December 22, 2010

Die-Hard Commuting

Last year I was proud to ride through the entire winter.  I was beat by the weather only once, when my chain broke in 6 inches of snow.  But that's because it only snowed once last year. 

This year has been an entirely different story.  I've been beat down by the packed snow ruts and berms.  I've found that I personally do not care to put myself in great danger for the sake of claiming to be a die-hard commuter.  In short, I have limitations on my bravery (read "stupidity" if you are not a cyclist).

But you know what is great?  Reading.  I love reading while riding the bus.

December 16, 2010

Out of Sync

Monday I started riding again after a couple of weeks of bussing and driving to work.  It was nice to be out.  About 2/3 the way to work I found myself waiting behind a car at a red light.  I wasn't thinking about much at all, but eventually I realized the light seemed to be a really long.  I then wondered why this felt different.  I quickly concluded that it was because I never wait at that light!  I generally make a right turn at that intersection if ever the light is red.  So pleased to be on the bike with my heart-rate up, I had completely forgotten to apply the proper decision-tree.  I've corrected this behavior now.

December 13, 2010

Curb Reveal

After a week of rain and above-freezing temps, the curbs are mostly visible again, and I'm back on the bike!  Loved the commute this morning.  It really felt good. 

I love my single-speed commuter.  A speedy descent down nemesis hill this morning brought back the fun in commuting!  Single-speed = simple:  rather than measuring speed in miles per hour, I measure it in blocks coasted before I can pedal again.  This morning it was 2 1/2. 

December 06, 2010

Le Bus

As I walked to the bus stop today, I couldn't help but notice that the roads were generally clear of snow.  At least the roads I would be riding if I rode to work today.  I say "generally", though because the shoulders are still covered in berms and ice. 
I suppose I really could ride, but I'm finding it more relaxing and comforting to walk to the bus and not worry.  Good luck to all you die-hards out there!

December 01, 2010

Snow Machine

I have recently discovered that I am not a snow machine. 

I rode my bike to work on that first snow day last week.  It was a bit sketchy, but manageable.  Manageable because there was not snow packed on top of the asphalt yet. 

Now I'm not even trying.  No way.  Drivers have gotten used to it and are at full speed again, and there's no shoulder to break away on. 

The bus is nice this time of year...when it's on time.

November 15, 2010


For a week and a half I've been down and out with a cold.  I came to work a couple of times, but exhaustion had me commuting by bus or car.  This morning as I put my pedaling legs back to work I found they wanted to rebel.  Though the brisk morning air refreshed my lungs and mind, my legs began to burn and protest being back at the old grind.  It's all good, though.  The screaming should not last long.

November 10, 2010

Hit and Run...and Run...and Run

I'm amazed at the brazen nature of some folks who act as though they are made of money.  This particular instance makes me sick.  Just downplay what has been done and splash some cash at it.  That will make it all better.  It's sick.  I am appalled by the irresponsibility of some people who treat life like a video game.

If you agree that this is wrong, pop on over here and jump aboard.

November 04, 2010

Velcro Sand

There are several great things about riding a bike with fenders, but the most awesome of those things is riding through a patch of velcro sand.  Velcro sand pockets are elusive, but they are out there.  You never know if you've found one until you hear that sweet sound of ripping velcro. 

A deposite of sand may end up velcro for one bike and nothing for the next.  It's all about matching tire tread to sand particle size.  When you get that perfect match-up, the sand sticks to the tire just long enough to be lifted up and deposited against the bottom of the fender, causing that velcro music. 

November 01, 2010

100 Miles Complete!

Friday, October 29th, I finally completed the 100 Miles of Nowhere 2010!  The ride was sweet.  The ride was monotonous, monstrous, and long.  Here's the quick recap:

Miles 1-15 watched "How to Train Your Dragon".
Miles 15-30 took forever, and were very difficult.  Didn't want to stop to set up a new movie...
Miles 30-50 set a solid pace...watched Dragon twice more without sound. Cramping of left calf began at mile 40.
Breakfast at mile 50 was awesome...bacon, peanut butter on toast, and coke.
Miles 50-75 watched "Iron Man".  More cramps from miles 70 to 75 as I picked up pace to reach the 3/4 point.
Miles 75-100 watched "Star Trek". 
Finished at about 1:30 in the afternoon.

I had some great miles to think about my friend, Adam and others I know who have battled/are battling cancer.  Just over 6 1/2 hours on the bike matches one Chemotherapy Treatment.  Several times I found myself counting down the seconds for a given mile set.  I understand he's done some counting down through much more pain than I can ever imagine. 

Props to all those who fight that dirty illness that would take all!

October 28, 2010

In Preparation...

Tomorrow morning I'm going to ride 100 miles.  It's going to hurt a bit...or perhaps more than a bit.  Here's how I'm preparing to complete the task:

1.  I opened up my calendar and put the right mark on it.
2.  I took my rollers down from the wall and set my bike on them.
3.  I'll pick out a few movies to watch while suffering in my basement.
4.  I'll collect several energy foods including, but not limited to:  Powerbar Vanilla Crisp, Bananas, Peanutbutter Sandwiches, Jr. Bacon Cheeseburgers, Cliff Shotblocks, and several bottles of water and Carborocket.  I've also heard Coke is awesome on long rides...perhaps a couple of those.

I also did many rides this summer to prepare for such a task as riding 100 miles.  These rides included, and were entirely limited to:  My daily commute, and twice around the river loop (17 miles).

Alright, so thinking about my physical preparation makes me feel a little woozy.  This is going to be painful.

October 27, 2010

The Commuter

My commuter bike is officially functional again!  All summer long I've been riding my road bike for commuting.  It's a dreamy bike, so I have no complaints.  When the weather turns wet and icky, though...I'm ready for fenders. 

October 25, 2010

Inspired Riding

I don't fully understand cause-oriented riding/running/whatever-sport-you're-into events.  And yet...I participate in them here and there.  Mostly, I participate for selfish reasons.  ie:  I want to accomplish a certain goal, and the event provides the venue and support I need to do it.  Those instances provide a bonus feel-good moment when the registration/donation money leaves my coffers.

