December 26, 2011
Identity and reason
December 20, 2011
Episode VI: Return of the Ice-Face
I check my six, touch the brakes, and turn the bike around. This is ridiculous.
December 16, 2011
Number Sixx, Nikki!
December 10, 2011
My back pages
During my usual evening Google Reader session last night, I came upon a well-written post on one of my favorite blogs and I thought it would be worth sharing here:
It instantly reminded me of a time when I got really heated up about road behavior in the area and wrote a rather acidic post about it. Compared to everything I've written before and since, the post I wrote responding to the stop-sign running and subsequent ticketing of several area cyclists on a weeknight group ride is still THE most-read post on this blog. I felt strongly about my position on the matter and won't apologize for what I felt at the time - but, I think I've mellowed a little about it and many other things. I'm not nearly the no-grey-area hardliner portrayed in the older post. I have my way... others have their way. Surely as I blew a stop sign just the other day, I'm not perfect - and I'm no longer interested in trying to be "right", in practice or in image. We all make mistakes. I'm not going to be so foolish as to say I'll keep my opinions to myself - but I'll certainly check myself before I'm so quick to check others. I think, in that regard, perhaps I'm aging gracefully.
Kent put it perfectly, and it's the same behavior for me:
I always stop at stop signs.
Except when I don't.
In this case, I blew a stop sign to avoid having my leg chewed off by a very angry-looking rottweiler in full chase ... and I'm still confused about where this particular dog's "fence line" ended... seriously, he chased me for the better part of two miles, well beyond his property - confirming he wasn't interested in simply protecting his territory, as in most dog encounters. He either wanted a good workout, or a snack. After 3/4 of a mile, the 2-way, cross-traffic-doesn't-stop intersection came into view. "Cujo" was still coming hard. I had a good sight line in all directions and thankfully there was no traffic. Had their been... well, who knows. Zoom -- I'm across. Atypically, the beast didn't hesitate at the crossing of roads. There was no change in the rhythm of his paws beating against the pavement as he continued straight across the road after me, gaining. I sprinted again, thinking "that oughta do it", only to hear the gallop gain amplitude again.
"Geez, dog...give up!"
Down a hill and around a corner, I finally thought that I'd lost him...until he exploded from the trees at my right, having cut across the corner through the brush, trying to head me off. "Holy...." With the time I've spent in the saddle over the years my dog encounters are too great to count, but all of them were fairly benign and predictable. I've never been pursued with such vigor by an animal, and it was a little disconcerting... there was no barking, no snarling... just focus and teeth and blurred legs... scary dog. I felt I made a far safer choice by running that stop sign rather than calling that particular dogs bluff. Eventually, he peeled off and gave up the chase... and another afternoons training with "Eddy" came to a close.
To my opinions on legality, yeah -- I broke the law. I wouldn't have preferred it, but I'd have gladly paid a fine rather than endure having my calves stitched back in place in the ER... assuming the dog had the intention. Even as I groaned to myself in disapproval while I looked frantically right and left to ensure there weren't any cars approaching, I couldn't see myself limping home with dog bite wounds being able to proudly proclaim "at least I came to a complete stop!" Pick your battles, indeed.
Of course, my unwavering position in the post from August 2009 was more about the reason than the act itself. In any case, whether I was actually going to get my leg gnawed off or not, I still chose to break the law.
Another point in Petersen's discussion involves holding to the "social pact" we have with drivers and other cyclists. I still hold my personal position of trying to set a good image of cycling in and around Johnson County, KS., and whether it be flawed or not is up to personal consideration by the reader. My positions and my delivery are constantly evolving. I certainly don't profess perfection, nor do I demand it in others - even if I occasionally get frustrated. I still contend that certain maneuvers employed with the justification of salvaging ones average speed represent a risky practice - but, that's someone else's choice to make.
I feel it's best to make safer choices, instead of reckless ones. I agree with Petersen's take, where we're all better off for those safer choices. Co-workers still thrill me with stories of cyclists they see blowing stop signs and red lights "right in front of them", so I have an impression that we can all set better examples than we have been - and I'll leave it at that. While I'd still prefer cyclists be more careful, set a better example, and have more of a reason other than "everyone else is doing it", or "I didn't want to break pace", using these pages to spit venom and create division in the cycling community doesn't benefit anyone, and doesn't advance bicycling.
