The Lost Ride

Just a few short weeks ago, we were driving our car between fishing shacks on the thick ice of Lake Winnebago.

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Now the ice is gone, the birds have returned, grass is greening, and the trees are budding with leaves.

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Spring at last!

On Saturday, the temperature was pleasant, the sun was shining, and the country roads beckoned.  The YellowMobile and I answered the call with joy.  After a change of clothes and a quick check of the bike, we were off, waving to our neighbors as we glided past, expecting a long, easy ride.

And that’s about the last thing I remember.

Kathy said that I returned about two hours later and put away the bike and my shoes, same as always, then I told her that I’d had to use the gps to find my way home because I couldn’t remember.  As I became more distraught, she helped me change clothes and took me directly to the emergency room.  I don’t remember any of this either.  I do remember the shock of not being able to tell the doctor the day of the week, or the month, or even my age.

They hooked me up to machines large and small, poked and prodded and queried.  What they found was that my ticker has a valve which is quickly approaching its expiration date, and that I experienced something called “temporary amnesia.”

No, really!

I’d never heard of it either!  But it sounds suspiciously like something you’d claim after doing something really, really stupid or shameful.  They seem to get a lot of it in the political arena – “I don’t recall”.

But the hospital doctors said that they do get a couple cases each year where people come in having lost a day or two of memory without any significant indication of trauma.  They still don’t know how my heart valve fits into the picture and whether it was a factor or not.  What they did say was, that temporary amnesia usually follows some sort of overexertion coupled with overheating.  When it’s over, it usually never happens to that person again, but they may never recover their lost hours or days.  I still don’t remember mine.

The reason I’m passing this along is because, unlike a regular bike, we velonauts can create this kind of condition in our enclosed vehicles.  In my case, it was probably brought on by warmer weather than I was accustomed to while stupidly wearing my winter biking clothes.  But, of course…

I don’t recall.

For my fellow amnesia sufferers, I do have a theory…

High in the castle towers of Disneyland, Walt has hidden a monstrous, huge machine – beaming out its insidious, undeniable call.

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Oh look, there’s Walt now

Of course, many answer willingly…

Disney June 2011 Events

But for those few who resist, the beam’s unceasing effects can culminate in a sudden catastrophic breakdown of our defenses.

And dotted across this great land, in cities large and small, in rural communities and farms – the eyes gloss over…

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…the jaw goes slack…

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…and one by one they shuffle off to the distant beckoning.

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It is of course, the Great Amnesiac Spring Migration.

And somehow, they all eventually end up on a strange little boat, in the dark, going nowhere but round and round to the sound of…

It’s a small world after all,

it’s a small world after all,

it’s a small world after all…

it’s a small, small world…

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Gah!  Gives me the willies just thinking about it!!  Luckily, Kathy caught me just in time.

So remember to be careful out there and dress for the weather.  And to all of my velo-buddies living beyond the borders of the good ol’ U.S. of A. – you may think that you’re safe, but just remember-

it’s a small…

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Paris

small…

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Hong Kong

small…

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Tokyo

small…

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Shanghai

world.

You Following Me?

Back when I got my velomobile, I wanted it to be useful for getting around but also for getting things done.  Most of the things I have to get done around here are trips to the grocery or hardware stores.  And although you can fit a whole lot of stuff into the velomobile, sometimes it just isn’t convenient.  For instance, the thin floor of the velomobile cockpit probably isn’t my preferred place to carry a few gallons of paint or a jumbo bag of dog food.  Want an exercise in futility?  Just try bungee-cording that 24 pack of toilet paper to the exterior of your slippery, sleek machine.

I needed a trailer.  So after searching through all of the options, I finally decided on a Bongo because it’s very adjustable and can be broken down for storage.  It is sold as only a basic frame, hitch-arm, and wheels so it needed a box.  This could have been done easily with a big Rubbermaid bin, but I just couldn’t bring myself to hitch a gigantic piece of Tupperware to the back of my spaceship.  I also wanted it to be lockable so I could make several stops in one trip.  Well, I decided to make my own.

Here’s the YellowMobile harnessed up for work…

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Yeah, I know – kind of looks like a Conestoga Wagon hitched to a spaceship but it does suit my quirky sense of surreality.  The foamy stuff in the bottom is to keep the eggs from mingling too much on the way home…

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All of the metal loops on top are tie-downs for oversize loads – works well with a cargo net…

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There’s also a locking top so I’m not afraid to leave stuff in the trailer…

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That’s our first snow of the winter

The wheels and hitch-arm are quick-release so I can quickly tuck all of the protruding bits into the box for compact storage…

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I also like the hitch-arm design because it’s adjustable both horizontally and vertically.  You can exactly center the trailer behind your bike.  This is important for a velomobile so you know that whatever opening the velomobile can fit through, the trailer will too.  And because the Strada’s hitch is so much lower than upright bikes, it’s great to be able to set the trailer nice and level horizontally.

The only thing I didn’t like about the Bongo, at least for a velomobile, was its hitch.  The hitch mount on my Strada is horizontal while the Bongo’s hitch has a vertical orientation.  To attach it, I had to order some aluminum angle stock and fashion my own adapter.

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This was inconvenient, but worked out well enough.

Wagons Ho!

The Stud

The Schwalbe Marathon Winter studded snow tire of course.

