Sunday, June 28, 2009

Long Live the Blog!

“We might not learn cycling from literature, but by studying cycling’s appearances in literature we can learn what people know and feel about cycling.”—John Forester

No, the Blog is not dead…long live the electronic literary.

“The bicycle, the bicycle surely, should always be the vehicle of novelists and poets.”—Christopher Morley

Life's Lessons

“Cycling provides all the big lessons in life: humility, pride, greed, discipline, grappling with the ego, and learning what your will is and when to apply it and how to apply it.”—John Wissenrider, Mountain Bike Racer

Last weekend, along with family and friends, I rode the Big Mick for the first time. This year, The Big Mick was a 104.6 mile ride on the George S. Mickelson Trail, starting at Lead, SD and following the abandoned Burlington Northern railroad to Edgemont, SD. The trail traverses some of the most beautiful landscape that South Dakota has to offer, starting in a mixed coniferous forest and ending on a short-grass prairie. The ride started at 5:30 am at the Lead Trailhead…of course we were characteristically late in starting…but ahead of the sweep riders.

Rocket rode her new Girly Surly (Cross Check) and I rode my hybrid. The DiStillers (Tina and Joe) were riding their mountain bikes. Immediately, the trail started us on a 10 mile incline that rose to around 6250 ft above mean sea level, a total elevation change of around 1200 ft. The temperatures were brisk in the shade (high forty’s) and gently warming in the sunlight-exposed areas. I was glad I had a jacket. We rolled into the first stop (approximately 20 miles) for a very nice breakfast at the Rochford Community Hall. After some pancakes, biscuits and gravy, fruit and orange juice, we set out for what would be the most challenging cycling I have had to deal with both physically and emotionally.

Earlier in the week, I had been diagnosed with a mild case of pneumonia and had been using a broad-spectrum antibiotic for several days before the ride. I thought that I was on the mend and the trek would be a pleasant break from the chaos I know as a vocation. Instead, it was one of the most defining moments in my life. As John Wissenrider’s statement suggests, cycling can provide the lessons of life, up front and personal.

Four or five miles out of Rochford, I could feel the elevation and my pneumonia-impeded breathing start taking its toll. My legs turned to lead and the energy, I had in the first leg of the ride, was now draining out of me. My riding partners were both gracious and affable in staying together, yet I knew I was holding all three of them back. I honestly thought I could overcome this physiological setback; if I could open my airways…physician heal thyself—use the albuterol nebulizer. Now with a little tachycardia, brought on by the medication, I continued to dawdle behind the others. I was feeling the humility of age and perhaps the lack of collegial discipline to accept my unconditional kismet to SAG after our arrival in Hill City.

Grappling with my ego to finish the century ride, we set out from Hill City for Custer. I told the others that I would catch up with them for lunch in Custer and we would enjoy the descending topography into Pringle…where our sons were waiting for us. There they were to join us in completing the last 32 miles of the Big Mick with my sister and brother-in-law. Several miles out of Hill City, Rocket dropped back to pick me up, but it was already over. The mind said “go on” yet the body was not cooperating. I wanted, in a most greedy way, to finish this ride. But it would not be my providence…I continued to pedal almost in a meaningless way. Maybe it was the will that drove me to the half-century mark…after all, how could I presumptuously wear a t-shirt that bears the slogan “The Big Mick 2009—Century and Half-Century Ride.”

It was the wisdom and charity of Rocket that made me stop at the half-century mark…as if she had been watching her odometer, so she could say that it was time to put my silly pride away for the day. It just so happened that we were immediately in front of a rural home of a kindly, charming and altruistic women, Mrs. S, when it became time to oblige the “bonk.”

