Friday, December 30, 2011

Friday Follies ~~ Until Next Year

Last post for 2011.  Seems fitting that the subject should be the first ride of 2012.

We’re speaking of the annual Penance Ride, which goes (starting in the pre-dawn dusk) on Sunday morning, 1 January 2012.  Yes, it will be dusky out for the start, but that gives us a bit of extra daylight at the other end of the ride.  (One never knows when an extra hour of sun may just come in handy.)

The Cue Sheet Question:  Well after a lot of thrashing around (We’ll spare you the technical details.  It was low comedy.) we have managed to post the cue sheets on the South Side Cycling Club 
website.  They can be found on the Documents page.  The two sheets are labeled Penance 68 and Penance 106.  Astute readers will not that the top of each of these cues has a header that includes the words “2011 Edition.”  Not to worry!  These are the actual and real cues for the 2012 ride.  Honest.  (Please spread the word.)

As of this writing, the forecast for Sunday looks pretty good.  (I’ll be carrying a rain jacket.  There is that pesky 20% rainchance.)  Ride time temps will be in the 40s, and temps should rise to the mid 60s, under a mostly cloudy sky.  It’s not going to be Summer, but it shouldn’t be bad out.

By the way…  If you aren’t a South Side Cycling Club member, or if you have trouble downloading and printing the cue sheets, don’t fret.  I’ll have some copies of both available at the start of the ride.

Have a good safe weekend all.  I look forward to seeing you in the coming New Year!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Winding Up and Going Forward

No secret.  This old year is winding down.  Fast.  Most of us are already making big and little plans for the coming year.

For quite a few years now, we’ve started the New Year off with a ride.  I honestly don’t know when I picked up and started doing a New Year’s Day Century.  It’s been quite some time.  We decided to be just a tiny bit more formal about it back in the ‘90s, and thus was born the Penance 100.  We’re doing it again this year.

You’re invited to come along.

Ride starts at 7:00 A.M. (sharp), on Sunday, 1 January.  We’ll leave from Bicycles Unlimited, in Peachtree City, GA, US, Earth, Milky Way Galaxy, Local Group, The Universe.  I’ll be posting cue sheets, and will have them available at ride time.  There’s a 106 mile route, and a 68 mile option.

Start the New Year off right!  Be there.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Friday Follies ~~ Best Christmas

It’s been a hectic run up to Christmas this year.  Lots of activities, a long and temperate Autumn, many more riders in the area, all to the good, but it does make for a busy busy time in the bike shop.

One more full day left, then a half day on Saturday, and we go home for the weekend.

Today will be spent trotting out layaways, helping with last minute shoppers, and coping with the occasional “day off emergency.”  We’ll see small kids wandering in, big-eyed, looking at the shop dogs and the shiny bicycles.  We’ll have our share of “just looking,” types, who are simply killing time.  We’ll see a few of the faithful, stopping by to smile and wish us a happy holiday.

Tomorrow tools will be racked, the shop tidied up, and the doors closed.  It’s time for the elves to go home.  It will be quiet in the shop.  Time for Christmas.

May you all share the warmth, happiness, and joy of this season.

And may each and every one of you have the best and most…


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Thursday Thoughts: I think I’ll get back to “Normal”

For several weeks now I’ve kind of been waxing rhapsodic on this blog.  It’s just about time to take a “time out,” enjoy Christmas, and then get back to the core business of this blog.  So for starters, let’s just assess where we are in our orbit.

As of today, Winter has begun, but it’s 87 days until Spring!  The daylight hours are starting to increase a bit with each passing day.  It will be a while before this effect is noticeable, but it’s hopeful.

Below, for illustration, and to help a bit with ride planning, are some data points:

Sunrise:                        07:38 EST
Sunset:                        17:35 EST
End Civil Twilight:            18:02 EST

21 January
Sunrise:                        07:40 EST
Sunset:                        17:59 EST
End Civil Twilight:            18:26 EST

29 February
Sunrise:                        07:70 EST
Sunset:                        18:35 EST
End Civil Twilight:            19:00 EST

20 March (Vernal Equinox)
Sunrise:                        07:42 EDT
Sunset:                        19:50 EDT
End Civil Twilight:            20:15 EDT

Good news all around!  By the end of February, usable daylight continues right up until 7:00 P.M.  (Keep your lights handy and charged for a while longer yet.)

Next week, we’ll be addressing some technical issues, and soon we’ll be starting a series on Winter Training.

