Monday, March 30, 2009

Brevet #1

Someone referred to my first randonneuring ride two weeks ago as a "baptism," which was appropriate in terms of it being my first, but also in terms of wetness. Snoozeville wasn't a Episcopalian-style dip-your-fingers-in-the-holy-water sprinkling either, but a full-on Pentecostal take-me-to-the-river dunking. Apparently my soul still needed a bit more cleansing because Saturday's Birkie Brevet was more of the same.

After Snoozeville I kind of obsessed about the tweaks I could make that would allow me to double the distance while hopefully improving my comfort. I rode Snoozeville on my Poprad, which seemed a little stiff, and my position was not quite as upright as I wanted. Plus, the Fizik saddle was comfy to about 50 miles and then, not so much. Since I'm new to the whole rando thing I figure I'll just take each ride as an experiment. What works, stays, and what doesn't, well, it's just a bike ride - how bad can it get? So I thought about riding River (my 1986 Nishiki Riviera touring bike - which is also my commuting bike), but knew I had to make some changes. Since this was stuff I wanted to do anyway, the Birkie was the kick in the pants I needed to get it done. The stock bars were, like, 38cm, and the stem maybe 50mm. I've read that in a relaxed position with hands on top of bars the bar should be in a sight line with the front axle. Well, I was scrunched up and looking at the axle waaaayy out there in front of the bars. And the 0ld-school 600 brake levers, while cool looking, were too small for my hands and stuck out too far from the bar - they're just weird.

So I picked up some (barely) used Nitto Noodle bars at Citybikes, dug out a 100mm Technomic stem I had, and slipped on some old Dia-compe levers that fit my hands better. I also swapped out the old Fujita saddle for a Brooks Pro which came on the mid-80's Japanese made Bianchi I bought from a teammate last year and built up for my son's cruiser. Truth be told, the saddle was the main reason I bought the bike. I figured I was probably going to end up spending a hundred bucks for a nice saddle someday anyway, so it was practically like the bike was free, right? I told my son the bike could be his, but the saddle was mine. I also added a cheap Vetta computer from the REI outlet since I'm lousy at guestimating mileage. I finished the job with new cloth tape and 6 coats of shellac and River was ready to rando. But hedging my bets I also made some modifications to the Poprad. Teammate Greg sold me a slightly shorter stem for cheap, and Jeff generously gave me a Thompson post to replace the stock carbon one I had (I can't trust bike stuff that looks and feels like plastic.) I've read good stuff about WTB Rocket saddles, and Scott had one he offered me super-cheap, so I made those swaps as well.

Now it was time to experiment, and since I was on Spring Break, I had time to for test rides. The problem was, as soon as vacation started, I came down with the Cold From Hell. The teachers' curse. I'm not usually a believer in weather-induced sickness; I believe fresh air, regardless of the temperature or precipitation, is healthier than being stuck indoors with central air blowing all those germs around. But the symptoms started the Monday after the Snoozeville/Shamrock soakings, and by Friday before break it was clear I was losing the battle. Still, I had blocked out Wednesday for a solo scenic highway jaunt, and I really wanted to see how River handled and check out that new tunnel. Of course Wednesday dawned cold and wet. T suggested I stay home, or at least cut back my planned ride, and I said that sounded good - I'd just head out to the Sandy river and see how I felt. "Maybe I'll head up to Springdale and turn around there" I think I said. Ha. I doubt she believed me either. Of course, once in the saddle I felt great, the cough disappeared, and there was no way I was turning back early. Still lacking a handlebar bag/saddlebag, I decided to take a small backpack w/bladder. I also thought I'd try Kent's plastic-bag-between-the-socks idea since I really like my sandals. Verdict? The bike handled really well. Much less twitchy, more comfy and upright, no shimmy riding with no hands (handlebars more forward?), and the saddle was as comfy as I could expect for one new (to me). My hands and feet got cold, especially on the descent from Crown Point to Multnomah Falls, but I finally took off the full-finger cycling gloves and put on the rag wool ones, and my hands were warm the rest of the day. My feet eventually warmed up too - and stayed dry. The experiment was mostly successful, though 65 miles with a pack convinced me I didn't really want to do that for the Birkie. And the tunnel is nice - If you want to see it, get there soon while it still smells like fresh-milled cedar. Another plus to doing this ride on a wet and cold Wednesday was I had the whole highway to myself. I took the lane basically from the Womens' Forum Park to the tunnel and back, with almost no traffic. Including Marine drive and the Sandy river I saw one other bike all day, and that was in Gresham on my way home.

