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Feb. 7th, 2010

kissbike

coffee ride

I rode over to Cecil's and arrived a little before 9am. We'd decided upon an eastside, easy-paced "coffee" ride and I figured it'd be easier if I just rode across town and we all started out together. Lynne pulled up shortly after I did and by 9:15 or so we were ready to head out.

Nothing momentous to report. Actually, it was a really enjoyable ride, where I was able to sustain a pace of 13 to 14 mph or so on the flats for much of the ride. It felt good to push myself just slightly like that. (Lynne is a stronger rider than me, and Cecil is stronger than both of us, so yeah it felt a tiny bit like pushing my usual city pace, but in a really enjoyable, refreshing way.)

It was a dry, cool morning (low 40's when I got to Cecil's, warmed up to low 50's when we finished) and cloud cover that might eventually burn off, but probably not before our ride was done. I got it just right, with knickers, a couple layers of wool and a rain shell just in case.

We cruised through Colonial Heights in SE, headed out to Hollywood neighborhood and crossed the freeway, then rode up to Alameda Ridge (it's a lot mellower than riding straight up the hill on 37th, like Sweetie and I do when we're coming back from the Farmers' Market). From there we did a big, easy loop through Alameda, Wilshire, Concordia and Woodlawn neighborhoods and headed over to N. Willamette for a easy ride over to the Columbia Slough (via the Peninsula Crossing trail). At the entrance to the Slough path that would take us to Smith and Bybee lakes, we were stymied by a long train. Okay, a very long train. We couldn't see the end of it. After we sipped from our thermoses, admired Lynne's latest knitting project (the first of two sorta-gloves -- beautiful, I want a pair!) and watched Cecil grow more annoyed with the length of the train (it was really very long), we decided to skip Smith and Bybee Lakes, turn around and ride through the New Columbia area and just tootle around North Portland until we found our way to Little Red Bike Cafe. I forgot that Jordan doesn't run through the other side of Lombard, took us about ten blocks too far, and we had to come back on Lombard to the cafe, but this being Super Bowl Sunday the roads weren't too busy.

After a light lunch (get the Paper Boy sandwich! Yummy!)  we rode back to Willamette and looped back around to Ainsworth, where I split off from Cecil and Lynne to head home. A delicious ride, nearly 30 miles for me including the pre-ride to Cecil's.

Feb. 5th, 2010

kissbike

cycle oregon and the jewish calendar

Cycle Oregon has announced its 2010 route, a ten-day bike tour through northeastern Oregon and southeastern Washington that will include a layover in Pendleton during the 100th anniversary of the Pendleton Round-Up. The cost of the supported tour (about 850 bucks) is currently beyond me, though I suppose I could save up one year and go. It's always a great ride that takes you through some of the most beautiful places in our state. And I admit that Cycle Oregon is one of those rides I've always dreamed of doing.

Sadly, I can almost never participate in Cycle Oregon, because the organizers almost always find a way to have the start or end dates overlap Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur. And this year is no exception. The ride takes off from Elgin just after the second day of Rosh Hashanah, loops through cattle country and returns to Elgin on Yom Kippur afternoon.

This conflict happens, on the average, every other year or so. And I'm sure that it's pretty much a non-issue for the organizers. After all, the 2,000 reserved spots fill up quickly, usually within a month of the route announcement. The number of observant Jews in Oregon is tiny. The number of observant Jews who are also avid bicyclists is probably microscopic. I'm used to not counting, I'm used to organizers of bike events not looking at a Jewish calendar. This is what being Jewish is like when you don't live in New York or Los Angeles.

So In September, while 2,000 people are out riding their bikes and rubbing shoulders with cowboys in Pendleton, I will observe the Days of Awe -- and then get ready for cyclocross season. It's a trade-off I can accept.

Feb. 4th, 2010

kissbike

the shifting ground beneath our feet

Portland's City Council meeting was filled to the rafters today with people awaiting a vote on the passage of the Bicycle Master Plan 2030, which outlines new amenities for increased bicycle transportation to be built over the next 20 years. The folks at City Hall, anticipating the large turnout from bicycle riders, set up several portable bike racks in the courtyard of City Hall, and they were pretty darned full as I passed by (I arrived in downtown too late for the pre-meeting rally, and had to get home so I didn't try to squeeze into the meeting myself). Among the stated goals, besides decreasing overall motor traffic congestion and improving pedestrian and bike-rider safety, is one to increase bicycle usage so that, by 2030, 25% of all trips made in the city will be made by bicycle -- an insanely ambitious goal for an American city, even one as bike-mad as Portland.

