Pull It Down

On our Sunday club ride, we were joined by our friend Jerry, whose bad crash and broken leg I detailed in a post earlier this year.

Although Jerry has done some riding on the tandem he shares with his wife, this was his first ride on the roads with the club since his crash. Jerry has always been one of the more cautious riders I know, which is funny, because he’s also one of the faster riders in the club. But to ease back in, he decided to ride with the B’s today. He had decked himself out in a new kit, all in hi-visibility green — including his new helmet. He would be hard to miss.

Our ride was more like an A- group. A lot of folks decided the planned A ride wasn’t to their liking. Jordan came up with a good route, so some of us scrapped our plans in order to go with him. We had some strong riders, several who just wanted to take it easy after a grueling ride Saturday.

The ride got off to an inauspicious start. Just miles in, Maggie called out that she was abandoning. She had gotten a new crankset Saturday, and it wasn’t working out well. A clicking sound that started almost immediately got worse and worse. She decided to head home, and run her bike back to the bike shop for an adjustment.

After a quick run out to the zoo area, which features a nice, fast, twisty downhill, we had to turn around and head back up the hill. The group stayed together, which helped to negotiate the traffic, that was heavier than normal this morning.

Kenny was the next one to go. He had done one of the tough rides the day before, so he peeled off to head home after about 12 miles. Six of us were left to head east, and take a leisurely ride through a nice neighborhood on its ring road — a wide, smooth thorofare with almost no traffic.

It was after we left that spot, and were headed back to the start, that we regrouped at a stop light. Laura turned around to make sure we were all there, and noticed Jerry at the back.

Not Jerry.

Not Jerry.

“What’s with your helmet, Jerry?” she asked.

We all turned around to look.

Jerry’s lime green new helmet was sitting funny, way back on his head. He wears an orange cycling cap under his helmet, but his forehead was now mostly unprotected.

“Pull it down, Jerry!” exclaimed Laura. “You look like an amateur!”

I’ve never had a problem with wearing my helmet too far back on my head. I’ve caught my wife doing it, and gently had her pull it down. If your forehead isn’t covered, an important part of your head isn’t getting the protection it needs.

Kids seem to have the biggest problem with this. Maybe it’s because their helmets are too big off the shelf anyway. Maybe they think it’s more comfortable to wear the helmet back.

Be sure to do your kids — and your riding companions — a favor if you see this problem. Just tell them to pull it down.

Catch ’em With This Helmet

If you’ve already seen this, my apologies. But I think it’s an interesting way to make sure you’ve got the evidence if you get hit by a car while on a ride, or just to deal with a driver harassing you. It’s intended to get the drop on hit-and-run drivers, which we’ve seen far too many of lately. Called the “Helmet of Justice,” it runs about $300.


I think its looks leave a lot to be desired, but it does have seven — seven! — video cameras. That ought to provide enough visual documentation.


Noob Mistake: Helmet on Backwards

It’s spring. In most parts of the country anyway. And that means organized rides are springing up all over. Lots of noobs turn out for their first organized rides ever, and they make their share of mistakes. Here’s one that I noticed a few years ago.

I was walking across a parking lot toward the ride start, when I passed a couple also headed in that direction. They were obvious first-timers. As I looked at the woman, something struck me as odd. She had the weirdest looking helmet I’ve ever seen.

Except on closer inspection, it wasn’t the helmet at all — that turned out to be a fairly common variety. It was the way she wore it. The black scalloped rear was facing forward.

“Your helmet is on backward,” I said quietly, as I walked past them.

She stopped, pulled off her helmet, and stared at it.

“It is? On backward? How can you tell?” she asked.

“The smooth part goes in the front,” I replied. “It’s more aerodynamic that way.”

She looked at her husband. He looked back and shrugged. She turned the helmet around and put it back on, the right way.

She’s not the first I’ve seen making that mistake. Lots of people figure that since the helmet slopes down in the rear, and had lots of openings that must suck in air, that’s the front.

This is not the front.

This is not the front.

