Monday, October 12, 2015

RME Battle the Bear

Way back in the early part of the year, Sam had been looking for local(ish) races as training for participation in the Leadville Trail 100 MTB. Because he knew at the end of summer last year that he'd be entering Leadville again this year, he was trying to get a jump on some rides that might help. He came across the Rocky Mountain Endurance series and the Battle the Bear race that was scheduled for spring time, but just as he was preparing to sign up we received a lot of rain which flooded and muddied local trails.

At that point, organizers decided to cancel or postpone the ride (depending on what became of weather and ground conditions). When Sam realized it had been rescheduled for early October, he decided to go for it, even though it wouldn't be training for Leadville as he'd originally hoped. Instead, it would act as kind of season closer, of sorts.

I had assumed that he'd go alone to the race because (at least compared to other endurance races he's done) this one is fairly short distance-wise, and only about an hour and a half from home. Additionally, it's a lap race, so he'd be coming back around to aid every 10 miles, so I kind of figured I'd just be a useless body standing around for no real reason.

But, he requested my presence, so I ended up standing at the start/finish line watching riders come around each lap. The announcer was actually fairly entertaining, so that helped with keeping the watchers somewhat energized, and there wasn't too large a crowd riding so it was pretty easy to spot specific riders as they came through.

Rather than boring you with my stories of self-entertainment while waiting for Sam, I figured it would probably be more entertaining to hear his side of matters [Hint: I do a lot of jumping jacks when it's cold to keep warm or I attempt to lure strangers into conversation when it's not so cold], so here is his take on another new-to-him endurance ride.

Why do I do these random end-of-season things?

I had originally planned to participate in the RME series Battle the Bear race in May, but it had been rained out. My mom found and reminded me that they'd rescheduled for October 4, and I reluctantly registered for the event - and then quickly forgot about it.
The weather and a small portion of the course
Battle the Bear was supposed to be the second race in the RME series of 4 races. It was originally a 6-lap, 60-mile race with about 800 feet of climbing each lap; however, they ended up shortening it due to the change of schedule to a 5-lap, 50-mile race.

The week prior I hadn't tapered or really rested. I was viewing this event as a season closer and an opportunity to test out my "new geared" bike, and to get it dialed in just the way I wanted.

The park was a good venue that was clean with nice people running the show, but it was pretty quiet. There wasn't the buzzing that has been typical around the Leadville series I've been more involved with riding.

We arrived plenty early. [G.E.'s note: Much to my dismay - both because I missed out on sleep and I don't do well standing around for too long a time.] I checked in, got my designation and my AGE marked on my left calf. This was a strange thing to me. I don't really want to know the age of everyone because then I KNOW that I'm competing against them directly.

It was cool outside and very overcast, and it would stay this way all day. [G.E.'s note: It was very cold, I'd say. Maybe not for Colorado winter, but certainly compared to the weather we'd been having.]

An hour passed and it was time to get setup and ready to ride with the Endurance group. [G.E.'s note: This particular series has different categories and ride lengths that starts with the Endurance group, then the XC group, Appetizer, and finally juniors with each division riding fewer miles on the course.] The Endurance group started with the single speeds, the pros, and then in age group waves starting with the youngest and heading to the oldest. I'm getting older for these races, so I waited a bit to get going, although they did start each group fairly close together with all groups headed out in under 15 minutes from the start.
The pros starting their first lap
I didn't think that I would be caught in such a fast event. Whoa, did they start and maintain quick speeds. I spent the entire first lap getting passed over and over again, and I couldn't keep my eyes off the "calf markings," and realizing how many were passing me. The majority of the course was comprised of single track with a small amount of wooded area, a stretch of sand, a public park, a dirt path on the side of the road, two water crossings and three climbs - one very small one, one steep and short, and one reasonably long and steep climb right toward the end of the laps.
Lap 1
I'm dying. I'm convinced of it. I found myself caught up chasing a group. I have no idea why I do this, but it seems to be consistent whether riding or running. I nearly blew out my lungs the first half of lap one. The first half felt like a gradual climb until the half way point, after which there's some up and down. At about mile 7.5 there's a 1.5 mile climb that is 4%+ grade, and in between everything were many, many goat heads, some sandy points and a water crossing in the last half-mile stretch of the course that continued to get deeper throughout the race.

At the end of this lap, I was not feeling well, but I stuck to my plan and didn't stop to re-fuel as I came around to start lap two. I had all the GU I needed and I was sipping my water/energy drink mix while riding, so G.E.'s attempt to hand off a fresh bottle went unrewarded as I went on to the second lap. [G.E.'s note: I think I'm getting better at the hand-off though - even if you don't need/want it.]

Lap 2
Someway, somehow, I actually felt good. Everyone who was going to pass me had gone by and I was with racers going similar speeds and who would likely have similar finish times. One in particular was stationed about 50 yards in front of me for most of the race. I would refer to him as my "pee buddy." We'd actually had a conversation at the porta-john prior to the race start, hence the nickname. And I wonder why I don't have friends. Anyway, the lap was going well.

I felt good and I was putting up consistent speeds and starting to get used to where everything was on the course.

What I am not used to riding is a suspension fork. Normally I ride with a rigid fork on my single speed and I found that the ride felt squirrely the entire time with the added cushion. I'm considering dropping the squish because it didn't make my hands feel much better.

At the end of lap two, I stopped briefly, didn't say much, [G.E.'s note: Nor would I expect you to - you're racing!] swigged the rest of my bottle and swapped for a fresh one.
Lap 3
So, I'm feeling pretty good, chasing "pee buddy," and maneuvering better as each lap goes by. At this point, I could anticipate what was coming next, how to handle it and so on. It was actually kind of nice and I was thinking that I wish the race were a bit longer.

I had not flatted like many others had (as I would hear later) [G.E.'s note: The announcer had made several comments about the course having a ton of goat heads and stated that a few who were expected to win ended up dealing with flats because of these darn thorns.], the bike was doing great, and I had grown somewhat used to the squishy front end.

As the lap wrapped up, I was getting tired, but feeling positive with just two laps to go.

Lap 4
Half way through this lap, I started to get the I-don't-want-to-do-this-anymore feeling. I was starting to drag (not bonk - I actually never bonked). It was just the reality of realizing that there was still 15 miles to go and it's all going to look the same as what I've just ridden.

This time, chasing him up the big climb, at mile 7.5 I caught "pee buddy." He had tapped out while climbing and just pulled over.

Sadly, by this point I was being lapped by guys with the "P" written on their calves, and the demoralizing part of the race was back. Once or twice I pulled over to just allow the pros to pass on climbs. Yes, it slowed me down a bit, but I didn't care because I knew I wasn't going to come close to winning with such a swiftly moving group. [G.E.s note: They were a really fast moving group! The professionals were actually finishing before many had even completed their third lap.]

Lap four was coming to an end, and I was tired. But, at least there was only one lap left. I stopped briefly one more time to re-load water and I was off for the final round.
Lap 5
I happen to hear the announcer talking about the woman riding through the lap with me, who is a local Cross champ. I decided I would chase her and that would probably put me in a pretty good position to finish.

She was fast, but not crazy fast. Through the first four miles of the final lap, I stuck within 40 yards of her.... and then, we came to the small first water crossing.

There was a slower rider coming up. The Cross racer was prepared and passed the slower rider on the inside of the mud hole, but I wasn't close enough to make it by. So, the slower rider proceeded to sit in front of me for the next half mile so that I couldn't get around.

