Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Jesuit's Journey: Playing By Ear

Okay, this has nothing to do with riding a bicycle, but I haven't been able to get much riding in lately, and this was too beautiful to pass up sharing.

A Jesuit's Journey: Playing By Ear

Monday, March 30, 2009


I ran into two cycling buddies yesterday (well, not literally). Keith was out having pizza with his parents and Karl was selling Keith the pizza. You could put me on a road bike and put Keith on a mountain bike and set us racing down the road and Keith would still kick my tail six ways from Sunday (whatever that means).

Karl hasn't been on the bike in a year. An entire year. I am amazed. He's going to give me a call so we can do some riding and he can get himself back in shape.

The last ride I was on with Karl, there were a group of us riding in a paceline, and Karl hit a hole, went down and took a divot out of his leg. I ended up calling a friend for pickup and taking him to the emergency room where a handy doctor armed with a needle and thread stopped the bleeding. Karl ended up with an interesting story and a really cool scar.

Hm. Do you suppose this is why he hasn't ridden in a year?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Lance Armstrong

Here at the blog we like to serve up fresh and tasty nuggets of nonsense, but today we are going to follow the plan used by bakeries worldwide and serve up one or two day old leftovers instead. (I would say that we were offering these leftovers at a reduced price, but since the blog is free, the only way I could reduce the price would be by paying you to read this stuff, and I’d rather not. You’ll have to take your chances without monetary compensation.)

Lance Armstrong crashed hard in Monday’s opening stage of the Vuelta a Castilla y León and was transported by ambulance to a hospital in nearby Palencia, Spain. Race organizers and the Astana team doctor confirmed that the seven-time Tour de France champion had broken his right collarbone after Armstrong underwent an X-ray at a hospital in the city of Valladolid.

“Lance suffered a fracture of the middle third of the right collarbone as well as some bruises on his right hip and arm,” said team doctor Pedro Celaya, who was with Armstrong at the hospital.

Armstrong left the hospital Monday evening and said he was "miserable." "It has never happened before, I feel very disappointed," he told reporters as he left the hospital. "I feel miserable right now so I have to relax a few days."

He nodded when asked if he would return to the United States, telling reporters his participation in the Giro d'Italia in May "will be very complicated."

Now, Lance Armstrong is, of course, a worldwide success story, an immensely wealthy man and someone who competed successfully at the highest levels of his sport. I am a guy sitting behind a keyboard pretty much because I can’t think of anything more entertaining to do, so when it comes to choosing between the two of us, your best bet is to go with Lance. Now, you would think that this would pretty much be a cue to me to end this post here, but, since I can’t take my own advice, I shall now type some more words.

Lots of people have been watching Lance’s comeback at the ripe old age of 37. (Since I am older than Lance, I get a bit depressed when I hear people talking about how old the poor fellow is, practically in his dotage and all that, but it does seem to be a point that a lot of people feel a need to comment on.)

In his heyday as a professional cyclist (and if “heyday” isn’t a strange word, I don’t know what is) Lance was renowned for his mental toughness and resilience. I guess we’ll see if taking a few years off from racing has done anything to reduce that mental toughness now.

And, speaking of mental toughness…

I have been doing paperwork all day. This requires a sort of physical endurance, I suppose, and it definitely requires some mental diligence and effort. What I really want to be doing is…riding my bike. Yes, we are all stunned by this revelation – the guy writing the cycling blog wishes he were out writing his bike. It’s very cold out today. The weather is going from frigid to quite temperate every few hours, apparently unable to make up its mind, but, cold or not, windy or not, I wish I was out there. (It is easy to say that you wish you were on the road in spite of the wind when you know you have no chance of getting out there, but in this particular case it happens to be true.)

Lance is having some enforced time off the bike. I’m having some enforced time off the bike (and there all similarities between us end.) I hope that you are managing to get some ride time. If you are, have fun.

See you on the road.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


I have been busy, so the warm days managed to trickle by without my being able to ride. I was getting bad tempered, I think, by the time that Saturday finally rolled around. I got up around 6:30, and it was freezing outside. Also, I just didn't want to be up at 6:30, so I crawled back into the nicewarm bed and fell asleep and my chance to ride was gone. Or so I thought.Then, later in the day, came those wonderful words from wonderful lips. My Lovely Lovely said, “Why don’t you go ride your bike?” Well, okay. If you insist. It was midafternoon, the sun was up, and I was headed out the door.

To be disgusted in the garage. I had optimistically put on fingerless gloves and a lightweight hat. I quickly came back in and changed them for full fingered gloves and a winter hat with flaps that cover my ears. It’s still cold. I was sick of the cold. I was still going to ride.

