Sunday, April 5, 2015

Monday, March 2, 2015

S.B. 192, The Mandatory Bicycle Helmet Law: Suddenly Cycling “Advocates” Discover Personal Liberty, And Why Your Local “Bicycle Coalitions” Are Too Little, Too Late.

"Maybe if everyone wore a helmet, I wouldn't look so silly."

Everytime I tell myself to refrain from open politics on this blog, along comes a topic that just screams out for a rebuttal.  And, while my rebuttal to a popular topic at hand may not amount to any kind of world-shattering change, it sure feels good to get it off of my chest.  So, why do I bring this subject up?  Well, in case people were too busy to notice what is going on in the California State Legislature, which is probably 98% of the State’s population, there is a small battle waging, which will eventually escalate into a Public Relations skirmish.  Allow me to explain.

State Senator Carol Liu (D-La Canada Flintridge) has introduced S.B. 192, which would mandate helmet use on every bicyclist in the State of California, regardless of age, (under-18 is already mandatory), plus require reflective clothing while riding at night.  Her argument is as follows: “Any responsible bicycle rider should wear a helmet,” said Liu, Chair of the Senate Education Committee. “This law will help protect more people and make sure all riders benefit from the head protection that a helmet provides.”  And, she is right.  However, as for what constitutes “Responsible” and “Reflective,” and who gets to define both terms, has not yet been explained.  Additionally, the bill completely ignores mention of body protection below the neck. 

So, what part of the bill has “Cycling Advocates” spilling their mineral water’s and lattes?  Is it the mandatory helmet portion of the bill?  No.  Is it the high conspicuity clothing provision of the bill?  No.  What put the nail on the saddle of those opposed to S.B. 192 is the State of California has no business mandating how they should live their lives.  And, you know what? Folks opposed to the bill are 100% correct.  The downside of their argument; that horse left the barn a long time ago.  True, in a free society, this kind of Nanny-State thinking should have been killed at the source, however, in State after State, and in case after case, personal liberty and personal choice has lost out to the “It Takes a Village” cabal, everytime.

Meanwhile, the leading opposition to S.B. 192 is coming from an unlikely source; your friendly, neighborhood Bicycle Collation.  Yes, the same people leading the charge to make our roads “Bicycle Safe” are against an actual bicycle safety measure.  While the hypocrisy is plain for all to see, their opposition, as previously stated, does make some sense, even though it is doomed to miserable failure.  And, I personally understand their opposition to this proposed piece of legislation.   However, the arguments against S.B. 192 are as tired, and ineffective, as they are old.  While the intention, and rationality of those opposed are common sense sound, the overwhelming mountain of case precedent overriding their emotional opposition amounts to a hill of nothing in Sacramento.  The extent of over-reaching restrictions of the free exercise of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness the State of California has heaped upon its citizens to date is massive.  So, while I am happy to see organized opposition to SB192, I have to question the integrity, and timing, of the various “Bicycle Advocates/Coalitions” leading the campaign to see the bill go down in flames. 

Consider the plea for support on the defeat of S.B. 192 from Ryan Price, Administrative Director, California Bicycle Coalition:

“Please join us in asking the Senator to take the next step: scrap the helmet mandate, and instead focus on measures that protect bicyclists and promote bicycling.”

Talk about nonsense.  Basically, what Mr. Price is advocating is that while he, and his coalition(s), are all for the safety of cyclists in the State of California, he (they) only supports policies he (they) personally agree with.  Not too sound of an argument when you are attempting to sway opinion and rally people to your cause.  But wait, there’s more!  Also from Mr. Price:

“There are proven ways to make our streets safer while encouraging bicycling -- reducing speed limits on key streets, building protected bike lanes and bike paths, and educating motorists and bicyclists on how to drive or ride safely, to name a few. A mandatory helmet law is not one of them.”

