Archive for the ‘bikes’ Category

State of the IF

Monday, May 13th, 2013


IMG_0148

Some recent changes to the IF Ti Club Racer – moved from Campy 10spd Ergo levers to SRAM brake levers and 9spd bar ends. Using an XTR rapid rise derailer. Added the Cowbell 2 bar last fall, but only have a few rides on it – all things indicate this might be the bar I’ve been looking for. My Mavic Classics hub crapped out just as I got this re-build together… so I’m now awaiting a hub to rebuild my rear wheel. Hopefully I’ll have this bike on the road for the VT Lake 200/300k Brevet.

IMG_0153

 

To all the bikes I’ve … Update

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

A few weeks before my father passed away he sent me the following images in an email, clarifying my recent blog postings. My first trike, a gift from my grandfather (dad’s dad).

miketrike

And my first bike, complete with fenders, tassels, and training wheels. I don’t ever remember riding it without the training wheels though, as my brother and sisters all got the matching Sears blue bikes I noted in the first installment of this series.

Image (4)

To all the bikes I’ve … pt. 6

Saturday, January 12th, 2013

Heading into my first fall in Vermont I had been reading about brevets and long distance cycling. There was something about riding incredibly long distances that had always intrigued me, and exploring under my own power has always felt like a part of who I am. Somehow I stumbled upon the Boston-Montreal-Boston website, and through various links and forums found RUSA. I wanted to be ready for the next season, so I became a member, and sought out some training books from the local bookstore. I even flirted with a big name online coaching system, paying for a 3 month subscription in the late summer. I did regular baseline time trials wearing my heart rate monitor up and down my road, took long endurance rides while targeting specific muscle groups and heart rates, and jumped on the recovery drink and energy food band wagon. After the Thanksgiving holiday that year I even dropped most meat from my diet, moving to a near vegetarian palette.

After sorting out the previously mentioned ‘bad idea dating’, I returned my attention to meditation, time on the bike, and stretching. As winter rolled in I set up my home office as a make shift bike studio. Bike stand, tools, and gear strewn everywhere, with my LeMond mounted in the trainer in the corner, desktop computer with music and speakers against the wall, and a small cabinet in front to place my laptop for movies. I would work in my office in town for most of the day, when the weather was accommodating I would ride home (downhill!), have a snack, read, and then ride inside. I kept up a simple heart rate training regime, focused mainly on base miles, listening to specific sets of music, or watching a movie I’d download to iTunes on the laptop before I left the office. I’d end the evening sitting to settle my mind, then drop off to sleep, often on my living room floor, tucked into my meditation cushions with a book left open and snuggled into a cozy blanket. I’d repeat this most of the winter, with the trainer rides getting progressively longer. Weekends were filled with hikes or outdoor activities, as much as possible.

At some point I started to get fussy with fit, so I would teak my position, record it on my digital camera, and then compare it to fit videos in the office the next day. I also purchased my second Brooks saddle. I bought a Ti railed Swallow, the narrowest and lightest they made at the time, for mounting to my carbon and steel go fast bike. I again fussed with position, and had to swap seat posts to something with more setback. In my search for the part I discovered Thomson components, and through a cascading series of internet wanders discovered whole nother world of high end bike parts – carbon wheels, featherlight brakes, ti-everything. Most out of my price (or use) league – but shining with that go-fast, top of the line, racer boy glow.

At the same time I rekindled some winter sports that I missed. I got out on my XC skis a bit, snow shoed when the snow was good and deep, and eventually took a telemark lesson that the West Hill Shop organized at the Brattleboro town ski hill. I was instantly hooked on the skiing, as it would blend nicely with my desire to explore under my own power. With a light gear setup one could get into the backcountry, do some moderate terrain both up and down – which was the original reason I had bought my bc xc skis back when I lived in the Rochester area. I learned over time though that turning on my long and skinny Karhu Pavos was something of a challenge – so I rented better gear for the lesson. Despite getting pretty sore from lots of stumbling and falling into the snow – I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and the following weekend took a lesson at Mad River Glen.

IMG_0794

The lesson at Mad River Glen was an eye opener. Ungroomed snow (and ice), a quirky lodge and lifts, crap rental equipment, but a pretty incredible instructor. The lesson was labeled beginner, so we immediately took the lift to the top of the mountain, and began working our way back down. Snow (and the view) at the top was incredible – powder dolloped on trees, 8–12” of fresh snow under foot, and mild terrain to negotiate while learning how to turn on those slippery and long shoes. It wasn’t until about mid mountain that I knew I was in for a long day. The lower snow was pretty skied out, and there would be many areas of hard pack and ice. Not knowing the trails I’d follow my class trying to keep up – only to turn a corner and realize I was doing everything I could to keep and hold an edge into the snow. Despite my best intentions and focus on good technique there were many many wrecks that day. After about three runs with the class – and having watched a fellow student on really light metal edged nordic gear ski circles around me – I moved to the easy slopes to practice the basics. I left a bit discouraged, and physically wasted. After a long drive back to Putney I questioned my sanity in wanting to learn to ski. (This after snowboarding in high school…)

Back on the bike, as we hit mid winter I was logging my longest base mile trainer rides, typically an hour plus every other night, with a different pattern developed for each day. I’d religiously watch my heart rate monitor and try to stay in specific zones to further build a strong foundation for what I hoped would be a successful first brevet series. As those rides got longer, I started needing more options for entertainment while pedaling circles. On my days where I’d go ‘into the city’ (of Brattleboro) – I’d often shop at the coop and drop by the video store on my way home. I discovered the Bourne Identity series, revisited some Philip Glass movies, and did marathon sessions watching the Lord of the Rings movies. I had the Swallow broken in and ready for prime time in short order, and felt like I was well on my way to the best shape of my life. I was dropping weight slowly but surely into the high 180s, a number I hadn’t seen in a long long time, since I lived in NYC as a student.

