Thursday, August 28, 2008

Going On Vacation

I'm going on vacation and will be taking a break from posting for a week. I'd like to take a moment to thank my regular readers, as well as the new readers I've gained in recent weeks. Thanks to the fellow bicycle bloggers who have linked to my stories and contributed comments. A special thanks to Damien Newton over at Streetsblog Los Angeles for the exposure on my coexistence posts. Additional thanks to Roadblock of Midnight Ridazz for putting a link to my post about when to take the lane on the front page, and to the Bicycle Kitchen, who's link to my blog on their own site has been consistently moving traffic to my page.

I'll be biking in unfamiliar territory in Indiana and Chicago over the break, while visiting my girlfriend Meghan's family. I'm always excited to see new places and I'm sure I'll have some things to share from the trip. I hope you all stay tuned for future updates. Have a great Labor Day weekend, and I wish everyone happy pedaling.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Coexistence 3: Bikes On The Sidewalk?

What is that bike doing in the street when there is a perfectly good sidewalk over there?

I often read comments by upset motorists that exclaim bikes should get off the road, and go on the sidewalk. I also see cyclists who always ride the sidewalk for fear of the cars. Even worse, I often see cyclists who freely hop between the road and sidewalk whenever they feel like it, often without signaling intentions to motorists or other cyclists, who do not expect such unpredictable behavior.

(No sidewalk riding stencil. Photo by Jackie Huynh.)

Riding on the sidewalk is often falsely assumed to be a safer and more ideal place for bikes. The truth is that most cycling injuries occur to those who ride on the sidewalk. This happens for a couple of reasons. For one thing, sidewalks are in no way designed for higher speed traffic, especially in Los Angeles where sidewalks tend to be narrow and full of parking meter poles. There are of course the often unpredictable pedestrian traffic that actually belongs on the sidewalk, and is generally displeased to have bikes whizzing past them. I regularly travel at speeds in the range of 17-25 mph on the road, but I would never be able to travel that fast on the sidewalk for fear of slamming into someone or clipping any number of objects that litter the sidewalk.

Although riding on the sidewalk removes the cyclist from sharing the road with cars, bikes and cars still interact. Sidewalks are frequently broken by low visibility drive way entrances and exits for cars, suddenly subjecting a cyclist to sharing space with a car. This is an important safety concern. Motorists typically move their vehicle across the sidewalk and a few feet into the road because that is the only way they can see oncoming traffic, especially when adjacent parallel parking further obscures the view. This is basically like a brick wall that suddenly appears in a cyclist's path. 

Pedestrians move slowly enought to easily stop when car pulls out and they are also likely to see or hear it coming first. If all else fails, they are in a better position to leap to safety then a cyclist. However, depending on the speed of the bike, a cyclist may be unable to stop in time when a car rolls out. A driver is unlikely to see the cyclist, especially if the cyclist is traveling on the sidewalk and is moving against the direction of traffic flow. Wrong way sidewalk riding is the most common situation resulting in cycling injuries and is 4.5 times more dangerous than riding on the sidewalk with the direction of vehicle traffic according to the Wachtel and Lewiston Study.

Driveway Hazard Of Sidewalk Riding
(Illustrating relative visibility of a cyclist to a motorist exiting a driveway)

Sidewalk riding creates the common scenario where a bike does not have time to react and slams into the side of a car and rolls over the hood. Even worse is being impacted from the side, head-on by the car. That can result in being knocked into the roadway, which can result in further injury from oncoming traffic. If a cyclist travels at speeds comparable to a pedestrian, there is less risk of this happening. However, most bike commuters are on a bike precisely because it can travel much faster then walking. Riding a bike on the sidewalk is like being on an obstacle course with moving targets, and is not safe for any parties involved. Almost any experienced bike commuter will be riding in the street, and never touch the sidewalk until reaching their destination.

Another danger of sidewalk riding is it forces a cyclist into the crosswalk suddenly when approaching intersections. If a cyclists rides through the crosswalk rather then getting off to walk the bike, they put them self at great risk of being slammed by a car making a right turn. A motorist typically looks left to make sure there is no oncoming cars, and hopefully a quick glance to make sure there are no pedestrians crossing. A cyclist traveling much faster then a person on foot can enter the crosswalk faster then a motorist may have time to notice or react. So, I do not advise cycling through crosswalks, just as I do not advise riding on the sidewalk. If you are going to cycle through a crosswalk, make sure there are no cars present who may turn right in front of you, or cars making a left from the opposite side of the road who may turn into the intersection. If pedestrians are already in the sidewalk, motorists are likely already alerted to use caution. However, pedestrians have the right of way, so be respectful of them if you are doing a rolling cross. This means politely asking to pass or ringing a bell, and giving comfortable passing room when proceeding.

