Saturday, February 20, 2010

Simple Pleasures

My boyfriend's back. He's got the truck, so now it's just me and the bicycle. Rather conveniently, it's supposed to rain consistently next week, but I'm a trooper. It won't faze me much if it's just drizzle. Slight drizzle is as good as refreshing as a tall glass of water and its variants. And if not, then oh well.

I love my bicycle. Although I had the option of four wheels for the past two weeks, outside of stocking up on toilet paper and cat litter I rode my bicycle where I needed to go. The temps have been in the mid-seventies with very low wind-resistance, so despite any early morning grogginess, every ride has been a great one.

In the last two weeks I've realized the strength of my legs, oddly having moved faster and with more strength than ever (perhaps a way of resisting the urge to be sedentary). I've also found that it took a lot less time to get where I needed to go by bicycle than by truck, and not once did I shell out one cent that I haven't already spent on parking. Of course every mode of transportation has its time, place, and benefit (I love taking the train when I can - Pacific Surfliner represent), but I'd be lying if I said it didn't please me to no end knowing that a hop, beeline, and snap of the lock at times meant a quicker arrival than a firing of the engine and incidental rock star parking.

Life's simple pleasures, indeed.

Photo via

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Two vs. Four

I didn't ride my bicycle today. I was far too tired. With a pseudo-hectic schedule (imposed by others and myself), life has simply caught up with me. I'm never prepared for its arrival; therefore, I'm exhausted. Not many people would find that enough of a reason to not ride their bicycle, but... well, let's just say that I've been awake for six hours and I'm still cutting through the grogginess of early AM on nearly seven hours' sleep. Unwarranted.

So I decided to drive my boyfriend's truck today. When I started the engine, I couldn't help but wonder about something that's a been a bit of a back-and-forth self-debate for a few years. Before I begin, I'd like to preface with a quote byBikeSnobNYC, that "idiots travel by foot, car, and bicycle". No one is exempt.

Driving isn't necessarily a brainless activity. I would like to think that in the most ideal of situations all drivers are paying attention and have their wits about them (a fantasy, at best). In my cycling ventures I've noticed the following [what I call typical] symptoms of Vehicle Acclimation: delayed reactions, instances of alarm, tail-gating, brake-happiness, and speed-OD'ing. There's always one that will mess it up for everyone.

Oddly enough, in situations where I feel less than on I've found that driving or taking public transportation is a plan B that rarely fails, at least when it comes to my standard of comfort. I've never found driving to be all that difficult. In some cases, for lack of a better phrase, it's like riding a bicycle - hop in and go. Contrary to what some say, driving is not rocket science (beware anyone who thinks it is). God forbid you must think to parallel park or make a u-turn, but on the general whole, if you've your senses there is no reason that a car cannot be an efficient mode of transportation. Unfortunately, not all of us are that gifted.

I will never say that I'm the best driver in the world, but I'd like to think that having been a pedestrian for, I don't know, ever and a cyclist for the last few years has helped me with driving in ways that I couldn't imagine if I never had the exposure. On a bicycle you can be booking - especially downhill, especially in traffic - and booking on two wheels in a precarious situation is often as intimidating as it is exhilirating - and it's just as exciting the second and third time as it is the first. It only makes you want to climb higher and go faster. But if I didn't make good use of my peripheral vision, obey traffic laws or exercise overall caution, I'd probably have broken both my legs by now.

I don't know if many strictly-drivers can say that, but why would they? I can understand how the thought wouldn't have need to arise unless one was in an accident or ever has a close-call. Driving/being driven is comfortable, yet I appreciate knowing what it feels to be vulnerable. I don't have to get in an accident to do better, and my reflexes are sharp enough that - in not having steadily driven for six years - I can hop behind the steering wheel of a rarely-handled Ford F150 and not freak the frak out.

Now before you get all up in arms, trust me when I say that if my boyfriend were not in New York and didn't leave me his truck, I would have ridden my bicycle today. I suppose the purpose of this is also to say that no matter the circumstance - if it's "too cold", "too wet", or you're "too tired" - you should never feel bad for relying on a plan B, even if when you look back on it in hindsight you could've ridden your bicycle without a hitch. And in the meantime, use any and all "vulnerabilty" to your advantage, because it will only make you more badass.

Happy cycling~

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Do You Love Your Bike?

