Thursday, March 28, 2013

if you wiggle

if you wiggle,
and you're willing to un-clip a time or two,
and you don't mind getting a rooster tail up your back,
and you don't mind getting your bike wet,

you can ride 2.5 miles past the locked gate, up toward the top of big mountain, skirting fingers and swaths of snow still hugging the asphalt.


and if you're really lucky---as I apparently am---you will see a moose grazing in the hollow at the bottom of the road up the back side of little mountain.

just another day that I'm awfully glad I hopped on my bike and pedaled up the hill.

Monday, March 18, 2013

it's about time, or, shopping for a new bike, finale

so, there you go.
that's the bike:  a time nxr instinct, black and white with bright green accents.
it's mine mine mine mine mine!
it's beautiful, sleek, awesome, responsive . . . super light, fast, lively . . . and mine.

I've ridden it 4 times:  the snowy ride up toward dead horse point, a windy ride up the colorado river, the 4000' of climbing in arches, and a 52-miler two days ago.  every time has been terrific:  this bike is amazing.  what I love most is that when I really give it some power, it goes.  whether you call this "power transfer" or "responsiveness" or something else (I am not a bike geek!  I don't know these things!), this bike has it.
this, however, does not mean it goes any faster up the hills:  I, still, remain it's only power source and unfortunately I am not any newer, better built, or more expensive than I was a week ago.

so, the time is awesome.  I am thrilled to have it.  and the deal-closer (as I debated and wavered between the cannondale and the time) came in the form of a story and an analogy.  of course.
the story---complete with photographs---was about how time creates its bicycle frames.  ryan at contender showed me pictures of women (yes, most of this work is done by women, woo-hoo) weaving carbon fibers around molds, building the tubes of the frames.  ryan and his wife alison visited the factory in Vaulx-Milieu, France a few years ago where they received a tour and explanation of all that goes into a time bicycle frame.  the story was almost too much for me to absorb, but I did understand the point:  suffice to say they create works of art.  

I was swaying.
and then the analogy, where ryan basically tipped me into the time camp (be aware that ryan, all along, told me that the two bikes I was considering were so very similar that I couldn't choose incorrectly, given my riding pattern, goals, and so on) was this:
for old-fashioned me, who would rather live surrounded by beauty than efficiency, by hand-crafted works and creations than machine-generated anythings (except the keurig, and well, the washing machine, and okay, a few other appliances), he'd said the exact right thing to get me to choose the time.
so john got out his checkbook and bought me a fine example of french craftsmanship. 

cannondale is all about technology, and time is all about craftsmanship. 

which has already brought me untold pleasure, which I'm sure it will continue to do, and which I'm also sure I will continue to tell you about.

ps:  these posts are created using "times" font 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

arches, accomplished

I---for some reason---don't care for the term bucket list.  possibly because I'm a word snob, possibly because I don't like cliches (I intend to eventually die, not kick the bucket), probably because I think we could all just be more creative if we tried.
so I don't have a bucket list.
actually, I don't even have much of a wish list.
I tend to take what comes my way instead of searching things out.  (I am not saying this is a good way to be:  I would probably have more adventures if I started dreaming up things I'd really like to do.  I'm just stating the fact that I am not a things-to-do-before-I-die list maker.)

however . . . for the past 6 years I've thought about riding my bike in arches national park.
and this past monday I finally did it.
whee!  and grunt, groan, grind.  another whee, more groaning and grinding . . .
here's an idea of the elevation gain and loss on the way in:

and then what you need to understand is that after you reach the turn-around point (the tip of that last blue peak) you have to turn around and come back out . . . going back down (whee!) and up (groan) and down (whee!) and up (grunt) and down (whew!).
it was one heck of a gorgeous ride with--truly--never a dull moment.  it wasn't an easy ride, but my new bike performed beautifully, and during the moments when I wasn't freezing or shaking with the cooling-off-sweaty-chills, I couldn't have been in a better place.
I mentioned in my prior post from moab that the landscape here sends me inward, to introspective and contemplative places.  I had long stretches of solitary miles, me, the red rocks, the blue sky, the wind . . . all so good for the soul. 
I'm glad I finally rode it.

