Archive for category memory

It was only a flesh wound

There isn’t a picture. I didn’t think to take one. It never occured to me that this would be the end. You can imagine my surprise when I got the call.



“I’m calling from REI about your Novara.”


“Novara is not authorizing the repair.”

The end result is (going to be) a new bike. Which is good for me, right? I was going to need a new crankset and a new cassette pretty soon anyway. And now I don’t need to install that cable and housing I have in the garage. And, I’m going to have a brand new bike.

But, Eva is gone. That cable stop snapped off clean. The frame was undamaged. Even the mechanics at REI thought it would be a simple repair, a couple of new rivets and I could be on my way. Instead, it was a flesh wound that festered and killed my bike. Now she’s off to some junk yard (or some clever REI mechanic is making her into a carbon singles speed – that’s what I’d do).

Earlier tonight I drove over to REI to finalize the return and order my new bike. Standing at the counter waiting for the mechanics to sort out my return I caught a glimpse of my bike through the open doors. They rolled it by, took of the pedals and that was it. She was gone.

We cyclists often talk about our bikes like they’re people. The bikes we ride get names and genders and have personalities. We feel guilty when they’re neglected and baby them whenever we can. It’s a special relationship. It’s probably not healthy but it’s the way we are.

I didn’t even get to say goodbye.



in the saddle…

I’ve set out in the rain and come home dry, or mostly dry.

I’ve sat comfortably behind big men, the ones that are as wide as Volkswagen Beetle.

I’ve dropped those same men.

I’ve been dropped by women.

And old men.

I’ve set out in the sunshine and come home wet.

I’ve stopped, not because I needed to rest but because I wanted a moment to take it in.

I’ve sat up when the gap was too big.

I’ve had road rash.

I’ve run red lights.

I’ve been defeated by headwinds.

And Coleman Valley Road.

I’ve stopped for wildlife.

I’ve been honked at.

And yelled at.

And waved at.

And smiled at.

I’ve slowed down to chat with strangers.

I’ve taken turns at the front.

I’ve been stopped by the police.

I’ve underdressed.

And overdressed.

I’ve suffered.

But mostly, I’ve had fun.

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Remember the time you pulled up to a stoplight with clipless pedals? You squeezed the brakes and slowed down and, at some point, realized your feer where stuck to the pedals-either that or you clipped out about a block before you actually needed to stop. It was OK, though, you were new to cycling-or new to clipless pedals, at least and your embarrassment was tempered by the knowledge that everyone has done it at least once.

Or, that’s what we tell ourselves.

Now, you’re a pro at getting in and out of your pedals, but what about those other moments of shame you experience, the things you hope nobody saw:

That awkward moment when you’re putting arm warmers on, your hand slips & you punch yourself in the face. Yep I just did that. You can laugh. (@ridempowered)

I once stopped behind a pair of cyclists at a light and opted to lean on post instead of clip out. It was great, until I rolled back a few inches, caught my pedal on the post and fell straight to pavement, feet still safely clipped to the bike. The two guys in front of me just sort of looked back as I dusted myself off. I’ve also spit on myself, dropped a bottle on a hill, turned the wrong way on a group ride, crashed on a descent, and been made fun of by a pedestrian for having hairy legs.

Oh, and I once tried to inflate a tire without twisting the presta valve open…

in a bike shop…

as the mechanic watched.


If you’re worried about looking like a fool when you’re out on your bike, don’t. We’ve all done it. Dust yourself off or ice your face or go running into the brush after that stray bottle, then get back on that bike and ride.


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I came, I saw, I survived.

At the San Francisco Giants’ games of my youth the old men with browning hats filled with small orange pins were everywhere. They were the real fans. The fans that made Giants so much better than Dodgers fans. They were the fans that showed up and stayed until the bitter end. The Croix de Candlestick pins were proof.

As a kid I wanted nothing more than extra-inning baseball (bonus baseball!) and dreamed of earning myself a cap full of pins (not that I’d ever wear it, only the old guys did that). I know I must have earned at least one of the pins which were handed out for simply surviving the stick into extra innings on a night game, but I have no idea what I did with it.

Cycling can be like that too. We all have our stories of glory (or folly). Forty mile-per-hour winds. Rain. Fog. Temperatures below freezing. (The first organized ride I ever participated in was Bike around the Buttes and if you give me enough time, I’ll tell you about how there wasn’t even hot coffee left at the end!) Commuters can be the worst.

All winter people at work have to hear me say things like, “of course I rode today.” And, “oh, it isn’t that bad.” On rainy days I say, “the wind is the worst, at least it wasn’t windy.” And on windy days I say, “oh, well, at least it wasn’t rainy.” Mostly, I’m being honest. The weather really usually isn’t as bad as it seems. But there’s a little posturing too; men who wear Lycra in public will do that.

It happened to rain today. It was one of the few winter storms we’ve had all year. Today, I happened to drive to work. Those two things were not related.

