Life Without Wheels: Chronicle of a Car-Free Lifestyle
 
Some of you who follow me on Twitter know that the last few weeks I've been on a desperate search for wheels. Bicycle wheels, to be exact: 700c preferably, with a 7 speed cassette. After weeks scouring Craigslist and eBay and asking around, I finally sauntered into the Bike Shop on 3rd Street (near Alexandria). It's owned by a nice Korean family, and they always do good by me. 

I noticed they had one used freewheel hanging up. The young lady took it down and confirmed that it indeed was a 700c with a 7 speed cassette. I squealed. I told them I was so happy I came to them, and it just confirmed how much I like supporting my local bike shop. They expressed their happiness to have loyal customers. 

Anyways, they located a matching front wheel, and after the young lady conferred with her father, they set a price at $70. I probably could've bargained, but they always do right by me, and after the searching and searching I've done, I was willing to be a little overcharged. At the same time, I asked if the had a used working downtube shifter, 3x7 for my friend @cyclo_astro's Rike (Red Bike), and they threw it in for $10. 

I highly recommend this little Bike Shop. They do repairs on the spot, and they are willing to make some deals. Anyhow, below are some pictures documenting the process of putting together GoFast. (The new bike is named GoFast.)
 
 
I wanted to link to Will Campbell's post about drivers who think they are being polite at an intersection, trying to wave you through, but really are just putting you at danger, but I can't search quickly enough and I need to post this. Recently there have been hit and run collisions/incidents in the news in which one lane of traffic stops for a cyclist or pedestrian, and other drivers, who can't see why traffic is stopped, zoom around into the other lane just in time to smash the poor ped or cyclist into pink dust. Do these people not watch the news and see these stories? What I love the most is when they try to bully you through an intersection. I'm sorry, you can't bully me.

Today at Highland and 4th, I pulled into the intersection and waited for traffic to clear, and about 10 cars in a row tried to stop and wave me through (while they had a green light ahead and no traffic behind the set of cars). When I waved them through to keep going and not stop traffic, they take it as a personal affront. For some reason, not one of them paid attention to the fact that I waved through the car in front of them, shaking my head. Most of them just shrugged and kept going, but one fat asshole (and I'm not kidding he was pudgy) decided to roll down his window and say something indiscernable as he finally pulled through. I really don't care about his good opinion compared to being dead.

Another instance: lLast week, while running on 4th Street, I came to a four-way stop that had a lot of cars backed up in all directions. I jogged in place (on the sidewalk, minding my own business) and waited for the cars that were going west to have the right of way, but some idiot going north stopped traffic for a full minute trying to wave me through, like I was actually paying attention to him. I wasn't standing on the curb and acting impatient or unpredictable, in fact, I was about 10 feet or more back from the curb, jogging in place. Now, forgive me, but I'm not putting on a show for anyone. So if you think you're going to wave me through and get to watch my ass bounce through the intersection, you're wrong. I'll sit down on the sidewalk and cross my arms before I do that. But also, cars were honking at him to go, what the hell was he doing? He started to yell at me as he drove past and I couldn't resist just smiling sweetly and giving him half a peace sign.

Here's the deal motorists: I implore you to do two EXTREMELY SIMPLE things: first, just obey the fucking right of way and, second, don't stop traffic when it's clearly not necessary and a cyclist or ped is shaking their head "no" and waving you through. I have no legal obligation to pull through an intersection because you decide to stop traffic. I can see far better than you when it is safe for me to go through the intersection. AND, I DECIDE WHEN IT'S SAFE FOR ME, NOT YOU! So don't roll down your window and yell at me like I'm insulting you because I won't let you decide my fate. I do not need help crossing the street.
 
 
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First off, no. This is not an update on my Double Century Odyssey. But here's a quick summary: I rode 200 miles. 

No, this is a blog post pondering how a chain of events can change the course of a life, or at least, how a chain of events seems to have changed my life. 

