Monday, January 31, 2011

Cycling Vision Ottawa Update


I"ve pasted the email I received from Cycling Vision Ottawa this morning, FYI.

Dear Cycling Vision Supporters,


1. Final sprint for Lane Laurier - Your presence wanted Feb 2!
2. Laurier condos opposition questioned
3. Fundraising: Help us bring another major speaker
4. We're not all hard-core cyclists: Ottawa Citizen
5. Dr. Schiller writes "At 74, I bike everywhere"
6. Montreal's cycling boom is great news for Ottawa
7. Segregated bike lanes quadruple cycling in Vancouver!
8. British cycling success bodes well for Ottawa
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
1. Final sprint for Lane Laurier: Your presence wanted Feb 2!

We're in the last lap and headed for the finish line this Wednesday, February 2nd at the critical Transportation Committee meeting.
A show of support may be crucial!

The presence of supporters during this meeting would highlight to councillors the importance of the pilot project. People walking into the meeting carrying a bike helmet would be one way to quietly illustrate interest in the Laurier segregated bike lane. It would be great if you can attend even a small part of the morning. You may come and go as you please during the meeting, but no overt demonstration of support is allowed. Decorum is required.

When: Wednesday February 2, 9:30 am to probably 1 pm (or longer)
Where: City Hall, Champlain Room, second floor, 110 Laurier West

The Champlain Room is located in the older portion of City Hall accessed via an overpass on the 2nd floor from the newer main building. Use the main entrance on Laurier Avenue West or Lisgar Street, east of Elgin. On the second floor, follow signs to the older section of the complex and the Champlain room. Be aware that the meeting location may be changed at the last minute to accommodate larger audiences. Observers may quietly enter and leave the meeting at any time. Many of you have sent us comments in support of the pilot project. Thank you! They have been useful for the campaign - and most heartening for us to read as well.

We've met with most of the Transportation Committee members to discuss the project, with just one meeting left before the TC meeting. We believe there is enough support among the councillors to get a positive vote for Lane Laurier. But there is stiff opposition and nothing is certain. A show of support may be critical!
= = = = = = = = = =

2. Laurier condos opposition questioned

Billy Downer lives in a condo building at the West end of Laurier Avenue and he supports the Laurier bike lane project. In his letter to the Ottawa Citizen published Saturday January 22, he writes that the property management company is spearheading the opposition against the Laurier cycling lane project. He adds that he's not aware the building's board of directors had a mandate to act against the project.

He also describes how a similar project in Toronto went ahead in spite of the opposition. The feared negative impacts on parking and businesses did not materialize.

If you missed his letter, you can read it here: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/opinion/letters/Bring+bike+lanes+Laurier/4149296/story.html
= = = = = = = = = =

3. Fundraising: Help us bring another major speaker

This past fall CVO sponsored a public workshop with two cycling consultants from the Netherlands brought to Ottawa by the Dutch Embassy. They were able to share their knowledge with City staff as well. Our event was featured by Louise Rachlis in the Ottawa Citizen: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/travel/Ottawa+cyclists+learn+from+Dutch+make+Ottawa+more+cycling+friendly/4129802/story.html

Bringing experts to Ottawa is a useful way to encourage and assist the city to reach its cycling targets and to develop local expertise. We would like to bring another expert to Ottawa this spring. Your financial support to help us do this would be most welcome.

