somewhat daily mutterings

/Cycling Mail from a Fellow Sufferer

I just received an email from another cycling speed-demon:

Yeah, I feel for you. We have had to deal with those radar toting jerks here in Marin for a long time now. The really asinine thing is the ticket costs more than one you would get for speeding in your car.

Yes, as if you're going to kill someone in a bicycle accident. Imagine the carnage! No, it's too horrible to consider.

Posted: Wed Sep 24 13:43:10 -0700 2003

/Cycling Where the Hell am I Supposed to Ride?

<rant>

So I'm busting ass up the Platte River bike path today (it's actually called the Arapahoe Greenbelt, but geez), when I spy a parks dept truck parked alongside the trail at a 90-degree angle. There's a guy in the driver's seat pointing something at me. Is it a camera? Binoculars? A gun? Well, kind of. It's a radar gun. The guy is actually measuring my speed as I ride up the trail with my tongue hanging out and spit dripping down my chin from effort. Of course, I look down at my bike computer and see that I'm doing 21mph. I have a hazy recollection that they actually posted 15mph speed limit signs along some sections of this trail a while ago. I didn't think much of it back then -- I just sort of harrumphed as I sped by at nearly 50% faster than the limit.

But this -- this parks-cop actually sitting there in a sort of low-speed speed trap is shooting cyclists with a radar gun. What's he going to do, write me a ticket? I have to admit that I looked over my shoulder after a minute or so to see if he was speeding alongside the trail to catch me. And what if he did, and what if I kept riding instead of stopping? Would he call in a parks dept helicopter to track me as they tightened the noose on my scofflaw self? Would I end up on Cops? If I stopped and got a ticket, what would happen if I didn't pay it? Would they revoke my cycling license? The questions abound.

Anyway, this whole situation got me fuming. When I ride on the street I have to put up with inbred simpletons yelling at me to get off the road and ride on the bike paths, or worse, the sidewalks. Now, when I ride on the bike paths, I'm going to have the man tracking my speed to make sure I don't break this ridiculous 15mph speed limit. So where the hell is a fit cyclist supposed to fit into this scheme? I don't have the ability to even coast as slow as 15mph if there's a decent tailwind. Hell, I averaged over 20mph over this section of path today, and there was a decent headwind (but I was hurting a little).

So what are they trying to accomplish with this speed law? I suppose it's supposed to increase safety for the families out there with their gaggles of crooked-helmeted kids wandering around the paths on their little tiny bikes. Or the hybrid bikers riding on the left hand side of the trail, with their rubbernecks in full gear, headphones blaring, looking at everything but the trail ahead. Or the hybrid bikers riding three abreast, oblivious to everything, including the freakin' squeaks coming out of their unmaintained drivetrains that makes it sound like they're towing birdcages full of parakeets.

I don't suppose it ever crossed the rule-maker's puny minds that it's not the fast moving cyclists that are the problem. Believe me, we're paying attention. It takes focus to propel a bicycle at a high rate of speed. I'd say that the average fast-moving cyclist is paying a hell of a lot more attention than the average 10mph cyclist. I've seen it over and over again -- slow moving cyclists tend also to not be paying attention and are slow to react to verbal announcements. So, IMO this speed limit is fixing the wrong problem. Here's my idea for a proper safety sign:

Pay Attention!!!

</rant>

Posted: Sun Sep 21 22:04:14 -0700 2003

/Motorcycling Retro-reflective Tape Added to the Goblin

I finally got around to applying the black retro-reflective tape I bought nearly a year ago to my hard bags. This stuff is great, because it is fairly invisible (being black), until light hits it. I cosider it a great safety feature, for night-time riding, anyway. Pictures speak louder than words:

Rear Application (note Apple logo) [big pic]

Side and 3/4 Application[big pic]

Unfortunately the pre-cut tape kit I was sent for my bags wasn't even close to fitting. However, the tape is easily cut with scissors, so I improvised. The Apple logo, which I think looks kinda cool, is just a side-effect of having stuck a regular-old Apple sticker onto the reflective tape. What's kind of neat is that during the day it's white, and in the dark, under lighting, it's gray (as you see here).

