Sunday, November 29, 2009

Slinging Firewood as Randonneur Cross-Training

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.

Still a skeptic? Check out this diagram from Cycling Anatomy below. I posted my review of the book here.

The Medicine Ball Throw is uncannily similar. Only problem is I forgot to switch sides until I had two logs left to throw! Next winter!

All is not for randonneuring, however. How about this for sweet reward?!

Dartre lounges in the wood-fired hot tub. Aah.

Keep it slingin'


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Field Testing the Stoplight

It works! Thanks Seattle Department of Transportation for fixing the stoplight switching issue. And thanks Bicycle Alliance of Washington for passing the legislation to make it possible.

By adjusting the video technology, the stoplight by my house now registers my presence while astride my bicycle, and it changes. How delightful!

See previous posts here and here about how all this came to be.

How do I know the stoplight works properly now? Because I'm crud-free and cycling again!

Keep it delightful,


Friday, November 27, 2009

Lighting for Randonneuring, Newbie Style, Part 2: Tail Lights

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:

Lots of reasons for staying seen!

For more on Headlights, see Lighting for Randonneuring, Newbie Style, Part 1: Headlights.

Keep it lit up,


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Extreme Weather Cycling for Punkin Pie

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.

Keep it punkinny,


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

R-12 Dreams Smack into R-3 Reality!

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.

Wait! What is R-12? It is an award given to randonneurs who complete a 200k or longer brevet every month for each of twelve consecutive months. See my previous post about the R-12 challenge.

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!

Keep it going...or start again,


Monday, November 23, 2009

Lighting for Randonneuring, Newbie Style, Part 1: Headlight

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
  • rechargeable batteries
  • ability to use regular AA batteries if needed
  • acceptable battery life
  • no wires
  • easy removability
  • capacity for charging from dynamo, if needed
  • simplicity
  • reliability
  • 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, recruit. They don't need a dynamo hub, just a place to clamp it on.

The photo above is from the Harris Cyclery website, though I got mine (and DartreDame's) from Peter White Cycles.

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.

For more on Tail Lights, see Lighting for Randonneuring, Newbie Style, Part 2: Tail Light.

Keep it low down (maybe),


Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Prisoner and the High Wheeler

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.

Keep it to yourself, Number six,


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Smile...You're on Stoplight Camera!

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 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.

Once again, the obligation of municipalities to respond to such requests was won by the Bicycle Alliance of Washington in the legislature.

Here are the basics if you want to try it:

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."

The address for Seattle is:

For Washington State highways:

To get the proper address for other municipalities and counties in Washington, go to for cities and for counties.

Also, the Alliance would appreciate your letting them know how your experience goes as you interact with this new system. You can reach them at:

Thanks, BAW!

Keep change alive,


Monday, November 16, 2009

Moroccan Bicycle...and More

DartreDame just returned from a ten day trip to Morocco sponsored by the Center for Women in Democracy. Here are a few of her pics. Unlike our trip to India last year, there were few bicycles to photograph. Anyone know why?

All these photos are from Fes. Thanks, Dartre!

Orange vendor and his cart.


Lots of carts; no bicycles.

Earlier beast of burden.

With the young woman who taught Dartre button-making.


Kicking back.

Reminds me of our wedding day. Henna-handed Dartre.

Draped Dartre.

Keep it in focus,


Sunday, November 15, 2009

The God of Things That Ought to Be

Have we got a slacker God? By the shape of things today, it seems the little God of Things That Ought to Be has been taking time off. Never heard of Billiken? I hadn't either until I saw the play Two Wheels North.

A little while ago I posted about the Book-It Repertory Theatre's production of Two Wheels North, an adaptation of the book by the same name by Evelyn McDaniel Gibb. Two Wheels North is the tale of two high scool graduates who rode borrowed bicycles from Santa Rosa, California to Seattle in 1909 to attend the much ballyhooed Seattle Yukon Pacific Exposition. The author is the daughter of Vic, one of the two intrepid young men and she won the Pacific Northwest Writers Association Nonfiction Book Award for Two Wheels North. This Book-It production was adapted and directed by Annie Lareau and starred Damian Peterson (pictured above) as Vic McDaniel and Nik Perleros as Ray Francisco. Supporting actors included Kelly Kitchens and John Ulman.

The other character, our aforementioned Billiken, isn't depicted onstage, but he was a big deal in the U.S. in 1909. Especially at the Seattle Yukon Pacific Exposition. Billiken, the God of Things That Ought to Be, was a clay totem for the Exposition. Haven't heard of the Seattle Yukon Pacific Exposition? Neither had I until recently. But aside from a double shot of gumption, Vic and Ray carried Billiken on their journey as a good luck charm. And while he didn't reshape the world into the way it ought to be, Billiken did the boys alright.

The actors relax just before showtime at Book-It.

The actual Vic (left) and Ray in Santa Rosa as they readied to embark. Photo scanned from the book, but originally courtesy of Santa Rosa Press Democrat.

Close-up of the 1930's era Excelsior bicycle loaned by Recycled Cycles for the production.

There are many ways to take in Two Wheels North. One is as a coming-of-age story of two young men who set off as friends are wont to do, to see what the world is all about. Another is as an exploration of the world 100 years ago. Or, more specifically, as an exploration of cyclotouring a century ago. Still another is as an introduction to the Seattle Yukon Pacific Exposition, a fascinating subject itself.

