Cycling: The First 100 Miles

I’ve ridden 100 miles (approximately) on a road bike. You may remember my proclamation of a few weeks back, inspired by Lance Armstrong’s historic sixth straight win over Le Tour de France, I had decided I needed a road bike.
A bike was then purchased, and as corny as it sounds, on the very afternoon of Lance’s familiar pose in front of the Arc de Triomphe.
So far, I’ve fallen twice. Hard. On account of the clipless pedals which lock your special shoes into the the cranks of the bike, requiring a delicate, almost graceful “twitch” of the heel in order to free them again. My problem: unlock right foot (so that I may touch the curb), but lean left — thereby tipping ever-so-slowly into the pavement. It’s the sort of fall that happens literally in slow motion. You know you’re going to hit the ground, yet you can (or choose to) do nothing about it.
Aside from the falls, I’m loving it. Hills are getting slightly easier, and thanks to my wife I’m going on some nice routes around the North Shore of Boston.
FigureThere is one scenario that’s maddening though. Consider the figure on the right. I’m riding along, and a huge SUV sits parked on my right. Just to the left of the SUV is a giant pothole. I have three choices here: Run into the back of the SUV, take my chances with the pothole or swerve out into the lane around both. Don’t worry, I’m extremely cautious when riding. But I’m presented with this situation constantly.
And that brings me to another topic: why is cycling more popular outside the United States? I’ll take a few guesses. I can’t speak for all of Europe, but when we visited Sweden recently, there were few or no SUVs in sight. Gas was roughly 3 times what it is here, making it more expensive to get out on the road. Less cars, smaller cars = more room on the road.
In New England–or in any location that has harsh, snowy winters–roads are horrible. Potholes are everywhere. Salt, gravel and snowplows make for bad riding during the other seasons. Road work is constantly being done. Certainly that has to affect cycling popularity in some fashion.
Regardless, it’s fun and it gets me exercising–which these days is a victory. Expect additional reports as the miles increase.

73 Comments

  1. Bob says:

    Clipless pedals can be tricky at first. But you get the hang of it pretty quickly. As for the potholes, try learning to ‘bunny hop’ over them. Once you get confident with that, you can skip right over the suckers…

  2. Sean Devine says:

    Dan – I didn’t know that you got a bike. We should ride sometime this week. I ride through Salem all the time…

  3. Erin says:

    You’ve left me curious… in the above situation (SUV, pothole, opposing traffic), what do you do?
    Best of luck with the new bike! Stay safe!

  4. Ben Esteban says:

    It’s great that you are enjoying your bike. I was born in Germany and spent the first 14 years of my life there so I know what everybody is talking about, when they talk about that more people enjoy riding their bike in Europe.
    I think another reason is that in Europe , things are closer together; like in bigger cities. Except that big cities in Europe still look like smaller cities. So there is room to walk and ride a bike (there are many dedicated bike roads in Germany) while keeping distance to a minimum.
    People just don’t want to ride miles upon miles just to get to places on a bike.

  5. Oli says:

    Re Europe:
    There are extra lanes for bikes in every city here in Germany. They are either between pavement and road lanes or part of the pavement. More importantly, bikes riding on these lanes have similar rights as pedestrians, meaning cars have to stop for them. That alone makes bikes much more popular here, as a regular means of driving…
    I can’t speak for all of Europe, but I know the situation is very similar in France and probably in all of central Europe.
    Riding bike is considered very modern here, with preserving the environment and all that. In contrast many Chinese cities are abolishing bike lanes because they fear they’d make their city look oldfashioned and not progressive enough :-)

  6. Keith says:

    I’m not sure how it is in other cities, but it seems like cycling is really popular here is Seattle. However there is a huge distiction that needs to be made here — it’s not road cycling like you’re talking about but mountain biking. It could be simply because of the many parks and fact that there are lots of good spots for it, but mountain biking is huge up here.
    As far as road bikes go, I do see quite a bit of them as well and it seems like many roads around here have extra cycle lanes, but not being a biker I can’t say for sure.
    ANYway, good luck with it and be careful!

  7. Ludvig says:

    Perhaps there is a solution #4 to the SUV-pothole issue. Use breakes. :)

  8. Ludvig says:

    On the other topic:
    I can just agree with what Ben and Oli said and conclude that we have just about the same situation here in Sweden.

