Tuesday, March 30, 2010

I'm Going Off the Air

Just for now. Work is insane. Like work work work work sleep work work work work nap work... I promise to come back better than ever (yeah, that'll be tough) as soon as I can get my ducks in a row again. They're just so unruly, like untamed animals or something. And the quacking! Oh, the quacking (shiver)...

While I'm herding ducks, pay attention to the plight of Reed Bates in Texas. Click my donate button, or visit http://let-him-ride.com , or do both!

We are entering a very exciting season. Enjoy Your Bike!


Monday, March 22, 2010

Riding Around In My Underpants, I Honk Like a Goose

OK, here goes... pictured below is the back of my office door with my cycling clothes hanging on it.I wear the shorts underneath the pants. On days when it is below freezing, I wear them under my heavier, cold weather pants:

One day several months ago, my winter cycling pants were swallowed by a renegade laundry mound at home. I couldn't find them and was running late for work. They are the only cycling pants I own. It was way too cold for just shorts. In desperation, I put on the only thing I could find:

Now, I can hear you saying, "Rantwick, what the hell is wrong with you? What's wrong with a regular pair of pants?" You are absolutely right in that I could have worn normal pants. I have come to really dislike wearing normal clothes on the bike, so much so that wearing normal pants didn't even occur to me at the time. As it turns out, that was a good thing. Sort of.

On days that it is just above freezing, my heavier pants are too hot. I don't own any regular, warm weather cycling tights. These long undies keep my legs just warm enough, while breathing really well. If it is cold enough to wear them it is also cold enough to wear my jacket, and my jacket covers both the waistband and the "fly", so nobody knows (until now). They fit just like any pair of stretchy athletic tights. So, call me a freak (and I know you will), I have continued to wear them when the temperature is between 0 and 10 C or so. Anything above that and I break out the brightie whities (legs with cycling shorts, I mean. I'm not that freaky just yet).

Sharing this kind of embarrassing information is a bizarre character trait of mine. It is not limited to this blog stuff either. If I have something I'm ashamed of or something I fear will make me look bad or invite teasing or criticism from others, I end up telling people all about it. I think it is a defense mechanism. It is much easier to poke fun at something another person has attempted to keep secret as opposed to something they just up and told you. It kind of takes the fun out of it. This is cool with Mrs. Rantwick, because although it means that I frequently embarrass her by association, it also means I am incapable of keeping secrets from her. If I decide to keep something secret from her, it is a sure thing that making that very decision will have me telling her about it within 24 hours.

So anyway, I was riding to work in my underpants this morning and found myself behind a car that was failing to get going when presented with an advanced green. So I honked. I have no horn or bell on my bike. I prefer to use my voice when I need attention and it works well when you're willing to really speak up or even yell. I've never honked before though, and it turns out that I am more Canadian than I ever guessed...

So there you have it for this Monday. I wish I could promise something normal or interesting for next time, but I honestly don't know what's gonna come next.

Helpless in the face of my own freakishness, I remain:

Yer Pal,


Saturday, March 20, 2010

I Rode on the Sidewalk and a Miracle Happened

I've ridden on the sidewalk twice lately. The first time's circumstances are too complicated to relate other than to say it was the only way to get at some takeout Pad Thai (I have a freakishly strong liking for Pad Thai) without riding around an entire extra block. I don't normally ride on the sidewalk for any reason any more. It had been so long that it felt weird and dangerous and annoying. The annoying part is the steady bump-bump created by the seams between concrete sidewalk pads. Why would anyone willingly put up with that? The weird and dangerous was that when I was on this particular sidewalk I was riding against traffic, across driveways for both homes and businesses. It felt so very unpredictable, unlike the street. I pretty much know what's going to happen on the street. I swore I wouldn't do it again any time soon. So...

Only a couple of days later, I did it again. This time it made more sense, because it was only a short distance to get to a button activated crosswalk where I would normally dismount and walk my bike across Wellington Road. There is no proper (light controlled) intersection anywhere near this crossing point. Wellington Road after work is pretty much uncrossable or even merge-able for me on my bike. I'm a strong rider in traffic, but the way this street flows at this particular point scares me off vehicular cycling in this particular case. So, I use the crosswalk button and walk my bike across, like I said.