In the road, traffic typically moves in a highly predictable manner with greater visibility. So, as counter intuitive as it may seem to some, a cyclist is more likely to be hit by a car or hurt in some other kind of collision on the sidewalk or crosswalk than riding on the road.

All this safety explanation aside, it's also against the law in some cities to ride on the sidewalk, though in most cities that law is seldom enforced. Los Angeles is actually one of the few major metropolitan cities that allows bikes on the sidewalk (except where expressly forbidden, and some local L.A. cities have stricter sidewalk riding rules). It's allowed not for the benefit of cyclists. It's allowed so traffic engineers can get away with poor accommodation for bikes as real traffic. Bikes are treated as vehicles by the law, and the sidewalk is typically for exclusive pedestrian use. I've heard stories of cyclists shouted at by less considerate motorists to get on the sidewalk, only to be told by law enforcement after doing so to get off the sidewalk. Bikes are vehicles, and the more cyclists take to the streets and assert their right to do so, the more we will be respected on the road by motorists.

Although it is my opinion that a bike's place is on the road, I acknowledge that some will always choose the sidewalk so long as they are allowed to do so. If you are a cyclist who will not roll on the streets, I suggest you read this article on safe and courteous use of a sidewalk for cycling. The author, like many experienced cyclists does not actually support doing so, but provides the article so those who do can do it safely and with minimal conflict with pedestrian traffic or law enforcement.

The laws about cycling on the sidewalk vary, so check your local ordinances. A good point I had not even considered until reading Dave's post on the topic, is that since cycling on the sidewalk is illegal in many places, or regulated to certain circumstances, you can potentially give up the ability to collect damages if a car hits you. Since if the law states bicycles do not belong on the sidewalk you will be found at fault in an accident. So not only is it more dangerous and likely to result in accidents, but you will have less legal protection should an accident occur. Dave had tried to warn his friend that riding on the sidewalk was a bad idea. He didn't listen, and sure enough he got injured going over his bars braking to avoid a car pulling out. Since he wasn't supposed to be on the sidewalk in the first place, there wasn't anything he could do about it legally and had to pay for his own damages.

(Pedestrians at Hollywood & Highland. Photo credit, Juan Felipe Rubio.)

If you are on the sidewalk, remember that pedestrians always have the right of way. If you need to pass, do so politely, you are treading on their territory. Just as motorists and cyclists must respect one another and coexist on the road, the same respect should be given pedestrians when riding on the sidewalk or approaching cross walks. Sometimes when approaching my destination I roll onto the sidewalk to find somewhere to lock up, but if I encounter pedestrian traffic, I get off and walk rather than trying to rudely cut and weave through groups of people.

One exception to riding in the street is children. Young children are often not aware, skilled and mature enough to handle riding in real street traffic. The vehicle rights granted to cyclists are often different for kids on bikes. In California, the distinction between the two is made by a 20" wheel size or 14" frame size requirement. [C.V.C. 39000] This is an outdated and ambiguous way to judge who is fit to ride a bike in street, especially in light of adult folding and bmx style bicycles which have small wheels and frames. There are also kids bikes with frame geometry that allows for larger wheels.

However sidewalk riding dangers still exist for children, and due to their small size, they are even less visible then adult cyclists to motorists pulling out of driveways. Kids are often riding in residential areas where drivers often pull out of driveways in reverse, which significally impairs visbility. For these reasons it is advised to supervise young cyclists at all times until they are both skilled and mature enough to handle riding in the street on their own. This is a judgment call for the parent to make, and obviously one that should not be taken lightly. Different kids mature at different times, or have different ability levels, and different cities have safer streets than others.

I want to also stress that if you are cyclist who is going to use the road, you have the same rights and responsibilities of a vehicle. [C.V.C. 21200] I want to emphasize responsibilities here because irresponsible road cycling at best fosters ill will from motorists, and at worst, can result in a dead cyclist. This means respecting traffic signals, using hand turn signals to alert motorists of your intentions, having lights when riding at night, and only taking the center of the lane when necessary, among other things.