Please take the time to consider a donation to Cycling Vision Ottawa. A cheque is welcome by mail to Cycling Vision, #572, Station B, Ottawa, ON, K1P 5P7. Or contact us at: donate@cycling-vision.ca . Unfortunately we cannot issue tax receipts. Thanks in advance for your generosity.
= = = = = = = = = =
4. "We're not all hard-core cyclists," Ottawa Citizen

If Council approves the pilot project on Laurier, local author Kate Jaimet will be throwing her helmet in the air for joy! She explains in the Ottawa Citizen that the Laurier segregated lane will make downtown more bike-friendly:
http://www.ottawacitizen.com/opinion/hard+core+cyclists/4107272/story.html
= = = = = = = = = =

5. Dr. Schiller writes "At 74, I bike everywhere:"

Dr Eric Schiller supports 'Lane Laurier.' His letter was published in the Ottawa Citizen Saturday January 22. If you missed it, please read it here:
http://www.ottawacitizen.com/opinion/letters/bike+everywhere/4149297/story.html
= = = = = = = = = =

6. Montreal's cycling boom is great news for Ottawa

Montrealers have discovered that, if you build it, they will ride. A 2010 engineering study by McGill University has found that bicycle use increased by as much as 40 per cent in areas where the city invested in bike paths and lanes. The city's success in increasing the number of cyclists by building specialized infrastructure mirrors that of London, England, and bodes well for Ottawa's segregated bike lane pilot for Laurier Avenue. The McGill research is described in this Montreal Gazette article:
http://www.montrealgazette.com/travel/build+they+will+ride/4022475/story.html
= = = = = = = = = =

7. Segregated bike lanes quadruple cycling in Vancouver!

Can Ottawa do better? Vancouver cyclists are discovering that protected bike lanes are the way to go. The city has been collecting detailed data on Dunsmuir Street since launching its own separated bike lane pilot project last June. In the first two months, the number of riders using the segregated lanes shot up to an average of 2,000 per weekday, peaking at 2,500. That's compared to an average of 500 cyclists who used that corridor before bike lanes were installed. The fourfold increase in riders on Dunsmuir makes a strong case for more protected bike lanes in Canadian cities, including Ottawa. The trial data are posted here:
http://vancouver.ca/engsvcs/transport/cycling/separated/dunsmuir_results.htm

Here is a short video to help understand how the Vancouver lanes work:
http://vancouver.ca/engsvcs/transport/cycling/separated/dunsmuir.htm

More info on the Bike Vancouver website:
http://vancouver.ca/engsvcs/transport/cycling/

For our francophone and bilingual friends, here's a writeup about the Vancouver success story from Vélo Québec, the largest cycling organisation in Canada: http://urltea.me/2rk

Note: Voici l'adresse complète, à copier et coller manuellement:
http://www.velo.qc.ca/fr/index.php?page=Vancouver-augmentation-record-du-trafic-cycliste!
= = = = = = = = = =

8. British cycling success bodes well for Ottawa

A British biking success story bodes well for Ottawa's Laurier Avenue bike lane pilot project. Transport for London recently reported a huge increase in trips by bicycle since launching its first two Cycle Superhighway routes this past summer. The municipal government found the total number of cyclists doubled on one route, and increased 50% on the other between October 2009 and 2010.

A city press release quoted the Mayor of London's Transport Advisor, Kulveer Ranger, saying: "It is great to see that the first two Barclays Cycle Superhighways are well on the way to achieving our goal to increase cycling in the Capital. "This research shows that people do believe the routes are of value, make them feel safer and are allowing them to take direct and continuous routes into central London."

The full release explaining why specialized bike infrastructure and cycling lanes encourage cycling is here:
http://www.tfl.gov.uk/corporate/media/newscentre/17912.aspx

And here's a 6 minute video to illustrate:
http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/18/on-our-radar-londons-bike-lane-superhighways/?ref=earth
= :: = :: = :: = :: = :: = :: = :: = :: =

Kind regards,
Dianne and Gabriel
Cycling Vision Ottawa - L'Avenir en vélo à Ottawa
572 - 57 Sparks St.
Ottawa, ON, K1P 5P7
E-mail: info@cycling-vision.ca

Website: http://www.cycling-vision.ca

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Lessons from the Saddle: Part II

Don't Show Your Cards


Sometimes you play your cards at the right time, but still lose the battle. That's racing.
I don't profess to be a guru of cycling wisdom, so I won't pretend I'm going to provide a definitive exposition on tactics here. No, I'm merely going to convey what I've learned, or at least, how I've interpreted my experience, over the last year of racing bikes across a few disciplines. I welcome other perspectives on this topic.