In the new tunnel
alone, sheltered from the rain
watching waterfalls

The next day T and I had our long planned and highly anticipated bike date to LRBC. I follow their blog, but it's a long way from Montavilla to St. Johns, and not really on the way to anywhere we go together, so we had never actually been there. I decided to ride the Poprad this time and see how it felt. I was still a little saddle-sore from the day before, but the Rocket saddle felt better the longer I rode. Strangely, I noticed that even though I only switched from a
100cm to a 90cm stem, I went from feeling too stretched out to feeling kind of scrunched. Hmm. (It wasn't until I got home and checked that I realized the carbonium seatpost I swapped out had a setback clamp. Ah-ha. So back went the orignal stem and it felt like I'd found the sweet spot.) The breakfast was splendid and the lattes spot-on. T and I have talked about opening our own breakfast/lunch/bakery place someday, and LRBC is definitely inspiration - it's really a beautiful little oasis of yumminess.

However, by Friday I was still obsessing over which bike to ride. Really, what it came down to was what I said about seeing the whole intro to randonneuring thing as a big fun experiment. In the end I decided that since I rode the Poprad in Snoozeville, it was River's turn. A year or so ago I exchanged a couple of emails with Joel Metz, asking all sorts of newby questions about bike style, components, geometry, blah blah blah. What he said, in essence, was "ride the bike you've got and go from there." It was good advice. The only thing I did different from the gorge ride was take a pannier instead of a backpack. I was a little worried I'd get some shimmy, since on my commute this arrangement can induce some tail-wagging-the-dog wobbling, but the new bar/stem must have cured it since I was able to ride no-hands with no-problem.

So - the brevet. I showed up not so early as last time, driving this time because I really couldn't think of another way to get there in time. I'll admit there was a moment in the blustery rain near Hillsboro when I was thinking "Do I really want to do another crappy weather ride?" and I almost turned the car around. I'm glad I didn't, and it was heartening to see so many folks in the lot who looked and sounded like they could think of no better way to spend a Saturday than riding all day in Oregon's coast range in the rain. We pulled out of Forest Grove just at dawn, and once we hit SR 6 I fell in with a group of 5 that included Pat from Seattle, Ian (?) from Olympia, Mike Johnson, and a couple others. Seemed like there was quite a contingent from the Puget Sound area on this ride. Though we lost contact for long stretches, these were the same guys I ended up finishing with; Mike and I rode and chatted together from the Glenwood control to the finish, and I ended up saving him from a long train ride home. I suppose If I have to drive, it helps to know I can give someone else a ride as well.

Rolling through Timber

like a flock of steel birds
one dog barks hello

Just about all this country was new to me. I'm a native Oregonian, but I honestly don't think I've ever been to Vernonia before. The closest I ever came, I think, was a couple years ago when a friend and I were returning from the Astoria 'cross race and we tried to come back that way, but were turned around by a wreck. Despite the constant rain, it really was a beautiful ride - it makes me want to come back on a sunny day sometime. Some observations: The guys I was with coming into the first control at Anderson Park wasted no time. I was munching cookies when Susan asked me if I wanted some coffee and I said "sure." When I turned around, those guys were all gone. Later, approaching the Birkenfield control/turnaround, I kept expecting to see them going the other way, but I only counted 5 riders - the lead pack of 4, followed 5 minutes later by a 'bent rider - before I got to the control. And there they all were, gathered around the tables, feet up, scarfing onion rings. I had plenty of time for another coffee and some fig bars, but I made sure I wasn't the last one left when they pulled out this time.