My bike was freshly cleaned and polished and waxed – I had been frustrated the day before about not being to ride and had vented my frustration in a burst of bike related bath giving - so, of course, it wentfaster. That’s a rule – a clean bike goes faster. You knew that one, right?

It was cold, it was very windy, and I was like a dog that’s been let off the chain after a long period of confinement. I was ready to go. I dug into the wind and headed down the road. My philosophy for dealing with the wind is to assume that it is going to blow in just that same way forever. I just find a rhythm and settle in. I did make a quick stop to pick up some stones from a gravel driveway. There are these two large dogs that like to run out into the street after me, and I thought I’d like to be prepared rather than be an entrée.

Now, I knew that I wasn’t really supposed to be gone a very long time. We were expecting company from out of town, so my Lovely Lovely was certainly expecting me back home after a fairly brief ride, so when I got to the corner I had two good options. I could go straight or turn left, either of which would put me on the same fifteen mile loop, and I kind of somehow turned right. I’m still not quite sure how that happened, but it did.

Ten miles into the ride, I had to stop. Now, I hate having to stop when I’m going into the wind. I had my rhythm going and would lose it if I stopped. Of course, my other option was not to stop, but, as that would have meant getting flattened by a tractor, I opted to veto that one and stop.

By tractor I mean the front part of a tractor trailer, not a farm implement, by the way. A man was directing two of them from one side of the road to the other. When I stopped, he looked at me and asked, “Aren’t you tired?”

“A little bit,” I said. “The wind is a bear.”

“Yeah,” he agreed. “It’s really cold out.”

(Well, we know that wasn’t what I meant, but that’s okay. He was a nice guy and he meant well.)

When the trucks were done, I took off. A short time later both trucks passed me very safely, giving me a lot of room. Thank you very much.

Another right turn and a head-crosswind becomes a cross-headwind. Okey-dokey. I was having a great time, my legs felt good, and I just kind of kept crusing. Five miles later (yes, I have exceeded my short fifteen mile ride by this time) I made yet another right turn and the wind became a tail wind.

Yeeeehah…big chain ring, high pace, wide smooth shoulder, could I ask for anything more? Nope. I was cruising. So were the two mastiffs who came racing out after me. Uh-oh. Oh, wait. I have stones in my pocket. I pulled out whipped it in the direction of the dogs.

Okay, I intended to whip it in their direction. It turns out that I have remarkably poor throwing skills. Who knew? The stone wasn’t so much whipped as tossed gently, and it didn’t so much fly as it skittered across the asphalt, missing the lead dog by a good three feet. If it had hit him squarely, he wouldn’t have noticed it anyway. I settled in and managed to out run them both.

One more right turn (yes, this is a square here) and a nice hilly road to finish off with. I ended up with thirty three miles and our company was an hour and a half late, so I didn’t get into trouble even though I admit that I deserved to get in trouble.

Was that a good day or what? I’m ready to go again.

See you on the road.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Heading home

On my way to work I was wearing some winter gear and pushing the

pace because I didn’t want to be late. On the way home I was wearing

lighter gear and had all the time in the world and a lovely day to ride in.

I didn’t have to push the pace at all, so, inexplicably, I did. I don’t know

what happened. I was thinking about how nice the sun felt and how

tired and lazy I was feeling, and then I was thinking about how good my

legs felt and how easily the pedals were turning and then I started

thinking that, though I had made it to work in good time, maybe I could

make it home even faster…

Well, you can figure out the rest from there. What could have been a

lazy ride turned into a “how hard can you go” ride. Hey, either type of

ride is fun as long as you’re in the mood for it. Of course, my head and

my legs were in different moods but, as so often happens when that is

the case on the bike, my legs won.

The cars which had been so nice I the morning were rather less nice in

the afternoon. Now, I have nothing against pickups, but apparently

they have something against me,since three of the four vehicles that

passed me unsafely were pickups.

So, let’s see…morning cold, afternoon warm. Morning cars good,

afternoon cars bad. Am I forgetting anything? I was sure there was

one more difference…oh…right. Morning no dogs.

This large white dog of indeterminate parentage was behind his house

when he saw me. I noticed how far away he was – he didn’t notice me

until I got to his yard – and discounted him. This turned out to be an

error, because that dog must have had some hidden greyhound ancestry

or possibly some hidden jet engine ancestry. Wow. He caught me and

kept pace with me. My brain tried to coax a little more out of my legs,

but my legs were quite sure there was nothing else left. They did

manage to wring out a couple of miles per hour, but the dog merely

laughed sarcastically. He was having no trouble keeping up with me.