Posted: Sun Sep 21 20:20:59 -0700 2003

/Cycling Stupid Cyclist Tricks

I've been wanting to write about this for a little while now, but doing the graphic for it was kind of holding me up. I finally got a copy of Macromedia Fireworks for my Mac, which is one of my favorite graphics packages, but wholly unsuited to this particular task. I used it anyway, of course. It probably took me about an hour to do, which is nutty.

Anyhoo, I was commuting to work one morning on my bicycle, and was set-up to cross a good-sized intersection. The rightmost lane is for traffic going straight through and right, while the left lane is left-turn only. The middle lane is straight only. Since I'm going straight, I'm set up in the rightmost portion of the right lane. This is because bicyclists should behave like normal traffic, but should do so while staying as far right as possible. In this position, traffic intending to turn right on red can work around me, and do so (although many don't).

How Not to Set Up in an Intersection
(I'm the green dot, the other guy is red)

As I was sitting there, I noticed motion to my left, and realized there was another rider on the road. However, this guy was set up between the two rightmost lanes. I wondered what the hell he was doing there, but instead of asking, I just nodded my head in his direction. He acknowledged the nod, then dragged his bike through the rightmost lane, and over next to me. "Riding to work?", he asked. I replied that I was, and he commented "I love riding, but not on the roads." I replied "how come?", to which he said, "too dangerous -- I've been hit by cars twice."

The light changed before the conversation could go much further, but I couldn't help thinking, as I left him in my dust, "no wonder you've been hit, you damn fool, if you set up between two lanes of traffic potentially going straight. What other stupid things do you do?"

Posted: Sun Sep 21 20:20:05 -0700 2003

Recent Googles Sidebar Improvement

I don't know why it took me so long to figure it out, but I realized recently that, rather than being "dead" text, the entries in my "recent googles" sidebar should be links leading to the matching pages. I've hacked my recent googles script to enable this feature, but the hack has stretched the script (which was quick-n-dirty to begin with) to the limit. The script really needs to be reimplemented as a ruby script, which I'll get around to, oh, any day now.

Posted: Sat Sep 13 21:25:04 -0700 2003

/Motorcycling Test Riding the BMW R1150RT

I was at the BMW dealership today getting a new front tire (Bridgestone BT54) mounted in preparation for my bike tour with Steve. As always, I made good use of my time while I waited by doing a test ride. Today, I chose an R1150RT, because I'd never ridden one before, and because I have a newfound acceptance of this sporty touring bike (I used to think of them as too big and unweildy-looking, but now I actually think they're fairly svelte for a loaded touring bike).

I was set up on a very pretty metallic gray bike with no bags attached. Sitting on the bike, I was immediately aware of the large "dashboard" presented to the rider, which seemed to include a pair of speakers for a stereo. To be honest I didn't inquire about it, so I'm not sure that's what I was seeing. The salesman pointed out the electric windscreen adjustment, which has plenty of wow-factor. It's nice to be able to adjust the screen while underway, but I was to find that I preferred the screen lowered all the way.

Once underway, my primary impression of the bike is one of a much lighter bike than it looks. I was also very aware of the upright seating position. The handling of the bike is great, but it was a bit odd to me, as always, to lean into a curve while my back is ramrod upright (but at least on the RT your arms aren't spread to the wind as they are on the GS). I kept thinking this bike would be great if only the bars were a little lower. The bars are not adjustable, unfortunately. However, the bars are actually independent "stalks" that are attached to the triple clamp. Perhaps BMW has a variety of stalks available to allow for reach/height adjustments? I was also aware of wanting to slide back a bit on the seat, but the sculpted seat had imprisoned me (this seems common on modern BMWs). My prison was a comfortable one, however. I could imagine spending a lot of time in this seat fairly comfortably (and spending a lot of that time wishing I could scoot back now and then).

