Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year

When I woke up this morning, it was raining. Unfortunately, it stopped raining by about halfway through my drive to the office, so if I'd left later (which is totally an option, as I own the joint now) I could have ridden in. I will, however, get a ride in either this afternoon or tomorrow, for sure.

So where does December 31st find me this year? I have made some big changes this year that have kept me from blogging, first and foremost. I left my job working for someone else, and went out on my own with my brother. This has been a huge adventure, and I am very happy with where we are ending the year. When I wrote my New Year's Eve post last year, I was riding a folding bike to an office that I frankly hated, working for someone I despise. This year finds me with that folding bike loaned to someone else, and me sitting in my own office, patting my back for all of he hard work I have done to make our company successful in the eight months since we opened our doors.

That move has led me to riding my bicycle more, honestly. I started this year riding the train, but when we left the old office, I found myself without a whole lot of early morning work to do, which allowed me to worry less about being in "on time" and gave me the freedom to experiment with riding in. My commute path has evolved over this eight months to take me about an hour each way, and my route is mostly bike paths and lanes, all the way in. The commute has changed me a good deal, both physically and mentally. There were days in the high heat of summer when I thought I wasn't going to make it, and there were days in the fall when I did my best to stretch the ride a little, because it had become so much fun. The old saying "ride to live, live to ride" has started to make more and more sense to me with every revolution of the pedals. When I ride I feel like I am twelve years old again, and that feeling gets harder and harder to find as I get older.

This year hasn't been all rides and roses though. Shortly before I left the old job, my brother in law, Reed Hickok, passed away from a very rare disease at the age of 45. Reed was a really great guy, and one of the original reasons I took up bicycling. Reed was a very serious cyclist, who rode a ton more than me, and in fact did the Triple Bypass ride. In 2008 I asked Reed if he would be willing to ride a century with me in September of 2009. He was excited about the thought, and I was excited about getting to know him better and a little daunted by all of the work I would have to do to get ready. Unfortunately he had a bad crash in '09 that created (or uncovered) complications with his disease, and by September he was no longer riding, and in April of 2010 he went to join the great peloton. Reed's death hit me harder than I let on to most people that know me - Reed was the type of person that you meet very rarely in life, and he was one of the most athletic people I know. The fact that he could die gave me great pause. Allez, Reed, Allez.

Reed's Bike.

I also met some other great bike people this year, and they got me into some of the more "social" riding around Dallas. I met Hubbard through a blog that I read (and now write for occasionally) when I offered to help him work on a bike he had acquired. He and I emailed about getting together for several months before we actually managed to make it happen. Since then we have become very good friends and he has taken me on some of the more fun rides I have done. We rode to the State Fair together, rode in the tweed ride, and just kind of generally hung out on two wheels and explored Dallas in a way that I would never have done if I hadn't gotten to know him. The type of riding I prefer involves hard effort and maximum speed, if at all possible. Hubbard has taught me that it's ok to cruise around, and that that is just as important a part of bicycling as the hard riding I like to do.

I have also become better friends with my neighbor this year through bicycling. It took me a couple of months to convert him to a bicycle commuter, but I'd say that now he is more hardcore about it than I am. He certainly rode more days that I did this year, and he has big plans for next year. I hope I can keep up, and certainly hope that our friendship continues to grow, on and off the bikes. I also hope that I can introduce him to some of these more social rides that I have learned to enjoy. He turned me on to the local criterium races that happen in our neighborhood, and I hope I can repay the favor by teaching him how important a flask can be on a casual ride.

I find myself in my office as the year comes to a close, and as usual, there have been ups and downs over the past twelve months. Looking forward, I do have some bicycle related goals for the coming year, aside from "stay alive and ride more". I'm going to share them with you now so that we can revisit them this time in 2011.

1. Increase my commuting time. I was riding two days a week, maybe three this year. I would really like to ride into work at least three days a week, and more if I can swing it. I see this one happening.

2. Ride at least two "social" rides this coming year. I rode the BFOC Tweed ride this year, and I'd certainly like to ride that and at least one other. In addition, Hubbard and I have been talking about riding a rail to trail conversion, and I really want to do that.

3. Ride two organized century rides this coming year. I rode the Wish 100 this year, and I'd like to do that one and a true century, probably the Wild West in Waco. I'd like to drag Hubbard along for one or the other, but truth be told, when I ride hard I prefer to ride alone.

I also want to blog more, but I'm not going to make that one a resolution - unfortunately that one is dependent on lots of different things that are sometimes out of my control. My life may not be interesting enough to write about more than once a month. I will resolve, however, to make an effort to write more here. I'm not going to quantify how often that will be, but there will be new things here before December of 2011, I promise.

