Whatever your holiday, I'll bet you can give. An idea for giving about something you care about is Bikeworks in Seattle, or a similar organization in your town.
Bikeworks is the non-profit local bike shop/education center/donator of rehabed bicycles/kids' bike swap organizer/and more in my neighborhood. In fact it is so in our Columbia City neighborhood I can literally hop on my bicycle outside our front door and coast all the way down to their door.
But the reason they and other non-profits like them deserve your giving is they put bicycles into the arms of children or homeless adults or other folks who can't afford their own. Now that is good giving.
Bikeworks also happens to be the shop that Kent Peterson, cycling blogger of all cycling bloggers and author of Kent's Bike Blog, hangs his mechanic's tools. The place is just a good cycling place to be.
Whatever you do, we wish you all the best this holiday season, and we wish it for your health, your family, and for your cycling soul.
If you'd like to give directly to support the fine mission of Bikeworks in Seattle, please go here and you'll find plenty of inspiration and opportunities for giving. Check it out if only to learn about the amazing work they do.
Thanks for all you do to keep cycling alive and full of passion in your community!
Background for newbies or the otherwise uninitiated about "Audux-style" randonneuring from the Randonneurs USA (RUSA) website:
Audax (oh docks) - A style of group bicycle touring found mostly in France, but also in Holland and Belgium to lesser degrees. A steady pace is set by a road captain, who is in charge of a group of fellow club members. In modern times the pace is usually about 22 km/h between stops; the itinerary and resting places are planned in advance. Audax groups often ride about 16-20 hours per day until they reach their pre-arranged sleeping point. In the case of Paris-Brest-Paris, each group's objective is to finish inside the 90-hour limit with all its riders together. ("All for one, one for all" is their motto.)
In the U.S., we follow a more individualized style where one goes at one's own pace or joins up with others, whatever the pleasure. The Audux-style or in-line version has always intrigued me due to its collective nature, but I also very much enjoy the individual freedom.
Now to the wolves: this past summer, DartreDame (Pramila, my wife) and I took a two-day cyclotour of the the mountains, from Joseph, Oregon to Halfway, Oregon and back. I posted about that here.
I mentioned then that some Elk hunters who gave us water told me about how in bugling in Elk they inadvertently bugled in a wolf pack...twice. I'd heard that wolves had moved into the area, but some were skeptical. This video proves it.
I especially enjoy how the last wolf--the mama?--swishes her tail as she turns back after checking out whoever was checking them out. Classic canine disdain, but here not in a domesticated dog but in a wild wolf.
Hail the wildness!!! Welcome back, wolves.
Did you notice their Audux-style manner of randonneuring up the mountain? Methinks wolves have a captain and a bunch of followers, and so it appears from the video!
And how about those out-and-back ants? Did you catch the story on NPR about the "pedometer" ants that count their steps? Apparently, some scientists tested the theory that the desert ants count their way out to their food source from their nest and repeat the count to get home.
The scientists experimented by cutting short the legs of some ants and Super Glueing pig bristles onto the legs of others to make their legs longer. This proved it is the steps they count, not the distance they measure. To fully grasp the ingenuity and the hilarity of this you have got to watch the video I reference below.
Think you're a committed cyclist? Hardcore in any weather and all? You do your R-12 events every month for a year (that's at least a 200k every month), and think that is something?
Well, move over bub. Let me introduce you to some cyclists that even RUSA record-breaker Vincent Muoneke (and a hearty Congratulations to you, Vincent!) would be obliged to respect.
Meet Byron Ramos, Couper Millar and Bradley Gabor, pictured above l to r. These three missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints are on a two year, seven days a week in all weather door-to-door campaign on their bicycles throughout south Washington State. They cycle from house to house proselytizing for JCLDS. Their mission is for two years, and is unpaid.
