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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Cyclists Are People Riding Bikes

In my never-ending consumption of online bike-related material, I have noticed that many cyclists feel the need to point out that every person on a bike should not be considered a cyclist. The gist of this sentiment is that cyclists generally know what they are doing or are more serious about bikes and cycling than most, while "some guy on a bike" could describe people who are just goofing around, are not riding a bike by choice, are ignorant of rules and laws, proper etiquette and so on.

I truly understand where this desire to differentiate comes from: talking about riding and commuting with people invariably leads to a story of some kid or moron or moronic kid who did something dangerous or stupid right in front of your friend's car the other day. Given the less-than-positive view held by many drivers when it comes to people on bikes, you just want to scream "but that's not me! Please don't lump me in with those people!" (Translation: I am a cyclist!) In many cases, you may well say (rather than scream) something right along those lines, and your friend may well appreciate your point, and that is good.

There are a couple of observations I would like to make regarding this phenomenon. Firstly, in conversation with your friend, this distinction is one worth making. However, when it comes to online forums or discussions about cycling, you are generally wasting your breath (or keystrokes) in making such a point, because 99% of your readers already appreciate the difference very well indeed. I wouldn't guess that many non-cyclists spend time reading cycling blogs or forums... although as always, I could be wrong. I suppose there is some kind of "affirmation value" for online readers, but in preaching to the choir all you'll get is an "Amen", not a "hmm, I see your point", which is what I think most of us are really wishing for.

Secondly, it is not realistic to think that motorists in general will ever appreciate the distinction. How do cyclists think of drivers? We identify risk or annoyance with a whole vehicle type, not individuals, usually by using the word "cars". Everyone knows that there are good and bad drivers, but the fact is that any car we see may be in the hands of a dangerous, inattentive or hostile person. As such, we stay on our guard at all times, regardless of which car(s) we're dealing with at the moment. Similarly, drivers will never make the mental distinction between responsible cyclists and "people riding bikes", and expecting them to get visual cues from what we wear or how we're riding at the moment is analogous to trusting implicitly any driver of a Prius who's not gunning it or weaving all over just now. It just isn't going to happen.

Since making distinctions like this in the larger context of the Internet or the media in general is probably a waste of time, the only useful remedy is education for both "people riding bikes" and motorists. Rather than trying to make people see the difference between the cyclist and the "person on a bike", let's make that person into a cyclist by giving them the information and instruction they need, starting with our kids. The more cyclists we can encourage to responsibly take to the road, the closer to big shifts in thinking we become. After all, cyclists are people riding bikes.

I am stepping off of my soap box now; thanks for reading.

R A N T W I C K

Friday, May 29, 2009

N I C E W I C K

When I started this blog, I thought I had lots to vent about. I expected to rail about all manner of things that tick me off, from TV to people to politics. I thought I would be critical. As it turns out, however, most of my posts are annoyingly good-natured. I'm still crusty about all kinds of stuff, but it doesn't seem to manifest itself here for some reason. Overall, I'm fine with that. But the name I chose is RANTWICK. What am I supposed to do? I have come to identify myself with this name, but it doesn't describe what I'm doing.

I must regain at least some of my negative focus. C'mon... C'mon man. Surely there's something...


Woo hoo! You know who drives me nuts? That guy who sells oxy something and some sort of super putty and who knows what else who YELLS THE WHOLE TIME. Can you imagine going out for dinner or something with this guy?





I'LL HAVE THE PRIME RIB! Potatoes or rice? MASHED POTATOES PLEASE. Soup or salad? HMMM! WHAT'S THE SOUP TODAY?... You would have to punch him. There's another infomercial guy who may also have a problem with this dude too, the Sham Wow! guy.




Now this guy doesn't bug me. He looks like an experienced demonstrator / salesman guy, complete with some of what I will call "Carnie Edge". Now that I'm writing about these guys, I seem to recall the YELLING MAN selling what looked suspiciously like Sham Wow! towels lately. I wonder what Sham Wow! guy thinks of that? What if these two ever met up in a dark alley? I just know that the YELLING MAN would be putting up his dukes like a big chucklehead while a knife would slip effortlessly into Sham Wow! guy's hand, and the rest would be history.