This is the front.

This is the front.

But as we all know from basic physics, the airfoil shape of an aircraft wing is rounded in front, and tapers toward the rear.

I can understand why a noob might be confused.

I can understand why a noob might be confused.

If you see a newbie looking extra dorky on a ride this spring, come to their rescue. Show them the proper way to wear a helmet.

Forgot Helmet

Some of you might have noticed on my Twitter feed that I had a little issue on Sunday morning’s club ride. One of our A riders is recovering from a bout of sickness contracted during the middle of last week, and so posted a B-level ride on the club’s Yahoo group. The added benefit was that her ride would leave about an hour after the regular club ride, which was welcome, since the temperature was expected to be on the borderline too-cold-to-ride point.

Sure enough, when I got up to let the dog out it was only 33 degrees (1C). Luckily, it was only 6 a.m., and I had three hours to wait for some warming to set in. I had a leisurely and filling breakfast, read the paper, and then got ready to face the chill.

I was counting on it to warm up during the ride, but figured I’d still need to dress more warmly than I usually do. I added a sleeveless base layer under the t-shirt I normally wear. On my feet, I put a pair of polypropylene liner socks on under my woolies. I pulled my headband/earwarmer down around my ears, and a Headsweats doo-rag over that. Then, I got into my windbreaker and made sure I had the needed cell phone and credit card with me.

It looked like the bike wouldn’t need much in the way of prep. I’d lubed the chain the previous afternoon — when it was still warm — and only had to pump three times to bring the rear tire up to snuff. I clipped in my water bottles, started my computer, and I was off.

Yeah, it was cold. But there was a saving grace — no wind. I pedaled easily to the Starbucks where our rides start, turned into the parking lot, and rode across it to the group of cyclists that was already gathered there.

Almost in unison, a shout went up. “Your helmet, Ray!!!” I stopped, looked, and then felt my head. Oh, jeez! After all that prep time (and not even my wife to kid about it this time), I had left the house without wearing a helmet. I know it’s happened before, but always to other cyclists. Not me.

“Look,” I told the group. “I’m only a mile away. I’ll go back and get the helmet.”

“We’ll meet you up there,” said Jordan, waving his hand vaguely up the street I’d be on. I nodded, and set off.

Once I got my helmet, I figured it would be easiest to take a shortcut and try to intercept the peloton at a major intersection in the opposite direction from my house as Starbucks. It occurred to me that I wasn’t really clear what Jordan meant by “up there.” I got to the intersection, was held up by a red light, and saw no one. Hmmph, I thought. They’ve come through here already.

I turned, and headed up the bike lane along the suburban four-lane that feeds traffic into our neighborhood. Up at the t-intersection where the Walgreens is, I could still see no one. I continued on, setting out on the route I knew the group would be taking that morning.

About a mile and half farther, my cell phone rang. It was Debra.

“Where are you, Ray?” she asked.

“Approaching the parkway,” I answered.

“Oh, good grief. We’re back at the Walgreens. Janice had a flat.”

“I’ll wait for you at the turn before the parkway,” I said.

I leaned the bike up against a light pole, and waited. The day was still chilly, but the sun felt good where it hit my jacket. But only on that corner where it hit. I turned every few minutes to position a different part of myself toward the sun.

After a 15-20 minute wait, I saw them, coming up the hill toward me. It turns out they waited for me at Starbucks, and when I didn’t come back for the start of the ride, they set out. By then, I was already two miles ahead of them. “What we should have done, was ride with Ray back to his house and then start the ride from there,” said one exasperated biker.

Yeah, that would have worked. And so would remembering my helmet in the first place.

Getting My Gear Together

Guest poster Don Blount deals with an issue that affects many of us from time to time…

I usually keep my biking gear in the same places.

Bike in garage.

Seasonal clothes in a closet and out of season items in a storage bench.

Helmet and a few other items such as my Garmin, spare tube and C02 cartridge, plastic bag for my phone, sunglasses and a pouch with key and money on the shelf of a bookcase in my home office. (I use the space that is available and that my wife does not object to me using.)

