2014 Seasons in the Sun

Monday, June 29, 2015

Slowly Passing

We ride two different roads - hers is full of conversation, "rambling" I call it. It flows as long as the pavement unfolds in front of her wheel, it takes sudden turns, is often directionless, and frequently gets her lost. Mine is studied and planned, small talk involves bikes, bike trips, bike people, and little else. It is to the point, with little room for randomness.

I was keeping the ride "together" by following at a short distance; she does not like when I ride her wheel, hence the short distance. At sixteen miles per hour, our clip was not quick, but I was content with it. Pedaling the Ibis allowed me to hop between the pavement and the dirt verge at will. I was off pavement when our sixteen miles per hour pace carried us up to a lone rider, and so I hopped onto the path in preparation for passing.

Our pace dropped - fifteen, fourteen, thirteen, twelve. Then leveled off. The Los Angeles River Ride had brought heavy morning bike traffic over to the San Gabriel River Trail. But that was then, and this was now. Passing groups gave way to big gaps with ample opportunity for passing slower solo riders, yet she seemed stuck in place, and I could not understand the hesitancy. 

My preparations for settling in to a new, slower, reality were suddenly preempted by a subtly evolving shift to the left. "Ah, the pass. Finally." But, man was it slow. She moved ever so slightly ahead, and I had hope. Hope can be dashed in the flicker of a light, the blink of an eye, or it can, as I was to find out, drag on through countless wheel rotations. There was no turning of heads between the two, and I guess I was far enough behind that no hint of conversation reached my ears, yet the slowness of the pass suggested something was up. Hope turned to dismay as I began to realize the slow pass was devolving into a non-pass. 

She had found someone to talk to.

Zeus knows, I can't blame her for finding conversation where, or when, she can, and she is a far more "social animal" than am I. Once again I tendered my resignation from the Benevolent Order of Adequate Pace. Besides, this wasn't so bad - I still had the dirt verge to keep me occupied. As tends to happen in instances like this, though, one thing led to another.  Twelve miles per hour became eleven, ten, and then even nine as the two new friends caught an even slower moving couple.

And the turning of the cranks became a turning of the screws.

No dirt would keep me entertained for long at that pace. So it was another hop up to pavement, the flash of a peace sign in passing, and "i'll see you up ahead." That's the great thing about cycling, isn't it? It can be as socially infectious as we want it to be, at nearly any given moment.

It was a great weekend to escape the heat and humidity inland, for the humidity, but a little less heat at the coast. Hope everyone had a great couple days.

Blue: A color, a mood or emotion, a genre of music. Tune in each Monday for another installment of the Blues, with a cycling twist.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Boobs on Bars

Pete has, lately, been organizing these mountain bike rides through many of our local riding hot spots. Though I wanted to get out to each of them I missed out on three (at least) earlier rides, to Chino Hills State Park the world famous Fullerton Loop, and Marshall Canyon, so when this latest one, to Bonelli Park, popped up on Facebook I made sure I was ready and not let the opportunity pass me by. Now, Bonelli is like a once a week thing for me [yes, you say, we've grown weary of all those Bonelli posts, you say] but, and as I have mentioned before, there are so many interconnected, and criss-crossing trails in the park that it is hard to tire of the place since you can mix it up each time, and thus vary the loops.

the intrepid party of explorers ready to depart

The last time I did a group ride at Bonelli it was with the Girlz Gone Riding, and more specifically geared towards beginners and novices, and I was able to take them on my favorite lakeside detour around the cove. Today we kept more to the steeper and rockier perimeter, damaging legs and egos the whole time. There are some steeps that really force you to push and slow grind, even in the easiest gears. The kind of hills that may have you hunched over so far that you are riding "boobs on bars" - an apropos description I must admit I had never heard before today.

I think the group may have been a bit smaller this morning since some of the usual protagonists are in Portland for the Naked Bike Ride (photos or it didn't happen, I believe is in order), but we had a fun group, a fun ride, and I will certainly be keeping an eye peeled for the next one. Thanks, Pete, for organizing.

kactus kingdom

up to the heliport and into the clouds

this little trail segment, coming down from the helipad, is trickier than it looks

riding through the summer dry

Friday, June 26, 2015

Today Along the SGRT

this little critter was hurrying across the path, while dodging all the passing wheels and feet

