Man, is it hot.You know this, unless you live someplace cool, like Death Valley.OK, so Death Valley's really warmer, but it's a dry heat. How dry? The forecast for 3 p.m. Monday in Lawrence called for 100 degrees, with a heat index of 107. Death Valley was forecast to hit 116 at 3 p.m. Monday, but it would feel like - and I'm not making this up - a mere 115. That's dry. When I got around to checking, Lawrence at 3 p.m. Monday was 101, but it felt like 109. Death Valley: 114, felt like ... 114. Flip a coin.Given our sudden surge into triple digits, I'd like to take this opportunity to apologize to all of my co-workers, or at least all of those within sniffin' distance.I smell.Sorry.I don't mean to, and it's not for lack of showering. Really.But when it gets this hot, I can't help but work up a bit of a sweat on my rides to work, no matter how slow I go.I ride in almost all conditions. I ride year-round, in rain and cold and wind. I don't ride in thunderstorms or ice, but I'll ride in just about every other element, including snow and, yes, oppressive, sweat-inducing heat.Truth be told, I have a harder time riding in 100-degree heat than just about any other weather.I always can pull on another layer when it's cold. I just go slower when it's really windy. I simply resign myself to getting wet when it's rainy, though I have been known to pull under shelter when it's really coming down.But there's really no respite from the heat on a bike.There's a limit to how little I can wear without being arrested, and buck-naked is no way to ride a bike. I wear whatever wicking-ware I can and pick the shadiest path possible, and still I get to the office ... and drip.And, no doubt, smell.I know there are all sorts of tricks to avoid the stench. I've tried "freshening up" in the rest room, but I refuse to mask the odor with manscents. The only thing worse than B.O., I figure, is B.O. and Axe Body Spray.I suppose I could take advantage of the office shower facilities, but then I'd have to come in even earlier and arrange for a change of clothes.So I choose to stink.I just hope my co-workers don't mind too much. Given the whole buck-naked alternative, I'm sure they'll find a way to cope.
I work with a guy who is -- how to say it? -- a bit of a carist.That is, he really doesn't like bicycles and, truth be told, I don't think he's really taken by cyclists, either.Hardly a week goes by that he doesn't buttonhole me with some gripe or another about a cyclist who done him wrong.First it was the guy on a bike puttering along around 15 mph.One thing you need to know about Tom, er, my co-worker is that he sees speed limits as suggestions more than actual limits. He likes to drive fast -- really fast -- and anyone or anything that keeps him from pushing the limits of tire adhesion is subject to immediate derision. So it didn't surprise me that Mr. 15 mph was a no-good, sorry example of humankind.I bit my tongue.The other day, Mr. Keegan -- I mean, my co-worker -- pounced as soon as I walked in the door, recounting how he was driving on Sixth Street and encountered a small group of cyclists as he approached his turn."What was I supposed to do?" this co-worker of mine asked. "Hurry up to pass 'em, then cut across them to turn?""Um, no," I replied. "How 'bout just driving behind them until they cleared the intersection, then making your turn uncontested?""That's what I did," was the retort. "But I should have just cut them off."Then he stomped off.Honestly, I don't know what to say to someone who so obviously seethes at the sight of a cyclist. And the fact this man -- person, I mean -- sits six feet away from me and gives me my annual performance evaluation makes me even more hesitant to launch into the Bill of Cyclist Rights.I'm sure it's just coincidence a couple of years ago I was riding home from work and a car came unusually close to me. I looked over and just about engaged in a form of nonverbal communication when I recognized the Sports Editor -- excuse me, my office-mate -- riding shotgun, his son behind the wheel. My bike-hating co-worker still chuckles about how close of a call it was.But I just might get the last laugh.He was driving halfway across the country for vacation and his son asked him to transport his bike for him.Ill-equipped to carry the bike, the man who may or may not be Tom Keegan, my boss, asked my advice.I offered to lend him my bike carrier, and he accepted.I strapped the thing on his car and showed him how to load it.And as he drove away, I laughed out loud as I pictured every cyclist between here and the East Coast taking a glance at his bike carrier, seeing him as "one of us" and welcoming him to the tribe.
