Sunday, December 28, 2008

Ice Fetish?

They’re mounted and inflated! No more messing around on this ice…Continental Spike Claw Studded Mountain Bike Tires.

Went for a very short ride today, just before sundown…what a beautiful day! I’m still not convinced that crashin’-n-burnin’ is that impossible with these tires. It just doesn’t seem right—riding on icy roads—but so far so good, not a single slip. Maybe the advertisements are right—“use the 240-stud version for riding around in hockey rinks… and get a grip on your masochistic ice fetish.”

The Mom-in-Law wants me to be safe on the ice so she got me protection for Christmas…check out the helmet. If this isn’t an outtake from either Animal House or Wild Hogs, I’m not sure what it is…but it’s warm and comfy! Ja wohl, dies ist ein guter Helm!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas to All!

Born unto the World was a Savior, Christ the King.
Best of Holiday Wishes to You and Yours!

The Sprockets

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Bike-Sharing Simple

"Since the bicycle makes little demand on material or energy resources, contributes little to pollution, makes a positive contribution to health and causes little death or injury, it can be regarded as the most benevolent of machines."--Stuart S. Wilson

Riding the global wave of interest in alternative transportation, the University of Sioux Falls is launching a Bike-Share program for students and employees. Starting this Spring 2009, The USF Bike-Share Program will “pedal off” with 10 Giant Simple Single Cruisers™ —available on a first-come, first-serve basis. These bikes will be equipped with locks and a removable rack/basket and a helmet so that the participant has everything they need for a bicycle commute/ride. The goals are to reduce traffic/parking congestion on and around campus, reduce fuel consumption, and promote fitness and an appreciation for the outdoors.

The faculty and student sponsored program is modeled after similar efforts at other colleges/universities around the world. Bike-share programs are not new creations. They were first developed in Europe in the 1960’s from a need to protect the environment through the use of sustainable transportation; the same purpose as they serve today. However, bike-share programs fulfill a second purpose by contributing to the participant’s well-being by increasing mobility and leisure activity, improving health, as well as offering alternatives for short distance trips.

The concept of Bike-Sharing is quite simple; bikes are loaned, free of charge, to members of the university community. A user applies to become a member, completes a registration form, agrees to the terms and conditions of use, is issued a membership card and can borrow a bike-share bike. It’s that simple and elegant.

The USF campus is uniquely situated between municipal bicycling routes, some of which that have been most recently marked with “Share the Road” sharrows and signage. Bike routes along 22nd Street and Summit Avenue intersect at the northeast corner of the USF Campus, providing easy access to municipal on-street bike routes (approximately 35 miles) and the bike trail system (approximately 22 miles).

And for those of you that missed it...USF is the NAIA National Football Champions! Congratulations players, coaches, trainers and cheerleaders!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A Bicycle Ride is a Flight from Sadness--James Starr

"I did not ride for pleasure. I rode to get somewhere, and I don’t mean from the house... I mean I rode to get somewhere myself."--William Saroyan

Abridged quotation from The Bicycle Rider in Beverly Hills.

I apologize for being a “recalcitrant blogger”…

It dawned on me last night that the best therapy for the melancholy caused by the dreary weather of past weeks and the escalation of seasonal affective disorder (promoted by the recent time change) remains a bicycle ride—with an old friend. This morning after the better part of a month of cycling-inactivity, I (re)called a dependable friend, of nearly two and a half decades, to go for a “frosty” but spirited bike ride. I knew that neither of us would be in our “prime” for the ride, since it has been a long time since either of us had trained. Delightfully, my friend rolled with the opportunity, and we shared yet another adventure—long overdue.

The chilly morning air reduced our efficiency and gnawed at our joints. Even though we have aged ungracefully, we persisted in acquiring an endorphin rush. It was like the Old Days, when we affirmed our independence on the off-road and mountain trail.

Maybe you’ll meet my special(ized) friend on the trail this winter. I have included a photograph at the top of the article.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Byrne-ing Down the House

“It is no exaggeration to affirm that a journey by bicycle is like none other; it is a thing apart; it has a tempo and a style of its own.”—James E. Starrs

Last Friday was another Soo Foo Coo Campus Community Cycling Wellness Activity.

