Rock The Bike: BLOG

Kryptonite lock as self-defense for cyclists?

Sep 2, 2006Posted by

Last night Thao and I biked to Yoshi’s in Oakland and caught the last set, a tribute to jazz drummer Elvin Jones.

 On the BART on the way home, we sat across from a couple of stylish hipsters on fixed gear bikes. We did the obligatory mutual inspection of each others’ bikes for a few moments and then settled into the ride under the tunnel.

A few minutes later I noticed the couple was holding their Kryptonites, passing them back and forth, comparing the size. Both of them had one of the smaller U-lock models, about 6 inches in length and 5 inches wide. Next thing I know, the guy was demonstrating how to punch someone by using the lock as extra weight in his fist.

The extra weight, he said, made the punch that much harder.

She said “I always thought it use it more like this…” and swung it by the U part.

He said, “No you still want to hold it by the barrel. When you go for the punch, if the guy ducks, you can let the shackle swing around. That way you get an extra six inches of reach he wasn’t expecting.

So I was thinking about this and wondering, is it beneficial for cyclists to even think along these lines. None of us wants to think about needing to defend ourselves when we’re riding our bike. But occasionally, cyclists do get attacked. In my immediate area around Berkeley, San Francisco, West Oakland, I have heard of several muggings happening to cyclists for no apparent reason. I wonder whether I should even write this on a web site where we are explicitly encouraging people to ride their bikes at night.

First of all, everybody assumes certain risks throughout their daily lives. If you stay home and watch TV all day, you risk terminal boredom. If you get out and ride your bike, you risk an accident or *very rarely* an attack by strangers.

I want to emphasize that this phenomenon is very rare, but has happened often enough to people in my direct circle of friends, that I think it is a real phenomenon. I have no statistical evidence to say whether bicyclists are more likely to be mugged than walkers or drivers. Also, none of the people I know who have been attacked while riding were seriously hurt.

Unfortunately, each of these attacks fit a similar pattern — a group of guys in their young 20’s steps out of a car or off the sidewalk, blocks the way of the biker, and then either verbally hassles or physically attacks them. The motive seems to be more ‘something to do to prove one’s manliness’ than theft. However, the attackers will probably take what you have anyway. One of my friends was carrying vinegar to a dinner party and the attackers demanded it, thinking it was liquor.

So what should you do to prevent this from happening to you?

First, examine your regular routes and consider the risk level. Ask others about the safety issues… “Have you ever had any problems in _______________ ?”

Don’t ride in stealth mode. Lights are good for your safety. You want to be seen by vehicles. The danger of being attacked by muggers is very minimal and not well established. It’s not known whether bright lights are positive, negative or neutral. However, the danger of being hit by a car is well-documented and easily preventable with lights.

Trust your instincts. If you don’t like a situation you’re riding towards, turn around and take another street. Recently I was on my way to West Oakland, I didn’t like the way a group of guys was walking across the road, because one of them wasn’t crossing with the others. I was scared they could surround me. So I turned around and took another street. I was close enough for them to realize why I was turning around. I heard them making fun of me. I have no evidence they wanted to attack me, but it didn’t feel right, so I turned around.

Don’t whip out your kryptonite and start swinging, unless your name is Jackie Chan. Using a weapon creates the possibility that the weapon will be used against you. This is especially true if you encounter a group.

Practice your verbal defenses. “Stop!” seems like an effective one, but I’m not a self-defense expert. One of my friends was able to escape a threatening situation by yelling “WHERE is the LOVE in your HEART?!!” at the top of his lungs.

Be a positive member of your community. Volunteer. Meet the neighborhood kids when they’re 10, 13, and 15. Work on your bike on your front steps and offer to help them with their bikes. When they’re 18, 21, and 23, they’ll know you as a cool person (and they’ll be into bikes.)

I welcome comments on this topic and think its valuable for cyclists to share experiences.

Hip Hop in the Park Cruiser Ride!

Aug 31, 2006Posted by

Where: Golden Gate Park, San Francisco CA

When: Sunday September 3 2006 1PM Beach Chalet San Francisco

Starting at:The Beach Chalet, riding along JFK, to King Jr Drive, to MLK Jr Drive, pass Mallard Lake, arrive at Elk Glen Lake Cove.  If anyone can clarify the route for me.  Please post a comment!  The party is at Elk Glen Cove.

The event is free, so tell a friend!

