photo block

Monday, January 30, 2012

tree ring bike rack

Seen in a park in Ojai (“Oh, hi.”), California.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

to protect and ride

currently reading

Eat, Sleep, Ride: how I braved bears, badlands, and big breakfasts in my quest to cycle the Tour Divide.
by Paul Howard, 2011.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

on valve stem caps

Arguably the least important part on any bike is the inner tube valve stem cap. It doesn’t hold in air. It does keep water and dust and grime and such out of the valve. Although, if you’ve got Presta valves, they’re pretty well sealed off by that little screw down plunger nut. And I don’t see this as even a slight issue no matter what kind of valve you’re running.

I noticed/realized something comical the other day when I was preparing Humble Horse for a ride up Brown Mountain. HH is my “good” mountain bike, the one with shocks and disk brakes and fanciness. I use it exclusively for dirty work up on the mountain. And yet it’s the only one of my bikes (n+1) that has no valve stem caps.

If I don’t need caps on HH then why in the world would I need them on T80’s or MM or SSSS… Well, I don’t, but I guess as long as they’re already on there I’m not going to leave them off the next time I pump.

And actually, now that I think about it, some of those caps do have a purpose. The inner tubes I’ve been buying recently from my LBS have, for some reason, yellow valve stem caps. I’ve grown to like these. They look especially sharp on Purple People Eater as they set off his yellow lettering. And they’re on the Mule, too, because even though she’s not the snappiest dresser I do like her to get some attention here and there.

An additional plus to the yellow caps is that they’re easier to find. It seems like, so often when I’m pumping my tires, the valve stem temporarily eludes my eyes. They seem to hide out tucked just inside the brake calipers or behind a seat-stay.

Plus, once you set down a black valve stem cap on the ground you can pretty much forget about ever finding it again. But not yellow! It’s all making sense to me now. Le cap jaune.

desperately seeking bungee cord

The bungee cord that I use on my bike basket has been fraying now for several months and it’s getting pretty close to losing all of its strands of rubber that make up the cord.

Normally, when I’m not looking to replace my bungee cord, I find these things lying in the road like almost everyday. Bungee cords and gloves and ear buds – free for the taking.

But as soon as you start looking for one thing in particular it seems to stop turning up around every corner. I feel like I haven’t seen a bungee cord lying around for a year.

It’s not an option to buy a new one because I know that just as soon as I strap that new cord to my bike and pedal off I’ll find one waiting for me in the road.

What I’ll probably end up doing soon is just shortening the cord that I have now by cutting it off at the frayed section and replacing the hook down where it’s still fully operational. All you have to do is slide the cord through the eye of the hook and fold it over on itself once – then you staple it down and it holds forever.

Staple seems like the right word to use. In the bungee cord factory (what a tour that would be!) they probably have a robot that staples the ends together. In the past, when refurbishing another bungee cord, I used a discarded nail bent over itself in three equal lengths – staple-like, but super heavy duty staple-like ‘cause just your average stapler won’t hold the trick.

At first thought it seems like tying a knot in the end of the bungee should work and it probably would but it would end up being and looking very bulky and actually taking up a surprising amount of your cord.

free wool better-than-knee-warmers

My feet get cold a lot when I’m riding. Especially now that it’s winter. And I know that southern California doesn’t really have much of a winter compared to a lot of other places out there in the world. However, in some cases, winter in SoCal can still be quite cold.

Part of the reason for this is that it’s so warm here. What? you say. Okay, bear with me. Let’s say you wake up on a free-day and are all about going out for a nice bike ride. It’s still early and about 40 degrees so you figure you’ll do the coffee thing and get some blogular motivation. It’s forecast to be 62 degrees and sunny later so no reason to rush out into the cold.

This might sound warm to many of you and it is but keep in mind that if it’s going to be sunny and sixty later then you’re not going to be able to ride in a parka. But you can’t really ride in shorts and short sleeves either because it’s surprisingly cold around the edges – in the shade, on the descents, when you stop for an outdoor espresso.

Pull-on cycling sleeves and leg warmers are nice but you’re still probably going to want a windproof vest of sorts and if you start before 10am you’re going to be cold until your blood starts going and the leg warmers are going to get too hot at just about that same time so there’re knee warmers which are better but I don’t have those because all those sleevey things are actually quite costly and I figured that if I was going to purchase something to keep my legs warm I might as well get the full length version rather than the shorter knee warmers that would leave my calves exposed and vulnerable.

