Category Archives: Bicycling and Environment

The beautiful necessity of cycling

…human inventions are magical in that they give life to what heretofore had no existence. Our good working ideas have the capacity to direct our lives in a manner indistinguishable from any other reality.  —Cormac McCarthy, “Cormac McCarthy Returns to the Kekulé Problem” in Nautilus

The invention of cycling is a remarkable achievement.  Along with walking, cycling epitomizes sustainable transportation.  Human beings are designed to move under our own power. Walking is the most basic transportation.  A bicycle is the most basic vehicle.  By designing our cities and streets around the concept of serving walking and cycling well, we improve all types of human mobility. It is the long-term solution to our current transportation challenges.

This song by Rush, Subdivisions, reminds me of the world I grew up in.  It sometimes felt alien, partitioned, and anonymous spending so much time in automobiles.  A new degree of culture is emerging that commands our respect for the inalienable freedoms of human movement.  The culture that embraces an array of transportation opportunities dramatically improves our travel safety, and revs up our lives and economy.  Multimodal transportation–serving all travel modes–is the new helm.  This framework brings health, sustainability, and builds community.  It’s a saner world, one where we are not incessantly rushing, but spending time doing things that truly bring us joy, and listening more to what our bodies have to tell us.

An article in The Guardian today mentions “vehicles are now America’s biggest CO2 source”.  It discusses reducing emissions and improving efficiency, but not increasing walking and cycling.  It’s not an either/or proposition, it is about viewing walking and cycling as priorities, absolute necessities, basic public goods.  Without serving those choices, we are left with a conundrum.  We’ve learned structuring cities and streets around cars reduces choices.  Walking and cycling make healthier, happier people, and better places.  They’re good choices.  Everyone yearns for health, happiness and freedom.  Elevating the idea that streets are for people makes many transportation problems disappear, and creates a system that matches our human potential.

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We need to get more people experiencing cycling to open minds.  It is a key technology for sustainable development.  Cycling aligns with the beautiful necessity of our human nature.  We are an animal designed to move with our legs.  The bicycle unites that reality with an ingenious tool.  Cycling is magical, like having wings or discovering new superpowers.  It changes the way we experience and perceive the world. Cycling joins the power of wheeled locomotion with the sensitivities and keen pleasures of being human.  By designing our streets to serve walking and cycling first, we’ll give rise to a new form of built-environment that connects us through our activities and makes our spirits soar higher.  Once we obey the concept of designing cities for wellness, our culture can expand in new directions, giving our dreams real leg power.

Akemashite omedetō gozaimasu

明けましておめでとうございます

Happy New Year!

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Front-country ethics, or, blue-collar cycling

Cycling definitely fits the mold of a blue collar job.  You start fresh and clean heading out of the house, and you come home covered in dirt, salt and sweat.  You have the weather that can turn on you at any time.—Kirsti Lay, Rally Cycling, quoted from the video at the end of this post

You are more hyperaware of your surroundings when you ride.  –Kelly Catlin, Rally Cycling

As a student of the bike, cycling always instructs me.  One of the joys of cycling is simply getting outside.  I’m stationary inside much of the day, so cycling gives me a chance to roam.

Since almost all of the riding I do is from home and work, I spend most of my cycling time in and around the city. The city is important to human living!  We hear a lot about backcountry ethics and caring for remote environments, but surely our city habitat is equally important.  We spend most of our time in cities, and this is where we learn how to interact with nature.

Cycling has many benefits for healthier cities.  Cycling makes for friendlier, more humane cities.  And it keeps us in touch with what is going on where we live.  Cycling is a way to create happy experiences in everyday life, and stay healthy, positive, and strong.  It helps individuals and communities build resiliency, and develop a caring relationship for the places we live in.

Cycling is good news, and Albuquerque and all Southwestern cities (all cities, everywhere) can increase cycling rates by investing in it.  Cycling makes us active daily participants in a healthy city.  When we cycle, we become connectors and reflectors of all the healthy aspects of our home environment, the greenery, the great food, traditional heritage, atmospherics, and social community.  Cycling exercises our civility muscles, and creates lifestyles and places that bring happiness.  Cycling is a tool that gives us the ability to work for true wealth.  A way to help us locate our better, authentic selves.

For more on the cycling outlook, check out the video from Rally Cycling, “Working Outside”–

References:
Visit Rally Cycling’s website:  https://rallycycling.com

Time expansion

Time expands when I’m cycling.  I don’t know how it works, but riding is like a glimpse into the mystery of the universe.  And when I get home I have more of everything.  More time, more energy, more joy, relaxation.  Cycling is so satisfying.  I feel younger.

I think part of it is the magic of cycling.  We are born with legs that want to make us go.  It’s natural.  Then we designed an elegantly simple vehicle that uses our legs and makes us more efficient with two wheels.  We glide over the surface of the earth, flowing with the contours, wielding our own power.  On the bicycle even our leg motion becomes circular.  For most of our biological history, our ancestors had no access to this special experience.  Super-mobility.

