Monday, April 1, 2019

Low gears, low expectations

I just looked at this blog and realized that it's been over two months since my last post. Two months!

What have I been doing?

Have I been hanging out with hipsters, drinking octuple-IPAs? Have I been on the road with the spirit of Jack Kerouac, writing my first (nearly unreadable) novel? Have I been attending classes at the Culinary Institute of America, reinventing myself as the next Mario Batali Alice Waters? Or have I been working on my standup routines, leaving me no time to blog?

None of those things, though choice number three isn't unappealing. I've just been either working (which includes commuting) or resting, or sleeping.

So last week I thought, hey, maybe it's time to start getting in shape again. I haven't been training because there's no long ride I want to go on, but...what if I suddenly get the desire to go, and go far? I'd better be in shape.

To my mind the best way to start getting in shape is to take a short ride, and that's what I set out to do. Three miles (and change) downtown, and then back. But fate intervened in the form of my hometown marathon. There were so many detours for the marathon that I ended up riding just slightly longer.

Yes, this is a boring picture. The point of it is what you don't see: the few hundred cars that are usual for this time of the morning. You can see the runners in this picture if you squint.

According to MapMyRide, I rode about nine miles and burned 611 calories.  This wasn't a great deal of riding, but it's more than I've done at one go in a while. I celebrated by going out for German food in the evening. This meal was accompanied, of course, by a couple of pints of German beer. I do wonder if the food and beer combined negated my calorie burn from the ride, not to think of these things.

As always, going on a leisurely fun ride just reinforced the idea that I should go slowly for a greater distance than I'd originally planned. I remain part of the larger group of riders that don't think suffering is something we should all aspire to. I may never travel a hundred miles in one day, but...I don't care anymore. Being out on the road and not trapped inside a car is good enough.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Happiness is a flat road...

A friend of mine often says "When you're our age, fitness comes and goes. It's two weeks to lose it, and two months to get it back."

I'm here to tell you that that's the absolute truth. I've lost a lot of fitness because of my unwillingness to ride in the cold and rain.

This hill would have been a piece of cake two months ago. Last Saturday, not so easy....
All it was was a two-block-long hill. But I had to stop about ten feet from the top because my cardiovascular health isn't what it was just one short month ago.  I was riding the road-ish bike, which may have been a mistake; the tour-ish bike (formerly known as the grocery bike) would probably have been a much better choice. Slower, but somewhat easier.

For me, this reinforced the idea that "distance, not speed" is the correct way to ride.

I bought the road-ish bike in part because it's zippy and I wanted to ride longer distances at higher speeds. Last year, riding the road-ish bike, I did a forty-five mile course that I had previously ridden on the tour-ish bike. And I completed the course in much less time than on my first effort, because the road-ish bike is just so darn zippy. And it was much less satisfying than the first time I rode it. That could have been because I'd already done it once, but I don't believe so. I think it's because I wasn't riding it slowly enough to enjoy it. I didn't slow down for all the beautiful natural scenery. There were no pauses to take pictures. Excited by the speed I was able to travel at, I didn't stop to talk to people at the rest stops.

And now I realize that while the road-ish bike is quite nice, it might not be an appropriate bike for me. Yes, it's zippy -- but despite its zippiness,  it doesn't have that "wheeeee!" factor that the tour-ish bike has. It's also not quite the hill climber that the tour-ish bike is.

So...the road-ish bike (2017 Surly Straggler) might be going up for sale; rack, fenders, Panaracer Paselas and extra stem included. I'm going to try and sell it by networking, because I don't really like selling via Craigslist or eBay. It'll take longer, but that's ok. It'll give me more time to pick out a replacement. Maybe a nice light touring style bike with 650B wheels.  Maybe something old school with rim brakes and friction shifters. Or maybe nothing.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

The BAG I'm in

Took my first ride of the year today. Unlike my first ride of 2018, I did not get any flats. I'm hopeful that 2019 will go as smoothly as my first ride.  Also unlike last year's ride, I tried some difficult hill climbs. I don't love climbing hills, but I don't hate it anymore either. I also get a thrill out of realizing that I'm in better shape now than I was twenty years ago.

