Wednesday, October 31

Monthly Mileage: October 2012

That's right boys and girls! It's time for the monthly tally.

This month I rode 466 miles bringing my 2012 total to 4,834 miles.

That brings my monthly average to 483 miles a month and projects the year out to 5,796. But, like I've said before, November and December are typically low mileage months for me.

This past month was my seventh highest of the year.

To exceed last year's annual record of 5,100 I only have to get 267 more miles before the end of the year. Cake man!

Mind Your Manners

While watching the presidential debates something became painful apparent to me. No, not that R-Money is an android. We already knew that. Or that Obama is black. I voted for him in '08 so I wouldn't seem to be a racist. So, I already knew that too.

I realized (or better articulated in thought) that we are a country devoid of manners. Both the president and the president wanna-be talked over each other, cut each other off, cut the moderator off, and ignored all of the rules of the debate. It was, in short, a swirling toilet of rudeness that we were forced as a country to accept as a valid debate between the two men seeking to rule the country for the next four years.

The notion has been percolating on the stovetop of my mind ever since. This morning it all came together in context for me. The whole "car vs bike" issue really isn't about rights, infrastructure, bike licensing, or car hating. It's all about bad manners.

Cyclists often choose to curse or gesture at rude motorists, and motorists often choose to buzz, or otherwise harass cyclists that "impede" their progress upon the roads. It's not because we lack the space to all get along together. It's because we are annoyed and project our frustrations actively onto other human beings.

In no arena is this more prevalent than on the roads. Because on the roads we believe we can cast the Parthian Shot and go on back into anonymous obscurity. We're deluding ourselves, of course, because motorists have license plates and cyclists typically cannot escape from a motorist that is bent on catching up with them.

Most of us, having cut our teeth at personal transportation behind the wheel of the car, are well versed in the protective anonymity the steel and glass shell of the car provides. It gives us false courage. The power we feel under the ball of our right foot gives us unearned bravado.

That power, combined with our complete and total dismissal of the seriousness of driving a motor vehicle equals a very wretched environment in which to travel for all types of users.

One time I had a diminutive young "lady" try to start a fight with me because I smacked the trunk of her car after she almost clipped me with her car while talking on her cell phone. Admittedly, I could have let it go, but I am of the mind that we need to be calling people out for wandering aimlessly through the world with cell phones growing out of their heads. It should not be socially acceptable to be so oblivious all the time. Cell phone caused behavior like we see today would have branded people in pre-cell phone times as the village idiots.

We don't take driving seriously enough. We don't have reasonable understanding of responsibility toward one another. In short, we don't have good manners. Road rage is a symptom of this epidemic of bad manners.

Bike Snob writes in his surprisingly level headed The Enlightened Cyclist:

"Commuting is one of the only arenas of life in which we're willing to accept sudden death at the hands of another human being.

All of this is also the reason that, in our highly refined and abstracted age, the simple business of getting from one place to another is one of the remaining areas of life in which a perfect stranger might scream at another." --Bike Snob NYC

So why are we okay with this? And is there anything we can truly do about bad manners on the roads?

To the second question: yes, we can each do our best to inject good manners into the karmic pot. If you practice considerate driving/cycling you may encourage others to do the same, or at least, you won't validate poor behavior by adding your energy to the storm.

Are we okay with bad behavior and bad manners? I'm not. I doubt you are either. But culturally it would seem that we've either given up, or have incorporated inconsiderate speech and actions into our daily lives subconsciously.

If I had the choice (I don't) I would vote for the candidate that had exhibited good manners during the campaign process.


Tuesday, October 30

Ramming Speed (What The?!) Monday


If you can't laugh at yourself...

Sunday Mandy affirmed that we were going to run 5k. We decided back in September that we're going to run a 5k on Thanksgiving, and despite our resolve we've slacked on our training a bit.

Before Sunday I had ran no more than 2 miles without stopping in a few years. So why not just go all out and run the whole distance?

I ran out Ridge Road toward Olde Town. After the initial shock to my system I settled into a good pace. Running through Olde Town was fun, then I turned and headed for home. A little more than a mile from home my right thigh started cramping. I'd just been thinking that I was going to be able to run the entire 5k. Not so much.

I walked for a few dozen yards until my thigh started loosening; then I ran again. And within a few strides I was walking again. I finally resolved to just walk. I was bummed, but I just couldn't run.

That night I hobbled around the house, wincing with each stoop and each lurching out of chairs. The pain was uncomfortable. I worried it would affect my ability to get to and from work on Monday.

Yesterday morning I woke and got ready for work. I hardly noticed (or remembered) the pain from my cramp until I threw a leg over the top tube of my road bike. Oh yeah.

Of course the pain was less while pedaling than it had been walking. I cranked to work in a respectable time, even logging my best Strava time on the Applewood Southbound segment, and clocking in at 6th overall.

The first hour at work I stiff-legged around. Eventually my thigh loosened up and by the end of the day I forgot all about the previous day's cramping.

4:00 came and I shoved off on Minus for home. Within a couple of minutes it was apparent I was riding strongly. Down on Illinoising in Golden I felt downright fast. So I slammed down on the pedals and cranked hard.

I pushed much harder than usual. I was getting a good cardio ride in which is unusual. I don't typically get out of breath on the bike.

On and on I raced toward home, ever cognizant of my Strava competitors. I imagined I was breaking all kinds of records. But it seemed wishful thinking at best.

You can imagine my surprise when after my sync I discovered 8 trophies. I'm 2nd out of 5 on the US 6 Illinois Descent into Golden, 14th out of 300 on Ford Street in Golden and a personal record at 2:09 for the mile segment, I'm KOM (out of 32) on the 0.3 miles NB Tabor Clear Creek to 44th, and I had my 3rd best time on Ridge Road Straightaway (east) which is a hard segment.

When I careened through the Bikeport I'd managed a 21.9 mph average. What? Ramming Speed? On a MONDAY?!

Yeah, it was.

This morning I went light--just my wallet and work ID in my jersey pockets, no backpack-- and was determined to break some more records.On the segments I rode I had a similar effort as my commute yesterday afternoon, but what's more significant is that I finally cracked the elusive sub-40 minute morning commute.

So what seemed to me a debilitating cramp has somehow boosted my on bike performance. I guess I need me some more of that...

Wonder what the rest of the week will hold?

Monday, October 29

Fictitious Mountain Biking Bucket List

If you could ride a bike (road or mountain) in any fictitious worlds that have been conceived in any medium, be it literature, film or TV, what would they be? Top five. Or ten.

Mine are:

1) Middle Earth

2) Kim Stanley Robinson's terraformed Mars

3) Narnia

4) Ringworld

5) Oz

Seems like I'd need a mountain bike for my fictitious bike tours. Maybe even a fat bike for touring on the Yellow Brick Road (assuming the bricks are more like rough cobbles) and on KSR's Mars.

Imagine how different all those stories would have been if Tolkien's Fellowship had been on mountain bikes. Or if the kids had found a rack of bikes on the other side of the wardrobe? Dorothy and friends might have outrun those flying monkeys on a good set of wheels...maybe a couple of tandems.

For those of you unfamiliar with Larry Niven's Ringworld, it's simply a made world, like a ribbon circling a star at the ideal orbit to maintain life, with raised edges to keep in the atmosphere. Imagine a bike tour as long as the orbit of a planet in space!

If I could choose any of the five (or more) imagined worlds I think I might pick Robinson's Mars first, followed by Middle Earth.

What imaginary worlds would you cycle through?

Saturday, October 27

A Trip to the Bike Shop

I needed some tubes (too many flats lately) and the kids and I went over to Salvagetti. Here's what we saw:

Surly Big Dummy out front

A true hybrid bike

Kona MinUte

Surly Krampus in front of a Moonlander

Boone discovered he wants this helmet for Christmas

Friday, October 26

Ramming Speed Friday: Big Returns Edition

Let's do a quick recap.

I can declare an official Ramming Speed Friday if I:

Ride a 17+ mph commute home on either the Xtracycle or my mountain bike

OR

Ride a 20+ mph commute home on my road bike

I've ridden the X the last couple of days because of it's helpful fenders. I hadn't ridden it much at all over the past few months. I never feel very fast on it and I've been craving speed more than just about anything else. Today I nailed a 17+ mph commute home. And, since it's Friday, I was on the X, and I was on my way home...

