Category Archives: bike

Fragility and Fun

Every once in awhile I think about all of the stupid shit I did as a teenager-wait, even before that considering I had two concussions from bikes before I was 8- and am thankful to have a functioning body. My friend Brad sent this clip and said, ‘this made me think of you.’
Into the Void – Johnny Devlin from Shadow Conspiracy.

It has been a long time since doing any of that on a bike came naturally or with ease. And I’m talking the ‘easier’ stuff, none of this 180-ing into rails and then 180-ing out that I’ve never been able to do. Bikes. Such a medium. Meanwhile though, I fall off of my road bike doing wheelies. So dumb because I actually hurt myself. Had my hands on the brakes, was three pedals in and WHAM! I’m on my ass. Thud. I thought I broke my tailbone. It still hurts ten days later and I have been beating myself up over it. How could I be so dumb? Why do I do these things? How did I let myself fall?

But I’m over that. If I start self-restricting risk and danger it would require an alteration of my entire life. Every day I’m on my bike is a risk. Whether I’m cruising along on the Eurotour or splitting lanes at 20 MPH on my track bike. If I didn’t mountain bike and jump stuff I would go insane. I self-reflected on this in my Dan Cortese vs Noam Chomsky post last summer.

Those who take less risk have said, ‘Just stop doing what’s dangerous then you don’t have to worry.’ What’s the exchange for that life and is it worth it? So much is dangerous. ‘How do you think we can get up there?’ comes up far too often. The blizzard on the East Coast reminds me of high school where we drove around 6 deep in an SUV with shovels and ladders finding our way onto buildings to jump off into snow piles. The time I jumped off a three-story building over a road and that feeling still gives me chills…

I am scared to death (which is a funny statement right?) of being seriously injured or killed. Not a day goes by where I don’t take a deep breath and think, ‘Wow, that could have killed me’. Not long after I watched this video and fell I heard the news that an ultra-cyclist named Bruce Taylor died from his injuries in a bicycle crash here in Southern California. We’ve done the same events. I’ve ridden with him. He was on a bike path. Safe, right?

Weighing risk is the basis of public health. We all do it. But knowing what is in us and how we want to act when not restricted is fundamental in understanding what ‘danger’ is and how we use it and feel it. I’m watching this (on mute with Jay-Z playing: better):

and thinking about the summer while nursing my injury…which really is pretty minor so why worry? Is death and injury a reminder of our fragility and a sign to live more or a warning to take it easy? I’m pretty sure I know the answer and I have the French to thank for articulating it:

We want nothing of a world
in which the certainty of not dying from hunger
comes in exchange for the risk of dying from boredom.

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Filed under bike, bmx

Worlds colide on the reg

New fork for the soon-to-be new 29er picked up with the trusty (and
delightfully squeeky) Ross Eurotour.
'What a life' indeed.


Filed under bike, city, off-road

Bike Far Eliminate the Car

Wanted to let everyone know that is being updated regularly by a handful of authors. Can’t wait for the photos from tandem cyclocross!

My friend Enci just wrote mini-dissertation called The Case Against Bike Paths. Wow. I use them regularly, but only when riding ‘road’ when I’m heading to the coast. For commuter purposes they are not very useful, at least here in Los Angeles. Incidentally I came across this post while on the Twitter page for the first time. I said I drew the line just before Twitter, but a more tech savy Swarm! member set up the Swarm! Twitter account. Follow us?

Next up the ubiquitous Stephen Box lays out what exactly a good bike plan should be: LA’s ‘Best’ Bike Plan Bringing Home the Bacon. Thank you both for making the city a better place for us all.

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Filed under bike, city, political

Midnight Express ride

This past Saturday I did not ride the Mulholland Challenge as I had planned. Well, as I had hoped, but did not plan, therefore no ride. I can’t believe it is mid-April already!
I love that ride and the beautiful course. I rode it in 2007 and it remains firmly planted in my memory as the ride that showed me the potential I have on a road bike. In other words, I thought past riding events with only the goal of finishing them. Pushing myself for several hours (7 to be exact) was novel and surprisingly fun. This year I just didn’t have the miles in to make it worthwhile. Same with last year. Then I ran the checkpoint at the top of Decker Canyon where a SAG’ed rider took this sticker, literally.

Instead some friends and I rode the Midnight Express benefit ride for the Los Angeles Bicycle Coalition. Meeting at midnight at Union Station, the ride travels along the Arroyo-Seco to the Angeles Crest highway. I love this route and have always wanted to ride it at night (someone even described this ride as ‘pretty much designed for you’, which I do not disagree with…). From Clear Creek we descended Angeles Forest highway for a shortwhile before beginning the climb up to Mill Creek summit (4910ft). This section has two distinct memories for me. One is when Morgan rode back from the Tour of Two Forests double (12 hrs) in Santa Clarita with Megan, Max and I behind as a practice run for the 508. The other is when I rode 60 miles along this route to a 32-mile road race where I then had my ass handed to me.

