21 September 2007
But it has been a sad, soap-opera ordeal best left to be forgotten.
Oscar Pereiro wins the 2006 Tour de France 14 months later. Man, does that sound sad!
Floyd Landis, oh well. Even sadder. And to think that these guys were great friends at one time. More power to Oscar for being so gracious with Landis, never wishing that his friend would have been found guilty. This is no way to win and no way to lose. Bittersweet, indeed.
14 September 2007
08 September 2007
It's been blowing like an eternal fan here. Northeast for weeks, dry, lots of sunshine. And still we complain.
01 September 2007
Little tour with Carme
My daughter and I did a little tour to the local camp grounds...BUT...the heat took its toll. I told the little rider that taking off at 3:30 in the afternoon might pose a problem, especially on the hills. And so it went. Mother experience is a tough teacher. Carme had quite a time getting up some of the 7% inclines and had to make many stops, looking for shade. I even allowed her to take out her helmet -- her face was tomato red -- so she could be a little more comfortable until we hit the downhills and flats. (No traffic in this area -- none at this time in the heat!)
It taught us (her) a few things and I thought it was worthwhile. Now she understands what it means to ride at inopportune times. Patience. Had we ridden two hours later it would've been much easier, but hey it was just some hot fun. The fresh fountain on the mountain descent was a savior. "But, dad, we already finished all our water?"
18 August 2007
I enjoy riding with my youngest. Though Xabi will now be two years old in November, we've been riding together since he was 11 months old. (Remember that toddlers should not be riding until they are about 1 years old due to their maturing bones and muscles. Check on your child. See how strong he's getting, how he sits on chairs, how his neck holds up, etc. If in doubt wait. There's plenty of time.)
I still remember that first ride together--how nervous I was, how unstable the bike felt (cause I was so unused to the weight out back), how simply strange it felt to ride with a fragile baby "drafting" behind me. We've learned a few things since then and we'd like to share them with you and your baby:
1. You must practice getting the child on and off the seat, preferably by yourself without outside assistance. This almost sounds stupid but getting children on and off the bike is one of the most dangerous situations you can encounter when riding with children. Many kids get hurt when they either fall off their seat or fall while on their seat with the bike on top of them from a standstill position. This will almost always result in a serious accident as the weight of the bike will fall on the child. (The child is always wearing a helmet, right?! The child is secured with chest straps/belts in his seat, right? And you checked that the seat is properly anchored to the bike, right?) Right.
2. Practice getting yourself on and off the bike with the child in the seat. Feel comfortable and secure. Be careful the bike doesn't slip away from you or beneath you. Remember the weight is now out back and the front wheel may rise, tipping the bike backwards or over. Get on the bike on even, flat ground. Not uphill, not downhill.
3. Ride with a toddler only if you have decent bike-handling skills. Since I don't have the time to explain what common sense should be about in this post just think that if you have the slightest doubt DON'T do it. A stupid fall can be very serious.
4. Dress the child appropriately for the weather. A toddler moves very little on a bike seat and he's strapped in. She's not pedaling so she is neither breathing hard nor sweating as you climb that little hill. So remember that temperature/wind are not the same for both of you. The child may need an extra sweater (or may need to remove it). Stop from time to time. Check how things are and don't forget to offer them a drink.
5. Talk a lot, though people who don't see your child out back at first might think you're a strange cyclist (or maybe they already knew that, regardless!) Communicate with the child. "Oh look at those birdies, cars, flowers!") They love to talk and are amazed by what they see, especially for the first time. Don't forget to stop to let them get a better view of that horsie or that bridge or that big truck parked on the side of the road.
6. Make the rides short, especially the first ones. Let the child get used to his new environment. Short rides also allow you to see if the toddler is comfortable. (Recently, for example, I found that Xabi's chest straps where a bit tight -- how children grow from week to week.) Increase the length of the rides accordingly and don't ride too far from home in case the child insists on finishing the ride NOW. This may happen on first rides and you don't want to punish the kid for an hour while you try to make it home. Besides, they may not want to go with your again.