Byron, Couper and Bradley were very patient with my incredulous questioning, and I thank them. Can you imagine riding every day of the week for two years? As I motored away I couldn't help but imagine the reactions they got from all the folks whose doors they knocked upon. The bicycle is a disarmer. From my limited touring, I've learned that most folks respect that you've earned your way to the very spot at which you've met them on your bicycle.
So, these three got me thinking about other ways to visit the world by bicycle. I hope they now realize that they've inspired me to think bigger about the possibilites of the bicycle. Not to mention my respect for their commitment. Awesome.
Nonetheless, you just have to admire Byron, Couper and Bradley. There is much to learn from such commitment. I wish them all the best weather with friendly door knockees, only downhills, no flats and no dogs! And when that doesn't all work out, I hope they know they've earned the respect of this curious cyclist!
Keep it loving and inclusive of all, every day in all weather and any circumstance,
My previous post about riding a cold weather permanent was pretty dour as I look back. I think my brain must have still been submerged in a cold-induced torpor of some kind, and my post reflected the fact that the sense-of-humor sector of my brain had been frostbitten. The comments to that post--and not to be an ingrate, thank you very much, commenters--were all a bunch of attaboys. No doubt because I was giving off intense "poor me" vibes.
Incidentally, it is now known that the lower frontal lobes are the humor generating sectors of the brain. It all makes sense now. The wind chill combined with the cold (remember I said it was cold and windy), numbed my lower frontal lobes--the very most exposed sectors of my skull while riding with that helmet cover I referenced--resulting in a serious and hopefully temporary (you'll be the judge) loss of my sense of humor. I know: many will argue that is impossible...it must have happened years ago!
Along those lines, the photo above is not a photo of my very brain sitting in a jar as some would also argue. No, it is actually a Wikipedia pic of the jarred brain of a chimpanzee. So there. Insert your humorous comment about my brain and a chimpanzee's brain and a priest's brain all sitting on barstools here: _______________________. HA! That was a good one!
In any event, for a genuinely funny look at cold weather randonneuring from a blog I just discovered, go to sagittandy. He's got a great self-made cartoon that's a real hoot.
Thanks, sagittandy, for thawing out my lower frontal lobes!
We knew it was going to be cold. And I suppose we knew it could be windy. But the combination was pretty tough.
My friend and companion, Vesteinn, and I left the Leschi Starbucks, and it was predicted to be colder than it turned out to be. It pretty much stayed 30 degrees all day. But windy.
In the photo above, you can sense that the sun is there somewhere. While that photo was taken at dawn in Renton, it gives a pretty good feel for the quality of sunlight: dim and chilly. We did actually see our shadows a little while before sunset, but other than that it was mostly a thin day puncuated by a dim, cold orb assumed to be the sun and dozens of cars with Christmas trees strapped to their roofs, accompanied by the cold, cold wind.
Thus began my restarted R-12 attempt (after failing on month four) and Vesteinn's first ever 200k. For my account of how I couldn't get past month three, go to this previous post. For an account of Vesteinn's first ever century, go to this previous post.
Despite the flatness, we still found the course a challenge. We were nearing the first controle in Ravensdale with only about eight minutes to make the next kilometer or so. Doable for certain, until we came to the final iced up and curvy descent. Vesteinn led and kept one foot unclipped as he rode along the snowy road edge. The cars hadn't beaten the snow skim into ice there so we had traction and made it to the controle with two minutes to spare. Later it was a fierce headwind that prevented us from putting more time in the bank, so I flirted with DNF most of the day.
As for the course, I like that country. I enjoy the rivers and I would have taken more photos, but I was both too wary of lollygagging that would yield a DNF and just too damn cold to want to stop.
At one point, I took off my fleece pants and replaced them with capilene tights under my shell. My fleece pants were soaked with sweat, but I traded a sweaty warmth for a dry chill. Not a great trade.
