Tuesday, October 30, 2012

From the Library: The Masked Rider...

I picked this book up at a local used book shop for, oh, about $1 plus change. Some books hold their value, others gain enormously in value over the passing years, while others ... well. That said, I suggest you ignore the fact that this one falls into the latter category. What it lacks in value, it makes up for in story; it is, in fact, quite grabbing, and took me on a long bumpy ride down a series of tortuous, dusty roads.

I confess it is not what I expected when I picked it from the shelf. I didn't closely read the description on the back cover, until after I had started reading through the pages. Just another example of how I can be blinded by the mere sight of a bicycle on a cover. As a result, what I thought would be an anthropological study of bicycle use in West Africa, turned out to be a travelogue instead.

I also overlooked the name of the author at the time of purchase as well. It is, of course, that Neil Peart, drummer of the rock band Rush. As it turns out Neil is not only an accomplished musician, he can also compose a better-than-average travelogue and, I would judge, is a well-versed adventure / touring cyclist. (I'm hoping you noticed the way I worked those musical references in there - "composed", "well-versed" - I work hard for those moments).

Not only is the account of Neil's (as well as his four companions) engaging, it is also informative. For instance I learned things about the African nation of Cameroon, and the people who live there. I also learned that adventure cycling can be very philosophical. And with that I am going to close this review with a few of my favorite quotes from the book: 

"... I had experienced enough cycle touring to know that when you're finished pedaling by 9:30 in the morning, with the rest of the day free and a nice hotel by the ocean, you should enjoy it."

"...sometimes a slow rider has nothing to do with strength or age; it can be a mental thing. There's probably a metaphor for life there."

"The world is a friendly place from the saddle of a bicycle, and anything you can't actually see from that vantage point tends to recede into unimportance."

"How different it is to be riding through a landscape, rather than just by it. In some ways it makes a strange place less exotic, and yet it becomes infinitely more real ... there are no walls or windows between your senses and the world."

Peart, Neil  The Masked Rider: Cycling in West Africa  Lawrencetown Beach, Canada: Pottersfield Press, 1996

Monday, October 29, 2012

Monday Blues: Fuji Roubaix...

I have not seen anything to suggest that this 1995 Roubaix marking the 25th Anniversary was anything special, or out of the ordinary other than that little sticker on the seat tube. In fact I am not sure if the designation marks the anniversary of the model, or of Fuji America. But it sure is blue. If dated correctly, 1995 places this frame within a period of time in which Fuji manufacturing had shifted to Taiwan, and the bikes are less highly regarded than earlier Japanese manufactured frames. While there are numerous sites with information on Fuji company history, the period of the 1990s is rather vague, and I have seen little to nothing on this specific model. Maybe someone will chime in.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sunday's Rides...

After yesterday's Village Venture, which draws some 10,000 to 15,000 into the little downtown of Claremont Village, I assumed many people would be too tired to come out and ride this morning. Maybe they were, and the people who did come out to the two rides, which left from the Metrolink parking lot, were part of the group who did not attend Village Venture. Whatever the case may be, both the PVBC ciclavia exploratory ride in the morning, and the Cycle Claremont ride in the afternoon, were well attended.

And why shouldn't they have been well attended, it was sunny and warm, and there were good people to share the routes with. I am, however, going to call out a group of four riders, who thought nothing of running stops when others had clear right of way, and even when pedestrians were in the crosswalk. I may be a firm proponent of the Idaho Stop, but I guarantee, no one was impressed with those moves. 

line up and sign up

always something to discover

the ontario wheelhouse

sunny smiling

riding along Bonita (Citrus Regional Bikeway)

many small groups rode south on Garey at their own pace...

That handful aside, I think everyone had a good time. Looking back at the shots I took, I know everyone had a good time. As for a cyclovia-style ride coming to the Pomona and Claremont area, as cool as that would be, it seems to be a wait and see situation. It involves a lot of work, a lot of coordination, a lot of convincing that such an event is a worthwhile effort. If you have an opinion, make it known. How? Add your voice to the Pomona Valley Bicycle Coalition for one. You always see the big group training rides on the weekends; I, myself, saw both the Coates shop ride, as well as the Back Abbey team pass by today, and you also see individuals coming and going on what ever errand they are attending to. You kind of get used to seeing those, but when you see a mixed group like this - families and individuals, riders in team kit, and others in denim and cotton - they tend to stand out, hopefully makes people think "I could be doing that." And hopefully, next time, those people join in too.

i was there incognito

a basket of brains

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Centerline Gallery Addition. Oh, and A Ride In Search of Autumn...

