The painted work at the top of the page was done in 1997 by my mother-in-law, and Venice, California artist, Adrianne Prober. Aware that my wife and myself were passionate bicyclists, Adrianne began playing with painting bicyclists on a long piece of illustration paper. This was in preparation for making a baby shower announcement held for us upon the birth of our son. Later, we acquired this "practice piece" which I like more and more with each passing year. It is a brilliant mix of chaotic organization, what I imagine a morning on the streets of Amsterdam might look like. The painting, measuring approximately 6" high x 24" long is now framed and hangs prominently in our home.
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Monday, March 29, 2010
This is one of my favorite local views; I don't know how many versions I have taken over the years. You approach these giant double doors and pass through into a quadrangle with the large fountain at it's center. It is visually very effective, as you are drawn into and through the doorway by the dancing water of the fountain and the green trees beyond.
Posted by Michael Wagner at 9:43 PM
Sunday, March 28, 2010
Well, it was a spectacular weekend around here, hope it was where you are too. Alas, I was not able to get out on two wheels as much as I would have liked, but that happens occasionally, and I did have other things to fill the time. While riding around at the Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area, I did spy with my little eyes, Port Deptford taking shape (in fact it looked like it was nearly ready). That means Renaissance Faire season is almost heare. And then some of us from work took a little field trip to the North Etiwanda Preserve (one of our projects). Everything is completed now, overlooks, interpretive panels, trail signs, etc, and even though there has been some vandalism, it looks pretty good.
A view from the trail.
Another trail view.
Day Canyon and Day Creek.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
By now you may have noticed through these brief jottings that I despise cars, or to be more specific, what they have done, and continue to do, to human society and our communities. Among the more elevated of the detrimental effects I attribute to car culture is the rush mentality that has taken possession of the motor-bound masses. It is the automobile that has pushed the rushability envelope by making superhuman speeds accessible, increasing our impatience at the slightest inconvenience causing us to slooowwww dddoooowwwwnnn. True, my beloved bicycle predates the auto as a mode of travel designed to assist human mobility. But, the bicycle's speed is a purely human-scale speed; it's speed being relative to the strength and efficiency of the person pushing (and pulling) on the pedals. On a bicycle, the journey is the reason to go from point A to point B, and being able to experience everything that comes between. In a car, spending the least possible time getting from point A to point B is the modus operandi; nothing that happens in the journey between matters but that it makes the time pass that much quicker.
Thus it has long been standard procedure for traffic engineers and urban designers to design our transportation networks to maximize this type of mobility; the faster, the better, could be the motto. We continue to increase speeds on our streets, even where they traverse residential areas. The speed limit on one street near where I work was, just this past year, increased to 55 mph. This is a street on which large scale housing complexes front, where students walk and bike to the nearby elementary school. How pleasant it must be to live there and listen to the rushing of traffic on the street's four to eight lanes all day. We seem to live in a society where the people who complain about speeders in their own neighborhood are the very same people who don't give a second thought to speeding through someone else's. Thankfully, we may have finally reached a breaking point, the idea of livable streets and livable communities have taken root across the country and continue to spread.
Slowing cars down is good for everyone, residents, businesses, bicyclists, pedestrians. With any luck the latest three streets in Los Angeles to see their speeds increased will be the last (reaslistically though, I doubt it), and like London we can begin to see speeds decrease, and the attendant benefits of that decrease, multiply.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
or what you don't see from the car. I have noticed this hawk on numerous occasions over the past few months, always in the same place, perched on that little ledge of concrete between the fence and drop down into the channel. I have always thought it an odd place for a hawk to perch, and at first thought it was maybe ill. On second thought, though, I suppose it probably flies into the channel for the water and then with a couple quick flaps of its wings is up on the ledge. It always has an eye out for me but otherwise seems unconcerned.
Posted by Michael Wagner at 8:44 PM
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Winner of the Cat 3 race
45+ g.c. jersey winners
45+ crit champions
Amgen elite masters team train charging to the line in the 35+ race; and yes that is exactly the reason those two have extra stripes on their jersey sleeves. Chris DeMarchi with the national champion stars and stripes, and Thurlow Rogers with the World's Champion rainbow stripes.
