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Excellent post by Citizen Rider on the ethics of how thorough of a job could/should be done to new bike assemblies. Read the post here.

The bike that I returned this week wasn’t what I would call put-together well. I had requested that they leave it in the box, which the big company said they would (they can ship them to you at home in a box, too). But the guy at the store/shop said they couldn’t, that it was too late anyway because they just put it together. Okay. I think I might have insulted him on the phone. When I met him, I told him it was because I couldn’t ride, not because I didn’t trust their mechanical skills. We laughed about it. We noticed goo on the downtube, and he offered to get it off. He hung the bike by the horn of the saddle on the repair stand, instead of using the clamp, got off the goo with something in a squirt bottle and left it swinging there. Swinging. As in, I totally thought it was going to fall. I got outside to find a large gash in the seatstay. I know; no bike comes perfect. But this was huge and really something that he shouldn’t have let me walk out with on a steel bike.

Other: rear brakes were too tight and touching the rim on both sides; front brake pads were mal-adjusted (one touched the tire, one went inside the rim); the rear fender was rattling against the tire and needed adjustment; the folks who returned it for me (thank you!) reported squeaking while they pushed it; the stem was never adjusted to be straight; they let me walk out without even mentioning the idea of adjusting seat height; reflector on rear wheel was moving around. These are things I noticed without ever getting to ride it. It seemed like a sweet bike that was hastily assembled when the truck came in.

I know. It’s probably my fault for buying my bike at a large chain store. I got spoiled by the nice shop (Phoenix Cycles!) we had a relationship with in Carbondale. We’d chat with Doug for an hour when we’d stop in to get something. He thought it was awesome that we went car-free. I thought his recumbent was awesome. They did excellent work there and carried good stuff like Planet Bike and pants clips.

If there’s anything good to come from getting my foot run over, it’s getting the chance to buy my new bike all over again. I know what to do and where to go this time, and I might not have to limit myself to the funds from the replacement of my crashed bike. Even if I go with the Xtracycle Radish, I’m hoping to get it through a cool local shop and to stop buying bike accessories off of the freakin internet all the time.


My wonderful wife just landed a sweet job at a university that is a few blocks from the one where I work, in the heart of Central Baltimore. We are both enormous fans of the MTA, and the #61 stops yards from our apartment building. But, as she understands and as I’m sure anyone who cycles would, once I get back on my bike after not riding [without crashing] since April 7th, there’s nothing that will stop me from cycling to work. Not that anything but bad ice did after the installation of my awesome fenders in December. Unless ElRo wants to take the bus, this means that I’ll get company for my commutes!

It used to be my “alone time”, but my wife and I happen to get along very well and enjoy each other’s company, enough to elicit gags at times from a few less happy people. But I rarely took the really long way home before because I wanted to get home to my favorite person. Rather than losing alone time that I don’t really care about, I view this more as getting to saunter-on-wheels home rather than mashing my way up Charles Street and University Parkway. The long way, the scenic way — they’re all ours for the taking.

And it’s fun to point out your favorite way to get to work and all the places to get coffee around there. A week or two before my crash, I was still in North Baltimore for a super-early meeting one Thursday. Afterward, Dan and I met up and took my relaxed way to work, parked in my office and enjoyed coffee/chocolate at Sofi’s. I talked his ear off about what’s around my job, etc.   Bob wrote a nice post about this kind of fun last year.

Anyone else get regular company for their commutes?

I got my foot run over by a negligent driver and won’t be able to ride for who knows how long.  I’m in a boot and crutches and am furious.

Read part one and part two for more details and a few gross pictures.

(Forgive the cross-post.)

But I don’t have a photo yet. This photo is of a pipe-cleaner bike I made at my VISTA training in August. It stands on the jacket dealy from a cup of coffee I was drinking at the time. It resides in my office.

