Thursday, June 16, 2011

BIKE PARTY!! June 10th...Chasing Skirts

Sometimes I have these vivid dreams filled with random and surrealistic sensations, colors, sounds, and people. In the best dreams I get swept up in infinite possibilities and float like a twig in a gently flowing stream, one thing leading to another, and when I awake, I feel a unique oneness with the universe, and I feel like everything is going to be alright. I feel deeply happy.

It's 5pm Saturday and I still haven't come down all the way from last night's Bike Party. It's like I've awakened from my vivid dream and am still lying there in bed thinking about it. This is the magic of Bike Party. It's one of my dreams come to life, or maybe, life is transformed into the dream and what I am having is a very lucid experience, more real---but at the same time---thankfully less real than the ennui of daily existence.

Bike Party takes time to percolate down. It's a lot to take in, something of sensory overload really, and the mind needs time to filter it and extract the ecstatic bits from the blur the dark night memory becomes. And there were ecstatic bits, these are intangible and happen quite suddenly. At these moments the merely fun shifts gears and Awesomeness breaks out, flows like a wave through the pedaling masses, and magic happens as onlookers feel the rush of rocking music, tinkling bells and horns, shouting riders, and a light show to rival Disneyland, their metaphorical hair blown back as if a bracing, refreshing wind had just blown up their block.
I get a feeling of ecstacy when it happens, and I suspect we all do, and this is why we do it. We're on a mission to find that dormant part within each of us that responds to beauty, to helping others, to working towards the Greater Good. It's ecstatic to share this with all the other Bike Partiers. It works on so many levels.

Something happens when you find yourself in this moving amoeba of positive energy, this multi-celled intelligent party organism---you lose your sense of self, you lose your ego, and willingly submit to the collective consciousness of the Many, because part of you, on some deep level, understands that this is the path to understanding that can only come from letting go of the Ego and submitting to the Hive Mind. The synapses start firing on dormant instinctual hard wires that in turn stimulate glands that secrete the feel good juices. There is strength in numbers, there is power in numbers, there is hope in numbers; and when we have hope, strength and power we can change the world.

My Dutch Bike fitted out with BikeGlow optics and colored lights, I got several great comments on it, and it was VERY easy to find in a dark park, so it became the regroup point for my friends.
(I remounted the Bikeglow optic cable by wrapping it around the frame like they show on their website, it is brighter this way and the coils are very cool looking)

This blog's author competing to fix a flat, I lost by 5 seconds as I attempted to "MacGyver" it using only my hands

Alameda's own bike royalty, Gene Oh, was there to officiate the festivities. Indeed, it was his bike parking stations at Ashby and Shattuck that launched and landed this Bike Party. Gene Oh---making the world a safer place for your bike---since, well, a long time.

My partner in Biking and Partying....the Dean of stopping to smell the Infrared Roses, McSweeps McNulty on his one of a kind one speed Swiss Kronen bike which got much sycophantic admiration from Those In The Know... or maybe it's Those Who Want To Know and Ask Too Many Questions. We also befriended Mary Elizabeth, a cycling cap maker from our own Alameda.

This is what the throng looked like just before the grand roll out. The theme for this party was "Skirts!"

Rolling along either Adeline or West streets in Oakland. We traveled through parts of Oakland known as Ghost Town and Lower Bottom. I've never been on these streets before, not even in my car! The reputation of this part of town is daunting, but it is slowly improving for the folks that live there.

Whoa! Now that's a road bike!

Party stop in Defremury Park, ground zero of the dance action. The "official" word was stops limited to 15 minutes...Yeah, right! Nice, long layover here. The second rest stop was pretty near the first one, in a grassy, dark open space. It was here, feeling the beat and watching the dancers, that I felt the bike as religion pagan ritual worship thing happening. So much positive energy!

Then we rode some more, here, there, up, down, all around.

We ended up in Berkeley at the Bike Station on Shattuck. The inside space was way too small for everyone and the in-the-wide-open-view-of-The-Man outside loitering limited the consumption of party refreshments considerably. Bikes and riders were everywhere and regular folks out for the evening must have been amused and bewildered at the same time.

One of my favorite Bikeboomers. I mentioned this guy last time and he was just as good this night

I leave you as I did last Bike Party! report: with a happy dancing girl.

I'd like to thank the Bike Partiers who posted pics on the BP Facebook site, I lifted a few of those to fill in what I missed, as I often forgot I even had a camera with me! Totally distracted? You Betcha!

That's it for now, check back as I might add to this as I remember things. Also, you might be interested to know the hot rumor about July's Bike Party... coming very close to Flashblog world headquarters?

Ride On and Ride Safe

Sunday, June 12, 2011

More Lore About Canyon

So... I got home late from work Saturday night, didn't get to bed until 12:30. The night before, I didn't fall into a bed coma until 1:30...Bike Party!!! More on that next blog. However, Sunday morning, I felt pretty good despite the lack of sleep and decided to take a Team Alameda ride.