As some already know, I used to race downhill, and before that I raced a good bit of cross country. Back then, in the early and mid 1990s, I was a typical junior racer. I went for it 100%, all the time. In my first xc race in Brockville some time around 1994 I took the hole shot down an industrial park road, pulling ahead of all but the elite field, who would start later. Oh yeah baby, I'm in the lead! I blew to smithereens within about 4 minutes, walked for a bit, then started riding again, finishing 6th in the open Sport category, right behind my older brother. I showed all my cards right off the gun, and I paid for it.

Before I had a chance to really learn what pacing meant, gain any real sense of nutrition (let alone fueling on the bike), any sort of nuanced training or sense of moderation, I put all my energy into downhill in 1998. To this point, I'd been going out hard off the gun every time I raced; it worked out pretty well sometimes, and now I was into a discipline where you HAD to go hard off the gun, always. I went for it, all the time, 100%, crash and burn or podium. I was a mess, I'd hyperventilate all the time during race runs, which obviously isn't conducive to peak performance. I was pinning it without much of a plan. There was always the option of easing up on the start, but in races that were under three minutes long, and not much longer than 6, every split second mattered. All I could do was go for it, and this applied to training too. I'd ride practice runs full speed most of the time, try my lines without a care about who saw. I'd literally take turns full speed and see whether I crashed. If so, I'd brake a bit. Others didn't matter, I wasn't racing them; I was racing myself. The challenge was to put as close to a perfect run together when it really mattered, on the clock. Showing my cards didn't matter; because it was up to me, only me, to make it happen.

Zoom ahead to the near past, and road racing, XC and cyclocross are now part of my yearly 'program.' Old habits die hard, and being among a new cadre of riders tends to bring the ego out. I recall my first A loop I did on the Parkway on a Tuesday night. I eagerly moved through the pack up the Pink Lake climb. I like this climb, it suits me; I can ride up it reasonably well. So I showed my cards: 'look, this is what I've got, lets do this thing.' Stupid. A loop of the parkway isn't about Pink Lake. No, its about the whole loop, how you measure your effort the whole way around, hopefully delivering yourself to the sprint feeling ready, not crushed. But its not as simple as that. One can't sit in, avoid pulling, and preserve, preserve, preserve until the end. No, in my mind that's unethical. If one wants to contest the sprint, one should do their fair share of the work over the whole loop; its a training ride not a race. But there is a fine line between doing your work and showing your cards. Its not about flaunting 'good legs,' but putting in honest effort - not too short, not too long. Knowing how to put this ethos into action requires practice, and I'm not going to say I'm the model rider in this regard.

When it comes to actually racing on the road, the rules of the game shift a bit. In theory, one wants to absolutely hide over the course of a race and deliver oneself to the finish fresher than the rest (of course, I'm not talking about domestiques here). In theory. The missing premise here is that one is on equal footing with the contenders. If this is the case, one must work less than them if one hopes to take the win in the final moments, or have enough to break away and make it stick late in the game. I learned a valuable lesson about showing cards at Battenkill in April 2010. Feeling pretty good that day, I climbed at the front early in the race, trying to gauge the effort of my competitors; none of them were familiar to me since they were all American. I was sensible enough to avoid doing much actual work at the front, but I'd already shown my ability on the climbs, not to mention burned a bit more energy than I needed to. On the second last series of stepping climbs I went with the lead three guys. The pace was violent, but I took this to be 'the move.' Unable to recover after the climbing, I ultimately let them drift away as I saw a chase group bridging, and Rob was one of them. I'd burned almost all my matches, so I was unable to do much from there, though Rob and I sure tried to break off the rest. Looking back, I see how it made sense to go when I did, but I should have known there would be another series of climbs later that would do damage. I should have waited for those. Yes, one has to take chances in races, but they should be well informed risks, and I didn't play my hand well.

