Rules of Thumb

I’m a new contributor to the Bicycle Alliance blog, so I should probably introduce myself. The basic facts:
Name: Dave Shaw
Residence: Capitol Hill, Seattle
Age: 64
Cycling since: 1973
Number of bikes: 2
Number of cars: 0
I was involved in the formation of the Northwest Bicycle Federation (NOWBike) the predecessor of Washington Bikes. I attended the first BAW auction, and I still own a NOWBike T-shirt. Currently I volunteer, mostly as the resident geek. I have participated in most of the varieties of cycling – recreational, racing, long distance touring, utility – and have worked in the sport as a race and event promoter, and publisher of The Bicycle Paper. Many years, many miles.
Out of all those miles some rules of thumb have emerged:
A split second is the time between when you unclip your foot from the pedal and when the light changes.
If you ride south in the morning, the wind will blow from the north in the afternoon.
Twelve miles an hour is about the best speed you can make through city traffic however fast you sprint between traffic lights.
The optimal seat tube length for your road bike is equal to the circumference of your head less 2 cm. (Credited to Bill Ferrell, developer of the Fit Kit, in the catalog of The Third Hand of Ashland, Oregon.)
The sum of the weight of your bike and the lock you would use to secure it on a college campus is a constant.
When you take a long trip, plan only half of it and leave the other half open for enjoying surprises.
Pace lines are fastest with 4 to 6 bikes. Fewer is not enough horsepower, more riders increases the chance of a pace-breaking disruption.
The batteries in your lights never go flat when the bike is at home.
Add an hour to your usual check-in time at the airport if you are bringing a bike.
A bike shop will take twice as long to true your wheel if you have worked on it first.
If there are n types of tires in your group, there will be n-1 types of spares. The nth person will get a flat.
For in-town trips less than about 3 miles, a bike will be faster than either a car or the bus door-to-door.
Soon after you first adopt cleated shoes, you will have a “falling down story.” It happened to all of us.
Saddles don’t “break in,” butts do. If your saddle hurts after 20 or 30 miles, get one that fits you. You’ll know it’s right if it doesn’t hurt.
When a local person gives you directions like “Just down the road a mile,” it won’t be either down or a mile.
Maximum heart rate is 220 minus your age. Optimal training rate is 80% of that. It will hurt to go that fast.
A “quick stop” on a group ride is 5 minutes times the number of people. Double that if it’s raining.
Often is better than long. Five 10-mile rides each week will do your training more good than a half-century every Saturday.
No matter how many bikes you have in your basement, at least once a year they will all have a flat tire simultaneously.
Bikes go faster when they are clean. (That’s my excuse for going slow.)
No matter how many times you check the list, you will forget something. The best you can hope for is that it will be something you can replace at your destination.
Starting about March, all the hills in the world flatten out slowly. Somewhere around November they start getting higher and steeper again, reaching a peak just before your first ride of the season. This is a known physical fact.
Who else has a favorite rule of thumb?
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One Comment

  1. Posted June 7, 2010 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    Here's one: You are a repository of local knowledge when you bicycle. Ride a bike around town and someone will ask you for directions to a site, suggestions for a place to eat, how local transit works, etc.