As the banal afternoon rain clouds gathered over the Black Hills, we sought shelter under Mrs. S’s carport. Sprawled motionlessly on her backdoor stoop, I wheezed and coughed for air, with a heart that was bemused somewhere between stopping and beating its way out of my chest. Mrs. S allowed us some “personal time” under her carport, inviting us into her home several times before she asked if she could give us a ride into the next town. Emotionally defeated and feeling the devastation of utter exhaustion, I agreed to having her drive us to Pringle where one of our vehicles was parked. The boys, my sister and brother-in-law had already left for Edgemont by the time we arrived. We bid farewell to Mrs. S in a manner you would a close family member, a doting parent.

Rocket and I returned to Mrs. S’s home to retrieve our bikes and to express our sincere gratitude for the gracious and unreserved generosity that she had so willingly extended to complete strangers. She is now a part of our “cycling family,” intertwined into the fabric of our jerseys. It is her admirable application of will (spirit) and humanity that will be eternally remembered.

Thank you Mrs. S!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Capo di tutti capi

“One large bruise on the shin is even more characteristic of the ‘prentice cyclist, for upon every one of them waits the jest of the unexpected treadle. You try at least to walk your machine in an easy manner, and whack!—you are rubbing your shin.”—H.G. Wells

And that’s exactly the way it happened. My new ride arrives at my LBS, it gets set up, I take it for a spin in the parking lot, and then walking back into the shop area—WHACK—another scar for the shin. It’s funny how these machines impress upon us the authenticity of their character…It warns you, “I’m to be taken seriously!”

Meet my new ride, Double Stuff. A frolicsome name for a staid bike that from the start of our relationship imposed its strength of personality…so what if it looks like an Oreo™ cookie (biscuit). This Cannondale Capo has a namesake etymology that cannot be misjudged, for its English, Italian and Spanish roots imply it is a leader, perhaps with some perilous gangster, mobster or mafia associations. As an ‘oreo’ (Greek root for beautiful or nice), it is twice as sweet…but do not underestimate this capo di tutti capi (boss of bosses) it will break your legs...

Monday, May 11, 2009

Have You Started Training?!

“When you’re on the starting line of your first century, it’s not wise to sit there and think, ‘I’ve got to ride one hundred miles.’ I remember my first one, and my thought was to get to the first rest stop. I made each succeeding rest stop my goal. When they’re about twenty-five miles apart, you don’t get intimidated by what seems an impossible distance. All you need to do is ride twenty-five miles four times”—Seana Hogan, Race Across America Winner 1993-5

Have you started training for the Tour de Kota? Put the mountain bike with studded tires away; refrain from riding the comfort bike; and settle your bum back onto that Brooks. There’s only one short month before the adventure begins and we need to get some sun and miles on those peeled-grape legs of ours.

Rocket and I spent some quality time out on the highways with FAB friends on Saturday and on the bike trails with family on Mom’s Day. Overall, we put down some fifty-plus miles. Many more to follow before June 7th.

See ya on the highway!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Indie's Fixies and Singles

“When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking.”—Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

For the past five days, I have been attending a conference in Indianapolis, Indiana; the highlight—more than a dozen fixies and singles displayed on a terra cotta plaza one block from my hotel. The Colonel Eli Lilly Civil War Museum somehow serves as quite a contrasting and ornate background for this congregation of elegant yet simplistic bicycles. Each bike reflected its owners character—Surly, Cap(o)ricious, and Independent. Several of these cyclists nodded to me when they perceived that I was photographing their bikes…and not the picturesque museum in the background. You could tell that they like the musical genres of Indie rock artists place a premium on maintaining complete control of their passions and careers, and relying on touring.

