Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A Quick Test and a Cyclist's Perspective

Here's an interesting site hosted by Northwestern Mutual Financial Network where you can plug in some specific information and get an approximation for how long you may expect to live. I suppose if a person can avoid getting a terminal illness or having a fatal accident the number you come up with may be somewhat accurate. There are just too many variables along the way. Anyway, my estimate came in at 90 years old.

Not only is Gordy Shields still riding at the age of 90 but he's breaking records, too. To be honest, I think he's alone in his age group. If my body holds up and I'm able, I hope to be riding well into my 70s. It's my belief that once you stop moving, age catches up with you. Maybe that's why it so often feels like I'm on the run...or ride.

Speaking of riding, I rode back across the river yesterday on the bike path adjacent to 494 where it dumps me out by Mall of America. I'd done nearly the same ride two weeks ago on Memorial Day but there was very little traffic then. What a difference a holiday can make. I lost a lot of time yesterday waiting at stop lights.

I'd say that 99.99% of all drivers out there are extremely courteous toward me. When I think of the hundreds of thousands of people who pass me in their vehicles in the course of a year of cycling, it's only ever a handful of drivers who feel it necessary to endanger my life by not allowing me the 3 foot buffer the law requires; or worse yet, giving me the brush back by coming within inches of me. Fortunately, that seldom ever happens.

An incident of a different sort happened a few years ago while riding home on highway 13 just west of county road 5. I was in the zone and hammering out a nice rhythm. A car load of kids came up behind me and a guy in the front passenger seat stuck his head out and yelled at me. I wasn't expecting it and it rattled me. I made a note of the car's color and type and watched as it drove away. I didn't think much else about it and once again found my rhythm.

Traffic along this stretch of road can easily back up depending on the time of day and this was late afternoon: rush hour. A mile later I noticed that there was a long line of traffic waiting for the light at CR-5. Was it possible that I could catch up to the car and turn the tables on the kids inside? Sure enough, I saw their car, still in the right lane and stuck in traffic. The kid who yelled at me never suspected that I'd be able to catch him. I came up behind him, his window still down, got real close and let out a yell as loud as I could, totally startling him. I know it was wrong to do but it was such sweet revenge. I smiled and could see that the other kids in the car were laughing. He smiled too so all was well.

You may wonder why some of us roadies don't use bike paths when they're just off to the side of the road we're biking on. They're actually more hazardous for us than being out on the road. Where a side street intersects a bike path there will typically be a stop sign before the path. It's been my experience that drivers nearly always wait until they're straddling the path to complete their stop. For me to negotiate a bike path safely, I would have to slow at each intersection to be sure a car wasn't going to pull in front of me. It's next to impossible to find any kind of rhythm doing that. It's simply much safer and easier to use the road and leave the path to riders who aren't so much focused on speed and distance. They're great for families on a leisurely ride.

Many of the highways in Minnesota have a nice 8-10 foot shoulder. That's heaven to a cyclist. You may notice that when we're on the shoulder we'll tend to cheat toward the left rather than far to the right where it would appear to be safer. The reason for this is that the further to the right we ride, the greater the amount of debris we encounter and with it, increased risk for a punctured tire. We're seriously not trying to antagonize drivers on the road. It's all a matter of self (and tire) preservation.

I made a slight detour on yesterday's route. A friend at work and his wife recently purchased a dog grooming shop in Savage. I've biked past this area dozens of times this year but I'm usually intent on not interrupting my ride. I had some extra time yesterday and biked up to Tim and Kim's shop but it was closed. Another time, Tim. Maybe I'll leave my bike at home and bring Allie and Toby along. Do you have any treats I can promise them?

Edit: Should Tim decide to find time in his busy schedule and spruce up the outside of his shop this is what the sign above his business will look like.

How 'bout that bike in the photo?


Anonymous said...

Nice picture of the dog shop but that sign really looks like CRAP. That and somebody parked their bike out front...

Kevin Gilmore said...

Yeah, I was thinking of Photoshopping the blemishes from the photo but I left it with hopes that you'd be compelled to fix it. Oh...look again at the post and the additional photo I've added. This could be your shop, Tim!

It's probably not fair of me to have my bike in the photo as it's no doubt all that people will focus on.

Anonymous said...

Well, the edited version looks a lot better, but the sign is supposed to say (will eventually say) "Pampered Paws" with a round paw logo on the left side.

Do us a favor and leave that purty bike there, and keep people from looking at the bad sign!