Try, Try Again. And Again. And Again.

11.8.2005 | 5:12 pm

I’ve never had a biking trip quite like the Moab trip last weekend, and not just because of the weather or where we rode or having a great group of friends to ride with. I’ve been trying to figure out what made this one different, and I think I’ve got it figured out: It was great because I was determined to make it great. Now that I’ve got four kids, a fairly intense job, and live several states away, it’s not that easy to get away for a weekend. So I told myself I was going to make the most of it.

Yesterday, I talked about how other people rode. Today, it’s all about me.


Auspicious Beginning

Leading up to Moab this year, I have ridden my mountain bike a whopping five times. I knew I was out of practice and that the mountain bike would feel awkward at first. I also knew, though, that I had been riding my road bike every day; my legs were in good shape. I decided that I wouldn’t worry about whether I made lots of moves, but that I would at least try.

The first day, we rode Slickrock, which is possibly the most popular mountain bike trail in the world. It’s a massive sandstone playground. You can ride the entire loop in a couple hours, but we all preferred to go from one move to the next, with everyone getting as many attempts as they like.

The first move is located at a 20-foot-high round dome of sandstone, with an overhanging ridge at the top. The idea is to climb the dome, go under the overhang and then hop the final lip at the top. It’s a finesse move.

I should point out that the fact that most of the group cleaned this move within a few tries does not make it an easy move. I’ve been to this move with other groups and think I can safely say that most people would not clean this move, ever.

You start by approaching the dome, turning right as you begin climbing it — it’s too steep to go straight up — then pull a sharp U-turn left to get under the overhang. This is the tricky part, because you’ve got to stay a little crouched to not bang your head, your legs are giving everything they’ve got to make it up the steep pitch, and you’ve got a pretty impressive drop on your right.

I tried this move probably eight or nine times, each time losing traction and spinning out at the U-turn. Finally, it occurred to me: try taking the U-turn wider. It meant more time under the overhang, but I was less likely to spin out.

It worked.

Once you’ve made the U-turn, the rest of the move isn’t very difficult — just scary, because you’ve got a wall going up to your right, rock inches over your head, and a big ugly fall to your left. Then, a quick hop at the top over a small step, and I was there.

I could tell it was going to be a good weekend.


My Head Commences to Swell

Next, there was an interesting move everyone called “The Crack.” The best line is up a crack in the sandstone as you lunge up the four-foot, slightly-inclined wall. You’ve got to be careful, because there’s a sandstone wall on your left side, and exposure everywhere else.

While some people made the obvious jokes (Have you ever wondered how middle-aged men act when they’re together? Just like high school sophomores, it turns out) about “cracks,” I watched others do the move, trying to see what worked. Then, I rolled up at speed, wheelied, and got half way up on momentum alone. I stood up, cranked twice, and was up.

First try.

Oh yeah, it was going to be a good weekend.


Ow! Ow ow ow ow.

The third big move is different — it’s just a steep slope — 70 degrees, maybe? — thirty feet down into powdery, soft sand below. From the top, it looks like you’re just rolling off into space and that you’ll fall the whole way down. Once you’re going, though, the real trick is to just manage your speed. You don’t want to skid, but you want to keep the wheels rolling as slowly as possible.

At the beginning of the day, I had not intended to do this move. It’s a pure “guts” move, and I tend to err on the side of caution.

The first few people had gone, and now there were three or four of us up top, looking at each other.

I decided to try it.

I rolled down, and could tell I wasn’t doing a good job of speed management — I was going too fast. I grabbed more brake, but not enough. I kept accelerating.

And then I hit the sand.

My bike stopped right away, but I did not. I shot over the front of the bike, mostly landing harmlessly in the nice, soft sand.

My right hand, though, landed in a cactus.

