Friday, December 20, 2013

Bike Advocacy is Sometimes like Selling Vacuum Cleaners Door-to-Door

Me:  "Hi.  I'm Pete with Washington Area Bicyclist Association and Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling.  Do you have any employees that ride their bikes to work?  We're giving out free bike lights to help them be safe on their way to and from work."

Coffee House Manager: "What an awesome idea!  Thank you.  We've got three people that ride to work!"

Carry-out Pizza Place Manager: "All of our employees are rich.  They don't have to ride bikes."

The Lights

And so on… 

Let me back up and explain what was going on.  Like the intro says, I work for Washington Area Bicyclist Association.  One of our sister groups is Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling.  I work as the Suburban Outreach Bike Ambassador.  If Santa was a cyclist and Christmas was a cycling holiday, I'd be the elf that brings 2-wheeled happiness to all the good (and bad) girls and boys.  I don't actually give away bicycles.  Rather I bring the joy of CYCLING to people.  

One of my favorite activities is helping people ride safely.  Visibility is a big part of that.  Every year WABA and FABB give away hundreds, if not thousands of sets of flashy lights that make it much easier for people to see.  We give them to everyone, but my real goal is to get them on the handlebars and seat posts of the folks who may not be able to afford a good set of lights on their own.  Going restaurant to restaurant asking if places have employees that ride is a great way to get lights where they need to be.  
Vienna, Virginia

In three hours of walking around the restaurant district of Vienna, Virginia, I don't think I had the same response twice to the introduction at the top of this blog post.  My buddy Alex joined me for an hour of walking around town and he had the same reaction.  There were, however, some common threads:

1) The vast majority of people responded positively and really liked what we were doing.  
2) No-one understood what we were doing after the first introduction.  We had to repeat ourselves at least once every single time we walked into an establishment.  No matter how simple or complex I made the pitch, no-one got it the first time the words left my mouth.  Almost everyone got it by the second delivery.  Two people never did understand the concept of giving away lights to people who ride, even after many attempts to explain.  
3) Coffee house managers were overwhelmingly positive about the idea.
4) Pizza carryout places were universally negative to the idea.
Alex and I: This week's Hot Deals

The best interaction came when I was walking around before Alex joined me.  One coffee house employee tracked me down 5 minutes after I'd left her place of work, handed me a free cup of fancy coffee, shook my hand and thanked me.

The funniest/most negative was an older woman in a completely vacant diner surrounded by restaurants that were packed with customers who told me that she didn't employ "The kind of people who have to ride bikes to work."  The contempt in her voice didn't escape me.  

One pizza delivery place manager yelled to his crew, "What the *expletive* was that all about?" before we'd even got to the door.  Even three attempts, one from Alex, two from me, hadn't been successful at explaining what we were doing.  

The bottom line:  I spent 3 hours walking around Vienna.  Alex was with me helping out for a little over an hour.  We gave out just short of 50 sets of bike lights.  Every set of those lights got into the hands of someone who really needed and wanted them.  Even though I felt like a door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesperson, wee had positive interactions with over 100 people and really only one or two negative reactions to what we were doing.  Even the establishments that didn't have people who commute by bike got to see that there are people out there that do and that WABA and FABB are out there trying to make their lives a little better.  It was a super positive night!  

Be seen!  Get home safely. :D


Monday, December 16, 2013

FABB/WABA Suburban Holiday Shopping Ride

The best response that I got when I proposed this ride was "Ho Ho NO. I'll follow you to Certain Death, Pete, but not to Tyson's Corner (a fate worse than . . . )."  

I think many people dread crowds and parking problems associated with holiday shopping at the mall the week before Christmas.  The mall can get a bit crazy this time of year.  My goal was to make it fun.  I did this by getting there by bicycle and by bringing  along as many friends as I could.  I've also wanted to share how amazingly easy it is to ride to Tyson's Corner by bicycle.  That was the genesis of the Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling (FABB) / Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) Holiday Shopping Ride.  Both FABB and WABA are all about showing people that it is easy to live by bicycle.

Tyson's Corner Center jumped in immediately as a sponsor.  Mosaic District enthusiastically supported this too.  Freshbikes Mosaic provided both shopping bags and bicycle security services (me with a bunch of U-locks and cables) to make this all possible.  I rode the cargo bike with buckets on the back to help people with transporting their purchases.  In the end, I was the only one filling the buckets with stuff that I'd bought.  It wasn't that others didn't shop.  They brought their own means for carrying their purchases home.  

The route was simple.  Nine of us rode from Vienna, Virginia to Tyson's Corner and completely bypassed the lines of cars waiting to get into the parking garage.  We picked up two more riders along the way.  Bicycle Parking is right next to the mall entrance in spot that had Mall Security and a police officer right next door for added bicycle security.  The outdoor German Market was really nice!  The local artisans and bakeries were the backbone of my shopping for the day.  We got a lot of shopping done before even setting foot in the mall.  We enjoyed two hours of shopping inside and a nice lunch before loading up our purchases and heading south.  

The second stop on our shopping ride is the Mosaic District.  This eclectic group of shops and restaurants is quickly becoming one of my favorite hangouts.  In addition to being home to my favorite local bike shop (Freshbikes) there are many small local shops, MOM's Organic Market and plenty of restaurants, Target and the movie theater make it a great place to be.  It is quite easy to get to by bicycle and has good bike parking in the garages and out on the street.  We spent an hour there shopping and getting coffee before heading back to Vienna.  

What was my favorite reaction after the ride?  "Thanks for organizing and leading the ride, we got a lot of shopping done. We'll be riding to Tysons instead of driving again in the near future."

This was the first of many, many rides of this kind.  Many thanks to Tyson's Corner Center, Mosaic District and Freshbikes for making it possible.  


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Nemesis Met and Possibly Vanquished?

From time to time I encounter people who repeatedly drive badly around me.  It happens less often than it used to, but I still have some people who continue to pass too close time and time again.  Reston Limousine Service operates a route that seem to drive badly around me every time I encounter them…. the route that serves Marymount University.  I've never been able to catch up with him to ask the driver give me a break.  Today while riding on Fairfax Drive, their bus passed close enough that the side view mirror brushed my shoulder while I was in the bike lane. 

Luckily it was right near the University, so I knew a stop was coming up soon.  I followed and chased and managed to catch up at the next stop.  I poked my front tire into the door as he was closing it.  He looked up, expecting me to go off on him.  I simply told him that the law is that he pass with at least 2 feet of space… that 3 feet is more polite.  I smiled and told him to have a good afternoon.  He smiled back and apologized. 

Sometimes putting a human face on a cyclist can change how people drive around them.  With luck, this is one of those times.  I'll know more when I encounter this driver again tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Baby it's cold outside.... and wet.

Yesterday was a difficult day to be on the bike.  The morning started dry and in the mid to upper 20s.  By 8am the rain had started and the temps were right at freezing.  Though the rain wasn't a downpour, it was steady and soaking all day long.  The temperature didn't get much above freezing all day.  We were fortunate that the ground was warm enough that it didn't get icy.  

Photo by Ricky Lee Albores

I left the house at about 7am and didn't get home until bout 4pm in the afternoon.  I stopped a few times to warm up with coffee and get some lunch, but I was out doing advocacy work the vast majority of the day.  

I've been talking a lot about winter clothing, but I haven't really talked about what to do when it is raining and cold.  I got quite a few questions from friends on Facebook who were also out riding yesterday.  Many of them got very cold and wanted to know what I wore.

