Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Upcoming: Bike Week Preview @ Pomona Art Walk...

Yet one more local upcoming event - it is bike month after-all. If you only visit the Pomona Art Walk once a year, make this the one. Of course you will have a good time, and that might just bring you back again. The family and I went last year, and I wrote a little about it here.

Upcoming: Inland Empire Ride of Silence...

The Ride of Silence takes place during the months of April and May around the world in remembrance of those killed and injured in bicycle vs. automobile related collisions, and to raise awareness in our local communities to the importance of being safe and courteous when exercising the common use of our roadways.

Once again this year, Cycling Connection will be hosting the Inland Empire Ride of Silence leaving from Juice It Up, southeast corner of Baseline and Day Creek Blvd in Rancho Cucamonga, on Wednesday, May 15. Riders should gather at 5:30 for a 6:00 pm depart time. The silent, 12 mph max speed ride will follow a 12 mile route and include police escort. Check the Psycho-lists MeetUp event page, or Cycling Connection MeetUp event page, for more information

Upcoming: Claremont Bike to / from Work Day...

Thursday, May 16 is Bike to/from Work Day in Claremont and, as usual for years past, will be celebrated with a "pit stop" out in front of the depot, on First Street, from 6:30 to 9:00 in the morning. Stop by on your way to work, or school, or home from the late shift. If you ride your bike, take the train or the bus, if you live so close that you can walk, join the crowd that gathers on this morning. Coffee and quick, good morning foods have been supplied by local businesses for previous Bike to Work Days, and I expect they will be again. There will be plenty of commuting information available, and people to talk with and answer questions. Bike to Work - a good start to the day.

Sorry, but just read that the pit stop has been cancelled for this year. Bummer, but you can still ride to work.

Upcoming: Plain Wrap Ride, 2013...

Mark it in what ever way you do such things - the calendar hanging on the wall, the smart phone, consigned to memory, or leave it to the Facebook event page to remind you. Just remember to register soon (before the 15th of May) because day of event registration is $10.00 more. Proceeds go to some fine local causes.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Monday Blues: Nearly All Blue...

One last image from the recent CicLAvia to the Sea:

Blue fenders and tires are nice and, though it might be overkill, have I got a set of wheels for this bike.

Blue: A color, a mood or emotion, a genre of music. Tune in each Monday for another installment of the Blues, with a cycling twist.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Feel My Legs, I'm A Racer #8...

Marview (i think)

What if you organized a little informal annual race, and it instilled such torturous memories in the minds of the participants, that few chose to return after their first try? You might be glad the race is held in Los Angeles, where there is such a large pool of cyclists from which to draw new potential victims. Such was the case when Matt Ruscigno asked the assembled 40-50 riders, who had done the race before, and only three or four hands punched the air. Warning bells should have sounded, really loud ones, klaxons. In a way they did, the nervous laughter serving the same purpose.

I didn't notice anyone turn away at that point, though, and so at 8:20 or so in the morning, we left Sunset Triangle to face some of the most fearsome demons in the city. Clearly a labor of love for the organizer, Feel My Legs, I'm A Racer, ascends ten of the steepest streets in the city, and three of which (Eldred - 33%, Baxter - 32%, Fargo - 32%) are on the list of ten steepest US streets. Throw in paving which ranged from perfect to something that could only laughingly be called pavement, and you are set for a special challenge. With short spins linking each of the steeps, there is time to recover between each of them. Physically anyway. The head games are another matter entirely. Before today, I had only ridden one of these streets, the easiest - Mt Washington Drive.

winner of the first climb (Micheltorena) then disappeared

no camera tricks, Fargo is that steep

Fargo Street chaos

Turning a corner at the bottom of each of the others, only to come face to face with true walls, was shocking to say the least. If you know me by now, or are at least familiar with my braggadocio, you know that I will go to my grave proclaiming myself to be a climber. The thing is, there is climbing, and then there is climbing. Give me a miles-long mountain road that never seems to end, and I am happy. The things that were ascended today were not those climbs. I might be tempted to call them sprinters hills but, though you might start them with a sprint, they quickly devolve into something entirely different. Something that I am not sure has ever been adequately named. The best description may have been the one I overheard at the bottom of Thomas after the riders had come back down - one rider, only half-jokingly commented that the street was once a stairway that had been filled in. Yah, that kind of steep, that kind of climb.

