Sunday, August 28, 2011

Abondoned, yet Honored

In case you hadn't seen the results, I abandoned after Carhais on the return to Paris, unable to get my feet/shins/ankles to carry me down the roads. More on that another day.

Honored though is how I now feel about the whole Paris Brest Paris experience. It was a true joy to cycle the beautiful country roads that are France. It was a delight to be the recipient of such sweet smiles and serious cheering on by villagers. And it was such fun to connect with cyclists from around the globe.

I am well, touring Paris with my brother, his wife, and Dartre, and I am eager to tell the tales another day soon.

Thanks so much to everyone who cheered us on. Every good wish was meaningful!

The photo is of Dartre and an unknown French finisher who badly wanted Dartre and I to know that he was 74 years old! I'm so glad we went to the finish to welcome folks back. What a kick!

Keep it joyful,


Sunday, August 21, 2011

On to the Grand Adventure!

Hot Diggity Dog Diggity!

Tall Blind Man with a Cane

Nerves are on edge at my hotel. One rider was collecting his thoughts in the dining area, staring out the window. We chatted about the stress, waiting for our 6pm or later departure this evening to begin Paris Brest Paris. He let on that he was seeking to "rewrite history" since he failed to finish last time. He is a gentle soul, and I began to understand that I wasn't the only one with pre-event jitters, or perhaps more honestly for me at least, pre-event fears.

Next, I took a walk into the small, older village that is at the heart of this modern complex. The church, of course, is the center of the center. Nearby at the fruit store, I encountered another rider who openly conveyed his anxieties. He is in the 84 hour start, which is tomorrow. Given he needs only 84 hours, he must be fairly fast. No matter, watching the 90 hour folks getting ready to leave had him second-guessing his start choice. I began to realize that all of us are nervous, regardless of our talents. He was struck, he confided, that after a year since since his first brevet, it was finally here. I did my best to reassure him his start time choice was the right one, but I am permeated by so many similar choice/doubts I don't honestly know whether I was reassuring to him, hollow-sounding, our whether he even heard me through the din of our mutual doubting.

And then at the patissierie, the Tall Blind Man nearly stumbled over the small child's scooter. Recovering, he went for the exit but walked into my chair and me instead. Too startled and handicapped by my poor French I didn't assist him, allowing others.

And that is when it hit me like a ton of bricks just how much anxiety I was carrying. Moved to tears at last, I set up the Tall Blind Man's daily challenges to buy a baguette against my obsessing with whether I should pack this or that item or leave them behind. Will my knees hold up? My ankle? Will I stumble on this or that self-doubt?

Paris Brest Paris is "mythic", as some say, but it is also self-indulgent. It is just riding a bicycle as a self-chosen challenge. It is not the marathon of unchosen obstacles the Tall Blind Man confronts.

Nevertheless, as I said when I first posted over three years ago, I wanted to explore my limits and my beyond-the-limits. I will get that chance starting this evening, and one thing is clear already: it is primarily about the mind and soul. The body will stumble along the best it can.

Note to my mother who may worry reading this: I think what I've expressed here is normal. I started to self-censor, but why? It is obvious that I am not alone in my doubting. Some cope by bantering, a few by continual bicycle marveling, others ride their bikes.

The calling out to departing riders "Bon Courage" I just heard outside my window reminds me of the other reason I sought out this challenge: making connections.

Soon I will be on my bicycle, pedaling away from doubts and toward a healthier self-exploration...with six thousand other riders and several thousand volunteers who are making it all possible.

UPDATE: A few hours later, I am restored and eager. Off to the start line to rally to Brest and return!

For whatever challenges you face, Bon Courage!


Friday, August 19, 2011

After Three PBP'S, for Danes It's the Weather!

At dinner, I accosted a table of Danes, and inquired of their thinking about Paris Brest Paris. Jesper Ahremhont, from Dronninglund (Queen's Wood), Denmark, told me this is his fourth PBP! When I asked about  what was most memorable, he immediately went to the weather. Jesper is second from the left in the photo.

