Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Isn't that box on the front inefficient?

"Isn't that box on the front inefficient?" Keith asked.
"Yeah, but so am I." I responded.

Now before you write me off as just a smart-ass, let me explain. I knew that what he meant was "isn't that box on the front aerodynamically inefficient?" And he is right - it is. If you can change the aerodynamics, you'll go faster. But that won't be easy. Because YOU are the biggest inefficiency on the bike.

Consider this, lowering your posture by using aero bars on your bike reduces your frontal area from 4.2 square feet (an average of riders in an upright touring position) to about 3.6 square feet. This will save you about 30 minutes up to an hour on a 200 kilometer ride. If that's important to you.

And that's where the 23mm width nylon tires meet the road. (In fact, my tires are nearly twice as wide. More inefficiency, I suppose.) If the question posed by my friend, who understands the need for speed - he's an IronMan - was in fact only about aerodynamic efficiency, then my answer stands. However, that box on the front is VERY efficient if you want a bag which is waterproof, and which can keep your nutrition, first aid, camera or phone, or any other goodies right in front of you where they are easily accessed without taking the time to stop. In that case, the bag is very efficient.

Rear pockets on jerseys are handy, but getting stuff out of them with full fingered gloves on is nearly impossible. And forget about using the rear pockets of a wool jersey! I purchased my first wool jersey this year and the first thing I noticed about it was the elasticity of the fabric when wet. As soon as I began to sweat, it began to sag. And with my rear pockets full, it sagged even more. In fact, the back of the neck of the jersey stretched so much, that it looked like I was wearing it backward! Good thing I have a very, very hairy back, or I'd have had the mother of all sunburns down the middle of my back. In fact, it stretched so far that when I was off of the bike, the contents of my rear pockets bumped into the backs of my knees when I walked, threatening to buckle my legs and knock me down unceremoniously on the gas station parking lots.

I don't need to be fast. I need to have stuff handy (and I need a wool jersey without rear pockets). If that 30 minutes that the bag costs me on a 200 kilometer ride ever starts placing me in jeopardy of DNFing most rides, then it will be time to pack it in, move to Rhode Island and focus on trying to beat Jennifer Wise at Cribbage. (I hear she's a Massachusetts record holder for most games won while manning a control on the Boston-Montreal-Boston 1200 kilometer ride.) In the meantime, I'll just carry the essentials in the most efficient way I can, and get used to being given the "last rider" award at the RUSA events I enter.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Bumpin' it old school...

Today's ride is a Century. Remember those? It's only 100 miles, and usually done for charity. The charity we'll support today is the Hands of Hope Clinic in Marion. If you look closely at the picture, you'll see that I'm wearing a wool jersey, and riding a steel bike complete with clips and straps. Warm up the "Way Back Machine" Sherman, we're going back to 1995.

Looks like a good turnout today. The weather is perfect, clear and mid 70's at the finish.

"You put your left hand in, you put your left hand out..." Actually, Larry and Mindy are giving directions to the hapless riders who don't read cue sheets. Apparently, last year several riders started from the square going the wrong direction and were angry that they got lost. Oh well... "you do the hokey pokey and you turn yourself around, that's what it's all about."

Meet Joe. He's a good friend with whom I'll ride the first 50 miles. He's only doing the 62 today, and after Creal Springs, the routes split for us. Joe and I (along with others) started a local bike club which is still alive today - (although on life support I fear.)

According to Thumper's mom, if you can't say something good, say nothing at all. But that would leave me with nothing to say about the SAG tables on this ride. They had a few bananas, which were mostly gone, and open bags of white bread (white bread!), jars of peanut butter with plastic knives stuck in them, and baskets of grapes which all the riders fingered. (Ewww) My wife had suggested before I left home that I should take my debit card in case I needed to buy something. Of course, she was wrong, I figured. She wasn't. Fortunately I keep a little folding money on the bike just in case. Looks like I'll be buying nutrition today.

Joe avoided the grapes and chose a banana. Good choice, Joe.

That's me. Old School. Having a great time today.

In case you missed the last picture, it's me again. You can never have enough pictures of yourself on your own blog, I say.