I picked the Novara Buzz V for a number of reasons. It’s simple and practical. I like the low-fi looks and anti-theft aspects like locking skewers and no quick-release anything. It has custom fenders. It’s STEEL. It was in the price range of the insurance money I got for the wrecked bike. I really, therefore, paid for it in September 2005 when I bought my first bike, which was replaced with insurance money when it got stolen in fall 2006. The insurance folks paid for the lights, fenders, rack, computer, etc. Everything that got destroyed but my helmet. I was buying a new helmet anyway, so I didn’t want to go after them for that.

The biggest “fault” I’ve noticed so far is that the paint is junk. It’s matte and flakes off. Mine has several chips already from the trip from the factory to REI, and the one locked near the train station looks like it’s been through a wood chipper. I suppose this is to make it less steal-able? Or just a consequence of the matte finish? I feel like I should be annoyed that my shiny new bike is not perfect (or shiny). But you can’t get a perfect bike. I know that for sure now. And bikes get scratched up when you ride them. Even if you got a perfect bike, it would eventually get dinged up if you rode it. I was being stupid, yes. Thing is, you don’t care when you’re riding regularly. I’m not.

But screw it. I refuse to be a prisoner of my own neurotic and compulsive tendencies. I always need all my shit to be perfect. Forever. Like you can buy perfectly-crafted goods. And like you can use them without wear and tear. Nah, if I resist the urge to be a stupid jackass, I feel particularly…invited to put some stickers on now. I still have some that my cycling pal sent me in 2005 when I first got into cycling. It’s all good. In a few weeks, I’ll be riding my bike and laughing at the witty stickers on it.

We did have a bit of an adventure to get it, though.

Tuesday, I had an early appointment with my hand doctor and a big meeting all afternoon. It was already a weird day. I wanted REI to leave my bike in the box so that I would not be tempted to ride before I’m physically ready and get hurt again. But they couldn’t, and it came in Tuesday, rather than Friday. Our glasses were also ready early. So I walked from near Penn Station to Charles Village after work, met the Mrs., walked to the Rotunda, got our glasses and walked to the light rail. Took it out to Timonium, walked to Baja Fresh and ate amidst sad yuppies. Walked to REI. Picked up my bike, some spare inner tubes and an under-the-seat bag. Walked to the light rail and took my bike on it. Walked about a mile home. So my bike’s first trip was on a train and being walked. Not as cool as being ridden, but much cooler than coming home in a car or truck.

Memorable night, though. And I would be a douchebag to let such a fun-ly-gotten bike be less awesome because it wasn’t perfect when perfection wasn’t even possible.

Perhaps by airing these stupid mind-f*cks I play on myself, I can kick them?


How did we forget to mention that Friday is Bike to Work Day?

Bike to Work Day 2009, sponsored by the Baltimore Metropolitan Council, will be celebrated in the Baltimore region and across the nation on Friday May 15, 2009.

Between 7:00 and 8:30 a.m. on May 15, bicycle commuters will gather at locations throughout the Baltimore region, including:

* Anne Arundel Co/Annapolis – City Dock, Annapolis
* Baltimore City – War Memorial Plaza at City Hall (100 N. Holliday St.)
* Baltimore County – Courthouse Square (400 Washington Ave, Towson)
* Carroll County – Westminster
* Harford County – Government Center (220 S. Main St, Bel Air)
* Howard County – The Mall in Columbia by Sears Service Center (10300 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia)

New in 2009!  Rallies will also be held at the following Baltimore area colleges:

* College of Notre Dame of Maryland
* Johns Hopkins University – Homewood campus
* Morgan State University

I can’t ride yet (few more weeks), but I’m hoping to make it to the Baltimore City and/or JHU event for pictures and the good vibes.  If anyone wants to meet for coffee around Homewood, we can maybe meet up?

