Monday, March 30, 2015

Volunteers do it for free. (Author Unknown)

The Everglades Bicycle Club 2015 Snowbird Ride was last weekend.

For any event like this, there are tons of jobs that need to be done - before, during, and after the ride. It takes a team with confidence, commitment, a sense of humor, and a bit of creativity to pull it off. It is stunning how many hours club members contribute to make the ride happen. Lots of volunteers. Lots and lots of hours of volunteer work.

We enjoyed the ride. It wasn't as windy as some legendary Snowbirds, just windy enough to keep things challenging. Al and I were with a great bunch of friends. Spring rides in Miami don't get much better than this.

Here's a shout out "thanks!" to everyone who did the work that made the ride happen. You did one heck of a good job.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

You can run with the big dogs or sit on the porch and bark. (Wallace Arnold)

When you start riding again after getting yourself hurt in a crash, you have to get over the Annoying Introductory Bump. The first time back on your bike is scary and off-putting because you don't know how it will be. So you finally get out and ride, and you don't embarrass yourself. In fact, you feel great about having done it. Some people take the Bump gradually; some just go for it. I'm with the folks who just go for it: you get past any pain and anxiety faster.

Sunday we rolled the bikes through the lobby, waved goodbye to the lobby staff, and pedaled down the street. The first miles went well. We wheeled south through Coconut Grove. Our destination was Black Point Marina northeast of Homestead. Along the way we waved to several groups of riders we knew. Al held the speed in the 17-19 mph range for what seemed like forever. Then, after passing Deering Estates, he inched the speed up a notch or two. We stopped at Black Point Marina for a short break, then headed back. Easy peasy. The only issue I ran into was using a water bottle. My shoulder argued with me when I went to pull the water bottle out, and I got even more argument from it when I lifted the water bottle to my mouth to drink. I experimented with different ways to get it, even trying to do it left handed. (My solution was simple. Pray quietly for stop signs and red lights and drink then.) The last 7 miles were not my finest. The legs simply lost their will to work. But, with me moving up close and drafting Al, we pedaled home. We rested the next day and repeated the ride on Tuesday, this time doing loops on the Rickenbacker Causeway. With much better results. Then we went out again on Wednesday, this time with a friend along, once again heading south to Black Point Marina.

It is official. I am over the Annoying Introductory Bump. Now I'm back to chasing Al down the road. Which is always fun: any day, any distance, any speed, any weather.

Last year we got our mileage up to a level we like, riding 4 times a week for 50 to 75 miles each ride (about 250 miles a week). It's a sweet spot for us. It's the level where we feel great, sleep great, and have the time and energy for the rest of the stuff we like to do. For 5 weeks I've watched Al head out on bike rides without me.

It's good to be back.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

I do not have OCD OCD OCD. (Emilie Autumn)

Obsessing about cleaning is simply not a sign of good mental health. Cleaning a bicycle, on the other hand, is therapy. I'm into week 5 off the bike. I decided this week to live large: I would clean our bikes.

Between not riding and being unemployed, I have way too much time on my hands. But I have a wealth of bike people friends, and bike people are unselfish about sharing advice on all things bicycle. I got organized and put social media to work (not actually asking for advice, but simply talking about cleaning my road bike). I got lots of responses to my posts, messages, emails, and tweets. I took a day to consolidate and examine your hints. Here's what I learned:
  • People who live in houses love hoses for getting off the big lumps. I live in a highrise. Luckily a bunch of you also live in highrises. The bathtub and a hand-held shower device with an extra long shower hose was what everyone talked about. One friend said she had a vertical bike wall storage hook installed in the shower to hold her bike while she cleaned it. Very nice idea.
  • There was a lot of variation in preferred cleaning products. A few squirts of a gentle liquid dish washing soap in water got the most votes. Some liked it in a bucket, some preferred a spray bottle. Many people were very particular about the brand of soap, too. (Gentle on the hands seemed to be the important consideration.) Simple Green was the hands-down favorite as a degreaser.
  • Getting into those difficult places on the drive train ranked as the area with the most strongly held opinions and ranked number one in the sheer number of tips and hints. Strips of soft cloth, shoelaces, old yarn, cotton garden string, dental floss, Q-tips, and specialty brushes were recommended. Now, I understand people obsessing about this. It is a bitch of an area to clean. I gave each a try. (Thin strips of old t-shirts worked for me.) No matter what anyone advised, my old Park Tool's Chain Scrubber remains my personal favorite for chain cleaning with minimum mess. 
  • Once the big lumps were washed away, the order for the cleaning was first the drivetrain, then the rest of the bike (general order being front to back, top to bottom).
  • Best, most often noted, and funniest advice: Don't put Armor All products on your bike seat, rims, or tires.
  • Biggest thing not to forget: relube the chain.
  • Best thing I learned: blue shop towels. (I asked Al. He had some.) If anyone else is as clueless as I was, these are ultra-strong paper towels. Al gets them at the hardware store. (Who knew?)
So now I have a spiffy clean bike. Next week I'll be out riding it again. (Am I a happy, happy person? Oh, yeah.)