RAMMING SPEED FRIDAY


Yes, the return of the Cannonball X and of Ramming Speed Friday!!!

Anyway, according to Strava I tied my fastest time on one of the segments I rode this afternoon. Bonus for a RSF! Again, I didn't feel very fast, but really, there's a reason I call it the "Cannonball." Once I get up a good head of steam there's not much that will stop it.

I had to dodge some crusty slush on some of the MUP bridges. Wet leaves lay in ambush in a few spots. But I still managed to crank out a respectable end of week ride. I was glad to be rushing away from the cubicle/cell.

FatCargoBike

My synapses have been firing for...well, actually almost 39 years now...but recently the electrical activity in my brain has taken on a new shape: fat cargo bike.

I'm thinking about changing my blog to fatcargocyclist.com. Do you think Elden would mind?

Anyway, back when I was haunting Salvagetti in anticipation of getting my own FreeRadical kit, Scott suggested that we could build the Cannonball up as a fat cargo bike. It sounded completely plausible, and I would loved to have built such a contraption at the time, but the economy got me down, man! That, and, I wasn't sure if I wanted to limit the versatility of the bike. I wanted a bike that could also be a nimble commuter.

I opted to go for the conventional Xtracycle build and ended up with a fine bike. The Cannonball X has been all I dreamed of and more. I don't ride it as much as I did the first year because sometimes a short bike is just easier. But when I need it, nothing else will work.

So when I started jonesing for a faster bike I picked up the "vintage" '86 Bianchi, and I've been pleased with it's quickness. When I want to mountain bike I reach for my Cannondale Trail SL2. Sometimes though, while the X doesn't exactly replace the function of the sporty road bike, I have often wondered how it would fare as a longtail mountain bike.

The mental conundrum is this: suspension. The Xtracycle is long and rigid. Taking it on trails would make for a teeth chipping ride. Sure, fine, fire roads and double track wouldn't be out of the realm of reasonable with knobby tires. But even still, the gap between cargo bike and mountain bike is still a bit wide.

Of late, as my interest in fat bikes has grown I've pondered how the Cannonball would ride as a fat cargo bike. Ding! Ding! Ding! The suspension quandary is solved! Front AND rear suspension for a cargo bike! Hallelujah!

I've been toying with the idea. There is no funding, nor has their been a formal development submittal made to the approval committe. BUT, I think the feasibility study is all shorn up (minus the financials), and we'll be dreaming long and hard in the weeks and months to come. I'll need to go back to Salvagetti and brainstorm this with Scott. There may be clearance, gearing and dishing issues.

I know what you must be thinking: a longtail mountain bike?! How could you take something nigh on 8 feet long on singletrack. Well, I admit, Jeffco Open Space waterbars would be impossible to navigate, but I think there are plenty of trails out there that would be lots of fun. And the head-turn factor would be worth it.

Through Derrick Purvis' blogI discovered this lad in Scotland that has converted a Yuba Mundo into a fat cargo bike: Moray Fat Bike  

Could we combine this:


With this:


Thursday, October 25

Treading the Dawn

I love riding in the mornings. I love starting out before daylight and riding through the sunrise. Yes, even after a mini-snowpocalypse.

The rain started last night. It was cold. I got soaked. So I wasn't exactly looking forward to pedaling in this morning.

I fell out of bed and stumbled through the dark house like a drunken bear. I dressed simply: bike shorts under tights, wool socks under waterproof hikers, sleeved polypro shirt under my long sleeved jersey. I stuck my homemade wool hat on and trudged out to feed and water the rabbits and chickens.

Once I'd taken care of the animals I finished my commuting costume with a balaclava under my wool hat under my helmet, then gloves and glove liners . Someone might ask: Whatchoo got under there? Well, I just explained it.

Basically I just had two layers, but I was warm enough despite a continuous light and wet snow falling on my ride in. I liked my costume configuration over how I've dressed in the past. I didn't feel restricted or too bulky. That's always been one of my biggest frustrations with cold weather commuting.

The way I was dressed this morning didn't leave me too cold or overheated. It was nice being able to truly enjoy a winter bike commute at dawn.

So I've nailed my dress for a 30F and damp commute.


Wednesday, October 24

In The Tweeterverse

Saw a tweet from @COMBAorg this morning: "Can Bailey be the next Fruita? Mountain bikers say 'yes'" and it links to an Out There Colorado article of the same name.

I'm all for it if they can move Joe's Ridge to Bailey. Nah, I'm all for it even if they can't.

I sound all important, I've actually only seen video of Fruita, and have driven past on the interstate. But from what I've seen it looks pretty awesome. Riding at 18 Road is high on my cycling bucket list*.

Anyway, Fruita is far, but Bailey not so much. I can do Bailey as a day trip. Bring it on!

I really like Buffalo Creek and want to do some riding around Kenosha Pass . So all-in-all it sounds like a fantastic idea. Can't wait!

*More on the cycling bucket list soon.

Tuesday, October 23

Cliplessless

As the season cycles toward winter I have been trying to switch gears and get into the cold weather commuting mindset. On one hand I want to keep things simple as the days get shorter and the wardrobe thicker. On the other hand my instinctive commuter mentality wants to throw all my tricks and tools at the boogie man around the corner.

One thing I did this past weekend was to put flat pedals back on the mountain bike. In my mind the trade off isn't worth it to stay clipless in inclement weather.

Yes, I lost five minutes on my morning commute by going flat. No, I don't think it's prudent to ride clipped in on snow and ice. And I've never been able to ride in my MTB shoes when the temps get below freezing. My toes turn into popsicles.

So there you go, I want to get back on some trails and see how odd it feels not to be clipped in. This will be the big test. I've had shoes and pedals on the MTB and road bike since well before Leadville. It's second nature now.

I'm sure technical climbing will be the crux matter. It will be less stressful (I predict) but harder.

It felt really odd not to be clipped in on my commute yesterday morning. I'm leaving the pedals on the road bike. I see no reason to switch. If the surfaces become winterized I have no intention of going out on skinny tires. Been there, done that.

Although...after my commute home last night I just felt weird. I had to put the clipless pedals back on. Might end up back to flats by the end of the week. There's snow in the forecast!

In other news... I've seen video of this guy doing tricks on a road bike before, but this is far more impressive than the first one I saw.


Monday, October 22

Origins

"I'm gonna show you a hill that would choke a mule."
--George W Bush on a MTB just before flying over his bars down a steep dropoff.

I'm ate up with mountain biking these days. I wasn't always like this though. There was a time I was ate up with rock climbing. Before that it was hiking, and before that I guess you'd have to go back to high school when I was obsessed with military aircraft. No, really.

Yesterday I had a strong bout of homesickness for Kentucky. I couldn't help think about what it would be like to go back now with my MTB obsession and revisit my home stomping grounds on a bike with suspension and clipless pedals.

That line of thinking led to this revelation: I didn't obsess over mountain biking then because the environment wasn't conducive for it.

I obsessed over rock climbing because I lived within biking distance of the world class rock climbing of the Red River Gorge. I didn't obsess over the world class mountain biking of the RRG because that doesn't exist. Only the potential is there.

 The view from Pinch Em Tight Ridge

I think I am more a mountain biker by nature than a rock climber. I've been riding a bike since I was seven years old. Well, not the whole time...

Anyway, I can fulfill the same urges through mountain biking that I had as a climber, but I don't think the opposite would be true. I can climb and summit on a bike. I can challenge my endurance, my technical prowess, and my self-reliance. In fact, despite my high level of confidence in self-reliant rock climbing I am far more comfortable going out on my bike alone.

So why didn't I develop as a mountain biker sooner in my life? Simple: the combination of a lack of inviting and legal singletrack with the absence of a mountain biking community left a void in my life that I filled with rocks.

I tried. Instinctively I sought out good mountain biking. I explored my favorite backwoods looking for fun rides. I don't guess I knew what I was looking for.

 Dave L in an undisclosed location

The Red River Gorge has dozens of miles of good trails. Unfortunately the overwhelming majority of them are restricted to foot travel only. There could be some great singletrack trails there, but they are not administered as such. It's a shame really.

Still, there's a lot of potential, and even currently legal potential, there is just no community to develop and promote it.

In the past couple of years things have started to change, but on a geologic timescale. It will be a long time before my hometown becomes a mountain biking destination. But there's no reason it can't, and no reason of shouldn't.

