Racing a Rat

“Likewise—now don’t laugh—cars and trucks should view the bike lanes as if they are sacrosanct. A driver would never think of riding up on a sidewalk. Most drivers, anyway. Hell, there are strollers and little old ladies up there! It would be unthinkable, except in action movies. A driver would get a serious fine or maybe even get locked up. Everyone around would wonder who that asshole was. Well, bike lanes should be treated the same way. You wouldn’t park your car or pull over for a stop on the sidewalk, would you? Well then, don’t park in the bike lanes either—that forces cyclists into traffic where poor little meat puppets don’t stand a chance.”
― David Byrne, Bicycle Diaries

My 1986 Cannondale road bike at Trammell Crow Park. From an early part of the October Full Moon Ride.

The other night I had trouble getting to sleep.

I have learned to keep a bike (one of them, at least) down from the storage rack in the garage, tires pumped up, batteries for the running lights charged, and a helmet hanging from a handlebar. Better yet, keep it pointed towards the garage door.

The moon rising over the Dallas skyline and the pond at Trammell Crow Park. From the October Full Moon Ride.

That way, if the mood strikes, I can open the garage door, hop on the bike, and go for a short, quick ride. There is something about riding at night, going nowhere, at any speed, and for an unknown (and uncared about) distance. It is so stress free… it’s like flying.

The moon rising over cyclists and the Dallas skyline. From the October Full Moon Ride. Click to enlarge.

So I found myself on the trail that runs behind my house on up to Huffhines Park, with its lakes shining in the full moonlight. I veered to the right, went around the softball diamonds, and back to the lakes. As I entered the parking lot, I saw movement.

Riding a bike at night, you see a lot of critters. This is the Duck Creek neighborhood, and there are, of course, a lot of ducks. Second most common are the rabbits. Also coyotes, possums, armadillos, stray pets, and even an occasional beaver on a bridge over the creek.

This time, though, it was a rat. One of the sleek, grey, tree rats, caught on the ground. He and I had a little race across the parking lot – I caught him near the north end and we ran side by side, me riding off his left shoulder, his little legs a blur in the dimness. At the end of the lot he veered to the right into a drainage opening and I turned to the left to get back on the trail.

I rode home, gone only a few minutes and far fewer miles, but I felt better and was able to collapse into sleep.

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The Abyss Will Gaze Back

“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

Table of tiny monsters, Clarence Street Art Collective, The Cedars, Dallas, Texas

Oblique Strategy: Question the heroic approach

Yesterday was a long and tiring day (though it was fun) and my head felt like it was full of cotton. I kept forgetting things all day – until late at night when I realized that we had left Candy’s car parked at the train station. I didn’t want to leave it there all night and didn’t want to have to deal with it in the morning. So there was nothing to do but to move my lights over onto my Xootr folding bike and ride to the train station. I made sure I had the right station and that I had Candy’s keys in my bag and set out.

My folding bike, Stock Xootr Swift – I only added the seat bag and bottle cage
(click to enlarge)

I immediately realized that a front had blown through and, although it had been windy all day, the north wind had kicked up a notch, and it was cold. I had not dressed for it. But it is only three miles to the DART train station, so I just soldiered on.

Once I get off my lazy ass and get going, I enjoy riding my bike at night. The traffic is so much less, the trails are mostly empty (of people… there are a surprising number of various critters that come out even in the city) and everything is so quiet and still. I understand that it is dangerous, but my lights are good, I keep my eyes out and my ears open… nothing is safe… nothing worthwhile, at least.

As I rode farther, my efforts warmed me up and I felt better. I fell into the Zen mode of bicycling. If I think of the distance that I have to ride, it feels daunting, like I might never make it to my destination. The key is to only think about the next few feet in front of your handlebars and look around and enjoy every second. The miles drop away.

Before I could really think about it I was at the station. I rode around until I found Candy’s car and popped the trunk. That’s one big advantage of a folding bike – yank a couple of quick releases, pull out the seat, fold the wheels together and the bike goes into the trunk. It’s really handy for going and fetching a car.

I drive a tiny car – a Toyota Matrix. I always liked it because I could fold the rear seats down and get a bike (barely) into the back of the car (never liked exterior bike racks). I ways surprised at how small the Xootr Swift folded down. I was able to fit it easily in the small space behind the rear seat. Now I have a four-passenger car again.

My Xootr Swift folds differently than most. You undo two quick releases and pull the seat post up. Then the bike folds front to back (most fold side to side) until the two wheels are together. If you need more space, the seat can come out completely and another quick release lets the handlebars slide out. It doesn’t fold as compactly as, say a Brompton, but it has the advantage of being strong (a big rider like me needs the strong frame) and it uses standard bike parts – which is a great thing over the long term.

So I drove Candy’s car home and stowed everything away in the garage.

Tomorrow’s another day.

