Saturday, February 27, 2010

Getting Pumped For Climbing

One of the challenges on any recumbent will be climbing hills. But they are not necessarily to be feared. Sometimes all it takes is a bit of a paradigm shift. At the beginning of each season when I hit that first long climb I need to remind myself of that - and then all is right with the world.

That first climb for me this year is Skyline in Portland. It is a pretty decent ride. This time it was a shorter out and back of 15 miles but it has some great climbs to prep the legs for what lies ahead in the season.

The key is to not get discouraged. Spin spin spin. Learn to love the climb. Rather than dreading that spin to the top - think of the coming hills as something to enjoy the attack on. Next thing I know - you are at the end and ready to head back! Next time - a bit longer excursion into them thar hills - Cycle Oregon is coming soon and this year I am going to be really ready for ALL the hills on that ride!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Cycling For The Ages

My grandfather rode his bike pretty much all the way to the end. He was old - but I respected him more than anyone for his ability to keep going no matter what. He did not ride any event rides or pack lumber home from the hardware store via bike or even commute via a bike. He did it for the pure freedom and health of it. What kept him from enjoying riding his bikes ALL the way to the end though was this: he simply could not ride it any more due to old age and being afraid of falling over and getting hurt.

I wonder if he had discovered recumbents and recumbent trikes at an earlier age (like in his 60's and 70's) he would have rode longer. Of course, there was not much in the way of recumbents or trikes even 10 years ago outside of home builders and very very small niche products. Today the options are many and the quality and engineering of recumbents today is superb.

Right now, were are at the very front of witnessing a new wave of old. More like a tidal wave, actually. Over the next decade there will be a massive amount of Baby Boomers hitting retirement and subsequently their "golden" years. Personally, I do not think that we as a society have fully grasped what this will mean for the economy, healthcare, etc - but I think that it will be good for the recumbent industry - in more ways than one.

As people age - if they desire to keep up with their physical activities, will they move to recumbents when riding a diamond frame becomes too uncomfortable? We will see but I imagine the prospects are good. Trikes in particular will benefit. As a Gen-X'er, I have already flipped to the "dark side" of recumbents and won't likely go back, so I am a recumbent rider for life now. Unlike the previous generation before me I am starting from recumbents - not moving to them due to some physical ailment or other reason to "force" me off of a diamond frame. Likewise, my own children will have 'bents - my oldest already has a used Bike E that has become the primary bike of choice - will she "go back" to a diamond frame? Time will tell - but a very likely trend going into the future will be people starting on recumbents, not the other way around.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Recumbent Bikes or Recumbent Trikes?

