Category Archives: climbs

Riding with heart: Mike Woods at La Vuelta a España

North American Mike Woods won his first grand tour stage in the 2018 Vuelta a España.  Riding up steep grades past throngs of cheering fans, through the mist on a forested mountain top, Woods persevered.  Rocking his bike back and forth, standing up out of the saddle, accelerating again and again, Woods pushed himself harder than anyone else could.  When he crossed the finish Woods was caught by his soignuer, who held him so he wouldn’t fall down.  Woods left everything out on the road.  His ride was an amazing display of how sport gives an outlet, a place to put our energies, crystallizing our will into a determined moment, overcoming life’s arduous circumstances.  Sport gives us the opportunity to show what the human spirit can do.

There were so many people on the side of the road today just screaming my name and my director was on the radio.  In the last 500 meters he just said do this for your family.  And, I did.  I did.  —Michael Woods on winning Stage 17, Vuelta a España 2018

Cycling it seems to me is so appropriate for the 21st century.  It elevates human living in so many ways, including Woods’ showcase of the triumph of the human spirit.  And it makes practical sense as a fitting, appropriate technology for daily living.  It’s self-powered mobility that’s clean, renewable, accessible, affordable, and quite fun for everyone.  From kids to families, all generations, young and old, including the many generations to come, cycling works wonders, and gives us a window into the beauty of the human soul and the everyday world we live in.

Resources and further reading:

Stage 17 highlights (3 minutes, including Woods interview).  Watch video on youtube

Stage 17 last kilometer (4 minutes) Watch video on youtube

Professional cyclists used the Vuelta to draw attention to the necessity of increasing road safety for all, including bicyclists, pedestrians, and occupants and operators of vehicles.
http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/freire-leads-demonstration-for-tougher-spanish-road-safety-laws/

Mike Woods is on Strava, the social network for athletes.  You can view his day to day activities there.  From Toronto, Canada, he trains in Tucson in the offseason.  https://www.strava.com/pros/425147

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Connecting Albuquerque and Santa Fe with cycling

The way we treat the environment and the way we treat each other are intricately connected.  —Jonathan P. Thompson, “We are the environmental movement”, Colorado Sierra Club blog 

I’ve reached a couple milestones recently.  This is my 365th blog post on bike yogi.  For some reason, this has been a number I’ve had in my head as a goal since I started this blog in 2014 to write about cycling.  I also was trained as a cycling instructor this past Spring by the League of American Bicyclists.  I’ve wanted to do that for years!  And on Sunday June 17th, I connected two great cities, Albuquerque and Santa Fe, with a bicycle ride along the Turquoise Trail, through Santa Fe, and on up Hyde Park Road into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

the turquoise trail connects Albuquerque to Santa Fe through rolling high desert terrain and beautiful mountains

I woke up early on Sunday to begin my ride by 7:15am so I could meet my wife in Santa Fe at Fort Marcy Park for a picnic at noon.  Although June is an extremely hot and dry month historically in the Southwest U.S., the previous day we received a steady rain and the landscape was still wet and fragrant.  Lingering clouds dropped some showers in spots as I rode.  It felt so good to pedal and circulate that oxygenated blood all around my body, and at the same time watch that vital ingredient in the chemistry of life–WATER–flow from sky to the waiting earth.

bike art along the Turquoise Trail

The atmosphere above, the ocean below–it’s one big system.  –Sylvia Earle, “Sunken Treastures

Spooling down the Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway on a bicycle is a little bit like sailing on an inverted ocean, the clouds roiling in the sky with a fluid, wave-like motion.  I feel the beauty inside of me.  We already see the roads as an artifact of our culture, and a way into the culture, history and traditions of the land around us.  In Georgia, there is a pilot project on highway to farm the roadside and make it more ecologically productive.  As part of this project rethinking what a highway can be, Georgia is building bioswales to clean the water runoff, growing wheatgrass to sequester carbon, and experimenting with asphalts to make it quieter.  This sounds exciting, but right now by cycling I already feel the way this road is improving my health, today!  Why do for people what people can do for themselves?  Cycling is an economic engine.

Hyde Park Road leads up into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains

The infrastructure is the landscape.  –Jonathan Thompson, “River of Lost Souls

In Santa Fe I took the most direct way through town, and started climbing up Hyde Park Road.  Due to the high fire danger most of the recreational facilities from the road are closed, so there is very little traffic, and more than half of that traffic are bicyclists.  It’s so quiet I am spooked when I here twigs breaking in the forest next to me.  I look to my right towards the sound’s source and there are two deer running up an embankment.  They were enjoying the quiet too.  After I climb “the wall”, the steep two mile pitch through the State Park, I turn around to be on time for my picnic date with my wife.  It’s delightful.  After lunch we stroll through town.  In the Plaza in the center of town where the streets are closed to motorized traffic, all I can hear is a chorus of human voices.  It’s like a hundred conversations happening all at once, something like a symphony of voices.  A beautiful sound.  The fabric of community.  We stumble upon a free concert by the Santa Fe Concert Band in front of the Court House.  We lay on the grass and listen to the songs roll–Arioso, Black Horse Troop, A Touch of Carmen, The Phantom of the Opera. We drive home to Albuquerque together, feeling restored, hoping more rain will come soon.

The Santa Fe Concert Band played a Father’s Day Concert at Federal Park

Logic will get you from A to B.  Imagination will take you everywhere.  –Albert Einstein

References and Resources:

We are the environmental movement is an interview with writer Jonathan Thompson https://www.sierraclub.org/colorado/blog/2018/06/we-are-environmental-movement

Georgia DOT is farming the roadside:  https://www.mnn.com/green-tech/transportation/blogs/georgia-highway-rightofway-farming-ray-anderson

Explore New Mexico’s Scenic Byways:  http://dot.state.nm.us/content/nmdot/en/byways.html

The Sun Magazine’s feature interview each of the last five months has been incredibly inspiring:
https://www.thesunmagazine.org

Jonathan Thompson’s book River of Lost Souls is in part about converting our economy so what used to be sacrifice zones contribute more to human well-being and our sense of place.  https://riveroflostsouls.com

Finding peace on the bike

Everyday when I get on my bike I learn something new about the transformative powers of cycling.  Creative thoughts flow.  If I’m angry or hurting, somehow cycling helps me work through those feelings, and turn that energy to the positive.  Cycling is constructive.  Cycling and sport in general helps us focus our energies, overcome fear and use our life for the good.

When I watched a story on New Mexico’s opioid crisis, it made me think of how cycling can change our course.  Then my friend sent a link to a video of Juanjo Mendez’s story.  Juanjo was injured in a motorbike crash, and felt depressed afterwards.  But cycling brought him back.

Dr. Leslie Hayes in Rio Arriba County suggests the real solution to drugs is to get meaningful things in peoples’ lives.  We are not going to arrest or medically treat our way out of the opioid crisis.  We need love.  Stories like Juanjo Mendez’s are proof cycling adds meaning and hope.

Cycling helps us cope with pain and trauma.  If addiction is an effort to avoid pain, as Dr. Gina Perez-Baron suggests, cycling and sport in general may be a constructive outlet to deal with our hurts in a healthier way, even focusing our energy to propel us towards our goals in sport and life.  To get super proactive building healthier lives,  we can promote cycling and healthy sport.

Sport has the power to change the world.  It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers.  —Nelson Mandela

References:
“New Mexico deploys best practices to avoid the worst outcomes in the opioid crisis”
https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/new-mexico-deploys-best-practices-avoid-worst-outcomes-opioid-crisis
Photos are from Saturday’s ride  https://www.strava.com/activities/1251054152

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!

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

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’