First up, a new shot for the Centerline Gallery. I seem to remember saying something about how it might be difficult to find a centerline when riding the dirt. Well, you can always do it yourself with whatever materials happen to be available. Like deadfall:

Now on to the main bit. Yesterday was my designated day to ride in search of autumn - my annual out and back mountain bike ride from Manker Flat on the south slope of Mt. Baldy, up to Baldy Notch, down to Stockton Flat off the north slope, and back again. I could not have asked for a better day to do it. Unfortunately I had no takers to join me, so did the double climb and descent solo. The temperature at the trailhead was a brisk 51º, the sky was clear, and the predicted Devil Winds were breezing far below a devilish level. There were a few hikers and trail runners, as expected, between Manker and the Notch, but after that not a soul around.

The initial climb of the day has never given me much trouble; the ski resort keeps the road which services their operations well groomed, compacted and generally devoid of loose chunk. Heading down the north side of Baldy, though, has presented me with more problems in the past - I have just never been especially proficient on that fist-sized loose stuff. Past years I have ended  walking from Stockton Flat to the Notch far more than I would have liked. Truth be known, I have spent more time climbing afoot than climbing from the saddle on that side of the mountain. Not today though. I tell you what, when it came time to head back up, I relaxed, didn't let that loose stuff stress me out, and rode it all. It was brilliant I tell you. 

The question remains, did I find autumn? It's up there, but not a lot of it. I found it in a few deciduous trees and shrubs in the shady areas of canyons. I saw it in the ghost yuccas down at Stockton Flat, and in the bushy tails of local squirrels. I also felt it in the slight morning chill (which didn't last long).

some patriotic person visited desert view. they also know the mountain, placing that flag in a protected spot out of the prevailing wind

taking a little rest at stockton flat. it was sooooo quiet

dead yucca stalk

autumn yellow, stockton flat

mistletoe getting in on the seasonal color. unfortunately it is rampant over on the north slope - the oaks are being wiped out by it, and i noticed it at the top of many cedars

yellow amongst the green 

i have always liked these switchback views, so i took a shot of one...

and another...

and another.

That's it for the M-S-M Ride in Search of Autumn, until next year.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Friday Feedbag and Quotable Links...

I started to compile this short list of good reads for the Friday Feedbag last week, but then got distracted. So, some of the links are fairly old, but still worth it if you have not seen them yet.

"... stopping just short of telling the poor, poor motorists that us cyclists will also steal children in the night."

"I think of CicLAvia as Critical Mass with manners."

This one is owed the Meligrosa, who posted a collection of artwork showing the daily use of bicycles in India, at the Change Your Life, Ride A Bike blog. There is some cool and colorful bike art at the Ghoda Cycle Project:

No one should ever accuse Greg Lemond of being anything other than passionate about the sport of cycling. His message of "rage" over the current situation in professional cycling spread across Facebook on Wednesday, and was quickly picked up by media around the globe. If you have followed his career, from his junior years to now, you probably realize that this is nothing new. Many of us speak of cycling as something special, and it is because of that I am convinced his message came from the heart: 

"I have never seen such an abuse of power in cycling's history..."

Related to this, I added the Paul Kimmage Defense Fund gadget over on the lower right hand column a couple weeks ago, and I watched it slowly increase. I think it has gained $20,000 since Greg's message hit the press. Clearly people are concerned about the state of the sport, the commitment of its leaders, and the direction it should take in the future. Donating to the Fund is not just about Paul Kimmage. Well, there you go, just as I put this to press, out comes news that McQuaid, Verbruggen and the UCI have decided to abandon (or is it suspend) their libel suit against Kimmage. Stay tuned, who knows where things go from here in the wild world of cycling.

If an organization does not have the respect of its members, how can it ever hope to accomplish anything of value. The answer is simple - it can't - and with that I leave you, this Friday, with a segue to a petition at Change.org calling for Pat McQuaid and Hein Verbruggen to be removed from their positions with the UCI and in cycling.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

More Fire Bikes...

Orlando Fire Department Bicycle Team

You might remember a post in early September about a fire bike which had been modified to haul hose as part of a fire response team. Gavin, of BikELove - Scotland, provided a link to more information which piqued my interest even further. I dug into the topic a very little bit, I am quite sure just barely scratching the surface, but enough to realize that bicycle use by fire departments is unsurprisingly widespread. Bike patrols have become ubiquitous parts of police departments around the world, so it really should not be much of a surprise that bikes provide many other emergency response roles.

