My love affair with bikes goes back a ways. If I was sitting on the proverbial coach getting therapy and I was asked to recall my earliest memory it would look something like this. Streamers off the bar ends and ready to go. Looks like this might be a Sears brand tricycle. I’m in the living room of my grandparents’ apartment in Chicago. I do remember riding up and down that hallway and turning around in the dining room or the apartment entrance. My eyes are shining and my smile radiates pure joy. I especially like how I’m holding the handlebars. Pinky up. Pretty much sums up how I feel whenever I’m riding a bike.
Earlier this year I was crowned a Specialized Ambassador. I was nominated by the eBike Store in my area and I didn’t think I’d “get it” because I’m not an athlete, racer type person with ripped muscles or that lanky look bike racers own. My only claim to fame is that I do it. I ride.
Over my lifetime I have had various phases in my riding but let’s be clear I have never been fast and I’ve never been competitive. I’m not a racer. In a small group I might try to beat everyone up a hill but I’m a cautious rider. The litte girl in the picture loves the ride. Tour might be a better explaination of my type of riding. I secretly wish I was a racer but it ain’t happening. I answer that secret desire with Zwift.
As a brand ambassador I talk about the brand and the bike. I have experience with a Specialized bike so I can help people who might want someone’s opinion or feedback about a bike. I wanted an eBike because my commute to and from work was taking too much time and I needed a bike up to the task and the Northwest weather of rain and more rain. I took three bikes for test rides. First a Gazelle and then a Specialized Como 4 followed by a Specialized Como 5. I own another ebike; Faraday Cortland, which I will save for another blog post.
The Como 5 Turbo won me over with its range and style. If I had to do it all over again, a year later, I’d still buy this bike. I’m not saying that because I’m a brand ambassador, I’m saying that because I ride. Since the pandemic it has been less about back and forth to work and more about riding routes in-between the commute. The Brose motor is whisper quiet and just like the Specialized tag, “It’s you only faster,” it really is. I get a great workout and I get to work on time. There are three levels of assist, low, middle and high. I tend to stay in low. That level of assist lets me ride at 17-20 mph versus 12-15 without assist. The Como 5 Turbo also has range which means I can get to and from work without worrying about running out of e-juice. That’s 25 miles.
I mentioned that I had another ebike, a Faraday Cortland. It’s the prettiest bike I own. I named her Lulu, but I think of her as the Princess of the fleet of bikes I own. She has a belt drive and if there’s one think I wish more ebikes had it would be a belt drive. Sadly the company went bankrupt. There were more than a few things about the company that should been a factor in my purchase. New. Kickstarter new. I wanted to support an American company and the burgeoning ebike market. When I bought it in 2015 there weren’t even Gazelles in the USA yet. Specialized is a company that has been around for awhile and isn’t going anywhere, so getting an ebike from an established company is also something to consider. I might want to rethink straightening my hair in high school but I don’t rethink bike purchases. I seem to imprint on a bike or vice versa and it’s over.
Ready for another #bikethrowback? When I turned 25 my boyfriend (now husband) got me a Specialized Rockhopper. Back in the day, this bike was the coolest “mountain bike” ever. I still have this yellow Rockhopper. Probably you have one from your past too. Sentimental and staying put.
Still smiling and biking after all these years. Here’s to more miles, routes and bikes.
I think I see a gloved pinky finger propped up in this picture too.
Love your ride and ride your ride. What’s your #bikethrowback
There’s always stuff. When you’re on a bike you need to carry stuff. My stuff and your stuff may not be the same sort of stuff but I can guarantee that we both have stuff and it needs to be shleped from point A to B and beyone. Sometimes it amounts to more than a peck and gets closer to a couple bushels especially if you commute to work. Consider that you might need to pack rain gear and by that I mean rain pants. Even if they are packable rainpants they will be about the size of a roll of toilet paper. Wallet related accoutrement and maybe some incidental items like shoes or a jacket are included and then you could have tech stuff like an iPad or a laptop. Don’t get me started on the bike related supplies such as a flat repair kit with a tube and a pump. By the time you add that you might as well just drive.
