What your cyclist doesn’t want for Christmas

December 4, 2014 § 45 Comments

He’s already angling. “Honey, we’ll take a family ski trip again this year!”

“Oh, great! The kids will love it and we’ll have some time together,” you say.

“I’m really excited about it! Also, there’s a really cool wheelset I’ve had my eye on for Christmas.”

Or maybe it’s a new frame, or a new electro drivetrain, or whatever. But it’s not something that will save your cyclist’s life every single day: It’s not a full-bore head and rear taillight.

“Oh, Pooky doesn’t need lights!” you say. “I don’t let him ride at night.”

Well, I’m not talking about riding at night. A powerful headlamp with a 4-hour blink mode and a powerful taillight with an equivalent blink time is the single biggest safety upgrade your wanker will never make. If I had to choose between riding without a helmet and riding without my daytime lights, I’d forego the helmet ten out of ten times.

Why? Because in the daytime we are constantly dealing with cagers in front who are exiting driveways, exiting parking lots, pulling away from the curb, turning into traffic, and merging into traffic. The flashing headlamp invariably gets the attention of the few drivers who never even see us and arrests their development.

More importantly, the front flashing headbeam gets the attention of the cagers who already see us, which is the vast majority. The problem is that although they see us, the average cager has terrible depth perception and an even worse ability to judge our speed. That’s why so many drivers look us square in the eye even as they haul out in front of us. We’re on bikes. How fast can we really be?

The flashing headlight has a hypnotic effect on the cager contemplating a quickie pull-out. It pierces the multiple levels of dumb, the thickened callus of maroon, and spears deep into the tiny, pealike structure that devolved from its hominid-like brain. Once the neuron-like signal of “bright flashing light” strikes the tiny, shrunken, dessicated cager brain, it causes a chain reaction. The next thought is “Duh … ” followed by “Flashing light mean danger maybe,” followed by “Keep concrete foot on brake pedal thingy until blinky go bye-bye.”

In the six or seven seconds it takes the cager to process this complex thought, your cyclist honey has zipped on past. I’ve experienced this countless times. The flashing headlamp in daylight works.

The flashing taillight has an even stronger effect on cagers approaching from your honey’s cute and compact rear. The red light screams “DUI checkpoint!” and automatically causes cagers to slow. By drawing their attention to your cyclist’s hunky bottom, the cagers then give a wide berth, or at least the light focuses them long enough not to clip you when they pass.

Do your honey a favor and make sure that he/she gets a pair in his/her stocking.

“But Wanky!” you say. “What kind should I get?”

Glad you asked.

The power of a bike light is measured in lumens. More lumens means more light means more money means fewer purchases of neck braces and Tegaderm. For the headlamp you want a minimum of 500 lumens, but given the low cost you can easily go to 750.

Serfas has an awesome 750 headlamp that clips to the handlebar, recharges with a USB connection, and will stun the average cager for long enough to sneak past his bumper. There’s no reason to get the excellent and $20 cheaper 550. For $160, which is less than a pair of nice bib shorts, less than half a good pair of shoes, and roughly the price of two decent tires, you can equip your wanker with something that will keep him alive.

For your fanny, a great choice is the retina-searing Serfas 80-lumen taillight. This is like a lighthouse beacon combined with a fire engine light and neon strip club sign. It has a blinky mode that will run for hours and keep all manner of bad drivers alert to your existence.

Now, I can hear the objections. “My wanker already has a light!”

I know. I’ve seen it. It’s a puny little blinky thing that you can only see when you’re ten feet away. Please toss these inferior, false-sense-of-security things in the trash. Even if your biker has a good light, say 350 lumens, now is the time to upgrade. Remember, this is the person who thinks nothing of tossing $2k on a pair of wheels that will be toast in a season and that won’t even get him on a podium. When it comes to lights, think “upgrade.” The power goes up every year as the cost goes down. If you’re going to cheapass your bike stuff, cheapass the arm warmers. Don’t skimp on the lights.

The final objection will of course come from the rider himself. “I ain’t riding that during the day. It weighs too much/It looks stupid/I ride with a group/It’s too much of a pain to charge it.”

