Category Archives: bicycle rides

Cycling to work and beyond

This week in May many cities celebrate cycling with a “bike to work day.”  Here in Albuquerque it’s Friday May 19.  I’m a believer in cycling everyday, and aligning a ride around work or school is a good way to get started.  That’s how my cycling began 20 years ago in Reno, Nevada.

There are more benefits than we can imagine in cycling to work.  We get to know our cities better.  We see life from a new perspective.  And we develop our cycling skills as we navigate through varied infrastructure to get to where we need to go.  Cycling to work is a healthy habit.

The key is making cycling a routine.  Transportation is a lifeway, just like eating.  When we try changing with a short term fix, like going on a diet, it usually doesn’t stick.  And cycling to work is going to be the same way.  The idea is to make it a habit that becomes integral to your routine.  We can celebrate cycling everyday!  Bike to church.  Bike to the store.  Bike to open space.

The amazing thing about cycle commuting is how much you accomplish outside of the trip itself.  First of all, cycling energize our lives.  We arrive to work fresh, and if the weather was bad outside, actually relieved to be at our desk.  Free shelter!  Many employers reward cycle commuters with health bonuses, and you become an example for your colleagues.  You boost morale and your enthusiasm is contagious.  People are proud to work with you!  And when you arrive home, you’re already refreshed and replenished with a happy and clear mind.

As a student of cycling, the bike commute is a masters course.  It gets us on the bike twice a day.  The preparation it takes commands concentration and mindfulness.  And we get to practice our cycling skills without having to carve away free time.  There’s an interview with our national hill climbing champion, Leroy Popowski, on the top of Pikes Peak in Colorado.  They ask him what he does to get fit, and he responds that most of his training is riding to and from work with a backpack.  He’s not kidding.  You can look him up on Strava.  Same route twice a day.  That’s ten rides a week.  Of course, then he goes off on the weekends and does more exploring.  But the bike commute is the core for a joyful cycling life.  I hope you seize the chance to begin this May!

Resources:
Find out more at Albuquerque’s member-driven volunteer-run not-for-profit, BikeABQ:
http://www.bikeabq.org
Check out Santa Fe, New Mexico’s bike to work day events:  https://www.biketoworksantafe.com
The League of American Cyclists bike to work month page: http://bikeleague.org/bikemonth

Quiet energy

The standard of beauty is the entire circuit of natural forms, the totality of nature…nothing is quite beautiful alone…but beautiful in the whole.  A single object is only so far beautiful as it suggests this universal grace.  —Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Nature”

On Saturday Mai and I headed south to two beautiful places–Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, and Quebradas backcountry byway.  The roads at Bosque del Apache are open to cycling this time of year, when the Sandhill Cranes are in their Arctic habitat.  The Bosque’s wetlands–engineered in the 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps to mimic naturally occurring flood plains, and incorporated in 1939 by Roosevelt as part of the national system of lands dedicated to wildlife–nurture wildlife year round, and are surging with Spring runoff.  We saw Snowy egrets, Great egrets, a wild turkey, ducks, and many smaller birds.  With the new greens leafing out and wildflowers shooting up, it is serene and spectacular this time of year.

Bicycles are a perfect vehicle for exploring the refuge.  We stopped often to get a closer look and listen.  Details of the landscape appear and register with us the more time we spend there.  Gliding by bicycle, wide open to the world, with the warm sun caressing our skin, is sensational.

We came home through Quebradas, and stopped often to walk.  Flowers are opening, intricately timed for pollinators.  The Ocotillos are not quite out, still waiting for hummingbirds.  But the Creosote, Scarlet Beehive Cactus, yuccas, agaves, Indigobush, Lechuguillas and more are setting the desert afire in color this Spring, a time of quiet anticipation and emerging possibilities.

It’s amazing to be outside and see how it all fits together, and experience nature flowing into our lives.  These places are so healing.  Our civilization’s future depends on better including nature when designing places for people.  Each is a part of each, and our species requires great habitat too, like all forms of life on earth.  If our civilization–the things we do, build and make– invests more in ecosystem services, natural capital, and wildlife, that’s an indicator of progress.