The beautiful high sixties temperatures called these cyclists to congregate at midday to enjoy some comradely riding. At precisely 1430 they mounted their rides, waved to me (almost as a salute to my perceivable desires to be amongst them), and rode off, waiting for no one else. Shortly thereafter, a dozen or more road bikes followed in the same direction, but at a discernable distance—as if to honor their rank and file of their predecessors.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Victorious Spirit

“There’s a feeling that you can only get from racing and finishing—the feeling of pushing yourself beyond what you’re capable of doing in training. It’s about achieving the ultimate physical accomplishment —and you can’t feel that on the sidelines.”—Ned Overend

On Saturday, March 21st, Sioux City Velo revived and hosted the Twin Bing Road Race sponsored by Palmer Candy. The course started in the quaint town of Climbing Hill, Iowa and proceeded west to Old Hwy 141, north to D38, east past Bronson to the Moville Blacktop (K64) and back south to Climbing Hill. The race consisted of two or three 22.7 mile laps which ended on a 200 meter climb to the top of 'Climbing Hill' that overlooks the town. You want hills…they got hills—thirteen rollers to be exact! The A-racers made three laps for 68 miles and the B-racers made two laps for 45 miles—challenging for every rider.

I went along for the adventure, not to ride…but to observe my first USA Cycling sanctioned road race. Tez and Rocket were officiating—Tez ,in the commissioner’s car, watching for rules infractions along the route and Rocket marking times and taking numbers at the finish line.

With nearly one hundred registered participants, it was apparent that most of the racers were suffering from the thirteen-rollers and spring-legs-syndrome. Everyone on the course, including those that rolled into the finish line with only a single lap, declaring their “DNF” status, did better than I could have on that beautiful first full day of Spring.

One racer resplendently stands out in my mind, not because of her impressive elapsed time or even her extraordinary riding skills; rather, her relentless fortitude and determination in completing the race. As she approached the finish line, far behind the main group of cyclists, you could tell that she was on the verge of both physical and mental collapse. I had to cheer her on, as did the few remaining spectators and officials. A riding partner, perhaps her spouse or significant other, had returned from beyond the finish line, where he had moments earlier finished himself, and again rode the last 200 meter climb alongside her. As she passed my position on the sidelines, I observed her pallor complexion, shaking legs, erratic respiration and inability to gracefully “unclip” from her pedals. She was totally expended, yet you could sense her reserved personal celebration. She had “achieved the ultimate physical accomplishment.” I could sense her cathartic revelry; I could feel her victorious spirit.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Yellow Streak

“Falling is okay. What’s not good is not knowing why you fell. Don’t waste a perfectly good fall or you’ll have to do it again. Treat it as a physics lesson.”—Tom Hillard, Mountain Bike Coach

Kudos go out to the Sioux Falls Parks and Recreation Department for marking the cracks on the Bike Trail. Last Saturday, as I cruised along the trail, the bright yellow markings immediately caught my attention—warning me of the perils ahead. These cracks, just south of Falls Park, are the results of another South Dakota winter’s ravages. These crevasses are large enough to swallow-up your pet squirrel; least of all, catch-and-hold your front wheel—sending you over the handlebars. However, the flash-yellow marking paint was visible for tens of yards prior to their beginning. Note in the inset, that the dimes in the bottom of each trench show that the width of these tectonic plate lines have an expanse of more than 36 mm (18mm diameter dime). The unforgiving features of these cracks are that they course-the-trail (parallel) and that their depth is as great as their width; making the negotiation of these trail hazards more dangerous for the unobservant cyclist. The yellow-streaks effectively draw one’s attention to the hazard…until they get fixed. Thanks again to those that maintain our Bike Trail System; you thwarted another case of road-rash.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Vulnerability, Silence and Fading Sharrows

“In the city, ride like you’re invisible. As if nobody can see you. Because a huge percentage of the time, nobody can.”—Jason Makapagal, bicycle messenger

Gaia (Mother Nature) provided spectacular weekend weather for bicycling, but our motor vehicle friends were not yet prepared for our presence on the roads. More than once today, I was reminded of our vulnerable silence. I noticed bicyclists being crowded by motor vehicles, either from behind or in passing. In one instance, I witnessed a cyclist going completely unnoticed by a motorist until the cyclist had to take the curb. Both the motorist and cyclist were visibly shaken by the incident. Ride defensively…

