Archive for category 2011

In which Michael carefully lowers the expectations of himself

It is Tuesday, December 20, 2011. This morning it was 27 degrees Fahrenheit when I left for work at 6:20. I rode my bike.

For nearly 11 months I’ve been bike commuting. The bulk of the 3500 miles or so I’ve ridden this year have carried me to and from work. I still feel like I’m in the best shape of my life. But, with 11 days left in the year (only 3 of which will demand bike commuting) I’m not sure I’m going to meet the goal I set for myself back in January. As of today, I’m not even sure how many miles I have left to ride (according to Strava I’ve got 3490 miles under my belt but I’ve not uploaded a ride since 12/05) and I’m not sure I even care anymore.

There it is. There’s the sentence that sounds a lot like someone rationalizing the failure to meet goal. But really, I’m not saying I won’t (I might not) I’m just saying I’m not as concerned with it as I was at one time.

Early on in this experiment with bike commuting it was the novelty of using my bike as means of transportation that got me up early in the mornings and pushed me out the door despite being ill prepared for cold weather and dark mornings. As the novelty wore off, the goal I’d set for myself helped me up into the saddle on the tough mornings. Today, today I woke up and pulled on my kit and rolled out into the early morning cold because it’s the way I get to work (it was the having to go to work part I found most difficult). It will be the same tomorrow. It’s the routine.

Which isn’t to say I don’t love it. I just don’t need any goal to keep me going.

Update: Strava is now reflecting my “official” mileage: 3,574.

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Motorist tip of the week, 13

That cyclist is wet enough already.

Trust me. Without a roof, windows or a windshield the rain gets me wet. There is no need for you to speed through that puddle and splash me with your wake. Really. So, please, just slow down.

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Rapha adds new cold-weather gear for 2011

High-end British cycling clothier Rapha has expanded its collection for 2011 with several cold-weather items, including the Pro Team Jacket, which will be available at the end of October and the Hooded Top, new for November. Also launching this month is a new zip-through cardigan-style Track Top, which adds to the line of city cycling jerseys, jeans and tops which the company has been rolling out over the last 18 months.

The new Pro Team Jacket is a high-performance softshell made from the proprietary Polartec membrane, which is windproof and water-repellent while remaining breathable and lightweight. The rear panels are constructed of Super-Roubaix fabric, providing essential wicking performance and insulation for cold-weather riding. Of the striking new color, which is new to the Rapha range of classic, muted hues, the company claims:

Scientific research shows the Chartreuse colourway offers exceptional visibility in low light. Though not technically fluorescent, studies have found that the rods in the retina – the part of the eye that work best in low light – are particularly receptive to the yellow/green color. As a result, chartreuse is increasingly used around the world for emergency vehicles.

The jacket – which is also available in black – features reflective side and rear trim, and the iconic Rapha armband is also reflective. It will be available late-October from the company website and will cost $275.

The Hooded Top is a clever mix of Merino for warmth, plus windproof panels to improve insulation. A close-fitting hood adds a contemporary edge to the top, and front and rear pockets add versatility. The Hooded Top will be available mid-November, and will sell for $195.

The Track Top is a characteristically low-key, elegant cardigan with a full-length zipper and subtle styling. Intended for wearing as a removable outer-layer in cool weather, the Track Top is constructed of 100% Merino wool, and is knitted – not stitched – together. It comes in charcoal gray or burgundy, and will sell for $165.

Already available, but new to the Rapha range, the Merino Roll Neck is a lightweight but high-performance woolen cycling jersey in the style of the classic jerseys worn by pro-riders in the early years of the 20th Century. Close-fitting, with a tall roll-neck and chest-level striping, the stylish jersey is available in one color – the popular Rapha black.

Rapha was recently named one of the fastest-growing UK companies by the Sunday Times in Britain. The company was founded in 2004, and has steadily built up a devoted following among cyclists in Europe and the US by offering low-key, classically-styled clothing of high-quality. A office in Portland, Oregon oversees the US market, which is increasingly receptive to the Rapha brand of old-school English tailoring. The company also sells high-performance waterproofs, shorts, accessories and a range of cosmetics and luggage.