Mountain bike racing is a different beast, but I think the same rule applies. However, its application is trickier. There is no hiding in XC racing, at least, not the technical, punchy courses I seem to find myself doing most of the time. Drafting is rarely a factor, and passing is generally difficult. I tend to handle the technical stuff well, but don't tend to be a climbing wizard, so I tend to have to get into technical sections in front of others in order to gain time in the gnar. This requires a fast start, but the trick is to avoid starting at 100%. I guess I'm talking about just coming shy of showing the cards. I let the hammers go, maintain contact, monitor the lead position, and make a move to go with the leader if he starts to pull away. Sometimes the leader will blow up, other times they will truly be the strongest rider, and they will motor on. Then it comes down to how much you want to suffer, and whether winning is still the goal. That's a tough call to make under a lot of physical stress, and I have to admit, I've convinced myself that 2nd was pretty darn good more than once. I suspect the best racers don't settle for 2nd when they still have a shot at 1st.

Regular ol' xc racing is one thing, but enduro xc racing is another animal. I took on the 100km Paul's Dirty Enduro this year for the first time after hearing its praises sung for years. I knew it would be twisty and long. I felt ready, knew who to follow (Ben Dawson, the reigning King), so I was pretty relaxed. The start was not hard by xc racing standards, and I rode in the front of the pack without much fuss. Once we got into singletrack I found myself having and taking opportunities to move up, and before long I was in the lead. I put on the gas and opened a gap, and decided to hold it. Mistake. Showing my cards didn't really matter from a tactical perspective in relation to the other racers. They'd either bridge up because they were faster, or they wouldn't. Pack dynamics wouldn't matter much. Instead, I wound up slogging through kilometers of loose sand, effectively breaking trail. Eventually, a group of five caught me, and when I missed a turn, I found myself on the back. Wow, riding the sand was far easier following their tracks! I'd just been slogging away for nothing. I'm pretty certain the bulk of them knew about the sand effect; they were smart to let me go. I eventually wound up catching Dawson late in the race (I kept pedaling though I was suffering a good deal), and the prospect of catching the leader drove me to push very hard for the last 20k. If I'd been more sensible earlier in the race I might have been sharper and avoided the crash that broke me off them in the first place. Patience, wait for the right moment.

Cyclocross presents a problem when it comes to gauging how to play one's hand. There are so many factors at play in cross, from the competition to the course, mechanicals, crashes, and odd happenings. Knowing the course is vital, because without this information one can't judge where opportunities to pass will be, where recovery will come, where crashes might occur.... Knowing your competition is vital; do you have a mark, a rider who tends to be about your speed or perhaps a bit faster? If so, you might want to follow them for the first lap to avoid going too hard. If you are going for a podium spot who will you have to battle? Do they tend to start fast and fade, slow and ramp up? Will you be faster than most on particular sections? These are some of the things I think about before the races start, but as a general rule, I try to start at about 95% intensity. That tends to be enough to get into the lead group of the race, and from there its a matter of feeling it out and getting a sense of where my competition is. Going 100% out of the gate can only lead to an implosion, but if one doesn't start fast, one will have to make up gaps while passing, and perhaps being stuck behind crashes and slower riders. I prefer to go hard and leave it up to faster riders to pass me. Once settled into the race it can become difficult to get a clear sense of whether the speed is high enough, or whether I should go harder, because at this point the pace has leveled off into a rhythm. If riding with a rival, road race tactics can apply if its windy, but the question will come: are we going fast enough, or are we losing ground? There are times when one must go all in, put the cards on the table, and drop the hammer. If a gap is created and you think your rival has given up chasing, you can ease up and maintain a gap. Or perhaps you've bridged to another group. If possible, the same process might be repeated. Sit in, recover, monitor, plan, attack. On fast courses I can see the attack coming late, but for the courses I've raced, it seems to be more a matter of making multiple attacks over the course of the race, showing the cards a number of times. So the lesson here is: don't show your cards until its time. Be patient.