Finally, he bonked out, but it was too late at mile five for me to catch my rabbit.

I pushed hard up the last climbs and felt decent ascending up the final climb at mile 7.5. As I started to head down the last descent, I took a peek at my front tire. I was getting my first flat on a mountain bike in three years! I was not happy. At this point, I was hoping it would be a slow enough leak to get me through the last mile of the race. But, as I descended, things were not looking good.

With about a half mile left in the race, I had to stop and make some sort of fix. Using my CO2 cartridge seemed like the quickest fix because it would take a bit of time to swap the tube or patch it on the race course and I was almost finished. I still probably killed about three minutes here, but I was back in business.

I rolled through the now three-foot deep water crossing and right into the finish... and for some reason, kept pedaling. [G.E.'s note: It was rather amusing because the announcer said, "Dude! You're done. You can stop pedaling now!" I think Sam was just getting his second wind and was ready to go for another lap. :)] The announcer made a comment about stopping, but I'm not sure why I kept going.
The Finish
04:06:XX was my finish time. It was pretty fast given my recent history, lack of training, and so on, though certainly not anywhere close to finishing with the fastest riders. I averaged over 12 mph and got my first MTB flat in quite awhile.

It was a fun day. It didn't have the enthusiasm of the Leadville series, and people were less prone to chit-chat, but perhaps that was because it was a "make-up" race and the day had been super gloomy throughout?

I would consider doing this one again, and possibly the whole series of races next year. The registration costs were reasonable, it was a distance that is easily traveled from home the morning of the race, and it was pretty fun.

Maybe I'll even be fast someday!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

A Bicycle Highway

Just a quick reminder about the upcoming 100 Miles of Nowhere, and more importantly a reminder to get your donations in (be they cash, goods, or your time volunteering). Donations have been coming in, but I want you to know there's still time.
*Image found here
Online monetary donations to the OUR Center can be made here
Clothing/Household items can be dropped off at 50 E. Rogers Rd
Food donations are taken in at 250 3rd Ave
Cash donations/gift certificates are received at 303 Atwood St
Child care items may be dropped at 501 5th Ave --*Please note they cannot accept any toys, but they can accept cash donations at this address as well

(All of these locations makes it easy to see why the new center being built is definitely needed)

As for our 100 Miles of Nowhere ride itself, it's slated for Sunday, October 11, but has a small chance of getting postponed to the weekend following due to some circumstances that may affect our abilities that particular day (not weather, surprisingly - as it's supposed to be one of the warmest/sunniest days locally).

Whatever happens, the ride is taking place and if you'd like to do your own, feel free to complete it on any day that makes sense for you. If you don't want to participate in the ride, please still take a moment to donate. Information is available via the links above (in case you missed them), or donate to your own local cause that you believe is in need -- either way, please let me know about your donation as I'm attempting to keep a tally of all the donations being made.

Okay, enough about that for now.

One other reminder, in case you've yet to be made aware, Coffeeneuring is officially under way. If you missed the first weekend, never fear, there is still time to participate. In quick summary, your challenge is simply to ride to seven different locations for coffee (or other bikey-type beverage). If you'd like the official rules and a more detailed explanation, you can find that here.
This may be one of my favorite photos thus far with Coffeeneuring.

I myself am not drinking coffee during the challenge after a failed experiment with just a very small amount while my brother-currently-living-in-Australia was visiting a few weeks ago. I swear, there must be higher concentrations of caffeine in coffee because it did not go well for me (I was jittery for a good 24 hours after only about 1/4 of my 10 oz cup). However, I am still riding along and will figure out a suitable beverage at each stop (hopefully something beyond water, which was the choice at our stop over the weekend).

A digression regarding my intolerance to caffeine (because I can't help myself).

When I was in college (the first time), I had two jobs and was going to school full time. To make matters worse, I was dating a guy who lived over 300 miles from my location. One weekend, I only had to work one of my jobs and as I was leaving work on Sunday made the decision to drive up and see him. Because I had about 15 hours to get there, see him, and turn around and come home, I was struggling to stay awake on my return drive home.

So, I did what seemed reasonable at the time and pulled off to get some coffee at a 7-Eleven/Quick-mart type of store. While there, I decided to also pick up some caffeine pills for an added boost to get me back in time. I read the directions, took one capsule and got on the road.

As I was driving, I continued to feel overly sleepy, so I took another. About 10 minutes later, I still wasn't feeling anything, so I took two more. And, because yours truly isn't the brightest person on the planet, then popped another for good measure (you know, because they "weren't working").

About 30 minutes later, I thought I was going to die. My heart was pounding out my chest and I didn't seem to be able to blink. As I continued down the road, things got worse. I started sweating profusely and then got the chills so bad that no amount of heat seemed to help. I was convinced that I was not going to make it back home alive.

As I pulled into the parking lot at work and went to my desk, my supervisor immediately took notice of my state of being and asked me what had happened (thankfully, she was not the judgmental sort, but rather more of a concerned mother type). I explained as best I could because at this point I must've sounded drunk as I couldn't form sentences very well. She offered to take me to the hospital (I didn't think that was necessary - or probably more that I was embarrassed and didn't want to explain what I'd done to myself), so instead I went home, drank about a gallon of water and attempted to exercise the caffeine out of my body.

I swore that I would never over-indulge in coffee or caffeine again after that because it pretty well scared me (almost literally) to death.

Prior to that incident, I used to drink a fair amount of coffee, and while it helped keep me awake on my overnight shifts, I'd never experienced anything like this over-caffeinated experience. After that incident, I've had great difficulty with caffeine, particularly from coffee for some reason.

End of digression.

There's been some recent chatter regarding the removal of a safe bike lane in Boulder. Here's one of the recent tweets about the removal:
It's difficult to hear, read, or experience the removal of a safer bike lane, and particularly with this one as it's 1) coming from Boulder, a community that I often ride through or to as a destination, and 2) because Boulder is known for its bike-friendliness. There are definitely some not-so-pleased cyclists in the area, and I'm not thrilled either.

I am trying to be someone who attempts to see both sides of the matter. The reason for the removal, or at least the stated reason for the removal, is that motorists have not appreciated losing a portion of their traveling lanes on a heavily utilized roadway. It likely adds to the issue that this is an election year for local reps... but, I won't get into the politics of all of that.

Instead, what I'd rather focus on is an addition of fantastic bikeways.

I had reason to travel down to the south Boulder/north Denver area recently and took notice of the soon-to-be-completed path that will connect Boulder to Denver via an 18-mile bike path.

This path has been in the works for some time and has been somewhat useable for about a year now (to my understanding), but I was so excited to see that it is nearing completion. I've been aware of the plan for quite awhile, but to see it coming to fruition was something of a treat!

Currently, there are about 11 miles completed, with the remainder scheduled for completion in 2016. I am excited about the connectedness taking place with this path, and while it's been stated that likely no one would use this to commute via bike from Boulder to Denver (or vice versa), I can see it becoming a possibility as the region continues to grow and motorized traffic becomes more of an issue.

This seems as though it could be almost labeled a bicycle highway, as it travels almost exactly (there are a few diversions along the way) the route of the motorized traffic along US 36. I've yet to personally pedal the route, but it's on my list of things to do, and I love that it creates a far more direct path from one region to another allowing for quicker and more efficient travel between cities.

What's going on in your area? Any news regarding bike paths or improvements? What changes would you like to see to the pathways you travel by bike?