Upcoming:  A few rides in the offing.  Remember the Annual Penance Ride, on January 1st, at 0700.  Starts at Bicycles Unlimited.  Please go to the South Side Cycling Club Calendar for details.

And we’ll soon be posting a goodly number of rides for the upcoming year.

In the mean time, let’s all concentrate on keeping a Good Christmas, being safe, and behaving as good citizens.  Do think about it.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Winter Comes

Today is the first day of Winter.  If one is to be precisely correct, Winter started at 00:30 EST.  (That’s half past midnight this morning for you temporal traditionalists.)  At that exact point in time, the sun reached it’s most southern extreme in its annual apparent movement.  The good news is that from this moment on, each day will be a little longer, have just a bit more daylight than the previous.

It has been a long and glorious Autumn.  Now comes the Winter.  For cyclists, this is a time to reflect, to plan, to train, and to rest up a bit.  For many, the coming Holidays are a time of celebration, and relaxation.  For some of us, it’s also the point at which we get serious about our training for the coming year.

For this blog the coming Winter means a slight change in tone.  In the near future, you will see a bit of encouragement, and a more than a few goal suggestions here.  There will be more technical posts on training, on bike maintenance and repair, and on some interesting future projects.  Of course there will be the usual interspersed bits of whimsy and reminiscence, advice, and questionable wisdom.

For now, it is my wish to you that this Winter be one of renewed vigor, good challenges, and good cheer.  Let’s all endeavor to raise the general morale, brighten spirits, lift each other and ourselves up, and enjoy each and every challenge and moment of this time.

Bon Hiver!

Good Winter to you all!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Lights Road Ride: Ride Report

Wow!  What can I say?  Last night’s Christmas Lights Road Ride was a delight!  We had a large turnout.  (I counted 22 riders.)  I did not manage to get everyone’s names, so I’m not going to list anyone.  (I don’t want to offer a slight, you were all there, and you were all great!)

Conditions:  To begin with, it was a good bit warmer than expected.  That was a plus.  It was, of course, dark, but everyone was well lighted, and well reflectorized.  It did not rain.  Traffic was relatively light, and with only one rather brief incident, well behaved.

Two note on traffic:  The incident was one obnoxious “bully” driver.  He liked his horn, and engaged in a bit of “buzz driving.”  The Police were notified.  As for the rest, it was fun and amusing.  Oncoming drivers, when confronted with a massive group of extremely well lighted riders, tend to slow down and pull to the left.  They don’t know what we are, and they give us full use of the road.  Following drivers, for the most part, seem to stay back until they have ample room to pass.  All to the good.

Our route wound through the county, until we got onto Sandy Creek Road.  The new construction on the “West Bypass” is a mess, but I’m proud to say that every rider negotiated it well and correctly.  Intersection discipline was fair, especially for such a large group.  We did have to wait and re-form several times, but this was accomplished almost seamlessly.  (Bravo!)

We got through the entire night without a flat tire, or a “mechanical.”  (YAY!)

Everyone seemed to enjoy the wonderfully gaudy display at the Gaddy property, and then we turned onto Adams Road.

On Adams, there are several individual displays that are well worth noting.  They range from the professionally tasteful to the happily loud and bright.

Dogwood Road was a sort of quiet moment.  There are a few good hills on this stretch, but the pace calmed a bit, and most managed to stay well together.  Then came the turn onto the notorious Crabapple Lane!  This road treats the riders to a half mile of unpaved road.  The road condition was good.  Surface hard packed, and the recent rains have washed most of the gravel off of the roadway.  I’m happy to report that no one seemed to have any difficulty with this obstacle.

The group was a bit scattered after the dirt section, so we re-grouped at the end of Crabapple lane.  Then, back inside Peachtree City, we rode through a couple of neighborhoods, with displays that ranged from bright and pretty, to purely beautiful, and even to extravagantly outrageous.

A bit more than two hours of good, relaxed pace riding, covered an official 25.3 miles, and brought us back, for the traditional end of ride toast in the parking lot.  Good cheer and happy camaraderie marked the whole night.

All in all, this was one for the books.  A most excellent ride!  My deepest thanks and cheers to all!

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Temple:

There are many ways to approach the act of riding a bicycle.  Readers of this blog do not often see me advocating the “just get on it and ride” approach, although that is quite valid.  I like the idea of bikes that are built and equipped such that no special preparations need be made to ride them.  There is a whole mindset of capital C cycling, that one must be on the right bike, wearing the right gear, etc.  Unfortunately, this perception tends to be intimidating and off-putting to many who could and would derive a great deal from cycling.