WAIT A MINUTE...


Dawning realization: bikes just make me feel all blissed out. I'm nice when I write about bike stuff because even the stuff I think is silly is only mildly silly, and bike stuff, to my mind, is all inherently good. So there you have it! You can expect fairly good-natured posts on cycling stuff and the odd rant like the one found above for moniker retention purposes. I sure am glad that is sorted out. I know you must be relieved too, because I know you care. See? I thought about bike stuff for a moment and NICEWICK returned!


Keep your crank on,

R A N T W I C K

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Am I Sick? Thoughts On An Awful Image

Many of you will have already seen this picture of a horrific crash in which a car ploughs into the peloton of a bike race in Mexico almost a year ago. Miraculously, only one cyclist was killed. I am not posting it as news, but rather to collect popular opinion (yes, I've gone temporarily poll-crazy) on my internal reaction to it.

When I first saw the picture below, I immediately cringed, and my first thought was "Oh My God, that's awful...". That thought, however, was followed very quickly by this one: "What A Great Photograph!" Please look at the picture, and answer the question below it if you're so inclined.








Depending on the results, I may or may or not see you next time, since I may be in extended therapy. Wish me luck,


R A N T W I C K

Monday, May 25, 2009

Wind




I am feeling very conflicted about wind. I used to windsurf quite a lot, and in those days I loved every and any kind of wind, because I knew I could use it one way or another. These days, however, I find myself both blessing and cursing the wind as it helps me or hurts me while riding my bike. Here in London Ontario (where windsurfing won't be happening, by the way) the prevailing winds are West or Northwest, it seems to me, with some nice variations in Spring and Fall. As such, as I ride eastward to work in the morning I most often enjoy a tailwind, and on my way home I can usually count on lower speeds and more work as I battle a headwind. Wind is the primary reason that I have drop bars on my bike... I spend most of my time with my hands on the brake hoods, but it is good to be able to really hunker down when riding into the wind.


In thinking about wind I have come up with a hypothetical that I would like to conduct a poll on. Here it is:


In Cycling Heaven, The Wind is...

After creating the first poll, I realized that there was a "that depends" element needing to be addressed. So, keeping in mind your first answer...



In Cycling Heaven, the Wind is...


I am hoping that the results will be nicely varied, just as people are. If you answered c) and e), respectively, please get treatment. You are a certifiable masochist, in my professional opinion as a velopseudopsychiologist. Please come in to my office, and we will use the over-worked vent holes near the front of your bicycle helmet to access your skull, drill some nice holes and let those demons out, just like I have to do twice a year for my most regular patient...







I'm winded. See you next time...


R A N T W I C K
P.S. I now realize the second poll is flawed, since the first offers "dead calm". Those of you who answered a) on the first poll are kind of stuck on the second; sorry about that.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Cadence Computation, The Rantwick Way

I used to have a cycling computer on my bike. Somewhere along the way I lost the little magnet bit that goes on a spoke... ah yes, I remember! The bike was stolen and the magnet stolen with it! It was my own damn fault; I left the bike unlocked on the porch. Who wouldn't take an unlocked bike of medium quality off of somebody else's porch, really? Anyway, I didn't bother to get a new magnet thing, partly because I am lazy and partly because I thought the computer was taking away from the pleasures of riding. I couldn't keep my eyes or paws off of it, and I was becoming fixated on things like average speed and total distance. When I was using the computer, I remember wishing that it was the kind that measured cadence (rpm), which is in my opinion one of the more useful numbers you can get out of such things.

What cadence you ride at is a matter of personal choice, of course; people ride at all different rpms for many different reasons and purposes. Many cyclists espouse higher cadences for greater fitness and efficiency, but like I said, how you turn your crank is your business. Anyway, if you have an interest in what your cadence is, you don't need a computer to figure it out. I still don't have a cycling computer, but I have developed a system of cadence computation that works really well, and I would like to share it with you.