In October 2009, at the same time a co-worker resigned and I became a candidate for her position, my beloved Blue Huffy was stolen. I was heart broken, but made the promise that I would look at this opportunity to look for an even better bike.

I ended up with Squeaker, since renamed the Death Machine

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The Death Machine changed my life...
 
 
I have to make this post quick because I'm at work and, as you can tell by my lack of having written about my painful but awesome Double Century, I haven't had much spare time lately.

I am so tired of riders who undertake me at lights by shoaling me because they think that they are faster then me for some reason. Maybe because I'm in jeans and t-shirt on a steel bike. Maybe because I'm a woman. Maybe because they're just egotistical asses. Here's the deal though, I've been doing a lot of riding in the past few months, as most of you know. And I've been training to improve my speed. My leisure pace has gone from 15mph to 17-18mph. I can easily maintain 20mph on a flat, usually even faster.

So when Will Campbell's (@wildbell) friend--the kid in the orange with black paint spatters jersey--decided to shoal me this morning, I found it rather annoying. But here was what was more annoying:

First he shoals me, albeit while saying good morning, at 4th and Normandie. Then he runs the light. A few seconds later it turns green, and I quickly catch up with him, even though I stop or yield at every stop sign and he blatantly and dangerously runs each one. Then I see him run the light at Western and 4th, to the honking dismay of motorists who clearly don't want to be responsible for killing a young man. The light turns green, I go through and again pass him.

Then, at Norton, which is a through street, I stop (I'm on 4th) and wait for the car going North to go through. Orange jersey kid shoals right past me into the intersection and the car stops 4 feet away from giving the kid a new face. The driver looks at me, I shrug and apologize. The driver smiles, and, thankfully, I can see that by my smile at him and apologetic look that he isn't going to hold it against all cyclists. He gets that it was just that kid doing wrong because he could see me doing right. (I'm not trying to be self-righteous here; the kid was being dangerous. We all roll stop signs occassionally, but we do so with pre-caution. Not this guy.)

Long story short: I overtake him a few more times (not because I'm trying to but because he's just not as fast as me even running lights and stop signs) and he continues to shoal me and run stop lights to get ahead of me. Finally I intentionally slow and wait for a light to turn red and let him go through so I can just be rid of him. He was weaving in and out of parked cars, weaving into the limit line through intersections...I was just waiting to watch him get hit (it was very stressful to watch him ride) and then I'd have to call 911.

Here's the lesson...You should NEVER assume you know how fast some one is going to be. I've seen old men on mountain bikes smoke my ass. I've lapped skinny dudes on carbon fiber bikes. Do what you should do: come up behind, determine speed, pass on the left, and leave your ego at home. When you come up to an intersection where you see a cyclist waiting, pull up behind them like any car would do. Don't force them further to the left because you're an ass. Don't put them in greater danger because you can't pass properly. If you shoal some one and the undertake them (basically pass them but then go slower) you force them further into traffic so they can pass you again, and again, and again. And they should only have to do that once. Commuting to and from work isn't a competition...

And trust me, I'm becoming familiar with competition, as you'll soon hear because I've decided to train for a triathlon and eventually do an Ironman. Yup, you heard it. I'm insane.
 
 
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I wonder what's inside???
Just as I was waking up from a post work nap, there was a knock on my apartment door. Turns out the FedEx guy who came by earlier in the day had returned to see if I was at home. He left this package.

 
 
So the title of this post says it all, right? However, I'm going to go into some detail in the hopes that maybe I'll inspire other ladies out there to give their bikes a look and not feel like every little tweak requires the time and cost of a bicycle mechanic. So here's the back story and some pics...