Talk about a flim-flam!  If this is the argument being set forth as reasons to defeat S.B. 192, then I actually have a few questions for Mr. Price and the various “Coalitions” supposedly speaking for the cyclist in me:

Where were bicycle coalitions when mandatory seat belt laws were put into effect?  Where were bicycle coalitions when child safety seats were being mandated?  Where were bicycle coalitions when mandatory auto insurance laws were out into effect?  Additionally, where were these very same bicycle coalitions when a tax (fee) was introduced to park on (so one could ride on), and visit, Public Lands?  Not aware of the former?  It’s innocuously known as the “Adventure Pass.”  And, for the Piece de Résistance; where were bicycle coalitions when mandatory motorcycle helmet laws were put into effect for the very same reasons Ms. Liu puts forth as proof of S.B. 192’s validity?  

All of the above examples were the same type of legislative overreach that Senator Liu is attempting, yet where were the “Advocates” then?  Additionally, all of the above examples had legitimate Pro and Con arguments, yet they were rammed through the Legislature, and forced upon all of us “For Our Own Good,” even though many of us can walk, chew gum, and juggle all at the same time.  When mandatory motorcycle helmet laws were being advocated, the exact same reasons for their passage were used just as they are now in the case of S.B. 192.  However, there was one added twist in the case of motorcyclists, and I am sure it will come up when Senator Liu meets more and more opposition: Injured cyclists will be a burden to hospital emergence rooms, and thus, Taxpayers.  It will be espoused that it is not fair that Public Tax Dollars must be used to pay for the medical care of the “Irresponsible” cyclist.  While the jury is still out how Obama Care will address that concern, that argument is as hollow now as it was in 1994 (when mandatory motorcycle helmet use became law in California).  Interestingly, the costs of government waste, welfare recipients and Illegal Aliens are never factored into the equation of the fiduciary use of “Taxpayer Funds.” 

So, what does this all mean, and what can we, the people of California, do about it?  Well, the first thing we should not do is give up pushing back against the Legislative Overreach of Sacramento.  The next thing we NEED to do is all fight together, no matter what our interests and activities are, to better help each other out to remove Intrusive-Government from our lives.  The legislative abuse against your neighbor today will most certainly become the legislative abuse of yourself tomorrow.  And, as that list of Government usurpations continues to grow, we, the people, unfortunately, barely make a sound of discontent, especially if the abuse does not apply to us, personally.  That is, until the long arm of the Legislature reaches out into our own, personal activities, and once localized, then, and only then, is it all-out war for most people.  I just wish all of us citizens were on the same page at the same time.  The real bottom line is this: Either we all fight together against Government Abuse of Power, or we all fall under its sword.  As Mr. Miyagi in the movie Karate Kid summed up so perfectly: “Choose.”

In totality, I agree safety equipment can help in the event of an accident, and that it is up to the individual to select not only the extent of their involvement in a given activity, but also the amount safety apparatus required.  Taken to the furthest extreme (and Sacramento is just about there), is it really irrational to extrapolate that in the future everyone will be required to wear helmets and padded suits just to walk down the street?  Well, the politicians and bureaucrats seeking to dictate every, single component of our lives certainly think so. 

In summation, while I agree with the Spirit of this legislation (personal safety), I must disagree with the Letter of it (forced behavior), as it is a clear suppression of personal liberty and the right of a person to choose their own, best destiny.  However, ignoring inherent rights has never stopped a Politician from passing “Feel Good” legislation, thus, the arguments against S.B. 192 will not persuade Sacramento, either.   

The horse is already in the barn, save for the tail. 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Nishiki Sebring – A Resurrection



When the new, plush offices of Cycling Dynamic were finally occupied, the move came with a nice, albeit neglected surprise: A bicycle.  And not just any bicycle, but a steel bike.  A 1983 Nishiki Sebring to be exact.  So, not being one to miss an opportunity, I began to think about getting the bike back on the road.  And, I thought.  And, I thought a little more.  And before I knew it, three-months had gone by.  See, whist the new building was being remodeled, the Nishiki fell to the bottom of the “To-Do” list, as electrical plumbing, flooring, appliances, cabinetry, and paint were at the forefront of available resources.  Moving truly is an adventure.

So, whilst in the full-grip of DIY bliss, there it sat.  And it sat.  And, finally, its day had come.  And even though it was not my style (the Sebring’s are more of a hybrid frame), it was still an old, lugged-steel frame, therefore, by all laws of Heaven and Earth, it was cool.  It just remained unknown how much of the bike could be saved, and how much had to be trashed.  Turns out, it was not too much of the latter, and joyously, a whole bunch of the former.