I drove to work so that I might avoid passing out in the middle of my 8 mile commute. A thing I was worried about because illness had limited my food intake for the previous 48 hours to a few crackers, a few bites of pasta, and ½ bowl of soup. I was tired and weak and I really wasn’t sure if I’d survive. Also, my wife insisted.

So, I didn’t get Croix de Commute this morning. I’m forced to tell everyone that asks that, “no, I didn’t ride my bike today.” Instead I drove through the rain, stopped at Starbucks and walked through the back door of the office mostly dry. But, unlike those Croix de Candlestick pins which, unless they’ve started giving them out for merely suffering through an entire football game (the agony!), can’t be earned anymore, I can suffer through the elements another day. If I feel like it.

Update: Title added.

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posted from the safety of my car

Last night I had a dream that I was vilified on local news for jaywalking with my daughter. In the dream, my daughter and I appeared on the local news, first waiting to cross a street at a stoplight. On the news, the image was of my daughter and I and apparently came from one of those traffic cameras they use to spy on citizens. The voice over on the TV was about negligent parents. I knew that my family was with us as the news cut to another spy traffic camera of my daughter and I walking, diagonally across an empty street and the legs of my wife, mom and brother just at the edge of the frame. There was a sound of a horn and a squeal of over inflated tires which, I knew, had been added to the video by the news station. The voice over told viewers about the dangers of walking and crossing streets in particular.

This morning I woke up and found this in my Google Reader Feed:

Also, I read this (from an article about a high school student who was killed last Thursday when she was struck by a car walking to a bus stop):

“You really have to wave the flag at the bull, so to speak,” he said, “because drivers are really self-consumed, and it is hard to get them to stop.”

A superstitious person would lock himself in his house for a few weeks and wait for the bad omens to be forgotten. Perhaps, give up walking and cycling all together. Sleep in his car. Because, as we know from all evidence that is available, your car is the safest place you could ever be. I mean that with absolute sincerity.

Really. Using my advanced graphing skills, I’ve drawn a bar graph* of my own to demonstrate:

As you can see, cars are not dangerous at all which is why it makes sense to compare walking on a public street to the safest and most sane of all sports: bull fighting.

*Information based entirely on the data above making many assumptions about the data that are probably inaccurate and shortsighted.

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Since we’re being honest here

Sooooo I got pulled over the other day. Yes by a real cop. I was also *hangs head in shame* on my bicycle.  Now why would I rather be pulled over in my car than on my bicycle you ask? Well honestly I’d rather not be pulled over at all but my reasons for my detesting it more on my bike than in a car are should probably be left to another post entirely.  So back to my story…

The scene played out as follows: I was riding in a residential neighborhood, in the bike lane, down a slightly down-sloped road and I quit pedaling, coasted, took one hand off the handlebars & held my finger to one nostril, turned my head & blew my nose.  I noticed, at the very moment of ‘snot ejecting’ that I was flying right through a stop sign.  Oops!  Good thing there wasn’t anyone around (or so I thought).  I came to the next stop sign, slowed up, stood up on the pedals, came to a near track stand (the cyclist’s ‘stop’ at a stop sign) and seeing that there wasn’t anyone around, I let go of the breaks to continue on.  However, the second I let go of the breaks to roll through, I heard the oh-so familiar ‘woop woop’ of a police officer’s car siren.  Ah MAAAAAN.

The conversation went about as much as expected.  I did admit that I blew through the previous stop sign because I was blowing my nose (not an excuse, just a reason) but that I did come to a ‘stop’ at the next one! I was honest and I smiled but alas in the end, I did receive a ticket (which apparently doesn’t affect your car insurance or go on your record because you are in fact, not driving a car) but I will have to pay some kind of fine.  Fine.

Not long after that, I was at a restaurant bar for a quick dinner & to try their house-beer.  There was a couple there who were ‘bikers’. I feel I should now explain the that there is in fact a definitive difference between a ‘cyclist’ and a ‘biker’.  A cyclist is someone who rides a pedal bike wearing lycra.  A biker is someone who rides a motorized bike wearing leather.  At this point in the conversation they asked me what it is that I ‘do’.  I paused and then said ‘Well, I race a bike and I coach cyclists’.  ‘Really?!’ They proclaimed that they would never ride a bicycle but rather a motorcycle.  In order to keep myself on good terms, I exclaimed that I do in fact have my motorcycle license but that I don’t own a motorcycle.  Whew!  I was saved.  Oh but wait……

The couple and the bar tender proceeded to complain about cyclists.  Their general disgust for us ‘taking up’ the road, making them wait, causing them to have to drive around us etc was quite apparent.  Okay fine. But then….

They talked about how they heard someone drove up next to a whole group of cyclists (peloton) who were taking up the whole lane, opened their car door and took one of the cyclists out.  They then started laughing.


Okay this is where I couldn’t just sit there and listen anymore.  I looked quite seriously as them as said ‘You realize that’s assault with a deadly weapon don’t you?!’