7. Ride for fun and for fun only. This is not part of your training or your recovery ride or your August mileage. This is a stroll with your child. If you can't make it fun, don't do it.
8. Stop in locations of interest. This is "dangerous" but necessary at some point. Stopping in the park, having a go at the swings, etc., just makes the trip all that more fun and the child will remember it, believe me. Dangerous because the child will not know when to stop playing and may not want to go home, not on the bike, not in the car, not no-how. Plan accordingly. Stop in those strategic places when you have the time and the patience to do so.
9. Change your route often, if possible. Children have tremendous memories. Looking at the sea and the gulls flying is cool for a couple of outings but may get old quickly. Spice it up. Point out differences to the child: colors, shapes, wind in your face. It's amazing how they appreciate and how quickly they learn. (When Xabi gets a little tired he likes to go through his list of peoples' and animals' names that he knows. I chant them along with him.)
10. Celebrate the completion of the outing once you get home. My wife and I clap and cheer and encourage him the minute we get through the garage door. We take off the helmet and clap. We unstrap him and clap and we cheer when he gets off the bike. He seems as satisfied as a congressional speaker (and he didn't even have to lie about the importance of bike paths)!
[A more experienced Xabi, August 2007.]
Enjoy your bike and your toddler. It makes for a great family activity. Do so carefully. Ask about the correct and proper equipment you need. Inform yourself. It's one of life's hidden pleasures.
Some must reads:
15 August 2007
Every time we ride on the road – and sooner or later we must – we must be aware of the DANGER cars represent. Many tip givers recommend that children ride only on bicycle trails or sidewalks. That’s normally decent and well-meaning advice. However, I don’t recommend this practice in its entirety and I don’t necessarily like people riding on sidewalks as that can represent a trap to the innocent. I warn my children (or any new cyclist) that driveways on sidewalks can be very dangerous; unlike road riding oftentimes you do not expect cars to enter driveways from the road (they may not be in your line of vision or they may be hidden by bushes or what have you and, what’s worse, as a cyclist you are not in their line of vision!). Also, when driving on sidewalks your guard may be down since you’re cruising down what appears to be a safe sidewalk with no traffic. Beware!
Of course, no rule is absolute. Not all roads are the same and not all sidewalks are created equal. I believe that children may/will try different things despite our warnings and best wishes. I know I did. Hence, I prefer to teach my children (and now my wife) how to ride on the road. I do so on little-transited roads, obviously – we live in a rural community – but I do know that sooner or later my children will want to cycle on their own, with their friends, and I won’t be there to supervise their every move.
Road riding will require an understanding of basic bike handling. One must be totally comfortable on the bike, must be able to ride straight as an arrow, stop on a dime, etc. This we must do before riding on the road. (Basic safety issues, helmets, gloves, etc., must be a given. No child should ride without a helmet, regardless of what parents think of how they ride themselves. Safety when in doubt first, philosophical issues of freedom and well-meaning self-expression second. My respectful opinion, of course.)
One technique I’ve used with my children is the Spy Behind Your Helmet Trick. This was inadvertently developed by my son. Sure enough one day he wanted to ride our normal road route – which we had done together hundreds of times – all by himself. He was eight years old. This was the safest route I could find for my children, with little traffic but always with some cars passing us, etc. (But remember that it only takes one careless car or one careless cyclist to cause an accident, so we must never let our guard down despite what may appear to be a safe road.) I let my son ride thinking that he was unsupervised while I simply spied on him from my own bike back in the distance without him knowing it. It was not comforting to me at all, believe me. "What if something goes wrong?" "Am I sure that this is right?" If anything had happened there would be nothing I could do, but then again I had to convince myself that there would be little I could do if he had wanted to ride around the neighborhood with his friends.
And so it went and I was able to verify that he not only remembered what we had gone over and over, but was in fact very respectful of traffic when he was unsure, stopping his bike on the edge of the road if need be and waiting for cars to pass safely. This worked well and we continue to practice it on different routes, expanding the distance and the responsibilities involved. (My daughter, who is less the cyclist, also went through the same routine though she claimed she had a “feeling of being watched”.) Oh well.