I had picked up two kinds of quills:

  • Nice, easy-to-extract needle-ish quills: These were very easy to remove. Grab them and pull them out. I probably picked up fifteen to twenty of these.
  • Nasty tufts of hairlike quills: I also picked up dozens — hundreds? — of tiny little quills as fine as hairs. These were easy enough to remove, if you could see them. Some of them came in little clumps and could be pulled out together. Others, though, came individually, and stung like crazy whenever I touched my palm to anything. I expect I have not yet removed all of these.

Strangely, this painful episode didn’t do much to hurt my confidence. After all, I had just had bad luck hitting a cactus; it’s not like the fall itself would have otherwise been painful at all.

All in all, I was pleased with myself: I had just ridden my bike down a thirty foot wall.


Gold Bar Rim

Gold Bar Rim is one of Moab’s best-kept secrets. This is because most people don’t understand the right way to ride it. If you ride it as most people do, it’s not a great ride — you’re just climbing, climbing, climbing, and then faced with the Portal trail at the end, which is an evil, murderous trail (there’s seriously a sign at the top with a counter saying how many people have died while trying to ride it).

What we do, instead, is ride as a group from one interesting technical move to another. We then stop and work on trying to clean it, giving everyone as many tries as they like (there used to be a three-try rule, but as the difficulty of moves has increased, that rule has fallen by the wayside).

As I noted yesterday, my technical skills aren’t even close to most of my friends’. But something had got into my head, and I found myself on a quest to clean certain moves.

  • Staircase: This is just a massive progression of sandstone ledges, some just an inch or two high, some as high as a foot. Some people cleaned it and moved on, some people tried it once or twice and moved on. According to Rocky, who cleaned it his first try and then waited for me, I tried it ten times, and I had already tried it a few times before he even got there. The thing is, though, I finally got it.
  • Grand Finale: I knew, going in, that I wasn’t going to clean this move. It’s three massive ledges (3-4 feet each) you’ve got to climb in immediate succession. Until this past weekend, though, I had never even tried it. Last Saturday, though, after watching everyone else make attempt after attempt, it occurred to me: I would never clean that move if I didn’t at least start trying. So I did. I never even got to the top of the second ledge, but I did make it past the first. For me, that’s a big deal. I probably tried this six or seven times.


I looked in the mirror today and I have five large bruises on my legs. I didn’t count how many times I fell during the weekend, but I would guess it was close to thirty times. Maybe fifty.

Maybe it’s for the best that I didn’t count.

The thing is, though, I would gladly have twice as many bruises, and fall twice as often, if that’s what it took to earn that feeling of approaching a move, attacking it, and having the uncertainty and apprehension turn to victory and elation as you finally — finally! — make that move yours.


Omega Rider

11.7.2005 | 8:20 pm

I just — as in 12 hours ago — got back from Moab, UT, where a group of friends and I had what I think most of us would agree was the best long weekend of mountain biking in the history of long weekends of mountain biking.

I’m sure we share a lot of the same reasons for what made it great. The weather was truly ideal; temperatures in the mid-sixties throughout the day, with just enough of a breeze to feel good. There’s a new Mexican restaurant in town that we all agreed was top-notch. There was good consensus on which rides we should do, and most everyone stayed for the whole three days. And those who didn’t stay for all three days had a good reason for going home, except Brad, who is a nincompoop.

I had my own particular, secret reason for why I enjoyed the trip, though: I have fully and completely accepted that I am and always will be the worst rider in the group.

It’s refreshing, really, to finally be able to say to myself, "I may improve a lot, but I will never ever ever be even remotely as technically adept as the second-worst rider in the group." Once I admitted that, I was able to stop competing, and just start enjoying the multitude of ways in which all my friends are better mountain bikers than I am, and how they express that superiority.

I shall give examples.


Ride Brilliantly, Then Say You are Just Lucky

I wanted to start with this one, because many Fat Cyclist readers have expressed interest in how my brother-in-law Rocky would fare, what with his being a karmic black hole and all. Well, as he pointed out midway through the second day of riding last weekend, those kinds of problems only happen to him when he’s on endurance rides.