FRENCH FOOD ALERT! While my meal this evening as I compose this is not fabulous by French standards, I just have to proclaim my affinity for cheese boards, or cheese plates. Either prior to, or in lieu of, dessert. What a yummy concept.

Back to randonneuring. Oooph, Bleu Fromage! Tres bonne! OK, really back to randonneuring. The weather for Jesper's first two PBP's was great: sunny. But 2007, rainy the whole time.

He attributes the decline in Danish riders, from 182 in 2007 to 142 this year to the weather in 2007. Also at the table was a rider claiming to be the youngest Dane: on the far right in photo with his father next to him. The younger generation seems to be less engaged in distance riding, they agreed.

So why does Jesper do PBP? As a goal or motivation for training, he says. He and his companions appeared to be fit and well-trained, but each had a beer, I noted. The table of French randonneurs nearby? Why, wine, of course!

Keep it internationally sunny,


Fender Menders at Cycles Alex Singer

My fender was toast, and based on Dartre's phone conversation in French I thought they'd have a replacement. But no, so instead they  cleverly fastened a reinforcing piece over the area that was broken up around the rear brake bridge.

Voila! Cycles Alex Singer workers had me re-fendered. Their shop is a trip, and the bikes...tres manufique.

I'll post more pics another day, but as I asked for one more quick pic of them together they insisted I hurry as they were closing for lunch. That's civilized!

Keep it mended,


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Wrong St. Quentin!

“By entering this mythical ride, you will test your cycling agility and your human endurance.

You will strive to obtain your Personal Best or you will try simply to rally the arrival...but you will always do your best to live this adventure while supporting each other and building friendships with those who participate in this endurance monument, which is much more than a simple hike. No place of honor, not any podium, only the pleasure of the challenge alone will help you to overcome the suffering...and the magic moment of the arrival will obliterate the doubtful moments on the roads of Brittany or of Normandy.

You will not be alone: you still be in the company of entrants from all over the world. You will appreciate the charms of France and you will be united by the same goal: to rally BREST and return to PARIS.
You will not be alone: many spectators-or rather admirers-will encourage you throughout your journey, indeed will support you in attaining the fixed goal. You will appreciate also hundreds of volunteers who will help throughout the journey."

Yes, I ended up in the wrong city--long story, but delaying me 5.5 hours. Cest la Vie!

But, I am now at the start and already in 10 minutes here meeting old friends (Dan and Terry from the Fleche this year) and new, from Virginia and California.

The quote at the top of this post is from the organizers of Paris Brest Paris 2003.

Late and tired, I cannot convey any better than what they said in 2003 as to why I am here.

If the picture posts sideways, it is poetic justice as I am posting via my phone, and the St. Quetin sign is from my train journey to the wrong city!

Keep it navigating,

Curio Rando

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Track My Paris Brest Paris Progress in Real Time

Sorry not very many pictures, though we have tons of great shots to show another time. Technical difficulties and very limited internet access limit the posts and pics. Much fodder for post-trip posting, so watch out when we return!

But, if you'd like to follow my progress--and other Seattle Randonneurs as well--check out this web site. You can scroll down to find any Seattle club rider. The event begins on Sunday the 21st, though individual riders start in one of many waves so each wave has its own time limits.

France has been nothing short of spectacular so far! All worth it already, and the Paris Brest Paris has not even yet begun! Best to all who are following, and I am so very grateful for all the wishes of support and encouragement. Every one is meaningful.

And to those who'd like to be here with us this year but who were kept back by ailments beyond their control, it is for you I will be riding. I know how much this means to you, and I wouldn't be here without your early encouragement and suggestions. We will miss you!

The photo is of Dartre on the climb to the castle Fenelon from our cyclo-touring through the Dordogne River valley. Essentially, every hilltop has a chateau of some sort, and it was at Fenelon that we met an admirer of Newton (my bicycle) who had volunteered at the 2007 PBP. He had wanted to participate in 2011, but alas, Life got in the way. I have a picture and more about him later. He characterized the Paris Brest Paris event to us in his heavily accented Anglais as "mythic".

