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issue number ďŹ ve 2009 xtracycle vs. madsen shifters for the apocalypse to buy by brick or by web? geographies of power

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Editor’s Column: The Practical Pedal Incubator Imagining a cozy web/print relationship by Wiley Davis You wouldn’t think there’d be a whole lot of room to innovate in the production of a newspaper (especially a tiny 16-pager like the Practical P.) Such a thing has been around so long that it’s death, rather than its future, is more often the topic of conversation. In spite of this, I think the newspaper has not only a future, but plenty of room within which to innovate.

The purpose of any good magazine is to help a community answer its difficult questions. But first things first. A newspaper is not journalism, it’s a delivery method for journalism. Second, though the newsprint format has long been associated with the delivery of daily news, it would be a mistake to assume that this is all it is good for. In fact, in these days of the web, the newspaper is a terrible format for the delivery of timely information when compared to the electronic newcomer. This has all been said elsewhere, of course. The relevant question for us to ask is, what does the newspaper do well, and how can we use it in the best possible way? There are parallels with practical cycling here. The bicycle-as-transportation is also considered antiquated, old-fashioned, and outmoded by newer technology, namely the automobile. In the rush to embrace the future of transportation, we built ourselves into a remote, suburban corner and cemented (or should I say asphalted) our dependence on a single solution. Many recognize this as the mistake it was. But even if we

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all did, the legacy effects will continue. A similar rush toward the future is happening in the way we produce and consume media. The death of the newspaper is nigh, and for news, I say this death can’t come soon enough. But the question remains, what does the newspaper still do well? In an attempt to answer this question in practice, the Practical Pedal will be going through a number of changes. We have a lot of ideas, many of which will be complete duds, but we hope some of them will turn out to be answers. What we won’t do is make the same mistake transportation designers made so many years ago. We won’t simply assume that the web is the end all, be all of media. We’ll begin this grand adventure by building off an assumption we hold dear, that there is a fundamental difference between news content and analysis content. In the cycling world, news content would be thing like new product listings, bike reviews, event calendars, and race results. This kind of information belongs on the web, in blog posts, twitter conversations, and on forums. Analysis content, however, is different. Analysis is fundamentally dependent on the notion of a culmination of effort. If news is a scattering of rocks across a meadow, analysis is someone coming along and stacking those rocks into a cairn. Such cairns are by no means eternal. They erode with time or with the ever-changing navigational desires of those who built them. But they do represent an organized attempt to make sense of complicated information at a particular point in time. And it is these cairns, made of words and thoughts, that we think a printed delivery method still serves. It’s a platform that restricts content rather than expands it and we think that this restriction can act as a source of much needed focus, even if for a short while.

Focus on what, you might ask. Well, to our mind the purpose of any good magazine (or newspaper) is to help a community answer its difficult questions. It should act as a place for discussion, debate, and, at various points along the way, single-minded (as in one author) attempts at curation of that conversation. This isn’t to say that these cairns-in-the-field will give the correct answers or will be infallible simply because they’ve been printed, just that they will help us focus our thoughts from time to time; that has tremendous value. In order to steer the Practical Pedal toward this goal, we’re launching what we call the Incubator. Simply put, the Incubator means that the feature stories for each new issue (there are 3 per issue) will begin life in the form of a question. Over the course of the months between issues, we will encourage commentary. But this is more than just another comment section. Each question will be assigned a writer, someone to ask questions of the community and to track down links and research material that everyone gets to read--someone to stack the rocks the community provides. The culmination of this effort is a printed article. We hope that the Incubator will be one good way to combine the best of the web with the best of print. And even though only a small percentage will likely participate, the quality of the thought will be much improved for it. How rad will that be? To get involved, go to www.practicalpedal.com/ incubator/


the JOURNAL of PRACTICAL CYCLING

Impractical Pedal: Just because you can Doesn’t mean you should Editor / Publisher Wiley Davis Design / Illustration Levi Nelson (with contributions from Steve Bretson) Marketing / Catalog John Friedrich

by The Staff of Fools The Madsen is, by all accounts, a very practical bike. You can toss stuff into its big plastic tub with impunity. Beer? No problem. Groceries? Of course. Children? It can handle those. But bucket after bucket of sudsy bath water? Let’s just say the idea played better in our heads.

The original thought was to turn the Madsen into a rolling hot tub. We were going to cruise Bozeman’s main street in the hopes of luring adventurous souls into impromptu dips. But it turns out that plugging the Madsen’s drain holes is not as easy as it should be. And then

there’s the who-knows-how-many pounds of sloshing water to contend with. Luckily for us, our Madsen bathtub test pilot was a good sport. But it’s safe to assume she won’t be installing one of these babies in her bathroom any time soon.

