Blog Trollers Begone!

This post is somewhat off-topic, in that it’s not about biking, but about blogging. From time to time, I get emails from people who offer to contribute a guest post. Here are my thoughts on the matter.

Over the years Bike Noob has been running, I’ve even accepted some of these offers. Sometimes, the resulting post has been all right. It deals with biking in a manner that I hadn’t yet addressed here, and the link wasn’t obnoxious. A few times, the post has be excellent. Much of the time though, the writer is not a cyclist and contributes something on the level of an eHow post — so simplistic as to be potentially insulting to Bike Noob readers.

I wouldn’t even mention this, except that over the last three days, I’ve gotten three such offers. Here’s the problem: the wording of the offers is so similar, I wonder if they’re coming from the same place, just under different names. The pitch goes something like, “I am looking for blog sites to post guest articles. The article will be 100 percent Copyscape protected (a plagiarism checker), and will run about 500 words. The article will be published only on your site, and informative to your readers.” The pitch also requests a link back to the writer’s own blog, or business, or some gizmo they’re associated with.

If it’s about cycling, I’ll carefully consider the request. I’ll vet the writer, either by visiting his or her blog and evaluating the quality of the writing, or I’ll ask a few questions about their cycling experience. For the overt link hunters, I’ll send a polite “thanks, but no thanks” reply.

I blog because I like to write about my experiences, and I hope that my experiences might ring a bell with my readers. The feedback I get indicates that this is so. I do accept guest posts, and if you’ve read this blog for a bit, you’re already familiar with Don Blount and Jeff Hemmel, two cyclists who have contributed their own guest posts for about three years. But the stuff Don and Jeff write about is in the same vein as I write about, and it’s for the interest and entertainment of our readers — not an attempt to market one’s own (perhaps non-bike related) business.

So guest post trollers, be gone! If guest posts appear here, it will be because they have something to contribute that will interest my readers (I hope). In fact, you’ll be seeing at least one guest post in the next couple of weeks from someone we haven’t heard from before. Stay tuned.

On the Bike, Behind the Wheel

A friend of mine had a close call the other morning. She was backing her car out of her driveway, and nearly hit a cyclist.

The incident was unsettling to my friend, of course. “There’s nothing worse than being hit by a car with a ‘Be Kind to Cyclists’ bumper sticker,” she said.

Now, in defense of my friend, she had trouble seeing the cyclist, who was dressed in gray on an overcast morning. “If she’d been dressed in something a little brighter, I would have seen her sooner,” she said. But she added that if she had hit the cyclist, it would have been her fault, and not the woman on the bike’s.

Her story hit a chord with me. Recently, I was driving down a twisty, hilly two-lane road near my neighborhood. Speeds there easily hit 65 mph, although the posted speed limit is 55. I avoid the road on my bike, because I consider it too dangerous, although my club will ride on it for a short distance during one of our regular routes to the west. But we’re on a stretch only about a hundred yards long, and we turn off onto a residential street.

As I drove down that same stretch of road, I noticed another cyclist coming toward me. He was alone. He was riding the same route we do, and I knew he was going to turn onto the residential street. But for a moment, I found myself debating what to do. I could speed up, and get to the intersection before he did, thus asserting my dominance as a motorized vehicle, or I could slow down, and let him turn safely in front of me.

I’m ashamed that I even considered speeding up.

I slowed the car, much to the dismay of the driver behind me. The cyclist made his turn, and I continued on.

When we’re on our bikes, situations like that are no-brainers. We expect the oncoming car to slow, although we’re careful enough to have an alternative move in our minds if they shouldn’t. And when riding down a residential street, we expect drivers to look carefully for us as they back out of their driveways.

It’s not so simple, is it? There seems to be a difference in mentality when we’re behind the wheel as opposed to on the bike. If anyone should be at their safest around bikes when we’re in our cars, it should be us. Wake up calls like the one that happened to my friend and I are good reminders to be ever vigilant while driving. And they’re reminders that when we’re on our bikes, we should take nothing for granted.

Thankful for Cycling

“Oh, I need this,” cooed Pat, as we headed out from home on a Sunday morning ride.

“This” was a bike ride. We’d just gotten home late last night from four days on the road for Thanksgiving. It was great. We stayed with our son and daughter-in-law and our brand new grandson — our first grandchild. So, we had lots of time for family bonding, lots of time sitting around watching their 70-inch TV screen (some action scenes made Pat nauseous), and lots of time eating more than we should have. It was great.

I got out for a couple of walks. The first day we were there, I set out to circle a large soccer-baseball complex near their house, and found that there was no quick way to do it. I wound up walking about four miles, and in the unseasonably mild Minnesota weather, I was soaked through with sweat when I got home.

Saturday’s weather was more seasonal. I walked a little over a mile to see a bald eagle nest near their house, and was treated to the sight of two eagles — one that flew about 50 yards from tree to tree while I looked on. I was a lot more bundled up for this walk, with temperatures in the low to mid 20s (-3C) and a biting wind. But it was better than the previous day, when we went to the movies. While we walked from the parking lot to the theater, the 25 mph wind cut through our jackets, and without hats or ear protection, we were really cold.

Now, I know hearty northerners ride in these conditions. On my walk to the eagles’ nest, a cyclists passed me, bundled up in a heavy parka, thermal cycling tights, thick gloves, and a skull cap. Tough guy, I thought. But we’ve lived in Austin for 12 years now, and our blood must have thinned out. My personal cycling cutoff is at 40 degrees (4C), and I’m mighty chilly even at that temperature.

So our ride this morning was a pleasure. Even with a brisk south wind, we pedaled easily over to the Veloway and did some laps. Good crowd out there today. Pat has been dealing with some work-related challenges, and she was glad to get on the bike, because ideas and solutions seem to come to her much more readily while cycling than while poring over a computer screen in the home office. As they did today. When I peeled away from her a couple of blocks from the house to continue my ride, she was already eager to get back to try out some things that came to her on the ride.

I tackled some local hills, and found that the pounds I tacked on over the holiday made themselves felt. Okay, I slipped from my careful eating campaign, and I’ll have to renew my efforts in that regard. But to ride in a short-sleeved jersey and shorts on a 65-70 degree (20C) day in November is something I’m thankful for at this time of year.