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Naomi  The Biking Life

 by: Naomi Bloom  9/1/2006

How Come

(Sun) Burning Questions

As I pedal along this summer on club rides, solo rides and tandem rides with Captain Jim, certain questions often come to mind. Most of those questions start out with the words "How come... ." Like, how come lately I have to climb this hill in my tiny triple chain ring granny gear, when I used to motor up it in a 42/14 combination?

The last time that particular question occurred to me, I decided to start keeping track of my How-Come's. Maybe I could develop logical answers to at least a few of them. Even if I couldn't answer them myself, some of you out there might have an inkling of what I'm talking about and offer your own response.

Some of these questions are pretty frivolous and barely rate a second thought, let alone a thoughtful response. Others, however, can be burning questions, either at the time my bonked-out brain expressed them, or at a later hour/date when they re-arise.

Questions about the bicycle industry

How come cycling-specific electrolyte replacement formulas don't have magnesium in them? My doc tells me that my last bonk symptoms were clearly from electrolyte deficiencies, particularly potassium and magnesium. So I started shopping for a gel or "gu" I could stow in my seat pack against a repeat performance. Well, they all seem to have plenty of potassium but not one includes magnesium. A riding buddy (thanks, Vickie) tipped me off to Extra Strength Rolaids; come to find out the Rolaids have a good shot of magnesium in them, but no potassium. So what's with this, huh?

(Found Lyte'N Go chewable tablets. Plenty of potassium and a modicum of magnesium (probably as much as I need). Great! But what's this on the ingredient list? Xylitol and mannitol right at the top! Ooh, I've experienced these artificial sweeteners before and paid the price. Won't go into detail on this "family site," but think "M-o-M effect."

How come so many women's cycling shorts have such poochie rear ends that hang down on me? Corollary question: How come men's cycling shorts have such skinny legs? My thighs may or may not be classified as "thunder thighs" for a female, but definitely not for a male physique. So what's up with that?

How come so many bike shops cater eagerly to young, male racer types, often ignoring or underserving other customers. Those racers either get their swag and/or services free of charge or are too poor to pay for the high-ticket, high margin items like clothes and accessories. (They'll get them from sponsors and toss them at the end of the season anyway.) Meanwhile those of us with disposable income to spend and repeat business to offer need to search high and low for the stuff that will keep us pedaling year after year.

If you find a shop that caters to us old fogies who tend to get tubby in winter (and summer too), let me know. Maybe I can feature a few of them in a future column. Now there's a good answer to a how-come question!

Questions about roads, trails and traffic

How come there's a "No Bikes" sign at the entrance to the paved bike path connecting a suburban subdivision with Cristo Rey Drive in Cupertino? It's basically one-way since taking the other direction delivers riders to the end of a cul-de-sac. Like the hikers or equestrians who never use it, we consider it a "trail to nowhere" in that direction.

How come the traffic signal closest to my local City Hall can't be tripped by bikes? And how come there's not even a "pedestrian button" within reach of a cyclist unless he or she jumps up to the sidewalk?

How come just about every overpass and bridge I've crossed lately has two highly raised bumps in the bike lane, one at the first "seam" and one at the second? I've been sorely tempted to leave the shoulder in order to avoid them. No doubt the powers that be will point to all the rain we had last winter and spring, but where are the repair crews of summer?

Along the same lines, how come the same old "death cookies" (trails of concrete lumps dropped from cement mixer trucks) still decorate bike lanes for well over 20 years now? They were there when I moved to this area and they're there still, in a crosswise pattern right smack in the shoulder. Don't they ever repave around here?

How come so many bumpy sections remain on my favorite country roads that have recently been repaved? These lumps and bumps appear suddenly between large sections of sleek new pavement. Whose idea was that????

How come most of our local drivers have no idea whatsoever how to make a right turn? Not only do they refuse to use turn signals, but they also refuse to use the right-turn lane. They'd rather pass me on the left, then swing in front of me to turn right -- even when I move way over to the left to try to help them out (if I can figure out that they want to turn right, that is). Have they ever taken a driving lesson that covered the concept of "merge"?

How come so many drivers feel they have to cross a double yellow line in the middle of the road to avoid me, then swing back into the bike lane or shoulder to correct their leaving the lane? This is not the least bit funny, since a cyclist was killed this way on Skyline Boulevard/Highway 35 in July.

How come so many residents of my extended neighborhood insist on riding their bicycles on the sidewalk but prefer to walk in the street, often in the bike lane? (Yes, there's some perfectly good sidewalk available around here.)

Other questions that bug me now and then

How come airlines load oversize luggage (e.g., bike cases) onto the plane last then offload them last? You'd think the last stuff in the cargo hold would come out first. But I waited over an hour after claiming my regular luggage for my IronCase to appear at SFO when I returned from France in June. (Hey, I'm not really complaining! Bikes fly free on Air France.)

How come when I ride my single bike more than 20 or so miles, my back stiffens up and my knees ache? But on the tandem it seems like I can go forever. I know that there are several answers to this one, including not having to push off, sitting more upright and cranking within a friendlier (to my physiognomy) Q-factor.

If you've stuck with my ranting and raving thus far, please accept my apologies. The truth is, I still relish every moment I spend on a bike. No matter how much pain I suffer on a miserably hot day, trying to keep up with the group or make it to the top of the hill, I still think I'll feel better tomorrow.

I keep searching for the panacea for all my aches and pains in my back, my knees, my shoulders, my hands. Because I'm convinced I can conquer my shortcomings somehow (just not with illegal substances, at least not yet :->). How come?

Naomi can be reached at naomibloom@earthlink.net

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