Yeaterday I XC Skied about halfway up the toll road at Mt. Mansfield with Greg. On the way down we practiced turning under the lift line on some easier slopes – a few folks glided by on boards and alpine gear – but the runs we were on were technically closed due to lack of snow. Turning my long and fairly straight Karhu Pavo skis on marginal snow with 3 pin bindings was a comical exercise – it was very different from last season when I took to learning tele skiing with dedicated gear on groomed slopes. Should we get some real snow this year Greg and I have discussed an XC treking trip – maybe with some winter camping thrown in for fun.
Seems I always need something to do with my hands… designing and building furniture, crafting a timber frame, or working on a bike or two. I’m converting the Trek 520 from a straight road / touring rig to an all rounder – replacing the drop bars with Nitto Moustache’s, swapping out the brake pads for some all weather grippy types, and re-cabling the controls. I’ve got a set of 35mm cross tires waiting to meet the rims, have mounted the Brooks Swift, and I’ll get that rack remounted for the Ortlieb’s. The SPD pedals will come off – I’m anxious have a steed to ride in street shoes – so I’ll mount up some flat pedals and try the Power Grips I found in the clearance bin at West Hill. I’ve taken inspiration from Kent who is always mucking around with bikes and bike stuff, and David who is ready to ride this winter with a conversion all his own. I’m hoping the Trek will be a fun all-rounder that I won’t be shy about taking out as the sand and salt hit the roads… and I have to admit that I always feel a bit over outfitted riding the IF up to the corner (complete with LOOK cleated shoes) for a quick post office, hardware store, or grocery run.
I typically catch up on my film viewing during the winter as I build my cycling base for the following season. Highlights from last year included a Kurosawa marathon, as well as a week to cover the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Tonight I rented the Phillip Glass trilogy – Koyaanisqatsi, Powaqqatsi, and Naqoyqatsi and found it fitting that I should undertake my longest roller session to date watching and listening to Koyaanisqatsi – Life out of Balance.
Since returning from Italy I’ve felt torn and disconnected – work, life, and play seem to be rolling by at breakneck speed – and stresses from each compound on the other. Thoughts of empire and the cycles of civilization populate my current reading material – Mumford’s The City in History; Jensen’s Endgame, The problem of Civilization and his The Culture of Make Believe; Sahlins Stone Age Economics; and Gowdy’s Limited Wants, Unlimited Means each have me questioning what we are doing, and where we might be headed.
Koyaanisqatsi fits well with my current reading, and the trilogy could possibly be the perfect training films – the imagery and score breathtaking and constantly moving, intertwining, overlapping, and subtly relating to the whole. My body in motion on the bike adapts to the pace – and my heart, mind, and lungs synchronized with the film – blending the hum of the rollers with the pounding in my chest and the traversing score and flickering of light on the screen. I’ve been a fan of Glass’s work since I had the pleasure of seeing him perform at Lincoln Center (in my grad school days). He performed bits of Koyaanisqatsi and other pieces from his catalog, along with much of the music from Kundun, complete with Tibetan monks on stage in fantastic traditional costume. I was mesmerized – his music seems to take simple themes and distorts and nearly destroys them through subtle and relentless layering and mutation. A melody or rhythm will build upon itself, often overlapping in time – transforming from a simple piece of music to a complex chorus of sound – sometimes returning to its roots – changed, spliced, and mutated – but genetically similar to its forebear.
Koyaanisqatsi the film works this way as well. The film is directed by Godfrey Reggio and works as a powerful study of images – both those of man and those of nature. Over time the imagery can be seen as a journey from nature to civilization – but as a whole it reads more as the collision between progress as defined by civilization with the environment, the earth. Much like Glass’ music our recent path on the earth follows a similar progression – from simple roots we have overlayed and imprinted our voice on the world – mutating and changing to adapt, adjust, and command. People stream through subway turnstiles, rockets scream into the sky, buildings rise, buildings fall, cars course through the veins of the city, people live and die, as well do cities, technologies, profits, hot dogs, cakes, and bombs. Layer upon layer of “life” is interwoven on the landscape – to the point where it is hard to recognize nature at all – except when we see it reflected in or in contrast to our creations – the moon rising behind a skyline, clouds reflected on a glass facade, or the wind and water weaving through our cities. In all of this there are still subtle traces of a different life – the life of the earth, the life before the thousands of mutations and layers and splicing of “needs” and “progress” upon the land. Listening closely we can still hear it – slowly intertwined with the world as we know it – waiting for a pause in the score – a chance for us to breathe, listen, grow, and remember what keeps us here, what created us and gives us life.
Life out of balance – certainly riding rollers will help with that – my spin is getting smoother, I can stand and “climb”, as well as reach for my water bottle. But life seems out of balance as I sit inside watching the world fly by on my computer screen atop a titanium machine on aluminum rollers. I’m “training” to ride long distances on my bicycle, contemplating the contradiction I have become, wondering what parts of the score I should amplify and celebrate, and which parts I should leave on the cutting room floor.
Temps drop, roads get icy, and for some good base miles after dark I will often ride inside. Last winter I logged most of my weekly base miles on a CycleOps Fluid 2 Trainer. This season I’ve added a set of Kreitler Poly-Lyte rollers to the mix. I chose the smaller drums of the Poly-Lytes for a base of resistance without adding a fan or flywheel. The small drums add just enough resistance to work on my cadence in a lower gear – but when turning a big gear I can work intervals or strength drills – and while rolling I automatically increase my bike handling skills and work on smoothing my pedal stroke.