While most in attendance in the Council Chambers -- including most on the City Council -- were in support of the plan, several people in attendance testified concerns over placement of particular amenities (one proposed new bike path is situated near a major freight truck route in Northwest Portland, and frankly that may have to be re-thought). Others worried about the costs of building new bicycle infrastructure while we're still in the middle of a recession. A couple of people said that theybe hard-pressed to support the building of still more bike infrastructure until education and enforcement regarding safe bicycle use were made a priority.

(Um, am I the only one who finds this last demand a little ironic? Consider the number of cyclist fatalities from bike-car collisions in Oregon over the last five years, where the person behind the wheel of the car was at fault and got off with little or no real penalty -- in no small part because of a lack of education and enforcement regarding safe automobile use. In Oregon the bike lobby is still trying to get a vehicular homicide bill passed into law, while other states have had such laws in place for decades.)

After hearing over two solid hours of testimony, the Council voted to postpone a final decision on the plan until next week. A couple of comments over at BikePortland were extremely telling:

Mark C. wrote:

I think the vitriol from the anti-bike crowd stems from the fact that even though nobody is being forced out of their car, the anti-bike contingent can see that the days of them being subsidized so that they can cheaply drive their 150-pound body around in a 3000-pound car anywhere they want are coming to an end, and they are reminded of it every time they see someone on a bike. Plain and simple, they are scared s**tless, and they are lashing out.

and Ian C. responded:

Mark C., I agree with you. Many people feel that the ground is shifting underneath them for many reasons- resource scarcity, unemployment, Obama, the real prospect of decreased standard of living in the future, climate change. In short, the world they thought they were going to live in the rest of their lives is changing in unexpected ways.

***************

Last night I had the pleasure of visiting a local synagogue and speaking with middle and high school students about the true costs of transportation (of course, this was a synagogue class I did it by tying in Hillel's teaching from Pirke Avot that we must make choices wisely and keep the bigger picture in mind as we do so; every choice we make informs and is informed by others, and none of us operates in a vacuum).

I shared with them some evidence as to how Americans pay so little to own and drive cars because the costs are largely subsidized by a collaboration between government and private interests that continue to promote a transportation system centered around petroleum-fueled cars. Europeans, by contrast, pay far more to own automobiles and as a result fewer Europeans (at least in urban centers) own cars for personal use. As a result there is better and more public transit and better bike infrastructure in most European cities.

Stop me if you've heard all this before, but for most of the kids it was brand new information, and pretty shocking since nearly all of them anticipate owning a car of their own before too terribly long. At least a couple of students stopped to chat with me briefly after the study session ended, and were impressed that I've lived without a car of my own for twenty years. "And you don't look, you know, poor, or unhappy, or anything," one 7th-grader observed with a little look of surprise.

Nope. Not poor, not unhappy. Let's hope City Council gets it right next week. It will only be the beginning but it would certainly be a start.

Jan. 31st, 2010

kissbike

help me write a better ending to this story!

Tom Daly is a nice young man who moved to Portland, immediately understood the bike culture and decided he wanted to become a part of it. So he got a job at Joe-Bike, where I had the pleasure of meeting him last year. This year, he's striking out on his own with a tiny, TINY repair shop he jokingly calls "WTF Bikes".

Sad news is that, three days before his grand opening party, he's been ripped off and cleaned out. Bikes, tools, everything. Stolen items include a customer's $500.00 bike that he has to come up with replacement money for.

As a fellow bike mechanic this one stabs me in the heart. When you steal bikes you are basically hanging out with the scum of the earth right there. Take a mechanic's tools, and you are the organic junk that the bottom feeders leave behind when they're done. Bike mechanics don't do this to get rich (ask me, I know). We do it because we love bicycles and know that someday they will help save the world.

So here's the article about the burglary. If you go to look at this, please no snarky remarks about the vulnerability of the fence, or of the shop space. The guy is just starting out and doing the best he can. Trustifarians aside, we've all been there at some point in our lives, we've all known that kind of vulnerability. So no crticism about the fencing. It's a rental, for crying out loud.

After reading the story, if you are moved enough to make a donation to help this enterprising young man out, go to WTF's Web site and scroll to the bottom, where you'll find a Donation button. I'm helping out a colleague who's been kicked in the stomach, and invite you to do the same. Thanks.

