Friday, November 22, 2013

Cars and Bicycles need to learn to Coexist

Every time I leave the house on my bike, wearing only a piece of styrofoam as protection, my wife reminds me to be careful. My response is generally, "I always am, I have the two best reasons to come home."  My reasons being my beautiful wife and my soon to be born baby daughter (I am so excited about both by the way). I can control the way I interact with cars and the road, but that is it. When I think about it, that is not much that is in my control.

A month ago a friend of mine linked to an article on Facebook that got me thinking about the risks I am taking every time I am on the road riding my bike or driving my car. There is a constant stream of incidents between all users on the road.  I want to focus on cars and bikes, since that is my greatest area of concern.

Now, as a cyclist I have had my fair share of interesting interactions on the road.  Not mentioning all of them I have had cars swerve at me, people cuss me out while they drive by, and my favorite, people tell me to get off the road or ride on the sidewalk (this is actually illegal in some places). I would say there are four kinds of drivers when there are bikes around.  The first is the accommodating driver, this driver will pass at reasonable speeds and is perfectly fine with a bike on the shoulder or taking up two feet of the lane. The second is the prankster, this driver thinks it is funny to mess with a cyclist by swerving, honking and trying to startle the rider, and generally screwing around. The last two are the groups I am least comfortable with. Third, there is the driver who hates the cyclist. In their mind we are a complete inconvenience or there have been sour experiences in the past. This driver thinks bikes are a nuisance and has been known to take matters into their own hands. Finally, there is the uncomfortable driver. I would say this is my least favorite, they are unpredictable.  This driver will tail a cyclist or group and insanely slow speeds, waiting until they have six lanes to pass.  When this happens I know that this driver is tensing up and could be building a frustration towards the rider.

It is no secret that cars and cyclists need to learn to coexist.  The road is to be shared by both and everybody should be allowed to use it while feeling safe. There are so many people who write and talk about this every year.

I am not sure why both groups think they are solely entitled to the road.  Lets just calm down and be considerate for one another.  No one is intentionally trying to inconvenience or injure anyone else (I have been in situations where this is the case). Let us, drivers and cyclist, do our individual part to foster cooperation in the road.

Cyclist, do your best to be visible and FOLLOW THE LAW.  Unless you are in a sanctioned race a stop sign or light will not ruin your ride. If you ride like you are supposed to be there than you will be okay.

Drivers, pass cautiously with enough space. I guarantee the cyclist is not purposely sucking up 5-10 seconds of your life. Please treat bikes like they are another car, they are entitled to the road and they should follow the same laws.

Sorry that this was a bit of a ramble. Until next time, be safe and push a little harder.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Mt Hamilton

Big weekend rides are quickly becoming my favorite rides. They often become more than a simple ride, they are almost a microcosm of life. I say this at risk of over glorifying a bike ride but the more experience the more I feel justified in my statement. My most recent encounter with this was my ride to the top of Mt Hamilton and back down while I was visiting family in the San Francisco Bay Area.

I had been gearing up for the ride for weeks. I have attempted it twice before as I live in the woods and not in California. Both time previous I only finished part of the rides. I was determined to get it done this time.

I started of early in the morning. I was riding from home because I live a mere 25 miles from the Lick Observatory and about 5 miles from the base of the climb. It was a beautiful and chilly Fall California morning. I took it easy on my way to the climb because I knew I would be pushing myself, I am a mere recreational cyclist, no pro or anywhere near pro ability. I start up the first of the three climbs and I pass a group of riders getting prepped to get on the road. About 2 1/2 miles up the first climb I carelessly hit a large crack in the pavement, causing me to go down.  I quickly notice that my tire went flat and I examined my tire to see what else might be wrong... 

My tire was shot.

I get on the phone and start arranging my ride home, the mountain beat me yet again. That is when I remember Rule #5. I start to look around to figure out what I can do to get back on the road until I can get a new wheel. while I am sitting on the side of the road the group I saw at the beginning of the climb went by and offered their support but none of them had a spare tire so they kept on their way. I quickly suck down my GU Espresso Love and remount the tire with the empty packet keeping my spare tube from pushing through the hole. Success! I was back on my bike and heading up the road. I eventually got over the first climb, descended into the flat and caught back up with the group on the second climb.  I joined in with the main part of this group and we shared some conversation and after a while I pulled off to try to get in touch with my dad who was bringing me a new wheel.

After a few moments I got going again and caught up to a pair of riders who were shortly joined by two others returning from the top to continue on with their friends. I made a comment about how they were dominating the climb and the woman chimed back, "I have cancer surgery this week, so I might as well kick something's ass." These were the words of a determined woman.  Well did not ride with this group for long or ask for anymore details, this statement stuck with me. It almost seemed like the suffering that day was a practice run for what was ahead. I too shortly reached the top of the second climb and decided to wait in the parking lot at the top for my wheel.

Alright, I have a new wheel, headed down to the base of the final climb. I have about 9 miles to the top, 7 of which are steep uphill. This is where I was turned back due to cramping on my last attempt. I hit the bottom and begin going up, I immediately feel a searing in my legs, this climb is the steepest and longest of the three.  The difference is at the top there are no more climbs.  A few miles up this climb I rode by another couple, this pair was much different than anyone else on the mountain.  They were riding touring bikes packed to the gills with gear. I immediately felt light in comparison. As I do, I made conversation. This pair started in Portland and was on their way to Yosemite in route to South America.

This has just become one of the more interesting days of my life. Everyone on the climb had a story and was on a journey. I never would have met these people without the shared love for the bicycle and a desire to explore the world on it. 

I made it to the top, the view was worth it but it was of little interest to me after some of the brief conversations I shared on the way to it.

I had a frigid descent mixed with two short climbs to get back out. I rode passed dozens of people on the way down. I could only imagine what each of their journeys was.

A group ride unites people from different places and experiences. Everyone for a short while is on the same mission no matter what is going on in their lives. The longer I ride the more experiences like this I compile.  There is a mini community on the mountain.

As always... Keep pushing.  Don't use the bike to run away but to enrich the experiences in your life.