Thursday, December 30, 2010

Warmth?

With temperatures forecast in the 50's this weekend, it is looking like great conditions for getting outside and on a bike.  The traditional New Year's Day rides are popping up all over the place and there will be a lot to choose from.

The Ya Ya Hula Cycling and Social Club will be having an 18 mile ride at hangover pace leaving from the Lake James Fire Dept. at 11 am on Saturday for anyone who is interested.  They are a great group to ride with and always have fun on their bikes.

The Boone crew is going to do a ride in our territory leaving from Setzer's Creek Church at noon.  Since they could use an escort of locals, I think we should leave from the shop at 11:30 and ride out to meet them and join their ride.  Meet at the shop around 11:15 and we'll leave promptly at 11:30.

Saturday will be the first day of the MS 365 Project.  I'm working on an introduction, a facebook page and a blog that will be specifically devoted to the project.  It will be a celebration of my 20th year with Multiple Sclerosis and I hope you'll join me for 365 days of riding.

I've been thinking about my MS more in the past few days than I have in the past few years.  It is a little sobering to contemplate what my life might be like or what the future holds for me, but that is really true for anyone.  None of us knows what the future holds, but only a few of us aspire to live our lives to the fullest.  I want to crack open the bones of life and suck out the marrow!  As we move into this New Year, we all contemplate the new beginning it affords us (no matter how metaphorical that new beginning may be).  Let your resolutions be important and take hold of the opportunity to turn them into something real.
from Surviving the World - check it out, it's great!

Monday, December 27, 2010

A dusting...


Early on in the week, meteorologists crowed about the coming white Christmas.  As the week progressed the snow fall predictions began to ebb from 5-8 inches to 1-3 inches to not much if anything. Bold words to throw out the possibility of a white Christmas and then back it off as the big day arrives.  So we're up fairly, but not ridiculously early thanks to Owen's discovery that Santa did indeed stop by and leave a few things.  As we enjoy Legos and Playmobile adventures, a gentle snow begins to fall.  After a while it gets a bit more serious and then begins a long phase of earnest snowing that lasts the day and into the night.  We got our 5-8 inches all right.

Now the wind is blowing like the jet stream ripping at the peak of Mt. Everest with gusts of what sounds like 400+ mph.  Thankfully, all of this weather comes during the holiday break, so no makeup days on the backend of this winter wonderland!

The mechanic's class begins tomorrow evening and there are still spots left if anyone is interested or has been waiting until the last minute.  I'm excited about the class and it has been obvious how eager everyone is to get their hands dirty and learn about the down and dirty of their bikes.  I've been reading a fantastic book, Shop Class as Soulcraft - an inquiry into the value of work by Matthew B. Crawford that has really inspired me to integrate more hands-on instruction and DIY ethic into the shop.  Essentially a criticism of modern industry and education, the book puts forth the concept that we are becoming increasingly abstracted from our mechanical possessions.  One example is of the new BMW that doesn't have an oil dipstick, so the owner can't even check the oil let alone change it themselves.

By getting your hands dirty, you are able to gather knowledge of the machine that you rely on,  You learn its idiosyncrasies, its needs and develop a deeper understanding of the thing in the process.  Crawford also points to our lack of respect for tradesmen (not to be confused with craftsmen, the artisan or artist) and trade work and how our education system pushes everyone to go to college and be a knowledge worker (which in reality is just the modern assembly line).  Crawford echoes my own disillusionment with the present day education system, especially when he discusses the dual roles that had to be played by Soviet Union middle managers who had to support the party line and deal with the reality of Soviet communism as it applied to their daily functions in the workplace.  I see this in administrators who have to support the current regime of standardized testing and data collection while seeing the reality of this approach and its breakdown in the real world.

All I really know is that no job has ever brought me more happiness than bike shop work.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Impressive

As mentioned the other day, Jeremiah Dyer has been stranded in Belgium at Euro 'Cross Camp without a bike or clothes.  He's missed a few races that he could have participated in because he couldn't get his bike or a loaner from anyone.  Up steps Jonathan Page.  Love him, hate him that's on you, but the most successful American cyclocross pro in history sent his personal mechanic to Belgium to deliver one of his spare bikes to Jeremiah so that he could race.  THAT is class.

Thanks, Jonathan, for helping an up and coming kid out in a huge way.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

What is the sound of one hand clapping?

I'd like to add a new Zen koan to the vast collection that are already out there: What does a lunar eclipse look like in a cloudy sky?  Yes, for the first time since 1632, a lunar eclipse happened on the winter solstice and was visible from North America, but guess what?  The cloud cover here was waaaaaaay to thick to see anything but the orange glow of reflected sodium vapor lighting.

So if eclipses throughout history were seen as omens or portents of bad things to happen in the future, what happened if your tribe or village was so clouded over that nobody in your area saw it?  Did you get to shrug your shoulders, say, "Couldn't see it." and blow the whole thing off?

"So, Ichabod, I heard Hespeth saying that the moon turned to blood over your village and now you know your crops are going to rot in the fields."

"Yes, Jebediah.  Aren't you afraid for what will happen to your village?"

"Hmmmmm.  Yeah.  Um, it was pretty cloudy last night and we didn't really see anything, so..... I think we're good."
I'm not really disappointed despite getting up pretty early to shuffle out into the cold night and see not much of nothing.  Sure this was the first one in 532 years.  I guess I'll just have to exercise patience and wait for the next one...

I have failed to mention a very cool development that most of you may have already heard about, but it bears mentioning with some depth here.  Jeremiah Dyer, Sonni Dyer's son, was chosen to participate in Geoff Proctor's Euro 'Cross Camp and is currently in Belgium to do a slew of the pre- and post-Christmas cyclocross races with an international field of hot shot juniors.  Jeremiah is the first rider from the Southeast to go to the Euro 'Cross Camp and it shows how the sport is growing in our area.

Unfortunately, Jeremiah has been caught up in the European airport closures and has become separated from his clothing and his bikes which now circle in some airport purgatory with a scheduled release date of God know's when.  Be thinking of Jeremiah and his slowly building ball of disappointment and anger.  Think, too, of those poor juniors he will unleash this on when he does toe the line this week and tries to make up for lost time.  Good luck Jeremiah!  We're rooting for you!

Besides our own Fiets Maan Racing team trying to lend some help to Jeremiah in covering his expenses for the trip, the class act guys at MSGCross leant a hand, too.  If you ever get the chance to go check out their races, you won't be disappointed.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Hidden gems

We headed back from my sister's house yesterday morning after a leisurely wake up routine.  The get up and hang out morning routine is a sure sign that we are hitting a vacation period.  Although we have a snow make-up day today, it sure doesn't feel like we should be doing anything but starting our Christmas break.

Driving back from Sanford is no easy task.  The road is long, the landscape is dull and the radio station selection is bleak.  We rolled in to Asheboro and decided to look for some lunch.  Prominently located at the top of the highway exit was a sign pointing us to downtown.  We followed the directions and came into downtown Asheboro and were greeted by a tremendous collection of restaurants, art galleries and shops.  Being Sunday in the South, I was dubious about any of the local businesses being open, but there were several restaurants open and bustling.  We gravitated toward The Flying Pig, a nice little sports bar/bistro combination that serves great pizza and sandwiches.  I ordered a Buffalo Chicken sandwich with their handmade chips.  A heaping mound of chips with a tremendous sandwich the size of my face was brought to the table in short order.  Owen dug in to a grilled cheese with fries (mainly he dug into the fries), while Golden had a salad.

For Owen and I, the noble potato ( or pomme de terre) signifies the true mark of the chef's abilities in the kitchen.  While his gustatory passion lies with the fry, my heart yearns for the perfect handmade chip.  The true bistro chip is a tricky thing.  Too thick and it doesn't cook right and is essentially a french fry gone wrong.  Too thin and it cooks too quickly becoming a dark brown, fryolator flavored drink coaster.  But the chips at the Flying Pig were at the very apex of the fried potato arts.  They occupy the rare air that is the zenith of the handmade chip universe, right up there with the previously unequaled Sledgehammer Charlie's.