It's really a chicken and egg conundrum.

If there was a willing community the infrastructure would follow. If there was only infrastructure a community would grow. In a sense, both exist, but are held apart by administration and red tape. The cyclists of Lexington, Cincinnati, Dayton, Columbia, Indianapolis would all come to ride, just as their climbing counterparts have, if suddenly the trails were opened to bikes.

We went through it all with climbing advocacy. The bulk of the climbing routes that were developed were unregulated. Once the land managers (USDAFS) realized the scope of the development they attempted to slow or halt all future development.

 What was I thinking?! Well, it's only 5.7

They claimed they didn't have the resources to perform the appropriate studies that were required prior to any recreational development. Since the area is primarily a geologic and archaeological preservation area there is no mandate to develop recreational opportunities. Despite the status of the designated areas, it is a hugely popular recreation area serving a big percentage of the Eastern urban population.

Ironically the entire area was clearcut around the turn of the 20th century. In a way, to me, the idea of preservation, of wilderness protection even, is absurd. Don't get me wrong, I love the place dearly, and hate to see it overly developed.

The area is criss-crossed by abandoned logging roads, old rail beds and in some areas oil access roads. Many of those roads need only the cutting of deadfall and a little raking and they'd make an amazing backbone to a mountain biking trail network.

 Big Sinking Oil Field

I think it's coming. Other parts of the state are embracing their closet mountain biking Meccas. Even my beloved Red River valley is beginning to feel hints of singletrack development. Recently a good friend helped get a grant for the development of a mountain bike park in my home county.

Talk about being homesick...

Saturday, October 20

Mayhem and Travail

My twitter invite for an early morning MTB session at Centennial Cone went unanswered. But I possied on alone, arriving at Mayhem Gulch Trailhead just before 7am this morning. In my heart of hearts I was hoping for some mayhem. The trail, alas, does not live up to its name.

When there was enough light to see where the trail leaves the parking lot I struck out. While there is no mayhem the trail does climb, if rather smoothly, for 2.4 miles and gains 700+ feet.

I reached the intersection with the Travois Trail. Alright! Now we're getting somewhere. Wasn't the travois a vehicle used by the Native Americans to extract injured mountain bikers from the backcountry?

After the long climb up from the canyon, the initial section of Travois heading east is a nice reprieve, first descending into some trees along a high shallow drainage, and then contouring high on a steep sage and scrub slope.

A travois may have been necessary if I'd blown it along the section on the steep slope. The trail rolls somewhat, is narrow, and is, for lack of a better word, exposed.

As an old climber, I've experienced exposure many times, but rarely have I felt its effects on a second class trail. It's a good thing that portion is not technical in any way.

I continued on until I reached a wooded section with a fast, but still narrow, downhill. I lost a lot of elevation fast. I was hoping I was making up some time. To complete my proposed 16.6 mile loop in an hour and a half was going to be tough.

I'd never been in that portion of Centennial Cone Open Space. I'd wanted to ride there for a long time, but had just never made it for whatever reason. I had no idea how technical the trails would be. My hope was for 16.6 miles of flowing singletrack. At around mile 5 I encountered the only technical terrain of my ride his morning, a set of stair steps in a rocky bend. I stopped at the top and walked down. Not today. Not alone.

Then I was bombing on down the ridge. I picked up speed and was finally confident I was making some miles. I rounded the ridge to the north and across a broad gully I could see the trail snaking away far into the distance. I grabbed both brakes and skidded to a halt.

"Oh man!" I said aloud. I still had a ways to go to reach the halfway point of my loop. I pulled out my phone and checked the time. I was 45 minutes and 5.6 miles into a 16.6 mile ride I needed to complete in an hour and a half. No way I was going to pull it off.

I flipped The One around in the trail and took a pull from my water bottle. I was bailing, but it was for the best. We had a full day planned and this ride, though rushed, was my brief reprieve from the week. I needed it, and it was enough. It was a little bit of riding to return to the guaranteed downhill of Mayhem Gulch, so I plodded back.

I enjoyed the narrow exposed rollers while wondering where I'd begin seeing other cyclists.

Jeffco Open Space has come up with (or copied) an ingenious idea. Weekdays the trails are multiuse: hikers, bikers and equestrians. Weekends are an alternating schedule: hikers odd days and bikers even.

So this weekend mountain bikers were allowed today, prohibited tomorrow and next weekend it'll be hikers Saturday and bikers Sunday. I believe equestrians have no limitations. I don't know if this arrangement concentrates the number of cyclists at a given time or reduces the overall load. I've stayed away primarily because I never know when it's okay to go.

Anyway, I was almost back to the Mayhem Gulch Trail before I saw the first cyclists of the day cranking up from the trailhead. Then it was a train all the way back to the canyon floor. Since I was descending I yielded to all. Halfway down I began to worry I was going to be late getting back to sub-urbia.

I needed to be home by 9:00. I reached the car at 8:35. Right on schedule!

I was a bit chilled after my descent. I'd climbed out of the canyon wearing a jersey, arm warmers, MTB shorts and full fingered gloves. The temperature had been about 45F. At my turnaround point I stowed the warmers and gloves but I was generally losing elevation from that point on and generating little heat. I'm sure the air had warmed only slightly during my ride under the clouds up in the canyon. Brrrgh!

Back home I told Mandy about the ride and she wants to go check it out. I can't wait to take her now that I know it is mayhem free and the travails are minor in nature.


Friday, October 19

Ramming Speed Friday: Strava Addiction...Er, Edition

Do you refuse to ride roads or trails that don't already have Strava segments?

Do you find yourself wheezing and your chest thumping more than usual after rides?

Do you find yourself scrutinizing other bike commuters to see if they match any of the athlete profile photos of those who have faster times on your everyday segments?

Do you obsess over "PRs?"

Are your loved ones distancing themselves from you because you just can't stop talking about your progress through the ranks on your favorite segment?


If you answered "yes" to any of these questions you may be addicted to Strava. If you answered yes to all of these questions seek immediate professional help. And I don't know if there are any segments on the way to the crazy doctor.

Yesterday was phenomenal. I crushed the Ford Street to I-70 segment along the Clear Creek Trail. I moved from roughly 10th-ish to 5th overall out of 300.  I've been steadily improving over the past few weeks.

The stars aligned providentially yesterday. I was on the road bike. I had a wicked awesome tailwind, and except for one little snarl there was no traffic on the trail.

Yeah it was a good...what? Tailwind? Yeah, tailwind! You can't, on one hand, laugh in joy because you got a good draft behind me coming around Turquoise Lake at 45 mph and then cry foul when I take maximum advantage of my surface area to crush your stick-figure Strava times. Oh no no no no!

All is fair in headwind or tail. If you can claim the advantage in a headwind then I get to call it with the classic Front Range Foothills jet stream at my ample back.

It has a lot to do with tactics too, not just raw speed. It's true!

Shut up!

Anyway, found three goatheads in the rear tire of Minus last night just before bed. I didn't have it in me to put in a new tube so I hauled the road bike out to the shed and the mountain bike into the house. So today I was on the fat tire bike. There was little hope I could beat my times from earlier in the week. This has been a fast week on skin-nay tires.

Then I got a text from my lovely wife:

You want us to pick you up tonight or just meet at home?

So...torn! Resting good! Ramming Speed Friday good! Ahhh!

So I decided I'd catch a ride with the family and have some Strava fun.

Why yes, I did track the car ride home. It was my fastest commute ever (well, since I've been using Strava) with a 30 mph average. Actually, that's sad because the biggest "segment" of the drive was along I-70.

I'm sure I'm still KOM though.

The Levi Effect

I was going to hold off and post this tomorrow or Monday, but a coworker came by to show me his DOPESTRONG t-shirt today and I decided I needed to get this out there. So yeah, with a potential Ramming Speed Friday post this may be one of those rare three post days.

Have you heard of this upcoming film? I really want to see it. In the mess that is the Lance Armstrong Doping Scandal I'm hoping it will be a ray of positivity.

Recently Levi's role has come more to the forefront of the saga with the announcement of his six month suspension from pro-racing and then his subsequent firing by Omega Pharma-Quickstep.

In an interview with his local Santa Rosa newspaper Levi opened up. The piece features a photo of the cyclist wearing a troubled expression and street clothes instead of the obligatory cycling victory shot. It's fitting and somewhat somber.

