That means I have to train in order to meet my fitness goals® and achieve my personal best™. To that end, yesterday I scanned my to-do list, shrugged, crumpled it into a little ball, and fucked off for a ride:
This was my first "real" mountain bike ride since the doctor pronounced my thumb mended and ready for battle, and so I figured the wide gearing and plush tires of the Marin Pine Mountain 1 would help compensate for my rustiness.
As I scampered about the sun-dappled trails, I congratulated myself for shirking my responsibilities, and after awhile I stopped to enjoy a picnic lunch:
"Ah, this is the life," I thought to myself. "Except for this gluten-free bread, which pretty much sucks ass."
Go ahead, mock my diet. Hey, I suffer from middle-age onset wheat allergies, what am I supposed to do? Thankfully I've eaten enough pizza and bagels for two lifetimes, so I suppose I can endure the rest of my existence without them.
By the way, astute readers will note I'm using the helmet I bought when I visited Melbourne:
I chose it for two reasons*:
1) Being rusty, I knew that no harm could possibly come to me while wearing a piece of bicycle safety equipment that meets Australia's rigorous standards;
B) My less dorky speed-biking helmet needs a new "retention system," which I've been far too lazy to replace.
*[I actually only chose it for the second reason. In fact, the Australian helmet's sheer bulk caused me to hit my head on one or two tree branches I've ridden past countless times before without incident while wearing my more streamlined foam hat.]
Anyway, it was a delightful ride, and my rustiness only caught up with me towards the end of the ride when I got a little hung up on some rocks:
As I fell, I held my tender freshly-mended thumb in front of me while crying "NOOOOOO!!!" in slow motion, and in one deft move I removed my Australian helmet from my head and strapped it to my hand.
Thanks to all that nanny state magic from Down Under my thumb survived the tumble intact, and I'm pleased to report I landed just shy of the disgusting stagnant swamp coated with the glimmering sheen of motor vehicle exhaust from the adjacent parkway:
Anyway, spills like that are the equivalent of slurred speech at the bar, in that they're both signs you should head home now before you get into real trouble. So I pointed the fat tires of the Marin back towards the Bronx, stopping briefly in the park to expose my pasty mud-splattered legs to the sun:
And then switching to a completely different orange-and-gray bicycle for the school pick-up:
Between riding to and from the mountain bike trails of Westchester and hauling two children over the highest natural elevation in the Bronx on a 50lb bicycle it's clear I am going to be unleashing some serious power on the Gran Fondon't.
You have been warned.
Speaking of ride preparation, you know how everyone's obsessed with #whatpressureyourunning? Well forget that. Because now it's all about #whichdowntubeyourunning?
Am I the only person in the world who thinks that most bikes are adequately smooth, especially when it comes to riding on pavement? We've got some spectacularly carpet-bombed streets in my neighborhood, yet I haven't encountered the road surface that can't be adequately mitigated by some wider tires and perhaps a little bit of rider finesse--both of which seem a lot more straightforward than a bike that requires swapping out your freaking downtube:
Not to mention the inevitable disappearances when people lock their bikes up by that great big elastomer dong and the thieves just open them up like carabiners:
Alas, it's only a matter of time before the gravel-riding set latches on to this exciting new technology and riders start carrying quivers full of different downtubes on their backs:
And the Softride:
In other news, it's still Bike Month (won't it ever end?!?), and the misinformation campaigns and anti-cycling propaganda is coming fast and furious, like Mario Cipollini in the bathroom at a cocktail party. Consider this tweet from the Automobile Assholes of America, which marries good old-fashioned victim-blaming with the art of thoroughly brainwashed children in a downright offensive fashion:
Yeah? Well I'm guessing at least 90% of those bicyclists were killed by drivers, so the AAA can take that helmet and shove it up their ass.
Then, via a reader by the name of Geoff, comes this study that says bike share users need to wear helmets more...just because:
Public bikeshare programs are becoming increasingly common in the United States and around the world. These programs make bicycles accessible for hourly rental to the general public. We seek to describe the prevalence of helmet use among adult users of bikeshare programs and users of personal bicycles in 2 cities with recently introduced bikeshare programs (Boston, MA, and Washington, DC).