  9. Rob Weychert says:

    I live in Philadelphia and travel almost exclusively on bike within the city. I ride a BMX, mostly because it’s my preferred type of bike, but also because Philly’s roads are so ridiculously pothole-ridden that I can’t imagine how people with less rugged road bikes can deal. There’s a pretty strong bike community here, but it’s still not given much respect or consideration from motorists. So, once a month, there’s usually a cathartic critical mass (unannounced “parade” of hundreds of cyclists) to reclaim the roadways from the SUVs. :D

  10. Mike Burnard says:

    Dan, I recall my first attempts at clipless pedals. I attempted it first on a mountain bike, the dirt and shrubbery are softer to fall on than pavement. There were many more than 2 falls in the first 100 miles. Many bruises were the result. I also remember the distinguished sound of the cleats on pavement. Reminded me of fingernails on chalkboards.
    Keep at it, have fun.
    What kind of bike did you get?
    I still like crashing on dirt better than pavement.

  11. huphtur says:

    Dan, you should check out The Rider by Tim Krabb

  12. Mike Burnard says:

    Oh, and another thing. My uncle wrecked is road bike last week at track race when a dog ran out infront of the pack. He was pretty banged up. The dog will be okay too.
    I still like crashing on dirt better than pavement. ( A lot better! )

  13. Dante says:

    Riding on the roads in Armagh, Northern Ireland is slightly dangerous because the cars go extremely fast on the small country roads. Luckily, I never encountered any huge SUVs whilst riding.

  14. I hope to be joining the ranks of the road bike owners as soon as I get back to school. I, too, have some poorly maintained roads out in Eastern Washington to look forward to.

  15. Thanks for the European insights. It sounds like society in general has more respect for cyclists. Which is a great thing.
    Erin – I tend to slow down, look behind me, then decide whether to swerve out, etc.
    Keith – Interesting, sounds similar to Europe — where bikes are given space of their own. Hope this catches on everywhere. I know there are bike paths in Boston proper, just need more of them elsewhere.
    Mike – I got a Specialized Allez Sport. Nothing too fancy, but a good start.
    huphtur – Thanks, that does look like an interesting book.

  16. sean says:

    In the south USA you rarely see bikes out on the road.
    I almost bought one, but I am not biking to work when it is 100 degrees. I would probably get run over by some guy (or gal) on a Harley.
    Oh and SUV? What about 18-Wheelers? I would probably get killed by sticks flying off a log truck.

  17. Derek says:

    Cycling is huge here in Tucson, AZ. There are bike paths, routes, etc all around the city.

  18. Mark says:

    In North Dallas cycling (both on and off-road) is very popular. On a nice weekend morning you see as many cyclists on the roads as you do cars.
    Fortunately for me, there’s about 12 mountain bike trails within an hour drive of me. :) I used to be a roadie but I got bored of it after a while and needed a bit more variety.
    You really should learn to bunnyhop over potholes though – with your clipless pedals it makes it pretty easy. An Allez can handle the impact without a problem.

  19. Dextro says:

    It has also something to do with culture. I live in Bruges (Belgium), so in the middle of all big cycling tournaments. A lot of people here ride with the bike weekly, even if the weather is bad. From 10 year till 80 or so, it doesn’t make a difference. It is in our genes.
    Here you have a lot of small roads, where you can ride safely, enjoying the nature, smelling the air. That it is all about, just clear your mind.
    In april, when it is the ‘tour the flanders’, then you can see on television how it lives here. (I really don’t know if they show this things in the USA on television ;) )

  20. Chad says:

    I don’t think I have ever talked to anyone that didn’t crashed ALOT when they first got clipless pedals. I had many, many, many hard off-road crashes when I first got mine. But once you get the hang of them, you never go back.

  21. Kim Siever says:

    I’ve been commuting by bike since the first Monday in July. even blogged about it.
    Day 3
    Day 6
    Day 31
    Day 32

  22. al says:

    biking in NYC is a bit different than other places i have biked. if you have the cojones to do it you can take up the same space as a car and enjoy most (yes, most) of the same liberties… so in the case of the pothole, which happens fairly frequenty you #5, merge behind the SUV.

  23. Jina says:

    When I was younger, I used to be so fearless when riding my bike. Ramps, bumps, hills, etc were no problem. Then I didn’t ride my bike for several years. Now I am such a chicken. I am afraid if a hill is too steep, if I have to ride up a bump of any kind… It’s pathetic, really.