IMG_0578

My sanity check from downhill skiing was short lived, as a college friend was going to be in town while his wife taught at a workshop in Western MA, and he wanted to know if I would be up for a Friday of snowboarding. I had learned to ride (poorly) in high school, having saved up paper route money to buy a Burton board and boots to take down our itty bitty little ski hill. It had been a long time since I strapped on a board, but I jumped right back in and made arrangements for us to go to Stratton. Not an hour after getting excited about playing in the snow with a college friend, my brother called from NYC and wanted to know if he could come up and ski that same weekend – he’d arrive by Amtrak late Friday and would leave on Monday. He skied in high school – the two of us would take the family car out to Boston Mills and Branywine for night skiing or on the weekends. I offered up my room for him and his girlfriend, and would be their taxi service to and from the train.

Friday I rented a board and spent the day with Tim, who never having been on his snowboard outside of Ohio and western NY, was simply amazed at the snow, and the length of the runs. Getting off the mid mountain lift, and being a bit in early morning flurries and clouds, he thought we had topped out. It wasn’t until I took him up the gondola that he realized just how big (compared to our midwest experience growing up) the mountain was. For the better part of the morning we floated on fresh snow, and later carved turns on long cruisers. Somehow I felt great after a full day on the slopes. Legs were a bit sore, but overall I confirmed that all my core work and endurance riding was starting to show benefits.

IMG_0730

Saturday with my brother in town was a blur of hanging out in Burlington, and Sunday brought a huge powder day. As we left BTV that evening the snow started falling, and 3 hours of sketchy driving later returning to Putney we had 8” on the ground. We got to the mountain early and probably had a foot of fresh snow to play in. I was on a West Hill Shop tele setup, and my brother and girlfriend were on rented alpine skis. I found that my confidence went up quite a bit skiing in the fresh snow, and I slipped into a good rhythm practicing my turns, as well as chasing my brother all over the mountain. By the end of the weekend I was exhausted – but we managed to squeeze a half day pass into Monday, before they returned to NYC via Amtrak.

IMG_0735

IMG_0733

I returned to my monk like life – work, ride, work, ride, repeat. And I began venturing out for long winter rides when the conditions would allow. The LeMond would be the bike of choice, as I was trying to log as many miles on it as I could before the Brevet season started.

As spring arrived I had developed a great friendship with the owners of the West Hill Shop, Putney’s world renowned bike shop. I managed to get recruited to help with the Putney Bike Club, and before long I was organizing meetings, helping to set the upcoming ride calendar, and getting a simple blog online. I’d often ride down from my office in town, snag lunch at the Coop, and spend my lunch time sitting in the shop hanging out. I also got to test my early season legs on some group rides – where I was promptly dropped on the climbs, but had good fun being out with a group, and getting a taste of riding that wasn’t in my apartment.

925-putney

I started to ramp up my utility mileage, and realized I wanted (needed) a run about for town and errands. Having my office in town, just 2 miles away, and nearly everything that I needed for day to day existence right in town, I opted for a single speed. I had the shop order me a Redline 925, and I set it up single speed. I used the bike for office runs, lunch errands, trips to the post office, and short spins down my dirt road. I eventually picked up a Brooks saddle for it, and swapped the stock bars for a Nitto Mustache, which had a much nicer bend.

925-putney2

925-saddle-bars

On the weekends, and a day a week I’d leave the office early, I’d be found on a long loop ride on the LeMond. I often rode with clip on fenders, so my ‘go fast bike’ now had a leather saddle and rain protection. And occasionally an Ortlieb bar bag strapped to it, or a cue sheet flapping from the bars.

IMG_0588

Somewhere along the way, I started to take seriously the fatigue I was feeling. I had been trying to rest and recover more, but I wasn’t seeing any gains from upping my intensity, and it felt like I just hit a wall with my training. My thyroid was the first suspect, so we checked all the levels and things looked good. After some blood work my doctor informed me that I was severely anemic… something he wanted to confirm with a follow up a few weeks after moving back to an omnivorous diet, being sure to eat plenty of read meat, and starting iron supplements. The follow up showed virtually no improvement.

To be continued…

To all the bikes I’ve … pt. 5

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

In the midst of the holidays in 2004 I sorted through my belongings and began organizing and packing for the move to Vermont. I shuttled quite a few of my tools to Ohio, where some of them still reside in my parents garage, or in use at Chris’ studio. I donated my Raleigh Technium to the Rochester Zen Center (complete with an added rear rack and pump), sold off some of my rigging and staging, and put everything else into boxes. The holidays that year were spent shuttling to parties at family and friends houses in the Cleveland area – lots of driving back and forth on the NYS Thruway. A few days before the new year I picked up a UHaul trailer and loaded up my belongings in Canandaigua. I moved into my apartment the day before New Years eve, and Greg came down to help me unload. We hit the pub up the road when we finished, and I crashed for a long long sleep late that night. The following day I went to a New Years Eve party in Montpelier, and began 2005 settling into my changed life.

In moving to Vermont a few things were important – a job that offered some creative outlet, reasonable pay (I took a hefty salary and benefits cut), and a beautiful place to live. The last item was pretty easy to figure out. Pretty much anywhere that you land in VT is a short walk, ride, or drive from beauty. The first two proved a bit more challenging, but things worked out. I settled for about $10k less in salary, and a drop in benefits, but I figured I would make some of that up in consulting and freelance work. The town of Putney (population ~2,624 as of 2000) would become home. A small farmhouse apartment, down the big hill on River Rd. Horses and barn out back, a pub within walking distance that had a nice row of single malt, and about ~8 miles from where I would be working in Brattleboro.

