Thursday, July 31, 2008

CubCamp: The Races

Starting this week with a bracketed drag race series @ the Bikerowave, the Thursday night West Side crew, CubCamp, is hosting a line up of four races. Don't expect this to be a straight forward and serious event akin to Wolfpack. Actually dressing in drag for the race will earn riders a head start, and expect other twists to be involved in all the races.

Is sacrificing masculinity worth a head start? Will the literal drag of a blowing skirt cancel such a bonus anyways? And what's this I hear about a rope? These are the sort of questions that keep CubCamp interesting.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Velo Nostalgic

Although I thought of my passion for cycling primarily being ignited in the past year or so, I recently stumbled across some old writings from high school. It was actually during high school that I learned to ride, which was later then most of my friends, who had since moved on to interest in cars then. 

Lately with bike commuting, training for events like AIDS LifeCycle and now racing, or riding with masses to party or make a political stand, I sometimes forget the simple pleasure of just riding to ride. No agenda, no lactic threshold max, no destination, just me, my bicycle and the cool evening air. On that note, here is a poem I wrote as a teenager, just then discovering the joys of a bicycle. I'm going out for a ride, and I bid you all a good night.

Bike ride in the evening

The night is empty.
I am alone,
Riding in the moon light.
Without worry,
Without fear.
Riding under the shadows
Of the trees above me.
Lonely cars pass me by.
They don’t see me,
Underneath the shadows.
I stop in the park and
Rabbits leap into darkness.
I sit and listen to them.
Laying in the grass,
I watch the clouds
Roll past the moon.
Darkness and light weave
Together as one.
I am alone.
The night is empty.
But strangely,
I am content.

Bicycle Street Skills Class, This Weekend

Riding in the streets of L.A. sans the protective shield of a steel reinforced cage and four wheel drive, is understandably intimidating to many, but high gas prices and slumping car sales have been contrasted with record bicycle sales. More bikes on the streets is a good thing, but it's important for the sake of personal safety, that new cyclists become familiar with urban bike handling skills, safety concerns, and the rules and responsibilities that come with riding.

epOxyGreen's Eco design Block Party

In Santa Monica this weekend, a class in bicycle street skills is being hosted by League of American Bicyclists certified instructors Ron Durgin and Henry Hsie. So if you want to learn about riding in L.A. in a supportive and educational environment, rather then a trial by fire, this is a golden opportunity. There is a one day in class option, and a two day option with on the bike tutoring in real road conditions. More details are available from the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition.

In-Class Course (Saturday, August 2nd only)
Full 2-Day Course (Saturday August 2nd and Sunday August 3rd)
More Details Here

For more riding class opportunities, check out C.I.C.L.E.'s workshops. Their upcoming class for total beginning riders is full, but spots are available for their intermediate bike handling class on August 30th.

ALC Day Three (Day of Fwoosh)

(Warning, this post contains ego inflating acts of machoism. I had decided on day 3 to be my opportunity to get that out of my system so I could roll chill again.)

Day 3 - King City to to Paso Robles, 67 miles

Yes, I have not forgotten I left more then half of my AIDS LifeCycle experience untranscribed, so here at last is my account of day three. If you need to get caught up, here are links for days Zero, One, & Two.

Me, my bike, and my handle bar camera bag.

Since I had decided Day 3 would be my day of going fwoosh and racing the course, I got up extra early and rolled out about 6:35 so I'd have less people to pass (course opens at 6:30). The first leg was colder then I anticipated with the heat of the previous day and I regretted rolling out without my knee warmers. This day featured a large hill early in the route known as quad-buster which had a fare amount of hype building it up. I especially look forward to serious hill climbing when I'm cold because nothing heats your body up like hauling your butt up a hill.

On the approach to the climb I was passing everyone who rolled out before I did, but then all of a sudden I was passed by two other riders. Being the competitive person I am and in a racing sort of mood, I was determined to catch them. They had too much momentum for me to catch them right away, so I plotted to pace my self on the climb so that I would slowly advance and catch them toward the peak. My 10 lbs. of camera gear loading down my bike did not help facilitate this goal.

Finally in the last stretch before the crest of the hill I had closed the gap and we become a group of three. I also wondered where the rest of the hill was, imagining a more grueling climb given the hype. Perhaps this was just a testament to the hill training our team emphasized. As we began descending from the peak, a thrill tempered by opposing winds, we picked up another couple riders. Riding single file we became like a train rolling over the landscape. As we passed by rest stops some broke off but I had become determined to hang with the original two riders who had passed me as far as they were planning to go, which seemed like a straight shot to the lunch stop.

Lunch parking on my day of going fast.

Moving at a blazing clip and skipping Rest Stops one, two, & three, we arrived at lunch at 9:00 AM. The bike racks I was used to seeing packed at stops were barren when we got there. Technically the official lunch wasn't open yet, but they had the boxes out so the early folks could grab food. Also next door a BBQ and bake sale put on by locals was cooking up a storm, with proceeds going to the local school.

