Friday, October 30, 2009
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
You eat a light lunch, and then ride over to meet the others just outside Lahaina. Ride time is at 2:00 PM.
Everyone is ready. You start. After about 20 miles of gently rolling coastal road, you turn inland, and up. As you climb, you quickly leave the sugar cane country. After about five miles of steady gentle climbing you reach the split in the road, and again turn uphill. Soon you are climbing through dense tropical forest. Around mile 30 the climb steepens, and the scenery changes again. The trees thin, and you see grassland ranches with a lot of cattle. You turn onto the road to the summit.
Now you are in it! The grade goes to a fairly steady 6%, with occasional pitches of 7% or a little more. The grass becomes patchy, and rocks are a lot more apparent.
At mile 40 or so, you notice that your breathing is more labored, even though your speed and cadence haven’t varied. One of the group has a GPS reciever, and he mentions that you are over a mile above sea level. More than half of the atmosphere is below you, and all you can see ahead are mountain and switchbacks.
By mile 45 most of the vegetation is gone. There are only a few scraggly desert brush type plants, widely scattered among the rocks, and occasional patches of lichens. Mostly, your surroundings look like a picture of the surface of the moon. The light is brighter, and has a harder “edge” to it. Things look a bit more blue than you are used to.
At mile 50 there is no vegetation visible. You round a bend and suddenly you are looking out over the island to the west, and across the wide empty Pacific. There are some wispy clouds out there, but they are below you! The grade seems steeper. You reduce speed again. You are making a lot of heat, but it’s okay, the air is cool. The GPS guy mentions that you are at 7,500 feet.
It’s an hour later, and you are pulling into the parking lot at the caldera. You have summitted Haleakala. The “House of the Sun.” You are standing atop Maui’s huge and ancient extinct volcano. In almost all directions you can see the improbable blue of the Pacific Ocean stretching to the horizon. And the Sun is lowering toward the ocean.
You eat your rations, drink the last of your water, and go to refill your bottles. It is late enough in the day that the last of the bike tour operators have left, herding their disk brake equipped, fat tire riding charges into the closely supervised “gravity pilot” descent. You notice that, when you stand, you get a little light headed. Of course! You are over two miles above sea level!
As the lower limb of the Sun just touches the Ocean, you are all assembled. It’s time to go! You all pulled on arm warmers, knee warmers, and wind jackets. Now you are glad of it. It’s a bit chilly now.
The descent is absolutely exhilarating! Mile after mile of swooping curves go by. By the time you are down in the cattle country it is getting dusky. Night will fall quickly in the tropics. Still you descend! It’s warmer now, but you are still glad of the wind cheater clothing.
By the time you hit the coast road, the Sun is fully down, but there is just enough light to see by. You all pull off the jackets, and then turn on the tail lights and go!
You pull back into the historic whaling port of Lahaina, just at full dark.
Of course you made reservations in advance at the Old Lahaina Luau. You will be entertained wonderfully, even as you are fed extravagantly.
Congratulations! You’ve just had one of the world’s perfect cycling days.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
- When: 2nd Tuesday of the Month. Beginning in November
- Start/Finish: In front of Bicycles Unlimited
- Distance: Approx 17 miles
- Pace: Moderate night time touring. Approx 13 mph avg
- Conditons: Temp above 20 degrees F
- Requirements: Good strong headlights, a good strong tail light, reflective sash or vest, reflective ankle bands, helmets. Dress for the weather.
Monday, October 26, 2009
First a word on night riding: There are several principles involved in riding at night. The first and most obvious is,
Part of the idea behind these things is that a tourist or randonnuer will, in the season ahead, invariably face a situation where night riding is unavoidable. Most likely that will be a high fatigue situation. These rides allow for practice for those skills. Besides, it’s fun being out when the world is quiet and we’re just about the only folks on the road.
As the season progresses, we will start these rides progressively earlier. So start now, learning how to dress and light up. Believe me, a four hour ride in the pre-dawn is an epic event!
Requirements: This is serious night riding. Helmets, strong headlights, good strong tail lights, reflective vests or sashes, reflective ankle bands are required. (Additional reflective and lighting equipment is a good idea.)
The first one will be on Sunday, Dec 6. We’ll start at 05:00 (sharp)
The first season of the year is Rototiller. At this time, the typical redneck is seen carrying big gas powered tillers or heavy yard tractors in their trucks.
As the year warms, the home farming equipment vanishes and the plumage changes to big smokers, or industrial propane barbique ranges. This display will continue intermittently through the hotter parts of the year. It is especially apparent during the mating season around Memorial Day, and July 4th.
As the year advances, the cookers are displaced. The primitive hunter-gatherer urges are felt, and behavior changes accordingly. The visible indicators are the presence of large, camouflaged four-wheel ATVs, usually sporting rigle scabbards. This equipment is completely necessary, as it is not possible to sneak up on a deer, unless one is astride an unmuffled 250 horsepower machine, and toting an elephant gun and a fifth of Wild Turkey.
