Monday, September 30, 2013

Errands

ANother way to say "errands" is "spend a bunch of money on crap you don't really need". Because of that I try to keep my running of "Errands" to a minimum and spend all my money on crap that I DO need when I "go to the store" which is subtly, but unquestionably different. As a non-errand runner I can not use my bike to run those errands that I don't run on, if you will. Well tonight I had two errands that actually had to be run! One, try to replace my broken bicycle light and two, get gas for the car so I could go to work tomorrow. Guess what I didn't take tonight either.....

Monday, September 16, 2013

Not a great year for the "first year of the rest of my life".

Last December I got sick. Real sick. The kind of sick where you are surprised and very grateful  to have gotten better and not died, like you thought that you were going to. As happens with many people in similar situations, I was filled with a renewed zest for life and couldn't wait to go out and conquer the world.

Sadly, my wife, my boss, my two kids and my mortgage broker all found out that I did not, in fact, die and it was back to the grind stone for me. In the process I rode my motorcycle very little. And by "very" I mean "not at all". I rode my bike only slightly more often. We went camping twice in a camp site and once in a back yard. I hiked about ten miles total and still haven't mounted that Epic Backpacking Expedition that I long for. We DID go on a longer-than-usual super family vacation that I wouldn't have traded for any thing. All in all though, as far as the whole "new lease on life" thing goes, it was a solid C effort at best. Now with school and activities and the autumn chill all descending on us there is scant chance that I will joy my d'vive any time before we get to an even numbered year. On 15 Dec. I will find a quiet place in the Berkshires and lay my head down in the cold. I'll reflect on having the chance to still be a husband and father and all the joy that I find in the simple act of watching my children. Then I'll start planning all my adventures that I WILL conquer. Next year. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

I Fred, therefore I am (Confessions of a Cat. VI Racing champion)

OK, first off, if I am stealing any thing from another, better known, bike blogger I'm sorry. His stuff is funny as shit and his words have become Xeroxed by the masses. Honestly, I think my thievery is in check as I have seen most of these words in a famous Bicycle Cartoon that I sued to read before he sold out to The Man and started charging for it. Having said that, lets precede with todays ramblings shall I.

Today I was able to escape on my 12 mile loop and was rudely forced to re-consider my status as Fastest Thing on the MUP. I came cruising around a corner, passing under a bridge next to the river that I would momentarily have to conquer to continue on my way when I saw: her. A girl. A heavilly armed girl, in a cyclely sort of way. She was a fit little thing, looking innocent, or at least benign, in her little white tank top and blond pony tail sitting on a bench, enjoying the view. There were two clues that she was not the helpless little girl that she might have otherwise been mistaken for. Firstly, there were the shorts. Cycling shorts to be specific. Not Gym or Yoga or Skort shorts, but full-on Bicycle Riding because I'm serious about ti Bike Shorts. The secondly thing was the bike that was propped up against the railing. It was a cute little white and baby-lue WSD thing. But it was serious, deadly serious. Like in a movie when the Evil Witch-Quen assumes the form of the Helpless Maiden. Just like that. I was sure to make a great show of huffing and puffing my way past her and was very friendly. I didn't want her see me as any sort of a threat or challenge. No way, no how. I escaped that encounter without loosing a single Hit Point and chug chugged over the bridge and descended into Yuppyville.

It wasn't long before i was lost in pondering the aerodynamic in-efficiency of my cycling jersey. This is due primarily tot he fact that it is not, in the strictest sense of the word a cycling jersey but a moisture-whicking t-shirt sort of affair that, being branded L.L. Bean, was designed for sitting around on the deck of your multi-million dollar Lake House in Maine and NOT, as I was using it, for Cycling. Or, it's due to the fact that it;s wrapped around 230 pounds of mush. On or the other and in any event, it was in this fog of introspection that I rounded the corner near my most favorite Train Station and I saw: Him. Just as She had struck me instantly as a danger, He struck me as an Opportunity. Wearing a polo shirt, kaki shorts and top-siders, he had his Old School Road bike, complete with milk-crate cargo-hauler and  was making his way away from the train station.

My initial intention was to Suck His Wheel because I was exhausted and mostly because I had never done it before. I assumed that being a Human Being on a Bicycle, he would be fitter and faster than me.   I was going to use that to my advantage and make myself  into his Pace Line and take a little rest. So, as I was busily forming the plan of my non-attack in my noggin I sailed smoothly and swiftly by him on the outside. I did what? Crap. Oh no! This was exactly the kind of thing that I had hopped to avoid. I had dropped the gauntlet on a real cyclist. I was doomed. He was going to roll me and smoke me. This was not going to be good and the light was changing to red! I had to escape. I charged p to the light and  looked both ways. There was no one coming either way! I punched it. I kept punching it all the way up to the next corner when I got to take a look back and realized that I had dropped him! Either than or he went the Other Way at the lights. Either way I was off the hook and Mr. Top-Siders was gone. I peddled on in bliss but about a mile later I realized what I had done! I had just competed in, and won, my first ever Cat 6 Commuter Race! I Was officially a Fred!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

My foot is too close to the ground!

