Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Lessons Learned from Fighting a Wrongful CVC 21202(a) Citation

In March 2009 I was cited for violating CVC 21202(a). The Police Officer understood that code as mandating that bicycles always operate as far to the right as possible. You can read the Court Transcripts, My Appellant’s Opening Brief, and the City Attorney's Respondent’s Brief. I was found GUILTY in court, but was able to convince the City Attorney that I was not in violation, and they agreed that the trial decision should be overturned. It may be several more months before the Appellate Judges actually issue a decision, but with the City Attorney’s endorsement, they will overturn the traffic court decision.

The following is a list of things I wish I had known or wish I had done differently in dealing with this entire situation. Perhaps you can learn from my experiance:

1) Make sure you know the vehicle code pertaining to bicycles, verbatim, and don’t violate it. If you aren’t operating in conjunction with the law, you don’t have a leg to stand on and you make all cyclists look bad.

2) If you are pulled over, and it is apparent that the law enforcement officer does not understand the law, do your best to not argue the point. Road-side “educating” will, most likely, not end in a handshake and a heartfelt “take care.” It will end in a ticket. Avoid the ticket and ensuing court battle by keeping your mouth shut, taking the “lesson” the officer is teaching you, and moving on. Make sure you get the officer’s name for the next step. . .

3) Correct improper law enforcement by contacting the officer’s superior after the incident. This gives you a chance to review the pertaining section of the vehicle code to ensure you are 100% correct, gather your thoughts and your argument, and present both in a much more clear and less emotional manner. You are calling the superior because you are concerned for cyclists’ safety and police misunderstanding, not as a personal vendetta.

4) Contact your City Council member and inform them that their efforts to educate law enforcement are inadequate.

5) If you do find yourself with an unjust citation you have 3 options:
1. Pay the fine
2. Contest the citation via mail-in argument. This gives you a good opportunity to write out a well-argued position, and really remove emotion from the discussion.
3. Take the matter to court. Be aware that going to traffic court requires a visit to the courthouse prior to the actual trial, as you will have to appear before a judge to enter your Not Guilty plea, and set a date for the actual trial.

****6) If you have decided to take the matter to trial, arrive PREPARED! Contact the SDCBC and attain expert witness (certified cycling safety instructor) to testify on your behalf. Do not assume that facts and logic will prevail. Assume, rather, that you are responsible for proving not only that you weren’t violating the vehicle code, but are responsible for showing why the vehicle code was written the way it is. You have to assume that the judge and police officer are anti-bicycle and don’t like bicycles in the traffic lanes. You have to prove not only that you are allowed in the lane, but WHY you are allowed in the lane. Bring cycling safety instructions. Bring expert witnesses. Be Prepared!****

7) If you are found in violation in court, contact SDCBC and appeal! The appeals process is not simple, but it isn’t impossible to navigate on your own. Legal assistance would be very helpful during the process. It can be time consuming, confusing, and difficult, but the results may prove well worth the effort; not just for you personally, but for all cyclists in California.

8) Contact the San Diego City Council and tell them what you’ve been through because of their inability to educate law enforcement.

PLEASE feel free to contact me if you have any questions about how to proceed in any situation. I’m not an expert, but I’ve been through the whole process and can certainly lend a hand or give advice on how to proceed. I am not a lawyer, just a guy who’s been through the ringer on this one. Avoid my pain.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

How far off are we?