Fortunately for me, he never came into the street and,when we reached

the cross street he peeled off and headed back home,happy with a job

well done. I tried to convince my heart to slow down and to remain

inside my chest. I was successful.

Those days when your brain and your body disagree are always strange,

but my body definitely won this round. I kept the pace high all the way

home. I was two minutes faster than in the morning. That was nice. I

would have hated it if I had ridden hard all the way home and not been

any faster than in the morning.

Isn't commuting fun?

It is for me.

See you on the road.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Brisk Morning Ride

Well, I will admit that, when I got up and found out that it was 41 degrees Fahrenheit outside, my enthusiasm for commuting today was slightly dimmed, but it didn’t stop me. Of course, this is going to be a typical North Carolina day for this time of year – cold in the morning, warm in the afternoon, so I almost need two sets of clothes.

Let’s see…two caps – the fluffy one with the earflaps for the morning and the light one for the afternoon goes in the messenger bag. (If you don’t wear a cycling cap, you don’t know what you’re missing. My favorites are right here.) Two pairs of gloves – the cross country skier gloves for the morning and the fingerless gloves for the afternoon go in the messenger bag. Now pick a jacket. I need one heavy enough that I won’t freeze this morning but light enough that it will fit in the messenger bag for the ride home. Toss in my lunch, fill up a water bottle and away we go.

(Does Batman have to do this sort of thing when he takes a trip? (Let's see...normal underwear on the body, bat underwear in the bag just in case. Normal shirt on the body, bat shirt in the bag just in case...)

Now, a commute can go one of two ways – it can be easy and pleasant or you might have to push the pace. Unfortunately for me, I was a little late getting out of the house this morning, so that meant that I had to push the pace all the way there. I remember thinking that, if I had been on my road bike instead of the hybrid…well, I’m sure you get the picture.

The road was covered with 2000 lb beasts, but nearly all of the drivers were polite and courteous and none of the displayed a serious desire to see the color of my insides. I did run into one honker (politely meant, I’m sure, but I’d still rather they didn’t) and, as the cars streamed past me, I was reminded of a group ride down the shoulder of a busy road when someone else meant well but…

As riders, we were quite safe. The shoulder was paved and well maintained and several feet wide, so the cars had all the clearance they needed, but the traffic flow was steady. Now, generally speaking, the riders in the rear will call out, “Car back!” as a car approaches us from behind just to make sure that everyone is aware. On this particular ride, we had a group member who is particularly diligent about this. Of course, on this road, there was always a car back. One passed us every five or ten seconds, and this person felt compelled to sing out about every single one of them for the three miles that we were riding along this road. Just think about that for a few minutes and imagine what it’s like. Then stop thinking about it because it will give you a headache.

Anyway, by pushing the pace, I did make it to work on time, and my home will be quite leisurely, I assure you. I’m looking forward to it.

See you on the road.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Oh say can you see...

I thought that today was going to be a good day to ride to work, but I was wrong.

The time was good – my work day begins late enough today that I can ride after the sun comes up.
That’s an especially good thing right now since the rear light I use (affectionately called the Disco Inferno) needs a new battery.

The temperature was good – not hot by any means, but not too cold either. (Is there a Goldilocks thing going on here?)

The wind was good – there wasn’t any.

So, what was the problem?


It was one of those pea soup sort of days out there, right out of some kind of horror movie. (Possibly one about fog.) I decided that discretion was the better part of valor (especially given the current state of darkness of the Disco Inferno) and took the 2000 lb. beast instead. To my mind, bikes and cars and thick fog don't go togehter very well.

But tomorrow is another day, and I'm hoping to commute into work.

Wish me luck.

See you on the road.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tool Time

I got a box of tools specifically for repairing a bicycle.

You’ve heard of the concept of knowing just enough to be dangerous? That’s a pretty good description of me with tools. When Steve showed me how a bicycle works and how to give it a tune up, he pointed to a couple of screws on the derailleur, explained their function, and then said, “Now don’t even touch them.” This is the sort of advice that I need to be given. Giving me a box of tools is rather like giving me an invitation to break something and/or injure myself. In fact, you might as well give me a first aid kit and a phone with 911 on speed dial at the same time.

It’s been cold and rainy for several days in a row now. My frustration level at not being able to ride (okay, not being willing to ride) is rising and I want to do something with my bike. Working on it with my shiny tools (shiny not because they are new but because I have so far had the wisdom to not try and use them) is sounding like a more and more interesting idea.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to resist the temptation.

