Not Rides 5/19: Not This Again


The vicissitudes of life foiled my plans to try to write some posts last week, but this week's vicissitudes, so far as they've revealed themselves thus far, have presented me with an opportunity to write one tonight. Lucky us.

I'm beginning to come to the realization that everyone else might not enjoy my atonal mumble singing of contemporary pop hits as I do. So long as I've bike commuted, I've mumble sung and I'm not going to give it up just because "people" think it's "awful" and when they turn around and look at me, it's "mortifying." SO WHAT? You like Tay Tay? WHY DON'T YOU LIKE ATONAL MUMBLE SUNG TAY TAY? She's deliberately not on Spotify because she wants her music to be atonally mumle sung to the world by dorky 30 something bike commuters. It's her preferred delivery method! I promise. And if it you don't like the musical styling of Tay Tay, that's on you, dude. I can't be held responsible for your bad taste. I can only be responsible for mine.

There's a lot to like about atonal mumble singing and I would heartily encourage you to adopt the practice if it's not part of your repertoire already. Because:
1) it's fun
2) bicycling is a sort of rhythmic and repetitive activity and it's kind of amazing to see where your brain takes you when you let it. I'm quite confident that some rhythm of the road prompts whatever bad pop song I feel compelled to sing and who am I to reject the rhythm of the road. That would make Walt Whitman cry. DO YOU WANT TO MAKE WALT WHITMAN CRY?
3) drivers get to sing encased in their glass and metal boxes and bicyclists are required by law and custom to do everything that drivers to out of spite and to prove a point
4) how else are you going to get people to not ask you for directions? (I wasn't atonally mumble singing this afternoon and a woman on H Street asked me where K Street was and I was like 'two letters thataway, man')
5) other reasons

In conclusion, if you want to continue to be a totally lame self-serious, unfun bike commuter, by all means, continue to not atonally mumble sing contemporary pop hits, the lyrics of which with you are only vaguely acquainted and the melody of which proves elusive beyond the ten to twelve seconds you can somewhat recall. That's fine. Whatever. But if you'd like the opposite of those things, consider atonally mumble singing. You might even like it.

As for the bike commuting, Bike to Work Day was fun. Good job everyone.


Rides 5/6, 5/7 and 5/8: a summary

Does it ever happen to you, the you of you who have the luxury of owning more than one bicycle, that one when picks up a flat (even after you fix it), you just put that bike aside for a some time, quarantining it to prevent the bad mojo of repeat flats from getting you? I did this with the Ogre and for the past few days I've been riding the Brompton.

My commute is about 8 miles each way and it's not flat. The Brompton has two speeds. It's not exactly speedy, but I don't mind. I really love this bike and I really love commuting on it, even though there are bikes far better suited to that purpose. Two winters ago, that is to say, the winter before this past winter, I commute solely on the Brompton for about two months. I did this because we had moved into an apartment while the house was being fixed up and I didn't want to drag the Cross Check up the flight of stairs and I also didn't want to further begrime the was-whiteish-once carpet that covered the living room floors with a bike exposed to the ravages of winter weather. Prior to those months, I had ridden the Brompton to work a few times, but it very much wasn't my preferred whip. I faintly remembering struggling on the climbs up the hill and thinking 'well, this is silly and this is far more laborious than it needs to be. I'll use this bike for other things, but not this.' But then I used it only for commuting for two months and that's when things changed.

You do something enough and you get used it. I think that time made me a much stronger bicycle rider, literally and figuratively. And I think more importantly, it made me a much better bicycle rider. Not like technically or anything, but temperamentally. Patience and perseverance, I've found, to be of much greater benefit to a bike commuter than power or agility, especially in a place that's a real mixed bag as far as cycling is concerned. It's better than a lot of places, but worse than a lot of places and the set-up puts you in a lot of situations where there's potential conflict and the transportation culture here is, how would you say, not always the most convivial. I think bike commuting teaches you a lot of things about yourself (if you want to learn them) and I think bike commuting on the Brompton taught me more than I would have learned otherwise. Maybe that's a silly thing to say, but I think it's a silly thing that I believe.

Some other things:

-Gear Prudence on training for a century (and Chasing Mailboxes with even more because MG is the best)

-Me in Greater Greater Washington begging college students not to abandon their bikes. As a longtime university employee, I can aver that this does in fact happen (I would estimate that a good 30% of the bikes parked outside at any time are in some phase of being abandoned. Maybe this is why I was so harsh about cutting locks on bikes left unmoved for a week in an earlier GP.)