Contributors Liza Campbell Tucker Ruderman Austin Kocher Neil Zawicki

Subscribe www.practicalpedal.com/subscribe Contact Hondo Publishing 221 South Bozeman Avenue Bozeman, Montana, 59715 ph 406.322.2631 editor@practicalpedal.com www.practicalpedal.com The Practical Pedal is published as often as we can by HONDO Publishing with a print circulation of 8000 copies. Advertising Contact Wiley Davis wiley@practicalpedal.com

issue 5 / winter 2009

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Gear: Paul Thumbies Shifting for the Apocalypse

by Wiley Davis Later in this magazine there’s a story about the apocalypse and a long-tail bicycle ridden by a man named B.D. Barton. He’s rough-edged and something of a survivalist, but not in what you’d call an organized way. He doesn’t stockpile cans of carefully-preserved food. He doesn’t make lists of first-aid supplies and he certainly hasn’t ever contemplated keeping a packed suitcase on hand for emergencies; hell, even before the apocalypse B.D. rarely changed clothes or slept without his boots on. B.D. is, I guess, what you’d call a lazy survivalist. If there’s one thing that a lazy survivalist admires above all others, it’s a piece of gear that will do its job with very little, preferably no, maintenance. Gear that will take a beating and not say much about it. Gear that never asks, “What have you done to make me happy?” Gear that, if it were a person, would never seek therapy, never whine, and would be capable of healing easily. It’s this last requirement that makes a distinction between the lazy survivalist and the merely lazy. You see, the lazy survivalist is smart enough to know that everything breaks eventually and they have no qualms about effecting a repair. That’s the survivalist talking. But when lazy talks, it insists that it will not carry around a menagerie of specialized parts and tools. The lazy likes to sermonize

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on the virtues of objects fixable with hammers, vice-grips, and duct-tape. The lazy is also a realist and knows that even if it were to maintain a heap of repair parts, something like the apocalypse would come along and said parts would be stolen by starving marauders or they’d be left behind the first time B.D. gets attacked by zombies and hast to flee without his backpack. So for these reasons, B.D. equipped his Big Dummy with shifters that meet every requirement the lazy survivalist could throw at them. B.D. wanted shifting that wouldn’t insist he fuss with that complex-looking thing by the rear wheel with the French name. He wanted shifting that he could jury-rig in the field if he broke a shifter in a crash. He wanted shifting that felt solid in his hand and that could be adjusted on-the-fly if things got bent by a stick or fouled by mud. So what is this magically-stoic shifting system that helped B.D. stay mobile after the apocalypse? Paul Thumbies. What the Heck’s a Thumby? Paul Thumbies are billet-aluminum handlebar mounts for Shimano bar-end shifters. They position the bar-end right where your thumb is, turning it into a thumb shifter that is both accurate and easy to shift. Because they us

They are hands-down my favorite shifters of all time.

Shimano bar-ends, they give you not only clicky indexed shifting, but they also let you switch to pure friction mode if something gets out of whack (or you’re going for a group ride with a bunch of Rivendell owners). How Well Do They Work? Very well. They are hands-down my favorite shifters of all time. There’s a reason I make my fictional post-apocolypse characters use them. Because they’re awesome. As mentioned above, they let you use indexed shifting when things are well-adjusted (and it’s a very solid-feeling index at that) but when stuff gets damaged, worn, or just plain wonky, you can switch to friction mode and hand-tune each gear to work with whatever misbegotten setup you happen to be running at the time. Naturally, they don’t work very well with a drop bar. But match them up with a Mary bar (pictured) or some big xtracycle-style

swoopers, and you’ve got commuter-shifting gold. I’ve been running them both on our Big Dummy and on my 29er mountain bike and even on the trails where shifting is critical, I find I can shift faster and more precisely with the Thumbies than with a trigger shifter setup. I like being able to tell by feel what gear I’m in and I like being able to slam through five gears with a single swoop of the shift lever. Quality and Value To be honest, I don’t know anything about Paul, but I do know that his Thumbies are well-made items. The machining is top-notch and the details have been well-attended. You do have to provide the barend shifters, so the whole setup will cost you as much as trigger shifters, but the solid feel and appeal to the lazy survivalist in us all, makes them well worth it.


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Stewart Brand, the man who helped usher in the environmental movement in the 1960s and ‘70s has been rethinking his positions on cities, nuclear power, genetic modification and geo-engineering. .0242

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www.ted.com (cool videos from smart folks)

Odds & Ends: TED Videos

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Such is the inconsistency of real love, that it is always awake to suspicion, however unreasonable; always requiring new assurances from the object of its interest. .0242

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Ideas and bikes Like salsa and burritos Perfect combo now

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Robin Ch ase found ed Zipca r, sha ring bu the world siness. Th ’s biggest a t was one she trave ca rof her sma ls much ll er ideas. H fa rt h schemes th er, contem ere at w il l sha plating ro ke up our ad-pricing network v d ri v ing habit ast as the s a nd a me Interstate sh .0242

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issue 5 / 2009

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Tucker Ruderman

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the JOURNAL of PRACTICAL CYCLING