Of course this makes riding easy. Either the night before a ride I gather what I need and place them in an easily accessible place, such as my kitchen, or the day of a ride I can get what I need quickly and head out the door.

No rummaging, no searching, all aggravation free.

That is except when my system gets changed.

My mother-in-law was coming to visit for a week and would be staying in the home office, which has a day bed. So I moved my gear and other items out of that room and into my bedroom. It made sense, this way I would not need to go into my office during her stay.

And then the next morning I readied for a ride. Kitted up, prepared the bike and then went looking for the rest of my gear – sunglasses, a pouch with key and money, baggie for phone, baggie with spare tube and C02. And could not find them.

Tick, tick, tick. If I did not get out by a certain time I would miss my morning exercise window. After all, this was a workday and I could not just ride later.

I looked all over the bedroom as I was certain I had placed them in there. My wife looked as well and she could not find them. She even offered to go back into the home office and look to see if I had left them there. But we opted not to do that since her mother was still asleep.

Five minutes, 10 minutes, 20 minutes. Tick, tick, tick, slam.

The window had closed.

So I put my bike away.

I put away my helmet and gloves.

And I unkitted, if that is a word, and then I glanced beneath my wife’s dresser and saw a box that I had moved there the night before. Atop but toward the back of the box were the things I had been looking for. I thought for sure I had looked there. My wife looked there too. They were about two feet from the bed but you had to get down on your hands and knees to see them there. I looked under the bed, I looked under a bench but I had not gotten down to look on top and toward the back of the box.

Oh well.

Now, all of my riding gear is together in a corner of my bedroom. So the next time I plan to ride, I will be able to gather it all, without rummaging or searching and all aggravation free.

“The Bicyclist Was Not Wearing a Helmet”

It’s a little story.

A short item in the police blotter section of the Austin American-Statesman newspaper tells of a collision between an SUV and a bicycle.

After reporting that the northbound cyclist was in the righthand lane, and was hit by the SUV, the reporter included the line, “The bicyclist was not wearing a helmet.”

So what?

That line implies that the cyclist was at fault. But the information about the crash said the SUV was coming from the opposite direction, and turning into a business. So it should have yielded to oncoming traffic, including the cyclist. The item did not point out that the SUV failed to yield to the cyclist. Instead, we learn that the cyclist was not wearing a helmet. There is no mandatory helmet law for adults in the state of Texas or the city of Austin. The information is irrelevant.

What would be relevant is whether the police ticketed the CRV driver for failure to yield. After all, the cyclist had to be taken to a nearby hospital with minor injuries.

This is the kind of little thing that can have negative repercussions. Bike-hating drivers who see the item will shake their heads and cluck their tongues, and mutter about those no-good cyclists.

Why didn’t the paper include a line about the driver being at fault in this case?

“We do not assign blame in straight news stories unless quoting/citing a police report or spokesman,” tweeted the Statesman’s social media editor, in reply to an outraged cyclist’s inquiry.

The Bike Noob worked in the news media for 16 years before becoming a journalism professor. I can explain a little about how this sort of thing happens, although I don’t defend it.

Newsrooms, like all organizations, operate on a set of routines. Collecting items from the police blotter is a matter of routine, handled by one of several reporters assigned to the police beat. Most blotter stories are short, because by newsroom standards, they don’t affect many people. That’s the situation here.

Once the reporter gets the information from the police, she writes it up, and moves on to the next story. Since only minor injuries were involved, it isn’t worth the reporter’s time and effort to get more details from the police. So she misses the chance to dig deeper and find out if the police are blaming the driver for the collision.

But the helmet info was probably included in the incident report filed by the police, so she dutifully made note of that.

I once worked in a TV newsroom with a policy of stating whether a cyclist wore a helmet whenever we reported on a cycling crash. Most of us weren’t cyclists. It seemed reasonable to include that information. We didn’t consider that we were making the cyclist appear to be at fault for not wearing a helmet.