Here's the laundry list: 

Core: Castelli early winter long sleve base layer, Rapha wool jersey with an Endura Flyte rain jacket on top.Legs: Giro New Road wool blend bibs with Hincapie winter (fleece) shorts on top. Both had chamois, so I'm doubled up there. Over the top I used Endura Venturi 3/4 rain knickers. Embrocation on my lower legs (exposed skin) was Mad Alchemy Cold Weather - Medium.Feet: Swiftwick merino wool socks. Lake winter boots (MTB version sealed with SnoSeal bees wax sealant). Outdoor Research goretex gaters over the top.Hands: I changed gloves 4 hours into the ride since my first pair of gloves were wet. Assos liner gloves with Pearl Izumi WXB Lobster Glvoes (last year's model. Mostly waterproof and super warm) were good from 7am-1:30pm. I switched to Assos Liner gloves (the same ones from the morning...still wet) with Assos Early Winter gloves as a middle layer and Pearl Izumi WXB shell gloves over the top. The PI WXB shell gloves have no insulation, but are almost completely water proof and wind proof. My hands started out cold, but within 10 minutes were toasty warm and stayed there for the last 2.5 hours of my ride.
Head: Assos rain hat with a Laser Helium helmet with lexan cover on it that seals up all the vents.

When I felt myself getting too warm, I did one of two things... I either unzipped the jacket a few inches, or if it was raining a lot, I just backed off the riding a little and let my body back off generating so much heat.
When I got home, my jersey and shorts were dry. My base layer was a little damp from persperation, but most of that came in the last few climbs at the end of the day. My feet were dry and warm. My hands were wet, but warm.

There are three, maybe four jackets on the market these days that I'm aware of that can do what mine did today. None are cheap. Assos Sturmprinz is by far the best. Endura makes the Flyte and Venturi jackets. Rapha's rain jacket is legit. Showers Pass' top of the line jacket works great, Is the cheapest of the bunch, but seems to have build quality and endurance issues.

I've never found a garment that works as well as the Endura Venturi knickers, though in all honesty, I have not tried Assos rain pants. I'd guess they are up to the task.

Sorry that the answers all involve spending money. Rain + Cold has no inexpensive remedy. I know of some folks that do well with rain capes. They don't have to breathe because they're totally open at the bottom. For me, one gust of wind and I'm soaked.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Winter Skin Care

It's getting cold and windy out there.  We've talked about keeping warm while you ride.  We're pretty familiar with how to take care of our skin when it's hot out.  If you're new to riding all winter, you may find some of this helpful.

Sunscreen: Just 'cause it is cold out doesn't mean you can't get a good burn.  Slather yourself before you go out.  Not only will it protect your skin from the sun, it also helps it from being dried out from the wind.  Exposed skin takes a beating from a cold wind.  

Embrocation: Not sure if everyone gets this, but I know my legs really get pretty beaten up in the cold.  I tend to wear knickers even when it is pretty cold an cleave my shins out to in the cold.  Even when I wear tights or pants, my legs come back pretty raw if I don't do something with them.  Embrocation is a balm made of essential oils that are blended to provide warmth for your muscles and protection for your skin.  They come in different levels of warming from no warming up to stuff that really heats your legs up!  

In temps below 50 degrees, I'll use a non-warming or very mild warming embrocation.  I'll go to medium below that.  I personally don't use the really hot embrocations.  My skin doesn't like them that much.  

The awesome thing about embro, in addition to helping keep your legs and muscles warm, is that it keeps your skin really smooth and healthy… protecting it from the wind and elements.  

Note:  Applying the warming embrocation is something to be careful with.  The stuff in it that warms your legs can also be uncomfortable if it gets on your tender, soft tissue.  You also don't want to touch your face or eyes if you've got any embro on your fingers.  Trust me, you'll be inventing new curse words if that happens.  I apply warming embro using latex gloves and then toss them away.  It makes everything easier.  

Note2: Embro works best on shaved legs.  It is easier to apply and remove.   

Post-ride skin care:  I'm a guy… facial skin care isn't high on my priority list.  I generally use a moisturizer (read hand cream) on my hands and face after I get out of the shower.  Suave vitamin E lotion is my fave.  It is cheap and works well. For people who really care more about what they use on their face, I generally suggest going with something a little more heavy duty to repair and replenish what the cold takes out of the skin on your face.  

If you're looking for the simple answer for everything…. just go to town with the Suave lotion and you'll be okay.  If you want more in-depth information, read on!  

On my legs I'm more systematic.  Decades of winter riding has beaten the heck out of my legs.  If I don't take care of them, the skin really begins to hurt.  I've found a few things that work well.  For every day use, I use Trader Joe's Vitamin E oil.  It smells good and feels good on my skin.  My legs feel great right away.  If the ride was wet and my skin is really beaten up, something like Bag Balm (it is actually a cow udder ointment) from the drug store gives a bit more relief.  Bag Balm is also great for saddle sores.  It is good to have a tin of it around the house.  The third product I just started using is from Donkey Label, a company that makes embrocation and chamois cream.  It is called Recovery Oil.  It is designed to not only repair your skin, but also helps your muscles recover when you use it as a massage oil.  I use it just before getting out the Foam Roller (  My legs feel great after. 

I know that's a lot of information.  It makes my legs feel happy though. 

Happy winter riding!


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Powhatan Dirty 200

From the brain of the person that brought you the Kill Bill Century and the 140 mile fixie MoCo Epic, I would like to present the Powhatan Dirty 200.  

The short pitch:  I'm likely going to be too poor to attend the Dirty Kanza 200 this year.  That doesn't mean that I am going to sit on the sidelines, watching the internet while friends do a leg-breaking gravel grinder ride next year.  

Similar to DK200, the PD200 will be a self-supported, 200 mile gravel grinder done in one day.  I'll create a century version too, for those who want a tough ride, but don't have a 200 mile day in their legs.  I'm talking about it now because I want to train and I want others to be able to train for it.  

Different from DK200:  This is not a race or even a supported ride.  Basically I'm going to go for a ride.  If you'd like to join me, you are completely welcome to.  You will need to be completely self-sufficient.  You can have a support crew resupply you, but you're not required to.  You can carry tons of stuff with you.  You can resupply at country stores along the way.  I'll try and make it so there is a place to resupply every 30-40 miles.  You will need to have a plan to be picked up if you need to bail mid ride.  The plan will likely take the form of making sure you've got a loved-one or friend who can pick you up if you call.

Date: TBD -- Late May or Early June, 2014 is my choice.
Route: TBD -- but it will include some time on the C&O as well as gravel road miles in Loudoun, Montgomery and Frederick Counties.  Some of the roads will be familiar.  Some may be new to you.  There will be pavement. 
Why? That's a question that takes a bit extra to answer…
Because it is there and needs to be ridden.
It is an opportunity to raise money for my favorite charity.
Finishers will get a PD200/100 Finisher frame sticker.
The photos and stories will endure for EVAR!

Let me know what you think.  



Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Putting Lights Where They're Needed

Every year I work with WABA ( and Bike Arlington ( to give out bike lights to help people with being seen.  It saves lives!  This is really popular with volunteers as well as with the general public.  Any time I'm doing any kind of advocacy on the local trails, I get asked if "we" are going to be giving out lights again this year.  I say that we are, but that they should not let that keep them from purchasing lights and reflective gear on their own.  Lately the number of people who are perfectly capable of affording their own lights, but hold off so that they can get free ones from local advocacy groups kind of rubs me the wrong way.  I still do the main give-aways.  They are important, really help and are a very visible way of doing advocacy that improves cyclists standing in the community.  It is important outreach.  

I've started another quest of my own on the side though.  With the help of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association ( and its Suburban Outreach program, I've been going to un-official day labor sites early in the morning and at quitting time to give out lights to people who ride their bikes to and from every day.  I don't speak Spanish, but manage to make myself understood.  WABA has some great stickers in Spanish that I've been using as my business cards.  

The reception has been awesome!  I've visited 4 different day labor meet-up spots so far.  I've got a few more that I want to hit in the next week or two.   I've noticed many, many more people riding with lights as I make my early morning rounds.  

