Thursday, June 26, 2008

Big Ride Weekend

The Utah MS-150 is this weekend, and I am really looking forward to it.

If you can spare a few minutes and a few dollars, please click on the "sponsor me" link to the right and help me meet my goal of $1,000 to fight this disease.

Honestly, I first registered for an MS Bike Tour because I had heard it was a fun way to do a century ride with friends on a well supported course. While that is certainly true, it's no longer the reason I ride.

I ride because I want to do something for the people who have been diagnosed with MS - Including my sister who was diagnosed the year after my first MS Bike Tour.

I ride because want to do something to prevent more people from learning what it means to live with this disease. Today, there is no cure for multiple sclerosis, and with diagnosis occurring most frequently between the ages of 20 and 50, many individuals face a lifetime filled with unpredictability.

Why You Should Sponsor Me

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society will use funds collected from the Harmons MS Bike Tour to not only support research for a cure tomorrow, but also to provide programs which address the needs of people living with MS today.

Because we can fight this disease by simply riding a bike, because we have chosen to help thousands of people through a contribution to the Harmons MS Bike Tour, we are now getting closer to the hour when no one will have to hear the words, "You have MS."

Monday, June 16, 2008

Bad Cop, No Donut

I got pulled over last Friday night.

JuniorClimber got a job as a janitor at our local county recreation center. He is working from 6:00 PM to 10:00 PM most nights. Since he doesn't yet have his driver's license and doesn't want to hassle with lights for his bike Mrs. GC and I get to shuttle him around, or at least pick him up when it is dark.

So around five after ten I jumped into the car and headed down the street. I try to be a conscientious driver, driving the speed limit and signalling; I think being a cyclist helps with that. I pulled into the parking lot and through the pick-up / drop-off zone and barely had to stop since Junior was waiting on the curb and got right into the car.

We pulled back onto the street and headed to McDonalds, passing a sheriff's car sitting right outside the entrance to the parking lot. We pulled up to the intersection and the lights behind me were flashing. I was shocked! I really didn't think I had done anything wrong.

The officer came to the window and asked for my license. When I handed it to him he asked "Why did you pull in there like that?" I was completely confused because I was think "I pulled over because you pulled me over!?!?".

Turns out he had come up behind me when I pulled out onto the street in front of my house, and thought it was suspicious when I pulled into the dark rec center and then back out so fast. When he saw that we were father and son and had a 'believable' story he sent us on our way.

The Aftershock
Sitting in the drive through, I started to get a little frustrated. I had visions of "may I have your papers please". I had made legal maneuvers, signaled and pulled into and out of a public parking space. It is irritating that I was subjected to a police action for doing nothing more than picking up my son from work.

I wonder if I should have behaved differently. It seems I could have asked for what I was being stopped before providing my ID, but then again, being oppositional likely constitutes probable cause for a search.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Two-Wheeled Wonder in Errandsville

Eric Sorensen had an excerpt of his book Seven Wonders for a Cool Planet published in a recent edition of Sierra Magazine under the title Two-Wheeled Wonder. I highly recommend you go read it before it disappears into the nether-net, even if you are not a cyclist. Here are a couple of excerpts:
The bicycle is a masterpiece of physics. It harnesses human muscle power directly to that old-time marvel--the wheel--and yields a vehicle more energy efficient than any other devised, ever, by anyone. A human on a bicycle is more efficient (in calories expended per pound and per mile) than a train, truck, airplane, boat, automobile, motorcycle, skateboard, canoe, or jet pack. Cycling is more efficient than walking, which takes three times as many calories per mile.
This introduction reminds me on one of the UTA Blue Bikes I see downtown every May.
You can see more blue bike pictures here.