I hadn't noticed a tailwind coming into Birkenfield, so the headwind when I pointed back up the Nehalem river was a little disheartening. I did notice the sun trying to come out a couple times, But I don't believe it ever actually stopped raining. The climb up to and past the town of Timber seemed to pass pretty quick - I felt like I got a little charge when the mileage turned past the century mark. The last few miles back into Forest Grove Mike and I got nailed by a pretty good cloudburst/headwind, but still seemed to be making decent time. I think our check-in time was just shy of 4:30, and since I was optimistically hoping for 5:00, I was happy with that. we chatted and munched for a few minutes and hit the road for home.

What worked for me: I love the Noodle bars. In combo with the Technomic stem they just felt right and I could move around with them, sit up, whatever. The Brooks saddle was also surprisingly comfortable and I'll stick with it. I remembered the rag wool gloves this time and they made all the difference for keeping my hands warm. I actually started with polypro liners under regular short leather-palmed cycling gloves and changed out at the first control, noticing an immediate improvement. I also have a new appreciation for my trusty Burley jacket. I'm definitely lusting for the rando uniform, but my torso stayed pretty dry, and what little water did get in was wicked by the wool anyway. I decided to leave the wool Swobo knickers at home since I had some - how to say this? - chafing of a delicate nature on the Snoozeville ride. I went with my regular cycling shorts under Hind Drylete tights and I was golden. I also smeared chamois and self liberally with bag balm. I know some folks have issues with bag balm, and this was my first time using it for cycling. But I grew up on a farm milking cows, so for me, it's got a kind of nostalgic appeal. And I can't be sure, but I think the cows along the route knew and were smiling. And there was no chafing this time.

What didn't work: My feet got wet. It rained at least as hard on the gorge ride and they stayed dry. The only difference? For the Birkie I used thin produce bags between socks, but on the gorge ride I used plastic grocery bags. Maybe the longer ride just wore them out, or maybe they leaked from the top? But here's the really dumb thing. I have waterproof sealskinz socks, but I wanted to try the low-tech route - you know, as part of the experiment. I know, dumb, right? It gets better. I actually hauled the Sealskinz in my pannier for the entire ride without knowing I had them in there. Sheesh.

I also carried too much other stuff, most of it food. I had spare socks and a Marmot driclime windshirt that I never used, but they weighed next to nothing. I only carried one water bottle and that was fine since there was plenty of opportunity to refill. But seeing the onion rings in Birkenfield was a lesson in the art of refueling. I actually pulled out some food in the parking lot before starting, but here's what I carried and what I actually ate. In my jersey pockets I had 6 jumbo-sized whole wheat fig bars, a banana, and a flask of raspberry Hammer gel. I also had a couple dozen cats in my jacket pocket that I was popping like, well, candy. In the pannier I carried 1 Bagel w/peanut butter and homemade huckleberry jam (I don't know why, but I think huckleberries have near-mystical biking and hiking powers), about a pint of gorp, 3 Gorge Delight fruit bars, 1 Clif Bar, and 1 Builder bar. When I was done I still had 3 fig bars, most of the gorp, over half the Hammer Gel, 2 of the fruit bars, the Clif bar and the Builder bar, and all I bought along the way was coffee. I figure I had enough food for a full weekend campaign if my legs could have held out that long. Realistically, I could have stuffed everything I needed in my pockets and left the pannier behind.

What I really want for the future, though, is better weather. One thing I'm learning is that these randonneur folks are a social bunch, and I need more of that in my cycling life. I did some chatting, but I suspect that a lot of us were kind of huddled against the elements and in survival mode. Actually, I would have been fine and probably felt even better afterwards if I had done the ride slower, talked more, and stopped totake some pictures, but the weather on this day just wasn't conducive to that kind of ride.