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Everyone has a 'risk muscle.' You keep it in shape by trying new things. If you don't, it atrophies. (Roger von Oech)

Al and I are going to Bicycle Ride Across Georgia (BRAG) in June. It's a week long SAG supported ride. This year's route wanders between Newnan, LaGrange, and Carrollton, three small cities in the rolling hills of Georgia's Piedmont region southwest of Atlanta. And this year the route is a "loop ride," meaning it starts and ends in the same place.

BRAG is a non-profit organization whose purpose is providing affordable bicycle tours through rural Georgia. You can choose to do part or the whole week. The fee works out to a bit more than $50 a day. That fee buys you a route with SAG vehicles on the route, SAG stops with sports drinks, water, and snacks at regular intervals, a t-shirt, and a place to camp at night. BRAG is a "school camping" ride. The ride stays at schools, using classrooms, gyms, and hallways for indoor camping and the school grounds for outdoor camping, and the school's athletic facilities for bathrooms and showers. If you camp outdoors, you sleep in a tent or RV. If you camp indoors, you bring an air mattress as your "camping gear". The organizers move riders' bags from school to school. They usually have an optional ($) food plan, or you can choose to forage for meals on your own. There's also a service ($) which moves luggage to a limited list of motels for riders who want a motel room rather than camping. (That's what we do these days. Obviously camping is inexpensive, but the cost of a motel room can be a pleasant luxury after riding all day. Besides, motels have Wi-Fi and coffee and breakfast in the morning.)

We're fond of BRAG. We've done many BRAGs, and we've done many similar trips in other states. (Just about every state has at least one. like Florida's Bike Florida.) Some state's rides feature high mileage touring and very challenging routes. Other states don't do much in the way of long mileage days but focus instead on great food, scenery, or a party atmosphere. BRAG is somewhere in the middle.

Why did we first start doing these tours? Because they are a cheap and easy way to do bicycle touring without special bike gear. Not to mention it's fun to spend a week around a horde of people who don't think you are a total weenie for wearing lycra, pedaling for hours, getting excited when you make it to the top of a steep climb, or yelling "Wheeeeeeeeeeeee!" on a long fast downhill. It's fun to talk about bike trips over dinner. It's interesting to check out all the bikes. And then there are the surprise finds at vendors. Like the neon yellow smiley print bike shorts I once scored on a trip in the Midwest. Most of all, we enjoy hearing fellow riders talk about their funny and memorable cycling adventures.

What's not to love? Who knows? You may try it and get hooked on touring like we did. It's a great way to see the country.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Never knock on death's door. Ring the doorbell then run. He totally hates that. (Darynda Jones)




I stared at the stationery bike in the gym. I hadn't even started. I already was close to being bored to death. One guy was pedaling energetically on a bike to my left. His eyes were glued to the news on the TV. I sighed, turned on my music, and started pedaling.

I was pedaling for about a minute and a half when I had a thought. I was bored with being bored. I had to keep riding the indoor bike. But I didn't have to be bored today. I slowed, unclipped, left the gym, took the elevator up to my floor, and headed to our unit. A few minutes later I was back in the gym. I was wearing bike shorts and a sweet little bicycle cap (brim turned up, of course).

I remounted my stationery bike. The guy was still on the bike in front of the TV. He turned and looked at me, a little puzzled wrinkle between his eyebrows. I wiggled my fingers in a small wave. "I was bored," I smiled. "Needed some motivation. A little fantasy." We traded a couple of quips. I adjusted my earbuds, turned up my music (some Brooklyn hip-hop bluegrass fusion), and started to pedal.

Death by boredom foiled yet another day.

PS. Yes, Pat, those are the little silver bicycle earrings you gave me. The perfect finishing touch for my fantasy bike race...