Sabotage!?

June 24, 2010 | Leave a Comment

The other night, I locked my bike up in Davis Square to a parking meter. This is a pretty normal occurrence for me while I grab a coffee or walk around, waiting for my girlfriend to get out of work.
Fast forward an hour or so later and I’m ready to go home. I walk over to unlock my bike and I realize that another bike’s lock is wrapped around the frame of my bike…what the HELL!?
After swearing and daydreaming about cutting the combination chain lock with pliers, my girlfriend calms me down. “Just come back tomorrow,” she says. “It’s not worth getting angry about.”
I want to wait for the guy, perform a stakeout, and see what kind of douche would do this. Ok, it’s possible that it was a mistake, but he has a nice new bike with clipless pedals, so he should know what he’s doing with a bike. I can’t imagine that someone would wrap a lock around another bike frame WITHOUT noticing.
The funny thing is this guy had a Redline bike, just like me, which somehow made the situation weirder. I wondered if this was some strange tactic to steal my bike cause the guy likes Redlines.
Anyway, I ended up going home and the next morning my bike was there, safe and sound, without the other bike trapping it there.
I thought all was good and was ready to “live and let live.”
However, that day my bike got a flat tire on both the front and back wheels! Now, I know this could be a coincidence, but my paranoia is telling me that someone intentionally fucked with my tires so I would have a slow leak. The SAME SOMEONE who locked their bike to my bike. Or maybe some kids saw my bike and decided to mess with the tires while it was out in Davis Sq. all night. Or maybe I just ran over a bunch of glass the next day!
In any case, it was a strange day and my Redline is definitely feeling violated, degraded, and very ashamed of itself.

What are the worst towns in the Boston area for cyclists? In my opinion, drivers treat me the best in Cambridge and Somerville. Boston proper is a bit of a toss-up – you’ve got some raging maniacs on one hand, and some over zealous cycling advocates who will give you all the room in the world on the other hand.

Brookline is a whole different story because you’ve got a ton of oblivious elderly people that no nothing about cyling: they’ll swing open car doors and glare at you with a poisonous anger you don’t expect from an octogenarian.

You’ve also got more conspicuous consumption wealthy people in Brookline. In my very limited anecdotal experience, it seems like people in BMWs and Audis are more likely to zoom by you with less than an inch of room. The same thing happens to me in the Concord/Carlisle area when I’m out in the suburbs.

Cycling is one of those pursuits where the uniforms threaten to dominate you into submission. Without them, don’t you feel just a little bit ILLEGITIMATE?

Ok, so I’ve learned the hard way that intense grodiness and chafing ensues if you don’t wear some tight spandex material w/ padding “down there” while on a long or serious ride. Other than that, I don’t see too many restrictions on what I can wear (aside from dressing for winter/cold weather/rainy riding which is a whole other topic).

But the spandex Jersey and spandex cycling shorts is more than just functionality, it’s a real uniform. If you go to a group ride wearing anything which deviates from the uniform, you may get a few comments. Usually they will be in the form of a question about functionality, like “aren’t you cold in those shoes?”

And then if you go to the city, you’ve got a whole other uniform to deal with: the fixed gear aesthetic. Interestingly, this uniform is just as flashy and conservative as the lycra roadie style.

Of course, there are some big differences here. The spandex uniform was borne out of creating the best outfits for serious road racers. The fixed gear aesthetic was cobbled together from bike messenger / punk / hardcore cultures as an evocation of urban coolness with a few appendages of messengering functionality thrown in.

I feel the same way when confronted with both these styles. I’m not saying it’s a negative feeling necessarily, but it’s definitely something you confront if you’re a regular cyclist.

I guess my point is that you should try and access your own unique subjectivity and inclinations when thinking about what you wear while riding.

Sometimes it’s important to have cycling-specific gear to avoid discomfort (loose, flappy shorts on a long ride are such a drag!) And sometimes you might want to deck yourself out in a messenger bag and rolled-up corduroys and one of those nifty little bicycle caps with the Italian flag stripes. And maybe sometimes you want to wear a business suit with fancy pant clips and pretend you’re a Dutch business man on your way to work.

What I’m trying to say is that the threat of the uniform is looming everywhere in the cycling pursuit. Sometimes it’s not a bad idea to go with or even embrace the uniform, especially if that’s the look you’re really happy with. But don’t feel like you have to be submissive to the prevailing attitudes and styles.

