Articles from January 2010



Why stop at just stealing a bike.

Apparently for some simply stealing a guys bike isn’t enough. Instead of stopping there, let’s beat him unconscious too. At least that’s what a SacBee article is reporting.

That actually raises an interesting point that has always bothered me. Historically we’ve had much higher legal penalties for stealing primary transportation – first horses and now cars. These penalties have been (and are) higher than the simple financial value of the stolen property. Why? A big reason is that stealing someone’s primary transportation can leave a person stranded in a way that can potentially be dangerous for them. Well, what about those of us that use bikes as our primary transportation? What happens when I am 30, 40, 50 miles or more from home and get my bike stolen? Where’s my “Grand Theft Bicycle” statute?

All that aside, I wish this cyclist a speedy recovery. I’m still feeling the mental effects of the theft of my bike, and I didn’t have the added insult of a physical assault to go along with it.

More mobility means more blog posts

It is not all that uncommon for me to be out and about in the world and thing of great ideas for me to blog about. I’m terrible about writing notes for myself (I generally just lose them anyhow) so a great many of the “brilliant” ideas go forgotten.

However, I’m giving the wpToGo app for my Motorola Droid a try. In fact, I writing this very post with it. Looks like there is at least baswic support for adding images and hyperlinks, so I otta be able to get the basic blog post out no matter where I am.

So, if you are like me and frequently moving around and you have a WordPress based blog, it might be worth a try for you.

How to ride with your wife, take pictures, and more

I was going through some of my old Google Alerts emails, and I stumbled across a link to Eight Tips for Photography while Cycling – Part 2 – a post on a blog by Daniel Carruthers.  The title itself caught my eye, and the post was a good read.  Of course, I had to go back and check out Part 1.  But the more I looked at the stuff Daniel and written, the more interested I was.  Probably the best I found were his two posts on Riding with your Wife (also see Part 2 of the same).  Good stuff.

Of all my recent web finds, this one as stood out for me as one that I’ll keep reading.  In fact, I just added it to my RSS feed reader.  Check it out.

HTFU

More Cycling Blogs Than I Know What To Do With

There is one thing about cyclists – we seem to like to blog about our passion excessively.  I can’t believe how many new (well – new to me at least) cycling related blogs I find on a weekly basis.  A couple of simple Google Alerts, follow a couple of links and 20-30 can be found within an hour.  It is amazing.

Some of you have already seen my Random Bike Blogs, Forums and Web sites page.  This is quickly growing, and I’ve begun to realize that utilizing the standard WordPress “Blogroll” functionality just isn’t going to work for me.

I’ll continue to collect cycling related sites as I find them, and add them to that page.  At some point I’ll come up with a good way to orginize these, but until then hopefully you’ll find something new and interesting in the potpourri of links.  Also, if you keep your own cycling related blog, forum or website , let me know.  I’d love to read what you have and add a link to the collection.

.  This

A cyclist’s career in review

Not sure what it was exactly.  Maybe it was the new year, 2010.  Maybe it was riding home in the cold and the dark at 9:30pm.  Maybe it was the realization that the ride I do daily and casually – to get to and from work – would have been unthinkable just a few short years ago.  Whatever the impetus, I started to reflect on how far I’ve come in cycling, how far I have to go, and how quickly it has all happened.

It is the latter that really struck me.  Cycling is a big part of my life.  It is my primary mode of transportation (by time, and by miles some weeks) as well as my primary recreational activity.  It invigorates me, motivates me, and in many ways defines part of who I am.  It is such a huge part of my life that I feel like I’ve always been a cyclist.  But in fact it has been more like 3 very short years.  That’s right – three.  And it all began because of a little job I took in Palo Alto – while living in Sacramento.

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Tips for bicycle security on Caltrain

After the recent theft of my bike off of Caltrain, I started thinking a little more about bicycle security on the bike cars.  I come from an InfoSec background, and a large part of being successful in that field involves understanding how “the bad guys” go about their attacks.  I starting thinking about the bike cars with the same frame of mind and started to think about how I would steal a bike from the train if I so desired.  The argument here is that, the more potential theft gambits I know of, the better equipped I will be to defend against those thefts.

