Saturday, December 18, 2010
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Thursday, December 2, 2010
Saturday, November 20, 2010
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Here's the business end of the Mesenger saddle, which is one of my all time best dumpster dive finds. Note the sturdy dual springs. The saddle body is metal, covered in some kind of vinyl. It's heavy, but very comfortable. The bag holds a small adjustable wrench, two metal tire irons, a tube and patch kit. If the rear flats I intend to pull the tube off while still on the bike and patch it as it is too difficult and involved to pull the rear wheel. Trust me on this. That's how they do it over in the old world, so I've been told.
A whale amongst minnows. This imposing bicycle provides an unsurpassed ride due to it's 28 inch wheels and regal riding position.
The Roadster Sovereign features a traditional lugged frame and five speed hub gears with full chaincase, gold-lined mudguards, steel rear carrier with fold down wheel stand, hub driven dynamo headlamp, LED rear light, frame fit lock, leather sprung saddle and coatguards
Saturday, October 16, 2010
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
That day we had clawed our way up to the top, where the pavement turns to dirt and continues on over hill and dale. It is really unrelentingly steep to get up to this point, and we could not really go much further because we were on our road bikes, and our skinny smooth tires were just not cutting it in the dirt. I made a note to self to return here with my mountain bike and press on regardless, all the way across what seemed to be a valley to Grizzly Peak, far off in the distance.
So today was that day. I prepped my Rockhopper for dirt duty, as these days it is pulling exchange student commuter duty for the most part. I put on my road saddle, SPD pedals, tightened the headset, lubed the chain, strapped on a pump and tool bag, and BARTed out to Ashby st. in Berkeley. I slowly climbed through the town and up Panoramic. Its a long grind. I thought it would be easier on a mountain bike because of the low gearing, but the extra 12 lbs + weight over the road bike seemed to negate the gears for the most part. I was able to ride up where I had to walk my road bike two weeks ago, but it was slow going. But then, on an expeditionary jaunt like this, speed is not the point.
I made my way to the point on the fire trail where Brian and I had had to turn back. This point is punctuated by a very steep grade, which I tried to pedal up but soon realized I would have to walk it, pushing the bike. This is harder than it sounds, the bike gets very heavy and my feet barely got traction on this slope. (Another reason I use mountain bike cycling shoes rather than road style). Flushed, I finally surmounted the hill and found a descent on the other side...sawtooth ridges...OH NO! Up then down then up again. The second grade seemed just as steep as the first, but even longer. I pushed the bike up again, breathing hard and sweating in the sun, my calves starting to get a crampy feeling. Ok, now for some more downhill, then a section I could actually ride as it was merely ordinarily steep. Then a four way crossroads in the middle of nowhere. I wondered where the other ways went, but pushed on straight towards Grizzly Peak, which I could not see from this point, then turned a corner to see the Mother of All MoFos. (2nd photo above)
I mean, this dirt road went straight up, it was a field of sharp jagged rocks, with loose sand in between. I tried to push the bike and just got to a point it would not go up anymore, It felt like a ton of bricks, so I dropped the bike and just tried to hike up, and I could barely do that, I mean, this is a wicked steep pitch, my shoes not getting traction and sliding backwards. What kind of fire truck could even drive on this road anyway?
So, I had the queasy feeling of being defeated. Doesn't happen like this very often. I had pushed deep in and now I had to pay the price for that. I didn't relish going back the way I came, because of all the reverse course pushing of the bike I anticipated. So I coasted back to the crossroads and investigated the south direction, which was down, down, down into some Eucalyptus trees and darkness. The other way went north somewhere. I knew that I was on the hill north of Claremont Canyon, so that meant Claremont Ave. was to the south of me. Good chance the decending fireroad would take me there, so I chose that and dove down into it.
It was really steep so I was massively applying the brakes. The rear wheel was losing traction and skidding every two seconds or so. Then something caught me off balance and the rear wheel was in the air, I was hanging over the front wheel and the view was like looking over a cliff edge. Before I could grasp the implications, the rear wheel returned to earth. And then the entire bike skidded sideways.
