Monday, December 30, 2013

Shine On

Holiday break.  Some pretty terrific riding, making merry, and family time over the last week has me in a reflective state, and with the news of Scud's passing on to the great trail in the sky, the New Years Resolutions have come gushing forth.  

walk on water
become famous enough to have your own sticker
wheelie like a Wittwer
 be worthy of your gear and your riding partner
inspire a kid

build something
all of the above, and so much more.
It's been a pretty intense week.  And I don't throw this term around lightly, but I can honestly say that I feel blessed just to have stood before Scud, like so many other people, and existed in that moment as the sole focus of his attention and care, which were both enormous.  It was like when you spoke with him, you were it.  He was with you.  
I hope I can carry that forward.  

Shine on, you amazing man.  Someday, I'll meet you at the very top.  

Up, up, up.  

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Christmas Spirit will be late to work today

Interesting night ride last night.  I took a lot of pictures.  Appropriately, most of them came out as a complete blur, which I guess is only natural when you combine barhopping, singletrack, and Christmas light-gazing into one, very surreal 25-person night ride.  

Emphasis on surreal.  

Clearest picture I took all night: Hackett bleeding from his face.  And I think that's saying something.  
What exactly it's saying, I haven't quite been able to process yet.  But if you were there, you probably know what I mean, which is that I don't know what I mean.  Might have to let this one sink in for a while.

And even if I can eventually process the significance of drinking a beer while sitting on Santa's lap in a stranger's yard at night where the only thing brighter than his Christmas lights display is the two dozen or so HID's that just crashed the party, I'm not sure I could put that feeling into words anyway.  So I'll just trail off here with a few pictures and a slight headache.  I should drink some water.

Suffice it to say that the Holidays are upon us, and the Christmas spirit is very much alive - even if it's a little late to work this morning.

On Dasher, on Dancer, on Tigger, and so forth.  
Up, up, up.  

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Toys: Lifted.

When Shawn's time on this Earth is done, and he's waiting for the boatman to cross the River Styx, or standing at the Pearly Gates to speak with St. Peter, or whatever afterlife myth you might subscribe to that basically represents the moment that you have to justify all the shifty things you did during your life to gain access to the great beyond, at least he'll have this in his favor:

Toy Lift, 2013
Another year.  Another 500 bikes for 500 kids to open on Christmas morning as a part of the ToyLift.  So at least he'll have that to fall back on, because lord knows he's otherwise got some 'splainin' to do.  A man can only make so many deals with the devil at 3 AM on the back side of a race course, desperate, clinging to a 2 minute lead, with 9 hours of hell to go, and expect that stuff not to be brought up when it's time for his annual review.

And it's certainly not just Shawn. No indeed, a community of sinners-who-could-use-a-little-karma-at-the-finish-line came together to turn 500 cardboard boxes full of poorly engineered aluminum and mismatched bolts into answered prayers.  So, if you were a part of that, thank you.  And good luck talking your way in.

Also, as I sat there truing a wheel on Friday afternoon, amused by just how great I felt in the middle of all of this, I had an epiphany: I sort of hope these 500 bikes go to only 499 kids, in that one of those kids found a way to get himself two bikes, not just one.  That kid, more than any other, is on the right track.

Build a stable, kid.
Start early.

Up, up, up.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

What if riding bikes were bad for you?

Much has been made of the news, in recent years, that riding bikes might not be as good for us as we like to think.  Traditionally, the health-based logic for riding bikes has been pretty much about the benefits of exercise:

1) low impact cardio
2) stress relief
3) increased metabolic rate
4) weight loss
5) etc.

For quite some time, the common sense health benefits of cycling were pretty much a given in the medical world, and if you weren't riding then that was your loss.

But the chinks in the armor have started to add up, and more media attention seems to be following things like:

1)  Potentially Adverse Cardiovascular Effects from Excessive Endurance Exercise
2)  How Safe is Cycling?  It's hard to say.
3)  Sudden Death During Exercise
4)  And a personal preponderance of mine,

Like it or not, there's some evidence that supports the hypothesis that biking - especially in the doses that many of us like to call "Fun" - is bad for you.  And, at the very least, I think we can all admit that Big Air on Cross bikes is probably not healthy for the common thirty-something office worker with a couple of hours to kill on his lunch break.

What the hell, might as well embed that one.  I'm not sure who to credit for this, but it's for the benefit of all mankind.

The questionable wisdom of jumping cross bikes nontwithstanding, I'd estimate that the miles and the scars add up at just about the same rate.  The cycling gods have sure dealt me a few along the way.  Internally, though? No idea.  But the data can make a grown man (and father, and husband, and under-insured financial breadwinner) wonder.

So it seems that there's a debate brewing in the popular media (which this blog has no part in whatsoever) about just how healthy or unhealthy cycling might be.  For the most part, you see guys in their cleats gnawing at a powerbar on their morning commute say things like, "I like my odds."  And they're probably right:  chances are, from a health perspective, they're at least breaking even when it comes to risk vs. reward.

But I'm here to profess the inverse, actually.  Not that riding bikes is actually bad for you, but the more reasonable conclusion: that even if it is, we'd still ride.

The sooner you can admit that riding is a vice, or an addiction, or a recreation that only runs congruent to your health by sheer circumstance, the sooner you can understand why you do things like buy $5,000 bikes that weigh less than the alternative, or take your bike on vacation to the beach, or rent a downhill bike at a ski resort, or go night riding in the snow.  We like to pass these things off as conduits to exercise, like somehow the health benefits outweigh the relative costs, but the reality is those experiences exist whether the exercise does or not.  Look within at the most critical point; where the two ideas diverge - your health and your bike - and think about which ride you're actually on.

Most of us, I reckon, would stay on the bike.

For that matter, and because I love the ethical hypothetical, what if riding were banned?  What if doctors and  lawyers and politicians and the world at large recognized just how truly awful it was for you, and how it was damaging our healthcare system, and how you really couldn't make that choice for yourself because you're an addict, and, like cigarettes, they taxed it out of existence, then banned it, and your only option for some singletrack on two wheels was illegal - and you had to show up at the 7-11 parking lot two towns over at 2:30 AM, and wait for an hour in the cold for your dealer to show up because he's late because he's half-high on his own product, just to get your sweaty, clammy, desperate mitts on that wonderful, illegal dual suspension drug to ride for only an hour, just so you could get your fix and give it right back, and already start scheming for the next time you might sneak away?

You could have what's left of it.  Behind me.  Behind most of us, I imagine.

No?  Technically, I bet you already do.  Ever skip work to ride?  Lie to your family to ride?  Can you distinguish between riding alone and riding with friends?  Are your friends really friends, or riding buddies?  How many times have you hit rock bottom, sworn you'd never let your ass touch that saddle again?  Substitute Meth, or Jack Daniels, or whatever illicit substance in just about any situation where your bike is today, and you start to get the idea.  Ours are the actions of addicts.

Then again, maybe this isn't you.  Maybe when Dr. Oz finally rolls out his expose about the negative consequences of cycling, you'll hang it up and become a gym rat.  There would be freedom in that, I imagine.  Just making the right decision based upon the medical facts before you.  Nothing wrong with that.

On the other hand, owning up to the addiction isn't so bad either.  Aside from just realizing where you stand, it's freeing to know that this debate over the safety and health benefits of riding bikes doesn't have much to do with you.

Just about everything is on the rise.  Heat waves.  Obesity.  Eating disorders.  Population density.  Porn addiction.  Crack cocaine.  Riding bikes.

So, too, it may be with you.
Up, up, up.