Friday, June 9, 2017

I'm hurt

 

I hate this post. I hate it I hate it I hate it. 


I didn't want to even post it after I wrote it. But some tragic events have happened in the Ohio cycling community that have made my stomach sink.


And like the one-too-many beers, the post has to come out, along with some bile and the taste of self-loathing. 


So, if you're not a die-hard cyclist, don't read it. You won't understand. It will cause you concern. It may reinforce your  preconceived notions about why I'm stupid. 


Still reading? Another warning: this post isn't funny. It may make you sick like I am. 


So here it is. 


I'm rattled. And I am scared lately. Too many close calls. Too many friends hurt. 


Cycling is dangerous. There, I said it. 


I suppose I should qualify my statement. 


Riding sensibly on bike paths, in bike lanes, and on low-traffic roads are not inherently any more dangerous than any other outdoor activity. Possibly less dangerous than, for instance, hiking or rollerblading. 


But the kinds of cycling that I enjoy are inherently dangerous. 


Traffic is the main danger in city cycling. 


Fast-paced road riding risks include getting run off the road, tangled up in a peloton, chased by dogs, and wiping out on a downhill, a patch of gravel, or a tricky corner. 


Gravel grinding is, well, essentially riding on a bunch of loose rocks. Duh. 


And mountain biking. Yeah, my favorite, might be the most dangerous. When you start riding, you crash a lot. As your skill progress, you crash less, but your crashes are faster and harder. Some say, if you're not wrecking, you're not progressing as a rider. 


 


I must be progressing, because I have had every kind of wreck on every kind of bike. Some caused by me (or my lack of skills or attention), some caused by other cyclists, and I've been hit by car drivers twice. 


 


I have had concussions, broken several bones, had many, many lacerations, and I have been rendered unconscious twice. I've suffered road rash, bruises, and dog bites. I've even been burned by a brake rotor. 


 


I can't fully bend my middle finger anymore, and sometimes the screws in my collarbone painfully remind me of their existence when I try to use a shoulder bag. My right knee squeaks and gets stiff, my hip pops, and I'm pretty sure I'm ignoring a chronic rotator cuff injury. 


 


Overall, I'm healthy and no lasting harm has befallen me. I'm fortunate. 


In the last couple weeks, I have been buzzed at high speed by drivers, and have had a couple close calls on the mountain bike. Happens all the time, but I can't stop thinking of my friends, for whom that couple centimeters or milliseconds were the difference between eating dinner at home or not.  


I won't go into details mostly out of respect, but also because describing even minor injuries to my friends pulls me into a dark place. 


I have fallen into a cycle of reflection and introspection. I'm trying to understand myself (and my friends). I mean, I know it's dangerous. And I have kids and a spouse who would be deeply affected if I got hurt. 


 


So, why do it? 


Analytically, I suppose it is explained by personality. We all fall somewhere on the spectrum of risk-averse to thrill-seeking. In economic terms, this is the difference between being "thrifty" and being "greedy."  Some are content with a small reward, if the cost is not high. Others are willing to gamble big for a big payout. 


I admit to being somewhat closer to the "thrill-seeking" side. This makes me greedy, because the potential adverse consequences are high, and would affect my loved ones, yet I do it anyway. 


 


But this is not a full explanation. It's not just the thrill of risk that I seek. 


It's the escape. I love the outdoors. When I'm in nature, I refocus, find my center, and at the same time, lose the baggage of everyday life. 


And there's the adventure. The new place, the new trail. What secret surprises await? 


And the challenge. Small accomplishments, like a faster lap on a trail or a smoother landing on a drop, are tiny rewards to myself. The soul-clearing exhaustion of hard and repeated physical activity is addictive. 


Cycling has given me my health back. As I age, I see a fitter, healthier, sharper me. A better me than existed before. 


I could make all of these things sound really meaningful, purposeful, important. It's easy - in western culture, rugged individuality is romanticized and constant self-discovery and self-improvement is applauded. Self-love counts more than love for others. 


Individualism is an appealing concept; it enables self-centered behavior - and it makes for inspirational memes. Imagine a picture of a winding trail through the woods with a quote like "life is meant to be lived" or some other tag line. Heck, you have probably seen one today. 


But isn't this just enabling self-centered and destructive behavior? 


 


And don't get me started on the notion that "he died doing what he loved."  Yeah, but he fucking DIED. 


I'm spoiled. Riding bikes makes me happy. So, I do it. I have the money, the free time, and I'm healthy enough. 


But is it really right? 


I don't know. Probably won't ever have a satisfactory answer. Maybe there isn't a rational answer. 


I don't want to get hurt. I don't want my friends to get hurt. But I like riding too much to stop.  I can't imagine not riding. But I can't shake the cold in my stomach at the moment. 


There's no message in this. No advice. It's up to you. 


Be brave and be safe. 


Monday, June 5, 2017

Road diets and MTB diets

 

What's happening? 

I'm hungry today, so I'm posting food pics. 

That up there is a beet, asparagus, and quinoa salad with goat cheese on a bed of arugula. 

So good. 

Anyhow, some of you know I like to cook. Making good, healthy food is the only way I can stay on the diet. I can't just eat canned tuna and protein bars. I'd lose my mind. Got to have something to look forward to. 

But right now, I'm kinda hungry. 

 

Mango avacado slaw with pulled chicken and peanuts over spinach.

Not all diets are bad though. They just have to have a purpose. 

I'm on the "cut" right now. Trying to lose weight for the race season. And because I could still stand to lose 10 pounds. I'm a couple weeks, before my next big race, I will switch to "maintenance."  

 

Spicy turkey with cilantro and cabbage. 

Know what else is on a diet? The roads in my neighborhood

It's pretty cool. This four lane road (with center turn lane) will be cut to three and some protected bike lanes will be added. Can't wait. 

This section of road "technically" has a 30 mph speed limit, but nobody follows it. Which sucks, because there are a lot of pedestrians and bikes. 

So, the "road diet" should help. Bike lanes and low speed limits have a calming effect on traffic and promote local people to go to local business by foot or bike  All good. 


Breaded cauliflower bites with hot sauce and carrot salad. 

My wife and I already ride all over our neighborhood for errands and fun. This road diet opens up a whole new corridor for us. Baller. 

 

Ennyhoo, I have the perfect bike for the new bike lanes: my awesome Peugeot commuter. 

 
 
I wrote a whole story about how much I love this bike for Dirt Rag. Check it out here: http://dirtragmag.com/mountain-bike-trailer-park-the-rime-of-the-ancient-peugeot/

Be brave and diet.