I am asked every now and then if I like the recumbent trike better or if I prefer the recumbent bike. I guess the “real” and “safe” answer is, “It depends on the circumstances of the ride.” While this can be true, neither of my rides are race-worthy in terms of weight and I consider myself a recreational rider. Over the last handful of rides I am preferring the trike more and more for everything, even in the face of what many would call a trikes inherent disadvantages.
For my last handful of loop training rides I have done a bit of an experiment on myself. I have taken the same loop alternating between the trike and the highracer. Each time I have kept track of the riding conditions, my total time and average speed. I have also kept track of another important factor - how I felt overall during the ride and how I was treated in traffic.
First, some of the pros and cons are in order as I initially perceive them. On the recumbent bike, I would rate the cons for me as: 
Unnerving on steep climbs. (wobble factor)
Traffic passes closer to me. (still not as close as road bikers complain about though)
Faster overall.
Hard to beat the jet pilot feel of downhill cornering on a recumbent bike.
A bit higher off the ground = better perception of safety.
Lighter weight. (about 10 pounds)
Comfortable and stiff power transfer.
Carries momentum better
For the trike, I would rate my initial cons and pros as follows:
Much heavier overall than my recumbent bike.
Loses momentum much faster when hitting an uphill.
Climbs slower.
Some boom flex
Lower to the ground = perception of increased vulnerability.
Slower overall average speed.
Possibility of tipping at high speed.
Climbs come very easily. (no balance needed)
More comfortable overall.
Go-cart feel on downhills due to low CG
So looking at my initial list - it would seem that the trike loses out overall. But actually the tike is a real winner. Many of the cons simply do not play out for me when I look at the real data from my rides. Granted, with more training and ride time as the season gets going, my attitude might change, and the “right tool for the job” rule still applies. But for an overall everyday steed for fitness, cruising, and organized rides it seems hard to beat a trike.
My average speed on the highracer has been 14.10 MPH in rolling terrain. On the trike, I expected my average to me much lower, but I found on the exact same loop under similar conditions it was a total of 13.14 MPH. That is less than 1 MPH slower on average. And since I am not racing for any sort of trophies here, that number is simply to small for me to care about.
The real shocker of this is that the “disadvantages” of the trike were less of a factor in reality. Despite the heavier weight of the trike, my total average speed was not that far off and the climbs did not seem any harder when riding them. Indeed, the climbs via a trike are more enjoyable than my highracer, as I have no worries about falling over or wobbling along with traffic approaching from behind. No matter how steep the grade gets, I can trike up the hill without wobbling. I can easily keep an eye on who and what is behind me in my rear view mirrors. Should the grade get too steep I can simply pull off the side of the road and rest. No unclipping. No “arte-Johnson's” to worry about. 
Climbs on the recumbent bike get much hairier and more unnerving the steeper it gets. I have had my share of stalls and falls climbing on a 2 wheeled ‘bent when trying to tackle really steep grades. The steepest climbs on a trike are only limited by gearing and wheel traction. Adding traffic to the mix only makes it worse on a 2 wheeler and even more of my energy gets expended being nervous.
I noted above the “perceived” safety of the two rides. I have many years on my 2 wheeled ‘bents and feel quite comfortable on them in most situations including traffic. Immediately when seeing a trike, one thinks it has to be more dangerous on the road since it is so low to the ground. I admit to sweating bullets on my first trike ventures into traffic. I have since found that the myth of “that can’t be safe on the road” is just not true for trikes. I would go further to say that I actually feel safer in traffic on the trike. 
It is common for road bikers to complain about getting “buzzed” by traffic with not much elbow room. It is less common on a recumbent bike - people in their cars typically give a wider zone when passing a recumbent bike. On the trike, it is not uncommon for people to give me and entire lane width when they pass. Now, if some tool driver is not going to see you - they are not going to see you no matter what bike you are on or how far off the ground you are. You are toast in such a case.
When riding, I do not try to take up more road space when on one bike than another. I might actually take up a bit more road space when on the recumbent bike - as I don’t want to get forced off the edge of the asphalt and have a spill. On the tike I can hug the line or even ride with my right wheel over a bit. Should I need to bail off the road I can do so safely on the trike. The total width of the trike is less than 4 inches wider than the width of me sitting on the highracer, so the width is a perception and not a real difference. I imagine the perceived width is more by the car driver. I feel this is true since people give more room to the trike simply because they think it’s wider AND because it’s so low to the ground. 
Think of this - when you are approaching something in your car, and you can gauge the distance of that object from your rearview mirror, you feel more comfortable getting closer to it. This is the problem road bikers face - their profile is the perfect height to allow a driver to play a “how close can I get” game, since the driver can easily gauge the distance from their passenger side mirror or hood from the biker. This is true even when the car is moving at a good speed. On a recumbent bike that game is not so easy. The unfamiliar shape and profile makes playing the distance game harder, and as a car approaches the profile of a recumbent starts to disappear below the level of the cars mirror or even the hood on a taller vehicle. To compensate a driver will drift out to keep the biker in view or slow down significantly.
Now on a trike, it is near impossible to gauge the distance effectively. The profile of a trike disappears quickly from view of the driver. To keep a trike rider in view a driver must sweep WAY out and go around. Thus, on roads where I do not have a dedicated lane I get huge space on the trike. Add to the fact that some drivers may think you are handicapped and not some “elitist cyclist” and you get lots of space. No car driver wants to hit a poor handicapped person. Elite roadies seem to be fair meat for some drivers though. But I honestly believe that 99.9% of drivers are NOT interested in killing someone with their vehicles - however - when you allow a driver to easily gauge their distance from you they will often try to squeeze by even if it is unsafe.
So, for me, the trike is winning the contest so far. Comfortable. No balance. Full concentration going to power to the pedals and surroundings. Cars pass with wide margins. Kids point and wave. I will keep tabs through the season.  The performance of the trike has been very good to my surprise. I am not astronomically faster on the highracer, even with a 10 pound weight difference between the bikes. I imagine if I were on a super light recumbent I would feel differently, but that is not my case. In the meantime I know that over time I will only get faster on both sets of wheels as the season progresses and be able to complete my rides with relatively comparable times.
Ride on!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Why Portland Rules #498 - Bike Infrastructure Planning!

