Bicycle Slo(w)

Bicycling around San Luis Obispo (CA) and other news, information and nonsense for self-propelled two-wheelers, from . . . Larry Rutter. For more bicycle news and nonsense, follow on Twitter @rutterslo

A Plethora of Century Rides

Looks like there is a lot of choice to do century rides this Spring and early Summer.

First, there’s the Wildflower Century, put on the SLO Bike Club.  That one’s all filled up, and is just a day or so away.  The club also has the Lighthouse Century Ride in late September. (Full disclosure: I’m chairman of the ride this year.) Registration opens on-line at noon on June 5 and will fill up the same day.

But no need to wait.  There are two century rides planned for the same day in June.  The 25th.

There’s the Country Coast Classic, put on by the Cambria YMCA, that begins in Shamel Park and goes up along the coast.

There’s also the Arroyo Grande Century ride, part of the city’s bicentennial celebration.

There’s also a Gran Fondo planned for the fall as well.

Bike Law

It could become illegal to ride a bike and text or talk on a cell phone.  A bill that recently passed the state Senate by a large majority would fine cyclists $20 for the first offense, and $50 for additional infractions.  It’s not clear what chances the measure has in the House, or how the governor feels about it.

Indeed you do see people of college age frequently chatting on the phone while riding, and about a month ago one was spotted on Marsh Street in downtown SLO texting with both thumbs while crossing the intersection with Broad St.  Yikes.

On the other hand, it does seem as if the legislature has more pressing matters on its agenda these days.  But there is nothing like passing bills of little import and with wide support to give the impressing that something is going on in Sacramento beside stalemate.  (Read Plato’s Republic, and the shadow show of government.)

I’m Baaaaack

It’s been a while.  Mostly because of travel, in part by bicycle, to places including “Bicycle City U.S.A.,” Portland, OR, which it can be reported, continues to live up to its reputation in spite of the rain, winds and cool temps.

More later.

In the meantime, this book review in the Economist, passed along to us by Robert Fuller (formerly “Red”) Davis. It’s The Bicycle Book. By Bella Bathurst. Harper Press.  It’s now available in the U.S., from among other places, Amazon.

Happy Happy… Bah!

SLO had a nice write-up in USA Today when we were away, with lots of flattering photos and a nice video.  Cites our “bicycling culture,” Bubble Gum Alley and the Thursday Farmers Market.  (Left out the Madonna Inn, thankfully.) Check it out. However, beware: there are some ads you can’t avoid.)

The only problem is that “The Happiest City” nonsense on Oprah is what inspired the piece.  Could live without that moniker.  Incidentally the newspaper’s take was a lot more informative than the Queen of Daytime’s Jenny McCarthy fluff.

It’s a Frame-up!

Here’s another idea who’s time may have arrived… or not.

It’s best described as a hooped-frame bicycle.  Instead of a rear fork protruding downward from the saddle area, it has a the rear wheel mounted at the bottom of a round hoop.  The concept is simple.  When the wheel rides over a pothole or other impediment, the hoop has a lot more give than a straight rode, even one made up of aluminum of a carbon resin.

It looks like this:

It’s the creation of a Canadian Cyclist, Lou Tortola, who calls the bike (not surprisingly) the Tortola Roundtail road bicycle.

The blog Gizmag reports that the inventor feels that the bicycle gives a smoother ride, indeed it can absorb about 60% more road shock than a conventional frame, and may be more aerodynamic. The bicycle prototype has been laboratory tested and found to be strong and stable. 

However, the blog also points out that a frame that flexes may absorb a lot of leg power, and it does weight more than a standard frame.

So, as Chris wrote: “The best invention since sliced bread ?  … or just a solution looking for a problem ?”

Follies Federal and State

On many issues and fashions in the U.S. there are huge regional differences.  Bolo ties do well in Arizona, not so well in Michigan. Craw fish are very popular in Louisianna, but not so much in North Dakota. 

And things change over time.  Wisconsin was known as a very progressive state, with luminaries like founder of the Progressive Party, Robert La Follette and his successors.  Not so much today.  California was a state that once was a leader in public education, from the primary through the post-graduate.  Today it is among the lowest in per capita investment in education, and by the look of things in Sacramento its commitment is not likely to increase any time soon.

