Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Zip Up...Zip Down...Zip Up...

It was 35 degrees and sunny at 8:15 in the morning when I started my ride with Betzi. I put on leg warmers, arm warmers, heavy hiking vest and jacket and a buff around my neck. It never got warm enough to shed any of those layers.I spent my entire three hour ride with Betzi zipping and unzipping my vest and jacket to keep me comfortable. Zippers are great. That's all I gotta say.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Hills and Gravity

A quick scan of my Cateye computer tells me I'm doing over 50mph on my Catrike 700 and gravity is pulling me towards 60mph. I love climbing hills because I know that there is always a downhill to follow.

Where I live there are plenty of hills to choose from and I plan my rides accordingly. A couple of years ago the hills that required more then one rest stop are now a steady, and even welcomed, grind to the top. I know that grind to the top is keeping me alive. Now at the age of 58 it's a test of all the body parts that I've had repaired since I've turned 50. It's also a challenge to my mental well being since last year when I had a heart attack. Each ride...each climb...each downhill helps repair the mental scars that comes along with an aging body.

Once at the top of the hill there is of course the downhill. Would anyone really want to climb a hill without the reward of downhill "punker up" moment? As I reach the crest of one of my favorite hills I slowly transition from the up hill grind  to the downhill run. With confidence in my equipment I start shifting the gears higher and higher as I start heading down the wide street with it's gentle turns. My largest chainring and smallest rear sprocket are now married to each other as I spin my crankset until I can no longer keep up with the speed of my 700c rear tire and gravity takes over. I'm approaching 50mph, my heighten senses monitor my ride. My hands gently and carefully manage the steering and braking of my speeding machine as the handles vibrate freely in my palms. They check for any unusual vibration or pulling. My ears play close attention to the steady sound of my freewheeling rear hub, tires racing across the road surface, and the hum of brakes when applied. Any unusual noise will demand a quick resolution. Above all else my eyes constantly scan the road surface ahead as I look for any obstacles that will require action...such as a driver on a side street who misjudges my speed and I see their tires start to roll putting me on notice that they may very well decide to pull in front me. All my senses are brought into play with the sole purpose of protecting my butt which is literally seven inches off the pavement.

Now my speed is in the high 50's and the curves are coming into site. Gravity will have be subdued as I gently modulate the brakes into the first curve. Going into the curve I lean out past my starboard 16" front tire and then smoothly, to avoid twitching the trike, I lean out past the port tire using my body weight to keep my ride upright while taking in the curve with minimal loss of speed. Shortly thereafter my downhill "punker up" moment as come to end as the street levels out and I head for the next hill.

I find that I'm challenging myself more and taking more rides on my 700 while Betzi patiently waits for another day when I ride my Catrike Expedition and take her for a cruise. I know I have to ride within my limits but first I have to know my limits. I'm starting to rethink how I want the 700 setup and the feedback I want, such as heart rate and the so on. More on that I as do some figuring.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

To Ride or Not To Ride

T-shirt, sweat shirt, another sweat shirt, down vest, jacket, wool blanket and a big mug of hot tea. It's 6 in the morning, 41 degrees and this is how I start my days sitting in my back yard looking out onto the hills above my home.

I usually don't know what's going to pop into my head while quietly sitting and watching the birds chow down on their morning ration of seed. Today I was thinking about riding even though I knew I had other chores to accomplish. Priorities...priorities...what to do?

Guess what I ended up doing. It wasn't a hard decision after all I planned it this way. Having the freedom to enjoy life was not some random throw of the dice.

After suffering a major financial setback (nice way to say I went broke) in the early 90's I set some very clear goals for myself. First I met by beautiful wife Carrie while I was broke so I knew she was the one for me. Every decision Carrie and I make is with the understanding that life is to be enjoyed. All my business decisions since the early 90's have been extremely conservative and as such I've been able to retire while still young enough to enjoy life. The road hasn't always been easy but my family is secure and I'm where I want to be in life. I still have to work a bit and manage some investments but most of my time is spent with Carrie, Byron and Leili, Byron's track meets, Leili's dancing, visits by my older kids and grand kids, various hobbies, volunteering with the National Park Service, paying attention to what's going on in the world and expressing my opinion whether anybody wants it or not and of course cycling. 

So the other chores can's not  like I have to punch a time clock or sit behind a desk and listen to someones crap from 9 to 5. It's more like life is whispering in my ear and saying "don't let me pass you by".

Sunday, February 19, 2012

To the Market

It's Sunday...I want to ride...and I have to go to the market. So I rode to the market. I don't know why I didn't ride to the market before today. It's only a 15 mile round trip. I stretched it out to 20 miles with 1,042 foot gain and an average 11+ mph. I also have planned out a route that will take me on a 25 mile ride with an 1,800 foot gain which makes for a better ride.

I'm guilty of not taking advantage of my love of cycling to get out of the car and do some errands. It seems like we get into such a routine that we go into auto drive when taking care of our regular chores. With the big cavernous Ortlieb panniers that I keep on my Expedition I can load up with a consider amount of groceries. I also put together two large stuff sacks that I can hang from the side of the trike when needed for extra stuff. 

