All sorts of big and small cycling things occurred this past weekend, and I missed every one of them. Alas. Sometimes the best laid plans and all that….
The big-ticket event was the San Francisco Randonneurs’ Lighthouse 200K - a magnificent and reasonably challenging route which kicks off the brevet season each year (yep, January!) The weather is always the big question on everyone’s mind - it can be gloriously clear and sunny or intensely nasty. Winds can certainly be a factor, but the common direction is a WNW direction, which mostly blows you home. I’ve completed the ride three times, but didn’t really have the mileage base to consider it this season.
A number of ride buddies and internet cycling denizens shared their images - Estaban (up from San Diego), Manny (who broke a shifter and finished the ride short a few gears), D Yu G, Campy Only Guy, and One Happy Cog all have photos to enjoy. PlattyJo has a ride report here. Franklyn has his here.
There was also a Populaire along a portion of the same course. This is a lower mileage (114 km) “intro to randonneurring” designed to introduce newcomers to the conventions and quirks of brevet style rides. Briefly thought about engaging in this, but after a ride the previous weekend which covered ~40 miles, decided that adding the White’s Hill climb in addition to the mileage was also not in the cards.
What was looking good was the potential Bay Area arrival of David “Cyclotourist” - who had similar goals and realizations to me regarding the 200K and the Populaire. Still was part of a rideshare, he had plans to ramble up Mt. Tam in mixed-terrain mode. BikeTinker Philip had planned on connecting, and I threw my iron in the fire to join up. Alas, Friday’s stomach cramps made it pretty clear that the bug which bit my wife had gotten some talons into me as well. So, I sat at the computer and napped my way through the weekend. Gino managed to connect with them, and they managed an excellent day in the windy sunshine, capped off with one of Avatar’s punjabi Burritos.
I rode and enjoyed vicariously. Ahh well… next time gentlemen!
Two news items also cropped up in the local cycling news - one is the continued hashing out of the proposed Corte Madera Creek overpass project. It’s a potentially massive project on one of the remaining confusing bits of Highway 101 in marin county. The full project involves fixes and corrections from the Paradise Drive exit to north of the Sir Francis Drake exit.
There have been a succession of minor changes and tweaks, most of which seem only to confuse things more. The suggestions ranged broadly, dating back to some public meetings in probably 2007 or so which I attended. At the time, it was clear that the various forces of homeowners, city managers and developers were going to hash things out for some time , so it was hard to react to anything directly.
Since that time, they’ve more or less focused on the solution that is now being presented. One outcome is the demolition and elimination of the Hwy 101 pedestrian overcrossing structure which has been around since I was in high school (used to ride over it to get to crew practice, in fact). It’s a nasty, generally glass-strewn structure with a ridiculously dated “round about” approach (I thought I’d snapped a photo of it at some point in my Commute Bits set, but cannot find it…though here I do make reference to it as “The World’s Stupidest Overcrossing”). Ah - here:
aerial view via the MCBC website
And yes, that is a full 2 1/2 times around on the entrance/egress, with no line of sight to speak of.
Now, I certainly get that it is desirable to provide direct access. I’m an absolute proponent of that. But, it seems to make more sense to develop a viable bicycle route using the Wornum undercrossing. Right now, it’s OK, but lacks night time lighting and the section which runs in front of the Cost Plus shopping center is generally pretty hairball. But, in terms of battles for the MCBC to pick, I have to hope this is only a initial position so they can regroup to a stronger focus on developing a more sensible connector from the Redwood Hwy frontage road to Wornum Undercrossing to connect to the High Street Bridge path (the one which uses the old railroad right of way to connect to Corte Madera / Magnolia Ave.)
That whole discussion is going on here:
The one which surprised me was the nascent beginning of a Marin County Bike Share program.
If you will permit me a moment of snark, I’d say that there are a whole bunch of “Team Postal” Treks, neglected Lightspeeds and forgotten Serottas hanging in carports and garages throughout the county. I say “FREE THE BIKES, MAN!” Collect those things and distribute them around the county or to county-based employers who can assist their workforce in riding.
ahem…. sorrry about that. I watched a bit of Portlandia last night…
But, you have to admit, a whole rack of “need a ride?” steeds like that might actually induce some folks to give up their car. Yeah, I know, they’d end up chopped and stripped and sold, but it would be a glorious day and a half.