That said, the capital C cyclist certainly does have much to give and gain.  I like the whole aspect of having the right bike for the intended purpose, and equipping it, and myself correctly and well for the task at hand.  When I am commuting, especially in the Winter, there are a whole series of preparations to be made prior to the ride.  Weather must be observed, clothing selected, other choices have to be considered.  And, at the end of the day there is the reverse series of tasks, putting all the stuff away and readying for the next time.  To an extent, every ride contains a bit of this preparation.

Observation of the Proper Forms:  Some rides are more important, and more than casual.  These require more preparation and mindful attention.  I think of these special occasions as being akin to preparing for worship.  There is a liturgical aspect to them.  One is about to enter the Temple.  Reverence, Respect, and Good Preparation are required and needful.  It is ritual that we speak of here, or possibly meditation.  The correct and orderly, careful, and detailed preparation, is required to focus the mind and bring seriousness of purpose, before embarking on the mission…  or before entering the Temple.

I am, of course using metaphor here, but a very close one.  There are certain rides that amount to a form of worshipfulness.  The annual Ride of Silence comes to mind, but there are others.  Remember, not all worship is grim.  In fact, the old word “solemn” actually meant a purposeful celebration!  And there are many religious observances that are joyous and glorious celebrations.

How many of us prepare for our riding with that kind of za-zen deliberation, meditatively, calm, and yet celebratory?  I wonder that.  At the same time, I hope there are a lot among us who do, “prepare to enter the Temple” before riding.

Come on out and celebrate with us tonight!  It’s time for the Annual Christmas Lights Road Ride!  (Details can be found at the bottom of last Thursday's Post.)

A Primer: Blog Interactivity for Cyclists

I’ve become aware that there are several folks out there who are having trouble with the “comments” function on this blog.  These kind individuals have told me so, face-to-face.  I figure if there are one or two, then there are more.  After all, many of us are cyclists, and not internet wizards.

If you are one of the highly internet savvy types, you can just skip this, and read today’s regular post, which will be up in another 10 minutes or so.

For those of you who need help posting a comment, here’s a simple recipe:

  1. Go to the bottom of the post you are reading.  You will see several things, including a link to “Comments.”  (The word “comments” will be preceded by a numeral, indicating how many comments have been entered for that post.)  Click that link.
  2. You will see a box, where you may type your commentary.  Please do so.
  3. Now comes the tricky part.  You will see a dialog box below the comment box.  It says, “Select a profile…”  Go ahead and click it.  (If you try to hit “Publish” before selecting a “Profile,” you’re going to be prompted to select one.)  There are a bunch of different options displayed when you click the pull down for “Select a Profile.”
  4. If you already have an account with one of the choices, you may use it, but if this is new to you, or if you are a bit leery of it, just click “Anonymous.”
  5. Then click “Publish.”  That’s all there is to it.
  6. I can ear somebody saying,  “But what if I don’t want to be anonymous?”  That’s just fine.  You can sign your name (or a pseudonym) in the body of your comment.
  7. Once you’ve done all that, your comment should appear.

I want to have a dialog going on this blog.  I do want to hear from  you all.  I may not answer, but I do read all comments.  I find that questions, and commentary often give me material for new posts.  Just please, keep it clean.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Friday Follies ~~ Winter Nights

It was hot.  Not just warm, but hot.  Hotter than the hinges of Hades, hot.  Hot enough to cause one to break a sweat just by standing still in the shade.  That part of Virginia does experience Summer, but we used to think it was quite warm at 85, and hot at 91.  The temps rarely reached the mid 90s, even in late July and early August.  But here it was, early June, and the mercury was moving through 100 degrees for the third straight day.

I was on my bike, climbing.  It wasn’t a race, not quite exactly.  Not formally.  But honor was at stake.  And there I was, on the exposed western slope of the Massanutten Mountain, climbing up out of New Market, with the intention of riding to Luray, and then turning south for a long hilly run back toward home.  It was so hot that I was having trouble seeing.  Sweat was pouring down, out of my cap, and blinding me.  That didn’t matter much, I wasn’t going very fast.

Not for the first time did I have the thought, “We should be able to store some of this heat and use it in the Winter, and save up some of the Winter cold and use it in the Summer.  Equalize things.  Or we all could move to San Diego!”