While some of the funding mechanisms remain a bit unclear, the message is MORE than clear - Portland is serious about being the greatest city in the US for riding a bicycle. Period.

Check out the full article at the link below, where the Portland City Council approved a $613 million dollar bike plan. NOTE: This is a planning document - not necessarily a BUDGET. This is important to note the difference here. As a Planning Document it will set the course, not necessarily se the funding or even the timeline. It is the message it sends that is important.  It is clear that Portland recognizes that providing sustainable transportation options creates a vibrant city that - in the long run - will result in more participation in cycling and better health of all communities.

Portland Bike Plan Approved

While you are there, get a load of some of the nut-sack comments at the bottom. Guess what - I ride a bike AND drive on the roads, so I am already paying for them - so to all those with that lame argument of "make the cyclists pay" shut your pie holes. We are already paying. We use the roads (with cars) already for the most part. Providing ample and appropriate cycling infrastructure can help reduce peak loads on roads and bikes cause close to ZERO wear and tear, unlike all the SUV single occupancy drivers with studded tires out there. Time to think about the future and Portland clearly is doing so.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Recumbent Rearview - The Full View

One thing about riding a recumbent bike that is a fact - seeing behind you is a challenge. You cannot duck your head and see under your shoulder. Using a rear view mirror - or better two - just like in a car is essential.

Now - a great product has hit the scene - to be available in Summer 2010 according to the website - that looks very promising.

I highly recommend checking this out. If it works, it will be great and I will be buying one. In my next post I will delve a bit deeper into the importance of the rearview when riding a recumbent bike and plan on mocking up a few images of my rides with what I see now versus what I could possibly see with the Cerevellum.

Enter Photoshop.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

You Can Do It!

How do I prepare for this? Can I do this? Why did I sign up for this?
These questions might be running in your mind here after signing up for your first long distance event like a Cycle Oregon or other long cycle ride. Even something like your first century or a metric century will seem daunting. A week on Cycle Oregon will seem like riding to your doom for non-riders. “Hey, I signed up for Cycle Oregon!” you will say. Your non-riding friends will reply “Crazy!” and they will think you are insane. Many will find your sign-up for riding a 100 mile century as a psycho move. But with the right preparation you can tackle it no problem.
A challenge for most people is finding time to ride. Unless you are a cycle commuter, you might only have the weekends to hit the road. Thats fine - the key is mixing it up. Add in workouts where you can keep the legs moving and build muscle. Racking long miles is important but not the end-all be-all. Don’t let it be a complete bummer if you cannot log thousands of miles on your bike. 
If you are on a recumbent and you have your bike dialed in, the miles on longer and organized rides will come so smoothly that you will lose track. Are you at mile 20? 40? 60? It won’t matter because you will be quite comfortable at any mileage. 