Now I know that some of you will be thinking “But Ross – you’re just telling the thieves how to do it!“  It is a common statement, and open to some debate.  On the one side are those that believe that publishing information about how to engage in a particular harmful act (breaking into a computer system, stealing a bike, whatever) only serves to make the criminals more efficient.  On the other side of the argument there are those that maintain that the criminals can come up with this stuff on their own, and our ignorance of these techniques only makes us more likely to be victimized.  Obviously I belong to the second group.

I’ll also offer some of my own suggestions on how to help mitigate the risk of getting your bike stolen from you.

I’ll start off with an examination of how the perpetrator was able to get away with my bike, which was less than 15-20 feet away and in plain sight, without me even being aware it had happened.  This scenario is put together with bits and pieces of information I got from the conductor and other passengers at the time.

The “plenty of time, grab-n-go” theft

The prerequisite for this theft involves a location where the train is sitting idle for long periods of time.  Specifically, this takes place at either San Francisco 4th & King for southbound trains, and San Jose for northbound trains.  Our victim boards and places his bike against one of the racks.  He then goes to his seat – turning his back on the bike by necessity.  Furthermore, most of us will be slightly distracted as we sit down – pulling laptops out of our bags, eating the Subway sandwich you just purchased in the station, whatever.  All of these provide moments of opportunity for our thief to notice your inattention, grab your bike from the rack and head out the door.  As soon as they hit the platform, they can jump on the bike and be out of the station to the street – probably faster than you can even get out of your seat and out the door, alert the conductor, or whatever.  If you happen to be sitting on the top level of one of the older cars, your path out the door after the thief is even further hindered.

The “pretend to be a regular commuter” theft

This method is probably more effective on crowded trains, and again may benefit from being carried out before leaving either the SF or SJ stations.  People standing around, shuffling bikes can often block your view of your bike from your seat, further setting the stage for our thief.  In this situation, our victim is already on the train with their bike in the racks.  Our thief boards with a bike of his own (crappy and disposable, we would assume) and loiters near the doors.  When the thief feels the time is right, she will approach the rack where our victim’s bike is and remove it from the rack – acting as if she is simply putting her bike behind the victim’s.  This is not an unusual occurrence on Caltrain as folks organize the bikes to ensure that those getting off first don’t have to move other bikes out of the way.  But already our thief has the upper hand.  Perhaps she already kn0ws this is your bike and as casually checking to see if you are watching.  Even if not, though, she’s already got the bike in her hands and gained an advantage.  Time this (by fumbling around, whatever) and you can actually spring towards the door as soon as the chime and “Caution, the doors are about to close” announcement comes on.  Our thief is out the door and, even if our victim is fast enough to catch her, the doors are already closed and the train is beginning to move out of the station.  Sorry – you’re bike is gone.

Protecting yourself

Caltrain doesn’t allow you to lock your bikes to the racks – for understandable reasons.  However, there are some things that you can do to help alleviate the threat – most of which result in making your bike appear as a more difficult target:

  • While you can’t lock your bike to the train (or other bikes) you can lock your bike to itself.  Put your UBolt or chain through one or both rims and through the frame.  This eliminates the possibility of a riding getaway, and may actually fool more ignorant or less observant thieves into thinking the bike actually is locked to the rack.
  • Remove the saddle and take it with you.  Or – another approach is to turn the saddle around backwards.  Again – hindering the quick ride away.
  • Place your bike in the racks farthest from the door.  Truth be told, however, mine was in the fourth rack from the door of one of the older style train cars.  Still, bikes close to the door sure feel like easier targets.
  • Watch your bike very very carefully until someone else places there bike on top of yours.  You might want to notice where that “outside” bike is going, too, so that you can pay attention at that stop.
  • Sit as close to your bike as possible.  Hell, maybe just stand next to it depending on the length of your commute.
  • Take removable stuff like cycling computers and lights with you to your seat.  Yes – these can get stolen too, and are a lot harder for you to notice when it is happening.

Basically, though, there is one thing that protects you more than anything else you can do – watch your bike! Certainly no one is going to stare at their bike non-stop through their entire trip.  However, if you are vigilant at all of the station stops you can go a long way towards protecting your bike.  Clearly no one is getting away with your bike on a moving train!

