Monday, May 15, 2006

Cycling: broken teeth, bears and a mild rant

Actually my two stories are not connected at all - well, bikes are in both stories.

My teeth are fine but apparently my bike gears have some serious tooth decay. During this riding season, I found that when I really made a powerful stroke, the chain would skip and sometimes fall loose. At the bike shop, the owner brought to my attention the sad state of my middle ring- the one connected to the peddles. Several teeth are broken and many are unnaturally sharp. While the smaller and larger rings are in better shape, they too show the effects of grinding.

I left the shop with my bike and the need to consider what to do. I think I need to replace the three rings, but do I also need to replace the chain? A friend in Canada, Barry Faulkner, showed me how to measure the chain. Apparently, 12 links should be 12 inches. I have not yet measured it, by the way. He told me that chains stretch a little and should be replaced every 15,000km or so ( or was it miles - all errors in this post are my own). At the time, it didn't seem all that important; a long ride was 50km and most were commuting-type rides of under 5km. 15,000km would take years.

Well, I've had my bike for about 13 years now and have cycled across most of Canada (Yes, I am so damn proud of that that I try to fit into every bike post. Sorry to annoy you). I've also covered fair ground here in Korea. I guess I probably am at or above 15,000 by now.

If I didn't mention it before, a stretched chain doesn't fit the gear properly anymore and so grinds them. I suppose other things can grind gears, like not shifting far enough to allow the chain to fit tightly to the gear.

The bike shop owner has given me good service in the past but this is a major overhaul and likely to be exensive. His shop caters to mountain bikes - as all shops in Korea seem to - and I worry about his ordering the right parts. I guess I should start investigating the situation - the gears have the Shimano brandname and a number and such so product matching should be simple - instead of writing about it.

By before I go, a story about a Canadian cyclist -in Canada- who was attacked by a black bear.

A mountain biker in Alberta was apparently chased down and attacked. He is in the hospital but will be okay, he has a few broken bones and such but the article suggested that he would recover more or less completely.

Firstly, I feel for the guy. If he saw the bear approaching, I guess he would try to pedal away. The article didn't have a lot of details but he could have been climbing a hill or just finished climbing a hill and unable to race away. Or maybe it was simple, level ground; bears are much faster than they look. Once the bear got him, it had him for hours. Other cyclists found him and the bear, left to get help and then rescued him. I can't imagine hearing or seeing help so close leaving again.

Back to my trip across Canada (fit it in again. Woo-hoo!). On my trip I saw one grizzly at a distance and a black bear cub near road on two occassions. Seeing the grizzly was cool and I would have missed it except that I first saw and questioned the student standing on the roadside beside her car and waving a big antennae array. She pointed to the grey mass several hundred meters away. This opportunity for a close connection with the location is why I love cycling.

Seeing the cubs was much scarier. The first time, I was on level ground and the cub was in some brush very near the highway's shoulder. I began to edge into traffic as I approached and the horn of a surprised driver scared the bear away. I am sure that I upset the driver (who was oblivious to the bear) but I am glad he sounded his horn. The second time, I had just finished a fair climb, there were no cars nearby and I was tired. As I passed the bear I 1)tried to take a picture holding the camera sideways and hoping it was in the frame 2) looked anxiously for it's mother and 3) struggled to come up with any reasonable speed to pull away from a possibly dangerous situation.

Yeah, I feel for the guy and wish him a fast recovery.

On the other hand, he was wearing headphones when he was attacked. Now, they may have had nothing to do with his injuries. It's completley possible that listening to whatever was not a factor in being attacked or in not being able to escape. I just hate the idea of listening to music or podcasts or non-natural sounds when exercising in natural surroundings. This is probably material for a separate post so I'll be brief here. I wear headphones in the gym and find they help fill in the time spent on the exercise bike but I would never use them while riding outside. I listen to podcasts while walking downtown but would never listen while hiking.

Part of the reason is concentration. I have already implied that the cyclist attacked by the bear might not have been concentrating because of what he was listening too. Road cycling is concentration intensive and I think headphones are illegal while cycling or even driving a car. I'm not sure about the illegal part, but it is known to be a bad idea.

I do find background music helps me concentrate when I study or do a variety of other tasks (marking papers and other school work but also wood carving), however . Odd, that.

The main reason I disapprove of listening to music and the like in natural settings is that I respect the settings too much - unlike some students, I wouldn't listen to my MP3 player in class or at meetings or at church and I feel forests deserve the same treatment. I am of the view that hiking, canoeing and other outdoor sports cannot be fully enjoyed without really immersing yourself in the situation.

This view may bring me back to the concentration issue. I do not want to immerse myself in cycling when I am at the gym because it is pretty monotonous but I do want to immerse myself in cycling on a quiet back-country road because it is peaceful.

Anyway, I hope the guy will soon be well and, regardless of their responsibility in his injuries, I also hope he leaves his headphones at home or, well, not on his head, when he next goes riding.

1 comment:

skindleshanks said...

Black bears--all bears, for that matter, are a lot faster than they look, and could easily overtake a person on foot if motivated, and would not likely have any trouble with a bicycle especially if the terrain was a little rough.
The strange thing is that black bears are fairly harmless most of the time. A few years back a six year old boy in Manitoba saved his 3 year old sister from being dragged away by a black bear by roaring and throwing sticks at it. The authorities said that in most cases that would be the recommended course of action when confronted by a black bear. I've chased black bears with stones while working at camp (we didn't want them anywhere near our campers), but we made sure that we were closer to the nearest building than we were to the bears.

Grizzlies and polar bears are another matter. The polar bear is the only mammal that is truly above us on the food chain--that is, it has no natural fear of humans, and sees us as a source of food. It can also easily outrun a slow train (and is known to do so occasionally as the train pulls into Churchill). In this case, the last thing you want to do is run. Authorities in Churchill recommend the "strip-tease" method of escape--that is, backing away slowly and dropping whatever you may have periodically--backpack, gloves, jacket, shirt, if need be. The bear should stop and investigate each item before trying to investigate you.

I'm not sure what the methods are for dealing with grizzlies, since we don't really have many (if any) in Manitoba.