The Pattern is Full: The Return of the Hardcore Bike Commuter.

A lot has changed since I last posted on bike commuting in Biketown USA. For one, the size of my thighs finally exceeds the girth of my previously fat a---. Old Pliny’s body contour has been in flux! The biggest problem I face right now is that walking around for me, is sort of like being an astronaut on the moon. When I started this process, my legs were carrying a bunch more mass and weight about and were acclimated to working out at that weight. Now faced with a fraction of the effort I have to be careful when getting out of a chair, lest my leg muscles propel me to the ceiling.

Portland is even more bike friendly than before, though the same can’t always be said of the riders themselves. More bike lanes and all those little bike path markers that cost us $450 a pop. Being bike friendly is easier than dealing with the homeless, enticing businesses to move here, or restoring a wrecked economy. Eventually, Portland will be populated by nothing other than bike enthusiasts, the homeless and barristas. Who’ll support the city on parking ticket revenues then? Hard to know. One thing’s for sure, the bike community is like that mouse with the cookie.

But I digress. Time for my relaxing morning ride.

It’s morning and I begin to gear up for the 5.5 mile commute one way to work in the predawn light. Lots of hills to crush. It’s cold and rainy so most of the pretenders and Humpty Dumpty’s won’t be cluttering up the route. Plus fewer Gazelles, Cellheads, barrage balloons, and Cartwrights. That is good. It’s safer for them and for me. Just the usual Zombies, Spandicks and T-rex’s but they have mostly learned to avoid the Ghost Biker.

I check my ride. I circle it like a big cat or a pilot in preflight. Tire pressure, ride height, signs of rust or debris, spoke tension, the disc brakes. All check out. No glass in the rubber. My ride is like no other. Started off the shelf but quickly morphed in to my unique ride. Including that wonderful seat made out of the same stuff as the old Stretch Armstrong dolls. The old seat was about as comfortable as a TSA pat down when you object to extra nadrads. (Every bump in the road shouldn’t make you feel like you lost at roshambo.) New pedals, and those magnificent red Axiom waterproof bags. They hold 50 pounds if for some reason one foolishly felt compelled to shlep 50 extra pounds up the hills. Right now they just hold my Clark Kent persona and garb for what waits at the end of the ride. And more lights than Radio City. Unless you burn the driver’s retinas there’s no such thing as too many lights. Don’t forget the Greek chariot front axle just in case somebody gets too close. Get that neon leg thingy that keeps your pants from getting wrapped up in the sprockets? check. Lost a good pair of pants that way once. The road crew vest visible from space? check. Long-billed fishing hat for the rain? check. Keeps the rain out of the eyes. And the shiny chromed bike helmet. A climber’s helmet actually, protection is more important than aerodynamics. Don't look in the mirror because I'm sort of dressed like I should be outside a Tea Party gathering...

Saddle up for the morning show. Once more into the breech and into traffic. Eyes peeled for all the people who can’t be bothered to devote their full attention to the road even in poor visibility. Easily the most dangerous activity any of them pursues. So many bikes of so many descriptions. Looks like something out of steampunk.

And of course there are the peds. Peds, Peds everywhere. Even in the designated bike lanes, the peds clog the thoroughfares. They should have to wear signs saying, “I’m a clueless idiot and your responsible for me.” That’s what the greek front end is for.

Uh oh, a barrage balloon about 75 meters ahead. Clueless dog lover with a long tether who thinks that everyone must love his little ankle biter as much as he/she. Thinks that the rest of the world must bend to accommodate their actions. Darting across the bike lane in random patterns. Give ‘em a wide berth - but not too wide. They need to feel the heat from the Ghost Biker’s passing. Maybe they’ll learn, maybe not.

I pass a Humpty Dumpty within the first half mile of the ride. No helmet. The King’s men would have an easier time gluing those egg shell bits together than a neurosurgeon will if your head hits the concrete at speed with no protection. No limiting rules for them, by god. Except gravity and inertia don’t grant wavers to even the most narcissistic among us. [Important safety digression, being as I actually take care of such people: The Humpty Dumptys are full of excuses for not wearing a helmet. My favorite is, “I ride slowly and safely on back streets.” Hey clueless! Your skull evolved to protect your brain from ground level falls in dirt. Yours is not the skull of a great ram. Falling on concrete or asphalt will hurt your brain. Now back to my regularly scheduled rant, already in progress...]

Half way down the stretch and my speed is maxed out. Bloody Hell! Intersecting to and fro Cartwrights! Little chance of not having to hit the brakes. Little chance, but turns out it’s enough. Groups of people walking in line abreast chatting away about something of universal consequence cluttering up the pattern. Ben, Adam, Hoss , and Little Joe they ain’t. Feel the heat clueless! Dirty looks and shouts easily outdistanced. Sign language in order? The vitriol created suggests that an alternate route might be best for a couple of days.

People moving like zombies covered in soiled blankets. Moving from their night time lares under the bridges to their daily feeding grounds. Moving slow to conserve energy. Not hard to avoid but you need to remember they are unaware of your approach and unconcerned about collision. The local economy and mild weather have made the ranks swell. That and the complete dismantling of mental health services. Muttering to themselves for the most part. The packs of youngish ones are the only ones to really be concerned about. But Jim Bowie’s design is easily recognized even at a distance. They may be feral but not dumb. Best defense is to look like way too much trouble amongst easier pickings. True most places in life.