Rocky, I think it can be safely said, left everyone’s jaws hanging open last weekend. On Slickrock, he cleaned everything, and usually on the first try. On Goldbar Rim, he completely dumbfounded everyone by casually flashing big drops and tall ledges. This is best illustrated by a move that I call "The Grand Finale" — a series of three ledges in rapid succession, each about three feet high. Rocky, without ever having tried this move before, rode straight up it: Bam, bam, bam. First try. Then, after everyone else worked on it for about an hour while Rocky soaked up the sun, he got back on his bike and did it again.

The thing is, after each extraordinary feat, Rocky would always have some sort of weird self-deprecation on hand to explain it away. The following are actual quotes from Rocky, followed by my petulant responses.

  • "I did it on the first try, because I knew I didn’t have enough gas for the second try." So, I’m falling down simply because I have energy to burn, right Rocky?
  • "I just cleaned it because I was afraid to fall down." I, on the other hand, seek opportunities to crash and burn. Yes, I realize that it looks like that’s really the case, but I’m being sarcastic.
  • "I’m just having a good day." No, Rocky, I’m having a good day, because I’m cleaning roughly 40% of the moves after having tried over and over and over. You are having a day unlike any day I can even imagine.

You know what I think? I think the extra kidney was just holding Rocky back.


Do Impossible Moves with the Grace of a Dancer, Using the Simplest Bike Imaginable

Brad is a pleasure to watch. While most people thrash on their bikes, trying to manhandle them up — or down — a tricky move, Brad just seems to flow up and over everything, as if he has obtained a waiver from the people who enforce the laws of physics and gravity. Brad sees a series of boulders, feet apart — something most people wouldn’t even picture as a "move," because clearly there’s no way to ride up and over all those — and then he rides up and over all those.

I don’t even try most of the moves Brad cooks up, in much the same way that I don’t try to speak Japanese: Saying a sentence is out of the question when you don’t have the vocabulary.

This year, Brad did it all on a 29"-wheeled singlespeed, which somehow made his riding even more elegant. On the singlespeed, you don’t get to pick how fast or slow you approach the moves, you pretty much have to do everything at a good clip or lose your momentum.

I used to be envious of Brad’s riding style. Now he’s so far ahead of me that the envy’s gone. Plus, I’m confident that I’m 45% smarter than he is.


Convince Me You are Going to Die Every Single Time You Do a Move

Corey is a mellow, unassuming guy who just seems happy to be wherever he happens to be at the moment. When he’s on his bike, though, you can be certain that he’s looking for a difficult ledge to climb up, or a huge drop to fly down. And you can be equally certain that he will completely disregard any potential consequences of failure, such as falling to his death or ramming headfirst into a rock.

Corey routinely charged at 4-foot-high ledges at top speed, knowing that he needed that kind of momentum to carry him up, and also knowing that if he didn’t make it, he’d crush into the ledge and then fall backward. He’d get big air off a ten foot drop, yelling "That felt good!" afterward, leaving unspoken — unthought? — how double-plus-ungood it would have felt if he would have munged the landing.

I guess that’s what separates the daredevils from the poseurs: Corey sees how well the move’s going to go; I see opportunities for compound fractures.


Convince Me that Fitness and Power are the Answers to Every Problem

Kenny also brought a singlespeed 29-er to the Moab party. And while Brad just seemed to zip up and over thing in spite of physics, Kenny cleaned everything as if he wanted to make an obstinate rebuttal to gravity. So many times during the rides last weekend, Kenny would slow down in the middle of a move. I’d think he was about to go down, and then he’d lean forward, stand up, and pedal through it. I swear, Kenny could pedal up a tree if the tires would stick.


Convince Me that Fitness and Power are Irrelevant to the Problem

Bob’s got middle-age spread to about the same extent I do. He’s been riding his mountain bike no more than I have, and his road bike considerably less than I have. But he was still cleaning move after move. No two ways about it: Bob’s got the skill and experience to make his body do whatever he wants, even if his body doesn’t think it can.

