Give me pow or give me dirt
Racing downhill. Popping off lips. Carving through corners. Biking and skiing have so many similarities, it's Sage's favorite gnar fix when the snow melts.
MEN'S DOWNIEVILLE SHORT
A new bombproof knee-length short designed to fit easily over armour and pads, and built strong to withstand abuse.
MEN'S MURRAY DEE JERSEY
A new half-sleeve freeride jersey built with an internal media pocket and headphone port at the neck seam to keep you dialed-in while you’re hitting the table tops.
Crank through singletrack or bomb downhill on a virtually endless supply of trails.
An all-purpose, 100-oz. hydration pack for dirt-seeking, two-wheeled adventurers. Features a magnetic valve clip, 15-liters of stowage, and a large external drop pocket.
It was bound to happen sooner or later
Could a better cycling video game save US couch potatoes?
As I noted in a past blog post, the annual video game trade show – the Electronic Entertainment Expo or E3 – is much like Interbike. The attitude is relaxed and a bit more laid back than serious “work” trade shows. Many of the attendees are in shorts, and I’ll say it again, there is a certain smell in the air.
There are notable differences, the biggest being the word “big.” Many video games are big and frankly out of shape. This isn’t to say that there aren’t gamers who like to cycle, as well as cyclists who like to play video games. There is no doubt an overlap.
As a long time cyclist and long time video gamer I see a missed opportunity here. A few years ago two interesting things happened in the world of video games. The first were music games; they hit it big, allowing players to live out their rock and roll fantasies in the living room. The other 'big' thing was “motion control” became integrated into games; first with the Nintendo Wii and more recently with the Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360. This coincided with a new genre of games built around fitness.
The truth is that the games have been only marginally successful. Much of this is because they’re just not that compelling, and you really can’t get all that fit with games. I think I’m as close to an authority on this as anyone.
Then a strange thing happened at his year’s E3. I ran into an old friend, Andy McNamara, editor in chief of Game Informer. Andy looked… well surprising fit, and a bit tan. The latter was surprising because I usually expect to see Andy have a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other, and he’s based in Minneapolis and is editor in chief of the biggest gaming magazine on the planet.
In other words, Andy was a hardcore gamer.
So I asked what the heck he'd been doing. His response, “what drives a man who lives, eats, and sleeps video games to wake up one day and turn his life around and get fit? Hell of a question.”
He explained that his wife and he had cruisers that they used in Minneapolis to get around town. The result was that he soon quit smoking, cut back on the drinking and even put down the controller. “We love the mobility and scenery of getting out and about, but we soon discovered that we needed more fire power to explore all the nooks and crannies of the Minneapolis bike ‘highway’ as I like to call it,” says McNamara.
“After we moved up to road bikes, I was instantly hooked. And the thing that hooked me was the challenge to myself," he said. "As a longtime game player, I appreciated the internal struggle to try and get better. I think of it as trying to beat that really hard last level in your favorite game. And of course, the nerd in me fell in love with bike computers too. Tracking and comparing data online, was like playing an RPG with me as the star.”
Andy says he’ll never win a race, but that the competition to get better, faster, and stronger is one of the biggest games he has played in his life. “As I approach 40, this game rewards me with a heaping helping of ‘extra lives,” he said.
So the question is why can’t other games experience this desire to get fit. You can now learn to play a real guitar via a video game – and while you probably won’t get good enough to go on tour, no one is expecting the games to do the same thing with fitness.
The truth is that there have been interactive programs built around exercise bikes, but Andy agrees that part of the problem with these is that they aren’t that compelling or interesting. “About the closest thing to a bicycling video game in my opinion are trainers like [Computrainer] or Tacx that offer simple virtual rides," he said. "Could there be a really great video game trainer game? Without a doubt, but I think we are still a number of years away from that reality.”
Currently, companies such as Saris and Elite have trainers that are linked to video and vary resistance based on the terrain shown in a video. But that’s not really a game. These come up short because they are too much like simulations – not that simulations can’t be popular. But what is missing is the challenge.