“Forget about your rights. Forget about what’s fair. Forget all the rules of etiquette you ever learned. The average bicycle weighs twenty-five pounds. The average motorized vehicle weighs twenty-five hundred pounds. Your job is to avoid getting into an accident, not to prove you were within your rights after you’re involved in one.”—Bob Katz, bicycling advocate

During the past three months of not-so-adverse weather, the Share-the-Road markings (Sharrows) on our city bike routes are rapidly fading away; and likewise, the protection they may have once afforded the cyclist. In the photographic composite above, you can note the degradation of one sample sharrow that I have been monitoring on 22nd Street near the University of Sioux Falls. The deterioration progresses as seen in the tripartite illustration--left image (mid-January), middle image (mid-February) and right image (mid-March). I apologize for the harsh shadow on the far right frame...that's what happens when you have sunshine instead of overcast skies.

What will be left of our sharrows by the peak of cycling season?

Be conspicuous and ride safely!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

King of the Street

“I’m probably no longer the King of the Street, but I gave it my best.”—David 'Leo' Leopold, bicycle messenger

I’ve come to the conclusion that my “blogging” is becoming mundane at best…perhaps it’s because my inspiration (what there is of it) comes from actually being in the saddle, communing with bike and nature. The short commutes to work, all two and a half minutes, and the occasional breaks in weather that would afford a sustentative ride, really don’t deliver any satisfaction or clarity of thought. I know…some of you will say, “Well then, get out and ride!” I’m working on it—(enter self-depredating, ineffectual and profuse excuses here).

But this morning on CBS’s Sunday Morning, a feature called “On a Roll” by Steve Hartman infused some thoughts of a “better time.” In 1985, the late founding anchor Charles Kuralt interviewed 24-year old David 'Leo' Leopold, who currently operates Cavalry Couriers, a Manhattan Island bike messenger service. Much of the historical video was aired on the November 26, 2008 CBS Evening News (“On the Road…Again”) with anchor Maggie Rodriguez (for Katie Couric). Although I vehemently disagree with Leo’s riding courtesy and disregard for safety, I imagine myself doing the same…

Of course, it can only be fancy—which acknowledges any real possession of skills and stamina that being a bike messenger would require. And the small spaces between motor vehicles…well let’s say, where “I (Leo)can ride between objects that leave me an inch and a half, so technical that it’s like a surgeon’s hands…” , I would be stuck (wedged, if you prefer) between delivery vehicles, going wherever they decided—a cargo sandwich as such. If you prefer the analogy to be medically apropos, substitute—I would be stuck like a subdural hematoma between the dura mater and the arachnoid meninges...(Why We Wear Helmets).

But can you imagine? The exhilaration of flying along the streets with the fluidity of a fixie—being able to experience the “joy of passing everything that moves on the island of Manhattan; and, of doing this one thing better than anybody else on the planet Earth.”

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Hardly a Commute!

“A cyclist can ride three-and-a-half miles on the calories found in an ear of corn. Bicycles consume less energy per passenger mile than any other form of transport, including walking. A ten-mile commute by bicycle requires 350 calories of energy, the amount in one bowl of rice. The same trip in the average American car uses 18,600 calories, or more than half a gallon of gasoline.”—Marcia D. Lowe, The Bicycle: Vehicle for a Small Planet

Whether we are inclined to accept these assertions or not; it is interesting that each U.S. household had 0.86 bicycles and 1.9 automobiles in 2001. In China, bicycles significantly outnumber automobiles, approximated at 250:1. India has a 30:1 ratio, and South Korea has a 20:1 ratio.

Why, then, in the U.S. does that ratio digress so significantly? Why is it speculated that only one out of forty bicycles is ridden for commuting? Are the rest used for strictly recreation or retired to the garage in disrepair? As a commuting bicyclist we should be thinking of ourselves in the vast minority…but, a healthy, environmentally and economically sensitive minority.

