photo block

Saturday, December 8, 2012

test: head light. "people are people so why should it be…"

I tested out both the rear facing helmet reflector (red) and the forward facing "head"light (I used one of those miner style headlamps popular with the hiking/climbing/camping crowd). I perceived an immediate positive difference in the patience and care of the surrounding drivers. And this was a Friday rush hour test when sometimes that patience can be lacking. I felt as if I had graduated to the standing of a pedestrian which in the eyes of the motorist is one step closer to being a human. 

I guess I was most surprised by the difference the rear reflector made. Especially since I always have a rear reflector and flashing red tail light. But somehow, putting a reflector on your head really gets the point across: human. 

The forward head light also made a big difference. In part because of its height above the level of parked cars so that it is visible even when a handlebar light would be blocked. The head light was not very bright. I've had it for a long time and the batteries were a little low. I've just never used it on the bike for some reason. I kept the light on steady mode. As I do with the handlebar light. I think flashing headlights are really annoying to everyone involved. The dimness of the light did not seem to be a problem, though, and it might even be better to keep it slightly dim so that you can look around at people without putting a bright spot light right on them. 

I'm immediately afraid to ride without either of these head mounted lighting systems. 

Of note and a twist: I don't think the head light and reflector made me more visible (except in a few special cases). Motorists always see me. They just don't "see" me. If that makes any sense. And that's the big hump out there - not getting people to see bicyclists (oh, you know you see me!) - getting people to see people. 

Friday, December 7, 2012

forty paces of solitude

There's a very short stretch of dirt between the sidewalk and the high school baseball field that I've recently been using as my own secret trail running route. It's mostly filled with weeds. There's no obvious reason to take this route as it directly parallels the sidewalk. And it only lasts a moment before one must return to the sidewalk. But I take it. I like it. It's far, far from a nature path. It's right along a busy residential street. And it's short. But it's there. It's earth. It feels good under the feet. It rained recently so the ground has been a bit muddy along this stretch. I saw someone's footprints and I followed them. He matched me stride for stride. My right hitting just to the side of his left and vise-versa. Then I recognized the tread pattern. I was tracking myself. So many footprints that we follow along the way, some of them our own.

reflectors, reflected light, light

I found a rear bike reflector the other day by the side of the road. I find reflectors often. They seem to jostle loose. I zip-tied it to the back of my helmet. Why not? When I was a kid (even into my early thirties) I'd take off every reflector I could thinking they were uncool. Now I've got them just about everywhere. Still there seems to be a blind spot in front of me to the sides. Cross traffic at night (especially on dark roads) doesn't seem to see me well enough. Which maybe is okay because I see them and I slow down but I want it to be better/safer than that. Reflectors only light up when there's light shining on them. And cross traffic lights aren't facing the right direction. And bike lights, even the strong ones, don't provide much lateral light that a car driver might see. A glowing helmet would be interesting. At least, a white helmet probably helps. I'm considering a helmet mounted light.

Friday, November 30, 2012

slow motion dream running

I had one of those slow motion dreams last night. Where you're trying to get somewhere in a hurry but as hard as you try you can only run in ultra-slo-mo. Those used to be so frustrating. But now I've discovered that ultra-slo-mo dreams are a great opportunity to practice form running! I did about a mile of perfect foot placement along some unknown sidewalk - felt a little like Orange Grove Blvd. if it were in Idyllwild. In addition to foot placement I was really focused on forward acceleration/explosiveness with each individual leg/foot/hip group. Another dream breakthrough was that I actually, eventually made it to where I was going. Hopefully some of all this will seep into reality soon… 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

rubber bands, man

Now that the temps have dropped a bit I've been wearing long pants for my evening rides into town. For years I've been a roll-up-your-pant-cuffs kind of guy. I'd usually do two neat folds on both sides - so they match - otherwise I might always be turning right - or left(?). Suddenly, this season, things have changed and I've grown into that weird eccentric bicycle man that wears rubber bands around his ankles to hold his cuffs in place. When off the bike/in the pub you can leave the rubber bands on you ankle under the pant cuffs for quick storage and retrieval. I'm okay with this development. In fact, perhaps, almost proud - or happy about it, anyway, and hope to see further developments along these lines into the future. It's what the Mule would want. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Telltale Laundry

Why is there so much synthetic cycling/running wear in my laundry? It's more than half the load! I should get a prize - confetti and streamers falling from the ceiling and loud sirens wailing and flashing as if I were the Millionth shopper at the Quickie Mart or something. Maybe I've been putting in more miles. Or maybe I wear the same everyday-clothes over and over again too much. Or maybe it's just winter and I have to wear several layers at once...

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Did I already run today?

So often these days, by the time it gets to evening I'm ready to go for a run, my legs feeling the pull. But then I take pause for a moment, trying to recall if perhaps I've already gone running today, this morning. It doesn't even seem to matter what distance I've gone earlier in the day - long or short - I just don't recall. Not that I'm opposed to running twice in a day - I actually think it's a pretty great way to ramp up. But sometimes I feel like I need the rest - like now, with another race in 10 days. I just find it rather amusing that I have to literally ask myself and nearly every time I do the answer is yes. But it's sometimes a little depressing (especially on a day like today - dark and drizzle), too, because, well, then what… if no run? 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

running to the moon on brown mountain

Approaching the top of the trail by mid-morning, the still plump moon sunk slowly over the ridge, feeling very close by, a friend to the mountain.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Thursday, October 25, 2012

doughnut houses

For a while now, maybe even a couple years, I've been noticing doughnut houses, or donut shops, or whatever you prefer, when out riding my bike. Most notable to me are the small, independent, mom&pop shops with unique and/or simple names. It seems they're almost always tucked away in the corner of some sort of mini strip mall, which doesn't really seem an ideal location to sit and have a doughnut and a coffee, but I guess that's what's affordable these days. Their connection to biking is two fold. One, I'm always hungry on the bike and from many early-years experiences my body knows just what handy morsel will end my calorie crisis, and fast. And the smells waft out into the street to grab you. On almost every ride I smell fresh baked goodness. Second, as is so often noted, one notices a lot about the neighborhood from the saddle. It's really amazing, the difference - like a whole 'nother world. A friend of mine recently sent me a link about the new trend in combining coffee houses with bike shops. Well, for the would-be entrepreneur out there, I'd say make it a doughbike shop and you'll be in business - of course, you'll want coffee available, too - an beer, naturally. I never get around to stopping at these doughnut spots but I fear that I should or else they will be gone forever, like so many other little shops around the country, classic small town nooks, disappearing before the corpormatronimarts. So I should stop. What's the rush anyway. No need to speed into the future. I can always count on the added sugar spike to pull me back into the peloton. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