Of course there is one issue of cost, but with a trainer type of device any bike could suddenly be used in a virtual Tour de France. Imagine how much fun it would be to try to challenges such as climbing Mont Ventoux, or sprinting to the finish against Mark Cavendish.
But maybe I’m just fantasizing. Even Andy, a fellow gamer/cyclist says it will be a long time. “As a biker and a gamer, I can't think how even a multi-million dollar game design could compare with the simple fun of any bike and the open road - a game can just never compete with that,” he said.
And I agree, so instead of creating a better video game, maybe more gamers should put down the controllers and give the open road a try.
The best mountain bike upgrades bar none
National XC Champs from Around the World
Pendrel, Plaxton Perfect at Canadian Nats
2011 Breckenridge 100 Results
Lazer helmets-Rapha Gentlemen’s ride
1 day, 100 miles, 10,000 vertical feet of climbing in the name of both serious challenge and adventure were what Christopher Smith and Mike Pederson of Lazer helmets envisioned when they put together their 2nd annual ‘Lazer Gentlemen’s’ Ride’, which was bolstered by Rapha’s presence and took place the Saturday after Lifeboat Events 2011 Press Camp in Deer Valley, Utah.
The route through Utah Wasatch Mountains made for a serious challenge to our group’s ‘average’ fitness level both due to elevation gain, dirt roads, route finding and treacherous descending.
The actual stats came quite close, especially on the latter goal of challenge and adventure — as the 15 rider group was quickly whittled in the first 30km when a nasty 6mile/3,300ft (10km/1,000m) descent caused the failure one rider’s carbon clincher wheels, both front and rear. The failure sent her careening into a ditch at close to 40mph; she left the ride via ambulance with three cracked vertebra, while three of her teammates left to be by her side in the hospital.
Not the type of adventure we were looking for; the site of the ride's first and only crash
In the end, five make it to the finish of the ride, which totaled almost exactly 100 miles (160km) ridden over 6hr 35min (total time over 9hrs) and 9,588ft (2,922m) of climbing.
Made it, sort of, the ride officially ended at Contender Cycles, but we still had to ride 4k to the hotel
It’s rides like this that serve as reminder to why we pedal a bicycle for the experience and challenge; they also remind me that every cyclist needs a good yearly challenge like the one Lazer and Rapha put together in Utah.
There are many ways to make it happen. You might seek out a gran fondo (in our country or Europe) or a ride like this past April’s Paris Roubaix Challenge or something domestic like the Colorado Roubaix might suit your sense of adventure and budget. Or you might just sit down with a map (digital or analog) and plot out a route to ride with your buddies on some random weekend.
The tools we have at our disposal make it easier and safer to take on this type of challenge. Your Garmin 800 can offer you turn-by-turn directions and you can find a ride to up load to it on Garmin Connect or Strava.
Rapha's Lewis, requested to only be photographed in black and white or sepia (kidding)
But the point is to get out there and ride, preferably all day, till you’re legs turn to jello or some other substance with no structure; then once you’re sufficiently broken down ride yourself home.
Rides like these like big tires with puncture resistant belts, compact cranks and nice comfy saddles. They don’t discriminate between carbon and metal; Dura Ace Di2 or 105, and yes, leave those carbon clinchers at home.
They’ll re acquaint you with what’s important — being out there on the bike — and amaze you as to how good a gas station slurpee or hot dog can taste once well within your own personal pain cave.
Looks may be deceiving: Lewis ate this mid-ride
I entered my own personal pain cave in Little Cottonwood Canyon on the way to the Snowbird and Alta ski areas. The 10mile ascent broke me down, drained my bottles and left me in a world of hurt that just barely saw me survive the climb. Of course, it was nothing a Butterfinger, Gatorade, and pop couldn’t take care of at the top.
In the end, our ride ended as everyone of these should, with all of the remaining participants so blown out they’re too tired to talk, yet still hammering each other through the final miles for one reason — to simply be done with it.
