Category Archives: Misc.

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A New Year, A New Bike and hopefully some more words…

Ok, so it’s been a really long while since I last posted, I guess that’s what happens when life happens.  Fortunately for me, I always have cycling to keep me sane.  This time last year, my goal was to eclipse 5K miles on my road bike.  At the time  I’d been thinking about yet another career reset, but wasn’t all that serious.  A variety of events conspired to accelerate these plans and off I went.  Since then, my plans have changed more than once and will probably change again.  All of this has seriously impacted my ability to get out and ride, especially lately.  Between travel and inclement weather when I was home, I managed to get out about every 10 days in the last few months of 2011.  I was tired, I was grumpy and honestly, I really didn’t feel like riding.   I now know that I get really grumpy when I don’t ride enough, however, I had a hard time motivating myself to get out there again.

Trek Marlin 29er

Enter a Trek Marlin 29er.   I’d been thinking about trying out a 29er ever since John at Lake Travis Cyclery told me I just had to try one because it’s more fun than you should be allowed to have on a bike.  With its over-sized wheels you can pretty much roll over anything.  I used to ride my mountain bike off road quite a bit, but honestly, I never felt all that comfortable because balance was always awkward on an over-sized frame and 26″ wheels.  The 29er totally changes this.  It’s like riding a Schwinn Cruiser, except it has gears and better off-road manners.

This year I volunteered for Bikes for Kids and while waiting around at Mellow Johnny’s, a couple of 29ers caught my eye: the Trek Wahoo and Trek Marlin.  The frames were pretty much identical, but Marlin had better components.  Having replaced and rebuilt the components  several times over on my 16+ year old mountain bike, I’ve learned to appreciate the value of decent quality components.  It’s no fun when you’re off-road and you’re having trouble finding the right gear while climbing an incline or negotiating a bunch of loose rocks.  Being a big guy, I tend to be a little hard on the components anyway.  The Marlin had SRAM X4 rear derailleur, Shimano Altus front derailleur and SRAM shifters.  The rear cassette has plenty of range which is important for a bike as heavy as this.  This bike isn’t the lightest bike, but this isn’t as much of a problem on a 29er  as you might think, especially when you’re riding trails.  Momentum seems to carry this bike quite a ways up the next hill before you even have to pedal.  The larger wheels allow you to coast downhill at higher speeds with more stability than a regular mountain bike.  All this translates into a blast on some pretty technical trails.  Stumps, no problem.  Loose rocks, again no problem.  The 29er is pretty much the Honey Badger of off-road bikes.

Shimano PD-M324

But the fun doesn’t stop when the trail ends.  This bike is very versatile.   Having commuted on my mountain bike quite a bit, this bike takes commuting to a whole new level.   It’s locking front shocks, frame geometry, quick adjustable seat post and handlebars give it surprisingly good around-town manners.  I opted for Shimano PD-M324 pedals that allow me to ride it both with or without bike shoes.  After riding off-road a couple of times, I really appreciate these pedals because I don’t have to clip in to restart on technical sections, something that was always a bit of a challenge with the Shimano 540s I had on my other mountain bike.  The bottom line is that if I just want to go, it’s not a production because I can just grab the bike and go.

My family will tell you I’m a difficult person to buy gifts for.  I make matters worse because I hate shopping so much that when I actually get out shopping,  I buy things just to get it over with.   This year, my wife and I helped out with the final preparations for the Bikes for Kids giveaway at Mellow Johnny’s so I showed her the bike I had been looking at (hint, hint).  Surprise, surprise, that’s what I got for Christmas.  I still had my 16+ year old mountain bike that I used to use for commuting to work and off-road riding, but when I tried to get it ready to ride the last time, I discovered I would need to rebuild the shifters yet again.  I finally gave up.  I sent a message to my friend Tim to see if the Yellow Bike Project took bike donations.  He said absolutely and told me they’d even provide me with the IRS form for a charitable contribution.  When I dropped off my bike, the coordinator was thrilled even after I told him what work would need to be done on the bike.  It was in pretty good shape with solid components so I’m sure they’ll find a good home for it.  If you have an old bike you don’t know what to do with, why not donate it to the Yellow Bike Project.  They’ll make sure it ends up on the road somewhere with someone who could use it.

