Archive for the ‘General Cycling’ Category
When I started back up with cycling, several years back, one of my goals was to become certified as a bike instructor – mostly to teach kids how to ride safely. With the support of a strong bike education community in my area, I was able to become an LCI – (League Cycling Instructor), certified by the League of American Cyclists.
With my certification, I am able to teach a broad range of classes that include Traffic Skills 101, Commuting, Bicycling Skills Youth 123 and Bicycling Skills 123. I’m also qualified to teach Group Riding Skills, but quite frankly, I only prefer to teach those with little or no cycling experience.
I’ve taught a few Traffic Skills 101 classes as well as a few Youth 123 (Bike Rodeos), which are both enjoyable and quite rewarding. However, I’ve discovered that my favorite class to teach is actually a hybrid of the adult Bicycling Skills 123, where we teach adults how to ride.
Learning to ride as an adult is actually more common than you would think. There are plenty of adults who never had an interest or opportunity to learn when they were younger. Fortunately, that didn’t stop them from wanting to learn as adults. Of course, different people pick it up faster than others, which makes instructing as challenging as it is fulfilling. I’m still new to teaching the class, and I’ve discovered that I’m continually learning better ways to teach with each new student.
The end result is always extremely gratifying to me – especially when I see the huge grin on each person’s face as they ride a bike for the first time.
If you are an adult or know one who cannot ride a bike and live in the north Texas area, please reach out to my group to fine out when the next available class will be. We’d be happy to teach you.
When you become a bike rider, you quickly learn the importance of keeping an eye on the weather. You never want to get caught in a Texas thunderstorm. Unlike my days living in the northwest – where the rain is frequent, consistently light and often drizzly – rain is rare in north Texas during the summer. But when it comes, it comes hard – usually with lightning and rolling thunder. It’s very intimidating, when you’re on a bike and typically avoided – especially by me.
I knew that there was a storm rolling through yesterday morning, but as I scanned the online radar and checked the hourly forecast, it looked like I had a small window to run an errand and grab a quick cup of coffee. My prediction was slightly off.
I did manage to get my mail sent off at the post office without a drop of rain, but as I rolled towards my coffee shop, I saw the dark clouds and lightning moving into my area very quickly. I decided to park it at my Starbucks and wait it out. Another interesting thing about Texas thunderstorms is that they usually leave as fast as they come.
With my tall, black coffee and the sound of pounding rain and thunder just outside, I comfortably read through a chapter of my book. Before I was able to get into the next chapter, my wife called and, after reminding me how crazy I was, asked if she needed to come get me. The rain was much lighter at this point, but she warned me that another wave was heading our way.
With a bit of pride and a lot of stubbornness, I declined her offer and told her riding home wouldn’t be a problem. I packed my book back into it’s Ziplock baggy and hit the road. Fortunately, most of the ride back was light and drizzly, just like my days up north. The streets, however, were still flooded from the storm and because I didn’t have fenders, I got soaked.
Aside from that, riding in the rain was actually pretty fun. I’ll still avoid the thunderstorms, though.
Well, my summer vacation came and went without much to write about. There were lots of variables that got in the way of a proper vacation or any kind of travel.
The first was money. Hotels and transportation for a family of 4 always seems to cost more than what’s available after several unexpected expenses this year – including auto repairs, vet bills, appliance replacement and various other household costs. Perhaps with a little better planning and better saving, we might get away next year.
Even if cost wasn’t a factor, there have been other issues that happened this year. Without getting into too much detail, we have a family member who is suffering from health problems and is requiring a significant life change, and our family is having to focus on that. In fact, a good portion of my time off was spent working to help facilitate some of that change.
Even so, my vacation wasn’t always that productive. We did manage to squeeze in a trip to the Perot and a few hours at the city pool. It was really nice spending more time with my family.
I also gave myself a goal to ride my bike every day, even if it was a short distance. I ended up riding 9 days in a row, totaling over 117 miles. Sure, it wasn’t any kind of Grand Tour, but it was enough to wind down and recharge.
Isn’t that what a vacation is truly about?
I’m off from work this week, so my goal is to – at least – get a small ride in every day. Today, I was just going to do a short ride up to my local Starbucks, grab a quick cup of black goodness and head back home. However, a small sense of adventure kicked in and I decided to turn left instead of right.
It’s been a while since I’ve done a proper Suburban Assault. I’m pretty familiar with the area around me, so it’s hard to find a good route that I haven’t explored. Through chance, and a little getting lost, I managed to make some new discoveries. Here are some observations from this morning’s ride:
• The light actuator at Grove and Arapaho Road SUCKS. I sat through 3 cycles before I took action.
• The bike lane markings along Grove are mostly faded away.
• My alternate destination for coffee wasn’t open for another hour from my arrival, so I had to ride further. Bonus.
• When you have time, getting a little lost is fun.