Sunday morning (~2am) as I descended toward the ‘bridge of awesomeness’ in the dark and cold (~35 degrees) with Michael, I was thinking about how smart Alex was for having tyvex envelopes for us to slip under our jerseys and how I was towing the line, albeit it knowlingly, of comfort and warmth in only a jersey, vest and arm warmers, when I flatted. Ever think, ‘Damn I’m so cold but as long as I keep moving I’ll stay warm?’ or ‘My hands are so cold I can barely shift gears’? So there we were trying to fix my flat with shaking arms and stubby fingers. Miserable? A little. But I’m glad I had the experience so I can draw on it when I am in worse situations. Because really, it wasn’t THAT bad.

A little while later we pedaled over the summit and had one final freezing descent to the Acton train station to wrap up the 50 miles. A few riders who had left early were huddled under some heat lamp-like lights (!?) and we all waited for breakfast. It was worth it. Thanks to the influence of Swarm! volunteers there were vegan pancakes, sausages and cinamon buns. Topped off with hot coffee. Yum. The plan was for the riders to get on the 7am metrolink train to Union Station. But on a beautiful morning, in the mountains, already dressed for cycling, why not ride back?

Michael and I took our time and cruised back up and over the two passes before each heading our respective ways. I got in a quick nap before we had people over at our new place for a chill Sunday potluck. Budge has some photos up here.


Filed under bike, road, vegan

I’ve been thinking more and more about the parallel or analogy that bikes and bike riding are for my life.
It’s obvious that 1) I can’t make up my mind about much 2) My interest comes and goes in huge waves 3) I don’t excel at anything, but do quite a lot to make up for it 4) I don’t nurture relationships as much as I could (rust on the stem bolts on my Seven? What am I thinking?) 5) I always want to do slightly more than I’m willing or able to put effort into.

Here are some going-ons:

My friend Aidan, who crewed for me when I raced Norseman in 2007, is racing the Iditarod Trail Invitational . 350 miles, unsupported, across Alaska in the winter. Starts this Sunday.

Not sure what to add about this. Have fun?

Next weekend here in Los Angeles is the Bike Summit, Saturday 9am to 4pm. I had not heard much about it and was hesitant to get involved (I never really did), but looks like a great day of workshops and speakers. The preceding Friday, the 6th, I am part of the Root Down ride, a bike tour through the city stopping at historical points in LA bike history from 1999-2009.

I’m going to be talking about More Than Transportation, a bike weekend event with workshops, rides, races, parties, etc that happened in 2002, 2004, 2005 (part of Bike Summer) and 2006. I wanted there to be a stop about the time in 2004 that Critical Mass rode through three grocery stores to support the striking Safeway workers, but it is not going to happen. That night was amazing.

Speaking of protests and political activism, I’ve been painfully keeping up with Green is the New Red, a site that “focuses on how fear of “terrorism” is being exploited to push a political and corporate agenda.” Will articulates how the “T-word” is being used to silent legal environmental protest (see the 5 step process). It’s saddening to read what has been happening, but the existence of this site and the material they are putting together is helping to fight it. Check it out, it’s worth your time. And to all of you mainstream environmental groups who think this does not pertain to you, I have this poem:

“In Germany, they came first for the Communists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist; And then they came for the trade unionists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist; And then they came for the Jews, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew; And then they came for me . . . And by that time there was no one left to speak up.”

And I realized that I have not reported on our 24-hour race in Tucson, which was two weeks ago now. Oops. It was great fun. Riding, hanging out, eating, sleeping, chilling, making hot drinks, riding, repeat. I’ll try to get more together for that.

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Filed under bike, political, vegan

Bike check, one two what is this?

[This is an old post that never made it out of draft status.]

When I was 21, my life pretty much revolved around politics. I was seriously dating a girl at the time and we connected heavily through politics. I was of the anarcho-punk ilk and she was of the ‘graduated at 20 with a double major and speak 3 languages’ ilk. We actually discussed at one point the feasibility of going to Chiapas to fight with the Zapatistas (yeah, yeah, I know how ridiculous that is).

I have this vivid memory of being on the train in NYC with her, coming back from visiting my father in Brooklyn, and I said something about having five bikes. Not that I had them at the time, but that at some point in the future there were five different types of bikes I would like to own. She laid into me about how hypocritical and consumerist that would be of me. And how it went against so much of what I was about. What the hell does anyone need five bikes for?

