Magic magic magic, or, ode to cycling

You mean I’m the one who has to change?  –Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia

Cycling at Great Sand Dunes last September

Cycling at Great Sand Dunes last September

When times are tough I have to admit that it is not all bad.  This song makes me think of that.  How can life be so tough when I have the freedom and opportunity to ride my bicycle?

corrales-library-biking

Cycling has such great rewards.  Every ride is a sensual experience of the land community.  Ride by ride the landscape enlivens us.  Every effort gives us strength and knowledge.

The Wedding Rocks in Japan

The Wedding Rocks in Japan

This month marks the 20th year since I started cycling daily.  I moved to Reno, Nevada in 1997 and fell in love with cycling, the Great Basin desert, the Sierra Nevada mountains, with learning, and my wife Mai.  That was sweeping change in my life, all because I dove in.  Cycling calls on us to dig deeper, awakening something inside.   It puts us in touch and builds our capacity for empathy and wonder.  Cycling shifts our perspective from detached to engaged, from separated to in touch, especially with the world around us, recognizing we are all made from the same fabric.  Cycling shows us we are all one.  Cycling emancipates us.

el-camino-real

in Bernalillo on the road

Everyone I talk to who cycles has something to share about how cycling provides structure to their lives.  When integrated into routine, cycling is a way of living.  A commute can help blow off steam and refresh the day.  A Saturday morning ride can be a social occasion with friends, with family.  Ride by ride you build your life like a stonemason laying the foundation of your home.

on-the-trail

cholla-garden

Cycling is making the day your own.  Propel yourself joyfully into nature’s order.  The heart that beats to the cycling rhythm is timed to kindness.  Our minds are illuminated by making our way in the world with the simple proposition of a bike ride.  And road cycling is a virtual Leave No Trace activity.  It is way to put sweat equity back into our communities.  To be a good example for our kids.  To be a kid again.  It is amazing how a simple act fills us with such joy.

tramway

Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.  — H.G. Wells

Sharing the air and voting with legs

Equality is in the air we breathe. –Langston Hughes, “Let America Be America Again”

Life’s greatest satisfaction is staying in good health. –Warren Buffett on Charlie Rose

the-mountains

I remember walking into the classroom at commercial driving school at age 21 and gagging on the heavy stench of diesel fumes wafting through the building.  The classroom was next to the yard where old flat-faced Mack trucks with over a million miles were jockeying 48 foot long trailers, dark foggy plumes rolling out of their vertical chrome exhaust stacks.  For three months I would know that smell.  When I graduated and hired on to Cannon Express, they issued a company truck to me.  I drove it across the country hauling loads for companies like WalMart and looking for parking spaces at night that were upwind from the rest of the idling trucks and vapor-letting fuel pumps.  The smell of engine exhaust and fuel vapors remind some people of work, but for me I thought of cancer, asthma, and diminished health.  I tried to avoid it as much as possible, but it is impossible to avoid completely, even for those that don’t work as drivers.  I won fuel awards for high average miles per gallon in my company truck because I refused to idle it at night like the other drivers did for heat or air conditioning.  I preferred clean and quiet.

bike

My love for driving and the road is mostly funneled through cycling now.  But I still get exposed to all kinds of fumes.  We all do.  There was an interesting article in The Guardian yesterday that tried to determine how bad air quality would have to be to negate the health benefits one creates from the physical activities of cycling and walking.  The answer is it has to be pretty bad but in some cities around the world–particularly in India, China and the Middle East–the air has passed that tipping point.  Bad air exacerbates the problem by suppressing healthier transport choices, unjustly impacting active and thrifty people.  The Guardian cites a study in Preventative Medicine: “Since transport is an important source of air pollution in urban areas, mode shifts from motorized transport to active travel would not only improve health in active travelers, but also help to reduce air pollution exposures for the whole population.”

la-luz-light

In America with the Clean Air Act of 1970 and increasing fuel efficiency standards for motorized vehicles, we are improving the air quality in most of our cities.  This is an area where there is a great opportunity to lead, as a country and as individuals.  We can make better protections,  incentivize and make healthy choices.  Vote with your legs if you can.  Be a leader, cycle onward!

