Thoughts on a 4000 mile Bicycle Tour…

24 10 2011

It’s always interesting to read a piece written by someone else who seems to describe a similar experience in terms which illustrate your own. The following is just such a piece, A Man, a Bike and 4,100 Miles, by Bruce Weber of the New York Times.

In the piece, Weber writes of his 4000 mile bicycle tour across the USA this summer. He doesn’t dwell on the day-to-day challenges, nor does he dwell on the pain and doubt he experienced along the way, though it certainly gets a mention. He also does not write in overly descriptive terms of the beauty of the country, or the people he met. No, he writes from the perspective of a man of 57 years experiencing something few of us ever do; for the second time in his life.

As he comes to the close of his ride, reflects upon the internal changes which have taken place, as well as the memories of the experience which, perhaps surprisingly, are not so easy to recall. Yet, when he does recall them, they are incredibly vivid.  What I like most about this piece is the sense that no matter how many times one takes a long distance ride, and this is the second time Weber has ridden cross-country, it is a completely unique experience.

“This isn’t to say I don’t dream about crossing the George Washington Bridge with my arms raised in triumph (and then putting away my bicycle for a winter’s hibernation.) I do. But my visions aren’t terribly convincing; they generally engender despair, causing me to sigh out loud and give off a lament that begins with the words “I’ll never. … ” It makes me more than a little nervous to write this article now, about 300 miles from Manhattan. It may be easy to expect that someone who has already pedaled 3,600 miles can do 300 with his eyes closed, but I don’t think so. In order to own those miles, I have to expend my energy on them; in order to live those days, I have to work through all their hours. I’m as daunted by the next 300 miles as I was in Astoria by the first 3,600.”

This is something I too encountered on my own 800 mile trek from Phoenix to Denver. Until I arrived, I never quite believed I would make it and, even when I did, I couldn’t really grasp the fact that I had done so. Even today it sometimes amazes me that I was successful in my first-ever bicycle tour. But the memories linger, as proof that it is true.

I thoroughly enjoyed this read. So many of the things we experienced were similar, yet very different, due to the unique perspective each of us brought to the experience, I believe. It brought back many memories for me, and for that I am grateful. I think it has also begun to fuel the fire for my next long ride.



A good ride gone bad…

7 03 2011

Darryl and I had a decent ride going yesterday, in spite of the 22 mph wind kicking up. Forecast was for low 50’s, with winds of 6-8 mph, so we chose to ride. Ah well, they never seem to get it right, do they?

We even did the “Good Samaritan” thing, stopping to help an in-town Arizonan, driving a car not a bike, find his destination in unfamiliar territory. Gotta’ love smart phones, huh?

Then, after about 12 1/2 miles, and just three miles from home, I threw a spoke on the rear wheel. Heard a loud pop while standing on the cranks and thought I threw a stone into my BB. The bike got a little “wiggly” though, so I stopped to check it out. A spoke on the right side, the drive side, of my rear wheel had broken at the hub. It is now at least an inch out-of-true. Too dangerous to ride, for both me and the rim, so Darryl, such a great friend, took off for home and came back to get me with the truck.

Damn, I wish we knew how to do spokes and wheels. A trip to the LBS is on the books today or tomorrow. We’re definitely gonna’ learn wheels soon.

I guess it’s true what they say, “No good deed goes unpunished.”


Mostly sunny, “breezy,” and mild…

16 02 2011

This is the weather forecast for today; “Mostly sunny, breezy, and mild.” Breezy? What is this “breezy” of which they speak?

At the moment, the wind is blowing at 22 mph, with gusts to 31 mph; which, frankly, tends to make riding a bicycle less than fun. And this is labeled as “breezy?”

Apparently, there are five levels of “breeze” on the Beaufort Scale, the scale which labels wind strength. So, a “breeze” can range from 4-7 mph (light breeze) to 25-30 mph (strong breeze)…DOH!!! A thirty mile-per-hour wind is labeled a breeze? Here are the five types of “Breeze,” as defined by the Scale:

light – 4-7 mph…gentle – 8-12 mph…moderate – 13-17 mph…fresh – 18-24 mph…strong – 25-30 mph

Now, I’m no windologist, but these numbers seem awfully stupid to me. I mean, there ain’t no breeze outside right now…not at 22-31 mph. There’s a freakin’ wind blowin’. Anyone who says differently is just dumb.

Look at the scale below (and thanks to Wikipedia for this). There is no condition defined by the word WINDY. In fact, the Scale barely mentions wind at all. We pretty much have Breeze and Gale; oh, and High Wind. Are you kiddin’ me; there is only ONE kind of “wind” on the wind scale? Oy…experts!

Now, I’ve ridden my bikes in breezes; I’ve also ridden them in gales. I have to say, somewhere in between, there had to be wind; just plain-old-everyday-freakin’ wind. You know, more than a breeze, but less than a gale? More than a puff, but less than a blow-your-house-down? More than a ruffle, but less than a “We’re not in Kansas anymore?” What the hell ever happened to wind? Or windy? Or strong wind? Or very windy?