Cycling Japan lights my fire

“Touch is the greatest thing on earth. “ –Ray Charles

After five trips to Japan with Mai, on my sixth trip I finally cycled there.  It made all the difference.  This time I was determined to take time for cycling.  I rented a bike on two different occasions, and cycled about 460 kilometers.  Cycling put me in touch with a lot of things.  Here are a few photos and a sketch of my cycling experiences.  I’ll add more detail in my next posts.

My first ride in Japan was in Kagoshima with Mai.  We took a ferry across the bay to Sakurajima, an active volcano.  Mai rented a bike there and we pedaled together on a combination of paved paths, village and farm roads, and highways.  What a beautiful way to experience Japan.  The next day Mai connected me with a local professional cyclist through the bicycle shop I rented from, Fun Ride in Kagoshima, and he led me on a ride through the city and out into the hills.

The vistas from the hills above Kagoshima looking out onto the city, bay and Sakurajima were mesmerizing.  Japan is over 70% mountains, and has more land covered by forest than any countries other than Sweden and Finland.  So once you get out of town, the landscape is rural and a complete contrast to the busy cities.  There are many small farms, and nature abounds.

After two days of cycling in Kagoshima, we took the Shinkansen (high-speed rail) back to Osaka where Mai’s parents live.  I rented a bicycle there, and ventured into the mountains straddling the border between Osaka and Wakayama, Mount Izumi Katsuragi, in the Kongo Range.

I was delighted by the back roads.  There are so many byways from the foothills up the mountains that are only a lane or a lane in a half wide.  There is hardly any motorized traffic on them so it seems more like a mountain bike ride.  Very peaceful, quiet and enchanting.  There are roads like this in California such as Ebbetts Pass (though it has more traffic) but Japan has an incredible network of them.   I had some knowledge of these roads based on what I’d seen on maps and Google Earth, but cycling them gave me an entirely new understanding.

The access to the mountains from Osaka is pretty amazing.   Since it was the start of Spring, blooms were beginning and farmers were busy working their fields.  Schools were on break.  It was a great time to be cycling, and I can’t wait to go back and explore more.  Arigato Japan!

Mt. Evans Hill Climb

crescent

path

2016 was the 50th anniversary of the Bob Cook Memorial Mt. Evans Hill Climb in Colorado.  You gain 6,630 vertical feet in 28 miles, starting at 7,500′ and finishing at 14,130′.  It’s the highest paved road in the northern hemisphere.  Half of the ride occurs above treeline.

Echo range

Mt. Evans solo

Mt. Evans mealtime

It’s you being challenged by the mountain.  Cycling Evans gives you an amazing sense of your surroundings.  There were nearly 1000 participants this year.  Over 400 racers, and almost 500 Gran Fondo riders, who are not officially racing, but are still taking on the challenge.  I think for everyone it is a kind of competition within yourself.  Can you make it to the top.   We all share the experience of suffering over the same course on one glorious mountain.

Bristlecones

tapestry of tundra

It’s incredible what you see up there.  Surprising how life springs forward under trying circumstances.  The ancient bristecone pines are some of the oldest beings on earth.  It seems paradoxical under such dramatic conditions those trees endure for so long.  But they do.  Getting up there by bike and sharing the experience on the mountain is a cool accomplishment.

tundra

Marmot home

Mt. Evans Sundance Images 2016

Credit for the last photo (all others mine):  http://www.sundanceimages.com/
Visit the event site at bicyclerace.com
Thank you Team Evergreen for putting this event on!

Rolling Valles Caldera

Two weekends ago Mai and I took a trip to Valles Caldera National Preserve to ride bicycles.  They have a cool network of back roads.  Cycling is such a spectacular way to explore a park.

Valles skyline

Valles Mai Sailing

Valles Caldera is a supervolcano that erupted over a million years ago.  It’s an enormous uplift with a ring of 11,000′ peaks encircling a broad expanse of  grassy meadows in the caldera beneath the rim.  There are thousands of elk there, meadows and forest, lots of open space.

Valles slant

Valles Mai leaning

Valles real live cowboy

There’s also a working ranch.  We spotted a cowboy herding cattle with his two dogs, decorative shirt filling with air, puffing out, waving in the wind.  Mai said this was the first cowboy on horseback working the range she’s seen in her two decades living in the American West.