You can deal with all of these objections by pointing out that your cyclist is a bleeding maroon and telling him that the only time weight and cool matter is on race day. The rest of the time it’s his job to come home alive and in one piece. If you have to, withhold. Girls will know what I mean.

So, there you have it. Merry Christmas!

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My droopy sack

September 26, 2014 § 45 Comments

I thought I was the only person with a droopy sack until I saw my buddy Pablo post about the same problem on Facebag. It is quite embarrassing when your bag doesn’t hang tight against your post and sort of droops and sags. Like Pablo’s, at times mine droops so low I have to reach down with both hands to haul it back up. Maybe because of age or overuse, no matter how often I grab my sack and pull it up, after a while it sags back down.

There are lots of cyclists out there with droopy sacks, and it’s a big problem. For one, your sack is where you keep your multi-tool, and it can be a big headache when you’re trying to get to your tool but your sack is just dangling around. Part of the reason my sack dangles is because it’s mostly empty. This makes it flop from side to side. Back in the day when I was young, my sack was always snug up against the post, and it was always full. I think having a full sack made it more stable.

Unfortunately, none of the things I’ve tried have worked. My first attempt involved grabbing my sack with one hand and then with the other tightening a strap around it. Too much pressure on the sack makes it bulge, though. My second attempt was to just shift it over a bit, but it seems like the sack itself is unbalanced, as one side of the sack hangs down lower than the other. I think that may be because of the contents of the sack.

Some riders have done away with their sack entirely, and they just stuff their tool in their jersey. I’ve tried it, but with your tool in your jersey pocket it sometimes pokes you in the back, which is uncomfortable. Plus, the tool itself is quite hard and can rip through the jersey fabric. Still other riders have actually replaced their sack with a smaller one. I can’t imagine jamming all that stuff into a tiny bag.

Anyway, I’ve had this sack for a long time and it has served me well. For now the best solution is simply to reach down and grab my bag when it dangles too low, shove it back up and readjust the way I’m sitting to keep my thighs from batting it to and fro. It can get whacked pretty hard if you bat your sack with your thighs by mistake, but generally this seems to work fine. If anyone out there on the Internet has any good ideas about how to handle a really droopy sack, let me know. My current sack is a medium-sized Serfas, with two zippers and a clip-on belt for a light or rear reflector, and it easily holds two tubes and cartridges, as well as my tool.

END

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We’ll keep the light on for ya

January 15, 2014 § 81 Comments

I was pedaling along Anza. This lady passed me so close I could smell her moist panties even though the windows to her SUV were shut tight.

“Fuck,” I thought, wondering if Sherri Foxworthy would be angry because it had taken two full sentences to launch the f-bomb. “That was closer than a porn star’s razor.”

The real problem, aside from being insane-as-proven-by-the-decision-to-ride-a-bike-to-work, was clear. How can I keep the murderers and negligent-homiciders from plowing me under?

Hundreds of commutes had given me the knowledge to classify cagers as follows:

  1. Scumfucks who intentionally want to kill me.
  2. Dumbfucks who don’t know I’m there.
  3. Law enforcement.
  4. Babes who think I’m hot.

The fact is that Scumfucks Who Intentionally Want to Kill Me have the upper hand and can’t be denied. So when my number is up, I hope you’ll attend my funeral and NOT say anything sappy like “He died doing what he loved.” Instead, I hope you’ll be profoundly drunk and barf on the curb, apologizing for your bad manners. Law Enforcement are similarly irrelevant. They have guns and handcuffs and radios. Whatever they do, even if it involves murdering innocent homeless people in Fullerton, gets a pass. Babes Who Think I’m Hot currently number approximately one, and that’s a generous estimate.

So that leaves us with Dumbfucks Who Don’t Know I’m There.

“Yo, Dumbfucks Who Don’t Know I’m There!” I thought. How can I let you know I’m there?

The answer, like full frontal nudity, was right in front of me: Lights!

