bike envy

when i was around 17 years old my best friend bought a brand new celeste colored bianchi racing bike. to this day, that is the one bike that i absolutely need, seriously i may check ebay today, or post an add in craigslist “missed connections” m4b. oh my god this was a beautiful bike, i still remember how thin and sleek it was, how it stood out amongst other bikes….. sigh.

what was i talking about? oh yeah bike envy. the problem with bike envy, any envy for that matter, is that it makes you like what you have a little bit less. after my friend got his bike it wasn’t long before i stated becoming embarrassed that i didn’t have a racing bike, and that i wasn’t wearing “molteni” jerseys, and tight fitting cycling pants. come to think of it that’s about when i began to take on running. i couldn’t afford to keep up with cycling, and running was very cheap, and runners all seemed friendlier and less concerned about gear.

i kind of left cycling, and it just became my form of transportation, and running became my passion. i ran some road races, joined the cross country and track teams in college, and even ran a couple marathons. i was a decent runner and fairly competitive….until my injury. i had achilles tendonitis and running was off the table for a while. i began biking for exercise. it was really cool, my few years of running had made me stronger, most of my pain receptors got burned off and i was much tougher as well. i rode almost every day about 20-30 miles, i often tried to maintain 20 mph, but all bets were off if it was windy. and, if i ever came into contact with a peloton of cyclist, i would back off a bit and kind of shy away.

cycling should not be intimidating. however, cycling is probably one of the most socially demanding, clickish sports around. it always has been and perhaps always will. there are bike messengers, the wanna be messengers riding to work everyday, the critical mass people, the single speeders, bmx street/freestyle, kids who ride to school, girls with baskets and flowers on their bikes, mountain bikes, trials riders, racers/cyclist…. just to name a few.

somewhere in my 30’s i became a racer. i guess i finally had a good enough job to buy all the cycling garb. i mostly did mountain bike races, with a few road races thrown in for fun. for a brief 5-7 years i actually fit in. i had cycling friends, went on group rides, took spin classes, and had shaved legs. cyclist were actually a good group of people…once you’re “in”.

sometimes the only way to realize that you don’t need something, is to actually have it. i didn’t need to be a cyclist. i didn’t need to spend thousands of dollars to have a “good” bike, or hundreds of dollars of garb. all i really need is a bike that works, clothes that wick moisture and shaved legs. what?! shaved legs?!? i know there is probably nothing more clickish than someone shaving their legs, but the thing is… there are many aspects of cycling that are good. embrace all of cycling not just the clicks. never look down on someone who doesn’t have a multi thousand dollar bike, or even a multi hundred dollar bike. never tell someone or think that someone has a “crappy” bike. never make excuses for your own bike not being as good as someone else’s.

my mission is to encourage cycling in any and all forms. i don’t usually ride in cycling garb, although i do occasionally. i try to make cycling very approachable. my everyday bike is quite modest, my clothes are plain, and i try to smile and wave to everyone on a bike. i try to help anyone with bike troubles. i am still pretty fast, and i can chase down almost any “cyclist” that tries to pass me with out saying “hi”.

last night i volunteered at the denver rescue mission.  i had thought about doing it months ago, but i guess i got too caught up in my own life to really do anything till now.  i signed up online, a couple days prior, and i couldn’t wait for some reason.  this place is in the heart of lower downtown denver.  it’s right on broadway, and you can’t miss it as you drive by. there is a big traffic island right outside where many of the homeless congregate, and to the locals it’s know as “homeless island.”  there is not much parking around there and quite frankly the parking is kind of sketchy.

i didn’t have to worry about parking because i rode my bike from work down to the mission.  i only had to go a couple of miles but the night was very pleasant and the ride seemed like nothing.  when i arrived, i had to maneuver through the homeless and find a pole to lock my bike.  i was a little worried because my seat post was kind of expensive and it was held on by just a quick release.  i worry about such stupid things sometimes.  i walked in, signed up and sat down like i had been doing this all my life.

there were several of us who were all meeting for the first time.  most of the people at the table were very young like 20 or so, and still in college.   this was all before dinner and no one was eating just yet.  our guide andrew, gave us a tour before our shift started.  he showed us the chapel, the beds, the bathrooms…it was amazing.  people are really taken care of…it’s just too bad that there are so many people that need help.

