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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…