But now with more experience riding in this warm/cold SoCal winter weather I want to wear knee warmers. Not just for riding but I think they’d be great for running too. Because I’m convinced that it’s the cold knees that cause the cold feet when cycling and the cold knees that cause sore/tires/injury-prone knees when running.

But try wearing leg warmers when you’re running and they’ll be at you ankles within half a mile. Probably knee warmers, too. So I’m thinking maybe knee braces would be good. Just those simple sleeves that you can pick up at the pharmacy. But those are pretty tight and restrictive and I don’t want that. I briefly considered stockings, you know, like pantyhose, but then thought I’d be too embarrassed. I mean I want to look somewhat normal out there for some reason even though I really do think I’m onto something there – they’d be perfect and utterly packable!

So here’s the compromise: you know those old wool socks you’ve got in your drawer that you’ve already darned a dozen times but have reached their limit of repairability – just too thin now and too many stitch-scars that you can’t stand to stand in them any more but the ankle part is still in just fine condition? Okay, you cut off the toes on those socks. I know. It will kill you to do it. What if it doesn’t work? I thought. What if I ruin these perfectly unusable socks?

Okay fine I’ll just do it in the interest of experimentation. Now you end up with the perfect shorter than a knee warmer, knee warmer. And the original heal of the sock now becomes the perfect kneecap and holder-in-placer. And! If you get too warm knees or two warm knees then you can just slide them down and people will think you’re just wearing longer socks! And they’re greatly packable, too.

I’m writing this during the initial excitement/try-on stage and haven’t even tested them outdoors yet – don’t even know if I’ll ever have the courage to test them out in public at all but do think that maybe when I’m by myself on a ride or maybe up in the mountains on a run where nobody will ever see me that I’ll give them a go.

Too much? Too awesome? Genius or Dunce?

some good folks up on the mountain

The sky was grey. The mountain was Brown. And friendly hikers that walk right up and say “how ya doin, my name is Frank, great to be out here, god bless you, have a nice day in the mountains!” Quiet and deep most of the way toward the top until… runners at the top! – a group of three had been running all morning, like me, to be rewarded by long views from the top. Clouds were high enough to peek under at a wide stretch of Pacific – Long Beach, Palos Verdes, Catalina, Malibu… I took a picture for the runners in front of the view – a good one for their album – and we talked about trails. They followed me down but quickly disappeared into folds of ridges and cloud.

