“Bike mechanics know when you’ve been abusing or neglecting your bike â€“ just like the dentist can tell that your choppers haven’t seen floss for years.”
That’s the beginning of “4 Lies People Tell Their Bike Mechanic,” a post I wrote for the Trailsedge.com blog. It’s all about some of the most filthy, vile whoppers people use to turn misfortune or negligence in their favor.
If you are cyclist of any sort or a mechanic, take a look. Nod sagely, and pass it on!
I just booked tickets for my first trip to Asia. This fall, I’ll fly Asiana Airlines to Incheon and Tokyo. U.S. Airways, one of Asiana’s Star Alliance partners, will get us to LAX and from San Franciso International. The plan is to go first to Seoul, hit the countryside and then make a quick visit to take in the otherworldly craziness that is Tokyo.
So why Asiana, which isn’t one of the better-known names in the United States?
It’s online booking actually works -- unlike those of ANA, Korean Airlines and JAL. I considered those heavy hitters (hoping that ANA might have a 787 Dreamliner flying by then). Too bad their online booking is clunky to the point of non-functional. The online booking experience is a flyer’s introduction to an airline. It needs to work flawlessly every time. Asiana’s does. You’ll notice I don’t mention the big American carrier’s That’s because I have yet to see evidence that any U.S. carrier outside of Hawaiian Airlines provides the level of service of its overseas counterparts. More on them below.
It’s prices are the most reasonable I could find. A good chunk includes taxes and fees, though. Out of curiosity, I set up the same flights on Continental.com, also a Star Alliance member. Tack on another 10 percent. Not egregious, but not worth rolling the dice – American-based carriers just don’t have a reputation for good service, and mediocrity can make a long flight hell. Oh, and some of the flights are operated by United on its older 747-400s.
It has a great reputation for service. It’s the SkyTrax Â Airline of the Year Award winner for 2010 -- the same year Global Travelers magazine named its in-flight service the world’s best. And its online booking actually works (I’m sure you read that somewhere recently --)
It has a very shiny new fleet. That’s always a plus, as is its reputation for rigorous maintenance. I’m looking forward to my first flight on a Boeing 777, which I’ve heard is a sweet ride for people who actually like commercial air travel.
Why Asiana Isn’t Quite Perfect
No direct flights from Tokyo to the United States during the times I searched. We have to go back to Incheon. That costs a bit of time. But hey, it’s another ride on a 767, one of my favorites.
An Asiana 747 freighter just crashed. There’s word that the flight disappeared after reporting a fire onboard. I can’t think of the last time an airline has last two aircraft very quickly, so that puts stats in my favor! And freight versus commercial service. I have no cause to worry.
The Very Worthy Second Choice
Hawaiian Airlines. I love the idea of skipping LAX and flying from Phoenix to Honolulu to Incheon to Tokyo to Honolulu to Phoenix. I also hear Hawaiian Airlines totally rocks, providing inflight service on-par with foreign carriers. The timetables just didn’t favor my allotted time. I also would’ve been more interested if I could’ve caught a ride on a Hawaiian A330 instead of a 767. Again, I like the 767 … but I’ve never been on an A330. Yes, these things do weigh into a flying geek’s decision making.
Also, Hawaiian’s site doesn’t take advantage of its Star Alliance buddies to get me from Incheon to Tokyo. One thing I learned: If you book all from one site, you’re covered better for mishaps like missing a connection. Qantas left us high and dry because we booked separately from Auckland to LAX and LAX to Phoenix. The ground staff lost some serious brownie points, but I also learned to book more efficiently.
There’s nothing like an exploding tire to liven up a bike ride.
Now, I’m not talking about a garden-variety punctured tire. No, I experienced a full-on, uncontained tire failure. As I climbed a bit of trail, the sidewall of my front tire gave way with a bang, a puff of sealant spray and a farty sound like a balloon losing its air.
This goes from the uncontained tire failure to a cascading series of crappy events, with Murphy’s Law in full effect. This is not a fixable trailside repair since this was a tubeless tire. Even if I had a spare tube to slip into the tire, the sidewall was too ruptured to hold it.
It gets worse. I looked in my Camelbak and … discovered that I didn’t have a cell phone for anyone to bail me out. This is something I never usually do. But I was in a hurry to beat the worst of the daytime heat. I left my phone charging upstairs. So remember to bring your phone!