Friday, October 23, 2009
The last (but far from the least) member of the groups was Amy Hill. Amy is about to have knee surgery. She was climbing behind the group, and Gary turned down the mountain to check on her. While we were goofing around up at the tower, Amy had completed the main climb and turned back down. Gary rode down ahead of her, stowed his bike on his truck, and then drove back up. He met Amy better than half way down the mountain. (Remember, you have to climb to get down!) By that point Amy was pretty much done. She is a brave lady, with a lot of sand. I doubt many could have turned in the same performance on a set of trashed knees. Bravo Amy!
The weather was exceptionally kind to us. It was a bit cool as we did the climb, but the sun broke through the clouds while we were on the summit. That made for a much more pleasant descent.
This was a strong group of riders, so we accomplished the whole trip in a good bit less than the time I’d predicted. I would be happy to ride with anyone in this crowd, on any day. Kudos and bravo to all.
Oh yeah! When we were back at Hollis Corners, Doug asked, “What’s next?” In reply, I’d like to suggest a trip to Helen, GA, to do the “North Triple.” That’s Hogpen Gap, Jacks Gap, and Unicoi Gap. It’s about a 47 mile loop, with more than 5,000 feet of gain. I’m thinking of doing this on a Sunday, in mid to late November. Who is up for that?
Thursday, October 22, 2009
It’s interesting. Define cyclist as “someone who rides a bike on a fairly regular basis, like at least once a week.” Then interview folks in this group. Ask them questions about their riding. Ask them why they ride. In almost 100% of cases one of the first three reasons will be something that translates to “therapy.” I think that says a lot about us, and a lot about our society.
Why do we ride? Because we have to! We ride because it’s who we are. We ride because it’s what we do. We ride because it hurts too much to stop. We ride because that’s the only time in our lives, in our existence, when we are real. We ride because we must. We ride because the road is there. We are defined by every crank stroke, every fall, every climb or descent, by saddle sores, by epic rides, by short trips to the corner store, by tough rides and by great rides, and by the ones that almost break us. We are like the old Superman comics. We, mild mannered geeks, slip into our phone booths, we shed our Clark Kent camoflage, and emerge as our real selves… Cyclists!
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Thursday, October 15, 2009
What follows are some thoughts of mine on the subject, and a bit of why I consider myself one. I don’t claim to be laying down anything profound here. I’m certainly not the ultimate authority on much of anything. But this is how I see it. I’d enjoy your thoughts in reply.
First approximation: A cycle tourist is someone who wants to go somewhere by bike. Usually that somewhere is somewhere else, and not too close to home.
Folks tend to divide into two camps regarding journeys. One group is interested only in the destination, the journey is a necessary inconvenience, to be dispensed with as quickly as possible, with the least effort. The other group is much more interested in the journey itself. For them the destination is mostly an excuse to take the trip. I suspect that all of us fall into each of these groups from time to time, depending on the journey, the destination, and the reason for the trip.
But I’m talking about a certain internal tendency. What is your default state regarding trips? Do you want to take your time getting there? Do you like to turn off and explore interesting looking byways? Are you the type who goes out and gets lost intentionally? Then you are more of what I think of as a tourist. At least that is more of the personality which would be compatible with cycle touring.
The tourist, it seems to me is what my home folks used to call “fiddle footed.” That is a person who gets restless in one place, a person with feet that need to go somewhere else. These are folks who, like the bear in the song, go over the mountain, “just to see what he could see.”
It helps if you like to ride a bike. I mean, really like to ride! We are talking here about the character who, at the finish of a ride, while putting the bike and gear away, is already looking forward to the next ride!
For people who possess both traits, touring is one natural outlet. A combination of Wanderlust and love of cycling will make a good basis for a tour.
Other traits are required for the successful tourist. Most that I have known are fairly gregarious folk, pleased by camaraderie, and yet they are not afraid of solitude. Long hours, spent solo, on lonely roads are a pleasant change from every day clatter. But long hours spent riding with good friends (even if just met) are a delight. I know this sounds contradictory, but who said humans are simple?
The tourist knows that adversity shared is adversity diminished, and joy shared is joy augmented.
The tourist is highly adaptable, and very self reliant. Usually he or she is an inquisitive soul.
The serious tourist doesn’t take himself too seriously.
She knows that training is important, but the key to endurance is perseverance.
A tourist is convinced that most of the problems encountered in life are solved, or improved, if one just gets on the bike and keeps moving.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Nights under Lights:
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
There are three main types of rechargeable systems currently available, and several battery technologies.
- Voltage: Electromotive force. Unit = Volt
- Current: How much charge is moving. Unit = Ampere (or Amp)
Monday, October 12, 2009
I'm afraid that's all, folks. I don't usually take many pics, and my riding partners were camera shy. Most I can say is, ya'll shoulda been there!
