Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Texting Bill Advances in State Senate While Drunk Driver Kills Again in Belin

From the Albuquerque Journal.

..Senate Bill 19 would allow law enforcement officers to write a citation for drivers seen using cellphones to write or read text messages or other written content while driving or stopped in traffic. The bill, approved on a bipartisan vote in the Senate Public Affairs Committee on Tuesday, calls for a $25 fine for a first offense and a $50 fine for subsequent offenses...

In other news KOAT-7 in Albuquerque tells us that a man convicted of killing a motorcyclist and seriously injuring the passenger on the bike in  2006 while driving drunk is back in jail for hitting yet another motorcycle, killing the rider and injuring the passenger while driving drunk. The KOAT story can be read online without a subscription. A more recent KOAT story tells us the suspect, who is being held on $500k cash only bond, has entered a not guilty plea.

Be careful out there.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Sunday, January 26, 2014


Or, a cyclist rolling over sixty years and many thousands of miles.

No lenses were cracked in the taking of this photo.
 Perpetual pen pal Patrick O'Grady asked if I would ride my age in miles this weekend, given that I just rolled over 60. Given the short, cold days and my own laziness, I decided to ride it in kilometers instead, pushing around the Bandelier Loop with a loop through Pajarito Acres to get the miles over 60 metric clicks today (add that to 15 cold miles yesterday). Hence the title of this post.

Seems rather anticlimactic. Several of the folks over at the Mad Dog Pickle Barrel are far ahead of me. Since we are all cyclists, age is more of a gentle reminder that the other shore is coming up rather than a debilitating fact of looming infirmity. Andy, Steve, Larry, both Patricks, and Veloben are all either in the pack or in some cases, off the front, as is Patrick O'Brien, or Maynard Hershon, who at 72, looks like he is ready for a double century and a motorcycle trip.
2012 Biker Rally, State Capitol, Santa Fe
I rode down on the K1100RS

So in addition to the usual egocentric and narcissistic reasons we bloggers blog, this post is to remind cyclists and non-cyclists alike that those dollars and miles are not spent in vain. They are spent in the Local Bike Shop and out on the road or trail, and are good insurance at keeping us healthy, happy, and fit for a lot longer than if we were only riding the Lazy Boy and railing at losing football teams instead. I guess you can even put that newfangled LANL pedometer on your ankle and get credit for cadence as well as steps.  That's good.
My very first bike.
That's my kid brother Steve learning to ride it,
assisted by our dad. Couldn't find a pic of me on it.

Cycling is nothing new to me, but I had the usual layoff upon reaching 18 and converting to The Church of Internal Combustion. I rode the wheels off my Sears single speed bike as a kid and teen. Like most, that bike got banished to the garage ceiling of my parent's house as soon as I could afford something motorized. In my case, a Honda CB-450 motorcycle. Later it was augmented by a 1969 Ford Mustang that my parents traded me for a bottle of wine and a dozen donuts, as the car was a rustbucket held together with duct tape and prayers. The straight six and 3 speed manual transmission, though, were strong and sound. Those two buggies got me through undergrad school.

My second bike. Early-mid sixties.
Sears Crusader with the "gas tank" and built in headlight
Web photo. Shit, we could never afford a 911.

The 1979 gas crisis found me and my first wife, Robin, on Long Island during the odd-even days. I had just started riding again in '79 on a  borrowed bike. For the usual reasons of health (I was, shall we say, getting pudgy), convenience, and finances, it made sense to get bicycles to commute to the SUNY campus at Stony Brook, so we bought a Motobecane Mirage and a Peugeot UO-8 at a local bike shop, J&B Cycles in East Setauket. I had my Motobecane a week or two and was promptly launched over a car driven by a motorist who was making a sudden U-turn, as a fellow motorist in a gas line stalled his own car and a gap opened. Waking up as the ambulance arrived, I joined the legions of cyclists who have been indoctrinated into The Friends of Mr. Pavement. There is a picture taken of me glumly sitting at the kitchen table a couple days later with black eyes, a broken nose, stitches in my forehead, and contemplating the increasingly intense bouts of the dry heaves I was getting from the concussion. Thankfully, I can't find that photo.

Unlike many who decide after a bad crash that cycling is too dangerous, I kept riding, occasionally kicking myself for not handling that crash better, given my years on motorcycles, both road and dirt bikes. Lesson learned. Plus, riding was fun. Riding out to the east end of Long Island and back helped me get through the breakup with Robin and focus on self-improvement and finishing up graduate studies. In 1985, I got my first road racing bike, the original black Cannondale aluminum boneshaker, an SR300, to go with the reconstructed Motobecane commuter that had the decal of the VW Bug embossed on it from that '79 crash.

