Do you remember him? He’s the little guy who points out the spy, Inspector Javert, then gives his life at the barricade for the cause.
Gavroche has a great song about the power of little people…
Good evening, dear inspector
Lovely evening, my dear.
I know this man, my friends
His name is Inspector Javert
So don’t believe a word he says
‘Cause none of it’s true
This only goes to show
What little people can do!
And little people know
When little people fight
We may look easy pickings
But we’ve got some bite
So never kick a dog
Because he’s just a pup
We’ll fight like twenty armies
And we won’t give up
So you’d better run for cover
When the pup grows up!
Sometimes…honestly…I feel quite insignificant. Like I don’t measure up to everyone around me. But measuring up isn’t really the goal is it? Exploring and giving the best of myself is the goal. Kinda like this little corn stalk. No, he’s not 9′ tall or counted among the great mass of corn stalks in the field, but he’s giving it all he’s got! And that makes him spectacular.
Just like me…and just like you.
(Did I get your attention?)
I’m a cyclist…
A cyclist who has had several close calls with automobiles (including tonight) and even been sideswiped once this year. I wear bright and reflective clothing. I always have a tail light flashing (even in the broad daylight). I’m careful. I get it. I’m a Cyclist!
I’m a driver…
I drive my kids 30 minutes to school every morning. I own a convertable and love to put the top down and just…. drive! I enjoy the country roads. I enjoy the Dan Ryan Expressway. I’m aware. I’m safe. Being a cyclist makes me a better driver. All that to say…
I’m gonna take off my cycling helmet and go on a motorist’s rant.
I had two run-ins this morning with cycling noobs. They didn’t look like noobs, but they acted like noobs.
Scenario #1 – The aggressive kamikazee
This is the guy who approaches a major intersection with cars lined up, and proceeds to pass everyone and run right through turning traffic without ever looking or slowing.
Scenario #2 – The clueless center of attention
(Evidently) This person wanted to turn left across four lanes of traffic. How did I know? Well, she was meandering around and between cars across all lanes through the intersection. When I came to the corner to turn right she was headed right toward me and into my lane. I looked her right in the eye and came to a stop in traffic. She just looked at me and made no indication of what she was doing. Impressive balance, but that’s about all that was impressive.
These are the people that give cyclists a bad name. I’M A CYCLIST AND IT TICKED ME OFF! C’mon you noobs! Get with it and get smart! If you don’t care about your own safety, fine. You wanna be a hood ornament that’s your choice, but I prefer to live without the image of your sorry spandex flying across the hood of my car, and I definitely don’t want my girls learning that cycling is dangerous because you choose to be an idiot!
(deep breaths… deep… cleansing… breaths)
- Use your hand signals people! Do I need to go over this? You point the direction you intend to go. You point down with an open palm when you are slowing down. Not rocket science people.
- Be Predictable. If I’m turning left across traffic I get into the turn lane early and signal the whole way. Leave no doubt in anyone’s mind as to what you will and are doing.
- Talk to Drivers. When I’m at an intersection with a car next to me I wave to the driver and get their attention. Then I tell them, through gestures or actual conversation, what I’m intending to do. “I’m gonna go straight and get all the way over to the right.” Or, “I’m gonna turn left with you but all the way to the outside.”
- Read the Eyes. Make eye contact with every driver who will come into your path. When a car pulls up to the intersection I’m about to go through I will often slow until I look them in the eye. That’s the most certain way to know they see you, and I have found that in some way I can discern their intentions by reading their eyes.
In the end, it’s not always up to you.
You’re going to run into (pardon the pun) clueless automobile drivers. They WILL pull out into your path. They will come too close. For some it doesn’t matter how careful they are, accidents happen. But let’s do the best we can to be as safe as possible. Better to communicate with them before they communicate with us (if you catch my drift. Hand gestures go both ways.).
Enjoy the Ride My Friends!
How about you? What safety tips would you offer? Let’s get a good list going here people!
My purpose in life is to Help Others Win.
If I’m not influencing someone in some positive way I get bored, and this is what has happened to my riding. I’ve grown a bit bored. I’m still riding, but not nearly as inspired. In fact, I received an e-mail this week from one of you noting that my posts have dropped off and wondering if I was doing ok! I’m muddling through but it hasn’t been easy.
“Leadership is Influence.”
– John Maxwell
This last week was interesting though. I got the opportunity…well, FOUR opportunities actually, to help some friends win. Four times I rode with a buddy whom, for one reason or another, had stopped riding, or needed someone to ride with them to keep them going.
