Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Engineering meets Reality

One early summer day in 2000, the shop got a call from an engineer working on a project he told us was secret. All he needed from us was some simple mechanical work.

"I want you to take apart the front wheel of a mountain bike and replace the hub with one I'll send you. The spokes will need to be about 7 inches long."

"How did you derive that number?" I asked.

"Well, that's just the 26-inch rim diameter, minus the diameter of my hub," he said. "That'll do it, right?"

"Not quite," I said. "Got a pencil?"

The bike spoke length formula is a longer chunk of math than most of us readily deal with, involving cosines and square roots and stuff. Personally, because I had difficulty with math class, I would only tackle it with a calculator. I reeled it off to the engineer.

"Whoa," he said. "I thought bikes were simple."

"Maybe, but not that simple. You're looking for a tangent running from one circumference out to another. Your spoke has to be long enough to reach with ample thread, but short enough not to stick into the area where the inner tube goes.

"It will be cheaper to build you wheels than to sub in your hubs, too."

We ended the conversation and each ran the calculation using his hub dimensions and the effective rim diameter of the rim I suggested.

Over the course of several days and numerous phone calls and emails, we determined the wheel would have to be spoked radially, because the dimensions he had already specified meant that we couldn't adjust anything to make room for tangential, crossed spokes.

"You shoulda come to see me sooner," I said.

We ordered the parts and extra tooling we would need to produce three front wheels for the three prototype bikes he finally told us he was developing. Then we waited for the hubs.

The engineer did not know a lot about the specific details of bike construction when he started with us, but he knew them by the time we finished. He'd gone into this not knowing the standard diameter of a front axle or the over-locknut width of a front hub, yet he hoped to use stock forks. So he had parts being machined before he knew exactly how to make them fit existing pieces of his planned structure.

A friend of mine describes an engineer as a person with all the common sense taught out of them.

He had enthusiasm and a willingness to persevere. Good thing, too, because our shop put in a lot of hours. I would ride this thing through to a billable result, come what may.

Despite his assurance that the product would make a big splash when it came out, and his promise that he would send us any press items about it, the wheels went out and his payment came in, and we heard no more about it.

Then, last summer, a local family brought in their spiffy new electric bikes. The wheel configuration looked oddly familiar. The motor was no longer in the front hub, but the front hub was still a large drum to accommodate the battery.

Ralph and I rode the bikes after we peformed the minor repairs they needed. They're fast, with two power settings, a low-power cruise mode that supposedly yields a 20-mile range, and a "turbo" setting, for very snappy acceleration.

Like all electric bikes, they weigh a lot, around 50 pounds, so no one is likely to pedal them much. Like all electric bikes, they're really just a clean-running, rule-beating small motorcycle. Shhh. Don't tell the government. You'll have to register them and stay off the bike path. But they're the best example I've seen so far, much sportier than the EBikes another customer brought in.

The models we saw use regular rim brakes. These are definitely inadequate for a vehicle of that mass. At the very least, pad wear will be rapid. The arms flex alarmingly under hard stopping.

Of course you may not notice the brake arms flexing if you're distracted by the way the standard mountain bike suspension fork bends under its load.

Bike stuff is light because the human motor is weak, so the vehicle itself has to be built lightly. Motor vehicle stuff is heavy because fuel or batteries, and motors, engines and drive trains are chunky, to contain and direct the forces generated with that extra horsepower. It is hard to merge the two. Any motor, even a woefully inadequate one, will make a bike weigh much more than a rider of any ability will want to push around by muscle power. The better it is as a motor vehicle, the more irrelevant its pedals become.

That being said, I'd rather share the road with electric motorcycles than gas-guzzling barges.

It was a fun project. We all learned a lot and shared what we knew.

So what will this summer bring?

Look what the engineer dragged in. We got a call in 2000 from an engineer at WaveCrest Labs, asking if we could spoke up some wheels for an electric vehicle prototype. The hub shells were being machined in Tuftonboro, so we were the closest bike shop. We had to calculate the spoke length and make 108 custom spokes before building the wheels. This interesting project turned out to be an early stage in the development of the bikes now marketed under the Tidal Force brand name. The production hubs are smaller, allowing for slightly longer spokes.
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Friday, March 25, 2005

Intermodal Adventure

The train swayed and clacked over the rails. Afternoon sun beat in through the windows of the boarding doors of the car’s vestibule.