Lately I hear a lot of this: " Hey Flash, why don't you lead rides anymore? We miss your style of ride, its not the same without you." Well, I have led some rides this year, but not as many as in years past, and some, like the Mystery Ride, featured bad timing when a lot of people were out of town. But the over-arcing reality is that I am exploring other avenues of bike culture, my work sometimes now happens on weekends, and I'm sometimes lazy and don't want to get up at 6:45 on a Saturday to ride by 8. Why not sleep in and ride at 10? Makes sense to me.

I do miss my TA friends, so yesterday I joined them on a Point Richmond ride. At least 10 flat miles of it, when I broke off at Gilman to get in some hill riding. Not sure of my route, I fell back on autopilot and set course for Wildcat Canyon. Los Angeles and the beginning of Spruce were tough. I've been putting in a lot of flat miles on a heavy Dutch bike lately, and its not the same kind of exercise. With the weather we've been having, I'm off my hill form a bit as well. But not a lot, and half way up Spruce these other roadies ahead of me, chatting, riding two abreast, blocking traffic pissed me off and I passed them all in a dismissive " On your left!" That burst actually kicked out the jams and I found myself climbing at a steady tempo and all felt good. My mojo came together quickly and I had the old familiar feeling of its good to be alive. I get that feeling when all is going well.

Before I knew it I was descending Wildcat and turned towards Orinda. Just as I turned a peloton of about 20 riders coming off of the 3 Bears turned towards Orinda and were behind me about 50 yards. I let them reel me in somewhere around the turn off to Geppeto's, and I liked the feeling of being pulled along, although I wasn't as I was on the inside and a 20 person line was slowly passing me on the left. Hey, I got to say hello to a lot of people, and in the moment I decided to ride with them out to Moraga. However, someone in their group yelled FLAT!!, effectively deflating the momentum, and they stopped after the big Orinda intersection. This blew the Feng shui of the moment for me, so I decided to go to Peet's for a coffee.

There were a couple of tandem couples hanging out there, and just then a gaggle of female riders rolled in as I was balancing my LeMond against the big tree planter. After I got my cup o' Joe, I grabbed a chair and sat by the doors, and started greeting cyclists as they came in. This is so easy to do: "Hey, welcome to Peets!" and the conversations start. So I chatted up the gals next to me on the bench and guess who they turn out to be?

The Cycling Wives of Canyon.... I kid you not! This is what they call themselves. They even have official Canyon cycling jerseys.

Did I mention I've been fascinated with Canyon for a long time?

I found this too intriguing. After many years of wondering what goes on in Canyon, last year I finally met a woman who lived there, went to her moving away party, met some rather eccentric Canyon locals, led a group of TA riders to a pancake breakfast there, then it was all over. I had lost my long sought after connection to Canyon.

One of the CWOC wives told me her husband's name is Canyon. Wait a minute... I met him at that party! He's the offspring of the original hippies who settled there. The other woman told me her husband's name is Sequoia. Same deal. The Real Deal, these Canyonites. The wives told me they were "imported" from SF and Brooklyn NY, like Hindu brides. They told me that the initial move from the big city to Canyon was like "hitting the wall". But they have adjusted. They are roadies as well. They like to ride. And they are expanding their circle with friends who don the jersey and ride with them.

Most importantly for us cyclists, I was told that only 6% of Canyon's 200 residents cycle, the other 94% are annoyed and frustrated by us clogging and blocking their road. One thing they hate is when cyclists being followed from behind wave the car to go around. This can result in bad things happening during the pass, and they resent the supposed authority the cyclist claims with the "go around" wave.

Makes sense to me, and I am going to think seriously about it before I wave a car around. You have to put yourself in their position.

Anyway, I took some Flashcuts between Orinda and Moraga, and although I left Peets before the CWOC, they got ahead of me, and when I was riding through Canyon, I glimpsed them up a driveway, in the trees, ending their ride. So I turned around and rode up the drive, and they were like "hey, there's that Alameda guy" (had the TA jersey on) Just then, a man came walking down the hill. I recognized him, a young middle age. It was Canyon himself, the guy I had met at the party. A nice feeling of coming full circle settled on me.

I now have several new friends in Canyon. Hopefully they will remember my verbal blog URL and find this post and comment, and this will result in a Casablanca-like beautiful friendship.

That was another great ride. It wasn't just the gorgeous day, or the 43 miles, or the great to be alive feeling. It was more... I think I took the Bike Party ethos and spread it around this day and met some groovy people, people who will somehow influence my direction, I think, yeah...pretty sure.

Thanks for reading, and as always, Ride On, my friends.


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Casey Neistat: Not in the Bike Lane

You have to check this video out... this cyclist fights injustice The Hard Way

Casey Neistat: Not in the Bike Lane

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Quick! Check Your Six!

We cyclists love our high tech devices. These gizmos tell us fascinating details about our ride, such as how fast we are going, how far we have gone, how high we have ridden, our pedal rotations, our metabolic heart rate, how many watts we are generating and even our global positioning. All fascinating data, but really this stuff does not contribute to the "big picture" of the ride in the moment.