That line of thought led me to thinking of Winter.  I am not now, and was not then, a “Winter Person.”  I don’t like cold much, but Winter does have its charms.  Little did I know, that particular climb was the last time I would ride a bicycle on that route for more than thirty years.

Jump forward in time.  I was 55 years old.  It was early February.  I was on a road trip, from beloved Georgia to Washington D.C.  The ultimate purpose of the trip was to be a part of the Annual League of American Bicyclists Bike Summit.  But the secondary intent of our itinerary was to take time on the trip up, drive to places of interest, and ride our bikes there.

We’d had several good adventures along the way.  (A good adventure is one that you survive!)  We had stopped in New Market for the day.  We would ride locally, and then go on to Washington the next day.  My traveling partner was taken somewhat ill during the day’s ride, and had turned in early.  I was restless.

I donned every bit of cold weather gear I had with me, and went out.

It was one of those late Winter nights.  There was a strong cold high-pressure mass sitting on us.  The sky was clear as polished crystal, stars glinting distantly.  It was cold.  Amazingly, shockingly cold.  The bike creaked as I mounted it, no problems just cold metal adjusting to the loads.  I rode briskly to gain body warmth.  I gave little thought to direction.  I am as familiar with the roads in that area as the tongue is with the teeth.  I rode, and looked at the calm Winter night.  The valley was covered in a blanket of recent snow, and a half moon was well up the sky.  I hardly needed my lights.

I found myself making that climb, the one up the flank of Massanutten Mountain.  As I climbed, I remembered that day, that hot hot day.  Somehow these moments seem to connect, across time and space.  This night I was cold, and it was dark, clear and crisp.  I could wish for some of that earlier day, and some of that heat.  And somehow, it seems as if I did borrow some of that young man’s hot day, on this cold night climb.  The Winter night is spread out around me, silent and still, lights blinking and winking in the sky and on the floor of the valley below.

What is it about these times?  These Winter night rides, that somehow cross-connects us to other times and places, to other selves?

Looking forward to seeing you all on Monday night, for a more temperate and companionable Winter night ride to see the Lights!

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Important Programming Note:  Some of you noticed that yesterday’s post was a “Thursday Thoughts” feature.  As these usually come out on Thursdays this caused a bit of confusion.  We apologize for the inconvenience, and would like to claim youth and inexperience coupled with long and faithful service.  The following Wednesday post is being offered on a Thursday by way of rectifying the damage.
We now return to (ir)regular programming.

With the Winter Solstice just seven (now six) days away, it’s staying dark much later in the mornings, and getting dark way to soon in the afternoon.  The lights have to come on sooner, and stay on longer.  The diminished daylight affects us all, in many ways, but what a miracle our lights are!

I find that, as a cycle-commuter, my go-nogo decision is simplified greatly by the ready availability of good lighting.  As recently as five years ago, the stuff that was on the market was either barely adequate, or insanely expensive.  Burn time for the good bright stuff were not all that good, and charging time was inconveniently long.  Much of that has changed, and decidedly for the better.  e.g.  My good LED lighting systems can last most of a week’s commuting on one charge, and a full charge takes only five hours.  When one adds that they are bright enough to command respect from motorists, one must admit, this is good, very good indeed.

But now the Christmas Season is upon us, and that adds another dimension of light.  Folks decorate for the coming holiday, and many put up displays of light.  It brightens my heart to see this happy glow again and again, as I ride my way home.  I find, even in the worst weather conditions, that I am smiling as I see some of the homes lit up and festive.

Next week, we’ll go out as a group, on two different nights, to ride together, and view some of the more extravagant displays.  Festive garb is encouraged for these rides, but not required.  If you plan to attend, and want to costume, please…  safety first!  Beware of obscuring your vision.  (I mind a year when one rider showed up in a full Santa Suit.  The beard had a nasty habit of blowing up in his face at the most incapacitating times.)   Secure loose leggings, capes, etc.  Costume parts getting caught in drivelines or wheels do not a happy evening make.

Are you, like me, a big kid at heart?  Do you delight in the pretty colors and bright lights of the season?  Come out and be festive.  Come out and ride.  Come out and share the spirit of the season with like-minded riders.

Christmas Lights Road Ride:  We’ll be out on the roads.  We will tour around and see some of the county’s more extravagant displays.  We will ride in a group, and keep good and safe order always, but we’ll have fun!
Where:  Start/Finish is at Bicycles Unlimited in Peachtree City
When:  Monday 19 December at 7:00 P.M. (sharp!!)
Distance/Pace:  Approximately 25 miles.  Expect to be out for 2.5 to 3 hours.
Requirements:  Helmets (always!), Good headlights and tail lights.  Reflective vests or sashes, and reflective ankle bands.  Dress for the weather.  (I’ll plan one or two “clothing adjustment stops” if necessary.)
Additional:  Rain will cancel, and there is no rain date.