But that’s just what happened here. While the paper did not “assign” blame to the cyclist, by reporting that she wasn’t wearing a helmet, and not reporting any action against the motorist, only the cyclist was put in a bad light.

What will it take to correct this prevailing attitude? Keep calling it to the attention of editors. Things aren’t really going to change, though, until more reporters and editors join the ranks of cyclists, and are alert to implications that such a seemingly innocuous line could have.

Random (Noob) Tips

Jeff Hemmel diverts us from talk of stop lights and tickets with a sampling of tips for noob riders.


As noobs, we have a lot to learn. I originally found this blog when I was trying to find out how to align my cleats. Chances are, many of you have also stumbled across it because you were searching for useful information. On today’s ride I started thinking about whether I had anything worthwhile to share. Not the basic stuff you see on bike sites everywhere, but random little tidbits people often overlook. Here’s a few items that made the list…

Helmet Pads – I don’t know about you, but mine get soaked in sweat. That gets nasty after a while. The best suggestion I’ve heard as to how to wash them is simply take your helmet in the shower. Gently lather the pads up with shampoo, rinse thoroughly, and allow to dry. Simple.

HelmetPad Inevitably, however, those pads will start to peel apart if you ride enough. I’ve found that by talking very nicely with the people at the helmet companies, they’ll send you a new pair free of charge. The rep that helped me most recently mentioned it’s supposed to be a one-time courtesy, but I’m pretty impressed that Bell has replaced the pads on my old Ukon twice, and just took care of my current Furio. That’s good business…just don’t tell them I sent you.

Silver Sharpie ­– Noobs are still dialing everything in, and as such should be encouraged to experiment with the position of handlebars, seat height, even the cleats on their shoes. Problem is, a lot of us are probably hesitant to try anything for fear we’ll never get things back where they were should we not like the result.

SharpieEnter the silver Sharpie marker. It shows up on things like black handlebars, seat posts, and shoe bottoms. As a result, you can mark anything you decide to change and, if it doesn’t work, find your way home again. My handlebars have a nice little dot that shows just where they should line up with the seam on my stem, my seat post shows my current preferred height, and my cleats are traced perfectly against the soles of my shoes, so when the current cleats wear out, the new ones can go in the exact same position.


Thanks silver Sharpie.

Cleat Markings – And speaking of cleats, most noobs probably know they should be roughly centered under the ball of your foot, at least as a starting point. But did you know that most cleat manufacturers mark that spot so you don’t have to estimate? Look closely and you’ll notice a small hash mark that designates the center for fore-and-aft adjustments. Thanks, uh, cleat-middle-marker-designer dudes.

Trim the Front Derailleur – Here’s a biggie. The chain on my road bike had the annoying tendency to rub against the front derailleur cage when I ventured into the highest gears. I mentioned this at the shop where I bought it; they originally told me it was just a simple cable adjustment. After the fix, friends mentioned it to me; they could still hear it chattering when drafting behind me. I even mentioned it at a different shop during a ride; they told me the crank wasn’t true, and that to fix the problem it would have to literally be pounded into submission with a mallet. Yikes. Thankfully the original shop owner finally revealed I just didn’t know how to “trim.”

Important noob point: I don’t ever recall that lesson when I bought the bike, and never saw anything about it in the owner’s manual, but many front derailleurs can be micro-adjusted on the fly to allow the chain to clear the inner and outer plates — those parallel metal bars that push it left to right — when the chain starts to rub. With my Shimano components, if the chain is on the big chainring and one of the smaller sprockets, a slight inward press of the larger (brake) lever on the left shift (listen or feel for a slight click) will push the front derailleur slightly outward, creating enough space to silence the noise. Conversely, when on the small charinring and largest sprockets (the “easiest” gears), a slight inward push of the small, inner lever will slide the derailleur to the inside to silence the chatter.

Amazing insider information that will make you ride faster than a speeding bullet and able to leap up tall hills in a single bound? Nah…just the random thoughts of a fellow noob.