Tuesday, May 14, 2013

On Not Riding....

As I'm sure anyone who has read my blog even a couple of times can tell, riding for me is important. It's important for a few different reasons.

The first is that I identify myself as a rider and if I don't actually ride, then I must not have an identity. (I can see you trying to wrap your head around that one right now so I'll give you a moment.....ok, done?)

The second reason is that, as I've stated in more than one previous post, riding for me is therapy, anger management, conflict resolution class and a nice dose of Prozac all rolled into one nice, low cost session. (granted the low cost part of that statement is debatable if you look in my garage)

It's also a place I'm able to safely and in a healthy way, work out my competitive issues. (not that I'm in any way admitting there's a slim chance I may be slightly competitive)

Lastly, riding is pretty much the only exercise I do these days that doesn't leave me with aching knees and a sore lower back so if I'm not riding, I'm also not getting any exercise. This in addition to affecting my long term health, also affects my self esteem and self confidence. (yeah, there's probably a doctoral thesis paper in there for some psychiatrist, but whatever)

So, lately, I haven't been riding much. Life and family challenges have kept me off the bike and although the time off the bike has allowed me to get stuff done around the house, it hasn't been helpful for my attitude. The problem is, I don't see the situation changing a whole lot in the next several weeks....something has to change and unfortunately, I think it's going to have to be my attitude towards riding.

In the past, I've felt like I could do any group ride and although I'm never the fastest, I've been able to complete the ride and usually at a pace that allows me to avoid embarrassing myself. I've worked hard to get to this level of fitness. I normally ride 2-3x per week with at least one of those rides being a long, hard ride where I could pretty much empty my head of all the crap that builds up during the week.

I guess if there's any upside to my inability to ride is that my fitness level will fall off.  How could that possibly be an upside you ask? Well, let me tell you.  One of the things I really enjoy about riding is the way a long hard ride will leave me completely depleted and exhausted but doesn't hurt my back or my knees the way running used to. My assumption is that if my fitness level decreases, and I'm only able to do one short ride per week, that one short ride will become hard and will get me to my desired level of exhausted-ness quicker. (yep, in my head that actually makes sense)

So, as I try to find a new balance between work, home and cycling I realize and accept the fact that I'll be slower, and probably heavier, but still thankful for the time I get on the bike. Time spent clearing out the cobwebs and making circles with my legs while my brain checks out, even if just for a little while.

Who knows, maybe I'll even find a place where it's ok to not be in the lead group and not one of the "fast guys".....(yeah, right)

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Passing It On...

I've been mountain biking since the mid-80s and since we were newlyweds at the time (read flat broke) every bike I'd owned was a compromise between what I wanted and what we could afford.

The first bike was a Schwinn Sierra (1985 I think) and it was my prized possession. I remember saving for months to get it, scraping and diverting precious dollars from our already over-strained budget until I had the 289.00 to make it my own.

Not long after though, it was stolen. We lived in an apartment in a less than great neighborhood and I left it on the patio one night to find it gone in the morning....I was crushed but immediately began raiding the budget again until I saved for my next bike. A 1990 Giant Iguana which at 349.00 took a pretty big bite out of the meager savings.

When I was shopping for this bike, front suspension was starting to be a lot more common on bikes.  I unfortunately, having 2 young kids was forced once again to settle for something less than what I really wanted. The giant though was leaps and bounds ahead of the sierra as it had 21 speeds and the "new" rapidfire shifters which were a big leap over the friction thumb shifters on my Schwinn.

I rode this thing all over the place, rigid fork be damned. Chabot, Garin, the Hayward Plunge trail....nothing was too tough.....It's too bad I didn't save the money to move to a nicer neighborhood because I still had to keep the bike on the patio. Even though I had installed an eye bolt in the concrete and locked it up, my cable lock was no match for the commitment of our local hoodlums.

Ok, upgrading again....this time to a pretty nice 1996 Diamond Back. Still no front suspension, because after all, that was at the $500.00 level and only pros spend that kind of money on a bike...right?
It was about this time that my life and career were taking more time and riding was getting less attention...to be honest, the bike pretty much sat after that first year....

In 2003 though, I was fat and out of shape and although I wasn't healthy, my savings account finally was. I began to shop in earnest. Deciding I would no longer cut corners and settle for a bike that wasn't what I wanted.  The problem was, I had no idea what was available any more and no idea what I wanted.