S

o there I am, sitting on my bike at Blossom and Winton, enjoying the choicest evening of the year (this despite repeated hysterical warnings of the “thunderstorms with hail!!!” variety screaming from the radio all day--and blue skies at sunset). I’m in the center lane, waiting for the light to change, when I hear a voice from behind. “Hey, excuse me!” I turn around, and see a middle-aged guy in a gray sedan (his dog in the seat next to him) leaning halfway out his window. “Hey, I have a question for you,” he says. “Sure,” I say, a little cautiously, since there’s usually one of two kinds of questions that follow such an opening. The fi rst is the curious, friendly kind: How far do you ride? Where do you live? What kind of bike is that? How come you’re so cool? The second kind of question actually rarely bears answering, mostly beginning with “Hey, why doncha...” and involves many choice phrases better suiting a less family-friendly show than this one. Suffice it to say, this second class asserts that I should not be riding in the road. At this point, I can’t tell which kind of question it will be, so I wait and see what’s to come. “Th is is a serious question--I’m just asking--do you guys go the speed limit?” Uh-oh. I feel like I’ve been trapped. He’s asking a question he already knows the answer to. Of course I can’t go that fast--at least, not on a flat stretch, not to mention an uphill. I’m also a little more wary now because he referred to “you guys” even though I’m the only cyclist in view right now. But in for a penny, in for a pound, I figure. “Nope, not really,” I reply. “Ok,” he says. “Then do you ride 10 miles an hour right in front of me, in the middle of the lane, or do you get over?” At this point, he must see me start to get a little pissed off, because he quickly adds “I’m asking seriously,” for the second time. And I look at him, and I think he really is. He’s not looking to cuss me out, because I think he already would have, and most of those brosefs aren’t bold enough to do that stopped at a light, anyway. He actually wants to talk this over with me. I think he’s a little nervous that

he’s going to get stuck behind me, and feeling a little burned and a little raw from the last time that happened. Let’s face it: no one likes to find themselves going way slow behind a granny, a garbage truck, a tractor, or a cyclist. Hell, I know I hate it when I drive. And this guy, I think he’s just trying to suss out his situation. I’m still not sure whether some hollering will ensue. In my mind, I’m already rehearsing what I might say if it comes to that, all those standard cyclist platitudes--I have as much right to ride in the road as you; New York State law defines bicycles as vehicles and expects us to ride in the street; I’m keeping the sidewalks safe for puppies, babies and old ladies by staying off them, etc. Plus, I might cuss a little, for good measure. But I figure I won’t be the one to start it. I answer him just how he asked me. “I get over to the side of the lane whenever it’s safe.” “Whenever it’s safe,” he repeats. “Ok, cool, man. Thanks.” And with that, he leans back into his car, and we proceed to wait out the light. I’m tense, because now I feel I have a point to prove: that I as a cyclist can hold my own in traffic, and that we’re considerate of drivers--maybe more so than them of us. (Oops--there goes that “us and them” stuff again. But he started it.) And the light changes. I’m off, and luckily I had downshifted just before the light, so I crank across the intersection like an overcaffeinated jackrabbit. I even closed the gap on the SUV in front of me--I almost had to wait for it a little as it picked up speed on that little uphill on the east side of Blossom. And, true to promise, I got over to the right, and let my interlocutor pass by on the left. And what do you know--he honks, and waves over the top of his car. Thanks, he says. He really was just asking. And I just answered back, and then kept my word. No hollering. No cussing. No machista baloney. Just a cyclist and a driver, talking it out. Critical Mass, it wasn’t. Just two people working out how to share the road. So can’t we all just get along? Maybe so. And is this love? Maybe not. But it’s a pretty good start.

issue 5 / 2009

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the JOURNAL of PRACTICAL CYCLING

Let’s just say

that By Wiley Davis

We’ll leave the science of it to the dead. There are plenty of them. Something happened, not just in the small town of Doom, Montana, but everywhere. A whole planet of humans nearly wiped out. But while those who died first were lucky, two random individuals woke up that winter morning to find their nightmare just beginning. This is their story.