The guinea pig is me

I once had pet guinea pigs, Uncle Albert and Admiral Halsey. They were awesome and smart and cuddly and they squeaked for dinner. They also pooped little oblong guinea pig poops, which didn’t stink and were easily cleaned. Anyone who would experiment on these harmless and loving creatures is a complete fucking douchebag. When it comes to cycling, however, I decided to try a new technique to ward off the Dumbfucks Who Don’t Know I’m There. How? By running my front Serfas 500 on “blinky” mode, and my rear Serfas taillight on “blinky” mode DURING THE DAY.

Guess what, wankers? When the average cager is faced with blinking lights … he/she backs off!

That’s right. If you run your front blinky during the day you will find that cagers hesitate before darting out in front of you, give you the right of way, and if you’re not too big of an asshole to smile and wave, they will smile and wave back. Then, the rear-approaching cagers, upon seeing your rear taillight, will give you a wide berth or, because they know how to drive, will buzz the shit out of you but do it consciously — you’re in no danger because they see you and know the dimensions of their cage and aren’t about to run you over.

In short, run your fuggin’ headlamp and taillight during the day. The morons will see you and give you a wide berth when they pass, or they will buzz the shit out of you BUT WILL HAVE SEEN YOU AND KNOW WHAT THEY’RE DOING.

Keep the lights on. Really. It will save your life, or at least get you to the next cold beer.

This PSA brought to you by Port Brewing’s Wipeout IPA. And me.

Your LBS to the rescue

January 25, 2013 § 26 Comments

A lot of the time I write about things that never happened outside the four corners of my skull. Rarely do I write about things that really did happen, just as they happened. “Rarely” as in “Never.”

The other day, though, I posted a rant about night lights. The object of my derision was Nite Rider and the cost of replacing the power pack, which was more than the entire unit. I switched to Serfas for my headlight, as I’d had such great results with my Serfas taillight.

Naturally, a few days after getting the new headlight, the Serfas 500, and being very pleased with it, I became very displeased with it. It had the dangerous and terrifying defect of shutting off every time I went over a bump.

“Well,” said one useless biker friend, “quit going over bumps.”

It also shut off at high speeds from road vibrations. Same friend: “You shouldn’t be going fast at night.”

So I went off for a bit on Serfas in a blog post, never expecting that Serfas would get in touch with me to remedy the problem.

And they didn’t.

However, a day or so after excoriating the product, my phone rang, or my email rang. I can’t remember which.

“Hi, Seth. This is Bob down at Bike Palace.”

“Hey, Bob.”

“You know that Serfas light you’re having trouble with?”

“Do I ever.” For a few seconds I wondered why he was calling about the light. To complain, maybe, about my rash treatment? After all, I’d bought the light from the PV Bicycle Center, which was now shuttered.

“Why don’t you bring it down to the shop and let me swap it out for you?”

“Huh?”

“Yeah, we’ve got several in stock. Just drop it off and we’ll give you a new one. They’re great lights and it sounds like you got a dud. Glad to put you onto a new one.”

“Wow, Bob,” I said. “Thanks.”

“You bet,” he said.

A few days later I was down at the Bike Palace in San Pedro, where Bob and owner Tony Jabuka took back the light they had never sold me, and put a new one in my trembling little hands. “Ride safe,” said Bob.

“Thanks, man. I will.”

When’s the last time that happened with a bike shop that you only patronize on the Internet? Right. Me, either.

News from around the Empire

January 18, 2013 § 11 Comments

As of today I’m free at last, free at last, thank Dog almighty I’m free at last. “Why?” you ask. Because henceforth when I get asked The Question(s) about The Cyclist I get to say, after thoughtfully furrowing my brow, this: “Well, it’s a good question. I suggest you go out and ride your bicycle in order to answer it.”

Elbow testing: Junkyard thwacked his rebuilt elbow yesterday at the start of the NPR, right where the electronic circuitry connected to the shoulder bone, which was connected to the brain bone, which was connected to the new PV Kit bone, which got shredded and tore a hole bigger than Dallas. The ‘bow, however, is rock solid minus a touch of cosmetic road wear. They DID build him better than he was before.