Keep it digitally tracked,


Friday, August 12, 2011

In Country for Paris Brest Paris 2011

Too much to, so perhaps this picture will serve as a thousand words for now. More to come. Pardon et merci!
Keep it in that special Provencal light,

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Meet Newton

I've been ruminating over names of late. My own, for instance. We just hired a wonderful new staff member where I work, but he too is a Steve. At 54, I am now back to where I was in first grade: one of three Steves in the room.

This has led me to consider what else I might be called, but boy, is that a minefield. Folks get used to a handle for you, and they are not so inclined to let it go. I can see this will take some more thought. But if you do think about it, the reason we name anything or anyone is to distinguish it or them from all the others, right?

So when several things or persons are all called by the same name, isn't the purpose defeated? I'm beginning to feel like I live in an episode of the Newhart TV show in which one brother introduces himself and his two brothers as: "Hi, I'm Larry; this is my brother Darryl, and this is my other brother Darryl." If you don't remember the show, that line won't be funny, but trust me, back in the day, it was priceless. And since in the labor movement we call one another brother or sister--at least I still do--I now can say "Hi, I'm Steve; this is my brother Steve, and this is my other brother Steve."

Now don't get me wrong. The name Steve is not so bad in and of itself. The common name Steve originates from the first martyr, a man of conviction who suffered death by stoning for that conviction. Stoning isn't so cool, but that he stood up for his belief isn't a bad thing for which to be named. It's just that among men of a certain age, Steve is a pretty common name. But then perhaps that's just my current midlife crisis kicking in.

But while I wrastle with my own similarity syndrome, I am now prepared to announce another naming: my Pereira bicycle that I will ride from Paris, and hopefully back thereto, is now officially hereby to be known as...Newton. I chose Newton because it is both a family name and an evocative food I lo-ove.

My mother's great grandfather (I think I have this right) and his father before him, were both Isaac Newton McDowell. One of them was a Civil War veteran for the Union Army. I have more details, but not at hand right now. That's pretty cool, and Isaac Newton was obviously a character of considerable achievement and conviction as well. Solid name for a bicycle. Timely for the Civil War Sesquicentennial as well, given my Civil War veteran pedigree.

But when it comes to cookies, I sure do love me Fig Newtons. One time, when my cousin-brother Jeffie (as I then called him) was sleeping over at our house, we had a Fig Newton Eating Contest. Nay, make that a Fig Newton Stuffing Contest because the idea was to see how many Newtons we could stuff into our mouths at one time.

Jeffie today. Bet he'd like a Fig Newton about now.

Jeffie's house and our house were separated only by our grandparents' house, and we had plenty of sleepovers. The night of our Contest, we were left to our own devices. I think my Mum might have been home, but asleep or somehow not present. I just remember that the more we stuffed those Newtons into our mouths while trying to maintain quiet, the funnier it became. I have this vivid mental image of stuffing 10 Newtons into my mouth angling for the "winning" amount, and seeing Jeffie equally stuffed and both of us gagging and spewing Newton crumbs all over the kitchen as we sat on that cool linoleum floor and we laughed and laughed and suppressed laughs and spewed some more and laughed harder still. Maybe the hardest I have laughed in all my life.

For a long while, I don't think I did Newtons at all. I had OD'd. But now, I'm back to loving their sweet fruity smell, their cakey-gritty texture, and their satisfying stomach-filling sensation. I love me Newtons.

So Newton it is.

Oh, and I became Steve because I was (and am still) a boy. I was Steven Robert. But if I had been a girl (there were no ultrasounding prognostications of gender back then), I'd be Roberta Stephanie now. My parents told my older brother and sister they could name me, and my gender would determine which of their name selections would win. One wanted Steve or Stephanie and the other wanted Robert or Roberta. The naming contest "loser" got to choose my middle name. Pretty ingenious, right?

And now, all these Fig Newtons later, I'm thinking about a name change to differentiate myself from my workmates. One possibility that I've come upon is perhaps a throwback to those Newton-stuffing/Newton-spewing times on the kitchen floor, back when Jeffie and Stevie roamed the backyard baseball/football field and the woods out back and the world was reduced to a long, lazy Summer afternoon turning into dusk and blinking lightning bugs and skittering bats.

