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!