Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Hill Cycling...Better Than Sex

        Hear me out... a couple of hours in the saddle climbing: spinning in a reasonable gear, crotch work, lungs keeping a moisture-flushing rhythm, heart exercising metronomically and sounding like a drum gathering in the Oakland Coliseum, enough scenery to knock your socks off, climbing, shifting and staying in the sweet spot, inhaling thin pure air and swigging clean mountain water, resulting in an high elevation climax that proves you are still a force to be reckoned with.... followed by a slippery/soaring flight that recalls your most exotic dreams and helps the other bodily functions return to a mellow 'valley state of mind'.                                                                                                                 Instead of five or ten minutes of ecstasy, you have a two and a half hour effort that guarantees improved health and attitude.
        Not convinced? I know I'm not the greatest salesman but, after 24 years of pretending, I have improved somewhat and I have to conclude: I'm doing something right!  I know endorphins and antigens and I am excited to launch from bed each and every morning... and I am excited to take on what the daylight hours want to throw at me.
         I'm talking RESULTS here... as I approach 68 years on the blue planet. I'm no James Brown, but damn, I feel good! Cycling is one of my great loves and I am exceedingly lucky to have Lisa, one of my other great loves, to enjoy it with. I'm not bragging here. I am appreciating... how incredibly good we've had it and the fact that it's continuing, swimmingly, toward the third decade of the 21st century.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

REtire? What is that?

        I'm not tired...I enjoy working with most people and I love fondling their bicycles. The industry has been coming up with strange, ridiculous and unnecessary configurations for this simple and therefore, glorious machine but, hey...send those technology-worshipping high-enders down the road. There's always some young mechanic who wants to hook your bike up to a diagnostic monitor to figure out why your electronic front derailleur isn't obeying your commands. Who needs that complication? What are the risks? What are the rewards?                
        Don't be stupid, keep it simple. Yes, I work with the public and there are some very strange customers, whom you can't make happy and often, they are not really sure what they want. A bicycle shop is visited by at least one of these puzzlers every month. I am a compassionate and decent person and I put a lot of effort into understanding what customers want...and I try to perform miracles without making fun of any single individual. A few of my fellow bike shop owners have thrown up their arms and sold or shut down their operation due to frustration or disgust.
         I am not there yet. I enjoy the humans who walk into my country bicycle store....there's very little "attitude" going on in a 'working class' rural bike shop. We are all just thankful to have gainful employment and to experience so many smiles coming at us from appreciative outdoor lovers.
         Yes, I'll try to call it quits at 25 years of service...Good Will, a great location and a lifetime collection of tools has to be worth a million bucks to someone trying to escape the Bay Area urban mania. I'll sell this investment (and Mom and Pop lifestyle) to some deserving soul...and yes, I know what I'll do with my remaining hours and energy. I'll invest a large portion of my time in the saddle earning the hills, especially the small roads...les petite rue...no more daily sales reports and quite a bit less Tri-flow in the lungs.
         Oh my, this is my 25th year, coming up! Hey if you know anyone who likes people as much as I do, please send 'em my way. I have an amazing lifestyle and sufficient income for them. I might settle for a little less than a million bucks.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Get Up On Your Bike, Get Down On Your Bike or Go Get A Bike.

       Just wondering...Why isn't everyone out on a bicycle? At least three days a week. So many options for those who are capable...mountain bikes, road bikes, fat bikes, electric-assist bicycles, recumbent bikes and handcycles...on road, off road, bicycle trails, rail to trail conversions, you can even ride indoors on a bike trainer (which is what I'm doing as I dictate this.).
        We know that it's healthiest to get up and move. Cycling is a cure for chronic knee pain, foot pain, back pain or even the pain of depression and the double curse of bad attitude and bad luck. It takes so little time and even less money to pop a little air into a two-wheeler's tires and drop a spot of oil on a neglected chain for a lap or two around the neighborhood.
        Do the math...what it'll cost you to get rolling will be repaid many times over by enriched living and a longer life span on this blessed planet. I've been preaching these verses for many decades, along with my gospel of healthy food selection and consumption...and, I realize, all the ranting and preaching will mean nothing until people are either desperate or stumble upon and recognize the solutions that are laying in their path.
        Do the math...we only get so many upright hours. The time is NOW to put those minutes to good use. So, here I am the motivational speaker,  riding my Cyclops Bicycle Trainer and talking into my phone, while at work.... Come to think of it,  I'd rather be wrenching and listening to Michael Franti lyrics on the shop stereo.  No, in fact, I'd rather be out on my bicycle breathing hard and listening to a mockingbird concert under a sharp blue sky.
        I'm not too far from retirement and even though I own a comfortable rocking chair, I am hoping to give it less time than I give my Brooks Professional bicycle saddle.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

One Quarter Of A Million Miles On A Bicycle (and I still thirst for hills)

        The dark days of January, no swimming to be done, outdoor cycling in snow and slush...not fun, television viewing of the national scene (the clown president and the waves he makes)...not palatable! Winter business in the bike store...non existent. So, I read and I dream and I watch videos of climbing cols in the Pyrenees and the Alps.
        The snow finally fell yesterday (end of January). Drought year? I'd say so. XC skiing is usually an energy outlet but, we need a base and two days ago the surface consisted of rock and pine needles...rough on the skis. Almost February and I'm thinking of how good it'll feel to spin up warm foothill pavement forty-five miles west of here.... when I get a day off.
        My wife says I should think about retirement and selling the store. How many days do we have left to hop on our bicycles and pursue dreamy climbs?  Time in the saddle is worth a million bucks...maybe she's right. No time like the present to ponder the possibilities here. February often brings sunny warm days, even in the mountains of Northern California. The foothills, however, are coming into their prime. The almond blossoms are causing a white/pink riot on the valley floor and the winds are warm and gentile.
       Our mission: to get more butts on bikes. Bicyclists, their steeds and cycling has had my focus for the last four decades. I don't need to be a retailer/ mechanic to get this done. However, I do need an income. so, if you know anyone..."Own your own small business, selling a product you're passionate about." Life in Chester, California is exceptional...abundant pristine water, excellent neighbors and guaranteed return customers every Spring and Summer, followed by a colorful Autumn and an extremely quiet Winter.
        The "good life" has always been an uphill climb, it's supposed to be...it's called... Earning It.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