Thank goodness I have this blog thing as a ready excuse - the old, "i'm not here to race today, just taking photos, covering it for the blog." Yes, there were those I rode all the way to the top; the ones I had to ride all the way to the top, because we then went down the other side. There were others I only went part way up, or walked, just far enough to get some shots from the steeps before the racers turned around and came back down. All of which begs the question, am I a climber? Yes! Just not that kind of climber.

Thomas Street (i think)

you might remember Seth Britton who swept the jerseys at the recent San Dimas Stage Race on his way to winning overall in the Cat 5's. i heard he also won the San Luis Rey Road Race yesterday. here he charges up Eldred

there is more than one way to get up these suckers

carnage on Eldred

a finger for the ride, or for the sprint?

Well, I was so focused on the travails of the racers that I completely forgot to mention the bikes. Other than unicycles and tall bikes, I think the variety was nearly as great as the number of riders. Racing machines predominated, as you might expect, but there were also fully decked out touring and commuter rigs, old steel roadies still proving their mettle, mountain bikes, a folding Bike Friday, a hybrid or two, even a single-speed Flying Pigeon, being ridden by the race videographer. I won't try to fool you into believing each was equal to the task; the front-runners tended to be the lighter-weight racers of today. But, there was at least one heavier steel mixing it up near the front on a regular basis, and that hybrid, looking like it would be more comfortable on a somewhat less vertically challenging path, carried its rider up each hill, to the appreciative comments of all in attendance.

If you want to check out the map of the route, showing the hills, and haven't seen it yet, look at the post on Matt Ruscigno's blog. Finally, I went over my self-imposed limit on photos again; there are 98 at this link.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

CenterLineRule Tees?

I know tee shirts are kind of de rigueur when it comes to promotional merchandise, but have been giving some thought to the idea anyway. There must be three or four people somewhere who need one more cycling tee. 

I like simple, straight-forward, uncomplicated designs, so:

Leave your comments and honest critiques.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Cycling Landscapes: Story and Memory/Narratives of Place...

"The history of my people and the history of this land are one and the same. Nobody can remember us without remembering this land. We are forever connected." Anonymous, Taos Pueblo

In part one of Cycling Landscapes I examined the meaning of place through the words of cultural geographer Yi-Fu Tuan. In part two I will continue and expand upon this line of thought by considering the role of narrative and memory in the identity of place; how people interact, and how events play out upon a landscape, leaving impressions upon both individual and collective memories. Part two, as did part one, will focus on the sport of cycling in Europe, though the assumptions presented could translate comparably in other places, in other situations.

Since "narrative" will play a prominent role in this study, defining that word is crucial. So, what is meant by narrative? Simply (and broadly) put, a narrative according to Wikipedia, is a constructive format that describes a sequence of non-fictional or fictional events. Narrative and story are often used interchangeably, and both suggest human involvement at various levels - the viewing of events, interpretation of events, storytelling or, the relating of events to others, and the act of listening on the part of the others. Narratives can become quite elaborate in their many stages.

In the distant past (or even more recently in other instances) prior to the advent of writing systems throughout the world's cultures and societies, narratives of any significance would have been conveyed by the singular means of storytelling. Important events would have been consigned to memory and would become a part of group tradition and history through verbal retelling. Elders who were able to retell the stories were revered, their worth in promoting group identity and cohesion, widely recognized. Storytelling by verbal means continues to play a similar role today, though the methods of conveying significant incidents have multiplied. Artistic representations, written word, photographs, and video have each eclipsed the more ancient method. But the method used to convey information is not what is important in this study; instead what is important to recognize is that the information being conveyed is a form of narrative, and that narrative creates an image in the consciousness of individuals and groups, tying together people, events and place.

