Turn on the lights

Early autumn ride, Lake Tahoe photo/J Ferris

Early autumn ride, Lake Tahoe photo/J Ferris

Ah, the joys of autumn. The trees putting on the their annual color parade, riding through fallen leaves, eating more warm pastries than we should–it’s great.

It’s also getting darker earlier. Slowly but surely, the light fades out just a bit earlier every day. Soon, taking off for a ride at around 4 p.m. will be a bit sketchy.

Since those of us in the more mature group, or so we think anyway, may already have some vision issues, riding in fading light can be a bit of challenge.

Considering that Boomers are also driving in fading light, it seems important to shout out my yearly blast about lighting up your bike. It doesn’t take much brain power to understand the results of a car hitting a bicycle. Bikes lose, it’s that simple.

I don’t race, and am unconcerned about whether I am in the super cool crowd who wouldn’t ever put lights on their bikes. They weigh too much, they produce drag, and other very elite arguments, just don’t have anything to do with me.

My bikes have lights, road and mountain, front and back.  Before I saddle up, the lights go on, every time. I don’t ride in fading light or in the dark. I do have to say that, once, on what was supposed to be a “group” ride, I ended up riding half of it in very poor light, by myself. I didn’t appreciate either the dark or the alone part. I was quite happy I had lights on my bike though.

The reason most of us wear brightly colored jerseys and so on is so that we will be seen by the motoring public. It’s good to be seen. I wear the colorful jerseys, and I have bright flashing lights too. I got hit once. Didn’t like it.

Not only do I have the lights, I actually change the batteries twice a year. As I said, being seen while on the road is good.

As we ride into the wonderful light of autumn, remember to light up. No excuses. Our older bones don’t need any auto hits.

Suit up, turn the lights on, and ride on!




Time to ride

The autumn ride at Blue Lakes/photo Placerville Bike Shop

The autumn ride at Blue Lakes/photo Placerville Bike Shop


We have about two weeks of summer left. The Autumnal Equinox is on September 22, at about 1:44 p.m. PDT. The dog days of August are over. Nothing to do with dogs by the way. It’s simply when Sirius, the dog star, launches onto the night stage in the sky.

Schools are in session. The weekends are devoted to football and homework, plays, music to be learned and so on. What that leaves is fewer people out on the trails. For those of us of a certain age, this is good. We aren’t as likely to be passed up by a young person in the single digits of their life. Really, when a 9 year old blows past, and you are already working hard, it just isn’t fair.

Bike shops will soon be looking to draw down their 2013 inventory further than they already have. The 2014 uber wonderful bikes are on the way, and there has to be room for them. It’s time to look for sales, and to bargain when you’re buying.

It’s also time to realize that the daylight hours are very subtly shortening. Beginning on September 23, the subtle aspects will start to disappear. Long late afternoon rides are still possible for a while. What we will all face though is fading light earlier in the afternoon. Bike commuters especially will have to deal with this.

It’s time to make certain the batteries in the lights on your bike are fresh. Riding about at dusk without good lights isn’t very smart. It’s a good thing when cars are able to see you.

It’s a wonderful time of year to ride, no matter where you are. All you have to do is saddle up and start pushing the pedals. Ride on!


Pay attention!

Rider and bike at Lake Tahoe

Ride, ride, ride, and do it safely. Pay attention!

Recently, I wrote about a pedestrian who was hit by a drunk bicyclist in Truckee, on July 4. On July 9, the gentleman who was hit died from his head injuries.

About 3 days ago, there was an article in the Sacramento Bee about another cycling accident. Seems a cyclist ran a stop sign, and was hit and seriously injured by a car which had the right of way. Both of these accidents were completely preventable. I don’t know if the stop sign running cyclist has survived or not.

It is distressing to be in the Sacramento area, Folsom to Mid-Town, Downtown, Roseville, Granite Bay, Citrus Heights, and so on, and observe so many cyclists simply ignoring the rules of the road. I ride, a lot. I stop at stop signs. I actually signal my turns. I don’t think it takes any more brains or energy to ride safely.