I leaned my bike vertically against something that didn’t wiggle and work every time the train jostled. Holding the rear brake lever, I could keep it from rolling around as I tried to maintain my balance. I was in the space between two cars, watching their two platforms jerk back and forth.

This was intermodal transportation in 1980.

Somehow I had gotten the idea that one could ride a bike to the train station and board the train with the bike to cross greater distances than one could conveniently ride. Scraps of articles, vague conversations with other riders alluded to this sensible concept.

I got up at 5 a.m. to ride from Annapolis to the New Carrollton Amtrak station. I’d been riding the rails all winter to visit my girlfriend at Rutgers, in New Brunswick, New Jersey, but now it was spring, and I was training on the bike again. I was tired of having to bum a ride to New Carrollton or Baltimore.

The 6:30 Metroliner rolled in. I stepped up to the doors with the handful of other passengers. A conductor stopped me.

“Whoa, whoa, you can’t take that on the train,” he said, pointing to the bike. He was nice about it. We knew each other by sight, after my months shuttling up and down the line on missions of what appeared at the time to be true love.

I explained my plan, indicating the various trains I’d stitched together in my timetable.

“Tell you what,” he said. “I’ll let you ride as far as Philly. You can get a train with a baggage car there. That’ll take you the rest of the way to New Brunswick.”

He showed me into a car with a large space behind the last row of seats. I leaned the bike up against the wall and hunkered down beside it. We were on our way.

Those first accommodations were pretty cushy. The conductor even dropped by to see how I was doing. He apparently approved of my low-key presentation.

We said a cordial farewell at Philadelphia. I went to the platform where my next train was supposed to be.

Feeling confident after the friendly treatment the first conductor gave me, I walked up to the burly man in uniform beside this train and explained that I needed to put my bike in the baggage car.

“We don’t open the baggage car here,” he growled. “And your bike has to be in a box. Take the Conrail.”

After some negotiation, he told me to wait until the train was just about to pull out and then hop on through the doors of the car right in front of me. I could stand between the cars as far as Trenton, where I could get a Conrail train the rest of the way.

So now I stood on the dimpled metal flooring of my jostling cell, meditating on the beauties of the slums and industrial wastelands through which the rails ran.

Voices emanated from the leading car. I gathered it was the club car. As the muffled altercation grew clearer, I determined that the burly conductor was arguing with a railroad employee traveling for free, who had gotten drunk and disorderly.

The club car door slid open. The burly conductor shoved a smaller man roughly into the space I occupied with my bike. They continued their argument. Then the smaller man swung a fist at the larger one. The larger one felled the smaller one, swiftly kicked him and pulled his leg back to kick again.

I met his eye. Enough was enough. The burly conductor straightened out his clothing and withdrew into the club car.

The smaller man backed into the corner opposite mine. I didn’t really want to hear his story. I wouldn’t let the big man kick the crap out of him in my presence, but I had no way to judge any other merits of his case. We lurched on in silence for a few more minutes until the train slowed, then stopped, in Trenton.

As soon as the doors opened, I hopped out and headed away from the train. The police were arriving. Since I had not been supposed to be there at all, it seemed like time to disappear. I went looking for a Conrail train.

The Conrail conductor was another grouch, but he finally agreed to let me get into the back of a car and squeeze into another seatless space.

A woman in the next seat was convinced I must be some globetrotting adventurer. She wouldn’t let go of the notion, no matter how many times I told her I was just some schmoe trying an ill-conceived experiment.

Before I could be tempted to start making up stories to satisfy her craving for vicarious adventure, the grouchy conductor came up as the train was starting to move and told me to get the hell off, because he’d changed his mind.

Trenton’s not so far from New Brunswick. I could look in on my grandparents and grab a bite of lunch.

After a nice visit, my grandfather gave me a lift a few miles out of town and released me into the wild.

I broke a spoke coming into Princeton, but college towns always have bike shops. I bought a spoke and managed to snake it into the wheel, working on the steps out front. I’d fallen for piano-wire spokes when I’d built this wheel set, and I was regretting it regularly.

Back on the road, I wound down the last miles to New Brunswick. In the middle of town, I dropped into a left turn and immediately crashed because my front tire had been going flat and I hadn’t noticed.

I dragged my scraped and tired body out of the intersection and trudged the last couple of blocks.

Companions make all the difference, even if you just have them for a short time. When I tried to board a train to return home at the end of the weekend, my girlfriend was with me. This was a one-shot deal, one train all the way to New Carrollton. All I had to do was get aboard.

