Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Seeing What Condition My Condition Is In

MacGyver, Flashette, Z_Rider and Emily at Bike Party! photo McSweeps

Welcome back to Flashblog. If you were looking for regular updates last month, I'm sorry, I was... distracted by Life. That sounds like a lame excuse, especially to a reader of Bike Snob, who's prolific daily blogging output seriously boggles my mind. I don't know where he gets his ideas or his inspiration to keep it up to a high level five days a week. Maybe if I got paid to do this like Snob, I might find more inspiration. Then again, maybe not. The creative spirit can be a fleeting and unpredictable thing. Indulge me whilst I ramble here a bit.

My mother passed away a few weeks ago from complications of heart disease and plain old age. I was fortunate enough to be there with her. One thing that came out of it was that it steeled my resolve to live with mindfullness, to think about every bite of food I put into my body and consider if I really need to drive my car when I could use my bike instead. I'm actually very good on both counts already, but like most things, I could tighten it up more. Its very hard to eat like a Monk and live without convenience. Life is compromise. Whatever you do, ignore the old saw that "I can eat whatever I want within 30 minutes of a finishing big ride!" That's nonsense. Fat is fat and it won't magically disappear after eating. If I leave you with one tidbit today its "consider critically everything that you eat". Ask me about what I've learned. Preferably over coffee!

For instance, I could be riding my bike to work more often. I'm employed by Chabot Space and Science Center, and our facility is located at +1550' elevation, the uppermost point of the Oakland Hills. That sounds pretty ideal as a cycling commute, doesn't it? I've done it only a handful of times in 6 months. It is a lovely ride, but it requires getting up an hour and a half earlier than usual. It also takes a lot of energy that after a day of work leaves me pretty well spent. So I'm lazy in this regard. I have a great opportunity everyday, but I take my car because I prefer an easy morning routine.

I think I am now picking and choosing my cycling days more carefully. Two years ago when I was at the peak of my conditioning, I was riding all the time, preparing for things like the Death Ride. Yeah, I was in great shape, but yeah, I was tired and sore all the time. Yard work did not get done. Cleaning the garage did not get done. Ordinary chores were overlooked due to lack of energy to do them. My car was filthy. I gave it all to the bike. I successfully completed my epic ride. Was it worth it? Absolutely. Its something they can never take away that I carry with me everytime I pedal down to the fruit stand for an avocado. Ha! Not really, I don't think about it much but when I do it's a nice memory.

What I find myself doing these days is riding my Dutch bike to the market, to the end of town after work, on East Bay Bike Party night rides, to my dad's house for a visit. The Kaptein is almost ideal for Alameda. I say almost because Alameda features consistent afternoon winds off the bay. The Kaptein's 2nd gear is too high into the wind, and too low with a tailwind. When I ride it along the beach into the wind, you better believe my legs are getting a workout. The 50 pound bike requires downshifting to 1st gear at lights to facilitate a smooth start. I mention this because my time riding in the hills has been less this year, and I was fearing a drastic reduction in my climbing power because of it. But the Kaptein has kept my legs strong for power grinding, so for instance my Team Alameda ride of last Sunday with about 3000' of climbing was pretty normal, just a little slower than before. No suffering because these short around town heavy-bike trips really do make a difference and keep the legs fit.

It's funny how a chance ride up Grand Ave last year and finding the Kaptein at a used furniture store put my biking world down different paths, the paths of city riding and night riding. The night riding is almost totally inspired by the Bike Party. I have spun off into bike lighting and lighting effects, with the Kaptein as the test bed. It now has two 1 watt headlights, a less used dynamo powered halogen headlight, a solid red tail light, a 3 LED blinking tail light, two mood lights that shine down upon the frame and wheel hubs, and the green BikeGlow eletroluminescent wire. This is all great stuff for being seen at night, and I've gotten dozens of admiring compliments from other cyclists. However, it's not so great for actually illuminating the road when its really dark, so I've taken the next step and have ordered a 220 lumen LED flashlight/headlamp that should pretty much turn night into bluish day. Lighting is so much fun, I highly recommend it as a whole new dimension to explore. And with that comes the very cool aspect of riding at night, its so different and can be very beautiful and peaceful.

July's Bike Party travelled through Alameda with a party stop along the beach. It was awesome as usual. I missed the first part due to work lateness, but our group of Me, the McNultys, Flashette and MacGyver met the rolling bike parade by Fruitvale BART, did a U turn, and rolled back to the island with this tsunami of bicycles. What a great time. Tribal dancing on the sand and in the parking lot of a Dollar store, it doesn't matter, anywhere the migration stops is a prime party location. The vibes are so good, despite the watching eyes of The Man. MacGyver said it gave him hope for humanity. I have to agree. It is a world apart from the regimented type A roadie- training-for-a-Tour-de-France-that-will-never-happen mentality. I pretty much despise Bicycling Magazine. (grist for a future blog right there)

One other thing that has been on my mind lately is the still gestating concept that cars and their drivers are terrorists to us bicyclists. They may not strap bombs to their bodies and blow up the police station, but they terrorize and kill each other on a daily basis and especially terrorize us cyclists by taking on an entitled world view of the road and their ownership of it. Cars with blasting exhausts, blasting audio systems, DVD movie players, texting, phoning, distracted, angry, late, sad, depressed, over-caffienated, asleep, medicated, armed, drunk drivers---all on the road at the same time, passing us, cutting us off, dismissing us as children or bums, opening their doors without looking, they are nothing less than terrorists who don't know it.
Its part of the game and I try not to think about it, but sometimes I do, the full weight of what I am putting myself into out there sinks in and I admit, its frightening. So I usually don't think about it. All we can hope to do is change their attitudes and evolve our cities to separate us from the cars.

So in closing, eat well, love well, bike well. Thanks for reading.



  1. I have a long commute too, and what got me biking more regularly to work was when I got a Montague folding bike. It's got full-size wheels and rides great, but I can also fit it in my trunk - so depending on how I'm feeling in the morning, I can have a longer or shorter ride, depending on where I choose to park. It's really helped me to ride regularly anyway, even if it's just the last few miles each way.

  2. @LBJ: Montague makes a very cool bike, I know the military purchases them, so they must be good and durable. Good idea and thanks for the comment. Flash