Now the thought of 300K actually seems within the realm of possibility, especially if it's not raining and I can find some good onion rings. We'll see. One thing's for certain, I'm no longer a rando wannabe.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Simply Revolutionary

"The idea is that a child can sit in the middle of the street and play with a doll and the parents are not going to worry about them."

This quote is from Jeff Mapes newly published Pedaling Revolution, which I just finished. The book is a thoroughly researched look at bicycles and city transportation planning. Mr. Mapes takes an in-depth look at four cities in particular; Amsterdam, Davis CA, Portland, and New York, and shows how an emphasis on seeing the bicycle as a vital solution to congestion, pollution, and health issues can lead to the transformation of urban areas into places that are safer and more livable.

I read a library copy, but it's one of those books that I know I'll want to refer to a lot, so I'll be buying my own copy soon - it's on sale at Powells right now for 13.96.

The overall emphasis is on how these changes make sense and are relatively easy and inexpensive to implement (compared to building infrastructure for autos). The problem, of course, is developing enough critical mass to get the political wheels moving in that direction. Places like Portland, San Francisco, Seattle and Boulder have it, but most cities don't. The key is to show these cities how to get there. I realize that most folks who take the time to read this book are going to be like me - people already sold on the idea that the bike is viable primary tansportation, so in that sense the author is preaching to the choir. My big question is how to get the book in the hands of transportation wonks and activist who want solutions but aren't necessarily focused on cycling as part of the answer.

I found the last three chapters the most memorable, where Mr. Mapes addressed issues of safety, health, and the critical need to get kids back on bikes. I've never really thought about the drop in child riders from the peak days of the 1960's to where we are currently. But as the author says, if people don't develop the habit of exercise when they are most capable, there's little likelihood they will pick it up later in life.

What really sticks with me is the sacrifice, both in lives and general health, that we as a culture have been willing to make in order to maintain our "right" to drive our cars whenever, wherever, and however we want. Here are some numbers from the book:

- The chance that an American will die from a car crash is one-in-fifty. Some data suggest it may be more like one-in-sixty or seventy. But still... As one expert pointed out, our standard for drinking water quality is a one-in-1 million chance that something in the water could cause cancer.

- U.S. car crashes kill the equivalent of two jumbo jetliners full of people every week.

- The U.S. has the highest auto death rate of any developed country in the world.

- We spend more on dental research than we do on traffic safety research.

- Moving to the suburbs (which many families do to escape the "dangers" of the city) significantly increases the likelihood you or your children will be killed by a car crash.

On the subject of overall health, the book had these statistics:

- In 1991, only 4 states had obesity rates over 15%. By 2007 the national rate of obesity was 34%, and only Colorado was under 20%.

- Obesity-related illnesses account for 12% of the increase in health care cost during that time.

- 40% of early deaths can be directly linked to smoking, diet, exercise, alcohol, or car crashes.

- In 1969, 87% of children who lived within one mile of school got there under their own power. in 2001, that number was 15%.

- Half of the children who are hit by cars in a school zone are struck by a motorist transporting a child to school. In many areas, 20% of the morning rush hour traffic consists of parents driving their children to school.

As the book makes clear, if safety and health were really the national priorities some people claim, we would make it much more difficult for people to drive. For years we have tacitly accepted the annual violent roadway deaths of thousands of our own citizens as the blood price we're willing to pay to drive. My guess is most people, if they think about it at all, believe these deaths are inevitable, or worse, somehow worth the "freedom" to drive. But most of these deaths are preventable when one considers that half of all trips by car are less than 5 miles in length. It's not reasonable to expect that all these trips could be by bike. But as Mr. Mapes points out, we know how to create infrastructure and policies that make it easier and safer to bike, and less convenient to get behind the wheel. Unfortunately, tackling the assumptions built by our car-centric culture makes this an uphill battle. I hope this book helps move the discussion in the right direction.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Snoozeville-Shamrock Rain Festival