The small diameter of the rollers takes a bit of getting used to – I’ve started riding in a doorway in case I need a hand hold – but after a few minutes of spinning the bike is easy enough to keep upright. Steering is certainly faster on the rollers – the contact patch of tire to roller is very small – a quick move of the handlebars will have me drifting from one side to the other – the rollers thus far are making me aware of how sloppy I ride – drifting from side to side, bouncing a bit in the saddle when spinning high RPMs, and sliding left or right when I change hand positions or grab my waterbottle. I’ve heard horror stories of folks running off the rollers and crashing into big screen TVs (not really a problem for me, as I’ve been TV free for the better part of 5 years), furniture, walls, or running over the dog or cat – but I can’t imagine the physics working out – seems as soon as I stop pedaling on the rollers it takes maybe a few revolutions before my wheels stop, and I need to balance or look for the wall. I added some Continental Home Trainer tires to a spare set of wheels to ease the transition from an inside ride to an outside ride. The yellow orange compound was specifically designed to resist the high heat build up from the aluminum drums of rollers and trainers, prevent tread seperation of conventional road tires, and offer consistent grip to the roller through all gear ranges. I shredded 2 Bontrager slicks last winter – I hope the trainer specific tire will last me a season or two.
Better than riding indoors most of the winter might be a job with UPS. Seven Days, our local news and arts weekly here in Burlington, Vt., is reporting that UPS is using mountain bikes and light weight trailers to deliver packages on some of its routes in Rutland, White River Junction, Barre and Burlington. UPS is even working with local Green Mountain Bikes to outfit its current fleet of thirteen bikes. The full story is here.
Out for 25 miles to explore the cold night. The moon is just beyond full – and I was hoping to see snow capped peaks in the direction of Camel’s Hump and Mt. Mansfield, but they appeared to have been hiding in the clouds. The temperature dropped from the high 20’s to the teens by the time I returned home. It was much colder than Saturday, but there was much less wind – my knees did start to get cold through my windstopper pants, my toes stayed warm with the addition of some toe warmers, and the new gloves worked very well. The lobster fingers took a bit of getting used to – I mashed through a few gear changes – always trying to shift with a single finger that was now coupled with its neighbor for warmth. I’ve been thinking about a full moon century for some time – but perhaps I’ll wait for wamer weather – or some snow. The mountains would be wonderful aglow in the light of the moon, and traversing the world on two wheels in the night is quite sublime – the glow of the moon, the rotating of the stars, the soft hum of tires on pavement, and the internal noise of the human engine driving everything along.
I had the pleasure of visiting a client (turned friend) when I was in the greater Cleveland, Ohio area enjoying the Thanksgiving holiday with family and friends. I’ve done several projects for John and his family over the years – the barn / workshop that I hand cut and raised during the summer of 2004 is the largest – and most rewarding to date. The frame is crafted from Eastern White Pine and Douglas Fir, and is accented by Walnut pegs and splines. The barn sits atop a traditional sandstone foundation and is protected from the elements with a slate roof and a blue heron inspired weathervane. The project is nearly complete – John took to doing the finishing work himself with the help of a few of my craftsman friends from the Cleveland area. Working on the project was surreal – I commuted by bike 18 miles each way to my day job, cut the barn frame in my shop (when I lived in the Finger Lakes) at nights and on weekends, and worked some local mountain biking into the mix on trails right out my back door with fantastic views of Canandaigua Lake.
Winter is making a late arrival to Vermont this year – the cold comes and goes – but the snow is nowhere to be found. I’ve been taking some short spins and mixing in some runs as I’ve finally starting to feel recovered from the month+ long viral mystery I’ve been battling. 4 weeks off the bike after a season wind down has dropped my morale – as well as my strength, cardio fitness, and confidence on the bike. I’ve been feeling slow, heavy, and uninspired to ride.
Saturday I had to ride – something in the mind and body needed me to get out. After injesting some pre-ride calories I fussed with the 520 (winterizing it with some cross tires and moustache bars), and then tweaked on the IF. My handlebars seemed to be loosening on each ride – and after some fussing I discovered a stripped bolt at the bar clamp. Panicked that a long road ride wouldn’t happen (the 520 is in pieces, the LeMond is tuned for Jen, and now the IF’s stem is bust) I headed to SkiRack (local bike, ski, hike, board shop) to rummage through their stems. Nearing the bottom of the box (my anxiety creeping) I found the same make and model of my busted stem… Less than an hour after discovering the problem I was suiting up – Ibex woolie base layer, bibs, tights, jersey, thick socks, ear warmer (with balaclava stowed in my pocket), long fingered gloves, shoe covers, jacket, and vest. I carried an extra hat and an extra wool layer… both of which I didn’t need.
I needed a long ride – I didn’t really care how long it took – but I knew I needed to explore a bit, perhaps getting in a mountain view or two. Battling the wind and the temperatures I rode 60 miles out to the shadow of Mt. Mansfield and back. Temperatures dropped 3 degrees every hour over the time I was out – starting at 45 degrees and finishing at 31. It seemed the entire ride was spent negotiating a crosswind or headwind and according to the weather service winds gusted to 35+ mph throughout the day. Battling the wind and the cold on my return leg along VT 15 I enjoyed the finest (defined as warm and edible) gas station hot chocolate in recent memory. I packed just enough food, 1 too many layers (but was glad I carried it), and could have used a thicker pair of gloves (maybe these) and some warming packs (thicker socks don’t seem to help) for my toes. Views of the mountains were elusive this trip out – hiding in clouds and I assume being dusted with snow. I caught one glimpse of Mansfield – but by the time I found a place to stop and snap a photo she disappeared into the sky again.