"Hey Jeffie, waddya wanna do", I'd ask in the middle of a sumptuously boring and sweltering day or an achingly languorous evening. "I dunno, Stevie, waddyou wanna do?", he'd retort. And we'd look at each other and grin (Jeffie shining his big dimples and maybe with a new lost tooth), and off we'd go to this or that mischief place where our parents weren't and we'd get into some paint we weren't supposed to get into or play an old game of Army or make up a new game or hike up into the woods so that we should see what we shall see or....

So, yes, if you're conspiring toward playful mischief and you want me in, you can call me Stevie.

Wow, that's spooky! I just remembered that I had posted a picture of Fig Newtons in my Gilles Berthoud front handlebar bag in a previous post, so I thought I'd re-post it here, above. So guess what? The date of that post was exactly one year ago today: July 14, 2010. It was a post about my first climbing up to Mount Rainier. One year to the day. Gives me chills it's so uncanny!

OK, Newton my trusty steed, now that you've been properly named and introduced you're more than simple transportation; you're my companion with your own personality. Take me to the wilds of France, Newton, so that we shall see what we shall see!

Keep it yummy and mischievous,


Saturday, July 9, 2011

Seriously, What Have The Unions Really Ever Given Us?

Take a three minute tour, but buckle up cause it will tickle your funny bone! (Hint, click on the link or HERE, not on the picture.)

Keep it amusing,


Monday, June 27, 2011

To Cayuse Pass and Crystal Mountain

I rode up toward Mount Rainier a couple weeks ago from Black Diamond, but didn't turn up toward Sunrise. Instead, I stayed straight and up toward Cayuse Pass. I hadn't been there on bicycle before and maybe only once by car. The Elk, down low due to the super-heavy snowfall this year said hello.

The road to Chinook Pass was closed. I'd have cycled up a ways anyway to see how far a cyclist could go, but the rangers were right there in the parking lot making it clear I couldn't.

They told me they were expecting the pass to be open by the July 4th weekend, but other such deadlines had come and gone. Turns out they got it right as it opened on June 23. Such is the way with these extraordinary snows this year. If you contrast with this list of historic opening dates for the passes, it gives you a sense of the awesomeness of the snowpack. Here's another link that describes what it takes to clear the high roads.

At the summit of Cayuse Pass at the same parking lot, looking the other way.

After descending form Cayuse Pass I took the road up to Crystal Mountain Ski Resort. See the sun-worshipping skiers?

When I asked how late the ski resort would be open the clerk at the convenience store said she had no idea. As far as she knew it was open to skiers for some time now. According to this link, weekend skiing continues at least through the 4th of July!

Thank you, state workers, for clearing the passes in the Spring (or even Summer this year!), and for keeping them clear in the weeks leading to closure. As well, the passes we keep open year 'round require constant plowing, salting, marking, etc. I understand this to be dangerous work at times.

Chinook Pass clearing crew from 2006 photo, courtesy of Washington State Department of Transporation.
 We appreciate your work on our behalf. Yet another example of what government does and which we often take for granted. Rugged individualism only gets us so far; at times our best or only alternative is to collectivize our efforts. That's what we call government of, by and for the People. Go Government! Thank you for your work!

Keep it pointed downhill,


Sunday, June 26, 2011

My Randonneuring Bicycle, Part 6: Saddle

Above is a pic of my Berthoud saddle on a rare sunny Seattle day.

Recently, my Physical Therapist was watching my pedal stroke, and from behind he noted that the right side of my saddle was noticeably higher than the left. This reminded me how my lower right back had been hurting.

We postulated about why the right side was higher. Had I broken the saddle in that way? Seemed unlikely even though on my old Fuji I used to have the seatpost twist in the seat tube so the saddle was splayed to the side and no longer centered. Was the saddle defective? We couldn't figure it out.

I went home and unscrewed the leather so as to inspect the frame. I noticed that in fact the frame was tweaked so that it was twisted: higher on the right but essentially torqued like a screw. Not as dramatically as depicted below, but twisted nonetheless.

Again, I deliberately tweaked the frame to demonstrate, but even this out-of-focus shot captures the idea.

