Gone Fishin'


I'm not actively blogging here anymore. But if you got here because you were searching for something about bikes, you might want to check out my latest project, Vermont Goldsprints. In summer of 2014, I bought a used goldsprints racing setup and have made it a mission to get more bikes in more people's faces by putting on fun races in unexpected places. Come join me!


On "Minimalism"

I opened my overstuffed closet the other day, and counted the number of things on hangers. 138. I started pulling, until exactly half were gone. I filled two big laundry bags and dropped them off at the local Planetaid (I know it's a scam, but it's better than a dumpster) box.  I'll never miss what I got rid of, but the space and mental clarity when I open the closet sure is nice.

That's my version of minimalism. If something's dragging you down or getting in the way, get rid of it. That's it. No trying to live out of a backpack or whatever.

Having a baby makes you realize that time and energy, things you have in so much abundance in your youth, are suddenly your most precious commodities.  In my mind, Doing it Right means spending most of that commodity on your kid, then whatever's left on who and what you love, then pay the bills. Well, pay the bills first because you have to to be able to do any of the other stuff.

I read my horoscope the other day and it said something about spending the next six months trying to make a dream happen, and that it would take me two hours a day, every day (if it was a big dream). Huh. Maybe I'm already living the dream. Beautiful wife, happy kid, cute little house on a cute little street, passionate (sometimes) work, write a little, make good food, hammock in the backyard.  The dream.

Two hours a day. What I would give for two uninterrupted hours a day right now.  What I'll do with those hours if I ever see them again.



Yeah, it's usually like this.


Road Rage

Riding home from work. I stop for a red light, bike planted firmly in the middle of the "go straight" lane.  At the green I'm off the line as fast as any car is, and signalling left to get into the left turn lane for the next intersection. There are two turns like this I have to make on the way home. I move as fast as I can, try to be big in the lane. Cowering to the right only leaves you unnoticed until it's too late to turn, too late to be seen, if you're not just not willfully ignored.

Mission accomplished. I'm in the turn lane, looking at a steady green where a green arrow used to reside. Lots of oncoming traffic going straight, couple of cars stacked up to go left coming from the other direction. There are gaps, but none of them are big enough for me to make without forcing the oncoming cars to slow. That's OK. Another light cycle and another green arrow is 45 seconds away, max. 

Too long a wait for the driver behind me. A yell, a curse, the revving of an engine and a bottom-of-a-puddle mud brown Explorer with Florida plates whips behind and around to my left. Way too close for comfort. The oncoming car has to slam his brakes so this joker can make it through. After he passes, the steady green is still, miraculously, there, with no oncoming cars. I go. I can see Mud Puddle headed up the hill. Angry, I feel like I'm going to pull the cranks right off the frame as I sprint to catch them.  My heart pounds hard at the top of the hill, where they go around a corner and out of sight. Almost had'em. Another Explorer, same color is waiting at the red light ahead, but with a Vermont plate, no Florida. I wish I had a helmet cam, something. 

What would I have done anyway? Confronted the driver? I've done that before.  It wasn't as satisfying as I thought it would be. Except for the driver's breathless, fish-mouthed utterance: "You followed me? You followed me?"

Curse words abound in my head, the reasonable voice starting to take over as my legs spin down.  Just as well I can't find them.. What if the driver was nuts, had a gun, wanted to fight? What if I lost focus on something else happening on the road and got hit? I have a wife, a son, people on the other end of that commute who want to see me at the end of the day, people I want to spend my life with. 

There's copper in my mouth, a need to spit, over and over again, get the poison out. Burning legs and shaking hands. There's a nice breeze behind me now, a wide shoulder. Then I'm home, safe. 

