The Arrow

There are no answers; only choices.

Archive for the ‘biking’ Category

I’m Getting a Bike Horn

Posted by thearrow on February 17, 2012

Spring time is around the corner and my expanded butt can’t wait to get into the serious biking regimen again. It’s been four very long months of not biking and instead stuffing my face with lots of bread and sweets. And boy, does the scales show it. But besides that, I’m going nuts without biking to work.

So I took my faithful bike to the shop for a tuneup, which she hasn’t had in two years. Or in about 2,000 miles. Yes, two thousand. On average. Given that I bike to work 26 miles/day, two days a week for 6-7 months, that averages out to about 1,250 miles/year. The guy at the bike shop took a look at it and said, “the case is gone, the crank is gone, the chain is gone. I’ll have to replace all of them.” Given that I bike uphill and downhill all the time, starting with four hills as soon as I get out the door, I change gears a lot, which wears out the spikes on which the chain rests. The good news is that it will all cost just as much as a regular tuneup anyway, because the tuneup focuses on exactly those parts. I love the guys in the back of bike shops. They know their stuff.

I was never handy with anything, let alone mechanical stuff, but I’d really like to learn it. One of my friends (a passionate engineer), gave me a bike repair book as a birthday gift, which I thought was really cool. I’d better start reading it.

And, before I hit the road on the bike again, I’ll get a horn. I’m tired of drivers not noticing me, in spite of my flashing light. I was going to the shop this evening and stopped at a pedestrian crossing (I was on the sidewalk), where an SUV driver saw me, and yet proceeded with going slowly ahead, thus blocking my access to the other side. Are you fucking nuts? Helloooo! So I’ve ordered a bike horn that’s supposed to be extremely loud; yes, the guy below. Maybe that will put some fear of God into them.

I did go to an outdoor sports store to see if they had any and had the most hilarious and edifying conversation with one of their salespeople, a guy who’s a hardcore biker. He started by saying that he lives in DC, doesn’t own a car, and bikes everywhere. Dude, same here :). Then he looked at the U-lock I was carrying (I had already dropped my bike at the shop) and said, “THAT’S your horn. I smashed two windows so far. ” He looked dead serious. I said, laughing, “well, I’m not sure I want to go down that path… Did they come after you?” To which he responded, “I’m alive.”

That’s the spirit! So, I’m sick of drivers not seeing me. I will honk the shit out of them. Let’s see if they like it. I also saw a really cool pic at the store, of a woman with a bare back, on which it was written, “you own a car, not the road.” I need to find something fluorescent on which to print that, or sew letters to, and wear it while in traffic. Or WHATEVER, but something to let drivers know that there are others out there who have the right to use the road.


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Treacherous Trail

Posted by thearrow on November 9, 2011

Two Sundays ago, I was biking to DC on the Crescent Trail pretty fast when I started admiring some foliage over on the left side. My bike slowly veered outside the trail on a patch of wet leaves (it had rained heavily the entire previous day). And when I tried steering it back on trail, tough luck. And when I say tough luck, I mean losing control of the handlebars and landing on the cold, hard asphalt with a bang. It felt like I slammed into a wall.

First, I thought I broke all my left ribs, elbow, and shoulder. It took me a bit to regain full awareness of where I was. I don’t think I lost consciousness as much as I blanked out. When I looked around me, the basket was lying in one place, the bike in the other, and the stuff in the basket in yet another. And then the pain struck me. It wasn’t pretty.

But I lucked out on several counts. First, the woman biking ahead of me had a small backpack full of bandages, alcohol wipes and other first-aid stuff. She stopped to see if I was OK and then bandaged my elbow, which was banged up and hurt like hell, but only had a small raspberry-like wound. Then, I fell very close to a picnic place with a parking lot, so the friends I was going to came to rescue me. Third, said friends bike, too, and therefore they have a bike rack.

And fourth but not least, I didn’t break any bones. I still have some dull pain, mostly in my ribcage and shoulder when I make certain moves, but boy, I could have broken any number of bones in that accident.

It reminded me of what a friend who rides motorcycles said: where you’re looking, that’s where you’re going. After hundreds of miles on the bike, it took one moment of inattention to fall. Ugh. I’ll keep my nose in the right direction from now on.