rest/taper/sick week, or 3 birds with 1 stone, and 2 of the perks of races

There's a trail race coming up this weekend. I'd like to hit it well rested (relatively speaking for someone with a 3-month-old). So I'm tapering this week. Taking some rest days. Maybe I'll do a few easy 3s. My body has also slotted (conveniently or inconveniently, I'm not sure yet) a few sick days this week. So I guess I'm doing some serious multitasking. 

I go back and forth about whether racing is worth it or not. It's expensive and often far away and often requires a car trip and often requires getting up early and forcing your body to do something that might not be on its schedule for the day which might instead be to sleep in and drink coffee. But I do enjoy the community aspect of races. It's nice to be reminded that other people are into trail running, too. So I do it a few times a year, trying to pick out what I consider to be "the classics," races that have been around a long time and/or that I've done before and/or great location and/or friends are running. 

Two perks of racing that might make them worth it are the ramping up of training leading up to them that wouldn't otherwise happen, and the ramping down of training just before the race that also wouldn't otherwise happen. So they add some waviness to the routine which is probably a good thing. 

This weekend is Lasse Viren named after that famous Finnish Olympic runner from the 70's. Strange that "his" race is in Malibu, California since he lives on the other side of the Atlantic/World, but here it is. 

I'm looking forward to it. I'm ready for the distance. I just hope I can get rid of this cold and show up with some sleep and rest and not too much pre-race "nervousness" (to put it nicely). 

I did this race for the first time last year. It's a good one. It's a trail race that's not steep! - seemingly the first of its kind and a great idea. It's probably the shortest 20K in the world (I swear it's only 18 or 19) so fast times can be had when the planets align. 

Just Ride Over the Hills

Just finished reading Just Ride by Grant Petersen (2012) of Rivendell fame. It's an okay, fun little manual of bicyclism. There are some good tips in there and some silly tips in there. "You decide which is right and which is an illusion." 

Next up: Over the Hills: A midlife escape across America by bicycle, by David Lamb (1996). Quite good through the first chapter. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

swimming to brown mountain

It never really rained this morning, it just sort of clouded-down all around on the run up Brown Mountain. And although the temperature was mild, almost warm, even, and I was a little concerned about my Camelback heating me up too much, by the time I reached the top I was absolutely soaked, clouds dripping off my visor - I felt like I had just climbed out of the pool (no running!) and, of course, I was freezing. And then came the descent. Well, you know how that goes. So we'll call this the first day of winter. Which is always fun at first - to come home and finally take a really hot shower again, having missed out on that all summer, and still have bones cold enough to cozy up in longpants! and a sweater and cook a big pizza just to heat up the house and get started on chipping away at that caloric debt. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Free Brunch on Brown Mtn

Solo (they usually are) run up Brown this morning to find a peanut butter GU pack lying on the side of the trail - likely lost to a cyclist as they bumped their way down the trail. It was all sealed up and who really knows how long it had been there but I figured this was a gift brunch from god so I ate it at the top of the mountain. The mountain will provide… 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Learning New Distances

Now that it's Fall and temperatures are dropping I'm starting to feel the pull for running longer distances. For the last couple weeks I've been experimenting with a new longer distance for my long run. It's actually quite a big increase - 33% - from before but so far it seems acceptable to the body. The mind is having a little more trouble with it because the run takes me right up to the edge of "are we there yet?" I think this is just an adjustment period, though. And soon this new distance will feel natural and normal. However it has pushed me over the edge into the area of needing fuel on the run. My previous distance was pretty much maxing out the no food option. I'm not sure how I feel about this because trail food is not always the healthiest of morsels. I generally take along some "fruit leather" which seems pretty alright. But they're also like 69 cents each - or are they 49 cents - well, anyway, not a big deal really but it adds into the equation. What I've found most helpful in adapting to this new longer distance is to just "sit" with the experience - to not try to get there or get home - just experiencing each stride as much as possible. On my last run through the arroyo I saw someone practicing Meditative Walking - essentially slowly walking with excellent form while trying to be aware to every sensation of the body and particularly the feet as they move across the earth. It would be great to bring this much awareness to the run. Hours and hours of meditative running… a mindful mule could get into that.

Monday, October 1, 2012

things found in the road…

Yesterday's find was a bit more interesting than the usual work gloves and bungee cords: a wallet with 552 dollars in cash! There was no ID beyond a few credit cards but I managed to track down the owner by leaving a note on the windshield of the nearest parked vehicle - somehow that worked. I got a call within half an hour or so. I guess one tends to notice when they lose something of that nature. So no shiny new wheels for Mindful Mule, but it get's you thinking… 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

4 and 1/2 mile sweater season

Sweater season started this morning. Or false started, I guess I should say. The sweater only stayed on for about 4.5 miles into the morning ride. And the day ended up around 85 degrees. And the forecast for the next several days is back up to 95. But we're past the equinox now and it's just a matter of time before sweater season really tucks in for those early morning and late evening rides. Get cozy. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sunday Brunch Ride

T. Phillip's Alehouse and Grill
Glendora, California
I loved this place. Never been to Glendora before. Cool little revitalized "old town" district with lot's of nice restaurants to choose from. We, 4 riders, chose the one with a cool, dark bar with lots and lots of beer taps and a bison, 2 wild pigs, and one of those rabbits with antlers mounted on the walls. Really, can't wait to go back. Great spot. Great salad for me. And great looking burgers and omelettes for the others. And peanut shells on the floor. And like ten taps of Stone Brewery - nice, nice. Oh, and 32 ounce mugs of ice water to accompany our thirst from the ride out there. Like fifty miles and change. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

1000 Mile Club

Many running shoe stores and companies recommend retiring your running shoes after 300 to 500 miles as the materials begin to break down. While I agree that a fresh pair of trainers is always delightful I have to suggest that taking advice from the party that will be taking your money might be a bit foolish. So I've started a new club. And just today this pair of New Balance joined the last pair of Adidas as its only members - two in a row to 1000. Will the new Mizunos be next?