If you are on a diamond frame road bike - you will typically find advice on easing into long miles - probably because your ass will be hurting like a mother. Even if you have a professionally fitted road bike - which I would assume most people do not - riding long miles will be more uncomfortable for you than recumbent riders. Just a fact. So ease into it and don't try a huge ride out of the chute.
When you cannot ride due to weather or other circumstances, pick up the slack on a fluid trainer at home. I personally don’t like riding a trainer, so I use a workout DVD that focuses on leg and core work. I also do a yoga DVD that is quite intense to help build core strength. A strong core is particularly important on a diamond frame road bike where you will be relying more on upper body strength over long miles. I like the core workouts for taking insane corners on my tadpole trike where I really need to lean out of the seat.
If you have a recreation center nearby, take a spin class or pop onto the stationary bikes. Put it in a good resistance where you can spin at 80 RPM or so for a long time. See how long you can go. When Fox News comes up on the tele in front of you, use that as inspiration to spin harder and angrier. Imagine trying to run over those talking fools kind of like attacking a hill. Mix this cardio with other leg muscle workouts to bring your overall fitness up and you will do fine.
Keep diet in check as well. Everything in moderation, except candy bars and soda pop. My advice: Send a big “F-You” to the soda manufacturers and corn syrup pushing corporations by just not buying their crap ever again. I know Coke likes to sell its product as a happy land of weird creatures living inside an alternate universe soda machine, flinging out their 12 ounces of bottled happiness to humanity, but its time to get real about soda. Its bad for you, period. “Hey, Coke and Pepsi Corp: F-YOU and your soda!” Say this loudly - it will make you feel good inside I guarantee it.
Use a log for keeping track of your workouts and miles ridden. A great one is Bike Journal where you can keep track of your riding workouts. A great thing about keeping a riding log is that you will see your mileage rack up over time. Before you know it you will have hundreds of miles logged. Maybe some of your rides are short, but they all add up. Do the same for when you do weights or other exercise. Keep notes. It might sound crazy, but if you don’t know where you have been you cannot know where you are going. The record lets you know what you need to do to up the intensity. Measurement is good and it inspires you to go longer and harder.
When you do go on an organized event, you will be surprised at what you can accomplish. Being in a larger group of cyclists - all having a great time at the start of a ride - will bring out the best in you and you will be amazed at what you can do. It is an increased atmosphere of “We can do this!” that is really catchy and very addictive.
Ride on!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Lock Up Your Bike!

Came across these and just had to share. Nice try on locking up!


The best part is that locking a bike to a pole that you can just slide the cable off of must be more common than you would think...

The Countdown Begins

Well, the official countdown is on for the Cycle Oregon rides. I have added a few swell timers in the sidebar there you your right. I know that it looks like a lot of days there, but man they will fly by and the next thing that happens it is time to pack!!!

That means training starts yesterday.

I am setting out this year to have two goals - One, to be in the best shape for these Cycle Oregon's as I have for all of the past 5. Two - to treat these Cycle Oregon's as true vacations and just relax and enjoy every mile.

Getting the hard training done early is the only way to really make the second goal happen. In 2006, I was not fully prepared for what trials would come and it took away some of the "relaxing" part of the experience. Heh...

Get the miles in and especially hill climbing miles and all will be great!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Beware - Tribulus Terrestris Ahead

This Cycle Oregon we will be out in the great wilderness of Eastern Oregon. The views will be spectacular. Roads will be quiet. Company as always fantastic. There will also be plenty of goat-heads ready to eat your tires for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. These tiny thorns are a-plenty in the wide open rural spaces in Oregon. They are waiting for you just off some of the paved trails we will be riding. There, in wait, to wreak havoc and misery on you by testing your mid-day flat repair skills over and over and over.
"Mmmm are those roadie tires I smell for lunch?"

The Goat-head (also called “Tribulus terrestris,” or “Puncture vine,”) is one nasty creation. It is not called a “puncture vine” for nothing. Its little thorns that protrude from its seedy mass (hence the name “goat-head” will go through just about every bike tire you can throw at it and then some. It particularly loves to suck the life out of thin unsuspecting roadie tires. These fragile tires will fall prey to the goat-head, being rapidly penetrated and subsequently deflated while you are traveling at 35 MPH - turning your rock hard 23 mm 700c into one flaccid mess really quick.
"35 MPH to Zero - brought to you by goat-head"

