(Bikes and how they relate to life..)

Table of Contents:

  1. Learning to ride
  2. My first one
  3. Choosing the  bike for you
  4. Loving and caring
  5. Repairing
  6. Riding alone, and with others
  7. Why ride?
  8. When to ride
  9. Accessories
  10. Proper fit
  11. A February ride
  12. Cash and the art of bicycle maintenance
  13. All the right gear
  14. Flash vs. substance
  15. The Long and Winding Road
  16. Dreams and future plans
  17. Benefits of getting fit
  18. Downside of aches and pains
  19. Relating to non riders
  20. Relating to the serious ones
  21. As a time consuming passion
  22. Falling, and getting hurt
  23. My blue bikes life story
  24. Canadian Tourist
  25. The Chosen Journey
  26. If The Goal Is Understood
  27. Keep on Pedaling

Learning To Ride ~ ~

"Now it’s true that I could have learned without a teacher, but it would have been risky for me." – Mark Twain, “How To Tame A Bicycle”

I was late in learning.
Didn’t want to do it. I was scared, nervous I suppose. Maybe I didn’t see the point in doing it. Likely had many self doubts.
I tried to hard to learn, it wasn’t that I kept falling and repeatedly got back on with that self determination that said, I can do this, I will do this.
Rather my approach was that I don’t really need to do it. It was my parents who provided the push. Literally. I remember we had this cement sidewalk in front of our house.  It ran from the driveway, to the front of the house, where it made a 90 degree turn to the right, leading to the front steps. If you continued walking down this sidewalk, you would walk out in to the middle of the front yard. My parents had a plan.  This plan was related to my mastering the skills of bicycling. Their plan was simple, to guide me down the sidewalk, and finish with a push near the end of the walk.  By the time I reached the end of the sidewalk of course I was on my own. There, I was free to go on in any direction I chose, on my own, without their guidance or careful hand to steady my balance. Also, there I was free to fall in any place I chose, and they were happy with the knowledge that I could fall and suffer only minimal pain, with very little risk of incurring lifetime scars.

So, that’s what we did. From one end to the other, out to the lawn and fall.
Back to the start, out the end and fall. After a while we all decided we had enough of this activity. Repeating processes that aren’t entirely pleasant always seem to get tiring eventually. I tired of falling and getting back up, they tired of prodding me to get back up and go again.  When I reflect on the experience I see how much they taught me about the fundamental skill of pedaling a bike. Sure they first had to do some basic instruction. How to hold on, steer, pedal, apply the brakes. But the real teaching, the real value they provided was in being there, in guiding, pushing, encouraging, yelling, critiquing and congratulating.  We learn so many things from our friends and family in just those ways.

Soon , I could ride down the sidewalk, and around a good part of the yard before falling. It was time for another challenge. To up the ante. To push myself a little further and farther. At least that’s what my dad thought. His great idea was to go out on to the street and ride. Ok there are advantages and disadvantages to these kinds of decisions. On the plus side, it is smoother, longer and easier to ride. All these things make it less likely that I was to fall.  On the negative side, concrete is much, much harder than our front yard. The penalties for failure much greater, which makes the whole experience that much more intimidating. It also makes success that much more invigorating. I remember this experience vividly. I can see the day and replay the moment as if there was a video in my head. I pedaled down Prairie Road, and my dad ran along side me. He ran. He kept up with me. He was there to push me back to a balanced position, to catch me if I really needed, but mostly just to be right beside me at the time I felt that I most needed it. That was an effort on his part, I’m sure I was excited about my feat of accomplishment. That fact that I rode my bike without falling, that I accomplished something. I could have thanked him for teaching me. I certainly don’t remember doing it, I will never know for sure.  What I am sure of, is that I didn’t thank him for what he really did. For the time he spent with me as I rode, the effort he put forth in running with me, pushing me mentally and physically, and for having within him, the  motivation to see that I learned a skill that would become so important.

My First One ~

“No one ever mumbled this phrase on their death bed:  If I’d just watched a little more TV or spent a few more hours a day on the couch it all would have come together for me.  But, “I wish I’d learned to ride a bicycle,” must be uttered three, maybe four times a day." – Joe Kurmaskie

A new bike!  It could be brand new and never ridden. Or maybe it is just new to you, some of the same rules still apply.  Most new bikes aren’t ready to be ridden hard. My first bike was like that. I just didn’t know it. I didn’t know all the little things you need to do to care for and protect it. The first one is as new for you, and it feels like the bike does not yet know, so you learn as you go.

It was a blue one. A Stingray. Tall handlebars....banana seat. The kind you could pull wheelies on. That was a new experience too. One not without its own dangers and repercussions. With my new bike and my new freedom, came the opportunities do try things. Some of which I wasn’t very good at doing.  Without prior experience or guidance, I tried things that perhaps I shouldn’t. And the inevitable happened.  I crashed. Repeatedly. So, I suffered my bruises both physical and mental, learned from my mistakes and this became another lesson on making decisions about what I could try and what I ought to avoid. We get these lessons all the time, they are great. They’re painful, but they are great. We both suffered our hurts however. We went everywhere, through the fields, down the ditches, out in the rain, and slopped through the mud. Towed things, put stuff in the spokes. I was too young and inexperienced to be able to properly value, and care for the bike as i should have. When you are new at the game of care and dependencies, you don’t really know what is best, or  understand the reasons behind the care that you need to provide.  The relationship was hard on us both. And for that and many other reasons, we wouldn’t have each other forever. The fit wasn’t the same after a while. Attitudes, needs and desires change. So, the care that I so promised to give while the relationship was new, inevitably faded. My priorities changed and other demands for my attention afforded me with less energy to apply towards by bike. After a while, there gets to be so many things that you just can't fix, and as that slowly happens over time, so changes your interest.

I really don’t know what happened to that bike, or where that bike is now. Or what it looks like. If I ever saw it, I bet I could see some of the scars it may have suffered  and perhaps reminisce about how we both came to create them together. For me, the hurts have faded or have been forgotten. Some of those memories are surely more favorable and positive than they were in reality. We all tend to do that. To remember the good stuff and forget the bad stuff, or at least believe that it wasn’t as bad now as it was then. First bikes, like many other first things and experienes can be very special. And with those firsts, the pains we have endured, the lessons learned and the memories gained will never be forgotten and sometimes be more valued than any other therafter.

Choosing The Bike For You ~

Choosing that bike for you is a personal matter. It is after all a bike for you. What that means, is that there isn’t a standard that someone else can provide to you, that is really going to fit your needs. When you are ready to choose, in order to make that decision, you are going to think of what you want out of the bike. Perhaps a list will come to mind of the things that you like and dislike, and how all the different characteristics fits with your characteristics. Hopefully that bike you choose will be the one that matches the most, or at least the most important of those criteria. You can go about finding that bike a number of different ways. You may take the analytica approach and research what’s best. Or you may be patient and practical and shop around for best price. As a start, you may get the opinions of your friends, but you may regret any decision made soley on their advice. Perhaps you will take the spontanous approach where you just see a bike and say, hey that one may work for me.

Take a look at what you want in a bike, because after all, the outcome of this choice will have a direct effect on how successful you relationship with your bike will be. Do you want comfort? Is it important that you can spend a great deal of time with your bike and not develop any nagging aches or pain. If you aren’t comfortable, there is going to be some serious problems somewhere along the road.  That lack of comfort may mean that you will look for excuses go get off, ignore, or quit caring and riding your bike. Perhaps it’s the speed that interests you. You are looking for something fast, sleek, full of thrills and danger. It’s the adrenaline thing that spurs your interest. A danger with putting so much emphasis here is that the crashes are just as quick, not necessarily any more painful but quick, maybe without warning. Oh, I know, its ease and efficiency. After all biking can be leisurely, very stress free, safe and slow. Nothing wrong here. You may not go as far or as fast as you would with another choice, but you know what you are getting, you can see things coming, and you have time to make decisions. Too often color can be considered high on the list in the decision making process. It can like an important aspect, but I suggest that maybe it isnt as important as many would think. What is color really. It’s a superficial aspect that isn’t likely to make a difference in the things that are important. Its really a decision made for impressions. The way it looks. Color adds nothing to any of the other items considered. It does not make the bike faster, more efficient more comfortable. So really, it’s a pride in ownership thing. A person should be happy with their choice , so perhaps it really should have some bearing on  the decision, you cannot make the decision based solely on color. How it matches your needs is key here. Does it do the things you want it to do. Does it do them well? That is what makes a bike valuable to the rider. It makes your ride so much more enjoyable, and memorable,. It helps get you to where you are going with less effort, strain and frustration. One ends up being a happier person during and after the ride. And if the rider is not happy, then the choice is wrong, no matter what you may be getting from that bike.