Same with my light fleece vest. I took it off (sweat-soaked) and went with just my capilene upper, SIR wool jersey, and shell. All good until dark when it got a little colder. I took my vest out of my front bag, and it was a frozen carcass. I had to uncrinkle it to put it back on, and my fleece tights were similarly frozen so I chose to stay with the lower dry chill. Brrrr.
Vesteinn had one numbed foot that never did quite warm up, and so it went. A course map is below.
The thing about a 200k for the R-12 series is that I keep thinking that since I've done several 200k's before (and longer ones to boot) that a 200k isn't that big a deal. Well I don't mind admitting that it is. Even under the best of cirumstances, 200k is a long day. Add a chill, swish in a wind, sprinkle in some rain, or drop a mechanical issue and you've got a real ride. And of course if it is winter and you aren't real fast, you've got the veil of nightriding to deal with.
"A 200k once a month; just one lousy, stinking 200K, every 30 days, how hard could it be? I mean after all you’ve ridden a bejillion kilometers over hill and dale since March, right? A 200K is a cake walk! You could do that on the neighbor kids sidewalk bicycle, right? It might seem so, especially when you consider the shorter mileage of these events and the fact that you only have to do one 200K each month."
I like the R-12 challenge. It requires that you plan and consider. It is making me very critical of equipment and clothing choices. It leads me to be clearer about nutrition, recovery and training.
On the clothing choices: I'm beginning to ponder whether woolen base layers aren't superior to capilene base layers for temperature modulation during cold weather. Any comments from you veteran randonneurs?
As for Vesteinn and me, we shared our little epic ride, and he notched his first 200k!! Go Vesteinn!
I can try to capture the essence of our ride together, as I have attempted here, but nobody will ever know what that ride really was but Vesteinn and me. No one can fully appreciate how the way a Christmas tree cinched down to a luggage rack riding down the road ahead of you and getting smaller and smaller just makes you feel colder down deep somehow. Maybe it's the knowledge that the tree will likely warm up inside a cozy home and be tended to by little hands proffering ornaments several hours before you'll ever near your cozy home. That feeling, that peculiarly winter certainty that you'll never warm up even though you know you will, was and is Vesteinn's and mine for that particular ride forever. It is ours to share as ours alone. That's a pretty good thing right there. It cost some suffering and discomfort, but we grabbed life by its cold, cold horns and went for the ride.
It does give one pause though. As Vesteinn and I parted ways (this was the first brevet or permanent in which I rode, instead of drove, to and from the start!), Vesteinn pedaled up the very steep hill to his house. He had told me he'd be pushing his bike up the hill, so I cheered him in the cold, now lonelier darkness when I saw him go for it after all. As I continued along my little "bunny path" shortcut through Genesee Park in Columbia City, I came across a homeless woman just settling in on her bench for the night with sleeping bag and belongings. I was about a kilometer from my cozy home and its warmth and recovery drink. Suddenly my self-imposed "suffering" came into sharp focus. As we are sometimes wont to do on cold wintry eves (though we're officially still a few weeks from Winter), I slipped. Not on the icy roads, but into that certain philosophical geography where the universe is frigid and vast, our particular place is minute, and we pause to wonder what it means, what I am for...?
Après brevet at the same Starbucks 13 hours after our start. Taken with a fogged up camera phone.
Not much is more satisfying than a pile of firewood all stacked up. I'm not kidding when I say I could sit back with a beer and just gaze at this fine woodpile. It doesn't just stack up there by itself however.
For Thanksgiving, DartreDame (Pramila my wife and riding partner) and I created this woodpile. Below is Dartre shouldering her share of the burden. Guaranteed to make her a stronger randonneur!
As for me, check out this action series that Dartre captured. True photographic inspiration.
It may not look like randonneur training, but I can tell you it was work. And according to our physical therapist, it was dynamic exercise as opposed to static exercise. Much better preparation, she contends.
There are lots and lots of tail lights out there. My main advice here is not so much about which as about how many. I'd have two, or more. Two lights make you twice as visible (at least). One could argue that two provide an element of depth for following drivers. And certainly, if one fails (batteries, malfunction, whatever the cause), you're so much better off with one than none.