The most important political office is that of private citizen. –Louis Brandeis

If your stomach is sound, your lungs and feet in good order, you need no regal riches to make you happy. –Horace

Resources:

The Guardian’s article on cycling and air quality: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2017/feb/13/tipping-point-cities-exercise-more-harm-than-good

“Can air pollution negate the health benefits of cycling and walking?”  in Preventative Medicine
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0091743516000402

New York Times article on increasing efficiency and reducing pollution of large vehicles:

The Nature of Change

Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.  –Martin Luther King Jr.

What does it look like to treat others in a way that contributes to their health and well-being?…It looks like honoring their dignity.  –Donna Hicks, “Dignity: Its Essential Role in Resolving Conflict”

abq-art-downtown

On Saturday I was at home working from my computer.  I was taking a day off the bike.  After all is was forecast to rain and snow.  But I felt restless midmorning, and the sun was shining.  Then I realized there was a mobile food market  happening downtown that I wanted to check out.  The perfect confluence of reasons converged on my morning plans.  I had a desire, I had a reason, and sunshine.  I was out the door at 11am pedaling down Zuni toward downtown.

abq-womens-march

abq-putting-civic-plaza-to-use

On Zuni Road a dark grey cloud produced a fabulous hail storm.  White pellets ricocheted off my face and bounced like ping pong balls on the ground.  I covered my red skin and pedaled on!  Downtown I came across the Women’s March.  Civic Plaza was full of citizens rallying, people speaking what they believed.  Peace, loving earth, science & reason, ending every form of discrimination and bias, equality all around.  Government for and by We The People.  It didn’t feel like a protest.  It was a broad coalition of emerging leaders walking forward.

welcome-to-albuquerque

The atmosphere generated by the buzz of the crowd and inspiring talks from leaders on stage was electric.  One of the key elements that makes this kind of inclusion possible is the strange paradox of human life.  We have dual properties acting simultaneously.  Diversity is part of the richness of the human tapestry and we rightly celebrate it.  And at the same time we are able to relate to each other because on the inside, there is a common bond.  We are all the same.

ipcc-painting-corn

E pluribus Unum–out of many, one–is the motto of the U.S.A.   I believe it is characteristic of leadership to treat others well and live universal values–peace, inclusion, understanding, responsibility, empathy.  To stop bullying, we cannot be bullies ourselves.
“The last refuge of intolerance is not tolerating the intolerant.” –George Eliot

la-luz-hidden-road

the-dream

sunrise-sky-1-9-2017

We’ve always known by intuition and feeling that treating others well is the most satisfying action we can make.  And now we have science–biology and psychology–informing us that our actions count.  “The research tells us, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that the way we treat one another matters” (Hicks p. 125 in Dignity).  As Abraham Lincoln said, “We are not enemies, but friends.  We must not be enemies.  Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.”  Pay it forward.  Everyone, not only U.S. Citizens, are worthy of the dream.

mlk-pedaling

Happiness on a Bicycle

She put down in writing what was in her mind.  –Bob Dylan, “Not Dark Yet”

You’re always a kid on a bike.  –Heather Sellers, “Pedal, Pedal, Pedal”

white-sands-flow

My sister sent me a subscription to Sun Magazine for Christmas 2016.  The first issue contains Heather Sellers’ short story on her cycling life.  I am pretty amazed at how Sellers’ writing evokes perceptions and feelings one may experience while cycling.  If you want to read Sellers’ story directly, here is the link to Sun Magazine January 2017 Issue 493.  It’s an amazing story.  A story full of truth about what cycling can do.  As Barry Lopez wrote, “Story creates an atmosphere in which [truth] becomes discernible as a pattern” (Crossing Open Ground, 1989).  I fit my photos from White Sands this past September–when Mai and I walked the soft sand dunes at twilight watching the sunlight splash and play on the landscape–to this blog post.

white-sands-floating-castle

Albuquerque’s official visitors guide for 2016, published by the Convention and Visitors Bureau, has catchy slogans–change your perspective and find your essence.  New Mexico’s landscape and culture can do that for you, exponentially so if you experience it on a bike.  “On a bike the world seems made just for you”, says Sellers.  She goes on to say, “Somehow it was the landscape…that made me feel smarter.”  Cycling opens up our capacity for wonder again, and allows us to receive the information about place through our senses.  Cycling makes it easier to let the place we inhabit touch us, in a reciprocal, healthy, even healing way.  By opening up and giving ourselves up to the experience of place, we receive knowledge that is otherwise elusive.