If you are a motorist who is still unconvinced bikes belong on the road, I would like to remind you that legally bikes are vehicles, and it's the obligation of all modes using the road for transit to coexist. Cyclists are allowed to ride on the same roads as automibles except where expressly forbidden, such as most urban freeways.[C.V.C. 21960] If motorists and cyclists (many of whom are also motorists), behave responsibly and look out for each other, sharing space on the road does not have to be fraught with conflict.

In the words of L.A. cycling activist Stephen Box, "See you on the streets!"


Click the icon below for other posts in the Coexistence series.


Monday, August 25, 2008

ALC Day 4, Part 1

Day 4 - Paso Robles to Santa Maria, 97.7 miles

The fourth day of AIDS LifeCycle was a long but beautiful journey beginning by traveling back toward the ocean from the inland farms, and we hugged the beautiful curves of the Pacific Coast for much of the day.

However, the first couple miles out of camp were on a road of horrible disrepair. The wheels were chugging and bouncing even when I moved further center to the smoother portion. We saw a few people at the side of the road fixing flats, which I expected considering the condition. I probably would not have been as frustrated by this if it weren't for the fact the lane going the opposite direction had just been repaved and was smooth as butter.

Then suddenly the torn road led into beautifully fresh pavement, and I thought we were in the clear. But alas, somewhere in the mess of the past mile, my girl friend Meghan's tire got punctured and was now going flat. Amazingly out of a team of 20 people on skinny tires over 545 miles, we only had 2 or 3 members get a flat. This also happened to be the one day I forgot to bring my portable pump, so we broke out one of the emergency CO2 canisters to get us to the next point we could fill with air. I had not really used CO2 before was surprised how instantly the canister became frozen after use.

Open Road & Grassy Fields

Although getting the flat was unfortunate, it was nice to take a moment to pause and reflect on the beautiful surroundings we were in. Pause is only interesting for so long though, so it was nice once we got moving again. At the first rest stop Meghan went to the always helpful bike tech booth to get proper air and pressure in her tire. I was surprised to find the mechanics had set up a blow up doll at the table to greet those waiting in line. It was another one of those uniquely ALC moments. Since the big hills of the day, dubbed the "Evil Twins" were up next on the elevation graph we grabbed a couple snacks to munch on and topped off our water.

Since so many of our group training rides emphasized endurance on hill climbing, especially in Ojai, the largest climbs on AIDS LifeCycle did not seem so bad. On "Quad Buster" the day before many of us were thinking where is the rest once we reached the top, and the Evil Twins were not as bad as portrayed either. This is not to say they were a cake walk or downplay the accomplishment of riders completing these hills, but compared to things like climbing to the Hollywood sign, it was not so scary. Meghan, pictured in the left, was mostly smiles going up the hill in spite of knee injury complications.

One of the really exciting moments about Day 4 is that just before you hit the big downhill of the day, there is a vista where riders gather that is the half way point to Los Angeles. Everyone cheers and breaks out the cameras to pose at the place signifying the feat of making it half way there, and in the case of our team, half to home. Everyday at some point of the ride there was a man always seen in different full body costumes cheering on riders. He was at the half way to Los Angeles point spreading the highly appropriate message of safe sex by being dressed as a giant condom. Of course we had to get a photo of this.

Team Giant Condom Ridazz

After hanging out with the ever so friendly giant condom, we staked out a spot on the rocks and those of us on the team who arrived together struck a pose of triumph. What goes up must come down, and I love to climb because I love to descend. Coming off of the Evil Twins was the most epic downhill of AIDS LifeCycle, with a long stretch of steep down hill grade, beautiful scenery and smooth pavement across a curving landscape.

After coming off the high of sudden elevation drop, we came across a particularly beautiful stretch of coastal road. It was such a consistently beautiful day I couldn't help but stop along the way for shots.

Pacific Coast

To be continued in Part 2 of Day 4.

Friday, August 22, 2008

ALC Day 3, At Camp

As promised in my post on the third day of riding during AIDS LifeCycle, here is my account of just the camp experience in Paso Robles after riding on day three. ALC is a lot of riding bikes, but half the experience is spent in the camp before and after the riding.