The bones of the bike looked good, and though its life of being left outside in a coastal environment had overall negative effects, I was surprised that corrosion on the Chromoly 4130 frame and components was not much, much worse.  One good thing about bikes from that era was they were built tough, and this particular Sebring was no exception.  The Suntour gruppo was still in working order (Hah! Try that on today’s components!), the bar, stem, post, brakes, wheels, and yes, even the chain were all still in good working order, plus the wheels, one steel, one aluminum, were still true and stout.  Even the 52-42 rings and the 14-28 cassette (six-cogs out back) were still in great shape.  Everything just needed some love and a good cleaning.  So, I cleaned up what I could, and then, it was time for surgery. 

Enter Bicycle Discovery of Fountain Valley, California.

Upon arrival in my new part of town, I had done an emergency bike shop tour of all of the bicycle shops in the area to get a bead on things and to sort out who’s who.  Through the grapevine, I kept hearing about one particular shop’s reputation for knowledge, service, and reasonable cost, and it was the fine folks at Bicycle Discovery I kept hearing about.  Turns out, people were right about them.  The staff’s knowledge base of all-things-bike was quite deep, and that includes older bikes of all construct, especially steel.  When presented with my patient, they immediately assessed the bike, ran-down what it needed, what it did not need, and gave me a darn good quote on the overall job.  Particulars agreed upon, I left the bike in capable hands, and two days later it was done and ready for pick up.  For two Ben Franklin’s, the Discovery Crew cleaned up the whole bike, rebuilt the bottom bracket, the hubs, serviced headset bearings, put on new tires, tubes, new shifter cables, brake pads, bar tape, and gave it an overall tune-up.  “Mr. Bustamante, meet Mr. Nishiki.” 

No doubts as to its identity.  Nice lugs, too.
  
The stock 52-42 crankset and derailleur.  Still going strong.

Stock rear derailleur and 14-28 cassette.

No STI shifters here.

Lugs & Steel. Beautiful!

The icing on the cake: A way-too-cool head badge.

Now that the Sebring has been back in my possession, the best way to describe my time on it to date is thus: I have been riding the shit out of it, and it is one of the smoothest rides I can recall while astride a road bike.  Yeah, the narrow bars, top-mount/drops brake lever combo, flat pedals, big seat, and vastly different geometry from my regular Trek 2.3 made for an interesting initial experience, however, I really like this bike!  Sure the fork has a funky rake to it, and the funny colored frame is the same concept as an early 80’s racing motorcycle (straight path from the head tube to the swing arm, or in this case, the rear wheel), and in the frame triangle, where an engine would hang on a motorcycle, I put a carbon cage for some bling.  I also added front and rear lights, adjusted the Brooks’ styled seat height/fore-aft, and that was all it took to make it mine.  Did I mention it has one of the coolest head badges I have ever seen?  Well, it does.  Hey, it's classic, road steel.  One truly cannot go wrong.  And, the price was right
 
Overall, I am extremely pleased with the results of my rebuild.  It is exactly the experience I was seeking in a second road bike – Something I could just get on, no shoes, no kit, and ride for the sake of riding, just like I did when I was a kid. 

Oh, and if you stop in at Bicycle Discovery, and I recommend you do, tell Richard or Darryl (my other brother Darryl) I sent you. 

Those two lads know their classic bikes, very well.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Evaluated: 2015 Ritchey WCS Streem II Alloy Aero Bar

Photo courtesy of Ritchey

The quest for comfort on a bicycle does not end at the saddle, chamois, or shoes.  It also includes particulars such as seat posts, stems, and yes, even bars.  I, for one, find that the almost-perfect bar setup is rather elusive, especially for those of us genetically predisposed with larger hands.  For us, there is no substitute for surface area, and that means larger diameter bars.  In plain language: The more bar there is for our paws to grip, the more comfortable the ride over the long-haul.

To date, pretty much all of the wing shaped “Aero” bars on the market have been constructed from carbon fiber.  That is a nice idea, save for those whom do not like the hidden specter of cracks and possible delaminations of the material under the bar wrap (I am a proud member of that group).  Construction of an alloy wing shaped bar has been a bit trickier than its composite brother, and the minds at Ritchey have met the challenge, and produced, I believe, a winner with the WCS Streem II aero bar.   I mounted up the test subject with my now favorite red, Fizik Microtex tape, a PRO Vibe 7S 120mm stem, and took off.  That was four-months ago. 