Jan. 30th, 2010

kissbike

universal sports, obra and racing goals for 2010

Since Universal Sports will only show the Cyclocross World Championships online, and since my computer is so old that watching videos there takes three times as long as the posted time (lots of halts and starts), it's likely that, instead of watch worlds tomorrow at 8am (5am EST), I may actually celebrate worlds by going out on Stompy in the morning and having some cyclocross silliness at the park instead. In my case it actually seems appropriate.

***************

In other news: forces exist that could thwart my dream of an all-singlespeed race at next year's Cross Crusade. My idea was to move the Mens' B's (on geared bikes) somewhere else in the day and have mens' and womens' singlespeed classes race together in a pure singlespeed heat. Unfortunately, after several months of research and polling, it seems that:

a. The Cross Crusade organizers aren't really into it, mostly for logistic reasons. The race day schedule is already pretty full.
b. The overwhelming majority of women responding to my informal poll have indicated they would prefer to race with other women and just be counted separately for racing on a singlespeed bike; most do NOT want to race with the men if they can help it. Am I crazy for thinking a pure-singlespeed race would work better, or am I missing something here?
c. The OBRA official in charge of logistics has gently pointed out that adding another classification to an already-full slate (there are already six categories racing together in the womens' race) would create a tabulating nightmare for race officials and therefore would likely be vetoed by OBRA anyway. I appreciated her perspective and thanked her for the additional information.

I am not hopeful for changes to the Cross Crusade schedule.

..::sigh::..

On a positive note, I decided to ask the organizer of the PIR short-track xc series how he'd feel about at least adding a separate classification for womens' singlespeed, no matter where in the schedule they would race -- and he liked the idea.

In a fit of optimism (suicide?) I went ahead and catted up to singlespeed for both short-track and cross this year. It may be the stupidest thing I've done yet in my tiny racing career -- I could get killed out there -- but the thought of racing with so many other singlespeeders actually appeals to me much more than getting hung up behind another racer whose shifter malfunctions. That happened too many times in the womens' races last summer and it was not pleasant.

********************

Goals for 2010:

1. More yoga, at least two the three mornings a week. It seems to help on some micro level and maybe it will help strengthen me.

2. More core work. In my case, and on my budget, that probably means curls and variations thereof every other night, gradually increasing number of reps/sets over time. I can't afford to buy weight equipment for home use, join a gym or hire a coach, so it's likely another year of hit and miss for me. I would like to think that my daily commuting at least gives me a base to work with that helps offset the effects of not "working out" at a gym. I have thought of keeping more detailed records of my riding and training but that may backfire for me emotionally (i.e., getting down on myself when life, medical issues and other ephemera intrude on my ability to train more carefully), so I've avoided it thus far.

3. Working with my doctor more closely (as closely as I can at a free/low cost clinic, anyway) to reduce the frequency of Crohn's flare-ups and the way they interfere with my riding and racing. This may mean changes in both drugs and diet, or it may mean listening better to my body so I can avoid a repeat of what happened at the PIR cross race. (I shouldn't have raced that day, in retrospect.)

4. At least one populaire/metric century this year, two if I can swing it. (I'm looking at riding the Monster Cookie in April since there doesn't yet seem to be a populaire on the Oregon Rando calendar.)

5. I'd like to finish somewhere other than dead last in at least one short-track race and one cross race. I realize that by catting up to singlespeed I may have killed my chances of doing this but there it is.

6. To finish every single race I enter -- no DNFs!

7. (not a racing goal per se, but a goal nonetheless) I want to find a way to swing a trip to bend for CrossNats before it leaves the Pacific Northwest after this year. I'm not necessarily interested in racing there -- it will be crazy-cold, the course will be very "road-y", and I will probably be quite worn out by the end of the season (especially if I race at USGP again this year, which In spite of all common sense I think I might do). I am working on potential ways this might happen.

8. I will examine my relationship with racing carefully this year, on several fronts:

a. how does having a non-cycling partner affect my training and racing decisions?
b. how does affiliating with an organization based very far away affect my training and racing decisions?
c. how does my age and my having Crohn's affect my training and racing decisions?
d. How does my job -- the schedule, the activities and stresses thereof -- affect my training and racing decisions?

The answers to these questions will help me to figure out how I want to proceed.

