KC/DC Cycle

Ride to live... live to ride

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Motivation Nation

The transition from Thailand to the US has been very difficult. For once in my life it's about motivation rather than inclination. Motivation has been a challenge. There's so much struggle going on from various parts of life that I'm spending my effort treading water. The culture change was intense but that's just the beginning. We returned in order to take care of my parents who are in their 90s. I got a 3 month contract that paid decent money, but the follow up jobs are not happening. Then the coronavirus. Ha ha ha. So I've finally got some motivation and a decent route here in Northern Virginia. I am also re-evaluating my willingness to take on physical challenges. Some of these climbs are really steep. A steep climb in combination with a route that is just not pretty is a drag. I'm used to dealing with heavy traffic. I've dealt with angry motorists. I'm less tolerant of that as well. I used to get pissed and that helped me cope with a motorist cutting me off or honking loudly. Now I don't feel like dealing with the confrontation anymore. I want to ride without the bother. The trails are still annoying and too often crowded. I had a great route in Thailand - the combination of shade, a decent shoulder, somewhat respectable traffic, a scenic route and a challenge was perfect. I only had one such route but in my time of riding it was a masterpiece. Now I've got a couple of options. Roads here are tight with no shoulders. I've even been willing to ride on sidewalks, god forbid. Trails are really nice with underpasses and bridges at intersections. I can't race like I'd prefer but it's so nice to avoid traffic. First world is nice for cycling.


Wednesday, March 04, 2020

Luck of the draw

A few years ago I rode with a longtime friend. He was inexperienced so we did a nominal route and it was a beautiful day... until we were just about home. My friend is apparently clumsy. When I signaled that he was getting ahead of me he glanced back and somehow went flying over the handlebars onto his head. It was terrifying for me to see. He was knocked out. I called an ambulance. Later his wife told me there was some brain damage. She's a psychologist so she is more in tune with that medical pathology. To me it was just scary to realize how quickly a nice comfortable ride could change.

Over my 58 years of riding (since 1961) I have been relatively fortunate especially considering I lived in dense suburbs near a big city for most of my life and rode motorcycles for 20 years. This friend was fairly inexperienced in riding, a few years older than me. We were not racing or doing anything especially dangerous. It was just an unfortunate event. It's been a few years now and we haven't talked about it since though we see each other all the time. I felt bad to be associated with that experience in his life. Since then I've ridden down huge hills passing cars without pedaling, ridden on Thai roadways jammed with cars, trucks, motorbikes and huge busses.

At some point I will need to retire from my active sport and find something less dangerous. The thrill is not worth the risk at some point. I'd much rather retire with a good record than the alternative. I like my brain and limbs.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Danger on the road and dealing with age

Pedestrian fatalies on US roads has increased by 50 percent in the last decade according to an article I'm reading (in the Washington Post). In these statistics I believe bicycles are included as pedestrians. That is a significant increase in danger. I was hit once in 1970 and bumped in 2017. Those are my statistics of riding on the road. I take the full lane. It irritates drivers but they see me. That's where I find my safety which seems to work well considering the amount of riding on busy city streets I've done. I also ride all year and often at night. Since moving to Alexandria, VA I've been using their bike trails. I have NEVER liked bike trails so much. I always rode in the street. One reason is that it's illegal in most jurisdictions to ride on sidewalks. There are few trails, so it's hard to find a way to get anywhere. I tend to ride with a purpose to get to a destination. The trails I've used in Northern VA have served this purpose. Not only are they off the road for the most part but when they cross roads it often goes under or over the road so there's no traffic interaction. These trails also follow streams and creeks so the grade is fairly level. I have been very happy to use these trails altho I'd prefer they be a little wider.

