Saturday, August 31, 2013

Texas Train

Who brought up Texas and trains? Bikes and trains don't comfortably coexist, never did. Before cars and highways were conceived, trains ruthlessly ran across country and through property. To this day, cyclists can't get around monolithic rail impediments; remaining bridges are left to disrepair. Posterity always considered little people expendable. Unions didn't agree, but they were nearly leveled by Reagan.

Coal magnates and iron tyrants were targeted by strikes as long as they tightened their grip. Then cars supplanted, highways consumed trillions of taxpayer dollars, and railroads, despite efficiency, were deselected. But you know they'll be back, because coal is still plentiful and wood renewable. Those who think of artificial bicycles as a cure to motoring should probably instead invest study and time into biological horses. Once oil disappears and oil tarred roads crumble, ponies will be the way to ride between home and station.

What are those trying to dispel myth of robber barons going to do when they inevitably resurface? They never really disappeared, just hid. Columnist Paul Krugman did caution New York Times editorial readers of their invisible, vicious influence.

Who believes Texas came into the fold? Figure Monitor to depict undue optimism in a petroleum producing state. Cost of car ownership stays about $7500/year, also the average one-time amount for a funeral. Boards of Directors, the only ones who share in record stock profits, will milk situation until impossible. Forget communist reform. It's even harder cycling in Moscow than NYC. But since 1990 Cubans have embraced cycling in a big way.

Sinks Contain

Used to be a faster cyclist; then again, was once dreadfully slow after resuming riding from years of jockeying a desk. Now fall between these extremes of speed; gained balance. Still aggravate motorists who race pass only to be overtaken at next traffic jam or light. This leapfrog action evokes emotion as it exposes drawbacks of automotive devotion.

Books foment exactly the same effect for authors, who argue who said what first as if any of that matters. Bike&Chain, composed in the decade between 1995 and 2005, only succumbed to distribution in 2008. Some of its observations appeared elsewhere before and since. Desire to rehash and unsolved issues persist; unwashed dishes in a kitchen sink sit and stink. Known tomes were acknowledged, even quoted, but others only get mentioned in appendix, remained unread, or were never identified. In penance for sins of omission, for 5 years Labann's blogs have documented this burgeoning culture. Interest will always be a reader's prerogative. Without critical filters, it would take a lifetime to read all this cycling malarky, churned out it seems to compete for attention without editorial restraint, which now rivals baseball in quantity of dedicated pages. But baseball isn't also a practical transportation modality. Public ought to be grateful so many writers have addressed this necessity even if they cover same ground during excessive hours of self imposed isolation.

Came across an excellent essay in UK journal Radical Philosophy, (168, July 2011) by Martin Ryle, "VĂ©lorutionary?", which motivated this renewed literary search. Cited by Ryle, may have completely overlooked Zach Furness' One Less Car (Temple University Press, 2010, 360 pp), but that's probably because title didn't plainly convey cycling. So far in 2013 this smattering of new titles arrived among undoubtedly many others:

Joshua Mohr, Fight Song (Soft Skull Press, Berkeley, CA, 2013, 250 pp.) - milquetoast cyclist who designs video games for a living crashes his bike and rises no longer a small man but steely risk taker. Lively novel comments on contemporary foibles and illogical chaos of society today in an anarchic way. Cycling, however, is nearly overlooked otherwise.

Pete Jordan, In the City of Bikes (Harper Collins, New York, 2013, 438 pp.) - cultural tourism in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Labann appreciates Jordan's inclusion of numerous bibliographic sources, which show author has done research and paid attention. Yet don't know if he saw Bella Bathhurst's The Bicycling Book (HarperCollins, 2011, 356 pages) covering same territory.

Peter Cossins, Isabel Best, Chris Sidwells, Clare Griffith, Tour de France 100, (Cassell Illustrated, London, 2013, 288 pp., oversized) is a fascinating and well produced overview of realities surrounding sport's biggest spectacle and those who made it meaningful. Armstrong is still rightly credited with contributing drama and importance despite presumptuous officials determined to erase all memory of him. Doping for races occurred long before this event originated in 1903, and is rife in other sports, particularly football. Not even ancient Pharaohs, self made gods on earth, could totally obliterate all presence of predecessors and rivals.

Giovanni Flores, The Devil and My Bicycle (46 pp.) is a magic realism novella about a smitten youth who chases with obsession and won't give up when she says, "Bye bye."

Greg Borzo, RAGBRAI: America's Favorite Bicycle Ride (The History Press, 168 pp.) is a sincere followup to originator Karras' 1999 book on same topic and slim competitor to Brian Bruns' humorous Rumble Yell (World Waters, 274 pp.).