I started going to a few restaurant districts around 2 in the afternoon, when the dinner shift is arriving at work and handing out lights.  I don't hang around for closing, but I'm guessing the lights come in handy for the ride home.  

I love seeing the lights we all give away on the bike paths of the DC metro area.  Seeing some in other areas being ridden before dawn and after dark makes me even more happy.  

Rock on!

The Blue and the Blue

I'm a weird magnet.  I've been that way for as far back as I can remember.  The last 2 days were an interesting contrast.  I've taken to doing working lunches at places that have cheap food and free wifi.  It is a different setting from which to work and study.  

Yesterday was election day.  The Pancake House was packed with college kids who had the day off because it was election day.  They were all quite individual.  They dressed completely differently, but somehow managed to all be wearing virtually the same combination of sweat pants or PJ bottoms, tight t-shirt with a flannel shirt over the top with the sleeves rolled up.  Most had baseball caps of some kind over their not-naturally colored hair and bed-head style.  The ones that didn't were doing so to show off the part of their head that had been shaved.  Interestingly the sound-track was made up of a bunch of music that the kids parents probably would have liked but that they hated.  

Today I lunched at the local deli.  Much of the hair color came from a bottle, rather than mother nature, but the age group was quite different.  Blue, red and purple were the main color groupings.  There was one lady with pink hair.  It looked awesome.  The uniform was also remarkably uniform.  The music soundtrack was almost completely made up of songs that their children would have LOVED, but they hated.  

Yesterday some of the kids geeked-out on my cross bike… laughing at some of the stickers and generally liking it.  

Today the topic of discussion was my cargo bike. One gentleman walked up and sat down at my table as I chowed down on my burger and asked me to explain my bike.  His 2-pack-a-day voice could barely be heard over A-Ha's "Take on Me".  We talked about the bike for a few… I explained that I was going shopping, but I don't drive, so this bike lets me carry stuff.  He thanked me and got up and went back to his table. 

This opened the flood gates.  Representatives from 8 or 9 of the other tables started filing over to ask about the bike.  We talked, laughed and generally had a good lunch.  I got no work done.  Eventually I got invited to go for a frozen yogurt date 4-doors down at the local God-Fearin' Yogurt place.  Once we all had our yogurt, the conversation about the bike, cycling and what exactly I do continued.  

Eventually I had to say my goodbyes and head for the grocery store.  Two came with me to do a little shopping and watch what it looked like when I loaded groceries on the back of the bike.  I was invited to the Italian Inn tomorrow for lunch.  

I likely won't see the college kids until next election day.  I'll report back on that. 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, Cyclists are from Uranus: The bike advocates wardrobe…

I'm a cyclist.  Oddly enough, that kind of makes things a little difficult for me when it comes to dressing correctly to do bike advocacy work.  Most events that I need to go to involve at least a 15 mile ride to get there, and a similar ride home.  Most comfy clothes for that for me come from the Tour de France wanna-be catalogue.  Trying to talk to people about cycling in such an outfit is about as effective as dressing up like a Martian and speaking using a vocabulary based upon variations on "Ack ACK ack!"  

Happily it appears that the summer heat is over.  I can dress in "human" clothes and not completely sweat through them 5 minutes after leaving the house.  Temps in the 70s or lower are my friend.  I can ride in jeans and a light shirt and arrive not entirely stinky.  I still don't do so well with cotton t-shirts.  They just turn into sweat sponges.

Why can't I just wear human clothes?  My other advocacy friends seem to do just fine in them.  The answer is that I can wear human clothes to some point.  Jeans, shorts and some casual shirts work well for me.  While I love cotton shirts, doing any kind of cycling in them makes me sweat enough that it makes me look like I'm entering a wet t-shirt contest.  No-one wants to talk to me in such a state.  As temps get cooler, I'm able to wear more and more human clothes.  I rode 25 miles in jeans today and was fine. 

I have found some things that work pretty well for me…. when weather is warm or cold.  

Shorts:  Roadie bibs work fine under cargo or casual shorts.  I like the cargo variety since they have big pockets and advocacy usually does better with pockets.  Again, if the temps are in the lower 70s or cooler, I can ride in them and not be too sweaty when I arrive.  Cycling baggy shorts never really look like real baggy shorts.  I've found few that really do at least. 

Club Ride Jerseys (  These are basically collared shirts that look like they're out of an 1970's Western shirt catalogue.  Mother of pearl snaps, yokes and interesting plaids.  They've also got the benefit of being well vented and have useful pickets.  They're made of material that wicks well and they look almost normal.  I grew up around Western wear… worked with horses when I was young and even knew how to rope a calf at some point in my life.  The latter is a skill that I seem to have lost over the years.  (When writing this, I attempted to rope my cat Mao!.  It took me 4 tries to get it right.  Wow did he flip out!  Totally a worth-while use of my time.)  What was I talking about?  Oh yeah… Western shirts.  I've worn them for years, so I'm okay feeling like a human in them.  People look at me weird, but at least they sometimes mistake me for species human.

Giro New Road clothes.  Okay… these are a new find for me.  I work at Freshbikes and they're one of the only stocking dealers of Giro's new casual clothing line.

The shirts are sewn in the US using Merino wool from New Zealand.  So is the base layer.  The base layer, by the way, is on par with the best I've ever used.  It reminds me of Ibex, but is lighter and deals with warmer temperature ranges.  Very well made and fits great.  The shirts range from wool jerseys to casual, collared shirts with a few cycling features… like a rear pocket.  

I got a casual rain jacket and vest from them.  In addition to being a nice quality, it is waterproof and well vented.  It is a cycling jacket that looks like a cool casual jacket when I'm off the bike.  The vest is kinda neat too.  I chose the white color for higher visibility.  They have some reflective elements on them that help with visibility, but I think the white definitely has a leg up on the gray color.  

Shoes are the hard part.  I like my clipless pedals!  I like carbon-soled racing shoes too.  Those just don't cut it as advocacy footwear though.  They scream "I'm a bike freak that you can't relate to!" way too loud.  

I've found three options that seem to work well.  Giro makes a shoe called the Republic that looks like a bowling shoe.  Bowling shoes are AWESOME!!!!  though I wish the Giro looked like rental bowling shoes… red, white and blue with a big #12 on the back.  These don't.  They look like normal, lace-up bowling shoes.  A human might wear such shoes outside of a bowling alley and they are kind of normal when worn with jeans.

Giro also makes a DH or freeride shoe called the Chamber that looks a lot like a sneaker.  They look comfy and will probably find their way into my world.  

I'm also lucky to work in at Freshbikes, a shop that sells Giro clothes and shoes.

Finally Keen ( makes a cycling sandal that looks like a modern incarnation of the Birkenstock.  If I wear them with wool socks, I'll be a granola.  

I just need to be very careful how I put these things together.  I find it extremely difficult to avoid dressing like a rodeo clown.  I know that would be totally counterproductive.  I'm sure I could mix granola, cowboy and urban hipster and come up with something utterly ridiculous.  I do, however, have the ability to resist such temptations and look like something semi-human when riding a bicycle.  That is my quest!

If you see me riding around downtown or catch my flickr feed (, please let me know how I'm doing.  



Friday, October 11, 2013

Advocacy and Construction on the 15th St. Cycletrack

I'm often praised and laughed at for my stubborn adherence to the idea that positive interactions are the best way to make advocacy happen in my daily riding.  As a WABA DC Bike Ambassador, it's my JOB to set a good example and have positive interactions with everyone traveling through our nation's capitol.  This morning my cool was challenged BIGTIME! 

There's a short stretch of the 15th Street Cycletrack that has been under construction for a few weeks and the bollards and paint have been removed. People not familiar with the intersection think that this is now a turn lane.  What makes this extremely dangerous for Northbound cyclists is that this stretch of 15th Street is one-way heading south.  Northbound cyclists are riding against traffic.  In the cycle track, that is completely normal and legal.  Outside of the cycle track that behavior would be dangerous and illegal.  