Cost too, is an important factor. The previous fundamentals of decision making speak to, what choice gives me the most of what it is I am looking for. The cost decision is one of, which choice will give me the most of whatever you are looking for. But for most this factor boils down to a cost/benefit analysis. How much do you/can you spend, and how many other factors need to be met given the money you spend. Spending the money throughout the relationship is something to consider. Getting a bike that continually costs more money to maintain can be stressful and make it difficult to continue. Resentment is bound to make its way in to a relationship like that. A rider should  really consider all these foundations of choice in some fashion. Low levels of satisfaction from any of these areas, can take all the pleasure out of the experience. Once that happens the rider may  not be willing to go further. Or to get into another similar relationship  again. You must also keep in mind just what are your expectations. If you aren’t getting the results from your bike, for the efforts you have made, that bike is going to fail in meeting your expectations.  People shouldn’t expect more from the bike, than its capable of giving. Quality and strength have to be a consideration since they effect durability, reliability and dependability.  You have to know that the bike wont break if used hard, or occasional misused. I am not talking about abuse, since, if you abuse your bike, only bad things will happen regardless of your choices or good intentions. But rather, the occasional misuse or hard use. Those times when you know you are doing it wrong, but do it anyway and simply expect that the bike be strong enough to handle it this time without ill effects. At those moments the feeling rushes through you that you know its wrong, hope its ok, and come out of it with a greater sense of pride knowing that the bike held up and all is well. You can’t always be tentative, and hesitant. Afraid that what you might do or expect will cause the bike to fail in some way. This hinders confidence, trust and can create bitterness. With some intelligent thought, the grace of God, and some work on your part, your choice should be a good one.

Loving And Caring ~

"Life may not be about your bike, but it sure can help you get through it." -  Hallman

Treat others as you would want them to treat you. Other people, other things. The same can be said for both at times.  Treat your bike nicely and with respect and it will in turn treat you nicely. Conversely, treat it with disrespect, abuse it, ignore it, and the bike will make life hard for you.  This is after all a relationship in which two becomes one. Learn to spot the warning signs. Learn to not ignore the warning signs. Learn to do what is needed in order to treat those signs so that they don’t become problems for you. You should not go for an extended ride without first checking the condition of the tires. A worn out tire will fail on you in the worst moment, and you will be left sitting alone, thinking if only…. Every part on a bike is there for a reason. There are very few parts of that bike that you can do without.  You cannot prioritize them by paying attention to a few things and ignoring the others. A bike that is not fully functional will limp along, as will you. It is not what you expect, or need from your bike. You will become frustrated and most likely place all the frustration on the bike itself for its present condition. This attitude may cause you to further abuse or ignore the bike and its condition, making the matter worse and worse, and making the expense and effort of repair much greater. On the other hand a well cared for bike will react like you expect it to react, and will reward you for your attention.

Repairing ~

"The bicycle is the last advance in technology everybody understands. Anybody who can ride one can understand how is works."  – Stewart Parker. “Spokesong”

You ride it, you fix it. It’s a given. If you ride for long, be assured you will have to fix something. Like dying, you can do things to prolong it, but you cant avoid it.  This year, I bought Specialized Armadillo tires made of kevlar in order to avoid the frustrations inherent with stopping to fix flat tires. Now sometimes you get one thing at the expense of another. This is a good example. The riding and handling of these tires are not as good as some others. That is because its not their main purpose and strength.  But, the performance regards to flat prevention has been fantastic. I have gone 2,100 miles without a flat. That is really great, however, I still carry a repair kit. I don’t kid myself. I know its going to go flat.
You should learn to make repairs for several reasons.  The most important reason is to prevent you from being stranded. Having the ability to make repairs while on the road is the difference between completing your ride, which will get you to your destination, and sitting by the side of the road, stranded and in need of help from someone else. Making  repairs on your bike can also be beneficial to the me, giving me a sense of accomplishment, and a feeling of satisfaction.  It is also a good thing that I’m not paying the shop mechanic to do the work. Working on the bike, seems to promote that feeling of oneness. It helps bring me and the bike closer together, as one,  much like couples feel after repairing some difference between them. Knowing how to make repairs also gives you the ability and background to knowledgeably discuss with and relate to other bikers. As with so many areas of expertise, if you discuss bikes long enough you will find people with much more extensive knowledge and experience than you. And it is those people with whom you want to relate, if you wish to become more knowledgeable. Anytime you want to get better, smarter or improve on something, the best strategy is to go to someone better or smarter than you.

Riding Alone And With Others ~

"Refrain from throwing your bicycle in public, it shows poor upbringing."  – Jacque Phelan

Biking is a flexible activity in that it can be enjoyed alone, or with others.
Biking alone gives the best opportunity for reflection, thought, deep absorption of feelings and the effects of the environment around you. It also gives you much more control over scheduling. When you start or stop, what route you take, how long your stops last, are all decisions that one person can make without having to take in to consideration, another’s needs.  Its much quitter, sometimes allowing for peaceful, thought processing time. That’s the mental advantage. The physical one is that you have complete freedom to dictate pace, speed, direction, stopping points, if frees you of the distraction of constantly factoring in the other riders actions, in to your split second decisions. Riding with others in close contact requires a great deal of trust in all of you. You have to trust what they are going to do, and they have to trust in you.  You should have that ability to know what they are going to do, before they do it. They should know how you are going to react in a given situation.  The importance of all that is that your heath and well being are dependant upon the actions of those other bikers as well as on your own actions. The harsh reality is that you are responsible for the lives and safety of other bikers as well as your own. You mistake can have devastating results to your partner.
Riding with others requires much more flexibility and patience.

There is even the ability to ride with others, yet be alone.

Why Ride? ~

A Zen teacher saw five of his students returning from the market, riding their bicycles. When they arrived at the monastery and had dismounted, the teacher asked the students, “Why are you riding your bicycles?”
The first student replied, “The bicycle is carrying the sack of potatoes. I am glad that I do not have to carry them on my back!” The teacher praised the first student, “You are a smart boy, When you grow old, you will not walked hunched over like I do.”
The second student replied, “I love to watch the trees and fields pass by as I roll down the path.” The teacher commended the second student, “your eyes are open, and you see the world”
The third student replied, “When I ride my bicycle, I am content to chant the name myoho renge kyo.” The teacher gave praise to the third student. “Your mind will roll with the ease of a newly trued wheel.”
The fourth student replied, “Riding my bicycle, I live in harmony with all sentient beings.” The teacher was pleased, and said to the fourth student, “You are riding on the golden path of non-harming.”
    The fifth student replied, “I ride my bicycle to ride my bicycle.” The teacher sat at the feet of the fifth student and said, “I am your student!”
-From Shawn Gosleski, New Cyclist, Fall 1988

A bike rider will ask that question of themselves. Ask it a lot. At a lot of different times. Other people will ask that question. When others ask the question, I don’t think they are sure why, or what kind of answer to expect. Or even how to fully process the answer that they get. It almost without fail a question posed by someone who does not ride, and therefore doesn’t understand, and perhaps wishes to be enlightened. To find that one reason that tells them, yes, you must get on the bike. But I don’t think they can understand any answer given to them when you tell it. It isn’t really even one answer, or the same answer on any one day. In fact its likely to be a different answer at different parts of a ride on the same day. The reality is, that there are hundreds of words or phases to describe the benefits, the positives, and the reasons for riding that bike, but the words cant fully encapsulate the experience. Just as pictures don’t often do justice to the beautiful scenery, words cant often do justice to the explanation.  In fact, sometimes the words make the whole explanation just sound crazy. Its difficult to positively convey the feelings involved  in swooping downhill on a twisting  road full of potholes looking to swallow your tire, to feel the sun burn your back on a sweltering ride, or the aches in your legs as you reach the halfway point of a long uphill climb, or that totally spent feeling you experience at the completion of a 100 mile ride. A rider will ask themselves this same question during those times. Half serious, and half in jest. It does seem crazy, foolish or just plain miserable, yet, more often than not, its where they want to be. Its fun despite the pain. Enjoyable not matter how uncomfortable, memorable regardless of how miserable.  I rider knows why. Often they can put it in to words, often they cannot. Sometimes I get on the bike, and immediately feel free, alive and as one with the world around me. I like to let my mind and emotions get that rush of freedom, and exposure to the elements, before the muscles feel the effects of the physical efforts.