Road from Amsterdam to Den Hagg, 1986
Motobecane Mirage lived a long life after dueling with the Volkswagen Bug
Moving to Honolulu in 1987 to take a job in the Geology Dept. of the U of Hawaii, I started riding organized centuries and kept commuting. A short stint with a race team demonstrated that when the road tilted up or someone jumped, I was left wondering what happened. Hence advocacy. The Honolulu Bike Plan (1999 version) and Los Alamos Bike Plan and Complete Streets Policy documents are in the win column. Plus, the Santa Fe, TORGV, and Red River Century rides are as good as they get.

Its been a long and interesting road. Hopefully, it will go on for a while. Age does have its issues. A bad back from a 2005 disk herniation has me in a more upright posture on the road bikes and had me retire the hardtail for a double boinger. There is perhaps less endurance (or more laziness) than in times past. Recovery is longer, but the blood pressure and rest pulse are quite good. The wheels keep on turning. I feel great.

President of the Hawaii Bicycling League, ~1998. Haleiwa Metric Century

Hana Highway Trip, Maui. 1999

With Meena out for a tandem ride, late '90's

Bike to Work Day, LANL, 2006

With LAPD Capt. Randy Foster working on bike safety, 2012. LA Daily Post File Photo.

Holy Smokes. Where did the time go?

What Would a TV Ad for a Gun Look Like if a Car Company's Ad Dept. Made It?

Following up on that last post, and after a comment by Steve Avery and this story about the NFL purportedly rejecting a gun ad that doesn't even show a gun, I propose that LA Bikes make a TV gun ad as though a car company's ad agency were to film it. Since Greg is a film guy, maybe he can help. We will need extras of course and a location. Our ad will sell the new, improved 2014 model year BlastMaster K-223-45, 100 rd drum magazine equipped Modern Tactical Sporting Rifle with TurboFire gas operation for TWICE the cycling rate compared to any other semiautomatic rifle, and the ActivePulse air cooled barrel to keep you blasting away all day with no loss of accuracy or that dreaded overheating that shortens barrel life.

We will need:

1. A good replica of a high capacity rifle, or even a real one, with blanks (or mix in the sound later).

2. Extras, presumably from one of our local grade schools.

3. An actor to play the shooter.

4. Actors to play the SWAT team.

5. Actors to play distraught parents.

6. A location. How about the Pueblo Complex? Or maybe TA-72?

7. The script, of course.

8. Simulated blood, chicken bones (splintered), and small body parts.

Naturally, we will have our own disclaimer, similar to the ones you see on those TV ads where people are doing blatantly illegal and dangerous things with cars:

"Closed range. Simulated gunshot wounds to small children and teachers. Professional shooter using blanks in a modified assault-type rifle.  Don't try this at home. Use guns responsibly, even though we advertise them irresponsibly. Always use ear and eye protection, make sure of your backstop and of your target. "


So the idea is to do an ad along these lines. Any takers, leave contact information as a comment to be contacted by us at the the DoubleStandard Ad Agency of Los Alamos, LLC.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Where is Joe Nocera's Weekend Car Report?

Jeeze, I was just texting my girlfriend...its not my fault..
accidents just happen, you know...

In a 2013 report, the CDC tells us 4,565 children and teens younger than 20 were killed in motor vehicle mishaps during one year.  That's more than 3.3 Newtowns per week. According to the Huffington Post, the FBI says 565 people under the age of 18 were murdered with guns in 2011, or 0.42 Newtowns per week.

Joe Nocera does a New York Times blog every weekend on gun deaths titled "The Weekend Gun Report". This week, he highlighted the 25th Anniversary of the Stockton, CA mass murder where a demented man with a criminal history nonetheless bought an AK-47 and shot up a school, blowing away 5 and wounding thirty. Not to make light of gun deaths, but it seems odd that we ignore a carnage of unintended childhood death even greater than the gun problem.

number of passenger vehicles in the U.S. ~250 million
                  deaths per car/deaths per gun slightly greater than 1         
---the usual Wikipedia sources

Americans respond to catastrophes like Newtown but tend to ignore the everyday low level carnage like the guy next door splattering a kid who is crossing the street in front of his Nissan (why I pick Nissan will be obvious later). We ignore it unless, of course, its our kid.  Nonetheless, what I would like to know is when someone like Mr. Nocera will start up a Weekend Car(-nage) Report cataloging all those people who are killed on our roads. As the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration told us in 2004, "...Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children of every age from 2 to 14 years old...". I did a quick check and found more recent CDC figures saying drowning and suffocation are the leading cause of unintended death for very young children, but overall, its definitely traffic. See Table 1.