Kidding. Commuting is not something to enter into the night before. You should definitely plan for it and prepare your bags with what you really need to make it a go. But that’s a topic for another blog post. I want to talk about the perfert bag. First off, it does not exist. I have been on a quest since the start of my biking life and while there are certainly some that come close there’s almost always something that sours me on one bag and gets me fired up for yet another bag to add to the research project. Our needs change and as a result what we might be hauling with us for a ride to the store is different than the day to day commute.
Pockets, pockets, and more pockets are an essential ingredient to the right bag. However it can’t be just any ol’ pocket. Too small and you’re forever struggling to get the key or wallet or pen out of the pocket. A pocket that’s too big is equally useless because you lose the same stuff and maybe it’s too small for the bigger items.
U-Locks are like the elephant in the bag. No one wants to talk about how much room that take up or how heay they are because they are necessary mitigation to bike theft. I’m not a fan of the U-lock on the bike. It’s like a roof rack on a Porsche. The bike it a beautiful machine and throwing that lock holder is not for me. But that means I need a bag that can accomodate the heft of a U-lock.
I’ve been bothered by this whole perfect bag issue for awhile. I realize that the aethsetic of the bike is important to me. The cuteness of a bike reflect on me and the bike. I want the bag to accessorize the bike. However it also needs to hold all the stuff.
A year ago I found this adorable bag with a sweet bike print and I wished for it to be a pannier. Wishing does not make it so. It’s not a pannier but I thought maybe I could covert it to a bike bag if I could find the right hardware. A few weeks ago I was motivated to try.
The bag has an exterior pocket sleeve for stuff you need quick access to like the garage door opener, phone, keys and snack. Interior pocket is also a sleeve so I don’t have to fuss with a zipper.Then the main compartment is ample and deep but not cavernous like the Ortlieb bucket. I always think about the rain pants first. If those can fit in the bottom then that leaves plenty of room for stashing the other stuff.
Truth is the bag has been hanging in the garage for too long. Something had to be done. But I needed hardware which is neither cheap or easy to find. Time to make a sacrifice. A bagrifice. I needed the hardware from another bag to see if I could turn my nonbike bag into a pannier. I chose one that I ruled out of the day-to-day commute because while it cute it fell short in providing what I needed. Also it cheap so I was willing to offer it the the bag muse.
A trip to the hardware store did not prove helpful. I did enjoy the suggestion of velcro, however, that wouldn’t work. I commissioned my husband to see how to get the rivets out of the old hardware to then use the hardware in the tote. He’s very good at listening to my “this thingy should go into this doodad and then there’s these brad deals (rivets) that attach to the rack.”
The hardware was attached with rivets that took about an hour to pound out of the bag. I’ve never done anything like this before so I struggled with how to get under the flat bit and leverage enough to pop it out. Also the hardware is made of plastic and I didn’t want to damage them.
Once the hardware was liberated from the old bag I was free to start considering what we needed to make the “tote-al” conversion. Back to the hardware store to find a rivet gun. The tools necessary amounted to $35. It’s starting to make sense why panniers cost so much. The hardware alone can cost upwards of $35, but then you have to actually attach it to the bag somehow.
We did several trials with the rivets to be sure it all worked. Using a rivet gun is like holding your breath for 20 seconds and then having someone punch you in the gut. Freaky tool and not a sure thing. Sometimes the shaft of the rivet doesn’t break off and then you’re looking at it like vampire looks at a stake, until it breaks off and then you’re considering opening a bag business because you’re getting pretty good at the whole thing.
All in all this project was fun. I’d try it again with another bag and if you’re ever in a situation where you think about converting a tote or favorite bag to a pannier I think it would be worth trying out. If it wasn’t for quarantine I probably wouldn’t have bothered, but I’m glad I gave it a go.