I'm still not ready to make a list of things to do before I die, but there is one more ride I've been thinking about . . .
more on that---and an answer to what bike I'm riding these days---soon!

hope you find some whee! somewhere, somehow, today.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

neither snow nor rain nor sleet nor wind

the old postal carrier saying seems to apply to my biking life:
Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night....
may I just add sleet, cold, and wind?

greetings from moab, where, in march, the weather is essentially unpredictable and widely variable. 
and after two days of riding, we can attest to that.  we're here for the skinny tire festival:  3 days of riding in this startlingly beautiful, stark and quiet land which always leads me to introspection.  that is, when I can feel my fingers and toes.

we arrived in moab friday evening to a statement from the ride organizers that the saturday route had been changed due to the severe weather forecasted for the day.  lunch would NOT be served at the dead horse point turnaround, in fact, the route was no longer even heading up the hill toward dead horse point.
just because there was a 60% chance of moisture and a predicted high somewhere around 50?
wimps, I thought.   (just wait, humility is coming.)

we woke up saturday morning to gray, overcast skies which were holding their moisture in quite well, and we (i.e., susan, with john nodding in semi-reluctant agreement) decided to give it a try anyway.  heck, I've been cold before, I've been wet before.  I didn't come here to ride along the (yawn) river portal to potash, I came to ride up to dead horse point.  
the first 12 or so miles were through town and then along a beautifully designed bike path, not without some climbing, but off from the highway, hugging rock walls, surrounded by postcard-worthy beauty.  then we started up the 22-mile long route up to dead horse point.  it's possible we made it a mile before the first droplets of moisture hit my face, one here, pause, pause, another there.  totally tolerable.  completely.   
another mile up, a few more droplets.  okay, they were cold.  refreshing.  well, kind of like sleet.
another mile, more sleet-y stuff, well, and then it was no longer sleet but had become, yep, snow.
but light snow, pretty, not too bad, not like a solid wall of it or anything.
a few miles passed in this manner, and the nice thing about snow versus sleet/rain is that snow doesn't soak you quite as quickly.
then the snow began coming down a little more heavily.
then the wind picked up, whipping that snow more and more in my face.
we were a third of the way to the top, and my misery level was increasing iota by iota, pedal stroke by pedal stroke.
but I don't like to give up.
however, I kept looking for a landmark, a good turn-around point, a place I could say I made it to.  a campground, a monument, a significant rock, anything.  we were about 40% of the way up the hill, and . . . enough is enough.
I turned around;  john didn't argue.  

you know I don't like to give up.  and I can tough it out pretty well.  but sometimes the suffering just isn't worth it, and yesterday's ride pushed me to one of those points.

however . . . the new bike performed absolutely beautifully, and is an awesome machine.
it rode well today, too, against the wind up the colorado river and with the wind (whee!) back down to town.

yes, I know I haven't yet answered the time v. cannondale question.   here's a hint:  the answer is embedded in everything I've typed about this decision from the first post through today's.  cheers and here's to a warm and sunny monday in arches national park!

Friday, March 8, 2013

shopping for a new bike, part III

wednesday was cannondale day:  I took the evo supersix for a short ride.  I wanted to get a feel for descending, so climbed about 800 feet so that I could swoop a few times, around a few corners, down a straight line, get a sense of how it handles.
it handles quite nicely.  quite.  in fact,
it was much more fun than it was supposed to be . . .

you see, I had pretty much decided I was going to go with the time.  my tuesday ride on the time (the time trial time trial) was so good and the discussion I had with ryan at contender about the craftsmanship of time frames had convinced me that purchasing the time was the way to go.
and then I rode the cannondale again.
and that cannondale is---get ready for it, I have a big, perfect word here---zippy.
yep, zippy.
it was fun.
and zippy.

it felt great, it handled well, it cornered and swooped and sped up and moved with me and darn it all, it was fun and zippy.

it's not like I can even say "I want them both," because they are too similar, they both do the same things, they are within centimeters of each other on a continuum of road bikes and their performance.  if I had them both, it would be a dilemma every day of which to ride.

I've learned in the last few years of my life the Big Secret of Decision Making and it is this:  the decision itself is usually far less important than just making the decision.  let me state that again.
the decision you make usually matters less than the fact that you made the decision.
the struggle and indecisiveness are almost always disproportional to the importance of the decision.
we overthink most every decision we make.
yes, or no.
this or that.
just do it.

so I left contender that day having made a decision.
the time, or the cannondale.  yep.  I had made my choice.  which one do you think I chose?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

time trial time trial

no, I don't have a stutter.  you know I have a thing for words and an inability to resist opportunities for word-play.  technically this post should be labeled shopping for a new bike, part II, but I just couldn't resist.
time trials, for those of you who've never met one, are short(ish) efforts at an anaerobic level:  when I say "short," remember that I consider a ride to be "long(ish)" only if it's over 50 miles or three hours.  the following is adapted from a bicycling magazine article by fred matheny:

At first glance, time trials are the simplest form of cycling competition. Cyclists start at intervals, usually 1 minute apart, and ride the course as fast as possible alone. The object is to complete the distance in the least amount of time. No drafting is allowed. It’s one rider against the clock. Often called the "race of truth," the time trial is perceived as the ultimate test of a cyclist’s ability. You ride as hard as you can from start to finish.
One major advantage of time trialing is safety. Because each cyclist starts alone, one minute apart from the next cyclist, you are on the course without the crowd that characterizes mass-start bicycle races. No drafting is allowed. Therefore, the emphasis is on sheer riding ability and fitness, instead of esoteric skills like following 6 inches behind a speeding wheel or cornering in a tight pack.
At speeds greater than 20 mph, almost all the cyclist's power output is used to overcome wind resistance. Obviously, the cyclist who best slices through that invisible wall of air has an advantage. As a result, time trialing has become an equipment-oriented sector of cycling. Aero-bars is a significant means for a cyclists to cheat the wind.
Time trialing is a demanding event. It involves determination, self-discipline, and persistence. Good time trialists can push themselves to the absolute limit for the duration of the course. In physiological terms, they hover on the very brink of their anaerobic threshold where the slightest increase in speed would drive them into irrevocable oxygen debt and a lost race. Psychologically, top time trialists must learn to overcome pain and blot out all other distractions in their quest for speed. But the difficulty-and ultimately the fascination-of the sport arises out of this perilous quest for human limits, both mental and physical.

so a REAL time trial involves competition against others, but anyone can ride their own personal time trial anytime they want.  the best competition is that with oneself. 

yesterday my plan was to return to contender bicycles and take the time bike I've been looking at out for a real ride:  up and down a canyon, where I could get a sense of how it handled, especially while descending.

I had no intention of doing anything like a time trial;  in fact, I had made up my mind to just enjoy the ride, focus on the feel of the bike, ride at a leisurely pace, all that.  class yesterday morning was full of challenging intervals, and I had no plans to add an aggressive ride.
and then I got on the bike.
started pedaling, headed up a hill.  a steep hill (the path from contender to emigration is primarily up, up, and then more up).  my heart was pounding and I was in the lowest gear, and although it didn't feel great, it felt okay.  (my heart, lungs, muscles, not the bike, which felt great.)
that bike is nice.  it's smooth, it's responsive, it's calm.  when I push hard it goes faster.  which causes me to want to keep pushing hard.  which makes my heart pound more, but darn it, it feels so good when the bike takes in what you give it and moves a little more quickly.  wow.  I pedaled; it went.  and my heart kept pounding.
thus the unintentional time trial. during my time trial.  

that is one nice bike.

today I'll return to contender to give the cannondale one last shot at capturing my heart.  the cannondale still ranks higher in the fun category for me, but . . . the time was very, very sweet.  especially during that surprise time trial.

I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

shopping for a new bike, part I

this past saturday john and I rode up emigration canyon and then--instead of coming straight home--rode further and further into salt lake until we stopped at contender bicycles.  I had an appointment, you see, to test ride a few bikes.

john's Christmas gift to me was a new bike, and we'd been waiting for some warm(ish) and dry(ish) weather so that I could go do a few test rides.  can you feel me grinning?

so, saturday, after my beautiful ride up and down the canyon, I took short city spins on two beautiful new bicycles, a cannondale supersix evo, and a time rx instinct.

I began my road-biking experiences on a cannondale, a CAAD something (5? 8? can't remember and it's no longer in my possession).  it had a compact double and came with aero bars (which I promptly and laughingly removed), and was frost blue.  I'm not a blue person, but it was the only one in my size and when you're on a budget and a bike is on sale, you sometimes take what you can get.
that bike took me great places, and taught me to conquer whatever was put in front of me.
then I developed an itch for a new bike.  it all began when a friend asked me if I was interested in selling my bike . . . and another friend happened to be buddies with a guy who owned a bike shop where I could get a great deal on a prior-year's specialized bicycle . . . and before I knew it the cannondale was gone, and the specialized ruby expert sat in its place.

life on the specialized has been grand, but when I switched from a compact double to a triple, I believe I got a little bit lazier.  since I had those extra few gears, why not use them on those steep climbs?  I believe I took a little teeny step backwards in what had been a steady progression of strength and performance.

now it's back to the double.  I am not a geek, so I had to look this up and I may or may not be correct . . . but it looks like a 50/34 11 speed on the cannondale, and something comparable on the time though it has only 10 speeds.

I may soon be the proud owner of a new bike . . . if I'm able to come to a decision.

the cannondale is fun.  spiffy.  cool.  flashy.  wow.  (great to fly up the canyons)
the time is smooth.  sleek.  understated.  awesome.  (incredible on the 5 hour + rides)

it's feeling like a fun v. practical decision . . .  and I've spent most of my life being practical.
that fun, flashy cannondale is calling me . . .

this afternoon I'm taking the time up and down emigration canyon to experience a genuine ascent and descent.
I'll let you know how it goes, and where my heart takes me next.

fun, practical.   fun, practical.  practical, fun . . .