And the proverbial Strike Three: No wallet. No ID. No moolah, scrilla, Benjamins or ducats. I have exactly 45 cents with me. Another mistake I never make. Remember, my friends: Always carry your ID and some cash!
Thus began a 6-mile walk of shame. Well, it actually got cut short. A fellow mountain biker driving around in his Honda Pilot spotted me and gave me a lift for the last mile and a half. Thank you, Joe! If I see you again, I’ll have to settle up somehow.
But before that, I discovered the joys of walking long distances in mountain bike shoes. Not quite as bad as high heels, I’d wager, but still crappy. I took them off and endured hot pavement with only bike socks to keep my feet from frying.
And bike shorts? Everything that makes them right for riding makes them wrong for walking. I had chaffing and rubbing in many an unhappy place.
Another unexpected bit of info: People in Phoenix are practicing safe sex. I can tell by the roadside litter. Let’s just hope they’re biodegradable, eh?
Let my misadventure be a lesson to you: Check what’s in your gear before you roll.
I’m on the corner of 5th Street and Mill Avenue in Tempe, Ariz. It’s summer. Most of the students from Arizona State University have flocked home, so it’s relatively quiet.
But it’s not so sleepy that’s it’s easy for a car to turn onto Mill. Even with a green light, a steady flow of pedestrians makes it maddening.
This makes me think back to an even busier intersection in Auckland, New Zealand. But planners there figured out a way to get pedestrians and drivers to interact in harmony: Instead of "Walk" signals that correspond to the traffic signals, all vehicle traffic stops for the "Walk" signal. And you can cross on the diagonal to save a step. When the cars stop, it’s a pedestrian free-for-all in any direction. Apparently, this is called a Scramble or Diagonal crossing. See the videos below to watch the dance in action.
And when it’s car time, you don’t have pedestrians horning in. It’s all-clear for the cars.
This is one of many reasons why travel is such a great thing: You see new ideas and interesting solutions to old problems. In retrospect, this is an obvious way to get traffic moving better.
Here’s something funny: Los Angeles once had it (straight from the video) in the 1950s. It pulled the plug a few years later, and has brought a few back. But I’d never heard of it until my visit to Auckland. It’s a great idea, and needs to be in widespread use.
A summer ride in Arizona – it’s usually like being roasted alive. But on this one, I had some nice cloud cover. It was cool, with a slight breeze. Nothing could bring me down.
Well, except for my mountain biking brethren and their exceptionally bad trail manners.
I cannot fathom why so many mountain bikers these days are so surly and self-centered on the trail. On this given Sunday, I encountered a few riders who didn’t realize that the uphill rider has the right of way. And there were a handful of others who couldn’t be bothered to return a greeting. Look, you always say hello to other trail users unless you’re panting too hard. End of story.
Maybe a lot has changed since I learned to be a mountain biker back in the early 90s. Notice what I said? "Learned to be a mountain biker" and "learned to mountain bike" are two different things.
I already had an idea of how to brake, shift, pedal and pick a line by the time I started riding with a classmate at Arizona State University. But he was more experienced, and took the lead. I noticed that he always rode with a smile. Most times, he’d stop to scratch a hiker’s dog between the ears. He’d always, always, always, greet other trail users – especially riders.
He never told me to do the same. He was just a good guy to ride with, and I figured that was part of his formula. I made it part of my formula, too. Make it part of your ride, and I promise the trails will be a better place.
All its points ring true to me from my recent visit to Portland. The bike-friendly culture starts right at the airport – there’s a repair area where your can break your bike down for flying, or put it back together … and then ride home. How incredibly progressive!
I can also confirm that bicycle infrastructure is extensive. Public bike art? I honestly don’t care about that.
It’s really surprising that mountain bikes are, as Singletracks.com says, such an afterthought. The shops I visited were primarily geared toward road biking. And I noticed a preponderance of big brands. I didn’t see any really cool, independent brands with a strong appearance. I figured Portland’s local, DIY flavor would carry over to the cycling scene. I hoped to lay my eyes on some cool custom steel … and maybe some titanium.
It’s very likely I just didn’t stumble onto it. I’ll bet it’s out there … but the odds of walking into exactly the right place are slimmer than I hoped.
So if you know Portland, I’d love to hear about the lesser-known shops where you discover and ogle the more unusual brands.