Sunday, August 24, 2008

Hundred Mile Weekend

Katie and I had our first 100 mile weekend on the tandem, and she also had her longest ride to date on Saturday -- a 63 miler down to the San Gabriel River Trail and back via the Rio Hondo trail. We've met some really fun people through the weekly Coates Cyclery rides, and it looks like Katie has found some other women who like to mountain bike. Our definite slow area on the tandem is climbing. We like to be out front on the downhills because the tandem carries so much momentum, and on the flats we are steady once the pace levels out. During stop-and-go riding or sprints we are pretty sluggish. We're probably ready to tackle a 100-mile century ride or some longer climbs in the mountains.

Last week was quintessential southern California, weather-wise. Highs rarely peaked over 90 and it was in the high 50s riding to work each morning. Just about perfect. Today was warmer at over 97, and it looks like the rest of the week will follow suit. I met another "easterner" today, a guy from West Virginia, who mentioned that he really misses the changing of the seasons. I know that I'll miss fall colors and the smell of leaves, the crisp air of fall and winter, and riding in the snow with studded tires. I think, however, that the novelty of year-round sunshine and warm weather will take a little while to wear off.

I've started a practice I call "casual commute Fridays". My work commute is a bit under 24 miles round trip each day. Monday through Thursday I like to ride pretty fast, almost treat each ride like a training ride. I also ride on my fixed-gear track bike to practice spinning and staying fast uphill. On Fridays, I relax a little, ride my comfy touring bike, swap the cycling shoes for a pair of sandals, and just cruise. I also take the opportunity to explore new routes and side streets I haven't seen before. At some point I'll probably write a post on bike commuting, but things like casual commute Friday sure help to keep commuting interesting.

Other than riding this weekend (yes, we sometimes do other things), a coworker gave us his tickets to the Angels game Saturday night. Despite not following baseball at all, we really enjoyed the night out, and I really enjoyed the three stadium hot dogs I ate. Too bad those dogs didn't enjoy our 40 mile ride in my intestines this morning...

Back to the grind tomorrow. I've really got to start getting to bed earlier.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Riding Twogether

About a month after we moved to California, Katie was getting tired of me disappearing for hours on end with my bike. It was frustrating for me as well, because I wasn't able to fully share my favorite past time with her. We've tried to ride together in the past, but it discourages both of us; me because I'd feel like I was waiting all the time, not pushing myself hard enough, her because she couldn't keep up and would burn herself out.

Enter: the daVinci Grand Junction. We'd borrowed a mountain bike tandem from some friends in the past (which is a complete and utter blast), but never seriously considered one for ourselves until about 2 months ago. Turns out daVinci just started making a "budget" road tandem, with 26" wheels to fit fatter tires -- up to 2.3" if desired -- as well as having Avid disc brakes. This thing rides like a steel dream. It climbs like a dog but once you point it downhill, get ready for perma-grin. We'll effortlessly hit 35 on downhills, and we can cruise comfortably on the flats around 18-20. We've actually ridden some of the steepest mountain roads with only minor suffering. And, arguably the best part, we're together the whole time. I can hammer it out and satisfy my masochism, Katie can push herself and then some, or we can relax and talk about our days together. Cue the cheesy music, I know, but it's really a cool thing to be able to share something like this.

One other neat thing about the daVinci -- and sorry for being all bike geeky in this post -- is that we can independently coast. Normally tandems are linked front and back, that is, if the front rider (or captain) is pedaling, the back rider (or stoker) must pedal as well. daVinci uses a double freewheel system so we can coast independently, but both drive the bike as we pedal. "Ride together, think independently" is their slogan.

Add a touch of California sunshine, a couple riding buddies, and some chilled beverages afterwards, and you've got a recipe for a perfect southern California evening.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Finding Peace

"Life After Pasties", I've decided to call this. Yeah, I don't know about it either. It's now been 3 months since I left the UP to start anew in California. It's one thing to leave for a trip, a vacation, a bike ride across the country, all the while knowing that you're coming back. But it's a whole other experience to leave and not know what's next, not know if you'll stay where you're going. It's the kind of experience you know all along is coming, that you tell yourself you're preparing for, an "After I finish this degree..." type of thing. Then it comes up and you wonder if you're ready.

As soon as I reached Colorado, I knew I was ready.

The biggest challenges out here have been pacing myself, keeping in touch with people, and finding peace in a very busy place. Southern California has lots of cool nooks and crannies tucked away where you can find solitude, but there are also more people than I've ever seen in one place, all going about their own business in a hurry. Luckily, there's a bike path just a short detour away from my daily commute.

The wilderness park a few miles north is nice, too. It's a 5 mile loop, basically a fire road, with cut offs for mountain bike trails in Marshall Canyon and a climb up to Potato Mountain, which I have yet to try. But if you go up at night, this place feels like another world. The hikers and joggers are gone, sometimes there are a few bikers, but it's so quiet, cold, and dark compared to the city. In 10-15 minutes, I can escape to a world overlooking the smog below, smelling of sage and full of crickets and other odd noises in the night, all the while 10-15 degrees cooler.

Finding peace: check. Here's to keeping in touch. Pacing myself will have to come later.