For me I think the whole story is told in the following passage:

"You go from a 13-year old boy who falls in love with cycling," he said, "and you have this vision what the sport and ..."

Leipheimer paused, and then said: "Along the way, little by little, honestly, you get your heart broken piece by piece. You come to realize what it was really like ... it seemed far-fetched, surreal."

If you're cynical you might say this is the diatribe of a guilty man trying to save face, but I have to believe Levi, and so many other pro cyclists, are going through this period of revelation. The curtain has been pulled aside and the world sees the man that has been making them all dance. In a way the scandal must be cathartic. The secret is out. Now maybe something will change. It's a pro-cycling apocalypse.

And what about Lance (always stealing everyone else's spotlight it seems)? His world appears to be crumbling. How far could this go? Will the end result of the witch hunt be Lance in jail? Burned at the proverbial stake?

Will he die a pauper?

I don't think so. I think Lance will ride this out. I hope so. Like I've said all along: if he didn't dope he beat dopers. If he doped...he still beat dopers.

Levi's ordeal has changed my perspective of Lance. See, Levi seems to be of strong character, and through all this I've wondered if he had participated in the doping shenanigans. Well, that doesn't seem to be much of a mystery anymore. And reading his side of it I just can't believe Lance didn't cheat as well. The best thing Lance could do at this point is come clean, literally, and tell his truthful side of the story.

I think my final conclusion is that these guys entered into a culture of cheating and became “trapped” within it. Now, I know someone could say: “Well, they could have just quit!” But let’s be fair, how many of us can just quit our jobs on principle? Sometimes it’s not that cut and dried.

Lance is still a hero. Levi is still a hero. If they doped they still beat dopers. They were (and are) still the best. This new reality doesn’t diminish my experience of last year’s USA Pro Cycling Challenge. Me and my kids were standing within high-fiving distance of Levi as he bombed down Johnson Road in Golden at 40 mph. My five year old got his autograph in Golden this year. He’s still a hero.



This doesn't diminish my experience of the Alpine Odyssey: getting to be in a race, and within a few yards of Lance while we both rode our bikes toward the finish line. How many people can say that?


Am I disappointed? Somewhat. They shouldn't have doped. But in a professional culture where it's the norm, how can you say 'no' to the dream of being a pro cyclist to salvage principles? It would be hard. Wrong, but hard.

Peer pressure, it seems, can destroy dreams and careers.

If my schedule will allow I will go see The Levi Effect. If not I'll watch it on disc when it becomes available. I'm still impressed at what these men have accomplished. So maybe the overall accomplishments would have been minimally less significant if they had stayed clean? Maybe this is a lesson for all pro cyclists. Hopefully it can at least be that.

This New Fitness Thing

I'm finding small shreds of willpower to ward off my eating demons. Small shreds. Huge demons.

Take yesterday, I got up, rode to work, showered, and then ate a bagel with about a tablespoon of cream cheese and drank some Rooibos tea.

For lunch I had pb&j on wheat and a cup of OJ.

By the way, orange juice is my new favorite sports drink. It's full of electrolytes and such. And I've finally gotten used to the taste. Long story.

Anyway, the afternoons are hard. Around 2-3 o'clocks I start getting peckish. Or as I like to call it: ravenous enough to eat my own feet. My cubicle walls, while still looking grotesque, take on an almost cake-ish pallor. Yummmmgg...gag!

By then the cafeteria and coffee kiosk are closed and only the vending machines can provide the sustenance I need. So sometime I hit D3 and A5. Then I head for the elevator with my 500 calories cinnamon roll and my 240 calorie Coke.

I'm sure my mother is proud. Here's an email I got from her:

I'm so proud of you!

Okay, so that was in regards to something completely different, but still.

Dinner was questionable last night. We decided on turkey, bacon and avocado sandwiches. While we were waiting for the bacon to cook (MMMMMM!!! BACON!!!) I ate a quarter of a loaf of French bread. Then I had a second sandwich after I should have stopped. And a ginger ale. And I wanted more.

In my defense I probably needed the calories. I destroyed four Strava segments on the way home, getting my third best on one and a personal record on three others while also advancing to 5th out of 300 on the 4.6 mile stretch of the Clear Creek Trail between Ford St. in Golden and I-70. I pulled that off after having to backtrack two miles to find my phone. It had fallen off my bike in its mount. Luckily I found it and it hadn't been run over by a car.

Back to this fitness thing...I want to be sub-180 lbs by thanksgiving and sub-170 by next August. It shouldn't be that hard. I'm not deluding myself any longer. I used to dismiss my weight and tell myself that 185 isn't a bad weight for a 5'9" 37 year old male. I'm active. I maintain my weight between 188 and 198 most of the time. Heck, I rode 5,100 miles on my bike last year. How can my weight be a problem?

Well, I eat like a pirhanic horse. Y'know, a horse that eats like a...never mind!

I've never been one to obsess over my weight, but I've also spent a good many years as the guy that could eat whatever he wanted and stay thin. I'm not that guy anymore. Old habits die hard.

I'm not that guy, but I am a guy that now has specific performance goals. And I'm a guy that has finally realized that staying in shape is important for a lot of reasons; the least of which might be that if I'm in shape I can go out and enjoy myself at will, instead of having to come up with a six month plan to get in shape enough to execute my latest scheme.

I can be as fit as I want. I just have to give up the Oreos. Or, as Fatty says:

"So were the Oreos worth being fat and slow?"

What is most important: food or fun?

Thursday, October 18

Burn in Hell

If you're a regular bike commuter and a loved one asks if you'd like to join them in a cycle-burn class...run away. Far, far away.

I was really excited at first. I didn't know exactly what to expect, but it ended up being close to what I imagined. Except for the pain in my legs.

I'm not a wuss. Let me say that up front. I need to reaffirm that to myself after the ribbing my wife gave me after the cycle-burn class. I deserved it. Sort of.

I knew I was going to the class on Tuesday night when I left work. That didn't stop me from pulling down one of my fastest work-to-home commutes EVER (Ramming Speed Tuesday's Gone With the Wind?).

Monday I rode the Cannonball and pulled off a surprisingly fast commute home. I pulled off a second best time on one of my Strava segments. I did have a tailwind for most of the ride home, but that doesn't matter. Right?

Tuesday afternoon I was on the road bike and still feeling pretty good. Darn that Strava! I had to try and break a couple of personal records. And so I did. Not only did I have a couple of fast segments but I managed a 21.8 mph average for the 11.6 mile ride. That may not seem like a lot to some, but remember, I have to navigate urbia and sub-urbia on my commutes. Both realms involve lots of friction for the bicycle commuter. And I'm talking average, not top speed. I frequently exceed 30-35 mph on my ride home.

Anyway, I can't remember a commute faster than 21 and change. I may have fluked a 22 mph ride once. Once.

I wasn't exactly cooked when I got home, but I felt some distinct fatigue in the quad areas of my body. Lets go to cycle-burn! (in my best Ashton Kutcher voice)

I didn't even change out of my bike shorts. I took time to drink a glass of OJ and change into a dry t-shirt and we headed out.

Everything was going fine until the instructor said "Up!" and when I stood up on the pedals my legs felt hollow. For a second. Then they burned like the fires of Mount Doom. Gah! huffed my brain, and then told my body to plop back down on the seat.

I tried standing on the pedals a couple other times, but I feared the effects would be commute prohibitive. What if I couldn't ride the next morning?

I'm fairly certain that if I'd have followed the instructor's commands to the tee I would still not be able to walk, much less ride my bike. I'm glad she didn't call me out, call me a wuss and chastise me in front of the class. I basically found a good resistance and pedaled at an 85-90 cadence for 45 minutes. I didn't have much else to contribute at that point.

I want to be hard core that way. I WILL be hardcore that way, but Tuesday night I just didn't have it in me.

And wait! I'm supposed to be laying off the legs and focusing on cardio, core and general strength training. Oh well...

Speaking of fitness (haven't I been?) I'm down to 188 again. The goal is by Thanksgiving to be down under 180. It's been awhile since I've been that light. We're planning on running a 5k, so leaving those extra 8 lbs behind would be a bonus.

Alas, I have another confession to make: I ended up calling in on Wednesday anyway. I was sore and tired and the forecast (and for once the reality) was for strong gusting winds. I just didn't have it in me to fight the evitable.

