Sunday, February 19, 2006


Murphy's Law is alive and well in Orange County. I've been making the three mile bicycle trip back and forth to work since September with nary a mechanical problem. That all changed in an instant last week. Sure it was bound to happen, but the when, where and how were less than convenient.

The usual Tuesday evening pedal to work was pretty much the standard trip, passing cars backed up at stop signs and signals, only to have those drivers bury their foot and pass me only to have me pass them again at the next traffic control device. I'm always thankful that I don't have to pay their fuel bills. While many don't understand why a licensed driver who owns a vehicle would choose to ride a bicycle, I'll never understand why people accelerate towards a red light or stop sign. It's a wonderful World. Just past the halfway point on my chosen route was an unsually dark section of roadway. The weak LED headlight that blinks on the front of my cruiser does not illuminate the road as well as it alerts drivers of my presence, so I missed a piece of road detitrus that made my back wheel hop a bit and then the unmistakable sound of a tube popping and air rapidly escaping. The trouble-free streak was over that quickly.

Decision time was less than a second. I didn't have a spare tube or patches with me, so it was easy to decide to push my disabled vehicle to work. Do that with a car or motorcyle for a mile and a half. I quickly found out that topsider shoes don't work very well for walking at a rapid pace for more than a hundred yards or so. No biggie, as I had plenty of time to get in and there was sidewalk of the way in.

I arrived at work five minutes before my required showtime and settled in to the usual evening array of troubleshooting and standard tasks without a second thought about my transportation situation. I did have to adjust my break to fit the operational hours of the eateries that are close by, but it dovetailed nicely with the normal system back-up time that is normally a slow period. When things slowed way down for the night, I had a little time to check the bike out and then formulate a plan to remedy things.

The foreign object in question turned out to be a nail of the sort that is shot from a pneumatic nail gun.

The head had gone in first and the sharp end was pointing out. The tube was shredded, so patches would not have helped any, even if I had some with me. I decided to walk home after work and come back with a wrench, tube and pump later. I also decided to carry the aforementioned items with me on my commute from now on and that I had been very lucky to this point with all of the discarded crap and debris that litters the roadways here.


Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Who commutes by bicycle?

I am a Commutant. Why a Commutant? A better question would be why do so many able-bodied people in OrangeCounty California drive everywhere they go? That's easily answered though because the car culture that has been created by the infrastructure over the years is very sound. I am a Commutant because of my choice to ride a bicycle in a veritable ocean of car culture, regardless of my age, gender, race, social class, bicycle choice and riding gear.

The most obvious trait of a Commutant is the fact that they commute to and from their place of employment by bicycle. Sure, my commute is only three miles each way and the self-styled hardcore commuters might scoff, but the fact remains that I do ride a bicycle to commute. For me, even a quick trip to the neighborhood taqueria, or weekly grocery junket is completed on two mechanized wheels. Why jump in my truck to drive a half of a mile when I don't have to?There is no set age, gender or race for a bicycle commuter. It is true that certain types are more apt to be a bicycle commuter, but not by their own choosing in most cases. This is where the slippery slope of political incorrectness comes into play in describing what I mean by social class. Not pulling any punches, most bicycle commuters behind The Orange Curtain are either Chuntaros, Bums, and DUI Bikers who care if they get caught driving illegally. A Commutant is not forced to ride a bicycle and probably has one or more internal combustion conveyances at home. That is where the base word "mutant" comes into play. Those who fully embrace the car culture just don't seem to understand why anyone with a car would ride a bike, even a quarter of a mile to mail a letter. Silly, isn't it?

What does a Commutant ride? It really doesn't matter what a Commutant rides, as long as it's a solid and dependable bike that's kept well tuned. Some may call this snobbery, but those pieces of junk that are sold at Wally World are not solid, nor are they dependable. First off, those are cheaply manufactured of shoddy materials and adorned with the cheapest componentry possible. Second, those are assembled by persons who are not even close to be qualified to work on today's bicycles. A solid bike could be anything from an original Chicago Schwinn Sting-Ray to a full customTitanium track bike. I see other Commutants on everything from old Schwinn Cruisers to Breezer's new line of commuter bicycles.

Functional riding gear is nice and I don't blame the long-range commuters for going with cycle specific gear. For the short range commuter however, it just doesn't make sense to put spandex shorts and a jersey on. Having a functional work wardrobe in the form of more loose-fitting clothes, accompanied by weatherproofing to fit the forecast works just fine. Wardrobe goes a long way in differentiating a Commutant from one of the aforementioned disqualified social groups. I've yet to see any of the "forced" cyclists wearing Dockers and a polo shirt, or spandex and a jersey.

This may or may not clear the air as much as some may need to understand, leaving room for further clarification in future entries.