this place is very christian. infact anyone eating there is encouraged to go to the chapel  and listen to the service before eating. it’s part of the evening.  the homeless are guided to the chapel to listen to the service for about one hour then they can go off to eat. i asked our leader if this was required. he told us that it was not “required” but strongly encouraged… then he smiled, and said, “this is a christain mission.”

the eating facilities are actually quite small. i was expecting a big high school sized cafeteria, but instead it looked like a large break room with about 14 round tables.  each table was capable of seating about 5, and if you do the math we had room for about 70.  i think only about 50 showed up.

tonight was taco night.  they were serving a taco casserole with rice and beans [i think].  it smelled and looked so good on those dented cold metal trays.  you guessed it; i was starving.  my lunch was so long ago and my short ride from work to the mission just kicked my appetite into second gear.  i was too embarrassed to ask if i could eat too, besides i didn’t even feel like i was helping all that much.

my job was to take the trays from the kitchen and hand them off to the homeless.  i was told to just smile and hand them off in a certain orientation.  in fact i got i “yelled” at by the overly uptight micromanaging boss when i handed the trays off in wrong position.  (who gets yelled at when they are doing volunteer work?)  i just kind of blew it off, because this guy seemed like his personality was strung too tight anyway.  even the homeless people were surprised, and one guy said, “what the fuck? like turning the tray is going to make it taste better?”  i smiled because here we are worlds apart, in completely different situations, probably nothing in common, we don’t know each other… and this guy “had my back!”  i felt really good after that, and i don’t know why but everyone in line seemed a lot happier. perhaps i saw them differently, or perhaps we bonded for a short moment over something kind of stupid.

i was  a little disappointed after the line ended.  i wanted to hand out more trays [in the correct orientation], but we were done.  there were a few extra trays in the window that never got handed out.  i was tempted to ask if they were going to throw those away, but decided to just stick it out and wait till i got home to eat.

since i was new i didn’t really know what needed to get done,  i just stood around and looked for something to do.  i decide that maybe i should mingle a bit.  i started talking to some of the kitchen staff a bit.  turns out they are residence of the shelter. most of them are recovering addicts and have to work as part of their rehabilitation.  one of them stood next to me and started talking about the devil.  i was really confused until i realized that the tv in the corner of the dining room was playing the church service from the next room, and they were talking about the devil.  i just smiled and said something kind of complementary to his comment.  i think it was something like, “oh yeah, the devil sucks…heh”.  i’m not a religious person so i really didn’t have anything insightful to tell this guy.

a little while later another guy came up to me and ask if i was going to be ready when he came back. again, i was completely off guard, and said, “huh?” he repeated his question and was still confused and said who, “andrew  [our manager]?” the guy understandably laughed and said, “no, jesus! …andrew is small potatoes” i laughed too, because i had nothing else to say.

we were all there for different reasons.  some people needed to eat, some needed to get their lives back, and some needed to full fill obligations, and some [mostly me] had no idea why they were there.  i’ve been trying to figure it out, but nothing really makes sense to me.  i wasn’t doing it as part of a court order, or job requirement, or group event…it was just me, just something i thought to do.  it’s kind of like planning a big bike ride or a big run… i don’t know why i do it, but i know i’ll be slightly better afterward.

peace.

getting a tattoo

the day i got my tattoo coincided with the day i thought of getting a tattoo.  i actually had though of getting one before that day, but it was on the same plane as my thoughts of quitting my job and becoming a full time cyclist, or a barista at a coffee house.  in other words the thought was in my head but i didn’t think i was ever going to get one.  i am not having tattoo regrets or anything like that, i’m very much in love with my new body art.  still not sure what others truly think just yet but they will come around.

that morning started out by doing a quick google search for tattoo reviews in denver.  i found a page that had some tattoo shops listed and some stars next to their names.  one actually looked legit, and called to get their hours.  within a couple of hours i was walking through their front doors …alone.  i hadn’t told anyone what i was about to have done, so the whole mission was quite covert.  it was kind of a simple shop with a few guys working there, and most of them had lots of body art, and piercings.  they asked if i could be helped, and i replied, “yes, i’d like to get a tattoo”.