I think the difference between perception and reality is very interesting, and that by studying that difference we can learn an enormous amount about ourselves and our surroundings. I have observed that by hypothesizing first and measuring second the measurement is much more meaningful. For example, imagine standing in the fairway on a golf course, looking across a small pond to the flag in the middle of a large green protected by bunkers front and left. If you are not a golfer, who cares, just play along. A good golfer, or caddy, can look at that flag and say, “its about 125 yards.” But a beginner can’t. You could just tell the beginner, “that flag is 124 yards,” and he could then try and remember what 124 yards looks like, and use it as a reference in the future. Or you could ask the beginner, “how far to that flag?” His response will tell you and him a great deal about how well he’s been doing with distance recognition. If he says, “160 yards” then he is clearly over estimating, and will know immediately upon learning the true yardage that he has a lot to work on. If you just tell him, “124 yards” he won’t every really know how far off his judgment is.
I bring this up because I recently calculated the amount of money my wife and I spend on automobile ownership, and it came out to about $800 a month. We lease one car and own one outright. I drive much less than the average person (maybe 300 miles a month), so our fuel and insurance are less than they would be if I commuted in my car. And the fact that we own one of our cars probably makes our monthly total somewhat less than normal. Beany had a great post about cost of car ownership a couple of days ago with links to AAA and other sites that spell the numbers out nicely.
Now to bring this all together. . . I asked my wife one day, after I’d come up with my $800 figure, how much she figured we spent on car ownership each month, just her gut reaction guess. She started adding up all the various numbers and I asked her to stop adding, and just guess. She doesn’t like to guess at things, so this was asking a lot of her, but she graciously played along and guessed $500. My reason for making her guess, as I’ve already tried to point out, is that the fact that her guess-timate was much lower means something. It means that she wasn’t realizing the true financial impact that owning two cars has on our lives. She knew the cars weren’t cheap, but she didn’t, at her gut level, know how much they really cost. Neither did I, by the way, when I first tried to figure it out. $800 is a large part of our monthly budget!
Tom Vanderbilt discusses the differences between reality and perception frequently in his book Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us). For example, people are very bad at perceiving distances, especially greater than 100 yards, and men and women err in different ways. We are pretty bad at estimating speeds, and at timing merges. Most of us understand that we don’t have built in radar guns, and that our estimates of vehicular speed are not amazingly accurate. What we don’t necessarily understand is by how far off our estimates really are. It’s that discrepancy that is really the important thing to know. I feel safer knowing that I really don’t know how fast a car is approaching, rather than feeling like I’ve got a pretty good guess.
I use this technique - forcing a hypothesis before allowing a calculation - often with my students because I think the resulting calculation has a lot more meaning, and is much more memorable compared to the students' preconceived notions. Try it next time you are wondering about something quantifiable. You may learn more than you set out to.

This has been quite the long winded post. Thanks for reading it.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Some more "creative" writing

Here's another piece from my recently finished creative writing class at SD City College. The assignment was to write Flash Fiction, a relatively new brand of fiction that is confined to less than 1000 words, sometimes fewer. My attempt comes in at just under 700 words.

disclaimer: This has nothing to do with bicycles! Feel free to stop reading now. . .


“‘What do you value more, honesty or compassion?’” he read aloud, sure to shade his delivery with deep cynicism.
“What does that even mean?” she chided, wryly.
“Honesty, clearly,” he responded, clicked the corresponding box, and scrolled down to the next question. She sat in his lap in the folding chair at their flimsy card table desk while he filled out the internet dating service’s “compatibility profile” they had finally dared each other to complete. They laughed together, and he snuggled his face against her soft shirt, felt her ribs with his cheek, and absorbed the warmth of the low afternoon sun that shined through the window on her long blond hair.
“Your turn,” he said as he finished. “It’ll never match us to each other- you’re too dumb to land a catch like me.”
“Yeah, hopefully I’ll get someone good looking!” she teased. She bent toward him smiling, kissed him on the forehead, and took the mouse.
After dinner they returned jovially to the office to check the computer generated results. The setting sun dimly lit the small room and the two resumed their cozy pose in the worn chair. Over buttery pasta and a four dollar bottle of pinot they had joked about their potential “e-matches.”
“It makes me sad that people will pay a computer to find what we have,” she had said. Now they furtively anticipated confirmation that their union was Cupid’s handiwork. He opened his “compatibility portfolio”. There were twelve potential matches, but she wasn’t among them. Realistically they both expected this to be the outcome, but the subtle pang of the revelation caused her to shift on his lap none-the-less.
“What do computers know of love?” he proclaimed theatrically.
“Apparently they think you love small hippies,” she jabbed as they scrolled through his matches, each one a slightly varying version of an outdoorsy, creative, brunette. He ran his hand through her blond hair and felt her tense when he squeezed her slender thigh.
“Yeah,” he quipped, “they’ve obviously got me pegged.” Restlessly, she shifted again on his leg, and opened her profile. She smirked proudly at her striking list of prospects. The computer determined that she would be perfectly coupled with tall, dark, handsome business men, one after the next intelligent, educated, and successful.
“What about you?” he pried dramatically, “I guess you’re just slumming down here with me.” His voice wavered, betraying an irritation that she enjoyed.
“I guess I could get used to BMWs and caviar,” she replied, only half joking.
Under the bright, fluorescent bathroom light he stood at the sink, lethargically brushed his teeth, and studied the mirror. He searched for something that resembled tall, or dark, or classically handsome. Sitting on the toilet, painting her freshly filed finger nails, she startled the striking silence by asking, “Does it bother you that I don’t go camping?”
“No,” he said too quickly, irritated by her pretense. Defensively, he fired back, “Would you rather be with someone who could fly you to Rome every weekend?”
Her reply didn’t come quickly. The pause hung in the air like a falling kite. “No, of course not,” she said quietly, “I chose you.”
“Yeah, I chose you too,” he said heavily. He finished at the sink, dried his face, and turned toward the door.
“You like my blond hair”, she probed, “right?”
“Uh huh,” he grunted, annoyed, “and I’m sure you like mine.”
As he walked away she softly replied, “Yeah,” and blew gently on her wet nails.
She was already under the covers when he finally sulked into the dark bedroom. He took off his worn t-shirt, stuffed it in the cramped closet, and got quietly into his side of the big bed. He could smell her lotion, the pillow cases she washed too often, and her long, clean, golden hair. She rolled toward him and said quietly, “Good night, sweetheart. You are my best match, you know.”
“I know, baby. I love you,” he whispered back.
They touched lips requisitely, and then rolled willingly away from one another. Back to back, both pairs of tired eyes stared sleeplessly into the quiet darkness.

