Saturday, 30 August 2014

Shock and Awwwww! Amped up for The Little One Hundred - it's a short circuit.

Watt's that you say?  Starting off this post with a battery of bad jokes?  
Guilty as charged!! 
How can I possibly rectify it?  Dunno... read on.

Sometimes you just have the need for speed, right? I sure do.

This one's for you, oh Fred of the Sea
There's nothing like it.  When you're pushing your body to its absolute limit and you're moving as fast as you possibly can, you're having a bio-chemical experience unlike any other, and I for one quite rely upon it. It has been linked to a slowing of the ageing process itself, strenuous exercise, and it certainly changes the way this crazy-assed body feels. I drip sweat till my hair is wet through and even then I want to go harder, and faster still.  It hurts, yet it feels so good.  I love how the bike really becomes a part of you when you're whipping downhill as fast as your legs will take you, and digging deep for just a little more.

And yet McDuh. I only just lately figured out that it's an aspect of my ambition, this need for speed. I have aspirations of being punctual; I am almost compulsive about being somewhere on time, and yet it seems like I am always running exactly two minutes late and am forever trying to catch the next light, just the same as the woman in the car next to me. And there you have it: the perfect sprinterval training program for babblegs of steel.

Running late gave me the need for speed, and made me a fast fred.  So I spent day two of my Wheelmen's deluxe weekend riding the Little One Hundred.  That's sort of like a criterium, except it's held on an exceptionally bumpy old 400 meter asphalt oval running track.

The day began in typical Vancruiser fashion, with a long and luxurious pre-ride liquid picnic, and a chance to check out what sort of wheels were kicking around.

This ride was nearly a non-event.  We had heard the day before that the guy who organizes these things had cancelled the Little One Hundred because he had to be out of town for the weekend.  We heard the news at August's Vintage Ride the day before, but we all decided that it might be worth it to head over anyways, just to see what sort of bikes came out to play.  Then, when it came time to start the race, we nearly didn't ride. We had some issues putting a team together, but managed to find a couple of people to ride with us, even if only for a few laps.

It didn't hurt that both of our last-minute team members were super strong riders. Thus we had the requisite four member team.  Not that it would have mattered. Since there were only a few teams there that day to ride, and since the whole thing was almost cancelled, the impromptu race organizers said that we could have ridden even if there were only three of us. According to them, it was a "No Rules" ride.

No rules?! Hooray!
So we entered the No Rules Little One Hundred. Remember, this is a Wheelmen event, where the bikes are the star of the show and the beer is always a close runner-up.  Except when it steals the spotlight, that is...

Passing the baton?
A little way into the ride we started to hear grumblings from the peanut gallery that ours wasn't a legal bike. We had the requisite 26" wheels, and it was a single speed bike, as per the usual rules.  But a few people were upset that we had drop bars.  They figured we should be penalized ten laps for riding a non-regulation bike in the no-rules ride.

And it is true, that our bike was better than theirs, but not because we were bent over drop bars. Even if we had flipped the handle bars over to make it an upright experience, we would have won, because our bike was geared properly for that ride.  After spending a bit of time testing out the bike on the track, we decided to run a 52, while everybody else was spinning wildly in the 40's. They didn't stand a chance.  Needless to say, we won the race with a fair few laps to spare, but even so, we weren't allowed to take home first prize. 

Holding D cup
I didn't care about the prize - after all, we weren't even going to ride when the race began.  But it was decided that our non-regulation bike meant that despite winning D cup, we weren't entitled to first prize. That went to the guys who came in second.  We won what was originally second prize, and at first I was really excited by the prospect, because it was a free bike painting.  I was all "Wow!  That's great!  Bea bike really needs a paint job!" but of course it wasn't an Electra paint job. Our winnings won't even cover the chainguard and fenders of the Electra, cause that bike is a serious pain to work on any which way you slice it.  Need to change the back tire? Better give yourself three hours or so. 

It is always good to dream, though.  I had visions of Bea looking all shiny and new, like lovely Alison's bike. She was our anchor for the Little One Hundred, riding the last five laps, wrapping up the race, and bringing home D lovely little cup for the lot of us.