Joining the group was our own FAB Prez Kirk Wurscher, thanks for riding with us with that new bike--Viva Las Vegas! Check this bike out—it’s really sharp (double click on the picture to enlarge)! Along the way we also picked up Tammy W. on her mountain bike.

On CBS Sunday Morning, Tracy Smith interviewed David Byrne (formerly of the Talking Heads). We should not forget that David Byrne has always been eccentric, shy and self-conscience, but always a creative musician and design artist. Byrne is also a cycling-celebrity, known for his design, purchase and judging of Manhattan’s Bike Rack competition. Hey, maybe we can get him here in Sioux Falls to judge our local competition…after all, when he finished evaluating the competition entries, he purchased nine of them to be distributed about the city.

Byrne could easily be mistaken for any cyclist on the Manhattan streets. When asked about his cycling commutes about Manhattan, the dialog went something like this--

Tracy Smith: “You know, you are a rock star, you could take a car service.”

David Byrne: “Yes I could…I could but I…besides commuting…I also find it’s really liberating!”

David, it’s hard to put into words alright…”And you may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?" My friends, it’s exactly as DW says... PEACE and BIKE LOVE!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What the...

Okay…so I’m not an orthopedist…but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night! Hang-on this is going to be a rant on ignorance and the commercial circulation of ignorance! This rant will most definitely receive a PG-13 or greater rating…so the prudish should turn away now!

There are those times in life when you are obligated to say, “What the Hell?”

The most recent issue of Bicycling arrived today, and there…, there-in black in white…, there-filling a half page…wasting forty square inches of magazine space, is one of the most preposterous articles I have read in a long time. (The previous sentence sounds better in your head if you whine it in an Arlo Guthrie-like Alice’s Restaurant Massacre ballad voice.)

Tackle Tingly Hands: Tips and Exercises to Strengthen Your Grip by Selene Yeager (p. 37) demonstrates that the author has no awareness for the limitations of her source (Andrew Pruitt, “a bike-fit and sports-medicine expert”); and, the phenomena that affects many cyclists known as paresthesia!

What the Hell is Cyclist’s Palsy? Do we take prosaic liberty to contrive a medically absurd name for this functional disorder? Palsy suggests paralysis! Look it up in a Stedman’s or Dorland’s Medical Dictionaries…yeah, the ones we use professionally…you know in medical school and practice!

I’ve never had, nor will I ever have, palsy or paralysis from gripping my handlebars. Why? Because my mind refuses to allow me to continue compressing the ulnar and median nerves in the heal of my hands (thenar and hypothenar compartments) and the palmar vascular arches. My mind mitigates the potential for irreversible damage by responding to the resulting sensation of paresthesia (“pins and needles”) brought on by compressive insult to the nerves and blood vessels! The sensation can become so intense that a continuance of the improper-positioning of the hands on the handlebars becomes unbearable…so you quit doing it. It comes down to the burlesque gag—

Patient: “Doctor it hurts when I (do this)…”
Doctor: “Then stop doing it!”

And…What the Hell does “overextending your wrists” have to do with gripping the handlebars? Stop, In the Name of Love for Diana Ross and the Supremes…you would have your wrists hyperextended in the Supreme’s iconic choreographic “halting-position,” such that gripping the handlebars would not only be uncomfortable from the onset, but unsafe?

What the… does the subtitle: “Tips and Exercises to Strengthen Your Grip” have to do with relieving the paresthesia? It’s the tight grip that got you into the predicament—relax that grip and take the pressure off of the nerves and vessels of the proximal hand.

“If you’re prone to pins and needles, some experts advise stretching and strengthening your lower arms to increase your tolerance for long hours on the bar.” WHAT…? It’s the hands! The pressure is on the hands! Increasing strength of the ‘forearms’ does not alleviate the problem of compressive insult to the nerves and vessels of the hand. I’ll agree that strengthening the forearm muscles will allow for greater endurance in maintaining a neutral or straight wrist…but it will not reduce the compression in the hands nor increase tolerance. Strengthening your back muscles would be more appropriate, allowing you to transfer some of the force (weight of the body) aft, that would otherwise be placed on the handlebars through the hands.

