Saturday, April 02, 2011

Rites of Spring

The first real ride of the season - a seventeen mile soupcon south of Iowa City. Many cyclists joined me in this grim and painful salute to a glorious, sunny day. I wondered why everyone I passed on the way out looked so dour - I suppose it was because of the wind, which the weather website claims blew at fifteen miles an hour. On the way out it gave me the impression that I was in great shape and would have my summer fitness back in a week; on the way back it revealed that it had been lying and toying with me and that actually I was a fatty who was going to get all out of breath and wish for a Clif bar and a kindly van driver.

This was a complete ride - I got to offer help to some stranded cardiologists (they declined, I guess they had extra tubes), and to tell an angry SUV driver that I felt that his honking and swerving denied my subjectivity. He did not think that cyclists should turn left. Perhaps I had pulled out into the road to turn too abruptly, and was a little at fault. He may have needed to apply the brakes, or at least slacken his acceleration, which as we all know is bad for gas mileage and hence mother earth.

I also saw two cute Basset hounds, one of whom smiled at me and lumbered towards me while looking at me with his eyes.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Oh god

SEEN south of IC:
A spider with a body the size and color of a ripe green grape, crawling into the road. I assume it was planning to capture a few trucks.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Panic in the Pyrenees!

On the way back from my usual ride south of IC I got into a genuine DUEL with a bearded hipster cyclist wearing two-tone Raybans and no helmet. He was also riding a mountain bike and carrying a heavy backpack. We pulled up next to eachother at the light at the bottom of Gilbert, where it meets Bowery near the terrible Japanese restaurant. Neither one of us spoke; we exchanged mute male glances and then stared grimly ahead. As Tacitus wrote of the first meeting between Caesar and Mecha-Caesar, "Shit was ON."

I slew all on the first leg - I attacked immediately and, for once, clipped in on the first stroke without trying. My diamond-clear memory of the cracks and irruptions in the pavement served me; I slalomed past bumps and crevices, hissing along in the biggest of big gears. The hipster groveled along behind, not even trying to pass me.

We met at the light at the intersection of Gilbert and Burlington. We each stopped behind a black Audi. The car's driver was either impatient or filled with automotive joie de vivre; he repeatedly popped his clutch, rolling back and forth like some lathered bull in a chute. The hipster and I grew more agitated; I began bopping along to my music (Ke$ha's "Party at a Rich Dude's House"); the hipster did likewise. College students moved around us, ignorant of our savage combat. A flock of birds wheeled overhead, streaming counterclockwise in a great elegant crescent, heading for their roosts on the gables of Iowa City. It would implicate me in irresponsible literary license if I were to insert a peal of thunder, although it wouldn't violate the spirit of the moment.

Presently the light changed; the Audi wallowed ahead, though we had each expected it to surge. The hipster attacked and it fell to me to grovel, to blow chunks (to employ Bob Roll's pungent phrase) as the hipster sailed off north on Gilbert, smirking over his shoulder. He rides on; some say he never slows; he dances atop the pedals; he says he will never die.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

More Bikin'

Today on my ride south of IC I saw:
- Three or four dead raccoons, some huge, all pretty sad.
- An enormous caterpillar, the size of a cigar (alive and well).
- A heat mirage - the pavement looked underwater. It wasn't actually all that hot out, but I guess that's when this sort of thing happens? It was like a car commercial.

Monday, September 06, 2010

The windy city

A magical 17-ish miler south of IC today - groveling into the wind the whole way out, flying back in top gear. As I rolled into town I felt drops of rain through the vents in my helmet. A friendly motorcyclist squeezed past me at a stop light. On the way out, by the bridge on the bikepath that passes the waste treatment plant, I got behind some nondescript weaving slowly back and forth across the pavement, holding a mincing dog on a lead. He got over on the grass when he noticed me behind him. As I passed I looked back and I couldn't read the expression on his face - he was smiling, but like he was about to throw up.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


So I took my new S-Works Turbo tires out in a drizzle today and I think they do provide better "suppleness" and "tolerance" and "gripsmanship" than my old Mondo Pros. So if you absolutely have to buy some new tires and they have to be S-Works Turbo clinchers then I am here to tell you that everything will be fine.

On the cute little pond loop by Napoleon Park I saw a rollerblader scare the DAYLIGHTS out of a man who was walking. The man took it in good humor. I also got chased, twice, by an adorable standard poodle. He had the doggy look of transcendent joy on his face. I think his owner was annoyed at me but I didn't want to stop and pet him and teach him that all cyclists want to say "a chew chew chew" and inspect his flews. I should write to The Ethicist, this is about his level of complexity.