Joe said that he was hot, so I suggested we rest in the shade a little. He wondered if we had the time. "Hell!" I said. "This is not a race! We have as much time as we need to enjoy the ride." We stopped.

This is my favorite sign. It has no words, but the meaning is clear:

These two riders came out from behind me at the rest stop on Rocky Comfort road at about 85 miles into the ride. I hadn't stopped, since I didn't need any thing. For nearly 9 miles they tried to catch me. I noticed that they coasted on the downhills, meaning that they were spent. So I turned it up a notch and kept the distance more or less constant, and from time to time increased it a little.

I would watch them try to reel me in, then loose heart when I kicked it up a little more. Even when I stopped at the next rest stop to grab some water, they still were behind me.

But when I left the rest stop, they hadn't stopped, and they caught up and became "Ninja drafters". That's right, I saw them in my mirror, but they didn't say a word. Just silently let me do all the work while they rested a little behind me. I don't like Ninja drafters. So I began slowing to see when they would break. It was at 15 mph. They passed me without saying a word assuming that I was spent. I wasn't.

I pulled back up near them and kept the same distance for some time. They kept looking over their shoulder, assuming that I would fade. I didn't feel "fadey".

Finally I decided to pass Team Mack Ninja drafter. HE was spent. He was going slower and slower; and his form was gone. He was wallowing all over his bike like a fat man having sex. I dropped him without a word. I dropped his partner a couple of minutes later.

Two rules: don't ever try to catch me unless you're prepared to bring your "A" game and put it all on the road. You might catch me, I'm an old fat man with a beard. But it won't be as easy as it might look. And don't ever cuddle up behind be expecting me to do all the work without at least asking my name.

Looks they were waiting for me to finish. Cool. This is the way a ride ought to end!

Last word. After Joe split off from me, I briefly considered just giving it up. After all, it wasn't a RUSA event, it didn't count, and nobody would really care if I finished.

Nobody but me. I finish what I start if I can. And as it turns out, at the finish was a rider from Evansville who recognized my jersey. He said that he was a RUSA member as well as UMCA. His complaint was that there were no RUSA events in our area. I said that there would be now. We had a new region labeled IL:Marion on the website. And I was the new RBA.

I took a few minutes to outline my plans and dreams for our area, and he was excited about the possibilities. I figure he has friends at home with whom he can share this news and possibly we may get some riders from the Evansville area out of this contact.

The point is: if I hadn't finished, I'd have never met him. Maybe it won't turn out to be anything, maybe it will. But there'd have been no meeting if I'd gone home and not finished.

If you start - finish. Finishers will over time have more success than quitters.

Post-ride recovery drink. I've been thinking about it all day. Did you notice?

Monday, September 20, 2010 any other name would be the same...

This building is a church I attended while I was in High School. Recently an old friend who still lives in the area posted the picture because the building is up for sale. It prompted many comments of previous members who had fond memories. I didn't have such fond memories, not because of anyone else, but because of the suitcase of regrets I carry around in which I have carefully recorded and filed all of my mistakes so that I can access them quickly when the occasion demands. It was easy to come up with many regrets to go with this picture.

Another FB friend, who didn't recognize my new name quickly offered a solution for my unhappiness in the form of a "sinner's prayer". When I replied that I had already passed through that check point and had the T-shirt to prove it, he offered the next obvious solution for someone in need of a life-change - baptism in the Holy Ghost with evidence of speaking in other tongues. Got that T-shirt, too.

Before I go on, let me say this: I know that the quick posting of these solutions was because of the compassionate heart of this friend, and his firm belief that these would solve the trouble I clearly was in. They were given in love, and I appreciate friends who love me enough to offer solutions when they see my distress.

But they sum up the two things that have caused me the most irritation during the years I've been privileged to waste on this planet. 1) That one size fits all; and 2) that it's up to me.

Another editor's note: those who know me best will marvel at the restraint I will show in the next few paragraphs. This is a topic I'm passionate about.

We, in the occidental world, like quick easy solutions so that we can diagnose the disease, determine the remedy, and move on to the next problem. Take a number...we'll be with you in a moment. So we have developed the Romans Road to Salvation, a few verses out of the letter to the Romans which will undoubtedly convince you of your need for salvation if you have any spiritual sensitivity at all. And when you are convinced, you just repeat after me, and voila! (that's a French word meaning "here it is!") you are saved. Next...move along please we have many more behind you to save.