Here's the thing: a Miracle Happened. The Miracle was that traffic parted without explanation, allowing me to ride across Wellington. This was around 5PM! You would have to live near this spot to appreciate how miraculous this really was, but here it is:

Now I don't want to look a miracle-horse in the mouth, but I was saddened to learn how I respond to miraculous events. "Holy Shit"? Is that any way to respond to a Miracle? I think not! I almost hope I never witness any miracles where people or, heaven forbid, divine entities are around, because I don't want to be the slack-jawed Gomer who can only think to say something both unbefitting and crude. Know thyself, I guess.

I'm gonna start practicing my stunned silence face or some other phrase just so I'll be prepared for profound events with something better than "Holy Shit". Even "well I'll be!" would be better, but I'm thinking something like "woah, that is so cool" will suit me best. Or the stunned silence thing. I can't decide. Silence has never gotten me in trouble yet, but I'm not very good at it. I welcome your suggested profound event catch phrases if you think there's something good I could use. If they contain bad words, please don't bother... that's what I'm trying to get away from.

Wishing you Miracles both Small and Insanely Large,


Saturday, March 13, 2010

I Am Unprepared. And Naturally Hi-Vis!

I was caught off guard by the unseasonably warm weather last week. While the morning was cool, the trip home from work was in a balmy 14 C. See, I'm not one of those who celebrates the return of Spring prematurely. I don't switch back to my summer commuter bike until there is almost zero chance of snow or ice. Mutant Winter seems downright sporty ever since I put air in her tires after running for months in deflated mode, so that's good enough for me. I feel confident that winter will take one more kick at it at least, and I hate switching back and forth.

The thing is, I have not prepared myself to ride in warmer weather clothing-wise either. My fair weather cycling shoes are MIA somewhere around the house. I have been too busy or lazy (the former if you are me and the latter if you are some external observer of me) to find them yet. So, like I said, I was caught off guard last week, which left me trying to look normal while wearing cold weather cycling boots and long socks with my cycling shorts since I didn't want to wear my cold weather pants and roast like a turkey.

It has been a while since I posted pictures of any part of myself online... if any of you sick perverted freaks have been anxiously awaiting some Rantwick Action, today is your day. Please never ever ever contact me and for the love of God seek some counselling in this matter. Here's the process I went through that warm afternoon:

click pic to enlarge

Now, one result of this sad situation was that I discovered something good. There is something about brazenly untanned, pigmentless human skin that catches the eye like almost nothing else. Since I almost never go shirtless in summer, I am that guy at the beach with a farmer (or in my case, cycling) tan whose blazing whiteness makes you wish you didn't have eyes. I am not alone in this, so in this respect I am about as Hi-Vis in the leg department as every other uber-white cyclist who is coming off the trainer, out of the basement or out of their cold weather gear and riding in shorts again. When I was taking the pictures, I thought to myself, "well at least those white socks make my legs look less terrifyingly white..."

The pictures above were taken in my office, which thank goodness has windows and receives some natural light. When I take pictures of stuff, including my limbs, I usually do some with the flash and some without. When the flash was used, those socks didn't stand a chance in the Hi-Vis category. Along with my summer cycling shoes, I have also misplaced some reflective ankle bands I usually wear, but as you can see, I have absolutely nothing to worry about:

You would think the leg hair would cut the glare a little, but no joy. Lots of cyclists shave their legs, especially the racer types. Not me. I ain't no racer, plus if things keep going the way they have started to, my legs will eventually be the only way I'll be able to enjoy the breeze blowing through my hair on a bike ride... maybe I should get some rogaine for them! I bet riding around with Chewbacca legs would feel fantastic! I would have to find my reflective ankle straps though. Hmmm. Decisions.

If you see me riding, please don't drive your car into the light. There's nothing divine going on, believe me.