Just outside my house I dropped a pretty lady on a hybrid with huge, laden panniers. I blew past her up a hill in the huge gears with my safety light blinking. This is about equivalent to beating a distracted toddler in a foot race - she was just pedaling along. About a block later I dismounted at my front door. She shouted "work that thing!" at me as she rode past - she was smiling so I think it was in good fun. Bicycling!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Old Bike me Do

A weird ride south of IC today. Spotted:

- One tandem, ridden by a rather grim couple.
- One small airplane, hovering with its nose into the wind.
- One dried frog, perched on three legs as if in mid-leap.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

IC Wiener

SPOTTED on Gilbert St., near the bad Japanese restaurant: a legitimate flip-flop fixie hipster, riding an elegant old road bike with the handle bars rotated around so that the brake levers pointed directly towards the rider, as if in accusation. The bar ends consequently pointed towards the heavens. I guess this would be a great "steez" if you wanted to activate your brakes by punching instead of squeezing. Guy had some nice boat shoes on.

ALSO, south of IC I stopped to adjust my saddle and a nice guy from BIC swooped by and asked me if everything was OK. He had the best bike repair inquiry manner I've ever seen - no world-weary scorn or condescension whatsoever.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Bike Report 2k10

A wee jaunt south of IC this morning. I spotted only one recumbent, and many fine mountain bikes and hybrids. There was one completely rube-looking guy in a t-shirt and shorts on an undistinguished mountain bike who was absolutely HAULING around the little paved bike trail near Napoleon park. Specialized-Mercy Team, recruit him! He goes by the name EL GUAPO.

I also managed to flail around trying to clip in so dramatically that I tilted my saddle down so the nose was pointing at the front wheel. I did this about five minutes after getting on the bike and didn't notice until I got back home. In fact, I was thinking "wow, these new bib shorts have a GREAT chamois! The saddle feels so comfortable!" Now who's the rube, SAMSKY?

Also: only two short years ago I was lavishing praise on Brooks saddles and sneering at the fact that there are people out there who buy carbon fiber water bottle holders. Well, I got a (cheap) Cutter carbon fiber bottle cage and I have to say I really like it, though this is probably just because it has a better design than the plastic Specialized cage I was using. TWO GRAMS LIGHTER BROSEPH.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Spice 2!

Here's a report on my recent trip to Duke at Splice - you may find it toothsome, or possibly overwrought and mawkish, or maybe all three!

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Spice Today!

Russ Smith at Splice did a rad Q&A about my book! Check it out.
Also, just saw The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Man was that unpleasant. Apparently the original Swedish title was Men Who Hate Women, which seems about right. Gross out to the max. I thought that the Swedes only dealt with death through chess games and comic tree-sawing but I guess they SHOWED ME!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Aw, man

Today on my ride south of Iowa city I saw a beautiful gray cat who had been struck and killed by a car. I see many dead animals on each ride: deer, turtles, countless birds, raccoons (one today, in fact), frogs. In Princeton I saw squirrels.

I used to see this little cat all the time on my rides - he would stride around the fields near the sod farm, ranging all the way to the intersection with 520th st. I looked forward to seeing him. He always looked so pleased and proud of himself, like he was surveying his lands. His tail was up, and he marched along with dainty precision. It was very sad to see him there on the shoulder. I stopped at the house where I thought his owners lived but no one was home.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Rike Ratch

The usual south of IC route:

- A commuter, walking his bike. He assumed the air of ostentatious disinterest that New Yorkers use to avoid panhandlers when I asked if he had a flat. He grudgingly admitted that he did but refused my help, which is probably best for both of us since I am not exactly a whiz with the ol' tubes.
- A pack of heavily laden touring cyclists, probably training for RAGBRAI. They were carrying so much equipment that they had to do away with luxuries like helmets and drop bars.

No recumbents or tandems!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Capricious Critic - out now!

Ladies and gentlemen, The Capricious Critic has been published by Otis Books/Seismicity Editions and is now available through SPD in California! The book collects a few of my Smyles and Fish columns and a huge amount of new material, including snarky references to Princeton landmarks, a trip to the moon, and a few dozen synonyms for halberd. You will love it beyond reason!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Bikewatch Continues

Today I saw:

Three or four brass keys amidst gravel and pennies at the base of Grand Avenue and Riverside; it had kind of a supernatural feel.
1 lonely recumbent bicycle.