B

ig Dummy Barton was born surly and he never quite fit in with the people in his neighborhood. They always wanted him to haul the broken appliances off his property or to get around to fi xing up the old Camaro he kept up on blocks in the front yard. So when BD woke up the morning after it happened, he felt good for the fi rst time in a lot of years. Really good. It’s not that he actually enjoyed the way his neighbor’s driveways were littered with the freezing corpses of his neighbors. It’s just that he’d always known deep down that he was something of a postapocalyptic guy. His sense of fashion was right for it. So on that fi rst morning, as he surveyed the destruction, checking the static of channel after channel on the TV to be sure the calamity was acting locally and thinking globally, he smiled to himself (who else could he smile to, after all) and said out loud, “Shit. Looks like I’ll be going on a bike ride.” He packed his supplies into a small pack: a survival knife, a bottle of Wild Turkey, and a handgun. He loaded a sleeping bag, a cook pot, and some matches into the Freeloader of his long-tailed bicycle and set out for the open road. As he pedaled away, he turned around and took one last look at his home. “Turn out the lights when you leave,” he said to no one. BD Finds A Surprise At the Grocery His fi rst stop was the town’s one grocery store. What he found there surprised the crap out of him. The grocery store was on fi re. A smoldering wreck of burning frozen burritos, pre-made macaroni, and Abuelita - Authentic Mexican-Style Chocolate-Flavored Drink Mix (BD’s favorite hot drink.) But that wasn’t what surprised him. He was surprised to find Kip Madsen parked out front with his new utility bike, the one with the trash can bolted to its rump. “Well if it isn’t Kippy and his dumpster bike,” BD said. “It’s not a dumpster, it’s a utility bucket BD. I wish you’d stop calling it that.” “Whatever. Why’d you burn down the grocery?” “I didn’t burn it down. It was on fi re when I got here… Hey, where are you going?” BD had already mounted his bike and was pedaling away. “Gonna cross the mountains. There’s an Albertson’s over in

Gloom,” he said over his shoulder. Kip looked back at the ember of a grocery store, then over at the neighborhood fi lled with dead people, and decided he’d throw his lot in with BD. “Hey wait, I’m coming with you,” he said. BD laughed and said, “Why not. If you think you can make it with that thing. It’s gonna be a rough road.” And with that, the unlikely pair set off on their journey from Doom to Gloom, in search of frozen burritos and, in Kip’s case, some tofu. BD and Kip Discuss The Merits of Their Bicycles and Come To An Understanding The road out of town was fairly smooth. They had to ride around a good number of broken down cars, fi lled with lifeless families of people. They passed a Chevy Suburban with living occupants that had become stuck on the road because of the stopped cars that surrounded it like roadblocks. “Should we offer to bail them out?” Kip asked. BD didn’t think they’d be able to save themselves, even with a bailout, so he agreed to try. But the family of five wasn’t interested in hitting the road with BD and Kip. They were in the middle of watching a season’s worth of Tivo’d Survivor episodes. They had a large cooler fi lled with Mountain Dew and Bon Bons and they waved BD and Kip away without taking their eyes off of the four LCD screens embedded in the Suburban’s upholstery. “We were born Americans and we’ll die living like Americans if that’s what it takes,” the driver said. “Suit yerself,” BD said. They pedaled along in silence for a few hours until BD, who had a triple chainring, slowed up a bit for Kip and struck up a conversation. “How much you pay for that Rubbish Rider anyway?” “$1,299 retail,” Kip said. “How much did you pay for your bike?” Continued on pg. 12

issue 5 / 2009

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Online your bike has friends, but offline its got community by Liza Campbell

I

magine you have a cruiser. A super-sweet cruiser. Imagine that it’s shiny and red and it says “dyno-glide” on the top tube, that it has front shock absorbers and a ride so smooth your friends and even strangers call your bike The Caddy (as in Cadillac, not as in guy-carrying-golf-clubs). Now imagine The Caddy has some fatal rips in her seat which you don’t really notice until after a particularly strong April rainstorm when you’re riding to work and you realize that you are actually sitting on an enormous, saturated, rain-water sponge that is leaking down your inseam with each silky compression of those Caddy shocks. So you need a new seat. And suddenly a dilemma has reared its fearsome head: Local Bike Shop or Internet? This is the kind of decision that can make sane people howl at the moon. Let’s consider a couple of scenarios. Adventures on the Interweb You make it safely to your office but are mocked ruthlessly by Jerry at the front desk for your rainwatery crotch. You sit at your desk (editorial note: for those of you who are grocery stockers or professional surfers, “desk” is the technical word for “table where you get paid to browse the internet”), hum along to the merry computer start-up song, and google “cruiser bike seats.” You even use the quotation marks, you crafty google master. Three-hundred and ninety hits. You look at your watch and estimate that you can peruse them all by the end of the week, assuming you eat all meals in front of the computer and sleep under your desk at night. You walk down the hall for some office coffee. Cathy from finance looks at your wet pants. You decide to narrow your search down to the top ten results. But the top ten results are, get this, all… freaking… motorcycle seats. Your boss comes in and says, “What about the Henderson deal?” You say “I’m just wrapping it up!” and