-Some advice in Washingtonian on how not to be an obnoxious cyclist. I'm unclear why they asked me. “Odds are you’ve done something dickish, too.” is meant to be read in a karmic sense, not as an immediate response to “People aren’t there specifically to antagonize you” in case you were wondering.

Those are pretty much all of the things. Except for this other thing:

I'm probably going to be scaling back the postings over summer. I don't know how many times I'm going to be able to write during the week (I have decided to occupy my time with attempt 4 or 5 at grad school because they don't make gum that I can chew to stave off what is clearly some time of weird chemical dependency), but I'll try. Or at least I'll try to try. Maybe two posts a week? I think I might be able to do that.

And as always, thank you for even wasting a scintilla of your time reading this. That you ever do makes me ever so grateful.


Rides 5/5: what's that hissing sound

It was bound to happen eventually because it hasn't happened in a while, but now it has, so maybe that means it won't happen again, but maybe not. I caught a flat.

I'm not sure when it happened other than on the way into work. It might've happened right before the guy who shoaled me turned around at the red light at North Capitol and R to warn about the broken glass on the road. Occam's Razor suggests that would be the case. Occam's Razor, when run over, would also likely cause a flat. I guess I noticed it before I got to work, but I didn't really put it together. The front tire, from which the air seeped, felt a little weird when turning. "weird," I thought. Then I put the bike away from 8 something hours. Then I came back and bounced the front wheel and that's when I noticed.

At first I thought I could just ride it home, but then I decided that I'd just change the tube. So, outside of work I flipped the bike over, removed the wheel and set about removing the tube. The tires are 2.35 inch Schwalbe Big Apples, so they come off pretty easily. I thought about a patch, but eh. Patches are for tweed jackets. Before putting in the new tube, I decided to spend some time looking for the puncture. I didn't find an obvious culprit, but I did find a goodly amount of glass and other sharp things wedged into the tire. I picked it out from the rubber using the small key that unlocks the padlock to my backyard fence. I'm not sure if that's an officially approved method, but it seemed to work. The size of the glass shards/other sharpish things varied, but I think I got them all out. I guess we'll find out.

New tube in, I did the best I could to inflate it with my hand pump. My best wasn't very much. Admittedly, I could've tried harder, but I figured that I should get the tire inflated far enough to ride to somewhere I could properly inflate it and I did, after riding down the hill and away from work to The Bike Rack at 14th and Q. They have a nice pump outside and the pump even comes with instructions. [Instruction 1: put air in tire. Instruction 2: See Instruction 1 are not the actual instructions]

From there on, the ride was fine. Now I get to worry if I actually got out whatever caused the puncture. It's best not to worry too much. Que sera, sera. Flats happen when they happen. It's all very mystical and mysterious. I actually believe this.


Rides 5/4: dastardly deeds

This afternoon was the weather we all asked for a month ago when it was too cold to comfortably bike commute. And now it's too warm to bike commute. Great.

This morning was quite temperate. Morning's will stay nice for some time, but then they'll get that much warmer and then it'll be warm all the time. All the time.

That's fine for me. It's hot, you sweat. This shouldn't be too surprising. It's summer and you're outside. What do you expect? This is the way it is. Summer is hot, winter is cold. The months in between are sometimes bearable. Anyway, this makes me think of vegetables. Sometimes they're in season, sometimes they're not. I think we get ourselves screwy when we expect good tomatoes in winter or good water chestnuts ever (I don't like water chestnuts). Seasonality, such as it is anymore, is one of the winning things about being outside, even when being outside sorta stinks.

The other thing about warm weather is how it attracts the kinds of bicyclists who think that RACING is a great idea. There is a different between going fast and racing and the difference is in how you see your fellow bike commuters. If you happen to view them as people worthy of respect and consideration though they might happen to be traveling at a pace slower than your preferred one, then you're just going fast. But if you see them as obstacles and fellow competitors who YOU MUST GET PAST NO MATTER WHAT AND AT WHATEVER COST NECESSARY, then you're racing and it's wrong, so stop. The dignity of other bicyclists doesn't end because you want to get home faster than they do.