Valles cruising with Mai

Valles on the road with Mai

It was a pretty sweet ride.  Just after noon the building clouds started to let loose in places, curtains of rain drifting in curves toward the treetops that make up the jagged skyline.  The summer monsoon is pretty predictable in the Jemez Mountains this time of year.  We finished our ride just before the lightning and roaming grey clouds closed in on our location.

Valles meadow

Valles Mai smiling

Valles water

As we celebrate 100 years of American’s National Parks, I wonder about our vision and goals for the next 100 years.  I remember reading Edward Abbey’s rants about industrial recreation, and there still seems to be a growing trend towards bigger, heavier vehicles.  That’s certainly not sustainable, as we are not growing any more open space.  It makes a lot of sense to park your car at the visitor center and ride your bike in if you can.  Experiencing parks by bicycle is perfect.

Valles Mai

Valles purples and blue

Resources–
Valles Caldera has a rich and interesting history in many ways.  One of the innovative developments that has come out of human interaction with this unique landscape is “A place-based approach to science for land management.”  More on that here:  https://www.fort.usgs.gov/sites/sense-place-place-based-approach-science-land-management/sense-place-place-based-approach

 

Pedalling Circles Changes the World

Albuquerque celebrates Bike to Work Day on May 20.  Every day can be bike to work day.  But it takes only one day to get the habit rolling.  If you keep up the practice of biking to school or work, you can change your life.  Daily bicycling creates a more vital life.  A vital person energizes those around them.  By changing yourself you influence the world.   Make a bold decision.  Leave a legacy.  Ride your bike, or walk, to school and work today.  You can win a prize.   

ABQ BTWD Poster2016

Details on the Greater Albuquerque Bike to Work Day event are here–
https://www.cabq.gov/parksandrecreation/events/bike-to-work-day

Pikes Peak Hill Climb Challenge

The inaugural USA Cycling Hill Climb National Championships are taking place on America’s Mountain in Colorado Springs Saturday, August 13.  There is also a Gran Fondo fun ride on the same course, which begins at 9,390 feet and ends at 14,115 feet while traveling 12.42 miles.  That’s about 7% gradient average at altitude in thin air under Rocky Mountain splendor.   The Gran Fondo also has two shorter options with less climbing for the more reasonable set.

noncompetitive Gran Fondo Fun Ride with a link to a nice video of the ride by Col Collective
Hill Climb National Championship
Schedule of Events August 13 for both rides, the championship races and Grand Fondo

This event is my top goal for 2016.  I’ve done the Pikes Peak climb before back in 2013.  That year, the Mt. Evans Hill Climb was July 20 and Pikes Peak was July 21.  My teammate and I drove from Flagstaff and did both races.  Climbing to over 14,000′ on back to back days was challenging for sure, but the stimulus kick started the second half of my season.  I didn’t get good results but the experience was extraordinary.  The next month I had more grueling racing at the Everest Challenge, once again without the results I had been expecting.  But I kept working and by September the form rolled around, and we won the State Team Time Trial.  The next weekend I won the Individual Time Trial.  And two weeks after that I we won the State Hill Climb up Mt. Graham.  What ended up being my best season started out with checking in and getting some good feedback so I knew what kind of work I had to do to reach my objectives.

This year I am putting my work in in advance.  I know one thing for sure, I am looking forward to going to the races and Gran Fondos and seeing everyone.  At Pikes Peak no matter who you are at some point in the ride your goal is going to be singular and the same, to get to the top.  A big thanks to the promoters and USA Cycling and Colorado Springs for giving us this challenge.

flat lake reflection

About this photo:  Mai and I were south of Albuquerque yesterday observing Sandhill Cranes and we caught this sunset.  To our surprise there are still thousands of Cranes here but soon they’ll be leaving for the Platte River to fatten up on Nebraska corn.  A bicycle ride through a beautiful landscape, especially on a mountain road or trail, will give you a glimpse of the light in your heart, just like this lake shows the sky reflected atop a sheet of water on the broad earth.