Blog posts like this are virtually useless without photos… and this one has an amazing photo.  My friend Joe was on the sidewalk with iPhone ready.  I didn't find out until 2 hours later that he was even there.  (Photo by my friend Joe Flood... amazing photographer with a great eye for downtown Washington, DC.  HERE is the original link to his photo.)

I was riding into this section of the bike lane with my friend Lyds… who doesn't do a lot of city riding.  She's a country girl.  As I'm about to enter the construction area, an Audi pulls into it VERY quickly.  He came to a quick stop and so did I with about 12" to spare.  He was angry.  He thought I was a cyclist riding the wrong way on a 1-way street in HIS lane.  It is an easy mistake to make.  I was hot too.  My blood was pumping from almost becoming an Audi hood ornament.  We both started off forcefully… He said I was going the wrong way in his lane.  I said he was driving in the bike lane.  This took him by surprise.  He asked if it was 2-way traffic for bikes.  I said it was.  He said he was sorry.  I said "no problem…. Be safe!"  He smiled and gave me a thumbs up.  I told him to have a good day.

He drove off.  We rode on.  It could have been a horrible situation and a completely negative interaction.  It wasn't.  It was the power of positive interactions…  I kept my cool… outwardly at least.   He backed off when he realize that he'd made a mistake… one that was very easy to make.   All ended well.  

3 things to note.  1) I can't believe Joe was at that intersection with phone ready enough to capture that image.  He said the same thing to me in a text message later that afternoon.  

2) My friend BJ said that's the first time he has ever seen me not smiling when I'm on a bike.  I've known Beej for almost 10 years and he's probably right.  

3)  There's a lot of construction going on along the 15th Street Cycletrack.  There are signs up that say we should select a different route.  I do NOT choose another route for the reason that I ride to interact with EVERYONE along that stretch.  I talk to the construction guys to have POSITIVE interactions with them so they see that I'm NOT some law-breaking cyclist that is just in their way.  It gets results.  Many times they've put out cones to help make room for cyclists in the traffic lanes.  They're not legally required to do that!  Having positive interactions with people gives them a more complex view of cyclists.  When we're polite, nice and law-abiding, people notice and respond well in return.  It makes a difference for me EVERY DAY!

Thanks again Joe for that amazing photo.  

Rock on people!  


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Bike To School Day: A quick report.

I never do small blog posts.  Well almost never.

I was so wrapped up in stuff that I didn't get any events planned for Bike To School Day.  I suck.  I was, however, riding into town to have coffee with friends this morning when I saw a convoy of kids and parents heading to school.  They were slowing to make a left turn as I approached.  I wanted to watch the parade and cheer them on, so I unclipped and pulled off to the side.  I got my camera out to snap some photos.  I cheered them on.  They were all ear to ear smiles.  It was 4 parents and 3 kids and they were really proud and happy to be riding.  


It was only when I turned around to check traffic before pulling back onto the trail that I noticed that 6 cyclists behind me had also pulled off to watch the procession.  Every one of the spectators also had huge smiles on their faces.  

I'm glad I'm not the only sap that is happy about seeing stuff like this. 

Rock on, people.  


Sunday, June 16, 2013

Chain Wear: Don't let it go to long!!!!

This is one of those "Let my life serve as an example" sort of posts.  :D 

I'm usually pretty good about keeping an eye on chain wear so that I don't have to do a wholesale drivetrain "upgrade" but failed miserably this time.  I hadn't messed with the chain on the fat fixie for wayyyyyy tooo long.  I went to put a new chain on last night and when I went for a shakedown ride, all I heard was crunching and grinding out of a perfectly clean and partially new drivetrain.  What should have been a $20 fix ended up costing me $150.

Background: As your ride, your chain stretches and  wears.  If you don't clean your chain often, that process happens quicker.   If you ride with a chain that is stretched and worn, the cogs (gears in the back) and the chainrings (gears in the front) wear to match the longer, worn out chain.  When you finally do get around to replacing your chain, the bike will no longer pedal or shift correctly.  Any time you put pressure on the pedals, the gears will pop and grind.

The "solution":  If you've waited too long the only solution is to change the chain, chainrings and cogs all at once.  That gets expensive.  One reason you see seemingly nice, lower-end bikes on Craigslist at a good deal is that someone paid $500 for a new bike two years ago, ignored the chain and just heard from their mechanic that is going to cost $300 to replace chain, cogs and chainrings.  Buyer beware!

How do I avoid this?: There are many companies that make tools that measure how much your chain has worn.  They're simple to use and quite reliable.  Use them frequently... especially if you ride when it is wet or don't clean your chain often.  When the gauge says that your chain should be replaced... or is getting close to needing to be replaced, buy a new chain and do it!!!  The fix is easy to do. It is a great job for someone wanting to start doing their own repairs. 

Chain wear gauge

Chain wear video:

Everything you ever wanted to know about chains and much, much more from Sheldon Brown (MHRIP):

Hope that is somewhat helpful.



Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Dirty Kanza 200 race with the Service Course/ World Bicycle Relief team.

Dirty Kanza is a 200 mile, gravel road race in the Flint Hills surrounding Emporia, Kansas.  There are 3 checkpoints on the race course where racers can get supplies and help from their support crew (which they must provide).  The checkpoints are also where racers get the directions to the next checkpoint.  The course is marked, but the maps that are handed out at the beginning of each sector are what really guide you.  People think of Kansas as flat, but this year's Kanza route climbed over 12,000 feet during the 200 miles.  The climbs were not particularly steep, but the constant undulation takes its toll over the miles.

I raced Dirty Kanza with a group from the Service Course/ World Bicycle Relief team put together by my friend Nick Legan.  Nick, Kristen Peterson, Chris Case and Jess D'Amato are often part of the Service Course team.  For this event Rebecca Rusch and I were invited to join for this event.  World Bicycle Relief is a COOL organization that realizes the power of the bicycle to improve people's lives.  In Africa, a bicycle means access to education, health care and employment.  WBR sends purpose-built bicycles to people in need in Africa, teaches mechanics and helps start cottage industries around bicycles in these areas.  A $134 donation sends a bike to Africa.  $50 provides a tool kit and training to use it.  $20 provides replacement wheels (the most common part to wear out) to people in need.  So far over 130,000 bikes have been sent through this program.  Our goal is to send 200 more.  Your help is appreciated.

Donation Link:

Kansas?  What the heck is there to ride in Kansas???  Hundreds of miles of beautiful dirt roads in many different forms is the answer to that question.  There are well-maintained gravel roads and others that could best be described as "farm tracks".  There are plenty of B roads... some C and even a few D roads. The other thing you need to be prepared for is how lovely the terrain is.  There had been plenty of rain in the weeks leading up to the race so the entire countryside was lush and green.  Wildflowers were in bloom.  You cannot imagine how huge a Kansas sky is until you see one.  Panoramic photos can give a small feel for what Kansas feels like, but they don't really give you the true impact of a small ribbon of gravel road stretching off to the horizon rolling over hill after hill after hill.  It is lovely to see, and somewhat ominous to ride. 

Weather conditions for this year's event were both perfect and awful.  Temperatures in the high 60s and low 70s were perfect.  Riding over 100 miles into an 18mph headwind, however, often in long stretches, is never easy.  Most of sector 2 was either into a strong headwind or with a diagonal headwind... which is often worse.  After a 9 mile "breather" heading out of the wind, sector 3 treated us to almost 40 miles of uninterrupted headwinds. 

The team had a GREAT day!  Christopher Case took 14th overall and was in the lead pack for quite a bit of time.  Rebecca won the Women's division for the second year.  Kristen was 4th.  Nick was 4th in Single Speed class.  If I'm not mistaken, Jess had her longest ride ever. 