Friday, September 14, 2012

biker bar

After Sunday's ride I dropped by the pub for a few pints. It was hot and humid so the dark, cool interior invited me inside - away from my usual patio preference. After sitting at the bar for a while I noticed that my Look-style cleats rested nicely over the edge of the foot rail (is that what that's called? kick rail?). I had the thought that it would be even better if you could actually clip into the rail. That would keep you nicely grounded to the bar and focused on the task at hand - the pints! I suppose a real biker bar should have variously compatible pedal systems installed on the rail to satisfy their clientele's varying bike/shoe/pedal preferences. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

best dressed run

After watching the Bruin victory at the bar last night I ran home to celebrate. To be more clear, the run was the celebration. Earlier in the day I'd been at a dress-up event and I was still wearing long pants, dress shirts and Birkenstock shoes. And it was night, dark, about 9pm. It might be hard to imagine but I've often found that these types of runs turn out to be the best. They're just so far from the norm of my running that it all seems new and fun. I was, of course, somewhat concerned about blisters developing from the run in the Birks so was ever so careful to monitor my feet. And equally careful to be present to each footfall, using a slightly modified fore-mid-foot landing with each step. The only modification to the outfit was to lose a few buttons on the shirt, including the cuffs, and untuck, of course. It was a warm night - maybe in the seventies and a little more humid than normal for here. But the run went surprisingly smoothly. Kinda in the vein of that rain ride the other day I just kept thinking This is so rad! I was conscious of the fact that I looked a bit out of place so tried to choose quieter streets to get home so as not to draw attention. And walked across intersections for same purpose. Only saw one cop - tried not to make eye contact - but what are they going to do - give me an RUI? I don't think so. It felt great, though, this run. And I'm left only with slightly sore calfs this morning. It really made me want to do more running. Probably not in the same outfit but more running through town at night - it's a fun time to be on foot and about for checking out the scene. And a pretty efficient way to travel - and cheaper than the train ride home that I was originally planning. 

Friday, September 7, 2012

out of the darkness, into the light

For a long time now I've preferred cheap headlights. In part because they get stolen anyway and I really don't like to disassemble my bike each time I park. But I've had a few experiences lately where car drivers didn't see me. I always assume that they don't see me so it was no big deal. And in fact they probably only didn't see my light because the batteries were low. My rechargeable batteries were stolen along with the light they were in a few months ago so I would have had to get some new batteries. But then I got to thinking. Why not get a new light with a rechargeable battery already installed - one that you can recharge on a USB port - one that's really hecka bright - 300 lumens - and just slide it off its clamp each time you park and don't take it out during the day. So I did. It's a Cygolite. Made in California! I got it at Rivendell. Along with a couple new water bottles and stainless cages 'cause I don't want no more rattles. Just try and not see me now…

Friday, August 31, 2012

(very) early season rain ride

It's not often we get summer afternoon thundershowers here. And when we do get them it seems they're just that - showers - some big drops for a few minutes with pretty big clouds and a few booms of thunder. Yesterday, however, was rather unusual. It was about 95 degrees midday. It's been about that for a little while. The weather forecast keeps telling us that it's about to cool down in a few days. But a-few-days never comes. By mid-afternoon yesterday the clouds had started to darken the sky. I didn't think much of it until I heard tin drops - big drops hitting an aluminum ladder outside. I went out to watch. I always like to go out into he first rain of the season. I figured it would just be a few heavy drops and a quick cool down and then gone. Well it was sort of quick. The off-and-on rain showers had come and gone within about two hours.  I'd already headed out on the bike after the first wave thinking it was over. I ended up riding through a few more light showers. I had a rain cape with me but decided against wearing it thinking that somehow that seemed like bad luck to wear a cape in the first rain storm of the year - somehow an insult to the rain gods. And it was still quite warm so it felt good to be cooled by the remnant rainfall. When I returned from my ride I was astonished to find that the storm had left nearly an inch of rain behind (2.3cm)! In August! How did I manage to ride through all that in a t-shirt and hardly even get a wet, only seeing a few drops? It was a good ride. Maybe great. One that makes you feel free and connected and apart of the earth - not hiding away from it. I kept thinking This is so cool, this is so cool…

Monday, August 27, 2012


For somewhere around 15 years, when I've been using clipless pedals, I've been using SPDs. The first pair of clipless pedals went on Mindful Mule when she was the only bike I had and I actually used it up on Brown Mtn. So the cycling shoes I chose then were MTB shoes with the walkable soles making them incompatible with SPD-SL. And that was fine. Riding road bikes with MTB shoes and SPD cleats has worked totally fine for all those years, too. But eventually you're bound to wonder what it's like to ride SPD-SLs. Unfortunately it's not that easy of a switch. Well, it's easy but expensive because you've got to gets an entirely new pair of shoes that are compatible with SPD-SL cleats in order to try them. And since, as noted, the MTB shoes and SPD cleats works just fine you've got to really want it to make it happen. And then you ride some more. And some more. And several years go by. And you just start to get annoyed by that slight rock in the shoe/cleat contact point - that slight wobble. Add to that the squeak between the MTB soles and the pedals and just before you go completely nuts you decide well I guess it's time to give those SPD-SLs a try now. And they're great. Totally solid - stable. Awesome power transfer. A little less float than I expected and am used to but I think I can get used to it within a few rides. The release tension is pretty high even on the lowest setting and everyone around you will know when you click in as that's a pretty loud whack but, again, these details should be easy enough to get used to. Now how much time will go by before I test out the Speedplay Frog pedals…

Friday, August 24, 2012

salmon season

My brakes have been super squeaky lately. So I got new pads. The salmon colored pads are supposed to be soft and less squeaky and better in wet conditions. Well I won't be seeing much wet but they've been on the bike now for an entire day of quiet braking so I'm happy with them. Kool-Stop Eagle II. $7 per pair. Made in USA. Actually the same kind of pads I have been using for years but the black compound screams like hell. And the salmon compound looks kinda retro-mtb in a way. And every time I look down I'm surprised to see my salmon colored brake pads - at least for now, a mindfulness bell - until I get used to the sight of them and or they get covered in filth - at least I don't have to get used to the sound of them.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Chico state of mind...

My Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. water bottle jumped out of it's holder today. As it was happening I felt something crawling up my leg through half a pedal stroke. It was even empty - it was a hot day - so no reason it should have been bumped out - no real momentum - but these things happen, I guess - sometimes. It came to rest in the exact center of a fairly busy intersection - Monterey and Fair Oaks. But I couldn't just leave it there to die - to be the trash of the world - despite a rather dangerous retrieval. So I turned around and watched it from the sidewalk for a few sequences of traffic lights. Then, at just the right moment, shot out on the bike into the left hand turn lane, stopped, bent down to grab it, the light turned yellow and I turned left with the bottle in hand. Bottle saved. Sort of. It did get hit by a couple horseless carriages and won't be usable again but at least it will be able to hang out as souvenir in the bike shed. It was kinda on its last legs anyway, with a crack on the stem that leaked a little when full. So I guess I'll have to make another journey to the Northern California brewery sometime in the near future. 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

nice cyclist's tan-line

Mazzy Rell G. (7/23/12)
RJG (jonah) (4/19/73)

Monday, July 9, 2012

mindful mule with blinders

reflector protects odometer from sun
and a nice grease rag rack

Monday, June 25, 2012

summer session

We seem to have just entered another one of those phases. When it’s really hard to be a bicyclist. When every car seems to be against you as they pass too close and ever too fast. Maybe it’s some sort of beginning of summer madness. Everyone shooting around on new routes doing different things than the last several months. I don’t know. But it’s hard. Because I can see it. I study it every day. Every day. Traffic. The car-bike relationship. And right now it’s whacked. And it’s tough to let it go. It builds up through the day.  And what is the cure? Certainly voicing an opinion or plea to any one driver does nothing – it’s no good for either party and no good for the cause. So, what? It’s tough, too, because I feel like as I’ve been learning all these years about the plight of the bicycle that somehow all those drivers have been absorbing something, too, but it just doesn’t seem to be the case. It’s as if with every car passing me the driver is seeing and trying to figure out how to negotiate passing a bicyclist for the first time in their lives despite their having just done it a couple blocks back and probably at least ten bikes (and growing) every day. They really are different worlds, the bike and the car. And it’s sad that people have such little respect or concern for the health and well being of their fellow humans as they’re all traveling down the same road to the more or less same neighborhood to do more or less the same thing when they get home at more or less the same time plus or minus a minute or two depending on their particular mode of travel.

(To be fair, there is some polarity happening out there, too. More and more there are people that are patient. So, thanks, to them.)

Just find some mellow and keep on mindfully riding on I suppose… 


Monday, June 18, 2012


Riding home late at night… I heard a saxophone flowing out from a parking garage. I thought for a moment that it was just some sort of canned music – I know of one parking garage that plays music so it wasn’t a completely left-field-thought. But there was a certain quality to this sound that gave me pause, thinking it was live, real. So I arced around on the deserted four-lane road (2+2) to investigate, rode around the gate-arm and started circling up through its floors. The garage was completely empty at this time of night. It reminded me of the days way back when my friends and I used to take skateboards up to the top of parking structures so we could speed down the spiral structures, the “road” surface in those structures always being super smooth and fast.

Up around the fourth floor I found my jazzman. He didn’t seem particularly enthused by my arrival. In fact, I think he was terrified of me. What kind of upstanding citizen would be riding around in the middle of the night on a bicycle in a parking garage stalking saxophone sounds?! To his credit, he kept his tune going without missing a beat. I tried to give him a positive thumbs-up and an enjoying smile but he only eyed me wearily. Oh well, I tried to make contact, and I wasn’t going to butt-in where I wasn’t wanted, so I rode back down the spiral and out into the night. I hope he put it together that I was just digging on his sound.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Early Breakfast Run With Carl

Waking up in a strange place… you start to piece together where you are – a hotel room – and what’s outside, what‘s been calling to you, what woke you up: a desert mountain. You watched it through the previous evening from your poolside recliner with a cool drink in your hand, priming your dreams. Quickly but quietly you throw on whatever clothes you can find at the top of your bag in the dark room and step out into the cool morning, a waning half moon hovering overhead. The morning mountain takes its place in the now, another layer over the memory from the night before, from the vision that called you out of bed. You’ve never been here before and you don’t know where you’re going, but you go, you just go, and you breathe and you run and you let yourself be led – and soon, after a few twists and turns you find yourself at a trailhead. The sun is cresting the eastern horizon, just warming up for its one hundred degree day, but there’re still shadows of cool behind the ridges of rock on the ascent. At a comfortable turn around point on the trail, a saddle, the golden valley stretches out forever, and you turn to notice a memorial plaque secured to what must have been a very special place: “Carl Rose, 1914 – 1988, He loved this place” – of course he did, you think, as a tear starts to well up. A quick peace sign to the heart for respect and love and then you’re running back down the trail, suddenly knowing this place, loving this place, too, and knowing you’ll be back again the next morning, to run with Carl again. And somehow those cups of coffee and continental breakfast bar back at the hotel feel a little more real or appreciated or shared, even though you’ve still got it all to yourself. 


Monday, June 11, 2012

I’ve been through the desert on a [bike] with no name

One day you’ll saddle up early in the morning and ride into the sunrise, continuing relentlessly through the day’s heat and sun, taking the road all the way to the end until it turns into dust before a desert sunset.

And when it’s done, you won’t quite know why you did it or exactly what was gained, but something will have been satisfied, something deep down will be content.

Perhaps long afterwards you’ll hear it’s song playing through your head again and know something more, something of the why, of the satisfaction, something of time and distance and space… something of a journey, of a ride… of a life.