- Scott and I last rode together two years ago. He introduced me to what has become one of my favorite routes. Unfortunately, Scott’s holding down two jobs and has a wife and four kids – busy guy!
- Steve and I have talked about riding together, but Steve doesn’t have a road bike and the schedules never seem to match up.
- I learned that Ron was a rider because my daughter takes horseback riding lessons from his daughter. I was spotted passing their house one day (on the route learned from Scott). Then I saw his bike, dust-covered and cob-webbed, hanging in his garage. Ron’s wife invited me to contact him and “encourage” him to get started again (of course I did!).
- Riding with Dave was a complete act of providence. He’s a client of our company and in the process of scheduling a testimonial video I mentioned riding and he invited me to bring my bike to the shoot. What would you do? Of COURSE I brought my bike and we had a great ride together (I then drove three hours home and rode with Ron)!
All of the guys had the same basic concerns… They weren’t ready for any great distance. They would go to slow and “hold me up”. They hadn’t ridden in so long, they would probably just frustrate me.
What a great joy to be able to ride with these guys!
In each case we took an easy pace and just enjoyed the time together. Each trip was about 15 miles long, and completed in an hour (which was faster than most thought they would be riding). We talked about what got us started on the bike and the value riding adds to life. The added value for me was the opportunity to fulfill my purpose again.
“The people who influence you are the people who believe in you.”
– Henry Drummond
Now… Here’s a great discussion for everyone! What’s in your bag (brand names please, I may want to buy it)? Why do you carry it? Why do you feel it is valuable?
And in another direction… what have you heard/witnessed people carry on a ride that you think is utterly crazy, as in, “What the… WHY DO YOU CARRY THAT?!?” Make us laugh people!
Guest poster Jeff Hemmel opens a discussion of one of biking’s most common items.
Recently I came across a discussion of what people carried in their saddle bags. It piqued my interest, because over many years I feel like I’ve really streamlined mine to the true essentials, while still allowing for a few items I’ve come to appreciate from experience…and some people might overlook.
What do I bring along for the ride? I dumped the contents out to jog my memory. Chime in to add anything you think I’ve missed.
A Spare Tube — This one is obvious. A spare tube is there to save the day should you flat on any of the detritus that lines the roads, and as such should be the key item in any saddle bag. Tip? Bicycling magazine recently suggested to wrap a spare in plastic wrap. I guess the idea is to keep it…
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Every once in a while strange things happen.
My ride two nights ago was full of odd things; two trains, a chicken attack, and gnats by the millions! One can’t ride anywhere in rural Indiana without crossing railroad tracks, but in the last three years I’ve never been stopped. Friday night was a first… and a second; TWO trains! No big deal really until my RiderID app (loudly) informed me that I had been immobile for 5 minutes. I wonder what the people in the cars thought as I jumped and quickly removed my earbuds to escape the alarm.
I’ve read a lot about dog spray, and as recently as Tuesday I was riding with a buddy who carries it on his handlebars, but I’ve never needed to carry it for myself. Oh yeah, I’ve had dogs come out after me, and got close to a shit-zhu once, but never have I been chased by a chicken! Well, until Friday! I don’t know what breed of chicken it was, but It’s vicious, with a sharp beak and an angry attitude! Beware this bird my friends, and join me in developing and marketing Chicken spray to the cycling crowd.
Ok, now for the Gnats…
Hundreds… no, thousands… make that MILLIONS of gnats populated the air between miles 5 and 15 of the ride. I was peppered the entire time, so much so that when I met up with my family after the ride my daughter Grace laughed and said, “Dad! You’ve got gnats in your teeth!” I know what you’re thinking… “Floss daily!”
Some interesting things I learned about Gnats…
Gnats glow when flying in the setting sun. Get a few hundred thousand of them together and the air literally sparkles. This is REALLY cool when riding because they fly AT you appearing to be shooting stars. (Honestly, it was really cool!)
- Gnats do NOT taste like chicken, but according to all the survival gurus bugs are “a great source of protein.” If that’s true then I’m sure I swallowed 3-4 grams of Protein. Not my favorite in-ride snack. Now I know why Clif bars don’t come in gnat flavors.
- Gnats that fly up your nose induce nasal drip. I’ll let you think this one through. Trust me, it’s messy…very messy.
Ok, so the things I learned aren’t exactly scientific, but go ahead, test it for yourself. All you need to do is ride through rural Indiana in the evening hours. Oh yeah, and don’t forget to …
Enjoy the Ride.