My successes were different.  I rode well and finished strong, though not in the time that I would have liked.  I had 6 flats... after the 4th flat I devoted my ride to helping others out along their ride.  I stopped and checked on people and made sure they had what the needed.  I helped fix a bunch of flats.  I helped a guy who had started talking to unicorns connect with his support crew.  After night fell, I lead a pack for the last 10-15 miles because I had very good lights and many of them did not.  I finished 148th out of 670.  In a race where barely half the field finished, that's a good thing.

Amazing things about this race:

The community of Emporia, Kansas is truly remarkable.  I'm not just talking about the cycling community… I'm talking EVERYONE!  We drove into town late on Thursday night and were greeted by bank signs that said "Welcome DK200 Riders!" and banners hung along the main streets.  Riding to registration in the morning I had 2 or 3 people drive by and roll down their windows to welcome me and thank me for riding.  Walking through town EVERY shop had some special or way of welcoming DK200 riders.  Everyone wanted to stop and talk to us.  When you consider there were 1000 people in town for the ride, there were a lot of locals doing a lot of welcoming.  That's very different than the way Washington, DC locals greet tourists. 

The next funny thing about the race had to do with some of the VIPs taking part in the race.  There were some big time, famous racers showing up for this event.  All the serious Gravel Grinder contenders were here.  Some pros and journalists showed up too.  The Emporia Gazette honored them by doing trading cards for 20 of the top or notable riders.  Somehow I got tossed into that mix.  Everyone else had serious racer photos for their trading card… they were represented their sponsors well and responsibly.  Since I don't race and have no sponsors, my card looked a little different. 

The trading cards were each sponsored by a local business.  People who wanted trading cards had to go around to all the local businesses and pick up their card.  I had fun going around and seeing all the different cards in businesses. I did some shopping to support the local businesses.  It was a great idea!   Many of the racers were given a stack of cards, so we didn't have to collect.  There was an official signing session in front of the Granada Theater.  I had fun signing a few cards and getting some of my cards signed.  It was silly and fun.

Talking to people about World Bicycle Relief was great.  Being around people who are passionate about bikes is always wonderful.  Sharing with people how 1 bicycle can change the life of a family and community is inspiring… especially when folks respond by donating to a great cause.  We raised a lot of money and awareness in the "Tent of Awesome" as Nick called it. :D
Jess D'Amato, my Service Course/World Bicycle Relief teammate

Arguably my favorite part of the weekend was spending time reconnecting with friends that I hadn't seen for over a year.  I'm a sap that way.  :D  There were a lot of people that I'd met through Ride on Washington and the National Bike Summit that I hadn't seen outside the internet.  Spending time turning a pedal, flapping jaw or drinking a beer does my heart good!  Y'all are amazing. 

As always... Epic rides result in epic piles of stinky laundry….

I'm honestly not sure this weekend could have been more perfect!

Thanks for reading!


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Rice Cakes on the Road

I've really had good results cooking and preparing ride food from the Feed Zone Cookbook and Feed Zone Portables Cookbook.  I've liked it so much that I've actually had issues going back to using packaged ride food when I'm doing a race or event on the road.  I also have had people ask me what I do for ride food when I'm on the road to a cycling event. 

Last month I decided to try to make Skratch Labs rice cakes from the Feed Zone Cookbook in a hotel room with what is easily available in a hotel.    They turned out pretty good. I'm sure Allen and Biju can talk to some of the substitutions that I made.  These are NOT nutritionally ideal, but for me they're a better choice than packaged alternatives like Power Bars or Clif Bars. 


   * Steamed rice from a Chinese restaurant,

   * Peanut Butter -- little, single-serving tubs from the Breakfast Bar in the hotel (replaces egg)  You could use egg from the breakfast bar if you have a fridge in your hotel room to keep them cold until you're able to procure rice.

   * Soy sauce packets from the Chinese restaurant

   * Brown Sugar from the oatmeal section of the breakfast bar.

   * Pre-cooked bacon or beef jerky.  Beef jerky is a bit chewy, but it works. Pre-cooked bacon is EXPENSIVE in the grocery store.

   * Parmesan cheese packets from a take-out pizza place.  Ask at the front desk if you don't want to order a pizza… My hotel had them.  Check the expiration date on them… One of mine expired in 2009.

   * Salt packets
   * 1 gallon-sized ziplock bag to mix stuff up in.  I thought about using the ice bucket, but I know what those have been used for in the past... Trust me, you don't want to do that.  You could use the plastic liner bag that they usually give you for the ice bucket.  I just usually have a ziplock or two with me.
    * small sandwhich baggies in which to carry individual rice cakes.

I dumped the ingredients into a gallon zip lock bag and squished it all up instead of using a mixing bowl.  I then used sandwich bags instead of fancy parchment paper to portion things out.  Made them into portions about the size of a racquetball.   They stuffed into jersey pockets or Revelate Feed Bags nicely.  I usually have a sharp knife with me all the time.  It is kind of weird dicing up beef jerky with a hunting knife while sitting on a hotel bed, but it worked.

Your hotel cleaning people will appreciate it if you're either VERY careful not to make a huge mess and/or you leave them a huge tip to clean up after you.

Hugs and Kisses,


Training for the Unknown

This probably belongs in one of my other blogs, but I'm going to put it here anyways.

I've become more of a distance rider than I was when I was a kid.  I always loved long rides… my definition of "long" has just changed over the years.  That's required me to adapt my training and preparation for events a bit more.  The things that I'm going to talk about in this blog entry still apply to any ride that you define as long.  Certainly if "long" means 200+ miles, you'll incorporate more of this into your workouts than you will if "long" means 60. 

This year I've been preparing for Dirty Kanza 200… a self-supported 200 mile race on dirt roads around Emporia, Kansas.  We don't find out the course until race day and have to navigate point to point using old-school methods (compass, map, cue sheet).  Preparing for the unknown is something we all need to train for. 

How do you train for something that you can't predict?  Best way is to throw different stuff at your body and mind and then deal with them. For me training the mid is the most important part.  If your mind is ready to deal with all kinds of stuff that you don't think you'll have to encounter, then the body just tends to follow suit.  If you're narrow in your training focus, your mind may not be ready for something weird to happen.  If your mind can't deal with it, then your body won't deal with well either.

Here's what I've worked with this spring:

Heat:  This is a big one.  DK200 has been held in temps over 100 degrees with high humidity, but it is really pleasant here in Virginia these days.  We've had only a few days that dip into the low 80s.  Hard to acclimate to heat with that kid of weather.  To deal with it, I've been wearing winter base layer, long sleeve jerseys, tights, wool socks and mid-weight gloves for some training rides.  It makes me hydrate more and get used to sweating buckets.   Basically I dress for temps in the mid 40s when it is really in the upper 70s. 
Long sleeves and wool socks on an 85 degree day.

Cold:  This won't really be a factor for Dirty Kanza, but it might be for other things.  Dressing for the 70s when it is really in the 40s needs to be done carefully.  You can actually hurt yourself and cause joint problems by doing so.  It does, however, teach your body to deal with cold to remove a layer for an hour in the middle of a ride and experience some cold.  It really helps your mind deal with it too.

Wet:  Again, be a little careful with this one.  Practice riding in the rain without rain gear to get the feel for it.  This time of year it often happens organically… we all get caught in unexpected rain storms now and then.  Ride and enjoy it!  My favorite rain riding quote comes from the author Terry Pratchett:
     Mistress Weatherwax: "I prefer to get wet and be thankful"
     Tiffany: "Thankful for what?"
     Mistress Weatherwax: "That I'll be dry later."

Weight:  Mostly I'm talking about the bike here.  Practice riding with a heavy bike.  It helps with climbing, wind and generally dealing with adversity.  Ride with a pack or a heavy camelback.  This can simulate wind since you have to put out a lot more power and everything feels sluggish.  Getting on your light, lively bike after riding a heavy, loaded-down bike feels great too. 