Heavy clouds let loose
halfway through too numb to shift
welcome to Snoozeville

Part 1
When I first heard about randonneuring and the whole idea of long, non-competitive, self-supported rides, I knew I had to try it. Long rides are like meditation for me.  With randonneuring I could spend the day on a bike and see a lot of country, but I'd also get the social aspect of joining others if I wanted. Plus, a "rando," while not a race, is still a timed event, with the rider required to check in at designated "controls" and finish the ride within a specified timeframe. Theoretically, a rando rider could amble along at a very leisurely 15km/hr and still make the cut. But that's assuming no breaks, detours (accidental or intentional), flats, mechanical issues, muffins, naps, or picture taking. Route finding and problem solving are as important as endurance, which makes it even more appealing to me. And on Saturday I finally got my randonneuring fix.
The Snoozeville Populaire is the first event on the Oregon Randonneurs schedule and it's been on my calendar for months. Even though I've ridden a couple centuries, I was still nervous. Since I was determined not to drive, that meant a 4:30 A.M. wake-up to allow time for dressing, oats, stuffing the pockets and catching MAX at 6 for an hour-long train ride to Hillsboro. It also meant standing around the parking lot getting chilled once I got there. First lesson: it doesn't take 45 minutes to get checked in. Everyone seemed to know everyone else, but I met a couple people, admired a lot of bikes, and after a brief pre-ride pep talk,  we all headed out at 8 just as the rain started.

The route toured Washington county toward the east slope of the coast range. It felt fairly flat, especially compared with my ride last week. By the time we hit Dairy Creek for the out and back to Fern Flat and the first control, we were pretty spread out and I was finally warmed up. Being the total rando newbie I am, I didn't really know what I was supposed to do with the brevet card I was given. I mean, I knew there were questions to answer, and I knew that sometimes there would be volunteers at the control and sometimes not, but no one really explained how this all worked, and I was kind of embarrassed to ask (guy thing). So at Fern Flat - my first rando control point ever - I kind of flubbed it. I handed my card over and the volunteer signed it as I munched and chatted, then I tucked it away and headed back down the road. It wasn't until about 5 miles later that I looked at my cue sheet and realized that I was also supposed to answer a question about the color of the flags on the fence at the control. Dang! I figured that since the card had been signed I was probably OK, but the thought crossed my mind of conspiring at the next control to see if I could nochalantly bring up flag colors in the conversation and sneak my answer in late. One thing for sure, I knew I wasn't riding back to the control.

The ride from Dairy Creek through Banks and into Forest Grove was kind of rolling and really, really wet and windy. It felt like no matter which way the course turned, I had a headwind. Other than a spare pair of socks in my pocket, I was wearing everything I brought. The Swobo top and knickers were working fine, but my old thrashed Burley shoe covers had been taking on water steadily, and my hands were also wet and chilled. At one point I hit a roller and tried to shift to my small front ring and was surprised to find I didn't have the hand strength to nudge the left lever. I figured this ride would be a shakedown for hopefully longer rides and I got sucked in to making a couple miscalculations based on the fact it wasn't raining when I got up and the forecast was for a high of 50. Honestly, based on my normal 10 mile commute, I was more worried about overheating and having to strip layers than I was on being so chilled. Second lesson learned:  bringing layers you don't use beats first stage hypothermia every time. My rag wool gloves and waterproof socks weren't doing me any good in the closet at home. And a bag for extra stuff just moved higher up the wish list.

Pulling into Forest Grove, I was really glad Gregg was maning the control at Maggie's Buns. The cue sheet said "on the left," but I didn't realize it was on the left around the corner, and if Gregg hadn't shouted out, who knows when I would have figured it out. My hands were stiff enough I almost asked him to unzip my pocket to pull out my card - my manual dexterity was shot. As it was, it took me about 5 minutes with teeth and numb fingers to get my gloves off. I spent a couple minutes in the bathroom with the hot water tap, a couple more with the Most Necessary Cup of Coffee ever, and hit the road. 
That had to be the most revitalizing coffee break I've ever had. The last 15 miles flew by, partly because I knew it was the last 15 miles and I pushed myself hard enough I actually warmed up. But I also realize that had this been a 200K brevet, I would need to do things differently to keep from having to abandon the ride. Cruising along Evergreen on the last 5 miles, I was anticipating the coldest part of the day still to come; an hour-long cool-down on MAX in wet clothes. I was glad I didn't drive, but admitted to myself it sure would have been nice to have a dry change of clothes and a beer at the finish. Ah well. The train wasn't as bad as I feared and my knickers were bone-dry when I got home. I love wool.