Bicycling has had its ups and downs, its pockets of support and its detractors.

Read More

Film’s finest tribute to two-wheel riding, outlaws and the riding skills of Paul Newman. Enjoy… and then get on those wheels and ride.

Hard(wood) Riding

First, there were bikes made of bamboo.

Now this breaking news: bikes made of hardwood.

Some forward looking thinkers believe that it will only be a matter of time before someone starts making them out of steel.

Couldn’t resist the quip.  Here’s the story:

Audi and Renovo of Portland have gotten together to manufacture bicycles made of hardwood, which they say is strong, lighter than aluminum,  more shock absorbent yet more rigid and durable than alloy.

The bikes use a belt drive and disk brakes.

There is no information yet on exactly which kind of hardwood is being used, or from where it is harvested.

The prices are pretty futuristic, ranging from about $6,500 for a commuter bike to about $7,500 for a road bike.

A Bad Picture

The current issue.

A week or so ago, there was a post here about the article in this issue by a respected cycling journalist with a long and close association with Lance who concluded that he was convinced that Lance had in fact used performance enhancing drugs.

A writer for Oregon Live was surprised that Bicycling Magazine had gone as far as it has on this issue, in part because the magazine had been rather late to the entire issue of drugs and bikes.  He interviewed the editor, Peter Flax, who had all the usual justifications.  But he pointed out that their analysis, published in chart form in the same issue, showed that in the Tour de France from 2000 to 2009 in some years seven of the top ten riders had been associated with banned performance enhancers.  Seven of ten.  Yikes.

The blogger pressed Editor Flax about the allegations that the magazine had been slow to take a look at the story of biking and drugs because it was not going to be good for the industry from which it receives most of its advertising revenue.  The editor denied this:

"Our asset is our credibility and the way our readers trust us. We’re the largest cycling magazine in the world and even though we have our reservations of wading into the rumors and allegations (against Armstrong), we had to find a way to cover this for our readership."

"Look, Ma: No Hands!"

A few days ago I observed a young man riding a road bike at a nice clip down Marsh Street in downtown San Luis Obispo texting on his phone with both thumbs.


But what really was bothersome was that it has been many decades since I have ridden a bike with no hands, and never while also concentrating on a two-handed mechanical device.

How’d he do that?

The answer, it seems, came from the Road Bike Rider newsletter.  According to the author it’s easy.

  • Of course you wear a helmet and groves, and avoid places like downtown SLO.
  • Don’t go too slow.  You need that forward momentum.
  • "Hold the bar on top near the stem. As you continue to pedal, push back gently and evenly from the bar and sit up with your back straight. Let your arms drop to your side. Don’t keep them out front like you’re sleepwalking, hands hovering over the bar."
  • Continue to pedal steadily.
  • After a while, when you get comfortable, you can actually steer the bike with slight movement of your hips.
  • To get back to the bar, place both hands at the same time back on the bar.

Bingo.  You’ve done it.

You’ve done it.  Tell me how it works.

BTW: Just learned that it is illegal to ride no-handed in Florida.  But not to worry, a state legislator there has introduced a bill to do away with the state law requirement that a bike rider must have at least one hand on the handlebars at all times. Phew.

Backlash Whiplash

It may be unwise to criticize organizations that support cycling, as was done in the previous two postings. 

We need all the friends we can get.

There’s a bicycle backlash afoot, one not to be taken lightly.  The situation in New York City has been touched on here.  The mayor and his transportation czar have really pushed bicycling.  But now some people are pushing back, in court and in print.

It may not be a liberal vs conservative thing, or Democrats against Republicans, yet one of the most vitriolic attacks on bicycling culture was recently published in the Wall Street Journal’s on-line site by a noted conservative writer of some considerable rhetorical skill, P. J. O’Rourke.

The headline may say it all: “Dear Urban Cyclists: Go Play in Traffic.”

