Bike Safety 101: Riding the Roads

This morning I had planned on getting up at 4:30am as usual for my bike ride but because I went to bed at 11pm last night, I was still too groggy so I decided to sleep another hour.  I don’t have any place to be so why not right?  Darrin, thinking that I’m awake comes into my room at 4:45am to make me read an article in the newspaper about bicycle safety.

When I got up at 5:30 I read the article and thanked him for thinking of me.  Fortunately I already know everything that was in the article so I was already covered.  Luckily I don’t have to spend too much time on the road with cars to have to worry, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be reminded of the rules of the road every now and again.

I noticed that the article was written by the Chicago Tribune so I went online to find it and here it is.  Bike safety 101: Riding the roads – Chicago Tribune

That article has some good points but there are some things that they didn’t mention so I am here to add something to the list.

When you are riding with a helmet, and make sure you are, also buy a helmet mounted rear view mirror so you can see the cars and cyclists behind you.  This helps me see the cars behind me on the road and it also helps me see when there are a bunch of cyclists speeding towards me.  The article says that assume that there are drivers who are either drunk, texting or just not paying attention.  You can’t be looking behind you constantly so it’s a good thing to have that mirror.  And not handlebar mirrors because in some cases you can’t really look down, that would be too distracting.

Unfortunately, as with cars there are blind spots, even with helmet mounted mirrors.  This morning as I was coming home, I left the bike trail and got back on the street with traffic and there is a stretch of road that curves.  Well, in my mirror I can see behind me but there is a blind spot.  Unless I turn my head to look completely, I won’t see the cars that are driving directly behind me in the right lane, only the cars in the other lanes.

I had stopped because of all the traffic.  I usually go out into the left hand turning lane in the center of the road to get back into the neighborhoods and it’s usually safe in that spot but this morning after all the cars passed by I started to ride again and as I was picking up speed I noticed out of my peripheral vision a black SUV that swerved to stop before it hit me.  That was my fault because I shouldn’t just look in the mirror, especially when I stop like that.  I need to turn my head around so I can see to make sure there aren’t any cars still coming.  I was still looking in the mirror so that’s why it was puzzling that I didn’t see it.

As I was getting in the turning lane I looked over at him and waved saying “SORRY!” and he waved back at me as if to say “it’s ok”.  If I had gotten hit, it would’ve been my fault because I wasn’t paying attention to my blind spots.

So that is another tip to think about when you are riding in curved roads with cars.  Check your blind spots before going into the turning lane otherwise you might get killed.

The funny thing is, I was thinking about that article when that happened so my mind was elsewhere.  I was thinking about bicycle road safety when I was unsafe.  Oh sweet irony.

I learned a huge lesson today about safety.  I also learned that if I can’t leave the house as early as 5am then perhaps I need to just stay home because it’s much easier to get into that turning lane early in the morning when there are no cars on the road.  I would much rather be safe with no cars than get hit by a car because of a stupid blind spot.

Gnats Gnot Gnice!

Several times per week I wake up at 4:30am and leave the house at 5am to go bike riding for exercise.  I took this picture at sunrise this morning because I wanted to show off how cool the moon looked with the sun shining on it.  Unfortunately my cell phone takes crappy pictures.  I took 3 and this one was the best one.

But that’s not the reason for this post.  I love riding almost 23 miles every time I ride but the one thing that I do not like are the gnats.

Sometimes I will run into these little buggers.  They are so gross lol.  I can’t see them until they are coming towards my face and sometimes I can’t see them at all and I have no time to duck my head to the side to avoid them.  Occasionally I’ll get a straggler that’s flying solo that just flies into my mouth as I’m singing, and you know if you are on the bike trail by yourself with headphones on it’s pretty difficult to not sing.  Imagine singing an Alanis Morissette song “It’s like RAAAAYYYYAAAAYYYYAAAAIIIIN” where you practically have to unhinge your jaw to sing that one part.  A ton of gnats gets in then.

One thing these disgusting little things do is when they do run into my face, arm hair or chest, they latch on and go for the ride.  When I get to a point where I usually stop to take a break they let go and swarm me.  So one thing I like to do is stop maybe 20 feet or so from the place I like to take a break at so they will let go then take off so they can’t follow me.  Although some do catch up with me but not all of them.

