Saturday, December 31, 2011

last ride, 2011

I'd originally planned to get up early enough to ride to a synagogue for Torah study. But it was c-o-l-d outside at 7 am, and my body rebelled at the thought at riding across town in 32-degree weather. So I snuggled back down under the blankets until well past 9am. Finally, I knew that I really needed to ride somewhere, anywhere, before heading out to the evening's festivities and eating too much rich food. My legs were screaming to go out and spin and my core was screaming to stay home and be a well-wrapped slug.

The legs won out.

I took a loop through Northeast Portland, nothing ambitious but plenty brisk enough; I'm confident that the thermometer didn't get much above 40F all day.

last ride 2011

last ride 2011

last ride 2011

last ride 2011

This ride puts me at a total of 2,281.9 miles for the year. I have to say that although there were no really long rides this year, pretty much all of my miles were good ones, and for sure many of them helped to alleviate what was a stressful and challenging year in many ways. I am truly grateful for every mile I rode this year.
Tomorrow, I begin all over again.
Wherever the roads lead you, I hope that 2012 is a better, brighter year! Happy riding!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

tried and liked: 2011 edition

(A tip of the helmet to the i-BOB list, which began this thread years ago.)

Things I tried and liked in 2011, with an emphasis on bicycles:

1. Training for racing. This meant working out 2-3 times a week at a local gym January through May, and adding some interval work to my commutes once or twice a week March through May (for short-track) and again August and September (for cyclocross).
I didn't have a coach and the frequency wasn't clockwork-religious, but it did help in two noticeable ways: I lost ten pounds (which I hadn't planned on but certainly didn't mind), and I was stronger on the berms at the short-track course, having to dismount and push my bike far less often. I still finished dead last, likely because I was the oldest woman racing singlespeed and because of the asthma, but I finished stronger and felt good about it. On a down note, money is much tighter this year and a gym membership in 2012 seems unlikely. However, I'm back on my feet wrenching bikes and maybe that will help make up for some of the loss of gym time. I am in a different place right now with my racing and, for various physical, emotional and financial reasons, may not throw quite as much energy at it in 2012. In any event, it was interesting to see how intentional training made a difference and I'm truly glad for the experience.

2. Joining a local race club. Racing with Velo Bella got me some excellent discounts (including one for prescription sunglasses, which I continue to be grateful for), and occasionally garnered me some tips from teammates, but all those teammates were out of town in other states, and I only met two of them once at a USGP cyclocross race. It was nice to have the brand recognition -- VB is a recognized regional team in racing -- but it was lonely. So when I was invited by some racing buddies to join a local club they were strting, I said yes. Being part of Team Slow has added a measure of fun to my racing that I have enjoyed mightily, and I wonder how on earth I ever considered racing without that. No matter how many races I do in 2012 I will do them as part of Team Slow, proudly rocking the safety triangle whever Stompy and I go.

3. Not stressing so much about my mileage this year. Of course, I still keep track of my daily mileage; and I will dutifully submit my tally sheet to C-KAP (I broke 25,000 cumulative km with them this year so a certificate is coming my way in the spring); but since deemphasising distance (and especially since deciding that I wouldn't attempt anything longer than a 100km populaire in the future -- big rides just take too much out of me) I am enjoying each ride a little more. My overall mileage for 2011 will probably be somewhere around 2,250 miles, down from my record of over 2,700 in 2007 but still respectable for someone who did not do any really long rides and mostly chalked all that up under daily commuting. I'm content.

4. After trying out a number of different rain jackets and pants (mostly because as the Buyer I had to do product testing), I've gone back to What Works: Burley Designs. Yes, they stopped making their own rain wear several years ago; but smart bike industry geeks bought up the last of the stuff and hoarded it. I have two Rock Point Jackets to my name, and while they aren't the most flattering cut, they are well made and they work. Recently, my successor in the Buyer's chair had to pay a visit to the main offices of Showers Pass (whose Club Pro jacket I reviewed last year -- six months after I wote that review tha jacket began to fail at water repellecy and I got rid of it, optiing for the Burley again). He was wearing a jacket made by a company other than Showers Pass, and folks at the SP HQ frowned visibly at the sight. The moral: when SP moved its manufacturing from Vietnam to China, the quality suffered. They haven't yet recovered from the public perception that the jackets ain't what they used to be. And I've gone back to wearing my Burley. I expect it to last a good bit longer than anything I've tried from SP, and now that I'm no longer the Buyer I'm allowed to have an occasional negative opinion [about bicycle product] in public again. Meanwhile, I am on the lookout for "vintage" Burley rain wear and am buying it up to hoard and to share with friends. Sue me.

