Thursday, January 30, 2014

How much of our life occurs simply because we don’t step backwards fast enough? (James Sallis)

Life is full of unexpected consequences.

As we rode more and more around Miami on group rides, our go-to bikes became our road bikes. Dust gathered on our trusty little mountain bikes. Then one day that little light bulb above our heads flickered:
  1. All our biking didn't have to be full-tilt-boogie-down-the-road performance stuff.
  2. We needed some cycling variety or riding would get tiresome. Ice cream is wonderful, but not when it is all you get to eat. Same with always being on just one bike. 
Stopping on Card Sound Bridge to enjoy the view.
Friends in other cities joined Slow Bicycle Societies for just this variety. They ride 14-16 mph, even do slow bicycle half centuries and metrics. Someone months ago suggested we go on rides with Tom Burton. Tom does lots of fat-tire rides. Not technical stuff. Not rides down muddy single track or over logs and slippery rocks and roots. Slow bicycle society style riding. Pedaling 14-16 mph, stopping at times to watch wildlife and scenery, enjoying friends and maybe lunch. Another way of having a group ride.


We're going to pick Tom's brain to learn where all the long gravel roads lead. We'll still do the same miles each month. We'll still do our regular training rides. We'll still do the Saturday Everglades Bicycle Club group rides. We'll still do the group ride up to Hollywood. But we're going to add the diversity of different rides at different speeds on both skinny and fatter tires.

At times it pays to step backwards just fast enough.

Tom Burton having a little fun at Jewfish Creek.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Everglades National Park by Bicycle

We put the bikes on the car rack. We were heading just a few miles down the road to ride in a World Heritage Site. What's not to love about living in Miami? Other people travel around the globe to visit a World Heritage Site.

Our destination: Everglades National Park. We would be meeting up with Everglades Bicycle Club member Tom Burton. Tom leads an EBC group ride through the park. It's a progressive ride, that is, you can choose where you start along the route. That lets riders choose how many miles they want to ride. We were starting with Tom at the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center. We'd ride with him the full route from the Visitor Center to Flamingo and back, a total of 80 miles. Other riders would join us along the route for shorter rides.

Everglades National Park was founded fairly recently (1947). It holds the distinction of being the first national park founded primarily because of its ecological importance. At 1.51 million acres, it's big. There aren't many miles of paved road in the park, but the longest one is the one to Flamingo.

The first dozen plus miles is a bumpy chip seal road, but after that the road surface is new smooth pavement. We were on the bikes we use for touring, mountain bikes with 1.5 inch street tires. Tom was riding a hybrid. The other riders were on road bikes. The pace for this ride is easy touring speed: 14-16 mph with stops for wildlife and nature viewing. Perfect!

The morning was unusually brisk, and we were all dressed in extra layers (jackets, vests, arm and leg warmers, etc.)  Tourists from snow zone states and countries laugh at us, but in Miami cold is anything under 60 degrees and frigid cold is anything under 50 degrees. This morning it was 43 degrees.  (Brrrrrrr.)

Things were immediately better once we started riding. The sun felt wonderful. As we pedaled along, cars passed us with bikes in bike carriers, and riders we would be picking up down the road waved and called out to us. We picked up riders at three spots along the route. The wildlife in the Everglades is fabulous. We glimpsed an alligator or two, saw all kinds of birds, even rousting dozens of egrets at one spot, the birds winging off in a flurry of wide white wings. There was the unscheduled stop to fix a flat tire. (I wish I had a video of it. Funnier than a Saturday Night Live skit.) Pedal, pedal, pedal. We arrived at Flamingo.

We opted for a picnic lunch at the Flamingo Marina. Some riders had packed in their lunch. Others of us foraged in the marina store. We watched the pontoon tour boats come and go. A family of tourists struck up a conversation with us. Manatees entertained us. A nicer spot would be hard to find. After lunch we decided to bike around Flamingo, past the old pink mid century modern building, down the multi-path to the campgrounds, and back around. Beautiful views of Florida Bay, white pelicans, and people out in kayaks and canoes.

Then it was time to pedal back, dropping riders at their cars, heading back down the highway to Coe Visitor Center. We stopped along the way, of course. Be fools not to. Tom told us about the many places we could explore on future rides. And then there was the "little something extra" that comes at the end of the best rides. We stopped at a bridge not far from the park entrance. An egret softly winged upward and away. And below us, so close we could practically see our reflections in his eyes, was a big alligator, all tucked in among some grass below the bridge.

If you are an Everglades Bicycle Club member and you haven't been on this ride with Tom Burton, put it on your list of rides to do in 2014. After all, everybody else has to spend big bucks to buy a plane ticket and the rest of the vacation fixings to visit a World Heritage Site. All you have to do is drive a few miles. And you have a fellow EBC club member as your ride leader and tour guide.

What's not to love about that?

Monday, January 13, 2014

Give me some sugar, baby. ("Army of Darkness", 1992)

When family and friends who don't bike see what I eat every day and when I ride, it can be a little embarrassing. Most people are concerned about eating too much. My concern is to eat enough.

We did a lot of experimenting during the past few months. We did a nutrition comparison of a bunch of the top selling energy gels, energy bars, and electrolyte drink tablets. Using this information, we put together our own bike food and drink. We use plain electrolyte tablets (no added sugar). Using a tablet per water bottle and adding 150 calories of sugar, we make our own energy drink. Two bottles on the bike: 300 calories. Add to that a medium banana (about 100 calories, plus that nice potassium), two granola snack bars (about 150 calories each). That adds up to 700 calories, all of which get consumed for one of our daily metric rides. My back-up stash is a few dozen jelly beans (10 calories per jelly bean). This costs about $3-4 per ride. (All this is in addition to my usual ride-day breakfast of oatmeal, a cup of sliced fresh fruit, a tablespoon of sliced nuts, and a half cup or so of plain Greek yogurt and a couple cups of strong black coffee.)

If I take fewer calories with me on a ride, I run out of energy during the ride. 700 calories (plus my emergency jelly beans) seems to be my sweet spot.

Give me some sugar, baby.

Monday, January 6, 2014

You don’t get smarter as you get older. There’s just less stupid stuff left that you haven’t already done.

Recapping: We have decided to reinvent ourselves from touring cyclists to randonneuring cyclists. Al's plan is to gradually increase our mileage and speed. Right now we are doing metric centuries each time we go out for a ride.

This level of riding is a lot, but it's pretty much what you do when you are touring. It's basically a time management issue. You've got to set aside the hours for the riding, but, more important, you've got to set aside the time you need each day for resting. A nap in the afternoon. A good night's sleep each night. Which means you need to carefully edit the things you need to do each day "to have a life." Less important activities need to be scaled back. (Being unemployed is definitely a big plus here.)

We started the new routine in December. At first I'd start each day with a full tank of gas. Then we'd go out riding. And I'd come home with maybe of a quarter a tank of gas left for the rest of the day. This week I'm coming home with maybe a third of a tank left for the rest of the day. In other words, it's getting better!

 What's life without the stupid stuff?