Step 1 - Counting:

While pedalling your bike, choose a foot and start counting every time it hits the bottom of the downstroke. You may count silently or aloud. I find that counting quite loudly works best, and helps clear busy multi-use pathways much better than an "on your left". Listen to the counting, and pretend that you are playing hide and seek and that you are 'it'.



Step 2 - Classify Yourself:

If you were one of the kids running off to hide, what would you think of the counting? Here are 5 main types of "counters" to help guide you in your cadence computation exercise:




Type 1: The Fair Kid





If you sound like the fair kid, your cadence is around probably 60 rpm or less, so if you were looking to ride for fitness or calorie burning or are an aspiring racer, either gear lower or step it up.




Type 2: The Competitive Seeker




If you are the Competitive Seeker type of cyclist, you are pedalling between 90 and 110 rpm, a good range for fitness and many other riding situations. If your goal was to really spin, however, you want to sound like our next Counting Type...


Type 3: The Big Fat Cheater





If you are a Big Fat Cheater (in a cycling cadence sense only, of course) you are spinning around 120 or even more... keep it up, and you will be the king or queen of spin, likely developing a smoother pedal stroke and sexy, supple leg muscles! Oooh baby.



Type 4: The Speed Freak




If your cadence count sounds like the Speed Freak, stop counting and get control of yourself and your bike, you maniac!



Type 5: The Confused Little One



If you sound like this, for the love of God, get off your bicycle and walk home if you can. You, my cycling friend, are drunk.



Yer Pal,

R A N T W I C K

PS: While searching for hide and seek videos, I found this slightly disturbing tidbit, and y'know, why not share my mild discomfort?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Aren't Bikes Great?

Something Fat Cyclist posted last week about how upon taking a real road ride after a winter on the rollers, he thought to himself, "Whether on road or mountain, I love riding bikes." has put me into a simple state of waxing enthusiastic about riding my bicycle. For a change, I'm not going to post any pictures, or try to be funny. Instead, this time, I want to try to capture bike love as it has been so well expressed by so many. What follows are a few quotes on cycling that I stole from quotegarden.com... some people are so good at putting it into words that I needn't bother trying on my own. Still, I am writing a blog here, so I'll take a crack at it myself at the end.

When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race. - H.G. Wells

Cycling is unique. No other sport lets you go like that - where there's only the bike left to hold you up. If you ran as hard, you'd fall over. Your legs wouldn't support you. - Steve Johnson

Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride. - John F. Kennedy

Cycle tracks will abound in Utopia. - H.G. Wells

The bicycle is the most civilized conveyance known to man. Other forms of transport grow daily more nightmarish. Only the bicycle remains pure in heart. - Iris Murdoch, The Red and the Green

Bicycling is the nearest approximation I know to the flight of birds. The airplane simply carries a man on its back like an obedient Pegasus; it gives him no wings of his own. - Louis J. Helle, Jr., Spring in Washington

When I'm riding my bicycle my body sings, and the world I'm moving through, be it gritty or serene, seems to sing along. The bicycle gives to me a unique, soul-feeding music. - Rantwick




Bike Love Springs Eternal, I Guess.



R A N T W I C K

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Rantwick, now with Style!

When you read articles on starting any type of cycling, many of them seem to include a great many "must haves" like special clothing, gloves, shoes and so on. Now everybody knows (or should know) that all you really need is a bicycle in good working order and clothes in which you won't freeze or overheat. As people become more advanced cyclists and ride farther and faster and exert themselves more, some bike-specific clothing becomes more important or convenient. I don't want to advise anybody on what they should wear beyond the fact that it shouldn't be capable of getting caught up in your bike or obstruct your vision.