Similarly, the second step for many Charismatic or Pentecostal Christians will be the infilling with the Holy Spirit, evidenced by speaking in other tongues. We lay our hands on you, pray over you, and, voila! (pardon my french) you'll start speaking in a language that neither you nor anyone else knows. Now you're on your way to real holiness. Next...move along please...

If it were only that easy, then all those called to salvation would already be saved, and those not spiritually deaf would be filled with the Holy Spirit as well. And we could push the rapture up a couple of hundred years according to some. The trouble is, it isn't that simple and one size doesn't fit all.

God has indeed chosen the foolishness of preaching as the primary means of calling those He has chosen to come to Him. But real life is often complicated and tangled. And every day is a new day, as they say.

Finally, the real problem comes down to this: it's up to me. Not only do I have to recognize my sin, I have to repent and repeat to be saved (that's not an exact quote from the Book of Acts), then I have to speak in a language that I didn't learn, if I can - because if I can't there must be something wrong with me, and THEN I have to behave the rest of my life; avoiding a list of substances, activities, and behaviors the avoidance of which have traditionally marked out "good Christians". And if that weren't enough, according to the "word of faith" tradition, EVERY word I speak will either bring me blessing or (gulp) a curse. Wow. I'm not ready for this much responsibility.

Well, here's the good news (that's an English phrase which is translated GOSPEL in another language): it's not up to me. Not only was Jesus kind enough to choose me, he brought me to Him with cords of love, and works in me by the Holy Spirit to complete the work he began, which is to recreate me in His image. When I'm weak, He's strong. When I'm stubborn, He's patient. When I'm ignorant, He is light and revelation. When I can't go any farther, He carries me.

My salvation and subsequent growth are His responsibility and His joy. He loves me. And there isn't anything I could do that could change that. I can't make Him love me more - or less.

Whew! That's a load off my mind. Oh, that suitcase of regrets I carry. He's often offered to dispose of it for me, but for some odd reason I have insisted on carrying it. But I'm about ready to hand it over. Maybe soon...

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Safety Flag to Stay out of Hell

A safety flag. For safety. But it marks you as a dork, geek, square, definitely not cool. I just put one on my brand new bicycle.

I didn't really want to. I want to be one of the cool kids. I've never been one of the cool kids. When I was growing up, when I really was a kid, I belonged to a religious family. Not just any religion - holiness. We didn't dance, go to movies, watch Disney on Sunday night (we were in church), or use dice. Not play dice, use dice. My dad would take the dice out of the board games we were allowed to play (Monopoly, etc.) and substitute a spinner. Nobody ever gambled with a spinner, I'm guessing.

Not only were we a religious family, we were the example religious family. My dad was the preacher. I once asked why we couldn't go to a family friendly movie downtown, and my dad said that someone might see us go in, and without looking at the marquee, they might assume that we were seeing some R rated movie OR WORSE! All of our public behavior was similarly managed so that we led the way to holiness.

We couldn't be like every one else, because that would make us like the world. And if you are like the world, then you are going straight to hell. And to be like the aunts and uncles on either side was worse. We had to be different. And different wasn't cool when you were a kid.

On top of that we were poor. Holiness preachers didn't usually get rich. So even if we wanted to be like the world and go to hell, we couldn't afford it. I suppose that poor people went to hell, too, but they must have been doing something different to merit that besides keeping up with the Jones' and being like the world.

You might say that all that holiness was good for me, after all it kept me away from drugs and out of jail! Maybe. At least it kept me away from drugs and out of jail until I joined the Marines. Then I made up for lost time.

What it did do was to make me perpetually different. I don't understand how to be like the world, even supposing I wanted to risk hell. I'm so used to being different, that I'm not even like the me I was before. In fact, I never understand me either.

Anyway, back to the flag. I just bought and built up a Surly Long Haul Trucker, and now it has the appropriate reflective tape all over it, and a safety flag on the tail. I believe that it will be safer to ride on the roads that way, and since I want to come home from every ride, I'll keep it safe and nerdy. And maybe I won't get run over and find out if being like the world really will send you to hell.