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Last winter I had a blast riding in the snow and ice.  It just felt so crazy to be out pedaling in the frozen expanses of the Illinois countryside while being warm, comfortable and protected inside my velomobile.  It was great.  But there were times when it could have been better.  For instance, our wonderfully scenic bike paths are often heavily forested which makes them… wonderfully scenic, but also keeps the sun from thawing them out for days or even weeks.  No bike path snow removal here!  This can make riding the paths a practice in patience, skill and sometimes… stupidity.  It can also render them inaccessible for long periods of time which puts a definite hamper on my natural inclination toward stupidity.

Well, this year I want to be more adaptable, with the ability to quickly choose a safe tire for the particular roads and conditions.  The first thing I did was invest in another set of front wheels so I can have studded snow tires on one set and normal tires on the other.  I’ll have bike path access when it’s icy but won’t be grinding my studded tires down when the pavement is dry.  And somehow, I know that there is no way that I’ll really spend time changing and pumping up tires in my frozen garage before I take my pre-dawn rides.  If it’s sub-zero in the garage, then whatever is already on the bike will be just fine with me.  If however, I only have to unscrew  a couple of bolts to change out the wheels, that’s something I will do!

The installation of the Marathon Winters was just like any other tire.  Just make sure the rotation arrow on the sidewall is pointed in the right direction…

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Left in this case

I don’t know but I suspect that the direction of rotation may be even more important for the longevity of studded tires.

And as for their appearance…

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Well, just looking at these babies makes me feel like a leather-clad ice pirate from some frozen dystopian future.

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Oh yeah!  Beware you post-zombie-apocalyptic bike-path-walking undead.  These spikes are made for rolling and…

…well, you get the idea…

Unlike other tires I’ve used, this studded version requires something called “running in.”  According to Schwalbe – “In order to ensure that spikes are permanently fixed, tires should be run in for about 25 miles (40km) on asphalt, while avoiding any fast acceleration or heavy braking.”  Well, I’m not in any shape to ‘run in a marathon’ so I decided to sit and pedal instead.

The first thing I notice is that it’s a bit harder to get these things spinning.  Well, I guess that’s normal because these tires aren’t exactly smooth anymore.  But once up to speed, they seem to roll nicely enough, although there is a noticeable difference in speed and effort.  Not terribly great, just noticeable.

The next thing you notice is a crackling, popping sound as the tires roll over the asphalt.  They sound like the electrical sparks and pops from some old Frankenstein movie…

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Then when you get up to speed, there is a definite low hum resonating throughout the velomobile.  If people thought that there might be a motor in your velomobile before, this will be proof enough for them.

But the most surprising part is when you decelerate to a stop.  There’s a sound just like the Death Star when it powers up to destroy a planet.  You know, the part where the guy in the funky helmet pulls the lever…

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… just before the laser starts up… ?

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Yeah, just like that!

So, all in all, the strange sounds and spiky good looks of the new tires, combined with the Flash Gordon body style of the velomobile, tend to give off a real science fiction/mad scientist sort of vibe…

I like it!

But as far as their actual performance on snowy, slushy, ice rutted bike paths – that remains to be seen.  And that’s about all that I can test for now until either the first snowstorm or the zombie apocalypse –  whichever comes first.  So until then, I’ll have my leathers at the ready and my nose pressed to the front window in breathless antici…

…pation!

Much Ado About Nothing

Have you ever been on one of those rides where nothing really happens?  Perhaps nothing happened so subtly that you didn’t even realize it. You just continued on your way, thinking nothing of it.  But then, quite suddenly and without warning, nothing happens again.  There it was!  You noticed it that time.  So now you’re on your guard.  You’re watching out for it!

But as the miles slowly, silently slip under your wheels, the attention flags, the mind relaxes its vigil, the concentration dissolves away into a gentle passing breeze, and before you know it, a whole string of nothings have gone by with barely a whisper.

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You gradually become aware that your mind is blank and your body has relaxed into a perfectly quiet meditative state.  You glide along the road as if in a peaceful dream.  All of the voices in your head have gone quiet – the lists of things you need to do, the lists of things you should have done, the Gif style replays of recent human interaction, the bits and pieces of catchy songs and phrases – all have blurred into the fog and gone mute.  You are floating silently, at ease in a still world which you now see unaltered by the filters of emotion, stress and expectation.  You feel your mind slowly, gently joining with the universe in a great cosmic melding.  You are becoming one with the void.

Without fear.

Without desire.

All is peaceful…

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Gah!  What’s… happening?!

I must have accidentally turned off my iPod.

Must… find… earbuds!

Turn… on… music!

Turn… up… volume…

Ah, that’s better.  Let music wash away the abominable silence and bring me back – to reality.

(Singing) “In A Godda Da Vidda baby…”

A note: The song was originally titled “In the Garden of Eden” but the band’s singer was so wasted at the time of recording that his words were slurred in both the song and as he tried to communicate its title.  The slurred version stuck.

Super-Deep Thought of the Day

Have you ever had a strange, irritating noise in your velomobile that you just couldn’t find?  A nondescript sort of rhythmic clacking sound which only happens while you’re pedaling?  Have you tightened the pedals, crank arms and cleats, the horn and headlights, checked the chain tension, the idler sprocket, and ensured that no cables or wires are flapping around?  Did you check the seat bolts – front and rear?  Have you checked your gear bags and repacked that tool kit to make sure nothing is clanking in there.  Are the wheels tight as well as all of the gazillion little, tiny bolts that hold things to other things and to the frame and to the shell?  Still hear that maddeningly persistent clack… clack… clacking after about 4 1/2 months of crazy, mind-bending fruitless search??!

You may want to make sure that your floppy cargo shorts don’t have metal studs or snaps on their pockets – which could, in theory, strike the interior of the shell with each and every pedal stroke.

Don’t ask me how I know.