During my breaks I like to take off my helmet and skull cap so I can dry my head and replace it with a dry one.  My breaks aren’t spent slacking off, they are spent getting dry to continue going the way I came, back home.  If I don’t do that then the skull cap I’m wearing will start dripping in my face.  23 miles is a long way to go with a soaking wet skull cap.  Usually as I’m opening my energy bar and taking a bite is when the gnats finally catch up to me then it’s dodging gnats all the way home lol.

It’s a very strange existence.  I can’t imagine what it would be like to be a gnat, flying in eyeballs, noses and mouths, latching onto clothing and sitting there while I’m being taken away from my gnat family.  No, I don’t think I want to live in that world.

I don’t even want to think of any diseases they carry *shivers at the thought*

Ok my skin is crawling, I can’t think about this anymore lol.

Google Chrome Laptop

Google announced this week on Tuesday that they are going to give 60k laptops away to groups and people so that they can test out the new Google Chrome OS. People aren’t testing the laptop, they are testing the operating system itself. These laptops have a 12.1 inch widescreen monitor, built-in webcam and mic on the top of the screen, 8-hour battery, WiFi and 3G with Verizon where they give you 100mb of data for $9.99 each month for 2 years.

The test itself is only supposed to last for 6 months which makes me wonder if they will be asking for the laptops to be returned but the statement that they are giving you 2 years at $10 a month for 3G tells me that perhaps these laptops aren’t going to be taken away after 6 months. But I can’t tell for sure. I mean, what are they gonna do with 60k used laptops? They can’t sell them and they’re not going to take the time and money to refurbish them are they?

In case you are wondering why I am blogging about this all of a sudden, well, I have one. I signed up to be a beta tester last year but I don’t know if that’s why I got so lucky. I got an email from Google on Wednesday inviting me to apply to get one. Friday morning I went to the grocery store for an energy drink and found it on my doorstep when I came home.

At first I didn’t know what it was because I didn’t order anything. It didn’t even occur to me that I got approved for a laptop. As I’m opening the box I see this diagram of a helmet that an evil scientist mouse would build for world domination. Or at least cat domination. As I opened the box I see the battery pack then the laptop itself.

My first thought was “WOW I was approved? NO FREAKIN’ WAY!”

I took a picture of the keyboard, screen, top and bottom. It looks navy blue in the image for some odd reason when in reality it’s more of a charcoal color. Click it to see it full size which is 1280×768.

By the way, this is not a product review, it’s more of a bragging post :p lol. This is not what is going to be for sale in 6 months when the beta testing will be finished and as I said I am not testing the laptop but the operating system.

One of the rules about being in this program is that I use this as my primary machine. I’m not sure if blogging about it is allowed but since I’ve seen other blogs talking about it and a few YouTube videos (as I write this 1,130 videos) showing it off and people talking about it, I figure it might be ok.  Since this is going to be my primary computer for the next 6 months I figure I might as well talk about it.

I have used Google Chrome as my default browser for over a year now so it’s not a difficult adjustment for me. Although this new keyboard and touchpad are adding to the challenge. I am getting used to it tough.

I have not actually timed it but when you first turn the computer on by either opening the lid or pushing the power button, it gives you this cool Chrome logo then within seconds you are in your login screen.  When I see my image with my Gmail account name, I type in my password and I’m in.  Instant desktop, no waiting.  When I close the lid while it’s turned on then come back to it later, it loads instantly back to where I left off.

My desktop is a Chrome browser like you would see when you first open your browser but it’s always there.  Instead of having the most used websites on that window, it has icons like you would have on your desktop.  There is a new Google Web Store where you can search for extensions, apps and themes.  When you find the one you want, just click install and viola it’s installed.  No muss no fuss.

If it’s an app then you will have a new icon on your “desktop” but if it’s an extension then you will have a new icon on the top of your browser next to the wrench and bug report link.

Since it’s a website based computer, it’s really fast.  I’m telling you, it is so fast that it puts my desktop computer to so much shame.  Like when I watch a YouTube video it’s very smooth.  It plays the video from start to finish without any interruption like my desktop does.  I’ve gotten to the point where I hate watching videos on my computer because of how they keep pausing and I’ve recently reformatted it too so this new laptop is very welcome on my desk.