Now, I may not look like a Tour de France rider, or a club rider, or a model for spandex, but I do know that, gray beard and all, the rules of the road apply to me and every other bike rider out there.

I stink at math, but simple physics tells me that since my bike and I weigh less than the average set of tires on a car, I will be the clear loser in any crash with an auto of any kind.

A very long time ago, while in my teens, an older driver, stopped at a stop sign, decided that it was OK to pull out into the main road, where I was riding, and had the right of way. He looked right, then left, right at me, then forward, and, gripping the huge steering wheel with both hands, pulled right on out.

I had no chance, although I vaguely remember slamming on the brakes and attempting to swerve out of his way. It didn’t work. I was T-boned, meeting the great chrome bumper on his great big tank of a car, and subsequently greeting the pavement, where, fortunately, no other cars were travelling. I didn’t enjoy the experience very much, nor did my bike. Physics and experience are at work here.

There is no excuse for any rider to ignore stop signs, stop lights, pedestrians, or any common sense rules. Those who do endanger all of us. There are already too many car drivers who’d rather we didn’t ride. Pay attention. Being an idiot on a bike is a losing proposition. Wise up.


Changes in the Tour? Maybe

saddle with nails protruding

Time for a reality check photo/C. Ferris


This years Tour de France, lit off last Saturday, thundered through Corsica, and hit the French mainland with panache. Always full of fun, strategery, crashes, miracles, and just good excitement, it’s one time of the year that I’ll put off my ride for an hour while I wait to see the peloton appear like something out of Starwars as it reels in the breakaway not far from the finish. Always exciting.

Are things changing in the Tour? What may, and only may, be different this year is that the young riders coming up through the ranks seem to be doing so on their own power. Tejay Van Garderen, Peter Sagan, Andrew Talansky, Peter Kennaugh, Cameron Meyer, Nairo Quintana, and others who are in the younger group, seem determined to put the doping stupidity out of its misery. I want to know without a hint of a doubt that the Manx Missile, Mark Cavendish, is powered only by his training and ability and desire to outsprint everyone.

I can only hope this is true. Time will tell of course.  Armstrong’s contention that you couldn’t win the Tour, at least while he was riding, without a chemical boost may be true.

For the next generation of great riders, perhaps not. As I have said before, if I want to see spaced out weirdness, I can go see it on the streets of any big city. I’m not interested in watching it while someone is pedaling up a HC mountain in the Tour, or demolishing another rider in a breakaway.

I really enjoy watching the Tour. It is inspiring, even to a grey beard rider like me. Let’s hope that this really is the start of something new in the pro ranks. Ride on!

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It’s hot, now what?

Rider and bike at Lake Tahoe

Ride, ride, ride

Temperatures across the western US have been scorching for the last few days. That is, they’ve been in the over 95 degree range, early in the day. In places, it’s climbed to 115 degrees.

The question is: Do you ride anyway? As with many things, it depends. Here are some tips so that you can keep the pedals turning without visiting the emergency room or the local morgue. Heat can and does kill.

  • Ride early in the mornings, before it gets too hot
  • Drink water before you ride, and carry enough water with you to get through the ride, at least one bottle for every hour you are on the bike
  • Dive for the shade whenever you safely can
  • Put on lots of sunscreen
  • If you find a cool spot along the way, take a break, cool down
  • Curtail your ride: Long rides in very hot conditions are for the pros, not you. Alas, you aren’t one.
  • Keep the extreme pedal turning to a minimum.
  • Take it easy today so you can ride tomorrow
  • Know when to stop
  • If it is really hot, stay off the bike. Sooner or later the weather will change, and you can ride again

You might think this is just plain good common sense. It is. There isn’t any reason to take risks on a very hot day. Bragging rights aren’t worth it from you hospital bed.

We’ve made it this far, might as well extend the streak, yes? Ride on!