How many times do we look to the west while driving Hwy 395 and see those switchbacks ascending the eastern Sierra? If you are like me, you are probably answering "not enough." But you always look, none-the-less, right? Then we read about the experiences of someone who rode them and promise ourselves, "one day." This is kind of similar, but much closer to home. I am not talking about the well-defined road on the left, manicured for the construction of the power line. No, I am talking about the almost indistinguishable one to the right. If I am not mistaken, they meet up somewhere before White Saddle, before continuing to climb up and over to Cogswell (actually, i know the well-defined one does, i am just not sure the two meet up). If you know your geography, this is one canyon (Van Tassel) west of Fish Canyon, where all the quarrying takes place. I don't mind admitting, but that looks steep, painfully so, and blistering hot. Surely someone has ridden it, but I will accept volunteers to give it a try, then tell us all about it. In fact I will go so far as to suggest Nick H give it a go - this would fit right in with some of the rides I have seen him doing lately.

i get so used to seeing this stretch of the river dry and brown, that it is almost shocking when there is water in it - a very short stretch between just north of the pedestrian bridge to the I10 crossing. today i decided to risk a pair of cleats to amble down the rocky, concrete embankment to reach waters edge

swimming hole! jump! looking south to the Huntington bridge

Thursday, June 25, 2015

This Bud's for You, 24 June

O the wild charge they made!

Actually, the charge was not all that wild. In fact, as far as things like that go, it was quite smooth and orderly. That said, judging by at least one post-sprint comment, there seemed to be some mild surprise that the champion kept a pair of sprinters' legs in his parts bin. Ah, the post race jibes.

This Bud's for you:

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Messing With My Bike

Whoo-hoo I yell out as the clock at the top of the monitor clicks over to 5:30, another ten hours of not riding done for another day. Someone laughs, someone yelps their own whoo-hoo, and a few groans come from the cubbys where people will be tethered for another thirty, maybe sixty minutes. Normally I would ease the back door closed behind me in order to hide my extremely punctual departure. Tonight though, racing out, I let the wind slam it in my wake. I almost whistle with the thought of what is ahead. No other standard weeknight gets me going like Tuesday does, night of the Ibis, and the Cross (CX) Town Loop.

Other than a little slow at the on-ramp, traffic on the 10 is moving fine. Once I make it home I even have time, or make the time, to say hello to the family.

After that though, it is go, and all thoughts turn to the ride.

As soon as the pedals begin their relentless turn it is clear that something is not right - chain rub and that awful clicking you get when the derailleur is not quite in gear. I shift a couple times to no effect, and so after turning onto the street I pull over to have a look. There was no problem when I rode the green machine last week, and I don't notice anything out of the ordinary now. Because of that I figure things can be sorted out as I ride. A couple turns of the road later, and a complete run up and down the cassette, both big and small rings, there is no improvement. "What the heck, what gives?" Confused, dejected, with a stirring of anger under the surface, I turn around and make my way, noisily, for home.

Is there any dejection more severely felt than the disappointment of a failed ride?

The wife, astutely noting the short duration of the ride, asks a brilliant [the anger has surfaced] question - "what gives?" 

"Someone's been messing with my bike", I growl. I start mentally ticking off who it might have been - the wife did something to it while getting hers out, the boy doesn't ride his lately, so I don't tick him off, but his friends are always over and I make a mental note of each one. Maybe the mountain biker across the way, or the roadie two doors down got in the garage, and I think (to myself) that they are both jealous of the Ibis. Now I think I am beginning to sound a little bit crazed. When the wife asks again, my "someone's been messing with my bike" is not as harsh as the first time. Still, she senses the accusation, and with no lack of certainty lets me know that no one has touched my bike.

Head hung and tail tucked I shuffle upstairs to change before heading out to the garage to figure out what exactly the hell is going on. After taking the chain off and putting it back on, checking alignments, pulling cables, adjusting derailleurs, both front and rear, lighting candles and chanting to drive the demon out, I finally notice the, seemingly insignificant, problem. Right there where the housing around the rear derailleur cable enters the black whatchamacallit; somehow a bunch of the little structural cables of the housing have been pulled completely out. How is such a thing even possible?

