Sunday, January 8, 2017

A Lovely Saddle

On a recent transportation ride on a cold December morning, I was attempting to remove my bicycle from its locked position. I tend to forget that cable locks aren't the greatest invention when temperatures drop well below the freezing point (though I am grateful to live in a fairly safe-for-locking-up-bikes community that allows me to often use a cable rather than a heftier option).

As I was fiddling and fussing, I was interrupted by a woman passing by.

"You're a brave soul to be out on a bicycle in this weather," she began.

I couldn't help but look up to the sky with the bright shining sun and cloud-free skies. Yes, it was cold (very cold, actually), but it was a beautifully bright day. I resisted the urge to inform her that there was little I would count as brave about my transportation choice, and instead replied with a smile, "Well, it's much warmer now than when I left home!" Which was the truth as it had warmed more than 15 degrees since my departure.

The woman continued, "That's such a lovely saddle you have," as she bent toward the bicycle and gently caressed the leather as if it was made of delicate porcelain. "Really, it's quite beautiful," she stated again, slowly, as she walked to the front door of the building, still staring, as if in a trance, at my bike.

It sounds creepier in the re-telling than it was in the moment. It was one of those quick instances in life that I would normally pass over without giving it much thought, but on my ride home all I could think about was the woman's comment regarding the looks of the bicycle saddle.

In truth, I don't think about the looks of my saddles much these days, but rather just have a go-to option in mind. That wasn't always the case and initially when I first started using Brooks saddles, there was definitely a part of the decision that was based on looks. Today, when first building a bicycle, I may think about color choice (if I have to purchase a new saddle, rather than using one already owned), but that is about the extent of my thought on such matters. I have found a model that seems to work well for me on just about any bike, so I don't have to put thought into what will be appropriate when another build arises.
This particular saddle photographed right after mounting for the first time. I was enraptured by the light color of this Brooks early on.
Perhaps there was a time when I obsessed over the looks of a saddle, or, for instance, when I first came across etched or carved leather saddles that I may have thought briefly about spending more on such an item simply because it was pretty, but over the years, I have learned that looks are not everything and if a saddle is uncomfortable, it can and most likely will make my riding experience - short or long - absolutely miserable!

Additionally, it took some time to figure out what type of saddle worked for me. I tried many synthetic options initially, but could never quite find comfort. Even different models of leather weren't to my liking. It wasn't so much that I chose a leather saddle because of its good-looks-factor (though, I do agree that I prefer the leather look over a plastic or rubberized choice), but rather that it just worked for my comfort.

When I arrived home from my ride on this day, I dismounted and studied the saddle, tilting and twisting my head from side to side like a puppy just hearing a new, high-pitched sound for the first time. The saddle had definitely aged since purchasing it more than five years prior. It has seen time on too many bikes as well, and I could easily see that it had changed quite a bit over the years. Though no one else would likely make this sort of assessment. There are some splotches from darker colored clothing, blemishes that have become more pronounced, and goodness knows I'm not great about re-applying proofide to the poor thing. I simply use - and unfortunately, sometimes abuse - this component.

As is true of many things in life, beauty is in the eye of the beholder though. Time has caused me to take for granted the saddle that allows me to ride in comfort and I no longer look at it seeing it as something pretty to look at, but rather as a functional piece that permits me longer stints on my bike in greater comfort. After all, it does have a purpose. But, somewhere along the line, I lost the desire to look at this item as pretty, and instead view it as practical.
The same saddle today has achieved a used-patina, but I can see (when I pay attention) that it is still lovely.
Still, having someone admire the saddle purely based on its looks caused me to take notice of it as I had once upon a time, through the eyes of someone judging purely on aesthetics and not at all on its functionality. There could be no denying that the leather has aged, but even that has brought about its own beauty. It's always a fantastic moment when the two worlds can collide though, and form and function are both well suited to the rider.

I took these words, this moment in time to appreciate not only the saddle, but the entire bicycle and the others in the fold as well. It's far too easy to take a bicycle for granted and I can often forget that the bicycle is not only functional, but something delightful to behold as well.

