Monday, July 21, 2008

Commuter Clothing

On Friday I reiterated my conviction that bicycle commuters should ride in the same clothing they work in.  This morning I saw this guy on my way to work.  He, obviously, works as a personal trainer at the local Gold’s Gym.  He might also be an exception to the rule. 

How do I know he’s a dedicated bicycle commuter?  Look close.  See, he’s not ashamed to roll with fenders.

Really though, I don't care what he wears, or how he wears it.  I'm just glad he's riding. 

Friday, July 18, 2008

Signs of the times

I rolled up to the stoplight on 8th south at State Street on my way home last night.  There was a hiptster in the bike lane in front of me wearing skin tight jeans that were twelve inches too long.  He had them turned up almost to his knees.  He also had one of those subtly ironic T-shirts meant to look like it came from the 1980s.  I could tell it came from Urban Outfitters

I was admiring his Schwinn Century bicycle, which he had modified to a single speed, not a fixed gear, but a single speed, when two more cyclists rolled up behind us—a man and a woman on commuter bikes.  The guy had a mirror on his helmet, because apparently, his ears don’t work and his neck won’t bend to the left so he can see cars coming behind him.  He also had a big pack of something mounted on his handlebars.  I suspect it was a sixer of a local microbrew.  There was another guy on a bike across the street, also waiting for a green light. 

Then another woman on a mountain bike rolled up behind us.  The guy with the mirror and the handlebar pack commented, to no one in particular, but loud enough for our little group of cyclists to hear, that “there are a lot of bicycles out this evening.” 

Looking back, and noticing his pot belly for the first time, I said “Yes, it’s a sign of the times.” 

He chortled, and said “It sure is, but I was riding my bike long before gas went to four dollars a gallon.”

So that explains excessive gut. 

I’m pretty sure he wanted me to tell him how long I’ve been commuting, since I surely didn’t look like a regular commuter to him.  I was on my road bike, wearing corduroys and a knit shirt, cycling shoes with no socks.   Actually, I don’t know what I looked like to him, but I think bicycle commuters should ride in the same clothes they work in

Anyway, I didn’t tell him that I’ve been bicycle commuting since 1995, when gas was less than two bucks a gallon. 

That explains the absence of any gut on me. 

In those 13 years I thought I had learned everything there is to know about bicycle commuting.  I thought I had all the requisite equipment.  But this week I found out I was missing something.  It was something so obvious that as soon as I saw it I knew I could have used it a thousand times in those thirteen years. 

It’s a lock. 

Yeah, just a lock.  Not an ordinary U-Lock, or a cable lock—I’ve got plenty of those.  Incidentally, U-Locks are great deterrents for dogs as well as thieves, and I've been told it’s pretty easy to put one of them through a car window.  The lock I’ve been missing is a pocket size combination lock.  I think they’re meant for locking skis while you’re at the ski lodge paying ten dollars for a hamburger, but they’re perfect for those times when you forget to bring a lock along and need to run a quick errand.  It fits nicely in my (hipster) messenger bag and doesn’t weigh much. It’s not the most secure device out there, and I certainly wouldn’t leave my bike locked up all day with it, but it is lock enough to, as my mother would say, “stop the honest thieves.”  Where, oh little lock, hast thou been these last 13 years?

While 13 years may seem like a long time, Saturday is the 21st annual Mountain Bout at Snowbird.  It’s also the 3rd Annual Chad’s Boycott of the Mountain Bout. 

Maybe 21 years ago mountain biking was such a novelty that riding on awful service roads at a ski resort that charges ten dollars for a hamburger seemed like fun, but today we’ve come up with something that is much more fun, namely singletrack.   Could it be that the low attendance at this race, despite it’s proximity to something like 80% of the State’s population, has anything to do with the crappy course? 

Come on Snowbird, it’s a sign of the times.   

Thursday, July 10, 2008

An open letter to the Governor

Here in Utah we’ve got ourselves a governor with grandiose political aspirations.  I suspect he’s got his eye on a cabinet position in a McCain administration.   Two weeks ago, Governor Huntsman mandated that all state employees were required to work a 4-day work week so he could close state buildings on Fridays and save energy.  An article in yesterday’s Desert News says that the Guv has been making the rounds on the national infotainment circuit, appearing on CNN, NBC and Fox in just the past week.  Not to mention numerous interviews with radio stations and newspapers. 

Then yesterday the Guv, along with the mayors of Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County, announced that they were going to launch a campaign to get more people riding bikes

I couldn’t stay silent any longer.  I wrote the governor this letter:

Dear Governor Huntsman,

I want to applaud you on your efforts to cut energy consumption and reduce greenhouse gas emissions throughout the State of Utah.  You are showing that these changes can be made without jarring our strong economy, and other states are taking notice.  But I have detected an inconsistency in your approach that could come back to haunt you in your future endeavors.