My first few months in VT were filled with exploration – both of my new geography, and of my mind and inner self. I had local topo and road maps pinned to my kitchen wall and I was still meditating regularly. I spent lots of time sitting in my small apartment – it had great light, and felt cozy and comfortable. I didn’t have much in the way of furniture – my old architectural drafting table served as my kitchen table, and my meditation cushions served as my chairs and couch. I spent lots of time reading – texts about natural building, meditation, bicycle touring, adventuring to far off lands. I didn’t have a phone (cell only) or internet connection, and I have been TV free since about 1997. As part of my morning ritual of coffee getting before work I discovered the Putney Food Coop’s community bulletin board. The bulletin board became my ‘Oracle’ – if I wanted something to do, something to explore, something new to experience – I’d often find it while standing in the cold sipping my morning coffee. Over the time I lived in Putney the the board pointed me to a book group exploring ‘Voluntary Simplicity’, a Council Circle training workshop weekend, a map to the Putney Mountain trails, a poster that connected me with the Brattleboro Area Natural Building Group (I would later present at one of their meetings), a position on the town of Putney’s Conservation Commission, and lots, lots more. I also became more involved with the Timber Framers Guild – helping to organize a portion of the conference that was to be in Burlington the next fall.

Looking back through my archived blog and website (a very old, hand coded www.mikebeganyi.com) I read short entries of long hikes in the snow, skiing to Hamilton Falls near Jamaica State Park, snow shoe trips around Killburn Pond in Pisgah St. Park in New Hampshire, and general winter fun. I pulled the Yeti out for a few rides down to the dirt road portion of my road, and made first contact with the good folks at The West Hill Shop for an xc ski tune up and general scouting mission.

IMG_0529

The Trek 520 got lots of love that winter. I used my spare bedroom as an office / bike room. I had it mounted in the trainer – I was building a base as I had plans of riding that summer all over Vermont, as well as commuting to work – so I could leave my truck parked as much as possible. I took some very cold and meandering rides in the early spring up to Saxtons River, through Westminster West, over to New Hampshire, and up Route 30 to Newfane. Riders of the VT 400k will know those names – my ‘formative’ years cycling in Vermont were on some fine roads in the southeastern corner of the state.

IMG_0342

As spring ended I ventured up Rt. 30 from Brattleboro for my first ‘long ride’ on the LeMond. 50 miles or so, with a lower stem position that I was playing with in the trainer. Rt. 30 is pretty tame – wide shoulders between towns, slow speeds as you pass general stores, a flea market, a few schools, and an abandoned ski area as you follow the West River. It is generally uphill from Brattleboro – and I made the ride from Brattleboro to Townshend, just before the terrain pointed up to Stratton, a ‘regular’ ride. After some success with my new position on the bike, I took it to the shop to have the steerer cut and was introduced to the owners and lead mechanic, a meeting that would plant seeds for a friendship that would develop over my time in southern Vermont.

Somewhere along the way after about six months or so I started taking on more consulting work and I started talking about a more formal relationship with the folks I left at New Energy Works. We developed a plan for me to work to develop their New England market, with me acting as consultant, rain maker, network builder, modeler, and jack of all trades. I drifted away from my VT employer, although I still offered consulting support for the systems I setup. I began doing design, engineering and sales development for New Energy Works clients, as well taking on my own small projects.

I needed a place to work and meet the occasional client, as well as setup a laptop, some flat surfaces to review drawings, and a place to hang my shingle. I could not get high speed internet at my apartment – so I searched out some office space, and found a lovely location in ‘downtown’ Putney in the historic and renovated tavern. I called the phone number on the sign, and spoke with a guy name Peter (before he was Governor) about leasing the space. We came to terms, and I opened up a small office above the Front Porch Cafe and a small bookstore. I was across the street from the town pizza joint and the Putney diner, across the side street from the general store, and shared a parking lot with the town offices, a print shop, and yoga studio. All about 2 miles from home.

IMG_0386

bike-office

As I was developing New England clients, I was also ‘the single guy’ who liked to travel. I bounced around the East coast, down to Virginia, Pennsylvania, out to Kansas, and started to look at the Salt Lake City environs. I started to make regular SLC trips – I would fly on nearly empty planes in the ski off season from Bradley, and always try to book and extra day for exploring. I loved Park City and the surrounding terrain, and with trips becoming a regular occurence for business development, I even considered renting a cheap apartment in SLC – someplace to stash a bike, maybe some skis, and have a home base out west that wasn’t in a Holiday Inn Express. In the end breaking into the old boys network with an entrenched Mormon business culture proved just about impossible, regardless of how many architects and builders I would visit and develop relationships with.

Back East things were starting to move and work out on the business front, and I even broke my ‘singles streak’ of 2 years by somehow figuring out that I could meet people and began dating a woman I met in a Brattleboro bar. Yes, I know this should fall into the bad idea category, but I stuck with it for a bit, until I had enough of the randomness and the drunkeness and the partying and the helping to pay rent and the … pretty much all of it. I found clarity when I was pressured to make a choice between a nice bike ride or picking someone up at some random person’s house where they fell asleep (passed out) on the couch from the party the night before.

I worked out what the right choice for me was, and it had 2 wheels.

To be continued…

To all the bikes I’ve … pt 4

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

After finishing up a timber frame project in Ohio I took some time to just breathe. This often meant driving back and forth from western NY to Ohio to wrap up some odds and ends on the barn project, as well as continuing work on my parents house.