I haven’t tried the webcam yet but as soon as one of my friends and/or family members logs into Skype then I can try it.  Oh, since Skype is obviously not a web-based app, I had to find a web-based IMing website that allows you to Skype.  I found imo.im in the web store and I’ve been using it for all of my IMing.

I have been able to use the webcam with taking pictures with Picnik so I can tell that the webcam built into the top of the screen isn’t very good quality.  Then again like I said, I am not testing the laptop but more the OS so it doesn’t have to be great quality, although it is much better quality than my current webcam but I digress.

I have had a few crashes but it turns out to be my fault because I’m not used to the touchpad.  It doesn’t have any buttons, it’s just a touchpad.  You can press on it and the whole thing clicks on the bottom but you can also lightly tap on it which is how you click.  The problem I have with it is that it’s so freaking huge that when I type, my hand is constantly moving the cursor and clicking things.  I have to learn to lift my right hand while I type to avoid that.

It’s an awesome computer and I will be very happy with it just as long as they don’t take it away from me lol.  I don’t know how much it is going to cost when they start selling it in the summer of 2011 but it is worth every dime considering it is the easiest computer for anyone to use.  You don’t have to know anything about computers, all you need to know is what website you want to look at.

There is still some time if you want to get in on this.  All you have to do is go to this website http://www.google.com/chromeos/ and apply for the pilot program.  The deadline is 11:59:59 on 12/21/2010.  Good luck.

Is Bakersfield A Safe Place To Ride A Bicycle?

Is Bakersfield a safe place to ride a bicycle?

This article was in today’s Bakersfield Californian newspaper.

In my opinion it is only safe to ride a bicycle if you are a defensive rider.  If you are watching where you are going, looking both left and right, never crossing the street unless you have the green light (or in some cases walk signal).  Never riding on the wrong side of the road then crossing while a car is turning left (which happened to me).

This one time I was leaving the bike path and I was crossing the street and this pickup truck was pulling out in front of me while he was looking right at me.  He nearly ran me over.  This was about 10am in the morning too so it’s not like he was drinking and driving… that I know of at least.

I have a little mirror that is attached to my helmet and I’m constantly looking at it to see the traffic behind me so I know what is coming at me.

Now I cannot say that it is 100% safe to ride as early as I do because even at 4:30am there are probably still some drunk drivers out there but usually when I ride that early there are maybe 1 or 2 cars every 10 minutes so it’s pretty safe where and when I ride.

You also have to consider the fact that I’m not riding in the busy streets along with traffic.  I start out in a neighborhood and I’m pretty much only in neighborhoods until I get to the bike path so there is not that much danger of getting hit.  And I know a route that gets me to the mall and to Target where it’s through neighborhoods and I never have to drive with traffic.

So is Bakersfield a safe place to ride a bicycle?  I think it is during the morning or during the daytime IF you aren’t driving in traffic where there are no bike paths or where cars are parked right in the bike path.  If you try to ride through neighborhoods then you are safe.  But if you drive alongside cars then there is never a guarantee that you are ever safe.  Even if you are crossing the street you aren’t ever safe because there are always reports of people getting killed while crossing the street.  Is it safe for me to ride here?  Yes, because I am a defensive rider and I pick the best safest routes.

If you live in a city that you aren’t sure where the safest routes are, why not just go to your favorite map website, I go to google maps and I map out my route then I adjust the route so I am going through neighborhoods then I print it out and hold it while riding through that neighborhood so I learn it so the next time I have to go that way I will remember.  And if I don’t remember then I print it out again (if I threw the old map out that is).

Bike Trail Home?

Now before I get nasty comments on this I would just like to say that at age 17 I was homeless for 10 months, 1.5 months after my 17th birthday all the way until about 1.5 months before my 18th birthday so I know what it’s like being homeless.  That being said here you go…

So I’m riding on the bike path last week and I stop at the Manor St. rest stop which has about 4 cement benches, 1 of them has like a bus stop roof so if it’s raining you can sit in there out of the rain.  2 of them have no cover and those 3 are all in like a half circle (see my bike cam video at the end).  Then the 4th bench is separate from that little half circle, more like across the “street” hehe.