BUT THEN...there came to be the most ridiculous charity ride ever dreamed up.  Not very often do you ask a friend what their training goal is and they say:  "I want to ride 100 miles on my bike without moving."   - Say again?  That's what the Fat Cyclist did a couple of years ago to raise awareness for breast cancer which was slowly and painfully taking his wife away from him.  He hedged a bet that he could do it, and everyone that "bet" against him and lost, ended up paying the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

Last year he did it again, but he opened it up as a race for anyone to join in their own specific category.  I was following his blog by then and thought the proposal was so ridiculous, there was NO way I could NOT sign up.  I won the 100 Miles of Nowhere In the Middle of Nowhere category.  Despite the cause-oriented nature of the ride, I didn't gain the benefit of the cause until I had ridden over 75 miles.  That's when I started wondering to myself, "Why in the world am I doing this?"  The answer was awesome.

This year tradition became solid with the third annual 100 Miles of Nowhere.  I signed up immediately and began getting ready (by putting the date on the calendar).  And...I had a bit of a setback when my bike was crunched by a car.  Then my summer became insanely busy and I lost sight of my goal to complete this race.  You see, Fatty never stipulated a solid date for the race:

"This year, the “official” date of the race is Saturday, May 8, and the time is whenever is convenient for you.
And, thanks to the flexibility of the event — i.e., it’s just you, really — if May 8 doesn’t work for you, you can do it another day.
Like in October, if you feel like it."

Which is perfect.  I'm doing it on Friday, October 29. 

Why now?  Because a good friend of mine - Adam, was recently re-diagnosed with cancer.  He fought the same cancer 6 years ago, and won...but that devilish illness snuck back in.  Read about his battle here.  After his first round of Chemo last week, he is now suffering.  I cannot do much to alleviate his pain and nausea.  But I can dedicate 100 miles of effort to his name. 

So here it goes!  The date is set and I'm training again.  It's about time I finally earned that awesome shirt I've been wearing since May!

October 20, 2010


New batteries for my red blinky.  Less worry now for sure!

October 19, 2010

Tis the Season

Sitting at work this morning, I'd like hot chocolate, doughnuts, a good book, and perhaps a blanket.  The season change prompts my body to forget about going outside.  I just want to eat pie and watch football for the next month.  
I haven't had a chance to really hibernate yet, but I already feel like I'm packing on the pounds and getting sluggish.  The scale says I'm up 2 pounds which is right in the normal fluctuation range, but I suspect if I give up any activity that number would skyrocket.
I'm mentally ready to start training for next year's marathon, although physically I'm working through some things.  BUT I've got something up my sleeve that may just pull me out of this cacoon.  More on that in the coming days...

October 18, 2010

Traffic Calming

Recently Councilman Richard Rush put everything on the line for 2nd Avenue Bike lanes.  He makes some good arguments, and I agree with him on several accounts.  I also disagree with some of his arguments, but that's not the tone I'd like to portray today.  One phrase from his post is not well defined (in my opinion):  Traffic Calming.

My wife was reading over my shoulder as I read his blog, and when she read this sentence:

"Narrow travel lanes, bike lanes and street trees are traffic calming devices."

...she asked in an incredulous tone, "Narrow lanes, bike lanes, and trees are calming?"  Having read it as a regular person who drives on Spokane streets, she had internalized the sentence as it applies to her.  Narrow lanes do not calm a driver's nerves. 

I suppose trees may have a calming effect and bicycle lanes may or may not calm drivers' nerves, but narrow lanes definitely do not sooth the driver's soul.  I explained to my wife that Councilman Rush was not talking about creating a serene environment in which drivers drift from one place to another.  Rather, he was talking about slowing traffic down and perhaps reducing the number of cars on the road. 

In order to achieve "traffic calming", outside influences are employed to positively affect the way traffic acts.  Of course, we are giving human traits to an in-human item here.  Traffic itself, cannot be calmed without affecting drivers - the soul of traffic.

In its worst light, traffic calming is physically changing things in order to force drivers to take more care, which then causes them to slow their cars down, and in the process weeds out those who can no longer stand the route.

From a planning and safety perspective, traffic calming is more than just a great thing.  It is an essential tool.

From a political standpoint, it can go either way:  Trees are great, and calm traffic is great.  Raging traffic is bad.  Moving people efficiently is good.  Moving people by different modes of transportation is good.  Meshing those modes of transportation is tricky.  Safety is good.
Narrow lanes are difficult to swallow. 
I applaud Councilman Rush for taking a solid stance.  As seen on T.V. recently, that's kinda rare with the political types.  I wonder what could calm that traffic?

October 13, 2010

Weak Signals

Earlier this year I fell victim to the right hook of an SUV.  That red SUV passed me and then turned right in front of me.  No turn signals warned me, and consequently my first road bike was totaled.

This morning I approached a red light where several cars were queued up already.  I was turning right at the intersection.  The third car in line also had a right turn signal on.  I generally will hang back of cars if there is a chance they might pull out around the line, but the pickup truck and trailer in front of that car was taking up space, so I decided it would be safe to pass that car on the right and make my turn. 

Then the light turned green.  Some quick calculations told me that there was time to make the pass.  In fact, I expected to be even with the front of the truck by the time I hit the intersection.  That would give the car plenty of time to register that I was ahead of him and that I was not going to hinder his plan in any way. 

Sure enough, I passed the car, and evened up with the front fenders of the truck.  I began to turn...and so did the truck!  Without signaling, he was now turning right into me!  To my fortune, there was enough room and time for me to simply turn sharper and not get squished.  The driver of the truck must have seen me, as he paused briefly.  No harm done, we all continued on our way.  The truck and the car both passed me and then I kept up as we descended Nemesis Hill. 

At the next light the truck was turning left.  As he stopped at the red light I looked very closely at his tail lights.  The trailer he was pulling had round, red tail-lights that barely fluttered on and off.  The lights on his truck were hardly better.  I guess it's possible that he did have his signal on at the top of the hill.  Gotta watch out for those weak signals!

October 12, 2010

Light Watchers

I'm a light watcher.  At every intersection I watch the light.  When I'm stopped I watch the opposing green light until it turns yellow.  Upon yellow, I wait a brief second before I begin clicking back into my pedal and starting out.  This way, about 75% of the time I'm actually clipped in by the time I get the green light, and regardless of my clip-status, I am almost always the first to cross the intersection. 

By first, I don't mean first bicycle...I mean first vehicle.  Amazingly, I sometimes even enter the crosswalk on the opposite side of the intersection before the traffic moving the other direction exits that crosswalk.  That generally happens when the driver going the other direction is not paying attention (read "texting"). 