My left foot was already out of the pedal before I started the descent, and as the bike went sideways I put it down like a kickstand and as it gained purchase, the bike hopped up with me on it, then down again as we slid further, then my foot stuck earth again, and the bike lifted again, and so on at least six times. Like a pogo stick we bounced down the hill. I really thought I was going down hard on this ungraceful maneuver, I mean really, I've never been in this position before and so I was just hanging on, but I felt in the moment that I could control it so kept cool, and then the bike stopped its gyrations and stopped. I remounted, and gingerly continued on down to Claremont. I emerged at that first big hairpin turn about 2/3 of the way to the top. I was happy to see familiar terrain.
I climbed to the top then plunged down the other side, Fishranch Road. It didn't feel like I was going that fast for some reason, but I was keeping in touch with the cars ahead of me. At the Caldecott building, I veered right up Old Tunnel Road in Sibley Park. Here is a sweet section of road I found two weeks ago, which has only recently been opened as regional parklands.
Yes, the old ORIGINAL Tunnel Road is now open for riding! And it is as awesome as it is short, for near the top of the hill it, like Panoramic, turns to dirt road. Another reason I brought the mountain bike.
I feel like this area is my new private playground. There are very few hikers out here, no other cyclists to be seen, its just wide open area. Dry and desert like, windblown and sunbaked, it is a compelling area to explore. Old old Tunnel road is in good shape, pretty smooth, a few weeds poking through cracks here and there, but amazingly intact. The dirt road it turns into is hard packed with some gravel, but easy to ride. There are numerous side trails going off to who knows where, grist for future explorations.
I rode mostly uphill over to the backside of Roundtop, the dormant volcano that is the crown jewel of Sibley Park. I stopped for lunch at the labyrinth, a Hippie era art work down in an old abandoned quarry. Its a desolate feeling place. After a climb out of there, the trail turns into a rocky field not unlike Eldridge Trail on Mt. Tam, and soon enough, I was in the very familiar Sibley rest stop off Skyline Blvd. My legs were shot, my glutes were aching, my lower back smarting, but the smile on my face said that it was all worth while.
After a short rest I descended the hill via some upper Montclair side streets, the mountain bike really shines as it feels like a mini motorcycle on twisty fast descents, and I was having a great time making it last as long as possible.
I was back home about 4 hours after setting out. I guess I only made about 25 miles, but man, what a 25 miles! Super steep ascents, super technical descents, moments of grave doubt, moments of elation, whole new areas bagged and a thorough workout had. So there you have it, a story about how I do it and why I do it, but after the ride, when I am standing in the shower, I reflect on it and am amazed that I did that---that I was able to do that--- on a bicycle, the most awesomely efficient machine ever invented.
Monday, August 30, 2010
Recently I spied a red road bike leaning against some recycling bins by Encinal High school. I stopped to look at it- an ancient Bridgestone, complete, but in poor shape, the frame just huge, the ugly factor amplified by it's pink electrical tape handlebar wrap. The elderly Asian man who owned it asked me to take it and he threw in a parts box of miscellaneous bike parts. This bike has been sitting in my garage since then, and I was going to either strip it for parts or sell it dirt cheap, when a member of Cathy's church called us to ask if we could supply her son with a bike, his was recently stolen, and he needed to get to work. He wanted a durable faster ride. I said sure, I have something. Surprisingly, the son was almost my age, he didn't mind the fugly bar tape, he was very happy to get it, and he mounted up and rode off into the sunset. So be it! Glad that worked out.
Last winter Team Alameda member Ron Arth called me up to offer me a beachcruiser bike for our exchange student girls to ride. I still have that and it is being put to good use by my current exchange student Joe, from Guangzhou China. Our other host son, Lorenz from Germany, is digging my Specialized Rockhopper, and he completed a 20 mile hill ride on it last weekend.
I ride my Miyata road bike to work everyday. I reset the odometer after my heart tuneup, symbolic of starting over, and I now have 657 miles on it. Riding to and from Bay Farm island. Nothing else. 11 miles every day. Its a workout coming back in the afternoon into the incessant fog blown headwinds, no even worse, it can be excruciating. Not unlike being waterboarded. Ok, maybe not that bad. But it can be really bad. I've found that stuffing paper in my ears helps a lot to mute the howling wind in my ears. I'm convinced from doing this day after day that the sound of wind whipping my ears is the worst mental obstacle to overcome, it saps my strength and morale. But it didn't kill me, so I must be stronger.
And still there are more bikes: the Army bike with its new fat slicks sits in the garage awaiting a ride to the produce stand. I also ride the AMF Huffy cruiser bike, rusty and grungy, but surprisingly capable and almost theft proof. Almost. Last but not least is my Lemond, still rocking the ultra low hill gears, still riding like the trusty steed it is. It is very good at what it does, which is extreme grade riding. Oh yeah, Cathy has two bikes as well.
