Monday, July 30, 2007

I am a speed demon....allegedly

I just got off the phone with my lawyer and it turns out that Hanover Insurance is continuing to claim that I was operating my bicycle in a negligent manner when I was cut off by their insured.

The newest argument, which is one that I'm particularly fond of, is an assertion that I was traveling at an unsafe speed. Initially I was denied for passing on the right. When I pointed out the explicit language in the Massachusetts General Laws that allows just that, the story was changed to the tune of "the cars were stopped, so passing on the right is still illegal."

Their new tune is that I'm an incredible cyclist, who despite limited bike time at that point, is able to exceed the legal speed limit of 35 mph on the road where the accident occurred.

In 1984 Greg Lemond's record breaking average speed in the final time trial of the Tour de France was an eye-watering 54 kmph. That translates roughly to 33.5 mph - at least 1.5 mph slower than my alleged speed. Move over Levi, Jordan's coming to pass you on the shoulder.

Tour wrap up

As I sat on my bed last night and watched the cycling's greatest riders make one final push down the cobbles of the champs elysees, I couldn't help but wonder why it is that we've chosen to become to so hard on dopers in the recent years. People rhetorically ask "what has happened to cycling?" or "will cycling ever be clean?" Perhaps a better question is, "has it ever been clean?"

In the early days of the tour riders consumed alcohol and even ether to dull the pain of the then nearly 400 kilometer stages that kept competitors riding well into the night. A recent article in the Times quotes Fausto Coppi, the Italian who rode to yellow in 1949 and 1952, on his response to being asked if he had ever used amphetamines in the tour:

“Only when necessary,” he said.

How often was that?

“Most of the time,” Coppi replied.

There is the infamous Tom Simpson, who in 1967 collapsed dead on Mount Venoux from a combination of amphetamines and alcohol. He had amphetamines in his jersey. Doping control promptly began the next year.

To think that the tour will ever be clean is to deny a characteristic that has been with it from the beginning. I don't take it personally, drugs or not I'll never be there. And I'll still lose 3 hours a day in July religiously watching.

Friday, July 27, 2007

NH Amateur State Games Race Report

On Wednesday I was finally able to get back up to the track and compete in the New Hampshire Amateur state games - which was essentially the same as every other night at the track, with the exception of a higher race fee and medals.

The night started off with the Kilo - a one kilometer race against the clock. I had already announced to my fellow Cambridge Bicycle teammates before I left the shop that I was coming home with a medal in the kilo, so I knew I had to throw down. Needless to say I was not nearly warmed up enough when events got under way. I elected to go early in the race to give me time to recover before the other events. You start the Kilo fully clipped in with someone holding your bike - which can be a little nerve wracking when they neglect to hold you straight. I got off to a decent start but swung too wide on turns 1 and 2 in the first lap. The banking is minimal on this track, only 14 degrees, so you have to really keep on your inside bar to stay in the pole. I held it together for a 1:24 finish - I had hoped to be under 1:20 - but it was good enough for a silver medal in the C race.

In the points race we did what we could to utilize some team tactics, however much of the race was spent avoiding the erratic moves of some newbies. I wasn't able to pull much together so I worked as a rabbit for Aaron and Erik. Erik ended up in silver.

The Olympic Sprint ( a three man race, raced in a paceline with 1 man pulling off each lap, time is taken as the anchor man crosses the line). I elected to ride second behind Aaron and in front of Erik. We had a smooth start, and were right up together until turn 4 on the first lap when I heard the smack of metal on pavement and expletives behind me. Turns out Erik had a pedal strike on his new IF. Luckily he stayed up, but had dropped out of my draft. I had no idea and continued to ride furiously. Somehow Erik pulled it together and we took Gold.