Remember Mary Poppins and her carpet bag that she pulls out bottle of perfume, a folding armchair, a packet of lozenges, a large bottle of dark red medicine, seven flannel nightgowns, one pair of boots, a set of dominoes, two bathing caps, one postcard album, one folding camp bedstead, blankets and an quilt? That’s how I approach a bike pannier. It should be able to hold nearly everything you need, still look classy and most of all, compliment the bike.
That’s a tall order for any bag, but now that I have a rivet gun, well, let’s just say, I feel like it’s all in the bag.
I do have some favorite panniers. I bought a set of Ortleb bags in Germany and I do love them because they say “der Aussteiger” on the side. Also, a great souvenir from a trip.
I also think that Po Campo bags are amazing. They are like the Coach bag of bike bags. Super classy and you want them all. If someone you know loves bags, you should get them a Po Campo. Pretty and practical is always a great combination. I also have a Timbuk2 bag that converts to a backpack and their hardware is indestructable. In the video I show a Timbuk2 tote that converts to a backpack and the hardware is not where the backpack is so kudos on that design. Generally, I’m a fan of a bag that converts to a crossbody or a backpack. The messenger style bag is another favorite however, I’m not big on carrying it, so the two I own I often strap to my front rack. I tend to use the messenger style more in the winter for some reason. Arkel is another spanking good bag brand. Their hardware system is available to purchase too.
The very best bag I ever bought was an Abus bag. I bought it at a bike shop in Potsdam, Germany back in 2009. That bag was about 99% perfect. Pockets in all the right places for me. Not too much of anything and just the right amount of what I need. I wore that bag out. It actually crumbles in my hands. I can’t use it, but I keep it because maybe someday it will be the template for a bag I design.
As long as there is stuff there will be a need to carry it. You have to figure out what works for you. Bags come it all shapes and sizes. Baskets are also an option! Yeah, I have some of those too. Always ask about return policies or start your own bag wall.
The goal is to ride and making sure you have what you need for each and every mile.
Thanks for reading. What’s in your bag? What are some of your favorite bags? Tell me about them.
Would you rather ride outside or inside? Pre-corona virus I would have opted for outisde all the time. My commute was perfect and I rarely used my indoor setup. Outside riding for the win. Now I’ve changed my tune. It’s about being active enough that I can close in my rings everyday. Exercise enough, stand enough and move enough to close those rings. When I do close my rings I feel like doing a little dance, a high five, a jig, a chest bump. You get this idea. I accomplished something.
My commute is a memory. Maybe it will return, maybe it won’t. I’m living one day at a time and I know that the fall will mean more changes so I’m focusing on one issue at a time. In my last post I talked about just riding around for the joy of riding and I defiitetly enjoy the random spin. I have even done some errands that involve gardening so I’m outside browsing at plants or buying something for my salad garden. It’s fine. Summer in the Northwest is dreary right now. Clouds dominate the weather forecast and I haven’t been as motivated to ride outside when it’s cool, cloudy and overcast. Zwift to the rescue.
Why does Zwifting feel like I’m somehow cheating on my other bikes? Is it because I sweat a bucket of water or melt like snow in a sauna? Is it because it’s wicked fun and I feel compelled to yell at other riders, “Oh, no you are NOT going to pass me you sly weasel!” Recently while Zwifting I was in the cat and mouse chase with another rider. He’d get ahead and then I was speeding by. We did that for about 15 minutes. Massive fun! I wanted to use wave feature on Zwift Companion to push him off the road. You can’t, of course, but the race was on! Yeah, I was in the zone alright. Mean zone.
My cousin met up with me for a little Zwift time in the Watopia lands and it was a blast. Using the Request Meet Up feature was a little challenging but we got it figured out. However, I felt the same competitve beast rise up and I had to have a little talk with myself about my behavior. The interesting thing is that the competition aspect of it means I was working hard. On Strava after a ride you can rate your “perceived exertion” on a scale of 1 to 10 and I notice that I deflinitely push myself to a level I don’t always get in my daily commute or in my spins around the city. I was expending myself and loving it.