Anyway, so I’m riding the bike path last week (as I said lol) and I go to the stop and it’s dark because the sun hasn’t come up and I see this darkness over by one of the benches.  So I don’t go around the half circle and sit in the middle like I normally would, instead I just pull in on the other side and sit on the bench at the end.  I look over and see a face staring at me.  It’s a homeless guy in a sleeping bag next to the bench but on the ground.  I sat there for my 10-15 minute break and then leave.

Next day he’s not there and then the next time I go there he isn’t there but the sun has already come up and it was the day after Michael Jackson had passed away.  So I go sit down on the bench and as I’m taking off my helmet I can see in my helmet mirror this guy all of a sudden standing like 15 feet away from me, staring at me.  This kinda freaks me out because he wasn’t there when I stopped and when I sat down, almost as if he teleported there lol.

He slowly creeps towards me and is now in front of me and I know that he’s the guy sleeping in the sleeping bag over by the bench and I’m not quite sure I trust him.  He has this scar on his neck from having his throat slashed.  I’m not sure what that was all about but I’m going to give him the benefit of a doubt.  He comes up to me and starts talking about Michael Jackson and I sat there talking to him about all the recent deaths and about how MJ is getting all the attention while Caradine, McMahon and Fawcett get no attention.

So anyway, after about 10-15 minutes I’m ready to go so I said well breaks over and start getting my gear back on, camelbak, gloves, skull cap, helmet, earbud’s and I look in my helmet mirror and he’s back where he was when I first spotted him.  Standing 15 feet away from me, arms folded, staring at me.

The last 2 days (yesterday and today) I could see him in his sleeping bag, I’m leaving really early and so I get there before the sun even has a chance to come up.  But I’ve decided I’m not going to take any chances.  Instead of stopping there and sitting down I’m just gonna go through that tunnel and go about maybe 1/4 of a mile away and rest there.  I’m having to rest standing up now which kinda bites but that’s fine, I’d rather have to stand then worry about having my throat slashed.

Now, as I said above about being homeless, I know what it’s like and not everyone should be judged based on their scars and I don’t want to judge “the content of his character” as Martin Luther King Jr. would say but at the same time I really don’t know this guy and I’m not taking any chances.

Bike Cam Vid Done

I got my bike cam video on the computer without issue (YES!).  I found 3 good songs to put in the video and used my Adobe Soundbooth to mix them like a DJ would lol.  I added the song then sped up the 20 minute video to 8 1/2 minutes so it fits with the songs.  It’s all ready to go, I just need to get it on YouTube.

I was a bit disappointed that the video was shaking so much, I mean from side to side because of the handlebars but when you are riding a bike you can’t keep it from doing that lol.  It is physically impossible to get the video to be still constantly the entire time.  Especially when it’s mounted to the handlebars.  If it were mounted on my helmet then perhaps that would be different but on the other hand every time I move my head up or down or left or right or behind me, the video moves too so it sees everything I look at which would be way more annoying lol.

Pedals, Mirrors and Shorts

Well I just came home from Snider’s Cyclry.  I bought brand new pedals that are metal, not the cheap metal ones either that cost $7.  No these were $20 and they are a lot heavier than the cheap ones.  Weight on a bike is a huge issue but when it comes to something like that you need them to be as sturdy as possible for standing up on.  That’s why the pedals that came with the bike are breaking, from having 230lbs of weight standing on them.

I also bought a helmet mirror.  When I was trying to put it on, I was having a hell of a time finding a good spot because the mirror isn’t that adjustable that I can just put it anywhere I want to.  I wanted it to stick to the plastic on the outside but the arm on it is so tiny that it had to be on the Styrofoam part in front of my face.  I finally found the perfect spot for it and stuck it on.  I had to go stand outside on the sidewalk, or more in the street, more the gutter really to be sure it was right.  It was so I stuck it on and then looked again without my arm being in the way.  The only problem is I have to look up with my eyes to see it.  That kinda hurts my eyes lol.  So for tomorrow mornings ride (at 4:30am that is) I’m going to bring both mirrors so I can see which one is better.  Who knows, I might need both.