So... lots of bikes in and around the house. A bike for every reason, a bike for every season, a bike fore every guest from every country. Living the bike life, hardly using the car, building my carbon credits and lowering my carbon footprint. Bikes....what amazing machines! I love 'em.
Sunday, August 1, 2010
I got to bed late last night, having spent a gustatory day in Santa Rosa with our friend Gaylyn, who treated us to gourmet dining after a lazy day at the Russian River. I bagged the 7am start time today for the Team ride. Come to think of it, I bagged the 9am Team ride as well. Just wasn't ready yet, and besides, the sun doesn't come out until 10. Is this Flash's new banker's hours? Perhaps for the time being. It works. It works well.
As is the case on these solo rides, I had no firm destination in mind, other than Tunnel Road, because Tunnel has the most cyclists on it per mile, therefore the most potential for Flashblog fodder. However, it was in Montclair that the synergy started to hum. The sun was out, it was warming up, and as I passed Peet's and glanced over to see if anyone I knew was out front, a cyclist pulled away into the street and was soon alongside me, and glancing over, I saw it was Mike, a regular at Peet's. He's a young guy from Berkeley, rides a fixie or an Orbea, and is often sipping a java at Peet's. I guess today he wanted some company because we rode together all the way to Sibley, and along the way we picked up a guy in the yellow jersey, and a guy in a red jersey, and we had our own little gruppetto, although the other two just tagged along and didn't speak. Mike seemed to be cruising effortlessly in his Rock Racing outfit, while I had to reality check my heartrate because I knew I was over my recommended max. pulse of 120 (shaking head) prescribed by my Kaiser specialists. Considerably more than that, but I felt fine, and that is what I needed to go that pace, which I can't say was fast, but indeed faster than my usual, and fast enough to stay in visual contact with a faster group of six that passed us. Riding with Mike made my reference points all hazy, and I was, just riding.
I pulled into Sibley and noticed eight women standing in a circle chatting, and immediately got a hit off their jerseys which boldly stated "Girls with Alti-2-ude". I told them how cool I thought that name was and one of them suavely mentioned they thought of it after a long drinking session. I proclaimed them all aspiring Death Riders, then asked them where they were going, and they said the Pinehurst loop, so I rode with them. We went the long way, Skyline to Redwood. down and up the back of Pinehurst, then they turned toward Moraga for their homes in Walnut Creek, while I made my way back up Pinehurst. They were good, C pace, good form and group skills, yeah, and good climbers. All of them prime TA material. Perhaps in the adjacent parallel universe they are. So I did my ambassador thing and invited them to this blog, so maybe we will see them in the future.
I took a favorite Flashcut down to Montclair, pulled in for a coffee, black, and listened to the bluegrass duo at Peet's. The sun was warming, the vibe was mellow and a sense of an electrical pulse surged subliminally along the meridians of my body. I felt nostalgic for the moment even though I was living in it. There's the Oneness. Right there. That's why I cycle.
Ride on my friends.
Saturday, July 24, 2010
My group had the great serendipitous luck of encountering Alison Stone, aka The Pink Lady at the intersection of Snake and Skyline. From left to right: Gary, Rob, Flash, Flashette, Alison, Dorothy and Z Rider. It is always a good omen to encounter TPL, and this bodes well for the rest of my cycling year---better than a fortune cookie! (Check out the Flashblog archives for some Pink Lady blogs I wrote a year or two ago)
I'd like to thank photographer Sweeps for taking the picture and making it look like 1967- instant gravitas!
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
My house smells like the pungent, smoky aroma of the Dalai Lama. Or maybe I should say, if I ever meet the Dalai Lama, I think this is what he would smell like. The music I am listening to is “Reise, Reise” by Rammstein, the seminal German sturm und drang metal band. Somewhere in the house, most likely in the incense room downstairs, is my 19 year old college student entertaining our new 16 year old exchange student Zhoa, from China, and soon enough there will be another student, Lorenze, and he IS from Germany. “Weeeee’re all living in Amerika, its Vunderbar!” is the next song up by the Germans, and it’s all too appropriate. This conflux of EurAsian smells and sounds is where I am at right now. “Weeeee’re all living in Amerika, Coca Cola, Wonderbra”. It’s a brave new world around here, the last year and a half kind of feeling like the force-blended French/German/Swedish/Italian/Chinese cultural mishmash depicted in Bladerunner. (Yes, I’m the Replicant element with my new high tech nano heart parts.) A large part of the angst is the undermining of not only the national economy, but my own personal economies, economies of new realities, grappling with quests unknown, economies of white-knuckled sailing around rocky, storm blown shoals. But at the same time, the ball and chain around my ankles has been loosed and I find myself sometimes effected not unlike a prisoner paroled after a long stretch in the can, standing outside the front gate of the prison, small suitcase in hand, just wondering what in the hell he is going to do now. No way is that freedom.