This morning I came up to a red light alongside a white car.  The driver of the car was acting very much like he was also a light watcher.  As the light turned yellow he began to creep if he had taken his foot off of the brake.  I was creeping forward also as I clicked into my pedal.  As soon as the green light flashed we were off to the races!  I managed to efficiently clip in, and thus had maximum acceleration on my side.  Poor fella.  I whooped him.  Of course, he caught up with me by the next intersection.  He would have passed me too if he didn't have to turn there. 

I know it's a very short distance drag, but I rarely get beat.  I'm pretty proud of that.  I can count on it unless my competition is on a motorcycle.  Sports cars are funny competition.  These drivers are good at hitting the gas, but because they have excessive power on their side, they generally have under-developed light watching skills.  I love beating them over the roar of their engines. 

The question that plagues me is whether or not any of these people are actually in the game? 

October 11, 2010

Street Sweep

Clean roads are definitely cool.  Except when they're not.  Like when the temperature is approaching cold and I turn onto a street that was swept that morning before I arrived.  And the water from the street sweeper is still thick on the surface of the street.  And the water clings to my tires long enough to gain vertical acceleration.  And when that cold water forms droplets that spray me in the face on the coldest-yet morning of the season.

But I was happy that I didn't have to worry about glass in the road.  Cause I just had to repair a tube on Saturday.  Yeah, clean roads are cool.

October 07, 2010

In the Dark

Last week I rode in the dark...except it was still mostly light out.  The battery on my computer was dead, and when I took it in to charge it, I forgot and continued to forget it each morning.  Consequently I was riding without feedback from my bike.  No speed.  No grade.  No cadence.  No temperature.  No distance.  No timer.

For the first couple of days I was kicking myself within the first 100 feet away from my driveway.  Then again after the first 100 yards.  Apparently I look at my speed and time often while I ride.  By mid-week I was looking less, and was not kicking myself so hard because I didn't miss the digital feedback so much. 

Yes, I still missed the speed read-out, but I paid greater attention to my internal feedback.  As I listened to my legs (as opposed to the Jens Voigt approach) I found a slightly different position to ride in that gave me more strength and better endurance.  I found gauging myself was a little easier.  I'm not a racer, but I do compete with myself, and I returned a little bit to enjoying the ride and not worrying so much about the time-trial version of commuting.

Now that "actual" darkness is creeping in (with the change of season), I'm looking forward to pulling out The Commuter.  My commuter is  a single-speed.  Which means I get to sit back and enjoy the ride a little more.  This past week "in the dark" reminded me that the non-competitive season is worth as much as the competitive.

By the way, I was only 10 seconds off of my fastest time this morning!  Despite the lack of light.

October 05, 2010

Ode to Ice Cream

Maggie Moo's, I love you so.
You're flavorful and kind.
And when I lumber out your door,
you stick to my behind.

October 04, 2010

Leather and Rain

This morning I determined that I would NOT wimp out on my commute because of a little rain...or even for a lot of rain.  I donned my rain coat and headed out the door.  The rain was not nearly as big as it sounded from inside, so it ended up being a pleasent ride. 

BUT I forgot to put the rain cover on my leather saddle!  I was half-way to work when I realized this.  I thought through the possibilities in my mind:
  • Stop and put the cover on the saddle.
  • Keep going and do not get off the saddle until I'm out of the rain.  (This method was only an option because my saddle bag pretty well protects the underside of the saddle.)
I kept going.  As I expected, when I arrived at work the saddle was mostly dry.  Whew!  The last thing I want to do is ruin my Brooks. 

It's really time to get my foul weather commuter up and running again.

October 01, 2010

Doctor's Orders

I've had a stiff neck for a while now...nearly 5 weeks.  It began one morning after I presumably slept wrong on it, but I think I seriously over-stressed myself prior to that by playing football one day and then going out wakeboarding the next.  For a couple of weeks the pain seemed to fade, but never completely gone, it erupted again after another football game.  After that the pain did not fade.  Rather, it seemed to become more painful and irritating each day.  This week I scheduled an appointment with my doctor. 
I was a little apprehensive about finding out what was wrong.  I felt terrible the day before the appointment and missed 1/2 a day of work.  I even rode the bus to work; fearing that the pain was exacerbated by my riding position.
I love the efficiency of my medical team.  Checked in, vitals check, flu shot, visit with doc, x-rays, follow-up with doc, all in 45 minutes!  Not to mention that I set up my own appointment online and can email my doc and receive responses. 
My doctor diagnosed a neck sprain.  Textbook example.  The plan of recovery?  Anti-inflammatories and daily cycling.  Really, it was more like this:  "daily low-impact aerobic cycling."  Did I mention I like my medical team?  My recovery plan requires that I ride my bike!  Wahoo!

September 28, 2010

Reactionary Meetings

This morning after flying down Nemesis Hill (affectionately named, for its effect on my return commute), I bottomed out at a hasty speed.  I did my best to maintain speed.  I kept the big gear up front and pedaled hard. 
As I approached the next cross street, a car pulled up to the intersection on my right and executed what I remember (as a teenager) calling a "California Stop" (although I have never experienced anything to justify that generalization).  Fortunately for me, the driver saw me quickly approaching AND he reacted. 
At first, I perceived his reaction as conceited and rude because he hit the accelerator and crossed in front of me while he turned into the parallel lane to mine.  As it turned out, I did not have to react in any physical way to avoid a collision.  In fact, I purposely did not I could show that man what danger he was flirting with.  (Retrospectively, I think I made a stupid choice there, but I won't admit where.)  Had the driver hit his brakes instead of his accelerator, he would have stopped midway into my travel lane and I would have had to react in a big way to avoid collision.  I had to admit to myself that he made a good choice and subsequent reaction.
I ended up coming within 10 feet of that car as it crossed through my lane, and then I kept up with it as we rolled up to the next red light.  While pedaling in the car's right wingman position I realized that we would stop next to eachother, and I would have an opportunity to communicate with the driver.  I acted as I would have if our meeting had not been so reactionary.  Truly, having thought about it, I was pleased that he had reacted with confidence and prevented collision.

September 27, 2010

Historic Routes

Quick side-note:  I took my bike into the LBS to have its first tune-up.  Oh how I love a quiet, smooth, clean rig!

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a little piece about Spokane's 2nd Avenue.  I shared my ever-so-humble opinion that anyone wanting a bike lane there is crazy and probably sustains a death wish. 