A Gazelle is ahead near a narrow turn. Jinking back and forth across the path like a great cat was in hot pursuit. In tune to music from their buds. I want to come back clueless in my next life! Ringing the bell to alert them to my approach. She turns to show her distain for being bothered. Six weeks in traction from a collision would be a bigger bother I suspect.

Bloody Hell in spades! The Steel Bridge is going up. To allow a huge yacht to pass by. That bad boy uses more fuel in a minute than all the stopped bikers watching in disgust save in a year. 15 minutes lost waiting for USS (or is it ASS?) Conspicuous Consumption to trundle by. Then I’m back on the path.

A T-Rex is approaching head on and considering cutting me off to round some Cartwrights in his lane rather than break. Thinks better of it and huffs at the inconvenience of not being able to do whatever he wants - ie force me to break. T-Rex’s are most pathological subset of the spandicks. Guys who deliberately try to minimize the amount of upper body work they do since arm strength equates with weight that doesn’t get applied to the road. They better hope they have the legs to get them out of trouble when they cut somebody off because their little arms won’t be of much help when someone with a more balanced muscle mass catches up with them.

Bunch of peds along the river. THINK FAST walkers. No coincidence that our handlebars would not look out of place on a bull’s head. Running in Pamploma would be safer than walking the concourse during the daily bike commute.

Cellhead is up ahead. Flailing their arms to make a point that the guy on the other end of the conversation can’t really appreciate.
(Pliny's suggestion for new bike lane signage was rejected.)
Turn the corner for the egress off the river walk and up a hard hill. ARGH! Somebody is feeding the stupid pigeons! Covering the bike lane. This rainy stretch of concrete is slick enough without the addition of the Pigeon guano. Plus the Biker isn’t too interested in picking it off of his pants legs at the end of the ride.

Big hill at the finish. So steep that I have to traverse it but at least I don’t have to walk the ride anymore.

Work, work, work, work. Quitting time. WOOHOOO!

Day’s end. Stopped at a light waiting for the signal when a spandick half my age rides around me so as to be able to get a jump at the light and not be inconvenienced by anyone. I’m surprised he doesn’t shoot himself when I pass him on that long hill. The BTU’s radiating off my leg muscles must be contributing to global warming. Rain has stopped at least. Time for the evening ride back to the barn and navigate all the road work. How can you tell it’s spring in Portland? Easy - road crews have every major artery blocked down to one lane. They must meet in secret each spring and plan so that no path in or out of the city is free of obstructions and gridlock. They decide to block two lanes of one of our remaining bridges for - what exactly? Can’t actually see anything they are doing. It’s faster to bike than drive in summer. They’ve added all these new bioswails and jogs in the main streets to - “calm the traffic”. Gotta love bureaucratic speak. May calm the traffic but it sure pisses off the drivers engulfed in it. But Portlanders stew in silence. Hardly ever hit the horn regardless of the idiotic infraction in front of them. I swear they’d sooner starve to death in gridlock than honk their horn. Me, I tend more towards a Chicago/New York style of driving... If you aren’t going to use the horn may as well pull it off and save the weight... Heck if I could, I’d get a horn that’s like a sperm whale sonar - one that would actually stun the idiot in front. Ahhh. Biking is so much more relaxing than driving... ;)


Jared said...

I'm packing up my bike for tailgating this weekend for the LSU/Florida game. LSU has many paved bike paths, but more often than not during football season, they are seen as convenient places for people to locate their chairs and grills. I have been forced to begin taking my mountain bike rather than my road bike because of this. I've "encountered," at speed, my share of pedestrians and had cyclists collide with me in the Quad whilst walking my bike across it (as you are supposed to do--there's even a "no cycling" sign at every entrance to it!--probably due to the number of pedestrians in that area). I sympathize with both pedestrians and cyclists, but what really gets my blood boiling are taxi drivers in the French Quarter...

Random tangent: I sometimes think the only reason we don't ride bicycles as much here in Flatland (What's a hill?) is due to the oppressive heat 8 months out of the year. Currently, the heat index is 32*C at 5:15PM local time in October... For those people that wonder why the Gulf South has a high level of heart disease, you go outside when it is 95*F with 90% relative humidity...

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

The humidity makes it as if you are peddling under water. It sucks.

GearHedEd said...

Wish I had a decent bike, and places to ride it again...

Michael Lockridge said...

I don't go on two wheels. There is just way too much stupid out there. I know people who drive with their limited awareness nowhere outside of the vehicle. I know people who text while driving, admitting that it is stupid but not quitting.

I recall (in Portland) riding a motorcycle toward an intersection, making eye contact with a driver coming out of the side road, and watching them pull out in front of me and just stop to stare at me as I slid sideways toward their vehicle.

Hope you fare well against the stupids. I know of two former motorcyclists each of whom has one leg shorter than the other. Both were t-boned by stupids while the bikes were standing still.

It's like giving up smoking. The risk is greater than the reward. Two wheels is too dangerous.