Check the flyer out at

Fremont Cruiser Routes/Meet Up Spots

Aug 27, 2006Posted by

The Fremont Cruiser rides are not official yet.  I have just been getting together with a couple of friends and doing rides to get some dinner and roll around the area.  The blog title says “Fremont Cruiser Routes” but the main emphasis for this blog is to list and describe the places we usually ride so that other interested riders might be able to catch us on any random night. The “Fremont” ride actually included 3 different cities which border my area; Fremont, Newark and Union City.  Some of the places we frequent on our night rides are Paddy’s Coffe Shop (Union City), Tapioca Express on Decoto Road (Union City), the Lake in Newark (when the sprinklers aren’t dousing us), Tapioca Express at Pacific Commons (Fremont), Suju’s Coffe Shop Thornton Avenue (Fremont), Juan More Taco Thornton Avenue (Fremont), during the day time; Lake Elizabeth in Fremont, Paseo Padre loop up the hill past Mission Blvd with a stop at Mission Coffe House (Fremont).  These are a few of the places we ride so if you see us out there, link up and roll!        I’m hoping to make the LAST SATURDAY NIGHT of EACH MONTH an official night.  Look out for flyers at local bike shops and cafes.  If you are interested in doing the rides, bring your blinkies, helmet, a repair kit (just in case), proper clothing and an open mind for some bike fun!

To sum it up: When: September 30, 2006  7:30PM, Where:  Juan More Taco Restaurant (Fremont, Ca), What: Fremont Cruiser Ride! Bring a friend!


First night rides we’ve all had them

Aug 22, 2006Posted by

I remember the first time when I was a kid and I thought about riding my bike at night. My folks thought I was crazy.  As I got older without a car and not really needing one,  I began to explore the joys, perils, and experience of riding a bicycle at night.  At first it can be a very nerve racking experience.  I remember riding home from practice 7 miles across town back to my house, no lights, no bright clothes, not even reflectors.  Rolling on the sidewalks and the terrifying suburban overpasses.  Cars flying by you and I wondered if I would make it home or end up in the newspaper the next morning as a statistic.  The fear is terrible!  When I got my first light set up, I felt better, “well at least I’m legal now and its better than nothing.”   I rode around Lake Merritt in Oakland California with my friend Libra.  Good times!  About 2 years ago I met Fossil Fool at a Sunday early morning South Cyde Cycles Bike show.  I was drawn to his “Soul Cycle” which still is the COOLEST Bike sound system ever, and he showed me the Down Low Glow, which I thought was kinda weird, crazy for a bike.  I ended up getting one and enjoy riding a lot.

New chain = Happy biking

Aug 18, 2006Posted by

Installed a new chain tonight. This isn’t really front page news, except I wanted to remind people about the benefits of installing a new chain, and ways to tell when you need to do so.

Installing a new chain has a few important benefits. Normal riding causes chains to stretch, which wears your gears out faster (leading to ‘shark’s fin’ shaped gears on your chainrings and cogs. Eventually your chain will slip or ‘kerchunk’ when you pedal hard. This is dangerous and uncool. At this point you’re looking at spending real $$ for a new chainring set, cassette, and chain.

1. Replacing your chain before it stretches too far makes the rest of your drivetrain last much longer. If you do the math, installing new chains saves you money because it means you don’t have to change cassettes and chainrings as often. (They will probably wear 2-3 times faster if you don’t replace your chain.) A new chain is a $10-20 part at a bike shop. Rock the bike customers, in a couple weeks you’ll be able to order a new chain through our ecommerce section.

2. It makes your bike feel new again. A new chain is silent and has that ‘sweet spot’ feeling. It’s also more efficient; you’ll be going about 1% faster, or something.

3. It’s not a hard repair. You’ll feel manly, or womanly. Replacing a chain is greasy, but not hard. If you have a decent chain tool , the whole thing can take less than 15 minutes.

So when do you need a new chain? A chain will start to squeak more when it’s worn. It will also make a high pitched shimmery “crrrrooooiiinnnk” noise when you pedal hard. The noise sounds like a bunch of coins spinning on a metal table and coming to rest. If you suspect yours is worn, it’s worth measuring it with a chain wear indicator (buy one?) or a ruler .

I replace my chain about once a year. Not a big deal. Just thought you’d enjoy hearing about one way to make your bike last longer and funner.


BCAT Workshop Day

Aug 15, 2006Posted by

I worked at the BCAT today helping Fossil Fool do some shop cleanup, and some of the tedious steps in building the Down Low Glow. Good times, yeah the work was pretty simple as far as labor is concerned, sweeping up the shop, organizing products, storing stuff, preparing shipping materials, necessary steps in keeping the products moving smoothly. Once all these things are in place the work can begin! I’m happy to be helping with one of my favorite bike products on the market, and I take pride in being a small part in actually getting these things out to people so they can enjoy them! The next day is coming soon and this will only go on until the semester starts so I really hope to engage in the process and learn as much as I can about the systems of DLG, electronics, bike stereos and just enjoying bike culture and tech talk. Always good times!

I Love the Buddy Bike

Jul 20, 2006Posted by

side by side tandem

So I’ve been thinking about the elements of a great cruiser ride. I won’t go into the obvious ones right now, but I want to share one of the ones that’s not so obvious.

Getting a lot of people into a small area.