  24. goodsnake says:

    That is cool that you are riding a bike. I wish there was a way to ride safely where I live but a couple of years ago a woman was killed riding down the side of a nearly deserted four lane hwy near my house at 6am. After that, any thoughts I had of riding on the roads were over.
    My experiences in The Netherlands and Belgium on bikes were wonderful. In Amsterdam there are more bikes than cars on the road.

  25. Scott says:

    With respect to your pothole problem, with experience you’ll learn to look farther down the road than you do now, to anticipate hazards earlier and have more time to decide what to do. You should see these hazards early enough to be able to glance behind you — either over your shoulder or under your armpit — and decide whether you can move safely and calmly into the lane and around the pothole.
    And Bob is right, learn how to bunny hop, or at least move your weight back and unweight your front end. It will save you many a wheel.

  26. Hans says:

    Congratulations on your first 100 miles! I understand your trepidation on riding the battleground of city streets. I recommend your local bicycle coalition for sources of information on getting around safely and quickly in your town. Here in San Francisco we have a great bike coalition (www.sfbike.org). Check out the Biking Resources section for survival information.
    Regarding clipless pedals, they are the only way to go. Learning can be tricky. I recommend the following to new clipless users. Take your bike to a flat grassy area. Somewhere that the ground isn’t too soft so that you may roll easily. Now begin practicing your starts and stops. Being on the grass affords you the luxery of a “soft” landing. Practice stops where you remove your right foot first. Then switch to removing your left foot first. Finally, be sure that your clipless pedals are adjusted correctly. Both should be adjusted equally for the effort required to “release”. Newer users normally have the setting so that the pedals release sooner.
    Dealing with potholes… You would be amazed at what you can ride over without incident. If you are going to hit a pothole, release the front brake to let the tire roll through (important). Loosen up your body and rise a bit off and backward from the saddle (aka seat). You want your arms and legs to absorb the impact. Keep a firm but not too tight a grip on the handlebars. Doing these basic steps can get you through both potholes and bumps.
    As for bunnyhopping, I would save that for later. It’s a great technique if done right. But I see too many cyclists, even people that have been riding for years, that do it incorrectly and make it worse.
    Have fun and kick butt out there!

  27. Adam says:

    I bought a bike back in the spring to get me around my small college town. Nothing fancy at all, just a cheap road/mountain hybrid that will last at least the next two years until I graduate. It’s amazing how liberating it is. I mean, I always had a bike when I was younger, but ever since I started driving, biking just fell by the wayside. Being 750 miles from home at college sans vehicle, I decided a bike would come in handy, and it really has, even for something as simple as just getting out and exploring the campus more often. Walking to the grocery store and back used to take the better part of an hour, which isn’t terrible, but it always hindered me from going unless I was desperately out of food. Now I don’t mind making a quick run to get just a few snacks. Ahhh, just thinking about it now is making me wish I was back at school already — wow, scary.

  28. soxiam says:

    Dan -
    Regarding your trouble with clipless pedals (by the way, few more rides and you won’t fall I gaurantee), you can’t panic when it doesn’t disengage. If you panic and force the issue, it’s actually harder to come out of them. Just relax and if they don’t disengage pedal few more strokes and try again. Ride on.

  29. Naz says:

    Another suggestion about clipless pedals – you can adjust them, i.e. the tension on them, making them easier to clip in and out of (you probably already know this).
    As for the pothole situation, depending on whether anyone is in the car and if there’s enough space, I slip in between the pothole and car. Otherwise, I take the lane. It’s always best to take the lane.
    Getting doored is not fun.

  30. justin says:

    Hey there, congrats on your road bike. I love my road bike and have been riding the same one for about 15 years (I’m now 27). I don’t have clipless pedals, this bike is old school (built to last) and I’ve never upgraded a thing on it.
    I used clipless on my mtn. bikes and they made for super easy “bunny hops”. While a little hop is easy to get the hang of with clipless pedals, it’s not exactly a very nice manner to treat your delicate road bike with it’s extremely high pressure tires. Don’t jump high enough (or not moving fast enough) and you’ll catch the edge of the hole and BLAMMO! Instant flat. Not to mention the fact that a high pressure rim is very easy to knock out of true. Bunny hopping road bikes is for crazy bike messengers and single speed mobsters.
    The more you get used to riding the streets, the more you’ll learn to look far ahead and be planning well in advance. If you’re riding in downtown areas, then you can easily cruise with traffic speeds (15-25 mph) and just stay in the middle of the lanes, don’t worry about hugging the curb.. that’s for suckers that want to get a door in their face or a car making a right turn cutting you off.

