Monday, January 31, 2011

It Runs in the Family

That's my father, Stan competing in the Redmond Bike Derby race sometime shortly after World War II. He won the race that year, which consisted of a single lap around Lake Sammamish, about 25 miles. He was riding a borrowed bike, a single-speed with a coaster brake. He stripped off the fenders to lighten it up, flipped over the handlebars, and pedaled like hell. His best "gym whites" and a pair of Converse Chuck Taylors were all the gear he needed. I suppose he stopped to drink out of a stream along the way.

These days it's easy for cyclists to get caught up in the gear. The riders whirring around Lake Washington on a typical sunny Sunday ride carbon fiber bikes worth thousands of dollars, some with electronic shifting to move the chain through the Nigel Tufnel approved rear cogs ("these go to eleven") and triple front chainrings. Every component on the bike has been optimized, minimized, ovalized or oversized. And of course you gotta have Zertz inserts to keep it laterally stiff yet vertically compliant.

And that's just the bike. Then you load it up with computers with GPS, altimeters, thermometers and power meters to track your speed, position, power output, pop tart intake, slope, altitude and attitude.

You've got bottles, tubes, packets and pockets full of electrolyte sport drinks, energy gels, and power bars. This isn't food, it's high performance nutritional "fuel" and "supplements."

You can't wear plain old clothes on a bike anymore. It's gotta be high performance, technical gear made from merino wool, lycra, spandex, and Thermoroubaix fabric with the logos of your team sponsors. What you wear is not supposed to just cover your naked body. As Assos says, "Each and every item is conceived, designed and engineered to compliment other pieces in the range, so that they function together as a system." Whatever that means... From the top down: helmet, cycling cap, sunglasses, base layer, jersey, arm warmers, jacket, shorts, leg warmers, socks, cycling shoes, and toe warmers. And that's on a nice summer day.

Anyway, I get caught up in it sometimes too. And when I notice it, I like to look at the picture of my dad winning the Redmond bike derby race and then go for a ride on my 1982 Trek. I don't know how far or fast I go when I ride that bike because it doesn't have a computer.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

2010 Cycling Recap

I've been off the bike for the last few days. Between holiday activities and icy roads it seems like a good time to stay indoors and reflect on what I did on a bike in the past year and think about goals for the coming year.

At the end of last year one of my goals was to spend less time riding. In 2009, my first year of randonneuring, I went a little nutso and spent what felt to me like a little too much time on a bike. In 2010 I was successful in dialing back the amount I rode, and yet luckily was still able to achieve all of my randonneuring goals. Basically, I cut out most of the long training rides and just rode the official randonneuring events and continued to commute to work by bike. Initially I was a little afraid I wouldn't be in shape for some of the tougher events, but I managed to get by. On the rare occasions that I did get out for a training ride, I kept it short and intense.

My rando goals for the year were to complete another Super Randonneur series (200k, 300, 400k and 600k brevets), get an R-12 award (an official rando ride of 200k or more in 12 consecutive months), and finish the Cascade 1200. I achieved those goals by riding a total of 4680km (2908 miles) of rando events. I'm sure there was a fair amount of pain and suffering in all those kilometers, but I can only remember having a great time on every event I rode. Some of the highlights were the fastest 300k I'll ever ride, the four passes 600k, the Cascade 1200 and the Winter Solstice ride.

The rando medals I earned this past year.

My commute amounted to a little over 3,000 miles for the year. That's about 44% of the total 6876 miles I rode in 2010. I feel very lucky to be able to commute by bicycle. I still enjoy the ride on all but the crappiest days.

Once again, nearly half of the miles I rode were on a single speed bike. My main commuter bike is a single speed and I rode it on a few of the 200k rando events too. I think riding single speed is a big part of what keeps me in shape well enough to survive the harder rando events.

In 2011 I really only have one serious cycling goal: ride in and finish the 2011 Paris-Brest-Paris Grand Randonnee, the granddaddy of randonneuring events. I'll still need to complete a SR series in order to qualify for PBP, so it's not like I'll be sitting around doing nothing for the first half of the year. :)