Wind: Never let a windy day go by without going out to play in it.  Teaching your mind to enjoy punching holes in the wind is probably one of the hardest things to do.  Wind can be the most mentally defeating thing to encounter when you're riding.  You feel like you should be riding faster and with less effort.  Your mind registers this and it is easy to let it sink your ride or race.  Practice spending LOTS of time outside the draft.  Go play on windy days.  Ride a heavy bike.  Ride a fixie.  Ride a heavy fixie on a windy day.  Don't forget crosswinds.  They can really suck.  Practice in them.

Hills: Practice hills of all kinds and they become less intimidating.  If you suck as a climber then you need to practice more.  Ride hills in the rain.  Ride hills in the wind.  Ride hills on your heavy bike, with a pack and/or on a fixie.  Throw all kind of weird stuff at your body.  If you have a hill that you hate, go back and do it a second time… or third.

Road Conditions:  Smooth pavement is soooooo nice to ride on!  That's why it is best to train on rough stuff.  Ride crappy roads. Ride dirt roads.  Ride crappy dirt roads.  Ride single track on your cross bike… or fixie… or fixie cross bike.  Learn how your bike handles in the wet or wind on crappy roads. 

Mechanicals:  This is a weird one.  My friend Nick broke his derailleur part way into DK200 last year and rode almost 130 miles in one gear last year.  He is a super bad-ass.   He was able to do that because he trained his body and mind to deal with the weirdness.  This year he's going back to race single speed class at DK200.  He's freaking awesome.  Gears are not the only thing that break.  If you break a spoke, you might have to deal with a bent wheel that doesn't allow you to ride with one of your brakes.  Be REALLY careful doing this, but you can simulate that.  Loosen or disconnect your brake.  Most brakes have some kind of quick release.  Riding with no front or rear brake can be really dangerous.  Learn what you have to do ride safely with only one brake.  I know… that's a bit weird, but I do it!!!  it helps be mentally prepared for things.

Weird Resupply Intervals: Dirty Kanza has checkpoints every 50 miles or so where we're able to get water/food from our support crew.  What happens if you get lost and have to go 70 miles?  90?  100?  You get the idea.  Learn how to ride and conserve water and food.  Learn how to ride carrying too much food and water.  Learn how much is way too much.  Practice this!!!  I did a ride this spring where I went 130 miles on gravel and paved roads with no resupply at all… not water or food.  I carried EVERYTHING for that ride.  It sucked in many ways, but it taught me what to do and how to prepare. 

I know this was kind of a weird conversation.  The bottom line is that if you want to be prepared for everything, you need to teach your mind and body to adapt.  If you prepare for the stuff above, you'll actually be ready for the things that I didn't list up there.  I obviously can't list everything you'll encounter.  If you train while thinking outside the box, you'll be ready for weird, fun stuff to happen.  That's what doing long rides is all about!!!

Have fun and be safe!


Thursday, May 16, 2013

On-Bike Photography

I've had a lot of questions on how I take photographs while I'm riding.  I said I'd put something together to talk about it.  I've been photographing things while riding for almost 40 years.  I've shot with everything from medium format film and 35mm to digital SLRs and Point and shoot cameras.  I've had a dozen different  kinds of rigs for carrying the camera.  I've got a few things that work well for me. 

My camera:
  These days I shoot with an inexpensive point and shoot.  I don't want to spend a ton of money on a camera.  I tend to be hard on cameras, so I go cheap.  My current camera is a Canon Powershot Elph 320.  It is a 16mp camera with a few features I use a lot. It is small, durable and pink.  Best of all, I got it for $70.  I hate the touch screen.  I leave it locked almost all the time.  I'll be happy when it breaks.

What features do I like? 
Biggest for me is that there are simple, non-fiddly ways of accessing the controls on the camera so I don't have to look at it in order to turn it on, change settings and shoot.  My eyes and attention needs to be on where I'm riding rather than fiddling with the camera.  I change all the settings on the camera by feel rather than by site.  The best camera I ever used was the Canon Powershot S100.  It was AWESOME, but it wasn't perfect.  The jog dial was great for adjusting exposure on the fly, but it required that I look at the camera to see if I'd changed a setting.  I couldn't do it by feel. 

I like shooting with a cheaper camera.  The photos are not as spectacular, but I worry much less about the camera, so I'm more brave when shooting and get much better photos as a result.  I am not worrying about destroying a $70 camera near as much as I am a $400 one.  Don't get me wrong... I love shooting with great cameras.  I just am much more reserved in how I shoot and that is somewhat limiting for me.  If I'm shooting like Evel Kneivel, I want to be carrying a cheap, durable camera.

How do I set up the camera?

Holding the camera is important.  I put skateboard grip tape on every flat surface that my hand touches.  Fully 1/4 of my camera is covered in grip tape.  4 of the 6 sides of the camera have grip tape on them.  Cameras are slippery.  Doing this reduces the chance that you'll drop your camera.

Settings:   leave the camera in Program mode with burst set.  Auto ISO and Auto White Balance.  The first month I have the camera, I figure out if I need to adjust the exposure before I shoot.  My current Canon meters the photos with a little too much light, so I dial back the exposure 1/3 or so to compensate.  I like the camera because it has a switch with two settings… one for full auto and one for program.  If I know I need a fill flash, I set it for full auto (which I set to always fire the flash).  That gives me a way to turn flash on and off with the touch of a finger… I don't have to look.

If light is going to be consistent during the ride, I may switch to Aperture Priority mode and set it to the sweet spot for the lens.  F8 is pretty good for the little camera that I've got.  That gives me a little different kind of shot than letting the computer figure everything out. 

How do I carry it?  I have a small camera bag that I attach to the handlebars or head tube of the bike.  It has a velcro flap that completely covers the camera and keeps sweat, mud and light rain off when the camera is stowed.  My favorite is the Mountainsmith Cyber II Camera Case.  I not only velcro it to the bars, but I also either zip tie or velcro one of the D-rings to the bars.  I've had the main velcro straps fail on bumpy trails. 

Camera bag on the bars of the tandem

On rainy days, I usually put the camera in a waterproof pocket on my rain jacket.  All of my rain gear has waterproof pockets on them.  They're not perfect, but my cameras are tough enough that they can get a bit moist. 

Sweat is something you want to avoid getting in your camera.  If your name is Sean Chisham, buy the toughest waterproof camera you can, completely baby it and replace it every year.  You're gonna kill the dang thing, so shoot a lot before it dies.  ;)

Using the camera while rolling:  Step 1: slip my hand into the camera lanyard.  Step 2: remove camera from case.  Step 3: turn it on.  Step 4: Shoot.  Step 5: Turn camera off.  Step 6: Stow camera.  Step 7: Remove hand from camera lanyard.  The camera is attached to my wrist the entire time it is out of the case.  It is much less likely to get dropped. 

Framing the photo:  Use burst mode!  Play with it.  Shoot from down low.  Shoot from up high.  Try to avoid weird backgrounds.  Try to include weird backgrounds.  Get people making funny faces while eating.  Take photos of yourself.  Shoot forward, backward, up, down, sideways.  If there was a way to shoot inside out, I probably would try that.  Use burst mode!  Throw away 99% of your photos. 

Buy this book and read the chapters on composition. 
Learn the 7 rules and practice them.  You will become a much better photographer.  Who cares if it is about 35mm photography.  Read it.  You'll learn about light, aperture, shutter, composition... etc.  You'll stop taking snapshots and you'll start taking photographs. 

Play.  Have fun.  Find your eye.  Practice one kind of photo for a while until you figure it out and get good at it.  Then move on and try something different until you get good at that.  Shoot EVERY DAY!!!  Use burst mode.  SHOT EVERY DAY!  Join a photo group that pushes you and inspires you.  Bike180 on Flickr is a good choice.  SHOOT EVERY DAY!!! 