My tired little brain couldn't summon the energy to carry me through the gale. Maybe on a day that I hadn't tried cycle-burn the night before...

Wednesday, October 17

Posse-bilities: Hillbilly Mountain Biker

For those of you that are familiar with my mountain biking history this may be review. For those that are not please see the following posts: Epic Bike Ride #1, Many Helmets, Finding the Path, Singletrack Dreams, Working With Bikes, and The Leadville Chronicles: Why Leadville Why Now?.

Okay, now that we're all up to speed, let me fill in all the gaps I have failed to write about in the past four years.

I once owned a Huffy Mountain Storm. I don't think I ever rode it on a trail or even off the pavement. Then I was providentially blessed with the Cannonball, bought from a friend at a good price. I subjected the Cannonball to the indignity of not riding it off road very often.

Early on I mostly rode it for transportation. If that transportation involved traversing some gravel or dirt road to access some trailhead for a rock climbing area then I did manage to get the bike dirty. But as I've mentioned previously, the national forest near my hometown does not allow bikes on official trails. There were few obvious attractive nuisances for me to ply on my trusty aluminum-framed steed.

When I lived in Slade, Knetucky and ran my climbing guide service I rode the bike a lot for both transportation and recreation. I had a few road loops I liked doing, and there was one loop with some fun dirt that I discovered and did as often as I could. It had a mile long climb from the paved road up a nice 4WD dirt road to the ridgetop, then it picked up the Sheltowee Trace and headed north to the boundary of Natural Bridge State Park where it made a hard turn to the west and then lost all of its elevation in a steep technical descent. The fun stuff ended on another oil access road and out an obscure valley.

Just before I bought my first real road bike I asked Dave L, the only friend I had who "knew" bikes, to tune up the Cannonball. I think I had intended then to start riding it off ride as it had been designed and built to do. Dave and I had biked out an old abandoned road to a moderately remote climbing area once and I'd been using the bike more and more to access the backwoods of Eastern Kentucky.

The day I went to pick up the bike I realized what a truly stellar bike it was. We walked it out to the street in front of his house and he said to try it out.

I swung a leg over and slammed down on the pedals, rocketing away down the street. Dave marveled that I could take off like that with the chain on the big ring. I glanced down. "Oh..."

If memory serves, I believe Dave and I did one real mountain bike ride together after that. I had previously ridden a fun but not so obvious loopand wanted to get someone else's opinion on it's quality. The ride had challenged me a bit, and had been far more fun than I had anticipated.

What had been so good about the ride was its flow and it's variety. It first followed a low traffic oil field access road west above the north bank of Big Sinking Creek in Lee County, Kentucky. One section early on was a bit technical, and had a short steep section that took me a couple of tries to get clean.

Then eventually the road dropped down and followed the dry creekbed for a bit before climbing back onto the northern bank. Finally, just before reaching New Virginia Road it crossed to the south side of the creek and then continued along the rushing water. The climb from Big Sinking up New Virginia was too technical for me then: a series of very small limestone ledges with lots of loose rocks thrown in for fun. I'd give it a solid go now, and hopefully would be able to pull it off.

After the initial technical crux it's just a grunt up to the intersection of New Virginia and another unnamed road that heads back east along the south side of the valley. This next section is fast along a good dirt road that gets more vehicle traffic than the north side. Eventually you return to the confluence of Big Sinking and Bald Rock Fork which is a good place to start.

There's no singletrack at all, and the roads are maintained by the oil companies operating in the area, but the ride has a nice taste of technical terrain. Those roads aren't maintained for passenger cars, NO! It's trucks and earth moving machinery and the like. So getting on them on a good mountain bike is actually a pretty novel experience...when they're in the right condition.

I can't remember Dave's take on the overall ride, but I do remember him commenting on the crux climb up New Virginia Road, saying he knew guys that could climb up it on their bikes. I was both envious and skeptical.

After that, with a nicely tuned bike (thanks Dave!) I tried getting my wife into mountain biking. She had inherited a small-framed Bianchi Lynx from her dad, so we struck out on some easier rides. At the time, Mandy didn't ride much at all. We climbed and hiked a lot, but rarely rode.

One of the more fun and notable rides was a ridgetop roller that began near Fagan, Kentucky and traversed out the divide between Short Creek and Spaas Creek. It's a nice and scenic road with continuous ups and downs. We rode out and back, and by the time we'd returned to the car she was content and I was jonesing for more. I asked if she wanted to drive home, and I'd ride down the forest service road through Spaas Creek and then pick up the paved North Bend Road and return home. She was game.

Spaas Creek Road is a 4WD road. There were times I could drive the whole thing in my '85 Honda Accord, but then there were other times the road had washed out in places and/or the creek was too deep. One time I remember going through one of the creek crossings in my Honda and seeing a tsunami coming over the windshield. It hardly stalled.

On a bike...dropping down from the ridge and riding out the valley...the road is a blast. And again, somewhat technical in places. That day was just a blast, riding with Mandy and then taking the long way home. It fertilized that mountain biking seed a little more.

I found some obscure little road that dropped down from the ridge near Mountain Chapel into the Billey Fork drainage near a popular cave. The road had grown over so much it was as close to singletrack as I'd ever ridden at the time. On another day I explored the opposite side of the valley from Greely (Kentucky) to the "ghost town" of Audry and Smith Cemetery. All of these explorations were on either abandoned roads or very obscure roads. Some were in good shape and some were 4WD only.

I tried singletrack at Cave Run Lake. If you read the Epic Bike Ride #1 story above you'll get the first account. I took Mandy back to do the infamous Caney Loop. I liked the ride, but was disappointed that the equestrians had torn the trails up so much that you couldn't just RIDE.

We took another couple back to do that ridge road above Spaas Creek...friends of ours. They seemed to enjoy it, but nearly as much as we did. Soon after that we moved, and my Kentucky mountain biking days would come to (at least) a temporary end.

When I first moved to Colorado, before Mandy and the kids came out, I only had my road bike. I'm not sure why, but I had chosen the less versatile of my two bikes. Obviously, the Cannonball would have been much more suitable for winter riding along the Front Range.

It was shipped out with some of our furniture a few weeks before the family was scheduled to arrive. I took it out the very next weekend and rode at Alderfer/Three Sister Open Space and summited Evergreen Mountain. My fledgling mountain biking mind was blown.

I've grown in fits and starts as a mountain biker. I really haven't ridden as much as I'd like to. But I've ridden much more than I could have ever imagined back when I was trying desperately to find the Path back in the auld days. I'm a different cyclist. My perspective has drastically shifted, and I see different possibilities now. 

Oh, and I don't think I ever wore a helmet during all that time. I started regularly wearing a helmet in 2007. 

What's spurred this cruise down memory lane was being reconnected with Dave. I hadn't seen the lovable gearhead in about five years. Just recently Mandy's dad bumped into him and gave him my number.

We've exchanged a few texts, and my synapses have been firing like crazy. I gotta say, I want to take my MTB east over the holidays and carve up some of my old haunts, maybe drum up some Eastern Kentucky posse action.

We'll see. If you'll remember, I have put The One up for sale. And then there is the question of what mode of transportation we'll choose for our holiday travels. I'm not sure if the airlines have bike racks on their planes.

Tuesday, October 16

Mountain Bike For Sale

I'm selling my 2011 Cannondale Trail SL2. $800 firm. MSRP new was $1,100.

I'm looking to move up to a 29er and something a little more advanced. I love this bike. It has been a great mountain bike for long dirt rides. I've been considering upgrading my wheels, but the truth is that the difference in what I'm asking plus new wheels equals a good new 29er. I'm drinking the kool-aid.

This hardtail bike has hydraulic disc brakes and RockShox Recon Silver TK front shocks. It has new brake pads and a new rear tire. The only flaw is that the finish is worn where my trunk rack rubbed the downtube and some dings from the chain on the chainstay behind the plastic chainguard. Pedals not included.