When anyone rides enough that their clothes start to cause discomfort, I'm guessing they'll look into alternatives for themselves. Practical matters like comfort, however, aren't the whole story. For some, cycling is an opportunity to show some Style. I've begun wondering what it would be like to have Style, since I haven't ever had the inclination. Maybe it feels fantastic! Not having the money to buy a bunch of different cycling getups, I thought that through the wonders of photoshop I could try out virtual Style to see if I would like it. So, without further delay:




Although the "townie" bike appeals to me in that it has full fenders, the requisite little dogs pose a problem, as do red pants. You see, I'm allergic to dog dander, and I'm guessing riding along creating a breeze would turn those nice little dogs into mobile dander dispensers. That same breeze may well blow their black fur onto my red pants, and I'm sorry, but that simply wouldn't do. Maybe something similar, but more traditonal...


Again, lovin' the fenders. Socks that look much like cable-knit sweaters and a hat that would definitely blow off my head at the crazy speeds at which I ride, however, make this look a no-go. Speaking of speed, maybe I should go full roadie skin suit...






I must confess, I love the way this suit compliments my skin tones... Mmmm. Sadly, sporting a suit like this would just make my beautiful commuter look infinitely stupid, instead of annoyingly geeky and practical. You know, maybe I should just try to show a little more flair!



Not having ever applied makeup, it made me squint like that, sorry. Overall, though, if I'm going to dress to look good rather than to ride, this one appeals to me more than the others. Does that mean I secretly wish to be a fashionable, bike riding woman? Of course not! Shame on you for thinking it... I am as athletic and manly as they come, I'll have you know.


Virtual Style didn't really end up doing much for me. Ah well, nothing was ventured, and so, I suppose, nothing was gained. I'm dreadfully sorry to have wasted your time... I shall endeavour to do much better in future.


Until Then, Wear What You Want. I Do...


Yer Pal,



R A N T W I C K

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

I Am Awful

The Rev. Michael C. Kelly, March 2007


Remember that patent that I found so interesting and poked fun at? I received a comment recently from somebody who knew the inventor. The commenter informed me that the inventor had passed away just over a week before I posted that blog entry:

Anonymous said...
I found your blog entry doing a Google search for the patent you've written about. I am sorry to say that although I could have easily put you in touch with the inventor, he is very much missed as he died in an accident last December. As far as I know, the system isn't for sale (though I know he auctioned some for charities) and I don't know what will happen to his dreams of encouraging kids to have more fun outside. But if you want to know more about him, try this link: http://www.loudountimes.com/news/2009/jan/02/Purcellville-pastor-kelly-obituary/



Of course, I followed the link and learned what you may have learned already. The author of that patent was a well-loved parish priest in Purcellville, Virginia, who died young (at 53), helping others to the very last. I, as you may have guessed, felt pretty bad. I mean, I had been mocking, if gently, a recently deceased Priest... I replied to the commenter, who responded with what I think was a lot of class and kindness:

Rantwick said...
Anonymous,Thank you very much for posting your comment. I followed the link and Father Kelly sounds like he was an outstanding Pastor and person. I feel a little guilty having poked fun at his patent idea, and can only hope that his sense of humour would have extended to me as well.

Coley said...
(ex-Anonymous) Don't feel bad, when he first told me about his bicycle airplanes I thought he was quite nuts. He did have a great sense of humor and I'm sure he would have supplied you with a witty comeback or some quote from history. :)

I would like to extend my sincere, if late in coming, condolences to everyone who loved Father Kelly, and encourage my readers (both of you) to follow that link and learn about somebody who was certainly much more than an inventor.



Yer Pal,
R A N T W I C K

Monday, May 11, 2009

"?" Bikes On Fixed Gear Gallery: Mixed Company

I have posted my fixed gear commuter bike on fixedgeargallery.com, a showcase for everybody and anybody who has assembled or bought a fixed gear bike. I must confess, I did it partly to add a little variety to the mix on that site, where many of the bikes are beautiful, some of the bikes are hideous, and very very few are practical. Most bike photo links there look like Yournamehere's Brandname (marque), but my link was Rant Wick's ? I saw that I wasn't the only "?" in the bunch so I didn't feel too bad, but I did feel the need to find out what other ?'s were like. At the time of posting, the ?'s immediately following mine were:






A DeadHead! I couldn't have been happier. Deadheads (although I never really was one myself) are my kind of people. So far, ?'s are great.

Next: Constant's ?