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

take two of these and call me in the morning

I’ve been having difficulty sleeping lately. And tomorrow at dawn I’m leaving for the longest, hottest, hardest ride of my life (tale pending). So I want to be able to sleep as well as I can beforehand.

Sometimes I lay awake at night going over the last minute details of the day(s) ahead. Just last night I was thinking through the contents of my seat bag. Everything checked out until I got to thinking about the inner tubes. Although there are two in there, one of them being my only backup for at least a year for rides near and far, I unraveled a few concerns. The one I’d been carrying with me had already been patched. I can’t remember how long ago. In fact, I can’t even remember the last time… wait, I better not say that. Anyway, today I inspected the inner tube and there were these tiny little wrinkles I guess you’d call them or cracks. I’m mostly sure that the inner tube is fine – that it would work – even if it had a slow leak it would get me going – probably.

As for the other inner tube, well, that one had been sitting around in the shed for a long time, too – tucked inside an old tire. It looked fine – no cracking. But the valve on that tube is slightly shorter – just enough to create a minor problem for the 1 cm deeper rims I’ll be riding tomorrow. Again, this tube would almost surely be fine and do the job if needed.

But it’s these little doubts that keep me awake in the night. They creep in after you think everything is fine and done and ready to go. So, purely as a sleep aid, I bought two new inner tubes – I’m pretty sure they have no known side effects. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

floating through epiphanies

Almost every night as I’m riding home I experience the grandest bicycling-induced thoughts. And I say to myself, Yes!, this should go right on the blog, this is what I’m talking about, this is the real deal, the essence of ride-life, or maybe even just life… then, I get home and put the bike away and enter the arriving-home-routine and before I know it, think about it, the vision is gone, nearly impossible to retrieve. But really, the epiphany, these epiphanies, their specifics, shouldn’t need to be shared. We all have our epiphanies, our visions, our experiences to enjoy and live with/through, almost impossible to express fully, like trying to relate a dream. The important, sharable moment, though, is that epiphanies happen, epiphanies happen on the bike, and it’s a great reason to ride, to ride, to ride…

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Racing really throws a wrench into the system.  It (life, the world, the mind, the body, everything) is just not the same on race day. The weeks before and the days after aren’t exactly the same, either – erratic oscillations between extremes of mental and physical and psychological and probably some other –ical states. I think it’s what is called crazy. I’ve been a total wreck. And during the race! Man, then it’s like time and space do not even exist – total detachment – just pound and mountain, pound and mountain, pound and mountain… then eventually you surface again and you feel good again and you want to run! and you know why you went to the trouble. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

tranquil moments before the mountain run

As my friend used to say, “tranquilo campeon” – loosely meaning, “hello my friend, I recognize your power, and our power, and we will work strongly together when the time comes, but now we wait, still, a little bit at a time, a trickle, and when that Sun breaks over the ridge on the sacred morning, then we will unleash everything and charge up mountains with Lion’s heart and sprint down ravines with Deer’s legs and give everything up to the Spirit, to the Mountain, knowing she will be proud and knowing just a little of what it fees like to be champions, to be mountain warriors, to be runners…” This being my rather long mantra-imagery leading up to this weekend’s Mount Wilson Trail Race.

Friday, May 11, 2012

running ahead

I had a dream about trail running. I love trail running dreaming. I was running along through low chaparral just below a rolling ridgeline. Someone, perhaps my spirit guide, was running just up ahead, when all of a sudden, the trail disappeared. Not like it petered out or we lost it but it just vanished from under our feet. My guide kept on running, hovering, it seemed, just over the sagebrush. This was a lot for my mind to wrap around. How does one hover-run? I’d felt like I was flying when running before but never actually lifted off. This was a big leap of faith to follow.

I mean, it sounds obvious, but without a trail to follow, running through the mountains would be an altogether different experience. But there have always been trails to follow. Animals, humans that have gone before us. We follow the past and become the future. That’s all there really is to do, actually. And the hovering is just that moment of faith in the present, knowing the next footfall will come, that makes it running, living, dreaming…

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Cool Brown Spring

Early ride through the fog monster to find the sun and spring up on Brown. I haven’t been up there for a while. But I was easily reminded of why I should get back up there again soon. It’s still, and always, my cool, awesome, soul mountain friend. 

currently reading

The Sailor From Gibraltar
by Marguerite Duras, 1952

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

misty dawn

There was a little rain in the morning. Drizzle, really. Or just mist, at least. Heading up the foothills, again, again, the rain grew heavier, as is normal. But still it seemed just mostly light, and looking closely up into the clouds I could almost sense the approaching light, the sun, a bit of warmth seeping through. It wasn’t cold, really. And I didn’t expect the rain to continue, which is why I was continuing up through the foothills, in the rain, without a rain jacket, in shorts, and a fleece pullover.

I actually thought the mist would have gone by the time I got going but it only increased with elevation. But it was fine, it was good. And in fact, even though I’d neglected to bring my trusty rain cape along for the ride, I went over the circumstances in my mind and I decided that even if I’d had it with me it wouldn’t have been much use to me riding up the hill, where the trapped perspiration would likely have equaled the falling precipitation. And at least without it there was still some breeze for evaporation.

Eventually, just as I was almost there, or at least almost to the top of the last ridge, after which I could cruise easy for a while and rest before the final push up, this particular destination way the heck up there at the base of the real mountain region, the wilds, it started falling more like rain than mist. But I was still sure it was going to be a beautifully grey day in just a matter of moments. And in fact, within just a few blocks the drops were gone and I was starting to dry out with the wind, speed.