As we will be riding in the land of the goat-head, I have compiled a few tips to help ease the possible down time that these ‘lil nasties can bring upon you:
1. Get a tougher tire. Picking a tire appropriate for a ride like Cycle Oregon is important. You should have NEW tires (or relatively low mileage tires) on all your wheels upon arrival on day 0 that are durable for a 450 mile tour. Run a tire that is known for being more durable than some race type tires and you will likely experience less flats. If you don't want to fit brand new tires, do a REAL good inspection. 
2. Pick a friendly tire. Ride tires that are easy to remove and mount from your rim that are as durable as possible. This is a balance act with rule #1. Make sure the tire you decide to run can come off the rim and go back on without bringing you to tears and destroying your fingers. I have had tight fit tires that were next to impossible to get on and off my rims even when sitting in my comfortable living room with a cold beer and the radio playing. They were bringing me to the brink of insanity as tire levers flew across the room breaking left and right. That is a tire you DO NOT want on my rims if you flat on Cycle Oregon when it's 98 degrees out. Or worse raining.
3. Don’t ride off the side of the road. This goes without saying, but at rest stops it can be congested and there is temptation to ride off the road a bit or wheel your bike through the weeds to find a parking space. Be careful doing this - as you might roll your bike through a goat-head suburb. They are in wait like camouflage soldiers of the plains. No amount of patches can save you then.
"Poor cyclist... you will never see me until it's too late..muhaha ha ha!"

4. Check your tires. Before you ride off from the ODS rest stop or that photo opportunity, give your tires a quick spin and visual inspection. Look for any freeloading hitch hikers that are getting fresh with your tires. One may go along for the ride, ready to make a more intimate penetration 1/4 mile down the road. This also applies to downhills. Before you rip down one, STOP at the crest and make sure you don’t have a thorn slowly embedding itself into your tire like a time bomb.
5. Inspect if attacked. If your tires do get attacked by a goat-head(s), take the time when you do the repair to check the tire at the penetration point for any lingering thorn. Sometimes the seed body will pop off, leaving only the pointy end there inside the tire carcass. Inspect inside and out, and then inspect again. If you don’t get it out - you will likely get another flat from the same thorn.

"Ohhhhh Noooooooooesss!" - Hope you brought patch kits (plural)

Taking care to check your tires, using careful parking strategies, fixing flats completely, and running new or newer tires known for good durability from the start of the ride will help minimize your goat-head woes and visits from the puncture fairy.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Cycle Oregon By Recumbent

Well, the route has been announced. The party was as great as could be expected, and at the end it seemed like a LOT of people were signing up. If you are on the fence, you better get off it now because I have a sense that this thing will sell out fast. As expected, I ran into friends I have made on past Cycle Oregon experiences that I had not seen in a few years. Also ran into local friends I never even expected to see there - and made a few new ones. The route looks awesome as always. I am in. Question: Can we sleep at Terminal Gravity? 

A great read for those new to Cycle Oregon can be found at the Cycle Oregon Blog. It goes over tons of great information for anyone wondering how they can tackle such an incredible adventure. 
One question though does pop up each year. “What about those recumbent bikes?” Indeed, riding Cycle Oregon on a recumbent is an entirely different experience, it is a great alternative if you are not comfortable on a diamond frame style road bike. Dare I go out on a limb to say (sorry, forgive my bias here) that Cycle Oregon is best experienced from the pilot position of a recumbent bike.
As mentioned in the article by Dean Rodgersyou can complete Cycle Oregon even if you are a complete novice - provided you start today. This hold true for riders of recumbent bikes (or trikes for that matter) as well. If you have never been on a recumbent bike, starting early will give you plenty of time to acclimate to the different riding position and build the leg muscles needed for riding.
There are several flavors of recumbent bike - too many to go over - for one post here. If you are interested in them, I suggest heading over to the BentRider Online site to check it out. There are a lot of helpful folks there and information on just about every recumbent from mild to wild.
“Robert, why in the world would I try to ride CO on a recumbent?!” For some, a recumbent is necessary as riding an upright bike becomes too uncomfortable. Others just like to be weird. Some are speed (MPH) addicts. Most just like the view and comfort that comes with a recumbent. Some , like myself, are all of those things. Recumbents re-ignited my love of riding a bike - something I had not done much since High School. Here are just some points that will apply to any recumbent bike you ride - should you chose to dip your toes on the “dark side” of cycling:
You can ride very fast. Simply, recumbent bikes are screaming fast on flats, mild rollers, and downhills if you want to feel the rush of speed. You have an unmatched aero advantage over upright style bikes and gravity on a downhill is your best friend. Best thing: stability on a recumbent at speed is great. Check it out