If you aren't a subscriber to Kent's Bike Blog, I highly recommend adding it to your reader, or blog-surfing routine. Mr. Petersen has a patient, calm demeanor to his writing - and the prose is delivered eloquently and with a definite style and flair, while still taking a stance and making a good point. Collectively, his blog could be read cover-to-cover and taken as a novel-in-progress, compared to the random ramblings I hastily post on occasion. Proof that whether it be writing, or riding, or taking a stance on a touchy matter - I still have a lot to learn.
Happy Holidays, readers - and be safe out there!
December 7, 2011
More winter riding tips
I don't know about you, but when my heart-rate goes up and cold air is added, my nose runs. It's annoying, and the resultant sniffling is a constant soundtrack for all my winter rides. Every conceivable type of cycling glove, winter or summer, has a "thumb wipe" surface on it, so it's certainly not an individual problem. However, if you are like a lot of winter cyclists that found their winter riding glove solutions somewhere other than the local bike shop, you may not have this handy feature. Someone out there is a thinker:
The Glove Spot
Brilliant - available at many other places than the above link directs, but they had the best depiction of it.
Super soft, usable with ANY glove, washable. You want one.
Method on LONG rides: DAB, don't wipe, if you can help it. Especially when charged with electrolyte-rich hydration, your nasal secretions can be quite abrasive... multiply by the number of wipes it takes to complete a 200k, and you can look forward to a few days of red, irritated discomfort around the edges of your nose. A gross subject, perhaps - but simply everyday life for the winter cyclist. It's hard enough riding in the cold - so, even keeping your nose cozy can prevent the dreaded "fatigue multiplier"!
Dryness as a cold multiplier:
Hydration is very important in winter, even if it's not immediately apparent on the bike. I've been guilty of this on many occasions, where the feeling of rushing through the cold air on a winter ride simply does nothing to trigger the "I need a drink" reaction.
The air masses that bring cold air into the continental US are very dry indeed and you can feel the effects as dry skin, chapped lips, static electricity buildup, and more. Dry, cracked skin can make already cold air feel even colder, and is generally uncomfortable! Use lotions, lip balm and hand salves to keep moisture locked in - you'll sleep better, too, without those dry skin "itchies" that plague some of us. Hot teas and coffees are great warm-ups at controls - but remember the effects of caffiene on hydration and compensate accordingly with plenty of water and hydration solutions. Above all else, drink before you're thirsty! Zipping along through dry, cold air can suck the moisture right out of you - just like riding in the desert! Dry works without hot - stay on top of hydration, even in the cold! Keeping the connection between comfort on the bike and adequate hydration on AND off the bike is essential. Eight-to-ten 8oz. servings of water per day is a good start, off the bike.
Making this especially hard ON the bike, however, is the fact that it is difficult to stay hydrated if your water is frozen.
As a bonus, electrolyte-rich water in your bottles has a lower freezing point than plain tap water, so try those fizzy electrolyte tabs in your bottles. If its really cold, keep a bottle in your back pocket, under your jacket to prevent freezing. The very bottles you choose can make a difference, too: insulated bottles can help keep your drinks from freezing as fast, and bottles with the newer "Camelbak-style" nozzles don't freeze up quite as badly as traditional "pop-top" bike bottles.
Finally, though I'm not a fan, wearing a slim hydration pack inside your outer layers can help keep things flowing - but be sure to tuck the drinking tube back into your jacket between sips to prevent freezing.
I can't see!
Low sun angle, bright car headlights, and headwinds that rush behind your riding glasses and make your eyes water incessantly! Ugh, the trials of winter riding... I submit to you, cycling caps. Yeah, yeah -- some will cry "euro-trash" or "pro-wannabe", but you'll seldom catch me on a ride of any kind without a good cycling cap. Whether it keeps the rain off your glasses and helps you see the road, whether it prevents the cold headwind from drying out your eyes - or making them water so much you can't see straight, whether its acting as a visor against the low sun, or preserving your night vision against on-coming traffic on a dark road - the cycling cap is definitely not just some useless 80's pro-style throwback. It's layers for the head for me: a winter beanie or ear-band, and cap. If everything else in your cycling wardrobe is neon yellow, like me, the cycling cap can be your quiet homage to your favorite team, or just basic black - but it doesn't matter: That visor is GOLD.
Be careful: helmet fit should be maintained. It's remarkable how "just one more" thin layer of fabric can render a summer-time helmet really tight -- it's a good time to shop the clearance rack for a larger, or generic "one-size" "winter" helmet. you can fit bulkier winter head layers under it without sacrificing fit or safety. Plus, for VERY cold days, you can tape off the vents to help hold in heat and block out cold air, or use it as a platform for your winter helmet light set-up. Also, insist on genuine cycling caps... ball caps won't work here, unless you ride a recumbent -- the visor is TOO large, and can block too much of the road.