Europe is an old land, a land where past and future live side by side, one part quietly and steeped in tradition, the other loudly, rushing toward a future of inevitable change. Memories are deeply embedded, they seep from cold stone walls, are carried across hot plains by mistral winds, spiral up mountain slopes, across naked ridges and back into deep valleys, infusing meaning where ever they touch. To say that landscapes carry the weight of human history is no small thing. One would be hard-pressed to look out over a vast World War II cemetery, row upon row of crosses extending into the distance, and not feel sobered, not react to the meaning implied by the view.

One of the immutable tenets of any landscape is that they contain meaning, the visible elements form a narrative, and combined, tell a story. The story may not be a complete one, in fact it may be quite short or confined, depending on the subject. But, just as likely the story can involve a complex interplay of visible elements and human culture. All landscapes, even those seemingly devoid of human influence tell a story. First there is a geophysical story of how the landscape was created and evolved over millennia; then there is the biological story, that of the flora and fauna. Next, add in the human element, not only the multitude of ways humans impact and shape their environments, but also the individual and group views of their surroundings; individuals will interpret a landscape based upon personal experience and cultural influences. For example any group of individuals will interpret the exact same landscape in a multitude of ways; a desert can be barren or vibrant, it can be plain and boring, or full of life, it can be forbidding and scary, challenging, intriguing, etc, depending on the perspective of who is viewing or describing it.

Landscapes are never static, they are constantly in flux; even the shifting light over the course of a day creates change. Things hidden become visible, before reverting once again to the shadows. Elements such as wind and rain cause physical changes in a multitude of ways. All this provides background for the human experiences and drama that take place over the passage of time. These two - landscape and human experience - combine to form stories. The landscape is an active stage on which actors (people) interact with one another, as well as with their surroundings.

It is not without precedent to compare landscapes to the stage of a theatre - they are settings where events transpire, scenes are played out. Unlike a play, though, the scenes are the unscripted ones of life, subject to shifts of chance, whim, opposition. The audience never knows how the story will end; there is mystery inherent in how the story progresses. This sense of mystery enhances the connection between action and setting. "Through landscape the temporal dimension of narrative becomes visible, and space becomes charged and responsive to the movements of time, plot and history." (Potteiger, pg 7)

Cillian Kelly of Irishpeloton.com recently made the connection between theatre and cycling when he wrote: "The theatre in which road racing is acted out is one of cycling's major selling points. The crisp spring air of a Lombardian coastline, the brutal muck-drenched bergs of Belgium, the snow covered hairpins of a Swiss Alpine climb..." Most sports, maybe all, develop bonds between events and locations; the more poignant those events are, the greater their significance appears in the eyes and minds of the people, the stronger that bond becomes, and the more hallowed and revered is the location.

Followers of the sport of cycling soon discover just how intrinsic the connection between past and present (and ultimately future), and location is. Cycling is amongst the most tradition-bound of sports/activities. Its champions and heroes continue to inhabit the roads along which they raced, sweated and bled, well beyond their retirement. The same roads which saw attacks leading to victory, or collapse leading to defeat for one generation of riders, become proving grounds for the next. Comparison between past achievement and present potential is ongoing and never-ending. "Going on the road is a way of escaping, as well as making things happen." (Potteiger, pg 277) Events both small and insignificant, and great, happen along roads. History records many of these for future generations; memory must suffice for others. Armies move along roads, the military might of nations defending the homeland. Other times see other armies, ones composed of athletes, officials, support, and followers make battle along the same roads.