Friday, December 30, 2016

In the End, There Was a Beginning

If there was a medal for re-writing end-of-year/new year posts, I think I would take the gold this year. I have started writing, completed writing, and re-written so many that I have lost all train of thought at this juncture. Initially, I wanted to write about my frustrations with 2016. Not so much bike-related (though there have been those too), but more so with the state of this nation. I thought better of it though and decided to nix that would-be post. I tried starting it again with less of a bleak approach, but still, I couldn't shake the tone that was developing, and so I tried re-writing beginning with something more positive. It still didn't feel right and I wasn't expressing myself well. Over and over these rounds went, trying to find the right words to end this year without it appearing as though a dark hole has consumed me (for the record, I've only been partially consumed by a black hole).
*Image found here
Ultimately, I have come to the conclusion that there are not "right words" and while I really do want to pour out my soul, bemoan what is coming, and ultimately try to figure out solutions that work, I am not in a state of mind currently to capably express thoughts and emotions without it turning into a completely depressing post, and frankly, I don't want to be depressed nor do I wish to be a big downer to anyone else. I cannot change what has taken place and all anyone can do is move forward, believing that the best will come with work and dedication. I am choosing to believe that there are enough people who want, believe and will work for positivity that it will come about in 2017, regardless of the clouds that sometimes feel as though they loom heavy on the horizon.

Two thousand and sixteen has been a strange year for me. In many ways, I think I have matured (about time, I'm sure many would say), but in many other ways I have felt a kind of regression taking place. My responses to situations have sometimes been very childish and I have lashed out (both silently and audibly) at others. I have also become acutely aware that I have, somewhere along the way, lost some of my ability to act, and then think post-action. While that may seem like a good quality or a step toward growth for many, to me I feel as though I've lost a part of myself. I miss the person who acted instinctually or impulsively, rather than after days, weeks (sometimes months) of arduous thought and planning. I have always struggled with these two sides of myself, but generally the spontaneous side has won out in the past without effort. The passing years have turned me into what many would consider an adult, and I can't say I care for it at all.

I have struggled to fix my body as well. Injuries that arose a couple of years ago seem to plague me even today. While there has been some recovery, age has also made healing a longer process it seems, though I am grateful that progress is made, even when it feels inhumanely slow at times.

I tried to start a business this year that failed miserably before it even really got off the ground. I had invested a great deal of time and effort (and a fair amount of financial resources too) into trying to make my plan work, only to come to the understanding that our city would not allow it. It was a big blow to my emotional state, I have to say, but there is a part of me that still believes anything is possible. The fact that it involved the use of my bicycle was exciting, but sometimes timing is simply off, so who knows what the future may hold?

Although there have been many deaths that occurred this year, there was one that affected me more than any other. My father passed away at the end of April after only 72 years of life, which left me searching for answers that I didn't and likely will not find. I was grateful, however, that after multi-decades of not coming face-to-face we had an opportunity to see each other and clear the air before he left this earth. While I still may not comprehend many things, I am thankful that I came out of it with an understanding I might not have otherwise had. I realize not everyone is so fortunate and I didn't and don't take that opportunity lightly.

Sam and I have continued to push our house-renovating selves in 2016. We have some pretty cool work to show for it, but it is exhausting, body-breaking work to do for two people and it often feels as though we have no life outside of demolition and rebuilding/remaking. I appreciate that we've found ways to reuse so many materials that were already in the house or that others discarded, and have been patient enough to wait for second hand deals or sales on most other items. I promise, the house is far less dumpster-dive-chic than it sounds after that sentence. After two years, we are nearing completion of this house (if we can only stop adding projects to the list), and I think we've proven to ourselves that we are capable of more than we ever thought possible. This time has allowed me to practice patience and has taught me not to be afraid to try things that seem daunting or even nearly impossible.

My art-self has taken a full swing at switching from painting to clay sculpture. It has been challenging to find time to do what I should actually be doing (you know, my actual job and all) with continuing house renovations, part-time gigs, and so on, but the pieces I have been able to complete have shown me that I definitely have my own voice (strange as that voice may be at times), and that I believe I prefer the creative process in three-dimensions as opposed to two. Who knew? I find that I have a far less-tense approach and more creativity while working, and when pieces don't work out it stings just a tad, but I try, try again or shrug it off and move forward.

I am learning that I prefer simpler, less technological things much more than I ever thought. Things like iPads and iPods, laptops and Netflix are all fantastic to have, but I am of the belief that I could live in a much smaller space, with many fewer things and be just as happy (or maybe even happier), and my most memorable and thought-provoking rides have been those that were not recorded or shared other than perhaps with another person along for the adventure. I am still not ready to limit my bicycles (though I know I could, if it were necessary), but as for other items in life, I really don't require much and I seem to be happiest during the most ordinary moments.