If you have ever witnessed an auto fatal (I have) you note that the level of violence doesn't take a back seat to a shooting. That dirty little secret of our out of control car culture always seems to be swept under the rug. Anyone who thinks the gun culture is seemingly immune from reason or compromise should show up at a traffic safety hearing where traffic calming or traffic cameras are being discussed.  Furthermore, when it comes to cars, irresponsibility sells. While we condemn gun violence and would never think of selling guns with TV ads showing lunatics hosing down grade schools with 5.56x45 mm, we glorify insane driving by psychotic drivers.  See below. The fantasy of irresponsibility sells product.

Professional Driver? Do not attempt? Then why show it? This promotes irresponsible conduct.

 "Closed range. Simulated small children and teachers. Professional shooter. Don't try this at home." 

Whenever I bring up the comparison of the rough equivalency between gun and auto deaths in the United States, I am told by the well meaning reader that guns are meant to kill and cars are meant for transportation, your typical car advertisement (ego, prestige, power, sex, fantasy) not withstanding. Gun deaths are often deliberate, whether suicide or homicide. Car deaths are called "accidents" and somehow the victim is not quite as wrongfully dead. Indeed, cars are not meant to kill, but they do a damn nice job when handled incompetently, lawlessly, or carelessly, covered over by a culture of complacency that treats dangerous driving as either socially acceptable, as long as its with a disclaimer, or a simple "violation", thus  blurring the distinction between a real accidental occurrence and the statistically likely outcome of misbehavior behind the wheel.

Alfred Nobel invented high explosives. Explosives can be used to construct things like bridges or dams or to blow them up in war. That duality of purpose, after all, is why we kill so many with cars.
You won't find this Bushmaster ad on TV, 
or virtually any other gun ad, 
but sadly, you could have found it on the Internet.
 If you buy one of these as "tool compensation", 
 that's a worrisome reason.

So pardon me if I suggest that if we concentrated on civic responsibility more than a little bit and hold ourselves accountable a lot more, we might reduce the death toll from both cars and guns. Laws can only do so much. Especially with a revolving door justice system that rewards social irresponsibility. For example,this guy on DWI #8.

Monday, January 20, 2014

(Really) Low Gears

A half-step plus granny triple crank. 
My first two touring/commuter bikes were set up like this 
(48-44-24) back in the days of five and six speed freewheels.
Someone left a note mentioning that I succumbed to low gears on the Long Haul Trucker, given that I replaced the 26 tooth granny with a 24, which is as low as you can go on that Sugino 110/74 mm triple crank. My reply was that I've long been a disciple of Frank Berto's School of Learning to Turn Really Low Gears.

Back when I started riding in the late seventies (nineteen seventies, that is), five speed freewheels were standard and sixes/ultra-sixes were just coming out. So wide range gearing on a touring or all-around work bike might involve a cogset such as 13-32 or 13-34, something along the lines of 13-17-22-27-34. Race bikes might have a 13-14-15-17-19 cogset in the flatlands of Long Island. My first "adult bike", a 1979 Motobecane Mirage, arrived with a 14-32 five speed and 52-40 chainrings; a gearchart was provided in the catalog.

On a work or tour bike, one could pair a wide range cogset with a triple crank having two main chainrings with only a 4 or 5 tooth difference between the big rings, and the granny, i.e., a "half step plus granny". Chainrings would be something like 48-43 (or 48-44) and a small ring, say a 24. The small percentage difference between the big and middle chainring, or "half step", in front let you split the gear ratio difference between those huge 4,5, and 7 tooth jumps in back. Dropping (carefully) into the granny ring got you up over the mountain. One would make a big shift in back and then fine tune with the 48 and 44 to settle into an acceptable cadence. Frank Berto presaged Lance Armstrong and the more recent trend that recognizes its better to spin up a grade than to crush your knees with overgeared bicycles. At sixty, that is even more important. Gear charts were used to calculate drivetrains (see chart below) to avoid duplicating ratios since there were fewer of them in those days of 5 speed freewheels. Gearheads would calculate optimum cogset and chainring combinations in those days and assemble them by hand from loose cogs (in pre-indexed days) with chain whips. Yes, I still have some chainwhips...