Please let me know if you have questions or if there's something that works well for you.

Hugs and kisses


Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Feed Zone Portable Cookbook

Alright! I've had almost 3 weeks with the new Feed Zone Portables cookbook from our friends at SkratchLabs. It surpasses my expectations on every level. My first reaction to some of the stuff that I read in the book was "This stuff is CRAZY! I'll never eat this as ride food!" Wow was I wrong.

The first things I made were the Spiced Beef & Onion Rice Cakes. I picked the weirdest thing that I figured there's NO WAY I can eat this on the road. Beef, onions and a LOT of ginger! I'm an adventurous eater, but that just seemed way too spicy to be chowing down on in the middle of a ride. I figured even if I like it, there's NO FREAKIN' WAY anyone else is going to eat them. Dang was I wrong! I love them! They're perfect for riding. The ginger makes them easy on the stomach. I had 3 different portables with me that day. I figured VVill would eat one 'cause he likes spicy food, but that I'd be hauling them back home with me. I was wro.... wro.... WRONG!!! again. They all got chowed down and were the first to go.

What kind of crazy is it to bake a meat pie and take it as ride food? It would seem that it is not crazy at all. Beef & Sweet Potato Pies were awesome. They're a hair under 300 calories each and make AWESOME ride food! They have many different crust options. I chose to make them in a cupcake tin so that they'd fit perfectly into my Revelate Feedbag. 4 fit into the feedbag perfectly. The crust protected the pies and they were not at all gooey. They were exactly what I was craving in the middle of a long day in the saddle.

They take a little longer to bake than the rice cakes do. I can make a big batch of rice cakes in about 40 minutes including clean-up. It took me 1h20 to bake the pies. They are definitely worth it, but I still needed to speed my production or I wouldn't want to bake them very often. I figured it out! Double the recipe and stagger the process of making filling. I made a dozen beef pies and 10 apple pies in a hair under 2 hours (including clean-up). I made the crust first (2 individual batches in the food processor since one huge batch wouldn't fit) then I made the beef filling. While the beef pies were baking, I cleaned up and made the apple filling. Beef pies came out, I put them on a cooling rack and stuffed the apple pies. They were in the oven in no time! I cleaned up while they were baking. They went onto a cooling rack next to the beef pies. My wife and I had pies for dinner (time saving 'cause I'm making dinner + ride food!). By the time we were done with dinner, the pies were cool and ready to wrap up. 2 pies went in the fridge for today's ride, the rest went into the freezer in freezer bags. I'll put them out on the counter the night before a ride and they'll be thawed by morning. I've got ride food for the week!

Probably the best find for summer are the Blueberry & Chocolate Coconut Rice Cakes. They're delicious! They're great energy. They're vegetarian. They got gobbled up at Kill Bill Century VERY quickly. I used lime juice instead of lemon because it was what I had. It worked perfectly and tasted great. I went easy on the salt... easier than Biju recommends... and that was a mistake. They would have been better tasting and better ride food with a bit more salt in them. He says 1.5 tsp coarse salt. I'd suggest starting with 1tsp and seeing how that tastes and adding a little from there. I only used .5tsp and that wasn't quite enough.

The benefit of this book is that it is NOT all stuff that is difficult to make. The pies are quite involved to make and it helps to have experience making pastry dough... though they can also be your entry into getting pastry dough experience if you're so inclined. The rice bars are easy to make. Having a good rice cooker helps. Some of the recipes are SUPER EASY! The Blueberry & Chocolate Coconut rice cakes are extremely simple. PB&J Rice Cakes take barely longer than the time it takes to cook the rice. They make GREAT ride food too. They are inexpensive and provide GREAT calories for riding.

We're constantly exploring and having lots of fun with it. Let me know what you've tried. I look forward to hearing about your adventures in cooking these things. There's LOTS of room for variations on the recipes. Changing things up changes the nutrition of the portables, but if it makes it easier to eat on the road, then it's all good!

Have fun! Eat well!


PS: One more added benefit to these things... they're MUCH EASIER to unwrap and eat while riding than any energy bar or gel that I've ever seen. Not a big deal for most, but for those of us who often eat without stopping for a break, that is HUGE!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Choosing a Saddle / Adamo Breakaway Saddle Review

This is a hybrid post.  My new saddle looks weird, so everyone asks me about it.  I figure that's a good excuse to review it.  I also thought it might be nice to talk about how I go about choosing a saddle.


Hey Pete.  How do you like your Adamo saddle?

(Image thanks to ISM Adamo's web site.)


I like it a lot! It takes a little getting used to though. The Adamo saddles are weird enough that any Adamo dealer will have demo saddles that you can try. I strongly encourage you to demo one for at least a few long-ish rides. There are some things about it that are cool and different, but like anything in the bicycle world, if it doesn't fit, you're gonna hate it.

Saddle Fit/Shape:

I use Specialized seat sizing system. They have you sit on a board that has some memory foam on it (I call it the ass-o-meter) and then measure how far apart your sits bones are. They use that to figure out which width of saddle you are. I'm 143mm exactly. You then have to pick if you want a flat or curved profile nose to tail and a flat or curved profile side to side.

In Specialized speak, I'm a 143mm flat nose to tail and flat side to side saddle kind of guy. That comes out to a Toupe or Phenom 143 for me. It also means that a Fizik Antares fits me like a glove... an ass-glove that is. A good saddle dealer can help you figure out what shape fits the measurements you come up with.  Most will let you demo a saddle for at least a few rides before you buy.

Fizik has 3 different saddle shapes depending on the kind of riding you do and your positioning on the bike and flexibility.  The curved saddles are for those who are very flat-backed and aerodynamic.  There's one in the middle for people who are somewhat in the middle and a wider, flatter profile for people who are a bit more upright.  It is a good starting point for choosing the saddle shape, but doesn't really allow you to reliably pick a saddle without trying it. 

Looking at the Adamo saddle line, the one that was the closest to my dimensions was the Breakaway. It is about 143mm wide (135mm at the sit bones) and board flat side to side. There's a tiny bit of curve nose to tail, but I'm able to adjust for that with seat angle so that my man parts don't get smooshed. Adamo makes 6 or 7 different models that fit different kinds of people. Go through a fitting process, then demo them to find out if your research and fitting was right.

Seat Adjustment:

Dialing in the seat angle is very important with the Adamo.... more so than with my Specialized or Fizik saddles. I don't know why that is, perhaps it has to do with the bit of curve at the nose of the saddle and its width. Adamo's web site suggests starting with the saddle level, then adjusting forward 1/2 - 1 degree at a time until you find the perfect setting. Thomson seatposts make that a little easy because they've got the angle marked on the seat clamp. My saddle is tilted forward a bit more than i thought I'd ever ride. That is likely because of the slight curve to the noses (there are 2 saddle noses on the Adamo).

What kind of riding?

I chose the Adamo Breakaway because of its reputation with endurance athletes. I spend a LOT of time in the saddle and I'd heard that the Adamo design is great. Riding fixie much of the time means I don't coast and get out of the saddle to give my butt a break as often, so saddle comfort is critical.  This saddle is also designed for people who get very aerodynamic.  If you sit quite upright and have a lot of weight on the saddle, it is unlikely that this saddle will be anywhere near comfortable. 

My impressions:

Now onto my impressions. The saddle is deceptively firm. The padding feels much like my other saddles. Not significantly softer or harder. The shell of the saddle, however, is MUCH more firm than the other saddles that I use. There's no give at all to that saddle. That is probably why fit and adjustment are so important. The saddle is a brick with a nice leather cover and a bit of padding. That isn't a bad thing. It means that the saddle will likely last for ever and never deform. It does mean that if you don't like how it feels, the saddle won't do like a Brooks or Specialized Toupe and conform slightly to your shape. Your shape is what will do the conforming.

The Breakaway is not particularly light weight. This isn't a huge deal, but it is something I take into account. All that substance and firmness costs weight.