On that note - especially if you aren't used to riding with a visor: keep your head up... if you're a heads-down rider, a new visor can be an effective way to find the back of a parked car when you don't want to.
Other quick tips:
Buddy up: a lot of riding is done solo, but someone to talk to or share supplies with can be valuable. If you can't, make sure someone knows where you're headed, via email or the like.
Check your supplies: Tubes and patch kits can dry out after a season in the seat bag, so winter is a good time to make sure you rotate these items and ensure that if you get that dreaded winter-time repair opportunity, you have what you need - and it's all fresh and ready.
$1.99 survival: getting sweaty on a winter ride can be dangerous, and many don't think beyond the short term roadside ordeal. If your roadside ordeal becomes longer than expected, like someone needs to come pick you up, be smart. Keep moving around, a brisk walk with your bike towards your intended pickup location - keep the body heat UP, to prevent shivers and possible hypothermia. If you have to spend some time sitting it is very handy to have packed along a silver emergency blanket. Available almost everywhere, fits in any seatbag, and cheap... you never know. For most adventure races, this is required equipment on the packing list -- make it part of your seatbag kit, too, even if it's just a short ride.
Batteries are cold, too: it's also a good time of year to refresh your taillight batteries. Cold air can reduce the output of most batteries, and if you've already been running your taillight through the summer months, they could be close to dead anyways. Keeping them fresh can help keep you seen on dim, grey days. Rechargeables are great here, too, as are the more expensive lithium AA cells: though pricey, they don't succumb to the cold as quickly as alkalines.
That's all I have for now...hit the comments if you have more!
Dress up... go ride!
See you out there!
November 29, 2011
The Hard Quarter
November 20, 2011
Commuting and Randonneuring lights, revisited
...and as of 2020, up to 16,000 lumens in some cases...altho, to be fair these are generally off-road trail lights. You can bomb the singletrack on a moonless night with almost full confidence these days, with real, usable run-times.
(...updated March 2020... and the light output and quality, features, charging times, and run times keep improving, month-over-month it seems. Tough to keep up, but LEDs are clearly not going anywhere.)
Below are some of the products I hold in high regard from high amounts of personal use or extended testing, with asterisks next to the brands I have NOT used personally (yet).
Supernova* (generator lights)
November 18, 2011
November 8, 2011
Tailwinds and traffic
Snapping to, back on a beautiful stretch of road near K-152... at the top of the western ridge of Linn Valley. This view never gets old. The La Cygne power generation plant, billowing steam into the cold air - confirming that the wind, as scheduled, was beginning to shift to favor my return trip. WoooHooo!!
After a 1/2 mile walk, I was on the other side of the drama, ready to get back at it. Hills were in my future -- hills that give this route a reputation of being especially evil for the last few miles of a long ride. After a long cool-down at the accident site, I also found myself resting again at 159th and Mission road - desperate for a rest room break, but finding no shelter or break from passing cars to pull it off. While the clock was still on my side, I was going to have to work for my sub-10 hour 200km ride now. Ugh!
Songs in the Head:
Grounds for Divorce - Elbow
State Police - Brothers Past (the studio version is better)
Angelhead - Gabriel Rios
Grace - Will Young
15 Step - Radiohead
November 6, 2011
The Distance Diaries - No.1
Certainly not EVERY ride will have a video companion - but I'll do what I can. Honestly, I like it - it's FUN and I like the process of editing, mixing (though I'm still not 100% satisfied with this one), and taking raw video and chopping into 500 pieces and putting it back together. I have high hopes and a giant body of inspiration to pull from - namely a lot of WAY more interesting and professionally produced stuff on Vimeo, and my ultimate inspiration "Survivorman" - where Les Stroud sets the bar extremely high.
I've dabbled in the past and thought "what if?" -- and so this is a small step closer - but, I need to invest in something better than a cell phone camcorder to make this a real effort. Further, a/v production is a HUGE time-suck. I told myself I'd only devote a day to mashing this one out, and it took dang-near all it. Further, there wasn't enough raw footage to show a true picture of the entire ride - and, let's face it: sometimes I get down to the business of riding and forget things like shooting video. The coming winter months will make that harder, no doubt, but more material will yield better finished product. Best approach is probably to amass video for multiple rides, and make it a larger project. We'll see.
So, for now, please enjoy:
The actual post about Friday's 200km permanent coming this week --- strangely, that takes more time to edit down. Big surprise!
Thanks for reading!