Bike Shaped Objects

Funky bikes and riders alike

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Green Line Update

green line updateIn a green line update; Worcester MA does indeed have bike lanes.

I’m back from visiting my family in Worcester with a green line update and I’m happy to report that the bike lane situation isn’t as bad as my last post and Google Maps indicated.

There are in fact many brand new bike lanes in Worcester. Their newness being the probable reason why they don’t show up online yet. I also saw several sharrow streets and many bikes can use full lane signs.

What I did not see however were bikes in these bike lanes. Again, that may be due to newness or perhaps that I was mostly out and about at night. Instead I saw bicyclists riding un-helmeted and unlit on sidewalks. None of the other pedestrians seemed to think this was odd so I assume it is the norm.

Rome wasn’t built in a day and it takes at least 21 days to form a new habit. So while Worcester may not yet be a bike-friendly city, at least it’s out of the stone age. (Or perhaps the motor age would be more appropriate.)


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Not all cities have green lines

Green Lines are our friend

green linesAs a spoiled cyclist I expect the green lines to be there when I look at a map. In preparation for a family visit I arranged to borrow a bike. I looked at the city on Google maps and found no green lines.

At first I thought my settings were messed up but no, there really are almost no bike lanes in Worcester Mass.. This is how spoiled I am. I just assume that all cities are as bike-friendly as San Francisco.

I must admit that Worcester isn’t a cyclist’s dream anyway. It has hills. We’re talking San Francisco would proud to have these hills. And for half the year those hills are covered in ice and snow.

However, in researching this rant I discovered that in the late 1800’s Worcester was a center of cycling activity. There were several bike factories there and hundreds of people pedaling up and down Main street. Major Taylor even moved to Worcester to escape the discrimination of the mid-west.

So what happened? Well, cars of course., and trucks and trains ans so-on. But that happened in San Francisco as well. And look at Minneapolis, it’s a frozen wasteland yet they are very bike-friendly.

So it seems there are two factors at work. The first is that Worcester appears to have had a decent bus system and a lack of wealthy close suburbs whose residents seem to be the most successful bike advocates. These are of course huge generalizations.

So how does one prepare to ride in an urban environment were bikes are not usually welcome? First, the bright yellow vest is definitely coming with me. It’s a vacation so I plan to sleep through the morning rush hour.The rest of the day I’ll just have to risk it.

The other problem is that instead of a road bike I’ll be on a mountain bike which isn’t as likely to keep up with the traffic. Though its ruggedness does make it more likely to take a hit without breaking.


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Paincycle on eBay

It could have no other name but paincycle.

paincycle mountain bikeThe paincycle will burn your knees. Its drive belt will slice open your left leg. It will melt your spandex, fusing it to your skin. It will make you the target of bike snobbery. The paincycle will put your eye out.

I must say that normally I love these home-motorized bikes. The combination of creativity, technical wizardry and fearlessness always impress me. This bike though proves that there is a limit which I will not cross. (Sorry, I just watched ENTER THE DRAGON.)

Never have I seen such a clash of superior workmanship and a complete lack of knowledge of physics and common sense. This is the bicycle equivalent of sitting on a bean bag chair full of badgers. The center of gravity alone is nightmare inducing. The engine and most of the rider’s weight is placed above the top of the wheels. The slightest slip and the bike won’t just fall down it will flip quickly right over.

I for one would not want that many spinning parts operating so close to me genitals. It’s not shown in this picture but if you look at the others in the posting you will that the drive belt goes between the frame and your left leg, twice.

Oh yeah, where does the exhaust come out? It appears that it comes out the exhaust port on the engine. I would suggest an exhaust pipe but where would you put it?

The opening bid is $750 and this is at least the third time it’s been listed. This is one of those occasions where the parts and labor are worth way more than the finished project.

See the full listing

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I’m starting to get bike racing

Bike Racing is important just because it’s bike racing.

bike racing - getting itThat sounds silly but it’s true. I’ve been trying to look at bike racing like it was a two-wheeled human-powered version of NASCAR. That just doesn’t work and while watching a NASCAR race this weekend I realized why.

Where did NASCAR race two weeks ago? I don’t know either and I watched the race. The problem with NASCAR is that there are so many races, and except for a few, they are almost identical. Cycling has nothing like that problem.

Each bike race has a distinct personality and a unique place in the calendar. While I can’t really argue that the Tour de France isn’t the biggest dog in the kennel, for me the Tour of California is the most important race, cause it’s the only major race I’ve seen in person.

I now realize that everything I complained about in my last few posts are exactly what makes bike racing so exciting. I have to change my thinking from season-long championship to a group of events that are interesting on their own. Yes there’s a world tour and points and rankings but from a fan’s point of view maybe those aren’t all that important.

Back to this weekend, even before I realized it, I was more interested in the Dauphine than NASCAR. I still love car racing but there’s something special about a breakaway that actually succeeds in staying ahead of the big group. Watching actual human beings struggle with their very own muscles to climb mountains. Wonderful.

My new hobby, and probably the topic of my next blog post, is to reverse engineer why what teams use what riders in what race. The focus of this will be the Tour de France prep races. Should be interesting.


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Bike racing is even more confusing

More confusing in a good way. Maybe.

more confusingThe problem isn’t lack of information. All the information you could ever want is out there. Unfortunately it is hidden away on websites with poor SEO and little context. The context part isn’t really their fault. It turns out that bike racing, or at least road racing, has no context by design.

I’ve been trying to fit a very square peg into a very round hole. While there is something called the National Pro Tour, all its events are not created equal. Some have much more prestige and/or prize money than others. To make things more confusing many of these events conflict with each other.

Then there’s those darn Canadians. As expected Canada has its own races and most of the top American teams race in them. Also, the Canadians come down here. What this creates then is a bunch of teams from different countries racing in an unconnected series of races. Hardly satisfying for a detail-oriented person such as myself.

Then there is the concept of the “winner.” While a race does have a general classification winner there are also rankings for climbers, sprinters, young’uns and teams. Sometimes those winners are all the same people, but usually they aren’t. On longer races you also have to follow and compare stage results with overall standings. This is starting to look like a big data exercise.

Then there are the point standings. The national organizations keep track of event results and create rankings based on some form of alternative math where the leaders get fewer points than the losers. In a future post I will try to figure out how that works.

In another post I will try to understand what teams are allowed to race where they do and how they figure out their schedules.

For simplicity sake I’m going to concentrate my “following” efforts on the teams. They are the pivotal data point in this schema of things. Still working on the details of how I’m going to do that.

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