your boss leaves. In a stroke of inspiration, you search bicycle instead of bike, and you discover that not only are cruiser bicycles represented in force on the internet, there are hundreds of people who blog about their cruisers! And chat rooms! There is a whole online community of people like you, who want to talk to you about their cruiser bikes and offer advice about where to find a seat and what kind of seat is best. There are people posting pictures of their bike seats. You can create a profile for your bike and give it a name and your bike will become friends with other bikes across the country! You are filled with the warm glow of community. Nine hours later your eyes are bloodshot, your pants have dried, Cathy and Jerry have left for the afternoon, and your bike has 67 new friends. You still need a seat, so you just go to the first ad from your search. It’s a store in Ohio that will accept Visa or MasterCard, and you can submit orders by telephone, email, or via the website. “Just think,” you say to yourself, “The internet has saved me a drive all the way to Ohio.” You choose a Soft, Comfy, Gel Cruiser Sized Bicycle Seat Pad. It fits most upright handlebar styles and best of all it is only $29.99, which is a discount of $6.01. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to qualify for free shipping and handling, but if you spend $20.01 more, free shipping is your middle name. Throw a chain whip ($16.99) in the cart and maybe a little dog-repellant spray ($6.95) for good measure, and your day is done. Only 5-7 business days between you and dry riding comfort. The Local Option You make it safely to the coffee shop (new hypothetical scenario, new hypothetical job) and clock in. You accidentally spill a gallon of milk on your fellow barista’s pants so as not to be the only one with a suspiciously wet crotch. Bike-Shop Dan comes in and orders his usual double Americano with room. “This one’s on me,” you tell Bike Shop Dan.

It’s your lunch break and your local bike shop is like a buffet for your senses. The smell of chain lube, jerseys and windbreakers like tropical flowers, and Bike-Shop Dan humming along with the radio as he spins wheels on the bike stand. Maybe there is a friendly dog to greet you, or the laughter of small children. On your way to the wall of bike seats you are temporarily distracted by the wall of random bike accessories. A headlight that looks like a frog. Something in your lower brain says, “I need that.” A handlebar coffee cup holder -- same persuasive voice. Bike shop Dan greets you by name and tells you a hilarious joke he just heard. Then he tells you about the different seats he has in stock, and which one he recommends for the Caddy. It’s a Soft, Comfy, Gel Cruiser-Sized Bicycle Seat-Pad and it’s only $35.00 and Bike shop Dan is going to throw in a free keychain. With the dirty business out of the way, you and Bike shop Dan engage in conversation about your friends, the weather, politics, the best flavor of ice cream, and the best tires to ride in winter. An Example of Editorial Bias Let’s return to Table 1.1. The internet has its appeal, but the Local Bike Shop comes out ahead when it matters. Shopping at your LBS is good for the local economy, and less shipping is better for the environment(see practicalpedal. com/issue5/ for some alternate opinions on this claim). When you buy parts at your LBS, they are more likely to give you a hand or lend you a chain whip in dire times, and you might even learn something new about bikes. Of course there are the occasional bike shops gone bad, where a leg-shaven salesman named Hans wants you to test ride a $6,000 frame and buy a $25 water bottle. But more often than not, your local bike shop is the quickest, friendliest way to get back on your Caddy and back on the road.

Internet Selection - virtually infinite. No matter how random or specific your wish, you will probably find it. Convenience - Shop from the comfort of your home or office. Bike Recycler - Troll around eBay or Craigslist to find exactly what you want, pre-loved. Econ 101 - Your money goes to someone you have never met in Pasedena, or possibly to corporate headquarters in New Jersey. Environment - All that shipping just added a few inches to your carbon footprint Gratification - 5-7 working days, unless you want to pay the bucks for overnight. Party Factor - Your bike’s new Facebook profile.

Local Bike Shop Selection - Limited. But most bike shops will be willing to order the parts that you need. Convenience - It depends on where you live, but probably less than a 30 minute bike ride away Bike Recycler - If there’s one in your area, bike kitchens and bike co-ops serve up second hand options Econ 101 - Money spent at a locally owned LBS stays in your community. You buy a new chain from Bike Shop Dan, he tips an extra dollar for that Americano Environment - These parts were shipped too, but comming with a big bike shop order is like taking the bus instead of driving alone. Gratification - Instant (unless they don’t stock the part) Party Factor - Your new bikeshop buddy.

issue 5 / 2009

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Continued from pg. 9

“A little more.” “How much more?” “About twenty-eight hundred,” BD said. “Well,” Kip said. “Those of us with families couldn’t live that fancy.” They approached a steep incline and BD downshifted into his small ring and pulled away from Kip, who eventually had to get off and push. At the top of the hill, BD spotted a deer nibbling grass on the side of the road. Silently, he pulled the handgun out of his pack and took aim. CRACK. The deer dropped dead where it stood. BD reached for his knife and was off the bike in an instant. By the time Kip reached the top of the hill, BD had gutted the deer and strapped it to the back of his bike. Kip was aghast, but he was glad to have caught up with BD and so he said nothing of the carcass. The two pedaled along as the day grew dark. They were nearing the mountain pass and Kip began to worry over the difficulties that lay ahead. Would his bike, with its 20-inch rear wheel be able to handle the terrain? Unlike BD’s bike, his was clearly meant for the city. It had been cheaper, sure, but now, in a post-apocalyptic situation, Kip wasn’t so sure that the build-quality would be up to par. He had been swayed into the purchase by the convenience of the big utility bucket. It was easy to load and he didn’t have to bother with the spider web of straps that BD always had to employ just to haul around anything large. But now that they’d soon be venturing off-road, Kip was unsure. Even though the 20-inch wheel was strong, the lack of clearance and of low gearing made his situation look grim. For his part, BD didn’t care much for Kip, even though he might be the last man left alive (once those Chevy folks died their slow deaths). But he’d noticed that a few of the parts on Kip’s trashcan caddy were interchangeable with his (gotta love bikes built with standard components, even ugly ones) and he decided that it might be good to have a self-propelled parts bike along for the ride over the pass. Just in case. So once again he slowed up and rode alongside Kip. “I just want you to know,” he said. “That I won’t abandon your bike in the