Unoffical Local BBQ Lunch Currently about 9:15 AM

Leaving lunch I rolled with a group riding out led by Bruce who I had joined on the climb. The pace never dipped below relentless and they would have likely skipped everything and gone straight to camp, but on account of this being my first time doing ALC and that cumbersome camera I was lugging around, they stopped with me at Rest Stop 4, located on the grounds of an old Mission.

Mission Mission

Our early arrival caught the entertainers of Rest Stop 4 before they were finished preparing, but we were treated to a rehearsal of their act, themed after the movie Grease.

Rest Stop 4

The last leg to camp felt further then the milage suggested, with head winds that were blowing all day. Going into the first rolling hill the other riders of the group backed off and it was just Bruce and my self blazing a trail to the finish. Bruce was obviously a stronger and more experienced rider then my self, but I felt honored I was strong enough to be useful, so he didn't drop me. When I would take a pull, cutting the head winds, it took everything I had to keep the pace Bruce had set, but it was exhilarating to push my self to my limits. Over rolling hills and scenic curves we rolled into the not yet finished being set up bike parking at 11:15 AM.


Here is Bruce relaxing for a moment at camp bike parking, while I was standing around being a photo snapping jittery mess high on adrenaline.

A large part of the experiance of AIDS LifeCycle is the time spent at camp, and sharing a tent block with a bunch of rowdy Midnight Ridazz friends was a blast. It was an especially eventful day for me back at camp afterwards, so I will save my account of it for another post.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Joining the Bike Writers Collective


Secluded in the shadows of a delightful tree on a sunny day at the Echo Park lake, I attended a super secret picnic this weekend that brought together a group of L.A. cycling activists known as the Bike Writers Collective. I had known of the group for sometime, and their promotion of a Cyclists Bill of Rights, which they composed and have since been seeking endorsements by various City Councils. There have been a few notable successes including the East Hollywood City Council and the document continues to gain traction.

As one who writes about cycling in Los Angeles and a promoter of all things bike, I have joined the group to lend my support. Bicycle activism powered by pita bread with delicious tomato based dipping sauce, coming to a City Council meeting near you.

(Photo Credit: Alex Thompson)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Cyclists Speak at Santa Monica LUCE Meeting

Santa Monica City Council MeetingSanta Monica City Council MeetingSanta Monica City Council MeetingSanta Monica City Council Meeting

A few weeks ago I met with a group of fellow passionate cyclists at the Bikerowave to discuss our game plan for a City Council meeting later that evening. The City of Santa Monica has been in an ongoing discussion about an urban planning initiative referred to as LUCE (Land Use and Circulation Element). This document would set the direction for urban planning goals within Santa Monica for decades to come which will have lasting impacts on the bikeability of Santa Monica as well as other forms of transit.

Alex Thompson and others have been attending and promoting the meetings discussing this document to promote the cycling portions of the initiative as well as applying pressure to get the less controversial cycling sections into motion now, before the perpetually delayed document is ratified.

Santa Monica City Council Meeting Santa Monica City Council Meeting

Though I was a little nervous, this being my first time talking in a political forum, I got up and spoke my 2 minutes to emphasize the importance of adopting sharrows and clearly posting bus lanes as bus and bike only lanes within the Downtown Santa Monica region, which many bike lanes feed into. Bicycles are allowed to use bus lanes for through traffic unlike cars, however it is currently unclear due to the lanes being marked for bus only. The downtown area with it's narrow streets and dense street parking is not suitable for permanent bikes lanes, but sharrows could be used direct cyclists safely through the congested streets and remind cars that cyclists need to be far enough left to avoid the door zone.

Santa Monica City Council Meeting

Alex speaks before the Council for cycling issues in Santa Monica in the photo above. For further coverage of this meeting see Alex Thompson's post on Westside BikeSIDE.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Big BANG!


It's hard to believe it was only just over a year ago that I was introduced to the bicycle culture in Los Angeles. My first Midnight Ridazz social ride was Independence Day of last year and was quite an epic and memorable weekend. This year at the Big Bang Ride to the Marina fireworks show on the fourth, it was a different feeling. None of this social mass bicycle craziness was new or mysterious anymore, but it was great to share in the excitement of sky bound explosions with the many friends I've made over the past year.

The night was capped off by an amazingly tolerated by Police performance by local cycling music duo Funderstorm, right in the center of the Wayward circle in Venice Beach. I had a great time amidst the dancers circling the minimalist music act, and it was great to see them at their last Los Angeles performance before their epic tour. As we speak they are pedaling with fully loaded touring bikes preforming coast to coast on their way to New York. Their adventure can be followed on their blog, and a word of caution it may hurt your eyes. F.U.N.!!!

Funderstorm Funderstorm

Bicycle & Automobile Coexistence.