Bellyflop: Neumann/aka Hockeystick/now known as “Belly” did a track stand at the turnaround on the NPR, had his wheel chopped, and tumbled off his bicycle. No harm done, and he was quickly helped by Rahsaan. He did, however, bounce when he hit. I’ve never seen that before. Belly, time to try the South Bay Wanker Diet. It’s painful, but it works and it’s free. PS: Track stands in the middle of swirling roadie packs = Numbskullish.

First blood: Charon Smith scored his first win of the year at Ontario last week, finishing so far ahead of the field that he had time to completely recover from his sprint effort and shave his head by the time he crossed the line. The finish photo shows everyone with teeth gritted, faces twisted, bodies hunched over the bars looking like they’re running from a zombie army, and Charon with arms raised, mouth closed, and no visible signs of exertion as he cruises to the win. I’m pretty sure there were some intense post-race team huddles at MRI/Monster Media, and they went like this:

“Don’t ever let it finish in a bunch sprint again, dogdammit!”

“I told you we’re going to have to break away to win! Only way to outsprint Charon is by making him do the 1/2 races, where he belongs.”

“We can’t have him in a break, ever!”

“At CBR we’ll attack the entire race until we get away!”

“If we work together with the other 99 riders in the race, we might have a chance!”

Etc.

By the way, good luck with that plan!

Get ready for CBR: The first South Bay crit of the year happens on Sunday when Chris Lotts puts on the Dominguez Hills Anger Crit Thingy. Please show up to support local road racing in SoCal. Yes, you’ll be pack meat, just like last year. So what?

Winter’s over: The South Bay endured seven (some say eight) days of brutal winter this month, where early temperatures got down to 39, and the highs never crested 65. Thankfully, the bitter temperatures are over, and we’re slowly returning to lows in the high 40’s, highs in the high 70’s. Don’t put away your heavy winter clothing yet, but for sure rotate it to the back of the closet.

Bad wind news: G$ is in Scottsdale testing his bike position in a wind tunnel. Great. A faster G$. Just what those of us in the Elderly Fellows category need.

Gitcher waffle on: The Belgian Waffle Ride is set for April 7, 2013. It will be the hardest one-day ride of the year, where chicken tactics, wheelsucking, and letting others do all the work will earn you nothing more than infamy and a purple card. This will be first and foremost a contest between you and the road. Finish it and you’ll know satisfaction!

Mad props to Dorothy: The 2012 cyclocross season has ended in SoCal, and it couldn’t have gone better or been done without the extraordinary efforts and work and innovation and enthusiasm of Dorothy Wong. I bailed after about ten races. That shit is hard. Next year, which I suppose would be this year, I’ll be in for the whole season now that I know what I’m in for. Thanks to Dorothy for making ‘cross such a success.

Equipment flail: After dissing on my Night Rider lighting system and replacing it with the tube-shaped Serfas light, I can happily report that the Serfas is far superior except that it shuts off every time I hit a bump, and after about four or five bumps it won’t restart without a 1-minute pause or longer. That’s a long-ass time when you’re bombing down VdM on Bull’s wheel at dark-thirty. For $150.00 you’d almost expect something that would work, but then you remember, “It’s an elite cycling product, so of course it’s a pile of shit unless you spend at least $500.00.”

Smooth looking skin: Since incorporating kimchi into my diet, Mrs. Wankmeister has advised me that my skin is softer, more lustrous, and gradually shedding the leathery, scaly, rough, scabbed-over look that comes with road cycling. Though I don’t give a rat’s ass about the  beauty aspect, I do believe that healthier skin will stave off the skin cancer in my future for at least a year or two, and Professor Google confirms that kimchi is the wonderfood for healthy skin. The downside of course are the kimchi farts. Those things are vicious, however, they too have a beneficial effect on skin, as anyone on your wheel gets an instant facial dermal peel when one of those suckers rips into their face. You have to be careful, though, because they can also melt the polarizing slits on your expensive cycling glasses.

Shine a light on me

December 23, 2012 § 25 Comments

I still see bikers riding at dusk, or just before dawn, or sometimes even at night, without a headlight.