The good news is that when it comes to bikes, I actually enjoy shopping....and shop I did. Finally ending up with a full suspension, disc braked aluminum bike made by K2. It wasn't a common brand in the bike industry, but I figured I'd get more bang for my buck..and I did. Of course when the minister of finance found out I spent almost $1000.00 on a bike, she considered having me committed....I mean what kind of lunatic spends that kind of money on a bicycle???? (those of you reading this and knowing what my current stable of bikes looks like are probably laughing right now but that's why I discourage her from going in the garage)
I loved the bike and rode it like I stole it. She's ridden pretty much all the good trails in the bay area, from the local loops like Chabot and Joaquin Miller to some of the more popular place like China Camp, Demo, Henry Coe and Skeggs. I've raced her at Sea Otter, and Harvey Bear and she's even been to Tahoe on a few occasions.

It's on her that I finally became a regular cyclist and she eventually became a gateway drug for me, leading me into road biking, singlespeeding and as of a couple years ago, 29ers.

Sadly, over the last several years she also became a donor for some of my other bikes until last year, with nothing left but a frame I rebuilt her to her former glory. New front shock, crankset, F&R derailleurs and wheels and tires.....and there she sat in my garage....having only been ridden twice since and now hanging from the rack and gathering dust.
See, the days of heavy, full suspension, geared 26ers has passed for me and now my go-to bike has bigger hoops and neither gears nor suspension.  It's sad really....but the truth is there's a new gal in my life and I just enjoy spending time with her more

Well, today all that changed....  A friend of a friend is a newly married guy that wants to get into mountain biking. He has a limited budget and a kid on the way....and as of this afternoon now owns a very affordable, better than average, entry-level mountain bike in almost new condition.

Hopefully she'll do for him what she did for me. Introducing him to the joys of time spent together, pushing him beyond his comfort zones and if he's not careful, she may show him how tough she is as she lays next to him on the trail unscathed while he wipes the dust and blood off after she enticed him to try something he should  have known better than to attempt...

Good bye old friend...hopefully I'll see you on the group rides....

Friday, May 3, 2013

Bling-a-riffic for the SS

I bought myself the Jabber as a Christmas present in 2008 and built it up nicely, but on a budget. It had XT brakes, some e-bay Mavic wheels on XT hubs and some nice tires. I did add some red bits and pieces  in the form of a headset and seatpost clamp and some custom Groovy Luv bars which was my attempt at bling-ifying my ride.

Other than that I've done nothing to the bike except ride the heck out of it. This has been an awesome bike and with the exception of some rides at Demo, Skeggs or Tahoe where I knew either our route or my fitness level required the gears, it's been my main ride.....and it's been bulletproof.

I think for me, the simplicity is one of the main attractions of riding SS. There is very little maintenance, no tuning or adjusting of derailleurs or suspension and as far riding it goes, it forces a level of honesty that reminds me of riding my bmx bike as a kid.  If there's a hill you can't climb, you walk, if you want to go faster, pedal harder, if you head over a rough bumpy section, pick the smoothest line, flex your arms and legs and hang on....

Sure, the reasons that gears and suspension were invented and have become so popular is so that you can climb steeper hills, ride faster and descend smoother without beating the crap out of your body, and I definitely like my geared bike when I ride it, but for me, the SS really is my favorite ride.

With that in mind, I've been lusting after a newer, sexier SS. Maybe a lighter, custom steel frame. Or possibly even a carbon fiber wonder-bike with sleek lines, carbon fork and so light it practically pedals itself...the problem is, there's absolutely nothing wrong with the Jabber. It does everything I need it to with no complaints and any drawbacks with the performance are more than likely due to the motor and not the bike.....still bike lust compels me to look and to shop.

So, what's a guy to do? Well, the goal is to slowly upgrade everything that I can so that if someday I do find and buy that dream frame I've been searching for, I can just move all the components over.  To that end, I've invested in some nicer wheels which should not only save some weight, but will be perfect for a future carbon or custom steel frame.....the fact that the hubs are red and match the other red bits, only adds to the bling factor....

Now, if I could just upgrade to a stronger motor I'd be all set....