Friday, November 28, 2014

i miss biking

I have spent is entire Thanksgiving week at my in-laws' home in Northern California, visiting with my partner's family. Her parents are elderly; her older brother has spent the week in bed with a cold he caught on his second day here (they got here two days earlier than we did); and their 5th-grrader daightter has been by turns bored, surly, demanding and lonely for peer company (she is an only child of older parents, and my partner and I are childless). There have been walks into town each day, a Thanksgiving meal shared with everyone, and a trip on Thanksgiving morning to deliver meals to the homebound in the community (done by car, of course; there were over twen meals to deliver).

I have not ridden a bicycle since last Saturday. And I am heere until Sunday. This will be an entire week off the bike. Amd I really don't like it one bit. Not riding has made me bored, listless, and a little grumpy. I cannot wait to get home and pull out a bicycle on Monday morning.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

ebay laugh-of-the-month: Ross headbadge

Surfing the interwebs today, I found this:

Someone on ebay is selling this headbadge right now for a price of $22.00.

Realize that the three-speed bike it was originally attached to was sold new at a hardware store and probably sold for under a hundred bucks back in the day.

Makes me ponder the wisdom of decorating my shed with all the headbadges I saved from all the dead frames I'd dismantled over the years.

Okay. Done pondering. We now return you to your scheduled bicycle obsession.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

race report: Gateway Green Community CX

Gateway green Community CX was a demonstration event designed to showcase what might be possible as Gateway Green is developed into a bike-friendly city park. Friends of Gateway Green are raising money to help pay the costs of the first phase of development. They got permission from the city to hold this event only about a month ago, and scrambled to get everything in place: course design, volunteers, sponsors, and a raffle.

All told, for a grass-roots cyclocross event, it was a lot of fun. Sparse attendance was probably mostly due to both the short notice for the event and the fact that it was pretty cold today (lows in the upper 20s, high around 40F). Muddy ruts made during the course design phase yesterday had frozen solid overnight, and did not thaw completely until the last race of the day. Due to current space limitations at the undeveloped greenspace, the course itself was rather short for a 'cross course -- they're usually around 2 miles long, and I'm not sure this one was even a full mile long. But what it lacked in length was more than made up for in some of the challenges: the long run-up was even longer and taller than the legendary run-up at barton park; and there was no gravel on which to gain a foothold. The entire length was slick, semi-frozen grass punctuated by thorns and brambles that had not been pulled from the course. Follwing that was a switchback that led to a slightly off-camber downhill that was slick with peanut-butter type mud; the key here was simply to watch your speed, let go of the brakes and coast down. This turned out to be the most fun part of the course for me.

The final part of the course, was a series of small berms, short-track style, through some trees and increasingly steeper and harder to ascend; the last berm required a lot of speed or you simply would not get up it all the way -- and if you didn't make it all the way up you could easily fall backwards and down the berm again, which I did twice.

I raced at noon, which was pretty ideal in terms of temperature and mud; most women completed 10 or more laps. I was on pace to finish 6 but had to stop halfway through my race for an urgent call from mother nature, which meant giving up a lap in the process. Because this was an unsanctioned, demonstration event, my re-entry into the race was no problem. If this had been an OBRA-sanctioned, competitive event and i had baled like that, I would've been listed as DNF and not allowed to hop back on the course to finish. I was glad for the unsanctioned component; it took a lot of pressure off and let me simply enjoy myself and the thrill of riding in the mud again, something I realized I'd missed.

It was nice to reconnect with old teammates and friends who were glad to see me back on my race bike. Still, My cough all the way home reinforced why I had felt it necessary to walk away from racing cyclocross. I am home now, drinking hot tea and hoping the itch in my throat will stop after a good night's sleep. I'm not scheduled to sing anywhere professionally for a little while, but I do need to take care of my voice.

I took some photos when I wasn't racing myself, mostly Singlespeed with a few shots from Mens' B and C:

All in all, a lovely, fun day. Taking nothing away from OBRA, of course; but sometimes the pressure to race and ignore one's physical issues makes it hard for me to enjoy the sport. Given the chance to do more unsanctioned races, I would absolutely sign up.

Friday, November 14, 2014

hype of the week: top secret drum corps

In honor of my first cyclocross [sort of] race in three years, I'm tossing up a really great Hype video.

Top Secret Drum Corps, from Switzerland, fuses the best of American drum corps-style drumming and Swiss-style military drumming into a beautiful variation on this beautiful artform. Watch and be blown away.

Racing starts at 10:30; Womens B/C race begins at noon sharp at Gateway Green on Saturday. If you're in town and want to come ring a cowbell, this wouldn't be a bad place to do it. See ya.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

my first cyclocross race in three years, this weekend

Okay, it's official: I AM RACING my first cyclocross race since Nov. 2011. Womens' B/C race is at 12:00 noon.
 Hoping to see some Team Slow teammates out there! (Also hoping that I will remember how mount and dismount in the mud...!)
Thankfully, this is a demonstration event and no OBRA points will be scored. 
So if I really suck it's okay.
Forecast: rain, high of 46F. PERFECT 'cross weather. Go Slow!
Gateway Green Community Cross
Saturday, November 15 at 9:00am
Gateway Green (accessible .25 miles north of the Gateway/NE 99th Ave TC MAX Station via the I-205 Multi Use Path)

Monday, November 10, 2014

commuting report: phoenix/scottsdale, az

I just returned last night from a four-day weekend working in Phoenix, Arizona. I was there to provide musical leadership and education for a large synagogue in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area. Per my contract, the synagogue paid for my transportation costs, and arranged for me to have homestay hospitality near the synagogue that included a loaner bicycle.

