Friday, May 29, 2009

Only the Lonely

Riding my bicycle is a personal thing.
I don't actively pursue riding partners or company and I have never had anyone ask me to join them on their ride. Until now.
My brother is in training mode for an upcoming triathlon and he recently asked me if I wanted to ride with him. Tri geeks it seems, like to train alone.
Sure! was my response. Then I put some thought into the scenario.
First some backstory:
My bro has been doing triathlons for some time now. He also did the Honolulu Marathon. As you can imagine, although he is younger than I am he is looked up to by me because of his accomplishments and the fact that he has more money than I do.
Despite the differences in our biking interests, I have often gone to him for equipment and "training" advice. The word is in quotations for I don't think you can call what I do on the bicycle training. Thing is, he is not a year round rider as I imagine myself to be so our fitness levels differ depending on the time of the year.
I know the route they ride for their forty kilometer TT. I also know his time.
Now, about riding with him.
He rides on his aero rig so he doesn't have brakes.
So, who leads and who follows? Depends on who is faster right?
Now, would it be fair to him if I let him draft me? After all, he is the one training. This would assume of course that I am at least as fast as he is.
If I am slower, is it good form for me to ask him to slow down? I think not.
Maybe I'm making too much of all this; I mean if he is anything like me (and he is definitely not) then he probably thought of all this too right?
Well, if he is anything like me (and he is definitely not), then he probably enjoys riding alone.
Riding by bike is my time to get away from other people. It is my time to concentrate on me and me only. It is time to think about cadence, speed, tempo, position and technique. After one year on the bike, I am finally getting my pedaling stroke down.
Cycling is a concentrated effort for me. It is about seeking my very own piece of cycling perfection. It is about bringing out the rider in me and not about the rider I think I should be. Does that make any sense? Well, you get the idea.
So anyways, I am thinking about going for a ride with my brother. It's not like I don't see him often (I do), it's just that we don't get to really do things together too much anymore. As opposed to when we didn't really do things together anyways.
I don't know why this is causing me so much trepidation! I mean this is supposed to be fun right (see below)?
Now I am beginning to make up plausible excuses: it's too far of a drive to meet him, his riding time is different from mine, his ride is too long/short, I don't want to ride in the evening, etc, etc.
The thing is, I just don't think I want to ride with someone during the time I take out to ride alone. I like to eat alone also, so what can I say?
Well, I'm supposed to call him next week and I'm still not sure what to do.
Oh, and I was so excited about the oppurtunity that I even offered to ride my display bike (see below) so that I would at least be able to keep up with him.
Leave the road bike at home, he says. Bring the 29er.
What the hell is that supposed to mean?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Am I Having Fun Yet?

I am supposed to be having fun while I'm out riding my bike.
I was thinking about that today while I was watching the speed on my computer start to fall. Making the turn into the wind transformed my ride into cruel torture.
I only had about a half mile to go. The end seemed very far away.
The thing about my route is that most of it seems to be hit by crosswinds. Once in a while, like last week, the winds turn and I get a (almost) free return trip. Most of the time, it's trying to keep a straight line and waiting for the winds to die off so I can bring my RPMs back up between gusts.
Am I having fun yet?
Funny, I never noticed the wind when I was slow. Not that I'm fast, don't you know.
The wind makes it hard sometimes to get out the door. Sometimes I'll sit here and comtemplate the wind and stare at my bike(s) before donning the shoes and hitting the road.
The first three miles do not qualify as fun. My legs have a problem finding a good cadence and I have to wait for my knees to pop before I can make any kind of effort. Oh yeah, and it's all into the wind.
The next section is not that fun either. A three mile warm up stretch where I search to find out where my legs are that day. Sometimes they are there, happy to be cranking away, and sometimes I leave them at home and what replaces them are two unhappy campers that complain all the way back to my street.
Between warm up and my garage there is usually about fifteen to twenty miles where I have trouble remembering the fun part.
My route takes me along Kailua beach and Lanikai and on days like today, there are usually lots of things to see. Seeing pretty girls in bikinis would qualify as fun for me, but when I'm riding, I am usually wondering why the hell they are blocking the bike path. Scantily clad women would be wonderful entertainment if they could all just walk a few feet to the right or left.
On particularly gorgeous days like today, I stop at the lookout over Kailua Bay, look at the clear water and wish I could jump in. That would be fun. Instead I clip back in and continue "enjoying" my ride.
I was thinking about donning some tri shorts so I could do just that but the thought of all that nasty salt water getting on my bike gives me the creepies.
The thing is, I can't remember if I smiled at all on my ride today.
Surely, if I was out there having fun, I would have broken into a grin at least once don't you think? Standing outside of Baskins and Robbins wolfing down an ice cream cone brought a grimmace to my face. Perhaps I was thinking of all those calories?
The feeling of relief I get when I arrive back home is sometimes overshadowed by a sense of dissappointment also. I sure am glad I'm back, but it feels like I left a few more miles out there.
Cycling is supposed to be fun, but at times it feels like some sort of penance.
I finally took the road bike out the other day.
Five miles.
To buy cigarettes.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Weight For It.....