A few weeks ago on a training run to work on keeping a steady and fast pace, I took a route that contained quite a few pot holes. On this ride, I attained the knowledge and ability of the bunny hop...which, probably not very wisely considering I ride a road bike, I began to employ on my route to work. I used it specifically to hop over the huge set of potholes on 4th Street, just a couple of blocks west of La Brea. This is where I hopped the potholes and the next time I braked, felt the chug, chug, chug response from my right caliper, which inevitably meant a dent in my rear wheel rim. [Insert swearing and cursing here.]

So, I embarked upon the task of repairing the dent, which took me through buying a spoke wrench, loosening the spokes, banging on the wheel like a cavewoman, then truing the wheel. Thanks to BicycleTutor.com, I did a fair job on my first try. On the next rides I didn't feel it at all. However, after a terrible training ride on Sunset (during which a male motorist in a BMW actively tried to run  me off the road), I felt the dent reappearing. So it was clear to me that before my Double Century on March 20th, I would have to do some more work on the rear wheel. "Well," I thought, "I might as well also fix the front derailleur like I've been saying I would." Here's the story with the front derailleur.

If you've read my previous blog posts, you'll know that I obtained my Schwinn Le Tour (which I've measured at 56cm, a full 5cm too big for me) after my beautiful blue Huffy with lovely collapsing rear baskets and faulty brakes was stolen. When I purchased the bike, the girl who sold it to me told me that the front derailleur had never worked, and that her bike mechanic had never been able to get it to work. In a repair session with Ohaijoe, he took a look at it and said it probably just needed to be aligned or have the cable tightened. I left it as it was for a long time because I honestly wasn't needing the top gear, until I wanted to go faster and build more momentum going downhill. 

My experience with people saying that their bike mechanic or "guy" has looked at it lots of times but can't fix it means that their bike guy is an idiot or not really trying or doing the work. It's a man-made and man-powered device. It can't be some mystery why it's not working. It's not magic. I mean, riding a bike is certainly magical, but bike repair? Not magic and certainly not rocket science. (Look, if I can fix something, it's not rocket science.)

So on Friday, March 19th, I settled down in my living room with my tools, my netbook, and my bicycle set up on my trainer (in absence of a bike stand this was an excellent alternative). 

First things first, the front derailleur. I watched the tutorial on BicycleTutor.com, and playing with the derailleur, decided the problem was with the lower gear limit screw. I adjusted it, but it still wasn't shifting. It appeared to me the cable just wasn't pulling it back all the way. So onto the forums I went. Some one there suggested lubing the pivot points. So I did, then...abracadabra! It shifted! I started yelling and shouting with joy. I fixed it! It worked! No, no, you don't understand...

IT WORKED AND I FIXED IT! 

Okay, more effusiveness later, onto the rim...well, let's make this short: I dismantled, loosened spokes, banged away, trued the wheel, reassembled. It's not perfect, and I think I might have to break down and buy a new wheel or rim, can't decide which. If I buy a new rim, then I get to install spokes, true it, and install the cartridge. If it's a wheel that I buy, I just get to install the cartridge. It's all a matter of how big a project I want to take on. Here are the pics from the repair day.
I realize it sort of looks like my bike is doing yoga...

All of this has inspired me to do something I never would have thought I would do. I'm going to build myself a new commuter bike. From scratch. All by myself. And it will work. And then I'll paint it pink and put streamers on it. How many people can say they built their mode of transportation? Not many, I'd guess.
Unless you're a cyclist. And we rock.

I think there are a lot of women out there who think that this kind of lifestyle is very far away from them, and as much as they'd like to start riding a bike and using it as a true means of transportation, it's just not possible. It's too scary. But it's not. We all thought that at first. But little by little, we become more confident on the road. You connect with the community and learn tips and tricks to dealing with the mean streets and beautiful streets of Los Angeles. And one day, you blow a flat. You patch the tube and start to gain confidence that you could do more. You buy new tires for your Death Machine and install those. You buy grip tape and think maybe you could do more. You get repair and maintenance tips from other cyclists. Then one day you get a dent in your rear rim and don't want to spend money to buy a new one or to fix it, so out come the tools, and you scour Google and Twitter for advice on rim dents. Then you true a wheel and adjust your front derailleur. Just a little while ago, you were changing a tube and now you're building a bike!