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mountains. Whatever it takes, I’ll see you and your Garbage Gondola through the pass.” That night, they made camp a quarter mile after turning off the road, and ate a hearty venison stew. Kip went to sleep thinking that, maybe, BD wasn’t such a washed-up ex frisco speed-running bastard after all. Kip and BD Find Out Who Is King In the Mountains The mountains were not kind to Kip and his rubbermaid-rider. The mountains had more of an affinity for BD and his off-road-oriented utility bike. His tires were larger, his bottombracket higher, his trigonometry more trigged out than was Kip’s. It was as if the mountains and BD had some kind of tender, yet illicit, tryst going on. As long as he stayed in the saddle, the long bike would never lose traction. It’s wheelbase, to BD’s surprise, actually helped him steer between the obstacles on steep climbs, his front wheel being about as close to a wheelie as a vegan is to rare steak. Not close at all. Kip, on the other hand, suffered from a smaller contact patch, less ground clearance, less diverse choices in gearing (though BD made a point of mashing his way up the hill (in the saddle, no less)). And when a fierce, white monster of a snowstorm blew in, Kip’s utility bucket filled with snow. The descent was easier for kip. At least he had a front disc brake, which helped. Though he would have liked a rear disc as well. One day after the storm, their second day in the mountains, the snow melted a bit and settled into a dense, useless burden. He tried to chip it out with a twig, but he gave up in frustration. The drain holes, which had worked so well in the city drizzles had quickly become clogged with mud. But three days after they entered the mountains, they left the mountains, and Kip Madsen and BD Barton were once again on more even footing. BD still had his extra gears, but the snow had melted and drained from Kip’s utility bin, and the cruising was good. Of Looting and the Various Methods of Transporting Things by Bike They rode into Gloom with mud in the crooks of their teeth and stomachs that rumbled like great tsunamis on a gastric sea. And even

though the town’s streets were bedecked with rotting corpses, the organic stinkings of some macabre ticker tape parade, Kip and BD were happy because the town boasted an Albertsons. In his tremendous enthusiasm, BD rode right through the plate glass doors, sending a spray of safety glass into the March Madness beer display. “Dude, what was that all about?” Kip asked. “I thought they’d open automatically,” BD replied. Kip rode through the smashed door and parked next to BD’s bike. The pair of haggard survivors set to scooping up great armloads of canned goods and Little Debbie snack cakes and running back to their bikes to deposit their loads. It didn’t take long for them to realize that even though each of their bikes held the same amount of goods, Kip’s Madsen was by far the easiset to load and he finished stocking up in half the time it took BD. When they’d maxed out their bike’s capacities, they set out to find a place to sleep for the night. As they rode down the town’s empty main street, BD spied a cantina and suggested they stop in for a warm beer and a shot of tequila. Little did they know, they were not alone in the town of Gloom. A Mysterious Visitor Shatters A Friendship As luck would have it, the sole survivor in Gloom happened to be the gorgeous barkeep of the Gloomy Gus Cantina. Perhaps as a survival mechanism, perhaps because it was still well-stocked with beer, the gorgeous barkeep kept coming in to work, hoping beyond hope that even one customer would show up for a drink. She served them up a round and flirted, as all campy horror-movie starlets do, and it wasn’t long before Kip and BD were competing for affections. BD, with his years of cantinainhabiting experience, had the upper hand and all evening the barkeep hung on him like a voluptious sausage hangs in a smoker -- hot and smoky. As the evening came to a close BD and Kip tried to get her to roll out with them but she refused to leave her post. “What if another customer needs a drink?” she asked.