i asked if i could look at some of their portfolios that were stacked high on the counter.  their work was amazing.  there were dragons, swords, snakes, koi fish, naked women [hmm], skulls, and hot rods.  with each tattoo i looked at i tried to imagine it on me, and me at work… then me as an old man with the same tattoo.  i didn’t find anything that really fit me.

one guy asked if knew what i wanted. “yeah, i want a bike!”, i said with the tone that someone would use when talking to santa.   the guy kind of chuckled and ask if i meant a bike with pedals.

i assured him that i was indeed talking about a bicycle, a two wheeled pedal powered, chain driven, handle bar holding, seat sitting, master piece of invention.  he looked confused for a moment and went in the back and brought out doug.  i guess doug was the bike expert, or at least he rode a bike, or maybe he was just good with vague request or something.  doug asked if i had a picture or drawing that we could go with.  i didn’t really bring a picture, because my printer was not working when i left the house.  we ended up surfed their internet and quickly found the image i kind of wanted.  it was basically the “yield for bikes” road sign only doug added custom drop bars for me.

after a few iterations of size and orientation, we finally had the perfect tat.  doug had to draw things up perfectly so he could make a decal that would serve as the blue print for the ink gun.  while this was going on i sat in the back waiting room. this place was pretty nice, it reminded me of a really nice hair salon, only with reclining chair tables and no perm smell.

up to this point i was not nervous at all.  i was anxious to get started so i could get home and surprise everyone.  he finally came back and had me sit across the table and went over some simple house rules before we started.  he explained how the needles are brand new, and that they never ever reuse them. he also told me about other procedures they use insure safety. he also told me how to “tap out” if the pain gets too unbearable…. ha!  like that is going to happen, i told myself.

he shaved a bit of my arm where the tattoo was going to be, and proceeded to apply the decal.  my arm was stretched across the table and i could see the white tender part of my inner forearm stretched smooth with a bike decal stuck to it. he fired up the needle machine and went for the first poke.  it wasn’t extremely painful, but something about watching it being done, along with hearing the sound of the needle gun, some blood mixed with ink coming out…. really felt awful.  i tried to hold a normal conversation at first, but soon i was unable to focus on what i was saying , then i was unable to focus on what he was saying.  i had to close my eyes, and turn my head away from the pain, as if that was any better. i would occasionally get up enough courage to look and see how much more he had to do. i was frequently disappointed at how much more still had to be done. my god! this was taking forever.

after about 45 minutes he was finally done.  my pain quickly subsided when i saw how beautiful it looked.  i really liked it, i got up and stood in the mirror, checking it from different angles…. wow.  doug wrapped it in plastic, gave me detailed instructions on how to take care of it… and out the door i went.

it’s been over a week now and that scabbing has passed. my arm still hurts, but at this point maybe its from something else.

this is on my right forearm. this area was very sensitive, and hurt a bunch while it was getting done. this is the first tattoo in my life. i chose this location so i could see it everyday. right now i love it, and when i’m an octogenarian, it will remind me that i used to love bikes.

i have so many disfigurements from cycling, like my scars, my frost bite burns…and now finally i have a disfigurement that I made!

breaking in @ziggybeagle with the new kicks on Twitpic

everyday that i ride my bike through the outskirts of denver, my mind often wonders about the day’s events, people i know, or things i have yet to do.  it’s difficult to recall everything i think about because my mind rarely stays fixed on any one thing.  i guess this is what keeps me from getting bored day in and day out.   blindly and somewhat arrogantly i zoom along the path with my head down and sunglasses pulled tightly across my face so no one can read my thoughts.  occasionally i wave at other enthusiast, or offer a “good morning” if eye contact permits.  fortunately i have a bad memory for faces.   i’ve probably seen some of these people 20 -30 times in the past six months and our civil bonds are getting tighter… but to me, today is the first time.

although i didn’t realize it, my thoughts began to diverge about three months ago when i noticed this one inauspicious looking homeless guy on the bike  path. i guess i don’t really know for sure if he is homeless.  i can never tell if he is wearing the same clothes from day to day or not. however i do notice the same shoes.  not that wearing the same shoes everyday is an indication that someone is homeless, but his shoes were something that i noticed.  they were these light colored high top work boots they looked very rugged, practical and solid like they’ve gotten some use.  if fact this guy looked the same way.  in fact he could probably be a metaphorical clone with his boots.