During the first parts of the ride, there is that freshness, an antsy expectation, your mind, thoughts, emotions and senses race along just as your body does, eager to take in everything around you.  Then as the ride progresses you begin to focus on the challenges that you know are upcoming. You can relax a little, get in control of your emotions, and begin to get very comfortable. You know what you are doing what is happening and what you can expect, and just as importantly you feel very good about it. As the ride progresses, things may change. Some changes may be in your control whereas some may not. Personal changes, physical changes,  environmental changes, many things that serve to alter a riding experience. A rider has to know that these changes are going to happen, they have to know to expect them, be prepared for them,  to adjust to them, and get through them. It is during these changes that a rider often evaluates the whys.  And if they are successful  in understanding, then the ride will be successful.  Some times, during a long or difficult ride, the experience becomes a little less fun. Then it becomes a little more of a challenge. A challenge to ones self, a goal, reason, or an accomplishment. It is then when the experience requires, commitment, effort, and dedication. While much of it is physical, there is that mental effort required that just adds to that whole reason why a rider goes for the ride. To do it. To have done it. Done in just the right way, a ride can create many of the illusions inherent in an entire life. And the good part is, you can re do it as many times as you would like, in as many different fashions as you can imagine.

When To Ride ~

"I thought of it while riding my bike."  – Albert Einstein on the theory of relativity.

There are many external factors that can influence a ride. Its really the internal forces that dictate it. In other words, when you ride you have so many variables that may be beyond your control. Weather conditions and time being the chief ones. You might argue that even time is somewhat in your control, that leaves weather. The simplest, easiest, and comfortable approach would be to ride when its warm, sunny, calm and bright, but not when its cold, rainy, windy and dark. This is widely accepted as the fun way to do it. Now, there are physical factors to consider such as you physical condition at the time, but that is a fitness viewpoint and that view is very superficial.

While riding is often about fitness, at the deepest level, fitness is only a product of, not a reason for the ride. When you are thinking of when you are to ride your bike, you must factor in why you ride your bike. To the store, to work, to no where in particular,  to socialize, to somewhere and back, just to be going somewhere on the bike.  A rider will often ride simply because the bike or the open air call them out. Perhaps to feel the wind in the hair, to let off steam, release anxiety, to calm and center oneself, or to make that personal effort to complete an accomplishment that means nothing to anyone but the rider themselves. These are the things that get riders out on the bike in the rain, the dark, the bitter cold, or wind. It may be because they have to, or they have committed themselves and are unwilling to relent and give in to those external pressures that are attempting to defeat them, pushing them off their bike and away from their world. Or, it may be because those external forces are a force that must be met and conquered, or at least endured. All riders can proudly detail for you the suffering they had endured during their long ride in miserable conditions. It was awful, it was not pleasant. No fun at all. That is the outer voice talking, the one concerned about safety, health, security, all those base level needs. But that inner voice, that is the one that is saying to yourself, yes, I’m doing this. I’m making it, getting through it, toughing it out. Afterward it becomes a milestone of an accomplishment and it becomes one of those things you can look back with a small amount of pride. Some riders aren’t willing to allow anything to get in the way of their love. They wont be bullied in to stopping because its wet or cold, and they create protection to help them through it. That protection can be either mental, or physical, in the case of better or additional equipment, whatever it takes. The human mind is amazing in that way. The mind is made up, and must constantly devise plans, or methods of support in order to rationalize, reason or otherwise accomplish the goal of getting on that bicycle.

So maybe, the question of when to ride, is really a mix of personal needs and personal wants. But even most of these personal needs are really just wants that have been somehow molded in to a need. Therefore, like so many other things in life, you ride when you want. There are thousands of different ways to formulate those wants, but that’s what its about. Every rider has their reasons why they want to, and those reasons are as varied as snowflakes, which is exactly the way it should be. So doesn’t that mean the biking is a tool for simplifying or boiling down life to some tangible denominator? Varied individuals, all with various reasons, with a wide assortment of skills, and a variety of approaches, all doing the same identical thing. Pedaling. Everyone in the world does this. Some of us are just lucky enough to be able to do some of it on a bike.

Accessories ~

As I contemplate the choice  and use of bike accessories, I first asked myself, just makes an accessory. What is it, why do we need it.. So I looked it up. Webster, 7th edition. One definition of accessory is a: “Thing of secondary or subordinate importance”. That is a simple, easy answer to what an accessory is in most cases, including biking. But how do we define that. What goes on the required list and what goes on the accessory list. Well, we know that different people have different needs, and are driven by different forces, therefore it would follow that different people put different things on each list. No one is able to judge for anyone else what should be on their list, so therefore isn’t it unfair for someone to judge, or influence or otherwise treat, or view other people by their lists. Those lists are a small part of what makes the individual.

Obvious examples in biking accessories could be the helmet. A helmet wont help you go faster, or climb easier, or ride longer distances.  I happen to believe there are a lot of  valid reasons that anyone riding a bike should wear a helmet. I do in all cases. I like my head, I would like to protect it. I want my family and friends to be similarly as protected. Its my opinion that riders wearing helmets are treated with more respect while on the road than those riders without them. I conveys a sense of seriousness, capability, responsibility and common sense that people like to see in others. My rule at home is my boys don’t ever get on the bike without their helmet.  That means I put the helmet on the required equipment side of the ledger. Consider other accessories. Fenders for example. They too, will not help you go faster, or climb easier, or ride longer distances. On  sunny days they don’t do anything at all but get in the way, so why have them. It rains a lot in Oregon. So, if you ride very much, you will ride in the rain, and some people like the protection they provide. And wouldn’t consider going without them. So, they are necessary. Wait, I haven’t had fenders since I rode my stingray as a child. That must mean that I put them on the accessory side of the ledger. Something nice, and as Webster says, “a thing of secondary or subordinate importance”. I might like them, perhaps I should get them, maybe they will make me happier, so maybe there is more to this accessory stuff than first thought. Webster goes on to give this definition: “Not essential in itself, but adding to the beauty, convenience or effectiveness of something else.”  So fenders fit this definition. Lights fit in. Maybe a bell, clipless pedals. Water bottles, racks, on and on. So then, even if they aren’t required, or if they aren’t so important that they can be of any use if not associated with your bike, they are needed because of what they add to the beauty, convenience and effectiveness of the riding experience. All those things you could  argue are therefore required and not accessories at all. Adding to the beauty, convenience and effectiveness of the bike is what riders dream about, It should be their constant aspiration. 

Can this same theory be applied to relationships as well, I wonder?  Where do relationships fall in this ledger like attempt at reconciling the needs from the wants. I guess that depends on where you are. There are those that could argue that the only relationship on the required side, is their relationship with God. That is the relationship that is needed in order to get where they are going safely. All other relationships can somehow fit in to the “thing of secondary or subordinate importance” category. I cant fault that thinking. Remember, different people and different ledgers. Yet maybe there is some use for me in this line of thinking if I can just look at it a little differently. A look at my list would reveal that relationship on the required side. My relationship with God is the focal point of my very existence. Every other aspect of my life somehow owes its roots to that point in my inner being. Yet to me, other relationships cannot be viewed as “thing of secondary or subordinate importance” A persons relationships affect their outlook on life, their experiences and  their very being.  While it may be possible to look upon the act of obtaining a relationship as an accessory to your life, once you possess that accessory, then you have to view it differently. Perhaps its still an accessory, but it is now defined as something that adds to the beauty, convenience and effectiveness of your life. Once you realize that, doesn’t it have to be moved off the accessory side of the ledger and on to the needed side?

The Proper Fit ~

"Be at one with the universe. If you can’t do that be at one with your bike."  – Lennard Zinn