Rides May 1 and May 2: Negative Splits

From coffee, Rudi and I rode together down G Street, past the Watergate on Virginia Avenue, then over and up through Georgetown on Wisconsin. On the way home, Virginia Avenue was closed as part of a parking garage at the Watergate complex had collapsed and there were firetrucks and police everywhere and the road the closed in the direction that I would've taken. I asked if I could ride through, but was told no. Instead, I rode down along the water, but instead of riding past the volleyball courts and around that way towards Ohio Drive, I stuck with the road I normally take in the morning, which spat me out by the Lincoln Memorial.

There's a reason- a reason called good sense- that I don't normally go this way in the afternoon, but I found sharing the path with the throngs of tourists to be not as bad I had expected. What's the joke- only in DC can four tourists walk six across? Yeah, pretty much that. After 15th Street, which was closed due to continued crane work on the museum, it was a trip down Jefferson Drive, one of the more misused streets in this place. I'm quite confident that I've complained about this before, but that won't stop me from doing it again, but thee is no way that the current configuration of that street, the one that allots between 1/3 and 2/3 of the space to storing cars for free, is the best and most productive use of that space. It just makes me so sad. Do you know have amazing a protected cycletrack along the Mall would be? Very amazing. And it would be used by a lot more people than the parking spots. But cars, so yeah.

TFTS, such as it is, has been a blog about bicycle commutes, and what I did yesterday wasn't a bicycle commute, but I think I'm going to write about it anyway. Feel free to stop reading as it will not be on the test, nor is is strictly considered canon.

I rode a century, the vast majority of it on the W&OD trail. I started at my house and rode to Purcellville, Virginia, a place that I stopped pretty much only because that's where the trail stopped. This ride is a "thing" that people do and I've long meant to do it having never done it before and with a free day and some gorgeous weather and with the next couple months being occupied with pursuits that will prevent me from spending a whole weekend day bicycling (I'm going back to school- gotta complement that Medieval Studies degree with something a little more practical- paleo-botany!), I set off around 9, pointed my bike west and figured that I'd go till I stopped. I went alone, which is probably not the best way to do it, but I didn't know if I would want to give up somewhere along the way and wouldn't have wanted to disappoint any riding partners with more sticktoitiveness than I have. Some things:

- This isn't the most inspiring ride. It's a lot of looking at powerlines. But I appreciated that it was off-street, so that was one less thing to worry about. The W&OD does cross a lot of streets and does have a lot of stop signs, but there isn't a ton of crossing traffic generally, so that tends to work out.

- My NoVa geography is terrible, so every new town along the way was a place that I had heard of but couldn't put in any geographical context. What's closer: Reston or Herndon? Where's Ashburn? How big is Leesburg? That made the whole ride mysterious. Where does it end? Who knows?

- The signs along the trail pointed up helpful things, like bike shops and breweries. I stopped at neither, but it's nice to know that they're there.

- Lots of people on the trail and they all seem to get along ok. I mean, for the most part. I did get one 'cutting it tight, buddy' from a woman riding in the other direction when I passed some folks on cruisers in front of me. It's conceivable that I was one of the worst trail riders out there, though less from malice than inexperience.

- I saw bicyclists whose calves were bigger than my thighs.

- Purcellville is ok. It's probably not a place I'd live, but it has some things to recommend it, including a hot dog store (I had a hot dog lunch, which maybe wasn't the best decision) and a cool bike shop/coffee shop called Veloville. Also, antique stores and probably other stuff too. I didn't explore very much.

In conclusion, a few more things:

- I really should've adjusted the seat angle on my bike. I had fiddled with it and it proved to be totally bad, but I just kinda went with the badness instead of stopping to adjust it. That was a poor decision.

- I'm glad I did it, but I don't think this kind of bicycling is for me. After about 30 miles, I was like 'yup, this is what it is' and I felt like I got out of it- mentally, physically, emotionally- whatever transcendence was readily accessible. I just don't think I'm into endurance. It's not that I'm incapable- though my legs are fairly sore currently. It just doesn't thrill me. The kind of bicycle that does is the the kind that 'hacks' a city and allow you to bypass aggravating driving and onerous public transportation and leading you to explore neighborhoods and places that are off the main nodes. That's how I like to use my bicycle and that's likely how I'm going to continue to use it mostly. Though I guess doing something like this once every so often it's a nice reminder that a bicycle is truly one of the most versatile transportation tools and that's a nice reminder to have.


Yup, that's where I went