You can ride very slow. I mean this in two ways. One - recumbents are very stable at slow speed once you get the hang of them. This is good if you choose to putt along and gawk at the scenery no matter the terrain. Two - it is very likely that you are going to climb slower on a recumbent bike, so slow speed stability is important. But - please don’t let this turn you off just yet.
Climbing can be pure pleasure on a recumbent bike. “But you are slower!” Likely. Will you be that much slower? That depends on your training, the type of recumbent, and your goals. “Isn’t climbing faster a good thing?” Maybe, but I dare you to experience an extended climb at a very slow pace when you have trained well on a recumbent. I will admit - when the profile came up on screen showing the Rattlesnake Grade I did squirm a bit like I was watching a horror flick, but no matter. I know that climbing it will be more relaxing that you might imagine. Slower climbing speed via recumbent is usually balanced out with the faster flats, rollers, and downhill speeds anyway, so when you are passed on a climb its a “See you on the downhill.” One thing is for sure - the reclined seating of a recumbent affords an unmatched view of the scenery in front of you with zero neck straining. This is very nice on an extended climb.

Recumbents are very comfortable. Once you dial in your seating position and get your “‘recumbent legs” you will be in cycling bliss. When you can ride an entire week like Cycle Oregon and have no pain or soreness whatsoever in your neck, arms, hands, wrists, fingers, shoulders, and back - with your leg muscles being the only sore point - you feel great and only want to ride more. 

Recumbents are great distance machines. Since you are comfortable, it is likely that you will cover more miles and you will find that reeling in big mileage is less overall effort. With the seating position, it is my opinion, that you experience more of the scenery than you might otherwise. No more catching yourself staring four feet in front of your tire for the last 10 miles. On a recumbent the panorama of the countryside is like laying back in your own private IMAX theater.
No matter what you ride on Cycle Oregon, you are in for a real treat. Given the options available in styles and types of bikes today, getting out and riding is better, easier, and more accessible than ever to anyone who wants to share in the experience.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Moments Of Cycle Oregon

The Things I Like Most About Cycle Oregon
With the 2010 route announcement party tomorrow the 4th, I had some time today to think about my past Cycle Oregon experiences. It’s important to note - the great part of Cycle Oregon is that it’s an experience. When returning home from Cycle Oregon, you will routinely have people come up to you and inquire, “Hey man, how was your trip.” No. This is not a “trip.” A trip is what you take to the grocery store for sour cream. An experience is something else entirely. Only when you are far removed from the creature comforts of the daily routine do you have a Cycle Oregon experience. People who would call it a “trip” are just not in-the-know.
Now, don’t get me wrong here, experiencing Cycle Oregon is not like roughing it in the Gobi Desert without water or shelter or something. In camp and on the ride there are all kinds of comforts. Beer Garden. Main Stage. Bands. Local entertainment. Beer. Local activities and wares. People from all over to meet and talk to. Pizza. Beer. Great food. SAG vans. ODS rest stops with food galore. And beer at the end of the day at the “Beer Garden” (did I mention that?) 
Hey, where else but on Cycle Oregon can you ride 85 miles, then eat a lot of awesome food, get a great massage, stay up late listening to great bands and entertainment while meeting new friends, drink enough beer together in your small group to construct a “beer-needle” and then go to bed? Wake up the next day at 6AM. Repeat. Epic Win.