That being said, I thought I would share a video of my hardly a commute to work. It is a two-and-a-half minute video during which you can hum either Ghost Riders in the Sky by The Ventures, We Will Rock You by Queen, The Lion Sleeps Tonight by The Tokens, or Remember the Days of the Old Schoolyard by Cat Stevens…as if you were at some nostalgic silent movie. I often switch-up my own humming on my one-song-commute; for example, in inclement weather you might catch me humming Buy for Me the Rain by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band or Wipe Out by The Surfaris.

For you techies, this real-time video was filmed with my son’s Oregon Scientific helmet cam mounted on the handlebars of my trusty winterized Hop Rocker. The raw footage was edited with Solveig Multimedia AVI Trimmer 1.6 Freeware. Forgive me for amusing myself…

If you are really bored, watch the commute home. Oddly, it is a slightly shorter video…must be the prevailing winds!

Power to the Pedal People!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Rodent Conspiracy Continues...

Have you seen this reprobate, good-for-nothing, troublemaker…this, this…this SQUIRREL?

Okay, the story continues…

My biking friends, our safety is at risk! Like the Biking Brady that has started posting license plate numbers of vehicles that have little or no awareness (or respect )for bicycles sharing the road, I am starting a Rodent Registry. This Rodent Registry is an attempt to identify these vermin for what they are…NUTS! I’m certainly convinced that the culprit pictured in this blog is, in fact, the same rascal that at the midday on June 21, 2008, intentionally and deliberately fell…no leapt…onto my helmet (and subsequently positioning itself eye-to-eye with me) to cause malicious cardiovascular distress and emotional duress. (Disinclined Riding Partner, August 14, 2008)

Look closely at this adrenaline-junky, this malevolent, maloccluded, mangy, may-do-harm. Look deeply into his beady eyes and observe the chainring grease still staining his furry little-coat. Don’t be deceived…these varmints are ANIMALS…I tell you!

The Registry will use photographic identification of the offenders, rather than names or numbers. After all, who has time to even catch a license plate number when you are trying to recover from a near-miss collision with a motor vehicle—least of all dodging the acrobatic antics of an agile antagonist. Check out how Minnesota, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Oregon, Illinois, Utah, Arizona, Florida, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Tennessee, South Carolina and Maine have legislated a three-foot passing clearance. Check out Joe Mizereck's "Three Feet Please" Campaign and view the videos here. How close is too close?

Unlike other registry systems, out-of-state offenders will be featured, just like Brady’s…no motor vehicle licensure, voter’s registration, or mail-forwarding address will compromise the integrity of this registry of reprobates.

Oh…and, don’t get me started on the deer, marmots and gophers…

No animals were harmed in the production of this blog. Unfortunately, they were likened to an unthinking fraction of the human population that is creating a dangerous condition for both cyclists and motorists--by not passing with a reasonable clearance.

Please Share-the-Road, Thank You!

Monday, January 5, 2009

“In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.”
—Andy Warhol

This 1968 pop-culture statement is often misquoted, perhaps conveniently so since Andrew Warhola (AKA Andy Warhol) deliberately tried to confuse reporters by changing it when he was persistently asked about its particular meaning. However, the statement refers to the transitory (short term and disposable) celebrity status that an object has when the media features it...followed by its subsequent loss of recognition as the public’s interests wane.

Even though the bike lanes, routes and paths in Sioux Falls could fall to this cliché, the community’s commuting and recreational cyclists need to maintain the vision for improving the trail and route system. Influential organizations and individuals have made sustentative recommendations to the design, development and alterations of this system and its detours. It is through committed labor, vigilance and expertise that Sioux Falls is emerging as a safe-cycling community. I extend my sincere appreciation and gratitude to those organizations and individuals for the privileged opportunity to have such a system available for my use—thank you!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Warhol Sharrows?

Think of bicycles as rideable art that can just about save the world.”
—Grant Peterson