Thursday, August 28, 2008

It’s not how fast or slow your pace...

Sorry…long time no blog!

I paused the other day to think about my cycling experiences and have determined that not only has the equipment changed considerably in the past thirty years, but so has my cycling preferences—perhaps it has a great deal to do with the body and mind’s ability to cope with aging. As a youth it was speed—get there first at all costs—the end was the goal. Time trials and racing contained the ultimate rush. Now, I seem to have a different focus—it’s the journey and the friends you make along the way—the means to the end. “Social cycling” or touring has taken me to places I have never been before—philosophically, spiritually and physically.

I was a college freshman at SDSU when I rode my last race. The Big Bike Race was not really a serious race. I was recruited to be the anchor rider for a team of young men that would become some of my best friends during college; and, to help win this cycling relay around a cinder lined track. It somehow transformed me.

Don’t take my comments wrong, I have enjoyed both racing and touring immensely. Perhaps one without the other would have made me incomplete. And trust me when I say, I wish I still had the athleticism that could match the challenges posed by racing. I still marvel at the phenomenal athletic skill and confidence of the cyclist that can ride the various stages of Le Tour de France and the regional athletes that rode South Dakota’s first Criterium last weekend. But now, I slow in my pace and enjoy the ride. I still marvel…but this time, at how a day’s ride reveals the beauty and wonders of the world.

Even though a fair share of my life has passed since then, I again find refuge and refreshment in riding my bike. When I need clarification in life’s trials, a bike ride usually puts things in perspective. When I have writer’s block, a bike ride clarifies my thoughts. When I need to “feel”, a bike ride with friends makes the world inspirational. It’s not how fast or slow your pace; it’s that you’re riding.

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” –Albert Einstein 1879-1955

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Building a Bike Rack

Before, after and between rides, I have been leaning my bike against the shrubs, laying it on the grass or propping it up against the garbage cans at my home. Not anymore! I finally broke down and made a bike rack for one. The rack had to be inconspicuous and narrow, occupying the grassy knoll between the driveway and sidewalk (approximately 24” width).

You may or may not be able to perceive the slope on my sidewalk and driveway from the photograph, but the contractors that landed this house on the Wicked Witch of the West forgot to check the elevation change from street level. The slope on the driveway is somewhere between 25 and 30 degrees. Don’t take me’s great…especially since it works like a runaway truck ramp.

The commercially manufactured bike racks are wide (typically for multiple bikes) and not designed to hold a bike on a Himalayan incline. So for less than six-dollars, I constructed the prototype. The PVC pipe and connectors were approximately five-dollars and the patio tile was another dollar. I already had the PVC cleaner and cement (approximately another five-dollars). Materials include: ten feet of 1” Schedule 40 PVC, six 90 degree elbows, four T-connectors and one 12” X 12” concrete patio tile. The PVC pipe is cut into two 4” wheel base sections, two 12” wheel base sections, two 21.5” wheel upright sections, two 18” stake sections and five 1.25” joiner sections. One precautionary note—pre-fit sections and keep joints flat and square, PVC cement sets quickly, giving you little time to make adjustments.

I do not use the rack for extended storage, rather it is used for checking and filling tires with air, running into the house to grab that forgotten sport bottle of Propel, sunglasses, camera, keys…keys??? Occasionally, I have left my commuter bike in the rack during a quick lunch…using a cable lock around the wheel upright sections.

So far, the rack is enduring the UV light exposure and adverse weather. It has a phenomenal rigidity and is appropriately sized for both my 700 X 23 and 700 X 35 bike tires. The schedule 40 PVC is exceptionally strong—I used my weight to “plant” it into the ground by standing on the forward and backward wheel bases…I have included a picture of the rack before “planting” so that you can see it has substantial “roots” that stabilize the rack and subsequently the bike. I’ll keep you informed on how the rack responds to the South Dakota fall and winter weather conditions.

Bewildering Bicycling Blog Tag...Anyone? Bueller?