Surprisingly (to me anyway), the very source I pinned with flaming the issue - Bike to Work Spokane - linked to my miniscule piece of the blagosphere and my readership sorta exploded.  Consequently, a few comments were shared, and one of those struck a chord in me I had never considered.

bleckb wrote:
I'm one of those who want something done for cyclists on 2nd. It provides a great through-way to get from one end of town to the other, linking Ben Burr and Fish Lake, along with Browne's Addition and Sunset Highway and Government Way.
Once 2nd is put back together, I'll be using it again. I come down Washington and turn at 2nd and follow it out to Sunset and Gov't Way. It's been a designated bike route probably since Expo 74 era, and it's on the Master Bike Plan.

The part that struck me was that last sentence.  I don't know bleckb's credentials.  (Oh wait, his blogger profile says he is an english teacher...uhhhh...I hope I'm grading well here!)  Has he been riding the 2nd Ave. route since Expo 74?  No matter. 

What struck me is that this route has been a bicycle route for a while...probably longer than it has been a one-way, business-laden arterial.  I hadn't thought about the historical aspect of bicycle routes.  Remnants of neighborhood structure are still visible over some portions of 2nd Ave, and I can see in my mind's eye a lazy day in the early history of Spokane when young people rode and walked those streets in safety. 

I still retain my opinion that vehicle travel on this dangerous street should not be compressed, but I appreciate the vision shared by Mr. bleckb.

September 21, 2010

Cool Commuting

This morning was detectably cooler than yesterday.  Not yet cold...but getting there, I was surprised by the response by the cycling community.  Or, at least, the small sector of said community that I witness on my daily rendezvous. 
Typically I am lucky to see 1 or maybe 2 other cyclists during my ride in the morning.  Today I saw 7!  Plus one upon arrival at work where I greeted my boss (who converted to bicycle commuting early this year).  Amazingly, only one of these 8 other riders shared my opinion that it's not yet cold out.  To the rest of you, don't worry, long pants will certainly be necessary...eventually.  I do agree, though that we have reached the point of full-fingered gloves and sleeves/arm warmers.

I can't bring myself to believe that the cool weather brought these riders out of the woodwork.  Nope, I have a different theory.  My afore-mentioned boss instigated this theory when he began to arrive at work 15 minutes later than normal.  He changed his schedule to maximize his ability to detect potholes via daylight.  He is beating the system.  Take THAT, Daylight Savings!  Oh, wait...Daylight Savings is on our side, or at least it will be.
Of course, here in the northwest, he has waged a losing battle.  Unless you are able to REDUCE the number of hours you work in a day (really, not a bad idea if you can get away with it), you will certainly be relegated to blinky lights and reflective stickers...which is the ultimate in Cool Commuting!

By the theory:  Everyone is changing their schedules to avoid riding in the dark.  I was about to accuse you all of being "Scardy Cats", but then I realized it's a healthy fear, and I'd be a liar to say that I feel completely safe riding in the dark.

September 20, 2010

Shaken Faith

Last Thursday I drove to work because I was going fishing for the afternoon.  The fishing was great, and the weather was decent despite a 30% likelihood of rain.  Driving means I can sleep in an extra 15 minutes.  I was 30 minutes late for work that day.  Hmmmm.  That worked well.
Friday I woke up and laid in bed listening to the rain falling and the cars spraying as they drove by.  I could not muster myself out of my warm cacoon.  Not with the thought of catching spray in the face and pulling spotty-wet clothes out of my satchel to get dressed for work.  Even the bus ride did not appeal to me, so I drove again.  At least I made it on time that day.
As darkness seeps into my commute, I have to be careful about letting myself drive.  Last year it was October.  I didn't ride my bike once in October.  There were extra-carricular reasons, but blahhhh!  I hated it! 
I really need to get my commuter bike up and running again.  That's my bomb-proof old, Miyata, steel-framed steed with one speed, fenders, and a plastic-covered seat.  Mustache handlebars round out the package with bar-end brakes.  I put about $150 into building that bike up a few years back, and it eats through tires like I do peanut butter sandwiches.  Seriously.  The wheels are a mismatch to the frame, so the brakes rub through the sidewalls of the tires.  The fix?  New long-reach brakes and new tires.  I'm thinking about some CX tires to give a little traction in the winter this year.  The damage will be less than $100, and that should get me through another couple of years.
I've gotta do what I can to get through this sap-sucking fall and break me in for the winter riding season.

September 15, 2010

Winds of Imagination

Riding home last night, as I changed direction of travel I felt a great wind in my face.  I thought that for sure I was losing efficiency, and thus had no chance of competing with my best times.  Then I saw a flag up ahead...hanging limply...not even a flutter.  I kept my eye on it, but it didn't even indicate any gusts or even wisps.

The good news is that the wind I felt was self created...which means I am stinking fast!  The bad news is I, being so fast, have no excuse for not posting a good time.

September 14, 2010

Clear Minded

I love to get on my bike and ride and not worry about anything else.  Except cars.  And traffic lights.  And shifting gears (when I'm on a multi-geared steed). 

Every work day I look forward to the ride home because it is a chance to clear my mind in preparation for being home.  I leave everything at my desk and go change clothes and get on the bike with nothing trailing me.  I start pedaling and exert myself to my limits and sometimes beyond them, and by that excercise whatever remained is purged from my mind. 

When I reach the house I sometimes find myself gasping for air.  My entire thoughts are to recover my voice.  When the weather is hot, I end up laying on the floor in front of the AC vent.  Now that the weather is cooling again I find myself refreshed rather quickly and able to talk to the kids as they play on the porch while I take off my shoes. 

I haven't spent much more time on the bike this year than on my commute, but it is enough, and it is not too much.  This sustains me. 

September 13, 2010

Creak...Pop! What was that!?

Owning a carbon fiber bicycle was never really high on my to-do list.  However, when shopping to replace my injured steed I was overcome by the fact that I could, actually afford that super-light, shiny woven frame.  The first time I picked it up, I realized that is what I was going to shoot for.  I'm an emotional's not always healthy.

So now I've been riding that uber-light bike for a few months and I still love it.  When I first started riding it I decided that I would not treat it like an origami creation.  I didn't want to change the way I rode.  I have ridden that bike over curbs and washboards, and have had little trouble.  I say "little" because there has been one little thing...