Below, it is aligned more neutrally.


What I discovered was that the twist was locked in from tightening the saddle onto the seatpost. I had to loosen it up to change the twist. Relocking the saddle in place with no twist assures that both sides are at the same height. Now I'm sure I'm not the first to discover this locking in of the twist, but I hadn't seen it noted elsewhere. And it never occurred to me.

On the whole, and with this new observation in mind, I really like the Berthoud saddle. Well constructed, suits me tender parts well, and stylish (though that wouldn't in the end influence my choice of this crucial component). I did have one of the screws fall out, which really bummed me. It was just after I purchased another Berthoud saddle for my indoor trainer bicycle (one of the ugly-to-my-eye cork models) that was offered to me on sale because that color wasn't selling well. I removed one of the screws from this saddle to put into my Pereira saddle only to realize that the screw head was not Allen-keyed but starred like an automobile headlight screw. So now I have all Allen-keyed but one. Grrrr.

I do like the Klik-Fit system of fastening the under-saddle Berthoud bag you see in the top photo.

Keep it well supported on a symmetrically aligned frame,


Friday, June 24, 2011

PBP Mini-Panic: Sore Knees

Ouch! My knees were hurting. Mostly my right.

Knees are important to cyclists, and I've come to understand that cycling is generally knee-friendly. And though I've had some knee issues over the years, I had come to a place where me knees were doing just fine.

But knee pain has struck again, and not at an opportune time just a matter of weeks prior to Paris Brest Paris. I visited the Physical Therapist this week, and we made a few tweaks. I've also been off the bike for a week, so things are settling down.

But I did panic a little. Knee pain now? Right as I'm trying to get a little faster, push a little harder?

Well, I've moved through the panic now, and I anticipate getting back on track soon. It is a good reminder though to stay focused, stay calm, and work through potential setbacks. We shall see.

Keep it bent, but not too sharply,


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Desert Rivers 400k: Yakima Canyon Always: Final PBP Qualifier

For some reason, the 400k has always been my favorite length of brevet. Mind you, I've only done a handful, but still it seems to suit me. This one, the Desert Rivers 400k, was one of my favorites because the route featured the Yakima River canyon.

I have loved driving our family through this canyon for years now, all eyes peeled for Bighorn Sheep (except mine as the driver, right, though yes I do peek through my peripheral vision when I can). I have loved every minute floating a raft down the Yak looking for those fat 'n happy trout. It was on such a trip that I introduced the SingingCyclist to fly fishing for trout.

I have loved bank fishing the Yak as well. In fact I remember one time in particular taking a day off work over 15 years ago to drive up to the Yak from Seattle with a fishing pal. He didn't tell me he had to be back just after lunch! I was just getting into it, but when he told me he had to get home I was shocked. I thought we had the day to ourselves. I threw out a few more desultory casts, then dragged in my line and started to step up onto the grassy bank when I spooked a monster trout lurking just under that deeply undercut grassy riverbank. Instead of working the bank for that monster's pals, I had to drive us back home. The memory of that "one that got away" moment haunts me still.

Now I have a new Yakima treat to add to my list: riding up and down the canyon in rain and sun. We had both. In all shades of exploratory dimensions, the Yakima River canyon never disappoints. Fisher folks talk about their "home waters". I know what constituted home waters for me in Colorado: the then under-appreciated St. Vrain River and it's various forks. Hardly a river by most standards, but sweet and special by those who knew it. Today, could my home waters be the Yak? I don't get there enough, but it is in the running as far as fishing goes. And for biking river valleys or river canyons, the Yak is up there as well. Though I do recall my first 300k through the Umatilla River valley, and that was pretty fabulous too. But then I can't forget riding through the car-banned upper Virgin River Valley in Zion National Park with DartreDame. That was as glorious an evening, river bicycle ride as one could have in a lifetime. Well, now that I think on it, cycling the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal towpath along the Potomac River was pretty darned special too.

I guess I've come--in writing this very post--to the inescapable and now clearly obvious conclusion that my most favorite bicycle riding is through beautiful river valleys and gorges. I suppose I've always know that, but hadn't consciously put it forward before. Well, there you go.