Emerging noted but not reviewed:
Donato Cinicolo, Me and My Bike (Constable, Fall of 2013, 208 pages); coffee table photo compilation.

Joe Kurmaskie, Guide to Falling Down (Breakaway Books, Fall of 2013); more adventures from author famous for Metal Cowboy.

Elly Blue, Bikenomics (Microcosm Publishing, Winter, 2014, 192 pp.); previously mentioned as a reporter of the cycling underground.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Court Elaine

This Lady of Shallot should have married name rhymed Gawain. Instead she pined unto death for unrequited love of Lancelot. Brit mayhem never ends. Elaine dies again, this time on her first anniversary, mowed down with impunity by a nonagenarian driver. Labann mourns her loss with inconsolable sadness.

Over a century ago girls flocked to bikes as a means of emancipation; got them out of the house, let them meet more suitors than cousins and dull locals, and probably expanded inbred gene pool in a healthy way. Today they hide in or loiter for motor vehicles. As Labann often remarks in passing to anyone waiting for busses, “If you had a bike you’d be there already!” With additional risk of pregnancy and double standards that trap them in situations, women must endure more risks than men to get anywhere. Despite CitiBike and other cycling promotions bumps and scrapes result. But such issues tend to get reported, rather than informing public of the much worse hazards of motoring.

A gender gap has become obvious. Men hesitate to recommend this simpler alternative to ladies, but it's not up to them to court involvement or grant permission. A persistent lack of infrastructure remains a huge deterrent, especially in cities but also in suburbs. Even lightly travelled country roads present safety issues. You can't reassure your frightened daughter when dogs roam loose, medical examiners report bodies found are usually females, and most incidents described occur because society doesn’t seem to give a damn about cyclists and pedestrians regardless of gender. As in all human endeavors, some still find the necessary courage to aim high and compete effectively.

Salute newly established Women’s Cycling Association. Old boss from 1994 to 2004 sponsored an all-girl racing team, so never reckoned that women’s cycling lacked support. Now that it's mentioned, always imagined that misses might have a harder time braving wackos, weather, and worrisome details. With distaff Olympic gold, girl teams garnered sponsors, yet roles remain subservient in premier events. Labann arrowed, designed, instigated and sagged rides to raise awareness and funding for breast and other feminine cancers. But sister participants were typically few. Boys will ride for challenges alone, middle age men out of stubbornness, but damsels are mostly deterred by fear and vanity despite fact that they will never be more alluring while blushing from mild pedaling.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Biz Quatrain

For road riding cyclists, not just grates, manhole covers, and standpipes stuck in it, pavement itself might be a drag. Appian way pave, bumps, cracks, exposed substrate, hard pack, roughness, ruts, tar blotches and washboard woefully impede progress. Edges of patches can be pathetically unnerving, and expanse within wavy. Refilled with too little or much leave unintentional potholes and speed bumps. Why are there so many?

A street isn’t just its visible surface at ground level but a sandwich layer between crust and sky. Underneath, a whole network of sewer and water supply pipes run dangerously close and inaccessibly deep but not without frequent dug interventions. Manholes at least allow access to buried electrical and phone cables, which arise at intervals, cross above, and drape alongside in unsightly tangles. Streets are rights of way for all sorts of purposes, many of which you’d rather know nothing about.
Sticking to smooth isn’t always possible in marginalizing traffic. Cities stink with bone jarring lumps of distorted asphalt at truck pounded intersections. Sometimes it takes every bit of cycling skill just to survive. A steel bike is pliant and strong; its pneumatic tires and spokes absorb some of the many shocks. You’ll have to stand at such times if you can’t stomach a kick in your crotch. The rougher the ride, the slower. None of this has deterred London residents; lately 25% of commuters there are riding bikes. How fast do you want to go? A 32/16 crank/cassette combination at 80 rpm can propel you at 18 to 20 mph on flat. If you spin for cadence you seldom need to shift. It can relieve and rival creeping automotive gridlock that plagues most cities.

Drivers are driven berserk by roads that don’t do what they are supposed to. You can’t earn a living without them. In African nations with few resources, villagers get together and pack earth by hand for the sole purpose of connecting to outside cash flow. Roads used to mean rails, but even trains were too limiting and linear, since farmers and merchants still had to move wares to stations. Did discuss rail trails and train renaissance in Bike&Chain rather prophetically. In a recent tragic rail fail, 80 pilgrims are dead after crash in Northwest Spain. That line had a perfect track record, but anything can be made life threatening by pushing it to the limit. Any attempt to speed things along claims victims. But, with sad refrain and typical lack of concern for fellow man, business rules and shows must go on.