Archive for September, 2008

Ongoing issues with my mountainbike have me rationalizing getting a new one. Collapsed economy notwithstanding, me wantz new bikey.

The entry-level, full-suspension Ibex Apogee that I purchased in 2004 online served me well enough through the two years that ensued. But I haven’t put tread to trail since some time in 2006 and hell, I’m pretty sure the last time I rode it was the day of my 42 birthday that same year when in Death Valley we went on a 17-mile, on-road downhill from the 8,200-foot elevation of Mahogany Flat campground all the way to the Panamint Valley floor.

What a rush that was.

But the fact of the matter was and is I’ve learned from the Apogee that I’m just not in need of a full suspension bike. For the low-skill, slow-go way that I ride dirt, — both uphill and down — I just don’t need all that technology. In fact, if my beloved bare-bones 1990 GT Timberline hadn’t been stolen in 1998  I’d probably still be riding it and entirely happy. But instead after it dissapeared from its place locked up in the back of my truck inside the apartment’s secured parking (leading me to believe it was an inside job by some fellow tenant douchewad) I replaced it with a front-suspension Raleigh that I rarely felt comfortable on, and after selling that to a friend, I bought into the front and rear shock-absorbing hype and got the Ibex.

Not that there weren’t good times between us:

The troubles mentioned up top have to do with the gap in space that exists between the steertube of the replacement forks I put on in 2006, and the head tube of the frame — there’s just too much disconcerting wobble and bobble no matter how hard I try to batten everything down. Having donated the original forks to the Bicycle Kitchen there’s no going back to them. And sure, I could replace the replacement forks with ones that properly fit or get the bike in the hands of a perfeshunal who can properly diagnose a cure, but that’s still going to leave me riding a bike that has more engineering than I want or need.

In short, it’s time to put the Apogee out to pasture, or in this case the storage space under the porch (or donated to the Bike Kitchen), and of course that leaves me wanting a new ride and looking longingly at the following low/mid levels of the Motobecane brand’s mountain bike spectrum as seen on (the same outfit where I got Le Noir,  my presently incapacitated but otherwise marvelous Mercier Kilo TT track bike last January):

The first is reeeeeeally bare bones: A 29-inch wheel hard-tailed, hard-nosed singlespeeder called the Outcast:

Don’t she look sa-weet? Of course the trouble is the $400 pricetag is a tough swallow and the old-school solitary gearing with a 44-tooth chainring up front and an 18-tooth cog in back might prove an ordeal getting her upwards. But there’s something appealing in all its striped down basicality that purely pits rider against rise. And should the mountain prevail, a smaller chainring isn’t a hard swap to make.

But then there’s this $299 dame also on the nothing-fancy side with standard 26-inch wheels entry-level gears ‘n brakes ‘n stuff:

The price is certainly right, and again for the type of off-roading I do I’m sure she’d suit me quite nicely. But if I do decide to step it up a level or two and open the wallet a little wider, I’ll be looking twice and thrice at this more glorious gal:

At $600 she’d be the most I’ve ever spent on a bike — not counting the $900 Klein I impulse bought off the rack at Costco in the early/mid ’90s that I returned a couple days later when first I came to my senses and  second the thing started falling apart because, well… I bought it at Costco and it was probably assembled by a guy whose normal job was fork lift operator.

So we’ll see what happens. Either I’ll be prudent and put off the purchase, or I’ll commit to a new dirt bike, which of course means I’ll have to get out and ride it gee darn.

Sorry, couldn’t resist the headline.

I love digging around the backyard to see what artifacts might emerge. As you can see from my photoset on Flickr, we’ve amassed a rather interesting Gallery of Backyarchaelogy, and this thumbnail-sized ceramic noggin found atop the dirt near the hammock is the latest addition to be exhumed… by Ranger’s efforts, not mine.

Maybe the rest of the figurine isn’t buried to deep.

You can tell a housefly is pretty much done in, when it buzzes about almost drunkenly, having been trapped indoors for however long and deprived of whatever it is flies need to survive. Such was the case in the cavernous Savannah Convention Center on Friday afternoon when a fly hung around our booth at the tradeshow I was attending.

For whatever reason it kept me company. Landing on my jacket, or the magazines assembled on the table, or the hair of an attendee, it would lazily lift off and course away when I’d wave it. But you could tell it was tired because it didn’t go very fast or very far and always returned.

It came back for the last time when I looked down at my laptop case on the convention hall floor and discovered it had landed on the handle. Only this time when I waved at it it hunkered down and stayed put. No, I didn’t kill it. Hell, at home I’m even known to unhook a window screen now and then and let flies back outside to continue with their fly lives because who am I to deprive? Instead I hoisted the case up onto a chair and took a closer look. The fly reacted to my encroaching curiosity with minute movements and shifts, but lacked either the energy or ability to take wing.

I guessed it was just waiting to die, be it of natural causes or the blunt force trauma of a rolled up magazine. Lowering the bag back down to the floor, the fly clung to it in resignation and I went to make the rounds among some of the other exhibitors.