Friday, October 9, 2009
There are risks in everything. Every year in the US, something like 200,000 people are injured in the bathroom, while in 2008 only 52,000 bicycle related injuries were fair comparison. Everyone goes to the bathroom, and not everyone rides a bike. On the other hand the overwhelming majority of deaths occur in bed. So stay out of bed, and out of the bathroom and you’ll be okay. Right?
Yes, I’m trying for a little humor there, but the point remains, most situations are as dangerous as you make them. Nothing is 100% safe.
I’ve ridden literally thousands of miles in the dark, in the country, in the city, in bad weather and good.
Here’s what I’ve learned about night time cycling.
- Good lights are essential, Front and Rear
- There is no such thing as being too visible
- Reflectors and more reflectors.
- Stay on the gray
- Low angle headlights give you better vision, high mounts make you more visible to others.
- More caution is required
Let’s examine those points. First off, good lights. I can’t recall ever hearing anyone complain that they had too much light to ride with. I used to recommend only rechargeables, or very high end generator driven units. Things have changed. Each year seems to bring out more and better units. One principle still remains true. If you go cheap, you won’t be able to see.
I really like the Cateye HL-EL 530. It’s a single, ultra bright LED, with a terrific burn time and light more than adequate for night riding.
CygoLight and Sigma both make some surprisingly strong rechargeables. Note: There are some issues concerning rechargeable lighting systems. I’ll discuss these in a post next week.
Among the rechargeables, I tend these days to go with the LED type in favor of their long burn times.
My old standby is my Schmidt Dynohub and the pair of Lumotec E6 lights on my tourist. Never a need to recharge or find new batteries, reliable. Downside, the occasional bulb change in the dark, and very expensive.
For a tail light, I am in love with the Planet Bike Super Flash. The thing is incredibly bright. It is an LED light, so it must be mounted with care. LEDs are most visible in only a narrow band, so you want the light pointed back at the cars, not pointed down, or up.
No such thing as being too visible: I want a driver, regardless of the direction of approach, to think, “What on earth is that!” Use lots of reflectors. Reflective vests or sashes, along with ankle bands are about the minimum. Those dorky wheel reflectors are actually a good item. That reflectorized tape stuff, applied liberally around the bike is a good idea.
Stay on the Gray: Things look different at night. I know that sounds like a total Homer of a statement, but you won’t believe how much different until you get out there. Go slower at first.
Low Angle vs High mount headlights: Lights that are mounted low on the bike (say on the fork blades) throw the road into sharper relief, high lighting rocks, pot holes, and other possible hazards. Lights mounted on the handle bars increase how visible you are to other traffic.
Finally, Want a good place to test your systems? Come on out on my Wednesday Night Path Ride. We go every week, starting from Bicycles Unlimited. Ride starts at 7:00 (sharp). No ride if raining at ride time. Lights required until Spring. This is a relatively short (about an hour) recreational paced ride, on the unlit, paved trails here in Peachtree City. There will usually be lots of other folks around, so if you do have a problem, you can identify it, and we’ll get you home.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
This is not helpful in determining whether a given ride is doable by a given rider. It gets worse. I know of riders who deliberately reset their cycle computers at the end of a warm up section of a ride. For that matter, most cycle computers only report “rolling average.” They do not account for time spent stopped and waiting at intersections or on rest stops.
It’s possible that some riders honestly don’t understand averages. It’s kind of simple, they look at their computer and see 19 or 21 for a good long stretch. That sounds good. They know they can hit that speed, so it must be their average. Averages don’t work that way. In order to hold an average of, say 15 mph, one must spend most of the time on a ride above that speed. Oops.
Overall Average Speed: This one is simple. First, take the total time of the ride. This is all of the time, from the moment the wheels start turning, to the moment that the destination is reached. This includes time spent at traffic signals, time spent at rest stops, every second between the start of the ride and the end. This total time is from the beginning of the ride to the arrival at the end.
Example: A ride of 60 miles. If each and every mile of the ride is ridden at exactly 15 miles per hour, then the rolling average is 15 mph. That would mean a trip time of exactly four hours. But suppose the rider stops twice for ten minutes to refill water bottles, spends an additional ten minutes waiting at traffic signals, and take a 30 minute lunch break. Now the total ride time is Five Hours. Simple division will show that a 60 mile ride, done in 5 hours, is done at an over all average of 12 mph.
I mention these because grade percentage, and elevation gain are useful information in planning routes and determining one’s fitness to attempt a particular ride.
One last note: Touring is not about speed. It’s about getting there. Usually, a tourist is carrying a lot more stuff than a race type rider. So touring is about persistence, strength, courage, adaptability, and (hopefully) fun!
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Monday, October 5, 2009
Day 1: October 1. We drove to Dillard, in Rabun county, Georgia. We used the Dillard house as a base for this leg. We rode from Dillard down through Clayton, and to Tiger. From Tiger we rode down old GA-441, and turned onto the Lake Rabun Road. We followed the road along Lake Rabun and down to Seed Lake before reversing course and riding back.