PAgent’s Progress

Words Are My Favorite Toys

August 16th, 2006

Today’s Commute

I commuted by bike today, and it felt pretty good. I don’t know whether it was the enforced hiatus since I broke a spoke last week, the effect of the new rear wheel, or simply that I used my inhaler before I started out, but I felt strong and fast.

In stark contrast to the abuse I often get when riding, I actually had positive interactions today.

First, I had a person on Barbur Blvd. yell out his window “How much does a bike like that cost?” I told him he could get a bike like mine for under $1,000. He then explained that he had a neck injury that made it painful to ride a conventional bike. I said “This is absolutely the way to go.” and directed him to Coventry Cycle. I hope he’s able to get back on the road.

Then, two different people said “Cool bike!” And they were adults, which is even more unusual. If anyone is going to tell you your recumbent looks awesome, it’s generally a child. Children are generally enthusiastic about recumbents, and will run alongside you, telling you how cool it looks. It’s usually adults that make the snide comments. I find that oddly significant.

There was a little incident on the way home that kind of pissed me off. After grinding up and out of downtown on Barbur Blvd., I really, really enjoy the downhill run down Multnomah. There’s a nice wide bike lane, and I can really set a scorching pace from Multnomah Village into Garden Home. I was stopped at the light at 45th, and when the light turned green, before I could even get moving, this guy on an upright bike ducked around and got in front of me.

I just want to take a moment to try and explain the situation to you upright jockeys out there: Recumbents, especially recumbents driven by fat old guys like me, don’t climb hills quickly. We generally have to drop to a low gear and just grind it out. By all means, pass us on those uphill stretches. I, for one, will try to move over and make room for you if I see you coming up behind me.

But don’t be fooled by our performance uphill into thinking we’re universally slow. Recumbents in general go downhill like a bat out of hell. We have aerodynamics on our side. And remember, I have a fairing on my bike. So, after this guy got in front of me, I was keeping up with him by coasting, while he was pedalling like mad. In fact, I had to brake once or twice.

Have I mentioned that this downhill stretch is the highlight of my commute home? Yeah.

So, I honestly don’t bear this guy any ill will. I wasn’t bent out of shape, but I really enjoy that downhill run. It’s the payoff for the long grind up out of town. So, it was a bit petty of me, but after coasting behind him nearly all the way down Multnomah, I waited for traffic to clear then swung out and passed him. I had the bike in the highest gear and I wound it out. I was probably going 30 when I hit Garden Home, and there was no sign of him in my rear view mirror. It. Felt. Good.

And here’s another thing for you drivers to bear in mind: if I’m in a left turn lane, and I’ve pulled up as far forward and to the right as I can, that’s a signal for you to go ahead and pull up next to me. DON’T hang back a car length or two to be polite. I appreciate the thought, but if you do that then NOBODY is going to trigger the #@*$%^#!! left arrow, and we will all sit there through a couple of light cycles until somebody puts a sufficiently large mass of ferrous metal over the loop sensor in the pavement.

And now you know. And knowing is half the battle.

August 16th, 2006


Yesterday we discussed pressure differentials. Today we will be discussing relativity. Relativity tends to get lumped into discussions about the speed of light, Lorentz transformations, time dilation and other fun things. But really, relativity just means that what you observe happening depends upon your frame of reference.

For example, when you are diving in a small plane, the objects in the plane with you will begin to fall freely toward the earth. From the frame of reference of the ground, they are plummeting earthward. But from the frame of reference of the plane, you suddenly have a flying dog.