Wish me luck.

See you on the road.

When the weather gets nicer and, if my bike is still working.

Monday, March 16, 2009

David Z

Dave Zabriskie of team Garmin-Slipstream got back from taking second place in the Tour of California to find out that him home had been burglarized.

Among those items stolen from Zabriskie’s home are:
Black 2008 Subaru Outback, Utah plate A189NC
Black 2006 Toyota Scion, Utah plate 094VWM
Giro D Italia Race Medal (approx. 6" circumference)
Olympic Seiko watch
Beijing Olympic ring (silver) with initials "DZ" engraved ($4,000)
Olympic Time Trial Bike, plus 12 other bikes (combined value of $100,000)
Cervelo (black/red) bike frame - team issued ($5000)
Tag Heuer watch ($6,000)
Bose Speaker/Receiver System ($15,000)
Sony 52" flat screen TV ($4,000)
Two Mac Books and one Mac desktop, plus hard drive ($8,000)
A pair of Space legs, a recovery compression system for legs ($5,000)
7 Marvel sideshow statues ($11,000)

According to police, the Marvel sideshow statues are distinctive in that they stand two- to three feet tall and are very heavy. The stolen statues were of: "Hellboy" pistol figurine, "Ash"Army of Darkness, "Tomb Raider" Lara Croft, "The Punisher," "Alien," "Ironman" Limited Edition, and a "Gears of War" character.

Now, this is only among those items stolen. Good grief! When I saw this list, I felt sorry for David Z. (although given the unique nature of some of the items as well as the tremendous amount of publicity the crime is getting (it’s even published here in the blog, you’ll notice) he does at least stand some chance of getting some of his stuff back.

After my burst of sympathy, however, I started actually looking at the list. That’s a lot of nice stuff, don’t you think? Top level pro cyclists make a lot more money than I realized! Also, Dave has some interests other than cycling. He’s a fan of Army of Darkness, which is pretty cool.

Breaking into someone’s home is horrendous enough, but there are certain things that even the most hardened of criminals should never take – musical instruments, bicycles and irreplaceable one-of-a-kind items (which means that taking the bike David Z. rode in the Olympic time trial in Beijing a double whammy).

Now, I definitely don’t think that crimes perpetrated against rich famous people are more heinous than crimes perpetrated against the average person, and I don’t know Mr. Zabriskie, though I did once get his autograph at the Tour de Georgia after standing in the rain for awhile. I suppose it’s just that we hear about the crimes against rich people. (No worries, this is not going to turn into a social exposé. This a cycling blog, just in case you’d forgotten.)

Anyway, now that I'm all worked up, I think I'll go for a ride. It's cold and rainy, but that'll cool me off.

See you on the road.

Friday, March 13, 2009

A New Land

My Lovely Lovely is getting more and more used to riding. One of these days this riding thing will be come a habit and then it will become a need and then we can ride every day. Woohoo!

There is a tree that is beautiful to look at. (Bear with me here, this really is a cycling blog.) In the month of March it explodes with a riot of white blossoms. It is quite impressive. It also has a rather striking aroma. (I describe it this way because smelling the blossoms is a lot like getting punched in the nose.) The tree, in fact, stinks. I know this because I think every single one in the area is in bloom. We rode through a cloud of stink. It was pretty to the eyes but foul to the nose.

We rode around the neighborhood together with a haze of stink drifting around us, then we crossed the street and then we came to THE BARRIER.

"How do you come to the barrier?" I hear you not asking. Well, I'll tell you. You ride down a really rough road. You reach a sign that says State Maintenance Ends and then the rough road becomes tremendously smooth. Shortly after that, you reach a speed bump and a sign that warns you that the road beyond is private property. Normally we stop at this speed bump and turn around, but today we decided to be scofflaws and we crossed the speed bump to visit the other side.

“Try to look like a wealthy woman of leisure,” I said. My Lovely Lovely grinned at me, and we rode on. After the first speedbump came two more in short order.

The stink of the Bradford Pear trees (yes, I knew what they were called all along, but I didn’t want to show off my extensive botanical knowledge earlier) stopped at the speedbumps. The sound of passing cars and airplanes faded away to be replaced by the blissful sound of bicycle tires on smooth pavement. The air was sweeter. The temperature was even nicer. It was amazing. I don’t know how they did it.

We wondered if we would stand out. We passed a group of people in a driveway and they waved at us. The natives were indeed friendly in this strange new land.

We decided to say and explore the area. The roads were all smooth and wonderful.