Though the narratives of cycling history recount the battles, the competition between individuals, and teams of riders, it is a rare (and incomplete) story that does not reference the setting, the stage along which the course of action progresses. The setting becomes an inviolable part of the narrative, inseparable from the people involved. With that thought I return to the quote at the head of this post, and its reference to an intrinsic connection between people and landscape. "The history of my people and the history of this land are one and the same. Nobody can remember us without remembering this land. We are forever connected." Dealing as it does with an entire culture and its connection to the land, it may be somewhat unfair to try and make the same link between a group of athletes and their arenas of competition but not, I think, unrealistic.

Think about some of the most memorable of battles from races - Sean Kelly and Moreno Argentin at the finale of the 1992 Milan-San Remo didn't occur in a vacuum; their descent along the Poggio is an all important component of the story. The epic 1986 Tour de France and its double-fisted slugfest between teammates Greg Lemond and Bernard Hinault was written into cycling lore in many places across France that year, but at the Alpe d'Huez, the place author Jean-Paul Vespini said "delivers a verdict - absolute, impartial, and final", the fabled twenty-one hairpins took a different turn. The two race leaders rode up the mountainside together, clasping each others hands in apparent unity as they crossed the finish line at the same time, adding mystique not only to their own battle, but to the Alpe itself. Though included in only twenty-seven editions of the Tour, few other locales have achieved an equal status in the lore of the race, the competition between athletes.

In a recent reminiscence for Peloton magazine (November 2012, no. 15) the respected cycling documentarian, John Wilcockson weaves a tale, from his viewing of the Tour de France in 1963, that is equal parts competition and setting. In the telling, Jacques Anquetil and Federico Bahamontes battle for supremacy in the races last Alpine stage "where rain was falling and swirling clouds hid the 15,000 foot high 'White Mountain,' which on a clear day dominates every view in this part of the world." From the impossibly fast finales along the Champs Elysees in the heart of Paris, desolate, withering climbs such as that of Mont Ventoux, or the wind-battered plains of Brittany and Normandy, the locations through which the peloton passes during the Tour de France indelibly leave a mark on the memories of racer and spectator alike.

What is most notable about these descriptions of the landscape within accounts of a race are when the two serve as a reflection mirroring one to the other. In the same Peloton magazine article noted above Wilcockson, refering to the 1986 Tour battle between Lemond and Hinault ending atop the Col de Granon, says "many of the other riders arrived at that remote, rocky peak in a state of collapse from the lack of oxygen, the cold air and the grueling six hours..." The exhausted condition of the riders is a direct reflection of the harsh and unforgiving landscape through which they have just raced.

At the time any narrative plays out, in whatever arena the narrative takes place, there are a minimum of two categories of participants - active and, for lack of a better word, passive. The active participants are those whose role is directly tied to the progression of events, those who are engaged in the actual competition. Linked to this group are any number of support staff, individuals whose roles may shape the outcome due to their interaction with the actual competitors. The second group of participants are the spectators, specifically those who witness the events first-hand as they play out. Even though I have called them passive, one should not confuse their role with an inactive one; they may not (though history has shown that they sometimes may) be actively involved in determining an outcome but, their presence as witnesses to the events as they transpire give them a level of importance, especially in the shaping, and sharing, of the narrative. On occasion spectators may take on an active role, either inadvertently or intentionally, but doing so necessarily moves them out of the passive category and into the active one. Both these types involve components unique and personal to each individual, as well as components shared in common. Naturally, because the roles of competitor and spectator differ, shared components, even though experienced by both groups, impact each in distinct ways. Those shared components are made up of the whole of the environment along which the race passes; everything between the sun (or clouds) above, and the winding ribbon of black tarmac below. 

Cycling Landscapes will continue with a consideration of each of these "participant narratives" in turn, beginning with Narratives of the Competitor.

The first two parts to Cycling Landscapes were published at the Claremont Cyclist: Introduction, and part I, Cycling Landscapes: Yi-Fu Tuan.