All righty then…at the risk of becoming a schmuck…let’s get a new blog tag game going. I propose the following. The goal is to disguise an alliterated passage with meaningful cycling reference in the next blog you write—after you have been tagged.

Now wait…it’s not that easy…you have to "play the game" using one of two options…the first option allows you to choose the next two (chronological) letters of the alphabet from which you must create your passage(s); or the second option allows you to choose the last letter from the previous blogger’s entry (that is the one that tags you) and then the next letter in chronological (alphabetical) order. Okay, so this is not so clear…let me give you an example…

Somewhere in the text of my blog I have the following:

An accomplished architect of amazing artistic ability advocates the attributes of an azure Azuki brand bicycle that BRiMaN bought from a benevolent boss.

So then I tag the Hooterville Mayor, he has the option to: 1) use the letters “C” and “D” in his blog; or, 2) use the letter “B” from my blog (since it is the last letter I used in my entry) and then the letter “C”.

Got it? How fast can we make it through the alphabet?

Oh, by the way, that was a TAG Mayor! What will it be…”B” and “C” or “C” and “D”? No touch-backs…pffft!

I think Tez is willing to play the game (see her comment to my previous entry)!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Alliteration Trifecta

It was a cycling-kind-of-weekend… and a gorgeous one at that! Saturday, FAB launched its first of several Sioux Falls Bike Trail Helmet Usage Surveys. Morning dawned earlier than most anticipated…the fog made it appear to be about a half-hour earlier than it really was…

I met BRiMaN and the Hooterville Mayor at the South Minnesota Avenue Bridge for some synchronous semi-serious sunrise surveying…the only problem, BRiMaN and I were coffee-less and the Mayor was drinking the previous day’s leftovers—Aaacck! The bike trail was a little slow at 7:00 am, but it allowed us to exchange some childhood stories on how our fathers formed and reformed us; and, how we have or might be doing the same to our own children.

My most sincere gratitude is extended to the FAB survey team volunteers for taking a half-hour (or more) of their weekend to assist in the collection of helmet use data from 377 bicyclists at four locations during four different times of the day. Let's see, that’s four times four…carry the three…aaaah… 480 person-minutes or approximately 0.79 data points per person-minute (my statistical methods will be substantially more impressive than the aforementioned—never, ever, do public math). The affable volunteers were -- the Hooterville Mayor, BRiMaN, the Prez, Hellimat, Kari A., DyAnn W., Chuck W., mytzpyk, Harold C., Tammy W., Gregg D., Larry H., Tony P., Beth P., John N. and Rocket.

Thank you for your genuine interest in the safety of Sioux Falls bicyclists and this study. Watch for our release of the survey results and the next activity coming September 6th to a City Park near you!

I spent some ‘saddle-time’ on the trail traveling between survey sites until I bought a flat front tire…the first I have had on a bike-in-motion. Although I am not greatly disappointed, it was not as spectacular as I thought it would be. It was inconspicuous, innocuously incapacitating and insidious; more like going up a steep grade—bogging your progress to a dead stop (whilst still “clipped-in”, of course).

As I promulgated my pending "pump-less" predicament I found it somewhat perplexing that the plentiful passersby were not particularly pleasant. I even received a sinister syncopated snobbish snort or scoff from a gaunt gal, garnished in garden green gabardine, grinding the gears on a gauche gray Giant Glory DH.

Conveniently, the resulting gapping avulsion gave me a reason to charge on down to my LBS and change out the OEM tires with some Continental Grand Prix 4000 Black Chilies (Pell said they would give me another 12 mph without pedaling…12 plus 9.5…aaaah…carry the one…divided by 2...that’s still 9.5 mph, still my average)!

Below are a few pictures of our surveyors and some of those we surveyed. Particularly take notice of the trailer occupant…it caused us to take a second look. No offense intended…you can pick your seat (at the theatre), but not your genes.