A self-portrait in suffering, by Derrick Lewis
It’ll be a good story, whether you drink a PBR or a Westmalle afterward; I went with the Modelo — because we all know that Mexican food has no rival after a ride like ours.
Monkeys, helicopters and editing hell in Åre, Sweden
In this day and age, every monkey has a digital camera and can fill up Facebook album after Facebook album with binary bollocks. So it was about time that an actual monkey started shooting photographs. No doubt this week you've giggled and guffawed at the cheeky macaque monkey that took a wonderful photo of itself. But it begs an important question. If a creature that throws its own 'brown eggs' around for fun and probably doesn't even have a Twitter account can take a photo that good, then what's the point of the art and trade of photography?
Well, the difference is luck. I'm willing to bet a date with a rhino that that monkey couldn't cross-process some Ilford 500 film without mouth-boinking a frog, let alone produce and compile a five-minute slideshow of great photographs. Anybody can get lucky with a shot but it takes an exceptional photographer to be able to compile five minutes' worth of top quality photographs. I'm talking full-page, spread-eagle printed on decent stock quality, not POD shite. Well that's the challenge that's ahead of our five professional photographers at the Scandinavian Photo Challenge here in Åre, Sweden. Last night they finished shooting and today they're all locked away in dark rooms editing (not the Ilford 500 kind) while Åre is bathed in sunshine and summer heat.
For three days the five teams have been doing 12-hour days in the mountains trying to get all the "nuggs" and "bangers", as well as arty lifestyle shots, that will help them put together a five-minute slideshow. There's been a variety of approaches to it, judging from what I've seen. Some have made a plan and stuck to it, while other teams have used the age old wild and lively approach. I've been scooting around the mountain to try to get a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the slideshows. By Wednesday night, all of the teams and shooters looked exhausted (except maybe the shooter and rider who looked positively lively as they propped up Dahlbom bar until they were kicked out at closing time). Three days might not seem much, and to many people shooting photographs sounds like an easy gig, but the 30-yard stare and disheveled appearance of many teams says otherwise. If you spoke to any of these riders right now and dared utter the words, "one more time please", you might end up getting a kick in the shins with a flooded gumboot.
Mattias Fredriksson is a wizard who doesn't leave things to chance. I'm pretty sure he's been planning and plotting his show carefully for a little while. Mattias is at the top of the photography game and has experience of the photo challenges format (he won the first Whistler Crankworx Deep Summer Photo Challenge in 2009) so I'm intrigued to see what he's got. When I saw him yesterday he looked very happy and lively, so that must mean he's ticked all the boxes on his to-do list.
Markus Gerber had his remote controlled helicopter camera flown in for the competition. When the weather was good he had his camera buzzing above some of the trails and I'm intrigued to see what this tool can bring to the table. The helicopter has a Sony NEX camera mounted underneath it and Markus controls all the vital camera functions from the ground using a large remote control master desk which has a screen that shows him what the camera is seeing in real time. Even more impressive is that the helicopter flies itself. Once Markus has found the spot for the helicopter he ‘parks’ it in the air and it keeps itself in that spot using GPS.
I haven’t been able to catch up with Team Norway at all. They're a mysterious bunch who've had a very lowkey approach to the days of shooting. Which I figure must mean they were too busy working up on the mountains. I'm intrigued to see what they have, for sure.
Camilla Stoddart has been trying to buy my vote by giving me beer and inviting me to join the rest of her team in the sauna but I laid down the law and told her I couldn't be bought. However, I'm not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, especially when it comes in a 500ml can. Camilla says she's really nervous but I think that's been good because she'll no doubt present a beautiful show come Friday night. One of the other photographers, Grant Robinson, came up to her and acted all fanboy because he's a huge fan of her work. Talking of Grant Robinson, he's named his team 'Monkey and the Woos' which brings us full circle to the start of this story.