The first 5 miles seem like such an effort it’s any wonder I keep going. I’m bored and I’m fighting that part of my brain that just wants to read a book or do something else more interesting. Then I’m suddening moving at a good pace and it feels like I’m a professional racer. Suddenly I’m seeing speeds of 18, 20, 25 mph and I see a group up ahead or someone tries to overtake me and BAM! another 5 miles are done. Okay, I’ll go another couple miles but suddenly I think maybe I can do 14, 15, 20 miles. It’s not like I have plans to do anything so I can keep going. Outside I never go that fast nor do I have that sort of focus. I’m taking in the sights and sounds and enjoying the ride in a different way. I’m in my head and thinking, planning, reviewing whereas in the Zwift lands you’re on a ride to increase your XP, the experience points and level up. I started in March at Level 9 and up to 12 now. I don’t understand it all but I’m getting better with every ride.
Above you can see my set up. The picture on the left was when I first set up the Kickr and my 2006 Trek Portland. Our basement is in a state of s l o w remodel but this room on the right has a nice view. I put my road bike on the stand and all-in-all the set up is more than adequate. I switched bikes. I wasn’t using the lovely carbon fiber bike, so she’s on the stand now. The next thing I need is a fan because of all the sweating.
I bought a Wahoo Kickr to have a bike set up in case I couldn’t ride due to weather. It was my backup riding plan. Zwifting was essential to getting my weekly mileage. Since the start of the pandemic I have been trying to continue getting my weekly mileage, however, some days I go toe-to-toe with the blahs and I don’t feel like going outside. It’s easier to put on my kit and Zwift inside.
My commute is on hiatus and my Zwifting has taken center stage.This development is surprising to me. I wouldn’t have expected my Zwift road bike set up to replace my commute. I clip in and go, go, go. I escape the heaviness of the coronavirus unknown by cycling into the depths of a virtual world and I love it. I’m not spinning my wheels. On the contrary, I’m energized, inspired and restored by the experience. That’s helping my XP both on and off the bike.
There’s this quotation from an enlightened character named Socrates who was a gas-station attendant in a book published in the 1980s by Dan Millman entitled, The Way of the Peaceful Warrior. It goes something like this, “You have many habits that weaken you. The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” It often gets attributed to the Greek philosopher, Socrates.
When the song opens I think it’s in C Minor and the repeating chords halt as the vocal comes in which is pleading, resigned and sort of begs for attention:
One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do Two can be as bad as one It’s the loneliest number since the number one…Three Dog Night,
Three Dog Night had a number 1 hit. That song pops into my head when I read #soloriding. It’s one of many trending hashtags and when I saw it I thought of music.
Is riding solo riding a cappella? Imagine if we used musical terms for bike riding. Instead of a peloton it would be an orchestra or ensemble or band of riders. Personally, I am most in harmony with the universe on a solo ride. I don’t need people to accompany me. I’m a sole rider. Sole and solo are similiar and yet sole and the homophone soul are more in tune.
Other expessions I’ve heard in this quarantine period is “companionless” or “solitary riding.” Again, it sounds like a rider was given a timeout in a padded garage. Stag riding could work if it didn’t sound so raunchy.
Sole riding is the way I prefer to ride. I don’t like how I am in a group ride. It’s not as though I’m hyper competitive but I am competitive enough that I start to compare myself to everyone else and then I start to feel inferior. The “leader” of the ride is checking in with everyone every 2 seconds or they are the type of leader who is a virtuoso rider and you feel like you’re an appendage holding everyone back.
The social dynamics of a group ride can preesnt challenges. Some people are really amazing group riders. I’m jealous that I am not one. Like watching a Rapha video and the group is synchronized like a Swiss watch and they’re all keeping a 22 mph pace with the wind on their handlebars. I’m the one that stays at the coffee shop.