Next month will mark one year of my continuous battle with my weight. So far, it's been a back and forth type of skirmish; sometimes, I win, sometimes I lose.
Part of the problem is that I weigh myself three times a week on a scale that does not lie. Why torture myself? I have to.
My weight is measured in kilos, not pounds so every single digit gain or loss is significant (to me anyways). I have set goals.
My goals are in most part set by my determination or laziness. My doctor would dissagree, but I tend to set them according to how heavy I "feel" and not by the scale. Oh, and by how high or low my blood pressure is.
Cycling has done wonders for me. Yet, since it is my only form of exercise, it's also somewhat of a burden.
When I first started riding my bike, I logged a steady loss of weight. It was wonderful. I would gleefully stand on that scale and watch the pounds dissappear. I didn't think I had that much weight to lose, but it came off.
My skin became a bit tighter and the pants looser. My blood pressure went down and I felt, for the first time in a long time, healthy.
Then the weight decided to fight back. I hit a wall. The scale became a source of dissappointment and disdain. I came to loath that digital readout.
This past week, I fought back. I was not yet hitting my goal, but I was close. Oh, so close.
Seventy kilos is my Mendoza line, and unlike baseball players, I seek, no I strive to get below it.
There is also another line I seek to cross. My average speed on the bike.
They say that average speed is to be discounted. That makes sense, for the sterile computer takes everything into consideration on your ride. I have to slow down on the MUP and stop for lights. My regular route is not a closed circuit so average speed is not a good measure.
I have seen my top speed increase. Alot. I can now exceed the twenty mile per hour mark fairly regularly. When I first started riding, it would take a twenty mile an hour tradewind at my back and a slight downgrade for me to get close. While I can now cruise at over five miles per hour faster, it has little effect on my average speed.
I am slowly but surely winning my battle with speed.
With cycling, I have two goals: get lighter and get faster.
Today, I did both.
Today, I won a battle with my weight and I put a half mile per hour of average speed on my regular loop. These gains and losses may not be very important in the big picture, but I find that it's these little things, these little goals that I meet that help me make it through the journey.
There are two things that I seek out with trepid anticipation:
The readout on the scale at the clinic, and the readout on my cycling computer.
Battles lost and won.
Wait for it.......

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Thar She Blows!