I'm going to leave you with a photo of myself that I like a lot - taken at the tweed ride this year.

Happy New Year to you all, and I hope that we meet again in 2011.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

I have some stuff, and I'll tell you about it.

In my previous post I mentioned that one of the reasons I am riding so much is that my bicycle collection has reached its optimal point; I don't need any other type of bicycle, and would only get rid of what I have in order to upgrade in some way. I don't see that happening any time soon, so I thought I'd share my "stable" with you.

Bike #1. The Commuter.

This is the bike that I put most of the miles on in 2010. This is probably a 1997 GT Force equipped with Shimano RSX STI shifters. STI shifters are how modern bicycles change gears, with the mechanism built into the brake levers. I picked this bike up on Craigslist for $100 even. The frame is custom butted CroMo steel, and is a really great ride that is super comfortable. I replaced the standard GT seat with a Brooks saddle that I already had, and proceeded to put over a thousand miles on this bike this year. I don't know if the bike is "special" or not, but I do know that I have only seen one other on Ebay, and never another one on CL. the guy I bought it from posted his ad with no photo, and I happened to be the first caller. He "upgraded" to an aluminum frame, and since he lived in an apartment I ended up with a great deal on a modern road bike.


Bike #2. The Angel bike.

This is a 1992(or so) Univega Prestige bicycle. This one is my weekend bike, and is for sure my rarest and probably most valuable bicycle if I were to resell it. Incredibly, I got this bike for $120, also on Craigslist. In this case, the bike had belonged to the seller's roommate who had left it behind when he moved to a different country. The photograph of the bicycle attached to the ad was terrible, but I know a thing or two about a thing or two and emailed the seller with a buy offer immediately. When I got to his house in the evening I was lucky enough to find this beautiful fillet brazed frame with full first generation Shimano Dura Ace STI group, in my size, no less. The bike had strange "Profile" brand time trial style bars and a Cinelli stem that I had to switch out altogether. It now wears some nice 3TTT bars and a matching stem. This is probably the rarest Univega ever - it's built of Tange Prestige OS steel tubing, and wears the serial number "50". I have done lots of research and even consulted with a guy who worked for Univega, and this bike is exceedingly rare.

The full bike - I need better photos of it now, but this gives you the idea.

Fillet brazing is a mark of quality construction.

Bike #3. The singlespeed/fixed gear
I documented the ressurection of this frame in a couple of blog posts last year here, here, and here. In those posts I was turning this bike into a road bike, complete with Shimano Sora STI shifters. I rode this bike many miles before I found the GT, and when I did I had a hard time deciding what to do with this bike. I was riding my old Suteki as a single/fixed, and since the Falcon frame is much nicer, both aesthetically and tubing wise, the Suteki was retired and this became my single. you can find reasons all over the web why you need a fixed gear or a singlespeed, so I won't get into that, but I'll tell you that I live in Dallas, so I really don't think I need gears at all. I love this bike, and in fact I rode it to the State Fair of Texas this year, from my house in Plano.

I love this bike.

Bike #4. The vintage/cruiser/city bike.

This bike is my 1974 Schwinn Suburban 10 speed - this is the bike that I use to run errands, the bike that I use to pull my daughter's trailer to the park, and my all around hop on and go bike. This bike was given to me by my great neighbor, and while it is heavy, so is a Cadillac, and that is what I would compare this bike to. I really haven't done anything more to this bike than cleaning and replacing the heavy steel wheels with a set of alloy wheels. Most of my other bikes require special shoes to be ridden, but this bike is ready to go no matter what I am wearing. This might have been the best gift any non-relative has ever given me.

The Schwinn and I are on the left. Hubbard from Biking in Dallas is on the right.

Those bikes are really the "core" of my collection. In addition I have a Schwinn High Sierra mountain bike that I plan to use as a more urban type of cruiser bike, but I am in need of a saddle for it, so it really hasn't turned a mile this year. I also have an electric bicycle, which is great fun, but is more of a curiosity than an important part of my collection. I have done a post like this before, and I'd be surprised if I do another one. Like I said, I think that my stable is pretty solid now, so I don't forsee a lot of changes. I may tell you a little bit more about the Schwinn MTB and the e-bike at some point, but not today.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Man, I am a terrible blogger.

No, really. My last post here was in February of this year. Granted, I have had some big stuff happen, but when you curate a blog like this, you really need to come through with the posts. I did do some internet writing about bicycle stuff this year, and you can find the articles here , here and here. There isn't anything particularly earthshaking in any of those articles, but I was pretty busy. I'll address that more in a later post (yes, there will be more than one, probably. Well, maybe.) but for today, I will blog about my bicycle life over this past year.