There is a great point in the article about how we regard bicycles in the U.S. compared to the way they are seen in the rest of the world:
Bicycles outnumber automobiles almost two to one worldwide, and their production outpaces cars by three to one. Rush-hour traffic in China is dominated by these human-powered vehicles. Even in the wealthy cities of Europe and Japan, a large share of the populace gets around by bike. Only here is it treated as little more than a plaything.
It's always been frustrating to me the way mass market chains treat bicycles as toys. It seems like most chains use their bicycle section to mark the transition from Toys to Sporting Goods. In the never ending battles of alternative transportation advocacy it seems we are always trying to chip away at the perception that bikes are toys for children and eccentrics. I long for the day when parents look at buying their child a first bike the same way they would when buying a child a first car - take it seriously, buy quality, and teach them to ride right.

Finally, I am going to adopt his term 'Errandsville':
While advertising sells cars and trucks as tools for the open road, most often they help us inhabit a small daily realm--"Errandsville"--defined by home, store, job, and school. Many of these trips are easily bikable--or walkable--even on roads designed without bicycles or pedestrians in mind.
A topic for another post is Complete Streets v. Bike Lanes, but it is my experience that there are very few places I go to in my normal daily life that can't be easily reached by bicycle. I can arrive at most places without using any high speed / high traffic thoroughfares.

So, thanks Eric. Your book is on order at my local library and I have a hold on the first copy that makes it to the shelves.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

What's in a Name?

Since announcing the purchase of my new ride an interesting phenomenon has occurred. Several people have asked what I have named my new bike. Did I miss something? Is this a requirement for being part of the serious cycling community?

I have always known there were people out there who named their bikes, cars and other important inanimate object. I have never been one of them. That's not to say I don't remember fondly the various sets of wheels I have used to transport myself around this fair world:
  • A dark green Coast-to-Coast secondhand bike I got from my grandparents. My first 10-speed.
  • A brand new Schwinn Le Tour Lux I bought with money saved from delivering newspapers (and some matching funds from my parents). I crashed the first time I did my paper route on it when a neighbor kid ran out in the street in front of me. I rode that bike everywhere for a couple of years.
  • A blue and white 1976 Volkswagen Van that was my primary vehicle when I got my license, and that threw rods when I aggressively down shifted on the way to a date. Missing that date was the beginning of the end of my first 'serious' high school romance.
  • A 1976 Datsun Pickup. Mustard yellow, this truck was backed into in the school parking lot by one of my best friends, and one of the only friends from high school that I still hang out with after 20 years.
  • A red cruiser bike that I rode in San Jose Dos Campos, Brazil while on a religious mission. This bike had to have weighed at least 40 pounds, and was such a pain to ride that instead I would walk miles and miles each day.
  • A tan Mercury Lynx, the first car I actually bought for myself, and the one I was sitting in when I gave Mrs. GeekCyclist her engagement ring.
  • A woody side Plymouth Volare that belonged to Mrs. GC when we got married, that was always breaking down. My dad took pity on use when we moved from Illinois to Utah and bought it from us for $500.
There have been others, but I swear, I don't think I ever consciously considered naming any of those vehicles.

Should I Conform?

So, now I am left wondering...should I succumb to the pressure and give my new bicycle a name? And if I do, am I required to name the other steeds in the stable?

Currently I have the following bikes:
  • The new hotness - An '07 Specialized Roubaix Comp
  • The tried and true, even if a little creaky - An '02 Novara Randonee Touring Bike
  • The old and a little rusty beater - A '92 Mtn Tek Verticle - A rigid fork hard tail that I started commuting to work on.
If you name your bikes I like to hear about it in the comments. If you feel strongly about what I should name the new hotness I am open to suggestions. The obvious 'Ruby' has already crossed my mind but I am not sure it feels right. Maybe because bikes aren't really supposed to have names...what do I know?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A Smooth New Ride

It's terrible to think that this is possible, but my wife bought my love this week.

After many years of riding an excellently functional Novara Randonee touring bike, Mrs. GeekCyclist gave me a significant budget to buy a new bicycle for fathers-day.

This is the result:19 pounds of buttery-smooth carbon fiber Specialized Roubaix Comp sweetness, full Shimano 105, Mavic Open Pro wheels...

Okay, so you have to be a bike person to appreciate this, but I am a bike person...and every time I look at it I want to giggle like a school girl.

