport class. He didn’t even care when I told him the guy who finished right in front of him, the guy who was second-to-last, was on singlespeed. He had different expectations than the rest of us and that’s why his race was such a success.
Rich won, I was second, Brad was third. But Ryan went home with the biggest prize.
This week is National Bike to Work Week. Salt Lakers had the chance to commute with the mayor on Tuesday morning. Friday is the Bike Bonanza and Saturday is the Pedal Pusher Film Festival. Find the schedule here.
NPR did a story this morning on bike commuting in Marin County, California. They did a good job summarizing the benefits of bicycle commuting and the dangers commuters face.
I love the irony of the statement given by the mother of two at the end of the story on why she doesn’t ride her bike; “I’m gonna to have to do a lot of exercising before I can do that.” Listen to the story here.
Oh yeah, I raced at Soldier Hollow last night. I didn’t get a chance to warm up and when the group started out at sprint-pace my lungs didn't want to keep up. Ten minutes later my legs felt hollow. There was no time in between when everything felt good. I don't know how I finished, sixth or seventh maybe, but I did win a water bottle in the raffle.
...is the gallon you don’t buy.
On Tuesday the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation approved a bill that would require the average fuel efficiency vehicles sold in the US to be at least 35 miles per gallon by 2020, and to increase at least 4 percent per year until 2030. The current standard is 27.5 mpg, and it hasn’t changed since 1990.
Not surprisingly, there are a number of dunderheads in the Senate who think this is a bad idea. One such dunderhead is Trent Lott, who thinks the bill is unfair because it dictates a percentage increase in efficiency “without considering what has already been achieved.” Perhaps the achievement he’s talking about is the record number of bad-air days we experienced this past winter in Utah. We had 28 days where the air outside was unhealthy for humans. We would have had more but the Division of Air Quality stopped counting on March 1.
Or maybe Mr. Lott is talking about the dubious achievement of 11 days last summer when the ground level ozone levels were so high that outdoor exercise was discouraged.
Another dunderhead in the senate who opposes the bill is Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska. He thinks the bill mistreats owners of light trucks (read: SUVs) that many Alaskans depend on. Hmm…Alaska? Isn’t there a big oil field up there Mr. Stevens wants to drill? We could save 53 times more oil every day by passing this bill than we could get from ANWR.
I know a lot of Hooptedoodle readers are cyclists. I know the rest of you breathe air too. And I know everyone complains about the bad air every winter and early spring when we cyclists want to start riding outside. I know it takes a few minutes of your time that you’d rather spend reading [somebody else’s] insightful blog. But do one favor for me. Do something for yourself. For the love of all things pure and holy, do it for the children. Call your senator and tell him to support this bill when it comes before the full senate next month. You can find his or her number here.
I bought Mags a mountain bike last year. It’s an older Gary Fisher X-Cal frame with mostly new parts. Twenty nine inch wheels, of course. I made her promise me that she would enter one race this year if I bought it for her. She made good on that promise on Saturday, but that was still in question Friday night.
What if I crash? What if I can’t climb the hills? What if I get a flat tire? What if another girl punches me? She was going through every rational, and irrational, scenario she could think of.
To make a long story short, she races a lot like me: She climbs better than she descends. She traded places with another woman for much of the race, gapping her on the climbs, getting gapped on the descents. On the last climb she passed her for good. She gave it her all, which was enough to hold off her competitor and she won her category by about two seconds.
On the way home from the race we stopped by the Cinco de Mayo celebration in West Valley City. There were mariachi bands, soccer matches, and a Carlos Santana cover band. Mags’ favorite tamale maker had a booth where we got our post-race meals and settled in for the real entertainment. They were going to crown the 2007 Miss Telemundo Utah right there for us to see. There were about fifteen contestants, Utah residents but from all over Latin America. They danced about on stage in their formal evening gowns like you’d expect at any beauty pageant. Mucho caliente! A crowd of Mexican men, and they were mostly men, gathered in front of the stage, to show their appreciation. But did I mention it was cold? And windy?
There was a dandy of an announcer there, I suppose a Mexican version of Bert Parks, in a scarf and a wool coat, and he and his female counterpart took turns asking the girls serious questions like “If you had a chance to speak with President Bush, what would you tell him?” and “If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?” (To which the contestant quipped “Anywhere warmer than here.”) That’s when the hosts let the girls to put coats on.
The first two contestants were Mexican girls who were younger than the others. One had braces. They had a hard time formulating multi-syllable responses to the questions. I don’t know if it was nerves or the cold, but they were shivering. Then a Brazilian girl who was showing the most skin struggled with her Spanish, which was likely her third language. She was the only blonde of the bunch. Things got considerately more exciting when a girl from Venezuela got up. The wind picked up as she was halfway through telling us why education was so important to her and it blew over a couple of faux classical columns behind her on stage. Fake boughs of ivy were flying everywhere. Then another gust got hold of the lattice back drops. Four of them went down like dominos. Through it all, the Venezuelan girl hardly missed a beat. If they were giving an award for best composure I would have given it to her.
After they crowned the winner, I think she was Dominican; another mariachi band started setting up. Their sombreros were so huge that I thought the wind would carry away the trumpet player ala Mary Poppins. They started throwing mini soccer balls to the crowd and I got hit squarely in the nose by one when I wasn’t looking. Some guy picked it up while I was checking for blood so I lost my souvenir. It was junk anyway so I’m not disappointed. And I’m undoubtedly making somebody happy as there’s some guy out there right now telling his amigos how he caught this ball right after it bounced off a tall gringo’s nose.
Oh yeah, I raced on Saturday too. I felt pretty good for the first two laps and was in third place after Brad had to stop to pick up his forgotten camelback. Then I worked with a teammate on the last lap and made up some time over 7-mile pass. At the bottom of the pass I saw Jay, all the way from Jackson, a couple minutes ahead of me. Rich was further ahead. I chased Jay the rest of the way and stole second place from him in a final sprint. I passed him two feet before the finish line and felt my quadriceps in both legs cramp up when I crossed the line. Afterward Jay said he never knew I was coming so I feel a little sheepish about beating him in a sprint he didn’t know he was a part of, but hey, that’s racing.
I stole this photo from Rich.
Tuesday night I was talking with one of my classmates when he told me that he works in Salt Lake City and lives in a small town 30 miles west of there. He said that he looked at houses closer to the city but that he could get “a lot more house for the same price” living where he does.
Yesterday I went to the monthly meeting of the Utah Air Quality Board. There was a presentation given by a doctor representing Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment. He urged the Board to take several steps to improve Utah’s air, including lowering the freeway speed limit to 55 mph on the worst pollution days and making public transportation free for all riders. After the meeting I watched some of the physicians leave, and was pleased to see that some of them carpooled together. But I wonder; where do these doctors live? Do they live in McMansions in the suburbs (they are doctors after all) many miles from their practices?
Today I read that gasoline in Utah has topped $3 per gallon. That, and the warm weather, has more people at my office showing an interest in bicycle commuting. But the most common reason they give for not doing it is the length of their commute; 15, 20 and in one case 35 miles. Even I can admit that is a little too far for a daily commute.
For over sixty years Americans have been building homes at the edge of town because land and gasoline were cheap. Now people like my classmate and my co-workers, and hopefully the Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment are seeing the costs of living so far away. Those of us living in the city are seeing a chance to make some fast money in real estate investing.