this guys is always in the same 2 mile stretch of bike path.  i never see him walking, just sitting on a table staring out into the river.  i never had contact with him, only because he always seems to be looking away from me.  he seemed a little scary, but only because he was a bit weathered his spirit seemed to be broken.  i normally don’t spend time trying to figure out the life of a homeless person, but this was different since i passed him almost twice a day…everyday.  i wondered if he had just lost his job because of the bad economy, or if might have been a traveler, and this was his life, or maybe he was a man running from the law after killing his family.

the closest i ever came to having contact with this guy was when he was sitting on a picnic table next to a long stretch of bike path, i could see him watching me from the distance.  as i got closer he looked out over the river once again.  this story has no ending really.  the guy just stopped showing up after that day.  maybe he found a job, or moved on, or got caught, i’ll probably never know.

today was not a particularly difficult day at work, and when 5:30 rolled around, i was packed and ready to roll.  usually i have to peal myself away from what i’m doing and 5:30 turns to 6:00, and 6 turns to 7.  so just as i start getting ready to go, someone decides to have happy hour. count me in!

after an hour or so of non-shop top i remembered that i had rode my bike in, and it was getting late… and i had two awesome beers.  it had been a very active day that included a ride to work and a lunch race/ride.  i didn’t have much to eat except for some “munchies” and a vitamin water. so these two beers were sitting pretty well inside me when i started my journey back to the car.  i set up my lights, and stuffed my bags, and put in my buds and rode off into the dark. now that i think about it, i had my vest with me, but completely forgot about it…hmm.  i wasn’t drunk or anything, but i could feel the beer’s effect as i pedaled harder and harder.

the trail was dark and cool with the after glow of a recently full moon, and lights reflecting on the calm polluted river water.  kind of eerie but cool.  the first time i rode home on the denver bike path in the dark i was a little afraid, but tonight i was much more relaxed.  it was really nice tonight, there was a slight breeze, just enough to keep the bugs out of the air, and not enough to slow me down.  i was spinning lightly and the legs were good and the music was so appropriate.  psychedelic  sounds of the dandy warhols was just unbelievable.  i was in my own world for a brief memorable moment.

i wasn’t really thinking about anything, but i was observing everything.  that’s usually what hapens at night, the senses are higher and not too many things go unnoticed.  i could tell that my headlight were shining backwards…wait what? that wasn’t my headlight, someone was behind me. i turned back to look and could only see one really bright light. for  a moment i thought it might be the trail police [if there is such a thing] trying to catch me because i wasn’t supposed to ride the path at night.  i kind of slowed down a moved to the left to let him pass. as he passed i could see that it was in fact someone training for a triathlon, or something because they had aero bars.  this is not right i hate getting passed by anyone, especially someone with aero bars.  so i switched into a bigger gear and started my chase.

it wasn’t difficult to catch him, but after a short time at maximum lactic threshold, my beer began to work its way back out.  i had to really step it up to keep it down.  but to get dropped by aero bars?  i couldn’t let myself get dropped, and after a couple of times of nearly loosing it, i finally managed to stop thinking about my stomach and focus on the light in front of me.  i could see in the dark distance that he was looking back and trying to accelerate.  each time he looked back i would get a little further behind.  i decided to turn off my head light and ride in the pale moon light.  it worked. in just a minute or two he looked back and then started cruising.  ha ha my evil paln worked to a tee! with one little exception. now i was sprinting and i couldn’t exactly see where i was going.  nothing new for me, i often ride with faulty lighting.

finally i got close enough to him that he could see my tail lights.  by then he knew wasn’t messing with a normal person.  at the next junction, he turned off and never looked back at me.  i kept going for another mile or so at this super fast about to throw up pace.  when i finally let up, i no longer felt the effects from my beers, except for the fact that i was super thirsty.

i love riding  :)

the other day i was sitting around thinking of what to do for my birthday feats of strength.  i usually come up with something the day before or the day of my birthday, but this year i’ve been thinking about it quite a bit.  for a long time i’ve wanted to do a long road trip somewhere,  maybe iceland, peru, alaska, even to california.  all of these will require me taking a lot of time off of work and probably lots of support.  then it hit me…. i live about 100 miles round trip from work, wouldn’t it be cool if i could ride to work for one week?  it would be about 500 miles, i could bail out any time i want.  no sleeping bag or tent, and i don’t have to take any time off of work.  well, i already told a few people i was going to try it, including my boss…or i am going to tell twitter as soon as i finish writing this.