But on a Cycle Oregon - especially if you have never been - you will have moments. Times realizing that you are so far removed from any comfort zone. Questioning your decision to come. In tears of joy and agony at the same time. In those moments you simply cannot flee to the warm fuzzy protection of the familiar. It might be on a monstrous climb as you are getting passed by seemingly everyone. On a quiet stretch where you suddenly realize you haven't seen another rider for who knows how long. Or in camp at night when you look up to a sky full of more stars that you have seen in years. Those are the moments when you know - this is no trip... those are the very best parts of the experience.
 A few of the innumerable moments of Cycle Oregon:
... getting your tent set up upon your arrival to camp and soaking it all in for the first time.
... when you taste chocolate milk at the end of day 1 and its like tasting it for the first time ever.
... realizing you have not used a cell phone for 4 days and you never missed it.
... having to be woken up by the massage therapist at the end of your 10PM appointment because you fell asleep.
... eating breakfast outside under a tent at 6:30AM with your hands wrapped around a hot (and rapidly cooling) cup of coffee.
... having your picture taken with the locals in town.

... reading the daily CO news to see what the day has in store for you.
... reading all the notes and things people post to the info board.
... realizing that you have been and are going to places that you would likely never go to if you were not on Cycle Oregon.
... feeling the rush of the downhill coast into camp after a full day of climbing.
... wondering if the climb you are on will ever ever ever ever end.
... loading up on pizza, smoothies, dinner, ice cream, beer...and still being hungry.
... Seeing more stars that you have seen in years.
... navigating camp in darkness so thick you can’t see your hand in front of your face.
... navigating camp by a full moon that is the biggest and brightest you have ever seen.
... meeting new people from all over the world.
... running into old friends you never knew would be on Cycle Oregon completely out-of-the-blue.
... sitting in a blue room after waiting in a long line to realize there is no toilet paper (luckily a rare occurrence HA!)
... watching a local guy put his finger in a donkey’s bum for the crowds viewing pleasure. 

... rounding the last switchback on a mountain and realizing you have made it to the top.
... welling up at the thought that you have just rode to the top of a mountain - on a bike.
... welling up at the fact that a quick look at your map shows that alas - you are only at the false summit.
... welling up that looking at your map 5 times on the roadside does not change the fact you are still only at the false summit.
... welling up at the thought that there are still three more false summits and 2 more mountains to go.
... finally hitting the mountain peak (for real) and yelling out at the top of your lungs while laughing AND tearing up.
... falling asleep at night to the chorus of snores and quiet laughter and conversation about the days ride coming from outside your tent.
... wandering in the dark to a blue room at 3 AM and seeing your head lamp beam reflecting off the eyes of deer wandering camp.
... navigating camp with the local native residents.

... waking up on day 1 never more excited than you have ever been in your life.
... waking up on day 3 wondering if you are completely crazy for having signed up.
... waking up on day 5 and getting a tear in your eye realizing its the last day.
... riding across the finish line and wondering when you will be able to sign up and do it all over again?!

Sign me up!!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

You Have Been Carjacked!

Yes. Believe it or not we have ALL been carjacked. By ourselves. A great read on this can be found in the book:

As noted in the review: "The authors capture the fantasy and reality of our love of cars.They hold up a mirror to we, 'the people,' to let us look at our individual and collective glamour and bloat.  They ask, subtly and with a good amount of wit, if we know what we are doing to ourselves?"

This is a good question, and I really do not believe that as a culture we have yet realized what we are doing or already HAVE done to ourselves. I have written in previous posts about the feeling of being free when riding a bicycle - especially when you are riding far from your familiar surroundings. Being in a car is essentially the opposite feeling. It is a trap - the problem is that the automobile is largely looked upon as bringing great freedom to the driver. The iconic image of driving out on the open road is thrown in our collective faces dozens of times a day in the form of auto advertising. Reality though is never like it is in the ads, but that does not stop us from thinking it will suddenly magically become like them.

The car is touted as a symbol of freedom and empowerment, but indeed it can be so. But in its most basic form it is a yoke, a false security blanket, and often becomes a tool for people to feel empowered in bad ways. Nobody can argue the high cost of owning a car. Statistics everywhere constantly prove that driving is far more dangerous than just about any activity you can do, yet cars are often painted as safe havens from the hard world in advertising. And every cyclist has encountered a driver - who feels so empowered by his automobile - that the driver would go as far as to buzz the cyclist by mere inches when there is plenty of space to share the road. Any device that literally makes people feel "OK" about taking the chance at committing murder - by "almost" running over a fellow human being - is not good for the overall health of any society. To make matters worse, when a car driver does run over a fellow human being, they are often spared the brunt of the law, painted as the victim,  and the real vicvim (the cyclist for anyone not getting it) is viewed as the one "in the wrong." THAT is just wrong.