Christmas Lights Path Ride:  We’ll be on Peachtree City’s multi-use paths.  (No road riding!)  We will tour around and see some of the city’s more extravagant and beautiful displays.  We will ride in a group, and keep good and safe order always, but we’ll have fun!
Where:  Start/Finish is at Bicycles Unlimited in Peachtree City
When:  Wednesday 21 December at 7:00 P.M. (sharp!!)
Distance/Pace:  Approximately 15 miles.  Expect to be out for 1.5 to 2 hours.
Requirements:  Helmets (always!), Good headlights.  Dress for the weather.  (I’ll plan one or two “clothing adjustment stops” if necessary.)
Additional:  Rain will cancel, and there is no rain date.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Thursday Thoughts: The Wild Geese Sing

The Canada Geese were migrating this past weekend.  When they are at altitude, and going somewhere, their calls sound less harsh, less of a honk, and more of a singing coo.  When the geese are high in the sky, and traveling, arrowing along, I want to follow them.

Do you ever get on the bike with no particular destination?  You start out thinking,  “I’ll just go out for a bit,” but have no idea where.  So you start riding.  The day is nice, and you feel good.  You start with one of your regular routes.  (By this time in your life, every possible direction from your house is one of your regular routes.)  But you get to one of the turns, one that would take you home, and you don’t take it.

“I’ll go a bit farther today,”  you say to yourself.  And you do.  Then you arrive at the “last turn for home,” and you wonder,  “Where does that road go?”  And then you follow it.  New territory unfolds before you.  You’re just following your front wheel, and it is good.

I want to follow the wild geese, to just follow their travel-songs, to ride south and keep riding.  No turning back.  Going where the road goes.

Tempting, isn’t it?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Sometimes stubborn is a survival trait.  Cycling can be that way.  The bike, and riding have a way of fighting back.  Cold, dark, and weather can nibble at us.  So here are a few words to live by.

“You don’t know when to give up.”

Winston Churchill:  “Never give in.  Never give in.  Never, never, never, never, give in!”

Don’t know how to quit.

Too dumb to know when you’re beaten.

A cyclist can always go another 10 miles.

The limit of human endurance has never been reached.

Go down fighting.

Carpe Diem!

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Winter Morning and Evening:

Saturdays are among my regular commuting days.  To begin with, I work in a retail business, so most Saturdays are workdays.

A morning ride to work, on a Winter Saturday morning is usually pleasant, in its own odd way.

I am not fond of cold weather, but it does have its charm.  Early morning rides, on clear days, often show the lawns and fields dressed in a bright glittering frost blanket.  There is little in the way of traffic about in these early morning hours, no busses, no frantic cell phone chattering mini-vans and SUVs loaded with Mom-and-kiddies on the way to school, no big noisy commercial vehicles.  In short, the roads and the world are quiet.

Gone now are the songbirds, and the morning hustle of a Summer Saturday.  The occasional lonely crow can be heard in the distance.  I always think of Winter when I hear the crows calling.

I’m a bit cold at the start of the ride in.  This is not a worry, as I know I am dressed correctly, and the coming hills will warm me wonderfully.

An amazing thing happens on the trip in.  As I pass the point that marks a third of the trip, I am warming up, the sun shines down on me and adds to that, and the frost just disappears.  The act of cycling gets me breathing deeply of the cold crisp air, the coffee kicks in, and the world seems to come into a sharp focus.  I’m ready for the day ahead.

After the Saturday workday, the homeward commute takes on a completely different nature.  It’s already dark before I get outside.  Lights and reflectors are a must.  Traffic, for the first third of this homeward journey, is frantic and frenetic.  Total focus and concentration are required.  But then, there is that turn, and that intersection.  These mark a boundary of some kind.  I’m out of the bustle.

That last, if longer, portion of the homeward ride is good.  Again, quiet settles.  I see the occasional deer.  I hear the coyotes and foxes singing as I drop through one particular valley.  My pace slows.  I’m tired, but it’s a good tired, one earned.  Somewhere ahead is light, and warmth, and good food, and a rest from the week.