Again, again today…

Monday, April 23, 2012

night light bright

In the past two weekends I’ve had two headlights stolen. Or taken, maybe I should say. I mean, it’s hardly stealing, really. It’s about as petty a theft as you can come by. These lights aren’t worth anything, really, maybe a couple bucks on the black market (ebay). Or maybe they’re just being used on bikes around town here. Hopefully they’re at least going to be used on a bike somewhere. Taking a light off someone’s bike is pretty petty, though. And both times it was at night. How can you take someone’s light at night? You must be a bicyclist, right? You must know why that light is there? It’s there so I can get home safely. And sure, it was an easy steal, I mean all you had to do was unclip it – 5 seconds, tops. And yes, I could unclip it and put it in my pocket every time I park my bike somewhere in the world – every day! But jeez, what a chore. Luckily, for me, I was able to find an easy replacement in the garage – being essentially free, having bought it years ago, that money forgotten. I think I ended up using that replacement light three times before it was taken. Then, luckily for me, again, there was one more super old light in the garage that magically still worked. So now it’s on there and will hopefully stay on there for at least a few months. In the process of riding home in the dark for a couple of nights a realized that I don’t have a front or rear reflector anymore, having just been relying on lights, it’s been fine. But while rummaging through the bicycle junk box in the garage to find old lights I came across a bunch of reflectors, too. It used to be, when we were kids, that it was really uncool to ride with reflectors on your bike. It somehow meant that you hadn’t bothered, yet, to customize your bike and it was all about custom. And, we never really rode around at night much back then anyway so it didn’t much matter. That mindset stuck with me for a while, and unintentionally persists on my bikes today. Now, decades later, I’m starting to think that maybe reflectors are pretty cool. Which, necessarily, proves that they’re still really uncool, but now that I can’t be bothered to keep up with and/or care about running with the cool kids, I’ve got options. And, more importantly, I’m pretty damn sure that no one is going to steal reflectors off my bike. So I loaded up the Mule with reflectors every-which way I could imagine.
Am I becoming that crazy old reflector man?

fix a bungee

Monday, April 16, 2012

downtown from above and below

With the world washed clean from the previous days' rains, and even a little snow at the top (at Orchard! in April!), views were blue and puffy and sharp and shiny, and running back down the mountain trail a three-dimension-alized downtown popped out in the distance from a backdrop of pacific ocean influence.

Then the CicLAvia came to downtown, maybe a hundred thousand strong, riders and skaters flooding the streets all day, with no cars to worry about, just to explore, and people watch and bike watch… and ride, ride, ride…

Thursday, April 12, 2012

two happy evening rides

Last night on the ride home, a little late, dark, around 8:30pm, on a colder than anticipated evening, I’d suited up in my ever-handy plastic rain cape and wool gloves/cap for the ride home, thinking I’d like to have the protection against the cold wind, when just as I set off, the sweetest little rain shower passed over, leaving heavy, yet fairly dispersed, raindrops pat-patting on my slicker for the briefest of moments, only enough to get that rain smell from the pavement. And yet, enough, too, to get umbrellas popping up from pedestrians and some sort of vibe from inside the cars, worried perhaps, for the poor cyclist caught in the storm. I, however, was suddenly joyful, riding in the lovely rain. I realized I’d been a little too good at avoiding it this season. Was this my first rain ride? In what will likely be one of our last rains for many months (except for tomorrow)? Well, I can hardly remember if it was the first, but it felt like it was, it felt great, and happy-smiley.

Then, this evening, having already gotten home a little early, I got a message from a friend asking about a bike part I’d offered to him for his new bike build. I didn’t really feel like heading back out again for I was already cozy at home but then I got to thinking how it feels to be so close on a bike project and waiting for something to arrive or wishing you could just finish it up right now and go ride! So, reinvigorated with this remembrance, I shot back out for a quick Pony Express time trial Uptown to handoff a pair of brake levers that have been sitting idle in the garage for a few years now, dreaming of a job, a ride. It was still just light out, no need yet for supplemental lighting and cool enough that I could really jam-on-it up the hill. It was a quick exchange, just a few offers of beers and talk of a future trail running date and then I was out the door again, still warmed from the ride up, and still light, for a cruising, cooling ride back down the fair hill, home, where the jazz was still on the radio, welcoming me back from another good ride.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

sticky locks and creaky pedals no more

My u-lock lock recently failed. Which is to say, became untrustable. Suddenly jamming on me. I tried adding oil and grease to the lock as this worked great about a year ago. But no luck this time. It still sorta works but I just don’t want to have to jimmy with it every time I lock which is a lot. And I certainly don’t want it to lock any of my bikes permanently to a post. Although, now I’m tempted to see just what it would take to cut through a u-lock. Destroying that old lock with a hacksaw might prove to be an extremely fun activity. It was a long life, though. I think this was the model that you could pick with a Bic. I agree that a u-lock is best but I decided to replace it with one of those sexy new Knog locks. We’ll see how it goes. The Knog fits pretty much the same as the u in my rack so that’s a nice carryover.

And while I was at it, and to hit the free shipping threshold, because as much as I’d like to use the LBS it just never works out for me, they’ve never got what I need and they treat me like a dirty child – I don’t get it, but that’s another story…. while I was at it, I put new pedals and toe clips in my basket. The toe clips have been duct taped together for I can’t remember how long – 3, 4, 5 years? And the pedals were coming apart at the seams and sagging outwards – creating what Ergon would call proper form, although I don’t buy that. I’m all for their grips but don’t agree with their line of thinking about pedal ergonomics. Their thinking is that when you sit on a high chair and let your feet dangle they naturally lean outwards, the outer part of the foot hanging lowest. This may be true, seems true, but for me that doesn’t translate into needing/wanting a pedal that sags outwise intentionally. And in fact, I have an amazing idea that will win the next Le Tour – pedals that lean inwise! You heard it here first.

There’s nothing special about these new pedals. They’re cheap and easy. But, being new, they feel real nice. Even though they might be set up a little tight in the bearings. Maybe that will loosen in a few thousand revolutions. And I’ve lost some mastery in flipping my feet into them just because they’re not identical-identical but very close and that new pedal swing geometry fit will be relearned quick-fast in no time.