To a greater extent though, our sojourn into downtown Asheboro was a glimpse at what a downtown should be.  A thriving, bustling ecosystem of locally owned businesses, each imbuing the town with a dash of character that makes it unique and different.  A place where the locals can go and see each other by happenstance and where visitors can feel that they have "discovered" a unique place to visit.  More and more I hear people from Lenoir saying that they haven't been downtown in years.  If you haven't been downtown, then our town is nothing more than a generic collection of fast food restaurants, chain stores (especially dollar stores) and a sprinkling of locally-owned businesses that survive amidst the generic bustle.  When I visit these little thriving downtowns in other places, I see what Lenoir could be, what I and many like me want it to be, but we must make the conscious effort to support and grow the fragile downtown area.  Our locally-owned businesses, especially the new and risky ones, are fragile and need support to make it through these dark economic times.

Wherever you may happen to live, make the conscious effort to support your local businesses and especially your downtown.  The hearts of our cities and towns are what make us unique and makes our homes much more liveable.  Vote with your dollars to support your local economy!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Road


We drove down to my sister's house for a holiday get together yesterday.  For those unfamiliar with NC highway routes, there is literally no good way to drive to my sister's house in Sanford from our house in Lenoir.  The route looks like a giant zig-zag across the whole state from the Blue Ridge foothills to the Sandhills towards the coast.  Suffice to say, a 3 1/2 hour snaky wandering through scrub oak, long-leaf pines and rolling bumps of sand make for a long, slow slog of a trip.

I shut down the shop and jumped into the car with my dad and headed down the road towards the Sandhills, my ancestral home.  We passed through areas of snow on the ground, but luckily were not in any active winter weather.  The trip was uneventful, but my creeping dislike of long car rides was in full bloom with about a half hour to go in the trip.

We got a ride in yesterday morning despite the chilly temperatures.  Dubbed flauhute Saturday, 7 of us headed out, bundled up and eager to generate some body heat.  The ride was a welcome break from my overly bundled, weekday hard man commutes as I was able to get away with wearing half the layers.  It was a nice change to do a ride with more substance than my 20 minute commuter blasts, even if I had to turn off early to open the shop up.

Sister Futs Cafe hooked me up with some post ride food (cold fried chicken, baked beans, green beans and coffee) while a healthy dose of Flight of the Conchords on iTunes made for a nice transition into the retail day.  A little bike building, a little chatting with friends and some regular, old bidness made for a nice, relaxed Saturday.

Today is my eleventh anniversary with Golden.  Between the long shadow of the holidays and a make-up school day tomorrow, our anniversary is wedged into a tight, stressful spot this year.  We might hit up some Korean or Vietnamese restaurant outside of Fayetteville before we head back since we don't have access to any Asian restaurants of the caliber that you find in my hometown.  Heck, we may even hit up some pawn shops, scope out used cars and play "name that military weapon" to round out our Sandhills adventure.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

What does a bad decision look like?

There are few times in my life when I recognize that I am doing something stupid.  Now don't take that to mean that there are few times that I do stupid things.  I do stupid stuff all of the time - I just don't normally realize it's stupid until AFTER I've done it.  Swallowing nails, locking myself in the closet, setting the house on fire, etc. were all good ideas that turned out to be stupid when the consequences hit.

In education parlance I'm a Kinesthetic learner, I learn by doing.  So it was a big surprise to me yesterday when the thought "Hey, this might not be such a good idea" came percolating up through my brain about 2 minutes into my commute.  I had the Xtracycle  loaded up with my school stuff and a bunch of stuff that needed to be shipped for the holidays.  My 10 minute dressing for riding ritual had increased a slight amount with the addition of a third pair of gloves (my Bar Mitts are on back order, dammit) to prevent my hands from freezing.

At the two minute mark of the ride, my fingers were alarmingly cold.  I could them getting colder like some time-lapse movie that shows frost forming on a window.  By the time I made it to Smith's Crossroads (about 5 minutes from my house), the deep ache of seriously cold extremities was very present and I was beginning to question my decision to commute on such a cold day.

But then I thought about all of those super cold Belgian cyclocross races where you see the racers on the line and they are trying to keep warm before the start.  A lot of riders do an aggressive self hug kind of maneuver that looks like they are trying to hit themselves on the back.  I gave this a shot and lo and behold it worked a treat.  By pounding warm blood back into my fingers, the hands warmed up nicely and were fine for the rest of the ride.  A quick refresher self-hug/hit maneuver at the next stop light was an added bonus.  The hands stayed warmer than they would have, plus I looked even crazier than normal (an added bonus!).  So if you see some guy on a bike, stopped at a stop sign and vigorously hugging himself over and over again, he's not crazy - he's just trying to keep from freezing to death.

Ok, he's a little crazy.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Beware of waxy skin...

It's cold out there kids.  And windy.  Serious cold and driving wind the likes of which have driven many a frontiersman to pick up an ax and begin whittling away at the family with a glassy-eyed zeal that just screams "C-R-A-Z-Y".

It takes about 10 minutes for me to put on all of the extra stuff that is keeping me alive on these brisk morning commutes.  From the normal clothing base (pants, long underwear, wool socks, undershirt, shirt, sweater) a fleece lined balaclava goes on, followed by a fleece jacket, alpaca scarf, windproof jacket, a toque, double gloves, helmet and glasses.  I feel like that kid in "A Christmas Story" who falls down and can't get up he's so bundled up.  And despite all of that clothing, it's still a cold ride.

This morning I'm waiting at Smith's Crossroads for the light to change, wondering why my thumbs are burning while my normally wussy pinkies and ring fingers seem to be just fine, when I feel two hands grasp my shoulders.  Now sudden embraces from strangers are not normal when waiting in traffic, even when exposed on a bicycle, so this was a bit unexpected.  As in "WTF?"  I turned and there was Sandman.  "I just wanted to say 'Hi'".  Awesome.  A nice change of pace from the slow freezing to death punctuated by furious pedaling that I am otherwise mindlessly pursuing every morning lately.

The light turned green, we took off and I hammered up the hill into a headwind.  A car passed me, honking that long, frustrated honk that I assume is meant to make me realize that I am riding a bike where cars belong.  I wave back - with all five fingers, thank you very much, trying to feign friendliness while repeating my favorite line of Jayne's from Serenity - "You are starting to damage my calm..."

I wheel into the school, safe and sound.  The disbelieving looks of my colleagues are largely unnoticed now as I strip off layers and try to make my hands work well enough to sign in.  The best thing is the flush of heat that you feel once you are inside.  Open up the thermos of hot tea, and BOOM! you're good as new and ready for the work day.  I don't know what I'd do without it.

Got aspirations of doing some winter bike commuting?  Figure it is time to go from mildy eccentric to downright weird?  Well, we've got some gear to help you out.  We just got some balaclavas to help extend your riding from merely chilly to bone-crunching cold.  And I'm taking it up a notch with the addition of some Bar Mitts because I'm fond of having all ten of my fingers.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Frozen perspective

Riding provides me with a rich conversation with myself.  Sub-freezing morning commutes provide a heightened sense of introspection and contemplation.  Thus, my commute this morning was a meditation on the philosophy of self inflicted pain in bike racing.

Now before you go thinking that I am a masochist or that this is about suffering, stop.  I'm talking about the pain of effort, the pain of driving yourself to the limit of your capability and then going a little beyond.  The quest for "a little bit faster" is never ending in bike racing.

I had some wonderfully insightful thoughts on this idea while I was bundled up and riding to work in the 18 degree morning, watching a beautiful sunrise sky of peach and fuchsia.  To me, the purest moments of my life, the things that make me feel quintessentially alive with the animalness of being are the flow state moments that come on the bike.  That moment when you are pure effort, when vision narrows to a tunnel and your self talk is coldly clinical in its analysis of the moment.  That strung together series of moments when nothing in the world matters but what you are doing right then, is the essence of bike racing.

This season of 'cross has been my brink season, my hover season. I hover just inside or just outside the top ten.  I ride in a no man's land of solo effort; passing some, being passed by others.  This past weekend in Statesville, I had a large group chasing me the whole race.  45 minutes of being pursued.  Somebody would pass me and I would pass them back and never see them again.  This went on for 4 laps.  After I get past the start of the race (where I use positive visualization to see myself riding through everyone to get a good start, finding the holes in the chaos), after I burn through the smoke and mirrors (let's face it, my only training right now is commuting, so I gotta rely on muscle memory and fakery as much as possible), I settle down to the hard task of digging deep and pushing every ounce of effort out of myself.  I have to admit - I love every moment of it.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

How cold is too cold?

Every morning commute this week has been in sub-freezing temperatures. I bundle up in layer after layer, topped off with the bright yellow commuter rain jacket that I have, put on a thin skull cap under the helmet and then some gloves with fleece-lined gauntlets.  With this setup, I'm a little chilled at first but stay comfortable to almost too warm all the way to work.  The key is to not be warm at the start, if you start out warm you will overheat, guaranteed.

