Saturday, March 25, 2017


I believe I reached a milestone today.

I've been ill almost this whole year. Cold, cough, flu. It's been great! I don't know when I've had such fun.

Today was the first time in recent memory that I haven't had a sore throat.  I needed coffee beans, the roaster is only four miles away...back on the bike!

The milestone was nothing huge. I was just riding, observing things around me, and...that's all I was doing.  Normally I would have been concentrating on how much power I was putting out, on how my breathing was...but instead, I was just riding.

Of course, this moment of Zen was broken by my noticing that I wasn't noticing.

Well, that and that the theme song from the 1970's "Spider-Man" cartoon was running through my head.

And now, a gratuitous picture of a bike (a VSF Fahrradmanufaktur T-1000).

Yes, it's black. Like every other German bike that I've seen.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

What's smaller than micro?

A while back, adventurer/writer Alistair Humphreys coined the phrase "microadventure", which Wikipedia describes as overnight outdoor adventure that is "small and achievable, for normal people with real lives."

I've been planning my own microadventure for a while now; it will start with a ferry ride, followed by a bike ride to and across the Golden Gate bridge, followed by a forty mile bike ride through some beautiful landscape and pleasant small towns, ending with a ferry ride to an island where I would camp overnight.

Today I did part of it. Not enough to even qualify as a microadventure. More of a nano-adventure. I was only going to go to downtown Oakland; but in the back of my mind, there was the thought that it would be cool if I went a little further.

I checked the ferry schedule. The next ferry was coming in twelve minutes. I took it, and that was the start of my nano-adventure.

Kona takes a ride.
The ferry dropped me off at the San Francisco Ferry building.  All I knew at this point was "walk out of the ferry building, turn right to get on the Bay Trail." This is where the adventure really began -- sharing the road with San Francisco drivers, even with a clearly marked bike path, is...well, adventurous. Fortunately it was early enough in the morning that most of the drivers weren't awake enough to react to the presence of a bicycle on their turf.
The joy of bicycling in San Francisco.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

How we see things

I'm currently reading Be Brave, Be Strong: A Journey Across the Great Divide by Jill Homer.  It's about her "record-breaking ride in the 2009 Tour Divide." At one point, she writes about riding in the mountains, and the sentiment is so beautifully expressed that...well, I hope that if she ever sees this, she won't object to having been quoted at length.

She writes:

"...the injuries and the heat, the logistics and the repairs, the hunger and the fatigue, the distress about not having enough companionship and then having too much. These problems were all human failings, the outside world creeping in. Firmly locked in cruise control, I only needed to understand the fine mechanics of pedaling my bike. I pedaled my bike, and everything else fell into place, had purpose, and made sense."

That's a viewpoint, and a beautiful one. I don't know that that's my viewpoint, but I have felt that way some times. I believe that many people get this feeling. Some would say that those people are obsessed with riding, but I would disagree. I think that for them, riding is just a natural part of their lives.

My viewpoint is largely this: I get on my bike. I ride until I'm some miles from home, and then I feel I should turn back. But I don't want to. I want to keep going. And going. And end up some place I've never been.

And you?

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Talk about suffering

In the bike world, particularly in the racing area, there is a lot of talk about "suffering."  Some events, races and whatnot, are called "sufferfests" and the voluntary suffering that happens at these events is worn as a badge of honor.

But there is the voluntary suffering that happens at these events, and there is the tragedy that arises from actual suffering.  I know, I know -- you're thinking, "OMG, is this about bikes or what?" Yes, it is.

In This Road I Ride, Juliana Buhring talks about the tragic and horrific loss of her lover.  She turned her suffering into a round-the-world bike tour.

The adventurer Jill Homer documents the end of a long-term relationship in Be Brave, Be Strong: A Journey Across The Great Divide. Despite (or because of) the suffering resulting from that, she rode the Tour Divide.

You can draw the inference here that suffering makes a person want to move. To ride a bicycle for instance.

The inference I draw is that there is something about riding a bicycle that alleviates suffering. Moving quickly under your own power, being independent of anything else, feeling the wind...being out and about and in your own head at the same time. And also that we're instinctively drawn to it.

I know that many people have said much the same thing about cycling: that they feel more free when riding a bike.

That's really all I'm thinking about right now. I'll be funnier next time, I promise.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Bicycle un-chic

I really like colorful bicycles. For instance, this Marin Four Corners Elite:
Photo owned by Marin Bicycles.
That is a beautiful bike. Though honestly I prefer bikes of a single color. This is my bike:

I also like the splash of red the pannier adds. And the dirt on the tires gives it class.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Encouragement, part two

This is a follow-up to the post titled Encouragement; if you haven't read that post, some of what follows may lack context. So you may want to read Encouragement first. But if you really don't want to read that post, it said in a nutshell "Doctor tells out-of-shape Doug to exercise - Doug gets bike."

As it turned out, cycling is the sport for me. I took to it like a duck to quacking. My wife was very surprised. She said "I thought riding the bike was something you'd do grudgingly every weekend. I didn't expect you to actually like it."