Several weeks ago, I submitted an article, How to Handle the Handlebars, on this very topic for the next FAB Newsletter. The explanations and diagrams are more explicative and less ranting. Watch for it…we’ll talk again…Oh, What the Hell…

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Do You Remember Your First Quarter Century?

Distance measured with a pair of compasses, is not precisely the same as when measured by the leg.”—Jerome K. Jerome

A novice cyclist (right) discovers the satisfaction of his first “quarter century” ride.

Friday afternoon, thirteen student, staff and faculty cyclists assembled to ride the bike trail in another installment of our campus community wellness activities program. The baker’s dozen departed by half past three. The experienced riders were very supportive and patient with the inexperienced; and, like last week, there were those learning moments before we set out —tire inflation, flat fix-it’s, and mechanical adjustments.

The weather was magnificent, except for the southern wind that had picked up to around 20 mph by 3:00 PM. We rode into the wind from Sherman Park. The various rider skill groups started to appear almost immediately, and the participants regrouped. A few minor mechanical problems further subdivided the participants. For the group furthest behind, the pace was leisurely (6.5 mph average); so it was nearly five by the time we all rendezvoused at Falls Park. Several riders had to depart to attend to dinner engagements, family and friends…but three journeyed on!

The trinity completed the 25.9 mile route by six-thirty…the greatest distance one of our budding cyclists had ever ridden. I suspect it was the second record he had set in two weeks…with the first record being set at the previous week’s ride. He was excited about making the “full circle” around the bike path…but had not anticipated the gusty southern wind we would once again encounter on the return route from the Pump Station. He started to bonk just north of the Maple Street Bridge. I rummaged through my handlebar bag for toffee Power Bar® and offered it to him…he inhaled it and chased it with some water. Being refreshed (or at least buzzing from the instant carbohydrate load), we resumed our trek back to campus passing by a necessary Kodak Moment (see photos below).

Next week, our newest quarter century rider has yet another record to break…maybe a half century…we’ll start at noon.

Alright cycling friends, I need your help. The popularity of group cycling is catching on over at the “Coo”…the University of Sioux Falls (formerly Sioux Falls College—affectionately nicknamed “Soo Foo Coo”). Twenty-three campus cyclists have indicated an interest and future participation. It’s time to give this group a moniker…what do you think? Hopefully their interests will expand so much that they consider joining FAB and ride more frequently!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Metering the Week--A Cycling Compendium

Albert Einstein’s passions for bicycles are venerated in many of his infamous quotations, but foremost is his metaphorical appraisal of life to riding a bicycle—“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”

So truthful was this statement during the past week.

You, my revered cycling friends and inspired bloggers, will agree that many of us need our habitual mind-clearing ride or me-time to maintain our balance. I got mine this Sunday morning.

Wednesday afternoon, as part of our multipartite campus community wellness program, I agreed to share a little known part of me by organizing and leading an activity that restores and refreshes me—a bicycle ride. I had one of the most amazing rides of my life…6.3 mph average speed for 12.22 miles. You can’t believe the things that I saw on the bike trail and the conversations that were conducted. The experienced riders, several that you will recognize from the photograph were very supportive and patient with the inexperienced. There were the teaching moments—flat fix-it’s, group riding taboos (weaving and unexplained braking) and verbal/hand signaling. I now apologize to any ride leader that I ever gave less than a genuine heartfelt Thank You!

Saturday, the Sanford Biking for Breast Cancer Ride was delightful…no, honestly I mean this! I was encouraged by the participants’ fortitude in riding despite the inclement weather…because we all know that nothing spells c-o-m-f-o-r-t, like a wet chamois for fifty miles in the rain and cold. Thank you to those that organized the event, executed the plan, participated in the event and raised the public awareness to breast cancer. I extend my wishes for a quick recovery to WindInHisShorts, who took a serious fall on the railroad tracks north of Lyons.

