Dress like a Starving Student

I drop the bike from my shoulder to the ground. I hop on and clip in my right shoe. I wonder why they call these pedals ‘clipless’ when they ‘clip’. Then there’s a trick to get my foot in the right position for the start. I lock the front brake and push forward on the bars. This lifts the rear wheel and I rotate the crank until my right foot is high at the front.

Taking off on a fixie is about being quick and efficient. I push off and hop on the seat and get my left foot on its pedal for its push. It is easy until you take too long and miss the left foot push and the bike slows down and you have to pull up with the right to keep going.

Today I’m riding to the Ballard Locks. Each time I go there I tell myself to go there more often. It combines many things I like. The water looks wonderful. There is a park with plenty of grass to sit on and trees to lean against with views across the locks and canal. Geese will visit. There are big salmon swimming in the fish ladders. Sometimes you see a Sea Lion feasting on the fresh fish. This is accompanied by the sounds of locals whining about the loss of salmon and wondering if someone has a rifle so they can shoot the mammal.

I see boats go by and watch them futz with ropes. There is a diversity of boats – a single guy on his little cruiser or a 747-load of tourists in an Argosy Cruise boat with accompanying commentary. “Hands up if you think these locks use pumps! No, they use gravity!”

I love the way the locks are designed. They were built by the military back in the twenties and have a style that says, “You ain’t nothing! You ain’t nothing! Heavy artillery? Bring it on!” The structures are blunt and brutal. Any boat that hits them will come out broken. They show of the might of the US engineers of that time. When the Soviets attack and Seattle is the first city to go those locks will be all that is left.

The ride back goes through Ballard and pas the Salmon Bay café there’s no bike lane so I share the road with the faster traffic. I’m confident on the streets, although I take care to be aware of what’s behind me. Your ears are excellent help with this, unless someone is driving one of those Priuses when they can sneak up in silence. Everyone gives me lots of room. I think there are a number of factors involved in this.

  • I ride so it is hard to share my lane. If cars see that they could squeeze past in the same lane, they will. So I ride so that they can’t share and since they have to cross the centerline of the road to get past me they take more care and give me more room. Crazy but it works (and it isn’t my idea – I read it in Urban Cycling Tips and Tricks).
  • My bike is tall and I sit high, giving me more presence on the road.
  • I’m unshaven and I dress like starving student. I look like I’ve had a heavy night at the pub. People avoid the unpleasant.

I am tempting fate by writing this, but if I can control fate then like, wow.


1 Response to “Dress like a Starving Student”

  1. 1 vicp
    January 19, 2009 at 11:34

    Clipless pedals are very dangerous.
    I’ve been riding bicycles continuously since I was 5. Have even commuted to work year-round in suburb north of NYC, Had been using Shimno clipless pedals for about 10 years and had several occasions when I couldn’t release from the pedal and dumped over. The last time, at age 58, caused my right hip to fracture. I needed 2 surgeries and 6 months of rehab. After the accident I found out about two other cyclists who suffered hip fractures because they couldn’t release from their pedals.
    Needless to say I took them off my Trek and will never use them again.
    The Pain was not worth the gain.

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