Honestly, I surprised myself.  Within three or four months of getting on a bike, I was doing things I had been afraid to do. I was riding through traffic like I had a right to be there. My attitude about people improved, largely because of the polite drivers I was meeting. I even went on a group ride, though I'm about as anti-social as anyone you'd ever meet. I graduated from being an annoyance at my LBS to being a frequent and tolerated guest.

Then...well, at this point you might expect me to say "disaster struck". The fact is that I made a stupid mistake. I was approaching a stoplight in a very high gear when the light turned yellow, and I stopped quickly without downshifting. When the light turned green, I pushed down with my right leg as hard as I normally would and felt something in my hip go "ping." Though it didn't bother me at the time, within a few hours I started feeling as though someone had kicked me very hard in a sensitive area. I talked to the doctor about it (yes, at my age, you talk to the doctor about almost everything.) The upshot of it was that I should stay off the bike until I felt comfortable getting back on. This stretched to a little more than two months.

When I did get back on the bike, I stuck to higher gears. The theory was that it's better to spin a little than to hurt yourself with exertion. (No, I don't mean taking a spinning class...)

Also definitely not the kind of "spinning" I'm talking about.
I got back into it slowly. I started wearing padded shorts for rides over five miles. I made sure to downshift when coming to a halt; and if I couldn't, I made sure not to exert myself to the point of injury when starting to pedal again.

Everything since then is a blur. I've started training (yes, genuinely training, not "training") for the forty-five mile charity ride I'll be doing at the end of April. I've started taking climbs that I don't have to take, simply because I know that I'll need to able to do it in the future. And I've started planning parts of my bike rides; well, if "bring a snack and enough water to stay hydrated" can be called a plan. 

It is difficult for me to believe, but I now have goals. The hard part is admitting that I have goals; I've always thought of myself as very unambitious. A slacker. But now I'm consumed with the idea of doing some medium-distance bike traveling. With camping wild. With making my first cup of coffee in the morning over a simple camping stove.
My alternative camping stove for coffee. I'm sure there's a racktop adapter for this.

I have no doubt that I'll get there. A year ago, I thought it would be impossible for me to ride thirty-five miles on a bike; and now I know that it's not only possible, but likely. Six months ago, it was impossible for me to climb certain hills; and now I see it's only a matter of practice and persistence. As little as a month ago I was fearful of stepping too far outside my comfort zone; and now I'm planning what Alistair Humphreys calls a "microadventure."

This leads me to my first point. It's a simple variant on "If I can do it, anyone can do it." I've come to love being outdoors where formerly I was reluctant to get up off of the couch. Though I enjoy chatting with people quite a bit, I've come to enjoy a little solitude now and again. I now look forward to exercise rather than fearing it.

In the beginning of a previous post called Encouragement, I said I was writing a letter of thanks to all the people who had given me encouragement. And that that letter ended with "So thanks. Thanks a lot. Thanks for ruining my life with your support and encouragement."

And this leads me to my second point.

A year or so ago, I had no expectations beyond living a quiet sedentary life. But now I've seen what's possible. Now I'm looking further than I have before. And now I can't be satisfied with a quiet sedentary life. In fact, I am very dissatisfied with life as it is because now I have greater expectations of myself.
Please, sir, may I have another? I'm fueling up for a fifty mile ride.
And because I'm sometimes given to using hyperbole in a humorous way, I say that my life has been ruined because these greater expectations have given rise to a greater dissatisfaction. This dissatisfaction that I would not have had if it had not been for the support and encouragement of those around me.
This guy has an excuse for being slothful. I don't.

I also realize that I can't attain my goals quickly. I'm ok with that. Rushing into anything is usually counterproductive. If it takes me six months to do my first campout, that's all right. If it takes me another year or so to do the two hundred mile tour I want to do, well, fine. The important thing to me now is to keep moving in the direction of more activity rather than less.
There are many things that can halt this forward activity. Injury. Illness. And the unexpected. But these things are temporary. After they're over, forward motion can begin again.

Sunday, February 26, 2017


I almost didn't post this. It's kind of personal, and might put people off. But then I thought, well, I've got at most four readers, and if this puts a few here you go. Part one of how biking changed things for me. The good, the bad, the ugly. I think this is my imaginary TED talk.

It's official. I've been bicycling for a year now. Even the time I spent off the bike due to bicycle-related injury -- even that time -- I count as cycling. That's largely because I still think of it as well within the parameters of "learning to ride the bike."

All the time that I've been learning to ride, I've had people around me giving me encouragement. Telling me that I can learn to ride well, and learn to ride long distances well. That I can build the stamina and strength that I need to do difficult climbs. That there is very little that I want to do that I won't be able to do.

I started to write a letter of thanks to those people, and oddly, it ended with "So thanks. Thanks a lot. Thanks for ruining my life with your support and encouragement."

I should explain. If the negativity of this post so far hasn't "harshed your mellow" then please, read on. Some of this gets personal. If you're uncomfortable with that type of thing...I know I often am...then perhaps you won't want to read any further.