That girl can ride. First prize, second prize or no prize at all, it sure was a fun ride, and a great day to be out under the sun, on and around bikes with a few friends. I can't think of a better way to spend an August Sunday.

Sooo many pretty bikes... I love to surround myself with people who are smarter than I am (it isn't much trouble) and with people who are doing what they love. Whenever I go to the Wheelmen's events, I meet the most interesting, inspiring people. People who love bikes as much as I do.  

Ha!  Who am I kidding?  They love them even more than I do! Some people love them so much that they MAKE THEIR OWN!

Come on. Admit it.  That's pretty cool, dontcha think? Making your own bike?!  Never mind that the seat height is tough to adjust, at least without a hacksaw...

I'm always satisfied when I can take a reasonable photo of a bike, never mind building one! Good thing some people excel at it, though, or goodness knows what I would do with myself.  I hate to think what this world would be like without my favourite, timeless machine.

There is a bike for every person, something to suit every taste.  If only everyone knew the joy to be had on two wheels...
A pugnacious ride. If they were in the race, they would be lap dogs!
...this world would be a much sweeter place.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

If you want it, here it is... come and get it!

Everyone just wants to be happy, right?  Too bad life doesn't come with a manual, a set of instructions to help you get there. People do all sorts of interesting things in search of happiness. We spent an evening at Playland and the Pacific National Exhibition earlier this week, and I was struck by the throw-away nature of it all. Sure it has a rickety, old-school wooden roller coaster, (and matching rickety old-school bands like Trooper) but everything else about this venue is fleeting by nature.

It's not just that the entire place is designed to part you with your money, that every single item inside those walls costs three times what it would on the outside.  You see people walking out of there with all sorts of things, from stuffies to useless plastic blow-up toys and even various household goods, but everything that leaves the gates is destined for the landfills sooner than later, and that really bugs me.  When did people buy in to that bullshit maxim that more is better?  When did disposable everything  become okay?

Even the fun at playland is fleeting and fleeing.  It's loaded with hidden inflation, just like everything outside the gates. Sure, the seat still costs four tickets, but the ride is only half as long as it used to be... 

Subliminal indoctrination - laugh while you can, little one.  You're tethered. You will soon be spinning around on the socio-economic merry-go-round, too, chained to the banks and your interest payments along with the rest of us.
That was Friday night.  The rest of the weekend was its polar opposite in essence, blessed be.  We joined the Vancouver Wheelmen twice!  The Wheelmen are wonderful.  They have a mission: to make people realise that newer isn't always better. OMG how cool is THAT?

Saturday was August's monthly vintage ride.  We took full advantage of the sunshine and cruised around the seawall, starting at the Angry Birds in Olympic Village.

It's always worth your while to see who's come out to play when the Wheelmen roll through town. 

The bikes are poetry in motion.

Best of all?  A Vancruiser ride is always a lot of fun. Life should be fun, don't you think?  It's a bit awkward as a cyclist sometimes, because everybody hates us.  Motorists don't want us on the roads because we slow their mad dash from the queue at one red light to the one at the next, and pedestrians are scared silly of us, even though it's motorists, not cyclists, who are killing them by the thousands. 

I don't understand how so very many people can be so incredibly short sighted, but it always makes me feel better to discover that I am not alone. Enter the Wheelmen. They ride bikes just like I do, and that means that we share a lot of common experiences, understandings, and expectations. For years, I sought a community of like-minded individuals, and finally here in Vancouver, I've found a few of them. I love it. I never feel like quite so much of an alien when people understand me in a deep and fundamental way.  

Found a few friends? Well, that's always cause to celebrate!

And Saturday itself was a day well worthy of a toast, wasn't it?  It was smiles, sunshine, and unicorns all around. Well, I didn't actually spot any unicorn, but you sure didn't have to look hard to find a few Bronies.  What's that? You don't know what a Brony is? Fair enough. It's a man who is a fan of My Little Pony. That's right. Bro's go for My Little Pony. Don't laugh. They might be dudes with pink hair, but at least they aren't chopping people's heads off on some mad, sad jihad. They understand that friendship is magic.

I always make fast friends with people who appreciate a little sweet bike porn the way I do.

The Wheelmen roll out the magic red carpet whenever we get together, and sometimes they hold quite an event.  But no matter how big it is, whether hundreds of people show up, or just a few friendly faces, they'll always let you know that you are welcome on the ride.