Additionally, make certain they can be seen. No obstructions. Able to be viewed from the sides.
Now for why I like this light we get into intricacies. I like the "Senso" feature that turns it on when the bicycle is moving or if you go through a tunnel and it is suddenly dark. How often do you go through tunnels? Not often. But when randonneuring you likely don't know whether you will or won't. But have you ever ridden through a dark tunnel without a tail light. It feels very vulnerable. That's exactly when you do need a tail light.
And if you've paid attention to any of the stories about riders hit from behind by motorists--those who have been killed and those who haven't--it will wake you up. There just isn't too much when it comes to lighting--especially tail lighting. For that reason I don't now own, but have been considering, helmet rear lighting like the photo below.
Problem with these is that they flash, which would be very annoying to those cycling behind me. However, when night riding alone, which I did for a long while on that first ever through-the-night brevet, I think it might be smart since there isn't the additional movement and lighting of riding partners.
Below is a picture of the tail light I got for DartreDame's bicycle. Because she has a rear rack it mounts very easily, is mounted very visibly right off the back, and it incorporates reflectors with the light. Nice and big. I like that for her. I'd like it for me, but not enough to install a rear rack. Hers also incorporates the "Senso" feature.
In case you still need some motivation, do check out these accounts of motorists hitting cyclists from the rear:
A few years back DartreDame (Pramila, my wife) and I were tucked away at our little cabin in Eastern Oregon for Thanksgiving. I was waxing on about my Mum's pumpkin pies, and how hers were the best (right up there with my Aunt Anna's, my second mother who passed from our realm years ago). These tales were told alongside a woodstove with snow outside and iciles hanging from the eaves.
Dartre decided on hearing these tales that we must have homemade pie for just the two of us. Problem is we had no pumpkin. We did have bicycles though, road bicycles. I'm not sure how I convinced her in the first place that taking our bicycles (she was a fledgling cyclist then) to Eastern Oregon for Thanksgiving was ever a good idea. I must have had some cockamamie story about training or some such. However I did that, I now also incredibly convinced her that we should ride the six miles each way into the neighboring town to purchase our pumpkin and fixins at the Safeway store. We could have driven, but cycling would be more fun, more memorable, perhaps an emerging tradition?
An additonal obstacle was that the road to the cabin is very steep and rough, really not suitable for skinny tires, even in the summer. It would be impossible now. So I loaded up the bicycles on the roof rack, and we bundled up. We drove down to town in four-wheel drive. We parked there, unloaded the bicycles and started out on our 12-mile punkin-huntin' round trip.
Let me tell you: it was cold. In the 20's! And windy. As we unloaded our bicycles we wondered at what we were about to do. But we cycle away. And when we got to the perenially shady patch of the "back road" into our neighboring town, it was icey. At first, just patch ice. Then, by the bend in the road that follows the river down in among the trees, it was simply sheets of ice. We tried riding/skating while mounted, but soon gave that up and shuffled our bicycles across the ice flows. Then, we coarsed into town on a tailwind.
Into Safeway very pleased with ourselves, we found our fixins and stowed them in my panniers. Back on our mounts (mine a fixie back then), we headed back, slightly uphill, across the open ranch country. And smack into a bitterly fierce headwind. I'm talking about a 20 degrees fahrenheit (not counting wind chill) headwind that blew the tops off the snowdrifts and bit us with icy fangs down deeply to our core.
I stood up and pedaled trying to create a place for Dartre to draft behind, but at one point the wind gusted so much that it just about blew me right over. Seriously. I checked back with Dartre, but when I did I got another gust, that surly gust of bitterness that comes from someone who feels spent, exposed, frightened, and sure they are going to die. Whoa! Dartre enjoyed cycling, but as she'll remind us from time to time she is from India where it is warm, very warm. And she didn't learn to ride a bicycle as a child, but as an adult. About the same time she first ever saw snow, as an adult. So neither cycling nor snow came naturally to her, even though she now loves both. But cycling in the snow, she clearly hadn't signed on for that. Oops.
