Thursday, October 3, 2013

Who are we?

Who are we? That's an existential question if I've ever heard one! What I mean by positing that question is, who are we who ride bicycles?
The reason I ask is I want to know if cyclists are second rate citizens and do we have a good idea when we ride bikes?
I recognize we are not second rate citizens, but I can't help but get the impression some people believe us to be. I'm sincerely amazed at some lawmaker's attitudes toward cyclists, and some business owners' attitudes towards cyclists as well. At times I feel frustrated and hurt by how easily cyclists can be discounted. Cyclists' safety and status is often sacrificed for the sake of money. I can appreciate the role money plays in our economy and the timely delivery of goods and its relationship to the road system. It's just disappointing to me when the reality of the world becomes evident. The bottom line is, the disappointing reality of the way of the world is cyclists come second place (if that) to profit.
Here is where I'm torn. I'm all for profit. Dedication and effort should be rewarded. Business is a competition and every factor should be considered to maximize profits. Conversely, I fully appreciate the value of those childhood values of sharing and being nice. Often, these childhood values and the full brunt of the awful bottom line of doing business are in conflict.
It's true, I visualize a utopian existence where those of us who ride bicycles are many and safe and appreciated and perhaps even segregated from vehicular traffic. Those of us who ride our bikes know for certain if only a person would give cycling a chance, they too would become believers and find their lives improved by the activity.
I don't know. I don't mean to be a Donnie Downer, but I would so like for us all to get what we want, and I know that's not possible. Why do I have to be the one on the underdog's side?

Friday, September 20, 2013

Slippery when wet

Sorry to disappoint you, but this will not be a recap of a bicycle crash upon wet pavement. The title is a cliche' attempt at catching readers' attention. The much less exciting account of a bike ride, unrelated to anything in the title excepting the "wet" portion is as follows.

So, last year at some point during the rainy season and my commute back and forth to school in said rainy season, I wore out the pants half of my two piece rain suit. The upper half, the jacket, remained in tact while the pants developed a distressing, huge, tear right in the crotch to the point that, when worn, more closely resembled chaps than pants.

At the conclusion of the school year, when my commuting came to a decidedly abrupt hiatus, I determined to rid myself of the offending water repellent clothing article, and did just that via placing them without ceremony into the waste receptacle in our garage. Fast forward through the summer and the opening weeks of school.

Last night I left the school at 7:30 and it was dark and pretty well pouring down rain in big wet drops. It was when I sought to extricate my rain suit from my back pack and only found the jacket portion of the suit available to me that I remembered my earlier actions. That was the moment I also remembered that I had not replaced the damaged pants with new, or otherwise intact, rain pants.

The short story is I rode through the dark and rain to get home, on my bike of course, and arrived at home with my top half dry and snug and with my bottom half soaking, drenching, wet. I was fortunate in that the temperature was not cold, otherwise I would have been miserable. As it was, the temperature was right at 70 degrees and the ride was not unpleasant.

This weekend, I must replace my rain gear before the reverse happens to me and I must arrive to the high school with a soak, drenched, wet bottom half. That would be much less convenient than arriving at home sweet home in similar fashion.

So, that's on my to do list.

What rain gear have you found to be most convenient and effective from a work commuting perspective? Please leave a comment if so led.

As usual, be safe out there and keep on commuting by bike!

Monday, September 16, 2013

A career in the bicycle industry

Good Monday to you.

May I request your help in finding a new career in the bicycle industry? If you know some people that could help me out, please inform me. I'm interested.

I am ready to move my family where there a perceived benefits to cyclists in the form of driver attitudes and cyclists' resources. I'm also ready to try my hand at promoting the bicycle in a  new direction from where it is focusing its attention today.

Again, please let me know if you know some people.  Thanks a lot!

Keep on commuting by bicycle!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Another Friday the 13th is almost gone

As usual, I've been commuting to work by bicycle. As usual, I've been wearing my fluorescent, reflective work vest for visibility, and also a pair of fluorescent, reflective work gloves. It's getting darker in the morning so that I use my blinking white light in front and my blinking red light for the rear. My helmet is pinstriped with reflective tape and in extreme cases I will activate my flashing red light attached to the tippy top of my helmet.Not much has changed in those respects.

Our high school has one bicycle rack already in place for use when I first began teaching here. I have determined the design is less than perfect. It's a homemade job the metal fabrication classes welded together out of 1/2 inch square tubing.It's a long horizontal bank of many vertical slots in which to insert the front wheel of a bicycle for storage and securing with a lock.

 My front wheel does not fit in the vertical slot. The slot is too short for my bike to enter fully. Also, the vertical slots are raised up off the ground a few inches with the result being that if I attempt to insert a portion of the front wheel of my bike into it, then the kickstand won't touch the ground to keep it upright. Another complaint is that now there are consistently too many bicycles making use of the rack for them all to fit. I've been in the habit of arriving earlier to the rack than others who need to use it. Therefore, I park my bicycle at the end of the rack leaned up against the rack, rather than with the front wheel inserted into the slot. Obviously, there are only two ends to the bike rack, so if they're taken I must attempt to secure my bike to the rack in the intended way, which means that by the time leave school and go to the rack, my bicycle has fallen over either by accident or by design.

