Monday, September 22, 2008


Here's a preview of the article I wrote. I'd appreciate feedback. The paragraphs didn't copy in very well. I used a short paragraph style. I'm still editing, but feel close.

Staying on my Bike: Three Types Obstacles to Maneuver.

A simple truth is that you can’t stay on your bike unless you can maneuver three types of obstacles.
Type one obstacles must be avoided outright; oak trees, dumpster and big vehicles need to be circumvented at all costs.
Conversely, type two obstacles must be hit aggressively; you best conquer a snow drift or a log-pile with momentum and a snarl.
Type thee obstacles demand deft fineness and ample brains to negotiate. These are the bunny-hops over the sudden hole or the dart around the oblivious motorist.
I fall of my bike for two reasons; first, I don’t have the brakes, aggressiveness, fineness or brains to take on an obstacle; I am just not skilled enough. Second, I use the wrong type of solution to negotiate an obstacle.
Examples, I’ve wiped-out using more aggression than I have skill. This is an error a type two solution for a type three obstacle.
Likewise, I’ve whimped-out thinking my way over something I need to just hit like I meant it; I used a type three solution for a type two obstacle.
Errors in type one obstacles often require extended recoveries and costly repairs.
Crashing is cycling’s inevitable and wonderful way of testing for the courage to get back on our bikes.
This reality extends from single-track to any commute. I find it easier to stay on my bike off road than during my rides to work. Single-track crashes are physical events that leave with prideful scabs.
Whereas the obstacles that have hurled me off my commuter bike are more psychological.
I hope a bit of my cycling history illustrates dealing with these metaphysical commuter obstacles and “crashes.”
I began biking during the mid-90s as a student in Minnesota. I rode a rigid Trek 950 for three years because my wife and I could only afford one car.
There were obstacles. One year we had over 100 inches of snow. Blizzards were type one obstacles that took me off my bike for a few days. Stretches of -50 wind-chill required being bold enough to ride and being smart enough to dress for the elements. I got a charge out of riding past people struggling to jumpstart their cars.
I graduated and took a teaching job in a suburb of the Twin Cities. I quit biking and started driving to school.
I lacked the resolve to commute; a type two problem. I also couldn’t figure out how to keep from being a messy-haired sweat ball; a type three problem. Additionally, Coming in disheveled and dripping was not ok for an untenured staff member; a type one problem.
I was off my commuting bike for six years. I fell down.
But, I got up again. I took a leave of absence and moved to Taipei, Taiwan. My apartment was on the West side of the city and my school was on the East side near Taipei 101. Since Taiwan is home to giant bike companies, like Giant Bikes. I purchased a XTC II hard tail at a great price. I was riding again.
Type one obstacles in Taipei were occasionally typhoons, but usually buses.
One morning a bus pulled out and was pushing me into the traffic filled left lane. I reached down and slapped the front of the bus near the headlight with my right hand to warn the driver of my presence. as I sped by.
Type two obstacles included learning to take and hold a lane of traffic or bumping shoulder to shoulder with innumerable motor scooters.
Type two aggressions led to the invention of the visual honk. I could immobilize all but the most maniacal would be pull-out and hit me drivers by pointing an unyielding index finger at them.
I do my best not to gesture with other fingers. Being assertiveness is more effective than being rude most of the time.
Taipei’s type three obstacles included learning to make sense of traffic chaos, and finding how not to look like a pig. I buzzed off my hair and kept a change of clothes at my school.
With time, I saw brilliance in Taiwanese traffic. The drivers needed aggression and skill to survive their motorized commutes as well.
After my leave of absence, I moved back to my suburban teaching job. The type three obstacle lessons of changes of clothes and buzzed hair worked for me in Minnesota too. I kept a set of clothes at school and laundered them in a washing machine for kids who peed themselves during the day.
I stored my bike in the back of my classroom on a rug covered with newspaper. On the sloppiest, dirtiest winter days my bike drip dried over the papers which I could easily gather up and disposes of. No fuss no mess.
I commuted like this for three years and expanded my bike mission. I brought in my repair stand and tools and fixed student bikes and the school’s special education bikes.
The students, staff and building administrators all supported my commuting and appreciated the example I set. I was riding strong.
Wham! A new obstacle threw me off my bike. Our head of building and grounds and superintendent, people I see as wearing Dalmatian coats while driving SUV over baby seals, decreed that no bike may enter our school. (This is more rude than assertive, isn’t it?)
My first reaction to their unreservedly moronic edict was self-righteous indignation. My expensive bike, the one I’ve build up for three years with the leather saddle, lights, panniers, etc must sit outside where it will be a target for theft and vandalism while I’m at school late coaching all year.
After calming down, I approached this as a type three obstacle. It called for finesse and brains. I knew that my Principals, the students and my colleagues supported my cycling.
They saw I spoke with students about ecology, fitness and helmets. They know I fix children’s bikes.
A diplomatic and reasoned approach was required. Confident goodness and reason would prevail; I trusted that a type three solution was pending.
My Principal met with the superintendent on my behalf. But, the Superintendent said, no bike period. Wiped-out again!
I’ve thought about obstacles and crashing enough to know that I can try over. The approach for my second effort was a mix of type two and type three.
I wrote an assertive but positive letter to the editor of our community paper suggesting we uphold the benefits of cycling, and I moved my bike to a new location in view of our lovely secretaries.
My second effort made matters worse. I heard of comments about people threatening to cut off my lock and take my bike.
Now, I’m having a hard time staying upright. When I ride to school, I’m angry. When I’m at school, I fear for my bikes security. The drama continues.
To ride or not to ride, that is my question. Do I allow obstacles of velo-ignorance throw me, or do I keep riding for a sea of good reasons?
I’ve tried skill and intellect to no avail. I’ve tried aggression, without benefit. Is insubordination to be avoided at all costs?
Do their unenlightened ideas keep me off my bike? Or, am I responsible for my own riding?
I am down. Nonetheless, I’m dusting off and starting to ride anew.
I will keep riding. I will continue fixing kids’ bikes. I will do what is right because I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and, doggonit, people like me and my bike!
All cyclists have to cope with obstacles to stay on their bike. The three categories of obstacles are inevitable. Brick walls, pot holes and human errors send us skipping across the earth.
But truthfully, we get to decide if we remain crashed.
Understanding the types of obstacles confronting us give a better chance of riding another day, of being better than our obstacles.


queasyfish said...

Very nice. Critique-wise; since you are referencing the three types (one, two, three) as nouns, you may want to capitalize them, or bold, or italic... throughout the article.

SeanH said...

"Finesse" not "fineness"

Heath said...

Thanks Sean

queasyfish said...

What about "thanks john"?