Eventually children and beginners must venture on their own. It is a fallacy to think that we can protect them from the world. And over-protecting, well, let each parent make those decisions. We cannot do the impossible so we might as well face reality and give children the knowledge and tools to enjoy life with the greatest safety available to them.
12 August 2007
Beginning cycling must concentrate first and foremost on fun. It must be fun to ride a bike.
The difficult question is: what is fun? We must answer this question by looking closely at the cycler, the beginning cycler in our case. This can be a child, an adult in good shape, an adult in really bad shape, an adult who barely knows how to ride. (And on and on ad nauseum.) We may be dealing with a person who barely remembers how a bicycle shifts gears. Why three big cogs up front and all those little ones in the back? We mustn't take the newbie for granted. We must explain some basics first. Why two brakes? Why not just one in the back or one in the front? How should we use them and when?
We must explain basic handling. How to keep the bike straight on the road; how to maintain our position on the road, relative to cars, pedestrians, etc. We must explain the importance of "feeling" the bike. You know that feeling of maintaining control, knowing how long it takes us to stop, what happens when we brake hard or when we "feather" our brakes ever so slightly to slow us down just a bit so we regain control under the right speeds. Let's feel the fun of what a bike is, what it does and what we can experience/do with it. It's way too zen for me, but it's true: we must try to feel one with the bike.
Let's know very, very slowly what our limits are. (Again, let us know ourselves or the people we are helping to get started.) Let's take a careful look at our route, at the hills we may encounter, the traffic, the weather conditions, and how we may handle different sorts of situations. (It was sunny when we left and now it's raining and the road might just be slick.)
Let's learn to stop when we can't go any further. (Let's do that with everything in our lives and then we'd really begin talking about knowing ourselves.) It's alright to stop today -- our knees are beginning to hurt -- and to try tomorrow and see if we can improve on today's performance. One terrible experience in the beginning may be the end of cycling for a person. We should not take this lightly and we shall not take for granted what others can do and what their reasonable limitations may be. So we shall begin slowly and increase our time on the bike slowly. We must be patient. We should ride three or four times a week if we can maintain those outings -- resting in between those rides so we ride one day and rest the next day and so on. This is only the beginning folks! (I prefer days off between rides whenever possible. It works for me. Think about how it may work for you or the beginner you are coaching.) We must make those first outing "easy", moderate, at cruising speeds, taking advantage of these easy-fun rides to get us acquainted with the bike and with good technique on the bike.
We must know the importance of rest and how critical it will be to our cycling and to our progress on the bike. Ride + Rest = Fun. We cannot have fun if we do not feel good, if we do not feel the bike, if we do not progress.
All of this I'm thinking out loud to start my wife on her riding program. Slowly.
06 August 2007
Well, it was about time. The Mrs. gets her own hybrid and she’ll be back on the road after her fall and previous cycling disappointment. The Kelly Visage is being set up at the LBS and it will be my wife’s first bike EVER! Can you believe that? Can you believe that she never had a bike of her own as a child? Now, I’ve been married for 21 years – God Bless! – and I really never knew that my wife never had her own bike. (And I’m frankly tired of seeing her, oh so jealous, when I go out with our three children for a ride!) Well that’s been fixed. Little “Envy” that someone let us have didn’t work out for her (was in bad shape and I just don’t know how to fix her and at the LBS it will cost almost like a new one to get up and running) so the only way to get my wife cycling and to overcome her fears was to get her a decent hybrid – her size – all set up and ready to go. I’m so excited! More than her. Now I get to plan her routes, a little training, bike shopping and we’ll all get to ride together: that’s five of us – I get to carry the little critter. More on the bike shortly, once we know more about it in practice since in theory I’m pretty much okay with it as a starter bike – similar to my Specialized Crossroads. Now I’ve got to think of a name for her. Any ideas?
02 August 2007
Learn to say no.