Choosing a name for this blog was not an easy task. First, an odd numbered group of your peers was assembled as a test group. A list of blog titles was then distributed and a short list was assembled of the most popular.
"The Flat Tire" won with ninety percent of the vote.
Blog content had nothing to do with the voting. In fact, the title came before the content was written. When asked to comment on the title chosen, the sample group used words like "witty" and "catchy" to describe the selection.
Actually, I kept tossing phrases into the title generator and "The Flat Tire" was the first one to come up that wasn't already in use.
Despite what I wrote on day one, this blog has nothing to do with flat tires. In spite of this, let me tell you what happened the other day.
I had come home from a nice ride on my day off which wasn't really a day off. When I left work on Friday, everyone was telling me to have a nice weekend and see you on Tuesday. Seems Monday was one of those strange days when students, and only students do not report to school.
Well, on Monday, I was riding around laughing at all the other schools that were open. Turns out, I was not off and was supposed to be in school too. Oh, well.
So I get back home at around two in the afternoon. I get into my post ride ritual which involves collapsing on the couch and turning on the TV. Law and Order is not yet on so I just ignore the TV and start searching Ebay. I have no money and I don't want to buy anything but I scan Ebay anyway. After a while, I get hungry so I feed myself and the dog and settle back down on the couch.
Now, I'm watching Law and Order (the afternoon TNT version) and out of nowhere there comes a loud bang. Like a gunshot. My ears ring.
It was really loud but my dog is now deaf so he just sits there like nothing is going on. I get up and look over in the direction of the explosion. What the hell?
The rear tire on my bicycle blew up. Just like that. After sitting in the living room for four hours. Boom!
I just sit there bewildered for a moment. This is a fairly new tire for the other tire I had also blew up but this happened while I was on the road.
I must have caught something in the first tire that tore my sidewall and it suffered a catastrophic failure. That was okay. That tire had about a thousand miles on it anyway. This tire that blew up in my living room only logged about two hundred miles. I was perplexed. Angry. Frustrated. Disappointed. et al.
These are not cheap tires, nor are they of the expensive type. The tire was good but not armored. It would seem that something had gotten under the outer casing and was rubbing around under there next to the tube but not enough to cause an immediate failure. No, the tire decided to graciously wait until I was home and explode while I was watching the only show on TV worth watching. Well, next to Breaking Bad.
The whole episode bummed me out.
I have an allowance I set aside each payday for bicycle related items. This week it was pump week. I was searching eBay high and low for a floor pump to purchase. I only have three hundred and sixty more transactions to get my new star and I want to get there before the end of the year.
On Friday in class, when we had the students write about ethical dilemmas little did I know I would be facing my own dilemma so soon.
I have a set of back up tires. Unfortunately they are not of the same type that are presently on my bike. I did get a good deal on them on eBay though. Anyway, I could have just installed them and went on my merry way. After thinking about it, it occurred to me that if I did that, then I would no longer have a back up set.
The last time I got caught without tires for three days I was very unhappy, hence the back up tires. Now if I used them, and something happened, I would be tireless again! That simply would not do.
Luckily, I am on a three day break from riding and even if I had to ride, I still have my road bike which sits in front of me gleaming and shining and unused like a security blanket. It is comforting to know that I have a spare bike. And it does look good.
Back to my dilemma. Do I go out an purchase another of the same tire, or is it time to try another set? I like these tires, but two catastrophic failures are not acceptable. I would like to purchase a set of Schwalbes but to do it right, I must purchase a set of three. One for a spare don't you know. For the price of three Schwalbes, I could buy two car tires. Then, I would also have an extra tire to look at. And I was sort of eyeing a set of Michelins for the bike I never ride. It would look so much better with a set of Krylions.
The cheap out would be to just get another of the same tire and save up until I can comfortably afford the Schwalbes, but the opportunity to replace tires does not come up everyday. In a strange convoluted way I am trying to be frugal. Trying is the key word here.
It would seem that I must decide by tomorrow, for tomorrow is a bike shop day. I have a friend that works there who takes care of me, so I try to make all my purchases when he is there. Actually this is part of the problem also, for the brand of tires he sells is limited to the brand of tires that are presently on my bike. Which takes me back to square one.
Who knew that a flat tire would lead to such a tumultuous conundrum? In a perfect world, buying tires should not be a life challenging decision.
I wonder if I can patch that tire with a little Shoe Goo?