So…Sunday morning before the Sun rose, I set out to collect survey data for the FAB helmet usage study. The weather was trying to change; I just guessed it was changing in the wrong direction…drizzle with a northwest wind at 20-25 mph and gusts to 30 mph. My solitary ride out to the Sioux River Pump Station on the north end of the Sioux Falls Bike Trail was really quite peaceful; there were no other bicyclists, only a variety of waterfowl resting in the diversion canal. It was deafeningly quiet…except for the wind whistling in the vents of my helmet. I paused for better than a half-hour at the Pump Station, marveling at the wonders of the early morning and relinquishing my senses to experience the beauty of the creation. SighBalance.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Helmet Hut Saturday

The FAB Helmet Hut public service activity was Saturday, September 6th. Even though the weather was autumnal, bicycle traffic was heavy on the bike trail…until it rained. Then, amazingly the traffic subsided?! Nothing promotes comfort like a wet chamois...

You’ll be seeing the results of the FAB Helmet Usage Survey at the FAB Web Site soon…but we still need more data (he said in his most maniacal inner voice). Preliminary results suggest that the number of cyclists wearing helmets, on the Sioux Falls Bike Trail System, is around fifty percent. That’s the good news! The Consumer Product Safety Commission reported a similar proportion in 1998…the bad news. A significant increase in bike helmet usage was seen between 1991 (eighteen percent) and 1998 (fifty percent)…but we have not seen any increase since. Perhaps, we have already convinced all of those bicyclists that we can—to wear the most essential piece of bicycling protective equipment.

I know we touched some of the bicyclists on the trail this last Saturday. A couple stopped to get a discount coupon to purchase a new helmet (replacing a decade old model), a helmet-less rider stopped by to pick up a discount coupon because he had been "meaning to buy one" (the time seemed right) and we talked with a family (all were wearing helmets) that needed a new one for the youngest of their riding group. These we will mark as successes…but we will also count those abundant helmet-less passersby that cast us their “guilty glances” knowing that our presence served as a reminder that helmet usage is prudent.

The arguments on using bike helmets bore me…and frankly, those debaters that are most vehement are disturbing. As pragmatically as I can state this—ANY skin I can save on my face and scalp, ANY impact energy I can dissipate to the helmet instead of my brain and braincase, ANY grief and distress I can save my family in caring for my vegetative self and ANYONE I can convince to do the same by example, makes wearing my helmet worth it. Besides, I think I look dapper in my commuter helmet.

Consider that most reported bicycle accidents do not involve motor vehicles (approximately ninety-five percent); over 600,000 bicyclists visit emergency rooms and physicians about injuries sustained in bicycling accidents, annually; and, approximately 900 people die as a result of bicycle accidents, annually. Don’t be a statistic…unless you are one that we are counting on the bike trail—wearing a helmet!

Thanks to all that helped with sponsoring the Helmet Hut (Harlan’s Bike & Tour, Prairie Cycles, Spoke-n-Sport, and Two Wheeler Dealer), the committee (Harold, Minus Car, and Hellimat), and the many FABulous members that stopped (Kari, the Mayor, Dirk (the Prez), Rocket, Shirley, Ed, and others).

Monday, September 1, 2008

Luv' Bite

It’s come to my attention that many of you are not aware that I have more than one bicycle…it’s true. But since most of you only see me riding around town, all you have seen accompanying me is my “townie,” hybrid or comfort bike (I hope one of those is the right term). Twice last week, I had different people ask me whether I had purchased a new bike—when I was riding a bike that I have had for the last two years?!

Yes, I have a road bike (I know that’s the right term)—a Cannondale Synapse. Now she is the flagship of my fleet and probably has more road miles on her than the other three combined…no…not the townie, hybrid or comfort bike. My reference is to the rest of the fleet—a 35 year old reconditioned classic Schwinn Speedster that my father rode, a 20 year old Specialized Rockhopper and the Cannondale Adventure 3.

Each of these bikes has a personality, and I think many of you will agree with me that yours do too. The Schwinn is the Ol’ Man of bicycling that creaks, grunts and groans about moving but is solid and reliable even though a bit crotchety. The Rockhopper is an Ol’ School ride with no suspension and many a scar from the incoming freshman, but as durable as it is aloof. The youngster of the fleet, the hybrid, is made for comfort and taking junkets around town always eager for another adventure or three.