Today at 1pm all five teams have to hand in their completed slideshows. I have a feeling there will be some frantic last-minute edits happening as late as 12.30pm and there will also be some sighs of relief. However, the nerves will start afresh at 8.30pm when the hall will start filling up with the audience and the public showing begins. If you're near Åre, please drop in for a full night of entertainment. For now, check out the latest image gallery by Simon Sjoren.
Fog, mud and 24-hour daylight in Are, Sweden
Every year some of the world's most talented mountain bike photographers and riders get together in Åre, Sweden for the Scandinavian Photo Challenge. This year's head judge is the UK's Seb Kemp, who's put together an image gallery showing some of the action so far. Over to Seb...
Here's a slideshow of the first few days at the Scandinavian Photo Challenge presented by Nikon. The teams – consisting of one photographer and four world-class riders – each get three days to shoot, followed by two days of editing a slideshow that will presented during a huge party on Friday, and judged by a jury of media professionals.
To further spice things up, the teams this year have to look outside the bikepark to include all-mountain and cross-country riding in their slideshows, to complement the freeride imagery.
The 2011 roster is made up by five highly talented bike photographers from all over the world, each with a different style and approach to bike photography:Mattias Fredriksson, Sweden – www.mattiasfredriksson.com Markus Greber, Germany – www.markusgreber.com Kristoffer Kippernes, Norway – www.kippernesfoto.no Grant Robinson, Canada/UK – www.grantrobinson.com Camilla Stoddart, UK/New Zealand – www.camillastoddartphotography.com
Riders include Darcy Turenne, Linus Sjöholm, John Alm Högman, Rob Jauch, Richard Cunynghame, Hannah Barnes and Henrik Kippernes, to name but a few.
As head judge, my duties include riding my bike as and when I want, drinking coffee, eating cake and occasionally seeing how the teams are getting on. I've been following the teams around trying to get some behind-the-scenes stories and just observe how they work, but it's been hard finding them in the fog. Today I caught up with Markus Greber's team and nosed around their setup.
I bumped into various riders/shooters throughout the day and everyone is looking tired but upbeat from non-stop shooting. Usually these things are from sun-up till sundown but as the sun doesn't go down here in Are at this time of the year it means they're running non-stop. It's a marathon for the whole team and they're only halfway there. I did see Grant's team last night too. Grant has got his team making him dinner and feeding him chocolate milk at all hours.
If you happen to be in Are, Sweden this week then make sure you come along to the big showing on Friday night – 8.30pm at the Holiday Club Arena in town. Big show, big lights, big screens, big booze-up afterwards. Also, the riding here is fantastic. See you in the Hyddan for the best cake ever...
Tern: A new folding bike brand takes flight
There's a buzz in the air, with an expectation of something a bit different. Maybe it’s the stifling heat and humidity, or maybe it’s the fraught bus ride we've just endured, where the driver took us on a circuitous tour of backstreet Taipei and must have broken every law in the book (except speeding). Either way, there's a feeling of anticipation.
We're ushered into a once-derelict warehouse, now restored internally as a venue and art space. In front of us, there's a giant screen and black stage. We have no idea what's being launched but we know it involves ‘Son of Dahon’ Joshua Hon. We've already spent two days in his company; he looked relaxed, excited and happy.
No-one is giving the game (or the name) away, though one of the European PR crew is sporting a tiny, bird-shaped silver badge. Origami in style, this links into a folding bike brand. He looks sheepish and has been rumbled, though it gets us nowhere – I didn’t bring my Ladybird Book of Birds with me.
The lights darken, and out comes Josh himself, wearing a headset microphone and a big, beaming smile. He talks with confidence about heritage, history and the future, about commuting, sustainable transport and the need to evolve the niche. He almost doesn't say the ‘D’ word (Dahon). He does eventually mention the ‘T’ word, and there's a bold graphic of that 'origami bird’.