Way at the back of the other world was a narrow wooden bridge leading through a wooded area to yet another neighborhood. We didn’t explore the second neighborhood. This time.

As we headed back out, we approached the set of three speedbumps. In front of the first one was a sign warning of impending speedbumps, and right after the sign was a set of skidmarks, presumably left by someone who didn’t see the sign in time. This person clearly doesn't live in the other world, which is obviously a place of peace and tranquility. It was clearly an unruly visitor. My Lovely Lovely and I were ruly visitors.

In no time we were back in the real world where the roads are rough and the trees stink. But we know how to get to the other world now, and we’ll surely explore it again.

My Lovely Lovely rode six miles today, which is a personal best, so congratulations to her.

Tomorrow I’m looking at a long ride followed by yet another ride with my Lovely Lovely. Life is good.

See you on the road.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

It's Raining Again

The temperature is in the low thirties and it’s raining. I am not riding today. Cold is okay. Rain is okay. Cold rain is definitely not okay, so I am sitting at my computer listening to the song Summer by Joe Hisaishi. This is presumably wishful thinking on my part.

I have a learned a few things from riding in the rain in the past.

1. People will think you are crazy if you ride in the rain.

Now, I’m used to getting the freakshow look just for riding, but the interesting thing about riding in the rain is that a lot of other cyclists will think you’re crazy. This is a new experience.

2. Cars can’t see you as well in the rain.

I don’t suppose this one comes as a surprise to anybody, but it kind of hangs around in the back of my mind anyway.

3. Pacelines are no fun in the rain.

There are a few reasons for this, but one of the big ones is that the back wheel of the person in front of you is not your friend. That wheel will send up a spray of dirty oily water from the road. If you happen to be my height and ride in a standard sort of posture, that spray will h it you directly in the face. Some of it will go into your eyes, and some of it will go into your mouth. This is not delicious.

4. Your glasses will get very difficult to see through.

Anyone who wears glasses in the rain knows what I’m talking about, but what is merely annoying while you’re walking around is dangerous when you’re riding. Okay, if you’re as clumsy as I am, you might walk into a tree, and this would be bad. Riding into a tree, however, would be worse.

5. Your own back wheel is not your friend.

The spray that your back wheel is sending up into the face of the person behind you is also getting sent up your very own back. It will leave particularly cold and wet streak down the back of your jersey and down the back of your shots all the way down to the part of you that is in contact with the saddle.

What, you might ask, is the big deal? You’re in the rain. What difference can a little more water make?

A lot, as it turns out. This particular streak of water is somehow wetter than the other water which is falling all around you. Don’t ask me to explain this. I’m not a scientist.

Well, actually, I am a scientist, but I don’t do weather, so I still can’t help.

6. The rain makes everything slippery.

Every bit of paint on the road becomes as slippery as ice. The paint clogs up the pores in the road, the water pools up on top of it and your wheels, whether they are your friends or not, can slide out from under you with the greatest of ease.

Which brings us to a good thing about the rain:

7. The rain makes everything slippery.

This means that, if you do happen to hit the deck, you can slide across the wet asphalt without leaving so much hide on the road and covering yourself with road rash.

And of course:

8. On a hot day, the rain will cool you off nicely.

Of course:

9. On a cold day, the rain will make you miserable.

And, as I write this, it is a very cold day, which is why I'm sitting here and not in the saddle getting wet.

Still, it'll dry out eventually.

See you on the road.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Hard and Easy

“I’d like to go for a ride today.”

“You mean a real ride?”

Okay, this is not to say that riding with my Lovely Lovely isn’t a real ride. It is, but she's just starting out, so we only go five miles, and we take it at an easy pace, and sometimes you just need to get out there and go so hard it hurts.

The fact is that I had cabin fever. After weeks of temps in the thirties and forties, it was finally in the eighties and I had gotten off work early and the sun is going down later because the time changed and…and…and…I wanted to ride.

“Go on,” she said.

I love her.

I suggested that I could do a short ride and then come back and we could ride together. That got me a “we’ll see” and I got kitted out and headed out the door. I hit the road and the wind hit me in the face. It was blowing at 20 mph and more, so it was going to be a hard ride, but there’s nothing wrong with that at all. It was a good day for a hard ride.

I got out of the neighborhood and discovered that it was going to be a very hard ride. There’s still nothing wrong with that at all.

I was in a screaming headwind pushing the pedals. Life is good. What do you do when the ride starts with a screaming headwind? Just find your rhythm and settle in. Don’t bother looking ahead to when the wind will end, that just creates stress. Assume the wind will be there forever and enjoy the ride.