Should you be trying out a group ride for the first time then be preparted to be the new kid in class and you have to show ’em what ya got. The group is trying not to watching you, but they see everything you do. “Hey, looks like your back tire is embracing the road too closely.” In group rides men talk way too much about technique as though they are professional racers and taking some time out to ride with the mortals. Unless you are Mark Cavendish, please just ride your bike and talk about something else. You’d think I could find a gal pal on a ride, but the women if there are any ignore me despite my repeated attempts at conversation. I’ve tried and tried and tried some more.
The only group rides that I have moderate success with are epic group rides, like the Seattle to Portland or charity rides. Those events have a vibe of something bigger. The steady stream of people in front and behind keep a sort of pulse to the affair so you are in awe of it all. The energy of the group and event supercedes the social awkwardness.
My favorite type of group ride is a tour. Either I pay or they pay or I’m shadowing a great tour leader. If I’m leading a tour I can point out features of my city which keeps me busy in a constructive way. “On the left there’s this 100 year old tree and on the right is the site of Fort Vancouver and Pearson Airport where the Chkalov flight landed.” Last summer I started shadowing tours by my friend Sarah Bott and it was amazing. My title (given by me) was TourRookie. The people on the tours paid for the tour and they seemed genuinely interested. “The city of Portland has 279 parks. There are distinct personalities to neighborhoods, sometime called quadrants…but it’s all Portland.” There was a ride to the Portland Rose Gardens that was a symphony of experiences that made me happy to be alive. The ideal group ride for me is a tour because they are there to learn and I’m there to help them explore and provide and experience.
Quaratine for me while bike riding hasn’t been all that different from my usual sole riding. Since my rigorous commute is only about 10 feet into my study at the present time I miss seeing the butterscotch poodle, who always looks at me as though I’m her kin, walking with her human first thing in the morning. I miss the man speed walking in his Blazers puffy coat. I miss seeing snow capped Mount Hood and the baby pink and blue skies. I miss the weather ups and downs of the day to day bike commute. I miss stopping for groceries and lugging stuff to and from home. I pine for shopping stops at my local Trader Joe’s. Everytime I peddle past there’s a line from the entrance past The Party City and weaving around the side of Petco. Under normal circumstances, I would park my bike at Petco. Now, there’s really no way to keep a distance so I just keep moving. I’ve done that now about a half dozen times at diffent junctures of the day hoping for a lull. I have my mask and hand sanitizer ready just in case a opportunity presents itself. Still looks like an Apple iPhone release.
The miles are no longer commuting miles, but miles in front of me and behind me. It’s liberating and exciting to just go.
One is not the loneliest number. You know that kiddie joke about Why was 10 afraid of 7? Because 7 eight/ate 9. So that makes 7 the lonliest number. That doesn’t work with the song. Sole riding is what I have done for many years and will continue to embrace because I just ride.
What about you? Do you like sole riding or are you missing your band?
Thanks for reading and have a great week! Stay safe out there! Be well everyone! Go listen to the song. You know you want to.
History is being made all the time but we’re too busy to notice. I remember asking my grandparents about The Great Depression or rationing during World War II and they said it was hard but you get through. “We were busy raising a family. What did we know?” They came from the Old Country, Thessaloniki, Greece, and anything was better than that. The hardships they knew are why they came to America. “You’ll never know such hardships,” was a common thread. My middle school closed at the end of the day on Friday, March 13th and we’re set to be closed until May 4th. That’s all I know right now.
We’re just getting started and I don’t have any answers but I am noticing some patterns in my own behavior. If my kitchen could text me if would say something like… “WHAT has gotten into you! I’m here all the time and now you’re noticing!” I slow cooked four pounds chicken and shredded it for meals in the coming weeks. I even made my own broth! I have made cookies on a day that was neither Saturday or Sunday. I’ve also made my own bread and I’m not talking banana bread but a yeast rising artisan bread. Yes, a loaf of Honey Oat, no-knead bread from this man, Steve, on YouTube and I will make more of his spectacular recipes because that’s what I do now. Now granted, this week I have been on Spring Break and it has been raining and cold so baking seems like a good option.
In the basement I started to create a studio space for video production. My husband and I painted and spruced it up and I have no more excuses for not diving into the deep end and giving it a shot.