The conductor, yet another one, started to deny me boarding.

My girlfriend broke down in tears. I don’t even remember what she said, but it was a grief-stricken torrent of hard luck and need.

“All right, all right,” he finally said. “Get on, keep quiet, and if anyone gives me crap about it I’ll throw you off.”

My girlfriend shut off the dramatics instantly.

“There you go,” she said briskly to me. “Call me when you get home.”

A quick kiss and I was on my way.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005


This is the drive for early season rides and slick roads. We don't need no stinkin' brakes -- although I do have a front one for times of urgent need. Otherwise just hop and backpedal. This is a stock shot. No plants will be green around here for another two months.
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Change of Season

Some years, the snow and cross-country skiing hang on into cycling season, making the transition harder.

The snow itself doesn't make the riding difficult. The skiing does.

Cross-country skiing uses the whole body for propulsion. Cycling uses half to two-thirds. Maybe five-eighths. Or is it five ninths?

Who cares? Basically, in cycling the arms are along for the ride.

Skiing uses the legs through a smaller range of motion than cycling, but supporting body weight. But the arms do a surprising amount, especially climbing hills.

Coming off of a good ski season, I not only have a bit more weight up top in the form of triceps, lats and other supporting structures, I'm also accustomed to charging up the hills with all muscles firing. The winter quadriceps have a different mass and shape from the summer quadriceps.

On the bike, all power comes from the lower body. I have to get used to moving my body mass with only my leg muscles. The power stroke starts with my legs much more bent than in skiing, and uses muscles on the back of the leg to pull up for part of the pedal stroke.

The effect is not the same as if I had taken the winter off, but it requries care. I'm used to hurting a certain amount, breathing at a certain intensity. Going that hard on the bike right out of the gate can damage aging knees, and strain other connective tissue.

Then there's the ass.

How soon and how gladly it forgets the iron discipline of the racing saddle, or any saddle, for that matter. The pain does not just come from sitting astride the saddle, but from the exertion of large muscles in that space between your femur and your bike's seat. Tighten your upper arm and have someone punch you over and over, driving a knuckle into that hard muscle.

Very soon, though never soon enough, the body remembers. Muscle gets redistributed. Saddle toughness returns. But I have a deadline.

Commuting begins with Daylight Saving Time. At that point I have enough daylight to complete the ride bracketing the workday, and I can put the car up on blocks. But this year I will be working up north, a 70-mile round trip, past the beginning of Daylight Saving Time. Not only does that delay the start of full bike transportation, it robs me of daylight for riding base miles. And it keeps me right beside an irresistible cross-country trail network.

Jackson's roads don't favor early rides. There's a flat mile loop around the village and then a selection of ugly walls leading up a couple of valley roads and the Col du Thorn Hill, also known as Thorn Hill Road. Not much to offer for low intensity reconditioning.

It will sort itself out. It always does.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Bicycle Retailer

I always read Bicycle Retailer through squinted eyes, as if looking at a highway accident or a surgery on film. I want a filter of eyelashes to soften the impact of what could be a gruesome sight.

The bike industry supports cycling the way Ducks Unlimited supports waterfowl. If you want unsuspecting ducks to blow away, you have to support their habitat and well being. No sense having pollution and urban sprawl kill your feathered friends before you get a chance to shoot them.

There are actually some cyclists in the bike industry. They're either the ones whose companies fold up because they care more about the product than the bottom line, or they transfer their former racing ferocity into business competition and ride their competitors into the ground.

Sometimes change represents improvement. Sometimes innovation is good. But a business is looking for income. A substandard product, aggressively marketed, can displace a good product building its reputation slowly, a rider at a time. There aren't that many discerning riders. We don't have that much time.

The bike industry rates the health of the sport by how much money consumers are spending. That's crap. The health of the sport is measured by how often people ride, how many places they can ride, how much they want to ride.

I ride a lot. I spend little. Most riders I have known over the years spend their time on the road or trail, not in the bike shop. Sure, we all like some nice new goodies once in a while. Sure, we might need to replace something we broke or wore out. But even when the money's low, the mileage is high. I will ride.

The industry does not notice riders like me. We don't represent a pot of gold to them. But riders who ride are the ones who maintain cycling's place in traffic. We're out there, being seen. Ignored, we still perform a vital function maintaining the activity on which the industry feeds.