I came to the first turn and was now in a howling cross headwind. How do you know that the wind is bad? When you turn into a howling cross headwind and say, “Ah…..” because it feels better, that’s how.

And why is that, when you're struggling up a hill in the wind gasping like a fish out of water (no fish were harmed in the writing of this blog) that a dog decides it has to come out and play? I thought I was going at maximum effort, then a dog came darting toward me uttering dire threats and I found out that I had a little extra energy left. Excellent.

At one point, with several miles in my legs (which had stopped complaining after the first mile) I passed two people sitting on a porch. They had their feet up and were enjoying the sun. As I rode past, their heads slowly turned to follow me, but nothing else moved. I was reminded of the time I passed a herd of cows and one of them had apparently never seen anything like me before…

…Actually, I get that a lot. People have never seen anything like me before. I don’t think this is a compliment…

…and it stopped chewing its cud to stare at me. It had grass hanging out of both sides of its mouth and slowly turned its head to watch me go by.

I turned again and was back into a flat headwind. Two large dogs then decided to rush out into the street after me. I shouted at them and let them have a spray from my water bottle. At least, that was my intention. Did I mention the headwind? I sprayed the water and the wind sprayed it right back all over my body. Undaunted, I let the dogs have two more sprays before it occurred to me that, as all the water was going on my body, the dogs weren’t likely to be dismayed by it. Possibly the sight was humorous enough to make them stop, though, because they didn’t catch me.

Finally, I turned around to head home and the headwind became a tailwind. I suppose I could have taken it easy, but that wouldn't have been fun, so I popped it up onto the big chain ring and continued to ride as hard as I could. I find it more fun to ride as hard as I can with a tailwind than with a headwind.

As I neared home I called my Lovely Lovely on the cell phone and told her to get dressed for the ride.

"What about dinner?" she asked.

"Oh, dinner can wait half an hour. Let's ride."

"Well..." and you could still hear the "we'll see" in her voice... "Let me know when you get here."

I called her again when I turned onto our road. There was no answer, but when I got to the house she was in the driveway, helmet on and ready to go. Do you see why I love her?

We rode around the subdivision for awhile. “How far have we gone?” she asked.

“About three miles.”

“Oh. I thought we’d only gone one.”

See? Only her third ride, and she’s getting stronger.

She was startled out of a year’s growth by a vicious Boston terrier. I refuse to be scared by something that isn’t really much more than a furry speed bump if it dives under your wheel.

I had a good hard ride and then my Lovely Lovely and I ended up doing five gentle miles together, and we both had a great time. Life is good.

See you on the road.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Ride Number Two

My Lovely Lovely and I went on her second ride. Her first ride (five miles) had gone so well that I thought we would go for at least five today, possibly more. Early we had been riding in the car, and these fateful words were heard: “It isn’t very windy today.”

Now, to clarify, this car contained one cyclist, one noncyclist and one aspiring cyclist. (Isn’t it interesting how everyone can be classified according to their relationship with their bike?) The noncyclist and the aspiring cyclist agreed with each other on the wind level. I kept my mouth shut in disagreement, largely because I have a tendency to notice flags and how they’re moving, and I had the idea that it was quite windy indeed.

Later, when my Lovely Lovely and I got on the bike, the first thing she noticed was the wind. “I guess it’s always windy around here,” she said. windy around here,” she said. Well, I don’t know about always, but it’s definitely windy in the Spring. Well, in the Winter, too, and maybe in the Fall and Summer, but that’s it.

The second thing that she noticed was that the saddle on her bike was less comfortable today than it had been yesterday. You get that until your…um…posterior gets used to riding.

She rode five miles on her first ride, so I figured we’d go for five miles again on her second ride.

We hit the first hill, and she did very well. We hit the second hill, and she began to coast. Now, at the risk of offering too much advice, I suggested that she not coast uphill. “My legs are burning.” Ah. This is where we pay for the previous day’s ride, I guess. After a couple of miles, though, she loosened up and was doing fine.

We passed a very large yard containing a very large dog which, for some reason, seems to spend most of it’s time standing on a picnic table. I guess it likes the view. It also likes to dart toward the fence and any cyclists who happen to be wandering by.

The ride was great, though we had to discuss such technical details as holding your line when you turn, and my legs were yearning for something a little bit longer. Still, the weather’s warming up again, which means I can get her out on the bike more and I can commute to work, so what’s not to like?

See you on the road.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Tandem on Two Bikes

My Lovely Lovely has decided to ride. I am wholly in favor of this idea. Right now she is riding a hybrid that is a little too big for her (she’s quite petite, you know) because that’s what’s available. Eventually we’ll move her on to something that suits her better. We had two bikes and a nice day to ride them. What more could you ask?