I think, actually, Bob may have benefited from the advice I gave him through the day. I encouraged him, for example, to throw his shoulders back when he attempted a move, or to try to lift his front wheel with more panache. My advice had its effect, and I could tell Bob really valued it, primarily by giving me the extra space a man of wisdom deserves. Some might suggest he was avoiding me, but I know better.


Completely Up-end My Understanding of What Makes a Good Bike

Dug and Rick both rode hardtail singlespeed 29-ers at Fall Moab this year, too. And they were cleaning moves left and right. They were climbing stuff I was doing in my granny gear. They were, in effect, showing me that all the reasons I have for a geared setup were actually just ways that I’m compensating for my weak legs. I’d clean a move and be proud of myself, and then Rick and Dug would easily do the same move on their singlespeeds. I’d be motoring uphill and feeling good about myself, when they’d suddenly pass me. "Sorry, gotta keep moving," they’d say.

Rick let me borrow his bike for a few minutes during a couple of the rides, and now I desperately want a Gary Fisher Rig.


And Yet… 

So, yes. I am the worst rider of the group, and always will be. But you know what? I had some spectacular successes over the weekend, along with some impressive failures. And those are what I will talk about tomorrow.

And, after all, every group needs an omega rider — a guy who can make everyone else in the group feel good about themselves. I’m proud to fill that role.


PS: Who’s in the photos? Here’s who.

1. Bob, cleaning a ledge drop. Then, after the ledge drop, you’ve got to do . . . another ledge drop.

2. Corey, going big. That’s a six-foot vertical drop he’s hucking there, with a nice hard sandstone floor rushing up to greet him.

3. Dug, cleaning a big ledge move. It’s hard to tell in the photo, but that ledge overhangs. You’ve got to wheelie up about 18 inches and then hop your rear wheel that same amount.

4. The group.

     Left to right, front row: Rich, Tom, Brad, Paul.

     Left to right middle row: Rocky, Corey, Rick, Dug, Bob

     Left to right, back row: Kenny, Racer, Fatty



Skkreeekkh! Kronk! Whumph! . . . Huh?

11.3.2005 | 6:48 pm

Is there anything less surprising in the world than a cyclist getting hit by a car? I mean, sure, it’s a big deal to the guy it actually happens to, but it’s so common of a story it’s almost not worth telling, right?

But I just can’t get my head around what happened on my commute yesterday.


The Setup

It had rained most of Tuesday night, but Wednesday morning was really nice: cloudy, but no wind. I finished writing and posting my entry for the day, got my bike out, cleared the pine needles out from between the tires and fenders (it’s amazing how many collect there in just ten miles, and how much of a braking action they cause), and headed to work.

The stoplight at the intersection of 228th and Inglewood Hill meant that, as usual, I was first off the line. There’s a nice shoulder on the side of the road, though, so people had no trouble passing me. I got up to speed and was cruising along at about 20mph.


The Crash

Then, about 200 yards after the stoplight, a bronze Toyota Previa passed me and then immediately turned into the parking lot to my right, right in front of me.

I grabbed my brakes and veered right, but there was no where to go — no way to avoid the van.

I thunked hard into the rear-right of the van with my left shoulder and ribs, then crashed to the ground on my right side. My right hip and knee took most of the fall. Stunned, I laid there, looking at the van that just hit me.


The Followup

I expected the van to stop, immediately. I expected someone to jump out of the van and apologize, profusely — after all, this was clearly the van driver’s fault, pure and simple. It was a classic "Right Hook," Collison Type #4 as defined by (Thanks to Mytzpyk of the excellent MinusCar blog; I’m just stealing his link). I expected, in short, the very most basic human courtesy.

Instead, the van continued into the large parking lot and parked at a far corner, near a building.