See that railroad track? One night--I think on the very trip SingingCyclist caught his first fish--Dartre, Singing and I were camped out behind Red's Fly Shop. Red's used to be very low brow, just a shop with places to pitch your own tent. They rented drift boats and guided sports, but that was about it. Now, it's a regular high brow lodge. Not the same.

But back to the track. We were dead asleep after a day of raft rowing, fishing and frolicking. Suddenly this freight train came down the track which was just across the river, and I'd have sworn--Dartre and I both would have sworn--that that freight train was about to barrel right through our tent and run us over. It was so loud it was unimaginable. Singing slept right through it as kids will do. 

Next morning we realized that it was the fact that the train noise carried across the river added to the fact that the track was right up against the tall canyon wall that so enhanced the roar and rumble of that train. It was like nothing else I've experienced!

Part of what makes river valleys so special is their dramatic evening lighting and soft breezes. Swallows love these rugged cliffs for nesting, and cycling through swooping swallows as the Sun's rays tinge a reddish glow onto our world is sublime. Even grazing cows and goats appear happier in the gloam. All is right and settled and patient with the world between the Sun's setting and darkness.

As you come up and out of the gorge heading South, the orchards take over again, and the sky opens up. The Desert River becomes more desert than river once more.

The photo above is of one cyclist among hundreds I encountered driving back home through the canyon the day after the brevet. This Your Canyon for a Day event opens up the canyon to bicycles and people of all kinds and ages and sizes, and closes it to cars.

Here riparian habitat meets the cycling habitat. It was festive and colorful and a true happening, this opening of the canyon to cyclists only. With my bike on my roof rack they thought I was one of them and let me through. For safety's sake, though I drove slowly, it would have been better had I avoided the canyon that trip.

But driving back through the Yakima River canyon where I had just ridden my 400k was even better because I knew that by finishing this Desert River 400k brevet I had qualified for Paris Brest Paris. I was on my way!

Much thanks to Paul Whitney and Cathy for organizing and volunteering for this brevet!!

Keep it riparian,


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Bike Hanger: Why didn't I think of that?

Genius! I've always liked the bike storage system that stores bicycles in the lofty space above a shop, but my shop is a basement area (what we used to call "cellar" as in "I'm going down the cellar") with a low ceiling.

But check out this link about bicycle-powered bike vertical conveyor storage! I dig it.

Keep it up there!


Friday, June 17, 2011

Lightning Bug Males Synchronize their Sexts

In a post two years ago I focused in on the sex lives of lightning bugs, or fireflies as some prefer. Turns out I'm not the only one interested in others' sexual habits.

Lightning Bug males are now known to flash on and off simultaneously. I've never witnessed these mass synchronizations, but human voyeurism of lightning bug sexual behavior is all the rage in Tennessee.

For a link to this summertime story, check out this Seattle Times article originally from the New York Times. Photo above is from the Seattle Times story.

Keep it synchronized,


Sunday, June 12, 2011

World Naked Bike Ride in Toronto

Best of all worlds: bicycles, naked bodies and politics!!

I came across The World Naked Bike Ride from Twitter posts that led back to the blogTO blog, a blog about Toronto. The World Naked Bike Ride is about standing up against non-renewable energy, and it sounds fun and hokey, and kind of a blast.

I know, I know, where are all the pictures? Well, if you go to the blogTO website you'll find tasteful photos with the fun parts censored, so it's an all ages experience.

I, for one, admire their lettin' it hang. Way too much uptightness about our bodies if you ask me. In the end (no pun intended, and you'll notice I showed a great deal of pun restraint here), our bodies are all we got.


Keep it natural,


Saturday, June 11, 2011

My Randonneuring Bicycle, Part 5: Geometry

The first thing I discussed with my builder, Tony Pereira, was the geometry of my first custom made bicycle. Unfortunately, I didn't possess a broad perspective from owning a myriad of bicycles. My last new bicycle I bought in 1975. I only knew it had never felt quite right.