Well, after getting everything tucked back into the black whatchamacallit and readjusting the derailleurs once again, everything seems to be working fine. Tuesday's ride will become Thursday's for this week, so expect another whoo-hoo at 5:30 two days from now. To everyone I cursed, either in fact or imagination, I sincerely apologize, and let this be a mechanical lesson - sometimes it is not the obvious, big things, but the small, insignificant, easy to overlook things, that are the source of our misfortune.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

How to Wear a Cycling Cap: Olaf Ludwig

Wear it no matter how late you start.

though not credited at the source, I believe this is a Graham Watson photo

Olaf developed, as a cyclist, behind the Iron Curtain in East Germany, and as a result he did not enter the European professional ranks until relatively late in life. When he finally did break into the [western] Euro-pro peloton in 1990 with Panasonic, it was in time to throw wheels against some of the most ferocious sprinters of all time, including Wilfried Nelissen, Djamolidine Abdoujaparov (though admittedly, the two were competitors behind the curtain as well) and, of course, Mario Cipollini. 

The year he turned pro, Ludwig won the Green Jersey at the Tour de France, as well as three stages and the Points Competition at the Tour de Trump. 1992 may have been his best year, a year during which he won the Amstel Gold, Four Days of Dunkirk, GP de Fourmies, Stage 21 of the Tour, and topped the UCI World Cup rankings. Between 1990 and 1996 Olaf also won at Veenendaal-Veenendaal, the Rund um den Henninger Turm, Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, E3 Prijs Vlaanderen, the Memorial Rik van Steenbergen, Dwars Door Vlaanderen, and stages wins in the Tour de Suisse and Vuelta a Aragon. Add to those wins, thirty-three stage victories in the Peace Race and the Olympic Road Race Championship during the 1988 Games in Seoul, and you have one fine career.

When he finds himself astride a bike these days, he carries on with a significantly different attitude: "If I myself am sitting on the bike, then I want to have fun and not be quickly or first on a mountain or winning a local sign sprint" (from a 2010 interview).

Saturday, June 20, 2015

2015 Mobbin' Monday Summer Criterium Series: Spadra

For just a moment lets continue with the "hot summer" theme (thanks to John Sebastian, Mark Sebastian, Steve Boone and the Lovin' Spoonful, or whoever sang the version you are most familiar with):

"Hot Town Summer in the city
Back of my neck getting dirty and gritty
Been down, isn't it a pity
Doesn't seem to be a shadow in the city
All around people looking half dead
Walking on the sidewalk hotter than a match head

But at night its a different world
Go out and find a girl
Come on, come on and race all night
Despite the heat it will be alright
And babe,  don't you know it's a pity
The days can't be like the night
In the summer, in the city
In the summer, in the city…"

The Spadra Criterium was the second of Mobbin' Monday's Summer Criterium Series races happening every Friday night in Pomona during the month of June.

The darkness is still, mesmerizing, yet at the end of the street, forms even darker, shadow along the pavement from around the distant turn. Did you see? Was something, someone, there? Stealth and speed brings them closer, even as you blink to clear your eyes, attempting to focus, bring some clarity, some sense to the ephemeral. With quickness they approach the feeble orange glow of the street light to which you have been drawn. Just as quickly, their momentum carries through the light to recede and, ultimately, disappear back into the dark.

This is fixed-gear, brakeless criterium racing at night. Time and the darkness grant but a moment of revelation to the gathered spectators, before plunging us back beneath the enveloping shroud. Darkness enhances mystery, and the uninitiated might wonder at the fleeting forms, at one moment machine, the next human, and finally, a curious melding of the two.

You never know what to expect at these "grassroots" races, and the unpredictability adds to the allure. Another element of mystery. Workers at a course-adjacent manufactory, working the late shift, huddle in the light cast through an open roll-up doorway, their own short break, a moment to escape the stuffy warehouse interior. A semi, eighteen-wheeler, big-rig rolls onto the street between races, causing a delay as the driver, deliberately, carefully, skillfully backs the trailer to a loading dock right where racers and their spectators have gathered at the start/finish line. I welcome the beams cast by the headlights and wish they could remain for the duration of the race.

Thanks to Luis, who always seems to be the face of Mobbin' Monday at their events, and to all the other Mobbin's, because I am pretty sure it takes a team to put on a race.

Hope no one was blinded by my flash - I tried to use it only when racers were past, or right next to me, so as to not cause a problem. That limits the type of photos that can be shot, and I quickly realized that I was going to have to rely on a more artistic bent to them this time. The shadowy forms, murky lines, sudden splash and glow of color. Art over realism, yes, thats it. Art. I guess I can always fall back on that excuse. Be forewarned, if you click on the Flickr album link there is a lot of "art" in it this time (forty photo worth). Maybe by next week I will have figured out a way to project a more suitable light.
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