Copyright 2013 Michael Wagner

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Back to the Bowl...

If it's Tuesday (as it was last night), I must be at the world famous Rose Bowl. There was a time when that would have been true, but as this was my first visit this year, there is not quite as much truth to it these days. Anyway, it was kind of like visiting with an old friend, or at least a friend you only see once a year, but can still pick up where you left off without missing much of a beat.

now, i don't know if he was off the front in a solo break attempt,
or if he timed things to make it look like he was. either way, he got the spotlight

Of course, much depends on what you mean by old friend, and how it is said; the difference is subtle, but distinct. If you say it with a sneer and heavy load of sarcasm, as a response from Kirk to Khan (if you know what I mean) Old Friend, you've got it right. See, the Bowl wants to welcome you back, it's all in good fun after all, right. Right. But then it is going to make you pay for that pleasure. Sure friend, glad you're back; all is good. Saddle up, lets race. 

Like all good training rides, the one at the Rose Bowl is a mixture of fun and serious competition. Because the concept of "fun" is supposed to be devoid of any sense of seriousness (I checked the definition), the combination of the two is a tricky juxtaposition in, and of, itself. It is a lot like the term "organized chaos" which, I think, I have used in the past in an attempt to describe the Bowl. It is a madhouse conglomeration composed of racers, recreational riders, commuters on bikes, commuters in cars, walkers, runners, strollers, dogs, golf balls, soccer balls, soft balls, and Cat 5's all, largely, trying to occupy the same space at the same time. A thin white line helps create some sense of order; ability and experience sort the rest.

It is easy to find your way back to the Rose Bowl. Like an old friend, it will gladly welcome you with open arms, a firm handshake, a slap on the back, a smile and a joke. What you need to keep in mind is that, like any meaningful friendship, this one is going to require some effort to maintain. That is what you will find hidden behind the smile, the innuendo beneath the joke. Good to see you, Old Friend, you say to one another, with gritted teeth and narrowed eyes.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

More April CicLAvia to the Sea...

As I already noted, I did not stop as much as I would have liked this time around, nor did I snap as many photos while on the roll. However, I did manage a few rider candids, and here they are:

Monday, April 22, 2013

Monday Blues: Daniel Martin, Argyle Blue...

He has been building up to it, over the course of his career, over the course of the spring campaign, and on Sunday Daniel Martin finished off Liege-Bastogne-Liege with, what is arguably, his biggest win yet. With about 1 km to go to the finish of the Spring season's final classic, Joaquim Rodriguez attacked with Martin right behind; with 400 meters left, Martin accelerated with enough power to leave Rodriguez in his wake and solo in for his first Spring Classic victory.

Interestingly, Martin earlier in the year won the Volta a Cataluna. He noted that his Irish compatriot from the previous generation of racers, none other than the great Sean Kelly, won the Volta and followed up with Liege-Bastogne-Liege in 1984. That historic stat was at the back of his mind leading up to the race, and the well-deserved finale win.

Blue: A color, a mood or emotion, a genre of music. Tune in each Monday for another installment of the Blues, with a cycling twist.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

April CicLAvia: First Rides, Last Rides...

how long was Andrzej off the bike?
long enough for spiders to make webs in his spokes

CicLAvia was a last minute decision this time around. Honestly, I could have stayed away and been fine with the decision (I have been to all the previous ones) but the wife wanted to go, so we did. It was too late to make the earliest Metrolink train, so we fell back to Plan 'B'. It was only thanks to FBook that we even had a Plan 'B', which involved driving in to Highland Park to join the Milly's Riders feeder ride into downtown. It may have been too late for the 7:30 train, but the 8:30 Highland Park start was do-able. A smaller group met this morning (only five of us), but we did meet up with four more along the route. We took off down that funky Arroyo Seco bike path that I used to take to work, made a few zigs and zags, crossed the LA river on what I assume was the Broadway bridge, rode a very short distance on the green bike lane, before reaching City Hall and the start of this year's first CicLAvia. The rolling party was just kicking out, and we hopped right in.