As I shot through the underpass, I hit a big patch of frozen silt (from the massive rainfall earlier in the week) which was crusted over with a frozen layer and still had a frozen tire rut from my previous morning commute.  Naturally, the crust broke through slightly about halfway down towards the underpass, my front tire migrated into the very narrow, frozen rut which caused my tire to grab a little bit at speed.  All of this plus my momentum (little real-world physics in action) had the net effect of pitching me towards the flowing stream to my right at an alarmingly quick rate.  Don't forget that the work supplies that are resting in the panniers behind me get in on the action and are pushing me towards the stream with a zeal that they had not previously demonstrated, preferring instead to really just hang out and create more drag and friction.

In a 'cross race, a sub-freezing dunking in flowing water would be a bad, but not wholly unexpected outcome.  For this to happen on a morning commute though, would be an egregious error of epic proportions.  As I yawed wildly toward the stream (which it must be noted lies below the bike path by a few feet due to a built up wall so the true experience would be a dropping through space, a dunking in the stream, and then a darkly comical struggle to climb up the wall and out of the stream while rapidly losing core body temperature and wondering how you were going to replace your ever important laptop and would you have to completely overhaul the bike or would you freeze to death before any of this could be a real concern) I let my brain take over, a somewhat dicey proposition, but there wasn't much choice.  Firing up the old reflexes and remaining relaxed despite the growing inevitably of a frozen bath under highway 321, proved to be a winning combination.  The bike arced gracefully away from the stream and towards the underpass.

I have not, as of this writing, added a wet suit to my layers of commuter clothing.  I do now have a healthy respect for the underpass and will be less cavalier upon my approach until the cleanup of the flood debris is completed.  I feel like I'll have a little bit of a leg up on the competition at this week's 'cross race since it will be cold and wet.  The daily commute is the truest expression of the flauhute ethos, since getting out and riding is the only option.

Remember always, the mantra to live by when you are forced to ride in foul weather, "There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad equipment."  With the right stuff, you can be outside in just about any weather (hurricanes and tornados represent difficult riding conditions that should be avoided unless you live somewhere very flat and a 110 mph headwind presents you with a good climbing interval opportunity).  Don't skimp on winter or wet weather riding gear.  The toes you save may be your own.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

bikeability=liveability

Lyon, France has a large commuter bike program called Velo'v - a kind of take a bike, leave a bike program.  Each bike is equipped with a computer that gathers all sorts of data which is stored in a central computer.  From this data comes the first large look urban bike commuting habits of a city.  The findings are interesting, but the one that struck me most was that the average speed of commuters is consistently fastest on Wednesday.  It's like everyone attacks humpday with the zeal with which they attack on the hills in training rides.

I've been riding the new 321 underpass on the greenway as part of my commute and I have to say, well done Caldwell Count Pathways (full disclosure - I know sit on the board of the Pathways organization, but this effort was begun long before I joined).  It is well built and is as nice of a tunnel as I have seen on a greenway.  This big effort to build it has added significantly to the bikeability of our town.  And that idea of bikeability really ties in with my concept of what makes a place liveable.

For me, an area has to have access to cycling opportunities in order to be measurably liveable.  The more opportunity, the freer and more unfettered those opportunities are, the more liveable an area is.  Variety is important as well.  There needs to be scenic backroads with low traffic for road riding, trail networks for mountain biking and greenways for recreational riding and commuting.  Included with all of this has to be a bike shop (of course) which serves as an all in one hub for all of these different cycling specialities.

To me, Lenoir is getting quite high on the list of liveability when it comes to cycling opportunities, but there is still room to improve.  My wishlist:

1. Keep expanding the greenway.  A good goal would be to link all public schools with the greenway plus a corridor to CCC&TI.

2. Build a viable mountain bike trail network in town.  A trail network at the Aquatic Center would be a great way to add variety to the in town cycling opportunities and could serve as a great place to get people in to mountain biking.

3. Build a BMX track.  A BMX track would provide a great resource to help kids stay healthy and active.  Developing an active lifestyle at a young age has a huge impact on the rest of a kids life.  BMX is a great, low cost way to get kids into cycling as a sport.

These three things can be a reality if we, as a cycling community, want them and are willing to work for them.  It is great that we all ride our bikes and enjoy the company of fellow cyclists, but we must start acting like a community and take an active part in that community.  Find out how you can be involved, donate a little money to Pathways, participate in our local cycling events like Cycle to Serve and Bridge to Bridge.  Together, we can improve the liveability and visibility of Lenoir and Caldwell County.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Simmering

It's a weird thing to start putting irons in the fire this time of year, but there are a couple of ideas that we have been kicking around that fit in perfectly right now.

The basic level mechanics class is progressing nicely.  We are looking at 4 nights of 1 1/2 hours each night for a total of 6 hours of instruction.  The class will be starting the week after Christmas.  In addition to the 6 hours of hands-on and classroom instruction, you'll get a repair manual to help you remember everything, an exclusive t-shirt available to participants only and big discounts on tools and equipment for outfitting your home workshop. This will make a great Christmas present for yourself or the budding mechanic in your life.  Please email me if you are interested.

Other simmerings are the MS365 Project.  I was talking with the Sandman in the shop on Saturday and mentioned what I was wanting to do, and boom, out comes his wallet and he hands me a $20 bill and says "consider that your first donation".  Sweet!  I've got to get it together and get a donation site picked out and maybe build a website to explain what I'm trying to do...

As I finish writing this, it is dumping rain outside.  The rain has come down pretty steadily all day which leads me to think that the dry 'cross racing we have been having this season will be coming to an end with the race in Statesville this weekend.  The holiday break is always a mixed blessing when returning to race after such a long break.  You just don't know what is in your legs until the whistle blows, your heart revs and you start pedaling.  Sometimes you fly, sometimes you go backwards.  The key is to always have fun.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanks

Thanks to all of you who have given friendship, support, and loyalty over the years.  I am thankful to all of my friends, teammates, and workmates for making my life richer.  I am thankful for my family in all their kaleidoscopic idiosyncratic beauty for making me the person that I am.  I am thankful for the unquestionable love and support of my wife and the ball of love and energy that is my son.  I am thankful for my continued good health which seems more a lucky twist of fate than the sword of Damocles hanging over me.

Next year marks my 20th year of living with Multiple Sclerosis.  20 years.  It struck me just the other day the reality of that statement; the magnitude of it.  Just like my initial diagnosis 20 years ago inspired me to get out into the world and make something of myself, this 20th anniversary has inspired me to try and give something back.

I have ridden a bicycle every day this year with the exception of two.  No matter the weather or anything else, I have pedaled a bicycle at some point every day but those two.  For my 20th MS anniversary, I have something bigger in mind.

Starting January 1st, 2011, I will start something that I can only think of as the MS365 Project.  I want to take the gift of good health and mobility that I have been given despite having Multiple Sclerosis, and give something back to those who work to beat this disease.  I have set rules for this project and they are as follows:

1. I will pedal a bicycle outdoors, every day of 2011 for at least 1 mile.
2. I will track all of my mileage in 3 categories - Commuting, Training and Racing.
3. I will ride a minimum of 3,650 miles in all 3 categories combined.

I want to raise awareness of people living with and fighting MS in our community and I want to raise money for the local chapter of the MS Society.  I would like to set up a personal fundraising/donation site to help people with donating money in the name of this project. Besides people making straight donations, I would like to see donations along the lines of an amount per mile, or amount per day that I am able to ride.  And that is about as fleshed out as this idea is at the moment.  If you have any ideas, advice or want to help, by all means leave a comment or email me directly.  I'm all ears.

And with that, I am thankful that a handful of people actually read the things that I write.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Big Lunch

photo by turtlemom4bacon via Flickr
I love Thanksgiving. Without a doubt, it is my favorite holiday.  I always envision that movie style Thanksgiving with a house full of well-dressed friends and family mingling around the house while a feast is in the making in an expansive kitchen.  My reality is a little less polished, but no less enjoyable than that. I love doing the recipe research and trying to pull together this epic meal that lingers as leftovers for a week to come.  I obsess over Martha Stewart a little more than usual (I have a "thing" for Martha Stewart, don't ask, it is unexplainable...) trying to find recipes that not only look good, but will taste out of this world.

