06 July 2011

Bike-commute day 48—to work
Flat and HitchHiking

Wednesday, 6 July 2011.

Just after the second checkpoint, I saw a cyclist ahead of me taking a leisurely pace. As I reached him, I saw his hair flying. I warned him for the overtaking, saw no reaction, and I glanced at him as I passed. Earbuds were wrapped around his lobes.

I slowed to a crawl in the winding area between the crossings for Springfield Street and North Smithville and waited for him to reach me. I said, "You should take one of those earbuds out so you can hear traffic while you're riding."

"But I can hear you. The music's not on now." He was in the early twenties, his neck-length brown curls were disheveled from the ride. His gentle features were countered by a jutting lower jaw, tightening expression, and narrowed eyes.

In response to more about the need to hear traffic, he said, "Why don't you mind your own business. I can do what I want."

Sure, I can ride on by, mind my own business, and let him think that it's fine to ride without a helmet and to close out the traffic sounds around him. Perhaps he doesn't need a reminder that 175 pounds of flesh and bike are no match for 1800 pounds of power and auto. That even a slow speed of 12 mph means he covers 17.6 feet before he has a second to reach for the brakes. That a helmet often means the difference between minor injuries and death.

Was I wasting my breath, my time to continue talking to a young rider who assumes his invulnerability?

Doesn't the biking community need to take on a more visible public education role, where cyclists are taught about preventing and surviving accidents, motorists are encouraged to share the road and obey marked crossings, and all are taught to follow traffic laws and provide basic courtesy to others?

I considered these questions and others as I continued through my commute.

In the middle of the last leg of the commute, everything was going fine. Nice speed, little traffic, friendly greetings from the cyclists and walkers. And in one moment, I heard "Phiss phiss phiss" and then "phew, phew; phew. Phew." as I slowed to a stop.

A flat, judging by the sound. I looked at and felt the front tire: hard and perfectly inflated. Then the back tire: very soft, though it wasn't completely deflated yet. The air escape had stopped, and I rotated the tire to find what had caused the flat. I noticed a few points where fabric was showing through the rubber, and those were indications of what to expect. And when I rubbed my thumb over several threads that showed through the rubber, the fissure appeared, tube rubber popped through, and more air escaped.

With no chance of changing the tire itself, I lifted the bike to my shoulder and started walking toward Woodman Avenue, only 300 yards ahead of me. —Just enough time to say hi to Paul, this time without his two dogs, as he jogged passed me.— Once at Woodman, I took off my helmet and sunglasses, put on my happiest smile, and held out my thumb to the passing southbound traffic. After a wave of traffic passed, I looked behind me to check for adequate room for someone to stop. I moved about 30 feet north, to the end of a long, empty side lane intended for parking access to businesses.

Several waves of traffic passed, and I held up my thumb selectively. I knew that female drivers were unlikely to pick up a male hitchhiker, unless they happened to know me and work at Kodak also. Since my fixed-gear bike has bolted-on wheels, it wouldn't fit in most cars. And since drivers of business vehicles are usually scrupulous about liability issues, I held out my thumb only to male drivers of non-commercial pickups and vans.

I noticed a bronze Ford F-150 in the northbound lane make a u-turn at the light. The pickup pulled into the parking lane in front of me, and the driver waved for me to advance. I walked up to his window, and he said, "My wife is a biker. Figured I'd want someone to stop for her, so I should do the same." So I lifted the bike from my shoulder to the truck bed and climbed into the cab. He asked where I was headed, and he saw no problem with the side trip to Research Park from his normal course down Woodman. He even offered the use of his cellphone if I needed to call in to the office, though the travel to Kodak took less time than a phone call. The time was enough for introductions, a bit of talk about his wife's triathlons and his mountain biking at MoMBA, and quick interjected directions to the engineering entrance to the building.

Ride conditions
Temperature: 69 to 72°F at 07:55
Precipitation: none
Winds: calm
Clothing: Skinsuit, ankle socks, open-finger gloves.
Bike: Lotus Legend fixed gear
Time:  00:36:28 for 9.95 miles
Heart rate: 125 bpm HRave, 141 bpm HRmax
Bikeway users: 9 cyclists, 7 pedestrians, 1 dog
Here is a playback of the ride.


Frank said...


I hate to say it, but you were wasting your breath with that guy wearing earbuds. It is incredibly stupid, and people who do that are just asking for an accident. However, they are shutting out the world anyway, so they aren't going to let you intrude.

Nonetheless, I applaud your conscientiousness.


Madison Squash Workshop said...

How long have you been riding a bike and why is it that you don't have tools to change a tire? And more importantly, why are you riding on tires with exposed threads? One could make the argument that tires in that poor of condition are equally as dangerous as riding with earbuds.

Tom G said...

Hey Damon, thanks for the gentle nag. I should have made clear that indeed could have changed a tube with the tools in my under-the-seat bag. But I don't carry a spare tire.

And you are absolutely correct: a weekly check of the bike should include inspecting the tires for signs of wear. A blow-out (very possible with worn tires) could result in an end-o and injury. Good point, well taken.


Madison Squash Workshop said...

I guess we never taught you how to boot a tire. Take a dollar bill or an empty gel packet or clif wrapper and slide it between the tube and the tire. It'll get you home. Or to work, as the case may be.