Thursday, May 31, 2012

siren call

Last night I rode my bike up to Mt. Tabor to watch my Team Slow pals race in the fixie category (except for Klaus who raced a more "normal" bike in Mens' Cat 5). Then we all went and hung out at Tomas' place afterwards. And I realized that I was not ready to walk away entirely from racing.
I would miss the cameraderie of effort, pain and craziness that is Team Slow, the only team that loudly cheers everyone else as much as we cheer each other, the team that bings chalk to Mt. Tabor and draws huge hype messages in the pavement, the team that shows up in shocking safety orange and has more fun than anyone else at the races. How we place is almost irrelevant, and that's the part I'd forgtten about.

So this weekend I'm pulling out the Bridgestone -- the geared mountain bike I'd gotten almost a yeara go in anticipation of having to leave singlespeed racing -- and will begin overhauling it. Goal is to race at least a couple of times in July at the short-track series, in my masters' age group. I expect to finish dead last, and hope to have a grand time, flat pedals and all.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

the tug of non-racing grows stronger

Since I decided in March that I would not race at all in 2012 a few things have happened:

1. I have not ridden my 700c-wheeled bike more than a handful of times. I still like the bike aesthetically, but it's not nearly as comfortable as my upright, 26"-wheeled All-Rounder. I've had the LongLow for almost 13 years now, and as I've grown older and my already short torso has begun to shrink (hey, it happens) I've found that I don't like riding drops as much as I used to and so I don't ride this bike much anymore. I suppose I could swap in some upright bars, but having multiple bikes with similar cockpits has never made sense to me except in the case of my All-Rounder and my cargo bike. I'm hanging onto the LongLow through 2012, keepin track of how many times I reach for it; and will reassess next winter.

2. I have grown less fond of wearing lycra. More specifically, I've grown less interested in the ritual of getting all dolled up in the stuff before a ride. (While I appreciate the ritual of embrocation before a cyclocross race, I know I am done with cyclocrss racing and will have little need for that ritual next winter.)
I love my looser-fitting urban knickers and wear them almost daily during this changeable spring season, and I'm most likely to pair them with a t-shirt or button-down shirt. I think I'll be finding a home for what's left of my racing shorts and most of my lycra jerseys soon (though of course I will keep my Team Slow gear).

3. My cycling-specific shoes feel almost unneccessary. With more and more of my riding utilizing grippy, flat platform pedals I tend to wear sneakers for all of my riding these days. My feet are always very comfortable and best of all, I no longer experience "hot spots" in my shoes, ever.

4. I dream of all-day rides around the Portland area, and perhaps an overnight campout or two. Schedule permitting I will utilize more of my "me" days this summer for that purpose, rather than for heading out to the races. I will go out to some races to cheer on my teammates but this year my status has officially become "Friend Of Slow", a decided non-racer.

5. Most telling of all is that I ride slower, and when I want to climb I shift way down into the granny gears so as not to upset my creaky knees so much. If I need to get off and push, I do so without shame.

I still entertain the vaguest notion of perhaps returning to short-track racing next summer, on a multi-geared mountain bike; but at present I have no plan in place for how I might prepare for that. As my career transition continues apace and I continue to focus energy on writings songs and somehow making another CD happen this year, I don't see how I would make the necessary time (or resources, frankly) available for racing. Meanwhile, I've gained back about five of the ten pounds I lost from last year's training regimen. I try not to stress about it; it's only five pounds and I haven't become startlingly, completely sedentary or anything like that. I still ride almost daily, and I still enjoy it, and that's what matters.

Sweetie and I are enjoying time together tending our garden and watching the miraculousness of green things growing up into food we will eat and share. We go for walks in Forest Park and around our lovely city, and spend time with friends enjoying the many smaller moments that life is really made up of.

And now, while the weather is mellow and cool, I'm going for a bike ride.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Today I had one of the toughest days just Being In My Body at the shop:

1. I needed the large tire jack to re-install almost every single tire on flat fixes;
2. I raked my knuckes not once, but three times (!!) on someone's filthy chainrings because a tool slipped on rounded wrench-flats;
3. My knee popped -- loudly -- as I carried a bike down the stairs for a customer to test-ride;
4. I could not see the tiny part I was trying to work on without removing my glasses -- and after I took off my glasses, I still couldn't see the damned part. I had to ask someone else to come over and look at it with me.

I have an eye exam scheduled soon, so hopefully I'll get some help there, but this last one in particular really drove home the fact that my body just isn't up to doing this mechanic gig full-time anymore.
And yes, I'm well aware that you're not supposed to blog about your physical ailments in case a potential employer, insurance agent or government officials reads it and decides you are immediately much more expendable than you were five minutes before; but I don't plan on looking for full-time work in another bike shop, ever. My body is clearly sending me signals that I need to keep phasing out of the mechanical scene.

I have sold some personal tools online already, the ones I am least sentimental about. I will probably call a local friend in the industry and invite him to come pick through the pile and make an offer. I plan to pare down my toolbox to those tools that will allow me to do tune-ups and bearing overhauls and little else. I just don't see the need to hang onto frame-straightening tools and cheater bars and the like; when I need that sort of thing done down the road I will gladly pay someone to do it, especially now that my hands hurt so much after a full day of wrenching.

It is tough to notice the multiple and pesky ways in which my body is no longer willing and able to do things I used to do so easily only a few years ago. It really points out how important it has become for me to save my hands for more music-making, especially since I suspect that the time will come when even that may become difficult.