I’ve read several books and listened to a couple more audio books. Speaking of books, the first week we were out of school I rode my bike to a dozen of the Little Lending Libraries within a 10 mile radius and restocked them with some books from my collection. Truth is I was going to take the books to school (I’m a middle school librarian) but I decided that they should go to the Little Lending libraries instead. Now I am taking from one and moving the collections around. Call it cirulation. I am using gloves and hand sanitizer, but I have opted to hold off on that and just donate.
I watched a squirrel watch me while I was Zwifting and despite my efforts to photograph the blur I can’t help but ponder ways I can get better shots in the future. I started by cleaning the windows.
I practiced piano… (for the first time in 5 years) for about 15 minutes just to see what I could remember. I’m not ready to release anything on YouTube, but I remembered more that I thought. Muscle memory even applies to playing the piano.
It’s not my nature to cut my hair. I’ve heard of people who have cut their bangs. I have very curly hair and I have learned to let my hair enjoy its wild ways.
I have ridden my bike not to fetch groceries, do errands or commute to and from work, but just to ride. I’ve never Zwifted more in my whole life than I have since the quaranatine. Last week with all the rain I opted to spin indoors. Accorting to the Zwift report in my email I set a record last week of 3.5 hours. The whole Watopia worlds and even NYC are vast and untapped territory and I like the virtual riding more than I thought. I don’t know what everything means on the Zwift side, but given that I’m not commuting, it has been refreshing, to find people and territory out there that I haven’t wholly embraced before. Also I didn’t know there was a different app for your phone which allows you to give kudos and adjust your ride.
That’s just it isn’t it? Before Coronavirus (heretofore known as BCV) we didn’t have time to engage in all these activities. I would come home from school exhausted from the day and I’d be happy if I could figure out dinner and get the script done for the next day’s school news program. Everything is slowing down.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m scared and generally freaked out every single day. It’s frightening and sad and I feel vulnerable and like I’m walking on a tightrope with nothing but darkness beneath me. The pandemic continues to spread and we really don’t know what to expect next. I’m grateful to so many for carrying the load right now and putting themselves out there while I stay home and try to be well. All we can do is find something extraordinary that grounds us to the task at hand. Staying at home. Maybe the extraordinary is the ordinary. Being healthy and living through another day. Helping the small businesses and supporting one another from a distance.
In the days and weeks to come quarantine will force our hand. It might lure us like the Greek sirens. It will get harder to stay at home. We will be drawn to the false song of safety and it’ll be okay since we’re going to mingle among our personal groups and friends. There’s no harm in that?
Yes, there is. Stay the course and don’t endanger yourself or others. I was reminded of this E.L. Doctorow quote about writing and think it is an encouraging sentiment in difficult times. “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” Reminds me of bike lights too.
Be smart. Be strong. Stay home and take care of yourself. Get on Zwift and find me and we can “ride on” together until this whole pandemic is history.
Stay safe and be well!
Thanks for reading.
In the comments below tell me what grounds you? What helps you focus on staying home? Oh, and if you use Zwift, give me a tip.
You know the saying, especially if you are a cyclist, “When in doubt, bike it out.” I hit a rough patch of road on life’s journey and it has been challenging to find time to write. Yet every morning come rain or shine I get in the saddle and bike to and from work. The motion of my legs and the energy they’re pumping here and there, up and down, to and fro, hither and yon reminds me that I am alive and it’s all going to be okay.
I have been spending some time in a period called then. We while away time in the now but then is something else entirely. Collins Dictionary says, “Then is used when you refer to something which was true at a particular time in the past but is not true now.”
There is comfort in then because if you’re like me and you have good memories it only stands to reason that then can provide calm in the storm and a sense of self. You can’t live in the past and there is no future in then. So I bike it out and think about now and then almost simultaneously and that motion of brain and body is good therapy.
But what about a antiques show? Those are all about then. Why antique shows are the very life blood of then! Plus there are bikes! I went to an antique show and spotted this Schwinn Corvette.