As for my new 29er, it’s given me the motivation to get out and ride more often.  Tomorrow I’m riding with a group from the Austin Mountain Biker’s Meetup Group.  Just the start I needed for the new year.

Breaking Radio Silence

This morning I decided to take a little break and listen to my college roommate Doug’s radio show.  He’s in Boston and I’m in Texas, but thanks to the miracles of modern technology I can listen to his show wherever I can find an internet connection.  It’s called Morning Soup and it’s on BostonFreeRadio. Doug got me involved in my college’s radio station, WRMC.  It was definitely one of the neatest things I’ve ever done.  I initially managed to get a show because of my knowledge of classical music, but later expanded into Blues, Punk, Ska, Reggae and Rock ‘n Roll.  Along the way, we covered elections, a nationally recognized Folk & Bluegrass Festival and much, much more.  Despite all the advances in technology, radio will always have a special place in my heart and I find myself often wondering if I should get back into it like my friend Doug. The only problem is bandwidth, no, not the internet kind.  I barely have enough time to get out on my bike as it is and a show like he’s doing requires a fair amount of preparation and I just don’t have the time.  So, I’ll just live vicariously through him for the moment.

It’s been a while since I posted anything here or anywhere else for that matter. I left the company where I’d been working for the last 10 years to pursue an idea.  Along the way, another opportunity found me and just like that the concept of free time vanished from my life.  It’s been a few years since I’ve been this excited about what I’m doing and when that happens it’s like a black hole that absorbs all of my attention.  I’m hoping to emerge on the other side with my family and friends still with me.  It’s not the first time this has happened to me, but I know I’m realistically only going to be able to do this 1 or 2 more times in my career so hopefully I get it right this time.

So what am I up to?  Well, it’s not something I can share at the moment, but it’ll be evident some time later this  year.  In the mean time, let’s just say I’m having a lot of fun working with mobile device technology and the cloud.  We’re at the very early stages of an entirely new wave of technology that’s going to make the internet wave from the last decade seem like a Model T Ford.  Think about it.  When I was a DJ, I was spinning records.  Cassettes were just hitting the mainstream…when was the last time you saw a cassette player?  Since then, we’ve seen CDs replace records.  CDs have been replaced by MP3 players and music you download.  Now I’ve got internet radio on my phone.  I’m connected to a variety of different social networks where I know where my friends and contacts are up to no matter where they are.  In the next month, you’re going to see a new set of tablets hit the market that will make the laptop I’m using to write this post the next dinosaur headed for extinction.  It’s an exciting time to exercise your imagination.  Despite all the negative news about the economy and jobs situation, there’s lots of positive things going on…too bad the media always seems to focus on the dirty laundry.

So, go ahead and exercise your imagination and do something about it.  Don’t forget to leave a little time to ride your bike.  And, if you’re wanting to relax with your cup of coffee on a Saturday morning, give my friend Doug’s show a try.  He’s always got an eclectic mix of music you’ve probably never heard of, but you’ll like what you hear.  I’m always finding a new artist in the music he shares and I’m sure you will too.

Final Follow Friday Shoutout for 2010

As I mentioned previously, I’ve met some pretty cool cyclists this past year, mostly as a result of twitter.  There’s a few more that I follow, but haven’t been able to ride with yet and I hope to meet some of them next year out on the bike.  And there’s some cool supporters and enablers of cycling on this list as well.