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

100 Miles of Nowhere: Some Clarification, and Your Help with Route Selection

Part of the reason I wanted to do our own version of giving within the confines of Fat Cyclist's 100 Miles of Nowhere is that the last few months have caused me to lose some faith in humanity. I've had days during which I have truly believed that there is no one to count on when things get rough. There have also been (at least what seems to me) a larger number of horrific acts taking place across the world and I can't help but feel entirely helpless. This simply seems like an opportunity to do some small bit to help somewhere in some small way.

With that, a couple of items have been pointed out to me by some of you that I wanted to clarify or modify regarding the upcoming 100 Miles of Nowhere, so here we go.

The first bit that has elicited a small amount of confusion is about the ride itself. Even though Fat Cyclist is doing an event that asks those who sign up to ride 100 miles of his/her own, that was not our intended purpose. We simply wanted to have an opportunity to not only aid an organization that is important to Fatty's family (by our household signing up for his ride), but to also give to one of our local organizations while riding this event.

In other words, we will be using Fatty's 100 MoN as an opportunity to give to our community as well. Those who choose to donate are in no way required to do their own 100 mile ride to nowhere.

That said, if you would like to complete your own ride (either on the date we'll be riding or on a day that works for you), please feel free to do so. In fact, we'd be thrilled to know that others are riding along side us in their own cities! If you do ride your own 100 MoN, please let us know. It would be great to hear other stories from those around the country (world?) that are doing a ride of their own as well.

The point of clarification: If you donate, you do not have to ride your own 100 mile ride.

The second point I'd like to adjust is the actual donation recipient. It has been pointed out that some would like to donate, but would in some cases prefer to give to their own local organizations. During this time of year, there are so many requests for funds that it makes it challenging to parcel out to everyone and each request. With that said, I would still love for readers to donate to the OUR Center, but I completely understand those who'd like to help out some other organization instead.

Our thought from the start was simply to have an opportunity to give, and while I really do want to get funds to the OUR Center, I also have the ability to work with local companies and people to help raise funds for this cause. If you would rather donate to an organization you hold dear, that is all perfectly acceptable in my book as well.

If you've already donated to the OUR Center, thank you! Please don't feel as though it was a waste as this organization can definitely use the assistance and I know your donation will be put to good use. We simply wanted to offer an alternative as a few people have made similar comments/requests via email.

Sometimes money itself is too much of a strain on finances this time of year as well, so I wanted to say that I think donation of goods (food, clothing, furniture, etc) or a donation of time helping an organization is just as acceptable - and sometimes needed even more. So, if that is how you are able to give, please do, and I'd still love for you to let me know.

The point of modification: Feel free to donate to any organization of your choosing (be it cash, goods, or service), but please still send an email to let me know as I'd love to keep a tally of what is being donated.

Whether you choose to do your own 100 Miles of Nowhere ride or not, I hope that you will donate. As pointed out prior, any small amount is beneficial, and whether you give to our local selection or your own organization of choice, small amounts do add up.

Okay, now that those issues have been addressed ( and, of course, if you have other thoughts that need clarification, please feel free to let me know), I will move on to the actual date of our ride and ask you for some assistance with route selection.

Our intention is to ride our 100 MoN on Sunday, October 11. It was pretty much the only weekend day we could work out to devote entirely to a 100 mile ride (and believe me, it will be an all day event for us - mostly because of my lack of training) that didn't take us into (potentially) snowy day territory. So, In just about two weeks, we will be riding our route of choice. If for some reason the weather is just too horrible, we'll pick an alternate date, but things thus far are looking fairly good.

Speaking of the route, Sam and I have debated what/where we would like to travel for the ride. Initially, Sam wanted to find a location to simply circle round and round until we reach 100 miles. My objection to this is that we'd have to turn and ride the opposite direction at some point as I think we'd grow weary (and our tires would wear unevenly) if we just circled in the same direction for a very short distance.

The real problem with this is that any place we'd choose has stop signs or signals involved which would mean that we couldn't ever get to a point of picking up speed and we'd be contending with motorized traffic at every turn.

I myself am trying to avoid any real climbing because I am already aware that riding 100 miles in my current state is going to be a challenge all its own without adding in the extra demands of climbing.

Ultimately, we've narrowed our choices down to two possibilities and we were hoping for some input from you. What would you do, why would you choose one over the other, etc?

The first option:
*Image from Google Maps
Our multi-use path has been torn up for a couple of years now since local flooding took place. The city has worked to rebuild, but it's still in a state of disrepair and has many disconnected spots. This seemed like a good option to choose because we could simply travel back and forth on the trail until we reach 100 miles. Unfortunately, the longest segment we can create continuously is about 4 miles long. Which means we'll be traveling back and forth a number of times in order to reach 100 miles (which, by definition, is sort of the point of 100 miles of nowhere, I suppose).

What we like about this option is that there are many resources along the way if we get thirsty, hungry, tired, need facilities, etc. The route has some very small rolling hill sections, but is fairly flat. In addition, we'd have almost no contact with motorized traffic, and we're guessing, due to the time of year, there won't be many people on the trail at all, making it up to us how fast we travel. We know it still won't be fast (again, because of me), but at least it provides an opportunity to stretch out a bit before turning around.

There isn't a whole lot of down side to this option, except that one direction is pretty much a very, very slight descent while the other direction will be a very, very slight climb. Another potential downfall is that much of this route is open to the elements, and it often gets windy through the straightest portions of this route, so we could very well end up dealing with some unwanted challenges.

The second option:
*Image from Google maps w/modification
For our second choice, we thought about how ridiculous a route we could really make if we set our minds to it. Our neighborhood is set up in such a way that there are two blocks we can travel without meeting a stop sign (and a bunch of motorized traffic) with 10 separate streets set up with this same two block section (the street that isn't blued out has some pretty heavy traffic, so we'd avoid this one).

Initially, we considered simply riding up and down the same block until we reached 100 miles, but then decided that we'd likely prefer a little bit of a change. With this option, we would travel an up and back route on each of these two block sections that run approximately 0.2 miles. If we rode each of the 10 blocks 10 miles, we'd end up at our 100 mile goal. Of course, that ten miles is going to add up to somewhere around 50 trips up and down each block.

What we like about this option is that it's pretty well out our front door and it's about as flat as any route could possibly be. It also makes it super easy to get home if we need a break, food, hydration, and so on. We like that it seems entirely ridiculous and if our neighbors don't already think we're insane, they will after this. I, personally, also like the fact that it would be really easy to switch out bikes if I become too uncomfortable and need a position change with a different bike. Knowing that I'm not trained for it, this seems like a good option.

One down side of this route is monotony. If we thought the 4 mile route would get dull, this will be the epitome of boring and routine.  Another potential challenge is dealing with local traffic. While these are side streets, some of them have a decent amount of traffic to contend with and traveling back and forth looking for cars and kids playing outside may not be ideal.  But, on the alternate side of things, these very short segments seem ideal for a 100 Miles of Nowhere challenge.

Which route would you choose for a 100 Miles of Nowhere ride?

A) Option 1: Short multi-use trail path
B) Option 2: Short, repetitive segments
Poll Maker

If you were choosing between these two option, which one would you select? Why? Feel free to leave additional comments or if you're short on time, make your selection in the poll. We'll let you know the decision soon, or we may just go with popular opinion. And, of course, please don't forget to donate to the OUR Center, or to your organization of choice, and then let me know about it.