  31. I second comment #1 about bunnyhopping. Just look at the skills the Aussie sprinter Robbie McEwen has – wheelies through the finish line, bunnyhops over median strips.
    Eventually, when someone crashes in front of you, you’ll find yourself preparing for a bunnyhop. ha!

  32. Stephane says:

    « or in any location that has harsh, snowy winters—roads are horrible. Potholes are everywhere. »
    That’s why I bought a mountain bike, I couldn’t stand to bike in the city with all the potholes. I also second the comment about bunny-hopping, it might be harder on a road bike I don’t know, but if you look at the « cyclo-cross » guy’s in europe it looks almost easy.

  33. Shawn says:

    Everything you need to know about city/urban riding can be learned from the videos on this site (Although it was Gizmodo-ed last week and is still a tad slow)
    http://www.digave.com/videos/

  34. Louis says:

    There seems to be two solutions to the SUV problem, in my opinion…
    1) Visit every SUV in your neighboorhood and let down their tyres.
    2) If you want to be slightly less cruel, visit every SUV in your neighboorhood and fit a wooden slope to the rear of the car (I say boot, you say trunk). Then, next time you encounter one of these beasts on the road, build up a little speed, go straight up-and-over the slope and you can jump the blighters.
    And we’ll call you Dan Knievel :)

  35. ramin says:

    My impression of the States every time I’ve been there has been that walking or riding a bike is something that you do at your own risk. Cars come first.
    For a Finn, thinking of New England with bad roads because of snow and such is a somewhat amusing thought. Of course, we are used to more extreme conditions and as such the roads are also better built to last, especially the thawing ground will wreck a road that isn’t built well.
    On the way to work from one fire station to another this morning we were just talking with a colleague on how well roller bladers can get around from Joensuu. A city of 55000 has paved paths leading 30 km (20 miles) into the countryside. And if you can rollerblade on them you can definetly ride a bike. I live in the countryside (almost) 10 miles out of town and could easily ride my bike to work every morning (except that then I’d have to wake up earlier ;).
    I really hope that the U.S. will become better for other forms of transportation than personal cars. We’ll just keep hoping that gas prices there keep rising (they’re high enough here, thank you!)

  36. mikulla says:

    Speaking as someone who used to ride road bikes, , mountain bikes, bmx, etc. , and has used bikes as my main source of transportation, I have advice.
    Ride your bike like a car. Show your dominance when around cars. Ride in the middle of the lane when approaching stop lights. Your are a like a car and you will be treated by the law like a car as well. Do not let car drivers push you around.
    That’s my wisdom. Oh…and always cross railroad tracks with your tires perpendicular to the tracks, especially with a road bike. Your rims can get caught in the tracks and your weight will taco them. It sucks, believe me.

  37. Hermann says:

    In Spain there is a lot of bike culture, even though we don’t have the great bike roads the dutch have, we have big parks were lots of people can go ride.
    And every once in a while and depending of the time of year you’ll find profesional road bike riders in their funky clothes riding on the main roads.

  38. tonik says:

    Writing from Finland, Helsinki/Espoo region.
    There are indeed lots and lots of pavements and dedicated bike roads. In the summertime, I could easily ride my bike to work, all across Helsinki to Espoo. That’s 20km (12.5mi) in all.
    Interestingly enough, I could make this trip in the same amount of time as with a bus, due to slow traffic on the road leading from east to west (for the Finns out there, Kehä I or road #101).

  39. Jonas Rabbe says:

    When I was in San Luis Obispo as an exchange student I found that they did have bike “paths” along the road, mostly as marked sections of road nearest to the curb. This was all well and good, except people weren’t used to bikes actually being on the bike paths and therefore didn’t look before turning. I had to swerve around a van which cut right in front of me once, and take a dive over the hood of a truck another time. The poor student in the truck was just happy I didn’t wanna sue his ass off.
    I must admit that I’ve only driven mountain bikes. When I lived in the greater Boston area, my friend and I took long rides through the woods, but also on the roads around the area. Going up to Walden Pond for a swim was one of our favorites.
    Good luck with your continued riding, and may you experience a minimum of potholes. (Sounds like something which would be written in a fortune cookie).
    - Jonas

  40. Ahh, small cars. That’s one thing I love about Europe. Cheap on gas, lots more room for parking, easier traffic – you can see through them, unlike SUVs. How I wish Americans would follow this…
    - Claudio, proud Geo Metro owner :-)

