Thursday, December 18, 2014

Cleanliness is Next to Loveliness

Yellowness darkened by gloves after just one ride. Already past consideration as beausage.

Suddenly, it became clear to me. In just one ride, in a flash, I understood more about cycling and color coordination. The apparent obsession with matching up colors had previously seemed somewhat foreign and incomprehensible to me, although if I'm honest, has never been far from my own practices in riding. 

One bike as black and colorless as it possibly could be was a version of purposeful color coordination. Another time, finally giving in to the conclusion that the long purple bar ends were not quirky or distinctive in their bright shiny purpleness, but were actually over the line into garish and unattractive.

But the extreme endpoint of color coordination, to me, had always seemed like matching up all the parts of a bike's colors, and then selecting and wearing clothing to go along with it. Come on, I would say. Wear what you have on. Just ride. Except for racing and being paid to wear brands and colors by sponsors, what's the point? I would ask / prod. And the endpoint of that extreme state of fashion and color would be: gloves.

In what was one of the most commented posts in the history of this blog, I just asked if gloves were a necessary accessory, or not. I do wear them sometimes, on longer rides, while mountain biking, and, relevant to this post, when trying out new, non-cushy, cotton bar tape for the first time. However, previous to this ride, matching the colors of the gloves to the colors of the clothing which itself matches the bike seemed far beyond the realm of possibility for me. Why do that, what could the point possibly be, in this case, of yellow everything, or yellow and matching tones, probably brown? Given that the pictured bike is a fixie, what kind of grief would I be asking for with my carefully coordinated color scheme? Wear whatever you have on!

Two experiences caused me to question the very foundations of these questions: the first ride on the recently more coordinated Flatland Commuter project bike, which is rapidly and purposefully evolving toward the far end of the YELLOW spectrum, and the post on Lovely Bicycle! about her (truly and indeed) lovely Mercian fixed gear bicycle.

The Mercian is equipped with snow white bar tape that verily lights up against the light purple of the frame. Given my other experience, outlined next, I wanted to ask: how the hell are you going to keep the bar tape that white?

On the first ride of the FLC project bike with it's new yellow cotton bar tape, I wore gloves to cushion what seemed like it might be a harsher ride with the tape, which is less cushy than the cork-like material my other bikes have on their handlebars. During the ride, that seemed true, and I would tend to continue to want to ride with gloves to balance the non-cushioning of the cotton tape on future rides. However, at the end of the first ride, I found the bars looking like the photo above: no longer bright yellow, but instead, marred with some dark smudges which clearly came from gloves. Either from an accumulation of dirt from lack of washing, or from black dye from the gloves, or, perhaps, black dye transferred from the other black cork-like bar tape to the gloves and just unnoticed due to the similar coloration. 

Or, possibly, both the black bar tape and black gloves were "overdyed" to begin with, and each time I rode, had a black dye party, with sweat, rain, and water bottle contents carrying the dye back and forth between the two unknown to me since this mutual sharing of pigment resulted in no obvious changes on either side. The party was over when yellow bar tape appeared like parents showing up at in inopportune moment to shut everything down.

So, two immediate problems, and one longer term one: what to do about the dirty yellow tape, what to do about the offending gloves, and, how does one keep yellow tape yellow (or snow white tape snow white)?

First, wash out the gloves:

Oh sweet Charon, I need an obol to penetrate this stygian darkness!

Even after vigorous scrubbing and many, many rinses, I do not believe that the black gloves will ever be a good match for yellow or white bar tape. They continued to throw off some dark substance, and I have given up on them for this use. Black bar tape only for the black gloves from here on out.

As for the formerly yellow tape, after much scrubbing, I believe I have gotten out the worst of it. The cotton tape is still damp at this writing, so I can't be certain what color it's going to be when dry. But now, I understand. I get it. Yellow or white gloves would be a much more sensible choice for me, going forward. And for snow white tape, I think only white gloves, or perhaps none, would do. A good bar tape shellacking would also be effective in one sense, but right now feels like surrendering to the darkness. Yellow gloves may be in my future.

Still, I'm not going with brown or yellow tires, or cable housing. Not yet, anyway. Wait, I better look closely at the brown leather saddle to see if...oh, no. Soon, I may resemble Tweety Bird, in the name of cleanliness.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Holiday Stress? Bike Ride!