But what is with all of the Christmas stuff?  Christmas trees in the street, Santa sweating in his suit on a warm fall day, these things overshadow Thanksgiving and take away its simple idea of sharing a meal with family and friends and giving thanks for all that you have.

Have a great Thanksgiving, spend time with family and friends, get out and ride your bike and we'll see you Saturday for some coffee, homemade cinnamon rolls and a storewide sale as part of the 3/50 Project's Small Business Saturday.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Shameless Commercial Post

This is the big, crazy retail sales week that culminates with "Black Friday" (say that in your head with a really spooky voice - an echo/reverb effect works well, too).  Any way, Black Friday is a heady rush of crazy discounts that draws flocks of folks to the malls and big box stores to gather money for megacorporations.  Needless to say, this leaves the Lenoir Uptown Business District rather short on shoppers.  We have our own take on things.

Saturday has been dubbed Small Business Saturday and seeks to get people to shop at the many small, locally-owned businesses that are among the hardest hit in this economic down time.  We will be closed on Friday, but Saturday we are going to be open extended hours and will have a store full of products on holiday discount to help you get ready for a cycling-centric Christmahanukwanzaku!  We'll be open at 10 am with homemade cinnamon rolls (while they last) and coffee (until we jitter ourselves into collapse).

Make a day of it by checking out all of the great businesses downtown.  Rediscover the personal connection that comes with supporting a small local business and help keep our town's unique character and stem the tide of the chain store/restaurant tsunami that threatens to wash it all away.

photo by Hammer51012 via Flickr
Even though we'll be closed on Friday, we'll have a special Black F*Y! Friday deal on our online store! So hang out with family and friends, eat a lot of turkey, ride your bike and then come see us Saturday!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

NCGP Day 1

Warm temps and bright, sunny skies were not the ideal weather for a mid November 'cross race, but that's what we got.  In a season that has been the polar opposite of last year's mudfest, unseasonably warm temps and dry conditions are the norm.  This year's NCGP course was much as it has been over the past years with the "Wall", a large run up on the back side, several tight turning sections, a singletrack climb in the woods and a long, mixed surface straightaway that puts riders in the headwind for a power sapping chunk of each lap's total time.

Master's field were enormous with 54 35+ riders and 50ish in the 45+ category.  At this point in this season, everyone is going fast and the starts have become gut-wrenching exercises in pushing the internal tachometer to the redline and hoping you don't blow.  For me, that delicate balancing act went awry right as I made contact with the lead group of 8.  If you've never blown spectacularly, it is soul crushing as you go backwards through the field, but you just can't feel sorry for yourself.  I rallied and moved back up through a few field, but my race yesterday was more an exercise in perseverance than competitiveness.

Jeff got to battle it out at the head of affairs in the 45+ race, ultimately finishing 2nd.  Sonni D, Faster Pastor, Bob Pugh, and Cecilio all had strong finishes, while the Ghost Faced Killah rolled a tubular, ran to the pits (a long way from his crash) and finished the race.  Sam Dyer threw down for the Luna Future Stars team, putting a smack down on all comers in the kid's race.  Good job Sam!

Thanks to our friends Jess and Shannon, we had a great meal and warm digs to crash in for the night.  We went to the Chocolate Lounge in downtown Asheville for some dessert after a great meal at their home.  If you have any type of chocolate addiction, you might want to avoid the Chocolate Lounge.  I found what may be the perfect food stuff: The Highland Stout Chocolate Cake. These secret spy photos, smuggled out at great personal risk, confirm the existence of this wonder food.  If this technology progresses to add coffee into the mix of chocolate and beer, I may have no need of other food ever again.  I may also need to ride my bike way more to avoid gaining 1000 lbs.

Here's to another day of racing.  See you on the line!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The big weekend

Jeff and I are heading to the NC Gran Prix of Cyclocross in Hendersonville this weekend to do a little bike racing.  Since this is a UCI Elite Race, the Pro races are gonna be incredible with guys and gals coming from all over the country to grab UCI points to help with their call ups at Nationals and their quest to make it to their respective national teams for World Championships.  If you're near Hendersonville or are inclined to check out a 'cross race, this is the one to come see.  The course features several vantage points to get a clear view of most of the race and the "Wall" feature is a great spot to hang out and ring the cowbells as the riders tackle a steep ride up that inevitably turns into a run up for some.

Our bachelor weekend will probably be a lot like The Hangover except no Las Vegas, baby, fat guy with a beard or Mike Tyson (hopefully).  A visit to the Thirsty Monk may do just the trick for some post race recovery and will ensure a fresh set of legs for the next days race.  There's always the Chocolate Lounge to assist with the serious medicinal implementation of chocolate to heal up any damage done by the day's racing as well.  Other members of the team are heading down as well, so Fiets Maan Racing should be well represented in the old man races this weekend.

In other news: First, you may have noticed the opening of our online store this week.  If you haven't checked it out yet, please give it a look.  A new program that we will be running through our online store will be the Friday F*Y! Deal.  Basically, we will have some product on very steep discount that will run for 24 hrs or until we are sold out.  If you can help us spread the word, we'd be most appreciative.

The second thing new is that we are putting together a curriculum for a basic mechanic's class to be held after Christmas.  After having many people ask, we're in a position now to put it together right.  Included in the class will be a repair manual/textbook, a t-shirt showing how special you are with your new knowledge and special deals on tools to help you get geared up for some DIY bike repair.  Details and sign ups will be coming in the near future, so stay tuned!

If you get nothing else accomplished this weekend, get out and ride your bike!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Jack Frost is a little nipper

People at work keep saying how cold I must get riding in to work every morning.  I must confess that I love the cold commute in the morning.  Like a scottish shower in reverse, you start out cold and then after about 10 minutes of riding, you're nice and warm.  The trick is to not overdress or else you get to work sweaty and hot.

The cold and rainy morning commute is even better.  It's the one time that a full rain suit isn't a stuffy, personal sweatbox.  I fear that my 12 year old Burley rain suit is coming to the end of its lifespan, though.  It has lost its edge on the moisture and is no longer able to keep me dry in the rain, managing a slight level of damp on a good day to a look- I- just- peed- myself level of wetness on a bad day.  I've been checking out the offerings from Showers Pass, a company in Oregon. A good rule of thumb: when shopping for bike commuting harsh weather gear, look for companies from the Pacific Northwest, they know what they are doing.

Another bike commuting/bike-as-vehicle acquisition I'm looking to make is a cargo trailer for serious hauling.  I love nothing more than to go buy lumber and load it up on the Xtracycle, but there is only so much I can safely carry.  Enter the trailer.  And not just any trailer, but a 300lb weight capacity beast of a trailer from the guys at Surly Bikes.  Sheets of plywood!  2x4's!  4x4's!  The DIY world will be my fossil fuel free oyster!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Queen City Throwdown

First, major kudos, big ups and much props to Chris Behrmann, Bob Pugh and Jeff Welch for organizing the 5th round of the NCCX series.  Their hard work meant a fantastic event full of music, food, awesome spectating and fantastic racing on a truly excellent and challenging course that all of the major Euro 'cross design checkboxes and then some.  It is my sincerest hope that Fiets Maan Racing has a reputation for putting on high quality races that make you want to come back each year.

The major feature this year was the steep run up at the start which was ultimately towards the end of each lap once the races were underway.  After that it was high speed straightaways, technical off camber turns and into the triple sandpits of doom.  A heavy, non-race spectator turnout made racing your bike feel like being part of an exciting show.  Thank you to all of you who cheered for me while I went from having a breakout race to a less than stellar 15th place.  Thanks to all of you even if you called me "Bob" or "Jeff" every time you cheered for me.  I'll take it, I'm not proud.

As 'cross season heats up through the winter, the bike business begins to enter its usual slow period.  I want to take a moment to invite you to stop by and visit; we've always wanted our shop to be a place to just come, hang out, talk about bikes or whatever.  Also, we have several things in the works for this winter as well:

Check out our online store! Help us spread the word and if you happen to see one of our models out on the bike, please give them a compliment (they are a little self-conscious).

Bike mechanic classes are coming!  Many people have expressed interest in a basic bike mechanic class and we will be offering several through the cold and dark times of winter.  Already know the basics? We've got you covered on that as well.  We'll be offering an advanced mechanic class to help further your knowledge and help you maintain your fine cycling machine.  Details will be coming soon.

If you haven't joined our Facebook fan page, followed us on Twitter or signed up for our newsletter, please take a moment to do so.  This is a great way to stay in touch with the latest goings on of the shop.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Race day!