Like many cyclists who live in urban areas, I belong to a bicycle advocacy group (BAG). That's not altruistic on my part. It's purely pragmatic. My BAG advocates not only for better bicycle infrastructure, but for better roads in general.

It used to be that I would go about half-a-mile out of my way to avoid three blocks of severe potholes on the way downtown. No longer;  the advocacy group got the city to repave the worst of the bike route. The potholes are gone, the bike lane repainted.

A year ago I had to add a mile to my trip if I were coming back from getting coffee. But...yup, the local BAG (in combination with a pedestrian advocacy group) got the city to add a protected bike path that actually cuts more than a mile off of the trip. The path was originally set to be paint-only, but the city was persuaded to modify that plan for the greater protection of cyclists.

I paused a moment before entering this lane, because I was so jazzed about it.

One of the things I really love about my local BAG is that they're transparent. Via their web site, they inform the public of what they're doing and what progress they have made.

And a bonus picture:

Should there be sharrows on the sidewalk for these guys?
In keeping with my standard New Year's Eve celebration, I stayed home and didn't celebrate in any way. And for the twentieth year in a row, I didn't make any resolutions. 

Happy New Year to both of my regular readers!

Monday, December 31, 2018

Goodbye to all that....

Goodbye to 2018.  I'm hoping for better from 2019.

I've been on-and-off the bike for a while, but am planning the first of what I hope will be a series of  frequent recreational rides. The first one will be tomorrow, exploring some of the new bike paths that have sprung up while I was being a commuter.

And here's the obligatory picture. It's a bike path in Prague. Prague is a fairly bike-friendly town, though Budapest is more so. This is just a better picture, since most of the bike paths I saw in Budapest were only(!) protected bike paths on  larger streets.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

vicious cycle

I cycle so that I can eat what I want and maintain my weight.

I eat a lot so I can have the energy to cycle.

This post courtesy of my birthday beer.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018


There's a charity ride coming up in April that benefits local schools. I've done the ride twice before. A nice forty-five miles mostly through beautiful country. And honestly, I know I could do it again, even though I've been largely a commuter since the last time I did it.

But do I want to?

There are the pros.  The camaraderie of riding with a like-minded group. The simple joy of taking a ride that you don't get to take all that often. And the great lunch. Great lunch.

There are the cons. I know there are some. I just can't think of any right now. Oh, there might be a headwind. That's one. And my front shifter could stop working, the way it did last April. And I might have to invest in a new bottom bracket before tackling a ride that long.

To ride or not to ride? That's half the question.

The other half is which route to ride. There is a slightly longer route of sixty-eight miles that I could ride. Last year, the ride leader for the easy training rides encouraged me to try it. And darn if it doesn't sound like it could be fun.

Still pondering. Still waiting for that kick in the pants that will tell me I have to do it. Or not.

Mandatory picture. Nothing to do with bikes. It's the funicular up to Budapest Castle.

Sunday, September 16, 2018


If you just read the title of this post, you might think it was about something I'd achieved recently. Well, I'm writing my first blog post in quite a while; is that an achievement? I tend to think no. Did I go on a long bike ride? No, my longest rides in the past month have been commute rides; about five miles each way, depending on which way I decide to go to and return from work.

But it's achievement that I've been thinking about a lot lately. I recently read a 2017 article on the BBC website called "The Compelling Case For Working A Lot Less." And the conclusion I drew from this article is: you don't have to focus on achievement.  You don't have to take a twenty to thirty mile bike ride every weekend. You don't have to use every spare moment to try to improve whatever it is you're trying to improve. Walk away from constant striving, and you'll accomplish more.

End of philosophical section. Without segue, here is some bikey content with actual pictures...