Everyone has seen the romantic commercials. They are much all the same: some dudes (who don't even look old enough to afford the vehicle they are driving) and their cadre of Ambercrombie & Fitch girlfriends barreling to the top of the mountain in their SUV in slow motion arriving just as the sun sets across the boundless horizon. Cut to them chilling with the cooler of brews roasting marshmallows all smiles. Pan slowly to their happy dogs frolicking in slow motion. Even after a bouncy drive to the top the vehicle is still clean like the showroom floor. Fail. 

This is not any sort of daily reality. Reality is being stuck in traffic with all the same folks - in your car that needs washing that you (and everyone else) spent too much on and are paying interest on for the next 3 - 5 years with only 1/4 tank of gas costing you an inevitable $50 to fill up for the next handful of days of driving not to mention insurance costs and the fact you have not changed the oil in 4,000 to many miles and some asshole gave the side a big ding with his door the last time you were at the superstore. 

That's a better reality of driving.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Wake Up For The Century Ride - To Bacon!

Hey riders, if you are having a hard time waking up early enough to get going for your rides, just get yourself one of these babies and wake yourself up to the wafting smell of cooked bacon!

No kidding. Strike this off the "never thought I would ever see that" list... Check it:

Why Portland Rules #477 Safe Routes To School

Ah to live in cities where kids are literally banned from riding their bikes to school by the tyranny of those seeking "to keep kids safe." So wonderful. So green. So progressive. Not. I am sure that the Saratoga policy wonks have the best intentions though - just simply transferring their role of “helicopter parent” to "helicopter policy maker” or “helicopter school board" to “helicopter government.” After all, if people are more and more like the helicopter parents it makes sense that those same people will eventually become large and in charge of all things, thus able to spread their joy of helicoptering to all who would otherwise like to be free of such tyranny.
I was proud to read in that case that a lone student - and clearly non-helicopter parents (how DARE they!) - are bucking the powers.  The rebels letting their kid ride his bike “are part of a growing number of Americans challenging the sedentary habits of today's youths and what they view as overanxious "helicopter" parenting.” Indeed. God forbid our kids actually do something on their own like riding a bike without their mommies and daddies right there every nanosecond.
So imagine my surprise (or should be a non-surprise for Portland) when in the mail I get a great flyer about the Portland Safe Routes to School Program. This is a partership between several organizations from the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, City of Portland, the Portland Bureau of Transportation, and several other groups. It is worth checking out - if cycling has any possible future as a daily transportation method - this is how you do it right to get the word out. Cycling does not have to be just for full-kit roadies and Lance Armstrong wannabes. Cycling does not have to be exclusive to other countries as decent transportation. Clearly the folks in Portland are less helicopterish than some.
The flyer I received is an order form for FREE materials - maps for walking and biking, educational materials about road rules, public transit info, tips for drivers, patches, window stickers, etc. Just check the items and send it in. It notes effectively that the goals for their cycling program is not just for schools, but also to connect parks, dining, and other neighborhoods. The postage pre-paid form notes, “All materials will be delivered by bicycle!” Now that is truly awesome!
City Planners, policy makers, and would be helicopterumans should take note: We should be encouraging ridership and general community health through these types of programs. Young people themselves are less excited about driving than they were in the past so its time to shift focus:

“The quest to get a driver's license at 16 -- long an American rite of passage -- is on the wane among the digital generation, which no longer sees the family car as the end-all of social life...”
It would be interesting to see a similar study for the Portland area. In cities that have REAL options to driving and an established reputation for things like good transit and cycling, I wonder if those numbers could be even higher. With the soaring costs of fuel, pollution, and insurance - riding a bike or taking public transit looks mighty fine.
Portland Rules. Again.