I've encountered lots of wildlife from atop my bike saddle.From bobcats to wild turkey, if it lives in Kansas, I've probably seen it from my trusty steed.I've bunny-hopped bunnies and bisected snakes, swerved through gobblers and played chicken with, well, chickens.Though most of my rides on the wild side have taken place outside the city limits, inside the town signs I've seen deer, foxes, coyotes, raccoons and opossums.And then there are the dogs.Almost universally, dogs love to chase bikes, and most, I'd guess, really mean no harm. A couple of pooches I encounter on regular rides seem to enjoy our little "races," but I've also run up against a couple of real hellhounds determined to separate me from my bike and my skin from my frame.But they seem to be in the minority.There is, however, what I perceive to be a growing four-legged menace, a greater threat to in-town two-wheeled transport than all the other furred and feathered beasties combined.Cats.Now, a bit of a disclaimer. I'm a dog person. I grew up with dogs. My relatives had dogs. My friends had dogs. I dated (easy, now) girls with dogs. Then I married into a cat.My wife and kids have a cat, so I've softened my stance a bit, but I'm still a dog person at heart.But my fear of near-feral felines has nothing to do with that.It has everything to do with the fact that I've had probably a dozen close on-bike calls with cats over just the past couple of months.Most critters are pretty predictable.Even the dumbest dog turns into a certifiable math genius in pursuit of a bike, instantaneously calculating approach vectors to meet bike and rider at that sweet spot between the back wheel and heel. I think it's so said doggy can keep his options open: Hmm, should I take a bite out of flesh or rubber? Flesh or rubber? Decisions, decisions.Squirrels like to scamper along parallel to cyclists until bolting across the road between the bike's wheels. Most of the time. I've crunched a couple of nut-lovers before. RIP. Most other animals just try to get out of the way.Not cats.Sure, there are exceptions, but lately I've noticed an alarming incidence of kitties bee-lining for me.I've had kitties charge me from under cars, from lawns, from sidewalks.And I don't know why.They don't nip at my heels. They don't meow or purr or beg to be petted. They don't attack.They just run right at me like I'm an open can of tuna until I'm forced to swerve out of the way.Go figure.Now, I'm sure to hear from cat owners on this one, but I don't think kitties belong on our roads.I'm sure they think they have every right and all, but last time I checked, they don't pay taxes for the roads' upkeep, and many aren't licensed.They have absolutely no regard for the law. They jump from sidewalk to yard to road and back again. They don't stop at stop signs. They pull right out in front of you. They impede the flow of traffic.And even if they have the "right" to be there, it doesn't mean they should be there. It's simple physics: A 10-pound tabby doesn't stand a chance against 200 pounds of man and bike, "right" or not.The other night on the way home, I rode by the cathouse, a residence on my regular commute that is home to what must be a dozen felines. As far as I know, there are more in the freezer inside.As I rode past the cathouse, I saw a kitten in the middle of the road, dead. Or at least extremely sleepy.Without getting all CSI, I couldn't tell if Felix met his maker (wild animal? natural causes?) before meeting Michelin, or if in fact road waffling was the cause of his death. I mourned him (and by mourn I mean I gave him a wide berth), but couldn't help but think future accidents could be avoided if we ban cats from our roads.I know I'd feel a lot safer.
The other day I looked at my back tire and saw the pink casing was showing through the black tread.I needed new rubber, badly, so I stopped off at the friendly local bike shop, where I picked up two new hoops. As I made my way to pay, I glanced at the sticker and paused: $44.95. Each. Gulp.I tend to spend a little more on my tires. To me, the extra coin is worth it for my [commuting tires of choice.] They don't ride the best, but they're tough. I'd guess I've put more than 5,000 miles - maybe a lot more - on my current rear tire without a flat.Since I ride in the middle of the night, in all sorts of weather, I'd gladly pay a couple of extra bucks for the extra puncture protection. I don't want to fix a flat in a questionable 'hood or a rainstorm.Still, I was moderately chapped to shell out 90 bucks for a pair of new tires.Coincidentally, later that same day, my wife found some cheap gas and decided to fill up her car even though she still had gas to last for a few days. She dropped $43 on the partial fill-up.So I started thinking. My wife spent two fewer bucks on gas than I spent on my new rear tire. If she gets 20 mpg in her relatively new, modest, four-door sedan, her 43 bucks will last her just over 200 miles. If I get 5,000 miles out of my new rear tire, I'll be happy. Suddenly the 45 bucks didn't seem so expensive.But gas for a car doesn't equate to rubber for a bike, so I started considering the overall expense of commuting by bike versus car.Over the past year, I've spent 90 bucks on tires, about 50 bucks on a new chain and chainring, maybe 10 bucks on chain lube. And I just dropped $75 to get my headlight's battery fixed. Throw in another 20 bucks for miscellany - AA batteries for my blinky light, grease, etc. So in the past 12 months, I've dropped a grand total of $245 to rack up 5,000 miles on my commuter bike.Now the car.Let's say I had driven those 5,000 miles instead. Again let's assume 20 mpg (although that's high for my four-wheeled clunker in town). That's 250 gallons of dead dino juice. Gas only recently hit $4, so let's say it averaged $3.20 a gallon over the past year (that's just a guess). That's $800 in gas alone.I would have needed, say, three oil changes in that span, so there's another 60 bucks. My insurance runs 35 bucks a month, or $420 bucks for the year. Plus another $150 for the license and registration.Car total: $1,430.I'll admit, though, that's not really fair.I paid the insurance and license and