Conclusions after rando # 1:  I'm still not happy with the way my bike feels on these longer rides. I suspect the stem is too long, and maybe I still don't have a saddle that's going to go the distance. My lower back got sore early and while short breaks off the bike made all the difference, I'd prefer it if it didn't happen at all. I imagine the cold and tense shoulders contributed as well. I'm curious how River would have handled the ride? It's probably a less stiff bike, but I was nervous (justifiably it turns out) about riding without a computer, and the 27-inch tires on it are maybe less than ideal. Maybe I'll pick up one of these this week. And like I said, some kind of bag is going to be needed. I didn't even bring a camera (Partly because of the forecast - thanks John and Gregg for the photos!)
I don't feel like I've earned the right to call myself a "randonneur" yet. Somehow, the 100k distance feels more like a rando with training wheels. I really want to ride the Birkie Brevet, and if I finish that, I'll feel like the training wheels came off. For now, I'm still a wanna-be.

Part 2
I was hoping that the clouds would have wrung themselves dry in time for the second act of my mini-epic weekend, but there was no such luck. Shamrock Run morning dawned with more cold, wet, and wind. For me it meant more oats, more layers, and more MAX, and I joined a considerably larger group than Saturday's where, once again, I got to stand around getting cold while waiting for the 15K run to begin. If I had been sensible, I would have signed up for a shorter distance, but that would have felt like cat-ing down, and since the registration fee was the same, I figured I might as well get my money's worth. Plus, I've got a thing for running up Terwilliger, and in Sunday's rain and headwind, the climb turned out to be the full-meal-deal. Once we got started I warmed up pretty quick and the run was surprisingly comfortable. I didn't notice any fatigue from Saturday, and hammered it pretty hard the last two miles. Once I crossed the line I didn't have any desire to hang around in the rain for the complimentary beer and chowder, so I handed my tickets to someone heading into the beer garden and boarded the #15. I made it to PMC in time to grab some dry clothes I had stashed in our car and was dressed and dry in time to join my family for the service and potluck after, where I loaded both my dinner and my dessert plates and did more than my part in draining the coffee pot. A good weekend.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Weather With You

Cue Theme Song:

This winter is refusing to go down without a fight. Saturday I had a splendid long solo ride. Upper 30's/low 40's, a few miles of cold rain, some sun, very light traffic and almost no other riders for 60 miles. Sunday I was pulling weeds in the garden getting ready for planting the first seeds. Crocuses are up, forsythia and daffodils just ready to bloom. saw my first cherry blossoms along the Clackamas river on my ride Saturday.

Then this morning as I neared the end of my commute the snow started coming down in Gresham and continued off and on throughout the day. No accumulation, but it drew plenty of complaining from colleagues and on the blogs. I liked it, I like riding in it, and I said so. But coming home into a headwind I got smacked by a sleet storm that left me huddled over my bars, head down to keep from exposing my face to the stinging barrage. Brutal.

Again, I got a couple of baiku out of it.

Riding through fresh snow
steaming under a bright sky
winter won't let go

Sleet and a headwind
ahead I can see blue sky
here it's still winter

Thursday, March 5, 2009

To the Races?