Season's Greetings from Scottsdale's Aluminum Horsemen of the Deluge

Apparently, I've been riding my bike around in a timeless daze because it's been a full three years since I stopped by Scottsdale Watermark and propped my yellow fixie up on the pedestal to snap a pic with the wreathed equus.

I've been detecting, in the people around me as well as online, the occasional symptoms of holiday stress. I get it, sometimes I feel it myself. My usual recommended remedy is a long bike ride. It always seems to help.

Stopped by Push Button for Horseshoe Fountain, too

But if the bike ride doesn't do it, I suppose there's always travel.*

Also, sleep, Which I probably should be doing instead of writing a blog post. One more bus stop quote.

*Although if any of the stress relates to not having bought gifts yet, it may be more effective to stop procrastinating and go and buy the gifts. You could ride a bike to do that, too, however.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Sometimes It's All Just Drillium and Rainbows

Short ride to try out new handlebars, stem, levers...oh hey, a rainbow!

The drillium will find work for idle hands to do, I believe the saying goes. Rainy and unsettled, the morning proved perfect for installing some new parts: stem, bars, brake levers, yellow cotton bar tape to match the yellow bike. The original 1973 Sakai Road Champion bars were too narrow, and the old stem a little too lacking in extension for my comfort. 

The new setup turned out with the bars about 3.5 cm wider, about 1cm closer, and about 2cm higher than the old ones. It's not a huge difference. But the new bars already seem more comfortable than the old ones, which felt cramped, with more positions and more room for my largish hands on the tops. I'll go into more specifics once I get some more miles on the combination, and get it dialed in. This was just the initial try-out ride.

As soon as I saw these TRP drillium* levers existed, my hands itched to hold them

Probably mainly due to the old bars, the levers I had were also getting a bad reputation with my hands. I generally like the Cane Creek SCR-5 levers, and will probably re-use them in the future. But once I saw these TRP levers are available in brown, I pictured the yellow cotton bar tape as part of the combo, and since the saddle is already leather, it was all over.

Vintage weather forecasting device: significant chance of rain

Everything seemed tightened and adjusted pretty well for the first ride. It may take a lot more miles before I settle in to what (if any) further adjustments I'll make. When I started the ride, I was still harboring a sneaking suspicion about the drillium levers. They certainly are not needed to lighten up this non-light old ten speed with the chrome steel stem. But the fast-moving storm to the north blowing through the city at sunset, kicking up lightning and thunder, hitting me with cold gusts on the way out and spattering me with showers on the way back, also generated a sunset rainbow.

The lighting seemed just right, low and bright, and I was imagining leaning the bike against a pole to catch some of the low rays on the yellow, when the rainbow appeared. I started to think, well, that's certainly fortunate, how nice for the blog photographs. Then, as if to shake me from my abstracting and yank me back to the concrete here/now, cold drops started splashing on me, and the wind started whipping up again. I headed for home, yes content in the initial impressions of the new setup, but also pulled into the moment by nature around me, by the bright colors and drama in the sky, and by the interesting texture of my fingertips touching cold, drilled chrome: sometimes it's all just drillium and rainbows.

Brown aluminum bar plug to seal the deal

Sun, and you can just glimpse the dark clouds in the upper left

*some real, actual, vintage drillium for your edification, over here

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

You Become What You See, Hear, Touch

Phoenix sunset, Monday December 8

We are what we experience. Genes plus life = self. The sum total of what you have witnessed is what you are.

See more, be more, feel more. What you touch becomes what you feel. Stop, look, listen, exist.

Whenever you feel like it. Not constrained by a metal box, a traffic light, a curb, an arrow, but rather whenever, wherever, whatever you feel like feeling, stop and feel it. Sense it. Make it you.

In summer the path-side icebox would be divine. I've been in this spot when it was 117°F and reaching into this cooler to scoop up a handful of ice cubes to run over my skin would be a moment of remaking of the self, a reinvention, an eye-opener.

I remember

From their shuttered web site, it would appear that the company responsible for the Zero Per Gallon stickers is No More, at a time when they continue to be relevant. We are fuel ruled there's no mistaking it. Truthfully I don't see a way around it let alone The Way Around It, but be aware that we are there, in it, living the era of high population and the cheap energy it depends upon, as the direction of your awareness (focus) also affects who you are and therefore what you do. It can be pulled in by a sticker on a fixie. For example.

The food you eat also becomes you. The food we eat is shipped around the world on cheap energy. The salmon I ate last night was caught off Seattle, shipped to China, deboned there, and shipped back. That protein is being converted to muscle and energy of me even as I type. The people at work who refuel their thirsty vehicles on the way into the office bring the gas station with them. 