This is one of the good places that the bike takes me.  The place where I am me, and I am at peace.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Friday Follies ~~ The Awesomeness of Going too Far

There is a scene in the Flying Scotsman where Graeme Obree is leading a club cycle race.  He approaches the end of the race, takes the first place at the finish, and sort of perplexes the gathered crowd, by not stopping.  He just keeps going, continuing his ride.

That’s certainly one way of going a bit too far.

What about the sense of getting in over one’s head?  There are others.

There is certainly something magical about the number 100.  “The Century.”  For each aspiring cyclist, there is a “First Century.”  The idea occurs, and it’s somewhat daunting.  “Can I do that?”  The new rider thinks.  It wasn’t that long ago that a ride of an hour was an epic of Homerian proportions. 

Some folks, when this mania takes them, approach it analytically.  They actually take advice, do research, and train for it.  They arrive at the day, toned up, rested, fueled, and riding the right bike.  It’s still a milestone, but somewhat anticlimactic.  They didn’t go too far.

There are others who show up for that “first 100,” in a somewhat different state.  One sees them among the folks in the parking lot.  They don’t look right.  They stand out.  There is something about them that says,  “Noob!”  Most of them actually do finish their first century, but with a feeling that the ride was maybe 20, 30, or 50 miles too long.  They finished on determination and sheer will.  Bravo!

On a slightly different note, there are some organized centuries that are not quite 100 miles long.  On occasion, one will see riders hit the end of one of these rides, and then declare,  “I need to go a bit farther.  I want to do a real 100 miles.”  And off they go, out for another 3 or 4 miles, just to round the thing off.  Sometimes they even take four or five laps around the parking lot, just to be sure.  What is it with that?  Wasn’t the ride good enough?  Why go farther than the end?  Is there some shamanic power to the number 528,000?  (If you are wondering, that’s the number of feet in one hundred statute miles.)

Some years ago, on a whim, I laid out a course, and proposed doing a “Nautical 100.”  That is riding a route that was 100 “knots” long.  A “nautical mile” is 6,080 feet.  So I laid out a course that was 115 miles and 800 feet long.  Too short to be called a “double metric,” and well over the “standard century.”  Oddly, I didn’t get any takers.

Some years ago, I was riding a tough brevet.  It was intentionally a hard course, mountainous, and challenging.  The event was a 400K.  That’s 400 kilometers, or about 250 miles.  The weather was not cooperative.  It was extremely windy, sometimes raining, and quite cold.   About half of the entrants withdrew, some of them at the start.

For those of us who stayed the course, there was a feeling of dizzy euphoria as we neared the finish.  It was dark, and there were snow flurries about.  Suddenly, with only about 400 yards to go, four of our members decided to sprint for the finish!  (It should be noted that brevets are not competitive events.  Finishing matters, but not who finishes first.)  One of these riders managed to pull out ahead of the other three, and then he went down, roll-blocking the others.  Bad crash.  Three of the four failed to finish the event.  Their injuries were bad enough to require medical transport.  Definitely a case of going to far, and not far enough.

Me?  No, I wasn’t among the sprint-finish crowd.  I limped in after them, happy to finish the event with an hour to spare before the allowed limit.  I already felt like I’d gone too far that day.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Thursday Thoughts: The “Lower Limit”

I have a set of very simple rules that make up my “lower limit.”  It’s a sort of go/no-go gauge that determines when I will refuse to ride.
  • Temperature above limit?
  • Sufficient  weather gear available for current and expected conditions?
  • Sufficient Time to reach intended destination?
  • Bicycle appropriate to intended activity available and in good repair?
  • If I can satisfy those parameters, then it’s a go.  If not, then I’m not riding.

The Mountain Bike Trail consideration:  I might add, that the weather requirements for off-road rides are a bit more stringent.  Riding mountain bike trails in heavy rain is a poor idea in several ways.  Riding trails in hard rain is damaging to the trail.  For that matter, wet weather mountain biking presents some significant dangers to the rider.

Be Prepared!
Preparation is the key difference between a Winter of missed opportunities, and one spent riding comfortably and frequently.  Learn what your “limits” are, and then prepare to meet them.

When in doubt…  Go!
I’ve seen it happen countless times.  The conditions are almost right, but there is a possibility of a negative change.  In the face of that, riders often cancel, only to later see the day turn out well.  If the situation isn’t below one’s minimums, and isn’t rapidly changing for the worse, go for it.  Most times this works well.

But what if I go, and it turns really bad?
Good question!  There are about four possibilities.