It was a great weekend for a race, and we three rode over to San Dimas to take in the third and final stage, a crit in the downtown area. We made it there to watch the 45+, 35+, and Cat. 3 races, and then the small kids race, followed by a bit of the Cat 2. It was pretty cool just to hang out again and immerse myself in all the action. I figure it has been ten years now since I last raced and have missed the camaraderie and competition.
Saturday, March 20, 2010
is a fictional account of one racer's experiences over the course of a 137 kilometer race, the Tour de Mont Aigoual. The author, noted as a cycling enthusiast (and who plays the part of the lead character) clearly knows his way around a race, and conveys the varied emotions experienced as fortunes shift and collide over the course of a long race. Mixed in with the fictional account are many historical references to some of the sports greatest riders of the past, such as De Vlaeminck, Gaul, Coppi, and Bartali.
"...the smell of balsam from other legs spatters off their spokes and into my nostrils. I slide in among the wheels, back and forth, in the continuously shifting braid of the peleton."
"I saw a rider meticulously peeling a banana with both hands on a downhill stretch at 65 kilometers an hour...riders can do anything on their bikes. Thirsty racers sometimes even discover that their bidon (waterbottle) has been stolen from the holder."
"Climbing is a rythmn, a trance; you have to rock your organs' protests back to sleep."
"...where does a winning rider get the right to revel in applause if the crowd isn't obliged to hiss at him when he fails."
"it hailed, it rained, it snowed...Anyone taking a piss was immediately bolted to the ground by a yellow parabola."
"Suffering is an art. Like the downhills, its a non-athletic art in which the great champions nevertheless outsrip all amateurs."
"Suddenly it dawns on me: this is my chance to take the final, most distinguished step in the hierarchy of road racing; from winning to letting win."
This book is a quick read, under 150 pages and with enough twists and turns to keep you attentive. This is the English version, translated from Dutch.
1978 (translated 2002) The Rider Tim Krabbe, translated by Sam Garrett
Oh, and a tip of the cycling cap to Richard over at Cycling Art Blog for the book and brew combo idea.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
"... with the little water bottle in the back and the stupid hats and their shiny shorts. They are the same disgusting poseurs that in the middle of a snowstorm come out with cross-country skiing on your block. RUN 'EM DOWN."
These are the words straight from the mouth of ESPN radio host Tony Kornheiser. I don't know if this was a lame attempt to promote his show, or if he was serious; he is either a self-serving jerk or a complete tool who should be immediately canned from his job. This is the same idiot recently suspended for comments made about a fellow (female) employee, and now he is inciting violence against an entire group of people. A perfect example, if there ever was one, of someone who should have his driving privileges revoked and be force to ride the streets to gain a little perspective, and maybe gain a little sense of humanity on the way. How Disney, the parent company of ESPN can continue to employ this guy is beyond me. Good to see cycling's most famous ambassador taking this one on.
Posted by Michael Wagner at 12:21 PM
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
It being St. Patrick's Day I am in the midst of the annual watching of the Quiet Man and am reminded of the cycling scenes, particularly the tandem ride of Mary Kate (Maureen O'Hara) and Sean (John Wayne). Not as well known, perhaps, as the Raindrops are Falling on My Head cycling scene from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, but a classic none-the-less. I was fortunate enough to visit the Quiet Man museum in Cong, Ireland on my first trip to the Emerald Isle.
The beginning of daylight savings time ushers in bike commute season. Though I have participated in the year-round bike commute, it has been a few years since I last did, and so lately I have been suffering the winter months in anticipation of DLS time. I don't particularly enjoy waking before light breaks through the blinds, but being able to hit the road before the sun ascends the mountains on the horizon makes it worthwhile. A bit of chill still in the air, drivers not yet in the morning rush, witness to the southern California sunrise, and eavesdropping on the crows gathering for their morning meet and greet, when they plan the day's raucous adventures, are among the highlights. Everything just seems slower, more relaxed at this time of the day.
the Deer Creek section (one of my little shorcuts that Google maps doesn't know about) with a little snow remaining on Cucamonga Peak
the yellow Basso has arrived.