Because it’s early days for her yet, we set out to an easy five mile ride. (She would pay for this unaccustomed exertion the next day, but that’s how you know it’s working, right?)

We passed a fenced in yard with an ever changing cast of dogs. I don’t know where the new dogs come from or where the old dogs go, but I can’t keep up with the changes. Today’s performance featured a miniature dachshund (he must be the star, because he is the only constant member of the show), a German shepherd (a small German dog and big German dog) and a Bassett Hound. The dachshund took the tenor line, the German shepherd took the bass, and the Bassett hound was probably supposed to be the baritone of the trio, but, from the sound of his voice, he smokes too much.

My Lovely Lovely sailed up the first hill quite nicely, but the first hill is only a warmup for the second hill. We stopped at the top of the second hill for some water. She then had some pertinent comments about preride hydration to make. She also had a habit of yawning while riding. I was wondering if it was the company (she was riding with me, after all) but she assured me that it was probably only her body trying to take in more oxygen. I’ve decided to believe this.

Eventually, either out of a desire for wider horizons or because we were bored by looking at the same streets, we cut over to another subdivision and one of the bumpiest roads it has ever been my privilege to ride. My water bottles rattle. My water bottle cages rattled. My teeth rattled. It was rough. Ahead, we could see a sign. We strained to read it, but the constant jolting made that difficult. We finally got close enough to see that it said State Maintenance Ends. Interestingly, the road got as smooth as glass as soon as we passed that sign. There’s a moral in there somewhere, only I’m too lazy to look for it.

We then passed by a swimming pool that was filled with what had probably once been water but was now pretty much green slime. Now, here I am on my ride thinking of you my loyal reader…I mean readers…that’s right, readers as in more than one (he thought wishfully) and so I looked at this pool and said, “Look, the swimming pool that time forgot.” Why, that would be something potentially amusing to put in the blog, right?

“Well, it’s probably just for the winter,” my Lovely Lovely said.

“Yes,” I agreed, “But that’s not funny.”

She might have retorted that “the swimming pool that time forgot” isn’t really all that funny either, but she’s too nice for that sort of thing.

She made it through the ride and enjoyed herself so much that we went for another ride the next day.

We are making progress. I’ll have her up to thirty miles in no time. Just you wait.

See you on the road.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Home Again

The great thing about commuting to work by bike is that you get to ride back home again, scoring two rides for the price of one, or, as some people would have it, being twice as crazy as a normal person.

As I was getting ready to head back home today, one of my coworkers asked, “Are you going out in that cold?” I will mention that, as I was asked this question, I was standing next to my bicycle already wearing a helmet and putting on my gloves.

I nodded. “It was 37 degrees when I rode in this morning. I don’t guess it’s colder than that now.”

Just as a note to show you how good I am at predicting even the near future, this proved to be a bad guess. It was freezing! Oh, and there was a headwind. Okay, it was freezing because of the headwind. The actual temperature had in fact risen by a staggering two degrees, but the wind had also picked up by several miles an hour, so I think the overall effect was to make things colder. And, because of the wind, the ride took a bit longer.

This same coworker followed up her question by asking, “Did you hear about that boy?"

This was rather a vague question. I suppose that I might have heard about “that boy” without realizing it, but I took the safe route and said, “No.”

It turns out that the boy in question was out riding his bike and was struck by a car and ended up on the hospital in a coma. Well, I didn’t know about that boy, and I’m sorry to hear about him and wish him well - I hope he gets better quickly and suffers no ill effects - but possibly you could have chosen a better time to tell me about him than just as I’m getting ready to get on my bike and ride home.

Just about ten minutes after I hit the road, a giant humvee, pretty much just as wide as the entire lane, whizzed past me without moving over one inch to give me clearance. The wind of its passage nearly blew me off the road. Slowing down as you pass a cyclist would be appreciated, especially when your vehicle displaces so much air. (I have seen this humvee several times, unless there are a lot of bright yellow humvees driving around the town I live in, and I am always amazed at how much of the lane it takes up.)

Oh, and, just a note to the driver of the huge red pickup truck: I appreciate that the honk you gave as you approached me from behind was polite and was clearly intended to let me know of your presence. Thank you for being considerate. However, I’d really appreciate it if you merely passed me safely without honking, since the honk tends to make me jump. This is not a good thing, since it kind of makes the bike swerve, and my near encounter with the humvee a very short time before had already made me a little nervous. Still I appreciate the thought. You were much nicer than the guy who threw the half full bottle of soda at me. (In case you're wondering, said bottle bounced off my leg. It only hit me obliquely, so it didn't hurt much.)