Here are the specs:

Frame - Trail SL, Optimized 6061 alloy, SAVE, 1.5" headtube
Fork - RockShox Recon Silver TK, 100mm, Solo Air, lockout, rebound, 1.5"
Crank - Shimano FC-M430-8 44/32/22
Chain - Shimano HG53, 9 speed
Rims - Maddux DC 3.0
Bottom Bracket - Shimano ES-25 Octalink
Rear Cogs - SRAM PG-950 , 11-32
Front Derailleur - Shimano Alivio
Rear Derailleur - Shimano Deore
Shifters - Shimano Deore
Brakes - Shimano BR-M445 Hydraulic Disc

Remember all those things I said about it not being about the bike? Well, all that still applies.This really is a great bike. But after a year of training hard for Leadville I have a much better idea of what I need to do what I want to do on my bike. It's time to move on.

If this post is up then the bike is still available. I should add...I live in Arvada, Colorado. I'd be willing to meet anywhere reasonable in the metro area and as far north as Boulder (will not ship the bike). I can also send more pictures if you'd like to see details.

If you're interested please email me at: ascentionist@yahoo.com


Monday, October 15

A Little Voice

I took my kids out for a run yesterday afternoon. Well...I ran and they rode their bikes. Yeah, I'm not much of a runner. I "enjoyed" it when I was 15 and on the cross country team. This is my first real move to improve my cardio. Core starts tomorrow.

Anyway, we were headed back home and out of the blue Bean asked: "What's it like to go over the handlebars?"

Turns out she is the only one in the family that has NOT gone over the handlebars. What's even more interesting is that no one has ever asked me that question before.

Before I even answered her I realized it would make a good post topic to try and answer that question. My answer to her at the time was simply that she needed to go over her handlebars to find out. When she asked me again at home I told her to go out and ride her bike until she went over them.

I love my kids. I really do. But I'm a firm believer that some lessons can only be learned the hard way. That said...go ride your bike until you go over the handlebars if you really want to know what it feels like. If you don't really want to know, but are maybe just a bit curious, then read on.

The first time I can remember going over my handlebars was the most violent instance I can recall. I was coasting pretty fast down the street we lived on when I was 14 or so. I was on my beloved Mongoose BMX. It had mud crusted to the fork and frame, and in a moment of sheer brain malfunction I kicked at the mud on the fork. The kick had a little too much force and my foot slipped into the spinning spokes.

My front wheel locked up with my tennis shoe jammed between the spokes and the fork. I was catapulted over the handlebars and slammed onto the pavement. The bike came crashing down onto me.

The initial feeling, as best I can relate it, feels much like it does when you're descending stairs and catch your foot and pitch forward. Depending on where you're riding the landing can feel much the same as well.

It's a feeling that starts in the pit of your stomach and moves north. Once the feeling reaches your brain you interpret it as a little voice saying: You blithering idiot!

Usually the abrupt contact with the ground that terminates all over-the-handlebar motion also silences the voice. At least temporarily. Rest assured, it will come back, and it won't shut up until it has sufficiently embarrassed you in front of yourself and/or others.

The way you launch can change the overall experience. Speed, angle of attack and landing zone can all change how violent or how dramatic your flight becomes.

All of those factors can change the way you feel as you fly over the front end of your bike. The main factor to consider, however, is...did I walk away without injury? If so, then maybe you can claim a good feeling as you pick yourself up and dust yourself off. That road rash will heal.


Saturday, October 13

300 Days of Leadville

My training for the 2013 Leadville Trail 100 MTB race officially begins. I have 300 days to forge a sub-9 hour cyborg of man and bike.

I'm going to use simple math because its the only kind I can understand. The first 100 days I will dedicate to general conditioning: core, cardio, and strength training. The second 100 I will work on speed and technique. The last 100 I will work on maximizing that speed over distance.

This track comes from my self-identified weaknesses. I'm not in great physical shape, and I'm not fast or super-techno-proficient. That is going to change.

I've been slacking, eating like a punk, living an inconsistent cycling lifestyle, blah-de-blah-blah. After Crested Butte I got lazy. Maybe I needed a break. And now it's definitely time to get on track. I have so much room for improvement. I need to drop down about three notches in my belt as well.

I'm not a Clydesdale, but having the big guy come across the finish at the Alpine Odyssey and pick me out of the background noise to ask my weight...well, lets just say its odd having once been the guy that got picked on for being so skinny and now to be self-conscious about wearing skin right Lycra in public (private viewings are a whole different story).

300 days...no more excuses. No more failures. We're only moving toward and over the red carpet from this point.

Friday, October 12

Daily Affirmations: Why I Rode Today

Because we only have one car. Because I have to. Okay, so that's why I get on the bike each workday and pedal a minimum of 9.3 miles (one way) to and from work. That's not the root reason behind my daily cycling regime.

I made a conscious decision in late 2009 to sell my car and rely solely on my bike(s) for my personal mode of transportation. Why did I do that?

To be honest...because I didn't get to ride as much as I wanted to.

I'm one of those people who can make a bold and life changing commitment to bring about a desire consequence. I'm okay with living with the consequences of my decisions. Sometimes I question my judgment, and perform self-flagellation rites to purge the stupidity, but I accept the outcomes of my stupid decisions with such easy resignation it frightens me.

Some might say my decision to sell the car instead of pumping money into it so it would pass emissions, or replacing it with another hunk of plastic and steel bearing a monthly payment and mandatory full coverage insurance, was cowardly. Well, maybe not that exactly. But if someone did say that they'd be wrong.

It was a novel idea to begin with. I'd commuted in winter, but prior to that point I had never actually biked on snow or ice. I'm well schooled in winter surface treatments now. The novelty is long gone. The bruises have faded too.

I have to remind myself why I'm riding sometimes. I'm a big picture guy (not because I'm fat!) but even still...the day to day drudgery often gets to me. Some mornings I wake up, and (gasp!) I don't want to ride to work. Some afternoons I'm cranky because I don't want to fight traffic all the way home.

Those days I ride because I have to. I've committed myself to this arrangement. I've learned not to hate myself for painting myself into this corner. I usually don't think of it that way anyway.

But what keeps me off the used car lot? I've had my moments. As recently as this past Saturday I have wished we had a second car. Conventional "wisdom" would support my decision to buy the second car. I'd disappoint some of my friends and family, and I cause some of them secret glee that I'd failed in my experiment. I'm sure some stranger motorists would be happy that I'm not in their way on the roads anymore (ONE LESS CYCLIST!!!)

What would that act of acquiescence truly accomplish? Oh sure, I'd be free to reach far trailheads for weekend mountain bike rides. I'd be saved the horror of riding in extreme weather. I'd trade the stress of car versus bike for the stress of car versus car. I'd probably start hating cyclists for being in my way.

And what would I lose? Some of my dignity. Financial resilience. The freedom to ride without the temptation to drive. The satisfaction of being self-reliant.

I'm too far down this road to turn back. I know too much. I've covered too much ground and invested too much blood, sweat and tears in this lifestyle to just give it up. I owe it to myself to stick with it. I owe it to my kids to remain defiant of conventional thinking. Conventional thinking is going to be our downfall as a society.

I love cycling for no other reason than it makes me happy to ride my bike. I've committed myself to it (sink or swim) for a slew of reasons. I will continue to love cycling no matter how drudgerous it becomes to commute on two wheels each day, because the drudgery is not the fault of the bike but of the bigger picture.

The bike actually mitigates some of the stress-related weight gain. It brightens even those "have to" days. I try to remind myself that a bad bike commute is still better than no bike commute at all.


PS

Truth be told, I wrote this a couple of days ago, but had something I wanted to post that was timely. So I left this as a draft to plug in at a later date. It's good to have a post ready to publish on days when you just don't feel like writing but don't want to leave a hole. Oddly, my mood fits this post today anyway. It's Friday. Yesterday was a long day and this has been a long week. I had a coworker call in yesterday and another out flexing today. And so the pile in my cube gets deeper...

Anyway, I am still fantasizing about having a job where someone else's illness or leisure does not cause more work for me, or totally screw up my routine and my day. That sounds selfish, but after awhile it does get really old and its hard not to continuously think of some way out. It closed yesterday.

Thursday, October 11

Posse Whipped

Okay, a posse is forming. I have ridden with other people that are not my family, strangers in an organized ride/race, or Sam. No offense Sam. Two a posse do not make. Er, something like that. You're still in!

James lives in Lakewood right off of Green Mountain and Jon lives up north within striking distance of the Dirtiest Bismark. We're getting a fair representation of the entire Front Range/Metro area!

I'll not trouble you with the details of our logistical snafu at the trailhead(s). Suffice it to say, "west" does not mean the same thing to everyone. As in "I'll meet you at the west trailhead."