  • @Allison_Peacock –  the queen bee organizer of the social cycling scene in Austin TX.  If you want to meet other cyclists, find her, follow her and pretty soon you’ll know everyone.
  • @AssistLance – his commercials always make me laugh.
  • @andy_schleck – you never know what he’s gonna say (as the guys at @StomachOfAnger can appreciate), but it’ll always be genuine.  How can you not love this guy?
  • @atxcontador – another fun ride buddy who never backs away from a challenge.
  • @AustinCyclist – one of my fun twitter friends. Hopefully I’ll get to ride with him in 2011.
  • @austinon2wheels – One of the best resources to find out what’s going on cycling-wise in Austin TX.  Check out their event calendar, if there’s a ride, it’s posted there.
  • @AustinCycling – Austin Cycling Association organizes quite a few rides and is one of the better cycling organizations.
  • @BambooCyclist – he’s riding around the USA on a wooden bike…what else can I say?
  • @bekindtocyclists – as the name implies, they’re all about promoting a kinder gentler environment for cyclists.
  • @bikerly – he runs, he bikes and he loves beer. Co-conspirator of #bikeschool and all-around funny guy.  I hope to sneak in a ride with him when he’s down for the Austin Marathon.
  • @bikenoob – Ray’s one of the most interesting people I’ve met this year.  I really enjoy riding with him.  Check out his latest venture Texas CEO Magazine.
  • @bobkeroll – the Rodney Dangerfield of cycling.  Fun commentator and somebody I want to meet.
  • @CarleAldrete – he rides and drinks beer.  I love that combination.  I finally got to meet Carle on a ride today.  I hope to see him again on the road in 2011.
  • @cyberjunkie21 – he rides and is one of my motivators to try a triathlon.  I look forward to riding more with him in 2011.
  • @DeeDee315 – she’s one of the coolest cycling volunteer organizers.  I love that she gets to travel to many of the top cycling events.  What a cool job.  I’m so jealous.
  • @egggman – what can I say, the dude rides fixie in the snow in Canada – mucho respect!  #bikeschool co-conspirator.  He’s got me thinking about building up a fixie.
  • @familyonbikes – she’s leading her family on the adventure of a lifetime.  The memories they are making will be second to none.  Very cool!
  • @fitcityleblanc – my favorite columnist for the American Statesman and all around fitness advocate.  She’s definitely part of what makes Austin so cool.
  • @garmin – their cycling computers are the cat’s meow.  I love my Garmin!
  • @ghincapie – All-American George.  He’s one of the heros of American cycling and has got a great line of cycling gear.
  • @iamtedking – a fellow Middlebury alum and self-described “pro ass bike racer”.  His blogs and tweets keep the humor in cycling.
  • @lancearmstrong –  well, because he’s Lance.  Whatever your feelings are about pro cycling, you have to admire the guy for what he’s done for the sport of cycling and the fight against cancer.
  • @lovingthebike – Darryl’s one of the most positive people you’ll ever meet and a great ride buddy.  Read his blog, follow his tweets and make sure you go to #bikeschool.
  • @ltcyclery – Jamie’s one of the best bike mechanics around and owner of super friendly Lake Travis Cyclery.   They’ll even pick your bike up and drop it off.
  • @mellowjohnnys – possibly one of the coolest bike shops around…you never know who’s gonna show up there.
  • @pablove – there’s nothing that will tug on your heart strings than kids with cancer.
  • @pablovejeff – this guy deserves your admiration for what he’s done with and for @pablove.  If you get a chance to ride with him, do it.
  • @pattidhill – Patti puts the fun in cycling.  Your rides will never be dull when she’s along.
  • @RoadID – don’t leave home without it!
  • @santabikes – don’t ever stop believing!  Somehow, I managed to get my all-time favorite cycling jersey in my size even though it’s been out of production for many years. I am a little concerned about his somewhat unhealthy obsession to get cycling chicks to sit on his lap.
  • @scratchex – a stud cyclist who’s got the most awesome bikes (some even autographed by Lance).  He’s also a phenomenal photographer and an all around good guy.  I always enjoy riding with him.
  • @skirt_1970 – how can you not love a Cajun cyclist who rides for the Austin Flyers.  I hope to see her out on the road in 2011.
  • @SonnyJohns – he has no issues showing up for an 80 mile road ride on his mountain bike and holding his own.  I hope to see him on the road again in 2011.
  • @StomachOfAnger – makers of fun gear that finds the humor in professional cycling.
  • @thegreenmamba – how do you not love the fact that they patrol one of the most popular cycling routes in Austin, clearing the shoulder and rescuing cyclists in distress? One of the friendliest bikes shops in Austin is Lake Travis Cyclery.  Definitely check out their value line of bikes.  They’re definitely keeping cycling affordable.
  • @T_Starry – a no-nonsense cycling advocate who also knows his beer.  Whatever you do, don’t hide his fritter 😉  I look forward to riding with him in 2011.
  • @trainright – I have much to learn from this cycling Jedi.  A great resource no matter what your training goals are.
  • @TrekBikes – I upgraded from my 13 year old Lemond (made by Trek) to my 2008 Madone 5 series.  What can I say, I love their bikes.  Great customer service, too!
  • @weiland – super stud cyclist (aka mountain goat:) and organizer of the most challenging 60 minutes in Austin cycling.  If you wanna test your cajones, show up under the Pennybacker bridge at lunchtime and see if you can keep up.  I look forward to more lessons in pain in 2011.

