Michael

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Homepage: http://talkingtreads.wordpress.com

as far as I can tell…

We turned 2 today.

Since our first post I’ve become a regular bike commuter and Kurt has ridden in his first bike race. What I said originally is still true: we’re not experts at anything, really.

Now, go ride your bike.

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The Secret of Cycling Pants Shorts | for Thomas

A friend sent me a message yesterday suggesting we meet up for a ride and that I teach him the secret of cycling pants. I’m not exactly sure what he was looking for (a explanation of why we wear Lycra? Or some secret to finding the right pants?) so I’m going to make a few assumptions, including that he meant “shorts.”

Like finding the right tire pressure or lubing chain or quality bearings, cycling shorts are all about FRICTION. Specifically the attempt to minimize FRICTION. When it comes to tire pressure or chain wear or crappy bearings friction is that annoying little beast that makes everything just a bit more difficult (of course a certain amount of friction, specifically between the tire and the tarmac, is required, but too much is…well…too much). Things are a bit more…urgent.

Just ask Tom Boonen.

Of course, a good pair of shorts offers other benefits, but none of them matter quite as much as the reduction of friction. So, buy a pair of shorts that fit and, for the love of everything good, get rid of the plush saddle.

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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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That’s Why

At the end of a long, difficult day at work there’s the tendency to put my head down, get in the drops and crank; the effort and distraction is refreshing and welcome. Yesterday, after a tailwind assisted sprint down International and onto the canal trail I stopped briefly.

The steep, rocky embankment drops down from behind the warehouses and industrial buildings. The 2-lane service road which, at least to me, acts as a bike highway of sorts, forms a sort of step before another steep drop to surface of the water. Between the road and the water steeply angled cement slabs form the walls of the canal. The fence is rusting.

It’s hardly the most beautiful place I ride and on windy days it’s one of the most miserable because the trench feels like a wind tunnel. It beats battling the cars on Sunrise. The section I ride daily includes about four miles of uninterrupted, isolated road. At most I might see a handful of other cyclists (if the weather is nice) or a lone private security vehicle cruising along, yellow light flashing on the roof. Many days, it’s just me.

Yesterday afternoon, after crossing Sunrise and pedaling a quarter of a mile or so down the path I rolled over some debris that seemed to stick in my rear tire and click click as moved over the cracking pavement. So I stopped to check for glass. Then I just stood there a minute. It wasn’t silent. Highway 50 was probably less than a half mile to the north and behind me was the six lane Sunrise Blvd. But, with out the wind in my ears it was damn near. The clouds were high and fat with rain but none was falling. And, despite the few bits of cardboard that floated in the water below and the roofs of a dozen or so industrial buildings it was peaceful. Quiet. Beautiful.

As close as I was to the cars, the office, the end of a long day, I felt about as far away as I could. People often ask why I ride. That’s why.

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#ThatAwkwardCyclingMoment

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.

Awkward.

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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Act Now!

After a week of rain we’re getting a break from the late winter this week (rumor has it that it might rain again tomorrow but, it’s going to be almost 70°). It’s about time y’all start thinking about commuting.

Lucky for you, between now and Sunday you can go to Santa Monica Mountains Cyclery and trade in that SUV for a bike.

Customers can pick out a new bike at the cyclery — which features a giant flat-screen TV, leather club chairs and an espresso maker, not to mention some sweet two-wheeled rides — then head over the Ford dealership. They’ll trade in their cars, get a check and head back to the bike shop. Any leftover money goes back to the customer.

If I only had an extra car.

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On the rain

First, let me apologize for how quiet it’s been around here recently. Kurt and I happened to go on family vacations at the same time this year (not together) and that, a week or so off of work, always comes with a week of frantic preparation and a week of frantic catching up. Or, at least, that’s my excuse, I think Kurt’s probably still lost on some beach in Hawaii.

I spent about 8 days on the California Central Coast and, between beaches, drives down to Big Sur, trips to the aquarium and shuttling around my wife’s 15 year-old half-sister, I managed to get out for a couple of bike rides in pretty fantastic weather.

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I returned home only to find that the rain we’d been missing all winter was due to arrive just in time for my (now dark) morning commutes,

Thirty minutes (or just under) is about perfect when you’re talking about riding in the rain. At 50° it’s not cold enough to get the chills and just as the water starts to slosh around in your shoes and breach the “water resistant” barrier jacket you’re wearing, you’re pulling into the parking lot at work and (careful not slip due to the wet tile, cycling shoe combo) heading into the locker room to change into some dry clothes.

Then, after you’ve hung up socks and jackets and laid out your shorts and jersey to dry in the back of your cubicle, people walk by your desk and say, “you didn’t ride today, did you?” And suddenly you become a hero, at least temporarily, for braving the elements and showing dedication to the cause. Or, maybe they add it to the list of things that make you weird, right after “wears Lycra in public.”

At least, that’s my experience.

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2012 NAHBS | These Commuter Bikes Are Way Cooler than Anything Inside

The dust has settled. The bikes have been packed up and sent back to wherever they came from. 2012 NAHBS is over and I was there…at least for a few hours.

I drove west on Saturday morning, after a relaxing morning with the family that involved walking behind my 3 year-old as she rode her Skuut to Starbucks. The weather was fantastic and by the time we were heading back home the four of us were taking off coats and throwing off blankets an, more or less, wondering what ever happened to winter.