The one error the article makes though is the idea that marin is “hilly”, precluding most people from riding. There is a great deal left to improve, but the MCBC projects have helped a great deal already. With the Cal Park Hill tunnel project, you can ride from Larkspur to downtown San Rafael without significant elevation change, for example. The new connection between Ignacio and Novato has dramatically changed the nasty climb which used to be required. The routes are there. They just continually need to be cited and explained.
Evening. Monday. The time of night that has always been my favorite. Riding out in the dusk on the Dawes for an easy errand that got lost in the day. Started by vectoring exactly the opposite direction, after spending 15 minutes or so dinking around with a flat tire change. Took the longer route because I wanted to remind myself about this bike and the way it handles, as well as watch the blue skies fade to deep grey and then black.
As I’ve said before, every bicycle you own increases exponentially the possibility that none of them will work correctly. Of late, I’ve been trying to recover from that a bit - making sure that I roll out the less-used bike earlier than I need it, so I can knock some of the crud off of it and have it reasonably ready to ride. This last week, I’d untangled the Dawes from the wall and found the tires soft. Pumped them up and loaded in the lights, reflective bits and stuff I needed to run out. By the time I’d gone inside and put on a sweater, the back wheel had sunk back to the rim, and the tire was thin and useless. Something more than underinflation to be sure and I’d burned through the spare time already - had to run, so switched over to the Zeus, which had been reinvigorated a bit the week before. Which was too bad, because I really couldn’t recall the last time the Dawes got out on the road.
The tube change had been a bit unsettling, as it was clear that the venerable Conti 28’s were getting to their last gasps. A couple of nasty cuts into the rubber from a few winter’s worth of night time commutes. Star-shaped gashes. Goodly chunks missing here and there. A preponderance of threads sneaking out of the rim after remounting the tire. Still decent meat on them, though definitely thinner where it matters. I had actually thought these were 25’s, so it was encouraging to realize that the Dawes could probably take some larger tires. It has gotten to the point where anything smaller than the round profile of the Jack Brown 33 1/3 seems skinny. Will probably try the Rolly-Pollys, as I know the profile is a bit rounder than the Continental Ultras.
I actually could not recall the last time I’d ridden the Dawes. I suppose it’s possible that it has been a year, but that just doesn’t quite sound correct. (Thank goodness for the internet brain - according to my BikeJournal.com entries, it would appear to have been June of last year…probably back when I looked down at the tires and thought “dang! I need some new tires!”) It has a stately grace which I appreciate. That has been enhanced by the fixed drivetrain, and we scooted through the near-vacant neighborhood streets. Dipping into a few turns, I did notice that there was a hesitation - almost an unease with which it cornered. Definitely a difference from the Hilsen and Quickbeam, which have been my main rides of late.
It makes it a bit easier to understand bike reviews and opinions when you jump back on a bike for the first time in a while. Everything is a bit different from everything else, and it can be almost shocking when you make a change. But, the ride skills, the body, the reactions all adapt fairly quickly. I guess I’ve ridden enough in my life to have a decent skill set which allows me to be aware of the corrections I’m making. And the bicycle cornered just fine. It just entered and exited the turns with a slightly different personality than what I’d been used to. Maybe it’s a little skittish generally speaking. But nothing you can’t handle it. You can
ride such a variety of angles and tubes. And they have pluses and
minuses. All have quirks and personality. The stem a trifle longer. The bars a little thinner in the hand with a different bend. Certainly different tires and fork and front end dimensions.
But, we’re adaptable folks, us humans.
With reasonably cold thumbs. I mean, since I hadn’t bothered to put any gloves on.
A bit later I found myself parked in a Peet’s, catching up on some email while sipping a gloriously strong “free” cup of coffee and half-listening to a curious conversation at the next table. It was a little unsettlingly paranoid and depressive. But the peace of the evening hovered above that and seemed to take it away like waves clear a sand castle. What’s weird is that I thought of a similar scenario as I was prepping to out. And then it manifested. Whether its always out there happening but it’s only when you tune your receiver that you notice it.