PS - Check out ChipSeal's latest post here. Then donate to help defend him using the button on this page.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Hey, Thanks! Now Do More.

Check out the donation meter at let-him-ride.com. People who have used my donate button and other donation buttons sprinkled around the web have raised just over two grand for ChipSeal's legal costs. I just wanted to thank everybody who clicked from here, and ask everybody else to do the same, because the way things are going there is every chance that the target of 5K may not be enough.

If you want the donate button code for your web site, shoot me an email.

I also wanted to re-ask everybody to keep talking, emailing and generally circulating the news of what's going on in Ennis and the county of Ellis in Texas. I mean, multiple trips to jail for riding in the lane? Huh? If this dude was some local rich guy you can bet he wouldn't be getting hauled in by the cops for riding on the road. Tell your friends. And strangers. And web geeks like me. And politicians. You get the idea.

Speaking of how things are going, let-him-ride.com was created by people who care about ChipSeal and cycling in Texas as a central place for news and information. Check it out if you get a second, link to it yourself in emails and web pages, all that good stuff.

I'll be off my soap box and on something else next time, I promise.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Ennis Texas - What Are You Playin' At?

Go here for some detail, but my man ChipSeal has been held in jail again for riding in the lane by Ennis police. They held him for 27 hours, and this isn't the first time he's been jailed. Since when does a fake traffic violation, let alone a real one, warrant jail time? This place blows my mind.

It seems to me that this small town is aiming to run this poor guy right out of town, come hell or high water. I've never even been to Texas and I am developing a deep dislike for Ennis. For once, I'm speechless! I can't believe this is happening anywhere in North America, let alone the Land of the Free.

Please donate to ChipSeal's legal fund. This is getting much worse.


Monday, March 8, 2010

Chip In for ChipSeal

I recently posted something about being and staying a "lightweight" when it comes to bike advocacy on this blog. That remains my intention. I just ride the way I think best knowing that I have a legal right to do so and leave it at that.

When I heard that my online friend ChipSeal was being denied that same right in Texas despite the fact that he is entitled to it under the law, it made me angry. For me, this isn't about cycling advocacy. It is about a friend getting screwed over. My friend wants to fight for his legal rights by appealing recent court decisions. When I put myself in his place I would want to fight too, but I wouldn't have the money to mount a good defense and neither does he. I want my friend to be able to effectively fight for his (and every other cyclist's) right to travel on the road, and that is going to cost a fair chunk of money.

It is hard for me to help out directly from way up here in Canada, but that doesn't mean I can't help. I have posted the Donate button you can see on the right side of this page.
You can use it to contribute to something that I think is worthy of every cyclist's attention. If you have a blog or website where you would like to display the same widget, please email me for the code.
The way it works is that people can use it to securely contribute using PayPal or a credit card. That money goes into a PayPal account that is linked to a bank account set up specifically for ChipSeal's legal expenses. Please note that contributions are not tax-deductible.
There are lots of places online that people are talking about what's been going on with ChipSeal and his local law enforcement community. Visit some of the links below to find out more about this wrong situation:
For the short version try, In a Nutshell
ChipSeal's blog.
DFW point-to-point.
Commute Orlando

Be sure to read the comments... there is a lot to be found in them.

If you can't afford or don't want to chip in, that's cool too. You can help by raising this topic with the people you know online or off, cyclists or not. I want news of this piece of badness to spread as far and as wide as possible. If you have media connections, use 'em! With some luck it will get so much attention that grassroots fundraising will no longer be required.

Thanks for Reading This,


Friday, March 5, 2010

Psst. Here's the Skinny...

I like 'em skinny, them lanes. So here's the skinny on that: A couple of weeks ago, snow conditions on quieter residential streets were just too difficult for me to manage and still get to work on time. This is not uncommon, so what I do is ride on busier streets that have been "cleared" by the traffic. In this case, however, I chose to take York Street, a busy street that I used to avoid because I had been scared riding on it a few times in the past.