As difficult as it is for me to believe, I have written fewer than 40 posts over the last year here. I'd like to say that quality outweighs quantity, but I'm fairly certain that would simply be an excuse for my lack of time dedicated to this space.

I did share my thoughts about potential road-side potty breaks, and some of you shared your own tales.

We chatted about winter and riding (and I even stated that we in our house did not need fat bikes - and yet, here I sit today riding one).

I got a bit sappy about my Rivendell, too.

Our years in Colorado have been positive, as I relayed in a post when Sam visited San Diego earlier this year.

Although the BDB Pelican technically came into my life in 2015, it really took me places in 2016.

Sam shared his summer Leadville, CO adventure riding in the Silver Rush 50 and then later his tale of the Barn Burner in Flagstaff, AZ.

I changed a flat road-side for the first time on my own (at least without a watchful eye).

And, we somehow grew a real vegetable garden for the first time with success, which brought unexpected benefits.

I also found myself working part-time in a bike shop for a decent chunk of the year.
*Image found here
All in all, the year was a positive one, just as I hope it has been for you. There have been some questionable moments, but without those, I suppose life would be rather dull. I have hopes for many things in the coming year, but I am trying not to get ahead of myself, and instead focus on appreciation of today and what it has to offer instead of jumping into the future. Ah, growth, it rears its head yet again (let's see if it lasts).

May anything negative stay in the year that is leaving and only positive moments be in store for your 2017! Thank you for continuing to read and share your thoughts here in this space. I am grateful for short and long distance interactions with the fine folks who happen along here, and I look forward to continuing to share and grow with you in the coming year. Thank you for taking time to leave comments, and huge thanks to those of you who have e-mailed to share ideas and photos as well.

Happy New Year! I hope it finds you riding in good health, with a smile on your face and any wind always at your back.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Happy Holidays to All!

It's kind of fun when Hannukah, Christmas and Kwanzaa all coincide time-wise on the calendar. Starting December 24, 25, and 26th respectively, it truly feels appropriate to wish a happy holiday season to everyone today. Even if you celebrate Festivus or Winter Solstice...or no particular holiday at all, these holidays coming around the same time of year seem to bring out (mostly) good in humanity. It's a lovely thing to observe.

A week and a half ago, we were told locally to expect a big snow storm on the 24th carrying through the 25th. By the early part of this week though, the storm seemed to have vanished off the radar and there would be no snow at all (outside of the mountains anyway) anytime in the near future.

But, as we stood looking from our front window out onto barren trees and sticks that were formerly bushes this morning, snow flakes began to fall. At first we thought it was just passing by with a few flurries, but it began to get stronger and the powder started to stick. 

Sam's first thought: "We need to go on a fat bike ride!" And so, we did. It wasn't a particularly long ride, and not nearly as cold as I'd expected (though much windier than I'd have preferred), but it was so much fun.
Wishing you and yours a lovely season and hoping you get to go on many enjoyable bike rides, no matter what the weather. Happy Holidays to everyone who reads here. Stay safe, keep warm, and enjoy.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

First Thoughts on a Fat Bike: The Surly Wednesday

When we (in our household) started to really see fat bikes take a stake in the bike market several years ago, neither of us really gave them much thought. They seemed like mountain bikes with fatter tires and that was about the end of any thoughts on the matter. It seemed as though they were bikes that would hit the market and likely be gone again in a blink of an eye, but being "bike people" it's always fun to look at what others are choosing to ride, so, over the years, we started to pay a bit more attention as these bicycles hung around and even grew in numbers.

A few years ago, we had a neighbor who purchased a fat bike for his wife. She never wanted to ride it, so he would spend some time in the snow bouncing around and constantly asking both Sam and I if we wanted to try the bike. "It's REALLY fun!" he would always exclaim, as he circled around, trying to get one of us to hop on. Not people who generally turn down an opportunity to ride a bicycle, it was odd that neither of us ever took him up on his offer. Perhaps it was just always an awkward time to give it a test, or maybe, as stated above, we couldn't see the real benefit to this sort of bike and assumed that it would be no different than riding a mountain bike.

And then, we found ourselves here in 2016. Sam had grown weary of avoiding rides in the winter (at least when it's snowy/icy on the ground) and losing all of the training work he'd done throughout the rest of the year. His mind started to wander into the idea of obtaining a fat bike and, as luck would have it, one came up on a re-seller website several months ago that was the perfect size. When it arrived, he rode it around quite a bit and continued to tell me that it was "such a blast" to ride. I smiled and nodded, and told him that I was happy that he'd have a way to get in some miles over winter. And, I truly was. I know how hard he works and I want him to have the tools to keep riding through winter.

