Friday, November 17, 2017

The more things change more

It is with some slight regret that after three months, I am saying goodbye to my Honey Brooks B17. As much as I tried to make friends with it, my butt had a viewpoint of its own. I never found a comfortable position on it, and I never got it adjusted quite correctly no matter how many times I applied the wrench.

So long, honey...

And there's the rub: the B17 is very adjustable. I could play with the adjustment forever. Forever. I could adjust infinitely and always wonder: is this the best it could be? Yeah. No. So I opted for a flat saddle that will never conform exactly to my sit bones, but I'm somehow more comfortable with that because I just don't think about it.

I've also undergone a change in my attitude. Biking is no longer something noteworthy. It's just something I do. Time to go to work? Get on the bike. Want to go shopping where there's no parking? Take the bike. Need some solitude? A bike ride would be just the ticket.

Of course, I still have ambitions. Light touring. More charity rides. More group rides.

But now it's (almost) winter in California. We don't of course have the snow and freezing weather that other places have. We do have rain, and some of us (me) are still not prepared for that. Hey, it's California! We don't need waterproof shoes! Or jackets. Or hats. I do find that every time I go out for a ride after a big rain, I have to watch out for sharp objects that washed out of the gutters. So I usually think less of waterproof and more of puncture-resistant.

I hope you all are having a pleasant pre-winter season. Some friends of mine who recently moved to Chicago are already seeing snow. In my area, we're seeing sub-45 degree weather. Hey, don't laugh...that's cold for California.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The danger of inexperience

This last weekend I went to southern California for the first time in a few years. And I had my first SoCal bike ride ever. It looked a lot like this:
For you non-Californians (and northern Californians), this is a "beach."
There was a lot of flat riding along the beach with a few difficult hills. I went out in the early morning of what turned out to be a very sunny day.

Because I hadn't planned to bring my bike, I rode a borrowed bike: a 17-inch Schwinn Crosscut...or Crossfit...Cross-something anyway. A decent city bike with a few features I was unfamiliar with...twist shifters and toe clips.  I found myself shifting accidentally quite a bit, though I was almost used to the shifters by the end of the ride.

But the toe clips...I don't think I'll ever get used to those. The main problem I had was that they were set up for someone with smaller feet. I was able to slip into them perhaps thirty percent of the time, and at a few stops I teetered precariously for a few seconds before I was able to pull my feet out.

Well, there was that last stop. I'd just gone up two difficult but short hills in quick succession. What I was mostly concentrating on at that point was how much worse my cardiovascular health was than I had previously thought. For some reason, this kept me from disengaging one of my feet and I went over in what felt like very slow motion.  As I was lying in someone's driveway, I had two thoughts: "Please don't pull out of your garage, whoever you are" and "I'm really glad I wore this dorky-looking ill-fitting borrowed helmet."

The fun wasn't over, though. I had twisted a muscle in the fall and had to apply an ice pack. I'm used to the gel kind of ice packs, where you can leave them against your skin for an extended period of time. My hosts had actual ice packs, though. Who knew that you could get the equivalent of a bad sunburn from ice? (Well, apparently, everyone but me knows this.)

I'm already planning my next SoCal bike ride, but I think I'll probably bring my bike. And bike shorts, and tennis shoes, and...well, whatever I need to actually be prepared. I'll still be bringing my inexperience, though.
Friends don't let friends look this bad in most pictures. But you do get to see the borrowed helmet.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

they laughed when I sat down to go shopping...

For those of you unfamiliar with the meme that inspired the title of this post:
Well...another day, another thing I did on the bike that I haven't done before. I went grocery shopping. And of course I had to sit down (on the saddle) to do it.

If you haven't gone grocery shopping with your bike, I can't recommend it enough. A good shopping expedition can take the place of any number of fartleks.  And if your ambition is to tour, repeated grocery shopping expeditions might be great training for you.

At least that's what I thought when I was hauling home the groceries. "This is great," I thought. "If I can get good at this, I'll be prepared to haul clothing and supplies."

Well, I probably won't be. But I'll be more prepared than if I'd never hauled groceries. And my wife assures me that she can find me plenty of opportunities for this type of training.

But I'm sure that occasionally I'll be wishing for an Xtracycle with electric pedal assist.