Baby steps, ladies, but don't let the guys fool you. It ain't rocket science. So pull out your spoke wrench and multi-tool and let's build a bike!


PS: The bike build project will be full documented here. Promise. 
 
 
So, on February 28th, 2010, I embarked on my longest ride yet. I left from my apartment and rode all the way to the Amtrak train station in San Diego. The results? 140 miles, 13 hours exactly for total time, about 10 hours for total ride time (those little stops add up). 

This ride felt great! I blasted through the entire thing, kept my pace averaging 15mph (on the flats it was about 17-18mph and hills was 5-8 depending on grade)...and I only had 5 gears (because my front derailleur has been out of commission since purchase). 

Anyways, this is just a quick sum up since so much has happened since then. It was a great ride, and inspired me for my next feat, which I'll tell you about in an upcoming post: the Double Century Odyssey...200 miles!
 
 
I just don’t know where to start. The strangeness that occurred tonight is still turning over in my head, and I’m trying to replay the events of the night and all the details, but here goes.

About a week ago, my friend Rachel and I decided that we wanted to ride around Friday night then find a place for a beer. We didn’t want to ride LA Critical Mass (although we generally enjoy riding with them) because we had both heard and seen a lot of LAPD targeting, and we just didn’t have the energy for the big group. We decided we would meet up at LACMA, where I work, take in some art, ride around a bit, and then find some food and beer. She invited her boyfriend, and I invited some other cyclist buddies to join this “nonride.” Once I tweeted about it, others chimed in that had we planned earlier, they would be interested, so I will do another, but onto tonight’s “carnage.”

After we met up at LACMA, we started off on the 8-10 mile route I had plotted. Now, even though we weren’t riding LA Critical Mass, I had plotted the route in honor of them, meaning we were taking main arterial roads, obeying traffic code, and taking the lane. I hadn’t originally planned it this way, but I got into my head that it would be really fun to take the four of us onto arterial roads, ride legally, and make the cars deal with us. The other three cyclists were all fairly seasoned vehicular cyclists, so they weren’t squeamish on the arteries, so we set off.

We headed East on Wilshire, and as we reached La Brea and pulled into the left turn lane, I was rather surprised that not one motorist honked at us or even came remotely close to buzzing us. We headed up La Brea and entered the left turn lane onto 3rd Street, and still no problems. We headed down 3rd, taking up the right hand lane entirely, went through the Grove, came out on Fairfax, and turned onto Beverly. At some point when we were on Beverly, apparently a police officer followed me as I took the lane for a minute (I never saw him, this is according to my friends who were following me), but apparently he determined I wasn’t doing anything wrong as he went on his way.

Here’s the incident of note for the night.

We were on Beverly, nearing the Larchmont area, and we had taken the lane, but riding single file. We were approaching a light, and I noticed that a car had squeezed between me and John, and the car, a black luxury sedan, was following me rather closely, even though there was no one in the left hand lane, and they had room to pass. I pass under the light, realizing as I do so, that it had just changed and my friends were stuck at the light. I turn my head to the left to see if they made it and to check on the car that is following me. At this point, the driver lays on his horn, and I mean LAYS on his horn. It blasts for a good 6 or 7 seconds. At this point I’m slowing down to pull over and wait for my friends, but as there are cars parked along Beverly, I have to go up another block. So before I can pull over the car changes lanes, still driving slowly, pulls up next to me, and some rich woman in her late 40s/early 50s with white hair screws up her face, making her meanest Wicked Witch of the West/Evil Stepmother face, and SCREAMS at the top of her lungs “YOU’RE GOING TO KILL US ALL!!!!!”