Who’s on your #FF list?

What a year it’s been

2010 was very rewarding from a cycling perspective and not so much from a health perspective.  I started cycling again back in April of 2009 to lose weight, lower my blood pressure and get in better shape.  That first year, I managed to lose 30 lbs and ride a little over 2,500 miles.  This year, I managed a little over 5,000 miles and lost another 25 lbs (it would have been 5 lbs more if the Christmas cookies hadn’t intervened).  I managed 4 rides of 100 miles or more, 3 of them on back-to-back-to-back weekends, along with quite a few rides over 50 miles.  My blood pressure is in much better shape and I’m happy about the fact that I avoided the medication route with my lifestyle changes.  On the negative side, I had to have surgery to repair an umbilical hernia and had a pretty bad crash whose effects still linger both physically and mentally.  My face still feels like I’ve just returned from the dentist after Novocaine and I’m still a little spooked on my descents.  Overall, I’m just thankful to be still riding because both of my medical emergencies came very close to ending that for me.

This year I also made some great new friends while riding my bike. In one way or another, every one of them has inspired me to improve some aspect of my cycling.  It’s been fun riding in groups and meeting new people.  I still ride a fair amount on my own which is OK because sometimes I need that time to decompress.  Finally, I managed to get my wife out riding and she actually enjoys it.  This is important to me because I spent a lot of time on my bike this year and she’s always been very supportive, but it is time where we are doing different things.  I don’t expect she’ll ride at my level anytime soon, but that’s OK too, I can adjust my riding to ride with her.  As she likes to say, “I’m his recovery ride.”  It’s been fun and that’s the way I want to keep it.

So, what’s next for 2011?

  • I need to lose another 20 lbs.  So far my weight loss has come primarily from cycling and eating a little more intelligently.  To lose another 20 lbs. I’ll need to start working on some other parts of my body.
  • I’m going to attempt a triathlon.  I’ve been swimming, running and cycling a good part of my life, why not combine all three.  I’d love to work my way up to a 1/2 Iron Man before I get too old and decrepit to do it.  I don’t think I could ever manage a full Iron Man because I have some lingering sports injuries that would prevent me from running a full marathon.
  • I’m going to attempt Tour das Hugel.  I thought about doing that this year, but health issues got in the way.  After riding with my friend Mike, I clearly need to up my game in the hills.  I made good progress this year, but I have a lot of work to do.
  • I’m going to try some new organized rides.  This year I missed out on the Ring of Fire ride.  With a name like that, how could you not want to do it?
  • I vow to actually attend Wurst Fest after doing the Wurst Ride.  After all, isn’t that the point of the ride, aside from raising money for the Bob Woodruff Foundation?