Really? Beer rounds?

saddle with nails protruding

Time for a reality check

On May 9, Bicycling arrived in my email in box. Featured story was “Best Brewery Rides”, “Beer Here! Six Brewery Rides.” The appalling message is that it is OK to ride to a brewery, have a beer or more, then ride to another one and repeat the process.

It is stunning that in a magazine like Bicycling that such an article would be front and center. It was not followed up with stats about the number of cyclists who have been busted for BUI, who have been injured or killed due to intoxicated cycling, or who have been killed by drivers who were drunk.

One rider said it was safer than doing the brewery rounds while driving a car. For whom is it more safe? How about recognizing that it’s an all around bad idea.

If you and yours deem it necessary to visit breweries, or brew pubs, or “craft” beer houses, and drink the time away, you should absolutely stay out of your car and off your bike. Hire a service for the evening: cab, limo, anything with a stone cold sober driver behind the wheel.

While I don’t personally care if you manage to kill or maim yourself while you’re drunk or “impaired”, you have no right to endanger the rest of us.

Get a grip. Brewery bicycle, or car, tours, are simply stupid.

Ride to enjoy life, not to put it in danger.


Radio Shack no more

Ride, ride, ride

Ride, ride, ride

Radio Shack recently announced that they were dropping their sponsorship of pro bike racing. The short version of their announcement is that it’s just not worth it any more.

The reason it’s not worth it is all the doping, fantastical excuses, and outright inability of so many in the pro ranks to just fess up to what ever transgressions they have been involved in.

They probably won’t be the only ones. If, during the upcoming season, or as a result of a re-examination of past cases, the ranks are more drug infested than any one could prove prior to this, others will probably jump ship too.

Considering that the buy-in to sponsor a team is a minimum of $1 million, USD, it wouldn’t be overly surprising. There isn’t any reason to associate your brand with stupidity. What that does or doesn’t mean for the future of the sport is anyone’s guess. A crystal ball would be handy about now.

On the local level, it doesn’t mean much. Most of the riders I know just don’t care any more. What most of us want is a clean field, racing only on whatever training and talent they naturally have.

Those of us who ride do so for the joy of it, or because we have a competitive streak that needs to be fed. The hum of the tires, the wind whistling through your helmet, the sights and sounds of the road or trail, the satisfaction of a ride well ridden. That’s it.

The spring season is on us. Let’s just ride and enjoy ourselves. Pay more attention to the wonder that we can all do so after all the years that we’ve put on our own frames, let alone the bike frames. It’s just a kick. Ride on!


Bikes and so on

Cycling for all, all for one, drug free please/photo credit: J Ferris

Cycling for all, all for one, drug free please/photo credit: J Ferris


The new issue of Velo landed in my mailbox today. Always an interesting read. The road season is upon us, and Velo makes a few predictions at the front end of each season. Last years predictions didn’t fare so well.

The continuing rattle about doping may or may not bring about any significant changes in the sport. Even with a program that doesn’t ban riders who step up and admit to past doping, it’s still a cruddy issue for the sport.

Velo thinks that this year, with riders, perhaps, stepping up to admit their past transgressions, the bottom will be reached, with up the only way to go from there. I’m not so sure. Anyone with a shovel can always dig deeper.

The other pro sports around the world probably aren’t any different than cycling. I would be amazed if pro football wasn’t seeded with steroids and whatnot. Baseball has already been busted for drug use.

I still will follow a certain amount of the upcoming cycling season, and I will watch as many football games as time allows. I can only hope that the younger participants in sports are much more honest and concerned about the issue of competing on their own merits than those who’ve preceded them.

I didn’t say “level playing field” on purpose. If everyone is doped up, it’s a level, if stupid and dishonest, playing field. I’d rather watch rust form on a nail though.

With some little bit of luck, the young guns in the field will do what we all did: Train, compete, have a good time. That way, they won’t have to hide what they did from anyone. At least when we got loaded it was off the field. The hardest part of that was finding someone old enough to buy the beer for us.