Sometimes we just can’t ride. Not to commute, not to go to the shop, not to do a little training. We might need some time off the bike, but it isn’t as simple as it sounds. How do you know you’re just putting things off or whether it’s a legitimate NO situation? Though it isn’t what we want to hear the fact remains that there is no simple answer, no simple rule. It requires that bit of intuition that we can’t learn and that no system can teach, despite what some gurus might suggest. There is one answer, of course, but it’s the one we don’t want to hear: We need to know ourselves. And since we’re all different this can become quite a psycho-drama type of thing. For me it’s become rather simple over the last year:
- My legs feel heavy, especially when I climb stairs. Not the type of heavy like when you finish a work-out, but rather the heavy that sits there for a couple of days. I call it heavy-heavy. I need a couple days’ rest and it goes away.
- Waking up in the morning is a real chore. (I know it always is, right?) But I think you know what I mean. You’re just dragging yourself out of bed. You’re late as it is; you don’t even have time to make a cup of coffee – oh, you never do? Well, you see, we’re all different. When I don’t have my cup of coffee – make that two – and some toast I’m hurting.
- I drank two extra beers the night before because my friends couldn’t help changing the world. Ok. I’m dehydrated the next day and I’m hurting.
- And my favourite, like today. I just don’t feel like it and don’t know exactly why. It involves a certain bad feeling or sensation like something wrong might happen. This is very rare. I don’t know what it is and I don’t really care, but when I feel it I don’t ride it.
So over the past year I’ve grown up a bit in my cycling. I know when to say no and, incredibly, my cycling has improved considerably. If I don’t ride or do my little training ride – which I try to do at least 3 times a week independent of other riding – it’s OK. Nothing happens. Things just get fresher and better when we get back on the bike again.
What makes you say NO?
28 July 2007
But summers without the Tour for us just would’ve been the same. Here in Spain we planned our lunch – and we have big lunches here – and even our siesta strictly around the Tour (well, except in the very flat stages where we could take a nap here and there without anything happening in the pelotón; heck, if they could rest why couldn’t we?) And so like my father I liked the Tour before I liked cycling. This is true. I didn’t know what a brand-name was and didn’t care whether someone rode an Orbea or a Cannondale or a Bianchi, or why they used culottes, gloves or energy drinks. I just loved those guys giving it their all, I thought. Who couldn’t respect guys like Mercx, Indurain or Armstrong defending those jerseys year after year. And who couldn’t just love some unknown cyclist giving those boys hell climbing the Pyrenees?
26 July 2007
24 July 2007
Vino positif, Astana s'en va ! - Cyclisme - Eurosport: "Vino positif, Astana s'en va !"
Am I dreaming?
A woman with a baby stroller on the other side of the path faces the same problem except she can’t get out of the path. We stare at each other like morons. Eventually we have to turn back because I can’t help her with her carriage and she can’t help me with my bike and baby. Oh well. I didn’t bring my cell phone so I can’t call the cops to have the car towed away. I swear I would have done it. Damn. So I take another route and try to enjoy the ride. That’s the beauty of cycling – and more so with children. In a second I’ve forgotten the incident ‘cause Xabi says some little word about seagulls overhead. It’s great to hear him try to make his first sentences. I know, son, it’s a beautiful day nonetheless.
19 July 2007
It was the third time I entered into a traffic circle improperly while riding my bike, luckily not at great speed. And three times I found courteous drivers – two male and one female, for stat purposes – who did not yell, scream or honk when they had to stop…well…so as not to run over me. I’m usually a very conscious and careful rider – or so I thought – so I’ve no idea what I’ve been thinking about lately. By the way, I apologized to the drivers on each of the three occasions, a little hand-wave here, a little I-know-I’m-dumb-look there. They even smiled.
17 July 2007
Now, I’ve no picture here ‘cause I’m a coward. You see there’s these dogs that have chased me on occasion. I’ve no idea why they’ve chased me and why they don’t chase me any longer. They are the same dogs. I’m the same rider (well...slimmer...handsomer...no doubt.) Does the moon have to triangulate with Venus on the Mars quadrant for them to chase me?
My astrologer doesn’t exactly know. My astrologer doesn't exactly care. Neither do I. Well I do, sort of!
