Friday, January 18, 2008

Roller Derby

So I rode the rollers again last night; third time this week (third time in last 12 months).

Now you have to understand ... before this layoff from riding the rollers, I pretty much only rode them until I was able to actually ride on the rollers without holding on to anything but the handle bars. Then the rollers became eye-candy in my garage so all my neighbors would think I was a serious cyclist.

If you have never ridden on rollers, you are really missing out. It is one of the most out of control feelings you can have on a bike the first couple of times. Imagine riding across a frozen lake going at least 15 mph; that is what riding on rollers feels like.

It is, however, very cool the first time you actually get going, not holding on the anything, and don't fall off. When I was considering buying the rollers, it was described to me as a good biking party trick that none of your friends will be able to do. As a guy, that pretty much sold me. Riding the rollers makes you concentrate as if you are riding along a busy street during rush hour, but they do make me feel as if I am getting a better workout while indoors and that I am becoming a better rider.

Just to ride on the rollers, you really have to work on your balance and cadence. You have to be very even while you ride. If you have ever tried to stay on the white line while riding the street, rollers will help you learn to do that; you have to be in complete control the entire time.

This brings me to last nights ride. Big Mel is still learning the rollers. I do not have a fancy $500 set of rollers; I have a $100 set of rollers and a $30 ladder to help stabilize myself while I get going. My front roller is slightly tapered on each side to help keep me from riding off the side, but there are no wheels or bumpers to actually keep me from riding off. I also don't have anything behind the back rollers to keep my bike from hopping off the back. What you might not realize is if you accelerate too fast, or try and stand up, you can hop your back wheel right off the back of the rollers!! Fun Times!

Now my FIRST crash last night was nothing, just rode off the rollers to the right, landed on my feet and dropped my bike to save my balance (no way am I clipping in yet).

However, my SECOND crash involved falling to the left, INTO my cheap ladder, which wasn't anchored to anything, so the ladder fell over, my bike fell over, and I fell into a couple of saw horses that just happened to be stacked about 5 feet away!

Fortunately, I walked away from the accident with all of my members intact. Just a scratch on my arm and a small hole in my ankle (I have been looking around for my pride though and haven't come up with it yet). The most dramatic part of the whole episode was waking my 17 month old daughter up and my wife rushing to see if I was okay (or at least to see if the basement was okay).

In the end I am happy to report that I got back up on the rollers and finished my ride without incident.

Really looking forward to my ride tonight!

Big Mel

Monday, January 14, 2008

Rollin', Rollin', Rollin'

Finally: the rollers, my road bike, and my bike pump are all in the basement at the same time!!

To celebrate this unusual accomplishment, I pumped up the tires and jumped on for a roll. It has been about ... forever ... since I last was on the rollers, so I wasn't sure how it would go.

The roller instructions say to learn how to use rollers in a hallway, so that when you fall (and you will fall) you can just fall against the wall. I got tired, however, of being crumpled up against the wall pinned by my bike, so I just use a 8' step ladder in case I need to reach out and rescue myself.

After getting on for the first time this afternoon, I realized I was in a higher gear than I had hoped for. Many experienced roller riders can easily shift up and down while on the rollers, but for me, trying to get the feeling of the rollers again, this was not a good idea. I tried to down shift and slipped towards the ladder which started to knock the ladder over to the left while my bike was falling to the right.

I caught the ladder with my left hand and the bike with my right hand, closed my eyes landed on my feet and didn't hurt anything!! ANOTHER BIKING MIRACLE!!

You know what they say: Once you fall off the rollers while shifting, shift the bike before getting right back on the rollers!

I proceeded to then ride for 10 minutes straight at a roaring pace of 12 mph, so I already have 2 miles in this year!! That is 2 more miles than I had until May of last year, so I'm on a roll (ha, roll, get it!). I had to stop then though. I was in jeans and a sweatshirt and I didn't have Mucho Grande on (see story above about biking miracle), besides I had to pick up my son from school.