At first, I though that black, spikey, barbabeau thing was a spoke card, but upon closer inspection it is just behind the bike. Just the same, displaying that thing in the photo was excellent. ?'s - Two for Two!

Third: Damien Guy's ?




OK, the overall bike wasn't really to my taste, but the groovy applique of spiderman comics kind of won me over... I think I was really wanting the ?'s to come through, so I liked it.



Fourth: Jesse Sotelo's ?




This is where things started to go south, and paradoxically, north again! Flipping your stem to go way down so you can have your pink anodized bars rise back up on your otherwise powder blue bike just didn't compute for me. My hopes that the "?" was the key to FGG bikes I would like were sinking like a -30 degree stem. Hoping against hope, I carried on to the next...

Zach Hollandsworth's ?



This bike is where my whole theory unraveled, both literally and figuratively. The owner of this bike describes it as his "commuter", just as I described my own. An open wire basket, complete with items various and sundry. A proud close-up of the venerable Brooks saddle, contrasted with what would appear to be some sort of misplaced pride in that awful bar tape. The owner describes the bike as "recently finished", so I guess he's done. This "?" is truly just one big question... I am going to stop writing at this point. I have already violated my Mother's (and everybody else's Mother's, I think) rule that starts with "If you can't say something nice..."

One last thing: I am a big fan of BSNYC. Before other fans of the snob lambaste me with critical comments for ripping off his regular and excellent evaluations of entries into FGG, please know that this post was prompted solely by my own entry into those hallowed web pages, and my "?" theory was based on an honest hope. I have no intention of doing this again, because RTMS does it best, and I know it.

?

R A N T W I C K

Friday, May 8, 2009

If You Were Riding the Bicycle #1

The way some drivers love to hate cyclists and the way some cyclists love to hate them back really puzzles me. Its like a kind of bigotry, really, as we take turns making ridiculous sweeping generalizations about each other. I am sick and tired of cyclists who characterize any driver that criticizes them as a selfish, dangerous, gas-guzzling destroyer of the earth.



I am equally fed up with motorists who complain that cyclists are all road-hogging, rule-breaking moronic hippies or Lance Armstrong wannabes.



The truth, of course, is that as with all people, there will be selfish, stupid fools who obviously don't understand anything at all sprinkled through both of these groups.



When I'm riding with cars, I do my best to make good time while being as considerate of drivers as I can and ensuring my own safety. I drive a car too, and I know how worrisome and sometimes annoying certain people riding bikes can be. On the other hand, I have zero problem with a cyclist who slows me down for little while as they make their way along safely and predictably. When I'm riding, I try to put myself in the motorist's shoes, and this approach has served me well over years and years of bicycle commuting.


What I'm asking for in this post (and hopefully others if they present themselves) is that motorists do the same for me in specific road situations that I will illustrate with real video shot from my bike. Please don't jump to the conclusion that other cyclists would agree with or approve of my decisions; I fully expect to get called out by some practitioners of the very safest and best types of cycling too.


So, here we go:






What would you do if you were the riding the bicycle? Until next time,



R A N T W I C K

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

I Am Very Very Sorry. Please Don't Hate Me.



Ever since I first heard of "sharrows", I've had this stupid image knocking around in my head, like an earworm. I guess this is an "image worm", or perhaps a "mind's eyeworm". Anyway, it's been bothering me for some time, and I need to get it out, and I think posting it here might be the only way. I am very very sorry. Please don't hate me.









I Hope to God Something Like This Never Happens Again,
R A N T W I C K

Monday, May 4, 2009

Deshake It, Baby, Deshake It

As you may be aware, I've got a digital camera attached to the handlebars of my bike that I use to take video. Most of the time nothing interesting happens, but sometimes there's good stuff I can work with. Now, I have seen good video shot from bicycles, usually mountain riders for some reason. Fat Cyclist has started making videos of some rides, and they look great. When I look at my own stuff or on youtube for commuting / street footage, however, it is often very shaky, and sometimes bad enough to give one a headache, especially with "first person" perspectives using cameras mounted on the bike.

