Hello, Everyone! I am David Cohen, and I will be the new “Gears & Gadgets” writer for IPMBA. Before I go any further on myself and my background, I wanted to take a moment to thank Jared Williams for creating the “Gears & Gadgets” feature and for doing such a wonderful job with it over the years. I definitely will have some big shoes to fill.
Like many IPMBA members, I spent hours and hours of my youth on two wheels, from my old purple Sears Spyder Bicycle that I received on my 7th birthday, to the Schwinn World Sport that I got for my 13th. Then, a funny thing happened when I turned 16…the two wheels were traded in for four. Nearly a decade later, I rediscovered the bicycle, this time riding mountain bikes. Mountain biking led me to participating in various advocacy programs, which, in turn, led me to becoming a volunteer with the Maryland-National Capital Park Police in the suburbs of Washington D.C. in the summer of 2007.
The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) is a state agency that manages the parklands and various park-related properties in Montgomery and Prince George’s County, Maryland. In the Montgomery County Division, we are responsible for over 400 locations and 36,000 acres of land (10% of the entire acreage of Montgomery County). There are 200 miles of trails to patrol, including the Capital Crescent, which is one of the busiest hiker/biker trails in the entire country, as well as miles upon miles of natural surface trails, so we have to be familiar with riding over various types of surfaces and terrain. No bicycle is perfect, and I’ve faced a number of in-the-field maintenance challenges in all kinds of conditions that needed to be overcome. My experience has been an incredibly interesting and rewarding, from patrolling relatively quiet natural surface trails, to the full hustle and bustle of July 4th fireworks displays (getting a front row “seat” to the fireworks is always a plus). In addition, I have now become the volunteer responsible for bike training of all new volunteers, conducting training classes and field training / proficiency checks for new volunteers. (Regrettably, M-NCPPC does not send volunteers to IPMBA training.)
Paralleling my discovery of mountain biking was learning to do my own repair work. As my mountain biking developed, so did my repair and maintenance skills as I attempted more and more complex tasks that were usually reserved for bike shops. I even began to seek out “cadaver bikes” on which to practice my skills (see “Risk-Free Bike Maintenance”). Like public safety cycling, tinkering is a skillset that improves with practice. It doesn’t necessarily have to be on bicycles. Whether it is a bicycle, a car or even a World War II-era aircraft, the basic logic to tinkering remains the same; only the size and scale change.
I make no pretenses that I have all the answers or am the “know all / be all” when it comes to bicycles and bicycle repairs and maintenance. “Gears and Gadgets” should be a two-way street, and feedback and suggestions from all of you is not only welcome, it is strongly encouraged. The Public Safety Cyclist Community is exactly that, a Community. Community by its definition is a group of people that support and advise each other, which is why we have an organization like IPMBA
I joined IPMBA to help expand my knowledge base of public safety cycling, and many ideas that I gleaned from the newsletters, I brought back to Park Police. Some of those ideas that I implemented were then used as a basis for the various articles that I wrote for the newsletters over the years.
I intend to continue Jared’s mission of keeping the emphasis on the real world maintenance and field repairs that almost all of us face in our roles as public safety cyclists, with periodic features on various pieces of technology that could help make our time as public safety cyclists more effective. I hope to be able to produce this feature on an every other month basis. We’ll get the gears turning next month with the first “actual” column. I truly look forward to contributing to the public safety cycling community.
David Cohen is a 12 year volunteer with the Maryland-National Capital Park Police. When he isn’t riding or tinkering with bicycles, David can be found tinkering with vintage cars or World War II airplanes. An avid historian, David enjoys researching and writing as well. He can be reached at email@example.com.