  41. Scott says:

    One American “city” that has done a fabulous job with its bikeways is Burlington, VT.
    In a span of 5 years I have lived in 4 different apartments, and in all that time I was never more then a 1/2 mile from one of Burlington’s many bikepaths which can take you to anywhere you want to go within the city.
    Another stunningly beautiful advantage of riding in Burlington is the views overlooking Lake Champlain and the Adirondack Mountains. 12 spectacular miles along the coast of the Lake leading up to the “Colchester Causeway” which is an old converted railroad that takes you out 3 miles into the middle of the lake – nothing around you but open water. Truly magnificent.
    Champlain Bikepath Overview
    More information about riding in Burlington for anyone interested
    Dan – it’s only about a 3 hour drive north of Salem if you’re ever looking to get away from potholes and giant SUV’s.

  42. Ed Hidden says:

    Congrats on the first 100!
    I publish a bicycling site for my local area, Keystone Biking. I recently found a great site that was a “reproduction” of a publication that Bicycling Magazine put together for various State Department Of Transportation.
    You can read the entire pub here. Excellent for any level cyclist. There is always something that people who have been doing it for a while that they can pick up too.

  43. Ed Hidden says:

    a woman was killed riding down the side of a nearly deserted four lane hwy near my house at 6am. After that, any thoughts I had of riding on the roads were over
    I don’t mean for this to sound like I’m mocking you or trying to put you down, I’m not!
    I can understand the concern for safety on the roads. And if you aren’t confident with riding in traffic, it’s the LAST place you should be.
    But, with that said, if you heard about a person killed in a car, would you stop riding in cars?
    This logic was the only thing that made it possible for me to race a motorcycle for many years, even after seeing a couple of my friends die on the track. It’s important to recognize the safety of things, but not to let the fear of something paralyze you from not enjoying it. It’s similar to what you hear about the whole “9/11″ arguments. People don’t avoid the enjoyment of New York because Terrorists have struck. Same arguement could be made for riding.

  44. Mike P. says:

    Congrats on your first century, Dan.
    Now do tell: how’s yer, umm, ‘can’?

  45. Paul Griffin says:

    Florida seems to be getting better and better about making room for bikes, there are bike lanes everywhere now.
    And while the law here states that a bike is a vehicle (you have the same rights and are subject to the same laws as a car, so no running stop signs or no-hands riding when there are anal-retentive cops hanging around), trying to “establish your dominance” with a Florida driver is highly ill-advised. The law may be on your side, but that won’t do you much good when you’re wrapped around someone’s driveshaft.

  46. Christopher L Drake says:

    I used to be an avid rider (of mtn bikes as roadbikes), from South-Western Ontario in Canada. I moved to northern Kentucky (USA) in 2000. And since then I have been pretty much the bike version of landlocked by the local roads. So let me give you some advice on your new habit… Don’t bike on any road that -resembles- an interstate/highway, because drivers seem to think of them as such. In areas like this the highways are offlimits for anything without an engine. Therefore they are allowed to ‘do you roughly’ to their hearts content (or they seem to think so). They’ll ignore you, honk loudly if you slow for a second, pass you dangerously closely, drag you through their backwinds and the semis for example won’t even pay attention to the fact that their steady backwind could easily flip you clear off the road if they aren’t careful. So, gotta be cautious.
    As for snow… I used to ride all winter to get to school as a kid, and over time developed a few notions on the issue that might help you out. Potholes, ditches, bumps, and ramps are all in the same school of damage. There will be a rise/lip/edge, a drop, and an impact. In the case of potholes or train tracks, it will happen twice in a row. Prepare your bike tires for this. Don’t cheap on what they’re made of because you want a good taught rubber that can take a blow, never fail to air them properly, change tire ‘tubes whenever you even have the suspicion they’re losing air, and make sure your chain is well oiled. That is how you ride in snow, and how to survive a decent quantity of potholes. I wish you luck on all of your riding. I’d desperately like to see biking get popular in the US, I miss the feeling of screaming down a hill at 30mph in a veritable windtunnel.
    Oh, and if you ever feel you are losing traction on ice under the snow, don’t panic. If you so much as tilt to one side or the other, you are going to have the hardest fall of your life. Dense ice hurts more than concrete.