What is it I want the driver to hear, to know? These things: 
  1. I'm just another human being trying to get to and from work in one piece every day. 
  2. The road system is imperfect. It is not set up so we all make each and every green light we can see. It is not set up so we can drive it at the maximum speed all of the time. Slowing down for vehicles that need time to negotiate turning movements, including bicycles, is part of the deal. 
  3. I'm not trying to get in your way. If I'm in your way by virtue of my lane positioning, it's because it is the safest place for me to be, not because I'm trying to be in your way. 
  4. Just treat me like a slow-moving car, and we'll be fine. Don't use the fact that you're in a steel cage and I am not to bully me off the road, or to try. 
  5. If it isn't safe to pass me, just wait until it is, just like you'd do with any other vehicle on the road. 


the Thinker


Contemplating the day's activities: Monkton Strawberry festival and library book sale, followed by watching Dad and Grandpa installing ceiling fans in the house.
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Start Riding Your Bike to Work Today

The Summer Solstice is today. If you've been thinking about starting to ride your bike to work, there simply is no better time of year than right now to get started, Here's why:

  1. The weather is fantastic. Seriously. it's just warm enough in the morning to ride in nothing but shorts and a T-shirt.  You could probably even ride in your work clothes without breaking a sweat if you take it easy.  In the northeast (OK, Vermont for me) the late spring gloom has given way to low humidity, sunny skies, and light breezes. It just doesn't get any better than this, and it's far easier to start the commuting habit now than say, in November, when it will be colder, wetter, and darker. 
  2. You'll have lots of company. I commute on my bike over a fairly long season (April-November) and I've witnessed the ebb and flow of bikes on the road.  This is the peak season.  People I never see in the spring and fall are out there right now biking to work. Which is great, because it raises motorist awareness to a much higher level. 
  3. School's out. Up here, last week was the last week of school. This week, my morning commute to work got a whole lot nicer. There aren't any school buses on the road, for one, but more importantly there aren't any harried parents using questionable judgement as they try to get Junior to school, text into work that they are running late, and eat an Egg McMuffin all at the same time. There are still a lot of drivers out there, and some of them will do dumb things, that's at a total low right now. If you start to ride your bike to work today, you've got 12 weeks in front of you before the traffic pattern gets more hectic again, and by then you'll be comfortable riding on the road in traffic. 
  4. You have daylight. It's the longest day of the year. Up here the sun is up at about 5:10 AM, and is still high in the sky by dinnertime. If you don't have lights on your bike and work a normal schedule, you can hold off buying them for a couple of months. If you're like me, that early sunrise also wakes you up earlier,which is something a lot of bike commuters have to do in order to get on the road in time in the morning. 
  5. Fitness. Getting in shape is on lots of people's minds this time of year. If you're a gym rat, biking to and from work is your new cardio, and you have less time you have to spend inside and you won't believe how nice it is to not have to fight over the one "good" treadmill at your gym. 
So that's my missive for today. If you have a bike and a reasonable distance to go to get to work, just do it. Get on your bike, ride it to work, ride it home at the end of the day.  This time of year, it really can be that simple. You don't need special clothes, you don't need lights, you don't need anything but you and your bike and a little bit of time. Bike commuting is a highly individualized activity. what works for me in terms of gear, shower strategy, or clothing may not work for you. But we all have to start somewhere. Get up early tomorrow, jump on your bike, ride it to work. Do it again the next day. You'll figure the rest out, really, along the way. 

See you out there. 


Body Work II: Weeks 1-2 Journal and Summary

It's always tough coming off the achievement of a big goal. As my first Body Work series finished, I had more than met my goal weight and I was able to ride the Fatcyclist.com 100 Miles of Nowhere to cap it all off. The two weeks that have followed that have not seen me ride my bike other than to and from work, and there have been a few, uh, lapses, in the food program. Nevertheless, I'm still here, still weighing in and writing down my food intake, and looking to turn around my "no riding except for commuting" turned no that the lazy (and finally sunny!) days of summer are upon us. All the details and numbers after the break.


Mini Velo

What have I done?

The refund on my cracked Scattante frame went through this week, but instead of plowing the bucks into a new cross frame, I've decided to move all of those parts to my old Trek 930 frame (Hello weird -geometry frankencross bike!) and use the money for a Bikesdirect Mini Velo:

I just couldn't resist.

So expect a frankencross build report soon, and of course a full review on this little guy.