The laughing and conversation quickly stopped.  However, it wasn’t 15 seconds later when one of them waved their hand dismissing the gravity of my accusation and practically yelled ‘Well cyclists don’t obey any of the laws! They don’t stop at stop signs and they don’t signal!’

They were right. There are way too many of us who do that. It only takes one of us to completely blow through a stop sign or change lanes in traffic without politely signalling to turn the general public against us and further our difficulty in gaining a voice in legislature or sponsorship dollars for the sport in general.  That doesn’t excuse their complete lack of humanity regarding an obviously life-threatening act. I still think I win. While I’ve always signaled my intent to turn or change lanes while riding my bike, I’ve also started ‘bike stopping’ at every stop sign.


that’s not so bad…

One of the things that happens when you show up to the office in Lycra shorts everyday is that people, those who aren’t busy scoffing at or ignoring you, ask, “so, how far is your ride?”

I suspect this is, in part, a bit of posturing; an attempt to indicate that the person asking the question is, indeed, a hip, open minded individual who has no problem with any other person, even if that other person’s idea of a good time is riding around on a bicycle with very tight shorts.

Either that, or they’re just curious (but simple curiosity doesn’t fit into my current world view in which all people have strong opinions about cyclists and what they wear).

The question doesn’t bother me at all. In fact, and this may be surprising to hear, I very much enjoy talking cycling. So I tell them, as casually as possible, “oh, about 8 miles.” They sometimes follow-up with, “about how long does it take?” To which I respond, “a little less than an ½ hour.”

You’ll notice, I do not say “7.9 miles here and 8.05 home,” or, “on average 27, minutes. My PR, with fully packed bag, mind you, is around 25:42, that was going home. I find it a bit more difficult to warm up in the morning.” I don’t say all of that because I’m worried I might feed this person’s idea that all cyclists are elitist, self-absorbed snobs who will sacrifice life and limb to be ranked first on some random Strava segment.

We wouldn’t want any of that.

“About 8 miles.” I don’t even specify that’s each way, it’s a subtle message that I don’t care if they think my commute is half as long as it actually is. “A little less than half an hour.” Or, I don’t even care how long it takes.

In fact, I do care about those things which is why I don’t want to talk anymore when the response is, “oh, that’s not too bad.”

Indeed, it’s not too bad if you’re pro, semi-pro, weekend warrior, daily bike commuter or my daughter on her Skuut, but when you’re the dude who complains about having to park too far from the building, an 8 mile bike commute is, almost certainly, pretty damn far.

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Fallen rider

Unfortunate news of a local and fellow rider who sustained major head injuries while riding the Foxy Fall Century in Nortern California over the weekend. A constant reminder to be safe out there.

Robb Deignan passed away on October 15, 2011 in a bicycle accident while riding in the Foxy Fall Century. Robb was a great FATRAC member who led fun rides, and shared his expertise with the media to help the FATRAC board polish its message. We were a better club because of Robb. He will be missed and fondly remembered. Ride on Robb.
– Cathy Haagen-Smit FATRAC member


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Willow Creek Road

The dirt option. The gravel section. Stairway to heaven. Relentless.

If it had been paved the Willow Creek Road climb would be nothing spectacular. It would have been just another tree lined climb up yet another hill through yet another series of switchbacks. In fact, I probably wouldn’t have noticed it. But, it wasn’t paved and for those of us who quit mountain biking because we fell too often, riding an 11 mile dirt road on a road bike doesn’t seem very logical. Some of us did it anyway.

It took me a bit to get used to picking my lines up the climb. I couldn’t always just aim for the least steep path and head up-most of the time the outside of the switchbacks were littered with loose gravel…anyway, you guys are probably tired of me talking about Levi’s Gran Fondo, so here it is:

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Levi’s King Ridge Gran Fondo, 2011

If you follow me on Twitter you might already know that trip didn’t go exactly as planned. Sam and I got to Santa Rosa on Friday night as planned check in and headed downtown to have some dinner and a couple of drinks. Everything was great and both of us were feeling quite keen for the ride. But shortly after we’d gone to bed Sam got ill and in the morning he was barely able to get out of bed. Riding the bike was out of the question.

So I ditched him. I did offer to drive him home and just skip the ride, but in the end his wife drove on down to get him and I went out to ride by myself. Or with 7500 strangers.

The conditions were a lot different than the previous two years. Most of King Ridge and the approach to the coast were socked in with fog. It was cold, the roads were wet and the wind was blowing, but it was a good day. Amazingly, when we got to the coast, the sun came out and it started to warm a bit.

I felt pretty good and just ground out a good rhythm most of the day. After crossing the Russian River near Jenner I opted to turn left on Willow Creek Road for the dirt option and, while it was hard work, I was glad I did. Willow Creek was probably about 10 miles of dirt and gravel roads, all of it gradual climbing with about 3 miles of proper climbing.

I’ll put together another video in the next few days with the footage of Willow Creek Road I have, but for now, this pretty much captures how the day went:



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