I’m not going to set any mileage targets because I already know I’ll be spending a lot of quality time with my bike.  What do you have in store for 2011?

Do you have a favorite cycling jersey?

I’ve been wanting to write this post ever since participating in the Livestrong Challenge in early October.  Consider it part 2 of what to wear.  Cycling attire is known for its bright colors and tight fit.  I generally like jerseys that are easily visible in all sorts of light conditions.  I’m always on the lookout for unique jerseys that really stand out.  This is what I was doing while scanning for my friend Darryl at the start of the Livestrong Challenge.

I ran across a woman wearing this jersey.  I recognized it immediately because it’s one of my all time favorites and, sadly, it was destroyed when I crashed.  My wife gave it to me years ago because she thought it would be funny to give me a jersey called Illegal Alien where the alien was asking you for a green card.  I’m an immigrant myself (born in Germany) and had a green card myself at the time.  Primal has put out some pretty good jersey designs over the years and this was one of their better ones.

Here Comes the SunI replaced it with another Primal jersey.  Like the previous one, it’s reasonably bright and easily recognizable.     I have to say, I was a bit disappointed by Primal’s selection this time around.  In the past they’ve had some classics, but the recent ones  all seem a little forgettable.  I wish they would bring some of their older designs back.

I also have a University of Texas Longhorns cycling jersey that I sometimes wear. For the Livestrong Challenge, I wore my Livestrong kit.   Do you have a favorite jersey?  What do you like about it?

I have lots to be thankful for

Earlier this week I attended an engagement party for a close family friend and his new fiancée.  As toasts were made, I couldn’t help but think about the new chapter in his life that was about to begin.  Lots of good times ahead for them.  I got up early yesterday to go for a long solo ride.  I enjoy these rides because it gives me time to reflect on what’s happening in my life.  I again thought about that moment on Tuesday evening and remembered my own new chapter that began about 18 years ago.  Thanksgiving week began with the birth of our first son.  It wasn’t an easy time for my wife, but she still managed to pull together our first Thanksgiving in at our home, with the help of her mom and a cousin.  I was still on cloud 9 after the arrival of our new family member, Erik.  I was so proud and I still am.

Now Erik is 18 and finishing up his last year in high school.  Someone once told me that my job as a dad was to create memories, so that’s what I did.  Sometimes life gets pretty busy so once in a while it’s good for the soul to think back and remember those times.  But we shouldn’t just limit our reflection to the week of Thanksgiving or even the holidays in general.  Sometimes I do this when I’m out riding my bike and yesterday was one of those days.  It was a pretty windy day, but I was lost in my thought and hardly even noticed.  I thought about the various chapters in my life and how I felt at the time.  So many experiences, some bad, but mostly good ones.  Somehow the bad experiences always seem inconsequential when I look back at them.  Then I wonder how many more chapters there will be and what they will be about.

I feel especially thankful to be riding my bike again.  As I mentioned earlier, I started riding again for health reasons.  My weight had ballooned and my blood pressure was getting pretty high, something had to change.  I was making good progress until about 6 months ago and even bought a new (to me) bike.  6 months ago I was lying in a hospital bed fighting an infection after my emergency hernia surgery.  I knew things weren’t going well and if the infection didn’t get better, my doctor would have to go back in and find the problem…not good.  Fortunately, they gave me some stronger antibiotics and soon I was back at home.  My recover was slow and painful, but after about 6 weeks I was finally able to get back on the bike.  My core was a mess and I knew I had to take it easy.  Then, just as I was making good progress I had a bad crash.  I wasn’t sure how soon I’d recover from that, but I did.  I still get spooked bombing down hills where it’s difficult to see the road contour, but I keep doing it so I once again can put that bad experience behind me and keep riding.

