Some Thoughts About Bicycling

Cloud-Road

The photo above is from the flat part of a hilly 13 mile ride yesterday afternoon in Tennessee.

Blinking Lights

Last week, while pedaling around Prairie Creek Reservoir, near Muncie, Indiana, I saw maybe a half-dozen other cyclists.  Most acknowledged or exchanged greetings with me.  One fellow, a skinny guy in Lycra (heading clockwise while I rode counter-clockwise), all leaned over triathlon bars, in response to eye-contact and a slight wave of greeting produced a sneer.  He was an average-looking guy on an average looking carbon-fiber bike wearing average looking cycling togs, although he had either shaved that morning or produced little discernible facial hair (I don’t think he was a skinny-but-mannish-looking woman).  Really, not a person I would recognize as special in any way beyond his bad manners.

I wondered why I provoked that reaction?  Being liked by others has never been one of my major goals in life – I don’t think I register on either the Winsomeness or Loathsomeness scales.  Still, I wondered.  Riding outdated equipment?  Check.  Middle-aged, misshapen facial features arranged haphazardly around an unshaven dial?  Check.  Simple blue jersey and black shorts? Check.  Blinking lights on the front of my bike?  Check.

I am probably the only cyclist I know who consistently uses blinking LED lights on his bike when pedaling on streets and roads I share with motorized vehicles.  From your average cruiser/single-speed rider to your average super-thin, latest-expensive-equipment pedaling “semi-pro” enthusiast racer, most of the other cyclists I encounter on the road don’t use lights to make them more visible to motorists.  I have, myself, noticed that, of the few cyclists I see using lights, most are middle-aged, overweight, and pedaling slowly – categories into which I most of the time also neatly fit.

Helmets

My primary goal in using bike lights, front and back, is to avoid injury by broadcasting my presence on the road to motorists who, if they see me, are more likely to avoid striking me with their cars, trucks, buses, and motorcycles.  While the interaction between bicyclist and motor vehicle may produce any number or combinations of grisly injuries, the one I’m most concerned about is traumatic brain injury.

Phone-Butt

In a previous incarnation, I worked with hundreds of people with disabling conditions and more than half of those with cognitive, mental, and emotional conditions disclosed during interview having received blows to the head at some time, usually during childhood, so severe they lost consciousness.  Many of these people report never having received medical attention for their injuries; a number said they never told their parents.  Comparing onset of disabling condition based upon extant medical records to estimated dates of head injury indicated in many cases that the injuries preceded onset of disabling condition or conditions.  While I understand that my remarks are anecdotal and doubtless skewed by sampling error, my observations sufficiently inform me that traumatic brain injury is to be avoided if at all possible.

Bicycling Magazine recently had an article about bicycle helmets that I found interesting (it can be found here:  http://www.bicycling.com/senseless/ Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute posted a rather weak refutation here:  http://www.bhsi.org/bicyclingmag1305.htm) which does nothing to dispel my healthy fear of head-injury.  I will continue to wear my helmet while cycling and insist my wife and son do likewise.

Toe Clips

Did I mention toe clips?  I did not?  Let me tell you about the Velo Orange half-clips I got for Father’s Day – they can be had at a fraction of the cost of the Bruce Gordon stainless steel variety of strapless toe-clip (for that price, I’d expect old Bruce to throw in a seatbag filled with GORMP or something); and they change the entire pedaling characteristics (subject/verb agreement is debatable here) of the bike.  I thought the clips would help with foot placement on the pedal as a means of addressing the plantar fasciitis with which I’ve lately been afflicted, and they have reduced stress on the painful heel when using both trail-runners and cycling shoes.  The nuts and bolts that came with clips, however, failed to hold during my first ride with them, a relatively easy 14 miler.  Caught out in a sudden thunderstorm with torrential downpour with one clip because the other’d come off (but retrieved and stuck in the seatbag) brought home to me the value of better quality attachment hardware.

Contacted by email, Velo Orange sent me out some replacement nuts and bolts the same day by regular mail, but when they arrived, they were the wrong diameter or gauge or whatever for the holes in the clips.  I went to Lowe’s and came back with something that worked better.  I replaced all but one of the attachment nut/bolts because that one stayed on well enough I left it alone.  Here are some pictures of the clips on the Miyata’s original SP-350 pedals – click on any of them for a larger image.

Shoe-in-ClipClip-from-FrontClip-from-Side

After getting over the initial fear of “How will I get my off-foot back into the clip after a stop quickly enough to keep from crashing in traffic?” I pretty quickly got the hang of that.  The Miyata’s extra-long cranks tend to ensure the clips will drag some on the ground until one’s feet are in them.  I like these clips and, if the application of grease to the SP-350’s bearings doesn’t reduce the annoying “click” the right one makes when pedaling, I plan to get another set of pedals with which I can use these clips.

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