The heady mixture of German rock and Tibetan incense is not unlike where I am at with my cycling of late. I have the urge to go hard, tempered with the desire to slow down and meditate on all that transpires around me. I can go hard but I have been strongly advised not to. I have bent the rules lately, I have let the horses run the hillsides. I essentially have a new turbo pump and it works wonderfully, it wants me to put the pedal down. I love my heart more than the family dog, I absolutely admire what it has done for me, and I want to go easy on it. I want to take it out, gently massage it, and lay it down on a satiny pillow to rest peacefully. But at the same time, it has its own desires that make it difficult to tame. It remembers. It feeds on adrenaline and wants to taste the wind, it snarls and drools and chases cars. So like a blind man groping for stairs in a subway station, I try to find the place between the untamed ride and the lotus position.
There is a place that is between training and not-training, in which I mount my bike with no purpose or destination in mind other than to ride, and I let whatever happens unfold. I guess you could call it working out. Not training. Especially not compulsive, self-flagellating type of training of which I am guilty of in the past, and as well, encouraging others to do the same. Working out, in my mind, is done for its own sake, whereas training is done for some higher purpose, to meet some sort of goal or personal achievement, to attain a benchmark, to push the boundaries ever further out. I’ve done that and I’ve met my goals, crossed big events off my bucket list, which is so ironic as how my biggest bucket list event last year might have put me six feet under. Now it’s time to just workout.
It has taken me a long time to figure out that a good workout results in a feeling of potency. Potency is the feeling of being able to physically do what you want to do without undue suffering involved. Potency is a heady thing, to experience it is to literally be full of yourself to feel potential, optimism, self-assuredness. Potency also means ending the workout feeling energized instead of exhausted, ready to take on the rest of the day instead of having to crash horizontal on the nearest soft thing. So I have found the optimal workout ride for me to be 2-3 hours of pedal time. I can do this two days in a row and feel good. I really don’t need to do more than this anymore. My opponent will probably say that I’m saying this because I can’t do more anymore. The Big training for the Big Events thing. He can think what he wants to think.
Five years ago, after a ride up Mt. Diablo with my cycling buddy from the ‘80s, he startled me by saying that he thought any fitness beyond what you need is vanity fitness. I really had a hard time with this…I mean, how do you define “need”? I almost wrote a whole Flashblog about it, but I couldn’t because… I wanted to refute it but in the black cellar of my mind, locked away in a box was a voice saying “yeah, he’s right”. At the time I couldn’t accept that. I thought you can’t have enough fitness, you can’t ever be as good as you can be unless you keep training hard. Wait…maybe he was talking about bodybuilders? I didn’t get it. Now I do. His idea of vanity fitness is what I’ve come to see as compulsive training or, what some people are now calling exercise addiction. If you spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about all things cycling or how great you could be if only you could spend a few more hours training then you are probably in this place.
Having said that, I frequently call upon my past exploits and achievements performed in my Third Incarnation, to inform my current riding. I know what I can do and what I can’t do, because I’ve already done it. That’s a firm foundation of mental strength to draw upon. But then I've just described a conundrum, because you have to do the hard training to achieve your highest goal, to know exactly what you are capable of. Maybe what I am trying to describe is an evolution, a philosophy of riding. There are phases and incarnations for each of us, I see myself in my fourth.
It’s liberating to let go of forever wanting achieve More. To finally let go of personal records and bests, to let go of the compulsion to ride ever further and longer. I’m almost to the point of riding without a computer. Just needing to get over stats completely. It took a near heart attack for me to get this needed perspective. I could have died training over the winter for…. I don’t know what…most likely something I’ve already done before just to say I did it again. To think of all the things I might have missed.
That’s the current zeitgeist here in Flashland. Thanks for reading.