Let’s define some terms here. A breeze can muss your hair, but it won’t blow your bike out from under your butt. A strong breeze can blow your hat off your head, but it won’t make you feel like you’re riding up-hill, through wet sand. Riding into a gale can stop the strongest cyclist dead in his tracks, but coming from behind him, it can push him along at 25 mph with only the slightest effort on the cranks. All of these things have happened to me in the last three years, and more. But when a 30 mph “strong breeze” began blowing across the road in front of me on my fully loaded bike in northern Arizona, forcing me to ride at a 20 degree angle to the perpendicular, I just can’t refer to it as a breeze no matter which expert might say it was. Sorry Mr. B., that just ain’t no breeze. That was wind.

In fact, it was “real windy” that day.


The modern [Beaufort] scale (Please ignore “Sea Conditions” for the purpose of cycling. They just happened to be included in the Scale.)

Beaufort number Description Wind speed Wave height Sea conditions Land conditions Sea state photo
0 Calm < 1 km/h 0 m Flat. Calm. Smoke rises vertically. Beaufort scale 0.jpg
< 1 mph
< 1 kn 0 ft
< 0.3 m/s
1 Light air 1.1–5.5 km/h 0–0.2 m Ripples without crests. Smoke drift indicates wind direction, still wind vanes. Beaufort scale 1.jpg
1–3 mph
1–2 kn 0–1 ft
0.3–1.5 m/s
2 Light breeze 5.6–11 km/h 0.2–0.5 m Small wavelets. Crests of glassy appearance, not breaking Wind felt on exposed skin. Leaves rustle, vanes begin to move. Beaufort scale 2.jpg
4–7 mph
3–6 kn 1–2 ft
1.6–3.4 m/s
3 Gentle breeze 12–19 km/h 0.5–1 m Large wavelets. Crests begin to break; scattered whitecaps Leaves and small twigs constantly moving, light flags extended. Beaufort scale 3.jpg
8–12 mph
7–10 kn 2–3.5 ft
3.4–5.4 m/s
4 Moderate breeze 20–28 km/h 1–2 m Small waves with breaking crests. Fairly frequent white horses. Dust and loose paper raised. Small branches begin to move. Beaufort scale 4.jpg
13–17 mph
11–15 kn 3.5–6 ft
5.5–7.9 m/s
5 Fresh breeze 29–38 km/h 2–3 m Moderate waves of some length. Many white horses. Small amounts of spray. Branches of a moderate size move. Small trees in leaf begin to sway. Beaufort scale 5.jpg
18–24 mph
16–20 kn 6–9 ft
8.0–10.7 m/s
6 Strong breeze 39–49 km/h 3–4 m Long waves begin to form. White foam crests are very frequent. Some airborne spray is present. Large branches in motion. Whistling heard in overhead wires. Umbrella use becomes difficult. Empty plastic garbage cans tip over. Beaufort scale 6.jpg
25–30 mph
21–26 kn 9–13 ft
10.8–13.8 m/s
7 High wind,
Moderate gale,
Near gale
50–61 km/h 4–5.5 m Sea heaps up. Some foam from breaking waves is blown into streaks along wind direction. Moderate amounts of airborne spray. Whole trees in motion. Effort needed to walk against the wind. Beaufort scale 7.jpg
31–38 mph
27–33 kn 13–19 ft
13.9–17.1 m/s
8 Gale,
Fresh gale
62–74 km/h 5.5–7.5 m Moderately high waves with breaking crests forming spindrift. Well-marked streaks of foam are blown along wind direction. Considerable airborne spray. Some twigs broken from trees. Cars veer on road. Progress on foot is seriously impeded. Beaufort scale 8.jpg
39–46 mph
34–40 kn 18–25 ft
17.2–20.7 m/s
9 Strong gale 75–88 km/h 7–10 m High waves whose crests sometimes roll over. Dense foam is blown along wind direction. Large amounts of airborne spray may begin to reduce visibility. Some branches break off trees, and some small trees blow over. Construction/temporary signs and barricades blow over. Beaufort scale 9.jpg
47–54 mph
41–47 kn 23–32 ft
20.8–24.4 m/s
10 Storm,[6]
Whole gale
89–102 km/h 9–12.5 m Very high waves with overhanging crests. Large patches of foam from wave crests give the sea a white appearance. Considerable tumbling of waves with heavy impact. Large amounts of airborne spray reduce visibility. Trees are broken off or uprooted, saplings bent and deformed. Poorly attached asphalt shingles and shingles in poor condition peel off roofs. Beaufort scale 10.jpg
55–63 mph
48–55 kn 29–41 ft
24.5–28.4 m/s
11 Violent storm 103–117 km/h 11.5–16 m Exceptionally high waves. Very large patches of foam, driven before the wind, cover much of the sea surface. Very large amounts of airborne spray severely reduce visibility. Widespread damage to vegetation. Many roofing surfaces are damaged; asphalt tiles that have curled up and/or fractured due to age may break away completely. Beaufort scale 11.jpg
64–72 mph
56–63 kn 37–52 ft
28.5–32.6 m/s
12 Hurricane-force[6] ≥ 118 km/h ≥ 14 m Huge waves. Sea is completely white with foam and spray. Air is filled with driving spray, greatly reducing visibility. Very widespread damage to vegetation. Some windows may break; mobile homes and poorly constructed sheds and barns are damaged. Debris may be hurled

Been there, done that…

14 02 2011

Was definitely going to ride today, especially when the temp hit 54º; but with the wind gusting to 53 mph, I decided…No Thanks.