They're servicing cyclists the way the bull services the cow. As stewards of our mechanical needs, they're doing a miserable job. They keep jacking up the potency of the crack, dressing the harlots in more outlandish fetishistic attire, to try to get more chumps to throw down, when they should be concentrating on solid things that last.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005


Nationalistic thread pitches notwithstanding, Shimano took incompatibility to new heights in the 1990s. Cyclists are the losers in bike industry competition.
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Wednesday, March 09, 2005


It'’s hard to ride a completely Shimano-free bike. I don'’t even say you should. Shimano still makes a nice barcon shifter for road bikes. You can get it in 8- and 9-speed models, both with the option of friction shifting. And there i’s always old Shimano. Pluck it off a junker. Buy old stock. Buy it second hand.

Make yourself a sticker that says it succinctly. Take a standard Shimano sticker, such as the little tapes they provide to secure the wires of a Flight Dork computer. They say SHIMANO in a font that facilitates conversion. Cut the sides away from the M. Cut away the A. You’re left with a sticker that says SHIT NO. You can also trim one down to say NO STI. Wear them proudly.
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Monday, March 07, 2005

Combat!

The summer after college I was commuting by bike from Annapolis to Kent Island every weekday, to the North Sails loft. The route was pretty nice in 1979, across the old flat drawbridge over the Severn River and out the winding roads through St. Margaret’s to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Except for the morning a yellowjacket flew up my shorts as I rode close along a honeysuckle-covered hedge, nothing bad happened. I even met some interesting people as I hitch-hiked across the Bay Bridge with my bike. The commuting regulars got to recognize me.

Some motorists can be arrogant cowards. They’ll honk, yell, swerve or throw things and speed away, unwilling to hear any rebuttal from the motorless moron they consider to be simply a target for their contempt. That kind of spinelessness always infuriated me. Sooner or later, one is bound to come by.

One evening, my younger brother, age 13, made what was for him a long road ride, six or seven miles out to the Bay Bridge to meet me so he could ride home with me. He was doing well when we reached the beginning of the long, straight, flat causeway of the Severn River bridge. I put him in front, riding close along the low curb, and rode behind him, about 12 inches into the lane, to encourage motorists to go a little wider around him.

About a quarter of the way across the bridge, we heard a long, commanding horn blast.

“Get the fuck off the road,” yelled the driver.

“Cram it up your ass,” I responded with rapier wit, waving my middle finger at him to emphasize my intellectual superiority.

The lad downshifted and brought his little Datsun full of teenage cronies up beside me. Every one of them who could bring his puckered face to a window proceeded to spit on me.

Years before, I had attended an expensive prep school in Severna Park. The bullies there liked to spit on people. I was short, pudgy and nearsighted at the time, so I received a number of phlegm showers before I finally split someone’s lip and put a stop to it, far too late. But at the time I was reluctant to unleash the beast of violence.

In the intervening years I had grown more than a foot taller and studied combat sports. Still considering myself basically nonviolent, I also knew that you don’t give a bully any encouragement. And getting clammed on flips me right out.

The car, of course, sped away. Rage burst inside me. I sprinted around my brother to chase the receding car. I alternated between full-out sprinting and sitting up to make the most provocative crude gestures I could, hoping to piss them off enough to stop and have it out. I was berserk.

They were getting away. I crested the rise on the Naptown side of the bridge to see them beating the yellow at the next light at Gate Eight of the Naval Academy. They headed for the left turn lane at King George Street, the next intersection, where the red light waited to stop them.

“For what I am about to do, forgive me,” I murmured as I sprinted through the red light at Gate Eight. I did not ask forgiveness for my desire to rain napalm on the cowardly teens in the car. I simply apologized to the gods of Effective Cycling for giving cyclists a bad name by blowing through this red light. But I felt it served the greater good of educating some young punks who were about to get the surprise of their short lives.

One, two, three, big stomps on a big gear, full out for the finish line, I came up beside their car just as they got the green, pulled the pump off the frame and shattered it across the trunk lid, thrust my middle finger into the astonished driver’s face on the fly-by and yelled, “Come and get it, you assholes!”

I intended then to elude them in the maze of small streets in West Annapolis. I wanted to leave them feeling as frustrated and abused as I had felt.