***************

Stompy 2.0 is just about finished. I am going to swap in a low-profile rear cantilever brake so that I can avoid heel-strike while I pedal. It will look strange but it will work and that is really what I care about. Everything else is done and the bike, though admittedly a bit heavier than the Kona, fits me better and is probably about as good as I can come up with on such a tight budget. (Thank goodness I work in a shop and can swing a pro-deal on older models of stuff now and then! There's NO way I could've upgraded without this reality.) I am hanging onto the Kona until it's clear that I won't need to swap back for any reason, but so far it feels like the Redline is going to work out.

Jan. 29th, 2010

kissbike

good help is hard to find

Stories in the news this week include reports of firings across the country. Among them:

--A teacher in New York was fired because her boss thought that her obesity was "not conducive" to a good learning environment.
--A secretary in Pennsylvania was let go because of a political bumper sticker on her car (the sentiment didn't jibe with her boss' political views, though he was not required to explain that when he fired her).
--A teacher in the midwest was fired because a photo of her -- taken on her own time, at a strip club, in a playfully suggestive pose with a male stripper -- was posted a social networking site. Students found the photo online and called the school to tattle.
--A man applying for a technical writing position in California was denied employment because of political writings at his personal blog.

In all cases, First Amendment rights to freedom of speech an/or privacy didn't apply and in all cases the individuals were fired legally. This is because technically, those First Amendment rights only apply to those in Federal government positions. They don't apply at all to those working in the private sector.

And, not in the recent news but equally pertinent:

--A employer admitted to me that she uses interns to help her search the social networking sites to learn more about candidates interviewing for positions at her organization. This searching can, for example, help her more accurately determine a person's age (are photos of them on Facebook or Flickr? Does the candidate have gray hair and wrinkles?), something which may not be apparent in an especially vague resume and which she could never legally ask in an interview.
--a few months ago, a friend who's looking for work told me she decided to dye her hair, because her natural hair is shot through with gray and all her years of experience in a highly specialized field won't help her get past the ageism in the job market.
--employers now routinely screen applicants' credit ratings to eliminate those with financial troubles (though there is now political work being done to try and outlaw this particular practice as overly prejudicial -- after all, only someone who's immensely wealthy never has financial issues, and therefore never has to look for work).

This reality also has certainly influenced my decision to avoid things like Facebook and MySpace, places where social networking has gone viral and anyone can find out almost anything about each other if they look hard enough. What if I join Facebook and somehow an enterprising person can find a way to look up my credit rating, work history and everything else that I haven't deliberately put out there? With the rise of the Electronic Information Age comes a caution to be careful what you share, because it can come back to bite you later.

This outgrowth of a free market -- in which we told repeatedly that, if we don't like our job, we 're free to leave and go work somewhere else -- is more complicated than the law takes into account. In a toilet economy, it's not always easy -- or even possible -- to just go find another job. Which is why workers accept the law and don't agitate to fight the corporate interests that limit First Amendment protections for private-sector workers. The risk -- of losing your job and then losing your home and perhaps your family -- is just too great.

On the plus side, this means that an employer can fire someone whose off-work activities may actually hamper their ability to perform effectively at work, and can screen out potential hires (often without their knowledge) to avoid hiring anyone who might genuinely be a poor fit for their company.
On the down side, many employers will allow their hiring choices to be heavily influenced by personal values that have nothing to do with the work at hand, and the social networking sites give them a more efficient way way to do that.

It also means that perhaps the wisest among us -- those who value their personal freedom even more than material security -- are far less likely to seek employment in fields where their personal lives will come under the greatest scrutiny, whether there's anything in them that's objectionable or not. They are willing to work for less, live on less, and have rearranged their lives to allow for that level of freedom.

Not coincidentally, there are lots of people like this in the bicycle industry.

Jan. 27th, 2010

kissbike

thank you, embrocation journal

...for the best damned thing I have ever read about cycling and menstrual cycles:

http://www.embrocationmagazine.com/online/womanly-cycles

(note: PG-13 for mature audiences)

If you're a guy you may not appreciate this. But if you're a woman and you ride you will nod your head in total agreement even as you roll around on the floor in laughter. Because it's Just So True.

Jan. 26th, 2010

kissbike

is riding in the rain really that bad?