We are this. I would rather be the sunset. Become it by pedaling fervently down that westward trending path.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Take Care, Be Aware: Proper Lookout

UFO area?

I think the first time I remember encountering the idea of maintaining a proper lookout was reading Bob Mionske's Bicycling and the Law: Your Rights as a Cyclist, which I recommend. Since much of bicycle space is shared space wherein other activities, sometimes of a sporting or energetic nature, are occurring simultaneously with the cycling, maintaining a proper lookout, exercising due care, seems like a good idea all the time.

When it really floods here, the water runs so loud you can't hear the "on your left!" call

Riding on two wheels is pulling a fast one over gravity. You can't overcome gravity or ignore it, but you can defy it for a while, balancing at speed, swooping through corners while keeping your eyes darting in as many directions as possible to be careful about where you're going, what's up ahead, and who may not be paying as much attention as you.

I've never had an issue with the many disc golfers who populate the better paths in Scottsdale. They always seem courteous and careful about their equipment. It appears that, sensibly, only a handful of disc fairways cross the path. Also, I've never been tempted, nor have I ever seen another cyclist attempt, to cross the Indian Bend Wash in flood time. 

But these reminders are here perhaps more to remind us in general. In addition to decreasing liability, I'm sure. Be aware. Always be looking. Attention attention. It's not a bad motto, but I have taken it and adapted it to my own uses. Which involve also paying attention to that which does not threaten. To the quiet, tree-lined path up ahead. To the rustle of a rabbit or quail in the underbrush. The flap of wing. The smile and wave of another. To the possibilities of a new week.

Attention! Attention! Solitude and peace ahead! Be aware!

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Billionth, The First

Bicycle under the 202 freeway

I passed the same spot on my Tempe-Phoenix-Scottsdale TCT ride for the billionth time, and it felt like the first. The fresh air post rainfall. Warm and humid. Light winds. Bright sunshine. 

Photons streaming beneath the freeway hitting my retina triggering neurons triggering other neurons firing muscles pushing camera button letting other photons impinge on semiconductor photosensitive surface knocking loose electrons detected digitized processed stored copied off to computer later processed again uploaded to Internet posted on blog sent across Internet to your computer de-digitized converted back to electrons sent to your screen exciting LED sending light to your retina triggering neurons triggering other neurons in your brain: now. For the first time.

I took a breath and listened to the quiet sizzle of my tire on the asphalt down the tunnel of Friday afternoon. For the billionth time, for the first time. This new moment, this old river, on the same old ride, the same new me. Now.

I wanted to see all this from that point of view: beginner mind. 

The quail's wing feathers concuss the air near to me and I laugh at that real sound so solid I can touch it. The distant mountains with four peaks called Four Peaks frequently obscured by pollution but currently crystal clear after the rain and with the light winds in contrast have their own sound, like singing winds and cracking rocks. Wait if those mountains could sing they would sound like cactus wrens, except loud, low, and slooooooow. 

Time, it stands still. Time, it rolls on.

Bicycle under the 202 freeway

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sometimes It's the Short Rides

Perhaps a whirligig* contest in place of fall color competition?

Sitting/laying/moping around indoors in between obligatory tasks when it is sunny and 73°F is its own recipe for discontent. As I was explaining this to my wife, she recognized the symptoms, and directed me to go for a short bike ride. "Go," she said, "The sunshine and fresh air will do you good," and I recognized the truth and wisdom of her words.

Just a quick jaunt a few miles and back down the bike lane. No sooner had I hit the street and arrived at the first red light in the left turn lane, when the light turned green, and the motorist across the way waved me through. When does that happen? It must have been something in the sunshine and warm, easy air counteracting the shopping frenzy and urgent transport happening all around me. What do you call the Sunday between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, particularly since both have seemed to bleed into this one day, Schizo Sunday? My expectations were altered by her single act, however. I waved, smiled, and rode on.

The air was dead still, else there would be a video of this magnificent beast right here

The whirligig, the warm sunshine, and the woman who waved me through a left turn, that's really all I have to report about this short ride. But, somehow, that seems like enough. When things don't seem quite in balance, sometimes it's the short rides that set them straight.

Here, do this.

*I wanted to contact the authorities to protest the spelling, which should clearly be "whirlygig", but the authorities were unavailable, apparently out for a bike ride or some similar worthy pursuit.