1)  The “False Alarm.”  We got ready, and went to meet the ride, but things were just too bad at ride time.  Okay.  Cancel and go home.  There’s no shame in this, and you were ready, and if it had stayed inside your limits, you would have had a ride.  This beats the stew out of sitting at home on a day when you could have ridden, and will happen a lot less frequently than you would think.

2)  The “Early Lousy.”  The ride has started, in questionable conditions, and then things get worse, a lot worse.  Okay.  Admit it, and turn back.   No harm done.  So you get back to the car (or home) a bit sodden and chilled.  You will live to ride another day, and you have a good story to tell.

3)  The “Classic Murphy.”  It was a “maybe,” but you went.  You’ve now gotten as far away from the start as you could possibly be, at the exact midpoint of the route, and suddenly conditions turn vicious.  It’s time to make a decision.  Continue, or pull the plug?  If you decide that you can continue, do so promptly.  If you are going to terminate the thing, find shelter, and call for help.  It happens.  Better luck next time.  (I seem to get into one of these “bail out” situations about once every year.)

4)  The “Nasty Ending.”  You made it through ¾ of the ride (or more) before it all went sour.  Well?  You’re in it now.  Go ahead and get it done.  Finish.  You might consider taking a shortcut, but just ride it out.

Have Faith in Yourself:  You are far more resourceful, and capable than you know.  And each situation that you encounter improves your knowledge and experience. Establish a reasonable set of parameters to guide you, and then believe in them.

What experiences have you had that left you battered, but not beaten?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Commuter Bike Project: Ride Report

Last week, as regular readers know, I finished up the Repurposed Bike.  I now have a heavy commuter in the stable.  I also have enough time on it to form some good solid impressions.

I took the beast out for an (unloaded) test-ride of a bit over 20 miles.  Then I followed that up with a round trip commute.  So far so good!  So on Saturday, I rode the new bike in to work, used it to lead the regular Saturday morning recreational ride, and then rode it home.  The commuting trips were pretty well loaded too.

First impressions:  This bike is not as light as I had envisioned, but it is a bit lighter than my tourist.  So it qualifies for the “light-weight” part of the intention.  It’s fun to ride, and that’s all to the good.  The dropVee levers, coupled with the Shimano V-Brakes are amazing!  The gearing is good.  (Good and low!)  The fenders still need a bit of tweaking.  I’m less than thrilled with the wheel bearings, but I’ll rebuild those and set that right.

The high volume Giant 700 X 28 tires are nice and cushy.  They roll quite nicely, and take the rough stuff in stride.  That helps to smooth out the jolt from hitting the rough stuff with a heavily loaded bike.  The ancient Brooks Professional saddle is going to take some breaking in, but so far, I like it.

One interesting impression:  It takes a bit to get this rig going, especially when loaded up for a Fall/Winter commute, but once moving, it has a sort of “steam-roller effect.”  It rolls right along, and feels like it will keep doing so forever.  Hills are a bit of a challenge, but the gearing is right for pushing a big load over them.  It’s work, but not unpleasant work.

With fenders, rain cap, and such, I can hardly wait for the right conditions.  I know it sounds ludicrous, but I’m looking forward to riding this rig in on a chilly, rainy morning.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Loss of Signal

Cell phones are wonderful devices.  I won’t spend a lot of time extolling their virtues, but take it as a given, a cell phone is amazing, and potentially a life-saver.

That’s the primary reason I carry one when I’m riding.  It’s a security device.  It’s good to know that help is only a few button presses away.

On the other hand, the stinkin’ things can be incredibly annoying, and even dangerous.

I’m sometimes appalled to see what some folks are willing to do on a bike.  Talking on a phone, receiving (or worse sending) texts are high on the list.

I usually keep my phone on, and with me.  I will not carry it in a convenient jersey pocket.  That’s downright dangerous.  So when I get a call, or hear that text tone, I have to stop the bike, and fumble around to get it out.  (That’s very much by design.)

Three successive calls or four successive texts, and I “go dark.”

Let’s face it, when we are riding on the road, we are part of the traffic.  But we are the part that is most vulnerable and least protected.  Becoming distracted, or disabling one of our senses is pretty dangerous.  Better to leave the phone off, or get off the road to answer it, and leave the music player and the earbuds at home too.

How do you all deal with this?

Monday, December 5, 2011

The “I need more Stuff! Syndrome”

Before we begin, a few “Program Notes” are in order.