Friday, September 25, 2015

100 Miles of Nowhere: Giving Within Giving

If you are a fan of the Fat Cyclist blog, you may be aware that Elden has an annual event during which he encourages members of "Team Fatty" to sign up for a 100 Miles of Nowhere ride.

The event takes place in individual participants cities (which is the best part - no place to travel other than out your own front door). The purpose of the event is to raise money for Camp Kesem which provides youth who have a parent affected by cancer an opportunity to have a break from everything. It's an important organization to him because his family and his children have been affected by cancer.
Fatty's t-shirt for 100 Miles of Nowhere participants
*Image here
As I was reading his post this year, something stirred inside of me. I don't normally participate in this event because it takes place late in the year and I'm always certain that the ground will be covered in snow. In reality, the event can happen on any day, so it's honestly a pretty flimsy excuse, but it's worked for me thus far.

I'm also generally ill-equipped physically to cover 100 miles on a bicycle, making the idea of committing to this ride something of a challenge. Perhaps this excuse is less insubstantial, but frankly it's still not a great reason, particularly as the money is going to a good cause whether I complete the distance or not.

The last several months there has been a lot going on in the world. I have felt like I need to do something - something for myself and to help the world in some small way. I've had my own challenges with riding this year and have covered about 1/10 the distance I'd normally cover in the summer months (maybe less).

I've also been dealing with injuries that have provided ample time for me to whine about my inability to actually do much.

It's made for a difficult riding season and has frustrated me beyond belief. The longest distance I've traveled in one stint throughout 2015 was just under 40 miles... and that was back at Easter when Sam and I rode to Boulder to see what sort of stores might be open. Not exactly my most glorious year.

When registration came up for the 100 Miles of Nowhere, I thought maybe it would be an opportunity for me to get in a longer ride. One of the best parts is that the day could be of my choosing.

Still, I hesitated. I'm in no way prepared physically to take on this challenge by any means.

Then I wrestled internally with my lack of community involvement this year and the reality that I've not done much to help myself or anyone else. I do think it's important to give to our home area as well as to give to those afar who we may never actually meet in person. So, perhaps I could turn this 100 MoN into something mutually beneficial?

That got my wheels turning - the mental ones anyway.

"What if I did my own 100 Miles of Nowhere?" I said to Sam one night as he was trying desperately to go to sleep. "I mean, it wouldn't be nearly as grand or get the donations that Fatty's event will, but it could be an opportunity to involve our friends and community and hopefully get a little help for an organization here in town that would benefit." Sam nodded along, probably because he just wanted me to be quiet so he could go to sleep.

But, the idea was now rolling. I just needed to pick an organization (because there are many locally) that we'd want to help a bit this year. Plus, we'd have to figure out a route that went, well, nowhere.

Part of the 100 MoN is that it has no real destination. It's just a short path that the participant repeats over and over (and likely over) again. I didn't have a firm grasp on a route quite yet, but I had an idea of the organization I'd like to help locally.

The organization I want to help in some small way is the OUR Center. We have donated items to the center in the past, but I know that they do a lot of good locally in many forms. Some of the resources and assistance they provide to people in our city and the surrounding communities are:

- Temporary family shelter or housing assistance
- Rent/Utilities assistance
- Healthcare expenses assistance
- Local transportation
- Daily hot meals
- Groceries
- Clothing
- Child Care

I know that a large portion (larger than many non-profits) goes directly to client services and assistance, which is great because donations are getting to those who really need the help.

It is also an organization that speaks to me personally. As someone who in the past has lived without a home and food, if I can do a small bit to help someone else in a similar situation, why wouldn't I?
Rendering of the future OUR Center
*Image here
The OUR Center is in the midst of a huge building project. Their services are spread out over the area and a centralized, much larger facility is currently being constructed near the center of the city to offer services in one location. Not only do they need financial assistance to build this center, but also to continue to provide the services throughout our community.

After making the decision to attempt a fundraiser to help out the OUR Center, I also decided to sign Sam and me up for Fatty's 100 MoN, so it would be a kind of double benefit. Fatty gets our support for an organization he likes to help and hopefully we can help an organization locally that is important as well. Sounds like a win-win, I thought.

But, here is where I need some help from you. The point of this (other than challenging my body to do something it is absolutely, in no way prepared to do) is to help out a local organization, and this is where you come in.

You can help in two ways:

1) I would love it if you would take a moment to donate - in any amount - to the OUR Center. You don't need to send a check. You can make donations directly via their website here in any amount.

If you can spare $1, that is outstanding. If you can skip one morning coffee and donate that amount, I would be ecstatic. If you are able to give more, I would do (internal) somersaults (let's face it, there's no way I'm doing any flips, especially with current physical restrictions).

2) If you would be so kind to help spread the word to others, that will only help build the base of request number 1 above, and will aid in getting more to this organization.

Now, I know how things like this go. We see a request and think either that our one measly dollar isn't going to do anything to benefit anyone, or believe that enough others are giving that we don't need to. I have to tell you though, those one dollar donations add up.

Imagine if every person who saw this post donated just $1. One dollar. It doesn't sound like it would do much on its own, but imagine if 200 people donated that dollar, or 500 people or 1,000 people. What if they all gave $2? Then, imagine that each of those people asked just one other person to donate $1. What a great gift we could give to a resource always in need of help!

Please, don't ignore this request or think that your donation won't help. Every single amount will allow the OUR Center to offer just a bit more to those in need.

I very, very rarely ask for financial resources from those who read here, but I'm asking today that you take a moment, go to the donation page here and give an amount that won't put you into financial hardship. It will definitely help those in need.

Some information about the donation page...

The page allows you to specify where you'd like the funds to go within the organization. If you're particular, pick one of the categories, otherwise you can choose to allow the OUR Center to select where the funds are best put to use.

There is also a section down the page that allows donations to be left in memory or honor of someone. If you have a person in your life that you'd like to donate in memory of, please feel free to put in his/her name. If you don't, simply type in Endless Velo Love or G.E. of Endless Velo Love in the name box.

Whichever you choose, please also send me an email after your donation (endless velo love AT - take out the spaces and replace "at" with the symbol) with the amount you've donated so that I can keep a running tally of our cumulative donations (I'm also trying to get a local company - or companies - to sponsor dollar for dollar donations, so this will help provide a total of these dollars).

Remember: No amount is too small.

If you'd prefer I not use your name in any posts or social media, just let me know in the email and I promise not to do so... however, I wouldn't use identifying info beyond a first name (and perhaps a city or state) or a nickname/screen name, so there shouldn't be too much concern for anyone.

My plan is to ultimately share the total amount raised with all of you so that you know just how much good a little bit of giving can do.

I'm also debating a giveaway for those who donate. I have a few (bicycle-related) leftover items from holiday time giveaways last year. I was also pondering pulling a randomly drawn name from the list of those who donate. The winner would receive a small portrait painting (completed by yours truly) of a pet, friend or family member. Let me know what you think about this idea and what you'd have interest in potentially winning.

As for the date and route for the 100 MoN, that information will be forthcoming. I know the route will probably be a relatively short distance that gets repeated until we reach (hopefully) 100 miles, but we've yet to actually settle on a route, so that may change. The ride will all be completed within a single day (most likely sometime in mid-October - which means I don't have time to train - Argh)... which also means Sam may be dragging me with his bike by a rope by the time we've covered any kind of distance. I'm glad at least one of us is physically prepared to take this on.