When I finally settled into a nice pause in life I worked with Jim @ Geneva Bicycle Center to fit and order a LeMond Zurich. The bike was steel and carbon, and by far the most expensive outlay of money for a bicycle that I’d ever made. We were in the middle of summer, and the bikes they had in the shop weren’t a good fit for me. Jim ordered up one of the few remaining from one of his suppliers, and in a week or so I was on new wheels.

lemond-forsale

I put on a funky Mavic computer that mounted on the stem, some fancy carbon bottle cages, and picked up an additional set of Look pedals. We did a short fit session when the bike arrived, tweaked the stem position, left the steerer just a bit long, and before long I was comfortably rolling to work on new wheels.

The new bike opened a pandora’s box of sorts. I started upping my mileage (still low, by standards I’d set later in my life), and figuring out how to ride more often. I continued to do the half way commute, and mixed in the full length by leaving the truck at home or at the shop, and alternating 18 mile days, with the occasional full mileage there and back worked in. I also set a goal of riding around the very hilly Canandaigua Lake. ~45 miles or so – but a huge mental breakthrough for me. I started scheming in my mind of maybe riding to Cleveland to visit family, or doing a tour, or… what are these brevets? The internet proved a gateway of sorts, even with the limited doses I was using it to seek out bike information. I also started mixing in Tai Chi sessions. I had to drive to Rochester for those – so it complicated the commute setup – but I had a good rhythm of when I was riding / driving / splitting.

Before long I had visions of touring. Adventure touring specifically, which had grown out of a previous desire for a BMW all road motorcycle and an escape to Alaska or the west for a long motorcycle / camping trip. Couple that with a history of camping, some limited backpacking, and canoe / kayak trips in the ADKs, hiking trips to Vermont, and the touring bike made perfect sense. I flung myself headlong into reading online journals, picking up out of date books at local booksellers, and thinking about a touring bike or a trailer. I discovered custom bikes and lusted after a Vanilla. I emailed back and forth a few times, and considered just sending off a deposit on the spot for an adventure rig – but gravitated towards more of an everyday bike, something simple and unassuming, and relatively cheap to replace. Not having any experience with used / classic bikes I opted for an off the shelf Trek 520. Green, V brakes, bar end shifters. Stock rear rack was workable out of the box. I added Headlands fenders. With an overtime bonus I picked up a full kit of Ortlieb bags – handle bar bag, front panniers, rear panniers, and a low rider front rack. I started using the 520 for my full commute. The wider tires were perfect for the 1/2 mile long gravel driveway, and as the seasons changed to fall the cargo capacity meant I could carry my clothes, lunch, and layers with me on the bike, and not on the back.

trek520-bag

At some point I realized just how awful my Cateye light was for everyday commuter use. I picked up a rechargeable Niterider system. The light was great – when it worked. I used it on the bars of the 520, and would top it off at night before a commute. The electronics in it were finicky – and more than once the light would cut out mid ride. I sent the battery pack and light back to Niterider numerous times. Service was always great – but I hated being tied to that system.

I started planning for a big trip. I put a map on the wall of my room, and pinned out everyone and everywhere I wanted to visit across the country. Artists I worked for in NYC. Family in Ohio and out west. Friends down south. Yellowstone, Tetons, Redwoods. Glacier. Portland, Oregon. Up to Seattle. Maybe a ferry to Alaska, then ride back through Canada…. things started to flow. I went on an austerity budget and tried to map out what it would take to have $$ saved up so I could ride for a year and cover my student loans. I’d have to sell my truck and put my tools in storage. Or maybe I could ship some tools out west and work for short stints at a few timber frame shops that I knew from the Guild… I started looking at tents, sleeping bags, picked up a trainer for riding in garage in the winter to build a base. I also started making regular trips to Vermont, a place I always wanted to live – but just couldn’t figure out how to make the $$ work. I spent time with Greg (a long time friend from college) hiking, snow shoeing, and generally hanging out.

That fall I did my first and only overnight on the 520 to the Rochester Zen Center. I carried my sleeping bag, change of clothes, shoes, and some food to a weekend retreat / introduction to Zen course and pedaled into Rochester on a Friday night after work. After some mildly irritating drivers, and some teens tossing something at me, I arrived at the center, snuck into the dorm area, and tucked into a bunk bed. The next morning and afternoon a large class spent the entire day moving between basic history lessons, short meditation sessions, delightful lunch made by staff, and question and answers with practitioners. I don’t remember if I stayed over until Sunday morning – but eventually I rode back to the office, picked up my truck, and processed the weekend. Life started to change, right then and there, almost before my eyes. I decided I would spend more time at the Zen center, and drifted out of Tai Chi classes. I started meditating at home, and I started questioning just about everything in my life. I was already leading a pretty spartan existence – TV free for a long time, surrounded by books (art, philosophy, architecture, crafts), trying to focus on a healthy diet, spending most of my ‘free’ time outdoors, and putting my money into my bank account and gear for that future big trip.

And then things started to change at work. I had been ‘managing’ the shop and production side of things at New Energy Works for quite some time, having started in the shop 3 years prior, then moving to the design office and into management. We were going through a huge growth spurt, and emotions were all over the place. The short story is that after some conflict from the shop, with little back up from upper management, I needed to make a change. I worked hard on how to grin and bear it, so I could stay on my path working towards the big bike trip… but after about a month I decided that life wasn’t worth living nearly every day in (relative) misery, and that I should work to make each day a peaceful, enjoyable experience. I decided to start looking at other options – consulting, going out on my own, moving away… I put the word out to a small network of friends and associates, and through some luck I found a company in Brattleboro, VT was looking for some help with the 3d software I was familiar with. The company was in a related construction niche, and they were willing to hire me on to bring the design group up to speed on an AutoCAD manufacturing overlay. After a visit and commitment, I began making plans to move. Trips to Vermont through that fall became bi-weekly affairs.

mike-walldrawing

Figuring out where I wanted to live was the first challenge. I scouted Brattleboro and surrounding towns, wanting to focus in on walkable and bikeable. Brattleboro would have been the easy choice – but it meant a commute past and through a strip of commerce defined road that was neither pretty nor relaxing to drive, much less ride. I then stumbled into the small town of Putney. Cute little town – a renowned bike shop, food coop, bookstore, general store, lots of community events posted to the bulletin board at the coop, and easy access to hiking and riding. It definitely had a very small town feel, and the apartment I eventually found was perfect. Second floor in a farmhouse. Creaky wood floors, tiny kitchen, a bedroom and room for an office. Horses out back in the barn. Landlord lived next door. On a paved road that turned to dirt, about 2 miles from the center of town. Perfect, for where I was at in life.