You put your sand in my bike race! You put your bike race in my sand!
It's race day in Charlotte!  We set the course up yesterday and it looks rad.  I didn't get a chance to pre-ride it yesterday; it was getting dark when we finished up and Owen was on the verge of a meltdown.  We're headed back early this morning to put the finishing touches on the course and then I race first at 10 am.  Veterans Park was filled with tons of people playing in the warm weather so we may get a fair bit of non-cycling spectators to add to the fun.  Hope to see you out there, cheering for all of the Fiets Maan racing team members no doubt!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

In the clear morning light

It is one of those mornings you get in the fall; the ground is dusted with frost, the sunlight is a flat white, and the normally riotous colors of the leaves is muted and dark.  I love these mornings.  The crisp air is invigorating, but it makes me turn inward a bit becoming more contemplative.

Now that I have set the tone, I need to share the object of my contemplation with you.  When Golden and I first moved to Lenoir in 2002, the first thing we did was walk downtown to check out what we thought would be the heart of our new town.  It was empty.  Storefronts were mostly shuttered with broken windows and "For Rent" signs.  There was a bakery and a wig shop.  Golden burst into tears, turned to me and said, "What the hell have you done to us?"

We moved here from Flagstaff, AZ.  Flag' has a thriving, bustling downtown.  It is the place to go and shop, to eat, to hang out, to meet up with friends and the commerce is active from morning through the night.  It is the beating heart of the town, filled with locally owned businesses that give the town its uniqueness, its character.  I put forth for your consideration that this is the function of a healthy downtown.  As you move away from the high speed thoroughfares with their collections of fast food restaurants and chain stores clinging to the asphalt ribbon like a remora to a shark, you shift from the generic blandness that is found in Anywhere, USA to a truer expression of the place you are in.  Local color, flavor and flair are what differentiates us from everywhere else.  Honestly, how different is McWendArbees going to be from town to town?

Lenoir's downtown has come a long way in a short time.  Beginning with the original revitalization efforts of Keith Willis and Chuck Luddeke who, no longer content to wait for the city to figure out how to bring the near dead downtown back to life, began buying and renovating buildings for retail occupation over 5 years ago.  We owe a lot to these guys.  They broke the mold of the rapacious landlord by trying to help businesses get started with reasonable lease terms and the opportunity to put sweat equity into a renovation project in order to reduce a start-up's up-front costs.

The key ingredient to all of this is you.  Your spending habits and purchase decisions are the life and death of locally owned businesses.  Large chain retailers are motivated by a corporate balance sheet and when they business algebra works out to a negative answer, those corporations will shutter and move on to the next town.  You can see the large abandoned corpses of these businesses in every half empty strip mall and darkened mall hulk that looms in towns around the country.  But while chain stores abandon towns when the going gets tough, locally owned businesses try to gut it out, clawing for their very survival.  It is this tenuous situation that downtown Lenoir is in right now.

As we come up on Black Friday, I implore you to participate in Small Business Saturday the very next day.  I'm not saying "Come buy a bike from me!" (although, I'm not gonna fight you if you do ;).  No, I'm hoping you will come stroll through your downtown, checking out all of the shops and restaurants that are working hard to give our town character and vitality.  I'd rather spend money with a local business that looks me in the eye and genuinely thanks me for my business than hear about how my purchases added a few dollars to a windfall of millions for chain retailers and their stockholders on the Monday news.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Dude, where's my car?

Sunday morning. Getting ready to head out to the NC State CX Championships.  Fourth cup of coffee? Check.  Egg and cheese sandwich? Check.  I grab our gear bags, the air pump and car keys.  Open the door, walk out to the car.  Wait. Where's the car? Crap.  I must've left it in neutral and it rolled down the driveway into the backyard.  Walk out to the driveway to survey the damage.  No car.  Wait, no car?  Damn.  The Element has been stolen along with some gear and a race bike that was locked to the rack overnight.

This was not the way Sunday was supposed to go.  About an hour after the police arrived and took the report, our neighbor found all of the contents of the car, including Golden's Tri Cross with our new set of Carroll Composites carbon tubular race wheels, in the park in our neighborhood.  This was a huge relief.  Still no car, but our personal stuff was back and I wasn't going to have to hassle with explaining how a bike was worth $4000 to an insurance agent.

Monday, I start all of the insurance stuff and talk to the guys at Cars Plus about getting another Honda Element.  Then, Tuesday morning, the police find our car.  Visions of a wrecked, totalled heap of stripped parts and flat tires rattles around my brain as I pedal from school to the police station.  The detective takes me down to the garage area of the station and shows me the Element.  It is exactly as it was the last time I saw it with the exception of a dead battery and an empty gas tank.

So, we have everything back in pretty much the same shape (apparently, the criddler who took it wasn't real up on his use of a clutch) AND they arrested the guy who stole it.  Amazing.  My faith in the Lenoir Police Department is restored.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Changing time, changing weather

Riding is always an option
Finally, the weather seems to have settled into a Fall mix of cold, cool and mild.  There was a little bit of a false start when a veritable heat wave broke up an early season cold snap.  Cyclocross and profuse sweating just don't mix.

With morning commute temperatures in the 20's and 30's, it was time to dig out the cold weather riding gear.  A good set of gloves, a warm/water resistant jacket with some room for multiple layers underneath, a cycling cap, a skull cap, knee warmers and booties are enough to get you through all but the harshest of arctic conditions.  Now add full-time commuting to this mix and you need to add a high quality rainsuit to the mix.

While it seems like a big expense, cold weather riding gear lasts for a long time.  My rainsuit is about 12 years old.  I've got jackets and long-sleeved jerseys that are 6 or 7 years old, so believe me when I say that buying cold weather gear is an investment for the long haul.

Some of our recommendations:

Specialized Element Jacket                  Specialized Deflect Head Warmer

Specialized Base Layer                        Defeet Kneekers

As always, the gear and equipment that we recommend is what we ride with.  It's nice knowing that your local bike shop is out riding and racing putting their inventory to the test in the real world!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Winner, winner, chicken tender dinner!

Damn you, Nicole Thomas and your Pierrick Fedrigo/Thomas Voeckler tandem of stage winners!  And don't even get me started about your boy, Contador.  Anyway, congratulations on your big win here on the second rest day, yada yada yada, blah blah blah... Come by and claim your prize when you get a chance.

So, debate swirls around Contador's actions when Schleck's chain came off.  Rather than debate the action, I'd like to offer my two cents on Contador's reaction.  Contador clearly sees Schleck in trouble, Contador clearly drives the attack and continues to drive it on the descent.  Why claim that you "didn't know" or whatever nonsense?  Please be a man and and clearly state your actions rather than contradicting with words what your actions clearly were.  There really isn't anything wrong in saying that you were capitalizing on the situation because every second is going to count in this tour and that is bike racing.  Much hay has been made of the sporting gestures of Armstrong, but ultimately Armstrong knew that he was head and shoulders above his competition (reasons why are an entirely separate debate) and he could afford such gestures.  The battle going on now is not so clear cut and it is apparent that Contador is scared of Schleck this year.

A couple of interesting notes on the tour so far:

1. the current gap between first and second place is 8 seconds- Greg LeMonds winning margin in the closest Tour ever, 1989.  That tour was won on the final day in a time trial duel between Lemond and Laurent Fignon, who the day before, congratulate Lemond on his second place finish in the tour (a move which Lemond reacted to by thinking "you just lost the tour").

2. This tour is being fought out by two riders on different teams who are riding the exact same equipment: Specialized bikes, SRAM components and Zipp wheels (which are all American companies, too).  So this Tour will really be a test of man vs. man without the added mechanical advantage battle to complicate things.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Winner, winner, chicken nugget dinner!

As of Monday's rest day, Mr. Steven Boike's Think Pink Cancer Fighter's team was in the lead of the Luna Cycles virtual Tour de France making him our first winner!  Steve needs to come on down and pick up his cash prize.  Savor it well though, as my team has now taken control and should prove difficult to unseat by the next rest day.  Thanks to huge performances by my domestiques - Sylvain Chavenal, Jerome Pineau and Sandy Casar I have gotten some massive points and now thanks to a yellow jersey by Cadel Evans and eventual Tour winner Andy Schleck, the points just keep coming.  Throw in some strong riding by Mr. Vino', some strong climbing by my guys Gadret and Lloyd and the Oooooooooooooohhhhhhhhh Nnnnnnoooooooooooooooo's are gonna steam roll this thing like you wouldn't believe!  And what is even more thrilling to contemplate is the bottle of Smirnoff Ice that awaits our lanterne rouge!  Get ready Max, it's coming!