Monday, March 15, 2010
Saturday, March 13, 2010
Friday, March 12, 2010
"Car keys and common sense are not close companions in this nation."
"Parents like living here, but they live in fear of the cars."
"I remember riding home from Danceteria, long ago, I passed Michael with his dress caught in his chain."
"I just bought a pink frog headlight. Because I love to accessorize with girly things..."
The ages old debate about where funds for road projects comes from is put forth rather succinctly; and while I know these rides happen in other countries around the world, and even other cities in these United States, this is the first I have heard (and nearly a month dated) of our own naked bike ride here in little old Claremont.
My philosophy is, that if it has a bike on the cover, I will try it. It is a sad statement of unchecked consumerism I know, and now you know. I apply it to books, wine, beer, clothing, and other less important things. I realize there may be a 50% chance of the purchase being a flop, but there is a bike on the cover, label, or stretched across the back, so come on. Anyway, when I walked into Video Paradiso last night and saw a bike on the cover of a dvd entitled Island etude, I immediately grabbed it up.
Apparently I do not peruse the foreign film aisles frequently enough, because this film was released in 2007. Filmed in Taiwan, the story follows a young college student who takes a break from his studies in order to ride around the island nation with pack and guitar on his back. Interwoven into his story are the various people, individual and groups, he encounters along the way. The exchange between these people is so compelling, I was easily drawn into the events regardless of having to follow the subtitles. In particular, follow the exchange involving the group of women, laid-off seamstresses and their "tour guide", our hero and his grandfather at a local religious celebration, and near the end, the solo cyclist traveling in the opposite direction around the island. Oh, but then there is also the film troupe, the young rebellious cyclist, the teacher at the school for the deaf... ahh heck, its all good, just use the pause button if you need to get up.
The film provides an interesting and informative look at Chinese (Taiwanese) culture (that's the anthropologist in me coming out), is visually stunning, and poetic. And it involves bikes, numerous bikes.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
So I spent a little time this morning checking into Google map's new bicycling additive, and come away from it with... mixed results. I chose destinations with which I was familiar (since I can not judge what I do not know). The first route went from home to work; this was not too bad, and mostly followed one of the two routes that I normally take. A few problems, however, were encountered. First, while the route utilizes the Pacific Electric Trail, part of the way, it is never identified as such in the directions which could be confusing to someone unfamiliar. Second, at one point a photo with overlaying arrows indicate that the route enters a gated housing development, with directions telling you to "continue onto Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway. Hmmm. Once you are there, if you make it that far, it is clear where you need to go - continue along the P.E.T. which is adjacent to the gated development, but again this might get a little confusing. Third, the final leg directs you to take Haven Avenue, a six to eight land auto racetrack where speeds regularly are in excess of 50 mph, and completely lacking in cycling infrastructure. No good.
The second test went from home to the Frank G. Bonelli Regional Park, a favorite weekend route of mine. The directions for this were exceedingly complicated with too many unnecessary turns. I can do this ride by essentially taking four streets; Google maps, meanwhile, recommended nearly ten times more. Enough said.
The third test was for a route my son might take to the local middle school. This one, like the first test, was not too bad, certainly as good as any alternatives I could come up with.
I guess my biggest complaint with the program is that it gives a one size fits all answer. The comfort level of one person may not be the same as the next person. A street that one person would not dream of riding on may be perfectly acceptable to another. Many people who use this program will not look beyond the arrow on the map, or the street by street directions, to realize that there may be a more direct route, or one on "safer" streets. That in a nutshell is the main problem with these type of direction guides / mapping aids, they do not encourage users to explore alternatives, rather than blindly follow directions.