I came up stairs to cool off and clean up. When I took my sweatshirt off there was a smiley face on my t-shirt (okay, it was just sweat on my breasts and my stomach, but it looked like a smiley face). This was an obvious sign that I had done good!!

This is the year. Big Mel is off to a rollin' start.

Big Mel

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

This is the Year.

This is the Year.

This is the Year that I finally get my melon in gear and do something on a bike besides ride down some middle class neighborhood street hoping someones Yorkie doesn't run out in front of me (I think you could run over a Yorkie and not even realize it ... on a road bike ... that's sad to think about).

This is the Year that I start a web sight, get a helmet cam, and create other such things that keep me from riding.

This is the Year that I take my bike down off of the garage wall (and into the basement where it can be warmer until spring).

This is the year I start riding on my rollers instead of using them as a stop for the van in my garage (Everyone should have rollers by the way! They take awhile to get the hang of, but then they are awesome!).

This is the year I re-subscribe to Mens Health Magazine and read it twice each month while eating my Chipotle Burritos. (Hey, if Chipotle sponsors a cycling team, how bad can it really be for you??).

This is the Year that I take my first Epic Ride (to rip off a Fatty phrase).

This is the Year that I ride the Route 66, 2008 Race to the Prison Gate! (I came up with the title again with inspiration from The Godfather).

In August of 2008 The Godfather and I will leave from the Chain of Rocks Bridge and Ride to the Joliet Prison. We will be riding The Beast (we have to ride the tandem because The Godfather keeps threatening to bail, so I am going to drag his ass up to Joliet. PLUS, somebody has to take the pictures!) and retracing the old Route 66 through the historic towns of Illinois. The pictures alone make it seem worth the trip. I hope the prison band will still be at the front gate just as they were so many years ago!!

Although he denies it, this was originally The Godfathers idea. He found the Route 66 bike routes online and printed them out and showed them to me. Now he claims that he was just showing them to me and that maybe we could ride to Staunton sometime or something (if the weather was just right and someone would come pick us up when we got there). BUT obviously, at least in his subconscious, he had to know that I would jump at the idea of riding from his house to my house along Route 66, so in his passive aggressive way he was really asking me ... almost begging me ... to run with this idea. I cannot fail him! I will not fail him! DON'T MESS WITH THE GODFATHER!

Anyway, the original idea was to ride from The Godfather's house to Chicago, but it's a hassle to ride from The Godfather's house into Illinois and you would pass my house if you rode all the way to Chicago, so then you would have to ride back to my house and that would just add to the ride, but not to the excitement, so to make a long story short ... we're riding from the Historic Chain of Rocks Bridge to the Historic Joliet Prison.

It makes sense if you think about it. The Chain of Rocks, The Godfather, The Godfather and I 'chained together' on a tandem (almost like a chain gang), and finishing at a prison. It is like it was meant to be. Now all we need are prison stripe jerseys and Blues Brothers jerseys.

This may not be an Epic ride for many cyclists, but anyone who knows me, or especially knows The Godfather, this could even be called a miracle ride!

Dr. T you better get on board!

This is happening!

This is the Year.

Big Mel

Monday, January 7, 2008


I just finished reading Bicycle Magazines article "Broken" (Jan/Feb 2008, by David Darlington).,6610,s1-3-12-16637-1,00.html

This article freaked me out a bit. It is the detailed story of a handful of crashes between cars and bikes in Northern California; most resulting in death, or severe disability. 7,000 riders die each year in car/bike crashes. Damn.

Two things are amazing to me when considering this.

With all the talk and politics of Global Warming, Conservation, Dependence on Oil, there is still very little political importance given to bicycling. I am very sceptical when it comes to global warming and man's affect on the global temperature, but good grief, just about everyone has a bike in their garage. Most people hardly ride and it's not because they wouldn't like to or don't have time to it's because they are not foolish enough, like the rest of us regular riders, to ride in traffic!