Ride Into the Wind!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Disinclined Riding Partner

I have met many engaging and intriguing cyclists this past year and it has been entirely my pleasure. Most, I found, have a very similar sense of humor to my own, which both comforts and concerns me. My Advisory Board suggested to me that my first blog could be about my disinclined riding partner that joined me for a training ride earlier this summer. And, in light of Steve Madden’s “With the Editor—I hate Squirrels” article in the September issue of Bicycling magazine, it would seem apropos…the following is an adaptation of my June 22, 2008 FAB forum ( entry on “Why We Wear Helmets”…

Okay, there are many reasons for wearing a bicycle helmet...but rarely do we consider the helmet’s efficacy in deflecting falling squirrels! Yesterday, two blocks from home, an unexpected passenger joined me for a ride. As I was passing under a 40' elm tree, a squirrel fell onto either my headset or top tube--who knows which... All I know is at one moment I was pedaling along, the next I have a "little friend" hanging on to my bento box for its precious life. The helmet connection, you ask? During the squirrels 'free-fall' out of the tree top, it brushed my helmet before abruptly landing face-to-face with me on my bike. Initially, I thought I had brushed the lower limbs of the tree and was very hesitant to glance up for fear of taking one across the forehead or worse yet, have one catch under my helmet—subsequently separating me from my ride—by the chin strap.

It's amazing how fast one's mind processes the situation (sort of the crash and burn scenario when you can anticipate each moment of eating the asphalt as you ride your bike to the ground). I imagined the squirrel having either a heart attack, perching itself on top of my head or shoulders, or going straight for the carotid artery (the fastest way to take out your chauffeur). Staying perfectly cool, calm and collected (uh-huh), I eyed the flea-bitten critter...the ol' stink-eye (and an erratic 100' ride) must have convinced my furry passenger to bail and take its chances by nearly getting run over by the back wheel. I shrieked like an adolescent girl when it leapt between my leg and bike frame. Never having made such a piercing sound, I started laughing hysterically for the next two blocks. Upon reaching a fairly busy traffic intersection, I braked and attempted to un-clip. But to my uncoordinated dismay, I was laughing so hard that I came to a complete stop and started tipping to the opposite side from which my first foot broke free—of course. Throwing my weight to the freed side, I spared myself the humiliation of many a rookie rider. Still laughing, I dismounted and stood bent over my ride, as tears filled my shades. The neighbors...well let's say they are now convinced of my mental infirmity. After regaining my composure and ranking this experience as a 9.5 on the Weird-S@#*-O-Meter, I continued on my way.

On completion of the ride, I downloaded and reviewed data from my bike computer. My heart rate spiked at 202 bpm (140 % of max HR)...I never go above 165 bpm on the steepest of slopes. Interestingly enough, the spike was two blocks from home on level ground--go figure.

Protect yourself--always wear a helmet. In all seriousness, I could have just the same dumped the bike and had a fairly serious accident. It's not always the expected roadsters, rocks, rubbish, roots or ruts...sometimes it's rodents!

If you haven't watched Brad Dumke's "A Cycling Statistic" video on the FAB website (, do so's convincing--even though it doesn't have any squirrels.

Okay...okay...okay...some of my friends and a few Animal Rights Activists claim my disenfranchised 'little friend'--Rocky J. Squirrel--didn't deserve the ol'-stink eye, or for that matter, the supra-sonic shriek that deafened dogs for blocks. The hysterical laughter it deserved...maybe.

The day following this rodential escapade, Rocket (a moniker for my spouse with her new bike that moves at 12 mph without pedaling) and I went for a theme ride, Let's Teach the Husband a Lesson on the Open Road Ride. Somewhere between “Let’s go for a leisurely ride.” and “Eat my dust—Old Man!”-- Rocket blazes past me on the open road north of J & L and leaves me to defend myself amongst the squirrels' friends, the gophers—you know they talk amongst themselves… Don't let them fool you; they really are 'thirteen-line ground SQUIRRELS!'