Did familiarity with the area and routes give me an advantage. Undoubtedly, and that is my point; you cannot replicate experience and knowledge. Use Google map as a starting point if you must, but be willing to grow beyond it's limited offering.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
I really take exception with the phrase "in the wrong place, at the wrong time." Just this morning I saw it used on a well respected blog I follow. Every time I see this phrase I am bothered by the implications. It has become so embedded in the "blame the victim" mentality which becomes more prevalent in our society every year, so that "in the wrong place, at the wrong time" is brought forth by way of explanation whenever anything "bad" happens. I am constantly in the right place, at the right time for any given task I may be undertaking over the course of the day, or night. If "Joe weekend-warrior" out for a Sunday morning spin is hit from behind, I don't want to hear that he was "in the wrong place, at the wrong time", he was exactly where he needed to be, minding his own business when he was hit by someone who did not take their responsibilities seriously. If "Joe stroller" is out for an evening walk through his neighborhood and is assaulted by a group of thugs, he should not be described as being "in the wrong place, at the wrong time." He was exactly where he wanted to be at that time. Rather, someone chose not to respect his right to be there and then. The phrase "in the wrong place, at the wrong time" has become overused and misapplied, diluting the responsibility for our actions which must be an accepted part of any healthy society.
Posted by Michael Wagner at 12:52 PM
Monday, March 8, 2010
I hear them over the incessant drone emanating from the nearby freeway; I hear them beyond the cold night air biting at my ears as I rush past; I hear them over the hum of my own two wheels, and the quiet meshing of my perfectly aligned chain. I hear them through the winter during my twice weekly, evening post-work rides. The frogs. They live beyond this row of houses to my right within the grounds of a water facility. It is here that, during the wet months, a small lake forms providing the necessary habitat. I hear their chorus throughout the winter, but they really seem to come together in February when the cold, clear air only seems to help project the cacophony out into the surrounding neighborhood. "We are here; can you hear us?" they seem to repeat. And while most rush by in contented oblivion I, thankfully, can answer yes; and it is my bike that allows me to experience this nightly concerto.
Posted by Michael Wagner at 9:14 PM
Friday, March 5, 2010
A gallery of cargo bikes is one of the interesting bits in the feedzone this week. Fairly common in Europe, I have never seen one around here, and I certainly wouldn't mind owning one for the weekly grocery run. A short clip from StreetFilms about fixing the "great mistake", our autocentric cities. Bike commuting through the winter in Toronto; no softies in that hardy bunch of Cannucks. And finally, last week it was Sean Kelly, this week it is Stephen Roche; if I can read about Martin Earley next week I can have a perfect Irish triumvirate.
Update 10/2010: Felt like this post was in need of an update. Lately there have in fact been many newer model bikes hanging from the hooks or in the rack out in front. From carbon road bikes, to all-mountain work horses and full-squish downhill rigs. Some of these are practically new, but for one reason or another their original owners need to sell. You can find some good deals. There are frequently brand spanking new single speed / fixed-gear bikes right out of the box, and parked next to college cruisers, equally fresh.
Thursday, March 4, 2010
There was a time when the (USCF) United States Cycling Federation (now USA Cycling) would send these rule books out to all new and renewed licensees. I received my first in 1989, and have booklets through 2001. Since we received a new one every year, I am not sure why I kept the old ones, but I did and there they are. They are full of information including bylaws, rules of racing, lists of prohibited substances, lists of past and current national champions, and licensee demographic charts. The same information is now available on the USA Cycling website, but as a one-time librarian I prefer to hold a book in my hands. It is interesting to compare the demographics year-by-year. For instance in 1989 there were 29,214 licenced men and 2,555 licenced women, of all ages. In 2009 there were 44931 men and 6520 women racers. That is a considerable increase, but honestly, after the passing of twenty years I would expect to see an even greater increase, and wonder if even more emphasis should be given to the growth of the sport.
Monday, March 1, 2010
Growing up in the Monty Python era, various friends would constantly toss around bits of Python wisdom, or even reenact entire sketches. I have gladly been able to pass this appreciation on to my own son, and so it was a pleasant surprise to find the Python clip "Bicycle Repairman" posted on one of my other favorite blogs. And don't we all need a good laugh around noon on a Monday. Thanks to the women at Let's Go Ride A Bike for finding a classic bit of bicycle culture.
Well, the first two races I had targeted to start the season with have passed without me. Not necessarily a bad thing, I guess. Between rain and house-hunting, I have not exactly had enough training time lately, so really I would have been so much fodder in the field.