I went for a ride today. Most of you wouldn't think it a long ride, just shy of 17 miles, but for me it was quite an accomplishment. It was the longest ride that I have ever done (as a overweight, middle aged adult: we did these kind of trips standing on our heads when we were kids). Also, of particular note, it was NOT done on a bike path, or series os paths as most of my longish rides are done on. It was gone on God-Honest hilly, windy roads! It took me through West Newbury and Groveland where I stopped and had a nice snack in  a beautiful park overlooking the construction of the new bridge linking to Haverhill.






Then I climbed out of the valley and took a left headed back toward the sea. It was along this road that, I think, I got my mojo back!

Now, some time ago, well over a year actually, I crashed my motorcycle. My tires, specifically my back tire, had a traction issue going around a corner and I high-sided. It hurt. I broke my leg. Ever since then I have lost the desire to do the thing that motorcycle riders enjoy more than any thing else on the planet: go fast around corners.

Well, today I found myself going way too fast on this hilly back-road to the coast when all of a sudden the ground dropped out in front of me and I dropped with it. I leaned deep into the first corner going I-don't-know-how-fast but it wasn't fast enough. I dropped it into the smallest cog there was an laid into it. I must have been going thirty or more when I banked my way out of that down-hill sweeper only to realize that neither the neither the hill, nor the corners stopped. I banked over hard to my left and that's when it hit me: I was riding near the limits of what I could ever do on a peddle bike, making a turn that I would be hesitant to take on my motorcycle these days and, even as my left knee is getting closer and closer to the ground.... I'm still peddling! Fuck! All I could think about was that left foot coming down after I banked it just that one inch too much. My foot was too close to the ground. But I couldn't stop! I needed the speed, I needed the centriffical force, the counter-steer, the
tilting horizon. I managed to collect my thoughts enough to get my damn left foot into the "up" position as I arced through the apex of the corner. The thrill was amazing, but short lived as there was a stop sign right in front of me at a blind intersection! I stayed stopped for an extra second or two to catch my breath and gather my thoughts.

Of course by then I realized that what I needed wasn't to be cornering on my peddle bike, but on my motorcycle. I had lost my fear of corners on an inappropriate vehicle at an inappropriate speed on a random day with no agenda other than trying to ride far, far for me. I peddled the rest of the way home. limping in through the last mile and collapsed on my front lawn. I looked lovingly over at where the motorcycle is parked and thought quietly to myself: "I can't wait".

Monday, August 12, 2013

Sunday afternoon ride. Distance can be deceiving

Distances, in a car, can be deceiving. The view out of the window can play tricks on you and make you think that the world is passing you by slower or quicker than you might think. Case in point: there is a long road leading out of town. If you follow it you go through fields and salt marsh. There are few large structures, indeed, few buildings of any kind. The road is long, wide and straight with an artificially low speed limit. It takes for EVER to drive down it. It has to be ten miles long!

This is the road that I set out on yesterday to lengthen my normal little loop. I received quite a shock the day before when I realized that riding the same distance up and down the hills climbing out of my river valley was much more difficult that tooling around the stitched-together Bike Path route that is wholly contained in the valley floor and, therefore, mostly flat. My plan was to widen my experiences by incorperating some more "real roads" into my tried and true route that I can easily measure my progress on by comparing time, pace and average speed. With this all in mind, I set out on that long lonely farm road.

It was glorious. I saw llamas grazing on a hillside and little streams and ponds that I hadn't noticed before. I saw the vast carpets of wildflowers covering hidden meadows that you can on;y glimpse  if you are traveling at 15 MPH and not 40 MPH. I saw birds and cows and all the little details of the farm fields. Once back into town I took a break at the train station.

Most cyclists around these parts seem to find their way to the Train Station, even when there is no train. Perhaps the Recreational riders come here because it is the terminus of the Rail Trail and when you ride the extra forty feet onto the platform itself you get to pass all the commuter bikes chained to the various racks and poles. Perhaps, on that platform, a recreational cyclist might even encounter some one arriving as part of a tour or on a "serious" ride. I know that to me, the Train Station is all this and more. I can't see myself riding around here without visiting it. It's as important as the Ice Cream stand, maybe more so!