Just read at a web site how a members of a California race club had planned for a weekend training camp.
When it looked like there would be rain most of the weekend, more than a third of the team decided not to attend. It sounds like those who did attend may have ridden fewer miles than intended as a result of the weather. To be fair, California has seen a LOT of rain this month, but where the camp was to be located was not near any of the danger zones. Other than a lot of rain, there would have been no danger in riding a bike in the area.

When I did GYGIG (the Crohn's research fundraising ride) in 2007, I showed up with my brevet bike -- full fenders and a handlebar bag -- and brought along my rain jacket, Just In Case. The first morning of the ride, leaving Edmonds, Washington, dawned grey and drizzly. By the time the ride left the start area, it was raining steadily. Out of 60 riders present, I was the only one who'd brought functional raingear and whose bike had full fenders (one other bike had a clip-on splash guard). I whistled softly and contentedly as we pedaled away from the Edmonds marina, clad in rain jacket, jersey, shorts, and arm and leg warmers. There was a thermal mug of coffee in one of my bottle cages. Riders who had come from back east looked at me like I was mad. It was the first weekend in August, and the temperature was around 50 degrees (though it would warm up later). "How did you know?" they stammered, shivering in their thin summer-weight kit.

"I live here," I replied. "It rains a lot, sometimes even in August." I shrugged, smiled gently, and offered them each a peppermint candy from my handlebar bag, to take their minds off the rain.

Is riding in the rain really all that bad if you live somewhere other than the Pacific Northwest?

This is not a rhetorical question.

Today's weather: partly cloudy; highs near 50. I'll take the rain chaps along, Just In Case.

Jan. 24th, 2010

kissbike

bag has been returned (i'm shocked)

Yesterday, a co-worker called me to tell me that my bag had been found "at the restaurant" and to please call my pal Tori.

I called the sushi place first, thinking it had been turned in there. But no, they had no clue. So then I called Tori, who said the bag was at Chez Joly -- a lovely French bistro just down the street from the sushi place. I called there and indeed, they had my bag. They'd gotten Tori's number from the notebook inside. I was thrilled -- my notebooks were intact.

I picked the bag up today and my suspicions were confirmed -- the bag had indeed been stolen because the thief took all my tools, patch kit and mini-pump, pens and pencils, and -- get this! -- my day's supply of Cholestyramine (which I take for Crohn's, not sure what he thinks he's gonna do with that). But the notebooks and my calendar were still there.
I am pleased and relieved that I don't have to shop for another messenger bag anytime soon. I'm still thinking about an electronic calendar device but that's another post for later...

Meanwhile, Chez Joly looks like a cool place and I may ask Sweetie if we can go there for my birthday.

Jan. 21st, 2010

kissbike

it's clear my vote means nothing

Yesterday, Massachussetts voted in a Republican senator, killing the Senate's 60-seat super-majority and pretty much ending any meaningful discussion on health care reform this session.
Today, the Supreme Court overturned the 100-year-old ban on limiting corporate contributions to political campaigns, meaning that campaign finance reform is also officially a dead issue, and will be for a very long time.

So, to sum up:

-- this Country is being run by a small conglomerate of government, corporations and the entertainment industry posing as independent sectors (and doing a horrible acting job, by the way)
-- your vote means perhaps a little bit at the local level and absolutely nothing at the federal level
-- a true living wage, workplace justice, affordable housing, job training, marriage equality and socialized health care are actually the imaginings of a fevered mind and will not happen in your lifetime
-- now get back to work, you little worm

Or something like that.

I know it's a lot to ask, but if I'm being screwed so completely and so effectively by those in Power I'd at least like a little truth-telling to that effect. I want someone to appear on my TV screen or YouTube or whatever and just say it like it is.

I am waiting for something like the Two Minutes' Truth.

Barack Obama couldn't possibly change a system that (a) he was spawned from and (b) is so firmly entrenched. He is nowhere near anything resembling a liberal democrat, or even, frankly, a centrist.

Once again, I feel lied to and ripped off by my government. And that is why I am once again thinking of taking a hiatus from voting. I stopped voting for five years in the mid 80's. The world continued to turn and my vote was not missed. So I'm not sure that all this voting I've been doing has had a profound effect on the world around me. I'm beginning to suspect that my lifestyle choices are making more of a difference than any vote I've cast in the last 15 years. And I'm thinking of tearing up my voters' card again. Because my personal experience of American politics is that it's just so much bullshit. I'd much rather vote with my wallet and my actions. It means more and might actually accomplish something.

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