I took the hint that right then was not the time for small talk. We earned each inch in silence, bitterly cold silence. Those several miles up and across the ranches may have been the longest miles I've ever ridden. Hawks swooped and sailed on the wind as they only do on such galeful days: fiercely and wildly. Crows clung to the bare branches of the occassional sentinel tree of the rangeland, cackling at the absurdity of the barrenness, the brazenness of unbelievably-not-yet-winter's terror grip on the deeply quiet, spiritless and frozen-stiffly earth.
Eventually we thrust the five and a half miles of blown over, open, snowy rangeland behind us, and entered the seclusion of the bend with the shady trees and the permafrost roadway where we once again shuffled our way to safety. Back on the bicycles after the glaciers, we rode back to the truck. I threw the bicycles back on the rack, and we drove back up our mountain to our woodstove and holiday brews...and talking quietly to one another again.
How was that punkin pie? Let's just say that it was the best bicycle-fetched punkin pie ever, and right up there with Mum's and Aunt Anna's. Truly. You can't make me choose from among these fine women though. I'd flail into the gustiest gales before I'd put one of their pies before the others'. And why should I choose? I'd also have to throw my sister, Nancy, into that group of impossible choosees. Nancy, too, was a second mother (Did I indeed have two second mothers? I guess so). For all these women, I give thanks today.
This was me when I initially comprehended that my first R-12 attempt was likely going to crumble into failure after a meer three months. Well, that's not really accurate. As you can see by the date stamp in the bottom left of the photo, it was taken over three years ago. So just imagine this is me, because it represents a sorely vexed me. So it may not be an accurate photo of me, but it represents the truth nonetheless.
Why have I given in so soon? A victim of the crud. I suppose I could have bulled through. Today would have been the day (Sunday, November 22), but I just wasn't willing to jam it in while still not completely healthy. I want to stay well. So I considered other options.
I could take a day off work on Novemer 30 to cram it in. Naw, not worth it and too much going on at work. I could consider canceling going away with DartreDame for Thanksgiving, and do it any of those four days. Naw, I want to whisk her away, or be whisked away. Whichever it is, I want it.
So guess what? I'm giving up after three months, and I'm going to restart in December.
Now if you came here for inspriation, I've obviously failed you today. I am not exhibiting that killer randonneur passion for completing an objective, damn the torpedoes! But if you'd like a very good and inspiring post about a serious R-12 contender who faces unique R-12 challenges and other bad magic and who...well you'll have to read it to see...then go to this R-12 account. The post includes an unusual homemade video to start and a very funny old movie clip to close. Well worth it.
And that's, as Edith Ann (Lily Tomlin) used to say, the Truth!
This is a headlight primer for newbies. Simple, I hope. Also enticing I hope for any newbie randonneur, even if you haven't ridden through the night. I don't pretend to be an expert, because I've only ridden through the night once, in summer. But because I'm not an expert, perhaps I'm coming in right where newbies need it. At least that is my aspiration.
Here's my recommendation. It ain't cheap, but it's reasonable and from what I've found, a pretty good value. The IXON IQ by Busch & Muller has met my needs as a newbie randonneur attempting his first night brevets.
Here's what I like:
good beam, two settings
ability to use regular AA batteries if needed
acceptable battery life
capacity for charging from dynamo, if needed
seems to be rugged
can be used as a handlight for repairs, etc.
Now I will have a dynamo lighting system on my randonneuring bicycle, but for the present, the IXON IQ is a pretty good solution for me.
You can certainly find lots and lots of posts and listserve threads all about the best beams for this or that condition with photos, diagrams and plenty of compare/contrast. Good stuff that, and I'll be poring over it when I start deciding about my new randonneuring bicycle lighting system. But for an easy way to light up a first nightime brevet, I like the IQ.