To be continued…

Short Lived Snow

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

IMG_8954

I really hope we have a real winter this year. Snow from these images is already gone. Rain, cold.

To all the bikes I’ve … pt. 3

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

Stepping back just a bit…

After multiple sessions of serious ass kicking while mountain biking with some coworkers, I realized I needed to take better care of myself. I had moved from field / shop work crafting timber frames (and other woodworking projects) – to sitting at a desk pushing pixels as a designer and project manager. I also went through a separation and divorce, and entered a bit of a black hole of Guinness drinking and bar food eating at an all too convenient pub, about halfway from the office to where I was living. The good news was that I still felt like I could ride, and really wanted to. The bad news was that I was taking on my own projects for friends – so I would manage and design during the day, and design and craft at night. For awhile I had been renting bench space in a nice shop with a local craftsman, in the scenic village of Honeoye Falls, NY. The shop was nice – warm and light, but in the opposite direction from the office, and from where I was living in Rochester. By chance, a coworker / friend had just gotten his CofO for the house he was building, and his girlfriend at the time decided not to move in with him – so he needed a roommate / renter. He also had 2 bays of his garage that he offered as part of the deal for shop space. And he lived on ~13 acres overlooking Canandaigua Lake. Ideal. For less than I was paying for a 2 bedroom apartment in the city. So I broke my lease, moved my tools and (very) limited furnishings and computer out to a very scenic, amazing little house in the country.

After some more ‘mountain’ biking, which was glorified hiking, wrecking, and full on pegging of my cardio – I really wanted to start riding again. I picked up a Trek X01 cross bike on clearance at a local Rochester bike shop and started doing a ‘half way’ commute. Truck would be parked at the end of Canandaigua Lake and I would make my way up Rt. 332 to the office. It was about 8 miles of divided highway riding. Huge shoulders, just a bit of town traffic, and then a coffee stop and a walk over to the office. Several folks were commuting, so a shower had been put into a storage closet, and folks would stack up bikes on the front porch.

The Trek was twitchy, a size too small (but a good price, for a ‘real’ bike), and aluminum. I rolled on the stock semi knobby cross tires for a bit, then put on some cheap and nearly impossible to mount off brand commuter tires. Added some SPD pedals and fenders, and had a decent commuting rig.

All the while I was doing the half commute I was doing design and project management by day, and some fun projects for friends in my own shop at night. Day time would find me sitting at a desk, on the phone, programming a CNC machine, or losing my mind working on 3d CAD models. Night would find me riding home (halfway) and working with my hands – cutting joinery, building a small piece of furniture, generally getting dirty and dusty.

One of the more memorable projects was at a camp in the Adirondacks. I took a few long weekends (and many late nights) and cut and installed a set of log railings. Everything went over by boat – logs, tools, people. I camped out on the front porch or just inside the living space while working on site. Good friend Chris came up for a long weekend and helped out. Priceless guy time working to the call of loons, eating meals cooked on a backpacking stove, and drinking cowboy coffee watching the sunset on the water.

I was also ‘the single guy’ in the office – so I’d often take on the travel duties for New Energy Works. I drove all over the east coast for projects – Greenwich Connecticut, New Jersey, Hudson Valley, even a job in my native Cleveland. I had a memorable trip for a forgettable project to the Aspen, CO area. We were working on a guest house for a prince that skied in Aspen, and I was project managing the timber components with a local builder. The job was difficult – tricky architect, really good engineer (offered to hire me while we were touring the job site), good builder, horrible construction manager… etc. The builder and I pulled our hair out and all the stops to get things done – so in appreciation he set me up with a fly fishing guide. I caught and released more trout in 3 hours than I had in all my time fishing back east. I actually climbed out of the water an hour early and told the guide I was done. Sort of bored. Every other cast landed a fish. Our local sales rep took me on a few cool hikes while I was in town, and we did the local tour – past Hunter S. Thompson’s house, through a few projects we’d done the year before for people who fell into the 1-2%r category, and dining out at various renowned establishments. Good fun, and the job offer was tempting – especially the chance to be in the mountains – but what a crazy world Aspen is… if I had a trust fund I might have said yes. But I had many reasons to stay out east.

As I gained some fitness I started looking for a mountain bike. I shopped around and tested various brands, and knowing nothing really about riding in the woods I weighed the need for suspension. A friend who rode quite a bit suggested front suspension only – better climbing, and I’d learn bike handling skills. He also suggested I shy away from disc brakes unless I went all in with hydros (this was 2003-2004). I found a Yeti FRO on closeout at a local upstate NY shop and brought home a very nice, very light bike. 26″, disc ready, aluminum. Blue. All the while I was getting my weight under control, and was moving closer to 210 pounds. Diet, exercise, focus. And burying myself in work.

From where I was living I could ride out the door on the property, hit up 2-3 trail networks within 15-20 minute drive, and venture off into the woods further afield. I made it a goal to ride up from the parking lot on our weekly mountain bike ride – and actually did that twice – once as a dry run to see how long it would take – and another time with one of the regular riding group who was training for the Vermont 50.