As always, thank you for reading here, and please help by donating whatever amount you can and by spreading the word. Remember, your donations are tax-deductible and will be greatly appreciated!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Rivenoma or Somadell? Thoughts on a Soma San Marcos

It might seem that with the injuries I've been coddling since the start of the year that I have no business looking at adding bikes to the fold, but there has been reason to do some switching around - mostly due to those injuries, but also because I think I'm slowly coming to understand what it is that I actually want out of my bicycles (very slowly, apparently).

The Soma San Marcos has been on the market for a handful of years now. I recall seeing it when it first became news, but if I'm perfectly honest, I didn't give it a second thought at release time, and didn't think much about it over the years that passed either. I'd read a few reviews at various points and thought it sounded like a perfectly fine Rivendell design built for Soma's brand. I like Rivendell. I like Soma. I just didn't see that I had need for this particular bike.
Soma San Marcos
*Image from Soma
Over the last year and a half or so, my bike herd has changed. My needs, wants, and thoughts have morphed a bit and I've discovered that there's just a reality to the sort of riding I do. I may have want for super-speedy and light road bikes, but it hasn't been entirely practical for me between injuries and the mess I created with attempts at custom frames. It isn't that I won't ever have that type of bike, but for now, my needs and desires are in another place.

At the beginning of the year, as we plodded our way through winter house renovations, I was thinking a lot about bicycles and the types of rides I hoped to take this year. I had desire for a bike that would behave like a road bike in that it would be lighter than some of the other bikes I have, but would also allow for comfort over potentially long rides; a bike that would handle a 200-300k possibly without unnecessary discomfort.

As is the case for many, the problem came in trying to test this sort of bicycle out in person. My one very specific requirement for this bike was that it be steel. I don't have anything against other materials and have often enjoyed the ride on carbon and aluminium, but this was my own weird sticking point. Despite many available local shops, they simply don't stock the sort of bike I hoped to test. So, my shopping and browsing headed online.

I browsed possibilities from the fairly inexpensive to the ridiculously costly, but decided that I wanted something in a reasonable (to me) price range, especially knowing that I wouldn't be able to test it out first.

One bike that stood out to me as a possibility was the Velo Orange Pass Hunter. After reading a number of reviews of this bike, it sounded ideal for my purposes: comfortable, able to handle longer distances, but not too heavy so that a bit of speed could be gained.

After looking over the geometry charts, my biggest problem with the Pass Hunter right off the bat was sizing. The smallest frame available is what VO terms a 51cm. Now, depending on the manufacturer, design, geometry and so on, this size could potentially fit, but the fact that the seat tube measurement was 51cm concerned me. I do not have long legs and I am not considered tall. Still, there were many positive things to be said about this choice.

The second option I spent time researching was the Soma San Marcos. It is available in a 47cm, but because it was designed by Rivendell, I was well aware that the 47cm size would actually fit larger than the numerical size would indicate.

I quickly realized that each of these bikes had the potential to be too large, and for each this was my biggest concern.

So, as we rolled into spring time, I started looking more seriously at each of these possibilities. After lots of debating and looking into geometry and how I thought these would fit, I went for the Velo Orange Pass Hunter and crossed my fingers. My reasoning was that given the measurements, this option had the best opportunity to fit as I hoped.
This may be one of the only photos of the Pass Hunter while it was built up. Don't mind the ridiculously tall stack off the head tube, nor the multiple colors of spacers used (which should be an indicator of just how tall the stack really was - and this was after some of the steerer had been cut).
Needless to say and without going into all the detail at this moment, I wouldn't be writing about the San Marcos had the Pass Hunter worked out. Don't get me wrong, the Pass Hunter is a lovely bike, and for the right person, it could be the perfect choice, but for me the fit was off and I had to move on to something else.

Before getting into the details of the San Marcos build though, I just have to say that this has to be one of the most gorgeous frames for the price I have ever seen. It's frankly prettier than many other far more expensive frames too. It screams Rivendellian to anyone familiar with Grant's choices. Love him or hate him, he has a point of view when designing frames and the Soma San Marcos is no exception.
The inside of the chainstay has a subtle decal pointing to its origins.
**Apologies in advance - most of the shots of this beautiful bike aren't great and the bike was quite dirty when the photos were taken, so it isn't the best it can look, certainly... but, it does go to show that it is being ridden! :)
There was a recent change in color on the latest models of the San Marcos, going from what was called "Pearl Blue" to the current batch "Tiburon Blue." My understanding is that the pearl blue leaned more toward a turquoise blue color, whereas the tiburon is more a blue-grey color. It may not be the most important detail, but it is a way to distinguish earlier models from the 2015 batch.

From my point of view, though this may be apparent from what I've shared thus far, I find this to be a quite striking frame and fork. For several days it's been sitting (when not being ridden anyway) in a passageway from one area to another in our home and I cannot help but turn to look at it every time I pass by. It is simply eye-catching and photos are difficult to capture or represent this fully.
As for differences between a typical Rivendell frame and this Soma, there are some that are undeniable. The most apparent to me with just a quick look is the fork. The San Marcos does not have the same french-looking bend found on Rivendells, nor does it have the paint detailing on many Rivendell frames/forks. The more one looks, the more differences to be found. The lugs are fancier on Riv's higher end models, for example, but I have to remind myself that this is not a $2400 frame/fork, but rather around 1/3 of that cost (Honestly, how fancy a lug does a person need? Okay, for some perhaps this is of supreme importance, but let's keep in mind the cost vs beauty ratio here and recognize that this is quite a lovely frame, particularly for the cost, I'd say). Even with the different price tags, I think Soma has a beautiful frame, and to date I don't find it to be a compromise in any area that is of importance to me, or for this particular build.

Just a quick for-your-reference, and to provide a bit of background on my experience with these two companies, at various points I have owned three different models from Rivendell: a Betty Foy (their mixte, now going by the name Cheviot), an A. Homer Hilsen, and the Samuel Hillborne (that still remains as part of my personal bike fold). I have also owned a couple of Somas: the Buena Vista (their mixte) and the ES (Extra Smooth) model. I've additionally had opportunity to try a plethora of parts sold by both companies from handlebars to tires and many bits in between. All of this to say that I am by no means all-knowing in regard to either company, but I do have some experience riding parts and frames from each.

For the initial set up of the San Marcos, I tried out trekking/butterfly handlebars that have worked well on another bike. I thought it was actually quite nice with this set up. The ride was stable and the bars offered lots of hand positions. These handlebars provided options to be close or stretch out as needed. They were perhaps a little too upright though for my wants on this bike (meaning almost cruiser bike upright because of the length of the stem) and there were some issues with the shifting setup, so I knew it was probably time to try out a more "roadie" like build.

The original drivetrain was a tad odd (not completely un-workable, but not super either). In reality, using a setup that was trying to combine part road and part mountain was not the best combination. Parts simply were not communicating well together. So, instead, we opted to change things a bit, put drop bars on the bike as well as STI shifters just to help things move a bit smoother and to allow for a slightly more leaned position on the bike.
This is probably the most accurate photo of color (at least on my monitor & with the limited number of photos I've taken) that I've been able to achieve of the Tiburon Blue color which shows off those Riv lugs nicely.
Even though the bike is still pretty upright by road bike standards, what I like about this characteristic is that I'm able to easily use all the positions on the handlebars (and it definitely helps with the current injury issues). Should I, at some point in the future, desire a more leaned over position a shorter stem will accomplish just that.