While you ride it, your bike should be your best friend. Mentally, emotionally and physically, you are dependant on that bike for many things in many ways.  The way the bike fits and feels is an important factor in all of these areas. The most obvious aspect, and the one we normally think of first when we think of fit is the physical aspects. How does it look to us? Is the shape, style, color, age, condition, and functionality right for us?
Sure, those characteristics are important initially. But they aren’t the ones that make the difference. They are the physical things. Those things you can point to, and admire and be proud of, or take care of. For instance, the style, shape and functionality of a bike make that bike unique. They are what differentiate it from another bike. They most often are things that realistically cannot, or should not be changed. Why have one type of bike and then expend time and energy in an attempt to change it to another type. Wouldn’t the other type of bike be the better choice from the start?   These characteristics aren’t what keep us on the bike, that make it fun and seem all worthwhile. So if it isn’t those physical, or outward appearances, then what? It is likely the fit of the bike that is most crucial. What we really care about is how it feels to you to be with it. To go places. Sometimes I use the bike to take me where I want to go. Sometimes I will go someplace because it gives me someplace for my bike to take me.  To go great distances together. After completing a long ride, I often carry a great satisfaction with me that the bike and I had completed this specific journey. The memory is usually always good, even when the experience at the time was not. However, when I take these long rides, I feel so discouraged and frustrated when I am not comfortable on the bike. The longer I spend, the more uncomfortable, and the more frustrated I become. So that poor fit has now succeeded in taking away some of the enjoyment of the moment. Now I may be a little proud that I accomplished it despite of the discomfort, but that does certainly not mean I would want to experience it that same way again.   To spend time together. Just to ride. For the enjoyment of the comfort it provides. To enjoy that feeling of being together, of what the bike can do for you. Or better, what the bike helps you do for you. The bike should not cause you undue pain. The bike and you should feel as one. You need to trust the bike and to trust yourself while you ride. The appearance of the bike does nothing to inspire trust. The way you feel when you are on the bike is what inspires the trust.  When you fit together, you feel as one. The bike is a natural extensions of yourself, providing you all the benefits it can provide and doing little to hinder, or hurt you. Why should you feel the same pain or aches every time you get on the bike. There are too many bikes and fits out there, and life is too short. How unpleasant is that feeling of relief you may get by getting off the bike. Wouldn’t a feeling of reluctantly, with perhaps a little sadness accompany that process of stopping that which is meant to make you feel so good? If I feel better, or am relieved by getting off the bike, I may have spent too much time on it. If it’s a bad fit, even a short ride is way too much. A fit that is acceptable, but nothing more, will allow for longer times, but you usually know immediately that you wont want this ride for long. Now sometimes, even with a perfect fit, after a long or strenuous ride you will naturally feel much better to get the heck off that bike but you do so in a sort of temporary respite. Knowing full well you liked it, and it wont be long and you will want to right back on it.

A February Ride ~

"When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go our for a spin down the road without thought on anything but the ride you are taking."  –Arthur Conan Doyle, 1896

It is an early morning, in February. A day in which I find myself with some hours that are not yet scheduled. When contemplating the options of what I can do to file those hours, one of the things that are always considered is, can I ride? Well, it is one of those grey, dismal, February mornings. You know there is a sun out there somewhere, but the thickness of the sky prevents you from pinpointing exactly where that sun may be. With no discernable holes in this blanket, it seems that its not likely we will see it anytime soon either. Yet it is still a free Saturday. My friend operates under the philosophy that it doesn’t matter what the weather is like, or whether it is light or dark. You should be outside. So, I finally put my reluctance aside and the decision is made. Its time for a ride. The next thing to do is to check the conditions. The sky hasn’t changed, but its not raining, so that’s a good thing. So, its time to consider what to wear. What a biker wears, or doesn’t wear it crucial in any ride you take that requires you to wear something more than shorts. This was definitely not a shorts kind of day. A quick check on the thermometer shows 39. Ouch. I briefly consider waiting till it warms a little, but throw that idea out after deciding this also isn’t the kind of day that’s going to warm up any more in the afternoon than it is in the morning. If I’m going to go at all, then now is the time to go. But how much to wear is still yet to be determined. Well, first I have to decide where to go and how far to go, as this should have some bearing on what I should wear. With this being early in the season, I decide this should be a mid range ride, on a fairly flat course. Besides it will give me a chance to check the mileage of the Springwater Corridor  route which will help me with some route planning in the future.  This means I should be out for a while, and a ways from home, meaning it would be better to be over prepared than to be under prepared. This also means a flatter course will be faster, thus colder than a hilly course that would be slower and warmer. The top part of the body is easy, 3 layers and a raincoat to help the battle with the wind and I’m done. The legs are another issue. I consider my options. Wear the tights, or wear the looser pants. Both have their pros and cons. But 39 is still darn cold. Lets wear them both!  So I gather up all my supplies and equipment and I am off. I start out taking a route slightly different than I normally go, which forces me to link up the route over two other roads, neither of which I’m really excited about riding on. At the last minute I decide to go up Roots road, since, for the moment there is no cars on that stretch. I had ridden Roots road on at least two other occasions. Both times I have a memory of deciding that I didn’t want to ride on this road again, as it has absolutely no shoulder. The white line is 6 inches from the edge of the pavement which in most places drops 3 inches to the pot hole lined gravel road bed. I know I don’t want to get off the road and risk a near certain fall due to the uneven and dangerous surface I would be on. So, I must hug the curb. The traffic that was non existent when I turn up Roots road has suddenly appeared. Headed by two diesel trucks hauling wide flat bed trailers. Both trucks somewhat patiently follow behind without passing despite my best attempts at charting a precisely straight route 6 inches from the drop off the road. Finally a spot in which they can pass. They both pull out and pass me, and when pulling back in, they swing their wide trailers back to the shoulder so that they are fully hanging over the sides of the road. I think they did that to show me that it was really nice of them to not sweep the bike right out from under me as they powered past me.  And that I should be grateful. I am. Once again I decide to not ride on this road again. Out the path I go. Heading east against the east winds, and slightly up hill in the climb away from the river and towards the hills. My hypothesis  that it wasn’t going to warm up is strengthened  by the fact that it now begins to snow. In my subconscious I think that it should only snow in December, and that I shouldn’t be riding in December, but I fight to retain clarity and to convince myself that I am not entirely crazy to be out here, despite the cold and the snow. After all there are a few other people that are also out, so at least its not just me. I am encouraged by the fact that at least its dry, If I were wet I am sure I would be colder, but I feel good, it’s a great ride so far. Nearing the halfway point in my ride I stop to stretch, let my heart rate drop, eat a granola bar and drink. I  remember that I sweat even in frigid temperatures and its important to keep that fluid balance in my body. Just as important it gives me a time to adjust my clothing and to warm up my toes which are now beginning to get cold. I am still hungry and know I should eat more, and despite all my clothing and the pace of the ride, I am still mostly cold, so cant stop for long.  I continue the ride out to the end of the path, note the mileage and begin the ride back.

Up to this point the snow has been constant and increasing in size of flakes, to the point where the con flake sized flakes would make it very difficult to see out through my glasses. Soon the rate of snowfall starts to diminish. This becomes disconcerting to me when I realize that the decrease in snow, is caused be an increase in rain. It doesn’t appear to have gotten warmer outside, just wetter. Which means I’m going from dry and cold  to wet and colder. Now I have come to the point in the ride where it is beginning to not be as fun any more. So, the decision is made to not ride the length of the trail then back track to the cutoff point to head home, rather to just take the cut off point now and leave the remaining  portion of the trail untouched, knowing that I will get back to it at another time. The rain increases, and I stop to turn on the flashing light, slightly increasing my ability to be seen before I am run off the road. It has been over two hours and it is time to pick up the pace. There are two final obstacles to overcome between me, and home. The first being the busy 4 lane express way with its interminably long wait at the light in order to cross. I continue to push myself up to the point where I am near enough to spot that intersection. A quarter mile away I see the cars making the left hand turn on their light. Experience tells me that the next light change will be mine and I don’t want to wait for the next one. So, I sprint, knowing that I must give it all that I have in order to make it, and resigning myself to being fully spent when I reach it. I just pray that my gamble pays off and that  I can reach it in time. I am able to enter the intersection as the light turns yellow. I wouldn’t stop my momentum till I was halfway across should I decide to try, to the only option is to continue to push through, mentally willing all the cars to remain motionless until I can get through. They do so, willingly and I’m across the intersection, nearly no energy left, as I knew I would, to face that final ascent up the hill to my street. I slowly make the climb up, with just enough energy to keep the bike moving forward all the while hoping that my heart rate will drop down to a safe and manageable level. I make it home, and after a quick cleanup of the bike, its inside to strip off the wet layer of clothes and to immediately grab some food in an attempt to appease my increasing appetite, while I wonder if frostbite feels like this. Then it is upstairs for that hot shower. A great ride, now that its done. As I  shower I think, .I am still wet, but I’m warmer now, and I’m happy.