Maybe it says something about me that I assumed whoever did this would come over after parking. I got up, checking to see how bad I was hurt. Not too badly, as it turned out. My left shoulder and ribs hurt, and my right hip and knee stung, but nothing felt serious. While I waited for this person to come over, I — shakily, due to the adrenaline rush — checked over my bike. The fenders were a little out of alignment, but they wouldn’t take long to fix. Otherwise, it looked like my bike was OK, too. I was sure the person who had caused this crash would be glad to hear that.

Speaking of which, I still hadn’t seen anyone exit the van.


The Not-Very-Surprising Conclusion

I had meant this story to have a twist ending, but the way I’ve been telegraphing details, I assume you’ve figured out by now: Tired of waiting for this person to do the right thing, I finally went over to the van myself.

It was empty.

I assume that the driver either bolted into the building while I was checking my bike or exited from the passenger side of the van and used cover from the other cars in the lot to get to the building.

You had figured out that something like this had happened, right?

But I still do have one little twist I’ll bet you didn’t see coming: the building this driver snuck into was a church.



The Letdown

I got on my bike and left. Within a few miles, it occurred to me that I should have left a sarcastic note on the van’s windshield — something like, "Hey, unorthodox interpretation of the Good Samaritan parable you’re using there." Or I could have given a bike shoe cleat-enhanced kick to the car where I had crashed into it. Or I could have gone into the church, asking everyone whether they knew who was the person who thought hit and runs were OK.

I always have those kinds of ideas, and they always come too late to be of any use. And maybe that’s for the best. Or maybe it’s not.


The Questions

So, here are the questions for the day:

  • What should I have done differently, if anything?
  • When you’ve been either hit by — or forced into hitting — a car, how have you reacted (assuming you were conscious and could react at all)
  • Is this slink-away-undetected hit-and-run behavior as mind-blowingly strange as it seems to me? Or is it more common than I thought?

The Winner of Yesterday’s Banjo Brothers Bike Bag Giveaway

First off, I should apologize for not replying to comments yesterday. I was not in a cheerful mood, and didn’t want to put a damper on the hilarious bike rack-related postings that were flying around. Here’s my favorite:

While preparing to race the 12 Miles of Hell in Lawton, Oklahoma, my friend had pulled out her fancy trailer-hitch-bike-rack-cum-repair-stand from the Jeep. It’s one of those jobs that swings out away from the back of the vehicle so you can open the tailgate without removing or folding down the rack. Hot stuff.

I came around from the side of the Jeep, full of excitement and pre-race jitters, and CLOSE-LINED the HELL out of myself on the extended rack. I was actually knocked on my butt from the impact. I had bruises for weeks. The best part of it all? We were camped right at the starting line, which was, at the time, crawling with the Pro/Expert riders who were getting ready to begin the day’s racing.

*sigh* I should not be allowed out of the house some days…

— k

"Why is K the winner?" I hear you ask, in a petulant tone. Here’s why.

  • Originality: It described how a bike rack can be dangerous not just to a bike, but to a person.
  • Relevance: When I read this comment, I thought to myself, "D’oh! I forgot to talk about all the times I have stood up after fastening a bike to the rack with a bungie cord or Velcro strap, whacking the crown of my skull into a sharp metallic corner of the rack in the process."
  • Hilarity: I love the image of someone getting clotheslined by a rack right at the starting line of a race, as long as that image is not of me.
  • Braveness: Willingness to describe an episode where you are clearly the buffoon is not an easy thing.

K, email me your mailing info and I’ll send you the Banjo Brothers Seat Bag. And everyone else, thanks for submitting your stories. You’ll get another chance next week, so don’t whine about losing, OK?


BONUS: Important Next Week’s Banjo Brother’s Giveaway Info

Last night I emailed the Banjo Brothers and asked if we could mix things up a little for next week. "Instead of giving away a seat bag," I proposed, "could we give away a full-on messenger bag?" They said yep. Because they’re cool.


The Fat Cyclist’s Guide to Ultimate Bike Rack Happiness

11.2.2005 | 5:05 pm

Most cyclists will agree with me on this, I think: the best way to start a ride is from your own garage. Click in, roll out. It’s a nice, smug feeling: The world is your oyster. You’re self-sufficient. You’re eco-friendly.