If you finished it, Thanks! As always, comments are more than welcome.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Greening With Envy

This morning on the ferry I read the following article from this month's Atlantic:

Greening With Envy - The Atlantic (July/August 2009)

To paraphrase: When given information comparing an individual's eco-friendliness/energy efficiency to his neighbors, the individual is likely to change his behavior to fall more in line with the normal.

And I thought, "I wonder how one could apply this to other aspects of the movement towards sustainable living?"

(ed note: I despise the use of the words "sustainable" and "green" as synonyms for environmentally friendly, but as they have become the convention, I'll acquiesce.)

Could you leave notes on the windshields of F-250 pickups comparing their use of oil to the neighborhood average? Could this practice curb the over watering practiced by several apartment complexes around my home?

Better yet, could you lie about what "normal" is, thus forcing a change in perception? That's basically just advertising, but it could be pretty effective. For example, a billboard that says, "50% of San Diegans ride a bike every week, do you?" or, "3 out of 5 drivers pass cyclists no closer than 3 feet." Who said that advertisements have to be accurate?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Long time no blog

Wow. I've been quite neglectful of this blog for months! I think a large reason for my absence from the www was my presence in a creative writing class at SD City College. I was doing a fair amount of writing, but I didn't post anything. So here goes. As this blog has taken on a fairly cycling specific flavor (not necessarily on purpose) I'll post a piece I wrote for the class. I wrote the piece as creative non-fiction and because a smart person once said, "write what you know," I chose to write about cycling in San Diego. So I'll throw it up here. It's long, so you may want to read in chunks. I'd love feedback. The more critical the better, either of my writing or my point of view. Thanks.

DISCLAIMER: Please don't get your feelings hurt by anything you read here. I may seem critical of all these groups of cyclists, but its only because I identify with aspects of each. Obviously, a stereotype is not represntative of each individual on which it is built.
Also, I stole the name from Thom's blog, The World Awheel. Sorry, but I dig the phrase.