Thursday, July 01, 2010

It's Fantasy Tour time, baby!!!!!!!

The short and sweet of it is that this year the Fantasy Tour will be done through Velogames. The sign up is free and they have a very thorough scoring system that will make life easy for me (important) and oh so satisfying for all you Fantasy Directeur Sportifs (very important).

So here's the deal: entry is $10.  $5 will go into the pot for a winner take all payout.  The other $5 will be split between the 2 rest days with a prize awarded to the leader of our fantasy tour on each of the two rest days.

So what do you need to do?  Register your team at Velogames.  Once you have your team registered, go to your team roster page and at the bottom you will see where you can join 3 mini leagues.  Here is the mini-league info for our Fantasy Tour:
League Details

League Owner: dirtboy1970
Owner Email: shawnmoore1@gmail.com
League Name: Luna Cycles NC
League Code: 01190650



After you have registered and joined, drop by your ten bucks at the shop (or mail it in if you are out of town).  That's it, but you need to hurry since registration will close at 1600 CET on Saturday.  Good luck!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Medical lessons

I am constantly amazed at how Owen can recover from being sick in a heartbeat.  To go from projectile vomiting to laughing and talking is something that never ceases to cause me a great deal of consternation.  It is probably best that we don't retain this rapid recovery into adulthood or alcohol-fueled parties would be truly nightmarish events...

In wonderfully positive medical news, Joan has received a very good pathology report and is well on her way to recovery.  Please keep her in your thoughts as she deeply appreciates everyone's support.

It pleases me immensely to say that we are back to being a one car household.  While not completely car free, we are as close as reasonably possible for a family of three living in an area with no public transportation.  I went grocery shopping on the xtracycle yesterday to celebrate.

Now I have to get back to school work.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

You look relieved

Steve came in to the shop yesterday.  He looked noticeably different from how he has the past few months.  He didn't seem to have such a crushing weight on his shoulders.  Joan is home and recovering as evidenced by her return to using her iphone.  I'm sure her recovery is not going to be easy, but I think it goes with out saying that she will handle it with grace, good humor and aplomb.  I wish I could be such a person.

While I don't think Joan is ready (or able) to be bombarded by a mass of well wishers, I know that both she and Steve appreciate our thoughts and efforts of support.  Continue to think of them, ride your bike, wear some pink and enjoy life because I know those are things that both Joan and Steve will be doing every chance they get.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A ride full of pink


A great ride of pink clad cyclists took off in honor of Joan last night for Mellow Monday.  It was a great time as we cruised along at conversational pace.  Let's keep up the pink until Joan can rejoin us!

I now know that my dream of miniature farm animals in my suburban downtown yard, could be a reality.  The mini cattle that Khelli linked yesterday was a brief shining moment of hope that was quickly and cruelly crushed by my wife.  It isn't that she lacks vision, she just doesn't trust mine.  A thundering herd of 37 inch tall Angus cattle roaming my 1/16th of an acre may yet become reality, but I will place all my eggs in the chicken basket... for now.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Happy first day of Summer!

Last night we had a dinner comprised of food that we grew ourselves plus a few ingredients.  The salad was all from the garden - mixed lettuce, multi-colored carrots (the purple are my favorites), snowpeas and nasturtiums.  We had a chard quiche with it.  Chard was from our garden.  The eggs, alas, were store bought as chickens seem to stay just on the horizon of being added to our household.  The butter and milk were store bought as the idea of a cow in our downtown Lenoir neighborhood is a non-starter - unless there is some variety of pygmy dairy cow about the size of a German Shepherd that I am unaware of.

We had a great Father's Day brunch at The Bistro.  Always fantastic food and the atmosphere to just sit back and relax and have a nice long meal with family.  I decided to do something completely out of the ordinary and we headed down to Hickory to shoot a round of disc golf.  Owen had a good time for a few holes and then left me to my own devices.  While I wandered through the woods throwing frisbees, he went in search of ducks and frogs.  All in all, it was a good day.

Please don't forget to come to the Mellow Monday ride tonight in honor of Joan.  Wear (or attach to your bike) something pink to show your support!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day!

photo by Jack Dalton
Dad's do a lot for us.  They lead the way when we need to be shown and they let us do our own thing when we're ready to be independent.  They model what it means to be a man for their sons and daughters. 

I'm lucky that I still have my Dad.  After two heart attacks late last year, I could easily be remembering my Dad, rather than having Father's Day brunch with him.  If you aren't so fortunate, I hope that you are able to remember your Dad in some way that would make him proud.  And if you are fortunate enough to still have Dad around, make sure you let him know how much he means to you.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Update on Joan

Joan had a long day yesterday - 10.5 hours in surgery.  Steve says she is recovering well and that preliminary reports look very positive.  Keep up the positive thoughts and rock some pink on your bike rides to show your support!

Friday, June 18, 2010

In the trenches

My typical acclimation to working full time in the shop is coming along nicely.  There are slow times when we look at each other and wonder what we can do to keep occupied and then there are times when we wish we could employ 20 people it is so busy.  I like being busy - down time is too much for me to bear.  The best moments come when you get to talk to someone for a while; someone new to the shop or the area who likes bikes and likes to talk about bikes.  Some of the stuff that has rolled in for repair lately has been pretty amazing.

We've had a pair of '60's era Raleigh 3 speed English Tourers come in.  A matched pair of his and hers in British Racing Green.  We even discovered a beautifully worn Brooks leather saddle hiding under a cheap gel seat cover on one of them.  I also got to rebuild a Marzocchi suspension fork from the late '90's for a customer.  Amazing how simple that fork is compared to how most are now.  All in all, back getting my hands dirty, helping people out and getting to hang out in a bike shop all day is a nice way to spend the summer.

Our good friend Joan is heading for surgery today for her recently diagnosed breast cancer.  Joan has been one of the most amazing people in our riding community.  A tireless organizer with a smile and manner that melts everyone around, Joan has turned the Mellow Monday ride into a wild success and has been instrumental in organizing the women's riding group.  We are showing support for Joan by adding some pink on all of our rides and encouraging you to do the same.  If you can wear pink or add pink to your bike to show support for Joan, we know she would greatly appreciate it.  And since Joan has done so much to improve the Mellow Monday ride, we want to encourage everyone to continue participating in the ride.  I know Joan would be disappointed if participation dwindled in her absence, so let's try to make the Mellow Monday ride even bigger than it has been in the past!  Join us monday at 6, bring something pink and we'll take a picture before we start and send it off to Joan.  I know she'll love it.

Don't forget that the Saturday ride will start at 7:30 in the morning to beat the heat.  As always, there will be plenty of people with different schedules to make the ride as long or as short as you would like.  See you then!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

#cycling365

I've been quiet for a while.  Not quite a case of writer's block, but a conspiracy of available time, responsibilities and a slight inability to germinate a worthy blog entry has been the culprit.  But now, school is out for the summer and it is like a veil of grey has lifted to reveal sunshine once again.

Don't get me wrong, I like teaching, but there are things about the profession (and this time in the history of education) that grind you down, no matter who you are.  I am in my second semester of graduate school and that is reinvigorating my ideas for the classroom and making me feel like I can make a difference.

I was successful in my quest to commute by bike to school everyday this semester.  Through rain, snow and tremendous humidity, I've pedaled away much to the consternation of my students and the admiration of some of my colleagues.  I have ridden my bike to school everyday this year (2010), a total of about 100 hundred school days equaling 1000 miles of commuting to work.  My car literally lies dead in the driveway, unable to move even if I wanted to drive it.

I have enjoyed myself so immensely with this personal challenge that I have embarked on a new one: #Cycling365.  Beginning June 1st, I will attempt to ride my bike outdoors everyday for a year.  No mileage requirements, no minimum ride length, just on the bike riding outside every day.  Simple.  But often the simple things end up being the most difficult, so we'll see what happens...

Like many of you, I watched the Giro and enjoyed every moment of it.  I can't say the same for the Tour of California.  I guess I just have enough attention span for one major race at the time and in that particular little battle, il Giro will win for me every time.  Once Owen gets a little older, our Giro/Italy bike tour fantasy will become a reality.