Kip, feeling chivalrous, said, “Is there anything we can do for you before we leave?” “Not unless you’ve got a hot bath genie, that’s the only thing this cantina lacks.” He was about to say sorry when he glanced at his bike and got an idea. ‘Your wish,” he said, “is my command.” For Want of A Bath, A Love Is Lost Kip dumped the food out of the Madsen’s bucket and began filling it with hot water from the bar sink. With the addition of a little hand soap from the men’s room, a bar rag, and one naked barkeep, Kip transformed his bike into a hot-tub, the only one to have ever ridden into the Gloomy Gus Cantina. When they rode out of town the next morning to meet their destiny, the Barkeep took up position in the back of Kip’s madsen and told the boys, “Let’s roll,” her arms firmly wrapped around Kip’s paunchy midsection. And for a trio of post-apocalyptic survivors and two utility bikes, the lesson learned was that every bike has its place, its strenghts. If you need a Jeep, get the Big Dummy. If you need a minivan, get the Madsen.


the JOURNAL of PRACTICAL CYCLING

Fiction: Segue by Wiley Davis He didn’t want to be comfortable but he had no reason to be standing outside in that storm. It was a dry storm but storms in Phoenix are brutish. The air fills with dust, particles so small they get deep inside your lungs where it is difficult to cough them out. Heat lightning flashes sideways during these storms and the skin bristles because of it. In the cafeteria the window bowed with each gust. Jim watched the steam curl up from his coffee and flinched slightly as the window shook. He sat very close to the window. It was a circular room and he sat at the periphery. Most people sat in the center but Jim preferred the periphery. Especially on days like these. Today he was not the only person sitting alone. Four tables away, also next to the window, a girl sat staring at the storm. She did not have the pretense of coffee or tea. He thought about walking over to her table to see what she was about. He would say something like, “Hey,

the least you could do is have a cup of coffee in front of you so that the others won’t think you’re strange.” Perhaps she would say, “It doesn’t particularly concern me.” “ The people?” “ The storm.” “ Why should it concern you?” “Because I’m here, behind this glass, where it’s comfortable.” “Do you want to be uncomfortable?” “Of course not. I just wish that I had no choice.” “And this doesn’t concern you?” “ Not at the moment. Why were you sitting over there by yourself?” “ I was thinking about South America.” “Are you a geography major?” “No. Someday I will ride a bicycle to South America and I like to think about that when the storms blow in.”

“ Does that concern you?” “Does what concern me?” “ The way that you sit in here when the storms blow in?” “ Not at the moment. I’m just biding time.” “ I am very sorry to hear that.” His coffee continued to steam and he took a careful sip. It was almost cool enough to taste. The window shook again and outside on the circular lawn he watched as a blue and white plywood election sign rolled past, corner to corner to corner. It was moving fast and it looked heavy. He tried to think about trailworn bicycles and not about the money he had wasted and the people he had let down. One of these days, he thought, something foolish will happen. He wished someone would come up to him at the table and say, “Why are you sitting here alone, staring out at the storm?” A nd he would say, “Because I am missing

the things I would most like to do and because I am afraid.” “Afraid of what?” “ I am afraid of letting my dreams get away.” “So you sit here alone to keep hold of your dreams?” “ I sit here alone hoping they will smell blood and try to keep hold of me.” “ I do not think dreams are that predatory.” “ Nor do I.” The coffee no longer steamed and he drank most of it. In the center of the room sat a new crowd. A girl with long blond hair was leaning in very close and making assertive gestures while her friend expressed shock. Someone had turned on the wall-mounted television and two people sat staring at it, expertly guiding macaroni into their mouths without missing. The window no longer shook and there was no trace of the blue sign outside on the lawn. He finished his coffee and noticed that the girl four tables away had already left.

NELSON http://thungy.com/levi/

D E S I G N . I L L U S T R AT I O N . P A I N T . P AT T E R N . J O Y

issue 5 / 2009

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Traffic: Geographies of Power Why size and arrangement matter by Austin Kocher

Every first time cyclists knows the feeling. You leave your car at home, choosing instead to take the more conscionable vehicle, the bicycle. You’re being green. You’re being sustainable. You’re being a good citizen. You are nervous to ride on the road, but confident that drivers will slow down and move cautiously around you, respectful of your higher calling and vulnerable position. Offering a slight wave or even a mouthed “thank you for cycling” as they pass, your neighbors will at least think somewhat better of you, if not inspired to call you up and join you the following morning. But when you get on the road, thing don’t turn out as expected. Drivers treat your position in the lane -- to the right but not dangerously so -- like an empty drum in barrel horse racing. They speed by you without so much as a nod causing your heart to stop and check itself. You get weird stares which you associate with a mix of mental insanity and road rage. Occasionally you get a beep which you first interpret to be a nicety, but which you soon discover is a mechanical “fuck you” in lieu of a human voice. When you arrive at your office, you realize that bicycle parking had not occurred to the building manager. While you search for a nearby tree to lock your bike, coworkers who regularly chat you up over coffee approach you with some reservation, holding their nose in the opposite direction and wondering if you’ve had your license suspended from a recent DUI. What you’re experiencing, perhaps for the first time in your life, is what it feels like to be in the margins. The system, in this case the American transportation system, was not built for you. It’s not personal. City planners didn’t seek you out and make things difficult for you out of malice. It’s just that cycling wasn’t a consideration when roads were built. While we often think of road cycling as car vs cyclist, it’s a bit more complicated than that. It’s about space and power. When people ask me what geography is, I tell them it’s