Tern, the name of a migratory bird, in fact, the longest flying migratory bird. Tern, now also the latest bike brand out there, only eight months in conception and with a span of 22 models in production, all folders. Then the video kicks in, with a strong bird ident. We see commuters, roads, paths, gorgeous people enjoying an urban lifestyle aboard a Tern, sweeping lines, aesthetics and small wheels. The bikes look amazing, but this is soft focus, aspirational ‘car advert’ fluff. We want bikes, not managed content.
Tern vice-president Joshua Hon with the new Verve
Next up is Matt Davis, the North American director of sales and marketing guy we've got to know over the past few days, equally excited, committed and passionate. He explains some of the technicalities – the hinge manufacturing, the design process – and he too oozes Tern. These guys have had to hold back on the brand name and now their passion spews forth into the world. Apparently it's all in the ride.
So begins the ‘fashion show’, with modern ‘pumping choons’ and deep bass to add to the mix. As the curtains draw back we see bikes ridden by male and female models, stunt riders and the Finnish designer himself Joakim Uimonen, all in 'city slicker' and 'commuter' poses. The look is fantastic: bold colours, simple flowing lines and strong identities.
The first fold we see is a proud one: the designer takes all of three seconds to convert his Verge into its folded form. Obviously he's practised this but it's a slick and efficient operation nonetheless. Impressive. Even more impressive is the fold back to a bike: positive, simple and intuitive – watch out London Nocturne 2012! Then off he rides. No adjustment, cable management or stowing of parts – it's all there.
There's something more than just ‘commuter bikes’ on show here, and Josh Hon sums this up eloquently using the phrase, “Bikes which fold, not folding bikes”. The Tern team appear on stage together, a tight group of passionate, globally sourced people, predominantly from within the Dahon stable, they take the applause but know this is where the hard work begins: turning designs, production samples and an ethos into a global bike company.
Apparently, it's all in the ride. So, enduring the stifling heat and humidity, the gathered journalists mount up and go for a ride, a two-hour mixture of urban, canal towpath and traffic avoidance; a pretty good test. There's a real mixture of Terns to choose from – 20, 24 or 26in wheels, with derailleur gearing or Shimano Alfine/two-speed hub gears, and a choice of V-brakes, discs or coaster brakes.
Tern's bikes have some neat features, like integrated headlights powered by dynamo hubs
Folding bikes tend to have a lazy nature, with a feeling of disconnectedness between the front and rear wheels when you put the power down. To address this, Tern are using the manufacturers behind Syntace to make the hinge mechanisms for them. Bushed and sleeved pivots are used, resulting in tight tolerances. The pivot wear points are replaceable, and the impregnated plastics should stay smooth and wear slowly, keeping long-term costs low and shrugging off bad weather and low maintenance – ideal characteristics for the intended market.
Making products that are reliable and easy to maintain is key to Tern's philosophy. They see convenience for the consumer as the key driver, and don't believe in innovation just for the sake of it. There are still some good ideas on their bikes though, like their integrated headlight – admittedly not a new concept – driven by an HG Hub from Dahon's in-house component brand BioLogic. This delivers power like any dynamo hub, yet the resistance can be turned off when not required, allowing the wheel to spin freely.
Back to the ride. There were lots of short sharp climbs, brake tests, kerb drops and quick direction changes on the route. The three very different models we tried coped well, with a 'snap out of the gate' you wouldn't associate with a folder. There were lots of pleasing little design points like V-brake mounts behind the fork (so that braking forces pull the brake onto the rim, rather than twisting it off), logoed blanking bolts on the rack bosses, and cable routing that didn't flex badly when folding.
Above all this ‘design intelligence’, the bikes were just sorted: no ghost shifting, frame flexing or front wheel wobble. The bikes weren't compromised by having a pivot in the middle, and didn't feel like folders. The ride was responsive and comfortable.
The hinge, with its patented floating link, is designed to be durable and low-maintenance
We were given an opportunity to speak at length with Josh and Matt, to find out more about the brand, the ethos and the products. They described the venture as a collaboration of minds and said it was quite a departure from the past, using modern manufacturing and design principles, and focussing on utility, not just folding bikes.