Then I remembered my brother. Twerps of low character, such as my attackers in the dented Datsun, would think nothing of pummeling and curb-stomping an idealistic 13-year-old. Besides, there had been no time to explain anything as I launched my pursuit back on the bridge. I was going to have to stop and draw fire. It could be me, pummeled and curb-stomped, especially since my anger had largely evaporated with the satisfaction of smashing their car after they thought they’d gotten clean away. I will cherish forever the sight of them hitting their heads on the inside of the car as they jumped out of their seats at the sound of impact. And then their goggling eyes as I whipped past them, triumphant. But this could be a costly victory.

I pulled off at the wide bit of gravel shoulder just before the chipped concrete bridge over the overgrown tracks of the B&A Railroad. I laid my bike well away from the road and turned to face whatever would come next.

The car pulled up, occupants yelling. I yelled back, but I’d lost my edge. I didn’t care about anything except getting my brother safely home. I did not feel any guilt at ratcheting up the danger level by retaliating to these creeps. I would have done it again in a minute. But now I felt the ledger was balanced. I wanted to get out of it without inflicting any more damage or receiving any more than I had to.

The teens yelled, but would not approach or make eye contact until they had extracted their largest man, a football player, by the looks of him. He had a few inches of height and several pounds of upper body muscle on me.

“What do you mean, hitting our car with that tire pump?” he yelled. “I’ll stick that pump up your ass!”

“Yeah, I bet that’s not all you’d like to stick up my ass,” I said, trying to imply that he enjoyed show tunes and umbrella drinks more than he-man hand-to-hand fighting.

“Yeah, maybe,” he responded, in a suddenly softened voice.

Uh oh. We moved on to the safe realm of fisticuffs.

Actually, I don’t think his fist was fully closed when he swept it across my face, yanking my glasses off and dislodging the cartilage at the end of my nose. I had to decide immediately whether to tighten up my stance and shatter his eye sockets with a quick one-two or try to slow things down a little.

I ducked under his next swing and grabbed him around the waist. I knew I could easily lift him, which I thought might sober him up a little.

Unfortunately, most of his height must have been in his legs. He tippy-toed the ground as I tried to drive him back against the car, and we ended up falling to the ground in a disorderly heap, with me on the bottom, prone.

He started saying some of the things bigger kids say to smaller kids when they’re grinding the little kids’ faces in the dirt, while I regretted my decision not to hammer him with well-focused blows while we were both still standing.

I was reaching back with my free hand to see if I could get a grip on any tender facial features when I saw two things. The first was national cycling star Thomas Prehn, who lived in town. We’d met once, and he’d already generously offered training tips and invitations to ride. I watched him wisely ride past without even glancing over at the vulgarians scuffling in the dirt. Then my view was blocked, first by some very businesslike black wall tires, then by some very shiny shoes at the end of olive drab pant legs with a black stripe.

The cavalry had arrived.

A great weight was lifted off me. I never did learn his name.

The teens all started babbling at once about the mean cyclist and his unprovoked attack. I may have been barely more than a teen myself, certainly young and stupid, but I was smart enough to know that the state trooper was going to want to listen to whoever was being quiet, not the ones who were raving.

The driver told his story first. They were just driving along and this guy on the bike was blocking traffic and they asked me to get out of the way and I flipped out and smashed his Dad’s brand-new car.

That’s when I noticed the dealer sticker in the rear quarter window, above the nice, fresh, Silca-shaped dent in the brandy-new paint work.

The officer asked for my story. I sounded a little too stuffy as I tried to understate my own rudeness while still owning up to flipping the bird and sprinting them down. I denied nothing, only tried to describe their transgression fully.

The officer silenced us both with a hand.

“You,” he said to the driver. “You can file a complaint about the damage to your car.
“You,” he said, pointing to me. “You can file assault charges on the basis of the initial attack and this subsequent incident.”

Even the idiot driver knew that my assault charge made his property damage complaint look pathetic. Assault. And battery, dude, don’t forget the battery. My nose was crooked, bleeding slightly, and my younger brother, who had arrived for the festivities, was holding the bent remains of my glasses.

I let the teenagers dangle for a long moment before I declared that I was prepared to forget it if they were.

Legally speaking, they were. They did shout dire threats as they drove away, but talk is cheap. You gotta catch me first.

I rode the few blocks home full of the giddiness that follows adrenaline. I burst in on my father and started to tell my story, looking for some praise and sympathy, for standing up to the forces of evil.

“Oh, you didn’t,” he said, aghast. “Do they know where you live? Are they going to trash our house? You should have just ignored them. Now who knows what they’ll do? Jesus!”