When I returned about an hour later the fly was still on the bag, pretty much where I’d left him. But something was different. It was sort of tipped over. Sure enough, when I tilted the bag, the fly tumbled off to the carpet. It had expired.

Bye fly.

I confess, I felt a little sad — and I felt a little weird about feeling sad. Then I shook it off and left to decide whether I’d ferry across the river in search of food or just adjourn to the hotel to get some work done that needed doing. I chose the latter.

Later that evening, although riveted to the television while watching the first presidential debate, the poor fly flew into my thoughts again. And with it another twinge of melancholy that made me pffft out loud.

But I think it was not so much about the fly’s demise but about demises in general. Regardless of what we do in between we come into the world alone and go out of it the same way, whether it’s a fly in Savannah or a famous actor.

So I’m back home from my trip to Savannah and all’s good, with the exception of my wounded bike. Getting to the end of my chores while watching my Raiders find a way to lose yet again, I finally took a look at her bent forks.

To best illustrate the damage done in my embarrasing and infuriating slow-speed collision with a double-parked minivan last Tuesday, take a look at the front wheel jammed against the bottom tube:

There used to be well more than an inch gap between the rubber and the frame. Now that’s been eliminated and instead  everything’s all jammed the hell up together. Such is what happens when 215 pounds of person and 25 pounds of bike plus some 10-plus pounds of backpack (I was carrying a company laptop and accessories) heading uphill collide at 3-4 mph with the ass of a stationery minivan.

I’m actually quite lucky the damage to Le Noir and to me wasn’t worse.

My chin is healing up in excess of my expectations, and fortunately my favorite online bike parts source,, offers a threaded fork with a one-inch steerer tube in the length that I need, so I’ve gone ahead and ordered one up. Instead of my first-choice material of steel (yes, I’m old school) these new forks are carbon  but the price of $90 is right.

So for the next couple days I’ll be riding my Giant roadie — and whether I’m doing 3 mph or 30 you can bet I’ll be looking everywhere but down at the pavement wherever I’m at on the roads.

PS. In case you’re wondering why there’s no video of the mishap, I’m not entirely sorry to say that the back-up battery in the cam at the time had crapped out about half-way home and as I was rather pre-occupied with the upcoming trip and getting home and packed for it, I just kept on going along Jefferson Boulevard when I noticed it had failed, rather than stop and swap in a charged power source.

Besides, I figured it would be just another uneventful ride not worth recording anyway. Ha.

Had I captured it, it undoubtedly would have been an awesome POV of me making a crawling beeline upwards towards and into the butt of the vehicle looming ever larger in the frame until contact occured. Just as I had no choice but to write about it despite my utter embarrassment I would have had no choice but to post it.

There’s a quiz at the end so pay attention as I share what I’ve learned if you ever find yourself cut open by biking into the back of a double-parked minivan and then have to forego a trip to the emergency room for stitches because instead you, your embarrassment, and your bleeding chin have no time for that because you have to pack for an imminent red-eye flight, leaking blood on your best suit jacket as you put it in your carry-on.

Should you end up sleepless on the other side of the country with no time to get anything resembling real food because you and your still weepy head wound have an impending tee time for a round of golf on a PGA-level, 18-hole course you had no business being on to begin with, but even less when your blood-sugar is so depressed and your sleep so deprived, here’s the tip. First just make the best of it. Then get back to your hotel room and don’t even bother to undress before you crash practically comatose for 13 hours.

On the other side of that, when you manage to climb back up into conciousness and at first wonder in all seriousness where and who the hell you are and then find the otherwise unknown (or suppressed) aches and soreness from the previous run-in with the parked vehicle have also manifested (with additional pain and lingering fatigue quantified by the sun exposure and all the golf club over-swinging you did across the links yesterday), you’re best bet is to:

  1. Crumple into a whimpering ball of depthless self-pity?
  2. Man-up, clean-up and take care of business?
  3. Chew ibuprofen like it’s candy and employ alcohol as medicine?
  4. Induce a walk around historic Savannah for its curative properties?
  5. 1 & 3 only?
  6. 2 & 4 only?
  7. 5 & 6 only?
  8. 1, 3 & 4 but not 2?
  9. 2, 3 & 4 but not 1?
  10. 1 – 4 in that specific order?
  11. 1 – 4  not necessarily in that order?

If it’s not clear already, the answer’s No. 11.

Unfortunately no photos exist of No. 1, 2, and 3 so you’re left to enjoy the snaps from my trek. Here’s the set on Flickr.

For better or worse, if there’s one thing you can count on me to relate without restraint it’s the absolutely crazy ass things that happen to me, and the one that happened a block from my house about 4:30 p.m. this afternoon will certainly qualify for Top 10 status if not  No. 1 pick for my personal Hall of Shame.

I’m still deciding whether I need stitches. About eight of ’em it looks like. Maybe 10. Rhymes with chin. What do you think?