One of my early rides out on the San Marcos I pedaled just over 20mi/32km and used the drop portion of the bars about half of the time. For me, this is a rarity because of hand and back injuries and just generally feeling uncomfortable on most bikes in that lower bar space. With the San Marcos, everything is comfortable, regardless of my hand position.

Of note at this point is that no matter how this bike has been set up (and there have been a few tweaks along the way, including stem height/reach, handlebars, shifting, etc), it was comfortable from first turn of the pedals. The Rivendell philosophy of being able to simply get on a bike and enjoy is evident in this frame. At no point after the first build up did I wonder whether or not the San Marcos would work for me - it just did.
This photo was taken prior to the change out to the Grand Bois Maes handlebars and was using an 80mm reach stem. The San Marcos rode fine with this setup, but I needed to try different handlebars due to the shape of these.
The build on this bike is nothing particularly fancy. I wanted to use pieces that were available in the parts bin as much as possible, so I didn't purposefully seek out much. Here is how it all breaks down though, for those with interest in such things:

Frame/fork: 47cm Soma San Marcos
Stem: Nitto Technomic 1" quill (tried 60, 70, and 80 mm length reach; currently using 60mm)
Brakes: Tektro R559 (I'm not in love with these as they don't seem to brake well on this bike, but they are at least something for now)
Crank: Velo Orange Grand Cru 110 fluted double (34, 48t), 165mm
Shifters: Shimano Ultegra Flight Deck
Rear Derailleur: Shimano Tiagra
Front Derailleru: SunTour XC
Cassette: 11-32 Shimano (I believe it's 105, but I could be mistaken)
Wheels: The most generic/inexpensive 650b set I could find in silver (I've used these before and they've been quite reliable, tough and are surprisingly light for a cost under $100 for the set) The rims are Weinmann Zac19 and the hubs are an unbranded alloy - I've been told they're a Mavic hub, but cannot swear to this
Tires: Soma New Xpress 650x38b in black (my white ones have disappeared into the parts abyss, but I'm sure they'll make an appearance again at some point)
Pedals: Started with VP's Thin Gripster, currently has Velo Orange Grand Cru Sabot
Saddle: Brooks B-17 Champion
Bottle Cages: King
Handlebars: A few different models, but currently testing out the Grand Bois Maes

The only items purchased specifically for this bike were the wheels (because we didn't have a full set of 650b wheels), headset, and the brakes. There is always an opportunity to upgrade later, but I wanted to test this with minimal initial investment. I also have to admit I haven't weighed the bike, so I'm not able to give an exact measurement in that regard. I will say that it feels light enough to fairly easily pick up and hang on the wall as needed, so I'm going to guess that it lands somewhere in the vicinity of 25 pounds (11.3 kg) or so.
Circled "ding" spot on the chainstay. If you look up to the above photo of the "Designed by" sticker, you can just see a very small indentation in the middle portion of the top of the chainstay.
I also got an outstanding deal on the frame... however, when it arrived, despite being brand new in packaging, there was a dent/bump on one of the chainstays. All in all, for the purchase price, I decided to make do with the minor imperfection. My suspicion is that it was a factory blem (thus the lower price - though it would've been nice to have this information up front - and I will note it wasn't purchased directly from Soma either), but the paint was not at all damaged, so I have no way of knowing with certainty whether damage was inflicted pre-paint or post.

I will add that we did try to set the San Marcos up with 700c wheels, just to see if they would work. Had I purchased a different set of brakes, I believe it's entirely possible that a set of 700c wheels and tires could work, though the frame in this size was not designed for this option. Additionally, the stand over for me is nearly at its maximum, so it would probably not be the best choice regardless.

There have been those who have criticized this frame stating that it doesn't know what it is or that it isn't an excellent bike for any particular purpose, but I think that is precisely what I enjoy about it. It isn't a race bike, and no one is likely to use it for sprinting. It also isn't a touring bike because it's not equipped to handle the load needed for this type of travel (though it does have eyelets for racks as desired), but it can take a small amount of weight in front, back, or both and would likely do fine on a very lightly loaded or fully supported tour.

The appreciation for this bike (at least to me) comes with its adaptability and ability to take a rider comfortably over distance. If I were looking for a race bike or one to keep up with speedy club rides, this would likely not be the choice, but since most of my riding is done solo and I can push (or not) as much as I choose, why wouldn't I want something that fits well and is comfortable?

Let it not be assumed though that this ride is slow. I've bested some of my own records on local segments with relative ease - even being injured - so if the rider is willing to push, the San Marcos is perfectly capable of working with the rider's abilities.

Sam has made reference more than once comparing the San Marcos to the A. Homer Hilsen. I had mentioned the idea of re-purchasing the Hilsen as I found it to be comfortable and practical on long distance, slightly slower speed rides. However, practicality took over and unless I was able to find a second hand frame, I wasn't willing to splurge at this juncture.

In some respects, I agree with Sam's comparison of these two frames, but there are differences in the feel between the two. I don't know if it's entirely realistic to compare the ride of a more expensive frame to one much less so (nor in trying to compare two bikes that are being ridden years apart from each other), but I find myself enjoying the San Marcos just as much as I did the Hilsen, and on some days, perhaps even more. That in itself is enough for me to think this frame was a great decision.
Current setup for the San Marcos
The San Marcos actually feels lighter than the former Hilsen to me, but this could merely be the fact that there has been a decent chunk of time (and bicycles ridden) in between the two and the reality that I've been riding, for the most part, far heavier bicycles more recently.

What I find interesting is that I have yet to take the San Marcos out over a distance my body is conditioned to handle and return feeling spent. I always know that I am ready to take on more if the need or want arises. This causes me to believe that my hope for a bike that will allow me to potentially cover brevet-type distances with relative ease is being found in the San Marcos (at least if I can get my body to cooperate and heal). At present testing, I believe the only limitation is my own body and its training (or lack thereof, as is the current situation). Which is actually rather exciting.

Time is probably the best indicator as to whether or not a bicycle is working well, and for that we will have to wait and see. However, the San Marcos and I are off to a fabulous start, having covered quite a few miles in our limited months together given the present circumstances. I look forward to seeing how this particular bike pans out and hopefully having the opportunity to ride some longer distances down the line.

Until then, I wanted to share somewhat early impressions of this bicycle. I think I was more surprised by this bike than I thought I would be. It's just easy to ride, and at the present that is all that I need and want. At some point, for those interested, I will take better photos and add them to the collection which can be found here.

If you've had experience with the San Marcos, I'd love to hear what you think of it and what you've liked (or not) about the bike/frame.

Monday, September 14, 2015

A One-Week Suburban Car-Light Experiment

"How can the auto insurance renewal be this much for six-months?" I questioned Sam as he'd just entered the house from work. I had opened the mail just moments before he'd arrived and I was appalled by the astronomical number to insure two vehicles for drivers who haven't had a ticket or accident in over 20 years.

"We're paying more to insure these two vehicles - one of the cars with liability coverage only - living in a relatively low-risk area, than I paid for my car when I was 21 and living in Los Angeles!" The renewal bill had cited some arbitrary and non-specific reasons for the increase in rates, but I just couldn't believe how much we were going to be paying.