It's the desire for utility that's spurring on this brand. There are no carbon fibre versions, suspension parts or belt drives. When collapsed, the hinge edges are smooth, with the locking mechanism smoothly protecting the patented floating link from damage and debris. The unlock mechanisms have failure points built in to prevent damage to clothing. None of the component parts is so obscure as to render its failure the end of the bicycle, and Tern aim to have spares available worldwide within three days.
They're keeping things simple, with just two main hinge designs, commonality of spares across the range and only three base colours. Allied with custom graphics this reduces the manufacturing options, while allowing some degree of uniqueness. Tern bikes have an undeniable heritage taken from Dahon, but the approach seems to be more revolutionary than evolutionary.
Passion for bikes goes deep at Tern, with a rider programme for employees: commit to ride to work and you get a Tern to do it on; the more you commit, the better the bike. New employees are asked if they ride as part of the interview. These may be little touches, but they show commitment.
Tern show similar commitment to the end buyer. You don’t want a bike that's obsolete as soon as you buy it, and Josh says the full range will rotate every three years, so that the company have longer design cycles to create better products. This is refreshing in a seasonally driven marketplace, and reflects the ethos and culture of the company.
BikeRadar tackles British Cycling's Bike Maintenance Workshops
As someone who spends the majority of their spare time on a road bike, my mechanical skills should be way ahead of the level where they currently languish. Previous efforts - usually from my dad - to offer fixing advice have tended to fall on deaf ears. I’ve never had the patience or the mechanical mind to sit around and be shown how to change a brake or gear cable; it was always interfering with good riding time.
But now, with my bike starting to creak with old age, an over-reliance on good fortune was slowly being exposed. Punctures, spoke breakages, gear troubles – the problems were coming thick and fast and after years of problem-free riding, my ignorance was beginning to catch me out.
I'd bought books, I'd watched videos and they were helping – just not enough. I felt what I really needed was a tutorial by an experienced mechanic, someone I could watch and learn from and ask questions of when I inevitably went wrong. So when I learnt that British Cycling’s Bike Maintenance workshops were rolling into town, I signed myself up.
The eight-hour Intermediate course I went for (they also currently do Introductory and, later this year, Advanced courses) costs £125 for non-British Cycling members, which may seem a big outlay. But with costs of servicing on the rise, I’d argue it’s a shrewd investment. Even if you still have to shell out for new components, the money saved on labour in the DIY approach will far outstrip the course cost over your lifetime.
I arrived at 9am and was greeted by my tutors for the day – Iain McClellan and Graham Moore. They are the guys behind Pro Tool School, which was set up last summer by Iain and his old British Cycling colleague Peter “Spike” Taylor, with an aim to teach bike maintenance from grass roots to the professional ranks. Peter is the former GB Cycling Team head mechanic, while Iain has worked predominantly for mountain biking teams in Britain and Europe.
Iain McClellan (right) has worked with many professional cycling teams, both on the road and in mountain biking
I was hoping for a hands-on course, and after only five minutes of Powerpoint, Iain pointed us in the direction of the gloves and overalls and we set to work. The first task was to brush-up on bike anatomy by tagging labels to the relevant components, which I negotiated easily enough. We then covered stem height adjustment and bearing replacement; again, fairly simple. We whizzed through mending broken chains, removing and installing wheels and what to carry on the move, which was familiar territory.
Replacing an inner tube was next up and is a skill I could always improve. Iain informed us the national average is 25 minutes, which is frankly appalling if true. My admiration at the time he took during his demo – 32 seconds – was matched by his visible disappointment, which he claimed was five seconds short of his Pro Tool School record. I’d have been pleased with my time – a whisker over three minutes – had I not been the last to finish by a considerable distance.
Iain went through brake pad and inner brake cable replacement – again, easy when you know how. Knowing how to adjust front and rear derailleur limiter screws (which stop your chain slipping off your cassette) was very useful, as was gear indexing (tuning the gears so they run smoothly) – new found knowledge I put into action as soon as I got home. Replacing an inner gear cable rounded off the day, which was probably the trickiest task to master.