Mmm flying.  If I'd found Alladin's lamp, I would wish for the ability to fly, and the ability to travel through time...

Time is all we have, the one true wealth in this world.  Every moment is precious, so there is a great fortune in a life well spent. Time's universal, or so it seems from this Earthly perch; it's the one thing we share.  I wish I could roll through the ages to look for smiling, friendly faces all throughout hisory, but I've yet to find that lamp.  At least I can ride through town on a piece of living history, making new friends in the here and now. 

After all, what could be better than sharing a sunny summer's day on the beach with a whole bunch of good friends?

Making new friends through your old ones, that's what. That's what they mean when you hear people talk about a Schwinn Schwinn situation.

Keates said "Beauty is truth, truth beauty.  That's all ye know in life, and all ye need to know."  All I know is that there are an enormous number of gorgeous souls in this town, young and old, and I am unbelievably fortunate in having made the acquaintence of a fair few of them. 

Have you noticed? So many of today's youth are super switched-on?  They're quite a generation: conscious, pro-active, healthy, and aware.  

Young pepole today give me hope for humanity, though we are passing along a deeply flawed world as their inheritance. I roped those two girls there into our ride even though they were on rentals and not vintage bikes.  Why? Well, because I am a bit nosey, and a little forward, and I absolutely love it when young people understand the joys of a life of bike-centric mobility -  I hoped that the Wheelmen (and women!) would influence the girls a little. I was so fortunate to be exposed to long distance cyciling as a youth, so that despite having  my license at 14, and a car soon after that, I managed to avoid car-indoctrination. Most people get sucked in, though so that they come to bikes later in life, if ever. I love it when I see young people raised on it, and I especially enjoy watching young people come to a bike-cycling life through the process of loving discovery- that is, by discovering how much they love to live it, because it feels so good to be healthy and fit.

And that's it, isn't it?  Life is all about feeling good. The goal of all other goals is happiness.  If all we have is time, then it becomes imperative to make the most of it.  Every moment you are miserable is a moment of happiness, of Heaven on Earth, which you have missed.  People who spend their time looking for reasons to be offended will ineviaably find them, and then they are stuck feeling miserable. But emotions are so much more than that, aren't they? They are a bio-chemical reality of their very own, and a very direct form of communication, and yet when I was growing up, we were all taught to suppress them. You know it's true. Heaven forbid you should get emotional. When did emotions become synonomous with weakness, anyway?  Probably round about the same time people decided desposable everything was ok, that businesses had to be growing to be healthy, and that more was always better.  

Be careful what you wish for, supersized America! Vancouver is chock full of healthy, fit, enlightened individuals, a little bubble of beauty in the middle of a mad, mad world, and yet even here, rampant consumerism is a sickness sucking the soul out of our very source of vitality itself, planet Earth.  Even here, people cling to their cars as if their very lives depended upon them, when in fact, the opposite is true.

The very essence of a healthy lifestyle is founded upon mobility. Your body was built to move. The bicycle is just a wonderful miracle of imagination that lets you cheat. On a bicycle, you get to take a litte tiny bit of effort and translate it into a great big distance.  Vancouver has a fair few beaches, but the best ones are off the beaten path, away from the big parking lots, in places you actually have to work a little to get to. Third beach always has its fair shair of bikes.

I love it! I mean, come on. How often do you see as many bikes as there are people? It's pretty rare, even here...

But we're getting there!  I still can't believe that most people out there choose to get in a car all year long for a commute of less than five miles. Ideally, your body would like at least two hours of moderately strenuous activity a day, and a full day of activity, too. That is a far cry from how most of us live today, but why?

I love the simple things in life, like riding to my favourite beach, and spending the day with friends, old and new. Happiness is easy to find once you're on a bike.  Try it!  You might just like it.

Sunday was a whole 'nother kind of adventure, but you'll just have to come back for that.  :D

Sunday, 17 August 2014

We had joy, we had fun...

Dunno 'bout you, but my world seemed a little darker this week. August's summer sunshine was suddenly muted and dull, greyed somehow when we lost Robin Williams to that man-eating monster, suicide.

He was one of us, you know.  He was completely switched on.