I've been trying to think about just what would make the perfect bike rack. Probably part of the answer is to have more of them. As sure as one is made and installed, there will be less need for it. But that's the pessimist in me. In other words, if more bike racks are installed and the weather turns cold, most other cyclists will cease and desist from riding and all the racks will be virtually empty and the people with the money and authority to give the go ahead for the new racks will believe them to be a waste of time and resources at that point.

I think more racks might make it easier for others to park their bikes. I'm not idealistic enough to believe more racks will encourage more people to ride their bikes, but as my mother is fond of saying, "It's better to have them and not need them, than to need them and not have them!"

The same situation occurs all over town. There is no good place to park a bicycle if a person were so inclined to ride one to a downtown store for purchases or services. They would be forced to clutter the sidewalks with them, either secured to a signpost or light post or handrail, or they'd be left unsecured on the sidewalk, leaned on the kickstand. Either situation would be cause for complaints by pedestrians not on bicycle.

Nothing new there. Just some observations.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Cycle commuting: the lonely post

Yes. I continue to remain "The Midwest Bicycle Commuter" even in my hiatus from updating this blog. I have never stopped being "The Midwest Bicycle Commuter", though I have recently left this post unattended.

Last year, while I didn't write about it, I rode my bicycle the 2.5 miles to and from my classroom at the high school where I teach English through heat, rain, cold, dark, wind, and some snow. It was the snow which brought about my first big interruption in commuting by bicycle there during the entirety of the two school semesters which make up the school year. In the past, before last winter, I'd been forced to drive instead, as much as three days in a row due to deep melted snow frozen to ice. Last winter it was a matter of almost a full school week where it was flat a bad idea for me to try to follow through with my usual mode of travel.

I took that time at the beginning of January to put my bike into the shop in the next town above us to the north, a university town much bigger than where me and my family reside. there I had them build a new back wheel around a new Sturmey- Archer internal geared three speed hub. After six years of riding on the hub that came on the bike when I bought it used, it finally wore out.

The bike shop I took it to sort of took their time, initially. I believe they looked at the bike I brought it and immediately placed it low upon their priority list. I say this because of the old age of the bike. I'm unsure of the manufacture year of the Takara, but something tells me it's from the 80' or older. I've got different lights attached to it with a good deal of "jury rigging" of other items which add to the lackluster appearance. Of course I have the collapsing wire baskets on the rear, and an unpopular handle bar made for upright riding. It's dirty and looks old and not a precision made instrument of handling and performance. That's why I think they immediately relegated it to the bottom of the "to do" list. It might look to some people as if I just removed my bicycle from storage in the garage and the last it's seen service is from it year of manufacture, and they may be mistaken into believing the bicycle to be rarely used. I hope by now, the myriad of my readers will know that to be far from the case.

So, I like to give the benefit of the doubt to businesses and not attempt to interfere too much, so as they can do their job; since, afterall, I am often of the opinion that they are the experts and I should leave things in their capable hands. So, I didn't call them until a full week transpired without hearing a word from them.

When I did finally talk to them, they had forgotten to order the hub. So, I got the story about that and how they were doing right now and it would be ready at the beginning of next week.

By this time, the roads are navigable again, yet I still drove my vehicle, being without my bicycle. So, at the conclusion of the second full week, I again called them, as they had not contacted me with any change in status, though their E.T.A. for the completed work and bicycle had come and gone. It was then I learned they had somehow ordered the wrong hub and received the incorrect hub as a result. Okay.

It was during this conversation with the head mechanic of their shop, that I attempted to communicate to him the importance of my bicycle to me and how I am currently not riding it, since it is in their shop. That, contrary to what they may think about the extreme low temperatures involved in winter, I ride during that time of year and the absence of my bike was preventing that. That it was not a bicycle I pulled from my basement to prepare months in advance of spring.

I finally was notified the work was complete and I went to pick it up at the conclusion of the third full week they had it to order the hub, lace the spokes onto it, and install it and the new shifter.

There. That's full disclosure. I have started out this school year, the first two weeks, by commuting by bicycle again.

Currently, I need a rear red blinking light replacement, and a new pair of rain pants. The last pair of pants I purchased in a pants/jacket rain suit set was cheap indeed and the pants developed a big hole which became a large tear from there, after only a few times I needed to wear them.

Interestingly, through the summer I barely rode my bicycle. I took my sons on different rides, in different combinations a few times, but I rarely found myself with small errands to be done which could be accomplished on bicycle.

It's my goal to return to a routine update of this blog. I hope readers find it valuable, or entertaining, or valuable because of its entertainment. At any rate, I conclude this most recent post of the Midwest Bicycle Commuter. I encourage any and all to leave a comment, please, with any appropriate views, information, or stories, or suggestions for content. Thank you for reading, and keep on commuting by bicycle!