In the midst of rediscovering the bike, I was also working on a large project for a friend. I was hand cutting a timber frame barn, which would be erected in Ohio. There were 151 pieces, about a half of a tractor trailer load of materials, and lots and lots of work. To family and friends it seemed I disappeared for a long while. I would ride half way to work, put in a full day or more, ride back to the truck, drive home – usually grabbing a bite to eat or something to jam in the oven – and then do layout until the wee hours. Repeat 5 days a week. On the weekends I would do a long mountain bike ride or hike, and then cut joinery until well into the evening. Sometimes into the early morning. My roommate / friend spent much of his time at his girlfriend’s place – so I pretty much had run of the house.

I figured out a ton of stuff when working solo – logistics of stacking large heavy objects for moving and working on by oneself, how to get a shop flow going so I could minimize the heavy lifting, and effective ways to manage layout and joinery, and keep my head sane with all the work I had to do.

I entered what friends dubbed my ‘craftsman warrior monk’ phase. Ride a bit, work all day, ride a bit, work most of the night. Mix in long solo hikes or rides or XC skiing. Repeat. It was good fun, and good for my mental health. I was single, recently divorced, had very few friends nearby, and really wanted to explore my capabilities as a craftsman / designer, as well as get in sync with my body again.

Eventually the inevitable happened while on the mountain bike. After working in the shop most of a Sunday I took off for a ride right from the house to the Stid Hill area. I didn’t bring the cell phone (would have been useless), and I don’t even remember carrying a wallet. I rode some gravel and dirt roads up to a trail, and started climbing. Typical of western NY this was full of rocks and roots – I could have been riding in a creek bed. About 20 – 30 minutes into my ride (all uphill thus far) I spun out on a slab of rock. I was moving about 2-3 mph uphill. I went down, harder than I could have imagined. My left knee hit something really hard. My right foot was still attached to my bike, and I wriggled in pain to free it. I immediately grabbed for my left knee, and had blood streaming down my leg and all over my gloves.

I figured I was pretty much screwed, but with some effort I was able to stand, and I hobbled to the top of the climb, another 1/8 of a mile or so. I opted to walk off the trail and get to a road. My knee was gashed open, and I imagined that I would slowly fill my shoe with blood. Upon getting to the road I had maybe 1/2 mile to the nearest house – so I tried to get on the bike and coast / pedal with one leg. Surprisingly this worked quite well, and instead of stopping I rode downhill on the road back to the house, where my roommate was having dinner with his folks (who owned the house on the edge of the property). I interrupted, asked him if he could drive me into town to the ER, and I refused to move from behind the cabinets as his family was entertaining guests, and food had been served.

He met me down at the house, and drove me to the ER. The triage nurse scrubbed everything clean (hurt like hell), and wrapped me up for the waiting room. As I was sitting the shock and adrenaline wore off and the pain and throbbing moved in. And then in slow motion I watched two ambulances show up at the same time. Car wreck and heart attack. Unrelated, but the triage nurse smiled and suggested I get comfortable – I wasn’t going anywhere, anytime, soon.

By the time they got me in front of a doc it must have been midnight. The doc on call got some pain meds in me, and wanted a second opinion from the orthopedic on call. I was sent off for Xray, and then more waiting. Ortho doc eventually made it down from the hospital and said I was very lucky – another 1/2″ to an 1″ further up my leg, and I would have likely severed some connecting tissues, or cracked my knee cap. They decided to stitch me up, and it was now coming up on 1am. My pain meds were wearing off just as they cleaned and prepped me, so I had the option of waiting about 1/2 hour for more meds to come down, or they could finish the job and I’d be on my way by 2am. I opted to get it done, sans a local anesthetic, and remember not so much the stitching, but the squeezing and pulling on the gash that hurt the most. I used crutches to get to the waiting room, where my roommate was asleep in a chair, and the whole place was shut down. Security let us out, and I came home to sleep away the pain.

I was off any bike for awhile, and it took a good long time before I rode a mountain bike in the woods again. Pretty sure it was like 3-4 years, at least. I got back on the commuter as soon as I could, and eventually did the full commute from the house, on my birthday. It was about 18 miles one way, so I would nab a 36 mile ride every couple of days, until the winter rolled in. I had a laughably underpowered light for the 2 mile 8% descent down to the lake – but I made it all work.

I finished the timber frame project the following summer. I took some vacation time to stage everything in Ohio, and had a family / friend raising, complete with crane, music, and picnic afterwards. My dad was indispensable help, and my friends Chris and Hap provided some much needed carpentry and climbing skills for getting the high work done.

After the project settled down and I paid off the lumber bill and my credit card for some tools and rigging I bought – I ordered something I’d always dreamed of having – a proper, well fit, road bike. I had met a local shop owner, so I had him size me up and do a fit, and they ordered from my childhood hero’s bike company.

To be continued…

To all the bikes I’ve … pt. 2

Sunday, December 9th, 2012

Backing up a bit to my time in school, when the riding went dark but the creativity and eye opening began…

My time in art school at the Cleveland Institute of Art was fraught with all things work and school related. I stopped riding my bike, started driving to school – about and hour each way if traffic was easy – and started eating all manner of ‘fast’ and cafeteria food. I worked for a woodworker and carpenter, as well as getting a job as a museum guard (standing around!). I also had a stint in a marketing firm doing graphics work, and teaching as a TA in the Graphics Design department. I put on a ton of weight. I think when I left Cleveland for the New York Studio Program (I was a Sculpture major) I weighed in at 280 pounds. On a 5’8″ frame. That is obese. Gigantic. Very unhealthy.