It’s the road bike I want to talk about…she has a persnickety personality that can become somewhat spiteful at times. She loves the open road, but doesn’t get out as much as she would like. She loves speed, but her rider is often more reserved. She loves attention, but is treated like a “trophy bike”…all guised with nowhere to go, so she hangs on the wall at home. But every once in a while, she reminds you that she is “all that!” You envy her light frame, sleek design and superlative performance; but be aware, she emphasizes her displeasure with disuse by offering a mindful nip from her chainring—a Luv’ Bite—that will remind you to take her for a spin more often.

Thanks to Bellyton--PedalPower, the Hooterville Mayor, Double G, and Road Legs...and the Breakaway--the kErnEl, Dirk, Gene and Craig for a great ride on Saturday!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

It’s not how fast or slow your pace...

Sorry…long time no blog!

I paused the other day to think about my cycling experiences and have determined that not only has the equipment changed considerably in the past thirty years, but so has my cycling preferences—perhaps it has a great deal to do with the body and mind’s ability to cope with aging. As a youth it was speed—get there first at all costs—the end was the goal. Time trials and racing contained the ultimate rush. Now, I seem to have a different focus—it’s the journey and the friends you make along the way—the means to the end. “Social cycling” or touring has taken me to places I have never been before—philosophically, spiritually and physically.

I was a college freshman at SDSU when I rode my last race. The Big Bike Race was not really a serious race. I was recruited to be the anchor rider for a team of young men that would become some of my best friends during college; and, to help win this cycling relay around a cinder lined track. It somehow transformed me.

Don’t take my comments wrong, I have enjoyed both racing and touring immensely. Perhaps one without the other would have made me incomplete. And trust me when I say, I wish I still had the athleticism that could match the challenges posed by racing. I still marvel at the phenomenal athletic skill and confidence of the cyclist that can ride the various stages of Le Tour de France and the regional athletes that rode South Dakota’s first Criterium last weekend. But now, I slow in my pace and enjoy the ride. I still marvel…but this time, at how a day’s ride reveals the beauty and wonders of the world.

Even though a fair share of my life has passed since then, I again find refuge and refreshment in riding my bike. When I need clarification in life’s trials, a bike ride usually puts things in perspective. When I have writer’s block, a bike ride clarifies my thoughts. When I need to “feel”, a bike ride with friends makes the world inspirational. It’s not how fast or slow your pace; it’s that you’re riding.

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” –Albert Einstein 1879-1955

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Building a Bike Rack

Before, after and between rides, I have been leaning my bike against the shrubs, laying it on the grass or propping it up against the garbage cans at my home. Not anymore! I finally broke down and made a bike rack for one. The rack had to be inconspicuous and narrow, occupying the grassy knoll between the driveway and sidewalk (approximately 24” width).

You may or may not be able to perceive the slope on my sidewalk and driveway from the photograph, but the contractors that landed this house on the Wicked Witch of the West forgot to check the elevation change from street level. The slope on the driveway is somewhere between 25 and 30 degrees. Don’t take me’s great…especially since it works like a runaway truck ramp.

The commercially manufactured bike racks are wide (typically for multiple bikes) and not designed to hold a bike on a Himalayan incline. So for less than six-dollars, I constructed the prototype. The PVC pipe and connectors were approximately five-dollars and the patio tile was another dollar. I already had the PVC cleaner and cement (approximately another five-dollars). Materials include: ten feet of 1” Schedule 40 PVC, six 90 degree elbows, four T-connectors and one 12” X 12” concrete patio tile. The PVC pipe is cut into two 4” wheel base sections, two 12” wheel base sections, two 21.5” wheel upright sections, two 18” stake sections and five 1.25” joiner sections. One precautionary note—pre-fit sections and keep joints flat and square, PVC cement sets quickly, giving you little time to make adjustments.

I do not use the rack for extended storage, rather it is used for checking and filling tires with air, running into the house to grab that forgotten sport bottle of Propel, sunglasses, camera, keys…keys??? Occasionally, I have left my commuter bike in the rack during a quick lunch…using a cable lock around the wheel upright sections.