They are stupid or cheap or both. They are going to get run over by a car. They are going to spend thousands to fix their stupid bones and their stupid bike, they are going to lose income from being bound to a hospital bed and peeing through a tube, their wifeband is going to fucking ream them to a fare thee well because s/he never approved of cycling anyway, and the jarheaded cop is going to assign them liability for the accident, cutting off a lawsuit and potential recovery against the offending driver.

They are going to spend tens of thousands to fix themselves, when they could have prevented the whole mess with a $150.00 purchase.

Oh, and of course they didn’t stint on the $2,500.00 racing wheelset, and no, they don’t race.

Stupid and cheap people don’t deserve death or horrible injury just because they’re stupid and cheap, but the world often disagrees.

The temerity of the review

I’m usually first impressed, then quickly contemptuous of, people who review new cycling products. It’s impressive because the responsibility is so enormous, and blogger/Bicycling Mag types seem to assume it for no more than a free shipment of swag.

When you review a product you’re telling people how to spend their money. This is like telling them how to do their job, or how to talk to their wife, or what school to send their kids to, or which religion to believe in, only way more personal than those things.

For cycling crap, reviews are more than telling people “buy this, not that.” Depending on the product, reviews are also saying “trust your life with this, not that.”

I’m thinking tires. Glasses. Brakes. Frames. Shoes. Wheels. I’m thinking any of those numerous items on a bike which, when they catastrophically fail, can result in catastrophic injury.

I get contemptuous of the new product review pretty quickly when the product is one of those things we depend on to keep us alive when we cycle. Why? Because there’s no way to review a new product on one of its most important qualities: Durability.

The reviewer may see his mailbox regularly fill with free crap, but most cyclist consumers buy shit and use it for a long time, often way past the expiration date. Shakes the Clown comes to mind, the only cyclist I’ve ever seen actually wear out the color neon yellow. He wore this hideous jersey for so many decades that the unfadable color finally faded.

Or John Saggyshorts, what about him? Dude wore out the stretch in his lycra such that the bottoms of his shorts look like flair jeans. He doesn’t care. he’s in his 70’s, and he knows that bell bottom shorts will be in fashion again someday. Not they ever were, of course.

These cheapskates, and millions like them, are going to buy the product you recommend after careful thought and comparison, and they’re going to use it until the end of time or until it falls apart, whichever comes first. So the reviewer who slap-happily gives a “two thumbs up” to some product that hasn’t been battle tested over thousands and thousands of miles, varying conditions, and preferably a couple of years, is doing a service to no one but himself (gets more free swag) and the manufacturer.

Which, by the way, is fine, as long as it’s disclosed, which it never is, with a disclaimer like this: “WARNING: This is a bullshit review of a bullshit product that has not really been tested against the conditions in which you will use it for the length of time that you will use it. I’m a paid whore for [—–] and my opinions count for shit.”

A quick overview on headlights v. taillights

Bike shops are replete nowadays with salamander lights. These are headlights and tailights whose beam is no bigger around than the rectum of a salamander. This is the kind of light I’m talking about, and the market is flooded with them. I’ve seen countless “serious” cyclists with these or their equivalent strapped to their bike. They are stupid and pointless and a waste of money and when seen from behind cannot be seen from behind. When used to illuminate what’s in front of you they don’t illuminate what’s in front of you. They do, however, identify you as a stupid cheapass.

Since there’s some confusion about what a bicycle light should do, let’s first cover the basics.