I didn't really get to dig into any corners today, since it was spitting rain on and off and my favorite test-riding streets were wet. No way was I going to dump this $17k motorcycle. Overall, cornering felt fine the couple of times I could lean into it a bit. I'll have to ride the RT again when we have dry, warm streets. So, due to the weather, rather than concentrating on going I concentrated a bit on stopping. The brakes on this bike are touchy and loud, but they do stop in a big hurry. I'd read somewhere before about the power brakes being loud, but hadn't noticed it on the other beemers. Well, they're loud and annoying on this bike. You sit at a stop light with the brake system wheezing and whistling. It's not the sound of quality. Add to that the touchiness of the brakes, and there's not a lot to like. I'm sure you'd get used to them, but why should you have to get used to brakes? I think the bike would do just fine with non-power, ABS brakes, just like god intended BMWs to have.

Overall, I can see why this bike is a popular sporty touring bike. The brakes are a bit annoying, but I think that's a pretty minor thing, and I didn't notice them while riding; they were only a problem when I was stopped. The seating position is something I'd have to get used to, but I don't think it would be a major drag, especially if there were lower bars available. All in all, I'd certainly consider owning an RT, but I'm not sure I could have it as my only bike. That task could be better served by an R1150RS (or my current squeeze, the K1100RS).

Speaking of the Goblin, while I was chatting with one of the BMW folks, I happened to catch a glimpse of this great-looking bright-green sport-touring bike leaving the dealership parking lot and speeding up the road. It took me a second to realize that it was my bike. I guess the service guy was doing a post tire-mounting test ride (I'd also asked for a general looking over, since I'm going out on this tour). The Goblin looked so different in motion, in a good way.

I must say that, as is often the case, I was happy to get back on my own bike. Everything is in the right place, the bars meet my hands just right, the brakes feel just right, and I know exactly what to expect. I suppose I'll keep her a bit longer :-).

Posted: Sat Sep 13 20:54:17 -0700 2003

/Miscellany More CSS Work

I've been a busy bee again, doing my bestest to apply CSS in a logical manner to the site. Today, I factored common styles out the embedded styles in my updated pages, creating a common.css file. Now all my (updated) pages import that CSS, and add additional embedded styles as needed. One trick from Eric Meyers' book that I made use of is the "tabbed" link behavior. At the top of most of my pages (e.g. my resume) are a set of internal links. This link div has styles associated with it, including a hover style. The cool trick is to define a class called "current" and to use "the cascade" to override the normal appearance of a given link to the "current", or "selected" appearance. So, the link HTML is identical on each page, with the exception that the link that represents the current page has a class of "current". Easier to see than to explain, obviously.

Posted: Sat Sep 06 15:51:09 -0700 2003

/Meta 50% of Site Restyled

Whew!! I've been putting what I learned in Meyer's Cascading Style Sheets to good use tonight. Well, to decent use, anyway. I've re-styled my bio, my resume, and I've gotten rid of the cheesy redirect on my index page and replaced it with this. On these particular pages, I've chosen to go with embedded styles, at least for now. There are enough structural differences between the pages that it makes sense to have most styles embedded. However, once I get all my pages re-styled, I should really factor out what common stuff there is.

In the above pages, I got rid of all the stupid nested tables that I had used for layout, and all the horrific font tags I'd used to control text. The content is now dirt simple and structural. I am completely freakin' enamoured with the power of CSS. Really!

Posted: Thu Sep 04 21:43:13 -0700 2003

/Motorcycling Planning October Motorcycle Trip

My bud Steve is riding his bike out to Colorado from KY the second week of October. Once he arrives here, Steve, my coworker Dave, and I are embarking on a roughly 1200-mile trip through CO, NM, AZ, and UT. Along the way, we'll hit Fairplay, Montrose, Cortez, the "four corners" area, Monument Valley, Moab, and Rocky Mountain National Park. All of which is provided the weather is OK for motorcycle travel in the mountains (the snow route will take us down into UT and AZ, avoiding the Rockies).

Planned Route

It will be a BMW-heavy convoy: Steve has a K1200RS, Dave rides a GS Adventure, and I'll be on the Goblin ('95 K1100RS).

Posted: Wed Sep 03 20:58:48 -0700 2003

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