Monday, April 9, 2012

margarita mountain

If only there were a Margarita Mountain with creeks and springs flowing yellow with Cadillacs. (Kinda reminds me of that Big Rock Candy Mountain hobo song.) There’s not but there’s a margarita mountain of the mind and I found it, ran it, over the weekend. As much as I’m a fan of getting out into the mountains just for the experience of soaking it all in and being present to the land of the moment, there are times, too, when a run up a mountain can become nothing but a struggle of training, overtraining. Still, a lot to be found, though, a lot of depth of mind to absorb up on the mountain even if you’re too tired to appreciate the rosy light of the late afternoon filtering through the trees or the unheard croaking of frogs down in the creek valley. And what I found in the depths of my mind while I forced myself up and up and on was the most serene of settings – dark and cool and filled with happy people enjoying the end of a long week. That’s where, I’m a bit embarrassed to say, I went in my time of need on the mountain, the only thing that was driving me onward, some personal version of Cheers in my head, where I knew, once this damn run was over, I’d be speeding directly towards for tall pitchers of margaritas with the rest of those running along with me. The best and/or most interesting part of it all is that once I finally got up and down the mountain and over to the dark cozy margarita bar, and once I’d gotten drink in hand and halfway sunk, well, all I could see then was the mountain. A replay of the run, running through my mind all evening. A nice little gift from the mountain, who, I think, understood my struggle that day and appreciated it and let me take a little morsel home to savor and to remind… you were on the mountain…

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


I know you’ve heard them. It seems mostly to hover around the roadies. It’s as if they’re yelling at each other. Actually, that’s exactly what they’re doing. And I get it. I understand. You want to converse with the person you’re riding with. And when you’re going 10 or 20 or whatever miles an hour there’s a lot of wind in your ears and it seems natural to speak up.

I happen to live on a bit of a bike route. Not heavy bike traffic but enough that it’s pretty normal to see/hear a few mini-pelotons riding by daily. It’s kind of fun… for me anyway. I like to hear about your new Sram Red-Black Edition derailleur and how you managed to adjust it so it would be compatible with your older 9-speed cog (is that even possible? doubtful) – which by the way (don’t worry) you’ll be upgrading posthaste – the order has already been placed at Temple City Bike Shop…

But, what of the other people out there in the world. I know it seems like there must only be a few of them left at this point – I mean, who isn’t cycling!?

And then there’s the profanity. Don’t get me wrong, I love a well placed fucking swear word. But when you’re riding through a quiet residential neighborhood and you’re bitching to yer mate about that god damn car that blew through the intersection or the recent hike in your club fees, maybe little Janie and Jimmy playing in the yard don’t need to hear all about it.

I mean, honestly, how ostracized do you want cyclist to be?

So lately, when riding with others, I’ve been trying to speak a little more softly. And, don’t worry if there’s a lull in the conversation while you navigate a single-file section of roadway. I’m sure your cycling buddy can pick up where you left off a few moments ago. Or, at least fill in the blanks with gibberish before charging forth on his or her own monologue.

Monday, April 2, 2012

currently reading

The Backbone of the World: A Portrait of the Vanishing West Along the Continental Divide
by Frank Clifford, 2002

Saturday, March 17, 2012

currently reading

Siberia Bound: Chasing the American Dream on Russia’s Wild Frontier
by Alexander Blakely, 2002

Friday, March 16, 2012

cloud mountain run

It’s cloudy and dark and forecast to rain through the weekend. I wanted to get up into the mountains before the storm arrived so that I could hole up back at home for the rest of the weekend, cooking pancakes and doing laundry.

It wasn’t easy getting out the door. I never know what to wear anymore. I think I’m developing some kind of phobia – fear of wearing the wrong outfit and/or having to tie a sweater around my waist.

Eventually I got out and rode Mindful Mule up the road and locked up in the center of the neighboring foothill town. Various layers of synthetic and wool kept me comfortable on the ride. I kept a lot of it on for the run up the mountain, too.

I tried to run as far as I could up the trail before being forced to walk. I guess I’ve fallen into a bit of a rut – walking certain sections every time – and I wanted to see if I could break away from my habits. It worked out well. I ran further than I ever have. I thought for a moment I might even make it the whole way – hope to, someday. But that route is crushing – the mountain always wins.

Little victories can be had, though. And today, the victory the mountain provided for me, enhanced by my somewhat delirious state of stubborn exertion, was to look out across the deep, thickly clouded valley to see nothing but grey surrounding an ancient giant, a silhouetted evergreen tree, just floating there, soaking in the mist.

I felt like a little Han Shan of my mountains, removed from time and geography, soaking, too, in that eternal moment…

Monday, March 12, 2012

currently reading

The Rum Diary
by Hunter S. Thompson, 1998

Sunday, March 11, 2012

ssssspring dream sssssoon

I had a dream last night about riding the “Seventies Schwinn Super Sport Singlespeed.” I haven’t ridden it in a long time but I’ve been eyeing it for a couple months now, tempted. It’s just that the SSSSS is primarily a for-show/pub bike. And it doesn’t have lights or a rack. These things can fairly easily be transferred from other bikes but it’s usually just enough of an effort that I end up riding the Mule most of the time – especially through the winter months when it might still be hot during the day but most likely cold at night so you sorta want to prepare for anything.

Well it must be spring’s eve because I’m thinking more and more about riding the SSSSS. And I’ve noticed that I don’t seem to be bothered anymore when my hands get a little cold on the bike, knowing that they won’t be cold for too much longer, sensing this last opportunity to take advantage of the cooler weather – one last dip before the big heat.

In the dream the SSSSS was actually a singlespeed, not fixed gear as it is in reality – and it had no brakes, not two as it does in reality. It felt nice to be freewheeling around through the empty residential streets, having no need to brake. It got a little dicey when I came across some other bikers and pedestrians (no cars in my dreams!) – that’s when I started trying to back-pressure the pedals only to be reminded that they weren’t fixed. It all worked out okay, no crashes, but I had to drag my feet to stop, which, in the non-dream world, is pretty ridiculous.

Ssssso my dreams sssssay that sssssoon it will be ssssspring and we will ssssspin around on the SSSSS. It looks a little gloomy out there today, but maybe I’ll try to merge dreams and reality anyway to give spring a rolling start. I should at least pump the tires.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

4/4 time

Counting 4/4 time is a great little metronomic meditation I’ve encountered on various hill trainings. Four steps on the inhale, four steps on the exhale. It keeps you just right at that perfect level of effort for training, solid yet sustainable. I first noticed it a few years ago up above El Prieto Trail and was reminded of it yesterday in the residential hills around my house. Going up the mountain, breathing becomes, understandably, pronounced. As the ascent steepens and fitness lags this effect compounds. But with drive to get to the top, to get better ready for Wilson, we push ourselves and we begin to sink deeper into this rhythmic aerobic cycle. Intentionally ignoring the deficit and suffering in the rest of the body, we begin to realize, to become aware of a collaboration between footfall and heartbeat and deep breathing, even resting a bit by its song.