  1. Taillight: This should blind anyone behind you and alert them to your miserable existence. It should be so red, and so bright, and so screamingly obvious that the driver coming up behind you should wonder whether or not you’re an emergency vehicle. I’m talking about something like this. How do I know it works? Fellow cyclists beg me to shut it off when I meet up with the group and they have to ride behind me. Since getting this thing two years ago, on my nightly commute cars swerve wide to pass where they once used to pass so closely that I’d regularly get brownshorts. The taillights’s purpose is not to save weight, or to be aero, or to awesomely blend into the architecture of your frame. It’s to keep the fucking traffic from crushing and killing you. So, take a look at your taillight, and if it’s not the brightest, most annoying, badass beam of death out there, throw it in the trash and get a real one. Can’t afford the $60.00 price tag? Then how the hell are you going to afford the catheter that drains the excess fluid off your brain post-collision?
  2. Headlight: This is not really to let people know you’re there. It’s to light the roadway in front of you. So there’s no sense in having a “blinking” front light unless your eyes open and shut uncontrollably and everything’s a strobe to you anyway. The headlight should be a powerful beam. How powerful? So powerful that when a skunk or possum runs across your path, the beam clearly illuminates his spinal cord underneath the fur and skin. So powerful that if you leave it focused on one place for too long, it will start a fire. So powerful that when you plug it in for a recharge the entire apartment complex’s electrical system momentarily sags. In lightspeak, it should be no less than 500 lumens, which is basically the brightness of commercial aircraft landing gear. Can’t afford the $150.00 price tag? Sorry to hear that your brains and bones and internal organs and children and wife and job cost less than $150.00. Or rather, envious. “Green with envy” envious.

Down on Nite Rider stuff, possibly forever

A week ago I was planning this blog post and thinking about all the great things I was going to say about Nite Rider. First, I was going to castigate them for misspelling “Night.” Cutesy names chosen to avoid trademark infringement are nothing more than testament to a feeble imagination, and if you can’t think up a catchy, available name, how good are you going to be inventing something that actually works?

Quite good, apparently.

I’ve used Nite Rider lights for three years, starting with the MiNewt 350 and then, at the end of 2011, upgrading to the MiNewt 750. The beam is bright, and although the brightest beam never seemed to last very long, and certainly never lasted for the 1.5 hours bandied about on the web site, the lower beams were plenty bright to light my way.

I liked the MiNewt because the headlamp was tiny and aero, fit snugly on the bars, and was very solidly built. The $250+ that I paid for the 750 was a downer, but a few extra bucks for a whole lot of extra light was worth it.

The other downside to the MiNewt was the battery pack, which you have to strap to your frame or your bars. When I was riding with my stem jammed all the way down, I’d bump the battery pack with my right knee when climbing out of the saddle. And the lashing-down process with the velcro strap before each ride was a pain in the ass, but the baseline comparison for me was always the same: How much of an inconvenience is it compared to a spinal fracture at C2 and spending the rest of my life navigating a wheelchair with my tongue?

Exactly.

Planned obsolescence: Don’t get me started, or rather, please do

Two weeks ago the Bull and I were descending in the pitch dark on the way to the NPR. He was missing a taillight and the conversation got around to headlights. He was using the new Serfas TSL 500+.

“What’s up with the new light? What happened to your Nite Rider?”

He and I had used the same light for a while now. “The battery pack died.”

“Why didn’t you get another one?”

“Nite Rider has it conveniently set up so that the cost of a new battery pack is about the same as the cost of buying an entire new lighting system.”

“You’re fucking kidding me.”

He wasn’t. A new 750 MiNewt battery costs $129.00, and with shipping and tax is right around $150.00. Bottom line: Nite Rider sells you a product that is designed to wear out, then rapes you on the replacement part.

I’ve come to expect this from Shimano (replaced the covers on your brake levers lately?), and would expect nothing less from Campy and longtime cycling manufacturers who treat consumers like cows to be continually milked and given nothing in return, but for some reason it came as a shock that Nite Rider has also bought into this philosophy.

It’s a shock because the light market is competitive. Fucking over loyal consumers will send them elsewhere, which is what happened to me. I popped over to the LBS and bought a Serfas TSL 500+. It plugs into the wall, doesn’t have the clunky battery pack with lame velcro strap lashdown system, is super bright, is lightweight, and seems to work just fine.

The only downside is that it’s larger than the MiNewt atop your handlebars and doesn’t look as sleek. However, it easily unclips and fits into your back pocket after the sun comes up, something you could never do with the MiNewt.

So, fuck you Nite Rider. The Serfas may also be built to fail, and it’s only been given one test run, and I can’t vouch for the its quality, durability, or ease of use over time, but for now it has replaced you, who were as of a few minutes ago deposited in the garbage chute.

I don’t mind being screwed around by a light manufacturer…oh, wait a minute…yes, I do.

Good Nite, Rider.

Good Nite, Rider.

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