Gear ratios, in gear inches, from the gearing example above (48-44-24 chainrings from left to right, 13-17-22-27-34 cogset from top to bottom) on a nominally 26 inch wheel bicycle. Calculations from Sheldon Brown's Bicycle Gear Calculator.

"Tell me all about those really low gears, Dave..."
With the advent of nine and ten speed cassettes (and now eleven!), the jumps between gears on even wide range cassettes is much smaller, making the half step setup a historical footnote (although John Allen thinks this setup might be viable). Still, many off the shelf bikes arrive with a silly-large granny ring, which barely drops you to a 1:1 gear inch ratio, if that. That's fine for fit credit card touring or century rides, but woe be to the guy or gal trying to do a self-supported tour through the mountains. For that, a 24x34 low gear on a 26" wheel Long Haul Trucker provides a low gear of 18.4 gear inches, right in there with Frank's recommendations.

Anyway, have a great week.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Commuter Trails, More

The Monitor just posted two articles on "commuter trails", quoting this blog and County Trails Expert Craig Martin extensively. That's good.

I think its worth having a get together of cyclists (both road and mountain varieties), Craig, someone representing cyclists to the county, Dan Pava (LANL Trail Specialist), and County Public Works Director Philo Shelton to look at possibilities.

Here is my quick $0.02.

Trails should in no way replace a commitment that all of our roads are or will be bike-friendly and that cyclists will be EXPECTED and RESPECTED on all of them.

Most trails would probably be left alone, as they are loved by the trail community for being exactly what they are. There would have to be a good reason and broad consensus to "improve" a trail to use for transportation. To paraphrase Craig in the Monitor article, we probably don't want to see our trails become asphalt ribbons through the canyons.

My view? If you can't ride it with this, 
it ain't transportation.
(Surly Long Haul Trucker, 
26" x 2.1" cross tires, 
48-36-24 crank, 11-34 cassette) 
Trails developed as useful transportation alternatives should be reasonably direct and reasonably level (anyone wanting to do a technical commute can already do so and should continue, if they wish, to do so).

If trails are improved and we expect people to use them as transportation, they should be rideable by reasonably proficient cyclists with non-extreme bikes, such as hardtails, cyclecross, touring bikes capable of mounting off road rubber (700-40, 26-1.9, etc).  Such trails should not put offroad newbies at high risk.

Trails developed as alternative commuter routes should be examined by both transportation and trail knowledgeable people with considerable cycling experience. We need to ensure there are no high risk sections where a crash is likely, especially if the route becomes popular; signage and rules should be posted. That's not to say that trails don't have their own risks. Non-cyclists who advocate for trails because there are no cars on them are welcome to do a fast endo to find out what trail riding can entail. Maybe trails can be marked "blue diamond"/"black diamond"? Risks will remain.

No one should expect Pavement Division levels of maintenance. Trails ain't roads.

Perhaps the county should sponsor periodic off road bike riding clinics, taught by volunteers (Tuff Riders?)

Trail resources should, if possible, include both County and Dept. of Energy land and if needed, National Forest (I just don't know what routes we would want to look at).

My vision is NOT to turn trails into urban multiuse paths (i.e., Canyon Rim Trail) but some urban trails could be developed in such a way, i.e., extend Canyon Rim as far west as possible if there is space.

I'll post this here to mull over and send to Philo, Pajarito Riders, Tuff Riders, Dan, and Craig after a chance at some feedback.

If there is interest and no show stoppers, I'll see if I can get the T Board or perhaps Parks and Open Space to sponsor something.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year

I've yet to make a New Year's Resolution other than to not make New Year's Resolutions. Other than that, it helps to sometimes take a high level view of things. Therefore, I rode up Camp May Road today to get that big picture, as you can see below, ruminating on All Things In Life as I turned over the pedals on the Cannondale. At my age, sixty in a little over three weeks, one has to wonder where one has been and where one is going, as well as how one got there.

Time stops for no one, or as my stepdad, who will hit 80 this year said recently while laughing, "Where the hell did the time go?"

Hope your day went well and that 2014 finds you clean roads and the wind at your back.

Happy New Year from 9,000 feet.
Charred trees courtesy of a downed power line, 
Las Conchas, 2011.