That gliding motion, how sensational!  We are the pilot and passenger all at once.  Our thoughts and capabilities so perfectly expressed through this machine.  We can go 50 miles on a burrito with a side of blue corn chips.  How’s that for efficiency and fun?  Take time for paradise today.

A quote from Benjamin Hoff’s The Tao of the Pooh inspired this post along with a book my father gave me (but he doesn’t remember) called Take Time For Paradise: Americans and Their Games, by A. Bartlett Giamatti.  Cycling has a way of making our everyday experiences extraordinary.

“If time saving devices really saved time, there would be more time available to us than ever before in history.  But, strangely enough, we seem to have less time than even a few years ago.  It’s really great fun to go somewhere where there are no time saving devices because, when you do, you find that you have lots of time.  Elsewhere, you’re too busy working to pay for machines to save you time so you don’t have to work so hard.”  –Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of the Pooh

The photos are from rides this week under New Mexico’s captivating and vivid light.  A perfect place to cycle.  Unlike baseball, which separates out leisure from work, cycling is an integrative activity, the perfect work-play-live-learn-love thing to do.  We can generate more of it.

Cycling in beauty

“This is the most beautiful place on earth.  There are many such places.”
–Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

Here are a few photos from places I’ve cycled the last few months in New Mexico.  One of the great pleasures of cycling is the sense of appreciation it builds for the places we live in.  Every ride the splash of wind, the lay of the light on the land, the wildlife I see gives exquisite pleasure and imbues me with a sense I am in the most beautiful place on earth in this moment.

Highway 64 takes you high into the Brazos Mountains above Tierra Amarilla with views of the Brazos Cliffs

The Sandia Crest road about halfway up. Those green patches are the ski slopes

Cycling is special like music.  It gives us a chance to express ourselves and sprinkles a little magic into our lives.  Every ride is a chance to be creative, explore our abilities, increase our capabilities, develop leadership skills, improve results and build up our trust and confidence.

When I go outside I experience the great mystery.  It’s like walking into an art gallery or concert hall.  The road is the pathway in, and the best ones are aligned in subtle ways to fit to place. Traveling there gives us an expansive feeling, like we are part of something greater than ourselves.  As much as we recognize this beauty, we can assimilate it into our understanding.  Cycling is a living communion, a humble conversation, touching infinity.  A way of learning.

Our effort, our sweat and breathing, is the sacrifice, the price of admission.  Suffering on a bike is not that bad, actually beneficial, when we realize we get way more than we give.  It’s a small fee to enter a much larger world.  It’s cathartic, cleansing, and happily satisfying.

“Every place, like every person, is elevated by the love and respect shown toward it, and by the way in which its bounty is received.” –Richard Nelson, The Island Within
I am grateful for cycling!  

Pedaler in Chief

“Bicycles will save the world.”  –Susan Handy, UC Davis Environmental Science & Policy

How poignant this Rush song is today.  It was written in 1985 when greed was being institutionalized in America.  I grew up a confused child in a troubled world.

After high school I worked as a roofer.  I started college.  At 21, I drove an 18 wheeler around America the beautiful, and epic Canada too.  But it was the bicycle–rediscovered at the age of 22 when I realized the car could not save me and was too expensive for me to operate anymore–that changed me.  It was a tool that helped me learn Emerson’s Self-Reliance from the inside by living it.  It’s not easy, and I don’t know where this journey is taking me, but it is a fun ride.

mais-scene

What if our next President charged the country with cycling more?  Make a difference, bike more.  We don’t need everyone to ride, we simply need to support people that are out there cycling right now and encourage people that will.  Especially our youth, and young at heart.

If you’re feeling cynical during this election cycle I recommend cycling more.  It builds us up and connects us to the greater world.  I would also recommend voting.  We have to make our effort and let go of factors beyond our control.  We can only dictate our own effort.  And it works.

2012 was a pivotal moment on my cycling journey when Joe Shannon, Flagstaff Cycling’s Pedaler in Chief, gave me an opportunity to race again, build a team and smooth out my pedal stroke.  We keep growing the movement and spreading the word.  What if the next President of the U.S.A. embraced this new title, Pedaler in Chief, and built a team with all Americans and World Leaders?   Who knows, maybe big money can help more too.  Let’s ask.

References–
Check out Dr. Handy’s research here:  http://www.des.ucdavis.edu/faculty/handy/
Joe’s team is linked here–
https://flagstaffcycling.squarespace.com/
Cycling joins together disciplines:  UC Davis’s Center for Environmental Policy and Behavior

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!