San Diego Awheel

The beach towns of San Diego’s North County enjoy beautiful ocean sunsets, replete with all the colors of an amateur painter’s lavishness. This means that their sunrises, forced to sneak over North County’s elevated terrain, are brushed in a more subtle pallet. But on weekend mornings the rising sun brings out of the highlands an array of hues not normally found in temperate climes; the blues and greens, pinks, yellows, reds, and tangerines usually reserved for tropical fish, birds, and flowers flock to the awakening coast on two wheels. The great Saturday Morning Bike Ride migration descends, in Audis, Subaru’s, and 4Runners on parking lots all along the 5 and the 101. In every coastal town, on steeds of carbon fiber and titanium, spandex wrapped cyclists form packs, aggressive and fast, and take to the hills like salmon to the spawn. As the sun trundles toward its zenith the painted and panting swarms spill back down various tributaries to the 101, stopping in Solana Beach, Del Mar, or Encinitas for tall tales of two wheeled heroism around hot cups of espresso or cold smoothies. Their testosterone and legs spent, they retreat back to their sport wagons and SUVs for the drive home. They have worn tight shorts, sweated, bustled and jockeyed, yelled and been yelled at, and communed thoroughly enough to carry them through the next six days of family obligations, meetings, and crowded commutes. They’ll be back next weekend.
An all-together different breed of cyclist goes unrepresented in the hormone fueled Saturday morning battles. They are nursing hangovers from last night’s show at the Ché (Jim Beam shots dropped in PBR) and are unwilling to rise with the sun. Besides, most have to stamp their time card by one. Like the roadies, their uniforms also mimic forest dwellers- not birds, but lumberjacks. Denim and plaid flannel, but they do prefer their jeans just as tight as the Saturday morning crowds’ spandex. Despite requisite piercings and tattoos, the distinguishing characteristic of these cyclists is the code by which they ride: Fixed gear. One cog, one chainring, no derailleur, no freewheel, and often, no brake. They spin through traffic on modified track bikes, unimpeded by technology or reason. Like the “spandex” crowd, these hipsters practice a weekly communal ritual. Every Tuesday evening, from early Spring through late Fall, they gather in scores on the wooden bleachers and grassy hillsides overlooking the velodrome in Balboa Park. The track bikes raced here are the motivation, inspiration, and justification for the fixed gear phylum. The crowds wash down burritos with Tecate, ogle one another’s Deep-Vs and Sugino laced whips, and every once in a while, they look up and notice there’s a race going on.
Uncomfortably crammed between the hipsters, in small, smokeless pockets of the bleachers, you can often spot yet another variety of cyclist. If they weren’t at a bike race, you probably wouldn’t have known they were into cycling, and that ambiguity is a valued aspect of their style. These are utilitarian cyclists. Utilitarian not in the Benthamian vein, but in that for these riders the bicycle is a utility, a tool, a means of transport. Of course, as bicycles do, the tool becomes much more important than the utility it provides, and thus these cyclists find themselves drawn from rush-hour streets, farmers’ markets, and city counsel meetings to this place of communal bicycle worship. You could call these folks “commuters” but that would be like calling soccer hooligans “fans.” You’d be missing most of the picture. When people take to the bicycle as a mode of transport something changes. Whether the change takes place within their personal paradigms or the external universe is difficult to say, but for these enlightened cyclists the world looks different, and they seek others who share the view. This quest for community draws them to the velodrome on Tuesday nights.
Humans, as a species, yearn for community. If the cycling community in San Diego has a body its organs are the city’s bike shops. Bike shops provide parts, service, organization, and representation. They are temples, shrines, and oracles. Like livers, hearts, lungs, and guts, each shop fills a different role in the community, but like organs, they compete for the same blood and oxygen - money. In the shops of San Diego’s Up Town, hippsters, track racers, and old-school utility cyclists collectively salivate at rows of vintage Italian steel frames and display walls adorned with British leather saddles. In the big box stores, scattered like Hansel and Gretel’s crumbs along the 5 and the 8, Saturday morning warriors buy carbon bits of feather-weight wonder and a new pair of flame embroidered socks. Beach cruisers are sold like tacos to sunburned college kids in flip-flops on every other corner in Pacific and Mission Beach, where the inclusion of a beer koozy can make or break a deal. There’s the track racing shop, the fixed gear shop, shops for mountain bikes, BMX, wonderbikes, recumbents, and tricycles; all filling a niche but with enough overlap that competition can be, and has to be, fierce. Shops sometimes work together to promote an event, or a group ride, or a race, but for the most part they desperately need those few dollars that are up for grabs from the “independent” cyclists. Clearly the body is healthiest when all of its needs are met by functioning organs, but in a pinch, who really needs two kidneys?
Among most groups of cyclists there is an oft heard cry for community: stronger community, more active community, a lobbying, organized, respected and acknowledged community that, through bicycles, can change the city, the country, and eventually the world. In a Saturday morning pace line you can hear the call to organize for fewer potholes and wider bike lanes. Suburbanites want more bike paths. The cry comes loudest from the every day cyclist, the commuters and utilitarians. These are the cyclists who battle the lonely and dangerous city streets day in and day out and truly understand what a car-centric world we live in.