Apparently, to this woman, my bicycle is a death machine, and my riding it in the street is like me pointing a loaded gun at her. Seriously, she yelled it like I was shooting off a shotgun into a crowded nursery.

So I’m sure many people have wonderful retorts for Mrs. I’m Afraid of Bikes. I knew it wasn’t worth it from the moment Mr. I’m Afraid of Bikes (the driver) laid on his horn. I looked at her and immediately burst into hysterical laughter. HYSTERICAL LAUGHTER. I mean, was I supposed to take her seriously? An old woman leaning out of her car window to scream about how I’m going to kill her with my bicycle? Seriously? 

I considered it a victory that I didn't give this woman what she wanted, which was to fluster me, to engage and provoke me into yelling and screaming across traffic lanes, and ultimately to push me off the road. You can scream all you want, Mrs. I'm Afraid of Bikes. I'm the 10 Speed Avenger, and tonight I won. 

Aside from one other honker, the rest of the ride was fairly uneventful. We took Vine up to Hollywood, rode through Hollywood (taking the lane the whole way), then cut down to Santa Monica Blvd. and Barney’s Beanery, where we all laughed heartily over Mrs. I’m Afraid of Bikes.

So I’ve named the nonride, the Nonride to Nowhere. It’s inspired by District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan who ruled that if a group of more than 50 cyclists ride in New York City, then they need a parade permit (or something to that effect). My biggest question was what if you have 50 cyclists who all just happen to be riding in the same direction? Every night more than 50 cars parade through NYC to cause rush hour traffic, and those motorists don’t need permits. So it’s not a ride. We just all happen to be heading to the same place. The goal is to meet somewhere with a small group then take an 8 to 10 mile route of major arterial roads (and take the lane!) to the main meet up location where we eat, drink, and be merry. Ride completely legal, be traffic, and TAKE THE LANE. Ideally, we’d have 4-5 groups of 4-5 people each heading to the same area. 

Follow me on twitter as danceralamode to stay tuned for details on the next Nonride to Nowhere, which will occur in a few weeks. 

Addition!
Whoops! I meant to add that right after the incident with Mrs. I'm Afraid of Bikes, I hoped and prayed aloud that she and her gentleman, as they were heading East, would run into our friends in LA Critical Mass, whom we were pretty sure were circling downtown then heading to Hollywood. I hope they did run into LACM. And I hope it was at the Circle of Death. Thanks LACM!
 
 
So...on December 25, 2009 I rode my first century. On January 14th I pushed to about 115 miles, then followed that up with 75 miles on January 15th (the next day!). 


This weekend I'm going to attempt to roll 150 miles in approximately 12.5 hours. I will be tweeting along the way...I'll be following up with post about the ride later. 


Below is my rather ambitious schedule...


Entering LA River Route at 6am, complete the 30 mile stretch to Long Beach by 8am, and the 15 miles from the LBC to Huntington Beach by 9am. Then I get a 15 minute break to cry, eat, drink water, then cry a little more. By 1015am I will be entering Laguna Hell, I'm hoping by 1115am I will have conquered the 8.8 miles of rolling hills. Based on past experience, I should be able to handle it. By Noon I will be entering San Onofre State Beach territory, and at that point I will find a park bench, vomit, cry, eat, vomit, cry, and drink some gatorade...not necessarily in that order. I will be out of San Onofre and entering Pendleton at 130pm (maybe I'll stop to vomit on the base) in Oceanside by 215, going through Solano Beach by 315 and hitting the hills in La Jolla by 415...ish. I expect to be at the train station around 6...although it all depends on how many times I have to stop and cry. (I'm only sort of joking about the crying thing. The last Century was so rough I almost did cry out of sheer exhaustion.) 


So I'll see you on the other side of 150 miles...the San Diego side. 
 
 
Okay, despite my late night writing session, I am still working on my letter to MTA. In the meantime, I'm going to attempt to post every day for the next seven days and chronicle all my car-free errands, etc. Getting back to my roots...