Sunday, December 27, 2009

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Snowshoeing as Randonneur Cross Training

Fox? Saw a Red Fox nearby a while back. Later I found these tracks crossing rabbit tracks. Cross Training?

Keep it crossed, and who knows where you'll end up,


Friday, December 25, 2009

Giving Cycling for the Holidays

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!

Keep it giving to fill your soul,


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Audux-Style Wolves and Out-and-Back Ants

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.

Just like us randonneurs on an out-and-back ride who use our odometers, these ants count their way home. Crazy ants. Check out the NPR website that has an animated video as well as actual photos of ants with pig bristles glued to their legs. The animated video is not to be missed!

Which is the weirdest? Wolves who walk in line, ants who count steps, or randonneurs who don't know when to stop?

Keep it wild at heart,


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Cycling Proselytizers

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.

I spied this trio in Milton-Freewater, Oregon a town I posted about when we did the Oregon Randonneurs 300k last summer. They were outside a restaurant, and I picked them out by their natty clothes and ties. I figured who else would ride with dress clothes on a nasty day but somebody on a mission, and I was right!

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.

Having said all that, I just got to say that the JCLDS position on California's Prop 8 is one that I find very disturbing. Keith Olberman does a fine job of stating my failure to understand why some insist on perpetrating their values on others when no harm to others would occur. It just baffles me, and I believe such discrimination against any of us divides us and pits us against the loving world we all seek and need.

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,


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Laughing at the Weather!

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 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!

Keep the lobes in mind,


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Cold Weather Cycling: The Leschi-Auburn-Leschi 200k Permanent

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.

I chose the Leschi-Auburn-Leschi permantent (RUSA #0401) because of its close proximity to our homes and its lack of serious elevation as illustrated below.

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.

What worked well? Smartwool socks and the booties I referenced in a previous post. The Smartwool glove liners under my wool mittens under my mitten shells (also referenced in the post on wet weather cycling) also did the trick. My helmet shell (similarly referenced) was great as a wind break, and the Smartwool balaclava was perfect.

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.

All this is not to complain, just to be real about the endeavor. As blogger Dr. Codfish said in his RUSA newsletter article on Top 10 Tips for Completing Your R-12:

"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.

Keep it warm and toasty...for us all,