Here are a couple of representative examples:










I think better cameras and helmet mount systems can remove a lot of shake... but I don't have any expensive gear. I also think there is a reason that the best cycling videos are not shot from the first person perspective. There are, however, FREE (I am incapable of typing the word 'FREE' without capitalizing it... hmmm...) after-the-fact remedies for all the shake and vibration inherent to inexpensive setups like mine (and theirs). The remedies I speak of are two bits of FREE software; VirtualDub and a plugin for it called Deshaker. I forget where I got them, but just google 'em up, they weren't hard to find. What was hard to find was a mix of deshaker settings that worked well with the moving camera on my bike, which I finally found after much trial and error. This stuff isn't perfect. The edges of the video get weird. The improvement, however, is remarkable. I'm going to show you some before and after video now, of course! Watch the whole thing... there's a 'happening' near the end that's kind of funny.


First, the bad:





Please know that when I was riding by, that kid was laughing her head off over something, so no worries on the shove. Now, the deshaked version:




Crummy wind-noise and camera-rattle audio on both, I know. Normally I would replace that with some music, but didn't bother for this quick demo.

I don't want to bore everybody with the details of setting up deshaker. If you have an interest, email me and I will send you screenshots of the deshaker configuration screens and try to explain the process.

Shake It Only When You Should,

R A N T W I C K

Friday, May 1, 2009

Support Your Local Bike Shop - If You Can

You know those Ortlieb panniers that led me into Cycling Forum Hell? I made my decision and shopped around, and found that they were indeed expensive. I called the Canadian distributor to find out which Local Bike Shop (LBS in cycling forum parlance) carried them, and came up with just one. When I called that shop (which wasn't one of my favourites) they told me the panniers would have to be ordered for me and since they didn't make regular orders from that distributor, I would have to pay for the shipping too. The price they gave me made me cringe, so I started looking online.

American online bike stores had them, but after Duty, Shipping and Taxes I was looking at roughly the same amount as having the LBS get them. If you are into cycling stuff, particularly building bikes and sourcing parts, you know this tune well. I was stuck. In the absence of other good options, I did the unthinkable. I looked in online stores from the UK and Europe.

As you may have guessed, Ortlieb is a German company, but it should be noted that they are definitely distributed worldwide, and have a strong US presence as demonstrated by ortliebusa.com.

Why, then, does the pannier set I was after sell for $78 US in England and $140 US in Canada and the States, before shipping? I'm trying to understand. Surely the lower number of cyclists per capita is made up for by the hugeness of the American market... is it possible that so few North Americans buy these things that economies of scale don't or can't keep the price similar on both sides of the Atlantic?

Are there protectionist economic practices keeping those evil European panniers out of North America? Are the hard working pannier makers of middle America in danger of extinction?

I hemmed and hawwed for over a month. I mean, having something shipped from England? Eventually, against my better judgement, I ordered them from an online retailer in the UK. Shipping was more than it was in my "test purchases" of about a month earlier, and I thought "here we go... they're gonna end up costing the same no matter what I do". After shipping and before crossing Canada's borders, I had paid $118 US. Now here's something freaky... that's where the spending stopped! It was some kind of International shopping miracle!





No tax, no duty... wait, wait! On second thought... I did pay duty and taxes, yeah, and was pleased to do so, because I would never cheat my government.

The package arrived at my house about 6 business days after ordering - not bad having come ACROSS THE ATLANTIC OCEAN!
original, undoctored painting source: picture-book.com
So, anyway, the upshot of this whole post is that by shopping globally rather than locally, I saved at least $40 US. That is so very wrong! I shouldn't be saving a penny by having stuff shipped ACROSS THE ATLANTIC (or Pacific, for that matter) OCEAN! Now that the deed has been done, I feel a little dirty. I mean, if you want to talk about environmental concerns, having stuff shipped from all over the place certainly isn't helping. And I really would rather support my LBS; I'm just not willing to pay an extra $40 or $50 to do so...


I'm off to examine my conscience. It may take several days.
Yer Pal,

R A N T W I C K