Burley Rock Point:

Burley Rain Rider. If you see this jacket in a medium, buy it for me and I'll pay you back:

5. Rivendell Splats, which I bought last winter, have served me well for the most part. They are made in the USA from thick, stout waxed cotton and fit over most styles of shoes. They're also the first shoe cover that is easy to use with a flat pedal. Because they don't cover the ankle, water can seep into your shoe and sock from above; but if you buy your rain pants on the long side you can reduce or eliminate this problem. One of the best things Rivendell has come out with.

6. Chrome backpack. This was the year that I had to concede that carrying things in a single-strap messenger bag was no longer working for my aging back and neck. I've retired the Timbuk2 Dee Dog bag (and will probably sell it); and have switched to a very strong backpack made in the USA by Chrome. I bought this pack used, and it's a tough bag, stronger and stouter than anything being made by T2 now and more so than some of Chrome's newer bags (the subassemblies of which are now being made overseas -- they're going down a similar road as T2) and holds a ton of stuff. I have to be careful not to overstuff it, but when I do it still works far better to carry a load on both of my shoulders instead of one. I expect this pack to see me through several years before I have to give up carrying things on my back altogether.

7. Giving myself permission to feel fatigued, and to adjust my ride as necessary. This is a different approach than I've taken before. But this has been a challenging year on many levels, and one of the challenges has been that I've had to identify when my body is feeling tired as a result of physicality rather than emotional stress. So when I'm feeling really wiped out, I'm tossing my bike on transit and going multi-modal. I've reached a time when this no longer feels like copping out, and I'm geting better at telling the difference between physical fatigue and emotional fatigue. When it's physical I'm listening to my body. If that's part of Getting Older, so be it.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

merry christmas, and happy quiet roads

I enjoyed my Christmas morning bike ride on a day with some drizzle, highs in the mid-40's and quiet roads.
Embrocation, wool-blend knickers, a thermos of coffee in the bottle cage and a slice of lemon cake in my jersey pocket.
Did I mention that the roads were quiet?
That's mostly the point of riding on Christmas morning.
(I imagine it must be sort of like riding a bike in Jerusalem on Yom Kippur.)
Running lights is simply not a problem when there is no one else to be seen for a dozen blocks in any direction.
(And, in a nostalgic nod to the cop who stopped me all those years ago in downtown Gresham, don't worry, I still look both ways before proceeding with caution. Thanks for not giving me a traffic ticket that morning, and I hope you got home in time to enjoy Christmas with your wife.)
I came home 90 minutes later feeling lighter, refreshed and glowing. Then some light stretching and into a hot shower.
The embrocation tingled for an hour afterwards, even after a good scrubbing.
Merry Christmas, and I hope you got to enjoy some quiet roads today too.

Friday, December 23, 2011

working it out by bicycle

Sometimes you need a bike ride to help you work things out.
Mission accomplished.
Better now.

2 o'clock shadow



I am suffering from bike withdrawal.

I missed two days of work due to the Bad Cold (which was really bad, but I'm getting over it fairly quickly).
Yesterday I went to work but Sweetie insisted on driving me there because it was 27F outside and she didn't want me riding in the cold while I still getting over a cold. (She loves me.) I got through my shift, took the bus home afterwards and was still tired.
Today it's supposed to dry (again! Driest December on record) and partly cloudy. I may take a short spin later if I'm up for it, simply because I'm starting to go stir-crazy not riding a bike. After three days off the bike I just start to get grumpy and antsy if I don't ride. Does this happen to you?

Don't worry, if I go out I'll bundle up.

riv wheel

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

it's not the weather, as it turns out

Last night I went to bed with a burning throat and a general feeling of vague illness.
This morning I woke up with the achiness and throbbing sinuses of a Bad Cold, and stayed home from work.
Jury is out on whether or not I'll be able to go to the Klezmatics show tonight but I am leaning towards not going. I still feel awful, and with all the celebrations of the holiday still to come it seems to make more sense for me to stay home and nip this thing as quickly as possible. I am bummed.

Still, Chanukah starts tonight and there's no stopping it.
May you and yours have a lovely holiday.
Chag Sameach!

Monday, December 19, 2011

strange weather

The month of December has been one of the driest on record here in PDX. Lots of cold, dry days with only somg fog providing any moisture in the air. Along with dry days, the air quality has been pretty bad, because there hasn't been any wind to speak of and people are burning wood in their fireplaces and woodstoves for a solid month. It hasn't rained since Thanksgiving weekend. Riding to and from work has been pleasant because the roads are dry and the air feels bracing. But the air also hurts my throat and makes me cough a lot.