A Moment That Changes Everything

        Three weeks in the city...survival depends on a radically heightened awareness of people and their machines ...congestion and movement and noise. We pedal various routes through the hilly suburbs of  Burbank and Glendale during the late morning hours, after the commuters rush off to work and finish before they scurry around seeking lunch.
         Cars backing out of driveways and popping out of parallel parking slots have to be our number one concern. Leaf blowers constantly throw clutter under our tires and obscure our aural sensory warning system, as we are fully tuned to the warning hums of rolling tires and moaning engines. We've had heart-stopping moments when car doors are flung open in our path or gadget fascinated drivers blow through traffic signs and signals in the same space that we felt we were entitled to.
         California and many other states have new laws requiring motorists to give pedestrians and cyclists a safe cushion of space before passing, usually three feet however, drivers have no fear of tickets or reprisals if they ignore this legal courtesy....and there are always a few who resent the new law and feel adamantly that the foot powered traveler has no right to share the right of way that has been dominated for one hundred years by motorists.
         We all have had those close calls when we say, "I saw my life flash in front of me." In fact, just yesterday, I sat at a traffic signal on a busy boulevard here in Burbank, patient like the Buddha, with my foot on the clutch. The green light told me to proceed, I pushed on the gas and let up on the clutch , feeling entitled to safe passage, when my wife put her hand on my wrist and gasped, I hesitated with my right foot just as a red light running Jeep Wrangler bore down from the left at 40+ mph narrowly missing my front grill.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

The Third Wave Of Off-road Cycling

        This new wave of off-road cycling may be the biggest yet. The first wave rolled in slowly during the fifties, sixties and early seventies. The Rough Stuff Fellowship met weekly for explorations throughout the British Isles from 1950 well into the 70's. Stateside, explorers like John Finley Scott and unheralded others were adapting bicycles for the exploration of abandoned railroad grades and forgotten roads throughout the West. I was riding "bombproof" ten-speeds up rugged lookout tower roads in the southern Sierra Nevada.
        In the late seventies an entrepreneurial group of young suburban men had the wherewithal to weld up a new kind of bicycle for accomplishing off-road explorations and expeditions into the unpaved tracks beyond American neighborhoods.. After a handful of years of experimentation with steel tubes, the money changers entered the temple and promoted "Mountain Biking" into a monster bigger than all other types of cycling combined. Here began the Second Wave Of Off-road Cycling.
       Through the subsequent decades the machine became much more specialized and complicated, therefore exceedingly expensive, (incorporating sophisticated suspension hardware, hydraulics and electrification)....again putting the cost out of the reach for the common person interested in cycling.
       It wasn't until the second decade of the 21st Century that folks remembered that almost any bicycle can be ridden on the seldom-motored backroads of North America.
       In what I'm calling The Third Wave, "Gravel Grinding" has become a "thing" and is getting a remarkable amount of press.  Hundreds of young outdoor enthusiasts are signing-up for organized events that feature trails, double-tracks and dirt or gravel roads. The real attraction, I think, besides the lack of motor traffic, is the space to use individual creativity in designing and constructing the "perfect ride" by using the entire pallet of cycling components and designs developed over the last several decades.
        In our local new event...the "Grinduro"...cyclocross, fitness hybrids and mountain bikes ride side by side without obvious criticism or judgements that were common during previous events structured around specific competitions. A festive and all-inclusive vibe brings a whole new contingent together for nothing more than... "fun on a bicycle".

Friday, December 8, 2017

In The Sauna In My Half-Birthday Suit


        Celebrating and starting the day in my Thera Sauna with my wonderful best friend, Lisa. I'm going to admit...it's not a great time of year for those of us who'd rather be naked. In public, I prefer clothes, just so you know. Swimming, sunning, soaking, sauna-ing and gardening however, are performed better without. I don't think this is too radical, but then I'm a Left Coast man...a little different. Skin cancer is a bitch. I've  had a few. My dermatologist worked on me this week...Cryotherapy (freezing several spots).
         Sun is good, vitamin D is good, but small doses, please. We take advantage of "pinking opportunities" when we can...twenty minutes of full sun does every body good. We are not exhibitionists, we prefer to not get caught. Interesting though, in France and when visiting family in SoCal there is no such thing as "getting caught". No one cares.
        Showers, pools, beaches and campgrounds in France and Germany may not be smokefree, quite often however, they are suitfree. The campground bathrooms/showers are often coed/ mixed sex or must be executed in such small cubicles that you must leave your clothes outside and therefore enter and exit naked making shyness impossible. So...get over it or stay dirty, sticky and miserable.
        The solstice is in two weeks. The sun will rise earlier and climb higher in the sky every day. Welcoming back the warmer days of 2018 and inviting us to seek out more dips and flips into mountain lakes and streams...oh, the stories we will tell. I only "bagged" twelve lakes last year. I really thought I'd plunge into twice as many. I will most definitely keep you posted...no, I still don't know how to put pictures on my blog page. It's just as well, we'll leave it that way.