While saving energy is a noble cause, Guvna, if I may call you that, I have to tell you that you’re going about it the wrong way.  By forcing twenty-some odd thousand state employees to adjust their work schedules to fit in a 10 hour workday, and by not allowing them any flexibility in choosing the days they’ll work, you are putting your own political aspirations ahead of thousands of parents with small children that are going to need another way home from daycare.  You’re doing a fine job of tricking your constituents and the national media into thinking that employees not using energy on Fridays in state buildings will sit home in dark, un-air conditioned rooms all day counting the kilowatts they’re saving.  But we’re smarter than that.  We can see through it. 

Come on Guvna, I know it’s hard to see things from the working man’s perspective when you grow up the son of a billionaire, but can’t you find a bit of room for flexibility in your energy savings plan.   Must it be mandatory? 

Jonny, I know you know all about voluntary programs, and how effective they can be.  You often assuage your right-wing donors by reminding them that your actions to avert the impending global climate crisis are not regulatory mandates but are just “consultative administrative or statutory processes.”  And just yesterday, the Salt Lake Tribune said you are planning a media blitz to get more Utahns out of their cars and onto trains, bicycles and buses.   For that I must say thank you.  I’ve been trying to do the same thing for years and, frankly, could use a little help from somebody with pull like you. 

But what gives, Guvna?  Why are you only encouraging greenhouse gas reductions?  Why are you only urging people to ride their bicycles?  Shouldn’t these be mandatory?  We’re talking about significant business practice and lifestyle changes here.  Either you’ve got to mandate that Utahns ride trains, bicycles and buses instead of using their cars, or you’ve got to allow your employees a bit of flexibility in creating their work schedules.  A Senate Confirmation Committee will eat you alive for an inconsistency like this. 

Here’s how I see it Guv.  It’s going to be a heckuva lot easier to allow 20,000 state employees a bit of flexibility than to force 2 million Utahns onto bicycles.  I suggest, just this once, you take the easy way out.  Your political aspirations depend on it. 


A concerned voter

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


(This photo lifted from Sly Fox)

The State Championships were held at Solitude Resort last Saturday.  I felt good.  I was climbing well and descending slowly.  My stomach cramps were mysteriously absent.  And this time I can blame my slow descending on the course, usually it’s my powerful sense of self-preservation. gives a pretty good summary of my race:

Behind the leaders a large group of riders did their best to take the remaining podium spots. Looking more like a road peloton than a mountain bike race [David] Welsh (Kuhl/Scott), Kevin Day (Kuhl/Scott), Chad Harris (Racer's Cycle Service), Rich Abbot (Revolution), Chris Holley (Gary Fisher), and Reed Wycoff (Contender) rode wheel to wheel lap after lap each one unable to shed the others. Finally, Harris and Day would succumb to flat tires allowing Welsh, Abbot, and Holley to surge ahead crossing the line for 3rd through 5th respectively.

What didn’t say is that my flat tire occurred at the point in the race which would result in the longest possible walk and produce the maximum possible heartbreak.  It was the longest walk because it occurred at the very top of the seven mile course, 1,000 vertical feet above the starting line.  Maximum heartbreak because it happened not on the first or second, but on the fourth and final time I would have to climb that mountain.  I was literally done climbing, the race was effectively over.  All I had to do was not crash on the [dusty and very rocky] descent and I would have finished in seventh place. 

They also neglected to mention what caused my flat tire, which was fatigue.  “How can fatigue cause a flat tire?” you ask.  Well, when you’ve climbed 4,000 feet over 25 miles and you’re within spitting distance of the top, you just might lose your focus.  And your motor skills. 

That’s exactly what happened to me.  There is a little rock bridge over a small stream right near the very top of the course.  The bridge is about two feet wide, but somehow, in my oxygen deficient state, I missed it.  Literally.  I mean, I was a good 12 inches to the right of it. 

I had enough wits to pull my front wheel up and over the stream, but my back wheel slammed right into the rocky bank, where something sliced a small hole in the sidewall of my back tire. 

I tried to get it to seal up, but by my brand new CO2 canister didn’t seem to have any pressure.  Brandon Firth came by and gave me his, but I wasted it all trying to get it to seal.  Then I put in my spare inner tube, and waited for somebody else to come by.  Zach R. came by, asking if I needed anything, but was gone before he heard me say I could use more CO2.  That was my last hope.  I packed it up and started hiking. 