For me, I had absolutely no desire or intention to ever consider a fat bike. I just truly didn't see the point. I had come to accept that, as someone who has a certain level of fear of falling when the conditions aren't ideal (really, the reason why I don't mountain bike either), I would just walk or get around in some other manner when the winter season takes over. I still couldn't understand the reasoning for me to seek out another bike.

Then, Sam started to fill my mind with random thoughts such as, "Well, if you get a fat bike, we could ride together in the winter," and "It really is such a stable bike. I think you'd actually enjoy it." Curse him for planting such seeds in my mind! He tried to get me to ride his fat bike for a trial, but I really didn't see the need. I was still under the assumption that this sort of bike was an unnecessary addition to the already-too-large fleet of bicycles.

But, as is often the case, the seeds had been planted and I found myself occasionally looking and wondering if this really could be a bike I would enjoy? So, one day when I casually mentioned that I was unofficially looking at fat bikes, Sam decided it was time for me to, at minimum, at least try his out first.

He was right. This fat bike "thing" was really fun! It was a little strange to ride on paved roads, but I could feel how stable it was, and it seemed to be fairly comfortable. Maybe I hadn't given this bike a fair shake? It was definitely a heavy beast (particularly if comparing it to a typical road/cross bike), but I'm sure that was one of the factors that made it so stable.
Stock complete build from Surly of the Wednesday (Image from Surly)
With that, I was off on a more serious hunt. I quickly narrowed my search to two Surly models: the Ice Cream Truck and the Wednesday because they had similar geometry to Sam's fat bike and riding his gave me a good idea of what might work for me. I knew that I wanted to purchase a complete build, rather than finding our own parts (as we would normally do) because I am less familiar with what one wants on this sort of bike. I have to say, working a few hours in a bike shop certainly has its benefits, and particularly in this instance. When the shop owner called to determine whether or not we could actually get a complete build of an XS Ice Cream Truck, we were told that was not a possibility (On this point, why do manufacturers do this? They put together complete builds, but leave out certain sizes. I "get" that they likely don't sell a ton of extra small builds and thus don't bother, but it would be nice to have it as a possibility for those of us who are vertically challenged, just as the very tall among us often get left out too). Bummer. So, that pretty much left me with my choice.

In many ways, it was probably a good thing that I didn't have a choice because I was initially somewhat struggling between the two options. Not having a whole lot of experience in this particular area, I just didn't know what I would really want or need. But, I had already come to the conclusion that the Wednesday was probably the way to go regardless, so the universe just helped point me in that direction. My reasoning being that it's a less expensive option, came as a complete build in my size, and not knowing if I'd actually ride this bike, I'd hate to get too much invested and then not use it. Upgrades, I thought to myself, are always a possibility in the future if it was the greatest bike ever.

Shortly thereafter, I ordered my Wednesday and it arrived just a brief time later, and a couple of days after its arrival, I was able to ride it home. Of course, it wouldn't be my bike if I didn't make a few modifications. The first was to add a Brooks saddle that had been sitting unused at home and the other change was a pair of Jones H-bar handlebars. Both of these, I thought, would make for the most potential comfort on a bike I hope to put miles on over the cold season.

The initial tests were a lot of fun. I rode over rocks (yes, me... the person who fears riding on any sort of rock, voluntarily rode over rocks because the bike felt that stable). Granted, they were not huge boulders, but for someone who normally avoids any sort of obstacle presented in my riding path, it was a strange and empowering feeling to suddenly want to go over unsteady surfaces.

"Did you see?!" I exclaimed when I arrived back to Sam, like an excited young child riding a bicycle for the first time without training wheels.

"See what?" he asked.

"I rode over rocks!" I replied, shocked that he hadn't witnessed my "daredevil" maneuver. Shouldn't he be watching me like an over-protective parent right now? What if I had fallen over?

"No, I didn't. Maybe you should do it again?" he retorted with a slight smile on his face.

"Okay," I said with glee, "I can do it again." With that, I was off to demonstrate how "brave" I was.