I headed south when I realized the mixup and they headed north. We met along the trail. A quick verbal itinerary was drafted (James: I do NOT want to do the fire road) and we took off southward on the Green Mountain Trail.

Initially I believed James had a touch of wussness due to his aversion to ride the fire road, the climb I referred to as the Green Dragon's tail a few weeks ago, and was then surprised at the stout pace he set as we skirted the huge pile of dirt called Green. Was he allergic to suffering? This whole posse thing might not be such a good idea.

His weakness was revealed soon enough. We approached a short, steep climb over one of the numerous shoulders on the south side. James was halfway up and standing on his pedals. Without thinking too much (I'm unaccustomed to following others) I followed suit. I stayed in my middle chainring and high cassette cog and stood up on the pedals. By the time I reached the top of the short climb something odd was happening. I was breathing hard and seeing spots.

And then we were bombing down again. Shortly (no time to recover) we hit another hill and the cycle repeated itself. Except...

As I jumped up on my pedals I noticed something very strange about James' bike...all his gears had fallen off!

I wanted to pull him to the side of the trail and point out the obvious structural deficiency in his rig. Only one gear left! Who can ride such an obviously deficient machine? Maybe we should go back and look for his cogs and derailer...

I didn't pull him aside, not because I feared hurting his feelings, but because I was gagging on the little bits of my lung that kept coming up making it hard to speak clearly.

Due to my inability to communicate verbally (Please stop!) we continued on to the real climb without slacking off the pace significantly. By the time we turned north onto the Hayden Trail I was flailing as a direct result of oxygen depletion. James stood up on his pedals and climbed into the prairie sky (wow, how he must have been suffering!) and Jon was closing up the gap behind me. I gasped on through the first switchback.

My brain was scrambling to come up with a manly reason to collapse on the side of the trail when my glasses serendipitously fogged, completely obscuring my vision. My safety, and the safety of the entire ride, was instantly compromised. I had to stop.

"Couldn't see a thing!" I said as Jon rolled past, hoping he could see the offending moisture on my lenses.

They guys thoughtfully leap-frogged the next section--each of us taking a turn at stopping for various reasons--I'm sure in an effort to spare my fragile ego.

We possied on to the summit road and then picked up the Summit Loop on the east side overlooking the suburbs of Lakewood. The sky was overcast gray and the landscape was obscured by foggy haze. The air was cool, much cooler than the 60F the meteoro-fascists had predicted, but nearly perfect for a bike ride. The cold air slightly numbed the pain.

It was somewhere on the approach to the top that I remembered that every time I ride Green Mountain I remember how much I enjoy riding Green Mountain. I only seem to forget when I'm not riding Green Mountain.

Hopefully I won't forget anytime soon.

The Summit Loop Trail is great. It goes on for a good distance contouring along the high eastern slopes a few dozen feet below the ridge crest. Jon lagged, but I'm sure it was just because he was taking in the magnificent suburban vistas, not because James and I were dropping him.

Toward the north end it's rocky, warming you up for a descent of Box o' Rocks. Considering my "undefined" technical skill level, a trail with a name like Box o' Rocks could be a pleasant romp or a contusion-filled nightmare.

Somehow it was neither. It was rocky, surprisingly there were no boxes, and eventually it smooths out. I took the point position for the descent. James and Jon both agreed they were going to get beat up pretty bad due to their full rigidness. I can't give them grief because I never rode suspension prior to 2010. Rigid mountain bikes are for real cyclists.

 Me and the Cannonball at Guanella Pass 
before it was paved
No one mentioned that my being on point had anything to do with my relative mass and potential velocity on the descent. I appreciate that.

Back at the bottom we parted ways. I believed I had to head back to work for a meeting at 6pm that had already been cancelled, and it was getting on towards dusk. It was a good ride, enough of a push that I still felt it in my lungs yesterday, but not so hard that I couldn't continue on home 11 more miles when I realized there was no reason for me to be in Golden anymore.

I'm glad I decided to stop being anti-social. I hope this whole posse thing works out. If not I may have to ask my mom if she'd go back to paying people to be friends with me. Worked pretty well when I was a kid.

Wednesday, October 10

Fatter Than Average

[UPDATE: I want to apologize to my wife for portraying her as my dieting weakness. That, she is not. I do not envy her in that I am an impulsive and picky eater, and therefore almost impossible to shop for, choose for, or to help shop or choose food. She rarely (almost never) suggests we eat pizza. She is the one with a backbone when it comes to food choices. I am not.]

I've destroyed any intestinal fortitude I may have had with truly pathetic eating the past week, gorging myself on Little Caesars, not once but twice, and then the second time trying to counter the effects by eating a bacon cheeseburger at lunch.

No, maybe it wasn't the Little Caesars...maybe it was the free breakfast burritos the Commissioners handed out in appreciation to all County employees. Either way...gastrointestinal distress ensued.

My struggle with weight has less to do with amounts of food and more to do with types of food. When I bemoan my fatness my contemporaries are no help.

"It's okay, you ride your bike a lot."

This is true, but the truth is that if I didn't ride my bike so much I'd be 400 pounds and fantasizing about auditioning for the Biggest Loser.

People aren't doing me any favors by complementing me on my prolific cycling. I'm aware of how many calories I burn by riding. Strava throws it out automatically for me to see. What I'm not aware of is how many calories I ingest in a typical day. My guesstimate is roughly 4,200.

If it doesn't move and even vaguely resembles a cheeseburger I will eat it and three of its closest friends. Later that evening when my wife suggests pizza for dinner I will shamelessly--and very enthusiastically--say yes. I feel guilt only when my belly is full. When its empty I feel hunger. Finger devouring hunger. Ravenous, obsessive, red rage hunger.

Anybody got a Snickers?

The madness must stop. I must reign in the devouring beast. Ox find good fuel. Ox no eat bad fuel! Froot. Sa-lud. Drink wa-wa.

What?!

Anyway, diet has been a huge hurdle for me. It doesn't help that I've basically been able to eat anything my entire adult-sized life and maintain a fairly moderate weight. It's only because I stay obsessively active. I've burned a ridiculous amount of calories in my life.

However, what I think is "moderate" gets interpreted differently by others. During my undergraduate sentence (against my will) I took a gen ed health class. We had to do a fitness survey. When the pretty young co-ed noted my BMI she described me...not as "overweight", not as "obese", not as "fit like Brad Pitt"...no, she scribbled on her smug little clipboard: "fatter than average."

What the...?!

I didn't consider myself overweight at all at the time. And so began my runaway decline. I conceded defeat. I was fat. That was the first day I felt my age. I was happily married, still in my early thirties, but this pretty young co-ed heartlessly slashed those words across my heart ("fatter than average" in case you forgot) smashing any illusions I had that I might still be attractive to 18 year old co-eds. I didn't need to be attractive to them, it just helps your ego a bit when they don't completely dismiss you as old and grotesque.

I should have been shamed to ripped abs on that day. I'm shamed that I wasn't more shamed. I probably went home and ate a large pizza by myself while whining to my wife about the mean girl at school.

"Can you believe what she called me...mprhlgarblegulp?!"

My bike commuting the past few years has helped. My Leadville obsession has helped. Nothing seems to help my brain "click" and engage my internal motivators though. I did actually qualify as a Clydesdale (200+lbs) for a brief time. That actually spurred me to action. I resolved to get below 200 and stay there. So far I have.

Like Fatty says: I'd rather be a fat cyclist than just fat. Cause believe me, you take the cyclist out of this guy and you'll get fatter than fatter than average.

 photo by zazoosh
Regardless of my mass, I can still climb a hill; 
from the Crested Butte Alpine Odyssey

Tuesday, October 9

Wanted: Mountain Biking Gang/Posse

Anti-Social Mountain Biker Seeks Companionship.

Geographical proximity to the Arvada/Golden area preferred but not required. I am opportunistic and will ride whatever is close at hand. I.e. North Table, South Table, White Ranch, Chimney Gulch, Apex Gulch, Green Mountain, Dinosaur Ridge, Standley Lake, Dirty Bismarck, etc, etc.

Skill level: somewhere between intermediate crazy and gonzo gung-ho, but this is negotiable. My skill level is: "undefined."

Gearheads okay, but gear snobs need not apply. I don't ride the cheapest junk, but you gotta cut me some slack; Dr. Mountain Biker I am not.