The rest of the ride was, I'm afraid, anti-climatic. I weaved my way past the walkers and family bicycle gangs and dogs of all shapes and sizes. I was, on this day any way, the fastest thing on the MUP. By far. When I finally arrived back at my front door I checked the numbers. Four miles. I went through two EXTRA towns past all those fields and marshes and only got an extra FOUR miles out of the deal? What a gip! I can't wait to do it again! 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Allow me to indulge in a little Storytelling

Last Sunday Gary Fisher and I shot over to Georgetown State Forest to go for a little ride.
I haven't been over there often since they closed it to dirt bikes. What I was surprised to find was that, what trails haven't become overgrown, are just as rocky and treacherous on a MTB as the ever were on a DRZ! They are just as eroded and mud-holed as ever. I guess dirt doesn't really "grow back" now does it? The terrain was fairly challenging for my meager skills and I couldn't help but think how much fun I would have been having on a 29er.



video
So any way, I was peddling around and came out onto a paved road and I knew from hiking in the forest that if I followed the paved road around I would come across theBay Circuit Trail. The place were you enter the State Forest has the trail on either side. I went west and had to carry my bike up the steep esker. I got to the top and decided to shoot a little video of myself riding while I took a rest. Now, in this video you see me ride up and down the hill. Over the top of the hill, the path turns to the right and goes about 1/8 of a mile and then descends a steep grade to a beaver pond and stream. If you watch the trilling footage till the end you will see a guy coming down the trail a little behind me. Right at the very end of the video, as I am apologizing for randomly dumping  my bike on the trail while I was retreaving my camera, you can see a girl on a bike just entering the frame. "Good news to see them coming" I thought to myself. Sometimes the bridge over the stream falls into disrepair and seeing them let me know that the bridge must be in tact. After all, I had been lingering in the area for about 15 min or so and they did not come up after me.

Well, any astute reader has guessed the ending of this story already. The bridge was, in  fact, out. I chuckeled to myself as there is only one thing that I could think of that a guy and girl could be up to, in the middle of the woods, that would make them flee at the first sign of another person.



On a more practical note, having the bridge out meant that I couldn't keep going along my chosen route. I had to get back on the pavement and either go back the way that I came (the soldier in my abhors "coming in the way you went out) or going the long-ass way around the other side. All street. Gross. Let me tell you what it feels like to ride on a set of 2.1 Veloceraptors at 40PSI. Like walking on your knees though quicksand. I made it eventually, but I was pooped!


Upon my arrival back at the car park there were two crusty old mountainbikers tailgating, their multi-thousand dollar full-sus machines carelessly tossed on the gravel floor of the lot. I wanted to say something to them, to strike up a conversation, perhaps even strike up a friendship. I was scared though and the best that I could muster was a "Good Afternoon". It was 11 O'Clock in the morning. I went home. 

Being near the train station is interesting for a cyclist on the weekend.

First off, let me say that I do NOT consider myself a "Cyclist". I ride a bike. Those are two totally different things. I just couldn't think of a better way to describe how and why I found the defuse sites that I saw on out trip to the bile path so interesting! In addition to the various bikes that were chained up (poorly) at the station there was a nice wide path for my little guy to ride his balance bike on (and off of!) and then there was this:


Last weekend I took my little Junior Mountainbiker out on his little balance bike. He had an enjoyable time until he saw… The Train! Of course that was the end of the bike as he rushed over to see he big gray and purple commuter rail locomotive. There were a lot of peddlebikes and peddlebikers on the platform for a Sunday afternoon. One stood out to me. A scruff young man with some sort of bike that looked like a mountain bike from a hundred yards or so away. There was all kind of bags and panniers lashed to it and hung from it. I wondered where he was going  and where he had come from. I wondered what he was doing.

At firs the answer seems clear, he was on a bicycle tour and while that might be true, it seemed un-likely. You see, this particular train stop is the terminus of a like about 40 miles outside of The City, which around here means Boston. And, well, it’s a train. If he were on a Bicycle tour there is really, no reason that he could not have ridden from wherever he was before he got on the train, even if he were coming out of Boston. Sure, the train would be faster and arguably safer than riding but so would a car, or an airplane. That’s not what one does when one tours on a bicycle though. I paraded my mountainbike on the back rack of the Jeep yesterday. I drove about 80 miles total. I could not have possibly have tried to claim that I mountainbike toured those 80 miles now could I have? No. No more than a guy on a train could (although there is a great deal of buzz on the interweb lately that that used to be exactly the correct way to win the Tour De France before they invented steroids).

He was clearly going some where but his motivations remained vague. Was he unable to afford a car or a ticket on…”something”. Was he trying to make up lost time on an actual bicycle tour? Was he motivated or inspired by some other set of circumstances that I can’t even imagine? I don’t know. I do know that I loitered for as long as a four year old would let me for him to gather his things and his thoughts so that he would head down the platform toward the front of the train. It seemed slightly rude and counterproductive to drag a toddler to the end of the train that he didn’t want to be at simply to accost this poor guy and start demanding answers to my curiosity while my little one either expressed his displeasure as only a four year old could or, even worse, stated picking apart the guy’s packs to see what was inside. I never got to meet the young man and never got to learn what his journey was really all about. I saw him peddling out of town over the bridge a short while later though. He had ignored the bike path that paralleled the main road and made a straighter-shot to the bridge. It seemed to me that that was an important detail at the time but I never did figure out why it might have been.