Cash And The Art Of Bicycle Maintenance ~

A good relationship can be expensive. Sometimes we just let it become that way. Sometimes we choose to enter in to expensive relationships. Sometimes we end up paying a lot to keep that relationship going. It can be fun. It can often hurt. Then there is the uncomfortable position you are in, when you must make that decision. Is it all worth it? Why is a good relationship expensive? Well, all relationships take care, time, effort, commitment and often times cash. These are the things that help it grow and last, if you scrimp on any of these things the relationship can full into disrepair. At that point, it takes even more of these resources to repair the damage, or, worse it puts you in that uncomfortable decision. I think there are a few of similarities between the maintenance of our personal relationships and that of our bike. When I bought my Trek road bike, I made a decision on the cost of the relationship that I was entering in to. I could have chosen a much more expensive relationship, but  I wasn’t in the position to commit the money needed to enter in to that one.  I could have committed a lot less and entered in to a relationship with another bike, but that bike would not have returned to me the benefits I was looking for in the relationship, so I had to consider what I could give to,  and what I needed to get from, the relationship, and then make my decision. But at the same time, I made that little agreement with myself in what I was willing to do to maintain that relationship. Which means I couldn’t make this investment, and commitment and then treat it like a cheap bike. Likewise I couldn’t go in to this relationship and lavish my resources in such a way as to try to make it something it is not. Today the bike and I return from the bike shop. The bike wasn’t sick, or broken. Maybe just tired, a little worn from the last three years.  I have cared for it all along the way, even taking it in for a tuning each year, but its early on, in what could be a long season, and I wanted to make sure the bike was being taken care of. So its in to the shop for an overhaul. Oh, I could have don’t most all of the work myself, if I wanted to commit
 the time. I don’t know if I wasn’t willing to commit the time to save the money, or that I  wanted it done by someone with an experienced eye and hand, and in a way that would be it done quicker. Anyway, its home now, cleaner and not nearly so worn and tired.
I think I bring this up, because, it really didn’t seem like it needed to be done, but I chose to make the effort anyway, just to make sure that the bike was maintained and taken care of. Because I knew the better I take care of it the better it will take care of me. So, like I said, its back home. It now has new shift cables, new chain and a new small chain ring. It isn’t unusual for the cables and chain to wear out. Those are the common replacement things that are expected to be worn out. The small chain ring was a bit of a surprise. I was surprised I have used it enough to wear it out. Perhaps somewhat indignant that I wore it out before the middle ring. In any case it appears I rely on that small ring more than I thought and more than I give the bike credit for. Then that makes this extra care my way of saying thanks. Plus, I’m able to recycle the old one. With just a little buffing, it turns into pretty cool inexpensive art. The perfect size for a picture frame. I can look upon it as a form of enjoyment for me as payback for my care and effort. But this is just common upkeep stuff. Nothing to make think what am I doing in this relationship. We are we headed? Is it worth it? Am I doing the right thing? Trouble with a wheel is a real potential problem. Turns out there are small cracks appearing on the rear wheel. Not seriously significant now, but if it is ignored, it will only get worse and demand attention later. Usually at a most inopportune time. So there are choices to be made. When should I recognize there is a problem and take action to resolve it. Should I even attempt to maintain the wheel in order to maintain the relationship, should I go as long as possible without acting? How much of a commitment should be made in the effort to fix it? I really like this bike, I want to keep it with me for a long while. And, therefore, I need for it to take as good as care of me as it can.  Besides, if I know its breaking, and don’t do anything, it is likely to go out on me at the worst possible time just to spite me.  But really, I do it for me. I replace that wheel. I replace it with a wheel that is a step up from what it did have. Its my effort to make one more part of my life a little better. I’m keeping the old one as a spare, I may need it someday.

Benefits Of Getting Fit ~

There are many reasons why you may want to ride a bike. Many kinds of motives. You ask yourself those things, or else someone else does.  all the time. Getting in shape is a good one. As good as most others I guess. I had stopped riding for some time before picking it up again. Many reasons for that too I suppose. Though not as many motives. Maybe a lack of motivation is why we stop doing or enjoying those things that  we used to do and enjoy. Distractions, a lack of interest, I don’t know. I just know that I did it, I enjoyed it, and it was good for me. Then suddenly I had found that I stopped doing it and not because I actually stopped enjoying it. It then became one of those snowball things we so often find ourselves traveling in, without even knowing it. The longer I longer I lived without riding,  the lower my condition sank. My condition in this case can mean many things, but mostly it refers to my physical, mental and emotional conditions. These of course are important conditions for all of us, and critical in our ability to enjoy the life and freedoms of which we are blessed. But, those conditions deteriorated, and with it my drive and desire to ride, and that then contributed to further deterioration’s, which snowballed on and on.   My motivations in life began to fade, and seep from by being. There eventually came a time in my life where I was able to pull myself out of that spiral , and begin a slow climb upward. I made that climb, partly because my physical condition began to improve. I lost weight, began to eat better and get more exercise. Plus,  my emotional state began to stabilize. I became aware that mentally, I could and should begin to exert and challenge myself more. 

One outcome of this revelation was that I realized I was strong enough to muster the desire and motivation to get back on. It was as though I could look from the outside in. From this vantage point, getting back on was a pathway to improvement.  To improve my strength, condition, fitness, way of life. To begin to feel even better. To find a way to not only improve, but lengthen my life….. It was hard. It is true that once you learn to ride you never forget. But you can forget what it takes to ride very far, or very fast, or for a very long time. I was slow. I got very tired. I couldn’t make many difficult climb. I wasn’t strong enough, physically or mentally, to make those climbs. It is still hard. Yet I know that what was hard for me then is not as hard for me now. My body and mind are better prepared. They are used to it. They are stronger, better fit, better prepared and better able to put forth the effort and commitment it takes to do it. And with that comes all sorts of benefits. I feel better when I ride, and I feel better when I’m not.  And I feel very good about it. My improvement, brought about by my own inner strength and motivation, continuos to be a great source of strength and pride in myself. Yet somehow I feel that I have replaced some addictions with others. The more I ride, and the better I feel about it, the more I need to do it. Somehow it feels like it now snowballs in the other direction. That is ironic.  I can live with that though. I can accept that improving and maintaining a certain level of overall fitness is a perfectly acceptable reason for being involved in this activity in the first place Riding a bike just to be fit is not a sufficient reason, all on its own. Your ability to reap rewards and satisfaction from any outside influence is compounded by the assortment of reasons for, and benefits from, its actions. I know for me, being fits is great reason to ride, but its not the only one, and that is how it should be.

Falling, And Getting Hurt ~

"The problem is that you can be wounded in your mind as well as your physique." - Marco Pantani

Its bound to happen. Its part of riding. Maybe it’s a statistical probability. Or perhaps fate, bad luck, bad planning, carelessness or stupidity.  Falling down, or falling off can be a terrifying thing, though we cannot be terrified of it.  Perhaps it is just a part of riding. As you go through life, you will fall a time or two. You will fall for the same type of reasons too. Sooner or later, we all do it. The number of falls, or the severity of them differs for a lot of reasons. Which means that maybe we cant avoid them. At least maybe we cant or shouldn’t live our with the plan that we will avoid them, or at least avoid them all. When we do that we retreat within ourselves and do not reach our full potential. We miss out on the excitement, and fail to reap the regards of the risk.  The process of falling down is rarely ever a fun thing to do. But we can argue that that same process can be a beneficial thing to us. How can that be good? Well, how do we recover from the falls.

Now in biking. Like so many other physical activities that have risk associated with them , there is always the risk of serious injury or death. This is where we approach biking with a real sense of self preservation. Our goal here is to do what we can to protect ourselves. The risk/reward decision in this case is very clear. Helmets, lights in the dark, stay off freeways, be wary of traffic those sort of things are givens. It makes no sense to ignore them. There is no debating the black and white decisions to avoid those risks. So, what we should really consider, or mix into our lives are the grayer areas for which there is often no right or wrong answer. Falling hurts us. Consider the many ways in which we hurt. Most every ones first thought is that it hurts us physically. True, it’s a valid concern to be protective of you health and safety of your body. But you know, your body heals. The cuts, bruises, and even bones can mend. That does not make me an advocate of physical abuse. To the contrary, I tend to be rather protective of my body as well. But that is not to say that I wont ride, in fear that I will develop a sudden, severe case of road rash. Physical injuries can be a blessing. When a person gets sick or injured, one of the things they think about is how great it is to not be sick or injured. So, here we are, with all of our pain and despair, and at the same time we are developing a greater appreciation of the blessings that have been bestowed upon us. Those same injuries are now a visible, tangible mark. Something we, or others can point to, relate to and emphasize with. It could even be some sort of badge of honor. Something that, while not being proud of receiving, we are at least proud of living through. All the while showing strength if we can get back on that bike, with those reminders and pedal once again. We have to, we cant let those injuries defeat us. Once they do, they stop being the physical injuries that everyone is pointing to and identifying as to terrors related to the risks or riding. Now, they have become a whole new injury. That is the mental and emotional one. Harder to deal with. Harder to fix. The remedies aren’t as easy to apply. Aspirins, Band-Aids, and antiseptic are useless with the emotional ones. Estimating the rate of recovery is totally different.