Now, I could stop my bike right by the dogs – one sleeps on one side of the road opposite the other – like some kind of Cerberus joke and they open their eyes as I pass but do not make a move. Am I such boring prey? But, damn it!, I know they will eventually chase me…again. So I ride slow past them risking a bite – my ass! – instead of having them throw me off the bike. What’s worse?
What to do? I want a picture…just to show you how small they are and what a coward I really am.
12 July 2007
One of those days. It starts with the helmet not feeling quite right. The strap bothers my left ear (yet no one has touched the strap in months – it’s just today that it isn’t right!!!); the sunglasses aren’t as crystal clear as they should (how clear should they normally be?!!!); my shorts feel too lose (they are size large and I wear medium but I swear the medium was too tight when I bought these!!!); and, I’m breathing hard on the first little climb and my heart rate is barely 117 (whatever that means – I could be dying – it felt that way!!!).
The last time I felt like this I bonked pretty damn good. I didn’t bonk today, yet somehow I didn’t feel very hydrated. I ended up drinking 5 12-once cans of whatever Isotonic drink I had at hand. And I wanted more. I gotta blame something, don’t I?
Not a great ride.
11 July 2007
18 June 2007
"Ne te quaesiveris extra."
Being self-sufficient is an ideal; self-reliance a goal, perhaps. For me, certain limitations are truth. I’ve said it before: I am an idiot with my hands; tools under my power are weapons of evil.
Ok. I didn’t exactly kill my wife. I tried (not to kill her, I mean), but to fix the rear brake on her bike. It kept loosening for some reason ever since someone gave us the bike last year. (Is that why they gave it us last year?) My wife barely rode it, for it always rode badly. The tires were out of true; the gears jumped and skipped; the brakes, well, the brakes….
I wanted to be self-sufficient or just somewhat sufficient. Just this one time I didn’t want to go to the bike shop. I mean you just loosen this bolt and tighten that one…no? The bike – aptly named Envy because should she feel she must feel, well, just as inadequate as me – just can’t become a normal bike. And that’s all I really strove for; a minimal level of bike mediocrity. But it wasn’t to be. I read some Kent Peterson for encouragement. He can turn a $ 5 bike into a tourer / commuter. Could I do the same? No. I read some Sheldon Brown – hey I can read – for technical information and gathered interesting details on breaks caliper, on breaks cantilever, on breaks this and breaks that. Sheldon’s breaks work. Why can’t mine?
So I learned my lesson. Self-sufficiency is oftentimes self-insufficiency. Self-reliance a brutal mistake. When I saw my wife go head over heels (and believe me this was no love story) I nearly died. Envy’s chain somehow jumped the crown when she shifted on a slight downhill to which she reacted by hitting the brakes, the rear first…but…there was no brake…no stop…so in running wide on the coming curve she hit the front brake hard in a slight panic and JAMB…THERE SHE GOES FLYING OVER THE HANDLE BARS. Nasty gash on her elbow, swollen palm (she was not wearing gloves because her gloves were left on the kitchen table next to the nice cyclamen arrangement…they looked nice next to the cyclamen, sort of blending in with all those spring colors).
I called her Flying Dutchman after the fact – hours after the scary fact. My wife is way too kind and forgiving. We laughed together...until she said: “But you had just fixed the brakes hadn’t you?”
“No, no, dear, I swear. I didn’t fix them.”
16 June 2007
Alberte, as usual, did best, though he complained alongside me for most of the ride, criticizing all the poor riding habits of our fellow cyclists. Carme and her friend Elisa had a little trouble with the big hill because they refuse to concentrate on their gear changes, but on the return climb they got it right and made it. I was very proud of all and eventually won a little mini-tool set for the bike as part of the give-away-gifts the organization presents to the participants.
Mom didn’t join us because Envy (her little green BH mountain bike) almost killed her the day before when the rear break failed and her front break jammed hard on a slight downhill. Luckily only on a slight downhill. She flew off the bike head first and hit the pavement pretty hard. Hurt her right hand and her right elbow – the elbow much the worst for the road rash. I won’t say who played with her breaks – me, myself and I – trying to adjust them. Can you believe that?! I felt pretty shitty. Great job! Sorry, Mom.
13 January 2007
This picture after climbing to
Reaching the top...