registration fees anyway and got at least one oil change.So this comparison works only if I used one method of transportation exclusively. And it also didn't include "fuel" for the bike - food for me.But I suddenly don't feel so bad about dropping less than a C-note for new rubber.In response to my last entry, alm77 wrote: Andrew, how far do you bike? both to work and just as a total for an average day? ALSO, what is your take on my experience as follows: One afternoon, when traffic was high (so probably 4:30 or 5:00) I was going west on 6th street at 35 MPH when the car in front of me suddenly changed lanes and instantly I was a few feet from a sweating, struggling cyclist. The passing lane next to me was not clear and I managed to slam on my breaks in time, to which cars began to line up behind me. At every opportunity, the cars behind me would swing out into the passing lane leaving me trapped behind the cyclist. My heart was racing, first and foremost because I almost hit the guy and secondly, because I was afraid that someone was going to be rear ended (probably me) for going 10 miles an hour (or less, boy, was this guy struggling) on 6th street. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm all for cyclists, but I'm also all for bicycle LANES, that particular experience has made it difficult for me to have "bicycle friendly" opinions when it comes to policies and rules of the road. Any thoughts (go ahead, win me over.) ? ;)My commute is about five miles each way. I go home for dinner, so I make two 10-mile round-trips daily, for 100 miles a week just riding to work. I also ride to racquetball, the store, the bank : you get the idea. And I ride recreationally. I try to ride about 300 miles a week in total, though my mileage has been down a bit this year.Now, about your encounter : I'm not sure what I'm supposed to win you over to, but I'll give you my take.The cyclist you encountered had every legal right to ride on Sixth Street close to rush hour. Assuming he was as near to the right as practicable, there was absolutely nothing illegal about what he was doing, and you, as a driver, were obligated to drive behind him until it was safe for you to pass.That said, I almost never ride on Sixth Street. There is a one-block stretch on my commute where I do ride there, but it's only because my beloved Seventh Street is blocked off for construction. I said my commute is five miles, but I only live four miles from the office. The extra mile is the result of choosing to ride on wider, safer, lower-traffic roads. I particularly like Fourth Street.I don't like impeding traffic. Sometimes it's unavoidable, but I go to great lengths - literally - not to make cars poke along at my pedestrian pace. So, while the cyclist you encountered had every right to do what he did, you'd never catch me in that situation.I'd vigorously defend any cyclist's right to ride on Sixth Street at any time, but I'd urge equally vigorously anyone who'd ask or even listen not to.I like bike lanes, too, and use them whenever I can. Sometimes they're full of glass and rocks and an occasional jogger, but when they're kept clean, they're just dandy. Unfortunately, there aren't enough of them. If I rode only on roads with bike lanes, I wouldn't make it anywhere near my workplace, and I work downtown. : http://www.specialized.com/bc/SBCEqProduct.jsp?spid=35690
_"You have GOT to be the dumbest (expletive deleted) (expletive deleted) on the planet. Stupid (expletive deleted)."_Those were the words that greeted me as I rode my bike home after work one late night (early morning, actually) this past winter.It was cold - in the teens, if I recall - with just enough wind to bring the chill down to the single digits. Bundled against the elements, I rode unmolested until a four-way stop sign about half-way home.Rarely do I encounter anyone on this particular lonely stretch at 1:30 in the morning, but on this particular night I did.I heard the sound of a power window going down and music spilling out and knew what was coming.The passenger in a shiny black SUV poked his head out the window, and the music died down just as he let loose his foul observation about my intellect. I can only guess he had a bit of a stomach bug, because his door was streaked with what I'm certain was vomit. He unleashed another torrent of expletive-leaden observations about my smarts, my looks, my heritage and maybe even my mother. I considered a rejoinder, but nothing good can come from escalating a scene like that in the wee hours on a deserted street corner, so I looked over, blinked, then rolled on toward home.A peel of laughter escaped as the SUV roared around the corner.Why revisit this now, months after the fact? Because that night, perhaps more than any other, encapsulates what it's like to use a bicycle as a primary means of year-round transportation.Though I drive in thunderstorms and on icy days, I ride in pretty much all other types of weather, day and night. By choice. It's good for me, my bank account and the environment.Most of the time, I ride without incident.And yet occasionally - at least a couple of times a week - something happens that reminds me I'm not out for an idyllic romp. Somebody cuts me off, turns in front of me, honks, throws something at me, flips me the bird : or unleashes a steady stream of invective for no apparent reason.This time, as I rode away, I couldn't help but think that, 15 minutes from my less-than-pleasant encounter, I'd be bundled up on the sofa. The feeling would come back to my fingers, the color back to my face, and the dumbest (expletive deleted) (expletive deleted) on the planet would be indistinguishable from the smartest.And, blankets or not, the back-seat passenger in a certain black SUV still would be the guy who had nothing better do to in the middle of the night than to accost a guy riding his bike home from work. And the next day he'd still have to clean his own puke off the side of his buddy's car.So welcome to Rolling Along, our new blog about commuting to work every day on your bike. If you are a bike commuter, or if you have questions that might make a good blog post, please use the link below to drop me a line.