Perhaps I was overly excited about something so minor, but it really felt like a big deal for someone who truthfully would not have come close to even thinking about riding over those rocks on any other bike.
Decals are there, but they are certainly understated  - not necessarily a bad or good aspect.
The color I purchased is Surly's Calimocho Red (not really by choice, but out of necessity based on the size I require), which I have to say is quite a dark color - so dark in fact that one of the guys in the bike shop said, "That's weird. Your new bike has no decals on it." When I pointed out that they are indeed there, he was rather stunned. I, frankly, don't mind that the decals are not prominent, but it could make a difference to some (one of the nice things about Surly is the usually-easy-to-obtain replacement stickers though, so I'm sure the color could be changed if desired). The frame color to me is almost more of a dark raisin than a red, so I find it interesting that "red" is a part of the name - but, of course, I was not consulted on such matters.

I will admit up front that this has been a horrible mileage-wise year for me. I have had long stints during which the most I ride is a couple of miles to get to a location, and long rides have been nearly unheard of for quite awhile. I simply haven't had the time to spend and injuries have only compounded the matter. So, when Sam wanted to take the fat bikes out on a "real" test ride, I was a bit concerned because I lack the strength and endurance that I normally would have built up.

We decided on a short ride with the understanding that we would head for some dirt trails and turn around when I felt as though I'd had enough. The route we took was the most direct to the trail and somehow encompassed a good deal of climbing. I thought that perhaps I was just being a bit wimpy from my lack of real riding, but when Sam made a comment to support what I'd been thinking, I felt a bit better knowing that I wasn't as bad off as I had thought. I guess general working out keeps some strength for biking, thankfully.
For gear ratio people... the break down in visual form
*Calculator here
This ride also gave me an opportunity to test out the gearing on the Wednesday. It comes as a complete build with a 22/34 crankset and an 11-36t, 10 speed cog on the rear, which after testing on a variety of steepness levels - though not the absolute steepest terrain I could/would encounter - I found to spin quite nicely, even for my currently very untrained legs (On some bikes, even the spinning gear doesn't feel much like spinning up hills). I'm personally less concerned with speed on this bicycle (not that anyone can really be concerned with speed on such a bike) and more with being able to get through challenging terrain, so for me, I think this gearing is fantastic.
For this ride we had chosen spots to test the bike on gravel, dirt, grass/weeds, and on asphalt and cement as well. Of course, the tires are a bit noisy on asphalt and cement in dry conditions (to be expected), but overall, I think it rode well over all the various terrain encountered. The Wednesday came built with Surly Nate 26 x 3.8" tires, which look bigger/wider than I thought they would for the size.

The frame is also constructed with a dropout that allows the wheel to slide back or forward 20mm, permitting even wider tires, if desired (up to 4.6 inches in size). I have no idea if or when I would desire this, but I have been told that wider tires in the snow are often welcomed, so we shall see what happens with this.
I'm amazed at how clean the rear cog is considering all I've run this bike through and my lack of proper cleaning. I'm sure that will change in the near future (the dirtiness, not my cleaning practices).
After being out for two hours, my body had reached its limit, but I was still just as excited about the Wednesday.

One of my, well, I don't want to call it a concern, but let's say a thought that entered my mind while we were mounting the wheels, is that the axle reaches all the way through the hub and there is no quick release (I'm sure there are aftermarket quick releases available, if one wanted to change this, and the word on the street is that Surly's new hubs allow this simply and painlessly), so when riding and getting a flat I can see that it would be a bit of a headache to get the wheel off to resolve any punctures (I understand the point of the thru axle for this bike, but it was a surprise to me as a person who doesn't normally deal with this). Perhaps this is why many choose to build Wednesday's up tubeless instead. *As an aside: I'm currently testing an inexpensive puncture protection technique to see how well it works and will write something up at a later time to share whether or not it works to protect tubes.

My current dilemma with the Wednesday is a frame bag. I would really like to put one on this bike; however, because of its small size, nothing off-the-shelf seems to fit properly. The inner triangle is simply too small, so I am looking into a few custom options from bag makers both in and out of the U.S. The bag certainly doesn't need to be fancy, but I would like to be able to carry a few items with me when riding, and the bottle cage is unnecessary, or it could be switched to the underside of the down tube should I wish to carry a bottle. I've considered a simple saddlebag and/or handlebar bag too, but I think more would fit in a frame bag, potentially.
I rode through some spots that were thicker with snow, but this was the easiest location to take a picture.
We had our first round of snow this season a few weeks ago, but unfortunately, I didn't get an opportunity to venture out that day to see how well this steed handles in the white stuff (and it melted nearly instantly), and then I had an out-of-state trip that caused me to miss our next couple rounds of snow, but I had the opportunity to briefly test the Wednesday in some mostly-melted snow recently and it seems to do nicely. We had more storms promised this week, but it's starting to look sketchy, so I hope to have the opportunity for more and better tests soon and will report back.