We performed a prospective observational study of adult bicyclists in Boston, MA, and Washington, DC. Trained observers collected data during various times of the day and days of the week. Observers recorded the sex of the bicycle operator, type of bicycle, and helmet use. All bicycles that passed a single stationary location in any direction for a period of between 30 and 90 minutes were recorded.
There were 43 observation periods in 2 cities at 36 locations; 3,073 bicyclists were observed. There were 562 (18.3%; 95% confidence interval [CI] 16.4% to 20.3%) bicyclists riding shared bicycles. Overall, 54.5% of riders were unhelmeted (95% CI 52.7% to 56.3%), although helmet use varied significantly with sex, day of use, and type of bicycle. Bikeshare users were unhelmeted at a higher rate compared with users of personal bicycles (80.8% versus 48.6%; 95% CI 77.3% to 83.8% versus 46.7% to 50.6%). Logistic regression, controlling for type of bicycle, sex, day of week, and city, demonstrated that bikeshare users had higher odds of riding unhelmeted (odds ratio [OR] 4.4; 95% CI 3.5 to 5.5). Men had higher odds of riding unhelmeted (OR 1.6; 95% CI 1.4 to 1.9), as did weekend riders (OR 1.3; 95% CI 1.1 to 1.6).
Use of bicycle helmets by users of public bikeshare programs is low. As these programs become more popular and prevalent, efforts to increase helmet use among users should increase.
Wait a minute. Why should it increase? Just because it can? This is like saying earmuff use on the New York City subway is low, and as mass transit ridership increases so should use of big fuzzy ear coverings. If anything the opposite is true, because as more and more people use bike share the less necessary helmets become. After all, cities become demonstrably safer for cyclists after bike share:
Late last week, several media outlets ran stories on a study published in the American Journal of Public Health that allegedly showed head injuries increasing in cities with bike-share programs. Kay Teschke, who studies city cycling at the University of British Columbia, read the news with great interest. Then she read the actual journal publication, and her interest changed to alarm.
"When I actually looked at the data, I thought, oh my goodness, the injuries actually went down," she says. "In the bike-share cities, the total number of injuries went down, and the number of head injuries went down."
The reason they don't use helmets in the Netherlands isn't because the laws of physics are different. It's because when everybody rides bicycles the streets get a lot safer.
Nevertheless, plenty of people want to scare you right off your bike and into the Hyundai dealership:
Nationwide, you’re more than twice as likely to die while riding a bike than riding in a car, per trip, according to a 2007 study led by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention epidemiologist Laurie Beck. Bike riding is also about 500 times more fatal than riding in a bus. Though Beck didn’t run numbers on subway and commuter rail systems, they may be the safest form of transportation of all. Despite a series of well-publicized accidents and maintenance issues, Metrorail and Metrobus reported just two injuries per million riders in 2015.
There you have it. Cycling is more dangerous than riding the bus, so you shouldn't do it.
And if that wasn't a powerful enough argument against commuting by bicycle, how about this one?
In addition to accidents, cyclists face another major health risk: Air pollution. Bike commuters inhale about three times as much air pollution as drivers, according to a 2015 study conducted in Fort Collins, Colo. For that study, commuters wore backpacks that measured their exposure to different kinds of air pollution, including carbon monoxide and black carbon. The Colorado State University researchers found that cyclists, due to their heavier breathing and longer commute time, ended up huffing far more pollution than drivers.
Bullshit. This is compelling just as long as you ignore the fact that riding your bike makes you fit, whereas sitting behind the wheel of a car while slurping coffee and scarfing drive-thru cuisine will send you to an early grave in an oversized coffin. Sure, thanks to our sedentary lifestyle the typical American needs to be buried in a piano case, but at least we remain safe and deeply in debt behind the wheels of our leased shitboxes that kill 30,000 people a year.
Make America great again?!? It already is, baby.