  47. daniel says:

    Dan – take all these comments together and you have a solid knowledge base on your issues. I would add the following:
    Learn not only how to get out of your pedals on grass, but learn how to bunny hop on grass as well. Even once you’ve learned how to bunny hop, it should be the method-of-last-resort for those potholes (always take the lane when possible) (just ride over smaller holes as described in a prior comment), and every so often you’ll biff one and count yer proverbial lucky stars after if there is no damage to bike or person.
    Behaving like a car is very contextual–I did exactly that in Pennsylvania and Tucson and it was good, then once I got to Florida NO WAY. I’d have been plowed.
    The best way to deal with traffic is to go on group rides, power in numbers and all that. There are normally group rides for all levels in any particular location.
    Not to mention the other benefits of riding with other people–beating the occasional solo-ride boredom, finding new roads to ride on, and getting stretched on occasion past your normal efforts. Ask around at bike shops and you’ll be able to tell before hand which are the snobby rides and which are the more friendly (even if they ride fast) rides. If you get started on one that turns sour (the group drops you without so much as a glance over their shoulders), just bail early and do short loops around the starting point as not to get lost in new territory.
    But most riders are cool, don’t worry. Only the biggest jerks wouldn’t tell you how to get back if you had to bail. The best riders will even come back down hills and ride up it again with a newbie (or an oldie who’s horribly out of shape {me})

  48. Paul Griffin says:

    >I miss the feeling of screaming down a hill at 30mph in a veritable windtunnel.
    Of course, a longboard is ideal for doing just that, with the added excitement of not having any brakes ;) Screaming down a big, multi-level parking garage is one of life’s simple, pure pleasures :)

  49. Thanks for all the tips, everyone. I feel like I’m armed with some great info now.

  50. Allan White says:

    I’ve been riding seriously since I was about 15, and commuting for many years (now in Portland, Ore.). We do get our share of fat SUV’s (now we have those Expeditions and Hummers out there, geez!).
    With this particular problem, it depends on exactly how much time you have. My first instinct was to just bunny-hop the pothole (if speed is enough); since you’re clipped in you just hop with arms & legs at the same time. Your back wheel might clip the end of the hole, but you’ll get across. Trust your bike, it’ll get you there.
    Still, I suppose avoidance is best; if you can spare a quick look over the left shoulder to see if you have someone on your six, and if the lane is clear, divert to the left around it.
    I’ve gotten pretty good at checking the windows of parked cars to see if someone’s going to open the door on me; I still get paranoid about t-boning some soccer mom’s open door, though.
    The comment above about practicing slow-riding in the grass is great – do it with friends and play bike tag, it’s great for your handling skills.
    Best wishes on your new steed!

  51. Mike Rohde says:

    Dan, congrats on your first 100 miles! All of the comments looked quite good here, especially learning to anticipate what’s ahead. That is maybe the most valuable preventive thing you can do.
    However, I saw something that might help — a mirror, either mounted to your glasses or helmet or handlebars. This way you won’t need to look back while approaching that huge SUV, you can just have a peek backwards in your mirror.
    Best wishes on your next 100 miles… enjoy! :-)

  52. Brian Kaney says:

    My business and I partner ride into work every day in Boston. I ride down Beacon St and he rides down Commonwealth Ave. We both ride fixed-gear bicycles (bicycles that do not coast, have a single gear, and many times no hand brakes).
    There is a pretty good fixie scene in Boston, most are messengers. Many hang out at Bukowski’s, DeLux Cafe, and/or The Other Side Cosmic Cafe weekday evenings after work.
    It actually turns out that for urban riding, fixies give you more control (i.e. direct drive, no coasting) and double the workout (I sometimes have to stand up to resist down hills)…not that it would have helped you.
    Share the road!

  53. Scott says:

    Some clipless info for those who ride…
    Some think it doesn’t make sense that they are called clipless pedals since you clip in and out. The name refers to the older toeclip style pedal, therefore…no toeclips…clipless.
    Second, bikers new to the clipless pedal system tend to make two main mistakes.
    1. Pulling up doesn’t work…it makes it harder. The action required to unclip is lateral only and not up. Pulling up on the foot only generates more friction between the cleat and the pedal making it harder to clip out. Just twist your heal outward and whalla…you’re clipped out.
    2. Clipout before you need to stop. At least while you are learning. If you are coming to a stop sign, light or congested area with cars or people then clip out one foot and get ready to put it down. You can place the center of your foot on the pedal to continue pedaling and then clip back in if stopping is not required. If you do need to stop then you save yourself the trouble of panicking and falling on your face in front of everyone.
    I’d also suggest anyone switching to clipless pedals to get the bikeshop to put your pedals on your bike, your cleats on your shoes and put the bike in a trainer. This way you can get the idea while your bike is being held up for you.
    A few things to check from time to time.
    1. Check the bolts holding your cleats to your shoes. If these get a little loose it can make clipping out very difficult because the cleat will not move with your foot when you turn your heal out.
    2. Check your pedal tension screws. This varies depending on the model but just about all have a way to loosen and tighten the tension required to clip in and out.
    Hope that helps!