Moving to the big apple changed things. I discovered my two feet again, and absolutely loved exploring the city. I wandered with my camera and notebooks all over town, when I wasn’t in studio or working for some wonderful artists as a studio assistant. I lived in a dorm / apartment on W. 8th street, a block from Washington Square Park, and had studio space down in Tribeca. The first few weeks I took the subway to and from classes, once I was confident with navigating in the big city I took to my feet for most travel. Near the end of my stay I was wandering on average about 6-8 miles a day, on the weekends far more – exploring over to Brooklyn, up to Central Park, and across the water to Staten Island. I absolutely loved the city – so much so that I decided I would return to graduate school. While at the NYSP I began researching graduate schools in Architecture or Design. I visited Yale, Columbia, Pratt, and researched Harvard, Cranbrook, and others. I settled on wanting to live and work in NYC, so I focused 100% of my attention on Columbia, and their Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation. Lots to like at the time – they were transitioning from paper to digital, they had a visionary director and set of faculty, and they supported a program for graduates who were skilled to travel to Japan for a woodworking / temple reconstruction internship. Upon leaving NYC I weighed 180 pounds. Somewhere along the way I dropped 6 inches from my waste and 100 pounds. Crazy, for sure. But a small budget, an expensive city, and lots of walking and working got me in fighting form.

I returned to Cleveland, finished my undergrad work, and at some point decided to keep up my fitness and active lifestyle. Cleveland is not a walking city (at least not for someone who was commuting across town for school and work). I convinced a girlfriend that riding bikes together would be great, and she could use hers to commute from where she was living to school and work and back – about 3-4 miles each way. I bought a pair of Trek 720s/820s? or something – all terrain type ‘mountain bikes’. Heavy, steel, mid range components, probably $375 or so each. I put a rack on mine and mounted up a trunk bag and rode some flat pedals with cages for awhile. I would throw mine on the back of the car and ride on the tow path in the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area. Good fun, but the couples riding disappointed (never discuss cadence, gear changing technique, or anything else ride related for that matter with a girlfriend), and I got sucked into working as much as I could to pay for school.

I got accepted to the graduate program (even won a small scholarship), and moved back to the city the following fall. The bike came with me, and although it didn’t get ridden often – I did ride from my neighborhood on the upper West Side down to the Battery and over the Brooklyn Bridge. I managed to get it onto the subway a few times to extend my range, and I have a distinct memory of a very cold ride to about halfway across the George Washington Bridge. It was windy, and man that thing can move…

I had trouble with my weight again – too much work in the studio and at school, and too little energy for anything else. I eventually burned out of the program and moved back to Cleveland. I weighed in somewhere around 220 – 230 when I took a job at the Cleveland Institute of Art as a Technical Assistant in the foundation woodshop. Man I missed making things with my hands while away at school. Before the year started I was offered to teach foundation design, and threw myself into my duties in the shop and teaching. I think I was probably the best bargain the school ever had in terms of salary to work ratio – I would teach 2 full days a week, run the shop the rest, and often run the shop at night, after dinner. I managed to pull the shop back from the ashes of neglect, get some new equipment in the door, and have some time for my own work. Until one afternoon when I nearly passed out in the shop monitoring students. I was finding it harder and harder to get up in the morning, and I’d often be short of breath. I knew my weight wasn’t helping… but when I went to see my doc, I learned not only was I back to 260 pounds, but suffering from high blood pressure, and my thyroid was about as whacked as he’d ever seen – levels about 10x lower than normal. I started on meds for my thyroid and worked to lose some weight. Eventually my contract with school came up for renewal, I wasn’t pleased with the offer, and I struck off on my own doing timber frame and woodworking, along with some design and small scale furniture.

This path had me relocating to eastern PA moving barns, then back to Ohio, and eventually to western NY. Along the way I got married to my college girlfriend, and my emotions and my weight were up and down while traveling, working, and trying to make a go of it. I stumbled into a job at New Energy Works Timberframers – starting in the shop (I was interviewed while buying materials for my own work) – and eventually moving up to the design office. There was a group that would mountain bike at the nearby HiTor management area. A couple of the guys convinced me that I could handle the ride – as they usually parked way up top, and ‘rode down’ the trails, shuttling cars, then stopping off for a beer or two.

I brought in my trusty Trek 720/820 something, complete with rear rack and bag, and thought I was going to die. Actually, the guys thought they were going to have to call the EMTs and helicopter me out. ‘Down’ was relative. There were all these ravines and hills and rocks and roots and creeks… well, it was as much a ride as a hike, for me. And the last ripping downhill, in what seemed to be a creek bed, tested my resolve on that bike, as the light faded into evening (we were out way longer than they were normally, on account of me…).

I survived, and actually showed up 2 weeks later, sans rack, ready to go again. The wheels were turning. This was late summer, so we only got out maybe 2-3 more times… but I was already thinking about how I’d like to get back into riding. At the same time these thoughts were entering my head I went through a separation followed by divorce, and pretty much fell into a pit of Guinness drinking and bar food eating that lasted quite a long while. After the dust settled I moved out of Rochester proper and found a place I could have a shop to work in. I also bought a cross bike to use as a commuter. I was doing my own projects at night, managing projects during the day, and sorting out who I was and what I wanted to be when I grew up.

I picked up a one size too small Trek XO-1 at a local Rochester bike shop on clearance. I had a messenger bag, baggy shorts, a couple of clip on lights, and some SPD compatible shoes. I started doing the ‘half’ commute. I’d park my truck about 8 miles from the office, then ride into work and ride back in the evening. 1 road, no turns, wide shoulder for the most part, and 2 lanes each direction, much of it divided highway. Not at all where I like to ride now – but it was safe and relatively easy. And there were a few other commuters – so the owner took a supply closet and had a shower installed. I’d leave clothes in the office, and carry essentials in the bag.

The bug had bitten… and now I wanted to be able to ride up from the bottom of our mountain bike route, instead of shuttling. And eventually be able to ride to and from the office, from home.