Been there, done that…

During The Ride from Arizona to Colorado I spent three days on the reservation in northern Arizona, with howling winds from 45-60 mph. Not gonna do that again. Not by choice, anyway.


Group ride today…

13 02 2011

Really looking forward to riding with a new FB cycling group today, Cycling in Colorado. We’ve never met, or ridden, with them before but we hope to ride with them often.

Darryl and I will be heading for Littleton, on the west side of town, to meet up with them at 11 AM. We’re planning on doing about 25 miles down to Chatfield Reservoir and back to our starting spot. They tell us they average about 14-15 MPH on most rides. Weather should be great; in the high 50’s when we begin, rising to the mid-60’s by the time we finish, with only moderate wind. Compared to all the snow and cold we’ve had for the last two weeks, today will be perfect!

My biggest concern today is that I haven’t ridden – at all – in more than two weeks. It’s been too cold to ride outside, and I just haven’t had the motivation to use the indoor trainer. I figure one of two things will happen; either my legs will be super strong and I’ll have to hold back, or I’ll bonk early and struggle the remainder of the ride. But, whatever happens, it will be soooooo good to get out and into the saddle again.

The rest of the week looks very good for riding, as well. Forecast is for mid-60’s all week, with a new system moving into the state by next weekend. I hope to get in a lot of miles next week, too.

Well, it’s time to begin prepping the bike, and the body, so…

I’ll let you know how it goes today, and I’ll try to get some pictures, too.


Made it home unassisted…

28 01 2011

Well, I made it home OK. Didn’t quite reach my 30 mile goal today, but I did pedal 28 miles; though I did it at an abominable pace (which I won’t mention here).

The good news is; I got in a long ride for the first time in months. It’s been so cold, for me anyway, that riding more than 10-12 miles has been problematic, at best. On Sunday, Darryl and I did 11 miles. Yesterday, I did 15 miles. With the 28 miles today, that is not a bad week although, in Phoenix this time of year, I would have done at least twice the mileage. Well, I’m still adapting to the Colorado climate, I guess.

But man, what a beautiful day for riding today…with very mild wind…Woo Hoo…in January, no less.

I also stopped in to see an old friend at her work today, to help break up the ride and because we haven’t been able to get together since my return. She works at a bar which used to be my home-away-from-home, back in the good old/bad old days. (Still can’t decide if they were good or bad…lol.) It did my heart good to see Joei again. The greeting she gave me, that great smile and a big hug, were just what I needed. What I want to know, though, is this; how can she be even more beautiful than she was six years ago, when I am merely more gray? Not fair Joei, not fair at all.

My friend Joei...what a beautiful smile she has

Well, to sum up; today was a very good day. Plus, we’re beginning to see some action at Mile-Hi Cycle Guy, as well. We’ve sold a few bikes since Christmas. I had a man bring me his mountain bike to tune and replace the shifters yesterday and, I received an email from a woman this morning who may want me to work on two bikes for her soon, including a hybridization job. So, things are definitely beginning to pop around here, and it looks like this year’s cycling season may begin early, thanks to the mild winter (so they tell me) we’re having.

Let’s hope so, eh?


Layers, Layers, Layers…

9 01 2011

It’s amazing what a person will do, when feeling the need to ride, even in cold weather.

My typical riding outfit would look something like this…


Pearl Izumi Quest Jersey
Pearl Izumi Slice Short
Pearl Izumi SPD Shoes



However, since moving to Colorado, I’ve had to add a few items to my riding outfit to protect my self from the cold weather…

Champion C9 Tee as base layer

Under Armor Cold Gear leggings

Under Armor Cold Gear 1/4 zip

Pear Izumi Quest Thermal Bib Knicker



Starter Wind Tech

Gore Wear Windstopper


Pearl Izumi Toe Covers




And for even colder days, I add more, or heavier, layers…

Starter Wind Tech

Chaps Insulated

Endura Midweight

Heated Balaclava


Now, some of these items can be very expensive while, by shopping carefully, one can save money by finding replacements for cycling-specific gear by shopping at the large discount stores. Plus, I never pay retail for anything. If it isn’t on sale, or beter, on closeout, I just ain’t gonna buy it. Retail on all this stuff would be near $1000, but I did not pay anywhere near that. Plus, some things, like shoes, and shorts or bibs, you really shouldn’t skimp on. Just look for deals…especially CLOSEOUTS. Last year’s style can be 1/4 to 1/3 of this year’s style. If you’re not a bike snob, who cares?

The key to riding in cold weather is, of course, to wear enough layers to keep yourself warm, while not impinging freedom of movement. Layering the legs seems redundant, I know; figuring they’ll keep themselves warm with all the work they get. However, if they can’t GET warm, they can’t STAY warm. So, layer up and, if you need to, remove them later, as needed.


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