But there's another advantage the IXON IQ has for lighting the way for newbies. You can loan it out to a certain friend who you're luring into randonneuring so that he or she can have good, dependable, much-better-than-commuting lighting. Once they try it out and discover for her/himself the joys of a well-lighted, extended nightime ride, then you've got a potential sucker...er, recruit. They don't need a dynamo hub, just a place to clamp it on.
As for mounting, I first mounted it on my handlebars. Works well except that the glare from my handlebar bag cue sheet holder (top flap) was very annoying. I fashioned a black veil that I pinned over the cue sheet cover, and that worked fine. But...and here is a sign of the true spirit of randonneuring...never satisfied with randonneuing equipment, I procured a Low Down Type 1 Light Mount from Velo Orange.
No glare. The light is lower down, but it is also exposed to splash. And if one reads the instructons carefully, the B&M folks warn about spash. We'll see.
I augment the headlight with the Cateye HLEL-450 Helmet Light pictured below. Good for cue sheet and road sign reading. Again, there are plenty of others out there.
There it is: one guy's recommendation. There are plenty of other good battery lights that will go the distance. Explore lighting; explore the night.
For a description of what I found (surprising critter sounds and such!) when I rode through the night that very first time, check out this post about my first 400k.
Remember the old TV show, The Prisoner? It didn't last long, but I remember watching it with my older brother and trying to figure it out. I was always afraid of the giant weather balloon, and I was very attracted to the high-wheeler logo for The Village where the main character, a spy who tried to retire, was kept. The Village was a kind of gilded cage where the prisoner, dubbed Number Six, wandered about trying to escape or at least determine who his captives were.
Don't know why but everythng high wheeler I have always found to be fascinating.
You can watch the old The Prisoner reruns if you have On Demand from Comcast. It's free.
And remakes--how could they possibly be as good?--are on AMCTV now. I guess that's why we get to watch the oldies now. Graphic above by Wiki.
In a previous post titled Simon Says...Change!, I pondered how stoplights register whether a cyclist is awaiting a green light. Is it magnetic or an "electric eye"? Turns out it is "video detection", at least for some stoplights in Seattle. Here is the email I received in response to my inquiry.
"Thank you for writing to the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) to let us know of the difficulty you have experienced being detected by the traffic signal while riding your bicycle at the intersection of (X Street and Y Street). Providing safe and reliable access to all commuters is a priority for SDOT.
SDOT encourages alternative modes of transportation such as bicycles, scooters and motorcycles. We recognize the frustration experienced by cyclists when they approach a traffic signal and are not detected, forcing them to either wait for a vehicle to arrive or to travel through a red light - neither of which is a good option.
This intersection uses video detection. After receiving your e-mail, one of our technicians went to the site and created additional video zones for bicycle detection.
I hope this takes care of the issues you have been experiencing. If you should find that you are still having difficulty being detected, please let us know at (206) 386-1206 or firstname.lastname@example.org. SDOT is committed to making Seattle accessible for all modes of transportation.
Dianne Thomas, Traffic Signal Operations
Seattle Department of Transportation"
Unfortunately, I've had three weeks (as of today) of crud, and I haven't ridden my bicycle at all during that time. If you'd like to hear me complain about my malady, contact me offline and I'd be happy to complain to yet a new person. Everyone else runs when they see me coming! I'm quarantined it seems, not because folks are afraid of catching my crud, but because if they hear me complain again there head will explode. End of rant.
Point is, I haven't been able to field verify, but I sure liked the response got from our Seattle DOT.
According to the Alliance: "The bill requires that vehicle traffic control systems be upgraded to reliably detect both bikes and motorcycles. Districts must prioritize upgrading on existing systems for which complaints were submitted. They must also establish and publicize a procedure for filing such complaints in writing or by e-mail, and must maintain a record of them."