Not what I was looking for.

I called my best buddy Jim. We’d ridden many miles together. He’d had plenty of encounters. He’d had a set-to with an 18-wheeler on Route 441 in central Florida, for crying out loud. He’d understand.

“Jeez, man, you should have just let it go. That was so totally wrong,” said Jim.

I hung up the phone and retreated to my favorite haunt overlooking the river, where I could enjoy the soft dusk, the flickering fireflies, and the appetizing barbecuing of brain cells.

As disappointed as I was by the lack of sympathy, my father and Jim were right. Giving way to violence had not created the change I wanted to see in the world. I had only gotten to retaliate, and only partially effectively.

Make no mistake, that saber cut with the pump was as glorious as any fluid arc of steel that ever won me a bout in college. The timing, the force were perfect. Everything went my way in that pursuit. And if I’d been the true devotee of violence, I could have decked each punk as he exited the vehicle, incapacitated them with hammer blows and disappeared without giving them any chance. I had the advantage as they tried to struggle quickly out of their tin can. But I didn’t want it to go further. I’d said my piece with a loud bang across the trunk lid. I was as concerned with not hurting them further as I was with avoiding harm myself.

That is a weird damn feeling. It certainly goes against most of what we get fed in the media. Even our heroes are turning into psychotic killing machines, able to smile one minute and snuff a life the next. Great, glorious, conscienceless stuff.

I was not yet fully ready to put aside the sword. Maybe I’m not even now, though it rusts. But I also was not willing to be ruled by anger.

I pedaled home in the dusk.

Jim Gets His

The very next weekend, Jim came over to ride. So did an old friend Bill, who occasionally visited.

Bill was mostly a runner, but he’d had a ten-speed. I let him use my spare bike so the three of us could take a little tour around what were then the relatively quiet streets and byways of an Annapolis that had not yet been raped to death by overpopulation and development.

After perhaps 15 miles of zigzagging around the city, we come up to the very King George Street intersection where I’d fought my own skirmish the week before. We were coming up to it on King George Street itself, which forms a T with Route 450 there.

The light was red. We stopped, like good, law-abiding cyclists. Cars pulled up behind us.

When the light turned green, I stuck my foot into the toe clip and pedaled smoothly away. Jim had been beside me, slightly behind my shoulder. I heard a loud engine noise, followed by Jim’s enraged bellowing. A slightly careworn sedan accelerated past me as I made out what Jim was yelling.

“Get that guy!” he screamed. “He tried to run me down! I had to yank myself out of the way! Get him!”

Hey, Jim was my friend. Forget my pledge of nonviolence. That had been his idea anyway. If he said we go to war, we go to war.

I pulled out my water bottle, nice and full, and drilled a hard spiral pass into the back window of the departing car. Then I sprinted up to take a closer position and wait for the formation to regroup and push the attack. I saw the car contained man, woman and child.

Jim came up on my right. His own water bottle flew past me and bounced off the car.

We harried the car for several blocks, finally herding it into a dead-end street.

I went into Good Cop mode, since Jim had clearly staked out Bad Cop, bordering on Escaped Psychopath. He was foaming pretty badly at the mouth.

“What are you teaching your kid?” Jim screamed.

“I’m teaching him not to ride his damn bike on the street,” said the man. He seemed generally bewildered, but he was sure of that much.

My Good Cop wasn’t doing so well, because I was hardly neutral, but I was certainly quieter than Jim. When the noise level dropped a bit, the driver said he was just trying to get to Route 450. I forgot to ask east or west and then gave the wrong directions, but it wasn’t out of malice, only the fog of war. Once again, the rage hadn’t been appropriate to the goal.

As we rode away from the incident, Jim demonstrated the radical sideways yank he’d had to perform to evade the motorist’s impatient surge out of the stop light. The motion caused his tubular tire to roll off the rim, and he hit the ground sliding at about 20 miles per hour. Thing is, he didn’t stop yelling about the driver until he’d slid about 15 yards.

“You should’ve seen it! I had to yank sideways like this!” SMACK! SCRAAAAAAAAA “He just hit the gas and came right at me! That assh– ow!” AAAPE!

Jim peeled himself up from his human crayon mark, popped the tire back onto the rim with his thumbs, and we rode slowly back to my house with bewildered and forgotten Bill, who had kept his distance.

I waited a good long time before I asked Jim if he thought he might have overreacted to motorist aggression.