Monday, August 29, 2016

Every man is a damn fool for at least five minutes every day; wisdom consists in not exceeding the limit. (Elbert Hubbard)

Obsessions are wonderful things.

Bicycle obsessions especially. The endorphin-driven elation of setting a personal best: riding faster or longer than ever before. The excitement of finding and trying new bicycles or gear. The adventure of searching for new routes to challenge the legs, for new scenery to delight the eye.

Labor Day is a week away. The heat and humidity of the South Florida summer will be waning in the weeks ahead. Florida's best biking weather is coming. Our calendar is rapidly filling up with bicycle travel and bicycle events. The bikes have been tuned up and checked; new gear has been fitted and readied for use.

We are set to saddle up our favorite obsessions and let them stretch their legs.

And why do we do this? Well, we'd be fools not to.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Food is an important part of a balanced diet. (Fran Lebowitz)

Sometimes you eat to ride. Sometimes you ride to eat.

Hobe Sound
Al and I are eat-to-ride people, especially when we travel. Which is a good thing. Florida has areas with sophisticated dining, but it also has areas where the cuisine is based on barbecued critters, dares, and deep fryers. Because a lot of our travel is to places with few dining opportunities, we really appreciate road trips with cyclists who are in the ride-to-eat camp.

Walking to dinner on the nearby recreational path.
When we heard that a group of cyclists we'd met through the Everglades Bicycle Club was heading up to Jupiter for a weekend of riding, we jumped at the opportunity to join them. We had done this weekend road trip with them once before. This was a group that enjoyed good conversation and interesting places to eat. Excellent.

Jupiter is the northernmost town in Palm Beach County. Just an hour and a half north of Miami. (And just 20 miles north of Donald Trump's Florida home.) The area is great for cycling. It also has beautiful beaches, waterways, ocean parks, and  lots of restaurants.

We were staying at a hotel on the Intracoastal Waterway. It's a brilliant choice for a bicycle weekend. A paved recreational path runs behind the hotel. We used the path to walk along the water to a nearby marina and restaurants in the evening. The hotel's pool area had a couple of large tiki huts that made hanging out at the pool an inviting option.

When we arrived, we ran into another friend from the Everglades Bicycle Club. He and his wife were also staying at the hotel. He was doing a ride with some randonneurs on Saturday. (He is working on a 12-month award again this year.) He and his wife said they would join us for our Sunday ride to the Jupiter Donut Factory. (I ask you, who can resist doing a donut ride?)

The weekend's cycling was excellent. Our Saturday route took us past Blowing Rocks Preserve, to Hobe Sound, down quiet residential roads along the ocean, and over intracoastal bridges with lovely views. We looped back past the hotel, heading down to another ocean park before finally heading back. Sunday's route took us over a bridge or two and past a basball training park then on to an excellent donut shop. After a quick stop for a donut we pedaled on to the Jupiter Pier. We stopped for a stroll down the Pier. Then Al and I rode with the group back to the hotel to say our goodbyes. They would be packing up, checking out, and heading to a nearby restaurant for lunch. We were staying another day, so we were going to keep pedaling for another loop up past Hobe Sound.

Good food, good conversation, cycling friends, laughter, and beautiful summer weather. A perfect cycling road trip.
Amazing food and good conversation at The Food Shack.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Anytime you see a turtle up on top of a fence post, you know he had some help. (Alex Haley)

Sometimes I think I ride a bicycle as an excuse to take pictures.

My camera is an Olympus. It isn't fancy. We are talking your basic easy to use point-and-shoot.  Its picture quality is decent, and its HD video is excellent. Its best feature is that it is tough and waterproof. It has survived, mounted on my bike's handlebar,  rides in heavy rain. It has been in a couple of crashes (crashes that did more damage to me, my pride, and my bar tape than the camera). I've dropped it while riding. I've even accidentally stepped on it.

When I first got the camera, I looked at the instructions briefly. I figured out how to use it by trial and error. (Does anybody read the instruction manual?)

I got bored one day last week. So bored I read the camera's instruction manual. I was looking at all its settings when I saw one I had never noticed before. It simply said "Magic." Magic? Curious, checked it out. Turns out there are a dozen special effect filters built into the camera. Who would have guessed?

So I flipped the dial to Magic and started taking pictures. In the course of a week I went through all twelve effects, using each on different subjects and in different light conditions.

The appeal of using the built in filters is that they are easy, much easier than using an app or photo editor. Most weren't very interesting or useful. But two were outstanding. One filter creates dramatic shots in low light (think restaurants or the city at night). Another creates a mirror image (reflection). I found myself playing with that one quite a bit. It's most effective with very geometric objects. Like bicycles. And I take a lot of pictures of bicycles.

So I now have a new (free!) toy.

Hocus pocus, abracadabra!    ...Magic!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

When you're average, you're just as close to the top as you are the bottom.

Ever worry that you aren't working hard enough on a ride?

Happens to me. I think it happens to everyone.

Growing up, I lived exactly one mile from school. First on a dare, then for a long time just because it was fun, some friends and I used to run the whole distance home. We would arrive home panting and laughing and red in the face. We didn't care who was fastest or who was the slowest. We were just friends having fun.

Those handy little computers on our bicycles and our much-loved GPS data have changed the way the average cyclist takes a ride. The computers and GPS data are useful and helpful and fun. But, sometimes we have too much information. Information that is addictive.

All that performance information makes training more efficient and lets us enjoy some fun competitive moments. But is the data and the competition more important than enjoying the ride with friends? When that becomes the case, then maybe we need to take a step back from it all.

When all is said and done, we are just out there riding bicycles. Wonderful, beautiful, bewitching, elegant, darn good-looking bicycles, to be sure. But we are just out there riding bicycles.

So when I worry about the stats while I'm out on a ride with friends, I take a deep breath. And another. Then I remind myself that the Olympics aren't in my future: focus on the ride.

Pedal, pedal, pedal. Just enjoy the ride.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

I always wanted to be somebody, but now I realize I should have been more specific. (Lily Tomlin)

Bicycles are beautiful machines. Some people think any bicycle will do. I've never found that to be true. If you like to ride a lot, you need to pick your bicycle with care.

Bike fit is important of course. But the bike must also meet your individual needs. The better the bike works for you, the more you will enjoy riding.

Take our road bikes. My current road bike is the fourth good road bike I've owned over the years. My last bike was a great bike with a great ride, but the vibrations from choppy pavement and the stress of shifting made long rides difficult for me. I was having some issues with stiffness and arthritis. So we looked at road bikes that would make those issues less of a problem for me. We needed endurance bikes with electronic shifting. The bikes we chose (Trek Domanes) are lovely to look at, but, more important, I no longer suffer on long rides. My arthritic joints are very happy as we pedal and pedal and pedal.

A friend asked, "You sure do ride those bikes a lot; are you any good?" I just smiled and replied, "The bikes are good; we just enjoy the ride."

Bicycles are beautiful machines. Picking the right one makes all the difference in the world.