Friday, at the end of a morning filled with errands, I pushed myself up the hill to Overlook and my legs felt surprisingly strong. I rested Saturday and Sunday -- we had things to do -- and rode again today, racing briskly to get to work on time and again feeling very strong. But by the time I got to work my throat was beginning to hurt a little. I coughed most of the day, the coughing getting worse and worse. I stubbornly rode home after my post-shift errands, and tonight I am drinking tea like it's going out of style. So far it hasn't helped much. I don't want to stop riding -- I feel better when I ride -- but if this is what's going to happen, I may have to take more of a break.

Ugh. We need some rain, a lot of it, and really soon.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

consumerism is not the answer [to the question they don't want us to ask]

Watching the evening news, I see reports of how the holiday shopping season is so important, that the Saturday before Christmas is often the biggest shopping day of the year and can make or break an entire season for some retailers. The well-dressed talking head on my TV screen tells me that Consumer spending makes up as much as 70% of our national economy, and I stop short.

Seventy per cent?

Seventy per cent of our nation's economy -- which includes funding for schools, roads, public safety, social services and the military -- depends on everyone going shopping. Think about that for a minute. And think about how much that has a bearing on the fabric of our social and communal lives.

You need new clothes now and then. If you work in a job that requires you to dress up, you need them more often because dressy clothes wear out faster (they're just not made as well).
You need to buy toys for the kids for birthdays, holidays and whenever else, because who actually makes toys for their kids anymore? (And if your kids are plugged in, you can't make toys for them anyway, unless you work in a computer factory.)
You need to buy new shoes, not necessarily because the old ones are finally worn out but because they're out of style (and your teenager refuses to go to school in them).
You need to have the latest electronic goodies -- computers and PDA's and cell-phones and everything else -- in part because the new work and educational landscape requires people to be more plugged in than ever, and in part because the computer manufacturers are constantly upgrading their systems so that eventually your 10-year-old computer simply won't be compatible with whatever else The Ghost Of Steve Jobs wants to sell you.
Trick-or-treating, once an activity that took place on neighborhood streets, now happens as often in the shopping malls of America, as parents worried about their childrens' safety have decided that taking the kids to the mall is safer and easier. Of course, the retailers are all too glad to have this next generation of little shoppers running amok in the mall and learning the lessons of consumerism so early.

I work in retail. A specialty type of retail, to be sure; I help get people onto bicycles (and in many cases that means getting them out of cars at least part of the time, so that's good). I promote a healthier way of transportation, and of life. And I get to fix things, sometimes using recycled parts. That's good too, right?

Problem is, it's still all about buying and selling, buying and selling. And I have grown tired of all the buying and selling.

Taking the teaching position this year has been a real help. It gives me something to balance aganist the retail work, and gives me a sphere in which I encounter people in a very different way, a way that is not so quid-pro-quo and doesn't contain such a marketplace mentality. I hope I will get to continue to do this other work as a counterweight to my work in retail.

When you work in retail, it is easier not to ask the question: What would life look like if it wasn't all about buying and selling? What would society look like if consumer spending didn't comprise 70 % of our economy? In what ways would we encourage creativity and conservation instead of the throwaway lifestyles so many of us live now? Would it be possible to enjoy a healthy, decent standard of living if everyone was required to live on less, to be more resourceful and creative, and to rely on our families, neighbors and local communities more for companionship and cultural activities? What if we went back to communal gardens and used them to feed everyone, instead of relying on whatever came wrapped in mylar at the store? What if we had schoolchildren take part of each learning day and spend it working in the communal gardens, learning about science and nature while planting and studying the vegetables that would feed their communities? What if we got away from factory feed lots and raised livestock on a smaller scale, eating less meat and using fewer natural resources in the process? What if we tore up some of our city streets and turned them into bike-ped tracks, and made it more expensive and inconvenient to drive the way they've done in some Eupopean cities? What if we took the "American" psyche, that myth about pulling oneself up by the bootstraps, and simply put it out with the trash? Couldn't we then we use the savings realized from these changes to create a more caring, close-knit, communal way of life where everyone's needs really could be met?

I think so. But I also fear that too many of us would not survive the transition into such a way of life, simply because our lives now are so dependent on those things which prop us up and make us complacent and lazy and too many people would rebel at such changes. If such change were possible, it would not be at all easy, and frankly would be fraught with risk.

As a friend pointed out to me at a gathering a few weeks back, we are excellent consumers of culture, and that may be the problem. Instead of consuming things and hoping that this will let us consume culture as well, we need to consume less and take back our ability to create culture for ourselves and our communities. In that way, we can own so much more while buying less.