Tension between cyclists and motorists over shared use of the roadway has been an ongoing issue since cars supplanted the bicycle as the dominant vehicle of personal transit. Recently however a road rage incident in Mandaville Canyon in which a motorist intentionally used his vehicle to seriously injure two cyclists has become a lightening rod in the debate about what it means to share the road in Los Angeles.

Although there are things that both cyclists and motorists can do to more harmoniously coexist, I noticed in reading online comments there is often a lack of understanding on the part of motorists on certain safety concerns of cyclists, common cycling behavior as well as the laws for bicycles (I will be discussing primarily California law). So I would like to address some of these common misunderstandings and for starters all laws concerning cars apply also to bikes, and bikes can use all roads except where expressly forbidden by signage, such as most urban freeways. I admit that when I primarily drove to get around I didn't know much about any of this even though I had always done some bike commuting. Education on cycling issues is massively under whelming, which is something that really ought to change. As mentioned toward the end of one my blogging cohorts recent posts, simply adding a cycling question to the DMV test could help educate and is a relatively simple thing to change.

In the interest of furthering education on sharing the road, I will over a series of future blogs posts address various points of confusion or contention, entitled Bicycle & Automobile Coexistence. These posts will primarily focus on educating drivers, however there are things many cyclists need to be aware of all well (I'm looking at you cyclists riding the wrong way in the bike lane). So lets all hold hands and share the road like little bears with delightful icons on their chest or something.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Bicycle Versus Segway in Law Enforcement

More and more law enforcement is realizing the limitations of a car in patrolling dense urban areas, especially during special high traffic events. Tight spaces and high levels of motor and pedestrian traffic render cars useless, and going on foot highly limits ground coverage.

This has led to more agencies adopting bike patrol officers, usually sporting rugged black mountain bikes, ideal for hopping curbs and pursuing subjects on mixed terrain. In more recent years however, advances in electronic people movers, namely the Segway, have been replacing the role of the bicycle in police transportation. Is this really an improvement?

Lets analyze the Segway against some human powered alternatives using the lovely bullet point feature:
  • Top speed of Segway : 12 MPH
    • Heavy and cumbersome, they have trouble getting over high curbs.
  • Typical speed of a skirt wearing cyclist on a beach cruiser: 5-10 MPH
    • Add 2-4 MPH if an attractive boy is ahead
  • Me on inline skates: 10-16MPH with ability to surpass 20 in a sprint
    • Able to jump over obstacles and make tight maneuvers, but use is limited to paved surface
  • Typical speed of mountain bike : 10-16 MPH with potential to sprint at 20+
    • Able to hop curbs and other small urban obstacles
    • Ideal on or off the pavement
  • Typical speed of road bike : 14-18 MPH with sprinting speeds over 25 MPH
    • Fast but poor traction off pavement, and poor handling at slow speeds.
* The numbers for bike speed are based on realistic speeds for an officer in decent shape, these are not my speeds, which would of course be much faster.

Speed is not everything, here are some other things to consider;
  • Brand new pursuit mountain bike for police patrol : $500
  • Brand new Segway: $5000+
  • Cycling promotes cardiovascular health and leg strength of officers.
  • Segways promote leaning forward.
So you decide, are Segways for law enforcement worth your tax money?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

AIDS LifeCycle Photography

The rest of my write ups for each day of AIDS LifeCycle are still on the way. In the meantime, if you would like to peak at the visuals, my photos have all been posted online. Once a set has been selected, if you would like to view as a slide show press the icon in the top right of the page. Enjoy.

OMG We're here. It's the front entrance.

Lunch Stop

Rest Stop 4 

Me, my bike, and my handle bar camera bag.

Share The Road

Triple Trouble

Me & My Bike


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Alternative Transit For Lunch

In the lull between trying to write out the detailed accounts of each day on AIDS LifeCycle, I wanted to interject some observations from my bike commuting today. On my way to the Co-Op market for a deli lunch, I observed a commuter on in-line skates (I don't count beach path skating, since in all likelihood they drove to get there and have no intention to leave the beach). I almost never see this except on the occasions I break out my own skates to get somewhere. Yes I do things besides cycling too.

Maybe in our future? This picture is from Canada, and hey did you know yesterday was Canada Day? (Photo credit Richard Drdul)

Then I saw a mo-ped parked in the bike racks at the co-op. Although not quite as efficient as the bicycle, a mo-ped is considerably less of a hog of fuel and land use space as other motored transit. I have mixed feelings about mo-peds using bike lanes though, especially when they are confused about their place on the road, weaving in and out of the bike lane with some kind of transportation identity crisis. Both times I encountered this I ended up passing the mo-ped on my bike, so maybe it's not such a good transit option after all.

As I finished my sandwich a gentleman on a three wheeled skater scooter thing (as I currently refer to them, since I have no idea what to call them) showed up and also parked amongst the bikes. You may have seen them as rental gimmicks on the beach path, with people swaying around for propulsion, but this was my first time seeing one off the beach. More wheels sans the car is always a positive in my book, and all this as news hits that auto sales, of all vehicle classes, are down down down [link].