Her and I did actually go to Chiapas, but we remained unarmed (mostly went to bakeries and bought Marcos dolls). Eventually a bike would come between us; when I rode cross country she broke up with me. What does this have to do with a bike check? Well, even in my over-zealous idealist youth, I was willing to make exceptions for bikes. I really had no idea at the time how much of a medium they would be in exploring and experiencing the world. But here we are.

Cool kid bike.
A one-off custom frame from Trystan Cobbett and Bernard from Seven. It has the Ritchey break-away system. Pretty much the only time other bike kids talk to me is when I’m on this. I’ve long grown tired of that front wheel. My original fondness of it was more of a nostalgia for BMX mags.

Roadie. Custom Seven, sans stickers. Say what you want about those wheels, but they are the lightest, strongest wheels I’ve ever run. Over 10,000 miles logged.
Single-speed 29er. Kona Unit, fully stock minus the seat. $450 plus paint job. Super fun. I run a 32-20.
Bianchi Reparto Corse cyclocross (2002). Bianchi sent me this after I broke an Axis. It’s closer to a road bike than any cross bike I’ve ever seen. Here’s it is set up for off-road.
Terrible One Barcode. Sees very little action, unfortunately. Occasionally I’ll take it out and 180 some boxes.


Filed under bike

Can’t stop, won’t have an extra $381

I got a red light ticket today! On Boyle and Olympic right in front of the Sears Building. Bummer.
It’s such an easy light to go right on red because:

1. You have a clear line of cross traffic, 2. You are going slightly downhill, 3. the Westbound lane of Olympic is really wide.

It’s totally safe!

I don’t know what is worse: The usual jerk cop or the one that is super friendly and almost apologetic. There was not much disagreement about what happened (unlike my taking the lane ticket three years ago) and he said because I was in such a rush he would write quickly so that I’d be on my way. His biggest concern seemed to be about the ‘danger’ of splitting lanes (riding in the space between two lanes of traffic) and hitting the intersection at about 15 MPH. I guess a warning was not a possibility.


Filed under bike, city

1950’s Disney Goofy short about driving

I stole this right from If you ride bikes this makes so much sense. The seemingly nicest people will scream obscenities at you. Sometimes it is so out of place that you have to just laugh at it.

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Filed under bike, political

yo Los Angeles

yo Los Angeles,
I love you. I never thought I would, but these last five years have been fantastic. Especially the bike riding. I remember when LA Critical Mass was the only ride and it started at 5th and Flower and was mostly messengers. Then came More Than Transportation 1, 2, 3 and 4. By 2005 we had Bike Summer. Then Midnight Ridazz blew up and we have more groups and rides then I can keep track of. Each passing day I am enthralled by the number of people on bikes. The people are here, but where is our city? What are you doing?

Metro Board tonight passed the half cent sales tax proposal for November, but a huge chunk of the money is for highway widening. And they refused to allocate any specific amount (1% was requested) for cyclists and pedestrians.

I don’t want LA to be Portland. That’s why I live here. But can I have a little Portland in my LA? How about some Copenhagen? I’d even settle for some Oslo.

Here are some articles I’ve read this week that kept me motivated. Enjoy.

Crimanimalz are taking over

LA Times: Two death-defying transit stunts: biking on freeways and walking across the street

New bike lanes spotted around LA

Councilman Labonge, Europe and Bikes

We’re here. We ride. Get used to it.

Highway Funding: The last bastion of socialism in America

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Filed under bike, political, public trans

Punch fear in the face

Two great articles came out this week addressing fear and cycling.:
De-car-ing: The idea of cars as safety devices is a post in the LA Times ‘environmental’ blog, Emerald City. She answers the questions: Why do we feel so safe in our cars? Is cycling in the street dangerous? It’s written well and will help with those inevitable conversations with co-workers.
The second is from the legendary Bike Snob NYC, Get Over It: Surmounting the Obstacles to Cycling. If you’ve never read Bike Snob NYC let me be the first to say: Welcome to the internet. A lot of people have a lot to say. But most people who you would like to hear a lot from, say very little. Then there is Bike Snob NYC. He’s like the smartest person you know combined with the funniest person you know and, this is the best part, bothers to share both qualities with everyone else. Usually there is an indirect relationship with the amount of useless information you know about bicycles and sense of humor but thankfully there are exceptions.

Lastly, here are my two favorite quotes that mention getting punched in the face:
‘Never buy a bike from someone you can’t punch in the face.’ -A disgruntled eBay auction winner
‘Everyone has a plan till you get punched in the face.’ -Mike Tyson

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Filed under bike, city