Graham Moore (right) is an experienced downhill mountain biker who recently started at Pro Tool School
So, all in all, it was an extremely useful course. Anyone interested in the course but feels like they have these skills covered should look at the Advanced courses starting in November, which will cover, amongst others, cassette and chainset replacement, wheel truing and rear derailleur cog replacement. British Cycling advise you work your way through the different levels, as there is little overlap in course content.
Apart from the skills I picked up, the biggest thing I took away was that learning bike mechanic skills needn’t be something to dread. Self-servicing your bike isn’t just about saving yourself a bit of cash; it’s also an empowering experience, to have the skills which make worrying about where your next mechanical problem is coming from a thing of the past. I’ve always found biking offers a freedom which other forms of exercise and transport fall short on, but I’ve realised you’ll always be held back without the skills to fix mechanicals when they inevitably rear their ugly head.
To find out more information about each course, meet the team and book your place online, visit www.goskyride.com/Bike-Maintenance-Workshops.
Talking, texting banned on bikes
Last year the California State Senate passed a bill that fines bicyclists who text while riding, and this April the bill was extended to include bicyclists who talk on handheld phones whilst riding as well.
Riders who break the law face a $20 fine for the first offense, and a $50 fine for each additional offense. It must be stressed however, that former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into a similar ban for drivers back in 2008.
So isn’t this really just leveling the playing field?
Similar moves have failed in other states. A bill that would have banned cellular phone use by bicyclists in Virginia died in committee in February. A quick search online found that many cyclists are up in arms that they can’t pedal and text or talk.
Personally, I think this is a wise move.
Texting is extremely dangerous to do while driving, and it is probably worse for a bicycle rider; especially considering this thing called balance comes into play. Imagine a rider on the road, in traffic, barely in control — texting; even in parks and on bike paths it puts other users at risk.
As a long time resident of New York City, it was a common sight for me to see people gabbing on their phones while riding the loop in Central Park. This one handed riding makes it difficult to maintain control and more importantly brake accordingly.
But worse it causes distracted riders. I cannot tell you how many times I had to yell to get someone’s attention while trying to pass — as the rider was engaged in conversation on their phone — and then the rider ended up enraged at me for yelling to gain their attention so that I could safely pass.
That said, I’ve always answered my phone. I mean, it might be an important call.
So I can tell you from my own firsthand account that it is more difficult to control the bike on the winding roadway. However, whenever I felt that it wasn’t a quick, “are you at the park yet” type of call from a buddy or my wife, I tended to stop to the side to finish the call.
Most conscientious riders would do the same thing.
And maybe this is the bigger issue. Not to sound like a bicycle elitist or anything, but it was generally the casual riders who most often decided that an hour long ride was a great time to catch up on the phone for an hour.
Is it the phone’s fault?
There is another issue here, it isn’t so much the use of the mobile phones, but how distracted a rider may be. Many states ban headphones while driving, an irony given that drivers can turn the stereo up so loud as to make no difference. But now there are bans of headphones while riding, and particular restriction has been debated longer than mobile phones have been commonplace.
Oregon had introduced a house bill in January that would prohibit bicycle riders from using “listening devices” and this would include mobile phones and MP3 players, as well as headphones with fines up to $90. Other states and communities have bans on headphones as well.
In the end it really comes down to common sense. From my own experience, it is commonplace to see runners with headphones, while many cyclists wouldn’t be caught dead wearing headphones. This isn’t to say that runners are more dangerous (I run and cycle, sometimes doing both in the same day) or cyclists safer. Rather it’s about being aware of the surroundings and the environment. Runners remain pedestrians whereas bicyclists need to follow the rules of the road.
Headphones are dangerous in general because they block the noise, but the level of distraction is far less. So if you can ride safely and legally with headphones — such as on a lightly traveled bike path — then headphones might not be a problem.
Regardless the best strategy is to pay attention, and that might mean making time to focus on riding, and find a different time to text and talk.