the thing that i am most worried about is my butt.  i don’t think it’s going to make it.  as i said, i can bail anytime i want or need to.

it’s coming up in a couple of weeks, i’ll keep you posted.

race! i actually did a while back, up at winter park. i was on a roll after doing the boulder short track.

i got there kind of late, which seems to be my signature move these days. good thing i registered early so i didn’t have to do anything but tell them my name. i got my packet and rode back to the car. as i rode back it started to rain just a bit… then a bit more, then it became a torrential downpour and to be in it, was no fun.

i quickly put on my rain jacket and tried to warm up the best i could. there wasn’t a whole lot of time so i just grabbed the stuff i needed from the car and rode off to the lift. the race actually took place high up on the mountain atop the mary jane ski run. i threw my bike on the lift and hopped on the next chair as the lift circled around. i forgot to take off my camel bak and it was under my rain jacket and full of water…. a little too full. so full i couldn’t sit all the way back in the chair. i tried to sit a little sideways but the seat was soaking wet and swinging back and forth because i was one person all the way on the left of a 5 seater. i decided that just sitting still would be the best thing.

cold and freezing i sat there holding on to the back of the seat. the rain was still coming down hard and any warmth i had from my “warm up” was quickly fading. the ride to the top took forever, and i was so glad to be at the top. it actually felt warmer at the top than it did at the bottom. i got on my bike and quickly rode to the starting line. this got me a little warm but no where near what i needed.

within a few minutes some guy started the race and we were off. i raced with the young experts and the single speeders…. believe me, all these guys were good. i used to be a good climber but these days with all my slow rides filled with picture taking and beer drinking…. i had nothing on anybody. i labored up these hills as everyone around me passed like i was 93 years old. the course consisted of three 6 mile laps of a really long steep hill followed by fast twisty down hill single track.

as i got to the top of the hill tired and beaten, i would accelerate as i dropped down into the single track. i’m still a pretty good technical rider and i could get some places back as i wound through the trees. each up hill i would loose about five or six places… and each down hill i would gain two or three. a net loss, but at least i found something i was good at.

i finished the race tired and sore, with eyes full of mud, and my tail between my legs. not quite the cinderella story i had hoped for, but it wasn’t bad for an ex-cyclist.

i have so many things to do around the house.  they used to be just part of my honey-do list, but because i have failed to do them in a decent amount of time,  things have grown into my get-rid-of-this-so-i-can-walk-through-my-house list.   anyway, today was the day when i was going to do it all. heh…

i woke up pretty early and took ziggy [my puppy] for a big 6 mile trail run.  he did a great job. i used to take him when he was younger, and he used to complain a bunch, but no that he’s almost 9 months old he’s a lot tougher.  we were done by 11 and i was feeling pretty good. still plenty of time in the day to get some work done.

after a quick shower and some mindless time wasting, i started out in the garage with big plans and boundless energy.  just as i was starting, my son came by and asked if i ever fixed his road bike wheel.   i said “no, is it pretty bad?”  i spun it and found that it couldn’t even spin without rubbing the break.  so i took it off and put it in the truing stand and gave it my best shot.  i am not that good at wheel truing, but if i take my time i can usually get it done.  i gave it two pretty good shots and finally i had something that would turn.  just as i was putting it in, my son came back out and asked if we could get him some handle bar tape.

“uh..yeah”, i said

before i knew it we were in the car heading to ft collins to the bike shop.  in the bike shop we quickly found the bar tape…then browsed around. hmmm.. . found some sweet wheels that were unbelievably cheap.  oooo… and some brake cables, rim tape.  200 hundred dollars later we were heading home.

i tried to get my son to put everything together, but he didn’t have any experience in some of this stuff.  i gave him some smaller tasks like putting the rim tape on and the tires and tube.  anyway, by 5pm we were done and it was time to test ride the “new” bike.

"new" bike

"new" bike

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by 5pm i was ready to start my projects.  needless to say, i got tired and accomplished hardly anything i set out to…. but we got a pretty sweet bike in the mean time.