Unlike our bruised knee, we cannot tell how long the long a bruised psyche will take to recover. Or if it ever will. Plus, the damage is never visible to you or anyone else. The symptoms of that damage is what becomes visible. Those symptoms can in turn cause much more damage. This is because, you sometimes are not able to clearly attribute the symptoms to the damage. And if you cannot make that connection, within your own mind, it is not possible for anyone else to make that connection about you. When you bruse you knee, you limp. Therefore, when you are limping, we can draw a correlation from the limping to the damage on the knee. The emotional bruising caused by your fall, may cause you to limp through portions of your life. That limping is very hard to correlate with the bruising. So, after that fall, and the assessment of all the damage you once again re-asses the risk/rewards of riding and ask yourself, can I risk it? What about when you fall again. Now the pains are compounded. Yes, maybe you are more used to it, or better know how to fall in order to give yourself the best chance of protection. But you have still fallen once again. So other doubts now have the opportunity to creep in. Why do I keep doing this, why cant I avoid it, and will it continue to happen. What do I need to change, in order to change this patter n that seems to be forming. So, now it’s an issue of confidence, self doubt, self worth, of trust in yourself, in God and a general sense of value. I guess if we are considering all types of damage we need to at least consider the damage done to the bike itself. If it is just the bike that is hurt, that can be a very bad thing, since the biker is likely to sustain emotional pain, most likely because they did something really stupid that caused the damage, and most likely caused  the financial burden  required to remedy the situation. On the other hand, you sometimes have the opportunity to improve from this unfortunate situation. You may be able to upgrade! Maybe go on to something better, for which you will be happier. There is always that change. Is continuing on, worth the risk of going through this damage once again.  You had better say yes.

My Blue Bikes Life Story ~

"Bicycle tracks will abound in Utopia."  – H.G. Wells

Model 824, Color #08, serial number kg105165. it says that right on the receipt. A precise description and identification. This information can tell us exactly what this is, where and when it was made, what it looks like. It can tell us a lot. But, it can really only identify its beginning, igt ways nothing of the rest of its existence.  The date on this receipt is 5/16/1972. That’s the date I bought my first bike. That color #08 tells us that the color is blue. A pure sky blue. That shade you see in the early morning of a day without a trace of white anywhere to be seen. White pin striping, and the letters Schwinn Super Sport, just like is says on the receipt.
The serial number tells us that this bike was manufactured in October of 1971.

The only other information on the receipt is the price. I paid 139.95 for my classic ten speed Super Sport road bike. A model one step below their top of the line Paramount. It was the best bike I could afford. A good decision there. I still think you should buy the best bike you can afford. I had to pay 10.00 deposit, and picked it up four days later, on a Saturday. So, that’s what we know about the bike so far. But it is now 2001 and the bike is now 30 years old. I still have it. I can still ride it. I don’t ride it much though as I have since been lured to a much newer bike, falling in love with all the beauty and feature new technology can spoil us with. Today, it sits in a bike stand in the family room, giving me a chance to pedal indoors when it isn’t possible to do so outdoors. So, I guess I still do ride it.  But we have built a tremendous bound, this old blue bike and I. In a way its been an easy and unforced one. Sort of unspoken. I rarely give much thought to any bond we may have, but I know its there. Having owned the bike for 30 years, one might feel the need to give the bike a nickname. Maybe in a way of creating or reinforcing some sort of connection, or sense of ownership. My bike doesn’t have a nickname that has stuck. I just don’t ever remember bothering to come up with a name for it. Never considered selling it either, taking it with me wherever I lived. In 1972, I was 16, and I needed a good bike to get around town with. I needed a good bike to get out of town with. Getting out was a big reason for it. It was at that time that my friend Scott and I came up with the plan to go on a bike tour, and that would require a road bike. Bike ownership now went to the next level. There were now things to clean, adjust, fiddle with, and to make sure worked just right.  It was now time to avoid the ditches, mud, and curbs, and to take on a small sense of responsibility. Its been a good ride. Through these 30 years, the bike has endured a lot, yet changed very little. I think that the handlebars were covered with a matching blue plastic tape, consistent with what was popular at the time. That was quickly changed to a denim blue cloth tape as the handle bars were much too hard without any cushioning. That tape stayed on for many years, just recently getting replaced with black cloth tape. No cork or padded rubber tape here. I felt I had to stick with something that seemed original, and unable to find blue anymore, we settled for black. The bike has brake handle extensions so I can brake from any hand positions on the bar. I love those brakes, and somehow technology seems to have taken a step back by passing them by. It also has a kickstand! Perhaps one of the single biggest mysteries of biking today, is just why the kickstand has disappeared from the design of all "good" bikes, and is only found on the lesser quality ones. The rack on the back was put on right after I bought it. It has carried a ton of stuff. No fenders. Didn’t ever seem like they belonged on the bike. When it rained, I used to strap cardboard to the rack to catch most of the water spraying up my back. Long gear shift levers, right up on the stem where they are easy to reach. I always believed they were in the best position of any bike I had ever seen. That was until I say the net STI shifters. I do love my blue bike, but those shifters just aren’t in the right place anymore. There is no mounts built in for water bottles or pumps. There just wasn’t the need for it at that time. There are now two bottle racks strapped on the down tubes. I have left on the original steel pedals. The original toe clips were replaced with a pair that better fit me. The old ones went to the bike for my son. Clipless pedals seem to modern for this bike, and I have avoided them on this bike, fearing it would reduce the classic look. I think that the rear wheel is original. There is a testament to quality construction. You cannot get that sort of life out of wheels anymore. The front wheel has been replaced. It was during college. I had locked the bike, and the rear wheel, just not the front. The next morning, it was gone. Still, that was 25 years ago, and that wheel is still turning. It came with a Brooks, molded leather seat. Those seats were great. They withstood all sorts of weather and abuse, seeming to mold to your body, softened with use, yet remained tough and durable. After 25 years of use, though, it began to sag and has since been replaced twice.

The last one was a gel seat with built in flashing lights. Having never really liking either one, and, having kept my original Brooks seat, I may put it back on. Recently I had the dream of taking this bike on cycle Oregon, a 500 mile 7 day trip. To that end I knew I had to make some upgrades. The seat was one of them. The other one being that addition of a third chain ring. Bikes in those days, only had two. After all, these were modern bikes, and who would ever need more than TEN speeds anyway? But after grueling hours spent climbing seemingly endless hills, I wanted that third ring, and my dream of retaining that classic look on the bike would just have to suffer a little. Better that the bike suffer than for me to suffer. I kept the old chain rings too. Today they hang on the wall in the house. Seems like a strange thing to do, but I just think of it as art. The bike has so many scratches that it just may take as much paint to touch them up, as it would to repaint the entire thing. I reject the idea of a new paint job as it would cover the original stripping and lettering that I could never replace. And of course it would take away from that classic look, and make it look like an old bike with new paint. Most of all, it would cover up memories, stories and a lot of the history that sticks to , and affects a bike that has existed for 30 years.

The Chosen Journey ~

"Itis no exaggeration to affirm that a journey by bicycle is like none other; it is a thing apart; it has a tempo and a style of its own."  – James E Starrs.  “The Noiseless Tenor”

When the decision is made to just get on the bike and ride. When the intention is only to ride, and not to actually go to, or end up somewhere, then the matter at hand is just what path you intend to take. Actually having a destination in mind makes that decision so much easier, for in that case, your paths are very limited in that the direction you do is dictated by the destination. This just leaves a little room for variations in the actual path taken.  Now, when you get on the bike with the intent of just riding somewhere you have no such directional limitations.  Yet when you do that enough times, you can easily repeat the same tendencies.. After all, it is easy for us as humans to repeat the same learned tendencies, those things that we know, like and are comfortable with. In this case it is choosing the same bike route. I do that. I have a route that I like so I use it. It is comfortable,  I know it well and it suites me and my needs. So I guess it shouldn’t be surprising that I tend to go that way. I know I cannot just take this route all the time for I would surely fall into such a deep hole that I wouldn’t know what to do to recover. In which case I probably wouldn’t , but rather, loose interest in it altogether so, I know enough to fall into such a trap. But I( do go that way often, with the full understanding of why I chose it. I know the route. I know pretty much what to expect and when I should expect each challenge that will be presented to me. Therefore there are few unexpected dangers. Going this same way can sometimes allow me to focus on other aspects, both physically and mentally. When the decision making ability, and mental awareness required to successfully navigate a new path are not dominating the forefront of my conscious being, I am allowed to expand my thoughts, applying greater focus to specific thoughts, or free myself from any or all thoughts, or burdens that may be present.  On the route that I know, I can start out with the knowledge of when the difficult stages will be presenting themselves to me, so that I can prepare myself along the way for their appearance.  I know when and where I can work harder, and when it is OK to rest a little. So, maybe this means that if I take the same route as I had taken before, then this time I will do much better. I can enjoy it that much more, and make fewer mistakes than the time before. Improving a little bit each time. As a person you it is difficult to improve if you do the same things all the time without extending yourself. 