Last was the Match Sprint. Four guys start at the line, foot down, and there's 2 laps to go from the line - anything goes. I never thought this would be my event - I'm not exactly of the track sprinter build and on top of that I'm down about 12 pounds off of my winter weight-lifting weight (huge). Race starts fast, I've yet to be in a match sprint that utilizes a track stand, but given that there's 4 people to contend with its not the best strategy choice. As we come around to the bell lap I'm sitting in 2nd, and I decide to make a move. I come around to the front and drop all I've got, as I crest turn 4 I'm peddling far to fast to look back so i just hold it through the line, keeping about 2 bike lengths on second place. I was pretty impressed with myself, and ready to vomit, then I realized I had to go to the finals. So what do I do? Exact same thing - only this time, no one goes with me, thinking I can't hold the break twice, and I cruise into Gold. Except by cruise into gold I mean my heart rate hit 212.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Paint on Solar Cells

Its time for my first eco related post. Though I haven't offered a purpose for this blog yet, this sort of thing fits right in.

I have to hand it to New Jersey on this one - Researchers at NJIT have come up with a design for paint on solar cells. The technique relies on carbon nanotubes and buckyballs instead of the common silicon process, resulting in a drastically reduced cost of production. The inventors are envisioning a future where consumers could print out their own solar panels on ink jet printers.

The implications of this sort of technology are massive, taking us one step closer to widespread micro generation, where consumers produce their own electricity for their own needs. Technological advancement coupled with self-reliance - sounds good to me.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

legal babble

Its been a month and a half since I met the side of a Subaru Legacy wagon while riding in Stoneham around The Fells. After Hanover insurance denied the claim for damages to my Roubaix RC I sought out the legal advice of Andrew Fischer, a Boston area cycling advocate and lawyer. We decided then that we would pursue an unfair settlement suit, a consumer protection that prevents insurance companies from doing what they do best: not paying.

Some time had gone by since I met with the lawyer, and I had convinced myself that I wasn't going to see that money or my lawyers fees back in my pocket. (As a side note - thanks to those who contributed to the fee). Yesterday I received the draft of the letter to be sent.

First off, lawyers are completely ridiculous. Some quotes:

Despite the clear and indisputable liability of Hanover's insured, Hanover has denied Mr. Winkler's claim, asserting, contrary to indisputable evidence, that the accident was caused by the supposed negligence of Mr. Winkler, who did nothing but proceed lawfully along the roadway where he had the right of way, and where he should have been, according to Massachusetts law.

7. Having received no offer of settlement, let alone a reasonable offer, in response to his claim, Mr. Winkler is now compelled to institute litigation to recover the damages he sustained as a result of your insured’s negligence.

Indisputable evidence! I'm already convinced, but then it gets better:

8. Hanover's claims department has clearly failed to read and comprehend the applicable sections of the Massachusetts General Laws. Hanover wrote, in a letter to Mr. Winkler on June 21, 2007 (attached hereto as Exhibit B), "When operating a bicycle in Massachusetts, it is said to use the same rules and regulations as of a vehicle [sic]". Hanover proceeded to make reference to M.G.L. ch. 85 § 11B, the very section that explicitly permits the operation of a bicycle to the right of motor vehicles in the same lane when passing. The statute reads, "[T]he bicycle operator may keep to the right when passing a motor vehicle which is moving in the travel lane of the way". M.G.L. ch. 85 § 11B.


12. As a result of the above described bad faith settlement practices, Mr. Winkler has suffered undue delays in resolving his claims, as well as other damages. This has caused Mr. Winkler anguish and mental suffering and has prevented him from engaging in his usual life’s activities. In addition, the undue delay caused by Hanover's bad faith has caused Mr. Winkler to incur substantial legal fees which would otherwise have been unnecessary. Further, by delaying payment to Mr. Winkler, Hanover can continue to earn interest for a prolonged additional period of time on the money it should be promptly paying to Mr. Winkler.