So far, the rack is enduring the UV light exposure and adverse weather. It has a phenomenal rigidity and is appropriately sized for both my 700 X 23 and 700 X 35 bike tires. The schedule 40 PVC is exceptionally strong—I used my weight to “plant” it into the ground by standing on the forward and backward wheel bases…I have included a picture of the rack before “planting” so that you can see it has substantial “roots” that stabilize the rack and subsequently the bike. I’ll keep you informed on how the rack responds to the South Dakota fall and winter weather conditions.

Bewildering Bicycling Blog Tag...Anyone? Bueller?

All righty then…at the risk of becoming a schmuck…let’s get a new blog tag game going. I propose the following. The goal is to disguise an alliterated passage with meaningful cycling reference in the next blog you write—after you have been tagged.

Now wait…it’s not that easy…you have to "play the game" using one of two options…the first option allows you to choose the next two (chronological) letters of the alphabet from which you must create your passage(s); or the second option allows you to choose the last letter from the previous blogger’s entry (that is the one that tags you) and then the next letter in chronological (alphabetical) order. Okay, so this is not so clear…let me give you an example…

Somewhere in the text of my blog I have the following:

An accomplished architect of amazing artistic ability advocates the attributes of an azure Azuki brand bicycle that BRiMaN bought from a benevolent boss.

So then I tag the Hooterville Mayor, he has the option to: 1) use the letters “C” and “D” in his blog; or, 2) use the letter “B” from my blog (since it is the last letter I used in my entry) and then the letter “C”.

Got it? How fast can we make it through the alphabet?

Oh, by the way, that was a TAG Mayor! What will it be…”B” and “C” or “C” and “D”? No touch-backs…pffft!

I think Tez is willing to play the game (see her comment to my previous entry)!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Alliteration Trifecta

It was a cycling-kind-of-weekend… and a gorgeous one at that! Saturday, FAB launched its first of several Sioux Falls Bike Trail Helmet Usage Surveys. Morning dawned earlier than most anticipated…the fog made it appear to be about a half-hour earlier than it really was…

I met BRiMaN and the Hooterville Mayor at the South Minnesota Avenue Bridge for some synchronous semi-serious sunrise surveying…the only problem, BRiMaN and I were coffee-less and the Mayor was drinking the previous day’s leftovers—Aaacck! The bike trail was a little slow at 7:00 am, but it allowed us to exchange some childhood stories on how our fathers formed and reformed us; and, how we have or might be doing the same to our own children.

My most sincere gratitude is extended to the FAB survey team volunteers for taking a half-hour (or more) of their weekend to assist in the collection of helmet use data from 377 bicyclists at four locations during four different times of the day. Let's see, that’s four times four…carry the three…aaaah… 480 person-minutes or approximately 0.79 data points per person-minute (my statistical methods will be substantially more impressive than the aforementioned—never, ever, do public math). The affable volunteers were -- the Hooterville Mayor, BRiMaN, the Prez, Hellimat, Kari A., DyAnn W., Chuck W., mytzpyk, Harold C., Tammy W., Gregg D., Larry H., Tony P., Beth P., John N. and Rocket.

Thank you for your genuine interest in the safety of Sioux Falls bicyclists and this study. Watch for our release of the survey results and the next activity coming September 6th to a City Park near you!

I spent some ‘saddle-time’ on the trail traveling between survey sites until I bought a flat front tire…the first I have had on a bike-in-motion. Although I am not greatly disappointed, it was not as spectacular as I thought it would be. It was inconspicuous, innocuously incapacitating and insidious; more like going up a steep grade—bogging your progress to a dead stop (whilst still “clipped-in”, of course).

As I promulgated my pending "pump-less" predicament I found it somewhat perplexing that the plentiful passersby were not particularly pleasant. I even received a sinister syncopated snobbish snort or scoff from a gaunt gal, garnished in garden green gabardine, grinding the gears on a gauche gray Giant Glory DH.

Conveniently, the resulting gapping avulsion gave me a reason to charge on down to my LBS and change out the OEM tires with some Continental Grand Prix 4000 Black Chilies (Pell said they would give me another 12 mph without pedaling…12 plus 9.5…aaaah…carry the one…divided by 2...that’s still 9.5 mph, still my average)!