The Schwinn Corvette was made between 1954 to 1964. In 2010, it was reintroduced as an entirely different bike. This one was 1959 and the man selling it used it as a boy doing his paper route in Sacremento, California. Check out the baskets on the back. He said he’d load up his papers and do his delivery route. He told me his wife put new tires on it and added some things that weren’t bonafide Schwinn but tried to make the bike more comfortable for him.
He printed out a manual for the bike and the plastic bag in the left side of the basket had the old parts. He was selling it for $675 and he was firm on the price. It’s his then and you can’t always put a price on that, right? But it turns out he wasn’t too far off the mark on price. This site has some great details and insight into Schwinn bikes and the price was comparable to what I saw on eBay.
I was very interested. I could give it a new home and bring in up to speed in the here and now. Or I could enjoy a little glimpse at then and keep on walking. Which is what I did.
But then after looking at old phones, books, denture molds, cash registers and all the Pyrex on the planet I saw this piece of the past. A Gendron bicycle for $600. There was no one around to talk to about its acquisition but take a gander at the pictures. Gendron is from 1872 and initially produced baby carriages. The bike was interesting times five. I couldn’t stop looking at all the odd little details. Check out the light or should I say lantern! Note the port and starboard, red and green domes aside the lantern. What about that pump? The foot rests on the front fork are pretty large and the swoop to the frame is bewitching. What a machine! The Brooks saddle looks like the newest thing besides the tyres. The booklet was on a table and I leafed through it and saw the wide array of products Gendron offered.
Very interesting to look at and if someone had been present I would have at least asked about a test ride but maybe it’s just as well. Bikes then had a sort of utility that we want our bikes to echo now. Now bikes have modern conveniences and joyous things like belt drives and an array of saddles to fit our bits just right. All the enhancements and advances from then allow us to focus on the journey as well as pick up groceries. It’s fun to think about then but enjoy the here and now.
Have you ever been in the presence of some bikes from back then or are you a collector? What are your impressions of these machines?
Climbing hills are an inevitable part of cycling. They are challenging because of the obvious reasons; keeping oxygen in your lungs and the struggle of the getting over the hill to the next part of the route. You are required to do more than just pedal. You probably have to alter your pace and push yourself to do more. As they say, Hill, Get Over It! Life too, is full of hills, climbs that are exhausting and take everything you have without the benefit of a vista to Instagram your accomplishment. In the cycling world, races are often won on the climbs. That said, 2019 was a climb. My year was a 16 percent grade hill.
The hardest part of 2019 was the death of my dad on September 1st. That said, I can’t let the sun go down on the year without talking about Anderson, Indiana where my dad was a history professor at Anderson College (now University) and I learned to ride.
My dad did not teach me how to ride a bike. He tried repeatedly to help me, but I couldn’t master balance. I hated training wheels and even when I tried to use them I’d still manage to fall. It had to be hard to watch. I’m sure he was frustrated and scared watching me flail about and then careen into a curb. One spill resulted in a massive gash on my right kneecap. I remember the blood and the crying. That episode sidelined him from the process. All his efforts and mine were finally rewarded when my mom took me out to ride on a deadend road across the street from where we lived on Myers.
I recall the moment of zen when balance was achieved and I could ride without falling. What an accomplishment! A cyclist was born! I like to say my mom taught me to ride and my father taught me how to adventure. Both are essential ingredients to all that I am.
My mom and I went back to Anderson, Indiana for a memorial service for my dad. There’s a challenge to returning to a place from your past. I was worried about the time that had passed. We left before I started high school so everything about my start in life is in Anderson. It was homecoming week at the University and the planets aligned and for a few days I was a Hoosier kid again remembering not only my dad but how Anderson was the perfect place for a kid to grow up.