I used to work in the auto insurance industry and I know how outraged drivers could get on the phone with me when they'd receive their bills. Now, here we were on the receiving end of one of these notices and I was not happy. Sam had offered to call our agent and see if there's anything she could do, but I knew that she was not in control of the rates and the only thing she'd likely do would be to shop other possibilities that would likely come up even higher (again, this is experience talking).

So, we sat chatting about the ever-increasing rates, and tried to think of some reasonable (and a few unreasonable) solutions. Yes, we could shop other rates (and we have done just that nearly every time the bill has come, only to discover that we'd actually be paying even higher premiums), but there had to be something we could do.

For those who have been reading here for awhile, you may recall a post written as I was approaching the end of my second (err, I guess actually third) round of post-secondary education a few years back. At that point, I thought we were going to be finding ourselves as a single-car family. We were on our way to selling our second vehicle and I was certain that things were looking brighter.
*image found here
Ultimately, we did sell the second car, eliminating that car payment, but we were not long at all without a second car. In fact, it was just about instantaneous that a second car came back into our lives. I have no one to blame but myself. Sam was entirely on board with the one-car household, but I was having reservations. I was creating possible (though highly improbable) scenarios during which we would need to have two motorized vehicles. I'll admit, I was really rather terrified of not having the back up of a second vehicle in the house.

All of this was nearly four years ago. We hadn't gone back to having two car payments, but we also haven't eliminated the second car from our home. Owning the alternate car, regardless of whether we pay a monthly amount to the bank for it, is still a second vehicle. It requires gas (assuming it's driven - which it is), maintenance, potential repairs (it's 25 years old), insurance and annual tags. It's a reliable vehicle that hasn't given us problems, but it still costs money to operate and it will, eventually, need major mechanical assistance.

As we sat talking through our frustration with the increase in auto insurance, we began again with the possibility of removing the second vehicle. There was (is) a part of me that still had that sinking feeling about the idea of giving up the perceived security of the secondary vehicle, but I had been reading about some others experiences with going to a one-car family and I realized that we could give it a try without actually selling off the car.

Instead, I suggested a one-week experiment to see how things would go. I realize a single week is not the ultimate test of this scenario, but I figured it would be enough for the random things that come up to happen and for me to determine if I really could live within this pictured future possibility.

With that, we set out to plan our one-week experiment, pretending that the other car had disappeared from our lives.

A suggestion I'd read about prior to all of this was that one of the people in the household should commit to being the 90% person. Meaning that this person is agreeing that s/he will be the one who primarily gets around on foot, by bicycle or via public transportation.

There was a small amount of debate over which of us should be that individual. Sam thought it should be him because he doesn't need the car while at work. He merely drives it to and from and then it sits all day.

In truth, I thought I should be the 90% person because I work from home, I don't have a ton of errands to run very frequently, and even though the thought of packed up snow is a little scary to me in the coming winter months, I figured I would find a way to get where I need/want to when the time arrives. After all, necessity is the mother of all invention, right?

And so, our one week experiment began. Sam drove to work and I committed to only driving if we were both home and only one vehicle was being used.

We couldn't have picked a better weather week, which was both good and bad. I appreciated that I didn't have to deal with ice (it's just not cold enough for that yet) or even rain (which I actually don't mind when riding), but instead we had pleasantly warm days in the forecast.

I also had no real plans for anything outside of the house, which meant this experiment might not actually be realistic... which made me question whether it was even worth trying.

Soon however, what appeared to be the start of a week spent at home turned into one that had me out and about quite regularly. I had a few meetings set up, I had a doctors appointment already on the books, a couple visits to the bank, and of course the random grocery and other needs that popped up throughout the week.

What I realized as I was biking to each of these meetings and appointments is that there was nothing different taking place than what normally transpires. If I'm meeting up with someone in town, I bike there. If I have an appointment (doctor or otherwise), I ride my bike. Just because there is a motorized vehicle at my disposal doesn't mean that I'm using it constantly. It was actually reassuring to know that this one-week experiment had really been something taking place for many years, and was an excellent reminder that I actually enjoy biking to my destinations.

During the week, I did have an unanticipated box that needed to be dropped off for shipment. Normally, I don't have a problem biking a package to a carrier, but this box was particularly large and unwieldy and instead of attempting to strap it down in the bike trailer and maneuver my way across town, I asked Sam to drop it for me on his way to or from work. Additionally, there is always the option to simply schedule a pick up from the carrier, rather than dropping the package myself.

Everything that needed to be done during the week was completed, and shockingly it all happened without too much disruption to normal schedules and routines.

Of course, when icy weather hits, I know there would be other challenges. I see bike commuters who ride every day (and even know a couple personally) regardless of the weather, but I am a klutz and I don't do well on ice. Snow is one thing, slick and packed ice is quite another for me. Despite our city claiming that there are roads that have cleared bike lanes every snow day, I have found the opposite to be reality. I don't think it would be impossible to overcome the winter-weather obstacles, but for me personally, I know from experience that it does mean fewer trips by bike during the icy parts of the year.

We also have two dogs. Two larger dogs - a Labrador and a Golden Retriever. Not the biggest of pets, certainly, but between the two of them they add about 140 lbs/63.5 kg to a ride should I have need or want to take them anywhere - but these days and moments do arise. It also means buying or constructing a bike or trailer (or having changeable options on the current trailer) that allows them both to fit comfortably. Again, it's not impossible, but it does require advanced planning and preparation, and likely extra funds to get everything set up.

With some planning, we could also avoid spending any extra on bikes or accessories though. In reality, if I needed use of the car, Sam could fairly easily take public transportation or even bike to work (his travel distance is about 19 mi/30.5 km one-way, so he'd probably skip the gym and use transportation as his workout), and there's also the option to have me drop him at work and he could bike the one way distance home or take the bus.

The key, from what I've learned in this, is that planning is important. Short trips repeatedly throughout the day don't work as easily when a car isn't at the ready, but it's also easy to see how many potential trips could be taken by car when I'm not really thinking things through. If I know I need to go to the post office, the grocery store, pick up dog food, and I have a meeting, when riding I seem to be much better about time management and arranging things so they fall in line with completion one after another. If I have an automobile at my disposal, it's a lot easier to forget about better or more careful planning.

I think time is sometimes a poor excuse for not riding as well. It is true that on longer distances a car will win just about every time (assuming that there isn't a backlog of traffic on the roads), but for short-distance needs (let's say under a few miles), two wheels really don't take much time out of the day, and parking spots can often be easier to find on a bike than in a motorized vehicle. I am guilty of often allowing far too much time to ride a distance than I really need, but getting more accustomed to how fast one travels really does help cut down on lost minutes (or hours if you're particularly worried) in a day. In reality, it can actually be far more convenient to ride a bike than to drive a car.

Bike maintenance and repair is important to keep up on as well, particularly when it is the main mode of transportation. Having reliable tires is super important to me personally (I don't want to deal with flats around town when I'm dressed for an event or on my way to a meeting), but there are other parts that need maintenance and checking too. Chains need regular lubing and they don't last forever. Bikes should be tuned on a regular schedule too. Riding and realizing that the derailleur isn't shifting properly (or won't shift at all) likely isn't something a rider wants to deal with in a suit or skirt on the side of the road. Even having a back up bike to use is nice insurance for those times when I'm in a hurry and don't have time to deal with last minute issues too.