Outside of racing, its not uncommon to see less seasoned riders go too hard early in group rides. This isn't so much a tactical blunder, as they don't tend to have a plan at all. Rather, they act on the impulse to show their ability. On the Parkway, this sort of error isn't really a big deal. When I attacked Pink on the A loop I didn't wreck myself, but I did have less to give on Fortune later on. Worst case scenario there would be getting spit out. I'd make it home. Longer rides, those of the 150k and up variety, are a different beast. They need to be respected, which means being careful about going too hard early on. While most people's legs will feel good over the first 40k, this does not mean its a good idea to attack the climbs if the full route, lets say, 170k is a question mark. Conserve, conserve, conserve. If you are not certain you are good for the whole ride at the group's pace, don't attack anything. The reveal will come at the end of the ride, when you complete the route with the group in one piece and looking forward to riding again soon.

Learning when and how to show your cards in cycling helps us judge situations off the bike too. On wheels, we have to make split second decisions about whether the time to reveal our intentions has come. In order to do this we must tap into our experience and intuition. When we make split second decisions we utilize infraperception, a process that bypasses conscious thought. We act in direct response to our situation, thus the reference to 'instincts' commentators often refer to. Sometimes these acts are preconceived and planned, other times they come about spontaneously within a general plan, like 'go with a break if it looks good.' Whether the decisions we make prove fruitful or not doesn't just depend on the choice itself; there are always wild-cards in play, such as crashes ahead and flat tires, that we simply cannot control. When things don't unfold as hoped, we cannot reduce the outcome to a product of our decision alone. On the flip side, when we succeed, we will tend to think we can take full responsibility for the victory, but again, we cannot. Results are always dialectic, the culmination of a constellation of factors, some of which we control, most of which we do not. This is not a tacit suggestion that we ought not to take responsibility for our choices. No, we must own our choices. However, we must also understand that once choices are made, we cannot control outcomes.

'Making things happen' is very much about exuding the sort of positivity that attracts others to one's side, to seeing the world as a place of possibility, not impediments. In this sense, one can 'make one's own luck,' that is, bolster opportunities to reach a desired outcome, perhaps via a path and/or with the help of others previously unknown. If we make decisions to the best of our ability with the information at hand, regret for outcomes undesired is unfounded. Save regret for those decisions you know you should have made differently at the time; second guessing is just that, guessing.

Coming soon, Part III: Have a Plan

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The most fun ever!! Snow Bikes

Recovering at the top of Death March


I'm not quite sure how to describe these things but as the Tim Hortons commercial says they are"AWSOMER"


Kent and Brad Keep the rubber down

After a few quick rides around the block and a rip out on a hard packed Kanata earlier in the week our faces were permanently affixed with giant grins. The real test was going to be getting into deeper snow and Sunday we finally got a chance.

Thom Rippin the trails

We headed out into a rather chilly -15, a long climb up Death March would warm us up very quickly.


Surly Pugsleys and Salsa Mucklucks lined up

Initially we were having a bit of traction trouble on the climb but we dropped out tires to about 5psi, yes I said 5psi these tires are big!, this helped a lot and we got in the groove of things. We rode for 3hrs and were off the bikes very little, even on completely unskied trails.

3.7" of Phat fun (Skiers, they don't wreck the trails )

We were tired and a little cold by the end of the day but oh man I'm not sure I'll ever ride a trainer again. I can't believe I didn't have one of these things before now. I think there are going to be a lot more people on the phat bikes before long.

-Will


Brad's Frosty Beard


video

Monday, January 17, 2011

Misery Sticks


I skied back-country last weekend, and despite many encounters with rocks and about 9 crashes, I came away unscathed, albeit sore for days. I'd kick myself if I got hurt skiing conditions like that, so I decided I'd quit while I was ahead and avoid the BC trails until we got another foot of snow. Perhaps Sunday would work out for a mtb ride.