On the last Friday of every month, in a swirling mass of wheels, bells, horns, and hollers, the San Diego bicycle community swarms around the big fountain in Balboa Park. Parents and kids, BMXers flipping tricks, fixed gear riders with bags of canned beer, utility cyclists with trailers carrying radios and dogs, and everyone in between, riding anything they can dream, gather for Critical Mass. “CM,” as it’s known on the forums, attracts a huge number (sometimes as many as 1500) of cyclists under the premise of “taking back the streets.” The idea is that by riding en mass bicycles can, once a month, rule the car-dominated realm. The churning throng rides West out of the park, and for the next few hours proceeds randomly around the city-blinking, ringing, honking, and hollering- staking the bicycle’s claim to the roads.
If there is a whole community event in the San Diego velo culture, this is it. And yet, even in the context of Critical Mass, the community is not complete. As in other historic calls-to-arms there are draft dodgers and conscience objectors. Conspicuously absent are the spandexed weekend warriors. For them cycling is a recreational pursuit; a means of staying in shape and competing against others for high thrills and low stakes. Monday through Friday, for the most part, they are members of the ruling car-driving majority. Also missing from the mass are those who believe the intended significance is lost on the participants. Can drunken college kids and aggressive teens on dirt bikes ever convince the auto-blind convention that the bicycle, as a legitimate means of transport and conveyance, has a real and useful place on the roads and in society? Many think not and choose non-participation as their voice against what has become, at least in their minds, an excuse for condoned anarchy and rebellion.
Obviously, within a medium as varied as the modern bicycle, the practices, methods, ethos, and creeds of its patrons will cover a wide span of experiences. For some, a bicycle is akin to a tennis racket. For others, it’s an accessory, like a skateboard, or Air Jordans. A bicycle, depending on the build and design, can careen down rocky mountain trails, jump over urban ravines, descend flights of concrete stairs, or climb high alpine passes. Bicycles carry men to glory on the cobbled Champs d'Elysées, and they carry men to work on dew wet early morning roads around the world. People carry their children, their groceries, and their aspirations on narrow inner tubes and aluminum wheels. For every different way of utilizing a bicycle there is a corresponding conviction about the machine’s ultimate purpose. With those deeply held beliefs come powerful insinuations against people who use the bicycle differently. Racers disdain commuters for their plebian employment of the beautiful instrument. Utility cyclists scorn the carbon-fiber weight weenies and their five thousand dollar toys. Everyone who hasn’t tried one, and some who have, considers fixed gear bikes a nonsensical and impractical ornament of modern pop anti-culture. Down hillers think cross country riders are dorks. Climbers think bombers are lazy and crazy. Not even BMXers respect other BMXers. On cycling forums, blogs, and bike shops bulletin boards riders claw for community, but on the streets of San Diego they avoid eye contact, sprint past, and judge every other person they observe employing the bicycle in a way different than their own.
The cycling community in San Diego is as diverse as the city itself. Across the beaches, the valley, the uptown mesa, Downtown, South Bay, and East County people on bicycles race, pop wheelies, jump onto and off of rails, ride dirt, street, vert, and track. Curmudgeon ancients on old English three speeds, like the suspendered grandpa at the family gathering, decry any use of post war technology. Black haired hoodlums on urban stunt bikes fill the role of the mischievous little brother. The cool, older siblings race without brakes, wheel to wheel, on the banked concrete of the velodrome. Strange cousins ride recumbents and double-decker monstrosities built in basements. The Mom and Dad of this dysfunctional family are the conscience commuters who halt at every stop sign and red light, signal turns, and wear reflective helmets. San Diego’s cyclists are a dysfunctional collection of preference and personality, and so resemble a real family much more than a mere community. Every family is rife with infighting, jealousy, and contempt. But families are held together by love. In the case of the bicycling family, it’s the love of freedom, of breaking the mold, of shifting the paradigm. No family is perfect, but with a little understanding, patience, and grace, all families progress toward a common goal. Family trumps community any day.
As the sun rises behind the hills and peeks between the sky scrapers of the Finest City and across the Big Bay, men and women, driven by some combination of economy, fitness, convenience, and philosophy converge on a single point on North Harbor drive, on the Broadway Pier. The riders arrive on suspended mountain bikes and high-end race bikes. They come on old-school steel and space-age carbon. Nearly every ideation of bicycle carries a cyclist to the ferry landing, bound for Coronado. They all board the boat together, and slip their wheels into the single bike rack in the middle of the main deck. Clad in full spandex racing kits, gym shorts and tee shirts, cutoffs or slacks, they take their seats and settle in for the ride across the peaceful bay. The ferry leaves, and for twenty tranquil minutes the family enjoys the sparkling view, and contemplates the day to come.