Hope this helps others somehow avoid my fate.  Cheers, happy cycling and may all of your bikes arrive at the station with you!

Obituary: Fuji Absolute DX

January 11, 2010.  Approximately 9:30 am.  San Francisco, CA.  4th & King Caltrain station, aboard southbound train 236, still sitting in the station waiting for the 9:37am departure.  That was the last time I say my Fuji Absolute DX bike.  A brief moment of inattention on my part, and me and my bike were parted.  That is when some low-life thief took him from me.

But this post isn’t about that.  Rather, this post is an only-slightly tongue in cheek memorial to a great bike.  Nicknamed “Truck” for the utilitarian, hauling usage as my daily commuter, there were at least 5500 miles recorded on the cycling computer.  That’s before I took the computer off and moved it to another bike – and not counting all of the times I simply didn’t turn the computer on.

Truck has accompanied me through countless bus and train rides.   A frequent passenger on both the Amtrak Capitol Corridor and Caltrain commuter trains, Truck as rubbed wheels with fixies, mountain bikes, folding bikes and carbon framed wonders.

Over the years Truck has become more and more equipped – tragically the final addition of a super-bright light on the handle bars being used for the first time on that fateful January morning.

Full list of equipment attached to Truck at the time of parting:

  • Planet Bike Hybrid fenders
  • Super-bright front light – didn’t have it long enough to recall the make  :(
  • Secondary LED white frog light on front – left attached “just in case” the other light failed
  • Planet Bike flashing red rear light
  • San Marco Ponza saddle
  • Blackburn rear rack
  • Shimano SPD pedals
  • (2) Threaded CO2 cartridges
  • Presta CO2 inflator
  • (3) tire levers
  • Multi tool with cool rubber case
  • Spoke wrench
  • Alexrims front and rear
  • Memories from many many miles

Truck was like a first girlfriend – so many things learned, so many new things experienced.

Truck – you will be missed.

Top signs you are a cyclist

Ironically, some of the clearest signs that you are a die hard cyclists actually reveal themselves while you are driving.  If you find yourself doing any of the following behaviors, there is a very good chance you are a cyclist.  If you find yourself doing more than one of these – well, there is no question about it.

You know you are a cyclist if, while you are driving, you:

  • Stick your hand out the window to point out a broken bottle in the road to the drivers behind you
  • Find yourself instinctively veering off the road towards the entrance to the bike trail
  • Get out of your car at a stop light to hit the cross walk button – certain that the light won’t be triggered by your presence in the lane
  • Tuck in behind semi trucks when you start to feel tired
  • Curse the guy directly behind you.  But you don’t call him a tailgater.  You refer to him as “that god damned wheel suck”
  • Yell “car back” whenever anyone passes you on the left – even on the freeway
  • Drink your Starbucks out of the side of your mouth without tilting your head back
  • Gently use your throttle at stop lights on hills instead of your break and refer to this effort as a “prefect trackstand”
  • Try and figure out how to switch your headlights to “flashy mode” in heavy traffic
  • Carefully measure the distance between the back of the driver’s seat and the gas pedal
  • Shift into neutral and drop down with your eyes barely over the steering wheel when going down a “steep hill”
  • Refer to the “steep hill” as a “descent”
  • Wonder why you can’t seem to drop the person in the passenger seat

Some really cool one-off bikes

I just found the Underground Velo blog.  There are some great pictures of some rather unique bikes.  Some of them are quite functional (this one looks purpose built for snow) and some are more on the artistic side.  However, the one linked to on Underground Velo called “SaltFats” – originally detailed at RatRodBikes – is an absolute stunner.

Both sites are well worth the look if you are into custom bikes:

http://undergroundvelo.blogspot.com/
http://ratrodbikes.com

Do It Yourself Frame Bags

Do It Yourself Frame Bag

http://www.flickr.com/photos/lenore-m/2864380344/

I’m pretty sure that I can’t sew – having never actually tried that I can recall.  However, if I could I’d definitely try my hand at making one of these.  It is an awesome idea, very practical, and potentially a fraction of the cost of commercial offerings for the same space on your frame.

Originally discovered on a site dedicated to Dollar Store Crafts, with detailed plans taken from the Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories web site.