It was with a small amount of regret that, at around 10:00, I loaded myself into the car and started the trek downtown. I was going to NAHBS. That basically meant I’d drive downtown, park in a garage and spend a good portion of the middle of the day inside the convention center. Needless to say, it was a little difficult to put all those exclamation marks I’d been seeing on Twitter on my departure.

The irony of an avid bike commuter driving fewer than 15 miles to a handmade bike show is not lost on me. But time being what it is and parenthood being what it is, I decided to forgo a ride into the city in exchange for more time with the bikes.

I half expected the area around the convention center (a neighborhood I’m very familiar with thanks to the many years my wife worked directly across the street) to be filled with bearded men and women riding fixed gear freestyle in the streets. It wasn’t (though I did, almost instantly, see bearded men and women*).

Without much effort I was credentialed and walking into the exhibit hall through the media entrance. Later I would find out that the show had more visitors (8100 total) than any other year and that Saturday was the most crowded day of the three days, but as I entered the exhibit hall I was completely overwhelmed, first by the throngs of people, then by the bright shinny bicycles.

I’m one of those bloggers who continues to surprised by my inclusion as a “member of the press” and I as I approached the show I realized I had no idea what I was going to see or what I’d write about that wouldn’t be covered in print on 27 other bike blogs. I’m not a talented photographer and I didn’t even bother to bring a camera (except for the one on my iPhone) and I really had no plan of attack.

So I wondered around aimlessly for a few minutes and half hoped to run into someone I knew (despite the fact that I wouldn’t recognize any of those people unless they were holding up photos of their Twitter avatars next to their faces).

To recap: I had no plan, I was overwhelmed, and I didn’t have as much time as I would have liked. Or, it was like just about every long ride I’ve ever done.

It was Cyclelogical.

I managed to get my barrings and pointed myself at a booth with a familiar logo. They don’t build bikes and it was pretty clear that they were a little stressed out about selling enough T-Shirts to cover the cost of the trip, but they were having a good show and told me to come back in an hour for a look at something new that they’d put together just for NAHBS.

Having reviewed a Cyclelogical commuter bag not so long ago, I was excited to see what the small company would have in store for me when I got back. So I left.

Probably the only person at the show to stop at two clothing booths before I bothered to look at bikes, I headed from the Cyclelogical booth to Twin Six and landed in a long conversation with Brent Gale.

He did the thing he was supposed to do, he showed me their new knickers (we already knew about those) and a nice merino hoody (want). He talked about the show and the DeLorean (which he had to remind me about) and midgets. And then, just about the time he mentioned the fact that other people didn’t find his tweet humorous, he started talking about design and work and how difficult and rewarding the whole thing was.

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Then he pointed me towards the Signal Cycles booth where I spent a good amount of time talking to Nate Meschke, one of the 2 builders who ran the company. We talked about Portland and the show and how hard it was to do every year and how they probably wouldn’t be back in 2013, unless the show was in Denver, then they’d probably have to go…Nate told me that NAHBS is a must for new builders, but a difficult and expensive weekend for small, established shops like Signal.

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Like a good amateur journalist, I talked to all these people and failed to take anything resembling notes. This is because I was distracted by how much friendly and honest and open all the builders I talked to were. I wondered around, introducing myself and just chatting about what they were doing, what they liked, what you could ride over with that bike with 36 inch wheels. I didn’t even bother to take but a handful of photos.

I did go back to the Cyclelogical booth to see these new, American made, SPD compatible shoes. I think he said they’d be about $250.

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As I exited the convention center I heard a guy on his phone, “the commuter bikes outside are way cooler than anything they have inside,” he might have been right, but the builders and exhibitors inside were way more interesting than both.

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NAHBS Coverage | Day 1, Stuck Outside Sacramento

It’s the first day of NAHBS and the doors have opened for industry and media types (hey, that’s me) but I’m stranded just East of Sacramento proper. Why? Did I get a flat on my way downtown, has my huge red convertible broken down after it’s long trek through the desert in search of the American Dream, or am I stuck grinding out my 8 hours in the office?

HINT: It’s probably that last one.

This is my first NAHBS – or will be if I make it there tomorrow, which is the plan – and I’m certainly missing out on the pre-show excitement of traveling to a new town, meeting new people and, really getting excited about handmade bikes. Twitter is filled with updates about getting together and pre-parties and post parties and during parties and group rides and hand cut steel. And as every bike blogger descends on the convention center this morning for the first looks at the show, I’ll be in my cubicle toiling away.

As the day goes on and NAHBS posts go up on other sites and their site traffic increases and ad dollars flow in by the truck load, I’ll be sitting here oblivious to it all. Then, as the show opens to the public and the media and industry types become more faces in the crowd and the day winds down, I’ll get off work. And sure, I’d have plenty of time to run on down to the convention center, do a quick run around the exhibit floor and maybe grab a quick beer with a few of my twitter/blogger buddies (you know who you are) but I’d be home after bedtime and when you have two young children, bedtime is a big deal.

So, in the morning, I’ll probably get up at a reasonable hour. Dress up in my some clothes that scream AMATEUR BIKE BLOGGER! and head on downtown. Maybe make it to the show by lunch. After that, I have no plan, but, I’ll keep you posted.

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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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