Ride or Die on the Arroyo Seco bike path

downtown Los Angeles from the Broadway bridge

some Milly's Riders p/b Squadra Folgore

It will be interesting to hear impressions of this edition. To be honest, I didn't enjoy it as much as the previous rides. I find downtown interesting; Venice is interesting. But what comes between those two endpoints was just lacking and un-notable. We didn't even really feel like stopping at the "hubs". Venice Blvd was just - blah, and cramming everyone onto one side of the street was a big mistake. Heading to the coast at the time we did (still somewhat early) was fine, but returning to downtown was a completely different story. The coast-bound traffic was so congested that most people seemed to be walking their bikes. At the same time, the sheer numbers heading to Venice were pushing those of us heading the other way into a narrow corridor along the median. I kept expecting a head-on collision at any moment. In fact the joke amongst the Downtown directionally oriented flow was that we should just cross the median and ride amongst the autos. Faster, surely; safer, likely. The thing I like most about CicLAvia is being able to stop, either at the 'hubs' or at other points of interest and just watching everyone roll by. I don't know if it was due to the longer, linear route, the lack of any spots of note through the mid-portion, or the massive crowds, but it did not seem possible, nor did I really feel like doing so.

Venice Beach

tiger bike at Venice Beach

two-way, one-way, watch out

I am sure there are people who will take exception with my opinion, who thought this was the best route to date, and I am fine with that. CicLAvia should showcase different areas of the city, and that is what today was designed to do. I didn't particularly like it, but I can't wait to see what the organizers cook up for the next one. By the way if the media say 100,000 participants again, they are nutso, or need to update their standard quote. There were far more.

Now, what exactly do I mean by that "first rides, last rides"?  Well, the Milly's Rider's own, the venerable Andrzej, marked his return to two wheels after crashing and breaking a hip during a standard Sunday ride a number of months ago. CicLAvia was his first ride back. And last? I briefly talked with a rider who's rig, a single-speed fully loaded for touring, caught my attention. He was finishing up a 2,000 mile ride, which included spins (and grinds?) through both Zion and Grand Canyon. He timed things so that CicLAvia would be his last day of the tour. Nice; firsts, lasts, and everything in between. That's CicLAvia.

must have had some uphill grinds

Finally, I will put up a few more 'rider' photos under a separate post in the next couple days.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Earth Day 2013 in Claremont...

the biking end of the Earth Day festival

dedication of the Uncommon Good Whole Earth Building

So, Earth Day was celebrated in Claremont today, along 2nd Street on both sides of Indian Hill. And for blocks around - where ever people could find a space to park their cars (sigh). I wasn't the only one to notice the hypocrisy in that, but for far too many it was just another day to hop in the car. Fortunately it wasn't all grim, as there were also plenty of folks who arrived by bike, and on foot. It was also good to see plenty of people stop by the talk to Cory of Coates, ask about the bikes he had brought from the shop, or to ask questions of the volunteers from the Claremont Senior Bicycle Group, and others with the Pomona Valley Bicycle Coalition.

I didn't notice a lot of riders testing their bike handling abilities on the skills course, but the kids who tried seemed to be having a lot of fun. Later a couple riders, on their fixed-gear bikes, had all onlookers amazed by their track stand abilities. Props to everyone who put their apprehensions aside and had a go around the course.

Earth Day also marked the opening dedication of Uncommon Good's Whole Earth Building. The building will serve as the nonprofit organization's headquarters, and was built from 85% on-site materials (as in dirt packed into sandbags). The Los Angeles Times ran a story on the building a few days ago - see here, and there is also more at the website of Uncommon Good.

while it was great that bike racks figured into the building plan, and that they match the building,
but they are not the most stable design. unless they figure everyone will have a kickstand


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