Truthfully (if it hasn't been made clear as of yet), I am by no means an expert on fat bikes nor on what makes one a better choice over another. There are basic qualities of a bicycle that are sometimes preferences, such as frame material, brand of components, and so on, but this almost feels like a completely different world to me. Perhaps that has more to do with my personal hang ups with mountain biking more than anything else because I can certainly see and feel similarities between a more standard mountain bike and the two fat bikes I have had the opportunity to ride.

One thing I can express is how I feel when riding the Wednesday. Put simply, I feel in control (which hasn't always been the case with mountain bike experiences in the past). I have actually found myself seeking out obstacles to ride over, which is definitely, without a doubt, not something I would normally do. There is a reassuring feel to this ride that inspires confidence and beckons the rider to seek out challenges, and I cannot help but respond. Sam's thought was that he had "created a monster" as he watched me tear across areas he knows I would normally avoid.
For anyone wondering, I will wrap the handlebars at some point... I just haven't decided on a color that works yet, or maybe I'll just pick something from what we have sitting around and not worry about the color.
I am also thankful that I waited to buy my first fat bike. There have been many advances over the last several years, one of which is the ability to replace the standard rigid fork with the Bluto suspension fork. As someone who has considered making this not only my snow bike but also using it as my mountain bike (yes, I've actually enjoyed this bike so much that I can see using it for purposes beyond getting around in snow), I can see the appeal of having a suspension fork available that works well with fat bikes - and if my current tear-it-all-up mentality maintains, a suspension fork may be in my future, but we'll wait to see on that front.

The Wednesday and I haven't had the longest relationship to-date, but it has brought a lot of joy and encouraged me to find locations that wouldn't normally show up on my radar at all. It seems like a bike that has the potential to introduce a whole new world, and I'm excited to see where it takes me.

How about you? Do you have a fat bike or have you ridden one? Would you be willing to share your thoughts and experience here? If you don't own a fat bike, would you consider purchasing one, or do you think a bicycle in your current stable fits the bill for snowy rides without this addition? If you are one of the many knowledgeable folks out there with information on fat bikes in general, please do feel free to leave your thoughts as well.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Pondering Location and Home

I am currently on a last minute trip to provide assistance to relatives in California. The trip has mostly been about manual labor (something my body rebels against, yet I seem to always find myself involved in somehow), but there have been a few moments to slip away to find some reflection and recovery time. I've made trips to this location many times over the last several years and grew up not far from the area, but I've noticed on this particular visit that there are more cyclists on the roads than I've taken note of in the past.

The weather is cool here in this area (cooler than I remember for the time of year, if I'm honest), but still far warmer than it is presently at home in Colorado, so I can't help but wonder if this is a usual occurrence and I've just not noticed it in the past, or perhaps it's more to do with not being in the area often enough during this time of year.
I never seemed to have a camera handy when the cyclists went by, but I managed to catch this fellow riding a couple of days ago.
As I've found time to slip away, I've taken note of the large number of people on bicycles. At first, I was simply noticing commuters on the roads, likely using the bicycle as transportation. Then, I noticed what appeared to be individuals out on more of sport, group rides, and most recently I came in contact with several, separately traveling, touring cyclists with bicycles loaded up. Each were dressed a bit differently, but this is one of the few parts of the country where I don't find it odd seeing a cyclist in shorts and sleeveless shirt in December. It's making me dread my return home to below freezing temperatures and snow!

It's amazing to me how cycling infrastructure has changed in this small community as well. Each time I return, I notice more bicycle lanes or find new paved trails. As is the case in many areas, I did note that several of these paths or trails tend to end abruptly and without warning, causing me to wonder why the municipality didn't continue to pave the path for cyclists. Perhaps it is in the works and if I were to come back in a year's time, things would look different yet again.
This trail was fantastic, but ends just around the bend at a signal and forces riders out onto the busy road with motorized traffic.
Unfortunately, I don't think I'll have that opportunity. My family that is living in this area is preparing for a move out of state in the spring, so I likely won't have reason to visit this small community again.