Then there is Vic's and Ray's journey as an epic tale: the myth of Ulyses by bicycle. This is how I absorbed Two Wheels North. A constant tangle of heroic choices, moral minidramas, and creatures that sought their demise.

Think I'm exaggerating? How about a very large rattle snake that bites and doesn't let go until his head is shot off. Even then, it hangs on. How about a fistfight between naked bathing workmen over the treatment of a young orphan boy whom one views through the lens of homophobia while the other sees a fatherless boy making sense of a world that oughtn't be. Or the knocking of almonds out of a tree, veritably manna from the heavens. As for sacred places, this epic tale has them too. Mount Shasta is a mystical mountain, and the Exposition--if you really place yourself back in time--was as close to a world wonder as most would ever see. And if you've got young men, you've got young women and hot young love. And unfortunately for the young lovers a watchful mother not to be messed with on an epic scale!

And of course, the heroics of long distance, unsupported cycling--randonneuring the hard way--is ever present. Falling over the edge of cliffs. Crossing high train trestles at night. Meeting a train midway through a narrow tunnel.

The author, Evelyn, was there for the show and graciously posed with the actor who posed as her father.

I thoroughly enjoyed Two Wheels North, and I'm grateful that Evelyn took the time as her father aged to talk with him for an hour a day to get down the details of this amazing tale. I bought an autographed copy, and though I haven't finished it yet, I highly recommend it.

As for the production, I thought it too was well done. Good acting, creative effects, and simple staging that left me--sitting in the first row--feeling like I was aboard for the ride.

If you enjoy history or Seattle or World's Fairs, I also recommend poking around all the great stuff that celebrates the centennial of the Seattle Yukon Pacific Exposition. For starters, check out the hour long special that aired on the Seattle Channel. DartreDame scored me a copy she gleaned from her travels (I think from the producer), but you can view it online now at the Seattle Channel website.

Of course if you're Buddhist, you'll not highly regard this Billiken, because the world just is. Maybe it oughta be this or that, but it's not. Both Vic and Ray went on to fight in the War to End All Wars, WWI. Talk about wishful thinking!

But for me, I savored the tale of two young lads setting off to just see how the world really is. The original Curious Randonneurs perhaps?

Keep it curious,


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Wanted: Women Randonneurs! Won: Equal Rights!

Coming soon is a post dedicated to women randonneurs in the voices of...women randonneurs. I've got one woman who has stepped up and offered her thoughts about such topics as Why aren't there more women randonneurs? and How did you get involved in randonneuring? Others have also committed to speak up.

If you are a woman randonneur, or know one, check in so I can include you in our interview (you can reach me by email by following the link in my profile). Even my wife (posting here as DartreDame), a very brand new randonneur, will present her newbie views, so don't be shy. Women randonneurs, express yourselves equally!

Speaking of equality, my own Washington State just approved Referendum 71, legislation that conveys equal rights to same sex domestic partners and some senior opposite sex domestic partners. Equality for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer couples!

The rights covered by the law include rights in the realms of: labor and employment law; pension, survivor and public employee benefits; family law; insurance practices; higher education; banking, financial institutions and loan agencies; consumer credit and business licensing. For the Associated Press account of the Referendum's passing, go here.

Washington State is the first state where the voters expanded GLBTQ rights in a statewide referendum.

Keep it more than equal, keep it loving,


Friday, November 13, 2009

liquid cycling

cyclist pours self into pedals

wheels flow forward

world spills out all over

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Cycling Poetry in Motion


Friday, November 6, 2009

Biker Mike McGinn is Gonna Win the Election for Mayor of Seattle!

Mike McGinn is poised to be the next Mayor of Seattle!

As I write this he just jumped ahead, increasing his lead by a good measure. Here's the Seattle Times' take.

As when I posted my endorsement previously, I think this is a very good thing. But since that post, I feel so much more sure of it. I've discovered people who knew Mike before he ever ran for Mayor, and they talk about his genuine goodness with high regard. That says a great deal.

And like others, I watched Mike grow in front of our very eyes. Such can be the world of politics. Our Seattle ended up taking this election very seriously, and put the candidates to the test. Good people grow when tested. Yes, even in our cynical world, each of us can continue to grow, so why not our politicians? The question for us is whether we will take this opportunity to continue growing. It's not all up to Mike.

I'm also pleased that it looks like feet on the street, phone conversations, street smarts, appealing to the better in voters, and inspiration are defeating money and more money. Mike was outspent three to one, but he is going to win! That says a great deal about him...and us.

I was pondering a post about what Mike as Mayor, Mayor Mike McGinn, could do for us cyclists. But that's so old politics.

The proper ponderings are:
  • What do we want to make of our Seattle with Mike as Mayor?
  • What to we want to express with Mike as Mayor?
  • What do we want to create with Mike as Mayor?
Part of our problem as voters, no matter who has led us, is that we've depended on our leaders way too much. Mike's election is an opportunity for us to make a new start too. As cyclists, what is the Cycling Seattle we want to build? How do we pursue our better and higher instincts and get creative to make it our reality? How do we use cycling to lift us all up, particularly those with lesser means and fewer opportunities? Cycling ought to make cities more liveable for those most often left behind. It must be more than a privelege for those with means.

Cities around the globe are making and living out bold plans to tackle global warming, live more healthfully, consume more equitably, and enjoy being outside in our natural world. So can we.

And of course, there is so much more to our Seattle beyond cycling. Mike will need our energies there too.

Are you ready, Seattle? Time to get creative and dig in again!

If it wasn't already clear, among other things Mike is a cyclist.

Keep it renewed