Spin Wheels

Welcoming riders walking in from bike parking on day three were dozens of little pin wheels in clusters along the field. A cute touch indicative of the dedication of the volunteers who help prepare the camp grounds for riders, and they also served as a reminders of the head winds conquered on the bike.

The Gear

One of the luxuries of a supported ride such as ALC is having your camping gear hauled to the next camp site for you. It's a pretty monumental mountain of baggage that gets trucked and unloaded everyday by dedicated volunteers. Since I showed up to camp super early on Day 3 I had quite a time finding my bag since few had taken theirs yet.

Ridazz Out To Dry
(Liz's clothes hanging up to dry.)

A number of things need to be accomplished once at camp, but they don't have to be completed in a particular order. I usually went about preparing the tent first to have a home base. If you are camping with out stakes, which in this case were not allowed, be sure you weight the corners in windy environments lest you want this to happen to you.

This tent = EPIC FAIL

After setting up the tent, then I would go off to the shower truck so I'd no longer be a sweaty mess, and to wash down the cycling clothes. After returning to the tent, it's time to hang up the clothes to dry in the sun. Depending on how long the ride was and how fast you completed the day, you would have some time to chill out before dinner.

Frontier Town
Maynards Mountain Maynards Mountain

Although most of the riding was out in the boondocks, the camping was generally at sites on the out skirts of cities and towns. Especially interesting about Day 3 was that the camp site was at the site of a fair grounds, complete with themed architecture and sculptures to evoke nostalgia of the old west. I went around exploring this artificial landscape while most of my cohorts lounged around in the shady grass.

Vegetarian Pirates
( I always wanted to be a vegetarian pirate.)

Volunteers often spruced up rest stops and camp ground with themes as mentioned in previous posts, and for dinner on day 3 it was pirates. The food was best toward the beginning of the trip, less so in the middle and picked up toward the end, but since you alway roll in starving it always seems great. As usual, being in the vegetarian line meant I got to eat without waiting in line like most people. I loved having that green wrist band. When I am hungry I want food in face now.

Family of Bears
(Randy, Rich and Mark looking positively cheery.) 

The team decided since we were so close to town we would go outside of camp in search of bowling and even more dinner. Keep in mind we are easily burning 4-6 thousand calories a day depending on rider weight and mileage and we need to eat enough to continue riding the next day. Second or third dinners were a common occurrence. While waiting for teammates to gather we played with bears and discovered a barrel of ooze that looked like it had given birth to Ninja Turtles.

Ninja Turtle Ooze

Big Bubba's Bad BBWMeghan Liz
(Meghan and Liz pictured waiting for crappy service.)

Once we were on our way, it was realized bowling was further walking distance then we anticipated and we were justifiably lazy feeling. So we settled on going for food at near by artificially rustic Big Bubba's Bad BBQ. Some of our party were vegan and vegetarian, my self included in there, but we expected to find at least a side or something to munch on, and most of had already had two dinners. 

The experience there was to say in short horrible, with probably the worst food service I have ever witnessed. Vegans who explicitly made clear they could not eat cheese, and even referred to it as a food allergy, were given fries covered in shredded cheese, and Liz, a vegetarian, had a veggie burrito that was discovered later to have chunks of steak hidden in it, not to mention slow and terrible service all around even without the vegetarian mishaps. I went on TripAdvisor to slam the place, and if you look in the reviews you will see mine with a 1/5 star rating and a more complete scathing account of our experience.

The Scarecrow
(A scarecrow watches over our camp at night)

After leaving Subway, where the hungry vegetarian members of our party went for food after the Big Bubba experiance, we settled into camp for the night with the rustling of heavy winds rolling through the field of tents. It was at last time for sleep after a long day, with many more to come, as we at this point had not yet made it halfway to Los Angeles.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Going Car Free

My Car

I use my car so little now, some are actually surprised I still have one. I do in fact still have a car, a compact trusty little 99 Honda Civic hatchback. However these days it has been dejectedly reduced to driving to the opposite side of the road for street cleaning. I kept holding on to it for those rare occasions I use a car, like getting across town late at night when I'm tired and the busses don't run, or driving my bike to a race too far to ride to.