Between this trip and a recent e-mail conversation with a reader, I've been pondering the things that make a community "right" for an individual. I've always loved this area because of the mild climate, and seeing more cycling infrastructure come alive causes me to appreciate this community all the more. When I was growing up, it was a very small farm community and few people actually lived here, but it has grown and changed, and I appreciate the changes that have taken place. It makes me want to live here.

Of course, there is bad to consider here as well. For instance, this area has been particularly hard hit by the California drought and has seen little in the way of rain, even though both southern and northern California have had a bit of relief with some periodic rain. Additionally, it's an expensive place to live, particularly for a community that has little in the way of providing income. The people who survive seem to be 1) farmers, 2) entrepreneurs, 3) independently wealthy, or 4) retirees who moved to the area before it got outrageously costly. I can't help but wonder what people do to make a living when they don't fit into the above categories (and they do exist). I suppose living anywhere is possible, and there is always give and take.

If I were to pick out my ideal community to live in, I think about the qualities I would want it to possess. Things like cycling infrastructure/bicycle friendly businesses and access are high on the list, as is the ability to earn a living, cost of housing and cost of living in general, temperate climate, friendly and open residents, dog friendliness (I take my pooches just about everywhere with me), and the list could go on.

As each year passes, I also realize that I likely have limited time to share with older family members, and a part of me always wants to be closer so that visiting isn't so infrequent. So, I begin to ponder the idea of following those that leave and wonder if there is a happy point that meets somewhere between my idealized mental list and absolutely none of the items I would want in a city or community.

So, I find myself posing the questions to you, reader. How do you feel and what do you think about your chosen home location. Where do you live, and what do you like about your community? Is it small or large... or somewhere in between? Did you grow up in the area or move to your current home town in adulthood? What keeps you in your community? Have you visited other communities that you prefer over your own? What prevents you from moving? I would love to hear about other places around the country (and even outside of the country) and how you and/or your family arrived or chose your place of residence. Meanwhile, I'd better get back to work!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

On a recent Flickr hunt to find a specific photo taken several years ago, I came to a conclusion that I hadn't realized until the evidence was right in front of me. Apparently, I have a "spot" in which I like to stop to take photos while out riding. I'm sure it's not as uncommon as it may initially have seemed to me, but I found it interesting that with nearly every bicycle I've owned (that wasn't used only as an around-town bicycle), I have stopped to take a photo at some point in almost the exact same location.
This photo originally stood out because everything seemed so green for the time of year.
It could be proximity to home (the location is only about 8mi/13km away), making it an easy stop off spot on most routes, or perhaps it's simply that I am drawn to something in that particular area that causes me to veer off and stop. I tend to shy away from routine, so it rather surprised me that I have developed an unconscious but regular habit of stopping in this spot - for whatever reason seems to grab me in the moment.
When I came upon this picture of the Velo Orange, I realized it was the same spot I'd stop with the Crown Jewel above to take a photo.
I suppose it's true of many things in life though. It's easy to develop routines without even realizing it's taking place. The older I get, the more I realize it's a part of life and unless I remain vigilant and aware, I can easily fall into habits - whether they are positive, negative, or neutral. Sometimes though, I cannot help but wonder if routine is really so bad.
The water was disappearing from the lake in this picture, but it is, once again, the same spot I'd stopped for so many other photos.
With Thanksgiving upon us, I understand that it is the start of the holiday season for us in the United States. Some look forward to it with great anticipation, while others dread these final weeks of the year for a variety of reasons. I think most of us have traditions or routines that we expect during this season though, and I find myself very aware of my own expectations and habits.
This looks like a different location, but it's actually just a few feet around the corner from the same spots photographed above.
Today, for example, I baked pies in anticipation of Thanksgiving. This year, it was decided that pumpkin and apple were the flavors of choice. We, in our household, do not have a "usual" for this holiday, with the exceptions of making a few homemade pies and having a good workout at some point in the day. I have always enjoyed that our tradition is non-traditional, but it seems that we have still managed to find ways to sneak the expected into our routine.
Not the pretties of apple pies, but it smells good! :)
It has reached a point today that our non-traditional drill has become the tradition and routine of our home, so, even trying to bypass the expected habits we have inadvertently created our own, making a different-from-some-others holiday, yet still somehow routine. It may not be the same as others will celebrate, but I love our developed-over-the-years traditions, and I look forward to getting on a bicycle at some point during the day, even if it's just to wander the unusually empty roads.