If you’re throwing a party, you want to fill the room. That’s when the energy rises to that special point, and people start to dance.

On a bike ride, it’s the same. It won’t have that party ride feeling unless you’ve got a lot of people in a small space. But how do you do that on bikes without causing accidents? Well, you get tandems and rickshaws and fill them with people. Then you pick a relatively flat, easy route, and keep the speeds mellow.

The element of conversation is so much nicer when people are close together. And the music doesn’t have to be turned up as loud when everyone is close enough to hear it.

As long as you’re going to involve tandems in your cruiser ride, you might as well seek out a “Buddy Bike” or Side-by-Side tandem. I should be careful using the term “Buddy Bike” because it’s now a company making special-needs tandems (bikes that a ‘normal’ adult and a special needs kid can ride together.) “Buddy Bike” used to be a small company making side by side tandems. It’s an idea that has never ‘caught on’ but will, once there is a healthy bike cruising scene in every city and town in this country.

Thao and I rode a Side By Side tandem at the Oregon Country Fair and the experience was so much nicer than any other tandem I’ve been on. Yes, front-back tandems are fast and sleek, but they don’t give you that “Slide over baby” feeling. The people in the picture above seem like they have a death grip on the handlebars. But it wasn’t hard to ride with my arm around Thao as we cruised the outer grounds of the Oregon Country Fair. The tandem has two wheels, i.e. it is lots of fun to take turns and coast down hills. Some side-by-side tandems have three or four wheels. This may seem obvious to you, but bikes with more than two wheels aren’t bikes at all. So they may have great characteristics and they may be lots of fun, but they won’t feel like a bike. They won’t take turns like a bike. The side by side tandem may catch a lot of wind resistance, but it’s fun to ride. And when you’re cruising, fun trumps speed.

I am hoping to build up a side-by-side tandem in the next year and put a sweet little sound system on it for the SF Cruiser Ride.

At least 10 bike sound systems at the last critical mass

Jul 18, 2006Posted by

I went to the June Critical Mass with Thao and some friends. We rocked two Soul Cycles (linked by wireless broadcast.) On the way there I was nearly knocked down by a taxi. A fellow biker immediately jumped off his bike, threw it down (a nice single-speed), and prevented the taxi from moving while I got my bearings back.

At the ride there were at least 5-10 other bike sound systems. It made the mass very noisy. Most of these systems were pretty hacked together things, not much to look at. My friend Hector had been working on his — he added some bright red fake fur to make a passenger seat. Not my style, but hey.


It got me thinking about bikes and amplified music. I have been rolling my Soul Cycle around San Francisco for three years now, and the response has been 99% positive. But, I depend on the goodwill of the community to explore this art further. When 10 music bikes show up at Critical Mass, it definitely takes away the shared experience for other folks. Conflicting musical styles and clashing soundwaves makes this potentially ethereal experience into another thrash session.

The next week I was up at the Oregon Country Fair. The Fair limits amplified music to designated music stages. This means you can’t have a boombox at your camp, and you can’t roll the Soul Cycle. We did it anyway, of course, but we limited our excursions to a few and tried to keep it on the periphery of the fair grounds.

But I have to say… The no amplified music rule was really special. At night, groups of friends would simply walk the paths of the fair. Acoustic guitars had no problem being heard. We sang and rapped for cookies, noodles, and tiramisu. Spontaneous freestyle cyphers popped up, and the whole fair had a magical, ran-away-with-the-circus feeling to it.

So that got me thinking about the limitations of Soul Cycling. Yes, it does elevate the mood of a cruiser ride, but it also prevents other creative expressions from popping up. Since coming back, I’ve been listening to music lower, and only turning up when people are really gathered around and dancing. (When they crave the bass.)

It’s important to show respect to the community. This means turning down if you’re stopped outside someone’s house. Think about the music you’re playing. Does it make other people smile? Do you have a kill switch on your handlebars? You should. A kill switch can help to diffuse any sort of negative situation whether it be a cop, a neighbor, or one of your own friends who wants to tell you something. Cruising with music is not about playing music loud. It’s about elevating the spirit of the neighborhood.


Working with on new site design

May 29, 2006Posted by

The talented Memphis Graphic Designer Christopher Reyes of has begun working on the new face of Rock The

Ice Cream Bike Pro — Pedal Powered Ice Cream Maker

Aug 16, 2000Posted by

Take the cranking out of your arms and into your legs for a more ergonomic method that taps into larger muscle groups,  yielding amazing results at your events. Crank out up to 2 gallons in only 20 minutes of casual pedaling! Our new Ice Cream Bike Pro combines the wide size range and style of our steel Fender Blender Pro base frame — proven sturdy for human power use since 2006 — with a modified hand crank ice cream maker from Country Freezer — they’ve been stirring up frozen goodies since 1995.

ice cream bike

Casual pedaling effort — you can wear street clothes, even a dress and flip flops.