Chanukah begins Tuesday evening. The Festival Of Lights is also the Festival Of Rededication, as we celebrate the reclaiming of the Temple and the work that was done to clean it up and re-dedicate ourselves to its service. Perhaps this is the year that I and those around me can re-dedicate ourselves to creating culture, instead of simply consuming it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Friday, December 9, 2011

it's a long story

The SingleSpeed Cyclocross World Championships took place last week in Sacramento. A fun time was had by all, though it seems some rules were not adhered to by the winners. Add to this that the winners (of the respective mens' and womens' races) were pros sponsored by Rapha, the company I love to dump on, and you have a full-blown turd-fest.

(Thanks for the folks over at Drunk Cyclist for keeping it real.)

Since no one has yet made a t-shirt that reads "F*** Rapha" -- and since there are admittedly few places in my life where I could get away with wearing one -- my vote goes for this little number instead.

Not that I'd ever enter this race myself -- the entry fee is considerably higher than a Cross Crusade race and there is a lot of drinking going on -- the fact is that if you enter a race where the winner is required to do certain things immediately following the race, and you win, then you stick around and do them. Even if those things include getting a tattoo and donning gold lame underwear in public. That the Rapha-sponsored riders disappeared immediately after their races to avoid the tattoo and the undies (and presumably thereby saving the brand from sullying, somehow) is simply bad form.

The bad form was apparently highlighted by the fact that at least one of the the Rapha racers elected to race the event on a bike whose derailleurs had been rendered inoperative (probably with a couple of stout zip-ties), rather than on a true singlespeed bike with only one cog and one chainring. As a singlespeed purist I consider this to be the bigger insult, but I digress.

This is less about the tattoo and more about respecting the promoter's attempts to maintain some semblance of independent, grass-roots bicycle culture in the face of a racing category that is being dragged into legitimacy despite our best efforts. Now that there are national champion's jerseys for Singlespeed cyclocross, things will simply never be the same. But give the promoters some credit for trying to imbue some grass-roots culture into an event that is slowly being sucked into the UCI whether we like it or not. It's not an alleycat; but SSCXWC is also not a UCI/USAC-sanctioned race. I'd say that if you're going to enter, respect what the promoters are trying to do and play by their rules. If you don't want the tattoo, don't enter, or at least don't race to win.

Next year's SSCXWC will be in Santa Cruz, California. The promoters have made it clear that they intend to enforce their rules (meaning that this year's winners will not be allowed to enter another SSCXWC race unless they get their commemorative tattoos). I hear Santa Cruz is lovely in December.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

old bikes are worth saving

On Monday I was presented with a serious dilemma: A customer brought in an old Univega road bike that was his daily commuter. For reasons that remain unclear -- misadjusted rear derailleur? Out-of-true wheel? -- His derailleur over-shifted and went into the rear wheel. A pie-plate spoke guard saved the wheel, but the derailleur snapped in two and the derailleur hanger (the metal tab on the rear dropout into which the rear derailleur threads) was bent over at an almost 70-degree angle. It looked bad.

After closer inspection, I advised the customer that we could try to bend the hanger back but that there was a risk of the metal cracking from the stress of being bent over, and then back; if that failed we'd have to saw off the hanger and either run the bike as a singlespeed or install a Problem Solver emergency derailleur hanger to utilize a replacement derailleur. The customer wasn't interested in running a singlespeed and had limited funds, so he asked us to take the risk and to find a used rear derailleur that could work with his existing drive-train.

Using careful combination of the derailleur alignment beam and a large crescent wrench, I carefully bent the derailleur hanger back into place. Its alignment wasn't perfect but it was straight enough to take another derailleur. I sifted through the box of used derailleurs and found one that would work with his shifters. Ultimately, we had to replace the chain -- it was slightly twisted and would not engage the cogs cleanly anymore -- and straighten the inner chainring, which probably got bent during the mishap.

In the end, I was able to resurrect the bike without forcing the customer to buy a bunch of expensive new parts or a new frame. I did advise him that this would not be a permanent solution; the derailleur hanger was now compromised by being bent repeatedly and he'd have to keep an eye on it. (Judging from the two inches of caked-on road detritus I brushed off the underside of the downtube and bottom bracket shell, I had my doubts that he'd pay much attention before the thing finally gave way for good but at least I did my job in warning him.)

Which leads to my thesis: older steel frames can take a beating and at least 50 per cent of the time they can come back for more. But today, the number of other shops willing to do the kinds of frame straightening that we do regularly is shrinking. (For example, REI no longer straightens frames or forks at all. I learned this when I brought a fork to them several years ago and asked them to double-check my alignment. They cited liability insurance as the primary reason.) And while I understand it, I don't like it. Bike shops used to be miracle workers on a regular basis. Nowadays most of them will steer the customer towards a new part or frame before trying to ressurrect the old frame. I am glad we were able to work a minor miracle for a customer who had limited funds and needed to get back on his bike.