Body Work II: A Summary and an Introduction

An Assessment:

In the first version of my Body Work series, I managed to journal, exercise, and eat my way through over 30 pounds of weight loss, which was my goal. I’ve stood on that finish line and had a look around, and I’ve decided to keep going. What did 30 pounds of weight loss get me? Well, I feel immensely better, I’m stronger on the bike, I have more energy overall and I’m more comfortable in my clothes. What does it mean to weigh 194 pounds instead of 224 pounds?
  • As a 5’10” man, it means my BMI, which was 32.1 (solidly in the “obese” category) is now 27.8 (in the middle of the “overweight” category). I would need to weigh no more than 175 pounds to be at the tip-top of the “normal weight” category and could be as light as 135 (which is insane) before I am considered “underweight.”
  • According to Wikipedia (which is where I get all of my diet and exercise advice),  my starting body fat percentage of almost 30% put me in the “obese” category, and my current 24% reading puts me at the very top of the “average” category.
  • According to what I can observe about myself without a scale, the Internet, or anything else, I still have a bit of a belly and am also carrying some weight and bulk on my chest and lower back that is of the decidedly non-muscle type.

I’m Going to Keep Going
Having the success of the last few months is a great thing, and I don’t want to lose any momentum.  I’m not sure how my rate of weight loss might change as I get closer to my next goal, which is to have a weekly average weight of 174.17 pounds or fewer. That would represent another 20 pounds for a total loss of 50 pounds since I started back in February.  174ish pounds would get me just out of the “overweight” category for BMI and I’m guessing it would put me closer to the bottom of the “average” category for body fat.  

It’s Not a Diet Any More
The way I have been eating for the last few months hasn’t really been a diet at all. In fact, my only rule has been to write down what I eat. Despite the flexibility that rule gives me, I’ve arrived at an eating pattern that has resulted in the loss of more than a pound a week, most of the time. Here are my general principles for my non-diet:
  1. Simplicity is Your Friend. I eat oatmeal for breakfast and a sweet potato or a salad for lunch during the week, with very few exceptions.  Not having to think about what I’m doing for just under half (10 out of 21) of my weekly meals makes life easier.
  1. Vegetables Have No Limits. At dinner or whenever, I fill my plate with veggies.  And I put butter on them sometimes. Not a ton of it, but I do. Sometimes olive oil. Always salt and pepper and other spices. I apply the same “rule” to beans of all types. Have as much as you want.
  1. Don’t Drink Calories. Unless they come in really good beer or wine (and then have one or two once in awhile). I was never a really big juice or soda drinker anyway, so this was easy for me. Beer is harder to stay away from, because I brew it in 5-gallon batches at home, but brewing big, flavorful beers means less beer is more satisfying anyway.
  1. Avoid White Carbs. I used to have a white starch (bread, white rice, potato) with almost every meal. I have found other carbs to use most of the time (quinoa is a favorite, whole grain pasta can be bought by the case at Costco) and I reserve the refined stuff and potatoes for when they “make the meal,” like fluffy mashed potatoes with good steak or a crusty piece of bread with french onion soup.
  1. Hydrate. Hungry? Glass of water first. Same if you’re feeling tired, low energy, whatever.
Find something you like to do that involves moving, then do it more.
It has been years, but I’d say over the past three years especially, I have “found” cycling. I used to be a big runner. in fact, all of my other weight loss attempts, going back to my freshman year in college (Yeah, freshman 15, I’m coming for you next!) involved running and no dieting at all. Running is great and I can’t think of a faster way to burn calories, but it lacks the “whee!” factor that I get with cycling. Running without any attempt to eat right is just a way to add a ton of impact to your body, and when the weather goes sour or the schedule gets crazy, the running goes away, the eating stays, the pounds return. The other nice thing, is that if you have a bike you like to ride, cheap rollers can be had for about a hundred bucks, and even the very best rollers out there are under a thousand. That wouldn't buy the worst treadmill out there. So for me, cycling.

Measure, Manage, Commit
I could not have been successful if I didn’t decide to weigh myself every day. and I doubt I would have stuck to it as long as I have if I didn’t commit to tracking everything on my blog. So that strategy stays. Measure every day, manage intake and exercise based on that measurement, commit by reporting the results publicly.

The Finish Line is Just Another Starting Line
So it’s time to keep it rolling. More food journaling and daily weigh -ins, and more riding and doing other active stuff. I’m not sure exactly how it will go, but I’ll be sure to keep it going on the blog.