Below are a few pictures of our surveyors and some of those we surveyed. Particularly take notice of the trailer occupant…it caused us to take a second look. No offense intended…you can pick your seat (at the theatre), but not your genes.

Ride Into the Wind!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Disinclined Riding Partner

I have met many engaging and intriguing cyclists this past year and it has been entirely my pleasure. Most, I found, have a very similar sense of humor to my own, which both comforts and concerns me. My Advisory Board suggested to me that my first blog could be about my disinclined riding partner that joined me for a training ride earlier this summer. And, in light of Steve Madden’s “With the Editor—I hate Squirrels” article in the September issue of Bicycling magazine, it would seem apropos…the following is an adaptation of my June 22, 2008 FAB forum ( entry on “Why We Wear Helmets”…

Okay, there are many reasons for wearing a bicycle helmet...but rarely do we consider the helmet’s efficacy in deflecting falling squirrels! Yesterday, two blocks from home, an unexpected passenger joined me for a ride. As I was passing under a 40' elm tree, a squirrel fell onto either my headset or top tube--who knows which... All I know is at one moment I was pedaling along, the next I have a "little friend" hanging on to my bento box for its precious life. The helmet connection, you ask? During the squirrels 'free-fall' out of the tree top, it brushed my helmet before abruptly landing face-to-face with me on my bike. Initially, I thought I had brushed the lower limbs of the tree and was very hesitant to glance up for fear of taking one across the forehead or worse yet, have one catch under my helmet—subsequently separating me from my ride—by the chin strap.

It's amazing how fast one's mind processes the situation (sort of the crash and burn scenario when you can anticipate each moment of eating the asphalt as you ride your bike to the ground). I imagined the squirrel having either a heart attack, perching itself on top of my head or shoulders, or going straight for the carotid artery (the fastest way to take out your chauffeur). Staying perfectly cool, calm and collected (uh-huh), I eyed the flea-bitten critter...the ol' stink-eye (and an erratic 100' ride) must have convinced my furry passenger to bail and take its chances by nearly getting run over by the back wheel. I shrieked like an adolescent girl when it leapt between my leg and bike frame. Never having made such a piercing sound, I started laughing hysterically for the next two blocks. Upon reaching a fairly busy traffic intersection, I braked and attempted to un-clip. But to my uncoordinated dismay, I was laughing so hard that I came to a complete stop and started tipping to the opposite side from which my first foot broke free—of course. Throwing my weight to the freed side, I spared myself the humiliation of many a rookie rider. Still laughing, I dismounted and stood bent over my ride, as tears filled my shades. The neighbors...well let's say they are now convinced of my mental infirmity. After regaining my composure and ranking this experience as a 9.5 on the Weird-S@#*-O-Meter, I continued on my way.

On completion of the ride, I downloaded and reviewed data from my bike computer. My heart rate spiked at 202 bpm (140 % of max HR)...I never go above 165 bpm on the steepest of slopes. Interestingly enough, the spike was two blocks from home on level ground--go figure.

Protect yourself--always wear a helmet. In all seriousness, I could have just the same dumped the bike and had a fairly serious accident. It's not always the expected roadsters, rocks, rubbish, roots or ruts...sometimes it's rodents!

If you haven't watched Brad Dumke's "A Cycling Statistic" video on the FAB website (, do so's convincing--even though it doesn't have any squirrels.

Okay...okay...okay...some of my friends and a few Animal Rights Activists claim my disenfranchised 'little friend'--Rocky J. Squirrel--didn't deserve the ol'-stink eye, or for that matter, the supra-sonic shriek that deafened dogs for blocks. The hysterical laughter it deserved...maybe.

The day following this rodential escapade, Rocket (a moniker for my spouse with her new bike that moves at 12 mph without pedaling) and I went for a theme ride, Let's Teach the Husband a Lesson on the Open Road Ride. Somewhere between “Let’s go for a leisurely ride.” and “Eat my dust—Old Man!”-- Rocket blazes past me on the open road north of J & L and leaves me to defend myself amongst the squirrels' friends, the gophers—you know they talk amongst themselves… Don't let them fool you; they really are 'thirteen-line ground SQUIRRELS!'