After a few weeks, the bike began to pop and crack when I hit bumps in the road.  I could not locate the source of the noise.  I'd hit a bump and I would analyze the sound.  It wasn't always consistent with bump type and size either.  This drove me batty.  How was I to describe it when/if I took it to the shop?  To replicate the sound...think of PVC pipe with a moderately tight fitting slid onto twist that fitting.  Hear it snap and pop as it releases, slides, and stops again as friction rebuilds?  That's the snap-crackle-pop sound I have been hearing.  But where is it happening?

I think I have found it.  It was such a slow transition that it made little difference at first, but last week I finally realized that my legs are not quite getting to the almost-fully-extended point that I prefer.  I think the seatpost has been slipping down millimeter by millimeter as I hit bumps...popping and cracking as it slid.

Here's my newest fear.  I do not dare touch my new bike with tools.  Crap.

September 08, 2010

2nd Avenue Quandary

Soooo...I occasionally go through a bout of doubt.  I doubt anyone cares.  Mostly this means that I don't have much I care to say.  Thus the break.  I'm back though...for today.

Despite my lack of writing, my mind has not been blank.  In fact, I've been mulling over the quandary that Spokane has drummed up...proposed bike lanes on a major one-way, 3-lane arterial street.  The bike lane has been proposed by the bicycle activists.  The City Councilmen that love cycling have latched onto it with a death grip.  They really really really want a dedicated bicycle lane on this major street despite the facts that have been placed before them. 

The facts are: 
  1. 2nd Avenue is a congested route to travel.  Based on an engineering study conducted by the City of Spokane, the current level of service of the street as it stands rates from A to C level. (Think school grading system here.)  When you take away a lane to dedicate it to bicycles, the predicted level of service drops to the range from C to F.  That's failing, by the way.  That's not the general goal here.
  2. 2nd Avenue is a dangerous route to travel.  From the same engineering study, it was reported that the accident rate is at 10.5 accidents per million vehicles.  Compare that to this:  the most dangerous streets in the big cities of America have accident rates around 3 accidents per million vehicles. 
And yet when the engineer recommended not removing a vehicle travel lane based on the result of this study...the councilmen immediately responded that we should definately NOT walk away from this idea.

That's when the issue turned to the social networks of Twitter and Facebook through our friends at Bike to Work Spokane.  No doubt flamed on by some of the City Councilmen. 

I am flummoxed by the blind eye and deaf ear of these councilmen.  It kills me.  I have ridden on 2nd Avenue and I generally try to avoid it.  I've driven on 2nd fact I used to drive it daily.  It's not a street that needs a diet.  It is a mover and a shaker.  A lot of drivers depend on that street, and it should not be cut back to serve a few bicycles.

I am a cyclist.  I don't want to ride on 2nd Avenue.

August 23, 2010


This weekend I played hard.  Friday night we joined several couples for some flag football for about an hour and a half.  Muscles all over my body were making themselves known before we even left the field.  Saturday afternoon I went wakeboarding.  For the first couple of minutes, I thought my run would end soon due to the sore muscles that screamed at me, but the screaming faded as I got comfortable on the water, and I continued for one of the longest rides of the season. 

Yesterday I walked around like an old man with a stiff neck.  I complained all day long.  No one felt sorry for me.

Today I very carefully threw a leg over my bike and hoped I could pedal.  To my joy, although some riding muscles were sore, they returned quickly to use, and I actually made it to work despite headwinds.

Still, sitting here at my desk, every time I move outside of my typing position I wince.  I'm trying not to complain...too much.

August 19, 2010

Riding vs. Commuting

This morning I went on a ride before commuting to work.  The ride was pure pleasure.  The commute was fun, but felt old. 

Ten miles of riding at an easy pace was the morning order.  My neighbor, riding an old bike that he resurrected last year to try cycling, joined invited me along.  We rode at his pace, which was decent, and had a nice chat. 

Near the end, as we climbed out of the river basin, he said, "You don't have to wait for me."
To which I responded, "Yeah, but now I'm interested in what you do for work."  So for the next few minutes I quizzed him on the intricacies of his work while he slogged to keep pace up the hill.  Actually, he did really well.

For me, it felt so great to make time to ride with someone, that even if he were pushing me beyond my limits, I still think I would have had a great time.  I like doing many activities for the social aspect.  I like doing some things enough that I will do them on my own also.  Lately, cycling is my lone wolf sport, but I really enjoy good company for a ride!

August 17, 2010


Last night a neighbor of mine invited me to join him on a morning ride before work.  I jumped at the chance, despite the fact that it will force me to be late to work that day.  Today I cannot suppress the excitement that little ride has ignited in me.  Having done very little riding at all anyway, and most of what I have done alone, I'm thrilled at the chance to go out with a friend. 

I don't know why, but having company - and particularly company that is familiar - makes cycling much better! 

August 16, 2010

Cyclists are Climbers

Perhaps not all cyclists will assume the title of "Climber" because of what such a title might mean, but I suggest that unknowingly, every cyclist is a climber. 

I just spent the weekend backpacking with a group of scouts.  The trail we hiked began at a steady uphill grade and commenced for 6 miles like that.  At the 6-mile point, however, the trail turned UP.  We then climbed 2000 feet in about 2 miles. 

My preparation for this event consisted entirely of my daily commute on the bike.  I made no direct attempts at improving my hiking strength/skills.  Although I felt a dull and constant burn at my hips for the load I was carrying, I felt no pain in the quads for the work being done there.  In fact, when the boys were barely shuffling along with the heel of one foot rarely clearing the toe of the other, I was just waiting and walking and wondering how long it would take to dry my boots out after the rains of the day. 

I'm not saying that the work was not difficult, because the trail certainly took its tole, but I am claiming that my cyclista quads are great for climbing mountains!  So, although it may require a break from the bike, I believe all cyclists are climbers.

August 11, 2010

Plans and Goals

I blame the Marathon.  It threw off everything!

This year I have not really had many big plans or goals on the bike.  I wanted to.  I did plan to do a century ride...and still plan to eventually...but I have been beyond busy.  Lately I am working less than 4 days per week on average, and I still have no time or free Saturdays for a simple bike ride.  Thus, my training for the upcoming century ride that I eventually plan on doing, consists entirely of 3.5-mile commutes to and from work.

For this reason, I have been semi-competitive with my commute time.  As a result, that's all I have to brag about when it comes to talking to my biking friends.  It's getting old.  I need to get out...eventually.