After receiving Saturday's snowfall, 'skinny' mtb tires didn't sound like a good bet on the new 15cm or so of powder. I was pretty sure the other guys would do ok on their 4" shod snow bikes, but it seemed to much of a gamble for me, so the decision was made to try a skate ski. By Saturday night I was lined  up to ski with Rob and Dave Sunday late morning.

Upon picking me up, the guys did all they could to convince me that they suck at skate skiing, thinking I could well be skilled. Last year I skated once, and before that a handful of times over the prior two years. I seemed to pick it up quickly, and never really suffered too much, though I was skiing much more often when I started. My longest ski was about 1.5 hours. Sunday would be about 3. And it was -15.

Off we went from the base of Fortune. Almost immediately I felt some strain in my shins. Hmm, not so great. Once we settled into climbing toward Champlain on the Parkway my glutes started loading up with lactic acid. Hmm, definitely sub-optimal. On we went, eventually turning right on the #1 to continue toward Champlain. I was already lagging far behind the other guys at this point, flailing whenever the road was steeper than a few degrees. Where had the little technique I had gone? No idea. My muscles were protesting, but at least my heart and lungs were ok.

Climb, climb, climb, up we went. As Rob said, there's downhill skiing, then there's uphill skiing. I was an utter spaz on the steeper climbs, which was somewhat discouraging. Nevertheless, the guys waited for me without any grumbling, and I tried not to complain too much. I was suffering. Past Champlain now, we were heading for Wolf when I planted a pole on a ski and took a slow fall on my other pole, breaking it in half. Damn! At minus 15 degree outside, going back to the car to hang out while Dave and Rob skied didn't sound too great in my head. What to do? We scrambled up to the #1 to discuss.

Rob had the plan: we'd rotate poles so everyone had a turn with just one. We'd ski another hour or so. Ok, sounds good, everybody's happy. Awesome teamwork! Off we went toward Wolf. Rob recounted a story of a friend who had lost a finger. While healing he skied with one pole, holding the injured hand above his head to reduce swelling. And he schooled Rob. Rob was inspired, and this was an opportunity to see if he could adapt too. Did he ever. Off he went, leading Dave and me, and once again, the two pulled away. So it went up to Wolf, our turnaround point. On the return Dave took the single pole and he too skied like a champ. I was only able to hold on when things turned downhill. Heading down the Fortune Parkway I caught up to Rob in the tracks after some heavy double poling. Approaching fast, it didn't occur to me to stand up and take some air to slow. Instead, I stepped out as I pulled near. Smash, full on body slam. No surprise, I should have known I wouldn't pull that off...

Pulling up to the car, we were all well done, but I was particularly worked over. Skate skiing is unforgiving. You can't just go easy if you lack technique; its not like riding a bike. It can be frustrating, no doubt, especially when so many other people around seem to be moving along well and not suffering. I couldn't help wonder why the hell so many people skied. Why do something so brutalizing, in the cold? My perception of the practice was completely skewed by my weak, aching body. The thought of people skiing marathons of 50km was almost ludicrous to me in as I struggled to scale just about every climb on the #1. Why do it? Because they love it.

I get it. I get it because I love cycling, the good, the bad, and the ugly. I seek out challenges I'm not sure I'll be able to pull off. I welcome the pain I'll need to endure; I feel confident in my ability to handle it. Skate skiing on Sunday was different for me, but my experience can't be taken as representative of what others undergo when they are tuned for skiing. In simple terms, I'm out of shape for skiing. I haven't been doing it, so I suck at it right now. If I stuck with it I'd improve, experience less muscle failure and more muscle pain. That's fine, that's easy to handle. If I want to understand how others get through long skis I ought to be thinking about how I feel on really long rides...when I'm in shape.