The same goes for a rider. Taking the same route can only take you so far in your training, or in improving you capabilities. This means that if I intend to get myself in to a position to make extended rides, then I must push myself beyond what I can do from taking this same route. That may mean extending yourself and pushing yourself in order to improve your capabilities. In taking this same comfortable route as I had taken before I know that it is within my present capabilities. That is one of the reasons that I have chosen this route this time. Because it is not beyond my limitations. Pushing your limitations can be an integral part of life and of riding, but it is an entirely different approach than this present discussion. The act of  finding, and thus realizing your limitations cannot be done under this approach. Determining what your limitations are cannot be truly accomplished until you have exceeded them. Pushing yourself beyond that limit, all the while having the common sense to know just when you have gotten there, is what is required in finding that spot. A person that is truly committed will often feel the need to push that point farther and farther out, thereby giving them much more latitude in which to successfully enjoy the benefits.  Taking this same route again and again may not ever help you find that spot  and can only go so far in extending that limit.  Which is another reason we must fight the temptation to rely solely on the comfortable paths of the past. Taking the same route doesn’t have to  mean the same as falling in to a rut. When I have fallen in to a rut it is because I haven’t given any thought to a different way, and I make this decision solely because I made the same decision the last time. My choice was not influenced by any other factors, in effect blinding me to the fact that there may be other alternatives. No, I understand the difference. And at this point in my life, I can overcome that trap while still working in my old reliable, comfortable route.  Even so, while I’m out there, it does take a conscious effort sometimes to say, I have to change this today. It’s a good feeling to be able to push, prod and seek out those little surprises that await you just outside your normal way of doing it. 

Granted those little changes are not predictable, meaning they may be good or bad decisions, but they most always are decisions from which you can recover. Last week I decided to radically alter my afternoon workout by taking my usual route in reverse! What that really meant was that I was still doing basically the same thing, but now I was taking it in from an opposite point of view. Looking at all the same things but from a different point of view. The same streets, houses and river views, but I was really seeing different things. I was able to take in experiences, sights and feelings that I had not experienced from all the other times I had taken that very same route. So, maybe it isn’t the route decision that is crucial in enjoying the journey, but it is what you take in along the way that really makes the difference.

If The Goal Is Understood ~

"Does anyone really have to fret about enlightenment? No matter what road I travel, I’m going home."  – Shinsho

We seem to live our life within a structure of goals. The essence of goals exist in everything we do. That is not to say that we have a goal with every action, or, that we are consciously aware of a goal that we have made for ourselves, or for others, but they do exist. Biking lends itself very well to goals. Maybe because the deliberate acts involved in riding, mirrors those deliberate actions we undertake in our own life. They can be short term goals such as finishing a century ride. Or even immediate ones, that return seemingly instant gratification. Lord, give me strength to just get to the top of that hill!
And of course the more difficult ones, the long term goals. We all struggle with this type of  goals on a regular basis, maybe because they are sometimes so difficult to achieve, or that we cant see any immediate result, or that it is really difficult to clearly see just what that far off ending place should be for you. People will set goals such as, “I want to ride 2,000 miles this year”. Such long term goals shouldn’t be randomly chosen, or  wildly determined. It is best if they are set after undertaking some thought and preparation. If you want to seriously pursue a goal that is challenging for you, maybe some analysis should be done on just why you would chose such a challenge. It it an end result, or is it in preparation for something else. Perhaps it is something that will give you several benefits, some of which can be measured, and some cannot. It doesn’t matter what they are, but this sort of analysis can add extra meaning to your endeavor, which may be of great help to you during those difficult times you are struggling, and are unsure whether  you have made the right decision, or whether you can accomplish this goal at all.

A great type  of goals are those personal ones, that are made just for you. They don’t have to be life changing goals in and of themselves but maybe just goals that will be a stepping stone to something better. Before a ride I sometimes decide to take a course that will cover a pre-determined amount of miles. I must decide if I want to ride 15, 30 or 50 miles. That is a decision for me, I make it for my own reasons, and is not really a matter for anyone else.  All the while, I should be aware of all factors involved in my effort as I progress towards that goal. It would be a serious misjudgment on my part if I was not aware of my purpose in the ride, my physical status, emotional state, and all the other influences involved. If one of those things deteriorated, I must be capable of reassessing those goals and make changes accordingly. Just the same, if everything was better than expected, I should be able to take advantage of  the opportunity presented, and perhaps go farther, or faster than I first expected. Either way, it most always leads to positive results. This allows me to keep in touch with one of the primary concepts of goals. A good goal is one that is achievable. Unachievable goals leads to frustration, poor performance and increases that possibilities of going on without any conscious goals. Bicycling is a great example of the other major fundamental of goals. This is the concept of measurement. A good goal should be measurable. How else can we determine that we have met that goal. We all have set goals in our life in such a way that they aren’t easily measurable, or even measurable at all. People set long term goals when in fact they are really setting paths, or foundations of their lives.  A married couple will say to themselves, we will always remain true, and never divorce. So how do they measure that? Obviously they will know if they fail. But in order to succeed, must it be because they have died? An alcoholic will say, that “I will not have another drink”. That’s a poor choice, for that very same reason. Chances are, that person will have difficulty with success in this goal. A better goal would be that “I will not have a drink today”. This goal has been made with the understanding that the same goal will be made again the next day, and the day after that. When its met, there is the positive satisfaction that results, that propels us forward, It builds self esteem, gives strength and helps improve the quality of life just a little bit. This goal has been made knowing that success with that goal will lead to other successes of personal and professional level. This goal is now important for many reasons, all of which gives us strength at the times when we may need it most.
This is the sole reason that bikes have cyclometers. Millions of bikers buy them. They place these various styles of cyclometers on their bike, giving them a huge amount of measurable feedback that in turn can be used to relate to their goals.   Why else is there a need to attach such equipment to the bike. Listen to bikers talk. They will exclaim, that they hit 45 mph on the downhill, that they finished a 100 mile ride, or that they averaged 16 mph over a certain time frame. Those are all personal goals. They may are may not lead to other positive results, but they can still have the positive effect to the individual.
What they can do is document efforts given, progress made or milestones achieved, which for many riders mean a lot more in their overall lives than the simple number attributed to that goal. The fuzzy thing about goals is that even measurable goals with finite landmarks can still mean vastly different things to different people. That alcoholic that has now gone an entire week without a drink will look back upon it with an immense sense of pride. Yet another individual can look at that and be truly baffled as to why living 7 days without a drink should even be worthy of a second thought. The understanding of those efforts, their importance or the meaning of that accomplishment can be absorbed from opposite viewpoints, such that the effort is simply not understood.
It is of lesser importance that others understand the measured progress of your own goal. It can be nice, or even helpful if someone does, but goals made on the pretense of someone else’s standards of measurement are not always self fulfilling. I have since undertaken several week long bike trips with Cycle Oregon. I have drawn those routes on one state map, showing the paths taken for each ride. Some of the trips have been a “loop” ride, meaning you start and end at the same spot, just taking one out and back circle.

One of the trips taken started in a small city near the southern border, and went north to the northern border. Looking at the map and explaining the routes it is easy to come to the decision that the border to border route was the longest and most difficult trip. A person will see a starting point and gauge how far distant is the ending point, and having their own personal understanding of that distance will decide this. That is their only way to personalize this effort and boil it down to a meaning that makes sense to them. When looking at the loop routes, which were more difficult and in fact longer, it isn’t possible for them to put them in perspective since the start and end are the same place. You haven’t really gone anywhere have you?  You just went out and came back, without really traveling from one spot to another, so maybe its just difficult to apply a purpose to such an effort. A bike ride is never taken without some sort of goal. The number of possible goals are immense. The goal may be to get to the store, or to get some exercise, or to enjoy a sunny spring day, clear your head, or to undertake some stage of physical training. It really doesn’t matter. What is important is that the goal is achievable, since once you ride to a certain spot, you are often forced to ride back, And that the goad is in some way measurable so that progress or achievement can be realized. That can explain a lot as to why a bike does, or does not have that odometer.