I, like many of you, have also been fascinated by the revelations of Floyd Landis.  While I am very disappointed about his admission to doping and the weird "I still won the Tour clean(ish)" claim, he is a high enough level rider to potentially blow the lid off of the whole affair and spark real change in the system.  Unfortuantely, the UCI is so heavily invested in the Lance Armstrong brand that he may be a rider "too big to fail" like the onerous banking groups that had to be bailed out from failing by the federal government even though they created the problem to begin with.

I'm not naive.  Drugs are a part of cycling at the highest level.  They are take for survival by most, misguided shots at glory by some.  Floyd Landis (and Tyler Hamilton for that matter) has payed and enormous cost for what he did; effectively ending the life he had built over decades of hard work and unimaginable effort.  I hope this latest shot in the public spotlight will bring him peace.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

But I just met you...

Saturday was the usual schedule for me.  Now that the weather is warmer, I can get out on the group ride and then head back to the shop in time to open up at noon.  This saturday was no different.  We rode up Buffalo Cove, a small group of us broke off from the main group to head back early and Charles and I started changing and opening up the shop. 

At about 15 minutes before our opening time, an older gentleman tried the door by jerking it a few times, found it to be locked and then waited outside.  I hadn't changed out of my riding clothes yet (Charles was mid-wardrobe change), but I figured the guy must be looking for something in particular and I unlocked the door to let him in.

In our time here at Luna Cycles, we have observed a phenomenon that seems to be somewhat unique to this area: the 1st customer of the day (one who usually appears before opening time) is going to provide some sort of anecdotal moment that can be passed along for the enjoyment of others.  Now I apologize ahead of time if the gentleman who came by last Saturday is a relative of yours, but this story simply must be told.

The gentleman in question stepped through the opened door quickly with a sense of purpose to his step. 
"Good morning.  How can I help you?", I asked.
"Do you sell jock straps?", he replied.

Uh-oh, I thought, this is going to be weird.

"No sir.  Cyclists don't use jock straps. You should try a sporting goods store."

"I did that, but they just have the ones with the plastic cup.", he countered.

"Well, that's about the only place I can think of that would have something like that.  I can't really get anything like that from any of my suppliers."

"Well, let me tell you what I got.", he said. 

Okay, it would be unfair at this point to not say that all kinds of alarm bells were ringing in my head. "This is gonna be weird. This is gonna be weird..."

"I got one nut like this (holds up balled fist, makes strange face) and the doctor says I gotta have something to support it.", the gentleman explained.

Now, the image of that balled up fist being brandished before the yearning face of that man as he related such a personal medical condition provoked me to think: "TMI! TMI! TMI!"

"Well sir, I'm sorry I just don't know what I can do to help with that." I said in my best please-strange-possibly-crazy-with-pain-from-your-unsupported-exceptionally-overlarge-testicle-man stay calm and seek help elsewhere voice.

Charles chimed in with a few comments as he took bikes outside to lock up in front of the shop.  The gentleman left wondering aloud where he might be able to find the support he needed.  I went to the back to change clothes, spent from such an early and strange customer encounter.  After changing, Charles said, "Now I know why he came to a bike shop looking for a jock strap."

"Why?"

Charles proceeded to tell me that as the man was pulling out of the parking lot, he called Charles over to his car. (I think Charles must have been the kind of kid who was always eager to look at the puppies that strange men kept in the back of their windowless vans, but that is a story for another time- ed. ) As Charles approached the car, the old man proffered his current jock strap and pointing to the label, said, "See! It says 'BIKE' right on it!"

Friday, March 19, 2010

Milestone

Today marks my 50th straight work day of bike commuting.  My estimated total mileage for commuting is about 500 miles.  I thought that this little personal milestone would be one that I could celebrate with my own little festival of one, but recent events have sobered that.

On Wednesday, Adam Little of Charlotte, was struck and killed in a hit-and-run accident by a car traveling 60 mph as he rode to work.  I sent this email to my co-workers yesterday:
Dear HHS staff,

Yesterday in Charlotte, Adam Little, husband and father of two small children, was struck and killed while riding his bicycle to work.  Adam was struck from behind by a car traveling 60 mph. The vehicle then left the scene in a hit-and-run accident.  By all witness accounts, Adam was killed instantly.  The driver was apprehended within a very short time thanks to the diligence of the Law Enforcement officers on duty at the time.

I did not know Adam, but this hits very close to home for me.  Many of you know that I ride to school every day, good weather or bad and this Friday will mark my 50th straight commuting day to school (a total of 500 miles since the beginning of this year’s return to school).  While we good-naturedly think that I am a little “crazy”, I don’t think that my riding to work should constitute a life or death decision on my part, any more than your choosing to drive should.  Please take a moment to think about and talk about the rights AND responsibilities of cyclists on our roadways today as a way of honoring the memory of someone that none of us knew, but whose death was a tragedy nonetheless.

Rights AND Responsibilities of cyclists on roadways in NC:

Bicycles are legal vehicles under NC law and must comply with all traffic laws: traffic signals, stop signs, signaling for turns.

Bicycles must travel in the roadway (to the left of the white line, NOT the shoulder), in the same direction as other vehicle traffic.

Bicycles should stay to the right of the roadway as far as is reasonable and safe, but may occupy the ENTIRE lane if necessary.

Cars must pass vehicles (including bicycles) with a minimum safe distance of 2 ft.

A cyclist will only delay you a few seconds, if at all, so please be prudent and safe.  Remember that the life you risk is NOT your own!

Thank you,

Shawn Moore
I received several very positive and supportive responses from coworkers.  I also had a conversation with a coworker who travels on Hwy. 268 who remarked about how "dangerous" that road was and how cyclists "stay all grouped up" and how when she goes around curves that cyclists are "across the yellow line" in the oncoming traffic lane a lot.  I stayed calm and tried to explain to her some of the things that groups of cyclists do to maintain safety while riding with cars.  She wouldn't hear of it.  She steadfastly maintained a cars vs. bikes attitude and said that she knew that one day there wouldn't be anything she could do to avoid hitting a cyclist.

On an ESPN radio show, correspondent Tony Kornheiser recently exhorted his listeners to hit cyclists to show them that the roads are for cars.  "Don't run them down, but just tap 'em." were his words.  Unfortunately, we live in time where might makes right, and despite how despicable his words were, his co hosts laughed and threw out their cliched stereotypes as well in support.

As I explained to my coworker, if you see a cyclist do something like run a stop sign or a red light, that no more means that ALL cyclists are doing that than when a car does it and you extrapolate that ALL drivers do that.  We have to use our heads, each and every one of us, despite our living in a thinking optional, gut reaction is primary society.  We all bear responsibility in maintaining a positive relationship with the public as we ride in this area.  We are easily stereotyped and categorized as we are so recognizably different on the road.  Be vigilant and be lawful in what you do. 

I often get asked by coworkers and students why I ride to school every day.  There always seems to be some effort on their part to ascribe some deeper philosophical or political meaning behind the decision.  I always reply with "have you ever done something just because it was fun?"  That is what I feel every time I get on a bike - fun, as well as freedom; a sense of boundless freedom.

Every morning I strap on my Road ID, pause, and think about the real reason I am wearing it.  It is their for if I am injured while commuting to work, plain and simple.  Sobering to think that something as simple as riding a bicycle to get to where you want to go is a life or death decision.  It shouldn't be that way.  None of us deserves to be the lifelong regret of someone that results from their moment of inattentiveness, rudeness or impatience.

Many of you have come in to the shop and talked to me about commuting.  I want to encourage you again to get out there and do it.  The more of us out there, the more accepted we will be on the roads.
Stay safe out there, spread the word among all of your non-cycling family, friends and coworkers of our rights and responsibilities on the road, and always act like an ambassador of goodwill every time you are on the road.  And give me a wave if you see me out on the roads on my morning and afternoon commute - I'm the guy rockin' the jacket and tie on the sweet Globe Haul or the equally awesome Xtracycle (that is probably loaded down with groceries!).

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Location. Location. Location.

Hi, my name is Shawn and I'm a SLOB. SLOB is an easy way to remember the mantra that we should all take into account: Support Locally Owned Businesses.

But why? Well, the biggest reason to support locally owned businesses (not including franchises, but only found here kind of businesses) is that far more of each dollar that you spend at a locally owned business stays in our economy. When we shop outside of Caldwell County, shop at chain stores or big box retailers, our county receives very little of that money. Shop on the internet and our county receives NONE of that money. In effect we export the precious dollars that we work so hard to earn.