My parents and I left Anderson in 1976 when my father took a different job, leaving Anderson University and moving to the Pacific Northwest. We left at a time that was a perfect bridge to my future. I say that because hindsight is 20/20 and I remember wanting the move desperately. I was ready for something new. Anderson was the perfect place to grow up. It was my Stars Hollow (Gilmore Girls) or Mayberry (Andy Griffith) or Narnia. I had nothing but time on my hands, air in my tires and places to bike. I biked everywhere and I did, sorry Mom. I biked places I probably shouldn’t have and I fibbed about having done so. But in my defense, Anderson was my adventure. I went everywhere.
Going back to Anderson was a trip. I could see myself across the great chasm of time and very little was changed. Once our travel plans were set I knew I needed a bike. As I often find myself researching the local bike shops, this one, Buckskin Bikes caught my eye. First, the name and then the location; my hometown, Anderson, Indiana. I thought I’d text the store and reserve a bike for the weekend of my trip. I heard back right away. I don’t know why, but I was over the moon when my phone exclaimed an answer. I was asked about my bike preference. Did I want a cruiser or a mountain bike? My first thought was a banana seat BMX, but I opted for the next best thing, a mountain bike.
I found the shop on 11th Street and met Ben. He went to Anderson U and one of his profs, Dr. Strege was a former student of my father, so honestly, he felt like kin. We spent time chatting about Anderson and politics and the need for better bike lanes and I felt like I could run for City Council (as my dad did) and win on the bike platform alone.
Once I had the bike, a helmet and a lock I took off. I rented the bike for a couple of days and I let the bike and a few basic directions be my guide.
The White River Trail did not exist when I was growing up. Not in any formal sense. I rode my banana seat bike everywhere and I’d like to say I helped pave the way for the trail, however, now, what a great addition. I hope the city of Anderson continues to build it beyond what it is right now. Finish off some of the spots that dead end in a ditch or the mud forcing you to turn around instead of going forward. It’s picturesque and worthy of more attention.
Also, while I’m on the rant, there’s no reason that Scatterfield Road needs to be so hostile to anything besides a four wheeled vehicle. I thought I could handle it but I was scared for my life. The auto traffic rivals the Indy 500! I wish I was joking, but I’m not. Peds can hardly cross the street with a light. It’s wretched and if one of the guys at the bike shop hadn’t mentioned Columbus Avenue, I might still be trying to cross Scatterfield Street. Even the idea of staying on it to get to our hotel was dashed when someone yelled at me to “get off the road, stupid.” I pulled over in the Mounds Mall parking lot to see if I could figure out a way to get around it.
Anderson made me a cyclist and also made me fearless about exploring on my own. I always felt safe in Anderson and I still do with the exception of the aforementioned road. It’s mostly flat too. I rode 18 miles on the first day with my Buckskin Bike rental. Then we got busy with dad’s service.
I wanted to shared all this with my father, of course. He would have thoroughly enjoyed the trip down memory lane. We tried to visit all the old haunts, but I’m sure we missed a few, including Steak ‘n’ Shake.
Anderson University is an exceptional ecosystem for learning and my father is remembered as an exceptional professor. While he was growing his career, I was growing. I loved riding my bike to the campus and seeing him consort with his students and hold court telling stories of his adventures. I made daily trips to the campus on my banana seat bike to go up and down the little hills of the campus. I didn’t know at the time what an unique opportunity I had growing up in a small town where everyone knew my parents and I could roam around for hours just being a kid.
He made trails with his teaching methods and I just made trails. He was always one to use all tools at his disposal to make a point or drive an idea into the minds of his students. He taught like a conductor leads an orchestra. I felt like I was bundled up in love and I seriously considered what it would take to move back to Anderson. But it’s funny because I missed my Northwest life. I missed my routes and my home. One does not have to exist without the other though. Anderson is in me and it helps me climb the real hills and the ones that life puts in front of me in the metaphoral sense of the word.
It’s hard to imagine starting a year without my father in it. He’s been a part of all my years; every birthday, every day, every mile. Thanks Dad.
We end 2019 with a slow roll into a new decade. We’ll adjust our pace to manage whatever is ahead, even if it is a hill.
Thanks for reading and here’s to a Happy New Year!