In the best of all possible worlds, I would make this arrangement in every city I visit. It worked beautifully in Kansas this past summer and  again in this fall. And it works pretty well in Phoenix, at least from November through April when the heat is not so extreme. (I was in Phoenix in August and riding a bicycle in 110-degree heat was simply inadvisable.)

My loaner bike was a Giant Sedona hybrid with a sit-up-and-beg position. The bike was a little small for me, and the saddle could not be moved any further rearward, which definitely caused a bit of a strain on my knees. But the ride was only 6 miles round trip, so I lived with it.

I enjoyed mostly quiet streets on my short trips back and forth. Most of my route included bike lanes. A few short stretches were narrow and had no bike lane; instead the pavement there was marked with big sharrows and this sign helped to make things even clearer: 

The weather was warm and sunny. Lows of 60F quickly gave way to afternoon highs in the mid-80s -- not unbearable and actually sort of pleasant on a short-term basis. I enjoyed the hugely different flora and fauna of the desert Southwest, a place I will visit again at least several times this academic year.

While I was in Phoenix I met Joe Berman, owner of Sunday Cycles and also a member of the synagogue. He knows a couple of bike folks in Portland, and we had a nice talk at the end of religious school on Sunday before I had to catch my flight home. He offered to loan me a better-fitting bike for my next visit, and suggested that if possible I should try and come in a day early to enjoy some longer rides. He was delighted with my tallit (prayer shawl) made of recycled bike musette bags, and I gave him the link to look at my ritual Judaica made from old bike parts.

I know I would not want to live here year-round, if only because the summer months would positively kill me. But as far as places to visit and ride go, Phoenix shows a lot of promise for the next several months. I'm looking forward to returning in December.

Back home in Portland, we're looking at a cold snap this week. Tomorrow the temps will drop by more than ten degrees into the low 40sF, and rain is due. I will don my woolies this afternoon and enjoy a ride in a climate that feels, well, more familiar for this time of year.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

ride report: smith & bybee lakes loop

I've taken this loop many times in the last seven years, too many to count. But it remains one of my favorite longer rides and I try to get out there at least a few times a year, to see the seasons change through the landscape and to enjoy a ride relatively free of traffic and signals.

I am slower now than I used to be, the result of no longer prioritizing racing and "training" in my life. But I still enjoy these longer rides when time and energy are on my side.

Temp: low 50s, occasional light drizzle, slight breeze.
Wardrobe: thin wool tights with knickers over them, wool socks; wool jersey, arm warmers and light jacket over that; thin wool cap under my helmet; ragg wool fingerless gloves. I carried some raingear with me but never took it out.

I stopped along the way to admire the scenery and take some photos. The Columbia Slough was pretty and I saw a LOT of waterfowl, including hundreds of geese and a few great blue herons along the banks. I enjoyed maintaining a moderate pace and found that I had more than enough energy to handle the uphill climb to the top of the Marine Drive bridge over the slough. I did note some discomfort at the beginning of my ride and again when i set out after my lunch stop in St. Johns; but reasoned that sometimes its really okay to feel some discomfort from the elements. Being out in the elements is part of bicycling, so why not accept it? I warmed up enough after a mile or two that the damp and cold didn't bother me again.

Random thoughts drifted in and out of my mind, including the recognition that nearly all of these rides are done alone. My friends who love to ride like to go faster and farther than I do, and I'd hold
them back even if they were too nice to say so. My partner has ridden this route with me exactly once, early in our marriage when she was far more active than she is now. I doubt I will get her to ride it again. She is not nearly as active as I am and it seems like that will be the way it is for the long haul. So I ride alone, to enjoy the scenery and look for birds and feel the cool air on my cheeks, and to revel in movement.

One thing I noticed is that my "quasi-rando" bike, while still very heavy, fits me really well and makes riding with drops enjoyable. Would I like a lighter bike? Sure, but not enough to pay a ton of money for it. I preefer the feel of a steel frameset, and for the time being I'm fine with paying a considerable weight penalty for the sake of comfort and fit. The Sekai, with its low-slung, compact geometry, took the drop bars pretty well and allowed me to have a drop-bar bike with very short reach. It also allowed me to have that drop-bar bike and still run 26" (559 ERD) wheels, thus avoiding having to store a second wheel and tire size at home. perhaps one day I'll be able to ny up for a lighter frameset that gives me the same compact fit. For the time being, I'll be content to ride e sekai and just try not to overload it with too much stuff. If I want to do any bike-camping it will be on the upright Rivvy.

On the way back from St. Johns it began to drizzle pretty steadily. By the time I got home it had become a light rain. I didn't bother to stop and pull out my raingear; I wasn't far from home and figured I'd enjoy the hot shower more when my ride ended. I was right. Home now and feeling deliciously relaxed and ready for a restful evening. A lovely 22 mile loop.

Here are a few photos. More can be found at