I will admit that this may not be the ideal situation for everyone. We have some things that make this potentially work for us that others may not. The first of these items is that I don't have to leave the house very often. Working from home allows me the opportunity to focus entirely on work, if I choose, rather than venturing out; but we've also grown used to the reality that I have a flexible schedule, which means that if something can or needs to be done during the week, I am likely the one to complete it. I fully admit that not everyone has this sort of flexibility, and that for some, it may actually mean that the person at home may be the individual who requires the automobile over the one commuting.

For many, there are two adults in the home who commute to a job every day. In this case, it may mean that one takes public transportation or bikes to work rather than using a car. It also means figuring out who that individual will be or deciding some sort of predetermined schedule each week.

Our city is set up fairly conveniently for a suburban location, and we live about as centrally in our town as one could. While not many destinations are walkable from home, most of what we need in our household is located within a few miles. Grocery stores, gyms, banks, doctors, post office, shopping, and so on are all reasonably reached by bicycle, and sometimes even on foot. The furthest one-way distance I would need to travel regularly is approximately 4 miles, which is pretty easily bike-able for many. Additionally, we have nearby cities that could be reached by bicycle or public transportation when needed (they range from 15-20 mi/24-32km in distance).

We also don't have children (at least not the two-legged, human variety). For some, this may bring another aspect to consider. While I believe encouraging children to ride to school, to activities, and to see friends should be encouraged, some may not feel confident on their own, particularly depending on the child's age and skill level. It may mean riding with him/her to his/her destination until s/he is comfortable on their own, or possibly that the adult transporting the kids uses the motorized transportation with more regularity than the other.

This experiment left me with much to consider. We can afford both of our vehicles: the fuel, insurance, tags, and so on (even though we complain about it), but do we need two cars? I have to admit, it's a nice luxury to have a second motorized vehicle because there are days when I do need or want to leave town, and while biking longer distances is possible, there is also the reality that it takes a larger chunk of the day to get 15-20 mi/24-32 km by bicycle than it does to travel a few miles locally. There are options for this possibility too though, such as an electric bike or even covered electric bikes like this, but these require a significant initial investment as well - a cost that would not be covered simply by selling off our second, multi-decade old car.

At this point, I don't know if we will keep the second car or bid it farewell. Despite my real-world knowledge and experience and knowing that I will continue to make most of my travels by bicycle, there is a disturbing amount of comfort in knowing that a second car is available, whether I use it or not. On one hand, it's a nice back up plan, but on the other it feels a bit wasteful and unnecessary. I think the planned experiment was a good indicator that we could make this work if we choose, but it becomes a question of whether or not to truly move forward in this direction.

Do you live a car-free or car-light life? What type of city (rural, urban, suburban) do you live in? What has been your experience with using your own body power to get around (or public transportation)? If you aren't car-free or car-light, would you consider this as an option in your household? What ideas do you have for making this type of life realistic for you and your family?

Friday, September 4, 2015

Roadway Treasure

As someone who prefers an enjoyable chatting pace on a bicycle (whether anyone is with me or not), I find it interesting that there are times when I feel the need to push myself speed-wise for whatever reason.

There are moments when I do this to myself purposefully, intending from the start to go a particular distance in "x" amount of time. I think it's good, at least from time to time, to see what I am capable of accomplishing, otherwise I tend to always think that I am only capable of slow speeds.

Most of the time I am perfectly content to ride at my slug pace. I just find it more enjoyable to take things in on a bicycle than to race by everything, but on some of these trips, I find myself - often just for a brief moment - sparked by some outside happening to speed up. It could be a variety of triggers from an ill-behaved motorist to another cyclist far enough ahead of me that I think I can catch. Neither of these is necessarily always a motivator, but given the right set of circumstances, I can find myself in crush-it mode, wanting to out pedal anyone in my path.

A couple of weeks ago, I experienced one such moment. I was out on what was supposed to be a meandering ride, to test out some changes to a bike and just enjoy being in the outdoors. I had been perfectly content, pedaling along, singing a song (mostly in my head, but occasionally out loud), enjoying the ride. My pace was slow, but I really didn't have any concern about such things and instead wanted to get a good feel for some different bits on the bicycle I was riding. In fact, the Garmin was only attached to the handlebars because I wanted to know what distance I'd traveled with the tested parts.

At one point, I came to a junction on my path that would allow me to continue along on a bit longer journey or to turn in a direction to take me home. The day was running late and I had some other things to accomplish so I made the decision to head in the direction that would take me home quicker.

As I rode, I still had no concern about speed. My pace was comfortable and I was enjoying. No sooner was I thinking these thoughts when a gentleman on a race bike came tearing past me. On the right day, this may have been a motivator to get me to chase him (not that I would have caught him), but today, I was perfectly content. I smiled as he whipped by and I continued to move forward.

A couple of moments later, I could hear another cyclist coming up behind me. It was a different sound though. It wasn't the whirring of race wheels, but rather the sound of something perhaps a little clunkier, older, or in need of some TLC.

The sound was pretty close before I took notice because I was now pedaling beside motorists who were traveling at 60-65mph/96-105kph, but I could definitely hear that the person on a bicycle approaching was on a different sort of ride.

At this point, my pace had picked up. The road was flat and there was no need for me to pedal at a slower speed. When I looked down, the Garmin indicated I was traveling at about 19.5mph/31kph. As I looked up to the road in front of me, the bicycle I'd heard approaching came past quite swiftly.
*Image found here
It was in this moment that I started to giggle internally. The rider who was passing was wearing plain clothes (jeans and a short sleeved button down shirt, along with a wide-brimmed hat) riding, I would guess, a very late 60s to early 70s Schwinn, yellow in color, equipped with upright handlebars and what in a quick glance appeared to be fairly rusty original parts. It was also donning a rear rack with a roughly 13 gal, rubber receptacle attached to one side.

As the rider and his squeaky bicycle rolled by, I realized I simply couldn't allow him to pass me without putting in a bit more effort.

I picked up the pace, wanting partially to get a better look at this bike, but also realizing that it seemed a tad unacceptable that I was on a machine most would consider far better suited for this type of travel, and yet I had allowed him to roll by without much thought.

About 1/2 of a mile down the road, I caught up to him (which should also indicate how fast he was pedaling). I could see that he was spinning well, and I was frankly surprised he was able to keep up this sort of speed for such a stretch of road. I have ridden similar bikes and I know there's no human way I would have ever been consistently traveling these speeds. At this point, we were pedaling at around 25mph/40kph.

His wheels continued to squeak and the whole bike was making noise, but I was absolutely fascinated by this entire moment.

As I lagged behind him for a bit, I checked out the rusty wheels, the chain in need of lube, the paint bubbling in many places from the surface of a frame that had likely seen much better days. There was something about this entire situation that made me smile; it simply made me happy.

When I pedaled by, I knew it would be difficult to have a conversation because of all the motorized traffic beside us, but I felt the need to say something. "You have quite an efficient cadence going on that bike," is what came out of my mouth. I have no idea if he actually heard me or not, but he laughed a bit and smiled.

I continued on my journey, still several miles from home, with a huge, ridiculous smile on my face. I have no idea where the rider was headed or what he was doing that day, but he certainly seemed to be on a mission. And for me, what better bike-riding moment than an opportunity to see a bicycle some might discard being used not just for a quick jaunt to the corner store, but rather being utilized on a highway for longer distance needs.

What sort of cycling treasures have you found on the roadways?  Would or do you use a bicycle that others might see as unsuitable or not ideal for the type of riding you do? Feel free to share. As always, happy weekend riding to all (and a long weekend for those in the US!).