This is a question that has been nagging me for the past three weeks. I would like to direct this question to anyone and everyone - but most especially university students. My mother works at CSUN, and living close by I try to have lunch with her a couple of times a week. In my heading up there, I've noticed that it's very much the bike-friendly environment as it's always been - so much that even I can overlook the multitude of riders who decide to go without a helmet. Small potatoes; their brains, not mine. What I am least enthused about, though, is the way a lot of students have been securing their bicycles - or rather, have thrown caution to the wind and forgone any real sense of security whatsoever.

CSUN is in the north Valley and has a lot of security, a fact that I believe has bred a common line of thinking: that there are so many bicycles on campus; who'd want to take the time to steal my bike? I can kind of understand that. I can understand also that when late for class, sometimes you might only have time to throw a u-lock on the front tire and slide into a seat. There also might be the reasoning that as long as the bike's got a lock on it, it's locked up - plain and simple.

Now, the latter reasoning makes absolutely no sense to me. Whether you've a cable, a u-lock, or a chain - if you're merely locking the front tire to a rack, your bike isn't properly locked up. And while I can understand throwing on a lock quickly to make it to class - I'd rather be two minutes late then know that I did a half-assed job at making sure my mode of transportation was locked as best as possible.

If one has gone long enough without the threat of their bicycle being stolen, I can understand the thought of not finding it absolutely necessary to buy a second lock for the rear wheel and frame. It wasn't long ago that I slacked in effort when locking up my bicycle, and even now I sometimes question whether I'm doing it "correctly". I do know that it would break my heart of my bike went missing, or any part of it. Wheels, seat; you name it, heart crushed. Besides, I'd have to figure out how to get home. Then I'd feel stupid.

Whatever one does and wherever one goes, one should be able to leave their bicycle parked without any real nagging doubt that someone will take their ride home. I don't think anyone wants to be the person whose bike went missing because it was just too easy. At least if you did everything right and for some freak reason it still went missing, the plaguing thought of blatant naivete will be a lessened issue. Sure, you'd have to figure a way home, but at least a guilty conscience wouldn't follow.

Perhaps it's only me, but nothing these days is more pleasing to the eye than a well-locked-up bicycle. It's a sign that someone's been paying attention, which I wish wasn't as few-and-far-between a sign of intelligence as it has become.

Surely there's a remedy somewhere for this?

Photo by gruber via Flickr

Monday, February 1, 2010

Remain Seated Please

I found the bicycle parking at Disneyland yesterday.

On the east side of the Resort towards the hotel trams and to the far right of the dog kennels there lies - well, not a ton of bike parking, but enough for the one in 2,000 people (or less) who might ride their bicycle to the Happiest Place on Earth.

Disneyland is approximately 48 miles from where I live. I have biked a half-century (50 miles) before, and from Azusa to Long Beach (approximately 59 miles), so the idea of bicycling to Disneyland isn't that far a stretch. With my friends' friendly competition for the month of January having come to a recent close, I for sure know that I am comfortable in riding relatively long distances, having cycled at times almost 40 miles a day. I only hope to be riding a lot more during the month of February.

I just don't know at this point of anything more than 60 miles in a day. With the round-trip distance to the Disneyland Resort totaling nearly 100 miles... well, let's just say that I've not yet trained for a century or greater. It's not that I couldn't or wouldn't do it. I would never have thought I'd have ridden my bike to the city of Paramount from Griffith Park, or across the way from the Queen Mary herself. I've been inspired by the great weather we've been having lately;. At this point, bicycling to Disneyland is merely a fun thought

Still, 2010 so far has been all about trying something different, or at least working with a new approach instead of the old and stagnant. So here's the deal, then: I will work out a feasible route and set a goal for, say, early spring to ride on down to Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom. (I'm actually a little surprised in perusing teh interwebs that someone hasn't mapped out a route already. Looks like I'm own my own!) Either I'd play at the Park for the day, book a cheap-ish hotel down the street and ride back the following morning, or perhaps I'd have the gumption to ride back the same day. Who knows?

What will be fun this month will be keeping track as to my endurance and overall abilities, and perhaps I will aim at an ambitious act either in late March or early April. Yeah, I may not like being dirty, or tired even, but I'm all about an adventure. And when it comes to Disney, it's nice to know that Walt and I have something positive in common.

Wanna ride with me?