Sadly, a lot of the best rides just don’t work out that way. To get to the ride, you have to become a rolling irony and drive there.

And that means, eventually, getting a bike rack for your car. Which is why I respectfully submit this, “The Fat Cyclist’s Guide to Ultimate Bike Rack Happiness.”

Okay, I admit: today’s headline oversells what I have to say. But I just couldn’t bring myself to call today’s entry “The Fat Cyclist’s list of rack-related misadventures and resulting mildly-useful advice.”

Even though that’s what it is.


Don’t Use a Temporary Fix as Your Permanent Solution

You know those racks that can be mounted on the trunk of your car using nothing but a few plastic clips, some aluminum tubing, and an infinitely long tangle of nylon straps? Those suck. If used for more than a month or so, they will bust. They will trash your car’s paint job. They will self-destruct when your car reaches 72 miles per hour.

Actually, I have no idea if any of those things are true. I’ve never owned one of those temporary trunk-mounted jobbies, for the following reasons:

  • The House of Cards Effect: Bikes on temporary racks always look like they’re in a precarious position.
  • The Excessive Effort Effect: If you own a temporary rack, any time you want to take your bike somewhere you’ve got to first put the rack on your car, and then put your bike on the rack. For lazy people (ie, me) that crosses the “too much work” threshold and they’re (I’m) likely to find a reason to bail on the whole enterprise.
  • The “Steal Me” Effect: Temporary bike racks give you no security. After you’ve been on this epic ride and are on your way home, say you want to get something to eat at Wendy’s. Crazier things have happened, right? So you go to Wendy’s and then realize that your bike is connected to your car using nothing but nylon webbing, aluminum tubing, and plastic clips. All it would take to steal your $6000 Colnago is a good pair of scissors.
  • The Real Reason: I know myself well enough to realize that while I would fastidiously follow the directions for hooking up the rack the first time, after a couple times I would get sloppy and do it wrong. The thought of watching my bike in the rear view mirror as it bounces along the road higgledy-piggledy at freeway speeds is terrifying enough to be a deal breaker.
  • The Other Real Reason: Not that you need more than one deal breaker, but I’m confident that if I put a hinged contraption with yards and yards of nylon straps and clips in my garage, it would immediately become so tangled that even the original manufacturer would give it up as a lost cause.

Don’t Put Your Bike Up Top

I do not know a single bike owner with a roof-mounted bike rack and a garage who has not plowed their bike (or, often, more than one bike) into the garage at least once. Myself included. In my case, I had four bikes on the roof at the time. Since, however, two of the bikes were rear-facing, my moment of neglect damaged only (!!) two bikes: two new handlebars, one replaced frame, two new suspension forks, two new headsets, and two new stems set me right as rain. That cost about $1800.

Except this event also damaged the car. Insurance covered most of that, after my $500 deductible.

Oh yeah, I also needed to replace parts of the bike rack. That cost about $400.

And, finally, let’s not forget the damage to the brickwork on the house. $600.

The money, though, wasn’t the worst part. The worst part is that when you hear that noise, you suddenly and clearly remember exactly where your bikes are and what your garage clearance is, and what that noise means. There’s no getting around it: you have just made an incredibly boneheaded error, and it is going to cost you dearly.

I remember when I heard that noise I slammed on the brakes, put the car in park, and then had to let the wave of nausea pass before I got out of the car. I almost couldn’t bear to look at what I had done.

After that, I came up with a pretty reliable system: any time I had to put a bike on the roof rack, I first put the garage door opener in the glove compartment. Then, when I got home and went for the opener in its usual place and found it wasn’t there, that reminded me of where my bikes were and what I needed to do before driving into the garage.