Wherever your Thanksgiving finds you, and whatever traditions (or not) you may have, I hope you find enjoyment and peace and that you are able to celebrate, if only for a few minutes, on a bicycle. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours from the Endless Velo Love household!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Flung from a Bicycle

Recently, both Sam and I have struggled to find time to do much of anything outside of daily requirements. While Sam usually takes his bicycle to work (and occasionally rides to work though it's a bit far, but doable if planned), lunch time riding has become a necessity in order to keep his cycling legs. He's able to get in 20-ish miles during his break and not have concerns about riding in the dark when he arrives home.

I am always a bit anxious about Sam's rides because of the amount of motorized traffic on the roads surrounding his work location and the lack of sufficient shoulders or bike lanes to use. He has made his peace with the situation and doesn't seem to mind it, but has told me on more than one occasion about close-call situations with drivers. I'm always thankful that he's paying attention, but in the back of my mind, I cannot help but be concerned that one moment of inattentiveness could result in his injury.

On one of his work rides recently, Sam was pedaling at about 25mph/40kph when he was abruptly thrown from his bicycle.
Thankfully, grass was there to somewhat cushion Sam's tumble... after which he skidded across the sidewalk below.
He felt a bump and then his tire hit the curb while he went over the handlebars and (thankfully) onto some grass, after which he skidded across a sidewalk on his right shoulder.

As he described the tale upon his return home, he assured me that no one had hit him, but when he went to check the road to see what had happened, he noticed that there was a large chunk of asphalt sitting on top of the asphalt that he simply hadn't seen while riding on the road. 
Although it is a small bit of crumbled cement pictured here, the rubble was actually a large chunk when it was hit.
The thinner tires of the bicycle just weren't able to kick the debris out of the way, which resulted in the above debacle.

The next morning, Sam was concerned that he had possibly broken something, so he went in for x-rays and an exam and was told that nothing was fractured (again, thankfully), but he had partially torn some of the muscle around his shoulder. He was and still is quite sore, but he will heal and be back on the roads again without much delay.

What troubled me most about this tale was another matter that has been left out thus far. As Sam recounted his story to me, he mentioned that another cyclist had been riding not far behind him, certainly close enough to have witnessed the scene that had just transpired. But, instead of stopping to help or even to ask a quick, 'Are you okay?' the other rider opted to just pedal by without a word.

I have always felt a certain unspoken camaraderie among other people on bicycles. Knowing that we on bicycles are all at a disadvantage when it comes to direct contact with 2-ton motorized machines and often insufficient roadway for riding, I cannot imagine watching the above scenario play out in front of me and then pedaling away as if nothing had transpired. True, Sam was not hit by anyone, but the other rider must have watched as a body was flung from his bike and skidded across the sidewalk.

To turn a blind eye and leave without a word is reprehensible. Even if I had been driving a car or walking by I would have stopped to check on the individual (for the record, there were no cars or pedestrians in the vicinity at the moment of impact). It's simply a basic human response though (or at least that's what I used to think) to check on an individual who is potentially injured. We don't abandon people who may be severely wounded or have head trauma on the side of the road. It doesn't matter if we have the ability to physically assist with a wound or not.

When I think about what could have happened to Sam, how severely he could have been injured, I become more than a little perturbed that another human could leave an injured person and think nothing of it. While I understand that riding during lunch hours is a common occurrence and often people are under time constraints to get back to their jobs, there is no excuse for not having some sort of interaction to ensure that Sam was well enough to get where he needed to go.

After the crash, Sam's front tire/tube had suffered from the impact, and he walked the bicycle the few miles back to his office. Surprisingly, other than the burst tube and no-longer-functional front tire, the bike escaped pretty unscathed. I was thankful that he was on a steel frame rather than his usual aluminium option because I'm not sure it would've withstood the impact as well, and may have caused even more harm to Sam in the process of the crash.

I suppose more than anything, this instance reminded me that we are all fragile. Although Sam came home from his hospital visit proclaiming that he is indestructible, I think he was actually lucky to have escaped an unfortunate mishap with an injury that will heal fairly quickly. I'd like to think that the lack of interaction from the other cyclist was a one-time occurrence, but I've witnessed other instances over the last year during which people on bicycles have ignored someone on the side of the road and I am hoping this is not a trend for the future.

What about you? Have you ever witnessed an accident involving someone else on a bicycle? Did you stop or proceed on? Have you ever been injured while riding? Did anyone stop to check on your well being?