In our culture there is a strong psychological barrier to not owning a car when you can afford to keep one, especially in such a car centric city like Los Angeles. When I've discussed the idea of selling the car to others, I often gets looks as though I am crazy, even from people who use cycling for some of their commuting. After months of seldom car use, yet still paying for parking permits, registration, insurance, parking tickets (when I forget street cleaning days), I finally can no longer rationalize keeping it. For the times I do really need a car to get somewhere, which for me comes out to usually 2-3 times a month, it comes out cheaper to rent a car compared to the expenses associated with not using the car I own.

So at long last I have begun taking steps forward in ditching the car, and will soon join the small, but growing movement of people who are car free in Los Angeles by deliberate choice, and not necessarily forced to it by economic necessity. To increase my cycling carrying capacity I'm considering converting my commuter bike to a utility bike using the Extracycle FreeRadical system. However I will have to wait a few weeks to order the kit. Due to a sudden increased demand for utilitarian bikes in light of high gas prices, they are sold out of all their stock and are now taking a waiting list.

With the hassle and expense of car ownership out weighing the value I get out of it now, I'm really looking forward to going car free. I'll keep you all posted on how it goes.

(Sign reads: The Revolution Will Not Be Motorized. Photo credit: flickr user Modern Times.)

Monday, August 18, 2008


It was an action packed weekend, including what was likely my last sanctioned race of the road racing season at the Brentwood Grand Prix. To pass the time as I physically and mentally recover, here is a gratuitously sexy photograph of my racing machine at the bike and pedestrian crossing over Ballona Creek in Marina Del Rey, also known as the Mustache Bridge.

My Road Bike At The Bridge

Coming Soon To A Foreseeable Future Near You: An RSS feed just for sexy bike photography, cherry picked from talent on flickr and my own collection.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Velo Nostalgic: Journal Entry Excerpt 10/22/01, Another Night Ride

...There was a bit of rebellious joy in being in a park alone at night. My mom would kill me if she knew but that doesn’t matter. At least in my mind I am an independent now. I ride through to the end of the park which is smaller then I thought it would have been. Though still fairly large by comparison to some of the parks I’ve been too. I rode back to where the baseball field and concrete seating was. After walking around for a bit to cool off I stretched out and sat down for a brief mediation. A lot of thoughts ran through my head, mostly of the past.

After a few minutes of relaxation in pure solitude I got back and took one last good look at my surrounding in the park. A playground, completely empty like everything else seemed lonely. I decided It was time for me to go. My journey back was pretty straight forward, I went back the same way I came. I did however at one point turn down the wrong street but I quickly got back on route. I don’t know how long the whole journey took but apparently I was out for more then an hour. Slowly but surely my ability to travel further is growing. Today was a good ride, I pushed my limits out a little bit further, and hopefully with time I can push those limits even more.

Looking back on these old writings puts into perspective how far I've come. There was a time when simply biking to a local park and back was a tough ride for me. Now I've biked from San Francisco to Los Angeles in a week, knowing full well by the end that if I had more vacation days I could have kept going. If you really push your self, you'd be amazed at what you can do. I wonder what I'll be up to a year from now.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

CubCamp Time Trial Tonight. Expect Capes.

Fast paced West Siders, CubCamp, are hosting their third race in a four race series tonight. The first week was drag races (with a couple riders in drag), last week was criterium style racing, and tonight will be time trials on Westchester Parkway, but with a super hero twist. Expect to see capes flapping in the wind.

Here's a shot of me going fwoosh last week, where I took first place in the first of two crit races. Props to Eric on the second race. No entry fee for these things, it's more for the F.U.N. of it and going fwoosh!

For more info, check out the calender post on Midnight Ridazz.

Santa Monica, Successes & Failures In Bicycle Policy & Infrastructure Pt. 1

Santa Monica City Council Meeting
(Did you know the city seal features a hot mermaid?)

Santa Monica, the place where I currently live, work, and play, is one of the best cities within Los Angeles to ride a bike. This land of perpetual sunshine and moderate temperatures has a dark side too however. This post shall begin my series on the successes and failures to make Santa Monica a truly great city for cycling.

Bike Lane Begin On 17th And Michigan

On the sunny side of things, Santa Monica has a fairly comprehensive grid of bike lanes compared to other L.A. cities, and gasp, they actually connect to each other to form cohesive routes in some cases. Most bike lanes in Los Angeles are fairly arbitrarily placed and rarely connect to other bike lanes or paths. Neighboring Venice Beach has a bike lane that lasts for one very short block between North and South Venice Blvd. on Pacific Ave and only on the Northbound side. I can get from one end of the bike lane to the other in one solid pedal stroke. What the hell good is that for. Santa Monica's bike lane system is far from perfect, and I will detail why in future posts, but compared to L.A. as a whole, it's pretty spectacular.