• My great sense of direction is no match for a good GPS. Although I was heading in the right direction, the neighborhood I was riding through had lots of dead end streets. I finally had to pull out my phone to find a route out.
• The rush hour traffic in Garland sucks.
• Sometimes a 5 mile trip can turn into an 11 mile adventure.
We started clearing out an old shed in my mother-in-law’s yard, so that it can be demolished in a few weeks. The shed had been unused, probably, for decades – so who knows what was living in there. All I know is that, with my fear of wasps and spiders – and not to mention small critters that bite – I wasn’t going near it. Fortunately, my wife is a badass and those things don’t seem to bother her. Once I got the overgrown shrub chopped down from in front of the door, it was easier for her to gain access and drag out this beauty for me.
Reading on, you’ll see that I use the term ‘beauty’ quite loosely and probably with a bit of sarcasm.
I’d spotted this ‘beauty’ a few months back, when we had originally thought about clearing out the shed. Through the shrub and slightly opened door, I could see the dark silhouette of an old bike, left to rust at the back of this dark shed. I kept wondering if this was some sort of forgotten treasure of vintage steal, that was only waiting to be salvaged and restored to it’s former glory. Even when my wife, bravely, rolled it out over the busted bags of fertilizer and potting soil, I had high hopes that it was going to be a ‘beauty.’
Not this time. Upon closer inspection, I realized that this bike had seen much better days. The rust, corrosion and the decades of Texas summers had taken it’s toll on this guy. Even so, my mind started wandering into a world of sand paper, chrome polish and elbow grease, to see this ‘beauty’ restored to a showroom finish. Perhaps I had seen too many episodes of American Restorations on the History channel. Unfortunately, I had been down the road of restoration, and the result – if ever finished – is never worth the amount of work I would put into it.
I wondered if it would be worth it to pay somebody to restore it. But then I started to look into the brand and model of the bike. It’s an old (I’m assuming late 60’s early 70’s) Columbia 500. After doing some digging on-the-line, I discovered that the Columbia brand, although it has a rich heritage of building bikes since 1877, is known for manufacturing “…quality bikes at affordable prices. Developed to satisfy the demands of the casual rider, who expects the feature, quality and confidence in a brand of bikes found in specialty bike shops. Columbia bikes offer a brand that is well recognized by consumers and at the same time offers a different product at a great value!” I read this as cheap department store quality bike.
After doing a bit more, light digging, I came to realize that it wouldn’t be worth the effort or expense to restore this ‘beauty.’ It’s too bad I don’t own a small bike shop or café, because this would make the perfect decoration to hang over the awning.
I saw this on Alma Road in Plano, Texas, the city that neighbors mine. I’m not sure if this was painted by the city or by a concerned citizen, but it definitely caught my eye. Unfortunately, with it’s placement right next to the actual hazard, so it’s too late to do anything to avoid it.
Perhaps the city of Plano will fix this road soon, because it’s one of the best routes for cyclists into town.
This is my fifth year to participate in Methodist Health System’s WildRide! Against Cancer. Unlike last year, when I rode the 64 mile route with my buddy and barely made it, I opted to go easy and just do the 40 mile route (Well, with the new starting point this year, it was only 38 miles). The day was beautiful and the wind a little forgiving, which made this year’s rally one of the better ones for me.
Like with every WildRide, I keep promising myself that I’m going to get a new bike that’s lighter and not so mechanically challenged. Instead, I keep riding the only geared bike that I own – my 21-year old DiamondBack Apex mountain bike that’s been converted to a commuter. It’s heavy, the wheels wobble and the original drivetrain is showing it’s age. But, like the previous 4 WildRides and dozens of commutes to work, it gets me to where I need to go – even if I have to work a little harder.
As I stated earlier, this year’s rally started at a new location. It was still close to my house, so I opted to ride my bike the 4 miles to the rally. The new staging area was nice, but didn’t seem as well organized. I’m sure it’s just growing pains and getting used to the new place.
The starting lineup is usually much longer, giving room to all the cyclists who are planning on riding the 64 mile route – which is probably 75 percent, leaving the remaining lineup space for the 40 and 16 mile group. This year, it seemed to be the reverse, which left about 25 percent of the space for the lead group and a lot more for the rest. This forced many cyclists to cram together at the front, some waiting on the sidewalk and on the road median. Quite frankly, the rally always starts out slow for everybody, so it doesn’t really matter where you start.
Other than the awkward, overly-crowded start, the rally was really nice. The 40 (I mean 38) mile route was mostly the same with the typical rest stops, and riding over the Lavon Lake dam is always spectacular. Since I rode solo, this year’s ride was a bit lonely. Also, even though it wasn’t going to be as hard as last year’s 64 mile route, I think I had underestimated this year’s ride. I had forgotten that the 38 mile route was still a challenge for me, and it caught my legs off guard for the last few miles. I completed the route, but that 4 mile ride back to my house was miserable.
Here are a few pics of this year’s rally. Click here to see the entire set.