However, humvees and horns aside, it was a ride, and I was glad to be on the bike turning the pedals.

See you on the road.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


I have to admit to being a weather weenie today.

(Alas, that is not an original. I can remember Jörg one day riding an older heavier bike on a ride. When someone else commented on how heavy the frame must be, he told them not to be a weight weenie.)

(Useful tip – also from Jörg – people will spend hundreds of dollars to shave a few grams of weight off of their bike when it would be a lot cheaper and a lot more effective to just lose a pound or two off of their own body.)

I can see that, unable to resist talking about Jörg, I have digressed.

I have to admit to being a weather weenie today. I seriously considered riding my bike to work this morning. I just checked the weather now (two hours later) and the temperature is 31 (feels like 20 due to the wind chill.)

(Jörg says – don’t give me that wind chill stuff, just tell me what the real temperature is. Except, as I recall, he didn’t actually use the word stuff but something a bit more pungent.)

And I took a look at the temperature, which was several degrees chillier when I got up than it is now and decided that I wouldn’t ride to work this morning.


What can I say? Well, I’ve already said it. I’m a weather weenie today. I feel bad about this. I truly do. I’m not getting any miles, I’m not getting any fitter and I’m driving the 2000 lb beast around, with all that entails. I am, however, not freezing any vital body parts off, either, so you kind of have to look at both sides of the issue. Hypothermia isn’t my friend, and blue isn’t my color.

Still, the weather is bound to warm up eventually, at least a little bit.

When it does, I’ll see you on the road.

By the way, just after writing this, I read Cyclin’ Missy’s adventures with a frozen derailleur. She is not a weather weenie.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Harried With Children

I went on a ride with an eleven year old on a mountain bike. This noticeably affects the character of the ride. The eleven year old isn’t interested in cadence or pace or tempo or even riding in a straight line. This is what riding your bike is all about when you’re a kid – having fun, swerving all over the street, riding with no hands, trying to stand up on the bike, going to the emergency room with a concussion, all that sort of thing.

There are adults who take all the fun out of riding a bike. I like to pay attention to my distance and my cadence, but I still have a good time riding. I have met people, not professional riders, for whom riding the bike is a deadly serious affair. I have met entire cycling clubs for whom riding the bike is a deadly serious affair. (If you have read many of these blog posts – assuming you have the constitution for so grueling a task – you will have noticed that the club I belong to, the Seyboro Cyclists, is not one of those clubs where the members think cycling should be all work and no play.)

I was talking to members of another club, and they were discussing their club rides. “Every Thursday we do hill intervals. Tuesdays are sprint practice.” and so on. Don’t you sometimes just want to ride your bike? Sure, we’ve done some hard rides, but we’ve also done some sofa rides.

Main Entry: so-fa ride

Pronunciation: \sō-fə rīd\

Function: noun

Meaning: a ride which requires approximately the same amount of effort as sitting on your rear end on the sofa eating cheez nips and changing channels with the remote control.

Etymology: We made it up one day

It isn’t a real dictionary entry, but it ought to be.

But I digress. I was talking about riding with an eleven year old on a mountain bike. We did a loop of approximately one mile at a pace gentler than that of a sofa ride. It was seriously cold, with temperatures on the upper thirties and a good stiff wind blowing. It was just about cold enough to make my teeth hurt, but I was not inclined to call it a day after just one mile. The eleven year old refused to go in before I did, so we went around again.

It was during this second loop that the eleven year old expressed a desire to go for a real road ride some day. Well, why not? Well, mostly because the prospect terrifies me. Why? Well, go back and reread the first paragraph. That’s why.

Being a cyclist on the road doesn’t mean quivering in abject terror at the thought of cars, but it does mean having a healthy respect for the potential risks. Let’s face it, cars are bigger than we are. In an impact, Newton is not on your side. (Not the fig guy, the other one. Sir Isaac.) Can you make an eleven year old understand the seriousness of the undertaking? I don’t know. We’ll have to talk about that one. Young riders should be encouraged, after all. Maybe she’s a potential US champion. Maybe she could win a medal at the Olympics. Maybe she could just have years of enjoyment ahead of her. Either way, it a good thing.

For the record, we stayed out and did three miles. She was very proud of herself for finishing a ride of that length, and I was proud of her, too.

Well, I’m out of here. All of this talk of riding has made my feet itch to spin the pedals.

See you on the road.