Friday, January 30, 2015

World UpsideDown

The world turned upside down. The grey-tone clouds that mottled the sky very much resembled the pavement I took to get here. Dark streaks of oil stain, potholes showing through to another world beyond. The one curbed by mountains, the other by concrete. When I reached my destination water fell up into my face as I rode upside down across that great expanse of turf that is Picnic Valley. Kicked up from wheels, fallen from clouds. Falling, rising, the water has given rise to Spring - who covers the hillsides, lines the trails and backside roads, fills some trees, while others await just a little more sun. I fully expected to see wildflowers (mustard does not count), but Persephone is yet to touch them. It will not be long now - Monkeyflower is emerald in new growth, revived from the end of Summer die-back. I predict they will be the first of the blooms, the example for others to emulate.

The horizon was a hard edge today, approached with care and caution. A sharpness cutting the grey, releasing a flood of pent up green. A flow from an open wound, it swept down hills, flooding draws, cascading over rocks, overwhelming all unable to escape the rampage. I chose to forego a distance ride along barren river channel today in favor of a shorter ride in these hills chasing shifting horizons. I chose well.

Octavio Orduno, Ride in Peace

Icon: A person of thing regarded as a representative symbol of something

I have to believe that Mr. Octavio Orduno was an icon, widely recognized by many, as he rode the streets and back ways of his hometown Long Beach, long before a newspaper story from a few years ago, made him one to the rest of us. Inspiration to many. But I also imagine a life beyond the headlines, the life of a man beloved, and simply known as husband, father, grandfather, and compadre by the relative few who knew him best. 

Ride in Peace Mr. Orduno.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Lighting Up the Night: Cygolite Dash

Last November, just after the time change made me break out the front and rear lights, the battery for the MiNewt headlight gave up the ghost. I don't think it had been fully charging for some time, and the beam was, to be blunt, weak. This was the second of that model, and the fourth Niterider, light I have owned; they were all limited in function (single beam), but dependable and all I ever really needed.

As I considered my options, I quickly decided it was time to try something different. At half the price I paid for the MiNewt, the Cygolite Dash has proven to be everything, and more, than what it replaced. It is lighter, is a single compact unit rather than separate lamp and battery packs, is easy to mount, and has a range of beam options including four steady beams and three flashing ones. I can get two or three nights worth of rides out of a charge, which is equal to what I got from the MiNewt, with the added benefit of a brighter beam.

The varied beam settings allows you to switch between beams with higher and lower energy use. I have used this to advantage on two separate occasions so far. The unit comes with a warning light (the push button on top) which flashes when the current beam setting has five minutes of run time left. When it begins to flash you can switch to a lower energy setting to extend the run time. A couple weeks ago I was out with the beam on medium setting (typical for me) when the warning began to flash. I thought my ride for the night was over, but I switched to the lower setting and extended the time. When the warning flashed again, I switched one more time (just the four small lights across the top - which, by the way, are still quite bright) and finished the ride.

Two things to consider, one, I am not sure what the lifetime of the battery is. Will it take more than a season or two of recharging, or quit sometime before then. Second, the battery does not appear to be replaceable, so once it is gone the light becomes trash.

Supposedly you can get one and a quarter hours on high, nine hours on low, and fifty-five hours flashing. The light charges in four hours from an electrical outlet, or from a USB port. If you need a new light to finish out this winters dark rides, the Cygolite Dash is worth checking out. After three months of use, I have nothing but good words for the Dash.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

From the Library: My Road to Victory

Over the past number of years I have become a dedicated LUBer. My local used bookshop (LUB) has become quite a favored stop whenever I am anywhere nearby. I have picked up some terrific books there, including many standout cycling ones, the most recent find being Stephen Roche's My Road to Victory.

You may recall Stephen Roche had a year of a lifetime in 1987, when he won the Giro d'Italia, Tour de France, and the World Road Championship. My Road to Victory recounts Roche's year with a photo smorgasbord (150 pics by Graham Watson) of those three major races, plus his Spring campaign which included Paris-Nice and Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Stephen himself wrote the text which give added description and personal insight into the action and pitfalls as they transpired.

Only two riders have won the three races in the same year, Roche and Eddy Merckx. For that singular, historical, reason the book is significant. Then there is that Roche is one of the greatest Irish racers of all time. And then there are all of Watson's photos. Yup, My Road to Victory has found a prominent spot in the library.

Roche, Stephen   My Road to Victory   London: Stanley Paul, 1987

Monday, January 26, 2015

Monday Blues: Valley Oak

This Monday Blues has nothing to do with bicycling, although the photo was taken at Sunday's race. I haven't been on the lookout for blue bicycle type stuff lately, but the sky over the weekend was such an amazing blue, I decided to let it fill the niche. Here it frames the gnarled, weathered, twisted limbs and branches of an ancient Valley Oak at Corriganville. Fresh leaves are popping out, and galls are hung like ornaments or old dried apples.