Pedaling up our hill headed for home with my panniers full of enough groceries for the week to feed six people. 

Where to next? How many others errands can be done without fossil fuel?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Route Rut

I fell victim to taking the same ole route with Betzi time after time. It was time to change things up a bit and map out some route changes using Ride with GPS.

Yesterday while it was raining I figured out a new route to take Betzi on. What I ended up doing was generally following the same old route that I've been riding with Betzi for the last year but adding  a bunch of detours. I ended up adding on 4 miles for a nice 20 mile ride with a 2,000 gain. I've lived in the Conejo Valley for 17 years and I found neighborhoods and streets that I've never known about. It's interesting how we can get into a rut and not know what exists virtually around the corner.

This part of the new route included hills and some Lupines by the roadside. Climbing is gives you time to smell the flowers.

Keep Climbing  

I'm probably not familiar with this street because the homes are a little to high end for me. I've never had a reason to venture this way. It sure is a beautiful quiet street. Makes for a nice cruise with Betzi.

Oh yeah downhill!

I tried to get a picture of Betzi but she's looking back so all you get is my pretty face.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

They're Looking at Me

The circus is coming to town or at least it must look that way as people stare at me as I ride my trike with Betzi in tow. Yep...that's what it looks like, flags, streamers, lights, funny looking trike and a crazy dog sticking her head out of her circus trailer.
Does all the attention from passing motorists bother me? Not in the least. On the practical side attention translates into safety on the road. For some the public display of deviating from the norm might drive them to the medicine cabinet for their anti-anxiety meds. I am not asking for attention and I would prefer to not  have people looking at me and scratching their heads. But it is only human nature for people stare at the unusual and I simply ignore it. It happens, I can't blame them, I'm use to it and it doesn't bother me. I don't want life to pass me by because I care about how I look while riding my trike.

Riding a traditional bicycle is no longer comfortable for me. Actually riding a "normal" bicycle has never really been comfortable but it's what we're expected to ride (A little bit of cycling history). Right now riding any kind of bicycle, including a recumbent,  doesn't appeal to me as much as riding a trike. Trikes are fun and there is a trike for every style of riding. My Catrike Expedition is for cruising, errands and eventual touring. My Catrike 700 with it's 2.25  inches of ground clearance is for speed. My mood dictates what I ride.

Regarless of which trike I choose to ride I attract attention. Cars slow down to allow their occupants time to digest what is before their eyes. Others will sit at a stop sign longer or be slow to continue on when a signal turns green. With very little exception all the attention is positive.

Not only cars but pedestrians give me a look of puzzlement for which a wave and a hello break their trance. I make contact with every pedestrian and cyclist I cross paths with. I can't say that everyone makes contact with me but I try. I consider myself sort of an ambassador for alternative human powered vehicles. 

Recumbent riders have broken away from the main stream cycling community's expectations of conformity. We have chosen not to let the cycling industry lull us into thinking that sitting on a bicycle with a tiny seat up our rear end and hunched over a set of handle bars with the weight of our upper torso over our arms is the only proper way to ride a bike. 

Whether recumbent riders ride for the comfort, the competitive edge or both we ride to enjoy life. 

Let the people stare at me while I ride my trike. Let them watch me enjoy my life. I can only imagine how many of the gawkers wish they could break the mold of conformity and enjoy their life in a similar fashion.

Go ahead and tell me I'm not having fun!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

New Cycling Plan

Back on August 27th I scribbled out a post  (Three Year Cycling Plan) about my touring plans and declared that...

…since I’ve turned 50 which was seven years ago I’ve had knee, shoulder, back (2x), left hip and now right hip surgery. Nothing else can go wrong…right? Right. All the breathing and circulatory apparatus is in great working condition. " circulatory apparatus" turned out not to be "in great working condition" (Heart Attack 12/25/11). Just when you think all is going well shit happens and plans need to be re-thought. I'm physically in good health. I'm only taking one prescription med compared to the four that I was downing after leaving the hospital.  I'm ready to go. The only thing I'm still trying to wrap my head around is the lingering feeling of being vulnerable and how it plays into venturing out into the great unknown. I also don't feel like being away from Carrie and the kids for any extended time. 

I still have a burning desire to get out and tour so here are my thoughts for now;
1) I'm currently planning  different 3 to 10 day tours  that don't take me more then a days drive from home. Some of those rides will include touring the Pacific Coast. In the end I want to complete the entire Pacific Coast tour from the Canadian border to the Mexican border but do it in segments.

2) As for doing a Trans Am...that is still a dream of mine. On the practical side, I may be considered retired, but I still have some business responsibilities that I need to manage for a few more years. In addition I realize now that I can't just leave Carrie and the kids behind for three months. In eight years form now I will have minimized any business that needs my attention and the kids will be out of school. That leaves Carrie who, with a little luck, will meet up with me occasionally along the way to share a beer or two. I plan on making it more then a dream some day. I need to stay healthy and keep cycling so in eight years from now when I'm 65 years old my old bones will still be well greased. Keep your fingers crossed.

More to follow as I figure things out. Ride on.

Byron, Carrie and Leili at Cambria, CA