Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Path


(Based on a dream)

She sets out for a ride,
Hoping to clear her head,
Mindlessly pedaling down the wooded trail

The woods strangely silent
Seemingly full of dread
An omen of what’s to come when she is frail

Birds fail to sing their song
Squirrels don’t scamper by
But her mind can’t stop, trapped by her discontent

She pedals on, not concerned for time,
Yet worried about the things to come,
Regretting what has already passed.
The soulless oaks have nothing to say
The leaves fail to speak, the wind is still

The sun marches cruelly
To its daily slumber
Changing from yellow to orange, then to rust

She sees the nearing night
The stillness amplifies
Looking for her sense of place, she knows she’s lost

Unable to help herself, she calls
He answers and asks, “Where are you now?”
“I don’t know, a path less well kept,” she cedes.
“The trees were so strong and majestic.
Please come find me, only you can help.”

“I cannot follow you
I can wait for your return,”
He replied with a shudder that she could hear

“I’m scared and I’m lost.
I can’t turn back now”
She cried with anguish and whimpered, “I’m sorry.”

I am always here
I won’t leave this spot.
Just turn around now, trust my voice, don’t fear.

Twilight slipped to night as she turned.


Don't Be A Victim of Flat Bicycle Tires

Bike riding of any variety is meant to reduce your stress and improve your overall physical condition, not frustrate you to the point of throwing your bike over the edge of a cliff. Flat tires, especially the recurring variety, don't do anything but add to the negative, unhappy things that all of us hate about exercise: being stranded in the middle of nowhere without any recourse or help in sight.

Fortunately, you can prevent just about any flat tire with a little investment. It takes some time and money, but it beats sitting by the side of the road, beyond cell phone reception, waiting for help to happen along. Also: for the situations that you cannot prevent, there are a few quick repairs that can be done to get you back on the road in just a few minutes.

PREVENT AS MANY FLATS AS POSSIBLE

-Before you go riding, check the air pressure. Tires with too little pressure aren't properly supported, and will therefore go flat easier. If there is too much pressure in the tire, that extra air will go somewhere that you don't like - usually out of a hole it decides to make in your brand-new tube. You can check the pressure with a regular tire gauge and use a hand pump to inflate to the right amount.

Tip: don't use air machines at gas stations to put air in bicycle tires. These are designed to inflate car tires, which hold a lot more pressure than a bike's tube. Many people blow out tubes with these machines, so it is wise to invest a few dollars in a hand pump that is designed for your needs.

-Another thing that you should do before ever trip out of the garage is to inspect your tires carefully. You are looking for things like worn tread, foreign objects caught in the tire (glass, nails and screws are major culprits) and odd, bubbly shapes in the sidewalls. If any of these things are present, do not go for your morning ride. Instead, stay at home and fix the problem. At least you'll be stranded in a climate-controlled area.

-Be willing to invest in new tires and tubes on a regular basis. You might look at a fairly-worn tire and think that you can get a few hundred more miles out of it, but it might not be worth it. Unless you run special tires, you're looking at less than twenty bucks to invest in a brand-new set.

-When you aren't riding, keep the bike out of the weather. The sun will dry rot all rubber, from tires to hand grips. Extreme changes in temperatures are also bad for your tires. You can always park your bike in the garage. If that's not possible, find a tarp or other, similar cover to use over it.

Tip: by putting the bike indoors, such as in a garage, you are discouraging theft as well as damage by the elements. If you must store it outside, use a thick cable lock every time.

YOU CAN DO A LITTLE MORE

-Consider replacing regular tubes with the "airless" variety. These solid models cost a little more initially, but are guaranteed to stand up to thorns, glass and other debris that will definitely tear holes in regular tubes.

-Use "tube goop," which can be found at any auto-parts store. This stuff goes into your regular, air-filled tube with minimal effort on your part. It coats the inner surface of the tube so that, if a puncture occurs, it can re-seal the hole. If nothing else, you'll be able to get home before you have to take the bike apart and work on the tube.

-Take a different route from now on. Frequent flats are often caused by a battlefield of foreign objects. For example: instead of cutting through a brush-strewn parking lot, which could include plenty of thorns, take the actual road instead. It's a little more biking, but that extra couple of moments' worth of exercise is better than repairing or replacing tubes once or more every week.

-Stop being so abusive. Hard landings, such as those taken by freestyle BMX riders, will definitely take their toll on your tubes. If you're the sort of rider who lives for stunts and tricks, be prepared to either continue investing in tubes or find a long-term solution, such as the tire goop or airless tubes.

IF A FLAT HAPPENS ANYWAY

Sometimes flats will happen no matter what you do. The good news is that they are easily and quickly repaired, even by the side of the road, if you have the proper tools - not to mention knowledge - on hand.

A can of flat-fixing air will help temporarily. This stuff is usually sold for automobiles, but can also work on bike tubes. The problem is that the can is fairly bulky and more than a little heavy, so it's not always the ideal solution. It's all right, however, if you are a downhill racer who drives to the course (which means that you can keep the flat-fixing stuff in your truck and not worry about hauling it around).

-No matter what sort of biking you do, or where you go for it, keep a patch kit and the necessary tools on hand. You can purchase a fanny pack, backpack, or small pouch that attaches to your bike. You can also keep it in the glove box of your car or truck. Whatever you do, this kit is easily stored, as it is less than three inches across. It includes adhesive, new patches, and a buffer (small disk that scars the surface around the hole so that the patch will adhere). Along with this kit, you will need a bicycle air pump, tire levers, and a wrench that will fit the bolts on your bike.

More than anything else, remember to have fun while riding. Biking might have originally been a form of exercise for you, but there is no reason that it cannot be enjoyable. Take scenic routes. Recruit friends to go along for the ride. Take plenty of pictures. Enjoy!

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