  54. Omega says:

    Heh. You should try going around Middleborough- the majority of the roads have been redone, and it’s not a really busy town aside from the highway and main street. A few blind corners, but, still, pretty decent biking territory. I only ride a normal bike (meaning I go off to the side for cars), but… the point stands, right?

  55. Mikhail Bozgounov says:

    <East Europe Add-on>
    A report on cycling in Bulgaria:
    In the capital (Sofia) cycling is tough, believe me! :-) A few accents:
    The traffic is dense
    Red lights are often ‘fried’ by aggressive drivers
    There is no single alley for bikers
    Streets are narrow, the sidewalks are narrow, too, and usually parked with cars…
    …As there’s almost no single parking in the city center
    Most of the cars are old, and without catalyseurs [Fr. - don't remember the English word :)], so the air is polluted to the max.
    I’d rather stop here… :)
    As for the roads conditions (another point, worth mentioning)… hole upon hole:))) Best you can drive here, is a 4×4 with huge front and rear bumpers… then you can feel a little safety ;)
    I’ve been frequently on short trips in Central Europe, where situation is very different – cleaner air in cities, more respect from drivers, better road conditions, etc. This applies (from my observations) to Austria, Germany, Switzerland, The Netherlands…
    I ride a bike from 1 year and a half, and made my first 4300 miles (for all of you, US metric people;-) in these rather tough conditions. This tought me something, or so I believe: cycling can be real pleasure, just be careful! And also… Small actions can change the world we live in! This is more important. When I started biking every day, in January 2003, I remember, there were fewer of us, cyclists. Now we’re growing in numbers. Maybe slowly, but growing. One single bike on the road means one more car in the garage this day – and I believe this is a Very Good Thing:)
    I unfolded all this story, as I wanted to complement the reports from your Central Europe readers, and also, to point out that one cyclist does not change the world but one can be followed by another, and so on and so on… Small changes often make the big change.
    Keep going, Dan! Once you feel the embrace of the wind, while you’re on the road, trusting only your own forces, you become addicted to the feeling – and it’s magic! :-)
    If I may cite Jeff Veen in his exceelent article, “There is no question that cycling is a sport of masochists. Beyond the physical demands of riding, mental discipline is as important. To succeed, a cyclist must be able to ignore the searing pain of lactic acid pooling in leg muscles, a heart pounding out through the chest, and lungs unable to keep up with a deep oxygen deficit. And we crash a lot.”
    Short and precise. But it’s magic! Good luck on your way! :-)
    </East Europe Info&gt

  56. joel says:

    I don’t know about the country as a whole, but up here in Mass’s north shore there are a HELL of a lot of you road bikers. I work up in Wenham and not a day goes by where I have to steer clear.

  57. joel says:

    errr … “where I DON’T have to steer clean” I mean.

  58. Mark says:

    Hey, congrats on the bike!
    In 1993 I rode for six months across the Balkans on my montainbike across countries like Albania, Macedonia, etc. (yes, I survived even the Bulgarians in Sofia).
    As you get more comofortable with your bike, may I suggest a couple of things: Get some panniers or one of those one-wheeled trailers (lower center of gravity)
    Throw your favorite trail-mix, foods tent and bag into the back and take off with the bike for 3-4 days.
    Get some Continental Town & Country’s or one of those in the back and a slimmer Conti in the front, and you will experience nirvana.
    Long term I think mountain bike frame with slicks is a more flexible option than road bike, even with cross tires. But those are fine points.
    Enjoy!

  59. Ed Hidden says:

    Dan,
    I did a little more looking for a similar link to the one I had posted previously and found a couple sites that may be of interest to you and your readers (I’m excited to see so many bicycle related posts on one of my favorite CSS blog sites.)
    http://www.cityofboston.gov/transportation/bike.asp
    and the PA state one that I’ve thought was very good as well!
    http://www.dot.state.pa.us/bike/web/index.htm

  60. hartmurmur says:

    SUV’s and potholes…no problem.
    Watch out for kids with guns. I got shot in the ass with a BB gun two weeks ago while riding.
    They must have been laughing when they shot me, but they weren’t when I chased them down at 30mph and caught them at the stoplight. I then reached in the car (using some expletives), grabbed their stash of BB’s off the dash and hucked them about 30 yards. (License plate etched in my mind.)
    Don’t mess.