August 10, 2010

Automatic Doors

I find it interesting that when I arrive at work on a bicycle, many people (most of whom I do not know) are willing to hold the door open for me.  "Oh, let me get that for you.", they say as they run over to help.  I often wonder if they would do the same for someone in a wheelchair. 

"It's alright, I have a system.", I respond.
"Are you sure?", they ask and they reach around or over me to hold the door open.  I appreciate their help, but sometimes they end up making the process more difficult.  I pay close attention to keep my bike tires from brushing against them.
"I do this every day.  I've been practising."

Occasionally, they stand back while I work my system, and then they say with surprise, "You do have a system!"

Yup.  I practise.

August 09, 2010

My Hobby - Mock Assists

Twice now, I have come up on the electric-assisted bicycle commuter on my route.  I caught him again at the same location as before...right at the bottom of the only short climb on the way into work.  I waved and chuckled as I passed him this morning.  I was double his speed, at least.  Hah!

August 05, 2010

Dehydration or Mental?

Yesterday my day job had me out walking in the heat of the afternoon for a couple of hours.  I did not take water with me.  Consequently, as I headed down to the locker room to change and prepare for my ride home I was sluggish and tired.  I was not motivated in any fashion to go fast.  I blamed dehydration for the lack of energy.

This morning however, I was terribly slow to wake up and get moving.  There was something else nagging at me as to why I might be feeling this way.  I historically have been affected by the change from awaking in daylight to awaking in darkness.  So, was it that, or was I still just dehydrated?

August 04, 2010

Bicycle Infrastructure

Early Sunday morning a man riding a bicycle was hit by a car in a parking lot and was seriously injured.  The driver did not stick around to take responsibility for what he had done.  This was apparently a road-rage incident.  As it turns out, the driver did eventually turn himself in to authorities and admitted what he had done. 

What blew my mind was that when the story hit the Twitter Boards, someone commented that it was a sad illustration of why we need better infrastructure!  Better infrastructure!?  As if a bicycle lane or sharrow would have prevented this. 

No, this is not's responsibility.  I think it's sad that people are so inundated with fictional stories from television that they instinctively feel like they can run someone down with their car and then drive away.  Even if they didn't intentionally run someone down, driving away from an accident is just as irresponsible. 

For the record, I am not against bicycle infrastructure.  I don't believe it is terribly effective, but I'm not against it. 

August 03, 2010


This morning I caught a rabbit in my sights, but quickly determined by the weaving nature that it must be more of a turtle.  Sure enough, it was a fat-tired bicycle, but there was something else about it that seemed strange as I got closer.  The bike had a pannier rack with small hard cases attached.  I passed this man up my last hill, and discovered that he was on an electric-assist bike.  The hard cases must have been battery packs.  I hollered "Good morning!" over the whir of his electric motor as I left him in the dust.

At the next light I had to wait for just a moment...long enough to watch a mountain bike equipped with a 2-stroke motor buzz by with the cross-traffic.  I turned onto the cross street, and for a block had the pleasure of inhaling the exhaust of that noisy little motor.

I suppose if I HAD to, I'd go with the electric.  Just because I wouldn't stink when I arrived at work.

August 02, 2010

Encroaching Darkness

I've recently been waking up in the dark.  This morning even felt a little cool.  Summer is beginning to wane, and the days are unfortunately getting shorter again.  While I LOVE the long summer days in Spokane, I sometimes struggle to enjoy the long nights of winter.  During the ride into work this morning I began thinking through what I will need to do to get ready for riding in the dark. 

There are basically two options:
1.  Swap my headlight and blinky over to my road bike.
2.  Repair my commuter bike which currently has lights and fenders mounted.

Really I like both options.  I do love riding the road bike, although not so much when I expect wet roads.  The commuter has been down for a while, and I'm really looking forward to riding it again.  Unfortunately I've been accumulating a repair list for that bike that could easily exceed $200.  Although...I could get by on about $100.

The most likely scenario will include some of both options.  While saving money for the commuter I'll switch the lighting over, and then as soon as the weather turns south I'll scramble to get the commuter repaired.

July 28, 2010

I Blame the Traffic!

9:56.7  -- Only two seconds shy of a new PR on the way in this morning!  Flying down the last stretch I was on pace for a new PR when I nearly caught up to an old man driving a little Nissan pickup.  Then, in the last corner before the bridge that man slowed all the way down to the speed limit!  What was he doing!?  After making the corner, he sped away again.  I still pushed it in, but with that blow to my momentum, I came up short.

But that brings up a topic I am torn on...obeying traffic laws.  I'm not torn when it comes to using a lane or obeying traffic signals.  Where I'm torn is obedience to the speed limit.  Particularly, I don't feel that bicycles need such vigilence in gravity-friendly situations (aka:  descending hills)!  Honestly, though, not even cars are strict to obey speed limits.

July 27, 2010


All of my thoughts on the bike this morning were of the nature:  This is hard, yet I'm not going to set any records.  Practice spinning circles and applying power throughout the motion.  Feels great to get down in the drops and just go.  My bike feels sweet!  Some of the cracks in the road could actually use some manicuring by a lawnmower.

Not to bore you further...I thought I'd share what my intentions are with this blog.  So far, I've been writing each day I commute to work by bike.  I intend to keep that up. 

Cycling provides me a time to meditate and to excercise my ability to focus intensely on one thing at a time.  Generally I'll be writing about what things come to mind or my experiences on the commute.  Ocassionally, I might discuss local issues with bike-related infrastructure.  Let it be known that I love to ride, and that I am learning more about the sport and culture almost every day.  I'm also learning about myself and my physical abilities. 

Anyway, I hope to entertain, but if least to personally enjoy this 10-minute (or so) break from the mundain to re-live the exciting.

July 26, 2010

Trekking vs. Cycling

I spent three days of the weekend pushing and pulling a handcart across the hilly terrain east of Lake Roosevelt.  I figured my physical condition was pretty good.  However, yesterday I felt sore all over. 

When I hopped back on the bike this morning, my legs felt like lead for about the first half-mile.  Eventually I felt pretty good again, but it was more a slog than a race today!

July 21, 2010

Favorable Winds

It's Wednesday.  Which I am finding is a great day for me to ride my bike fast.  I wasn't really into it as I pulled out of the driveway, though.  I tooled out and came up behind a truck at the light.  He took off on green and I followed, hitting 21 mph before he pulled away about 100 feet later.  At that point I had to decide, do I keep it at 21 mph and shoot for the TWTT record or just soft-pedal in to work?