To be continued…

To all the bikes I’ve … pt. 1

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

My first bike was a Sears banana seat bike, single speed with coaster brake, blue. Was my neighborhood cruiser, and frequently taken off sweet jumps and wrecked. At some point I got a cable turning speedometer on this bike, and I’d watch that thing turn numbers and measure my speed. When the neighborhood kids got ‘dirt bikes’ I somehow came across a saddle to replace the banana seat and must have found some new bars. Keeping up with the joneses and all, dad even let me wrap electrical tape around some carpet padding on the top tube for a ‘crash pad’. I took that bike apart and put it together again (most of the time without help) more times than I can remember…

I eventually grew, and graduated to a bike shaped Huffy Scout ‘all terrain bike’. 10 speed? Dad had it on lay away at KMart and took me to pick it up. Bull moose handlebar. Steel everything. Plastic pedals. Braking power that would be an embarrassment today. I rode that bike everywhere, to softball and soccer practice, lots of D&D and war gaming sessions, friends houses, the library, and took it on my first ‘real ride’ out to Isaac Lake in the Cleveland area Metroparks with a group of 7th or 8th graders and a gym teacher. I think it still has the original tires sitting in mom and dad’s basement.

After recovering from some corrective muscle surgery as a sophomore in my leg, and needing to ride to rebuild strength – I saved up and bought a Raliegh Technium 450 (no pictures that I know of)- blue with early 90s purplish and white stripes. Aluminum, a ‘touring frame’, as I was smitten with escape and adventuring. Something I’m sure had to do with growing up in the suburbs. My parents helped pay for it (was something like $480), and I payed them back from my paper route profits. We bought it at this crazy store that had pool and entertainment stuff on one side (hot tubs, pools, chemicals, etc.) and bikes and other seasonal stuff on the other side. Bizarre. I insisted on getting a bike a size too big for me, which in the end I would regret (like 3 years later), as I thought I was still going to ‘grow into it’. Sadly as a sophomore in high school I was pretty much done growing.

27″ wheels, 6 or 7 speed I think. Wide(ish) tires. Downtube shifters. Eventually I got a white styrofoam ‘Pro-Tec’ helmet and a nice handlebar bag with map case. Had a Zefal frame pump, tool kit, patches, spare tube. I rode that thing everywhere. Lots of local Metroparks rides on it – looping in and around the Emerald Necklace in the Cleveland area, as well as trips to an exotic library the next town over, the comic book / game shop, friends houses, soccer conditioning in high school, and learning to ride on the road. I would eventually abandon the ‘bike path’ whenever practical, but mainly stuck to neighborhood routes or quieter roads in the Cuyahoga Valley (before it was a National Recreation Area and Park, and long before the tow path from Cleveland to Akron was in any sort of riding shape). I discovered padded shorts (my mom thought them indecent, so I often left the house with my soccer shorts over the top). I wish I had the good sense to get a good jersey – but t-shirts sufficed.

The thrill I had every time I discovered a new road, or turned a new corner, or ticked over a new record on my odometer still lives with me today. I collected up some money and did the MS 150 on it from Cleveland to Cedar Point amusement park (and back) on it, as well as countless runs to various friends houses. I even snuck off to meet a few ‘girls’ on it – which usually turned into additional runs or rides (was playing soccer and running track in high school), depending on who I was seeing. It was my escape, and I would sometimes get home from school and ride as far and as fast as I could, while trying to return before nightfall, just to push the limits of where I could go. (And rebel, in a quiet, silly way!)

I had a few good friends that I would ride and adventure with (to me it was always about new roads, adventure, and what might be around the next corner). Semi social outcasts that we were, one year two of us decided to skip our junior dance and spent the day riding. We ended up calling for rescue after walking for several miles due to repeated flats on his bike. (And I should note that his older sister had a really nice steel Nishiki with funny shoes and pedals – man I lusted after that bike.)

I remember the first time I turned 50 miles, remember the time I rode an out and back 75 miler… Eventually I added aerobars – just like Greg Lemond! – somehow I convinced my dad to order by phone from some ad in the back of Bicycling Magazine (internet? what?) I had just started reading about training and riding, fit, gear, etc., when I found a steady girlfriend, got a hand me down car, and started focusing on college. Thats when things started to go dark.

Once I started at the Cleveland Institute of Art I was doomed to long commutes in the car. I was also trying to figure out that weird space between boy and man, and work, to pay my way through school. Being pretty much inept around the opposite sex, and a train wreck in social situations, I stuck my head into my work. No time to ride, nor much desire to, until I plumped up to 280 pounds. I eventually lost that weight walking and walking and walking while living for a semester in NYC on an exchange program. Upon return I convinced a girlfriend that riding together would be fun (very wrong on that count!) and I bought both of us some sort of Trek hybrid / mountain bike. Put a rack on that and it made the trip to grad school with me back in NYC – but didn’t see much use. Weight and stress went up, and I wouldn’t ride again for long while.

To be continued…

All the Bikes

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

The List:

  • Sears cruiser, banana seat bike
  • Huffy Scout ‘all terrain’ bike shaped object
  • Raleigh Technium 450

    The Dark Ages

  • Trek ‘MountainTrack (MountainTrek) 720 or something

    The Dark Ages with a Vengeance

  • Trek XO1 cross bike / commuter
  • LeMond Zurich, Steel / Carbon
  • Yeti FRO hardtail
  • Trek 520 (with full on Ortlieb touring kit)
  • Independent Fabrications Club Racer, Ti
  • Redline 925
  • Surly Crosscheck, Fixed Gear
  • Bakfiets.nl long (and bought for re-sale 2 other Bakfiets, as well as a few ‘Oma’ bikes from Henry WorkCycles)
  • Soma Juice 29r
  • Surly Pugsley
  • Salsa Fargo