  61. Mikhail Bozgounov says:

    <QUOTE>On August 11, 2004 12:50 PM, Mark said:
    Hey, congrats on the bike!
    In 1993 I rode for six months across the Balkans on my montainbike across countries like Albania, Macedonia, etc. (yes, I survived even the Bulgarians in Sofia).
    </QUOTE>
    Well, from 1993 to 2004 things changed a bit here, in Bulgaria… but on the roads, almost the same situation, unfortunately… Only bikers have grown in numbers:)))
    Just of curiosity, was I thinkin’, how were your impressions on Sofia?..

  62. Brett Epps says:

    In Phoenix you can only ride a bike from about October through April; any other time it’s just too hot. Sometimes I swear I can feel my tires melting in the heat and sticking to the tar in the asphalt.

  63. The hardest (most dangerous) part of commuter-biking–that is, on roads with SUVs and potholes as opposed to on bike trails in parks–is the left turn. If you stay at the right, by the shoulder, you have to cross traffic going in two directions. If you go to the left, you are between cars going in each direction, and will be honked and yelled at (experienced in New York suburbs first hand and recently witnessed in Vermont village, so this is not just a short-tempered city thing.) Often, I find that I have to stop and get on the sidewalk and “cross” in pedestrian mode as opposed to “turn” in vehicle mode.

  64. Scorched says:

    Lenny, that is a common problem if you aren’t willing to merge out into traffic and take the lane. But statistically it’s cars making right hand turn that cause the most biker injuries. The driver passes the rider and then makes a right hand turn, underestimating the speed of the cyclist, and the cyclist impacts the side of the car midturn. At Bicycle Safe it’s marked as type #4. I’ve had it happen to me, and did a tuck and roll over their hood. My scariest road bike accident was being hit with a trucks side view mirror in my shoulder and being spun into some gravel.
    The number one way to stay safe is not to assume that you are invisible, but instead to assume that you are wearing flashing neon orange. And then to assume that there is a 10,000 dollar bounty on your head for the first person that can hit you :) (stolen more or less from neil stephenson’s book ‘zodiac’)

  65. Zephyr says:

    I’m from Holland, a country of bike riders. My girlfriend is American. She insists that people in some US states take pleasure in making life hard for bicyclists … Seems to be a matter of (lack of) respect?

  66. I recently moved from Austria to DC and I can tell you that the streets around here are just plain bad. Austria has lower average temperatures for much longer than DC and the streets in Vienna do not develop holes that big. Some streets around here remind me more of former eastern block cities than the capital of the United States.

  67. Scorched says:

    Zephyr, sadly, she is correct. I lived in North Carolina, and when I rode there I was endangered more than once by the locals for “fun”. The saddest was getting hit with a McDonalds milkshake thrown from a car at about 100kmph. I’ve had beer bottles tossed at my wheels, and have been swerved at and yelled at. There are certainly some people that never outgrew their bully stage in highschool and continue to be mean for fun.

  68. tom says:

    Haha, that is the greatest diagram I’ve ever seen.

  69. gare says:

    The first time I rode with clip in pedals, I biffed it hard, twice. It sucks, but doens’t keep me off the road.

  70. Aron Kansa says:

    or you could just bunny hop it

  71. Good to see that you haven’t given up Dan. Here’s my 2 cents, from someone who has ridden in Europe and most of Canada.
    1. Get the largest tires possible for your road bike (I use 28 mm). These will help you with our awful N. American roads.
    2. Be aggressive, but paranoid at the same time (this attitude kept me alive in Montreal).
    3. North Americans will not be like Europeans for a long time. In Europe, almost everyone’s grandmother rides a bike, so they know that they have to be more respectful. Also, for years after the last war, most people could not afford cars, so everyone rode bikes.
    4. As oil keeps going up in price, you’ll appreciate your bike even more.
    5. The more you ride, the more your wife should appreciate you ;-)

  72. tom says:

    To continue Harold’s point, if you’re in a city, get a cyclocross bike. Redline has some pretty nice, affordable ones at the moment.

  73. How’s this coming along Dan? Hope all is well with you and the bike.