When I first started riding, the noses of the saddle felt odd between my legs because they're wider than anything you've probably ever ridden before. It didn't take more than a few miles before I forgot about that, though. There's absolutely NO pressure on my tender man bits. In that respect, the Adamo is perfect.

The firmness of the saddle takes some getting used to. I'm there with it now and I like it. The fixie cyclo-cross bike that I have it on is one that is designed for long gravel road rides. I've got 8 rides on that bike so far.... 4 of which are over 100 miles... one of those over 150. Though I've got very few rides on the Adamo, the mileage is significant... over 600 miles. The Adamo Breakaway has been exactly what I wanted. I'll keep it on there.

Installed on the Fixie Adventure Bike during a 120 mile, unsupported (not even a water stop), gravel grinder ride.

 Final Comment:

Last comment on the saddle... The main reason why I was so careful about measuring and choosing the saddle was that THESE THINGS ARE FREAKING EXPENSIVE!!! The $225 price tag made me stop and think a few times.  I could almost buy 2 Specialized Toupe saddles for that. I'm glad I didn't, but it is definitely something to consider.

I lied about that being my final comment:

Everyone is going to comment on it or ask about it. It looks weird and people want to know about it.  Be prepared for that with either a serious, helpful answer, or something kind of obnoxious.  My personal favorite answer is, "It feels like I'm sitting on a giant tongue."  It takes a few moments for people who don't know me to figure out that I'm joking.


Adamo Breakaway:

Local Adamo Dealers: All have a demo program, I believe... Tri360s is probably the best saddle demo fleet I've ever seen.
  • Tri360:
  • Freshbikes:
  • Bonzai Sports:

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Preparing for a ride: The thought process.

We all know that when you go out for a bike ride, you need to make sure you've got your gloves, pump, food, water, spare tubes, etc.  It is also important to have the right clothes for the conditions and duration of the ride.  As we get closer to spring riding weather, our minds naturally turn to longer rides.  Spring weather is often unpredictable, case in point last week's rain/ sleet/snow death march.  As a ride leader, I'm often heading out into the unknown and guiding them on rides.  I take that responsibility seriously. Anyone that's ever seen some of my book-length ride invitations knows that I'm trying to enable folks' thought processes to make sure they're prepared.

Every time that I've had an epic ride failure, it has been the result of an epic failure in my thought processes during preparation.  That sounds intuitive, but we usually talk about ride checklists from a "things" point of view, rather than "thoughts" point of view.  When I started resolving things into thoughts, ride preparation became intuitive for me.  No longer did I have a checklist, mental or physical to go through.  Ride preparation happened organically.  I naturally prepared for ALL aspects of the ride… even the things that I couldn't have envisioned ahead of time. 

These thoughts and ideas mingle and overlap and that gives extra insurance that we'll have what we need for the ride. 

Comfort:  This encompasses clothing and preparation for the elements, but it also makes sure that gloves, sun screen, food and water get brought along.  We have to think about how long we'll be out on the ride and what happens if we're out longer.  Are you comfortable on the kinds of roads on the route?  Don't just trust the ride leader, LOOK at the route and mentally be prepared to insure that you ARE comfortable riding for the day.

Strength:  Do I have what it takes to complete this ride physically and mentally?  Distance, climbing, terrain, conditions all play into this.  Don't let hardships that might arise keep you from doing the ride.  It is better to mentally prepare for those hardships as well as physically.  I'm not saying that someone who typically does long rides with 2-hour durations should set out for an 11 hour death march.  I am saying that they should go for 3 or 3.5 hours though.  11 hour rides don't just spring out of nowhere.  They start their lives as 2 hour rides that hurt and build up.  Am I geared correctly for a ride?  My ride last weekend was much more difficult than it should have been because I lacked 1 tooth on the cog of my fixie gravel grinder bike.  It was a new bike being ridden under unknown conditions.  I didn't have the background to pick correctly, but I mentally gauged my strength and figured I could complete the ride with a safety margin even if I was over geared.

Agility and Flexibility:  How quickly and easily can I adapt when things change?  Do I know enough about the area and the route to cut things short (or go longer) if conditions necessitate (or allow)?  What happens if a known water stop is closed?  What happens if there's an accident.  Am I unencumbered enough to climb and move freely with the bike? 

Endurance:  Is what I'm proposing as a bike ride within 30% of what I've done in the past?  I'd suggest people new to pushing their limits start with a more reasonable number… like 15%.  I'm not just talking distance.  I'm thinking about elevation, weather, wind, terrain, etc. 

Safety:  Here we come back to looking at distance, route (what kinds of roads/trails are we riding?), bail-out points, resupply opportunities, etc.  We need to think about visibility (reflective gear and flashy lights) and seeing (lights, glasses, etc).  We need to protect our bodies with sunscreen, clothes, glasses, leg armor, gloves.  We need to know where we're going and how to get back… even if something comes up.  We need a cell phone and a network to use it.  We need to have a buddy or two with us in case something happens and we can go for help. 

MUCH MUCH MORE!  These are samples of the thoughts that I go through for my preparation.  The list goes on and evolves depending on where I am at a particular time. 

How does all this come together?

Start early.  I start my thought practices for a Sunday ride on Monday or Tuesday.  That's when I start picking my route or whose ride I'm going to join.  I make sure that my activities for the week allow me enough mileage and rest to be fresh and ready for the ride. 

SUPER IMPORTANT POINT:  You are definitely NOT just planning for the negative.  Plan for FUN!  Think of and make happen a lot of fun stuff.  What will make this ride enjoyable for me and the others on it?  I love professional bike racing, so I often pick a theme for the ride based upon some big race that is happening at the same time.  I use a ride to share new recipes for ride food or discuss some new component, clothing or tire that I'm testing.  If we're not having fun while challenging ourselves, then we're not going to want to come out and do it again next week.

Friday I make sure I've got time to buy or prepare ride food before Sunday's ride.  I look at the route to make sure it is somewhat familiar to me.  I make sure the bike has what it needs to ride.

Saturday I make sure that I've got some quiet time to relax, reflect on the week and mentally prepare for the ride to come.  For me that involves quiet time and prayer.  I'm taking inventory of my thoughts. 

Saturday night is important.  Toward the end of the quiet, mental preparation, start the physical preparation.  Use the thoughts that you were working with to guide you as to what you'll need for the next day.  Have your clothes for the next day set out.  Make sure you've got chamois cream, embrocation, sun screen, etc ready for application.  Have the food set aside where it will DEFINITELY make it into your pockets for the ride.  Lay everything out… MORE than you think you'll need.  Look at the weather and make sure that what you're planning is wise and that you're mentally and physically prepared for it.  Doubt is okay… even good!  That means you're pushing yourself.  Put a number on it… a percentage, like we talked about before.  Are you over your comfort zone by 10%? 15%? 30%? 50%  Adjust your Sunday accordingly.

Make as many decisions as possible Saturday night! Flexibility is important, but don't be making big, critical decisions on Sunday morning.

Sunday morning:  Everything is set!  Everything is laid out. You can quietly go through your thought processes, even if things are not quiet around you.  Relax and trust your preparation.  Go ride and have a blast! 

Sunday night, take time to reflect, refuel, stretch and relax.  Do this mentally and physically.  Give yourself a few minutes to look back at what went well and where you need improvements.  Monday and Tuesday are when the next week's ride planning starts.  It is a new opportunity to do it all again. 

Final Note:  Practice this process on a smaller scale.  Mentally prepare for the smallest of rides.  If you practice this stuff daily, then it becomes second nature… you become a stronger and more independent cyclist.  You become better able to deal with ride preparation and LIFE preparation regardless of the storm that is roaring around you.  Mental strength and power comes from converting things into thoughts.  Practice that daily and you'll see results in your riding and your life.

Rock on, kids!