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“Give Me 3″ bill vetoed by Governor Brown

In an unexpected last-minute move Friday afternoon, Governor Brown vetoed the popular pro-cycling “Give Me 3″ bill which had been making steady progress through congress. Despite overwhelming support from the cycling industry, road safety advocates and cyclists alike, the bill in its current form will not become law.

Governor Brown, bowing to pressure from automotive groups, the CHP and the Teamsters union, chose to question aspects of the bill which stipulate that drivers unable to afford cyclists three feet of passing space be obligated to slow down to 15mph when passing.

Brown also repeated many of the same concerns which have arisen since the bill was introduced, including issues of traffic build-up where cars are forced to slow for cyclists. Jim Brown, of the California Bicycle Coalition, was swift to characterize such concerns as baseless, citing some 20 states which already have 3-foot passing laws on the books, and which report no problems issuing from the requirements.

“It’s a bill that’s been road-tested in a lot of states…we’re not at the forefront here. The idea that there’s going to be a rash of collisions isn’t supported by other states’s experience.”

A note of disappointment, no doubt echoed by millions of California cyclists, was clear in Jim Brown’s statement,

“We never dreamed that this would be the hardest part of passing the bill – convincing the governor.”

Governor Brown’s rejection of SB910 will not go unnoticed by the ranks of cyclists in California, many of whom have experienced mistreatment on the state’s roads. Passage of a pro-cyclist bill would have gone a long way towards promoting California as a bike-friendly state, instead of a place where cyclists are marginalized.

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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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on two wheels…

…for the first time. Sure, he needs a little help, but he’s not even a year yet.

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Seattle follows Portland by expanding bike lanes. Can Sacramento follow?

New bicycling initiatives being launched in Seattle echo successful projects in Portland, and could influence similar decisions in Sacramento. The new “greenways” being planned in several Seattle neighborhoods will take cyclists off busy arteries and through re-designed side streets, where speed-bumps, modified sidewalks and curbs, and special stop-signs will give priority to cyclists as well as pedestrians.

The first greenway will run through the Wallingford district of north-central Seattle, and advocates hope to develop further greenways in at least three other neighborhoods. The city takes its cue from it’s southern neighbor, progressively pro-bike Portland, which has more than thirty greenways, and which predicts that 80% of city residents will live within half a mile of a greenway by 2015.

The initiatives in place in Portland and Seattle put to shame the efforts in Sacramento, which claims to be a bike-friendly city but which has pitifully few dedicated bike lanes, no greenways, and an outdated but muscular pro-car bent. The region’s single saving concession – the American River Trail – was established decades ago, and has not been expanded or improved upon since, despite expansion and realignment of the city’s commercial and residential areas.

The Portland greenways cost an estimated $250,000 per mile, an expense which Seattle hopes to recoup through an additional car-tab fee of $60. Over ten years, the tax would raise more than $200 million for additional transportation projects to help promote cycling and walking in the city.

In cash-strapped, pro-car Sacramento, the possibility of introducing a levy on motor-vehicles to pay for bike-lane improvements or greenways seems unlikely. Many of the region’s essential roads are in disrepair and further cuts to the DOT budget are pending.

However, as pro-cycling advocates frequently point out, cycling has cost benefits that reach far beyond the immediate advantages for keen bike-commuters. An active citizenry which solves its own economic and health problems by choosing to commute via bicycle instead of motor-vehicle injects vitality and treasure into the local economy, and may even go so far as to improve the desirability of residential property in the region.

Bike lanes and greenways can’t fix every problem that plagues Sacramento, but the cost-benefit ratio is enormous, and worthy of further consideration.

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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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Countdown to #LeviGF, 0 Days

Rolling out now…see y’all in about 7 hours.

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Countdown to #LeviGF, 1 day

It’s a long video, but I can’t think of a better way to close out the countdown. I particularly like the part where, I start picking my way through the other riders on King Ridge. Of course, that’s probably not going to happen this year.

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