It was tall enough for my legs, but I felt too stretched out. My trips to my bike-fitting physical therapist confirmed that my old Fuji was too long. By combining an inappropriately short stem with an inappropriately forward saddle placement on the seatpost, I could get where I needed to be, but the bike was essentially too long for me.

That is to say, if I matched my top tube length to the norms in the industry given my seat tube length, then the top tube would be too long. Tony agreed after I took my Fuji to his shop. The result then was a truly custom geometry suited to my body.

I can see you now imagining this long-legged, short-torsoed guy typing this out on his keyboard, right? Well, I've concluded it is less about my actual body proportions and more about my inflexibility in my back. Some is due to a general inflexibility, but some might also be a result of my old bricklaying/marble masonry days. At any rate, geometry is crucial to my bike fit, and Tony got it right. I know this because it feels right, but my bike-fitting physical therapist confirms it too. Saddle sits where it ought. Stem is right. Over the pedals in way that is efficient.

So, here's where I get a little fuzzy. To accomplish this, Tony had to compress my top tube. Doing that while keeping my seat tube long enough means that the angles got steeper. This isn't ideal for a randonneuring or long-distance bicycle, but what to do? I think there is nothing else to do. Lower trail in the fork or longer chainstays matter some, but this is all a package. And for Tony, as a custom builder, he is always thinking about the whole. How does the bike fit together? Measurements, Angles, Tube Diameters, Wheel Size, Toe Overlap, Centering Over the Pedals, Handlebar Bag Placement Over the Front Geometry, Bottom Bracket Height, Crankarm Length, etc.

As I said, my perspective is limited, but this is how I view it today. I will post soon about the other features, quality of build, component choices, wheel size, etc. But geometry is fundamental even though all are integrated.

I am satisfied with the geometry, and if there were one thing here I'd change--and had unlimited resources--I'd be interested in another fork resulting in an even lower trail. I'd be intrigued to see how that affects the handling, and I'd learn from that broader perspective. Might be better, might be worse, but it would be good to see. If wishes were horses....

Keep it geometric,


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Bicycles Battling Illiteracy in India or 'Mukhyamantri Balika Cycle Yojna'

Indian leaders are providing bicycles--a critical vehicle for basic transportation of people and goods--to girls who stay in school in higher grade levels. Most of the stories feature the state of Bihar, but it appears that other Indian state governments are also looking into it.

Check out this log post on the subject by Chief Minister of Bihar Nitish Kumar. Some of his constituents would like him to focus on other economic issues as well, which is understanding given the level of poverty in the State of Bihar; there is so much to be done.

But, the vast majority are very supportive it seems, and the Chief Minister's comments about the issue that prompted the bicycle program are stark and clear:

The dropout rate among the schoolgirls has been very high in Bihar over the years. The girls, particularly those from rural areas, often discontinue their studies beyond the primary or middle schools. Most of them are often married at an early age, which leave them with fewer opportunities to contribute their mite towards economic development of society.
And, I heartily agree with Kumar's closing statements:

I have always believed that any society cannot progress unless its women progress -- and the women in any society cannot progress unless they are educated. This scheme is a small step in that direction.

This project personifies the winds of change blowing across the state today. Its long-term impact will be felt in a few years from now. But I have no hesitation to say that this has already helped Bihar emerge as a vibrant state which truly believes in empowering its women through various ways. Educating girls is one of them.

In my limited travels of late to India I was inspired by the stregth of women and girls. I witnessed their doing much of the most brute physical labor--breaking rocks into smaller stones for road construction projects, carrying construction materials on their heads, field work, etc. Now they get the chance to further their own education, to have a fuller range of options for their futures, to get educated as equals. At least, this bicycle program is furthering that momentum.
Bicycles are simple. Bicycles are transformative. Bicycles are unlimited in their potential to help change the world for the better.

The photo is from Nitish Kumar's blog post.

Keep it in everybody's hands,


Monday, June 6, 2011

The Joys and Torments of Solitude


This is from the August 2, 2010 cover of The New Yorker. It is a painting by J. J. Sempé titled The Joys and Torments of Solitude.