My new PR is 9:55.72!  Yeah, I chose correctly.  After yesterday's big effort I was unsure about my abilities.  I pulled up the the first split about 5 seconds slower than yesterday.  The confirmation came as I turned south and hit Nemesis Hill.  I hit 42 mph and held my top gears as long as possible in the flat.  I knew I was close, and maybe...just maybe could go sub-10!  Through the last traffic signal I looked down to see 9:18, which is a few second's slower than last week, so I really drilled it!  I didn't consider breathing...everything was on auto as I concentrated on spinning circles of power.  It all paid off when I looked down at the new record.  Sweet success! 

What made me faster today over yesterday?  Perhaps a slight favorable wind, and possible good timing on the traffic signals.  Those are the main factors that come to mind.  Whatever the case, I'm pleased with the result!

July 20, 2010

Pain Tunnel

Today's TWTT went pretty well.  No new records, but a valiant effort.  I can honestly say I left nothing out there.  I pushed it all the way in.  Time: 10:11.

Then while at work I took a moment to check up on the Tour de France.  They had been riding for 5 hours at that point and were 3.5 miles from the finish.  One man had been going at it alone for more than half the day.  He still had a chance to win the stage.  My pain tunnel was an overpass compared to what he must have been going through!

July 19, 2010

Respect the Saddle

I love my saddle.  I haven't always loved my saddle.  When I first began riding longer distances a few years ago I found that my saddle was no good.  I was always sore.  I figured I just needed to callous, but after a season of riding, my first cetury ride was accompanied by plenty of discomfort!  After that I set out to replace that saddle and relieve the anxiety that tainted my ride.

I quickly discovered that there are a great variety of saddles, and for the most part...they don't come cheap.  I looked at all kinds of shapes and sizes and wondered how much I would end up spending before I found THE saddle for me.  At that time I discovered that a friend of mine, Jon had been blogging about his experiences building bicycles over at Sabrosa Cycles.  When I zoomed in on pics of his bikes I saw the same saddle repeated over and over.  The brand was Brooks.

Looking further into that brand I found a legacy of simple comfort.  The thought of a one piece leather saddle suspended front to back over steel rails eased my anxieties and opened my pocketbook.  I signed up as soon as I'd saved my pennies (maybe even before I'd saved 'em)!  Sitting on that newly installed saddle was a liberating moment.  Even in its stiff, un-broken state, that leather was MUCH better than the foam-over-plastic number that had come with the bike.

So when a friend was over last night, and he admired that saddle...I gushed with excitement.  I love that saddle.

July 16, 2010

Riding Position

There are two benefits of cycling that I really love:  Fitness and Thrills. 

The thrills come with speed and technical requirements.  I love bombing a road descent, and I love bombing a mountain trail descent.  I love short technical trail climbs.  I love and hate long road and trail climbs.

Fitness plays into the thrills I love.  For instance, three years ago I did not love any climbing.  A missionary once told me he loved climbing on his road bike.  I didn't believe him.  (Those guys are often too exuberent to believe everything they say.)  I now believe that a person can love climbing.  But I reserve the right to hate climbing as much - and at the same time - as I love climbing.

This Spring I rode the Slickrock trail in Moab with friends and family.  I can honestly say that I enjoyed every climb on that route.  They were short and technical, and my fitness level was high enough that I could ride every one...but some of them challenged my technical abilities.  On the other brother nearly disowned me for dragging his butt around that hellish loop.

Anyway, while riding in for work this morning I practiced riding in the drops most of the way.  I am amazed how good that position feels now.  When I started ernestly riding - 3 summers ago - I only got down in the drops experimentally for very short periods.  Each time I wondered how in the world anyone ever rode in that position.  Of course the position was completely foreign, but more lungs were being squished left and right by my plump legs that, although pumping up and down, never left contact with my bulging middle. 

Now, about 35 pounds lighter and 3 years more experienced, I find myself enjoying the great benefit of fitness every day.  That's why I ride.  That's why I commute.

July 15, 2010

65 Days

Yesterday a co-worker came in and asked if I had ridden in.  "Of course!", I replied. 
To which she responded, "Right, becuase you wouldn't want to give up the good days.  With 300 days of the year being unridable you've got to take advantage of the 65 good days." 
"Yup." I said.  Then I turned back to my work...done with that conversation.

Last year I made a committment to ride year-round.  I'm not perfectly equipped to ride in all weather, but I gave it a good go, and you know what?  There are a few more than 65 rideable days.  Even the day I snapped my chain pushing through 6 inches of snow I saw 2 other cyclists cutting snake-like tracks.

65 days...pfshhh!

July 14, 2010

Rolling Resistance

This morning I rolled my bike out of the garage and remembered that the tires have felt a little soft this week.  Attaching a pump to the valve stem revealed that I was running less than 45 psi!  I topped each off at 100 psi and got rolling.

Monday and Tuesday I rolled out and had to exhert some effort to get up to 18 mph up the false flat.  Today I glanced down to find I was at 19 mph with little effort!  My heart jumped to think that perhaps today was the day!  I surveyed the situation:  little to no wind, nice cool day, tires topped off, and plenty of energy...time for the TWTT!

Over that first stretch as my legs were warming up with pain surging in, I concentrated on breathing deep and even. At the first time split I was about 25 seconds down from my run last week.  Going down Nemesis Hill I only hit 42 mph, but conserved a little engergy for the final stretches.  As I reached the last light, a time check revealed that I might reach a huge goal:  to break 10 minutes! 

My time was at 9:15 as I pushed through that light, and I knew I was about 45 seconds from the mark.  I pushed with everything I had down the hill and across the bridge. When I reached the driveway at work I stopped the timer and steered on in, hardly daring to look down!  Finally I chanced a look to see this:  9:59.91.

July 13, 2010


I stop at red lights.  I love my life.  Not only do I stop at red lights, I also wait for the red light to turn green before I proceed with caution through an intersection.  I love living.

Shortly after stopping at a red light this morning, an old man on a well used ten-speed rode up on my right and hollared, "Good morning!"

I responded, "Hey there." and then I watched that old man slow to about 5 mph and ride straight through the red light of an intersection where there are 5 traffic lanes from each street.  He veered to the right a bit as he did it, indicating to me that he is in the habit of making the "right-hand-turn; U-turn; right-hand-turn" maneuver...which on some streets could be justifiably legal, but still unpredictable and therefore stupid.  After watching him zip through that light in blatent disregard for the law, I wished I had not been so cordial. 