white-sands-night-awakening

When we cycle we have a much more intimate view of our surroundings.  With a careful operator, the bicycle moves in a way that is relatively unobtrusive.  It just flows, “each moment unfurling into the next”, as Sellers puts it.   “The tires carry on a conversation with the road, and you are both a part of it and listening to it all at once”.  Cycling teaches us how to get along.

mai-walking-at-sunset

Sellers addresses the social dimension of cycling.  Group riding made her feel “like we were doing ballet on a roadway.”  She talks about the “exquisite timing” of group riding and how that makes her “more at ease with people on land”.  People on land?  Sellers uses a trope making cycling a metaphor for flying, evoking our ancient kinship with the animal kingdom.  We need to feel that sense of wonder and awe.  Cycling stokes our vital forces.  Wakes us up.  Connects us.

white-sands-dune-glow

As well as improving the way we get along with others, cycling makes us feel more like ourselves.  Sellers’ writes, “When I was on my bike, I could not only envision a happy, outgoing future self; I was her.”  That experience of being happy, present, and connected is powerful.

Resources:  Once again, here’s the link to Sellers’ article.  “Pedal, Pedal, Pedal.” 

 

The Spirit of the Bicycle

Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe?  –Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature

Bicycles remind me of the Canadian rock band Rush.  They’ve never had the marketing machine elevating them to pop star status, but their audience grows over the years through consistent competency, practicality, artistry, value and pure fun.  They simply perform well.

west-looking

And so it is with the bicycle.  I was talking with a bike shop manager during a ride.  His ideal customer is someone just getting started and wanting an entry level bicycle, $400 or so.  They ride it until it wears out.  Through their experience, they have a clearer idea for the next one.  I told him that was my story.  I started riding almost 20 years ago on a Specialized Rockhopper.  It cost about $400.  Now, 20+ bikes later, I’m on a Specialized Tarmac.  Technology is wonderful, but the most important thing is your bike fits you, and is mechanically sound.  How much money you spend is irrelevant.  The ride characteristics come from you, the rider, from your heart and soul.  A good bike lets you do what you want to do.  It is intuitive, honest, trustful.  You are the instrument making the sound.  You make the bicycle go where you want to be.

wilderness-edge

The places we can go are fabulous!  When I was driving 18-wheeler across America for a living, I saw a lot of country.  But I missed most of what was out there.  The bicycle allows you to immerse yourself and get a 360 degree experience of the landscape surrounding you.   Cycling experiences make our senses and minds more impressionable.  It keeps us fresh, youthful.  If I would have had a bicycle with me on my 18-wheeler rig to ride during layovers, loading times, and rest days, I could still be truckin’.  We live in the best of both worlds.  We have macro-transportation capabilities to span the globe, and can find intimacy and serene pleasure too if we take the time to be quiet, humble, and explore under our own useful and fitting powers.  Keeping a balance is key.  We have to choose wisely, and accommodate ourselves to the world.

fr-445-specialized-action

The bicycle allows us to build an understanding of the world minus the scaffolding.  The structure of the cycling experience is almost unmediated.  What a brilliant, fun technology.  The bicycle is sustainable transportation.  It is practical and worthwhile.  My how we need it!

champions

tall-view

If you want to be a champion to future generations and create important changes now, be a champion of the humble bicycle.  Let people make music with the bicycle.  Embrace this technology and abide by it.   Unlike the rock band Rush, bicycles do not grow old.   We are on the precipice of big change in the world.  Bicycles help us move our story in the right direction and produce more positive outcomes, win-wins.  Bicycles build optimism, health, and–

  • get us out of our bubble
  • activate our inherent mobility powers
  • shift our perceptions so we tune in
  • stimulate creative thinking
  • help us meet new people, feel connected to our communities, and be a part of the world
  • assist us in creating change
  • deliver benefits in health and wellness, sustainability, and creative development

Bicycles put humans in a positive light.  Days are gifts as we pedal forward.  The bicycle abides.

at-the-dunes

resources:
Check out Specialized for bicycles.  The spirit of the bicycle is you!