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Squeeze Your Butt

Posted by thearrow on August 5, 2011

So someone else will want to. That’s what my gym instructor, Susan, keeps repeating every time we go to her class.

This is the best biking tip I’ve heard of. The moment you squeeze your butt you’ll feel that your legs (and said butt) are doing all the biking work and you no longer feel like you need to move your upper body. And the second great biking tip is to keep your upper body quiet. You lose energy by bobbing from left to right when you’re biking. Just transfer that energy into your legs and core, but let the rest of your body relax.

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Biking Inspiration

Posted by thearrow on July 25, 2011

I was getting some cash out of my bank’s ATM the other day, and a guy who had helped me out with a check issue a few weeks before was closing the glass wall separating the bank from the ATM area. We greeted each other and then he says, “I haven’t seen you on your bike recently.”

Um, how did he know? Well, his desk is right in the corner of that bank branch, it has floor-to-ceiling windows, and I bike around it when I come to work. I didn’t realize he was paying attention. “Oh, yes! I haven’t but I’ll be back on it next week.”

“You’re my inspiration!” he added, making my day.

Yes, I will shamelessly cling to any strand of compliment thrown my way.

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Sticking to the Bike Lane

Posted by thearrow on July 3, 2011

A guy from New York City got a $50 ticket for biking outside the bike lane. Which was occupied by a parked car or some other stationary vehicle. When he explained to the cop that he should fine the driver of that car, the cop said that he should have stayed within the bike lane. So he made a movie of himself sticking to the bike lane and crashing into everything that was in his way, including a police car. It’s hilarious. Many thanks to the friend who gave me the link.

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Thoughts on My Bike

Posted by thearrow on June 13, 2011

The title is not mine, but the thoughts have occurred to me, too. Enjoy this beautiful animation.


And, if you have time for more, you can learn how to be alone:

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D.C. Third in Percentage of Women Bike Commuters

Posted by thearrow on March 31, 2011

Bravo D.C.! Now you can understand why I’m raving about biking to work. Better said, I’m the one who now understands why I’m doing this. I’m just lucky to live here.

I found the info at The national bike map below is the work of Kory Northrop, a master’s student in the Environmental Studies program at the University of Oregon. Hats off, Kory! Great job.

As Tanya Snyder wrote on the DC Streets Blog,

“The male-female ratio is no trivial factoid. Women are considered an “indicator species” for cycling. When the conditions are right, female cyclists multiply. When urban biking feels like a game of Pole Position, the ladies tend to find other modes.”

However, going back to the Greater Greater Washington piece, I found these impressions of other women bikers worrisome:

“Basically, drivers seem to be more deferential to people riding bikes if they’re women, riding upright, and wearing street clothes.”

First, I’m not comfortable in street clothes on the bike and, with 13 miles each way, you can forget about me looking feminine. I look like the road warrior I need to be. Riding upright means you’re not on a road bike, so you’re perceived as less competitive than the boys, but I’m okay with deference to women bikers because they seem more fragile.

But not so fragile as to put themselves at risk, as indicated in this other biker’s impressions:

Dottie, a Chicago cyclist, “also observed that an important element for getting this deference is either not wearing a helmet or wearing a brightly colored feminine-looking helmet with hearts or flowers.”

Say whaaat? So, by doing something that puts them at risk of brain damage–not wearing a helmet–women become safer because drivers will protect them? Now that’s the kind of fragility no woman should try for.

Otherwise, I have no problem with flowers on the helmet or some other quirky, fun way to stand out. I just prefer my “don’t f*** with me” face I mentioned here when in traffic, even though I gave up on biking on Connecticut Avenue a long time ago for the simple reason that I’d rather not die of a heart attack at my age :).

Later edit: In response to Dottie’s concern that I misrepresented what she wrote, let me be clear:

I know she didn’t say that not wearing a helmet makes women safer. I only said that her impression was that drivers seem to have more deference to women if they don’t wear a helmet. So it wasn’t her blog post I had a problem with (absolutely not!), but this twisted attitude towards women bikers that seems to encourage unsafe practices.

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