Why mourned the wind, why leafless lies the track,
Why breaks no sun, or sings no bird to cheer
The morn, beloved friends, that welcomes back
Your Mary to her home of Sydenham dear?
Could painter's hand appropriate landscape form,
Were she to seem the Genius of the place;
There would not, sure, be there a shade or storm,
But all, herself resembling, bloom and grace.
And yet, dear maid, though loveliest scenes of earth
Might suit thee; more, they could not make us prize
The voice - like music to our wintry hearth;
The smile - like summer's gladness to our eyes.

Mary's Return by Scottish bard, Thomas Campbell (1777-1844)

Sunday, January 25, 2015

2015 Dual in the Dirt Relay Mountain Bike Race #1

Seventy and more years ago these rocky hillsides quilted in sagebrush, coyote bush, mule fat and other species, these shallow canyons shaded by the protecting branches of mighty Valley Oak resounded with the pop-gun bangs of mock Hollywood gunfights. The make-believe town streets are long gone, the buildings with their wooden false fronts only appear in the imagination, conjured from the remains of concrete floors and wall foundations. One thing that does remain are the grit and hardpack of dusty trails along which wagons and horses once rumbled.

Today people wander the trails and hillsides in search of a few hours respite from a busy, modern life. They may find memories of a fabled Old West, they may make their own memories while climbing rocks and trees. Mountain bikers also come here, to test themselves against terrain, and one another. The Dual in the Dirt Relay Mountain Bike race follows a course at Corriganville that runs fast and tight, and is quite short - I didn't track my distance when riding the loop post-race, but I don't see how it could be any more than 1.5 miles around. That is a mile and a half of flat with some sandy sinks, some short, rutted climbs and descents, cracked hardpan bedrock, a section of bushwhacking (or at least getting whacked by brush encroaching on the trail), an off-camber turn that caused at least one rider to slide out, and a few tight twisting turns thrown in for good measure.

That word Dual in the race title is neither a grammatical mis-spelling nor a typo, this is a paired race series with each racer riding half the distance in laps - you can switch off every lap, every other lap, or what ever combination works best for you. Pardner up and check out the next race in the series, 22 February. I threw a copy of the 2013 Seasons in the Sun into the prize package (I believe the fastest Junior racer on the day won it) and may do so again next time. There may even be a 2014 edition, which admittedly turned out much better than the 2013 book, thrown into the haul by series end.

But back to this day; racers came out with both barrels blazing, spitting fire and lead, and were posting some quick lap times. The shortness of the course makes for great spectating. The fastest riders, in particular, those who bolted from the pen and kept going, circled around in mere handfuls of minutes. Even the backside of the course, and the one rutted climb is only a short foot trek from the start finish. Because of that, and you can probably imagine, this is not an endurance type race. Instead speed and the ability to navigate varied and quickly changing terrain will serve you well. Maybe I will see some of ya'll out there when the race comes through once a month over the next three months.

The photo selection is not quite as big this time, only sixty-two in the Flickr album. Of course I took many more than that, so if there is someone you are looking for, just let me know and I will check.

As usual, if you see a photo you like feel free to download it (credit where credit due, of course). Want more? Go ahead and order your own copy of the CLR Effect racing annual. There are two editions available right now (2013 and 2014), and you can preview them by clicking the 2014 Seasons in the Sun Book Preview button near the top of the right hand column.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

2015 KMC Chain Winter Series, Race Weekend #2

What comes to mind when you hear the name Fontana? Steel? Rednecks? How about wind? The Kaiser Steel Mill closed up shop in the 1980s. Rednecks might more accurately be substituted with Blue Collar (although the ever-popular nickname, Fontucky, refuses to go away). The one thing that has remained true is the wind.

This mornings cross country race was delayed until the afternoon due to that wind. I don't know what it was like in the morning, but it was still blowing fiercely at three in the afternoon when the XC racers got their call up to start. One good thing that did come from the delay was that I got to see some of the first round Super D action, at least at the lower end of the course.

"Don't do it.!?" If anyone had asked my advice about today's race, that may very well have been the short and sweet response. Few, if any, would have taken those words seriously. It is just not in the nature of the mountain biker to back away from a challenge. And anyway the winds, with gusts of seventy miles per hour, would have probably been blown away as soon as I spoke them. No, earlier than that I think. They would have been swept clear of my mind as soon as their thought was formed. It was that windy.

Expert Men 43-50

Alfred Pacheco (Buena Park Bicycles) was killing the course and the competition both. seems to be a regular thing for him.

You can view a selection of one hundred seven photos in the Flicker album here.

As usual, if you see a photo you like feel free to download it (credit where credit due, of course). Want more? Go ahead and order your own copy of the CLR Effect racing annual. There are two editions available right now (2013 and 2014), and you can preview them by clicking the 2014 Seasons in the Sun Book Preview button near the top of the right hand column.
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