It gets better, clearly indicating a distaste for bicycling:

"The bicycle is a parody of a wheeled vehicle—a donkey cart without the cart, where you do the work of the donkey. Although the technology necessary to build a bicycle has been around since ancient Egypt, bikes didn’t appear until the 19th century. The reason it took mankind 5,000 years to get the idea for the bicycle is that it was a bad idea. The bicycle is the only method of conveyance worse than feet. You can walk up three flights of stairs carrying one end of a sofa. Try that on a bicycle."


Outlawing Idiocy

This will sound like piling on the California Bicycle Coalition, but so be it.

They and the city of Los Angeles are sponsoring a bill (S.B. 910) that specifies the distance motorists must keep from bicyclists, that they must slow down when approaching.  It imposes fines, and if a violation of the law led to an accident caused by the motorists it would be treated as a misdemeanor.

Sounds fine.  Who can object?  Maybe the California Automobile Association?  Who knows?

Here’s the problem: it’s unenforceable.

When was the last time you or you observed a car being driven with its windshield wipers on and its headlights off?     When did you ever hear of anyone being cited for not have their headlights on?   When was the last time you saw someone driving talking on a cell phone? 

Yesterday I saw some young may riding on a bicycle at about +15 mph, no hands, texting on Marsh Street approaching Broad at dusk!  Where was the law enforcement?

You can’t legislate common sense and courtesy, and the police generally have more pressing issues to contend with.  (Like protecting SLO’s binding arbitration?)

There… . that’s off my chest.

Road Blocks on Bike Paths

Ever wonder why bike paths are so expensive to build and take so many years, even decades, to build?

Here’s a perfect example why, from the very people you’d think would understand the problem.  The California Bicycle Coalition is hot for better designed bike paths, the rationale being that the better the paths the more likely people are to use them.  Unassailable logic… . provided time and money are not key variables.

The Coalition is supporting a bill in the legislature which would “require Caltrans to consult with all road users when developing statewide design standards.” 

Look at the term “all road users.”   That means just about everyone: walkers, bikers, car drivers, truck drivers — and the organizations that represent them.

You don’t need a Ph’d in political science to realize that this adds immeasurably to the time and cost of building ANY bicycle paths.  And… it gives the paid staff of the California Bicycle Coalition even better job security.

It’s pretty discouraging.

Good News/Bad News on Lance

No matter what happens as a result of the current investigation into his having used performance enhancing drugs, Lance Armstrong is committed to continue the work of his Livestrong organization.

That from an interview in the new issue of Bicycling Magazine.

Also in the issue a commentary by Bill Strickland, their editor-at-large who conducted the interview, and who spent a season with Lance’s racing team and ended up writing the book Tour de Lance

Strickland said he once was “an agnostic” on the question of whether Lance cheated.  He is no longer.  He’s convinced he did in fact take performance enhancing measures.

His reasons are rather convoluted, saying in part: ” My catalyst was another one of those statements that was never said by someone I never talked with. It was not from one of Armstrong’s opponents. It was not from anyone who will gain any clemency by affirming it under oath. It was an admission that doping had occurred, one disguised so it could assume innocence but unmistakable to me in meaning.” 


The full essay and the interview with Lance appear in the new issue of Bicycling.

Fun City (?)

One of the “special” cities in the previous post was New York City, the Big Apple, Metropolis, Fun City U.S.A.  A lot has been reported lately about bike policies and a backlash to these policies in the city.  But this one takes the cake.

Recently, reported the New York Times,  city cops ticked 10 bicyclists for what appeared to be exceeding the speed limit in Central Park, a posted 15 MPH.  They used speed guns all day long in an effort to slow down the cyclists.

Then that night the police individually visited the homes of the cyclists to apologize and tell them the tickets had been voided.


Turns out that even though there were signs in the park with the limit, along with other park regulations, there was no speed limit law the city could or should enforce within the park.  Indeed city officials acknowledged that 15 MPH was “a snail’s pace” for a bike!  The result was the Police Department took the almost entirely unprecedented step of apologizing IN PERSON for a misapplication of the law.

Looks like the city needs to get its act together.  Indeed, as the report in the previous listing showed, the city is still a pretty scary place to ride a bike, where even its vaunted network of bike lanes are constantly violated by both parked and moving vehicles.