If you read the whole thing, thank you. If you wish to comment, please do.
I'll probably post some other stuff I wrote for the class in the next couple of weeks. Not about bicycles, but the world isn't all about bicycles, just mostly.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Rides Worlds Apart

I went on two bike rides this weekend, and they couldn't have been more different. The variety of experiences a person can have on a bicycle is amazing, and I pity those who never get out and ride.

Saturday morning I woke up, and after waging a serious debate against myself, I drove up to La Jolla for the San Diego Bicycle Club (SDBC) Saturday morning ride. I ride with the "B" group (not quite as fast as the "A"s, but certainly not there for joy ride). This is supposed to be a "training ride," a good fast workout. But for a lot of the people who show up on Saturday mornings, this is their weekly race. They attack each other, take off on sprints, attack the climbs, and generally push the pace to a blistering tempo. The problem is that there is no finish line for any of these sprints, and no points awarded for King of the Mountains. It isn't a race, just a chance for someone to have their "moment of glory." Some guy will go off on a wild hair, and make everyone work really hard to keep the group together, then the dude will fade very quickly to the back and spend the rest of the time trying to hang on. Meanwhile some other dude is now pushing the pace. It gets old.

The good part of all this is that you can get a great, fast ride in. The regular route starts at the La Jolla Village shopping center, winds 35 miles East and North, through the hills, to the coast, and down to Solana Beach. Then everyone stops for coffee or a smoothie, before finishing the last 12 miles back to La Jolla. This Saturday, the group I rode with (started with about 50 riders) averaged 20.3 mph for the first 35 miles! That's fast in my book. I did the run up Torrey Pines back to La Jolla by myself, and finished with a 47 mile average of 19.4 mph. I felt great, and had a wonderful workout to prepare for Tuesday Night Racing.

Sunday morning Gelsey (my wife) and I participated in a ride which is pretty much the polar opposite of the SDBC Saturday morning pain-o-rama. We joined the DownTownies for the weekly two-wheeled jaunt about town. The leisurely roll started at Velo Cult bike shop in South Park and toured several neighborhoods (South Park, Morley Field, Normal Heights, Kennsington) before settling in at the Old Trolley Barn Park in University Heights for a picnic. It was a wonderful group of people to spend a beautiful Sunday morning with.

All in all, a great weekend of bike riding. Toss in a Nuggets' improbable (and somewhat sketchy) win over Dallas, and the long awaited viewing of Slumdog Millionaire, and it really was a great two days. I can't wait until every day is a weekend.

(The picure is from two weeks ago at the velodrome. I'm in back. This was during the unknown distance race. #2 is fast, and I couldn't get around him for the win. I got 2nd.)

Thursday, April 30, 2009

More Tuesday Night Races

I raced at the Velodrome on Tuesday night. It was a fairly successful evening. We didn't get much of a warm-up, as the juniors were on the track right up to race time, then they gave us an 8 lap motor pace. It was cold out, so that didn't really get the blood flowing like I might have hoped.
Anyway, first race was a 4 lap scratch. I lost track of laps, thought we only had one and a half left, and took off. Well, we had two and a half, so when I crossed the line thinking it was over and I had destroyed the field they were ringing a bell signaling one lap to go. Yuck. So I tried to hold off the pack for another full lap and failed. One guy blew past me in turn 3, and another barely got me right at the line. I came in 3rd by a few inches.
The second race was an unknown distance race, which I hate. But I played this one pretty well. I found a nice spot to attack, and a fast guy went with me. I pulled for a lap, then he took a lap in the lead, then the bell rang. So I couldn't be in a better spot! One lap to go, just me and another guy way out in front, I have his wheel, and he's already done a full lap pull. But I failed. I couldn't get around him. I didn't really time my slingshot move very well, and ended up just trying to power past him, but that dude was strong and had a nice finishing kick. He held me off by a wheel. So second place in that race.
Third and final race was a ten lap point-a-lap, with the final lap awarding 3, 2, and 1 points to the first three riders. After a few laps I found my self down low, with people seeming to be a little tired. On the back stretch I decided to just go for it, and see what I could come up with. I sprinted away from the pack and took the lap, and the next one. Another guy had my wheel, and I let him pull the next lap. Then I took a pull, but on the back side we got stormed past by the field. I ended up crossing the finish line half a lap behind everyone else, but my two points were enough to tie up third place.
So, for the night, I garnered two thirds and a second place finish. Not too bad, but I'd have liked another win. Next week. . .

Going Fast, Bluegrass, Down Townies and More Bluegrass

I'm not so good at this Blogging thing. I always neglect it. Anyway. . .
Since my last entry things have been busy. Last weekend was a pretty great time. Started Saturday morning with a long and FAST ride with the San Diego Bicycle Club. We averaged over 19mph for the first 35 miles! That is hauling in my book. I thought I would vomit more than once, as I haven't done any distance riding in months. I was so slow from Solana Beach to La Jolla (up Torrey Pines) that my final stats for 48 miles had me at just over 18mph. My quads were cramping, I was so wiped.
I spent all afternoon/evening on Saturday at the Adams Ave. Roots Festival, which was really a good time. Some of the bands were lousy, some were awesome, food was good, and beer was cold. The best performance came from Chris Hillman, Herb Pederson, and Bernie Leadon.
Sunday morning, bright and early, I met up with the Down Townies ride out of Velo Cult bike shop in South Park. This was the first time I was able to go on this regular Sunday morning ride, and it was pretty nice. Nice, leisurely pace through quiet neighborhoods, around Balboa GC, into Normal Heights, and finally to Cafe Calabria on 30th in North Park. Then back over to the Roots Festival.
Sunday at the festival was not nearly as much fun. It seemed much "cheaper." The bands weren't as good, and the atmosphere was not as cool. My boy Dave bought us all Luchador masks, and he spent the entire day in a bright pink one.
As we were leaving, I put mine on also. Some cops started harassing us as we were getting ready to go. They obviously thought we were some punk kids they could push around. We were on the street on a closed off section (port-a-potties were blocking traffic from one end, and a beer garden was blocking the other). They started yelling "get off the street" at us. So we get on the side walk, and they start staying "go home." I asked if we were breaking any laws, and if not, would they mind leaving us alone. Of course, being power mongering cops, they didn't like that response a lot. Had I not been drinking (not that I was drunk, but who wants to risk anything) I would have been much more confrontational, taken badge numbers, and the like. I hate when stupid cops give policemen a bad name by acting like total donkeys.
Anyway, that was the weekend.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Racing Season has Begun