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The American transportation system was not built for you. about space and power. But that doesn’t help much. It’s too abstract. So I tell them about cycling. Think about the road. An empty road. Perhaps High Street at 7:00AM on a Sunday morning. Now ask yourself these questions: What is road space? What defines a street, it’s boundaries, it’s character? How does the street effect sidewalks, storefronts, bus stops, and driveways? How is access to road space controlled? Keep High Street in mind. Now bring a car into view. Imagine how that space is changed by of the presence of the car, the movement of the car. How does the driver experience the road? How are road behaviors normalized into everyday practice? How do people become socialized into driving, cycling, skateboarding, walking? Steady on, now. Fill the street with traffic. Cars. Buses. Dump trucks. Scooters. Pedestrians. Strollers. And don’t forget: a bicycle which you mounted confidently -- or perhaps not so confidently -- on top. I think most of us would agree on one thing: this space was not created for you. Okay, okay -- legally you’re allowed there. But that’s another story. You don’t fit the weight requirement for entry to the street; you and your bicycle weigh a fraction of the Escalade with fold-down TV’s. You’re slow; you can’t keep up with the rush around you. There’s no law

that says you have to live up to any of these expectations, of course. But those expectations are real nonetheless. And when you don’t meet the expectations of your environment, when you break with the socialized norms of that space, there are consequences. What does that mean? Consequences? It means that people who can claim legitimacy in according to the rules of that space are authorized -- if by no one other than themselves -- to judge you. The social isolation of an enclosed automobile adds to the element of anonymity, which further empowers one to exercise authority. You are an illegitimate intruder in this space. If this sounds hopeless, I don’t think it needs to be. There are ways to mediate these power-space dynamics. One thing we try to do through Bike to Work Week, is get a critical mass of cyclists on the road in order to normalize the urban spectacle of cycling. There are also contradictory power dynamics at play, as Meredith Joy has articulated elsewhere, such as attempting to bring cyclists under the pervue of the state and to govern the cycling body. What absolutely cannot be missed is this: cycling is not simply about not driving a car and dichotomies should not be too simply constructed. Both the driver and the cyclist, at odds as they are on the road, still must contend with similar power problems which are exercised through road space. To understand the problems of cycling, then, we must understand power and space in the urban environment. Austin Kocher would like you to check out www.yaybikes.com. The name says it all.


the JOURNAL of PRACTICAL CYCLING

Gaston Dilmoore’s: Outdoor Situation Dilmoore acquires a stenographer by Gaston Dilmoore How’s that rum treating you? That is the singular question I can remember from those lofty days afloat with Her Majesty’s Royal torpedo fleet in the South China Sea, back in 1952. Our task was to ghost the Russians, who were ghosting the South Koreans, who were ghosting the North Koreans, who were pretending to fish off a small island populated by several Jesuit nuns and bicycle mechanic. Here’s the strange bit: We had run aground, you see? This was due to the fact that our Boatswain was constantly wondering how the rum was treating us, when actually it was treating him. Yes. Do you hear something? I can swear on my Walther that a small hum is emanating from both of our sprocket housings. Rather. More importantly, my left leg has taken to favor the down stroke again, which ads just a bit of torque to my left, making the going swell on this mountain road. You may wonder how I can dictate while pedaling. And so may I. But it’s simple. I have retained a second Sherpa, and her name is Plasmatic. She’s a stenographer, which, when mounted properly,

can take all dictation as we pedal on our way. But I was speaking of the rum. We had run aground and so had the Russians. At first weary of one another, we eventually came to rest at the nunnery, where the bicycle mechanic showed up and marveled at our rum. Had some, he did. And then he built us some bicycles.

why I’m pedaling away across this wretched peninsula with these silly Sherpas. I could certainly use a nun right about now. Or at least some lentils. And the hum continues. Egad, I‘ve been pedaling it seems for ages, and nothing but rock and scrub and the

I’ve been stuffing moss in my trousers to attract the nuns. There it is again. That humming. Do you hear it? It’s a constant tone. Now varied. Sounds like a rotor, sort of, but not really. Which reminds me of lunch. We had lentils. Have you ever had lentils with bacon? That is where I will spend my eternity. But the point of the matter is that on that little island in 1952, a group of British sailors and some loaded Russians had bikes made for them by a mechanic named Burg. And then we had some races and forgot all about the ghosting and the nonsense happing in Chosin. Yes. It was harmony. I can’t help but wonder, now,

occasional collection of valuable moss, which I’ve been stuffing in my trousers to attract the nuns. I know they’re out there. Just beyond the horizon are nuns, and soon we’ll be dealing with them. Nuzig’s ready, but I fear Plasmatic will fall all to pieces. Poor lamb. Well, it’s off to the tents for some shut eye. I trust you’ll get to the bottom of the hum soon.

Subscribe to this magazine www.practicalpedal.com/subscribe/ issue 5 / 2009

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