I've been thinking about whether or not to do any road racing this year. I should explain that I'm not a road racer. I'm really not much of any kind of racer, getting into the game far too late in life to be serious about any of it. But I've had a couple fun seasons in the Master B cross races, and had almost as much fun in a few short track mountain bike races last summer. I also did a handful (as in 5) of road races last year. As a 48-year old cat-5 rider, maybe I'm using "race" rather loosely. We were all breathing hard and trying to get to the front or avoid being dropped, and I pretty much held my mid-pack own while avoiding crashing or taking anyone else out. But the kind of tactics and form and teamwork practiced by guys who are "real" racers were in pretty short supply in the cat 5's.

My first road race was the Piece of Cake race in Woodland WA. I remember two things about this race. One was how, despite the sprint at the finish - where I finished somewhere near the rear of the main pack - I felt fresher than I ever remember feeling after riding 30+ miles. The second was how frustrating it was to want to move up, to feel like I had the legs to move up, but to be boxed in for miles and unable to find the room - or maybe the nerve? - to squeeze forward. I finished in the same place I was stuck in for over half the race. I also learned my sprint sucks.

My next 4 road races were really more like crits, without the tight corners or crashes. The Mount Tabor series was where I first learned you really can fall over from exhaustion and after a hard race you really do taste blood. But the 400+ feet of climbing/descending per 1.3 mile loop tends to string the pack out quickly, so there's not much blocking and it's hard for anyone to control the pace in a race lasting only 40 minutes. Which is not to say it was fun, exactly, but there was a kind of satisfaction for me in seeing how long I could stay in before getting dropped.

In OBRA, the rules for moving up from cat 5 to 4 are pretty simple: 10 mass-start races (time trials don't count). I'm half-way there regardless of how I place. And I really can't imagine getting beyond Cat 4. The 3's scare me - testosterone seems to be at least as important as talent in their races, and smiles are rare but fiery crashes common.

But cat-ing up seems like a dumb reason to race. I mean, I'm all about goals and everything, but if I'm not really having fun, and I'm not making the world a better place, what's the point? That's where I'm at. Here's some reasons why I may not road race.

1 - Money. It cost $20-$30 per race. On my self-imposed allowance, that's 1/4 or more of my spending money for the month. A couple races could get me one of these. And it's not like I can't just go out and ride for free anyway. I'm not winning anything - which was never the point anyway. And if I do race I'm on my cross bike (with disc brakes) which gets some funny looks, though others have made it work. But a dedicated road race bike is more money than I can even think about spending right now, even if I build up some old steel frame from scrounged parts.

2 - Crashing. It happens, often and quickly. I've passed guys lying under a bike or cradling a broken clavicle. Six weeks in a sling unable to put weight on my arm would suck, and seriously mess up my commute and family life. My rib injury from practicing in the dirt this last fall was enough for me this year. I heal well, but I'm not young and rubbery any more either.

3 - Desire. Road racing is kind of weird. Hanging out in a pack for an hour for the opportunity to sprint 200 yards. Compared to mtb and cross races, roadies are a grim lot. I like the idea of the culture, like I like the idea of being in U2, but I suspect it doesn't fit me very well. I'm serious enough sitting in a chair all alone. I need leisure activities that relax my shoulders, and road racing doesn't do that.

But on the other shoulder, this voice whispers:

1 - Teamwork. Road racing is a team sport. Being a domestique, helping place a teammate with fresh legs in the sprint, is part of the craft and worth learning. Maybe I have something to contribute. And there's no denying the fluid beauty of a well-oiled paceline. Only roadies get it.

2 - Sport. I am competitive. I don't celebrate it, and in fact it's a bit embarassing, but if I'm honest with myself I realize it just IS. I look at my race placement. I take it seriously and I analyze every race to figure out what went right and, more often, where I can improve. This could be seen as a negative as well. My wife sees it that way. But I have to admit I'm goal oriented and that's part of the appeal.

Right now, I'm leaning pretty strongly away from the fast and furious and more toward long and slow.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


Riding toward a sky
colored like an old black eye

looking for revenge

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


After the night storm
morning sun on rain-swept streets
below mountain snow

Monday, March 2, 2009

Wind 101

March first on skyline
two echelons are learning

in the school of wind