Last Tuesday night was the start of the track racing season at the San Diego Velodrome (http://www.sdvelodrome.com/). And, crazy as it sounds, I won the frist race! I raced in the "C" group, the slowest of the three classifications, but as I hadn't done any training all winter other than commuting I didn't think I stood a chance.
The first race after the warmup was an 8 lap scratch race. Last season I made the mistake, almost every race, of trying to lead out and race from the front. I'm not Prefontaine, so this didn't work well for me. I was constantly getting passed by several riders on the last lap. So this year I decided I was going to hang back, almost chronically. My goal is just never finish last (which happened several times last year, after leading for several laps). I feel that if I race to never finish last, then I'll have a much better chance of being in a good position to win in that last lap. My sprint is pretty solid, so I'm going to try and rely on that aspect of my abilities to win for me, rather than endurance and high sustained speed.
Well, the new strategy worked very well right off the bat. I hung out at the bottom of the track for most of the race while others jostled for position up top. Then, with about a lap and a half left, I saw a fast guy start to lead out. I was in the perfect position to jump on his wheel, which I did. He did a great lead out, we seperated from the pack, then, with about 200 meters left, I passed him and took it the rest of the way.
All in all, a pretty great way to start the season. Now I have to follow it up with more victories, and maybe an advancement to the "B" group. The problem is that I don't really do much training, so getting faster is gonna be tough. I intend to ramp up the efforts, but whatever.
I don't plan on racing tonight, the second week, because I am exhausted. I worked until 1 am last night. And I'll be out of town next week, so no racing then either. So my next chance to dominate will be the 28th of April. I hope the other guys don't get in shape between now and then!

Talky, talky, talky

I just posted all of this on a forum I frequent, http://www.sdbikecommuter.com/. I'll repost here becuase its a blowhard rant, and I'm a blowhard.

This is a bit long winded. . .It seems to me that private business is the driving force behind nearly every major change in our culture. It would be really great to see private businesses realize the benefits of embracing cycling, and promote it. Henry’s Market (on Park Blvd, near El Cajon, University Heights) is less than a mile from my house. Whenever I need to pick something up I ride over there and get it. It takes me less time to hop on my bike, ride over, and lock up then it would to drive and have to find parking.Henry’s is always crowded. You always have to wait for a register. And the vast majority of people shopping there are picking up one, or maybe two, bags of groceries. It isn’t the kind of place where housewife’s shop for families of seven. The parking lot is always full, to the point where there are cars driving around looking for spots to park. Yet the bike rack is almost always empty. There maybe a beach cruiser or two locked to the elementary school-style rack. I don’t get it. Of all the businesses in San Diego, I would think that Henry’s would/should attract the kind of people who would be very open to cycling as a real means of transport. All of its customers are choosing to spend more on groceries that are fresh, local, and organic. Yet they all drive their cars a few blocks to buy these groceries. I don’t know the exact details, but I can’t imagine that a very large percentage of Henry’s sales come from people who live more than 3 miles away. These people live close to the store. The weather is perfect. They are health and earth minded people. But they drive to the market.So what can be done to change this? I think that Henry’s could do a lot! They could start by putting in much better bike racks. They could offer a discount to customers who ride bicycles (they already give a five cent discount for people who bring their own bags). This has been a long and probably boring rant. I guess my point is, or my question is, how do we get businesses like Henry’s to realize that promoting cycling is in their best interest? Are there some other business that might be open to this kind of “intervention”? To really change things we need big businesses not directly associated with cycling to start beating the drum.
Another thought just came to me. Think back 4 or 5 years. How many people brought their own sacks to the grocery store? I think very few. Then what happened? Did the government make laws against plastic bags? (they did in a few places, but not here). The grocery stores started promoting re-usable bags. They sold them right by the register (made it convenient). They offered discounts for users (incentivized). And environmental organizations raised the issue and promoted re-useable bags as an environmentally responsible behavior (social pressure). Now how many people re-use bags? Lots more, right? I don’t have real numbers, but there has been a significant change. Now there is discussion of legislation banning plastic sacks. Legislation follows social action in most cases. How can we apply this model to the use of bicycles?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Back in Pursuit

