Archive for April, 2007

The NYT On Fixed Gear

Predictable, really. They characterise fixed gear aficionadoes as hippy-types who are into the whole Zen-feeling. No mention of practical issues such as ease of maintenance, drivechain efficiency, and control of speed. They characterise fixed gear bikes as those that must be stopped by skipping, skidding, or reverse pedal motion. Never mind that most fixed gears I see on the street in Chicago have at least a front brake. And where did “There are no fenders” come from? As if fixed gear riders needed to be stereotyped further.

My fixie has a fender and a front brake, as any sensible city bike should.

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Chicago Critical Mass April 2007

The route was several loops within downtown, then southwest to Pilsen via UIC, southeast to US Cellular Field, southeast still to Promontory Point. First Critical Mass that ended anywhere near my house! I was pretty knackered towards the end, still. Barely lingered at the Point before heading home to pacify my growling stomach.

The tourists on Michigan Ave seemed to be a more accommodating crowd than before. Lots of children who were simply delighted to see a change in scenery, including one who noticed my pillow and was verily amused.

I was asked several times if I was involved in the pillow fight. In response to an email to the listhost that demanded “Bring a pillow tonight…or you might regret it!!!!”, I brought my pillow along and strapped it to my front rack as follows:
Chicago Critical Mass April 2007
A couple of people were puzzled by the pillow and asked me what it was for. I did see a few others with pillows around, though:
Chicago Critical Mass April 2007

Near the Sox stadium the traffic police went wild with the Massers cheering for the Sox. The people in the South Side were generally much more excited and positive about seeing a bunch of cyclists clogging up their roads than the people one encounters on the North side and downtown.

I spotted at least three unpleasant confrontations with motorists; which is significantly more than usual. A function, I think, of having a route that spent too much time downtown, where heavy, impatient traffic abounds. One particularly bad one involved a driver who was reversing into cyclists in order to get out from behind another car. Someone opened his right door to confront him, and he got out of his car. Everyone thought he was going to turn violent, but all he did was to shut the door and get back in, while shouting something about how he had to get somewhere for some reason. All the while, a masser had been yelling at the cyclists using themselves as barricades to stop the car from moving to let him out, but no one listened. Because of that hold-up, the mass was split into two. I found myself near the front of the second half of the mass. Now the mass began to thin out dangerously as people at the front sped up to try to catch up with the front of the main mass. The masser who had been yelling at the cyclists to let the driver out pedalled like crazy to get to the front of the delayed part of the mass. Eventually we reached a corked intersection where he managed to persuade the corkers to let the traffic go while we massed up. Shortly after we caught up with the main mass.

The full set of half-decent photos is here.

Shipping Issue Resolved

I have ordered a Ground Effect Tardis Bag to transport my bike back to Singapore. I figure it gives me a good chance of escaping the $80 bicycle fee that many airlines charge (I’m flying United), it’ll make it much easier for me to get to the airport, even on the CTA, and I can reuse it for future trips. At $132 including shipping, it’s a lot cheaper than other bike bags, and should more than compensate for multiple $80 surcharges. Packing clothes into the bag until it’s completely stuffed up should also compensate for the lack of padding.

I had earlier been worried about having to carry my bike on the CTA close to rush hour (my flight is at noon), in addition to other luggage, and further having to overcome my phone phobia to ask UA in advance if they can provide bike boxes. That shouldn’t be an issue now.

Bicycle Repairman

From the Chicago Critical Mass listhost, one of the funnier Monty Python clips.

Still avoiding the outdoors, and hence avoiding my bike. Been swimming almost everyday instead, and my right ear has been blocked since yesterday. Annoying.

I actually biked more during the dead of winter. I’m much more demoralised about winter now because it keeps looking as though it might actually end, but doesn’t. Since mid-March, we’ve gotten scattered days with >10C weather, but then we plunge back to near freezing again. And it’s bloody windy. The thought that winter shouldbe ending makes it more demoralising when it doesn’t. Easy to go out cycling in sub-zero weather if you think it’ll be over soon. Not when you’ve had weeks of evidence that it is, in fact, not ending anytime soon.

It’s not even cold in an interesting way. I’d rather it be sub-zero and snowing than slightly above zero and blustery and gray and damp, like the middle of a English winter. English winters are Chicago springs, I suppose. Horrible thing to inflict on us just when we are expecting and hoping for warmth.

If next week is this cold I’ll miss my second Critical Mass in a row. I’ve never been so fed up with coldness.

Sick of Winter

All I did today was to sleep too much (12 hours — midnight to noon), spend 3 hours in the “lab”, swim for an hour, wander around Hyde Park for another hour, including a stop at my favourite bookstore where as usual I fell to the temptation to buy another book despite already having a mountain of the damn things that I haven’t read, go home, and eat dinner. The result: exhaustion (physical and mental), a headache, and one blocked ear (meaning I can’t listen to music). I miss cycling, but I’m so sick of winter that I don’t want to go out more than necessary (which is why I’ve taken up swimming again). The weekend weather forecast, sadly, probably means that I won’t be out cycling anytime soon. 7° C | 1° C on Saturday, 9° C | 2° C on Sunday. With 40% chance of rain/snow on Saturday and 30% chance of rain on Sunday. On Wednesday I woke up to see the scenery outside the window dusted with white. It was fecking sleeting, in the second week of April. Yesterday was gray and wet (though not sleet, at least). Today was warm around midday but cool soon afterwards.

And when May swings by, when it finally gets warm, we’ll have the privilege of the company of the 17-year cicadas.

In my three winters here, this is the first time I’ve felt sick of winter. Previously, I was annoyed that the weather was making outdoor activities rather unpleasant. But it’s really getting to me this time. I just want to go out and spin in the wide open spaces of the lakefront path without having to put up with a vicious windchill or precipitation or numb toes. Please.