Here’s the now: I’m leaving tonight for a biz trip to Savannah. I finished up and got out of the office a little about 3:30 p.m. so I could get home and pack and give every one of my loved ones a few dozen extra hugs and kisses. That alone is making me rationalize against going to get sewn up. While blogging about it. Ha.

Here’s the then: It was an uneventful ride home across Jefferson to Vermont and up through HiFitown into Silver Lake where I soon find myself at the base of the Occidental hill that I need to climb to get to my block and my house. The same one I’ve done scores of times.

Instead of powering up it as I’m feeling kinda beat, I just start cranking up the incline, applying enough thrust to keep the pedals rotating. In English that means I’m doing 3 mph. 4 Max.

But here’s the thing. As a result of my slow exertions I’m up off the saddle with my upperbody weight fully forward and on my arms and I’ve got my head down because I could’ve sworn the roadway was clear. So all I’m seeing as I’m grinding up is the pavement passing under my front tire. In English: I’m not looking forward and seeing that a motherfucking minivan is double parked about midway up the slope.

Holy shit, where’d that come from!?

In a flash, I do see the minivan, about a millisecond before my front tire hits the rear bumper and the rear wheel comes off the ground as I spill over smacking my chin against the rear window before skidding it across the windshield wiper and then somehow I get my feet out of the pedals and dance a bit to the left and don’t fall over. A minor miracle.

I’m feeling three times as surprised as I am stupid and twice as stupid as I am angry, and right about then is when the motherfucking driver of the motherfucking minivan leans out of her motherfucking window wondering what just motherfucking hit her motherfucking minivan.

She finds me, bleeding down my neck and wondering out loud why the hell she was motherfucking double parked.

“I had my hazards on!” She yells in her defense.

“Is your car disabled?” I yell back walking the bike up along the side of the car where I then notice that the impact with the front wheel against her bumper has crumpled the fork backward enough to make the tire rub against the bottom tube. Great!

“No, she answers.

And it’s right then that I see the curb parking available a few feet further up the street.

“Well if you’re not disabled, why didn’t you park in that space that’s available RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOUR GODDAM NOSE!”

“But I had my hazards on!”

“We’ve been over that. Do you think having your hazards on makes it magically OK to double park”

“I was just calling someone,” she said, indicating the cell in her hand and then pointing it at the nearest residence. No doubt she’d been honking prior to calling instead of parking her car right and getting her fat ass out and knocking on the damn door.

Again I ask if that somehow makes it OK to doublepark.

“Well you should have been watching where you were going!” she announced triumphantly.

And I said to her: “You’re absolutely right. Had I been watching where I was going I would not have hit you.”

And she smiled as if she’d won something. I felt blood trickle under the collar of my shirt.

“But let me ask you this: If you had not been illegally double parked, would I have hit you?”


“Let me rephrase the question. Had you been parked legally in the space available just a few feet forward. Would I now be bleeding all over myself instead of home up the street packing for a flight I have to catch?”

She paused defeated and then said “No,” very quietly.

“Now my bike’s fucked up, my head’s fucked up. So lesson learned: don’t fucking double park!” And I rocked the bike onto its rear tire to keep the now-stuck front one off the ground and I walked away home. Because far beyond who was at fault or how badly I might have been wounded, was the embarrassing fact that I’d smacked into the backside of a motherfucking stationery minivan at 3 mph in broad daylight — despite her motherfucking hazards being on.

In short I felt like an idiot and I just had to go. Still do. But whether it’s Savannah or the nearest emergency room — or both — remains to be seen.

I finally was forced to do something Saturday morning I hadn’t had to do since June 29: fill up my truck’s tank. What with all the bicycle riding I’ve been doing, I’d only logged 215 miles on four wheels. In comparison over that same period I biked 1,582.

Gas was $4.69 per gallon at the Silver Lake 76 eight days after the summer solstice. 10.66 gallons cost me $50.02. Saturday, two days before the beginning of fall it was $3.89 at the Silvr Lake Mobil and 11.37 gallons ran me $44.22.

By the way, on Friday night’s ride home from work I crossed beyond the 5,000-mile mark. It happened right here while eastbound on Sunset from Fountain heading toward the junction, with the infamous and derelict “Bates” motel off my port shoulder.

Also of note, this week will mark the fifth anniversary of the beginning of my “Biking For The Birds” ride, in which I spent eight days biking 475 miles from the Golden Gate bridge back to Los Angeles after helping to raise more than $4,000 for an organization dedicated to protecting parrot species.

Here I am on Day No. 4 between Pismo Beach and our destination that day of Lompoc. I believe this is somewhere around the town of Guadalupe (photo by Sherry Kramer a friend of mine  and fellow L.A. Zoo docent who graciously volunteered to pilot a rental car down the coast as vehicular support):

I still haven’t given up the dream of doing a ride benefiting California condor conservation efforts that goes from the state line at Oregon all the way down to the border with Mexico. Some day.