Doing things we totally suck at is good for us. A regular dose of humility is healthy. Its also an opportunity to see things from the perspective of a neophyte, which is invaluable for those of us who tend to spend most of our time doing things we are good at. Getting dropped by my friends skiing with one pole makes me think about what it must feel like to be at the back of a group ride, struggling to hang on while the guys at the front chat. Because I am completely out of shape for skiing, every stop allowed my muscles to recover. When riders don't have many miles in their legs the same applies. Later, when the fitness comes along, the breaks become less helpful. I'm used to getting less out of those breaks, but others get a lot from them. This is a good thing to remember, and a lesson I would not have learned had I not gone out flailed on the misery sticks.

Many thanks to Rob and Dave for being gracious throughout the ski, and helping me get through it. I'm thankful to have friends who don't hesitate to help me out when I'm in a bind.

All I need now is a new set of poles and I'll be ready to humiliate myself again.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Lessons from the Saddle: Part I

Keep Pedaling

IMG_2517

With the 2010 cycling season fading into the recesses of my memory, its a good time to  reflect on about what I learned, what I did right, and what I'd like to do differently in the future. But I'm not just talking about practical stuff. No, I talking about looking at deeper matters of perception, values and motivation. This is the first installment of a series of posts that will delve progressively deeper into philosophical questions emanating from my perspective on the happenings of this past cycling season. I'll start out with a pretty tame lesson: keep pedaling.

2010 was the year I raced bikes more than any year before. Back when I raced xc as a junior and senior I only made it to about 6 Cup races per season, along with local races at Camp Fortune. I barely rode my road bike, and cyclocross was way in the periphery. I rode 5 or six days a week, mostly on my mtb. When I transitioned to downhill racing I raced about the same number of races a year, and spent a lot of my time on skills based riding - dirt jumps, skate parks and street (or 'urban' if you like). As I raced less and less I started to work in more road riding, more xc, and started to move back toward endurance oriented riding, albeit with a bent toward the gnarly end of things. Little by little I added races to the mix, from 24hr and 12hrs to regular xc, road, then cyclocross. Much of this was going on while I was finishing school, so when I was all done with that I was able to ride my first full season in 2009. That was a great year, and the improvement I saw from my efforts really motivated me to be yet more focused in 2010 and see what I could do. I set a goal for 10, 000k on the bike (not including commuting), inspired by XXXXXX. By Battenkill on April 10th. I'd logged 3500k on the bike since January 1st, many of which on the trainer and rollers in the basement. Fast forward to the end of December and I'd racked up 11.200k. When I first decided I'd try for 10, 000 back in 2009, I wasn't sure it was possible for me, given I normally limit my riding to 2 days during the season. However, I found that riding 5 or 6 days a week during the winter helped a lot, as did more time indoors in the late fall. With a solid base I found I was still feeling good through the fall, with the exception of the weeks I was down with a flu and pneumonia, which took some time to recover from. Staying healthy is a challenge that time of year.

So while the 2010 season wound down I started been reading a great book my sister and her beau gave me for my birthday in November, Cycling: Philosophy for Everyone. Many readers will know that I am a philosophy nerd. I did my BA in philosophy, and I continue to pursue wisdom, or, more specifically, Eudaimonia. Perpetual seeking and striving for wisdom defines the philosopher; the term itself is derived from the greek philo - loving, and sophia - knowledge and wisdom. We are not content to know what we know; those of knowledge comprehend the vastness of that which is unknown, unexamined. Wisdom defines those who understand the limits of their knowledge and the relationship between who they are and what they think. I will delve more into this topic in a later post, but I've digressed. The book I mention is a compilation of essays on a plethora of cycling-related topics, from learning to ride a bike to the ethics of performance enhancing drugs. On the balance, the essays are quite good. The interlude to 'Stage 5,' Velo Virtues. penned by Patrick Vala-Haynes is, quite frankly, one of the most beautiful pieces of writing I've even encountered in the cycling milieu. The rest of the book could be crap and I'd still think it was worth it for this piece. Imagine a mountain biker racing a horse on a familiar trail. I won't say more, you'll have to read it.