NOTE 1:  Christmas Lights Road Ride
Monday, 19 December @ 7:00 P.M.  (See the SSCC calendar)

NOTE 2:  Christmas Lights Path Ride
Wednesday, 21 December @ 7:00 P.M. (See the SSCC calendar)

NOTE 3:  Annual Penance 100+
Sunday, 1 January @ 7:00 A.M. (sharp!) (See the SSCC calendar)

Now on to the business at hand…

Cyclists are an interesting lot.  They come in all shapes and sizes, with a huge variety of interests, riding styles, and motivations.  For the purposes of this post, I’m making a distinction between “cyclists” and “people who ride a bicycle.”  The former is a bit of a nut on the subject.  The latter is someone who uses a bicycle for occasional recreational purposes.  Included among the nut/cyclist group are the “fast recreational riders”  (read fake racers), competitive cyclists (folks who actually enter sanctioned races), tri-athletes, commuters, transportation cyclists, utility cyclists, tourists, randonneurs, athletic riders, urban free-riders, track cyclists, street fixie riders, and other “enthusiasts.”

One of the more common attributes of this class of bicycle riders is the constant nagging feeling that the acquisition of just one more piece of gear, another bike, one more bike, or some such would be the magic item that would catapult that cyclist from a mediocre existence into some all- transcendent glory.  We tend to believe (often fueled by very slick marketing hype) that if we just got that one more gadget or bike, or gizmo, we’d finally achieve cycling nirvana.

For some folks the syndrome takes the form of a longing, nay need, to have the coolest (however that rider defines “cool”) possible ride.  The object of desire may be the neatest multitool, or the mostest trickest cyclocomputer (the one with all the bells and whistles), or the most superb groupset, or better weather clothing.  It doesn’t matter what it is (the it will be constantly changing), the thing is that rider feels that it simply must be acquired to fulfill the whole experience.

Following this obsession can lead to truly astonishing behaviors.  Houses are remodeled to accommodate the “bicycle room.”  Relationships are neglected.  Budgets are destroyed.

It should be noted that not all cyclists are subject to this particular obsession.  There are those occasional curmudgeons, who insist that they have achieved perfection, whilst riding a 35 year old Raleigh 10-speed, tastefully decorated in dings, scratches, encrusted dried lubricants, and rust.  We’ll treat them in some future post.

I must confess, I am sometimes prone to this affliction.  I’ve acquired, with the best of intentions, a fair number of bicycles, and a prodigious amount of weather clothing.  I can justify some of this as “research.”  Often a particular acquisition is in the nature of an “experiment,” and becomes material for posts here, and for advice elsewhere.  Sometimes, I look back and wonder,  “What was I thinking when I got that?

What’s your most valuable “stuff” acquisition?  And what’s the most useless or strange item you’ve purchased in the never-ending quest for cycling perfection?

The I need more Stuff Syndrome as applied to baggage:

A slightly different manifestation of the INMS Syndrome occurs when the rider prepares for a ride.  How much, and what kind, of Stuff should be carried along on a given ride?  It’s a real multivariable problem of a question, with an extremely large solution set.  Factors include (but are not limited to) 1)  Where is the ride?  2) How long is it?  3)  Who is going to be there?  4) What level of support can be expected?  5) What season is it?  6)  Day or night?  7) What’s the weather forecast? 8) Which bike am I taking?  9) How much do I think I might need?

What Stuff are we talking about here?  A partial listing follows:
  • Water
  • Food!
  • Tools
  • Spare tube(s)
  • Patch kit
  • Pump
  • Spare parts
  • Lights
  • Rain jacket
  • Sunscreen
  • First aid supplies
  • Navigational equipment (maps, GPS, etc.)
  • Phone
  • Camera
  • Video camera
  • Reflective clothing
  • Additional protective clothing (jackets, vests, gloves, etc.)
  • Sunglasses
  • Mirrors
  • More food!
  • Money
  • I.D.
  • Credit cards
  • Firearms (seriously?)
  • Pepper spray
  • More water
  • More tools
  • Spare tire
  • “Civilian clothing”
  • More spare parts!
  • Specialty tools

I like bags and means of carrying stuff by bike.  At core, I’m a transportation/utility rider and tourist.  The bike’s utility is greatly improved by adding the ability to carry stuff.  There are lots of ways to accomplish that mission, racks, trailers, bags, all have their uses.  But there’s a problem here.  The bigger the bag/rack/trailer, the greater the temptation to put more Stuff in it.

How do you deal with this?