Thursday, October 22, 2009

Re: Value DNA

Over on Pedal Power, Anthony has a post quoting someone that claims that Americans (and British) have a different "Value DNA" when it comes to things like Bikes, and that this is the main reason there hasn't been/won't be a culture shift in the direction of a more bike-friendly society.

While I think Anthony does a good job of responding to this, I have to say, in Memphis at least, I have to at least partially agree with the Value DNA Theory. It isn't that it's wrong to say that Political Will is required to increase ridership; it's just that this willpower has to stem from the people, and Memphians in general don't seem to really WANT more bikes on the road.

It seems that in Memphis, many people have a bit of a stigma with respect to Bicycles. Sure, people can ride them for transportation, but when people have a choice, they'll use a car. That belabored guy riding his clunker on the sidewalk would rather be rollin' in a caddy any day. While utilitarian at times, bikes are usually seen as either (at best) a novelty or (at worst) a nuisance.

On the novelty side are the people that simply gape and exclaim, "Y'all are ridin' bicycles?" While not as overtly hurtful as the people that curse and swerve at you, they still carry the undertone of, What the fuck are you crazy kids doin'? with heavy emphasis on the kids part. Once, upon rolling up to a convenience store around one in the morning, I was met not only with the typical incredulousness, but the clerk out and out said, "Man, you guys are young." And here's the kicker - he was 24! For the record, I'm 25 myself. Yet because we rode bicycles he assumed we had to be younger than him. While some may see that as a sort of compliment, it implies much more than youthfulness; to me, it implies that we can't be taken seriously.

And then, of course, there are those that honk/swear/try to hit you simply for being on the road. Nothing more really needs to be said about them. They're uneducated, yes. But more to the point, they're actively hostile to bikers, who they see as encroaching upon their turf. Just last night, while we stopped to get some beers, someone actually said without the least provocation they'd run over our bikes on purpose if we weren't there watching them. Double-you tee eff!

To sum up, Memphians attitudes need to change before there can be any social change with regards to bicycles. While I wouldn't go so far as to say that this attitude is as entrenched as DNA, I do say that it'll be quite difficult to change people's outlook. I don't think just providing the facilities for biking in Memphis is enough. The only approach I can see working is a personal one, changing people's outlooks one at a time. Either that, or a cataclysmic "disaster" that makes people stop driving their cars and start looking for other ways to get around.

It's a little bleak and I don't like that, but I just don't see how to change things in Memphis - yet in spite of that, I can't help but TRY and change things.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Not Quite the Greenline

While we all wait with bated breath for the Greenline, I thought I'd share some of my old standby bike routes while they're still relevant.

1. Midtown to East Memphis

This is my normal commuting route, assuming I'm not running late. I usually make this one in about 45 minutes, taking it easy. It's pretty nice in that it avoids major roads for the most part, with the notable exception of Southern. While Southern isn't extremely crowded where I'm on it, the speed limit does jump up to 45, which can be a bit unsettling.

Cara figured this one out last year while trying to find a nice way to school, but I've come to find out that quite a few people know about the cutting through Chickasaw Gardens trick. It's a must for any Memphis Commuter.

2. Midtown to Downtown

I picked this one up from Dennis back when I was riding with him and Erica in the New Gears Alleycat.

It's a bit roundabout, but again, it stays away from most major roads. In fact, it goes through the UT parking lot and the Southwest Campus. Definitely a fun little route.

Of course, neither of these are the most direct/fastest routes, but they're definitely less harrowing than Poplar.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Review: CST Compressor Pro 700x23

Review: CST Compressor Pro 700x23 Tire (Folding)

I bought this tire when my old Bontrager blew out seemingly at random. Having skimped just a little on a tire last time, I decided I'd go with something a bit more heavy duty this time - perhaps a kevlar strip or wrap-around treads. Yet, somehow, I came walking out with the Compressor, a slick tire promised to skid like butter.

First, a bit about my riding habits. I have a 15 mile (round trip) commute five times a week, plus any extra riding I do for fun. Depending on the weather and people's schedule, this can mean anything from once to four or five times a week, for anything from five to forty miles. Given all this, I say I probably ride about 100 miles a week, give or take.

Furthermore, I rarely skid to stop. Yes, I will do it if I feel like I need to, but simply because I don't have the bones to keep replacing tires, I try to regulate my speed naturally rather than skidding a bunch. Don't get me wrong, I love skidding, it's just not extremely economical to do all the time. This is also one reason I run 46x15, giving myself 15 skid patches to mess around with.

So, while I like to think I ride a decent amount, I don't think I'm extremely rough on a tire. So I was pretty surprised to see that, after one month, my skid patches were getting pretty ragged and I was getting random flats. Basically, the road shreds this tire pretty damn quick if you're skidding at all. Might be okay for a front tire, but not so much for a rear one.

Not to say that it's a total loss; as Cort said when I bought it, it does skid like butter. Memphis Downs was coming up and yes, this tire is bomb for distance skidding. Unfortunately for me, I'm too much of a commuter to take proper advantage it.

So while I won't be buying this tire again and can't recommend it for daily riding, it does have its uses. If you wanna have fun skidding around like a maniac and don't mind going through tires like tissues, then the Compressor's for you. If not, just get a nice, thick tire and move on.