I ride every day to and from work, and as more people have swapped driving for bike commuting in light of fuel prices, I am seeing more bikes on the road. The first place these cyclists go is straight for roads with bike lanes, with Broadway being the popular East/West corridor through the city. I regularly see cyclists I know on Broadway and we will wave and nod at each other as we go by, creating a friendly and sociable atmosphere at times, something that can be said about few streets in L.A.

Santa Monica Critical Mass December

Turning now to the dark side. One issue of considerable recent controversy in the West Side cycling community is the Santa Monica Police Department's heavy handed efforts to suppress the local Critical Mass ride. They often have multiple officers tailing the group during the entire ride and writing tickets whether they are legitimate or not. I reported on this back in December, and after a period of calming, apparently the Police are out in force again.

Cyclists have made efforts to negotiate with the police and the City Council but their concerns have fallen on deaf ears despite riders making a strong effort to self police, following traffic laws (many Critical Mass rides in other cities do not) and even handing out lights required for riding at night to those who don't have them. I'll admit I'm beginning to feel Critical Mass as a movement may no longer be as necessary to promote cycling in L.A., in light of other growing opportunities to socially ride. However they have a right to ride on the streets and not be given erroneous and sometimes completely bogus traffic violations. These tickets discourage newbies and embolden the hardcore to stand up for their rights, creating unnecessary escalation.

If the police are going to meet some quota for ticketing cyclists, a more productive effort would be ticketing those blatantly breaking the law everyday. Santa Monica Critical Mass makes a concerted effort to keep it legal with only the occasional rider who does something stupid, and they are promptly called out by peers. The event happens for a few hours once a month, but everyday I see lone cyclists riding the wrong way against traffic, blowing lights, riding at speed on the sidewalk through pedestrians. Where are the warnings and tickets for these people? These are the riders who really bother motorists and pedestrians, because they are out there breaking rules dangerously all the time.

Santa Monica has begun to actively acknowledge the importance of creative capitol to the local economy, and the recent Glow Festival was a manifestation of a long term plan to encourage existing creatives to stay, and to draw in talent from abroad. A police force that is increasingly being perceived as draconian in it's pursuit of a group of bicyclists is both harmful to Santa Monica's creative and environmental goals. Not to mention wasting police resources while serial robberies of little old ladies living on the West Side is out of control.

When I first came into the night cycling scene in L.A. I was delighted, in fact ecstatic, to meet so many creative artists, designers, photographers, architects, musicians, programmers, writers and others in a single gathering. If the goal of Santa Monica is to drive away young eco-conscious creative talent to the East Side or neighboring Venice and Culver City, then the SMPD is doing a job well done. Keep up the good work guys.

Stay tuned for future updates on the great, the good, the bad, and the ugly about riding a bike in Santa Monica.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Locking Up

Lock Collection
(My Locking Arsenal)

Bike Girl recently wrote a great post about properly locking up and how some law enforcement agencies are using GPS tracking on baited bikes to catch thieves. Lock manufacturer Kryptonite liked the piece so much they gave a nod it in their own blog. Fortunately L.A. is not to be found in the top 10 cities of bike theft, but in any case I'm not taking any chances and I really don't want either of my bicycles, or any part of them to be stolen. Especially my treasured Bianchi 928 C2C. In the pursuit of not having bicycles stolen I have acquired an assortment of locking apparatus over the years for every occasion. Inspired by Bike Girl's post, I will share my line up of locks I use to get the job done.

1) Small Kryptonite U-Lock. This is my bread and butter lock, it's tough as nails and the lack of open space makes getting leverage tough for would be thieves trying to crack it, but just wide enough to attack to a parking meter. The small size also allows for the lock to fit in a space as small as a rear pants pocket. This is a very popular lock for it's effectiveness and convenience. Also should, God forbid, you get jumped by an attacker, a small u-lock makes for a formidable blunt weapon in self defense.

2) I have two different lengths of thick Kryptonite cables, which I use for locking down wheels when parking for longer periods or attaching friends bikes to my u-lock when they aren't packing their own.