I went to the thrift store before I went to the bus stop to look for shorts and to see if they had any bike shirts at all which they didn’t.  I picked out 2 pairs of shorts but they were so big and I went to hold them up to myself to see if they would fit but wasn’t quite sure.  They don’t have any dressing rooms there so you have to look at sizes and hold them up to yourself lol.  So annoying.  Anyway, I just took them to the register and figured if it’s too tight, it will fit me eventually lol.  One of them was $7 but the tag says $2 and I said well forget it then.  I know they have to charge the lower price, well, I know that applies to everywhere else you go lol but apparently not there.  I said forget it because I didn’t really like them anyway.  So I got 1 pair of shorts with a Hawaiian print on it.  It was only $2.  It’s a bit tight but… it will fit me eventually lol.

Bike Ride

I just came home from my bike ride and I did almost the same distance that I used to do on my regular bike rides before the accident.  Which means my body was already prepared and ready to go.  I fell 2 miles short of my past typical bike rides were which was fine.

Before my typical average miles were 11 1/2 miles going at an average speed of 11.9+/- miles per hour riding for typically 1 hour burning 550+/- calories and 64+/- fat calories.

So, I just need to get back to that point where I can do that and then some starting today.  Today by the way was 9.273 miles, average speed of 10.6 mph, time was 52 1/2 minutes, calories were 439.2 and fat calories were 43.7.  That’s pretty good, it’s getting close to what I was doing before, almost.

Oh and the camelbak was great.  I had 70oz of iced water in it and when I came home I poured the rest in a big blue cup and it filled it up and those cups are 32oz.  So I drank a little more than half of the water.  When I took it off I noticed that the only places on my shirt that were wet were where the camelbak was like the shoulder straps and my back was wet in the shape of the bag lol.  It looks funny.

And the skull cap was also great.  It kept my face dry and sweat out of my eyes and off of my sunglasses and it kept my helmet strap dry until I got home and by then it was just so soaked that the helmet strap was getting wet.  But that’s fine because my eyes and glasses were dry.

T-Minus 9 Hours

Hehe I’m counting down the time before I go out on the bike.  I’m really excited about finally being able to ride my bike again.  I really hope that I don’t have any problems with the wheel.

If everything is ok then great.  But whether it goes bad or is all good I’m going to still return the wheel to the bike shop and see if they have the correct wheel.  If not then I’ll see if they have the correct tire to go with that wheel.  I just don’t want to have any issues with it. But I want to be positive about it and hope that it all goes well.

You know when it’s going to be Christmas in the morning or you know that your parents are going to take you to Disneyland in the morning so you can’t go to sleep because that’s all you can think about?  That’s how I feel right now.  I took an ambien because I know I won’t be able to sleep.  Then again I have ADHD anyway so I know that I won’t be able to sleep lol.  But you know, I’m real excited.

I am not so excited that I’m going to wear all my biking gear and clothes with shoes to bed so I can just wake up and run out the back door and not have to worry about putting on my helmet and backpack and sunglasses because they are already on.  No, I’m not THAT excited.  Just regular excited.

That last paragraph was for Sue who tried to make fun of me and I was a douche nozzle to her.  So there you go Sue.  I really hope you got a kick out of it.

9 Miles

These are what the cyclo-computer says.  9.014 miles, maximum speed reached (mxs) 27.0, average speed (avs) 10.7, time 50:35, calories 436.6, fat calories 43.5.

Boy are my legs swollen lol.  9 miles is the longest I’ve gone so far and I plan on breaking that record too.  What I did was I rode to Beach Park which took about 16 or 17 minutes (not including the times I stopped at the lights and had to stop to drink water) then once I was there I sat on a picnic table and rested my legs for about 10 minutes.  Then I got up and went on the bike trail and rode for about 9 minutes.  I was going to do 10 minutes but my legs were just killing me.  So what I did was I stopped and stood there for a few minutes and watched the 2 people on the 2 horses and waved then watched them pass me.  Then I got back on it and went back to Beach park where I sat on the bench at the trail entrance before going back home.

I just can’t believe that I finally started riding my bike again.  I think this is so cool.  When I was a kid all I had was the bike, I didn’t have the helmet or water cage with bottle or the frame bag with the tools or the computer.  It was just me on the bike.  Not even any protective gear.  And I also didn’t have the extra baggage that I do now with all this weight.  That’s one reason why I don’t recall having any pain and swelling in my thighs.

Well, I just have to wait until I can do this all over again tomorrow and just hope that I go further.