Reading through the chapters of the book, numerous articles elicited many interesting ideas for further discussion, others...not so much. However, all were interesting for the manner in which they developed their analyses. Personal style is all over the map in philosophy, just like anything else. About halfway through I decided that rather than doing blog posts picking up certain interesting threads as they came, I'd instead organize my ideas around a framework: lessons from the saddle. So far I have 7 sketched out, and I'll unfold them as I have time. I'm going to start out simple, and pull in more philosophical elements as I move forward.

Lesson 1: Keep pedaling.

This lesson sunk in after a few distinct incidents. One involved a massive, snarling Rotweiler on a Quebec backroad. S/he paced me at 35kph, looking very eager to rip a piece off of me. I kept pedalling. I squirted water. I didn't realize it until Ariel mentioned it; dogs won't go for a bite while your feet are spinning around fast. Keep pedaling.

At D2R2 I flatted three times. After my group stopped for me the first time, I was on my own to chase the other two times, after patching my flats. It was gruelling; one climb went on forever. After working myself over thoroughly after flat #2 and catching the guys on a mellow climb I flatted immediately. I chased for about 30 minutes after that one. I suffered, but I kept pedaling, and I caught them. We finished the ride together.

In September, while team time trialling in the Hastings Hilly Hundred to try to catch the lead group after a mechanical, I cracked. David assured me I'd be ok. Keep pedalling. I did, and I came back around.

Into cross season I opted to try my pneumonia afflicted lungs out in Perth, a technical delight of a course. Despite a decent first lap, I was not in the race at all, suffering greatly from a lack of lunch capacity. Kris Westwood passed me in a sweeping corner, rolling much faster than I was as I coasted. He was pedaling AND he had traction. Keep pedaling. I applied the lesson from there on out, and found that pedaling through turns tended to help a lot of the time. Riding my mtb since, I realized pedaling through technical turns can really help correct front wheel disturbances. I recall reading about one of the faster American cross racers training for cross on a fixed gear a couple years ago. His rationale was a secret. I suspect he was working on pedaling through turns.

At the more macro level, keep pedaling applies to simply putting a bit of time in on the bike day to day. I already knew that commuting was great for keeping the legs familiar with the work they'd be asked to do come spring, but I didn't know how much was enough, or whether I could actually ride too much. Some riders train much harder than I do; for example, they actually call what they do day to day 'training.' For some, that amounts to work, devoid of enjoyment. I rarely 'train' in this sense, I prefer to ride hard when I need to. Those who train in the former sense will need time off in the off-season to recoup motivation and the will to power (volition). These riders can stop pedaling for a bit (they don't need to read this on a blog to know it either). For a rider like me who does not approach overtraining, there is value in keeping the riding going through the winter. For one, it feels good. I enjoy my time on the trainer, especially when I get to watch a classic cycling film like The Impossible Hour. I reason that its easier to carry form through the winter than rebuild it, and it feels better to ride with form in the spring than to chase fitness. One doesn't have to ride harder than one wants to each day, its just important to pedal. This is an opportunity to really focus on pedaling technique and identify weaknesses and position issues. I like to really focus inward and pay attention to what I'm doing from time to time, unplugged. When I am in the right frame of mind, I am able to meditate this way, completely focused on the corporeal sensations. I've learned a great deal about pedaling technique this way, though, as those who have seen me roller race will attest, I've learned little about how to spin fast. I don't do that nearly enough to improve much.

Back to the plot, it feels great to keep pedaling. Take this as you like; it can easily be applied as a metaphor for simply maintaining momentum with regard to those activities, athletic, intellectual, spiritual or otherwise, that contribute to your  life in positive ways. Know that even if interruptions in momentum are encountered - or if momentum is altogether lost -  as so often happens on the bike, it can be regained, and overall speed from A to B is not really the point. The process, the experience of rolling, gliding, running, reading, singing...whatever it may be, is good in itself. Keep pedaling.