(photo lifted off Keirin Berlin)
Robin said that cycling saved his life, and man oh man do I ever understand. He said that riding a bike is one of his medications, he called it a form of therapy, and when Jason Gay from the Wall Street Journal wanted to know why he loved riding so much, he replied "It's the closest you can get to flying."  

OMG, right?! Never mind all of the other benefits, like, oh... happiness. Literally. Serotonin. Dopamine.  Endorphins.  And don't forget the superficial things, like you know, your very own chance at sporting Superman's legs...

Even so, some people would argue that it's silly to mourn the loss of a celebrity you don't actually know. And fair enough. I had no reason to feel a personal sense of loss, and yet I definitely did. I actually cried, though even I am not entirely sure why. I don't know him at all, really. I think I saw him once when I lived on the Sunshine Coast almost twenty years ago, and even way back then, he was reputed to be exceptionally humble, generous and kind.  Maybe his death shouldn't affect me, but like Nelson Mandela, he was a true blue hero, and one of my favourite role models. And now my heart aches all over again with this year's all too familiar feeling of grief.

but change is the only constant, so this, too, shall pass...
I was feeling down and somewhat philosophical, and I noticed how easy it is to miss what's happening all around when you've got something sad or stressful on your mind. Vancouver's very own Eckhart Tolle says that the way to make the best of every situation is to be conscious and fully present in each and every moment. That, he says, is the Power of Now.  

I tried and tried to meditate, even as a youth, but there's a reason they call me babble on, and it's true inside and out.  Soon as I hop on my bike to start my heart pumping hard, though, everything changes. That voice inside fianlly quiets and I find myself fully present and completely engaged.  And smiling.  I used to think it was just me, the grinning from ear to ear every time I get on a bike bit, but extensive research has proven that it's pretty much universal.  Cycling = Happy.

It's true, too.  Hipsters find that Zen feeling on their trackbikes, racers always push past pain to that place of absolute quiet, and every bicycle commuter knows how much better it is to arrive on two wheels than any of the four or more wheeled petrochemically motivated alternatives. So no matter which bike I chose to ride this week, I tried to stay fully present and engaged, to notice the world all around, and to find that place of absolute inner quiet.  And here are a few of the things I noticed along the way:

Heading down Vine St to Kits Beach one evening, I heard music. It sounded like a crystal clear recording at first, and then I looked a little closer...

It was live. I love this town...

What else did I find?  Oh!  Down on Southwest Marine Drive you'll sometimes see the four-legged sort of rides.

And then I found a bike party!  I saw a group of lovely girls (and their lucky guy friend) headed off to party hard on two wheels... it doesn't get any better than that, really, does it?

No matter where you go in this town, you'll always find a beautiful view to capture your attention.

If you find yourself on the wrong side of the tracks, take a good look around, and you're sure to find safe crossing.

And better still,  if you keep your eyes open you might see West My Friend, a group of musicians here in BC who have chosen to do their latest Vancouver Island tour via bicycle.

There was a feature on the CBC this week called Mad Meds, about an artist named Marni Kotak, who has made an exhibition of herself as she withdraws from the pharmaceutical anti-depressant and anti-psychotic medications doctors prescribed to her upon diagnosis of post-partum depression. Her interview with the CBC made mention of how doctors routinely prescribe medications to treat everything from stress to suicidal tendencies, but they never, ever give patients the tools to cure themselves.  And itn't THAT the truth? Why?! Why aren't people made aware of just how important diet, sleep and exercise actually are to a healthy mind and body?  Why don't doctors prescribe an hour and a half of sweat every day, instead of those damned stinking pills?

Sigh... sure, anti-depressants help some folks in some situations, but the very best thing anyone can do for thier mental health is to take good care of their physical well-being, and that comes down to movement. Function creates form for real. Your body was made to move, so much so that it can't possibly operate well without it. Stop moving, and you start decaying.

Robin knew it well.  Someone close to him figured that a big part of his final despair stemmed from a recent diagnosis of Parkinsons' disease and his fear that it would force him off of his bikes. I get it.  When I crashed this spring, one of the hardest adjustments I had to make was to give up my daily ride, because it is literally my happy place. Please. Join me in this two-wheeled revolution; together we really will create a better world.