Cycling Up America’s Mountain

“Within my first week riding, I found a local club (Big Orange) that taught me how to ride and encouraged me to start racing.” —Krista Doebel-Hickok, Women’s Hill Climb USA National Champion 2016, on how she made the transition from running to cycling

I raced the inaugural USA Cycling Hill Climb National Championships August 13th on Pikes Peak west of Colorado Springs.  The course begins at 9,400′ and ends above 14,100′ over 12.4 miles.  It’s an incredible ride.  I raced up Pikes Peak in 2013.  That year we raced up Mt. Evans, Colorado’s other paved mountain road summiting above 14,000′, on Saturday, and we raced Pikes Peak the next day on Sunday.  That was hard!  Knowing the course helped me relax and enjoy all the rest and recovery I could get after the drive up from New Mexico.   We toured Garden of the Gods and saw Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep grazing,  A tranquil scene.

Co Springs garden

Colorado Springs garden of the gods

Garden of the Gods bighorns

Bicycle events are like conferences, festivals, and meetings all rolled into one.  It’s invigorating connecting with so many diverse people passionate about cycling, and inspiring to see people doing their thing.  This trip turned out to be full of serendipitous connections beginning with the hotel we stayed in.  The Buffalo Lodge at the base of Garden of the Gods in Manitou Springs is in the process of repurposing the historic motor lodge into a cycling adventure base.  Great!

Buffalo Lodge banner

Buffalo Lodge hosted the 12th annual Roll Bike Art festival the night before the race so we were surrounded by a rolling party.  Leagues of cyclists pedaled in throughout Friday evening.  An absolutely stellar vibe.  Cycling is not just about pedaling circles.  The whole experience counts.

Buffalo Lodge neon

Buffalo Lodge when in doubt...

I was blown away by the culture, sports and art.  A creative and inclusive community, where people are comfortable and don’t feel like they have to act tough or prove themselves.  I was especially touched by this piece of art made from recycled bike parts including chains and sprockets.  I’ve never seen hard metal and sharp edges flow in such organic and riverine form.

Buffalo Lodge art show flow

Great Sand Dunes hotsprings sunflower echoes

On race day I was up early to eat and stretch.  My race started at 7:10am.  It was a joint event, coupling a USA Cycling sanctioned race with a citizen’s ride in the Italian gran fondo tradition.  Some of my favorite events are like this, Iron Horse for instance, because you get a wider range of participation and more people riding for different reasons.  They started riders in waves and my group, Masters Men 40-49, started in the 8th wave after all the gran fondo riders.  We had 30 some riders in my group and over the first mile of the course I worked my way to the front of the pack from the back.  One rider went off the front with clear enthusiasm.  I spooled up and followed.  We worked together for a half mile and when the road pitched up in earnest, I was alone.  I rode my fastest tempo and metered it out to hold on to the top.  With a time of 1:14:34 I won my race by over two minutes, and was faster than my time in 2013 which was 1:15:33.  I had the 8th fastest time on the day behind pro/amateur elite racers.  Next year I plan to go for the top overall, but this year I’m glad I raced Masters.   It was the right choice to keep a healthy balance and meet life’s demands.  Life is more than cycling, but cycling helps with everything.

Great Sand Dunes chamisa and showers

On the way home we visited Salida and they were holding the inaugural Salida Water Festival.  There’s a growing movement in Colorado to conserve water and change public values and behaviors.  The strategy involves developing technologies to keep water pure and use it more efficiently, and incentivizing smarter behaviors.   Transportation innovation is happening similarly, coupling advances in technology with programs to shift behaviors and support values, attitudes and lifestyles that can make the legacy of our era more of a positive one, preserving our natural heritage so a healthful abundance flows downstream in time to future generations.

Salida water festival

Sand Dunes water

On the way home we stopped in the San Luis Valley at Great Sand Dunes Hot Springs.  We immersed our bodies in the waters on Sunday morning after camping out beneath the enormous sky and open space that is our heritage in the American West.   Cycling teaches me to be vulnerable, to be open, and reach out to something greater than myself.  The world of cycling is truly driven from the heart.  A cycling experience based in patience and love is just the beginning, not the end.  Poetry in motion.  Thanks to my team and sponsors for their support, all the club cyclists who teach me how to ride, and the greater community involved in cycling, who make it richer and make events like this possible.  Grateful we made the trip!

2016 Broadmoor Pikes Peak Cycling Hill Climb / USA Cycling Hill Climb National Championships

2016 Broadmoor Pikes Peak Cycling Hill Climb / USA Cycling Hill Climb National Championships, me finishing

References
Race home and Photos http://coloradospringssports.org/index.php/events/pikes-peak-cycling-hill-climb-main
list of participants  https://www.usacycling.org/register/2016-30
photos https://www.facebook.com/pikespeakcyclinghillclimb/
results http://my4.raceresult.com/59091/?lang=#0_BEE445
buffalo lodge bicycle resort in Manitou Springs http://bicycleresort.com/
roll bike art festival in Colorado Springs http://www.rollbikeart.com/roll-2016.html
Ideas for the last paragraph are adapted from Weston Noble
cycling, like music, ‘allows us to have feelings we never knew we could have’