Monday, January 9, 2012

like water for running

I've been thinking about some running stuff lately. I do that a lot. Especially when I'm running. This particular line of thought links running to both the flow of water and the flight-line of airplanes. It's also related to trail vs. road/sidewalk. Everyone says trail running is better for your joints and such. And clearly there's a lot of sense in that because it provides a softer landing for each step/impact thereby sending less of a shock wave up through the body. And your toe-shoes help with that too - greatly reducing massive heal impact. But there's an additional factor that gets overlooked a lot. It has to do with minor variations. Minor variations in the surface on which you're running, I think, do as much for you as the softer surface of the trail. When you're running on a perfectly smooth and flat sidewalk or road your body is repeating almost the exact motion thousands of times over. Which seems would lead to a lot of stress being focused on very specific points in the body. Bringing on, essentially, a repetitive motion injury. I used to, on long runs, do some very short periods of sideways and backwards running to sort of shake out the body enough to try to get rid of a sort of repetitive motion induced body freeze. And in track practice in Oregon we used to due a lot of what we called form running which was also various drills like sideways, backward, high-step, long-stride, lunge, etc. running. I guess it sort of goes along with the idea of cross-training. If you're a runner or a cyclist or whatever it's best to do other things besides your specific discipline. It makes you a better, stronger performer even though it takes away from time focused on your chosen activity/sport. Getting back to my recent thoughts about running, on a small scale, trail running, even if it's just a dirt path with no obvious obstacles, provides just enough change in the surface with each step that it spreads the foot-fall impact over a greater area of the joint and body, reducing impact on any one specific point and including a slightly different combination of muscles use. Down in the Arroyo the path is mostly, seemingly, flat. But there's a lot of variation from sand to rock to little rocks to bigger rocks to ruts and sticks and the occasional fallen tree to climb over (an outstanding muscle mixer-upper). And there's a small amount of water down there. Some of the water is from rainfall, some from residential and equestrian center runoff. So, in places, the path takes on the form of a dry riverbed which is even more varied - the flowing water sorts the various sizes of river rock and sand. And it leaves a distinct path within the Arroyo path. A little dry riverbed. And, of course, rivers down travel in straight lines. They meander. They follow the path of least resistance. In Shinto, the attributes of water are much revered. Be like water, they say, I've heard. Water is patient and flexible and flowy and yet still powerful. It, water, seems to be the original follower of the saying, walk softly and carry a big stick. Lately on my Arroyo runs I've been seeking out these little dry rivers within the path. They tend to be more gravelly than the surrounding, higher layers of the path, the smaller sand and sediment particles having been washed away by the quietly powerful trickle of water. I follow these little rivers and it does two things for me. Maybe three. It forces me to pay attention to what I'm doing, where I'm stepping - each step becomes very real and in the moment. And it forces me to step well, with intention and proper form - landing poorly in gravel is not pretty. Or maybe it's four things or more. It also lifts my knees a little higher through the stride into a horse-like prance which adds to the slight change in joint/muscle usage. And, by following the river, I meander along with it. No more straight lines. Winding, winding down or upstream. It's this winding, this being like water, that really shuffles the run and stride and promotes a healthy non-repetitive style. So straight lines no good. But airplanes. What about the planes? They look to be flying straight across the sky. I can see their contrails, perfect vectors from here to Atlanta. Yes, maybe, on average. But there's these foot pedals down there in the cockpit, too. What the hell are those? Planes don't have a clutch, do they? No, but they do have a tail with a vertically aligned rudder. And while I'm no pilot, I believe that those pedals control that rudder. Or at least some similar mechanism that allows the plane to sort of drift left or right. Maybe it's more of a twist. I've noticed this a lot at airports and probably tv and such. Whether it's those pedals that cause/control this or not I'm interested to know but really doesn't make any difference to this thread because what I do know is that airplanes can/do drift/twist in midair. The tail kind of takes it's own line offset from the nose. It's kinda crazy and neat/rad to see this. Even those jumbos do it. So, back in the Arroyo, I find myself running along, maybe following the little dry riverbed and I notice that I'm drifting. My tail is on a different line than my nose, so to speak. I’m running forward but at a slight angle, one hip taking the lead. For a long time my first inclination when noticing this was to correct it. To straighten up and fly right. But now I believe, as I've learned from water and cross-training exercises, that allowing this drift to continue can be of benefit. We humans are not robots, are we? Each leg is a little different. One stronger, one longer, and the same with our entire body - we're not perfect; we're not mirror images left to right. There is no such think as running straight forward. You can't, or I should say, shouldn't bother trying to, perfect your stride to such a degree where everything is precision. Let yourself drift - at least sometimes. Now, as I'm writing this I'm remembering plenty of effort I've put in to perfecting stride over the years and I've even posted about it here before. I'm not trying to go back on my word as I think that is an important stage in the development of a runner, too. Both-And as a teacher used to say. When you get to the point in running when you're ready to work on aligning your stride, do it. And when you get to the point in your running when you're ready to let yourself drift, do that. Right now I'm "teasing out" (same teacher) this both-and practice in my running and it’s beginning to feel a lot like play as perhaps running should… with water and airplanes and robots and horses and the Arroyo as my guides.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

currently reading

Mountains of the Mind: how desolate and forbidding heights were transformed into experiences of indomitable spirit.
by Robert Macfarlane, 2003.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

summer is an empty basket

For much of fall and winter thus far (and usually well into spring) I’ve carried, at least, a bag with wool gloves and hat and a rain/wind cape/slicker/jacket in my rear folding basket – attached to the right side of the rear rack. Why right side? I’m not sure. I had to pick that or left when I put it on (with zip ties, of course) about eight(?) years ago. Today, on the lunch/recycle ride I didn’t tote along any extra layers. Shorts and t-shirt were fine for this warm winter midday. It’s up to about 83 degrees. On the outgoing ride the basket was over filled with the recycling load and a library book to be returned. Once that was all dropped off, though, the basket was empty and I suddenly felt free. I folded it up and when spinning lightly along in the warm sunshine. Not that gloves and a hat and a cape weigh much of anything but there’s just one little extra notch of carefreedom when the basket’s empty and tucked away and nothing rattling.