Relating To Non Riders ~

"When driving a car, remember that you own a bicycle."  – Joe Kurmaskie

It can be hard to explain, or to convince someone who just doesn’t get it. We are constantly meeting people with whom we can find something on which to relate, but when the topic of biking is analyzed, its met with blank stares, incomprehension, of self rationalizations. This person with whom you are connecting, can have many similar interests as you, but just cannot understand your motivation. Perhaps it is hard to understand anyone’s motivation, if it doesn’t match yours. Even if that person wants to, if they cant embrace it as their own, they likely just cant get it. If they cant embrace it, and learn to take it on themselves, then the obstacles come out which help give us the reasons we need to shield us from that which we cannot accept. This applies to any belief or interest. In biking it appears when you try to convince someone to get out and ride.  Oh, there’s the reasons why they cant. I don’t have a good bike. I’m not in shape. I don’t have the time. The reasons are endless. But are they really reasons or are they excuses. In most cases are we not part of a democratic society that allows us the freedom to do those things that we want? I think it is quite possible to find a flaw in most  reasons provided, which then turns those reasons why they cant, into excuses that says they aren’t willing. Of course being not willing is a freedom of choice that cant be ignored, but I’m saying that it must be recognized as an excuse, not a reason. This is the same for all sorts of decisions, whether it is exercise in general, changing of habits, the myriad of possible actions within a relationship with others or with God. I have tried to persuade people in to trying to understand, and or taking on that commitment necessary to join. But its such a difficult thing to do, perhaps impossible. Just as you cant convince another to love you, or convince a friend to change their habits, it is something that they must do themselves.   Maybe the point here is that it is helpful to dig down to through the words to listen and understand what people are really saying, or at least trying to say. Then learning how to interact within that level of commitment and not concern yourself with change, rather with successful interaction at the present level.
Interactions with automobile drivers are of course the most frequent and most dangerous. Obviously they are physically dangerous, But the constant, impersonal, fleeting relationships encountered with traffic of also very important. It is those many brief meetings that forms opinions that can have lasting effects on peoples values, outlook and respect. The impersonal nature of the car/bike relationship prevents any sort of understanding of who we are, and just what is our motivation. Drivers are therefore left with formulating their own opinions of what and who that biker is, drawing from past experiences and biases. In fact, lets be blunt, our society has done this for hundreds of years, to all people,
Without that knowledge there can be no respect, courtesy or understanding, and we are therefore left with a build up of contempt, abuse and misunderstanding. I know that this has had an effect on me. Over the last several years, as I have biked more and more,  I have obviously developed a greater understanding of, and empathy for that poor solitary biker out on the road. When I come upon them in my car, my instinct tells me to slow, pass with caution, concede the right of way, or consider their welfare in any way I can. My children notice this and chide me for my newfound ways. I’m ok with that because, I get it. This is similar to the treatment that one may provide to their lover. To go out of your way, because you understand, you care, are able to embrace that person or action with in your heart.

Two Riders As One ~

There is a great deal of difference in technique between riding amongst other riders, or even riding along with another, , and riding as one with another. It is easy to glide along as one in a crowd,  move along with similar intent as the others in some lemming like fashion. Since biking can be individualistic in nature, one can easily mingle and be one with the group, but retain all senses of ones own self. You can even ride along with another rider, matching, mimicking and responding to the others tendencies, yet still not adapt any of the others persona that is needed if you are to ride much of the route as one. Tandem riders have that physical attachment, much like marriage, that keeps them bonded in some fashion. This attachment is one method that helps them adopt a similar thought process. A successful tandem team will think alike, help each other, learn each others idiosynchrocies, and habits. That can be thought of as a requirement. The effort required for that tandem marriage is so obviously an equally shared exertion. One rider cannot do all of the work all of the time.  Without such sharing of efforts and accompanying results, the team cannot perform, and that tandem team will falter. But what about single riders? Can they not perform just as successfully as a team without that physical attachment. I believe that they can, but it takes a merging of the thought process that is unlike that experienced during casual rides amongst other riders. For two riders to enter in to that state of one-ness, it takes effort, luck, determination, and a great deal of mental awareness. Initially it takes the recognition of and the acknowledgement and acceptance of  those similarities and dissimilarities to be successful. It isn’t crucial that the two riders are similar in all ways, but it is important that they understand in what ways they are similar and in which ways they are not. In that way, they can play to the strengths, and make up for, or avoid,  each others weaknesses.

Dissimilarities are always and issue when trying to match up to individuals. When one rider is motivated by an aggressive approach derived from a type A persona for example, that is going to clash with another’s laid back style, whose intentions are to simply take in the sights and sounds , motivated by a more carefree style. Once this framework is established, it must be polished, refined and tuned. That is accomplished with effort on both parts. One must home in on the tendencies, emotions, attitudes and reactions of the other rider. To begin with , there should be a continual, open dialogue of communication. Both rider must be able to freely express their wants and needs. If one rider wants to slow down, speed up, turn this way or that, they need to communicate that to the other rider. Now, after a time, that other rider may be able to sense those things, but they cannot be  left to unspoken signs. The importance here is that for both the riders to ride well with each other, they must be able to help each other as well. That means that one rider may pull the lead for a time, then be spelled by that other rider, as they begin to tire. If during that time, the rider that is following is getting worn out, and doesn’t  make the partner aware, then the aren’t going to be able to muster the energy needed to supply that help when they are needed, and what they have done is failed them both. Ion the other hand, if one rider is having to constantly verbalize their needs, then the other isn’t being successful at recognizing those needs and adjusting for them. At that point consideration should be made as to whether that other rider, has the ability to, or the desire to, make that adjustment, then they must both react accordingly. Trust must be built between them and should be a near complete basis of trust. That means that the lead rider must do the things that will inspire that trust of the other rider. When in the lead the rider must be able to show responsibility, good and quick judgements, and make safe decisions. That rider should do what they can to warn the other rider of approaching dangers, that may be unseen by the trailing rider. For, at that time, it is the job of the trailing rider, to have that faith to follow where they are led. To take the path and keep the speed of the rider that is taking them along. It 9s at that point that there ability to see impending dangers may be somewhat weakened and they are left vulnerable to unseen dangers. It cannot be a blind faith however. If that rider allows themselves to follow blindly along, without making a conscious effort think for themselves and keep up some sort of shield of productivity for themselves, they are in danger of injury.

A rider is ultimately responsible for themselves, at all times. Even if they decide to put their faith in another, it is that decision that they are responsible for, and it is that decision that will lead to the results received. The results from this effort given to finely tune their togetherness are extremely gratifying. It can be a great feeling to ride with another, knowing exactly what they want and how they feel. Knowing in advance what it is that they are going to do. Understanding and communicating  intentions by the flick of a finger,  a nod of the head, or simple eye contact.  As you develop a wider base of communication, the rewards of the ride become much more gratifying. Then you can begin to feel what the other rider feels, and you can feed off each other. At times a riders pace will be much quicker than their usual pace. Perhaps do to a higher energy level, excitement, or other motivations. That motivation should be  picked up, shared and built upon by that other rider, Perhaps that rider is slowed for a time by moods, feelings, emotions, and that is a crucial time for  that other rider to recognize that change. That other rider will adjust as well, and perhaps even learn something from the experience that will make them both better. Given that the riders are individuals, then their fatigue level will most likely be different. Perhaps most of the time it may be similar, but there is going to be times when they are quite different, and both rider must be aware of that and act accordingly. If one rider is becoming fatigues for what ever reason, they can have a tendency to make poor judgements that will affect them both. Or perhaps act carelessly, or react to the other riders actions in a way that can be surprising and damaging to them both. Unexpected reactions, will have a negative effect on the relationship as well. The intensity and context of that reaction can go a long way in determining just how severe or long lasting that damage happens to be.

As any ride progresses, the rider is making mental notes of all the actions and reactions, then determining how to process, and react to them. Reactions noted as a result of fatigue must not be ignored as they can become signs of danger. The danger signs are common in all riders and should be expected, as well as accepted, it is just that they should not be ignored. The experience of oneness with another rider may come at any time, it may be as short as one ride, or last over many longer ones. There is no doubt that it is a fulfilling experience to achieve, and an experience that should provide memories as well as lessons for you both.  It is an opportunity that we all should work to achieve, and that we all should recognize as an opportunity that does take work to maintain. With the work, comes the rewards.

Notes and Concepts under consideration

Keep on Pedaling
-Or you fill fall over
-you cant finish
-no one else will pedal for you
-Exepct on tandems, which is good if couple works together, or willing to trade
=left with few other choices
=mental toughness is a must here

All the right gear

Flash vs. substance

The Long and Winding Road
More than any other emotion, melancholy is incompatible with bicycling. – James E. Starrs  “The Noiseless Tenor”

Dreams and future plans

Downside of aches and pains

Get a bicycle. You will not regret it, if you live – Mark Twain

Relating to the serious ones

As a time consuming passion

Ride lots.  – Eddy Merckx

A Canadian Tour

Whoever invented the bicycle deserves the thanks of humanity.
-Lord Charles Beresford