Thursday, February 14, 2008

Inattention and the Adrenaline Save

Is it weird that some part of me was kinda stoked to get in a car accident last night?

I should say that it was a very, very minor accident with nobody hurt and no apparent damage. I rear-ended someone ever-so-slightly. I wouldn’t even call it a fender bender—it was a bumper flexer at most. Completely my fault…I let my attention wander from driving to looking at what appeared to be another accident only to have to stand on the brakes in a vain attempt to avoid the car in front of me who had stopped to make a left hand turn. Too late—the anti-lock brakes pulsed a few times and “bam” I was into the rear end. Not too hard, mind you, the jolt only a smidge more abrupt than the anti-lock pulses, but I definitely hit him.

We pulled over—I was apologetic and the guy was pretty cool about things. We exchanged information, but I really don’t expect to hear from him—it was that benign. And if my people instincts are correct, he neither seemed like the type to pull a Brady Bunch injury on me.

So other than the fact that everything is OK, why would I be happy about nearly wadding it all up? Well, there’s something kinda cool about how instinct takes over in that panic split-second—the instant when I went from spectator of one accident to participant in another. I did not think or process or deliberate, I just acted. Or reacted.

I guess it’s comforting to know I still have the ability to snap "make a save" in a fraction of a second. It was not unlike my stint as goalie for my high school water polo team. Through coaching, training and conditioning I learned how to tend goal based on positioning and cutting off angles and doing things that lessened the likelihood of the ball going into the net. This text book stuff was undoubtedly tried-and-true for a reason, but for me it was always the completely instinctual things that were most satisfying. That intangible something that made you shift your shoulder just left enough at the last second, or the implausible way you might have guessed wrong on a penalty shot, but blocked it because the reactionary self covered a shot going the other way. The incomprehensible things you couldn’t do again if you tried, but none-the-less kept a goal off the scoreboard.

My initial thought when I recognized the stopped car was something along the lines of “Holy shit I am totally gonna plow this guy,” but the combination of my reaction and good mechanics/physics was more like, “Whew, dodged a big one there…it shouldn’t be too bad.” And it wasn't.

I’m always a little upset with myself when things like this happen at all—as a cyclist I’m a particularly harsh critic of distracted drivers and that’s exactly what I let myself become. Not cool. But the fact that, despite a little contact, I still made the save—I’m pretty happy about that.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Bad MBV Cover Video of the Week

The My Bloody Valentine reunion appears to be for real. There's an album in the can and live dates on the calendar in Europe. I've taken up prayer just so I can pray for them to come here. And while I've pretty much seen every live band/musician I've ever loved--provided they weren't dead when I was born or something--My Bloody Valentine's narrow window of exposure has been exclusive. So, in honor of Valentine's Day and February...and in vigil to MBV I will post horrible YouTube covers of their songs until they come. Or February ends. Whichever comes first.

Addendum: I thought I'd add the link to my initial MBV blog gush from a couple years ago.

Monday, February 04, 2008

The Extra Ordinary Passing of Sheldon Brown

It is with a heavy heart that I post news of the passing of a US cycling luminary--bicycle mechanic Sheldon Brown has died of a heart attack at the age of 63. A longtime technical guru for the Harris Cyclery in Massachusetts, Brown was an early adopter of the internet who transferred his considerable body of accumulated knowledge to the web for the benefit of all. Need to know how to adjust a cone? Curious what Helicomatic hub looks like? Wondering if a Helicomatic hub has adjustable cones? Wondering what the hell a Helicomatic hub even is?! Brown’s site ( can tell you this and much more. From how to ride a bike to how to fix it. New, old. Arcane, mundane. It’s all there. Not too pretty, but it gets the job done...and well.

Though I only met Sheldon only once in person--and very briefly at that--I felt I knew him through his writings and photographs. He was one of those crazy-to-the-core bike nuts-- what with his Lincoln’s beard and plastic bird bedazzled helmet--that made you raise an eyebrow and chuckle only to be bowled over by his encyclopedic bike knowledge. Scholarly and academic but approachable and down-to-earth, I could easily see him as a college professor that even after a couple of decades in the classroom would return year after year with infectious optimism.

I can’t even count the number of times--mid-repair and up to my elbows in grease--that I checked my work against his site only to have Sheldon let me know that, no, I in fact installed everything 100% backwards and needed to start over. You’d think I would have learned to check with him first but I’m slow like that sometimes. I was actually just on his site last week researching my old bikes...and wouldn’t you know it, Sheldon had a link to the info on my old Raleigh Grand Prix that Google didn’t even pick up.

As an industry, a sport, and a culture we are drawn to the glitz and the glamor--for bicycling it’s more-often-than-not the races and the racers. But Sheldon is a reminder of what the bicycle truly is--a simple pleasure with amazing versatility and a bottomless soul. It is truly extra-ordinary. Just. Like. Him.