Enough of that crapage though. Get outside, Ride on! Stay healthy!



What’s that noise?

Big bikes, big ride, 2011 Amgen Tour of California photo/J Ferris

Clean this one! photo/J Ferris

All winter long the pedaling hasn’t stopped. Well, maybe when there was too much ice, snow, rain, or gale force winds, we headed inside to the trainer, but it still counts as pedaling. Back on the road, or on the trails, though there’s been this little sound that you haven’t quite figured out.

It quits when you stop rotating the pedals. The next stroke and it’s back. You’ve checked everything you can think of that might be it. No deal.

Especially in winter after many rides and just not enough maintenance a few sounds can pop up, none of which is your old bones creaking.

First place to look is your chain, chain rings, derailleur, and gears. It’s pretty easy to ride on and on without lubing them. If the sound is somewhat of a constant, light whispering sound, chances are it’s coming from your drive trail

Clean it. Take a brush to it. Put the bike up on the rack, or at least support it in some way so that it is off the deck, and hand crank the pedals with one hand, while holding the brush against the chain with the other. Get all of the big chunks off. Next, hand crank the pedals backwards, and hold a soft rag around the chain as it exits the slave rollers. Now, take your bottle of chain lube, and while cranking the chain backward, apply the chain lube. Put enough on to thoroughly coat the chain, derailleur, gears, and slave rollers. Now, take a clean rag, and while still running the chain backwards, hold the rag around the chain to remove the excess. Not too difficult at all actually.

More than likely, you’ve solved your problem, which was a dry, dirty chain. Let that be a lesson to you: Take better care of your drive chain. At the very least, the components will last longer.

If the sound you hear is an intermittent click while you are pedaling, the issue just may be that one of your crank arms is a little loose. Easily fixed. Tighten it. Do it carefully, as stripping the threads can cost you a trip your local bike shop for a helicoil attempt, or a new assembly. Loose crank arms, believe it or not, can fall off, not such a good experience.

Keeping your ride in good shape over the winter, especially if you live anywhere where it is cold, snowy, or both, can be a challenge. Take the time to do the simple stuff though. You’ll enjoy your cold, windy rides on wintery streets much more.


Clean your bike!

Clean it. Photo credit: C Ferris

Clean it. Photo credit: C Ferris

Winter and the riding is, well, at times, messy. Wet roads, tires flinging yuck up onto you and your ride. Puddles or mushy snow really putting the crud to use on your ride.

Back in the garage, hop off the bike, take off the helmet, turn off the lights on the bike–you do have them, yes?–and into the house you go, where the promise of hot coffee and bagels and cream cheese await. You’ll get to the bike later.

Later shows up, and it’s time to ride again. Honest, you’ll clean it after this ride. Jeeze.

Being a bit older and wiser, as we like to say, doesn’t always work, but cleaning your bike after a winter ride really is necessary. The added weight alone of the caked on crud will slow you down. Besides that, your chain and gears will start to wear faster. Any of that stuff invades your bottom bracket–the one on the bike–and you’ll shortly regret it.

Here’s what you do if you just don’t have time for a stem to stern cleaning:

  1. Gently hose the bike down. Get the big chunks off of it.
  2. After you are sure the big stuff is off, dry it with a clean, soft cloth.
  3. Clean the chain and gears, then oil the chain.
  4. Give it a quick look over, make sure it’s dry.
  5. You’re done

If you live in the frozen part of the country, you may need to use a squirt bottle the bike down. Frozen water doesn’t work so well.

The main reason to do all of this is financial. New bikes are expensive. Cleaning your present bike is cheap. You choose. It’s your bike.

Safety enters into it too. A crappy chain, worn down gears, or brakes that have eaten through the wheel could cause you some problems that include band aides or stitches.

The coffee and bagels will still be there after you take the 15 minutes to do a quick cleaning of your favorite mode of transportation. Ride on!


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