In the United Kingdom, fire departments utilize bicycles in both public relations and awareness, and emergency response in instances where large crowds or inaccessible locations may hamper access by larger vehicles. In Nuneaton, Warwickshire the Bicycle Intervention Knowledge and Education (BIKE) Team talk with the public in order to reduce incidents of arson and other anti-social behaviors. But they also are used as a way to reach "places we can't normally get to - off-road, on fields and amongst woods." Similar units in parts of London have reported as much as a 50% decrease in arson incidents since their mobilization. The use of bikes adds another component to emergency response, "It's all about giving the fire service an added presence and allowing us to engage with the community more" says a Staffordshire Crew Manager.

In the United States, fire departments in locales as widely spaced as Orlando, Florida, Troy, Ohio, James City Couny, Virginia, and close to home, Upland, California all incorporate bicycle units into their ranks. As in England, most of these units are operational during special events when large crowds inhibit easy movement of larger vehicles, and when responding to emergencies in more inaccessible areas. The Troy Fire Department Bicycle Paramedic Program, begun 1994, has noted that response times during crowded events have been shortened by 3 to 5 minutes below more traditional motorized response. The City of Orlando Fire Department deploy's two-member bicycle teams consisting of a paramedic and an emergency medical technician. Each team carries EMS 1st response equipment and are capable of assessing the needs for additional care. The Upland Fire Department Bicycle Paramedic Team provides "rapid response through congested areas where conventional emergency response may be delayed due to accessibility difficulties." The two-member teams are assigned to congested areas during certain times of the year, and during large public events. In addition the Upland Fire Department believes that unit members serve as roles models for bicycle safety and public health.

That last reason for being, seems to be a common thread amongst the various units I have read information on. The emergency response role may be the most important aspect of these units, but they also serve as ambassadors, liaison between their respective departments and the public, as well as role models for healthy living and public bicycle safety. Not quite the same as hauling fire hose around, but certainly and important mission.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Westside Invite Hardcourt Bike Polo Tournament...

gotta like the personalization of wheel covers on polo bikes

Alright, so you know already that cyclocross was not the only happening over at the Fairplex this past weekend. There was also this little competition taking place called the Westside Invite, which seemed to attract three person teams from at least as far away as Washington state. Maybe further, I'm just not sure. Two courts were set up, and action seemed to be taking place continually the two days. I stopped by the courts and watched some of the play which ranged from okay, to pretty darn skilled.

If you have never witnessed any bike polo before, this is no champagne sipping crowd occasionally glancing up from refined political talk when players rumble past. Designer labels on tie and jackets would stand out like a sore thumb here rather than blend in. Talk in the stands is raw and edgy, matching the grit of the play on court. Bike polo looks and sounds like one of those sports; I can just hear mothers warning their sons and daughters, as they head off to college, to "steer clear of those bike poloists." That said, I learned this weekend that as bike polo has grown in popularity over the past number of years, the skill level has most certainly widened. And, while the competition can get quite intense, rough and tumble on the pavement stuff, it is all in good fun.

My previously experience with bike polo was limited to small local matches and tournaments; the Westside Invite was my first spectating opportunity of a tournament of greater magnitude, and the play was far more advanced than any I had seen previously. I can only imagine what a Hardcourt World Championship would be like. Nothing against local tourneys, or players (some of whom are also quite good). Everyone has to start as a newbie, and I imagine it is only after years of play that you reach the skill level of some of the players I watched last weekend. By Sunday evening, when the cx races had wrapped up, the bike polo tournament was still going strong. The stronger teams must have advanced towards a finale by then and were on court. I saw a trio from Portland competing against a team from [I am not sure where], and exhibiting some mad riding and shooting skills.

a ladies trio tussled against the boys. at least one of them also raced cx and, i do believe, may have had her business featured in a post over on Meligrosa's Bikes and the City yesterday. if you look at my spookycross post try and guess who is wearing the jorts

a basket on a polo bike. that is supreme. you never know when you will be called upon to make a beer run

Monday, October 22, 2012

KrosstoberFest 2012...

on this course there were many places to get some air. Scott Chapin, of Rock Lobster, put the most space between himself and the ground, during the UCI men's race on Sunday

Two-day events such as the SpookyCross / KrosstoberFest weekend are an interesting study of how racers react to the course, especially if the course stays the same both days. What I mean by that is by Sunday everyone seemed to have it all figured out and some seriously fast lap times were being recorded. Take that first berm in the bmx-style section for instance. You rip down that fly-over ramp, doubling your speed (or more) in the process, then go straight into that tight right hand, banked turn. On Saturday, whether due to misjudging a line, carrying a bit too much speed, or what not, racers were going down at this spot. Either crashing hard on the packed side of the berm, or tumbling over the softer backside of the berm. Sunday, I didn't notice a single crash at the spot.

