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Thursday, August 24, 2017

the coldest ride I ever spent

There's something to that old saying about California... and even though I don't live in San Francisco—rather further south—I often find that the coldest ride of the year, or walk for that matter, is an evening in late summer. I guess because when it's in the mid-80s during the day one doesn't think to bring along a sweater. But then you stay out a little later than planned and suddenly the sun has dropped far below the ridge and the breeze has picked up and miles to go before we sleep... And maybe the body isn't quite acclimatized to the light chill, having fought hard all summer to relearn how to shed any and all extra heat... and then you start shivering and you're even out of practice at that so it just runs on uncontrollably and then you're cold.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Art of Crashing

Start by getting a nice long warmup ride so you’re relaxed and comfortable on the bike. Find a wide shaded street with an ever so gentle downgrade - an un-false flat, if you will. Shift into the big ring and find an easy cadence, turning a cog somewhere in the middle range. Don’t rush. Your front tire will be thrown out by a small bump in the road, presumably a tree root pushing up the asphalt. The rear tire will follow and buck the bike up into the air. This will happen fast—without opportunity to make any adjustments or corrections. You’ll try but won’t quite be able to piece together this sequence of events later. There will be a sensation of rolling, tumbling along the ground. Curled up in a heap in the gutter, you’ll think, “Oh no.” Are you okay? Are you okay? I don’t know. Can I help you up? Uh, just a sec. Am I okay? I don’t know. How did I get so dirty? Thanks for stopping. Where’s my bike? It’s way over there—I saw it flipping through the air! Are you okay? It looks like your derailleur is toast. Are you okay? I don’t know. I think so… Drink that last sip of water. Straighten the handlebars. Just get on the bike. Get to that park. Get some water. Wash off the blood and dirt. Soft, soft, soft pedal home. Just get home. Just seven miles. Just get home… 

Friday, June 16, 2017

traffic calming ahead

I first saw the sign, “Traffic Calming Ahead,” several years ago, a few miles from home. I was a little confused by it. And yet, intrigued by it, as well. It was, after all, a rather traffic-y day so the thought that traffic would be calmer ahead seemed a pleasant notion. Somehow a fixed metal sign couldn’t possibly be giving realtime updates, could it? Maybe it was more psychological than that. The age old Jedi Mind Trick… Tell people that traffic will be calming ahead and they’ll relax and traffic will actually calm! (Sorry, one should never put an exclamation point after calm—that just doesn’t look right.) 

I’ve seen this sign now a few other places, although I forget where. And somewhere along the way I figured out that it was warning of various techniques and/or devices such as “road furniture” intended to create a safer, smoother, calmer road experience for all users. 

Despite these signs, and their psychologically coercive powers, traffic has not calmed. At least not the outliers of traffic. Certainly I’d like to recognize those among us that are calming influences in our road community—the “non-anxious presence in traffic,” as One Speed Go put it (I can’t stop thinking about that, by the way.) So there’s, like, this 65/35 ratio, I’d guess. 65% are cool. 35% are freaking out. 

And more to my point, they’re freaking me out! I mean, hey, man, I’m just trying to bliss-out here. I’m just peacefully following the rules of traffic like the majority of us are, moving calmly along, navigating the roadways. I’ve got the sails all set just right with the perfect breeze, a loose grasp on the mainsheet, leaning back to starboard… when all of a sudden a speedboat comes roaring through across my line, leaving a wake of turbulence that really salts my game, ruffles my feathers, takes the wind out of my sails, bums me out, man… 

Sometimes these speedboats are cars, sometimes dogs, sometimes comments… And it makes me reluctant to ride. Because riding isn’t fun in those situations and it feels unsafe in those situations. And it makes me feel like I’m alone out there. The lone bicyclist. 

But I know we are many. And maybe that’s how I proceed. Thinking of the other un-anxious road users out there. Breathe in. Breathe out. Let it go. Lean back, find that breeze. Be cool, be cool, be cool… 

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Thursday, June 1, 2017

Buy New Shoes to Run Faster

It seems every time I get a pair of new running shoes I go out for a really fast run to try them out. Nice high cadence, powerful footfall, really getting a feel for the new shoes. There’s an excitement, and a hopefulness that these new shoes will finally be the pair that takes me to a new higher level in running. Plus there’s just something sexy about anything new. That must be a part of what drives our shopping culture. 

This worked for me again yesterday. The form and effort all came together to take off a minute per mile from my normal run time. And the amazing thing… yes, I bought new shoes, but I had only ordered them online… they won’t be here for another few days! The power of our minds… 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017


I was shocked to discover a crack in my seat post clamp today. I thought Thomson products were more or less indestructible. Or at least of some of the highest quality parts available. But I guess everything can fail. Strangely, too, it doesn’t seem like a part that would have much stress put upon it through normal riding conditions. I rode home hoping that the seat clamp would hold until I got there (it did). I removed it. It didn’t seem to be overtightened. It seems to be the right size. So strange. Thomson offers a three year warranty on seat post clamps. I don’t remember exactly when I got it but I think it was a little longer than that. So I’m back to the original quick release clamp on Mindful Mule. I got the Thomson clamp after my seat and seat post were stolen a few years ago while using the quick release clamp. I generally don’t park my bike in compromised settings anymore so maybe I’ll just stick with the old clamp. Too bad—I thought the Thomson looked sharp. 

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Hooray for Oury

I bought these grips a few years ago. It was one of those situations where I needed a few extra bucks to reach my Free Shipping threshold. I’d always had a bit of a crush on Oury grips. They seemed like the cool kid grips of MTBers. As I recall these were also on sale. Probably because no one wants boring brown grips on their bike. It’s all about flash. Right? But what color would a mule choose? Aha! Add to cart. They’ve sat in the shed ever since. I liked my old grips and they weren’t quite falling apart yet. They were my second pair of Ergon grips. Now, finally they’re ripping apart and getting pretty gross. And I felt like I needed a fresh new feeling in my life. As directed on the package label I used rubbing alcohol to slide them on. That worked really well. I think they look pretty sharp…