The Bicycle Is the Product Of Pure Reason Applied To Motion

“To ride a bicycle is in itself some protection against superstitious fears, since the bicycle is the product of pure reason applied to motion. Geometry at the service of man! Give me two spheres and a straight line and I will show you how far I can take them. Voltaire himself might have invented the bicycle, since it contributes so much to man’s welfare and nothing at all to his bane. Beneficial to the health, it emits no harmful fumes and permits only the most decorous speeds. How can a bicycle ever be an implement of harm?”
― Angela Carter

Bicycle Drag Races, Continental Bridge Park, Dallas, Texas

Bicycle Drag Races, Continental Bridge Park,
Dallas, Texas

Bicycle Drag Races, Continental Bridge Park, Dallas, Texas

Bicycle Drag Races, Continental Bridge Park,
Dallas, Texas

Bicycle Drag Races, Continental Bridge Park, Dallas, Texas

Bicycle Drag Races, Continental Bridge Park,
Dallas, Texas

Picatinny Rail – DIY Bicycle Light

Bicycle lights can be pretty expensive, at least for the good ones. But battery powered lights aren’t what I remember from my childhood – where you had a big D-Cell light that would work for an hour or so and then go yellow and dim. The LED has revolutionized flashlights and, by extension, bike lights.

I have a couple handlebar-mounted lights – decent ones, if not top of the line. I usually set them to blink – they are lights that are designed for me to be seen, not for me to see with. On an urban road at night, that’s the most important thing. The streetlights are bright enough for a cyclist to see where he is going – but you want the cars to know you are there. Bright blinking is the best for that… plus batteries last forever.

But riding on trails at night is a different story. I needed something so that I can see – a steady white light facing forward. For example, one night coming home from Critical Mass along the White Rock Creek Trail (actually, it was the Cottonwood Trail, the wooded section just south of the Forest Lane DART station – my destination) at a little after midnight I came upon a group of homeless people sleeping on the trail. Luckily, I saw them with my light. Hitting someone sleeping on the bike trail would not be good for anyone.

Again – the dedicated bike lights cost a pretty penny – but small LED flashlights are powerful and very cheap. They sell them by the containerloads – they take three AAAs – most are adjustable. Very useful lights.

The problem is how to mount them on a bike. I actually want to mount them as low as possible. It would seem that a helmet mount would be the best – but if they are at close to eye level they don’t cast visible shadows. It’s the shadows that help you see objects in the path ahead. A low mounted flashlight will throw long shadows – easy to see.

I tried a number of solutions – velcro straps worked pretty well – but nothing was both strong, reliable, and still removable.

Until I discovered the world of Picatinny (and Weaver) rails. These is a whole host of accessories designed to mount on pistols, rifles, shotguns, or paintball guns. Laser sights, scopes, cameras… and, especially tactical flashlights. This seemed like a perfect thing to mount on a bike.

It didn’t take much searching until I found this Weaver/Picatinny rail mount with flashlight holder on Amazon – shipped from China for less than five dollars. I ordered a couple of them (for spares and different bikes) and after a patient wait, the package arrived from halfway around the world.

Now that I am outfitting my new Xootr Swift for city riding and commuting I decided to add a small front rack. I’ve found these to be indispensable for urban riding. For bike riding in the city, it’s not always about cargo capacity, it’s about organization and a front rack helps me keep organized.

I bought the cheap rack, and then mounted the rail on the bottom of the rack. Here’s how.

The Picatinny/Weaver rail flashlight mount as it arrived.

The Picatinny/Weaver rail flashlight mount as it arrived.

Four mounting holes go into the small front rack. Do this with some care - or the flashlight won't shine straight ahead.

Four mounting holes go into the small front rack. Do this with some care – or the flashlight won’t shine straight ahead.

I could have mounted the rail with the bolts that come with the assembly, but I decided to use aluminum pop rivets for weight, strength, and neatness.

I could have mounted the rail with the bolts that come with the assembly, but I decided to use aluminum pop rivets for weight, strength, and neatness.

The rail mounted on the rack and the flashlight in the holder. My flashlight was a little too big, so I simply used the longer bolts that come with the unit - the ones that are intended to go around a barrel.

The rail mounted on the rack and the flashlight in the holder. My flashlight was a little too big, so I simply used the longer bolts that come with the unit – the ones that are intended to go around a barrel.

This is how it mounts on the rack. Strong and neat.

This is how it mounts on the rack. Strong and neat.

The rack and flashlight on the bike, along with a small pump (maybe I'll post how I hold that to the rack) and a little plastic box from Office Depot, held on with nylon bolts and wingnuts in holes drilled through the box and rack. It looks sort of stupid, but is very useful to hold my wallet, phone, keys, lock... that sort of stuff.

The rack and flashlight on the bike, along with a small pump (maybe I’ll post how I hold that to the rack) and a little plastic box from Office Depot, held on with nylon bolts and wingnuts in holes drilled through the box and rack. It looks sort of stupid, but is very useful to hold my wallet, phone, keys, lock… that sort of stuff.

Take some care in mounting the rack so that it is level. If the rack points up or down very much, you would have to shim the holder to get the light horizontal.

The flashlight is held on securely, yet it comes off easily for battery replacement. I ordered an extra set so I even have a spare flashlight to stick in if needed.

Yee Haaa.

Silhouette

From Aurora Dallas 2013

“Actually, I do happen to resemble a hallucination. Kindly note my silhouette in the moonlight.” The cat climbed into the shaft of moonlight and wanted to keep talking but was asked to be quiet. “Very well, I shall be silent,” he replied, “I shall be a silent hallucination.”
― Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita

From Aurora Dallas

From Aurora Dallas

From Aurora Dallas (click to enlarge)

From Aurora Dallas
(click to enlarge)