I actually know of some folks personally who made the switch to riding in traffic when the city starting putting in bike lanes and sharrows and “share the road” signs.  This made me feel great.  Folks want to ride, and it felt like Baltimore City wanted us to. I still feel this way.  The hard work of folks like Nate Evans and Barry/Baltimore Spokes makes cycling safer and more attractive all the time.  Even with gas prices that are lower than the fortune that filling up your SUV cost last summer, the number of cyclists using bikes as transportation increases constantly.  The last time I road home from work (April 7th, pre-crash, when it wasn’t all that warm/springy yet), there was considerable bike traffic on the JFT.  It was beautiful.  I still see dozens of souls pedaling up Charles Street in the five minutes or less I’m at Penn Station waiting for the #61 to go home in the afternoon.  Even in the really soupy weather we’ve been having lately.  That I can’t join them hurts more than my slowly-healing injuries.
But of course there are foes and obstacles and fear-folks.  Anyone who rides in this city knows that.  Cab drivers honk at you around the train station because you’re slowing them down from getting another fare from those two MARC trains that just came in.  Door prizes offered daily.  Contractors on Charles Street who leave their mess around Station North.  Students who don’t look out for buses, let alone cyclists.  Drivers who seem like they want to see how close they can get without actually hitting you.  Some few show-off cyclists who feel nothing for almost causing a crash with you. These aren’t things we can just fix without time and cooperation between all parties involved.  Of course.

But it seems like simple, clear-cut things like bike lanes should be easier to enforce.  Across the street from me RIGHT NOW, a moving truck has been blocking the bike lane, a lane of traffic and a whole row of parking spots (THAT HE COULD BE PARKED IN!!!!) for over two hours.  I asked them to move from my window nicely.  Again not so nicely.  Then I did the 311 thing.  Told them so (third message), to give them a chance and to alleviate my conscience in case someone gets a ticket or gets fired (though while I’d feel badly about someone paying for their own actions  is a good question).  I see families use this lane on weekends.  What if a child was hurt because of these guys?  Or an emergency vehicle stopped?  They’re even blocking people’s trash pick-up! This drives me nuts.  I’m contacting the company, since it’s been two hours since 311, with no “officer dispatched immediately”.

Keep track of Baltimore bike lane asshats in My Bike Lane — and submit your own!

From a great article on the new bike culture in New York:

For biking to make it to the next level, for bikes to be completely accepted as the viable form of city transportation that they are, bikers must switch sides. They must act like people and stop acting like cars…It means getting a little personal, though not that personal. Acting like people means that we have to do things that we frankly don’t want to do and things that we want cars to do, like slow down.

There will be caveats. Perhaps your wife is about to go into labor and you take her to the hospital on your bike; then, yes, sure, go the wrong way in the one-way bike lane. We can handle caveats. We are bikers.

….when I imagine the tone of the new bike culture, I think of civility.

Read the rest here.

We’ve reported before that some few lucky Ikea customers can rent bikes/trailers (for free) for taking their stuff home. The closest Ikea to North Baltimore is the one in White [Flight] Marsh. I know a bus goes there. But getting there is still tricky if you don’t have a car — like me. I usually get to go when someone in my family is going and has time and room for me and the stuff I’ll bring home. I would be hard-pressed to be able to carry it on the bus. That’s not a knock on the MTA, who get me to work each morning since I can’t cycle. There’s only so much room for your gear on the bus, unless you’re one of those rude people who take aisle seats in empty rows so they never have to sit next to anyone. I can (and have) carried more with me on my bike than I could on the bus.

Read this fun tale of a cycling trip to Ikea.  This one is not exactly downtown, but that sounds like a fun and low-key trip.

Anyone ride from the city to White Marsh?  What route would you take?  Anyone up for a trip top Ikea this summer?  They do have decent food, and beer can be gotten nearby.

As I sit in my office with the Bike to Work Day poster hanging, looking out on a rainy Baltimore that I’d really like to be riding in right now, I received an emailed link to Audacious Ideas:

With spring here, my audacious idea is to ride your bike to work. I know this sounds crazy when you think of the narrow streets of Baltimore but, this city has the potential to become a great bike city. For its size, 630,000 residents, it is very compact, making many of its neighborhoods easy to reach by bike. Additionally, 32% of residents do not own a car according to a 2005 Abell Foundation report.

I had no idea that that many of my fellow Baltimoreans are without a car.

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