I rode a lot - for me. I kept pretty good track of the "exercise" type riding that I did this year, and between commuting, exercise riding, organized ride, and etc I rode a little over 1500 miles in 2010. I'd bet it was actually a little more than that, because my record keeping skills are pretty poor. However, I did buy and use the Cychosis app this year, so I at least have better numbers than the year before. In riding all of those miles, I managed to lose about 40 pounds - I see that in some of my entries from 2009 I refer to myself as 220 pounds. On Jan 1 of this year, I weighed myself and came in at a whopping 225 pounds. I am now down to 188 pounds, and feel (and look, in my opinion) pretty good.
I was commuting 3 days a week in the high heat of the summer - and getting in 30 miles on a Saturday or Sunday morning once or twice a month. Truth be told, I'd like to have ridden much more, but couldn't manage it.

Riding so much really changed me; I'd say my bicycle hobby started out as bicycle fetishism, where the machine was more important to me than its use - I really liked fixing bikes more than I liked the riding part. That certainly changed this year, as I started really riding. I still enjoy the other aspects of cycling, but now it's about riding much more than wrenching or collecting. Part of the reason for that is because I completed my core collection of bicycles, and was able to concentrate on turning the pedals and reaching some of the goals I set
for myself - maybe not blogging goals, but riding goals for sure.

Speaking of goals, since this is the last week of the year and I am feeling reflective, I will revisit my goals posted here from last year, and see how I did.

1. No more fast food. I hate it but I love it so. I try to eat it "well" - in that I only have a burger and no fries, or a kids order of nuggets - but still I eat too often. I'm going to allow myself one double cheeseburger a year. At the core, this is a resolution to pack my lunch.

I did not Get this one - I still eat fast food, and still eat it "well", as described here. I love that stuff, and one double cheeseburger a year is patently ridiculous. I do pack my lunch a lot more, but I still manage some garbage once or twice a month.

2. I have already started one of my resolutions, which is to keep my house cleaner. I have taken over the kitchen cleaning duties, and I plan to devote a couple of hours a week to the rest of the house too.

I don't know why I shared this one with you in the first place, but yes, my house is still my house, and is a little cluttery, but mostly clean. Mostly. If I'm not tired. Or something good is on TV.

3. Ride the train at least once a week. This is kind of a biggie for the blog. I'll admit that while I do ride my bikes (though too little in the nasty cold; hence 220) I have not been getting on the train. As that is the premise for the blog, I guess I need to deliver.

I didn't stick with this one, but I did have a pretty big change this year - I quit my job in April to open up my own insurance office with my brother, so my commute changed. I did take the train a few times, but there isn't always something funny or worth writing about on the train. As such, I am going to ask you to indulge me as I find a new direction for this place, if there is one. I will continue to write here this year, I don't know when, but it may not always be train related.

4. Blog likewise. As work gets busier, it's harder for me to find time to do this - but then again, I always seem to find time to do other stuff. Therefore I will post once a week. I may do more, but there will be something new here at least that often. I will do my best to make train stories, but it may be something else. However, it will be 2 wheel related, at least. Probably.

Obviously I didn't stick with this one - the last entry here is in February, and while there is a draft saved, it also is from February, but it is nothing more than a title. I will write more this year, as I said. I am again in a stable work environment, but since I work for myself, it is sometimes hard to find the time to write. We will see what we see.

5. Enter and complete at least two "real" bicycle rides - like an MS 150, or a century. I'd like to do 2 this year. That means longer weekend rides to train for whatever ride. I'll keep you posted.

I did do one of these. I rode a "metric" century this year, and it was lots of fun. I will ride two rides this year, for sure. I also rode in one of the "social" rides with the Dallas bicycle scenesters - I rode my vintage townie bike around downtown Dallas while wearing slacks and a tweed jacket, and it was lots of fun. I also played a little hooky with my bike friends and embraced the cruising around and being twelve aspect of cycling as well. I rode to the State Fair, rode to Deep Ellum for lunch, went to a vintage bike show, and just had a good time in addition to the hard riding I like to do.

So after going over those, I apparently am not a very resolute person. However, I will say I am very happy with the personal growth I have made this year. I am really a "cyclist" now, and am not just riding for fitness, but riding for life; I ride to the grocery store, I ride to the bank, I ride to the bar, I ride to the cigar shop, I ride as many places as I can. Playing with bicycles is awesome, and if reading this blog is as close as you come to riding one, I encourage you to pick one up - I think if you give yourself over to the bicycle, you will be surprised how your life can change. Bikes can be many different things to many different people - are you willing to see what they can be to you?

I plan to post once more this year, probably on New Years Eve. I'd like to ride that day, but I'm not sure if I will, as the weather is supposed to be bad. Either way, I will post.