Mrs. GeekCyclist would want me to tell you that this bike is named after the hometown of her royal French ancestors through Pierre Apollonaire de Roubaix. (I hope I spelled that right.)

That picture doesn't quite do it justice, so here is one 'lifted' from the Specialized site:

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Giving it up for

On a local message board someone posted a message last week about ChainLove is a subsidiary of, a retailer that also operates, and other outdoor gear sites.

ChainLove, for lack of a better description, operates on a QVC model. They list one item for sale at a steep discount and sell them until they are gone. I am not entirely sure that the 'until they are gone' part is completely true; it seems like they have switched items with some inventory left, and I have seen the same items listed multiple times. SteepAndCheep, DogFunk and several of the others operate on the same model but specialize in different subsets of outdoor gear.

Here are some samples of what I have seen recently:
  • Pearl Izumi Men's Veer Short-Sleeve Cycling Jersey ($18.75/list $54)
  • Oakley Men's Compression Short ($12.50 / $84.95)
  • Northwave Kameleon 3 MTB Shoe ($49.00 / $139.95)
  • SockGuy Cycling Sock 4-Pack ($11.00 / $39.95)
  • Fizik Rondine MG ICS Bike Saddle ($22.86 / $83.30)
The shipping costs seem pretty reasonable as well. I purchased a couple of jerseys last week, and then I noticed that I was charged sales tax. I looked more closely and realized that not only is a local Utah company, their main warehouse and showroom is right on one of my primary bike commuting routes to work. I rode out there and had them pull my order and they credited the shipping cost back to my card.

A Customer Service Story

Please note, I have no interest in turning this site into a customer service review site; but I have to share some of these experiences.

Saturday they were running a Bar Tape deal for something like $5.70, so I ordered two sets. When checking out I typed something like the following in the shipping instructions:
Hold for local pickup.
Around 1:00 today I got a notice in my email that my order had shipped, so I sent an email:

I appreciate the quick shipping service, even on the weekend.

I would have appreciated it more if someone had read the Shipping
Instructions that read "Hold for local pickup". Eight bucks is
expensive shipping to send my ten dollar order 40 blocks, especially
when I ride my bike right past your place every morning and afternoon
on my way to and from work.

What is the best way for me to make sure my orders get held at your warehouse?

About 30 minutes later I got a response back:
I do apologize for the inconvenience. I have given you a credit of $7.56 for your shipping. I recommend using's Live Chat as the fastest and easiest way. Open up a window, in the upper right of the screen there is Live Help button, click on that to chat with a representative. Then copy and paste your order number into the chat and you are good to go. You can also call at 1-800 409 4502.
I really didn't expect any kind of credit, just a hint on the best way to arrange local pickup. I still think that the shipping instructions should have been enough. But, money back and easy instructions for the future, that seems like a great way to 'fix' this minor gaffe.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Blackburn (Bell) Customer Service

Over the last few years that I have been trying to pay attention, there has been a fairly significant level of consolidation in the bicycling related industries. I may not have all of these right, but I seem to remember:
I am sure there are many others. It is usually assumed that when there are consolidations like this, that competition and customer service are areas that suffer. Anecdotally, it does seem like the 'deals' at Nashbar and Performance are not quite as good as they used to be; there are fewer coupons as well.

Replacing A Pump

At work we have a cage in the parking garage that provides more secure parking for bicycles. When the cage was built three years ago I asked a couple of regular riders to pitch in a few bucks and went to the LBS. I came back with a Blackburn Track Pump. The pump served us well, but the presta portion of the dual head has worn out.

Thinking I could buy a replacement head I called Bell Sports, the parent company of Blackburn. After explaining what I needed I was told that heads for that pump were no longer available. I told the customer service rep. that I would just go buy a new pump...

"Wait.", she said. "All our pumps carry a lifetime warranty, please hold on for a minute." When she came back on the phone she said "I have ordered a new Air Tower pump as a replacement for you."

She collected my mailing address, and eight days later the bike cage became the home for a new Blackburn pump.

I guarantee you, every opportunity I have, I will think twice before choosing another manufacturers product over one built by Blackburn.