It reminds me of the Willamette Headwaters 600k Brevet. I DNF'd that ride and rode most of the really remote and wooded sections, like depicted here, with others. But still, the feeling I get from this painting and the feeling I retain from that ride are brothers within me. Hard to describe, but I love this painting! Joys and Torments.

I didn't know it when I first liked this painting, but the painter/cartoonist Jean-Jacques Sempé is French according to Wiki.

Keep it alongside what may not seem to be so akin,


Sunday, June 5, 2011

New York Times Talks Randonneuring and PBP

Former RUSA President and current Seattle International Randonneurs RBA, Mark Thomas, posted a link to the listserve about a New York Times story on randonneuring and the 2011 PBP. Not bad for the mainstream press.

Check it out!

Picture courtesy of the New York Times. It's a pic of the New Jersey Randonneurs during a 200k Brevet.

Keep it fit to print,


Saturday, June 4, 2011

Sunny Seattle Afternoon Leads into Midnight in Paris

DartreDame and I (Pramila became "DartreDame" during our early-in-relationship visit to Paris) thrust ourselves out into yesterday's sunny Seattle afternoon as if we'd die if we didn't get our Vitamin D dose. We, like all Seattleites, have been longing and complaining and yearning and mourning for our fair share of Sun and Warmth. So, when the Sun showed she still showers us on occasion--and this time on a Friday afternoon on the eve of a predicted totally Sunny weekend--we couldn't believe our good fortune!

Out we dashed to the waterfront for a bite and a bathe into our old pal the Sun.

Later, still glowing inside and out, we sallied off to see Woody Allen's newest, Midnight in Paris. Remember all those times in the past twenty years when you go to his "latest" with great anticipation (or maybe successively diminished anticipation) only to be let down. Maybe it was clever. Maybe it had yet another great beauty, but not much to it. They have seemed to leave me unfulfilled for many a year now. Not to mention the anger and disappointment at his reported personal failings.

Midnight in Paris is the one for which I've been yearning. Glittering shots of Paris, a familiar but sweet plot line, an uncannily Woody Allenesque Owen Wilson, and yes, amazingly beautiful women. But, best of all for me, it was just funny and funny and funny. I suspended disbelief over and over despite the avalanche of absurdity.

Ah, Woody Allen swept Dartre and me away on the perfect Friday evening in our domestic Paris: Seattle.

But wait, there's more! Thanks to randonneuring and the Paris Brest Paris, we are Paris bound in just two months. We will walk those very lanes, stroll the Seine, and maybe it will even rain on us some warm Paris evening (see the film to appreciate this). If it does, I will cherish that rain as much as I am loving this Seattle Sun right this very moment.

Midnight in Paris promotional photo.

Wait! What am I doing?! Writing to you about our fabulous Seattle Sun instead of riding into the Sun with Dartre? I must be crazy. We're going riding! See ya!!!

Keep it with a Sunny disposition,


Thursday, June 2, 2011

Oregon Coast 600k: Rolling Like a River to the Sea, PBP Qualifier #3

I rode out with the rest of the gang for the start of the Oregon Coast 600k Brevet, and we crossed rivers like the one above, racing it to the seacoast.

Check out the little red one!

Eventually, we made it to the shore. I hadn't seen the Oregon coast in years; it didn't disappoint.

Seastacks and salt air tempted lingering, but alas I was Paris bound this trip. Oregon coast lingering must come another day.

Bill Alsup, veteran randonneur, and I rode many a mile together, but most were decidedly not as portrayed above. First, we mainly rode together at night. Second, it was mostly either raining or downright raining hard. Or foggy. Or all of the above when we were tired.

Bill's smile, however, as pictured above was never far away.

This was my second successful 600k, and it was tough. An hour's sleep only, and I got into this rhythm of getting into the controles near the limit, then eating and resting and lingering too long causing me to get to the next controle near the limit, etc. I have to say that the tension that's built by never having the cushion you'd like is itself wearing. Not advisable.

I ended up riding in to the finish with Will Goss, another vet, and it was great riding with both Bill and Will. Really a very friendly crowd of randonneurs those two days.

Many, many thanks to Susan Otcenas and Susan France. A well-organized and beautiful route!

Keep it coastly,