Critical Mass, I think, was a huge success this last Friday. It suprises me to say that, because it has been a huge mess the last few months. But it really went well this time. The San Diego Police were really helpful and supportive, which, some would argue, ruins the whole point of CM. I disagree. I think it keeps people safe, keeps them sane, and hopefully the cyclists' positive energy and attitude rubs off on the police who will, again, hopefully, start seeing cyclists as people and not as renegade anarchists. Enough about that.
I started back on my road bike last night. 25 miles out to Cabrillo Nat'l Monument and back. I was heading out to the monument as the sun was setting, and it was an incredible sight. No green flash, but just beautiful. Very clear sky, red sunset, blue water. Wonderful. The ride was good, despite all the traffic and traffic lights. I am encouraged by my fitness level, given that I have not really trained in months. All of my miles of late have come on my commute, 5 miles at a time. So a solo 25 miler was a good start, and a good test. I was able to average nearly 18 mph even with all the traffic lights.
The one thing that really startled me on this ride was the sheer volume of single passanger vehicles on our roads! Trying to get through the foot of Point Loma was insane. I could not believe how thick traffic was, and how many cars were on the roads, and how many of those cars had a single person in them. I forget because I don't spend too much time in traffic anymore. It really is sad. We live in San Diego! It was a beautiful 60 degrees last night. And all those people were sitting in their cars. I wonder if this state of personal transport will ever change in this country. At one point, while waiting at a light, I looked up and down the streets and didn't see a single pedestrian or cyclsit other than myself. But, given the time, I could have counted thousands of cars. It makes a person really think about where we're at.
Enough of this for now.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Critical Mass & Creative Writing

I'm going to actually try and use this blog now. No one reads it, and probably nobody will, but maybe that isn't the point. I'll tell all you non-existant readers what's what. First off, this Friday night, is Critical Mass here in San Diego. This thing is a critical mess, I think, but I'd like it to be better. CM could be a wonderful thing, but right now it is a huge black eye on the cycling community in this city. It's really a great thing in a lot of cities, from what I hear, but around here it is dominated by idiot kids addicted to the mob mentality CM creates. But there is no way to fix that from the outside, right? I have to participate if I'm going to make a difference. Some folks from a new forum I'm part of, http://www.sdbikecommuter.com/, are going to put together some handouts and really try to start making a difference. I plan on helping with that (at least cleaning up the fliers that are dropped all along the way). We'll see how it goes.
The best part of CM is all the sweet parties. It's basically a big rolling party, which is hella fun, but then afterwords there are a few more parties going down. Most notibly is http://www.sdfixed.com/ 's Foot Down at the Ruby Room. Should be a good event, if it's anything like the last one.
I start a creative writing class in a couple of weeks, and am very excited about it. It's web based through a group called Writer Village. They offer this first intro class for free. I'd rather take a real class at the community college or something, but was unable to find anything that would work with my schedule. Oh well, this will be better than nothing and will get me writing.
Well, this has gone on long enough.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

2009 Bianchi Volpe

This is my commuting bike, a 2009 Bianchi Volpe in "metallic olive". I've changed pretty much everything about it.
I'm running it 1x9, using a Paul Thumbies mount for a bar end shifter converted into a bar top shifter. It works great, and looks hella better than the Shimano Tiagra that the bike came with. I've got DiaCompe brake levers now-way cooler. The bars are done with white cork tape tied off with household cotton twine and wine cork end plugs, all covered with 5 coats of amber shellac.
I replaced the stock triple crankset with a single speed crank that came stock on my Pista (which I replaced with a beautiful Campy Record Pista crankset).
The saddle is a Brooks Swift in brown, with copper rivets. The pedals are the MKS Sylvan road model with Soma double strap cages and Soma brown leather double straps.
The tires are Specialized Armadillos, 28cc, the most bomb proof tires I've ever ridden.
That's about it. Heavily modified, got just about perfect. I still want to replace the crankset with a compact double so I can put a chainguard on the outside to help keep the chain on. It has a nasty habit of popping off the chainring if the road gets rough and I'm pedaling. I've learned not to pedal over rough stuff, and it's been staying on really well, but I'd like to not have to sweat it. Also, a black crankset would look better, I think.
If you want any tips on the shellacking process or anything else, hit me up!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Some New Bike Photos

This is the newest bike in the herd, a 2009 Bianchi Pista. I'll discuss it more later as I get it all fixed up.
These bars are Cinelli natural cork with amber shellac. Note the awful Tiagra shifters and how out of place and dumb they look. They will be gone soon. I'll also be adding cages as soon as they come in.