Sunday, September 17, 2017


I've recently "downgraded" myself from commuter/weekend adventurer to simply commuter. In a way, that makes me feel...I don't know, less of a cyclist. But in another way, it makes me feel better. Because I never wanted to be a "real" cyclist. And I was well on my way to becoming an object lesson, believing that there were things I had to do to really enjoy cycling, and burning out on cycling as a result.

What did I feel I had to do? I felt I had to ride more and more miles. I felt I had to tackle harder and harder climbs. I felt I had to conform to someone else's idea of what a cyclist should do.
Gratuitous bike porn: the new Salsa Vaya in mint green with a Tiagra drivetrain. It's the same color as my Straggler. Do you think my wife will notice if I buy this and just leave it where the Straggler usually is?

And one day I thought: no, screw this. I'm not going to ride thirty miles today - I'm going to ride until I feel like turning around. I'm not going to work on the difficult climb near my work - I'm going to work on the climb that's on my commute that I still find difficult. Or I'm not going to work on anything -- I don't feel like riding today, so I won't ride today. I'll learn how to work on my bike instead. Or I'll play music. Or I'll hike. Or do the grocery shopping and cook dinner. Or I'll just watch some stupid kung-fu exploitation flick that adds nothing whatsoever of merit to my life.

Have I gotten a result from this yet? I'm not sure. I've been noticing that my commute climb is a little easier, and oddly, a little more fun. I get to spend more time with my family, and my family has expressed their appreciation.  I'm also finding that walking can be enjoyable. In general, I think I enjoy cycling more when I don't feel I have to do it.

My name is Doug, and I am a cycling addict. But I'm in recovery. I still have ambitions to do some long tours. And I'm still going to do at least one charity ride in the coming year. But primarily I'll be looking for fun things to do on the bike; like going to a nearby brewpub or checking out some coffee place I've never been to.

Even though cycling is and is probably going to remain my primary athletic focus, it's not going to be the focus of my life. I can't take it so seriously that it eclipses everything else. And who knows? One of the results might be that my blogging starts being entertaining again.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Part the twelfth, in which I have to acknowledge my age

A friend of mine put it best: "At our age, it takes a short time to lose fitness, and four times as long to gain it back."

Took the road bike for a twenty-four mile ride yesterday. I don't know if it was the temperature, or if I just pushed myself harder than usual, but the ride absolutely wiped me out. It may also have been that I'm breaking in the Brooks saddle, and I used my legs a lot to cushion the impact when going over speed bumps and etc.

On the plus side, I did take the first halfway decent pictures I've taken in a while. And I ended up in my favorite place: lost. It may just be my inexperience with long trips, but when I realize that I don't know where I am: serenity.

I really wish I had a more clever caption than "Bike path near some condos."
If I'd been paying attention when I stopped and took that last picture, I would have smelled German food cooking, which probably would have tipped me off as to where I was. I figured it out shortly after taking the picture below.
Not only beautiful, but just ten minutes away from beer!
In the end, though, I was rewarded twice over: I went back to that location in a car to have dinner there, and I slept like a tired dog.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Ouch. Sort of.

I treated myself. Again.

I've wanted one of these for a while. Partly for style (because at sixty, I can use all the style I can get), partly because I wanted a saddle that would last for a while, and partly because I wanted to experience the break-in process for myself.

First thing, I covered the saddle top and bottom with Proofide™, then waited twenty-four hours. Had the bike store install it to get their take on the right nose angle, etc.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Possibly two thousand words, probably less

Here are a couple of pictures from recent rides. And a picture being worth a thousand words, well...

This first picture came because I deviated from my usual commute route. My usual route doesn't have this many trees, and as a result it's just not as cheerful.
Really, it's the road less travelled...
And this one is right near my favorite local Biergarten.
It's not Venice, but it's not bad. Like Venice, it's a pleasant place to eat on the water.

Finally broke a hundred miles on the new bike with a thirty-two mile ride yesterday. Sadly I did not get one decent picture from the whole ride. I did learn what "natatorium" means -- it's a building containing a swimming pool.  There was a headwind for about fifty percent of the ride, so it was a pretty fair workout. Not one I'm anxious to repeat, but pretty fair.

And now I'm thinking about it...time for another ride. See you later.