Flying Days

Cranes lead an amazing life.  They sleep on water, glide on air, and feed from the earth.  Mai and I made our holidays a New Mexico stay-cation.  We visited our feathery friends down south.

bernardo-corn-tips-and-wings

bernardo-corn-twist

bernardo-crane-flight

My cell phone is at its limits trying to capture the majesty of these birds.  Mai took photos with her Nikon, and when she releases those, I can do a blog post with better imagery.  But I just had to put these up since these trips to spend time with birds bring such serenity and excitement.  Or as John Muir said, breaking clear away and spending time in Nature will “wash your spirit clean.”  Most of the birds pictured are snow geese, just because they are easier to photograph.  Cranes are more fun to watch, though.  They feed, dance, and play all day.  They talk a lot, too.

bernardo-cranes-soaring

bernardo-sunrise-and-bird-flight

snow-geese-explosion

We live in a time where it is important to dream ecodreams.  Visions of humans as a part of a world where all life flourishes.  Wildlife reminds me of the equivalency of all times.  Our life would be much poorer if we loose it.  Future generations will judge us by our actions on this most important issue of our times, conserving land and biodiversity, the source of all wealth.

bernardo-cranes

bernardo-flyout-all-in-line

bernardo-leagues

It is touching to see so many birds thriving.  People giggle with laughter standing witness to so many birds in action.  Managing the wetlands for harmonious relations between humans and other wildlife is a good example of Aldo Leopold’s principle of a land ethic, where “a thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community.”

bernardo-snow-geese-from-field

bernardo-snow-geese-circling

bernardo-circular

We when drove down at predawn, we watched an almost new moon with just a sliver of edgy light rise slowly up above the Manzanos to the east.  The black disk shadowing earth’s orbiting companion.  There is a splendor to this time of day, greeting sunrise with the birds.  Although it is nothing but common, there is kind a momentary glory that hitches itself to your life.  When people come into contact with healthy nature and we receive it with impressionable senses, we are sowing the seeds for a brighter future, where our hearts are fresh, energetic, and true.

swimming-out

bosque-del-apache-sunrise-flyway

A Complete Ride

We’ve all heard how sports such as cycling can be more mental than physically challenging.  Virginia Commonwealth University embraced the UCI Road World Championships in 2015 in Richmond, VA with a cross-disciplinary campus-wide effort to engage faculty and students in experiential learning.  Their work became “part of the university’s intellectual and cultural heritage”.  Studying cycling helps you realize it transcends any fixed categories such as transportation, identity, or even sport.  It is an integral part of the fabric of our lives.

VCU English Professor Gardner Campbell explained:  “The project was not just the experience of a sporting event. It represented something more, having to do with the possibilities of human accomplishment and the commitment it takes to get to your goals. Our students saw around them, as they were pushing themselves in the context of their own intensive courses, world-class athletes who were committing their hearts and minds and bodies to excellence.”

vcu-bike-book

The Great VCU Bike Race Book project gave students an opportunity to learn by doing and a chance to become “authors,” producing content curated into a virtual “book.” –photo from the article linked below

Read the full article here:  How a Bike Race Led to Experiential, Personalized Learning ,or,

https://campustechnology.com/articles/2016/11/16/how-a-bike-race-led-to-experiential-personalized-learning.aspx

This video of the final 5 kilometers of the UCI Road World Championships in Richmond, VA shows an exhausted peloton.  The echo chamber of fans lining the cobbled streets, cheering in global tongues.  The winding course highlights city features, the 50 mile pedestrian trail to Williamsburg, Libby Hill, Governor Street, world culture shining in America, and Sagan’s all around cycling skills.  He only had a couple bike length’s lead over the last cobbled climb, but opened the gap zipping through the twisty turns, and extended it further with unrelenting commitment across the flats.  And the way his competitors great him after the race!

An incredible ride by Sagan, steadfastness, control and skill in the midst of seeming chaos.  The discipline of saving energy, then unleashing his heart’s desires at just the right moment.  Cycling is a global sport and a spiritual journey.  Sagan used the microphone after the race to call attention to the plight of refugees, and articulate a vision for shared prosperity for all humanity.  He won the road world championships again in 2016 to continue his reign.  We keep learning!

Virginia Commonwealth University is our Bike Org of the Month for November, 2016.

Detail on the course in Richmond here:  https://www.usacycling.org/richmond-2015-unveils-courses-for-2015-uci-road-world-championships.htm
A previous blog post on Sagan’s Richmond victory:  Achieve World Peace Through Bicycling