I had noticed that a clumsiness remains in getting out the door. Back to the other closet to find the heavy sweater. Rooting around a bit to find the gloves (which I never put on). Better than the last few times, but aggravating in the need for searching things out rather than just moving out the door and onto the bike. So, still seeking the flow.
The flow. The ability to cruise through the room picking up all the those things you need quickly. Get on the road. That’s a flow born from habit. No. “Habit” is too much of a mindless process.
Better yet from “practice”. That’s transferable. Bike riding. Yoga. Playing with your dogs. Voice acting, when the scripts flow and the work comes out with passion and truth.
So how do you maintain that flow?
Small definite acts. A little hard work every day. Moments to drift and think.
And how does that all reflect to riding? Probably doesn’t in a direct way, but every part of the practice must fold in and reinforce itself. The intention of yoga. The repetitive practice of the mileage. The crux moments of the creative process.
Riding under a clear crisp January night just to get a couple pounds of coffee.
Numbers don’t lie:
2009 mileage - 4131
2010 mileage - 3868
2111 mileage - 3107
2012 mileage - 2273
Clearly, a downward trend is involved in that data.
But, I’m OK with that.
In fact, it was a good year. I knew it was going to be a tricky one - relentlessly long hours in January prevented any riding - my first “ride free” month in memory. It took a couple weeks after that before I even had the gumption to be active again. As spring arrived, the highest goal was to stay healthy so I could be available for voice work. Since that directive was not in keeping with any kind of Belgian Spring Mileage, long rides in the rains were not really in the cards. Lower general mileage meant that I was not really in any kind of shape for Brevets, Fondo riding, Centuries or even Populaires - all of which tend to drop a decent chunk of distance into any type of ride log. Lastly, I couldn’t rely upon the cheap mileage of a commute to work - since my commute no longer included any “outside” distance. (And while voice acting tends to emphasize a certain amount of personality, that wouldn’t necessarily include showing up hot, sweaty and out of breath to a gig.)
All of which probably sound like rationalizations and excuses.
One thing I needed to relearn was how to commit the act of riding - since I didn’t just automatically log some back and forth to work miles every day, I needed to realize when I had the gap to go - send off the auditions and log off the computer and be on the bike in 5 minutes. It’s certainly a skill set which I used to possess - there were times when I had to drive 45 minutes each way to work, and was one of “those guys” whose bike was locked to the roof rack in the parking lot, bag o’ bike gear in the back seat, with plans to be late one the way home after a road loop or a little trail work.
It was also a little easier when my work environment had more infrastructure. I could hide in the office after a weekend of long, hard mileage, limping through orders and inventory reports, doing my job but not having to find new clients, think about marketing, continue to develop and refine my brand, chase down overdue accounts and some of the things which being a self-employed creative “solo-preneur” demand on a daily basis.
But, I did end up with 104 separate rides last year. About one every three days. More if you figure that I didn’t ride for two out of twelve months (September was kind of lost when I took a tumble and tweaked my ribs). I find that a decent average for maintenance level riding. I know I lost some oomph here and there, but things basically feel pretty good when I get out. Well, now anyway…
Post-September was the roughest. Low miles. Injury. General life stuff which drags you down. The first few rides at that point of this year, things just felt bad. Then worse. Then even worse. I was riding just enough so that each ride felt harder and more labored than the last. But, you just keep pulling back on the controls and know that you can come out of the dive.
The Quickbeam was both tough and kind at this point. A fixed gear setup will not lead you on with false hopes or pretense. Cruising the flats a 16 mph one week, then 17, then 18, then finally feeling a bit lively here and there. Finding enough moxie to accelerate into a short climb. Starting to be comfortable with two hours of spinning.
Yep. I’m still very much finding the need to work my way up pitches and bits that easily sailed past a year or so ago. But, I’m out, cleaning the muck out of the foundation. Signed up for the Fondo a couple days ago, so optimism is not my issue.