Jul 29 2014

Don’t Let Pepper Spray Call a Halt! to the Day’s Fun

In a perfect world, all dog owners would be responsible, and all dogs would be well-disciplined. But ours is not a perfect world. Which explains why many cyclists clip a can of Halt! to their handlebars. I’m one of them, and I’ve often had reason to be glad that I do. That said, a can of Halt! is like a loaded firearm. A moment’s carelessness can end in misery. I was reminded of this only last week, when I discovered that the spare can of Halt! in my bar bag had a leaking valve. I popped it into a ziplock bag then and there, hoping to keep it from contaminating the other items in the bar bag, but in so doing I smeared a tiny amount of the pernicious ooze on my cycling gloves. All was well until, a few minutes later, I wiped the sweat from my forehead with my gloved hands.

That was when I realized my mistake.

My skin burned for the better part of an hour afterward. Of course, it could have been much worse. I could have gotten the stuff in my eyes. All in all, the incident taught me a valuable lesson. One of the things I learned was that I really had no idea how to “put the fire out” after an accidental exposure. So I looked for answers online, aided by Wikipedia. And I soon realized that my first impulse—to flood the affected area with water—was very wide of the mark. Capsaicin, the fiery extract of hot pepper that lends Halt! its authority in close encounters of the wrong kind, is NOT water-soluble. But it is soluble in fats and oils, at least to some extent. And a solution of soap and water will also do the job, as will detergent or shampoo.

But what if you get some in your eyes? Just blink. Rapidly and often. (You’ll probably do this without prompting.) Flushing with water won’t help, but contact lens wetting solution—if you happen to have some on hand—can be used to irrigate the affected eye(s).

The upshot? Post-exposure first aid is of limited value. There isn’t really much you can do on the road if you fall victim to your own pepper spray. Beyond some common-sense advice—don’t spread the stuff around by rubbing, and don’t wipe your eyes—you’ll just have to wait for the fire to go out on its own, though if you experience severe respiratory distress, patience is no longer a virtue. It’s 911 time. And don’t delay. You’ll need prompt professional care.

It’s much better to stay out of harm’s way altogether, of course. Inspect cans of Halt! regularly—don’t point the nozzle at your face when you do this!—discarding any that show signs of leaking. (The orange residue is easy to spot.) And never let fly into the teeth of a gale, even if the hound of the Baskervilles is in hot pursuit—you might find yourself cycling blind.

Bottom line? Halt! lives up to its name, and if you ride where big dogs run wild and free—and that’s true of much of rural America—it’s well worth keeping a can within easy reach. But treat it as you would a loaded firearm: with extreme care. Or be prepared to face the fire.

Further Reading From Wikipedia:


This article is an update of one originally published on August 11, 2012.

Questions? Comments? Just click here!

Jul 28 2014

Bike Monday for July 28, 2014: L’Heure Bleue

It’s real, yet it’s a Mirage. A Motobécane Mirage, to be exact. Its slim steel tubes and elegant lugs set it apart from the chubbier frames on modern bikes, and the original electric blue paint still catches the eye. The owner would do well to take a bit more care when locking this beauty up, though. Not only are the unprotected wheels up for grabs, but it wouldn’t take the strength of Atlas to lift the locked bike right off the parking meter. The spindly cable could then be dealt with at leisure.

And that would be too bad. Imagine the feelings of the owner on returning from his errands, only to find that his Mirage has faded away. He’d certainly feel blue then.

Blue Motobecane Mirage

We love our bikes, right? And we never tire of looking at them. At least I don’t, and if I’m to judge from what others tell me, I’m not alone. So each Monday I’ll publish a bike-related picture. Most of the time it will be a photo, but don’t be surprised if a few drawings and paintings get added to the mix from time to time. I might even include a sculpture or two. (OK. A photo of a sculpture.) Anything, in short, that evokes the world on two wheels. And don’t be shy. If you have a picture you’d like to share, just email it to me. I’ll do the rest.

Questions? Comments? Just click here!

Jul 26 2014

The Other Side of the Mountain:
Chris Boardman’s Six Fundamental Rules for Descending

Some cyclists like to go downhill hell for leather. Others would rather walk. Farwell falls into the latter category. He’s in his element when climbing, but he often finds himself wishing he could deploy a drag chute when the road slopes downward. He’s not alone. Even professional bike racers get spooked by fast descents. FDJ’s Thibaut Pinot abandoned the 2013 Tour de France in tears because he feared descending. “Some people are afraid of spiders or snakes,” he explained. “I’m afraid of speed. It’s a phobia.” But Thibaut has now mastered his fear, and he’ll most likely be standing on the podium on Sunday — this after many grueling mountain stages with plenty of technical, high-speed descents.

Of course, Thibaut’s fears were well-founded. Descending is dangerous, and it’s no less so for everyday cyclists whose bikes are heavily loaded, whether the load is camping gear or groceries. Which is why I touched on the topic in an earlier article titled Going Downhill and Liking It. I wasn’t foolish enough to think I’d written the last word on the subject, however, so I was delighted when I saw former UCI Hour Record holder Chris Boardman talking about the same thing during a Tour recap last week. His six fundamental rules for descending deserve repeating, too. So here goes:

  1. Do the hard braking before the bend, not in it.
  2. Don’t enter the apex of a bend before you can see the exit. [This is mostly of interest to racers, who often enjoy the luxury of riding on roads closed to motor traffic, and who can therefore choose a line that crosses the full width of the roadway. Few of us will be so lucky, however.]
  3. If it’s dry, favor the front brake. [Excellent advice, this — provided that you know exactly how much force it takes to lock up your front wheel at speed. Racers do. But more timid riders may not, and a skid on a locked front wheel is a good way to crash out. Even veteran racers go easy on the front brake on wet pavement.]
  4. Look past the rider immediately in front of you, as far down the road as you can see. [Always a good idea. Things come come at you fast on descents.]
  5. Look where you want to be, not at what worries you…. If the [ditch at the] edge of the road is your focus, it’s where you’ll probably end up. [How true! This is good advice for anyone, from Tour racer to grocery-getter.]
  6. No matter how scared you are, don’t close your eyes. [OK. Boardman is taking the mickey here. Still, Farwell says he's been tempted to do this very thing once or twice. Needless to say, it's not a great idea.]

You say you’re not a racer? Well, neither am I. But Chris Boardman’s six fundamental rules have broad applicability. And while it’s a safe bet that none of us will be challenging Vincenzo Nibali for the top spot on the podium this year, we can all learn something from the guys who ride bikes for a living. After all, no one can climb higher and higher forever. Sooner or later, we all have to go down the other side of the mountain.


Further Reading


This article is an update of one originally published on July 17, 2012.



Questions? Comments? Just click here!

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