So what is your role in all of this? You can do some pretty simple things to boost our local economy and improve what our city and county financial states are in by making the conscious effort to shop local. Don't assume that a local business doesn't have what you're looking for. Don't assume that a local business will be more expensive. All you have to do is ingrain the act of shopping local first in any situation. We often encounter people who assume that our products are more expensive than they can get on the internet. These people quickly realize that once they figure in shipping charges and labor charges for us to build or service the item, not only have they equaled or even exceeded our price on a similar item, but they have also settled for inferior quality to boot! A local owned business looks you in the eye when they deal with you, deals with you honestly and hopes that every transaction wins them a new customer relationship and all of the loyalty that entails.

Okay, I get it, now what? We and many other local businesses have joined the 3/50 Project. The idea is simple: each month support 3 locally owned businesses by spending a total of $50 between the 3. This simple act will ensure that 68% of your money returns to the local community through taxes, payroll and other expenditures. This is 25% more money than what returns to the community when you shop at chain stores. I know that the sense of community is strong in our area, it is time that we start helping each other out in this simple and easy way.

Well, I'd love to help, but... We, the local business owners of this community bear responsibility in this movement as well. It is important that we act like businesses and not take the easy approach of closing when things are slow, not responding to customer feedback and requests, and the adherence to odd or inconsistent hours that some businesses follow. Our businesses and our customers must work together to transform our community into the thriving marketplace (with our own local flavor) that is commonplace in areas around us. We are surrounded by communities that get these ideas right. We must emulate the best of them, and improve on their weaknesses in order to make our community the destination for anyone living or traveling in our area.

It just takes YOU to start a trend!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

National Handmade Bike Show


Here's a glimpse at what we saw. Todd and I both were just blown away by everything that we saw. After I get some sleep and have time to process everything, I will post more on my thoughts and impressions from the show. But for now, enjoy the pictures.
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Dream (almost) come true

For years now, whenever the North American Handmade Bicycle Show was happening, I was staring at every photo that was being put on the web, drooling over the absolutely beautiful works of rolling art that were being displayed by the finest framebuilders in North America.  But in just 2 1/2 hours, I get to see it all in person.  After many years, the NAHBS has finally come to the east coast and Preacher Todd and I have made the pilgrimage to Richmond, VA to ogle all these wheeled beauties.

Both of us have a special affinity for classicly styled road bikes and commuter/utilitarian bicycles, so expect a heavy dose of these types in the photos I will be posting later. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The rise

As I sit here doing my pre-commute procedures (drink coffee, shower, dress, drink coffee, eat breakfast, drink coffee, make lunch, make coffee to carry to school), I gotta take a second to rave about a new piece of equipment that has made my bike commuting life unimaginably better.  The new Breezer Biz Pannier is so much awesome in a bag that it defies attempts at accolades.





It comes with a great, easy to install mounting system for your rear rack, has plenty of cargo space and best of all: it doesn't look like you are carrying a pannier around at work.  It is designed with the bike commuting professional in mind and is styled like a soft briefcase, not as a messenger bag.  A handy thing when you are trying to break your addiction to wearing girl jeans and you like riding bikes with brakes AND gears.  I have only used it for a couple of days and I can't figure out how I ever did without it.



It is lightweight, but has a solid and sturdy feel and the construction is very bomber. The oversized hooks on the mounting sheet easily fit the large diameter tubing on the built in rack of my Globe Haul, something that defied my use of Jannd Mountain panniers until I fabricated my own mounting hooks.  The attachment system is well thought out and the load bearing straps that hold the pannier in place make even the heaviest bag stable and securely mounted.

The one downside is the zipper attachments to the mounting sheet that stays on the rack.  The zippers are small and a little tricky to line up, especially with cold hands or in dark conditions.  Larger zippers would eliminate this issue and would be an easy improvement.  The only other suggestion for improvement would be to pad the laptop compartment and give it a softer fabric lining.  Beyond those two suggestions, I see no need for improvements.

If you wear a jacket and tie, or whatever female equivalent is appropriate, while riding a bike to work, this is definitely a must have.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Window of opportunity

Spent most of the morning playing dragons with Owen.  Running around, flapping wings, and general growling were the order of the day.  We got outside and enjoyed the susnshine.  I'd almost forgotten what sunshine was like.  I noticed that my concept of warm is severely skewed now.  45 degrees felt downright balmy.  We made a snow dragon (snowman was out of the question) covered him in green food dye and filled his mouth with sunflower seed teeth and red food dye ("BLUHHHHHHH-D" as Owen likes to say), made a sign reading: Beware! Here there be dragons! and then we were off to the next activity. 

I got out for a ride this afternoon.  A nice solitary road ride.  Something I hadn't done in a long while, riding alone.  It was perfect.  Crisp and clear without a hint of wind.  Me and breathing and effort in a lone revery.  Nice beyond words despite the chilly temps that crept in towards the end.  So wondrous the long spin on the road, bundled up enough to let the work keep you warm.  If the precipitation will let up, then the temperature is easy enough to deal with.

Now, the commuting week lays ahead.  The commuter miles are different but satisfying and the alertness that comes with a ride to work makes all the difference in the world to my work attitude.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Starting over again

A new semester starts tomorrow.  New students and new classes will make for a fresh start in the middle of winter.

I'm sitting here, drinking fresh-brewed Smokejumper, letting the black magic settle in to my system.  I have added new routines to my mornings with checking the weather and planning for the clothing needed for the day's commuting.  I rode the Xtracycle in the headwinds yesterday.  I had to grab 10 lbs. of hydraulic cement from Lowes and I wasn't about to let that break my commuting schedule.  The reality of that decision struck home as I hit tremendous headwinds while riding up a long climb.  And then to add insult to injury, the wind blew so hard that I had to pedal downhill in order to keep from being blown to a stop.

The Xtracycle always gets curious looks.  The overall look of the bicycle is so noticeably altered that even the most casual glance sees the difference.  Many of my coworkers checked it out and wanted to ask questions about it.  I love those conversations that come from people being curious.  I love to talk about bikes and riding, especially rides with everyday purpose.

What I don't like is the recent tendency of coworkers to feel compelled to explain to me why they can't ride a bike to work.  While the reasons are many that I have been given, none states the fact that the person doesn't normally ride a bike to begin with.  I will talk passionately about commuting and cycling in general for as long as I have a voice, but I don't look down on people for not doing it.  I wish more people would ride bikes, obviously, but not riding isn't a sore spot for me.  No, the person in the H3 Hummer that pulls up beside me at the light at Smith's Crossroads and then floors the accelerator like a drag racer when the light turns green, now that person makes me feel bad for humanity.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Hey, it's called a hand signal

I rode to work everyday last week.  No small feat given that monday through wednesday all had high temps below 20 degrees in the morning portion of my commute.  I discovered that below 17 degrees really requires a kitchen sink approach to clothing, i.e. wear everything you own that is warm.  It was great riding a dedicated commuter bike in my work clothes and regular shoes.  I spent some time on monday fabricating some mounting hardware for my panniers so that they could be mounted to the Haul.  For all of the obvious care and attention that Specialized put into designing the new Globe line,  little things like the rack tubing diameter being larger than a standard pannier mount leave me scratching my head a bit, but no worries, about 5 minutes worth of fabrication time and I'm all set.

I've been riding a couple of different routes to and from school.  I expect a certain amount of incredulousness on the part of the car-obsessed teenagers that I teach, but the inattentiveness of some drivers is a little over the top.  A colleague pointed out to me that I ride into school which is a nexus of inexperienced and inattentive texting-while-driving teenage drivers.  When you put it that way, it seems unsafe, but the reality isn't that bad.  My worst problems are occurring when I try to turn onto the greenway on Powell Ave.

As I approach the entrance to the greenway, I move into the center of my lane, left arm extended in the recognized "left turn" signal configuration.  I squeeze the rear brake (left signal still in effect, mind you) and slow down as I approach the very large speed table in the road that marks the greenway crossing.  Just as I begin to initiate my turn, a car will accelerate around me to make a pass.  This has happened 3 times, with 3 different drivers!  Have they changed the rules on me since last I was at the DMV?

All in all, I would rather ride my bike than drive my car.  I don't know why, I just know that's how I feel.  I've decided to sell my car and do without one for this year as an experiment in simple living.  Sure, we still have a car, but I want to be a one car household rather than the 2+ car household standard.  I think it is pretty doable and it will give me something else to talk about with all of the people I work with who already question my sanity.