The bmx-style section was a twist, a technical obstacle thrown into the more usual cx mix. The course also had a run up, sand pit, fly-over, barriers, tight turns, dust-choking straights, strength-sapping grass. Then there was the finish - another twist, a long gallop-of-a-finishing straight on the horse track. Giddy-up. 

Dorothy Wong, and her organization and supporters, have done a terrific job of bringing cyclocross to Southern California for a number of years now. The season-long series of races (I think 21 individual race days this season) has included, not one, but two UCI category weekend events each year lately. That is no small feat, and has clearly helped to fuel a growth in the sport across the southland. At the same time the Southern California cyclocross scene is still a kind of third stepchild, if you will. World Cup and other UCI races in Europe continue to draw the top racers in the sport, while East Coast (long the hotbed of American cyclocross) races siphon off many of the best from North America. Even so, there is never a lack of Western talent to mix it up with the world-class racers who do show up, to test their legs on a SoCal-style cx course. Consider the UCI women's race as indicative of what I mean - Caroline Mani, former French National Champion was here for the second consecutive year. She was joined by Coloradan Teal Stetson-Lee, Courtenay McFadden of Washington, and Mical Dyck of British Columbia, Canada, among others from California and the western states.

series leader leading the chase through the pump section

Beatrice Rodriguez spots her line through a berm

cx rowdies

But those are the headline races, the ones that take up space in the publications and cycling press. As exciting as it is to watch some of the worlds best compete, it is the races which take place earlier in the day that generate the most excitement - the ones in which the locals compete against one another. These are the races where family, friends, teammates line the course, cheering and egging on their chosen favorites. Cowbells, horns, megaphones, let you know exactly what is happening, and who is where on the circuit. It is good stuff, no question about it. Late in the day, I want to say during the singlespeed races but am not sure now, two racers were locked in battle on the final lap, and it looked like it would come down to a sprint finish. All of a sudden on the final berm through the bmx-style section, one racer slid out, and you could feel a change in the air as everyone watching let out a oooohhhh! Just like that, in a cloud of dust and raining dirt clods, it was all over.
When they become available all results can be found at SoCalCross.

a Las Vegas Cyclery racer leads the singlespeed women out of the sand

Kyle Kelley flashes a two-handed victory salute in the men's 'a' singlespeed race

singlespeed series leaders Alan Zinniker and Amanda Schaper ride off into the sunset, least ways i think the sun was setting in that direction

Elle Anderson (Ladiesfirst Racing) on her way to a 1st Place finish, and
that after finish 3rd on Saturday

Scott Chapin (Rock Lobster) rails a berm

Tobin Ortenblad (California Giant Berry Farms/Specialized) leads the UCI men through the sand on his way to finishing 4th behind Mark McConnell, Cory Greenburg, and Michael Sherer

So, storage of all these race photos taken during the year is becoming ridiculously problematic. I took another 500 shots over the course of the day, and the vast majority of those I will only keep on dvd. Approximately 50 of the "better" ones can be seen by clicking here. I think this will become pretty standard for all races. If you were there, I probably have a photo of you; if you want it just send me a name, race number, description (team kit, bike), and I will see what I have, then email you a copy.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

SpookyCross 2012...

Just a few photos to serve as a place holder for this year's SpookyCross post, the first of two days of racing and frolicking around at the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds.

action and reaction - racer and spectator

masters race leaders coming off the fly-over

overpriced beer at the fairplex? naw, couldn't be

bmx-style berms after the flyover. deal with it

the kid with the bill set himself up for the hand up at the trickiest part of the course; i can't tell you how many tried and failed to get that dollar, or didn't even attempt it (being focused on the next berm). finally though, we found a winner

this could have turned out ugly

that's what it is all about - cyclocross excitement

So, storage of all these race photos taken during the year is becoming ridiculously problematic. I took over 700 shots over the course of the day, and the vast majority of those I will only keep on dvd. Approximately 50 of the "better" ones can be seen by clicking here. I think this will become pretty standard for all races. If you were there, I probably have a photo of you; if you want it just send me a name, race number, description (team kit, bike), and I will see what I have then email you a copy.


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