The other issue I'm dealing with has to do with age. We returned from Thailand without my bikes. It took two months for our delivery to arrive that contained my bikes. Once the bikes were here I was living in a new very congested urban area with a lot of steep hills. The trail near our house had been destroyed by a flood in July. A good half or three quarters of a mile of the trail is unusable. All of it was the closest part of the trail to our apartment. I explored an area a little north/upstream and the trail was nicer. The problem was that when I rode at night there are four stream crossings. One I would have to dismount and carry my bike across in the dark. There were no lights. Others I could ride across, but in the dark it was precarious. My first adventure up that trail at night it had rained. There was 6 inches of swift flowing water on the pilons I was supposed to walk on. Not going to happen! I had to loop back and go the long way thru a neighborhood. Much later I found out that this area was the only area not repaired. Other than near our place the trail is in great shape.

That two months, plus the stress of acclimating to US culture and jobs and a new area to live took a heavy toll on my health and vitality. I have struggled with depression and lack of motivation. I have never been in worse shape. The last week or so I've really gotten back to riding form. I've ridden 30-40 miles this week, taken some hills, enjoyed the ride. I'm nowhere near the power I was it in Thailand but I'm now 62.

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Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Two wheels can be dangerous

Staying safe in foreign lands is a challenge in reading cultural traits such as safety and acceptable behavior. Besides my 55+ years of riding bicycles in the US and Thailand I have twenty years of motorcycling. Knowing your own inclinations and the bicycles behavior are in addition to what other vehicles do. I have spent a lot of time focusing on staying safe. At some point I will gracefully retire from cycling; hopefully it will happen prior to any serious accidents. I had a minor but terrifying bump while riding my bicycle when a motorbike passed too close. Then I experienced almost 3 years of problem free riding on motorbike and bicycle. The day we left I mentioned the period of safety and how each day I focused on keeping us safe. When I was young I took more risks. I was lucky. When you have a few scrapes you should at least have the common sense to temper your behavior.

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Monday, July 22, 2019

Riding on the road - early horror

One of my early memories of riding on the road was riding with my father. We took a few rides with a group of neighborhood guys. There was a moment in that ride where I was next to dad while we traveled downhill increasing in speed. As I rode beside him I saw the front brake dislodge from it's position on the front fork. BOOM! He sailed through the air and landed flat on his back... I helped him to the side of the road and he laid there. I don't remember more of the details. We went to a house nearby where we called mom to pick us up. I don't know if dad went to the doctor or hospital. This was the days before helmets. He was lucky to not have hurt his head.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

I think what I discovered in dealing with my Facebook bicycling group is that my bicycle group is very conservative. It is an international group of cyclists over 60. Someone had complained about the US flag being in the cover photo. The comments supporting the flag included that "it's not political", that they "love their country". I said of course it's political. There are people in our group that may hate our American flag. I said every flag is political. I posted the ISIS flag. I talked about free speech to post everything we are thinking about. That was it. In one of the trainings we had on racism the trainers said one of the signs of gentrification was bike shops. I was kind of shocked. I'm a bicyclist, but not the casual yuppie kind of cyclist. I go places. I do errands. I get exercise. I don't spend a lot of time cleaning it. I don't go out and buy the latest trendy thing. In light of my experience with this bike group I'm considering that the anti racism trainers were right. Bicyclists tend to be elitist.

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Friday, July 12, 2019

Gear: water bottle

One decision I made decades ago but didn't explicitly share here was how much plastic tasting water is nasty. Plastic water bottles were one of the first bicycle specific accessories I bought as a young rider. I was not a big drinker of the water but I liked to make sure I had it out on the road. I was a minimalist in gear on the road until I needed something and got stuck. Warm plastic tasting water and a tube repair kit were essentials even before I got a helmet.

After getting the water bottle I got a frame holder for it. Before the frame holder I carried the water bottle in a bag on my back. I tried putting ice in the bottle but the water turned warm pretty quickly. I stopped using the water bottle because it just tasted nasty, especially when warm. I did shorter rides. Eventually I got enough regular income that I upgraded to an insulated plastic water bottle. I bought a few of these and spent time adding ice to cold water but it still didn't last too long. I found a solution to the bad taste of plastic bottles finally about 10 years ago. I now use stainless steel water bottles.

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