Well, things have changed and I love York Street now, because the lanes are skinny. Skinny lanes make taking the whole lane a no-brainer for me now and there's nothing scary about York Street any more. My memories of York were from a time not so long ago that I always rode on the right edge of the street; never in the gutter, but on the right 2-3 feet from the curb. Here's how I ride York Street now:

Taking the lane like that on any street will get you all kinds of liberating passing clearance from cars. What I like about York, though, is that the lanes are narrow enough that I think way more motorists "get" why I'm doing it. That makes me feel like less of a jerk, so skinny is good.

Now, before anybody starts in on me in the comments, I know full well that I or anybody else who takes the lane is not a jerk, but somebody who is making everything more safe for everyone on the road, whether others know and appreciate it or not. The trouble is that like most people, I generally prefer that others like me. A wrong or misinformed opinion that I am a jerk still counts as some other person thinking I'm a jerk. Call me what you will, I don't like that. Should I care what some-jerk-who-is-definitely-a-jerk-because-he-thinks-I'm-a-jerk-when-I'm-not thinks about me? No. But I do... I think a lot of us do.

Now all of this sensitivity to what strangers think of me rarely adds up to me riding somewhere I know is less safe, especially in the last couple of years, so in terms of safety I'm all good. What York offers is the opportunity to ride safely with less self-perceived jerk factor, which makes the ride even more enjoyable. So that's the skinny on York: skinny is good.

I bet you thought I was done. Not yet! I've also got the skinny on me being made skinny, so here's the skinny on that:

In a comment or post somewhere I recently mentioned that I could stand to lose about 30 lbs, which is true. One of my regular readers and the author of Imagine No cars was kind enough to send me this rendition of a slimmed-down me that you see above. I appreciated his effort and got a laugh out of it for sure, because it reminded me of "Kid" from Kid n' Play; I had to look that up though, because I couldn't remember his name, just his hair. It also reminded me of Mr. T a little bit.

When I decided to write about it, of course I went looking for images of those guys. I was staggered by how similar we really do look, even without the skinny treatment! Check out these good looking fellows... if their skin was just a little more greyish in tone they would be just about as handsome as me!

See? Crazy, right? I know! So, that was the holy-crap-I-look-like-silly-yet-handsome-looking-famous-dudes-of-yesteryear skinny.

I bet you thought I was done. You thought right. Until next time, I remain:

Yer Pal,


Thursday, March 4, 2010

Hey There, London!

I've always made much of my readers in Texas. That is for two reasons, the first being that they were among the first to show up and even stick around, and the second being that they do stuff like this:

Now really, how could I not like that bunch?

This post, however, is about recognizing the people right here in London, Ontario, who read this blog. I watch my stats, not obsessively (at least not in the last six months or so), but I do watch 'em, and I'm getting more visitors from right here at home than ever. There is one main thing I would like to say to my local readers: Thank you. I feel a peculiar satisfaction knowing that some people who see my videos and pictures can relate directly with the streets they're seeing.

I have never been part of a cycling group or community except here online. To be frank, I am intimidated by hardcore road cyclists, I'm too old to hang with serious MTB cyclists, and serious commuters are mostly a bunch of loners like me. I guess in my heart of hearts I hope that local everyday commuters are reading and relating to this blog. I wave to cyclists who appear to be kind of like me. I don't know if that's annoying or not. I kind of like it when people on the other side of the road nod or wave, so I do it.

I'm not entirely sure why I'm writing this. I guess it is my clumsy effort at being social with people I might actually meet. If you live and ride in London, that heavyish dude in a blue cycling jacket who gives a low wave is me! I'm considering marking myself or my bike with RANTWICK, because I would really like to stop and talk with people who know me via these pages... what do you all think? Should I? Or is that just kind of lame?

Yours In Shameless Insecurity,

PS - Is "shameless insecurity" even possible, or is it an oxymoron? More worrisome, am I an "Oxy moron" for asking that question?

Monday, March 1, 2010

This Is Not a Post

But rather an apology. Even though I've got some post ideas cookin' for a change, I simply don't have time to write 'em down. Gotta go. See you when I have a little scrap of free time... so much for posting every Monday!

Yer Pal,