(Thanks for reading my friends. I appreciate you! Please, share your favorite “bug encounter” story!)
On my Saturday ride I came across something totally unexpected…
(Evidently) the next generation of powered cycling has arrived – Hybrid Bicycles. Have you seen these things? They are absolutely ingenious, and in the right circumstances I am all for it! I’ll explain that later, but first, let me tell you about the Giant Twist, Freedom I saw and the great man who rides it.
The mid-point of my Roanoke circuit is a gas station on US-24. I don’t usually stop, but was a bit low on energy, so I pulled over for a Gatorade and rest. While there an old-timer named Bud pulled in on a brand new Bicycle. He gave me a warm smile and nod as he complimented my bike and entered the station. I casually looked over his bike and upon his return asked about what I was seeing.
His bike is a 2013 Giant Twist Freedom; It’s a hybrid!
Bud explained that a hybrid bike has an electric motor with battery pack and speed control. The motor doesn’t actually power the bike, it ASSISTS the rider. He has two adult daughters that ride with him, and according to Bud, “They pass me easily on the flats, but on the hills I pass ’em then tell them to pick up the pace.” I chuckled (remembering that immediately following this gas station are two of the more significant hills of this ride).
The bike has two panniers on the back, one being storage and the other a removable, rechargeable battery. This battery feeds an electric motor built into the FRONT wheel hub. That seemed an ingenious design to me. On the left handlebar was a basic control with an LED indicating battery power and allowing Bud to choose one of three electric assist levels. I noticed a gear shifter on the right handlebar but only a single rear gear. The 7 speed cassette and derailleur are on the crankset. Again… interesting design.
Bud volunteered that the bike retailed for $1,600 when he first saw it. He made it clear he wanted the bike, but couldn’t afford that price. Over the course of 6 months he waited them out and bought the bike for a little over $1,000. Ah yes… under that wrinkled tan and John Deere hat is a shrewd wheeler-dealer.
I’m something of a cycling purist.
I’m not a fan of the recumbent bike (It’s a recliner people…with wheels!), or the motorized bike for that matter. Some of you are too young to remember the motorized bicycle, but the premise was to put a small gas motor on a (somewhat) standard bike frame. You would pedal the bike as normal, but at some point you could engage the motor, start it by pedaling, then simply allow the gas motor to power the bike for you. I was never a big fan. It seems to me if you’re going to pedal the bike to start the motor why not skip the effort? Save your money and buy the moped! (Again, for the young an explanation; a moped was THE scooter of the 80s and 90s… um, the NINETEEN 80s and 90s.) However, I felt differently about the Hybrid bike. Probably because it assists the rider, it doesn’t take over. To me that’s the important part. Cycling is, in some way, about the relationship between rider and cycle.
The Bottom Line…
Here’s the bottom line for me; the hybrid technology allows my friend Bud, an 80-something year old farmer whose wife of undetermined years passed away of cancer four years ago, to do something he enjoys with people he loves. Without the assistance he wouldn’t be able to ride with his daughters. The tears in those wisened eyes told me this was the most important part of his current life (and as a father of two daughters…I can relate). In the end, that the most important thing isn’t it?
I left a few moments after Bud, and on the far side of the hills just past the gas station I saw something that made me smile. A man wearing a John Deere hat riding a brand new bicycle. I quickly overtook him and passed Bud on his hybrid bike. As I passed he gave me that familiar nod and smile. I simply asked, “Great day for a ride, eh Bud,” and closed with…
“Enjoy the Ride my friend!”
My daughter Grace is Eleven years old and exploring cycling. She has an interest that surpasses her friends’ desire to tootle about the neighborhood, and a father who would love nothing more than to ride the rest of his days with her by his side. Tonight, as we rode the Towpath Trail through Southwest Allen County we saw this hole in the forest wall. It was like a window into a world most people would never see… (pretty cool eh?)
Seeing Things Otherwise Missed
I told Grace that one of the great privileges of riding is that we see things we might otherwise miss. We access places cars can’t go. We cover more territory than walkers/runners. It really is up to us to seize the opportunity to look around and take in everything around us, to use our senses and look, listen, smell, touch and taste all the richness of life.
Shortly after she said to me, “Look Dad! Isn’t that beautiful!”
So, what do YOU enjoy about cycling? I would really love to see a lot of response to this question and people sharing their joy, and (potentially) opening our eyes to new realizations and GREATER fulfillment and passion. Please. Share with me (and us) what you enjoy most about cycling and why you keep coming back to it.
As for me and my Gracie, I am blessed to say we both… together…