I feel melancholy about my hands tonight.

As a young child I used to stare at peoples' hands in amazement. That the human hand could move so many ways, in so many directions all at once, and do so many wonderful things, was a constant source of wonder to me, as I watched my father play piano, my mother make clothing or tasty food, my sister play fingerstyle guitar (something I never mastered; I remain a flatpicker). A lifetime of fixing and mending things, playing assorted musical instruments and making art has given my hands surprising grip strength -- until recently, as I've noticed some of that grip-strength beginning to fade a little bit.

I know these things happen. And I know that the best I can do is to parcel out the strength I still possess so that I can make the most of my hands now.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

can one have too many bikes? a revisited topic

Over the years I've had as few as one bicycle and as many as six at once.
By today's Rivendell Enthusiast Standard, even six is on the low side.
Most Riv Enthusiasts have at least that many and some have up to eight or nine bikes.
A former co-worker of mine at the shop had nearly 70 bikes (in various stages of repair/rideability, mind you) at once, living in his house, basement and garage.
I used to kid him about his collection: "You've got seventy bikes and only one butt -- when will you ride them all?"
He must've taken it to heart, because since then he's retired, moved into a smaller house and sold off more than two-thirds of the lot.
Today my stable is down to three functioning bikes: A 26"-wheeled city bike, a 700c-wheeled road bike, and a longtail cargo bike.
(A fourth bike hangs on a hook and I'm giving myself until the end of this year to decide if I really want to keep it. It's a geared mountain bike, something I'd picked up last year in anticipation of giving up singlespeed racing. While I cannot make any predictions, I am leaning towards selling this off too and letting go of the racing thing for good. My body has been through a lot of noticable change in the last year-plus and all the pesky little annoyances are catching up with me.)

Another thing I notice about having fewer bikes is that I find a diminished need to putter on them so much. After all, if you only have a couple of bikes you depend upon all the time, you're less inclined to tear them down and rebuild/reconfigure them out of boredom or even curiosity. I still enjoy puttering on bikes, just not so much on my own right now. If something needs fixing, I fix it and get on with my ride. Riding -- not swapping parts, or collecting cool old stuff I'll never get around to putting on my bike -- seems to be the main thing these days.


In anticipation of phasing out of a full-time career in bicycle repair, I am cleaning out a lot of stuff I'll never use, mostly lots of spare parts and accessories. I may even begin to sell of some of the more esoteric tools I've had for years because, now that I know I'll never turn my home bike space into a little bike shop for the neighborhood, I have little desire to keep some of these on hand. If I really need my bottom bracket threads re-tapped I can always go to Citybikes and do it there. Should the time come when I completely stop working at a bike shop I can hope that I'l get some sort of "friend of the house" discount. In any case, it's just not a contingency I need to remain prepared for, and it will be more than enough to keep the minimal assortment on hand to do an overhaul or tune-up at home.


Grant Peterson wrote a little book called "Just Ride". It's out now and he is on a book tour around the country. He'll be in Portland next Saturday, speaking at Powell's; his appearance will be followed by a bicycle ride around the city. Grant's a friend and I would love to see him, but I'm torn; he's appearing on Shabbat and I still work in the bike industry enough that a huge part of me doesn't want to go to the event, which I'm sure will be well-attended. So what to do? I am waiting until Friday afternoon and playing this by ear. If I decide that even a mellow mixing of bike commerce with the sabbath feels wrong, then I'll probably just stay away and send him a congratulatory email or something. If I can handle the lack of separation then I might go. We'll see.


After last week's difficulty with transporting all my gear by cargo bike, I am looking at other options to allow me to go car-free to local gigs. Going back to a trailer may be the most affordable option. Would I sell the cargo bike? Not right away, though it has crossed my mind that there are probably better bike cargo options out there. But towing my guitar, amp and gear in a trailer would certainly make for a more stable load. I've done it before, and the only hassle would be locking up both the bike and the trailer securely while I'm playing. Keeping everything covered on a rainy day would simply require a tarp. I am wrestling with the realities of getting older, needing to maintain a slightly more professional appearance and the amount of time and energy required to haul my stuff to and from gigs via bike. All of these things feel slightly in flux right now, and I am reluctant to admit that a time is coming when I will have to modify my carfree  -- and more carefree -- approach.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

two more of sexysexybike: hillborne

This bike was all done and waiting to be picked up by its owner when I came to the shop this morning.
I HAD to take just a couple more snaps before it disappeared:

                         Completely yummy.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

sexysexybike: hillborne

This utterly gorgeous Hillborne came into the shop for some deep love.

a. Sexy fork crown:

b. Double top tube. When you're this tall it starts to make a lot more sense:

c. Jack Brown tires:

This bike is a stunner!  Can't wait to see it out on the roads.

I've been riding The Rivvy again these days -- I'd left off from it during the winter but lately I've just been in the mood. Mostly comfortable, though at times I feel like I'm reaching a bit farther than I'd like. I only have one stem length shorter to go in this model and if that doesn't work I'm not sure what I'll do. But mostly it's been nice to ride the Rivvy again. I feel sleek and smooth on it.

(On a ride last week, heading to my teaching gig on the Rivvy. Still a lovely bike after all these years.)

Heading out this morning to my last Citybikes Retreat as an owner. My last official day as an owner at Citybikes co-op will be August 30. It feels a little strange, but it's definitely a relief to have made the leap.
Happy Tuesday!