I have just about every store, restaurant, or activity within 3 miles of my house. I could easily bike to most of my errands and even have bike transportation for my whole family if we all needed to go, but I rarely go anywhere with my kids around our house. There are few bike lanes on the roads, the sidewalks are hit and miss, and I do not live in a high biking area so drivers are not use to seeing bikes on the road.

Where there are bike lanes on a road they don't start or lead anywhere. The closest road to my house with a bike lane recently removed a portion of the bike lane when a new Walgreens was built. This section of the bike lane was removed because they couldn't have people turning into a Walgreens across a bike lane. Think about this ... you're riding up this road in a bike lane and the lane just stops: what then?? Do you just stop riding and turn around?? It's almost like they are saying, "Well at least if you get hit by someone turning into Walgreens, you weren't in a bike lane!" If anyone asks why I believe in small government, all I have to do is use this story as an example of why 'government think' doesn't work.

My community, like many others, is spending money on more and more bike paths that also lead to nowhere. Personally, I love riding on bike paths. I usually don't even mind the joggers, or walkers, that also use many of these community paths. But these paths have the same problem. You either have to ride through traffic to get to one, or you have to load your bike, drive to the trail head, and unload your bike just to ride. They also usually don't connect the housing community to the business community.

The only option for many bikers is to ride on high traffic roads. This is perfectly legal in almost every community in the country and the bike has as much right as the car to be there. However, many drivers don't want to share the road. Even on my local rides when riding on the right side of 2 lanes running in the same direction, cars will not move to the other lane. In busy traffic times this is somewhat understandable (although still doable), but even on a Sunday morning with no other cars in sight, cars have buzzed right past me.

THIS IS NOT ROCKET SCIENCE! When new roads are going in, put a bike lane in. When new business developments are going in, require the developer to connect to local paths, or at least create a path to the closest neighborhood. Encourage people to use their bikes in the community and provide bike racks everywhere. There is so much money being spent and made on all of these highway and roadwork spending bills, you can't tell me there is not enough to make the roads safer for bikes.

Get a freakin' helmet on yourself and your kids! A helmet is the number one way to save your life in a bike accident.

I don't know how many people I talk to say, "Oh, I just ride around in my neighborhood. I never go on the busy streets. I don't need a helmet." That's bull. A few months ago the house of a friend of mine got run into by a car. They live in a subdivision with 25 mph speed limits and a car smashed right into their family room. Guess how fast it was going?? 90 MPH! I know many of you would say, "If a car hit me going 90 mph, I'd be dead anyway," but with a helmet on your chances of survival are still many times greater.

Just this past fall a saw two examples of reckless biking involving kids. The first example was three kids riding against traffic on a 45 mph, 4 lane road; soft shoulder NO HELMETS. The second example was three kids probably about 12-13 again riding against traffic on a 50 mph road, NO shoulder and NO HELMETS.

-- riding with traffic or riding against traffic is a debate I get into allot with people. When I was younger I always thought it made sense to ride against traffic so I could see what was coming. After taking various engineering classes dealing with Force and Potential Energy, etc., I realized that if I hit that car head on, my head was probably going right through the windshield. If the car hits me from behind, it still would be bad, but there is also a chance I could get thrown off to the side, a much better option. ALWAYS ride with the traffic. --

How does a group of kids end up riding straight at me on a 50 mph road with no shoulder without helmets. I wish I could say they get yelled at all the time to wear their helmets, but in that situation it's probably the parents. It's time to teach or kids how to ride safely. It's time to set a good example when we ride as parents by wearing a helmet, following the rules, and not taking extreme chances when riding our bikes.

7000 dead each year. That's nuts. The Ride of Silence is a worldwide event each year organized to honor those cyclists killed or injured while riding. You can check it out at

With a melon the size of mine, I cannot afford to ride without a helmet. Mucho Grande (my helmet) has been with me since I started riding (or at least some version of him). I will pray for your riding safety this year and always. Please wear your helmet!

Big Mel

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy Riding in 2008!

Happy New Year from Big Mel!! May God bless all of your rides this year!

Big Mel