Frequency of meet ups: as often as reality will allow. I have a family that has reasonable expectations that I will give them attention and care.(Families welcome!)

FAQs:

Must I be obsessed with endurance MTB races? No, but it will help.

Where will we ride? Various places near the metro area unless someone cares to shuttle my carless carcass further.

How far will we ride? To the horizon and back. Or until someone pukes.

What is the purpose of this "group?" Mutual edification through mutual depreciation. Actually, despite my claims of anti-social tendencies I am really a social person. And I like to watch others crash.

Why don't you seek road cyclists? Meh, not as fun in a group. Plus, I'm not so fast and ride an '86 Bianchi.

Will you post embarrassing things about me on your blog? Perhaps. Unless you pay the platinum level membership fee.

Does your wife know you're putting together a posse? I don't think so...

Monday, October 8

Politics and Mountain Biking

Ooh! Sounds ominous, huh?

Nah, you might remember a time on this blog when I ranted about the car vs bike issue, peak oil, politics on occasion, etc, etc. I don't do that so often anymore. You might think this is a symptom of my chronic short attention span...but it's not.

I think I needed a break. Obsessing about Leadville let me take my mind off more serious topics for quite awhile. It helped me recharge a bit. It let me pretend the world was okay for awhile. Stop calling me delusional!

This morning I have been catching up on the more "serious" blogs I follow. Transition Voice had a piece on the EU meltdown in progress, and I hadn't visited James Howard Kunstler's blog for a couple of weeks. I had watched the presidential debate, but heard nothing substantial. In fact, the only thing I can remember about the debate is Mittens' Big Bird comment, and the look on Jim Lehrer's face afterward. The SNL skit spoofing the debate was far more memorable than the real thing. That's sad.

Jim Kunstler sums it up nicely in last week's post:

...Mr. Romney (is) an empty vessel in a vacant room in an abandoned property in a forsaken land...

It happens that his opponent, Mr. Obama, is a genial fellow with whom almost anyone might like to have a beer. Despite his winning smile, though, the president has managed to cripple due process of law, make war on the nation's own citizens, let Wall Street criminals run amok, and sell out the electoral process to a corrupt corporate oligarchy. I wouldn't vote for him again...

I have little hope for American politics. I went from oblivious (pre-9/11), to playing catch up for all those years I dismissed politics as irrelevant in my life, to being informed, to being jaded...and then disgusted...in the span of about ten years.

I even had my brief moment of "I need to get involved" [shivers]. That passed when I moved out of my hometown.

Y'know, my focus on mountain biking kind of excludes politics. What can possibly be political about riding your bike in the woods? Truly, riding a bike shouldn't involve politics at all, but somehow people have made riding in the street political. Thankfully there are places to ride off road where you can hardly be troubled by politics, save for the random ambushes by the secret service. You've had that happen. Right?

Anyway, I'd like to go back to boring you with some cyclo-centric propaganda. Maybe I'll print up some flyers and hire a plane to drop them over the metro area. Or I could blog about it. About as effective.

ADDENDUM

It is Columbus Day and despite my function as a government flunky I am again shackled securely into my cubicle for the day. Oddly, the courts are closed, but county administration is open. Another of the indignities of not being in the law business and making six figures.

Oh, and there are metal detectors only for those scuzz-buckets going into the court side of the building. Any old slob in a smelly t-shirt can walk in our office with a semi-automatic and go all postal on us because he/she/it got a zoning violation. I'm serious about the "it." Sometimes you just can't tell. 

PS TO THE ADDENDUM

We did have a well-timed fire drill this morning. That's how we always get talking about the lack of metal detectors on our side of the building. Fire drill always leads to speculation that it's a bomb threat which leads to all kinds of office paranoia. Hey, I've seen Office Space. It's freakin' hyhsterical!

Saturday, October 6

Dreary Goodness

Autumn has us in its exquisite grip. The skies have been grayscale for a few days. The temperature has finally collapsed in exhaustion after struggling to hold up the summer norms far beyond what is reasonable. And I had no cycling scheme or plan for a Saturday.

It made sense to have no plan, to take it easy, to hang at home on a near-blustery day, drink coffee, eat my wife's homemade apple pie, nap through half of Captain America: The First Avenger, and not care.

We went out early and ran our errands. We didn't ride. It was just too cold to justify this morning with the kids. Plus, one of my errands was to go and pick up some new tubes for the cargo bikes.

We dropped off the recycling, picked up my hold at the library (The Mountain Biker's Training Bible by Friel) while Mandy picked up some yarn, swung by the feed store for bedding and feed for the rabbits and chickens, then because we were close we drove over to Salvagetti and chatted with Scott for a few minutes and got those tubes. Then we braved the grocery store and headed home.

I wanted to go for a bike ride, but I also wanted to not do anything.

I have not fixed my flats. I have not gone for a bike ride. I did not manage to see all of Captain America. I did drink a cup and a half of coffee and eat one whole piece of pie. So I guess the day is a success. 


I wanted to write a bit. Its just hard with the kids running around thumping and hollering. I'm not blaming them, just pointing out today was a not a conducive environment to moistening the media with creative juices.

My synapses have been firing after talking to Scott at the bike shop. I asked about upgrading my wheels and we had a good discussion. We also looked at bikes. My attention has turned back to the Kona Kahuna. I was close to choosing it before I settled on The One. It's a 29er. So I may consider selling a kidney (and The One) and go with the Kahuna. It's just a consideration at this point, nothing concrete, nothing in stone. Perhaps. Contingent upon...

Scott also showed me the demo Surly Krampus.The estimated MSRP skeers me! ($1,950), but it would be both an awesome MTB (even for Leadville) and an awesome winter commuter. *Sigh*

Salvagetti's new neighborhood is interesting. Like I said, I rode through there the other day and waxed nostalgic for urban riding. Along 38th there is an area where it looks like Denver has been focusing on New Urbanism inspired revitalization.It felt less like suburbia and more like just plain old urbia. 

But being trapped in urbias of all kinds I have a hankerin' for some dirt and the smell of the snow in the pines.

I want to ride some trails. I'm going through withdrawals. I miss playing in the dirt. I think we're going to have to take a family outing somewhere soon to carve up some singletrack.

The GranDonut--a Free for All

You've got to check out the GranDonut!

Fatty's write up: The 2012 GranDonut Race Report

My favorite quote: "Levi was sufferening PTDCD (Post Traumatic Donut Consumption Disorder). Fortunately, Levi had a teammate who plays a doctor on TV" (Patrick Dempsey)


Friday, October 5

Misplaced Monday Winter Commute

I staggered out of bed and into the bathroom this morning. The outside ambient light had that weird quality that indicates snow on the ground and in the air. I peeked bleary-eyed out the window; sure enough--snow.

I had to rethink my wardrobe and bike choice (road bike) and by the time I was rolling out of the Bikeport on The One I was going to be cutting it close to make it to work on time.

A mile from home I picked up something metal in my rear tire. A flat. In the cold wet darkness...a flat.

If I were truly hardcore I would have just changed the tube. Instead I called for SAG. Mandy came and picked me up, and once back home I grabbed the road bike after all. Still have a flat on the Cannonball too. As we were getting out of the car my lovely wife asked with a sheepish grin: "Would this be a good time to ask if you can meet me at school tonight?" Golden to Westminster=18 miles.

This is getting old. It was my fourth flat (not counting my worn tires this week) since the middle of September. I'm so sick of changing tubes.

The longer jaunt up to Westminster is no big deal. It's a good excuse to get some more saddle time. It'll be nice...assuming I don't get anymore flats on the way.

It was cold this morning: 31F per the meteoro-fascists. I was still sweating by the time I got to the last hill before work...despite an easier effort on my part to avoid skating on skinny tires.



It was cool riding past the autumned trees with a light coating of snow. Snow fell softly as I left the house initially, but then as my commute wore on (and on and on) the sun came out bright and strong over the frosted landscape. It was an emotional sunrise.



I was an hour late. I rushed to get ready to cover a slow front counter. I wanted to get coffee in the atrium but there were 28 people in line in front of me. I had to go back later.

Someone said: "At least it's Friday." Man, but it sure feels like Monday.

Now that I've settled into my day it's going better. I got coffee. I need to get a free moment later to plan my ride up to Westminster.