3) I have one thin cable which I use for locking down my seat, which I usually reserve for longer stays. The one and only time I have had something stolen off a bike, it was my seat on my old beater mountain bike parking in Venice Beach. Yes people will steal just a seat, even a crappy one, especially if it is quick release.

4) For the really serious business I have a reinforced steel link chain with a heavy lock. The model I have is an OnGaurd Beast. This is the sort of lock motorcyclists sometimes use and it's about as serious as you can get. To top it off, both OnGaurd and Kryptonite offer warranty coverage for this type of lock if proven the lock failed, at a value worth more then most people's bikes. They are heavy as hell, but with links that require 800 lbs. of pressure to snap, there is no way someone is going to break it without serious power tools at their disposal and some time on their hands. I bought this lock specifically to lock up my commuter bike at LAX for multiple days, trying for the first time biking my self to the airport for a trip. It worked great, and I still use it for certain trips where my bike may be unattended for many hours or all day.

5) Lastly I have a medium thickness cable and cable combination lock from back in the day, which I still use on occasion for shorter trips in well trafficked areas, since they are light and easy to attach to most anything. However these are merely a deterrent and won't hold up for long against a thief with the right tools.

In truth all bike locks are really a deterrent, and with the right equipment any of them can be broken. However if you lock up your bike so well the thief knows it will be a frustrating and time consuming steal, with a risk of getting caught, it won't be worth it to them and they will move on to a bike with a weaker locking job.

For more tips on proper use of said locks, check out Bike Girl's post, and for a hilarious video of bike mechanic Hal Ruzal grading locking jobs in New York, check out this video. Keep in mind he would probably give nearly everyone in L.A. an F, but New York has considerably higher rates of theft. An informative video if you really want your bike locking to be bomb proof.

BFF L.A. Block Party 2008

Last summer, when my passion for cycling was just beginning to blossom into a cornucopia of two wheel love, I heard about some kind of bicycle party after scanning the internet for bicycle events in Los Angeles. Equipped with my new camera, one of my other passions, I set out to the then unfamiliar to me land of Heliotrope and Melrose. Thus began my role as a photographer within the cycling culture. The event was a bicycle block party, a closing event to the international Bicycle Film Festival, which show cases a variety of short and long format films made by cyclists or inspired by cyclist stories.

Innes's Fixie & BBF Chrome Bag

I had a blast shooting the event last year, and didn't even know anyone there then, so I was excited to see the festivities again this year. I showed up kind of late last time, not knowing how long it would take and making the foolish choice to depend on the bus part way, oh so slow in traffic, but cross town bike commuting on unfamiliar streets was still intimidating to me then. This year I showed up before hardy anything had been set up, so I lent a helping hand setting up banners and bike parking racks. Things were slow at first, bike culture is notoriously late, but before long the masses started rolling in and it started feeling like a party.

The Crowd Trickles In

With the streets blocked off from cars, and a growing audience, some BMX kids took it upon them selves to kick off the entertainment with freestyle moves and bar jumping. A tall bike rider rode laps around the block, and although he couldn't bust any tricks, who doesn't love the presence of a tall bike.

BMX Bar Jump
BMX Freestyle Tall Bike

Great parties can be made or broken by their music, and the DJ's did not disappoint. From Noon till sundown it was sonic bliss with spontanous dance parties in the street before and in between events.

Turntables Dancing In The Street

Food courtesy of Pure Luck in the form of delicious vegan wraps were available for satiating the hunger. They also made a delightful little drawing for advertising at their booth.

Pure Luck Advertising

The highlight of the afternoon was by far trick cyclist Ines Brunn, who's highly acrobatic performance while spinning around on a bicycle, was one of the most amazing things I have witnessed with my own eyes. The physics of of what was happening did not even seem real, it felt as though I was seeing into some other world. Truly breathtaking.

Artistic Cyclist Ines Brunn
Artistic Cyclist Ines Brunn Artistic Cyclist Ines Brunn

After Ines's performance began the games, testing the skills of the fixed riders. The first event was skids, which is a competition where cyclists sprint up to speed and lock their rear wheel to see who can skid the furthesest distance. Although it didn't happen as much this year, skids competitions often produce epic crashes. Next came the track standing competition, where participants have to balance in place on their bike with the difficulty increased over time, by eventually going one handed, then no handed, and then finally with one foot and no hands.

