n + 1

How many bikes should a cyclist own? According to the old joke, the answer is: n + 1.  Where n is the number of bikes he currently owns. He can always use one more.

Monday was bulk trash pickup day in our neighborhood, and as Mrs. Noob and I returned from our morning ride, it seemed every house had some junk piled on the curb. Our neighbors across the street had a bike mixed in with their stuff.

“Hey,” I called out to Pat.  “A bike!  I’m going to check it out.”

A few minutes later, I was the proud owner of a new (to me), free bike.

It’s a beauty.

It's red. (Click to embiggen.)
If I get nothing from this bike but the rack, I'm still ahead.
The previous owner had a novel handlebar setup -- one bar extension. I think I can do a better taping job than he did.

It’s an old Schwinn Moab mountain bike, unsuspended.  A little cleanup and fixup, and the possibilities are endless.  It can become an errand bike, or just something to cruise the neighborhood on, or I can put on some fenders, drop bars, and 28 mm tires, and go out to see the world.

Realistically though, it’ll probably contribute some parts to my growing stock.  Watch this space for further details.

Having to Clip Out Is No Excuse

Our friend Jeff Hemmel sent this story about another crackdown on bicyclists — this one in St. Petersburg, Fla., where police ticketed 16 cyclists in one day for failure to stop at a stop sign.

We’ve covered stop sign issues here before — and police crackdowns on stop sign scofflaws — so this isn’t really anything new.  What interested me on reading the article was this sentence: “Petrak said she knows she should obey stop signs, but clipping and unclipping her bike shoes slows her down and can make it dangerous when crossing intersections.”

Roll eyes here.

When I took the League of American Bicyclists Road I course — now Traffic Skills 101 — I got points deducted during our ride through the city because I didn’t put a foot on the ground at a stop sign. Their attitude is that stop means stop.  That’s the attitude the Austin Police took last year when they ticketed several members of my club for not stopping at a stop sign. But to them, a full stop means the cyclist should put a foot on the ground.

Okay, I’ll come clean.  I still don’t put a foot down at every stop sign.  Certainly, if there’s no traffic at an intersection, I’ll slow, then go.  If there is traffic at the stop sign, I’ll slow to a track stand, kind of — I’m not very good at them, but I can hold my position for a few seconds, anyway. But unless I get a signal from the driver right away that I can go, I clip out and stop. That’s a very unmistakable signal that I want the driver to go before me.  It’s also one reason I have my pedals set to very light tension.

But I think that comments about the burden of having to unclip at stop signs do nothing to mitigate the antagonism between motorists and cyclists.  We come across as whiners who want everything our way.

If it’s too much of a hassle to clip out, I suggest a little practice is in order.  Do it while supporting yourself against a wall, or a tree, or a light pole.  Keep doing it until it becomes second nature.  Tip: I have found that I clip in faster and easier if I just do it by feel.  It’s when I sneak a look down at my foot that I have to try two or three or more times to get clipped in.

And as far as the safety issue of crossing intersections, I learned long ago that the cyclist’s first job is to get across.  More often than not, I just rest my foot on the pedal and pedal across the intersection, then I worry about getting clipped in.  Sorry, but it’s not a big deal.

What’s your take?

Extra Tire Protection?

I’ve been lucky lately – no flats in the last two months, after a whole raft of them earlier this summer.  But a friend of mine has been plagued by the flat monster.  it seems every time we talk biking, he’s had another flat.

From the Mr. Tuffy website.

He thinks he might have his problem solved, however.  He bought some tire liners for his tires.  He thinks the extra layer will give him the protection he needs from the tiny shards of glass and bits of metal shavings that seem to cause most of his flats.

If that doesn’t work, he says he’s got his eye on some Slime inner tubes.  They come coated with a thin layer of Slime to prevent flats.

I’ve heard two different sides of the tire liner story.  On the one hand, testimonials I’ve read say they work.  Others say the extra protection comes at a price – and the price is poorer ride quality than you would get without the liners.  “You lose some of the suppleness of the tire,” said one forum commenter.  Another chimed in, ‘You lose some of the suppleness of the tire, and after a year or so, the ends of the tire liners eventually slice the tube wide open.”

But if you install the Mr. Tuffies, “problem solved,” said another.

I told my friend tire liners might work, but wouldn’t he be better off just spending a little more on good tires?  Or even shopping around a little to get good tires, but at a good sale price?

I have no experience with either tire liners or the Slime tubes.  My Gatorskins are holding up pretty well (They’ve taken a lot of abuse from being ridden on some crummy roads around here), so I’m not going to dash out and spend money on preventive measures when I don’t feel it’s necessary.

Have you had experience with either tire liners or the Slime tubes? Any recommendations about which way to go?

Mr. Tuffy: http://mrtuffy.com/index.php

Slime: http://www.slime.com/index.php