Of course, because I sat at the red light and consequently caught the next red light, I did not catch him to tell him what I thought...which was "Moron".

July 12, 2010


The weather report this morning called out a 15 mph southwest wind.  A quick mental check had me realizing that I should be speedy heading east and slogging heading south.  (I always have to rehash...wind direction is the direction from wich the wind is coming...not the direction to which it is going.)

However, when I got out on the road I had to wonder if I was again confused.  All I felt was wind in my face...while I was travelling east.  So...some of the wind was blowing west (an east wind).  And when I turned south the wind was blowing harder in my face.  That makes the weather report 50% correct with a southeast wind. 

I can only hope that this afternoon, when the predicted wind speed is 35 mph the directions will remain the same!

For a little perspective:  As I rode down Nemesis Hill this morning with power to the drive-train, my max speed was only 36 mph.  On a calm morning I can typically hit 40 mph without pedaling. 

July 08, 2010

PR Homeward-Bound!

It seems that when I have a great ride in the morning, the evening ride will also be great.  Yesterday morning I achieved my second-fastest time for the year.  Last night I set a new all-time PR for the trip home!  11:08...beating the previous time by 3 seconds!

Yesterday I went through my records and compiled a list of the fastest times for each trip.  I guess it got me going, and I just pinned it all the way home.  It paid off. 

I hammered the pedals for the first mile and kept a good pace.  However, after climbing Nemesis Hill I thought I was sunk.  I looked at my time split and was sure I had missed the mark, but it's been a while since I TT'd (Time Trialed) it home and I couldn't remember what a good split was.  To my great fortune when I turned to the west, a slight tail wind was ready to usher me home.  I got down in the drops and put everything I had to the pedals.  I maintained extreme caution as I passed my crash site from earlier this year, particularly since there were many cars on the road with me.  (That was the last time I was down in the drops over this section.)  It was a fantastic feeling riding along the steady, slight negative grade, maintaining about 30 mph!

Pulling up to the driveway I stopped my timer and my heart thrilled at the sight!

July 07, 2010


Almost set a new 2010 personal best on the way in to work this morning.  I don't always try for a best time, but to try is an option each morning I get on the bike.  I usually know within about 5 minutes whether or not I can compete.  Here's how:
  • If there is a headwind over the first stretch or any rain or wet roads, I'm sunk.
  • The first leg of the ride is generally completed in less than 4 minutes.  If I'm more than 20 seconds over that, then it means my legs are not in it that morning.
  • If I make it through that first leg in less than 4 minutes there is one final test.  After I turn south, I cruise down Nemesis Hill.  If I can hit 40 mph or higher, then I'm set to compete. (Today I peaked just over 40.)
My overall best time was 10:20 set August 31, 2009.
So far, my 2010 best time is 10:32 set June 18th.

Really though, the true test is the ride home.  That's a topic for another day.  Or several other days.

July 06, 2010


Over the long weekend I put a lot of sawdust on my bike instead of miles.  By last night I felt a bit stiff, and had the thought that I need to ride more.

This morning I dusted off the saddle and bars and got geared up for the ride into work.  I threw a leg over the saddle and pushed off while clicking into the pedals.  As I neared the road, I saw a couple of cars coming, so I pedaled hard to the center turn lane (I live on an arterial street) and then kept my momentum through the light. 

As I pulled onto the next street I saw a semi-truck and trailor easing up to spead ahead of me.  Involuntarily my legs jumped to the challenge and my heart thrilled at the thought of catching the draft of that truck!  In short order I was up to almost 25 mph, but my hamstrings wound tight and my quads seared.  My lungs were in worse shape trying to catch my racing heart.  Sadly, after only 1/4 mile I watched the truck pull away from me.

This jump-start did not help my time.

July 02, 2010

Beneficial Crack

Along my commute there are variable pavement conditions.  I'll spare the detailed distress report, but this morning I was reminded why I like longitudinal cracks (those that run in the direction of travel).  Longitudinal cracks are great after a light rain. 

You see (indication I will now talk as an enginerd), roads are generally crowned at the centerline, forcing water to flow from the centerline to the gutter.  That means that half of the storm water falling on the road 'theoretically' flows across my wheel path to get to the gutter. 

Why do I care?  This means I get wet even though the rain stopped an hour ago.  (I'll now resist the temptation to discuss water surface friction, angular momentum, and projectile motion.)

Except...EXCEPT, when the water that is supposed to flow from the centerline is intercepted by longitudinal canyons cracks.  I think it is awesome to benefit from what I normally (during the day job) consider a detriment. 

Because on the curb-side of those cracks the water has already flowed toward the curb, and is thus dry enough for me to travel at regular speed without fear of road-grime attacking my feet and legs and bike and back.

In short:  Longitudinal Crack = No Racing Stripe

July 01, 2010

Weighty Matter

Commuting home last night:

I had just checked my power output (Am I pushing hard?  Yup.  Could I push harder?  Definately.  Am I going to push harder?  Nah, 23 MPH is sufficient today.), when I heard another chain slinging through a derailer on my left.
"Hey man!", said a tall, long-haired hippy as he passed by me.
"Hey there."  I responded, quickly checking the composure of my competitor.  (He qualified as a competitor the moment he chose to pass.)  Short sleeve button-down shirt, khaki shorts, and sandals(?).  The cuff-saver on his bike indicated 'old-school' and it appeared to be a sturdy steel frame, but I didn't catch the brand - distracted by the fact that such an individual would actually be wearing a helmet.  Involuntarily my mind thought 'Rabit!', and I increased my efforts to match his speed.
This guy was focused ahead and intent on burning me.  Here I was dressed to the hilt in performance clothing, attached to the pedals of my shiny carbon fiber road bike, gleaning info from my gps computer - by appearance, a true-blue cyclist.  The hippy knew his advantage, and played it well.  Immediately pulling a gap between us, he pedaled seemingly effortlessly forward, dodging a slowing car without being phased.  Within 2 short blocks, he was far enough ahead to catch a yellow light that I missed.  I was appropriately put in my place! 
On the green light I decided to push it because I really wanted to see this guy race up Nemesis hill (a 1/4-mile slog between 8% and 10%).  As I approached the toe of the hill he was already cresting it, standing up with good form.

When I recently picked up my new bike I conceded that it was officially above my abilities.  Now I know it's true.  I've got some work to do.