Skids Competition

Following track standing came foot down, the only competition of the afternoon with a few freewheel bikes, and consists of going in tighter and tighter circles at slow speed without taking any feet off the pedals. If a foot comes off or you fall over, you're out. Last but not least, backwards circles finished off the games. Another domain exclusive to fixed gear bikes, is the ability to pedal backwards to move in reverse direction. Most people could do or 2-4 backward circles before losing balance and falling over, but Alex of Orange 20 destroyed everyone by doing 31 backward circles and gave the impression he could do more but was bored and content with one upping the announcers claim that Alex could do 30.

Backward Circles Competition

With the sun setting thing were finally winding down, but to finish off the evening with a bang, Ines retuned for an encore preformance, adding even more awesome to what had already been an amazing day.

Artistic Cyclist Ines Brunn: Encore

My Complete Photo Set
Orange 20 (L.A. Sponsor)
Giant Robot (L.A. Sponsor)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Bikes In Comics

I like bikes, and I like comics, so I guess it was only a matter of time before I stumbled across some bicycles in comics.

My introduction to graphic bike narrative was discovering the anime series Overdrive, based on the manga of the same name. I got hooked on the story, about an inept outcast in high school who discovers in cycling something he can finally excel at, joining the school cycling team and preparing to race, all the while failing miserably to win the heart of a girl way out of his league. Unfortunately the animated series abruptly ends just when it seemed things were going to get really interesting. Right now I'm trying to track down where I can get an English copies of the manga series, which continues the story line. If you happen to know, send me a line. As of this writing all I can find is incomplete sets of bootleg scanlations (images scanned and translated by bilingual & dedicated fans of the series).

The first web based comic about cycling I was introduced to was Yehuda Moon and the Kickstand Cyclery. The protagonists love to ride, and run their own bike shop. Yehuda is all about appealing to the common rider and promoting utilitarian bicycles with epic storage capacity, and Joe is more of roadie, who likes to ride fast and carry nothing more then what will fit in a jersey pocket. Some moments are funny, some insightful, and I recommend checking it out. I'm sure most especially bike nerdy folks reading this are probably already subscribed to the feed.

Poking around in Hi De Ho recently, I came across oddly named comic The Fart Party. The series is not about bikes so much as it is an autobiographical journal in comic form, and the author and her boyfriend just happen to love riding bikes in San Francisco. The humor is at times very low brow, but I found my self enjoying it. It's nice to see a story with cycling, but as just another casual part of the character, like Juno, who had a sweet vintage road bike she rode a few times in the film, but the story wasn't about cycling. Although Julia of The Fart Party really loves her bikey, and sometimes carreses it parhaps a little too lovingly (note: the same can be said about me so perhaps I shouldn't talk).

In similar vein to the increasingly popular photo blogs tracking the world of cycling chic, often centered around places like Copenhagen, there is a French web comic about being a fashionable woman cycling Paris, Bike In The City. Sometimes she rides public Vélib’ bikes, and sometimes she rides her own, but always looking good while she does it. The Vélib’ public bicycle program in Paris, has in just a years time greatly expanded bicycle commuting there, and this comic is a reflection of the life style changes it has brought to the culture. As a comic it's not really my thing, it's the chic flick of bicycle comics I've read, but I see it as a positive reflection of cycling's growing influence.

Digging into the archives a little deeper I discovered a comic from the 70's, a time when the oil crisis had ushered in a revival of bicycle commuting, featuring a super hero known as Sprocket Man. Sprocket man taught important lessons in bicycle safety with an almost obsessive compulsive zeal, and fought against the one villain in town, the local bicycle thief. The comic was revised and re-released by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety commission for modern times, basically taking all the same content and adding poorly drawn helmets on everyone because the 70's were before helmet use was harped upon. If you want to see the raw uncensored helmetless version, over at Two Cities Two Wheels, there is a scanned copy of the original comic.

Another great place to find short bike themed comics is in some of the various bike zines out there like Chainbreaker. On the website of the popular bike zine Urban Velo, there is a directory of various bike zines that can be purchased through their online store.

I'm sure there is a lot more out there, so if you know any bike comics not mentioned here I'd love to hear about them in the comments. I'm looking for comics about cycling, comics with some mild cycling themes, comic characters who bike, or even notable bicycle cameos from comics that may or may not have anything to do with bikes.