                                                    The anatomical bend of the 128mm drops.
 
So, what did I discover?  Well, my goal was to ride with the bars for an extended period of time before pronouncing judgment on them.  While many evaluators give their opinions upon a single, seat-of-the-pants, ride, I don’t do that.  The only way to truly get real-word feedback of a product is to live with it for awhile under real-world conditions.  Thus, after the months I have used the WCS Streem II’s, I have to honestly give the bars two, big “Thumbs-Up.”  The Streem's have brought me the closest to perfection I have come yet in my quest for an all-around-bar.  The flat portion of the tops is an excellent perch for my hands, with the 4.5-degree sweep back oddly adding to said comfort, and there is just enough hint of flex while in the drops to keep the hands from going numb over the garbage which masquerades as road surface’s in Southern California.  The only thing I did not like much was the shallow, 128mm drop.  About 10mm more drop, and these would be my go-to bars for life.  However, remembering not to be too nit-picky, the tops and transitions to the hoods gave me all-day comfort, and that was the real purpose of my evaluation.   

                          Real-World testing. There is no substitute. Note "Aero" section and sweep.

In summation, the challenge riders’ face is the discovery of that setup which leads them to the cyclist’s nirvana, aka, the “Sweet Spot.”  Finding the correct components are a large part of that quest.  Truth be told, I really liked these bars, however, I cannot fathom why Tom Ritchey believes we all have tiny hands necessitating the extremely narrow diameter of most of the Ritchey catalog bar offerings.  The PRO Vibe 7S bars I previously tested had a constant 31.8 diameter along the tops, with a deeper drop than the Streem II’s.  And, while I really loved the PRO’s, I was looking for the comfort of a flat-topped, wider, aero bar, and the Streem II’s provided that. 

In my perfect world, I would have a bar with the drops of the PRO Vibe 7S, with the tops of the Ritchey Streem II.  Oh well, one can dream.  Or, maybe even try a set of 35mm bars.  Hmm…

The Specs:
  • UCI approved 38 x 22.5mm wing section for improved aerodynamics and a great feel for climbing.
  • Short reach, shallow drop with anatomical bend
  • Triple butted 7050 alloy
  • 40, 42 and 44cm widths
  • Drop/Reach: 128/78mm
  • Stem diameter: 31.8mm
  • 4.7 degree sweep, 1 degree flare
  • Finish: Matte Black
  • 275g (42cm bar)
  • Retail: $99.00 USD


Friday, January 16, 2015

"Red Is The New Black." Trek Factory Racing Unveils 2015 Team Bikes.

2015 Emonda Team Bike. The Madone and Domane will also be used.

It seems the peeps over at Trek Factory Racing finally got my memo: Red is nothing to be afraid of.  Use it pretty much everywhere and be proud.  I do.

And, preliminary information indicates the same paint color, Viper Red, will be available as part of Trek's marvelous Project One Program.

It is nice to see some color in the Pro Peleton this year, and thankfully, Trek is getting away from the all-black kits, too.


All photos courtesy of Trek Factory Racing.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

No, This Is Not A Joke. The Essax "Shark" Saddle Makers Claim The Shape Is Revolutionary.

 The Essax Shark saddle. Brilliant, evolutionary design, or just another sex toy? Photo by Cycling Weekly.

Yes, I admit things have been a bit quiet around the Cycling Dynamics office, but a major move has a way of taxing one's time and focus.  However, with commentaries, and new products tests in the pipeline, scanning the horizon for new, and interesting things still remains job one.  Thus, I bring you the Essax Shark saddle.

According to the Spanish firms press release, "...Essax Shark designer, Jon Iriberri, claims the fin should distribute weight evenly between the rider’s sit bones by achieving better alignment of the knees, preventing rocking and rotation when pedaling, therefore increasing the efficiency of the pedal stroke and preventing injury."

While jokes about the saddle have been pretty darn funny, those whom have actually tried it said it was not too bad - Just different.  No argument, there.

Read the whole article over at Cycling Weekly.