Body Work: Week 17 Summary and Journal

This is the final edition of the weekly journals that started the whole Body Work Series. In short, I made my goal and even a little extra, and I'm feeling great. 119 days, 32.37 pounds lost. I was also able to complete a 100 mile "ride" on my rollers, which became part of my Body Work goals as I realized that I generally enjoyed riding them and thought it might be a good challenge. There's more to come though, so be on the lookout on this blog for the next Body Work series as i refine my goals and strategies. Click through for the tale of the tape and the gory details:


Summer Soundtrack

Late to the party, but I just found out about Mayer Hawthorne the other day. I have whole summer cookouts planned around tracks like this:

Middle Class Man in Search of a Trust Fund

"I just want to never have to work again
collect and listen to good music, ride my bike
build pizza ovens and make poems."

-me to kate the other day


Fatcyclist.com 100 Miles of Nowhere: "Vermont Fractions of a Century" Division

Another Dumb Idea
I am, among my friends, the one who comes up with the dumbest ideas for races and rides to go to. After I convinced two hearty souls to ride the Black Fly Challenge with me last June (rain, and endless false-flat uphill sand road climbing ensued), it should not have surprised me when neither of them, nor anybody else, responded to my email a few months ago that I was thinking of tackling the 100 Miles of Nowhere. Not even when I suggested we could do it somewhere other than my basement.

Inspired by Fatty
No matter. I had gotten pretty comfortable on my rollers over the long Vermont winter anyway. See, since February, I've been on a quest to lose some weight and get in shape. In fact, I was initially inspired by Fatty's "10 pounds before Christmas" challenge in December, but didn't actually get around to buying or stepping on a scale until early February. I started watching what I ate and riding my rollers, which I found, in some sick and twisted way, I actually enjoyed.

By the time registration rolled around for this years' event, I knew I was ready and dove in, even though I'd never ridden a century (of any sort) before and the longest I had ever made it on the rollers was about 45 minutes. The limiting factor on rollers is more saddle pain than anything. It is very, very difficult on normal rollers to stand up and pedal for any length of time. Mere mortals like me cannot afford e-motion rollers like Fatty has, which do allow some standing. In fact, I have determined that if I had the money for a set of e-motion rollers, I could have seven sets of regular rollers set up in my basement. Of course, you have to remember that nobody wants to ride with me because I come up with dumb ideas for rides, and finding one other person, let alone six people, to share my special kind of misery would have been a challenge.

Anyway. The roller miles kept coming and I slowly formulated my plan. As the father of a seven-month old, I'd do the ride overnight, when my absence would be least missed. I'd start it on June 3, the night before the official June 4 date, so if something happened I would have plenty of time to get my miles in through the weekend. When June 3 came, like a total bike geek, I mounted my number plate and got ready:

The bike and training table with water and energy bars

The ride itself was pretty uneventful. I ate my meatergy bar right off, drank some water, and put down the first 25 miles. Then a friend of my wife's arrived or a visit, so I went upstairs, said "hi" ate about three pieces of pizza, drank a beer and a glass of wine, and after about an hour and a half, headed back downstairs to ride more.

After the Break
I rode a 34 mile leg next, which was the longest I had ever been on the rollers in my life. I took about a 15-minute break, then rode another 20 miles, then a break. Lots of water, no more food.  I rode a 17 mile leg, then another very short break. Finally, I rode 6 miles and change, bringing the total on my computer to exactly 101.11 miles. My average speed (when I was moving) was 21.3mph, and my riding time was about 4 hours and 45 minutes. Overall, it took me about 6 hours and 46 minutes, so my average speed for the whole thing was about 14.76 mph. Good enough, especially considering the big long break I took.

Tale of the Tape.

I Won!
In the 100 Miles of Nowhere, you get to make up your own division, and then win it. My division was "guys who rode 1/4, 1/3, 1/5,1/6, and 1/20th (about) of 100 miles in the same night." I showered and got to bed at 4:00AM. I was up at 5:30 with my seven-month old for the usual diaper change. Mission Accomplished.

Next year, outdoors. 
I enjoyed the ride but I think my only chance of getting anybody to do it with me next year is to move the festivities outside. I'm already searching Google Maps for likely locations:
This looks good.

Preferably, ones where we can set up some sort of grill-based aid station.  That was something I missed down in the basement, as good as my pork-and-apricot energy bar was.

BikesDirect is Selling a Minivelo!

If only I could come up with a good enough reason to buy one and 300 bucks. I just love these little bikes. Think road geometry (same saddle, handlebar, and pedal position as a full-size road bike) with 20" wheels. Great for people with limited space and commuters who need to get bikes on and off trains and buses.