That’s why I got up before dark this morning and headed down to the Veloway to ride with the folks from Austin Cycle Camp on their Cranksgiving Ride.  It was a ride just for fun and today we were doing paceline laps at the end of Mopac, each lap faster than the previous one.  I hung with the lead group for a little while, but got dropped about 1/3 of the way into the last lap.  I tried to catch up for another mile or two, but they turned on the afterburners and were soon gone.  I still managed a good ride and great workout with a fun group of riders.  Then it was time to head home to spend the rest of the day with my family.

On the way back, I began to think about what I was thankful for and decided to spend a few moments writing it down.  First, I’m very thankful for my wife.  We’ve been married almost 20 years and I can’t imagine life without her.  I’m also thankful for my boys, who have taught me a lot over the years (shhh, don’t tell them).  I’m especially thankful that my youngest son is still with us after his near fatal accident on a school playground. I’m also blessed with wonderful friends who are constantly coming in and out of my life.  We often gather at my weekend home on Lake Buchanan in an ever widening circle for happy hour.  Lots of smiles and lots of laughter along with unforgettable sunsets.  I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  I’m also glad to have met so many wonderful people who all have one thing in common, they love to ride bikes.  This year I made a concerted effort to get to know some of the riders I share the road with and have made some fun new friends.  Finally, I’m just glad to be able to ride.  I hope to be doing a it a very long time.  I’m looking forward to sharing those experiences with my wife, who’s finally starting to ride and liking it.  So with that, starts yet another chapter in my life.  It’s all good and certainly deserves thanks.

A bit more of a ramble than usual…what are you thankful for?   Spend a few minutes thinking about it every once in a while.  Life’s too short to not appreciate all the good things.  Better yet, write it down…it’ll make you think about it.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!  I hope all of you get to spend it with those who mean the most to you.

The power of social networking

I posted a question to my facebook friends asking if I could get enough support between now and the end of next week to qualify for the LIVESTRONG challenge.  Based on the overwhelmingly positive response I got, I signed up for the 90 mile route.  A few of my friends are doing this route and I’m looking forward to riding for a good cause.  It makes you appreciate the opportunity to get out and ride.  I always feel better when someone else benefits from my efforts.  At the time of this posting I’m a bit over half way to my fundraising goals thanks to my awesome friends.

My life has been touched by cancer in a few different ways.  While I was still in high school, my mom actually did cancer research at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories.   When my youngest son was just a year old he had to be hospitalized with pneumonia.  He ended up on a wing of Brackenridge with many young cancer patients.  My wife and I were deeply moved by this experience. When Lance was first diagnosed with cancer, a group of my friends and I rode the first Ride for the Roses.  Within the last 12 years, two people very dear to me succumbed to this disease.  It was very difficult to watch them suffer.

So, here’s your chance to help fight this terrible disease.  Lots of progress has already been made, but there’s still work to do.  If you can, please help out by donating whatever you’re comfortable with here.  There’s also a link on the right hand side of this screen.  Thanks for reading this and following my blog.

What gets me up for riding

It’s fall here in Austin, Texas and the weather couldn’t be better: dry, sunny and anywhere between 65 and 85 degrees.  Just perfect.  As usual, I was jamming to my favorite playlist on my iPod this song came on:

Now you may not be a big fan of Nastasha Bedingfield, but the lyrics in this song pretty much describe what riding is for me: a sweet escape and my pocket full of sunshine.  Especially on days like today and pretty much the whole week.

Other iPod favorites that really get me going are the fastest 2 minutes in Rock n’ Roll (i.e., the Ramones), Fort Minor’s Remember the Name, any Doors song and pretty much anything by Linkin Park.  I like a lot of other music, too.  Sometimes it’s Reggae, other times its Blues.  Good thing I live in Austin where you can find pretty much anything to suit your tastes.

What gets you pumped up for riding?