Twenty five minutes later I was at the bottom, parched and grumpy.   I returned Brandon’s CO2 canister, promising to buy him a refill, and checked mine again.   Turns out it was clogged with a piece of the gasket that is meant to keep it from leaking during inflation.  When I brushed it out of the way the entire canister discharged like a bottle of champagne.  I don’t know what I could have done to prevent a malfunction like that. 

In more upbeat news, Jon at Sabrosa Cycles is finished with the rigid fork for my single speed.  He sent it to the powder coater yesterday, and I could be riding it by next week.  Maybe riding a rigid bike on descents trails like Solitude will make me feel fast when I go back to by geared bike with a squishy fork. 

Isn’t feeling fast the next best thing to being fast?  

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


Last night Mags, Ryan and I made our way up to Soldier Hollow for another round of Shoot ‘em up short track.  Like last time, this was a high stakes race, only this time the last finisher was to treat the rest of us to churros from a local Mexican joint. 

I’ve been feeling generous lately, and Ryan’s a sensitive guy.  As you can see, he still hasn’t outgrown his love of dinosaurs.  Ryan loves dinosaurs

I thought maybe it would be nice to make it so Ryan wouldn’t lose again.  I wanted to throw the race, but I couldn’t make it obvious, otherwise he would see through it. 

I started planning my fall a week ago when I cracked my Paragon, so I would have to race on my single speed last night.  It climbs fast but I tend to spin out on the flat sections where guys with gears can leave me in the dust.  It was all part of the plan. 

I didn’t want to show up fresh either, so I had a strenuous workout at lunch.  Yeah that’s right, I went bowling.

Dexter pro classicPeople laugh when I say I get worn out from bowling, but I’m not trying to be funny here.  Well OK, even I laugh at the thought of bowling as an athletic activity.  But if done right, bowling can be a good workout for your arms, core and quads.  After three games my control is shot, which is exactly what I needed to make sure Ryan wouldn’t lose.  Besides, I wanted to test out my deluxe new bowling shoes.  Who knew Dexter made ‘athletic’ equipment?

Next, I made sure that we arrived at Soldier Hollow with no time to warm up or take a few practice shots in the shooting range.  This was easy since it was my turn to drive.  Then again, it’s not as if any amount of practice is going to improve my shooting.  (I did nine of a possible twenty five penalty loops last night.)

There’s more.  Usually before a race I check, and double check, my tire pressure, to make sure it matches the trail conditions well.  Last night my front wheel was feeling a little low.  I tried to use Ryan’s floor pump to top it off but it wouldn’t fit because my deep v-shaped rims allow for only a little bit of the valve stem to protrude.  There wasn’t enough valve there for his pump to grab on to.  I’m pretty sure I lost some air when I tried pumping it up. 

I will go to great lengths to lose a race when I need to.  Ryan is that kind of friend.  That’s why I decided to crash on the third lap.  It hardly felt like a sacrifice.  There was a steep switchback at the top of the course that was really rutted and dusty.  It’s the kind of turn where you use your wheels more as rudders than wheels; just holding on and sliding through.  On my third lap I missed the best rut for sliding though so when I leaned into the turn at the bottom my tubeless, and under-inflated, front tire rolled off the rim. 

I didn’t crash then, that came later.  I didn’t have a pump or CO2 for inflating my wheel, so I figured I’d ride it flat to the lap area where surely a spectator would have a pump I could borrow.  The crash came the next time I tried to turn.  I thought I might have to drop out but luckily another racer came by and gave me a couple of CO2 cartridges to air up my wheel.  I now had some raspberries to prove that I was racing my hardest.  My plan was working perfectly, but I still had to finish the race; otherwise Ryan’s victory would feel cheap.   It’s no fun to win when your competition can’t even finish the race. 

Maybe my attempts to lose were a little too obvious, because Ryan figured me out.  He wasn’t about to let me throw the race and turn him into a charity case—no way.  So what did he do?  On his fifth and final lap he pretended to forget the rules. 

Yup, at the end of his last lap Ryan skipped the shooting range entirely and went straight for the finish line, where he pretended to be excited about finally beating me.  He was walking around with his shoulders back, his chest puffed, telling everyone that he’d beaten me.  Ryan’s a pretty good actor.  Then Mags, who had smoked us both (next time we’re making her race in the expert category so she has to do more than three laps), played right into his ploy by telling him that he’d forgotten to do his final round of shooting.  

ChurrosPretending to be embarrassed about his ‘mistake’, Ryan got back on his bike and rode over to the shooting range to take his final five shots.  Meanwhile, I was finishing my last two penalty loops and believed my efforts had paid off.  I was going to lose.  Then I saw Ryan rolling in behind me after shooting a perfect five for five. He had beaten me at my own game.  

 Shucks, I won again.  Churros were on Ryan.