Friday, February 24, 2012

currently reading

Fire Monks: Zen mind meets wildfire at the gates of Tassajara
by Colleen Morton Busch, 2011

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Flying with Hawk

In a dream the other night, I was running along a soft, dusty trail on a ridgeline through mostly low-lying sparse desert chaparral, suddenly, now, reminiscent of some distant Baja memory. Warm thermals were flowing up the ridges and I was flying along on them.

On a trail run the other day, I was descending along a familiar hard-packed brown mountain path through semi-coastal-desert foothill chaparral. Above me and to my right, holding still on his thermal yet keeping pace with me, a hawk shadowed me, for a moment, the two of us flying together.

Monday, February 13, 2012

best blueberry pancakes ride

The Brunch Ride has been going well lately. We’ve had a lot of great Sunday morning rides with a few revolving riders.

Yesterday we linked up river bike paths on the Arroyo and LA River – something I’ve been enjoying a lot lately – even though I’ve become very comfortable in traffic it’s still a pleasant surprise to spin freely along listening to the water splash and gurgle rather than the cars rev and whoosh.

This ride took us down to downtown – is that redundant? It was unusually busy down there yesterday. There was a 5/10K foot race that morning that was just getting completed as we arrived on the scene so our fist choice of restaurant was too busy with people sporting their finisher medals.

So we pushed on deeper into downtown and after barely avoiding the chaos of sirens and dozens of cop cars careening around corners to snuff out an imminent uprising and/or rumble and/or parade and/or I have no idea what was developing – but there were suddenly masses of people flooding the street and huddled cops arriving on the scene and jumping out of car doors and sliding across hoods (at least, that’s what I’m recreating in my memory) and really playing their parts well… wait, was that a scene from a movie or were they filming a movie or was that a dream…

Yeah, so after we made it through that surreality we came across an actual film crew right in front of our next restaurant destination confusing us further…

And then more sirens – this time some sort of very impatient firemen in a truck with a big, load horn…

Downtown felt like a real city – all bustley like New York. Normally, Downtown LA on a Sunday morning is quiet and empty which is why it’s fun to ride around there.

But after all that… we made it to a table and were treated to delicious coffee and the best blueberry pancakes (my favorite food?) I’ve had in a long time – complete with extra blueberries and powdered sugar on top and smothered with butter and blueberry syrup – all while attaining the illusive inch-thick-per-pancake (3) desire – yum – it was worth the hectic approach. Pete’s – 4th and Main.

Thus fueled, and the hectic streets clearing, we pushed on up Sunset Blvd, always an enjoyable steady, mild climb (with a bike lane, even!) past increasingly scenic (with new parkway improvements) Silver Lake Reservoir back downstream on the LA River Bike Path, up Figueroa Street, dinging bike bells grabbing my attention up and across the street to see Josef (Bike Oven founder) riding his bakfiets the other way with a wave and a smile – a nice mindfulness bell moment - past the Bike Oven co-op, back upstream on the Arroyo River Bike Path, to the start/finish pub where we sat on the sunless, chilly patio for ice water and cold beers – self-creating winter conditions.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Brunch Run Revival

After several false starts with the brunch run coinciding with several solo Saturday summits (okay, not really summits, but, for the sake of alliteration!) today saw the gathering of the few, the strong, The Brunners (brunch run runners).

It was a cold and stormy morning – read: partially cloudy and a forecasted high of 65 degrees. Mindful Mule met up with Out And About In LA, et al. As usual on these cooler days (it was a little windy and colder than the forecast up on the mountain) I couldn’t figure out what to wear to attain perfect heat/moisture transfer and comfort. But did my best with shorts and a longsleeve shirt and visor – no sun glasses, ditched at the last minute due to threatening clouds overhead, and turning out to be a fine decision but it’s always hard to leave them in the bike basket for fear of theft and or sunbursts.

The shirt was the Mount Wilson Trail Race shirt from 2008 which I sometimes feel a little silly wearing on the same trail and route of the race (which we were running today) but also feel it makes my presence on the trail quite justified and/or nearly official to other trail users.

The final coming to terms with my outfit was the realization that there is really no way to be completely comfortable when you’re running straight up a mountain.

As one might expect with a group of runners that don’t run together very often, we were rather spread out over the trail. So the group brunch run, at times, felt like another solo run. But we were rarely very far apart and once reassembled at the Orchard Camp turnaround concluded that it might just be a waste of precious energy reserves to try to actually run the whole way up. And in fact, a good brisk power walk might be nearly as fast and save energy for the speediest of descents. Of course, this is all taken from the perspective of the race, which this was not.

It was a beautiful (if a bit gloomy) day on the mountain that just happened to provide excellent training and, as I also decided on the trail this morning, trail familiarity, which may be as important, or even more so, than fitness. If you know when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em, so to speak, you’re at a huge home-trail advantage.

As much as I’d like to say that this trail run is as much about the beauty of the place, I have to be serious and say that this trail is brutally tough and I’d never really just run it for pleasure – that’s what Brown Mountain is for! I run this trail solely in preparation for the race – every Memorial Day Weekend.

That being said, I’d like to add, that it really is a beautiful place up there that shows you several different eco zones as you ascend. And with changing weather and time and awareness factors it (the trail/place) put on quite a little magic show of awesomeness and endlessness and depth, even fooling me for a moment into wondering what trail I was on and how I’d gotten there and had I just been running here forever on this ever-changing route, never starting or finishing, a Sisyphus-ian spell. That was a great, great suspended moment and the real reason to be up running on a mountain. Of course, decompressing over coffee and treats afterwards isn’t half bad either.

currently reading

DUDE, You’re Gonna Be a DAD!: How to get (both of you) through the next 9 months.
by John Pfeiffer, 2011

Friday, February 10, 2012

Monday, February 6, 2012

currently reading

The Wild Places
by Robert Macfarlane, 2007

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.