I’m at the intersection of Market ST and North Harvard ST, that annoying intersection where it’s sometimes faster to take a left into the parking lot near the intersection than staying with the traffic and taking a left at the light.

This day I decide to stay with the traffic and take a left at the light. Behind me there’s a cab turning towards me from the right lane. I’m thinking “What the FUCK? Does this guy want to cut me off?”

I shake my head. “Cabs really are the worst drivers,” I think.

I look behind me, at the cab driver and try to give a look that is a combination of “what the fuck are you doing?” and “No, I’m not moving or letting you cut me off so you can take a left, even if it means that you’re going to crash into me.” I guess I was a little “testy” that day.

And then suddenly the guy rolls down his window. Now I’m thinking, “well at least he’s gonna ASK me to move.”

And then he says. “Hey, were you at Cleveland Circle?”

I don’t understand him at first. “What?”

“You were at Cleveland Circle, weren’t you?” he says and smiles.

I say. “Yeah, that’s where I ride from.”

“You beat me, I was there too. Good job!”

I feel my ego growing by the second and an uncontrollable warmth towards this cab driver. “Thanks, man? So I did good?”

“Yeah!” he says, laughing and shaking his head. The light turns green and he drives straight through the intersection onto Western AV.

I wish I had more interactions like this with drivers!

There’s an insidious tendency to pretend that “work” and “play” are categories which shouldn’t mix and that if you add “play” to work or “work” to play, you might run into problems. In fact, the way things often pan out today, you DO run into problems.

Work is the stuff you’re obligated to do to make a living and maybe give something back to society. It’s supposed to be of primary importance in your life, at least for the middle class. But it’s also has a tendency slip into the activities you perform begrudgingly. Often, people treat their work sort of like how a high schooler might treat homework: to get a good grade you HAVE to do it, but you won’t be engaged or happy about it.

Play is the stuff you can’t wait to do once you get out of work. But the funny thing is, this stuff, in relation to work, takes on a inconsequential, airy, and arbitrary quality. You could get drinks with friends or watch tv or ride your bike…there’s a tendency to reduce leisure time to something that is simply a relief and release from the day-to-day grind.

So you get the worst of both worlds: work, which has the superficial appearance of being important, but is actually a huge drag versus “play” which has the superficial appearance of being unimportant, but is what you really look forward to as a release from work.

And when you mix these two things, you might either make work feel less important or play feel like more of a drag.

Of course there are many exceptions and many people either love their jobs or love what they do during their leisure time. But I still think this is a general tendency that has unfortunate consequences for how we enjoy our lives.

Wait, isn’t this a Bicycling Blog??? Ok, yeah you’re right! And so with that in mind: I started riding my bicycle simply because I loved the feel of pedaling, and exploring the city in a new way. It wasn’t hard for me to start cycling and I quickly became addicted to this activity. It fits seamlessly into my daily routine, since I use it as a commuting tool.

However, as I start taking cycling more seriously, it has the potential to become more of a drag, especially when considering training for racing. This means I need to adhere to a more rigorous structure and regimen. I need to monitor my heart rate and keep a log for cycling. It’s starting to sound like WORK! Bicycling, which once represented freedom to me, quickly becomes a Discipline.

Now, I think it’s important to elevate your hobbies beyond that of mere hobbies. Hobbies can be come serious interests and lifelong pursuits, and can certainly replace work as the primary thing in your life or enrich work immeasurably.

So I say screw the idea that work is boring and unfulfilling and screw the idea that a leisure activity is unimportant and arbitrary. There’s a balance involved in doing something you love and taking it seriously that goes beyond ideas like “work” and “play.” I think reaching that balance is the key, so you still can access the freedom and excitement when you had when you first started the activity, and that this initial energy will actually serve to encourage (rather than hinder) more proactive development and the implementation of structure and discipline into the activity.

I’ve slipped into a routine with my cycling.

I’m usually on my bicycle when I’m commuting to work. It’s the same-old-same-old. I know the hills, I basically know how the cars are gonna act towards me, and I see the same Indian guy walking towards Harvard Square – he always acts as an excellent gauge of how late I am for work.