What if you had a device, like a radar screen, that relayed to you what was going on behind you: other cyclists coming up behind you and the position of cars and trucks about to overtake you. This sounds like it would be very useful and enhance safety, right? Well, this device already exists and many of us are using it every time we ride. This backward sensing device is not radar but rather gathers light from behind you and projects the photons directly into your eye's retina where it is instantly compiled by your brain into a realtime 3D image as real as reality itself. WOW! I can hear you thinking, "where can I get something like this? I WANT this no matter how much it costs!" Here's the good news: this technology is cheap, readily available, and time proven.

It's called a Rearview Mirror.

I can hear some of you groaning. " But Flash, I've got my $5000 carbon race bike, my $500 Rapha kit, my embrocation smells like Tahoe Pines, and the Pros don't use a mirror, and I want people to think I'm a Pro too, so no way am I going to use one---it would make me look like a Flash-spastic* Dork!"

My reply to this is that if you are not a pro, then you already look like a Flash-spastic* Dork in some other way but you're in denial: too old, white hairy legs, wide butt, knees akimbo pedaling style...the list goes on and on for indeed road cycling fashion and form is not to be trifled with. I can say this with authority because is does take one to know one. Seriously, the pros are skinny, emotionally still developing young people who think shaving their body of what little hair they have makes them faster, are into riding at masochistic pain levels, and receive real-time information via radio about where they are at pretty much all times by a coach riding in the air conditioned comfort of a team sportswagon---so they don't need mirrors. If you are old enough to remember, this is the same group of athletes who opposed the mandatory wearing of helmets on the basis of these safety devices impugning their machismo.

(*all references to cyclists named Fred amended)

If the pros started using mirrors, believe me, almost everyone would start using them. It all boils down to the fickle fashion of what is cool and what is not.

This is one of those times when I say screw cool---I'd rather be safe. I can hardly ride without a mirror these days---I just feel too vulnerable from the rear without one. They become that important, that vital to my ride awareness.

Of the riders I know who use mirrors, they relate this funny behavior that comes from using a mirror long enough for it to become like a 6th sense, and it happens to me all the time. I'll be walking down the street and hear something unusual behind me. This causes me to automatically turn my head 10 degrees to the left and look into my mirror---which of course is not there. This always makes me crack self up. It happens in the most unlikely places---at the supermarket or while I am working.

It just shows how vital the rear view is when cycling. I can see cars far behind me coming up, I can predict with accuracy which cars are going to give me a wide berth and which are going to cut me close, based on how they are driving and what traffic around them is doing. I can get all this information in a glance and I can be prepared to act to save myself if necessary.

A local rider was recently hit from behind up in the hills and knocked into a ditch, suffering broken ribs. Hit and run. I wonder if he had used a mirror would he have been able to sense that the car was coming too close and saved himself? Who knows really, but I can tell you I have steered myself off the road to avoid a collision that I could see about to happen thanks to my mirror. In fact I might go so far as to say this little piece of plastic has probably saved my life more than once.

I lead bike club rides and the mirror allows me to effectively lead from the middle of a strung out group. From the middle I can see ahead to the front runners, but also way behind to the slower members. I can see when people didn't make that last light, and adjust pace accordingly. And how many times have you glanced over your shoulder to see something and nearly collided with a slowing rider ahead of you? That almost never happens in mirror mode because I am always looking ahead.

Mirrors come in 3 varieties: bike mounted, helmet mounted, and glasses mounted. I've used all 3 types but I prefer helmet mounted as it is sturdier and more adjustable. The mirror I use is by Cycleaware called the Reflex. It has a bendable arm and the mirror is on a ball pivot, so adjustment is infinite. It also rotates 360 degrees and is detachable. I have purchased 4 of them over the last 5 years, and have gotten my wife to use one as well. I'd like to add that Cycleaware has great customer service, going so far as to give me a free mirror repair kit at the Death Ride '09 when I visited their booth. (being on the side of a helmet will subject the mirror to banging around and eventually things break, but like I said, I've gotten years of use out of mine and repairs are very simple)

What you need to know is that a helmet mirror 3 inches from your eye is like having a rearview mirror on your car the size of a pizza pan, I mean the view behind is fully realized. It is truly like having an eye in the back of my head. Using a mirror takes some adjustment as at first it is distracting, the image vibrates and you are seeing two distinctly overlapping scenes. Over a few weeks, your brain adjusts the image no longer moves, and the scenes stop overlapping. Its just like getting a new pair of prescription glasses, your eyes don't adjust, your brain does. I think this is what some cyclists complain about when they say they tried a mirror but didn't like it---they didn't give the process time to complete. After the process does complete, you don't want to ride without one anymore than you want to walk down the street naked.

One other hugely cool thing about the mirror is once you are completely adept at its use a miraculous thing happens---you can look ahead and behind---at the same time! Split screen! Picture in Picture! Think about that and what that could do for your situational awareness.

So I urge you to think beyond cool and purchase this most useful tool in whatever mountingway you prefer. In my view it is equal to my helmet in terms of keeping me safe. Take important tools like this and put them to use to reduce the dangers of riding out on the roads. The best I can wish for you is that nothing bad ever happens out there, so help me make my wish come true.

Ride On and Ride Safe My Friends