Saturday, December 13, 2008

Why A Bike Blog?

I think I got my first bicycle when I was about 4, although technically it was my sister's bike, but she showed little interest, and I a great deal. Doting fathers and 1st born sons have the kind of relationship that makes such abridgment of ownership possible. The next day I had my own bike. Mine red, and hers blue. In the ensuing years I took full advantage of my dad's generosity, riding a series of single-speed, 26" bikes down countless mid-west gravel roads to bridge the distance between our home in town and the work miles away on a collection of small, rented farms. My reward was the scent of dark, fertile earth, diesel smoke, and my father's smile. I had no idea then how much he must have looked forward to my arrival during those long days of solitude - the good son showing up to help his father.

I still have fond memories of quiet, secret places, miles from home, that no one ever found except by invitation. Such an invitation was reserved for only the best of trusted friends. One particularly excellent spot was nestled at the bottom of three conjoining hills. Perpetually damp, it supported knee high grass, dark and green under a huge cottonwood, perfectly filtering the summer sun, spilling down through cotton-ball clouds, flowing by at the lazy pace of long summer days. It was a spot shared by deer bedding down by night, flattening the grass to make the perfect place for a small boy to lie down and day-dream on a warm summer day.

Almost 40 years ago now I worked at a small family-owned bike shop here in the California Central Valley. It was the early 1970s and gas prices were getting very expensive. Not being able to afford a car, I bought my first bike from my employer and joined a team of other riders that worked there. At that time we were one of the few teams that existed anywhere in the US, and not really a formal team at that, just 3-4 young studs out to see what we could do on two wheels.

I stayed with biking pretty steadily through college, and even after I graduated I used to ride up into the San Gabriel Mountains north of Santa Anita race track to the Chantry Flats ranger station every other day or so. What ended my riding was getting a pilot's license and earning the long green I needed to afford such high-ticket addictions.

Over 25 years went by before I met a woman who wanted me to ride with her on her training rides in preparation for the Eppies Triathlon. My neighbor, an avid cyclist who had been a bike mechanic on an off for decades, took an immediate interest in my new sport. He'd just broken up with his girl friend and was eager to get back to riding. We had a meeting of minds about riding, but my old steel bike was pretty out of date. With some thoughtful guidance I ended up buying a "plush" bike - an '06 NIB Specialized Roubaix. After nearly 2,000 miles on it I am pretty happy with that decision.

During that 25 year layoff I had a "coronary event", discovered I had a right-bundle branch block in my heart (that's a heartbeat timing/synchronization problem, despite what the name seems to imply), a slightly torn aorta valve, and a lot of extra body weight. I was also on meds for blood pressure, was building a tolerance to those, was already at the maximum dosage for that drug, and really wanted to live med-free if at all possible because my research indicated that the long-term, habitual use of any drug damages your body and your health.

Over the last 10 months I have been on a fascinating journey reacquainting myself with bicycling, all the new technology associated with it, with endurance exercise and its effects on my cardio system, with nutrition both during and between rides, and with squeezing the most performance possible out of my aging body's limited resources. I have learned a lot and am at a point where I feel I have something to say and contribute to the bicycling community. After asking thousands of questions and leaning on the advice of friends I'd like to pay back the universe and return those favors to the community at large.

I hope you will come to enjoy the journey as much as I do.