Don’t Over-Rack

I once bought a compact SUV (a Honda CRV) because I had a vision of how many bikes I could carry with it. I outfitted it with a roof rack, which easily accommodated four bikes. I also set it up with a spare-tire-mounted rack: that was another two bikes. Yes, I could transport six bikes, along with five passengers and their stuff. I had built the ultimate bike road trip vehicle.

There was just one problem: the car didn’t have the power for that kind of cargo. With four or five people and a bunch of bikes up top, the poor little CRV strained to keep highway speeds, even on the flats. If we went into the mountains (a distinct possibility, considering we were usually going mountain biking), my car could barely stay above 40. 41 if you turned off the A/C and stereo.

When I sold the CRV, I was left with lots of extra rack. Dug came over to see if the Cadillac he had just stolen from his mother (Dug, alas, has no scruples whatsoever) would work with the CRV’s roof rack. I had my doubts, but thought we could check.

One of the most amazing things I have ever seen was when we lifted the rack from my CRV, still locked down for that car’s dimensions, onto the 80’s vintage Cadillac and snapped it into place — with no adjustments whatsoever.

Dug and I looked at each other, jaws agape. There were no words to describe what we had witnessed.

I gave the rack to Dug, no charge. Clearly, the bike rack gods wanted Dug to have that rack; who was I to interfere?


Put the Rack in the Back

If you’re going to be putting bikes on your car on a frequent basis, you need a rack that mounts to a 2” hitch receiver. It’s that simple. The receiver will have a loop that lets you lock your bike — including the wheels — to your car, making it at least inconvenient for thieves to take your bike. Your bike won’t be any higher than your car, so you can still get in the garage. And your bike won’t be way up there in the air, so it’s easy to put them up on the rack and take them down.

“But,” I hear you say, “my car doesn’t have a 2” receiver hitch.”

Well, neither did my old Honda Civic hatchback (a wonderful, practical car which I should never have sold). A quick trip to a welder solved that problem.

Also, I should mention that I believe I may currently be the world’s only owner of an Acura RSX Type S with a 2” receiver. In the interest of embarrassing overdisclosure, I should mention that I customized the rack for this car by shortening it from a 4-bike rack to a 2-bike rack. You know, because it looked cooler.

As if once you mount a bike rack to a mid-life-crisis-mobile you have any chance of salvaging any coolness whatsoever.


Miscellaneous Wisdom, Acquired the Hard Way

  • Secure the Bikes: Once you have the bike on the rack, make sure it can’t sway, especially if you’re going to be taking the bike a long distance. I made the mistake of not doing this once, and the bike rocked back and forth for the entirety of the seven-hour drive. Sadly, the downtube grazed a bolt on the rack with each sway. By the time I took the bike off the rack, the downtube — which was not mine —  had a nice little groove carved into it. I have since purchased that frame.
  • Simple is Good: I’ve had a number of different kinds of racks. The most secure are the fork-mounted kind. My favorite, though, are the kind that clamp onto the top tube.
  • Goodbye, Elegant Paint Job: The problem with the clamp kind, though, is that each time you clamp the top tube, you scratch the bike’s paint job a little bit. For a long time, I never noticed this effect, because my own bikes were both titanium, and hence had no paint job to scratch. When I got the Fisher Paragon (RIP), though, it wasn’t long before I had completely removed the paint in the clamping area.
  • Trust Nobody: It is a widely accepted tenet of rack-based bike transportation that you are responsible for making sure your own bike is secure to the rack. If your bike flies off the rack while in flight, it’s nobody’s fault but your own. Unless the entire rack flies off the car, in which case a reasonable argument can still be made that you should have driven your own stupid car if you’re going to be a crybaby second-guesser. Not that I have ever had a rack suddenly fly off the roof of my car while at freeway speeds.

BONUS: Free Stuff Wednesday, Part II

To win a bike bag from the fabulous Banjo Brothers today, all you have to do is comment with your own bike rack story. I’ll pick the best one. And “best,” in this instance, can mean best advice, best horror story, best whatever. Don’t worry, I can tell what’s best.


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