Anguish? Mental suffering? I must really love that bike. I think if this goes to court I'll come up with some sort of tee shirt depicting the demise of my

Thursday, July 19, 2007

photoshop phun

Finally starting to get some personal touches on the blog. Photos above come from my trek up Mt. Kenya last September. More adjustments to come.

To Protect and Swerve

I was riding home from SEI over on the Tuft's campus today for lunch when I was passed on Cameron Ave by a black Jeep. It was your standard car-pass-bike maneuver that puts you on guard for the impending stupidity of the driver. Sure enough my instincts were correct, as said drive made an attempt to make an abrupt right hand turn in front of me. As I swerved to avoid the collision I offered a firm open hand to the rear quarter panel of the jeep. As I got within view of the driver, fully prepared for an angry confrontation - "Hey you hit my car, wtf??" - I was surprised (but not really) to find the driver wearing the uniform of a Boston Police Officer.

Now I remember why I didn't call the cops when I was hit in June. If you ride in Boston be sure you're familiar with Massachusetts' General Laws Chapter 85 section 11b, so when a cop, or in my case Hanover Insurance, tries to claim you were breaking the law when you're cut off by a car, you can calmly tell them exactly why they're wrong. And when they still deny your claim, which they will, then you hire a lawyer.

long walks and sketchy cities

Yesterday's rainy weather forced the cancellation of the New Hampshire Amateur Games, and coerced me out for a much-needed run. Took an easy pace near fresh pond for a 45 min effort. Not quite where I was a few weeks back, but that happens. Why concern myself with running? I often ask myself that question. There are a few answers: First off, I'm terrible at it--always have been. Secondly, in less than two weeks we depart for a 270 mile backpacking trip along the Long Trail in Vermont.

For the uninitiated, the Long Trail traverses the length of Vermont crossing the largest peaks of the Green Mountains. The trail starts just north of Williamstown, MA, and ends in North Troy, VT, and was the first wilderness trail in the US. We're shooting for a leisurely 22 to 25 day itinerary (which I still need to figure out) with one stop at Sarah's in Warren as we come through the Lincoln Gap. I'm hoping that I glean some sort of fitness benefit from the 8 hours a day of level 1 work, and manage to keep some weight on my bones. I'll post more about the prep as it happens.

The tour moved into Marseille yesterday - and Versus spent a good portion of their coverage spewing flattery for a city that is in the top 3 sketchiest places I've ever visited in my life. While the harbor islands are beautiful, the city is full of beggars - often proudly displaying open, rotting wounds, or lacking limbs all together.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Busy past few weeks

Crazy past 10 days. I've finally rid myself of the Grand Prix - anyone who had ridden in it was made very aware of my distaste with that automobile. When you can finally bring yourself to get over the embarrassment of being an environmental academic who drives a car, you at least want that car to fit your lifestyle. Not to say that the Pontiac wasn't off entirely - the car was given to me (I'm opportunistic), and the peripherals constantly broke, giving me constant inspiration for complaint (I'm a cynic). Its the end of an era. I'm now the proud owner of a 2002 Subaru Outback, slightly more suited to the better parts of my lifestyle, and less likely to leave me stranded on 89.

The Pontiac did go out with a bang - not just the blown out tire on the way home to get the outback - but a good 1000 miles of driving in a week or so. The 4th was spent in Warren enjoying a pleasant amount of political dissonance at the annual 4th of July parade. On the 5th we were able to drag Kyle up to the top of Camel's Hump on a slightly epic hike.

The 6th saw us spend one night in Boston before departing for the Catskills for a party with our friends the Tarlofsky's (NYC residing film producer) at their house near Kingston. Simply put, there were many characters (think San Fernando Valley), and a good time was had.

Back to reality for a few days now as I try to catch up on this consulting gig for the World Bank (it likely sounds more exciting than it is). Biggest news of the week is the official beginning of the Cambridge Bicycle Track Team. Tomorrow will be my first week back to the track in quite a while for the NH State Amateur Games, race report to come.

By the way - I've got a blog now.