Sure, sometimes I change up the route, but you can only change it up in so many ways before it becomes impractical.

And sometimes I manage to sneak in a ride with my friend during lunch, into downtown and back.

One time I had to take a package to the FedEx in Harvard Square as part of a work related task. In this instance, I imagined that I was a bike courier on an urgent mission. I know, I know…I could’ve just ordered a pickup, but I wanted to give my cycling that day a different flavor.

One thing that I don’t do enough of is the Long Ride, which I think would be the perfect antidote to the complacency of my routine. I’ve been on a few long, relaxing rides in the suburbs ranging from 25 to 30 miles.

But the most exciting ride was a 52 miler with Charles River Wheelmen on some random Sunday. I opted to go with the fast group which was great up until the last seven miles where I hit the wall and my legs just didn’t want to push any longer. But that gave me a taste of what it’s like to ride in a group (PELETON?) as well as a taste of what it’s like to really push myself on the bike.

So I think I want to “take it to the next level” and start doing more long rides, hopefully with riders more experienced and somewhat faster than me (not so fast that they leave me in the dust).

Of course, there’s CRW, which seems like a sure bet, but I’m curious about other options, namely rides which begin in the Boston/Somerville/Cambridge area. It would be awesome if there were an informal group of experienced riders that left from Somerville on weekend mornings… at an average pace of 17 – 19 mph on rolling hills — maybe that’s just wishful thinking.

Two incidents to ponder:

1:

The other day I was cycling down Mass AV in Cambridge at a comfortable pace when fellow cyclist passed me on the left. While this isn’t a common occurrence, it happens more than I would like to admit, given  my fantasy of fantasies (my fantasy of fantasies is that I am the most daring and fastest and skilled cyclist in the world, a natural-born talent who uses the streets of Boston as his glorious training ground — blowing past the lycra-clad crowd as they stare ahead in confusion and disbelief…).

Anyway, in one of those testosterone drenched impulses, I pedaled hard to catch up to this speedster and              eventually I managed to rest in the comforting womb of his draft. I’m non-confrontational by nature and it’s much more appealing to me to catch up to a speedster and rest in their draft knowing that I “COULD” pass them if I wanted to, then to actually pass them. In any case,  all was good and I was proud of my accomplishment

Then suddenly I saw an obstacle up ahead, a mini SUV parked right in the bike lane. Usually my reaction to a vehicle obstruction is something along the lines of: “Oh Well. This fucker is here, guess I’ll have to look over my shoulder and take the lane to pass them.”

But the cyclist ahead of me had a different attitude. He pulled up to the car and yelled as loud as he could “you can’t be here! You can’t be here! Move! Move!” at the top of his lungs. The woman in the vehicle was shocked but instantly launched back with some indecipherable squeaky yelping. In return, this passionate man yelled “FUCK YOU! FUCK YOU! FUCK YOU!” as he passed the car.

2:

This morning I was bicycling through the clusterfuck known as Harvard Square. I call it a clusterfuck because usually there is a cab or a person or a combination of both in the bike lane at the main light in Harvard Square, as well as tons of impatient car drivers, annoyed at all the pedestrians with their giant crosswalk. Today was no different.

The cyclist ahead of me was a young man with a flair for the artistic, as evidenced by his arm tattoos. He was also a pretty serious rider, as evidenced by the name Eddie Mercxx emblazoned on the back of his t-shirt.

As we made it to the fateful intersection (you gotta know what I’m talking about!), there was a guy standing idly in the bike lane, looking at a cab, or maybe up at the sky. There was also a cab double-parked in the bike lane, right behind the daydreamer. Normally I would just do the old look over the shoulder and pass routine, albeit more carefully since this was a double obstacle.

But this cyclist (like the cyclist I described in my previous story) had a different idea. He gave the double-parked cab a good punch in the door. The driver looked up, confused.

But he was even more unforgiving to the pedestrian: as he saddled up next to the aimless idler, he elbowed the guy repeatedly in the chest and said something like “get out, get out.” Now this elbow could be described as a “gentle nudge” if one were being sympathetic. Or it could be described as assault WITH INTENT TO HARM if we wanted to take this cyclist to task LEGALLY.

What are your thoughts on these two incidents of bike rage? Do you see other cyclists getting up on their High Horse? I’m interested in how people feel about this kind of behavior.