Summer’s Hits and Misses

The fog of the last six weeks is lifting. Now is the time when people start asking, “So how has your summer been? Did you do anything exciting?” I always cringe because I don’t tend to do what I think I’m going to do. I don’t want to get into the contest of who had the most impressive summer. I just want to say that there were some hit and some misses.

At the end of the school year I was hit hard with a wretched cold. All year I managed to dodge the gazillion germs passing from the 900 kids in my middle school, but then in June with only two weeks left in the year, my defenses were down and I knew something was coming to get me. I didn’t get the attendance award and in the final stretch I missed three days of school and over a week of my daily bike commute. I haven’t been hit that hard by a cold in a long time. Antibiotics were involved and despite the research, people who workout regularly still get flattened by colds.

It took me awhile to recover from the cold and then from the school year. I had family visiting from Chicago and we did a lot of touristy things. While I managed to ease back into riding during their visit I felt I was missing out. In retrospect, it was good. Because they were here I wasn’t going to overdo my rides. Again, the miss became a hit. Blessing in disguise as they say.

July, however, I was ready to go and go more. I did too. I took off one day on my road bike and I did 38 miles and I felt great until I pulled something. I didn’t know until the next day but something behind my knee just didn’t want to do anything except throb and ache. Ugh! Lost a few days trying to recover. Plus, I had to pull back on the reigns since I took on a big project for my dad’s 80th birthday.  My father is my hero and he’s the best man I know. He’s smart and entertaining and I know I get my spirit of adventure from him. His birthday was July 30th and since I enjoy video editing, I made him a video. It was a big deal and we had an awesome party for him. My July biking routine can best be described as restrained. Often July is the month when I really rack up the miles. However, July 2016 was more about the video. It feels like it was a miss on bike riding, but it was probably more of a hit since it was less of a strain on my body. Since I’d go out for an hour or two instead of half the day, I was more deliberate about where I was going and what I was doing.

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Since the party was last weekend, I’ve been back in the saddle. Last week I went out on some trail riding. I got off my bike and went into the grass to get this amazing shot of my bike in a grove of trees and something in the grass, I think a spider, mistook me for a fly and bit me. At first I thought a needle was shot into my ankle by a sniper. Freaking thing took me down. Of course, it had to eat and run so I couldn’t find the thing to kill it. My ankle merely looks like a giant red patch is attached to it. Stupid. That has never happened. Definite miss.

The weather for July was a serious hit. Usually July in the Portland/Vancouver area is hot, hot and more hot. Starting on the 5th of July, you have to get out early in the morning to get in a decent ride before you’re melting into your bike. Mornings would start out cloudy and overcast and by 2 p.m. you’d see the sun breakthrough. The weather was a definite hit.

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Bike rides to unexplored areas is part of the joy during the summer. My summer has had some unmapped, unexplored events: from guests to injuries to spider bites, it’s always something. Many events have turned out better that I thought. Also some unscripted, unplanned moments which leave you shaking your head about more than just politics. Summer 2016 was both a hit and a bit of a miss here and there. A month from now when I back to my routine and I’m too exhausted to write a word much less a paragraph, I’ll remember that this summer had its own set of ups and downs, just like the other seasons. August is here and my schedule is clear. I’m strong and ready to roll. I’ll make what is left a brilliant success.

Happy riding!

 

Wheelie Great Bike Movies

When I’m not on a bike riding around and exploring I enjoy watching movies about riding around and exploring. There are lists and lists of movies about bikes. I have seen many of the ones on these assorted lists. Triplets of Belleville was a longtime favorite and it’s still in my top five, along with Breaking Away. I also really love the bike scenes in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, plus Quicksilver, E.T. and PeeWee’s Big Adventure. Yes, I realize there are more than five noted, but it’s my blog. Recently though, I’ve had to do some serious soul searching about my list. I found a movie I missed from a few years back. This gem was released in 2012. I found it on iTunes and remember hearing about it, but for whatever reason I missed out. The movie, Wadjda is my new favorite of all time — that has something to do with a bike. Actually, no, I take that back. Wadjda is brilliant and the film touched me deeply for reasons I still can’t explain. It’s not just about the bike, it’s about the freedom and opportunities it represents.

You might want to stop reading now and go watch the film, then come back and finish this post. Wadjda has become my new obsession. When we were about to rent it, I just opted to buy it instead. Again, bike movies mean exploring too and we’ve been experience more than normal amounts of rainfall which means I want to curl up on the coach and watch movies.

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In 1982 I traveled with my parents to Saudi Arabia. My dad, a college professor,  was invited by a student. We visited Riyadh, Taif and Jeddah. It was 10 days of amazing!  It was hot outside and freezing inside. The coffee and tea were sweet and the cakes and pastries looked phenomenal but tasted like sand. My favorite days were in Taif. It’s at a higher elevation and it wasn’t as hot. I was young and brash. I asked loads of questions which were laced with disrespect about how badly women were treated. I was a youngster and full of opinions. Why can’t women drive? Why would you take a second or third wife? Why were the women relegated to the kitchen when we were eating in the dining area? Our host’s wife didn’t drive and wasn’t permitted to continue her education. Tradition? That’s the party line. Don’t even get me started on voting. Of course I recall needing to cover my head. But that was 1982. Oh, wait—women did vote for the first time in 2015.

Saudi Arabian director Haifaa al-Mansour and actress Waad Mohammed pose with a bicycle on the red carpet during the premiere screening of "Wadjda" during the 69th Venice Film Festival in Venice
Saudi Arabian director Haifaa al-Mansour (R) and actress Waad Mohammed pose with a bicycle on the red carpet during the premiere screening of “Wadjda” during the 69th Venice Film Festival in Venice August 31, 2012. The movie, a story about a 11-year-old girl who dreams of owning a bicycle, is the first full-length feature ever filmed in Saudi Arabia, according to a media release. REUTERS/Max Rossi

Wadjda is about a girl who wants a bike. She’s spunky, smart and she wants to race her friend Abdullah. She makes and sells these bracelets and she sings with her mom and goes to school. She’s questioning some aspects of her life and there are things about the adults around her that are confusing. Her parents are in love, yet, the mother has not produced a male heir. Tension. But again, Wadjda wants this bike. We can all relate to that, right? She decides to enter a contest which if she wins will provide her with the money needed to buy the bike, but, but, but. But she’s a girl. Girls aren’t supposed to ride a bike, let alone want a bike. It might compromise her virginity. Plus, she’s already been rather cheeky with the principal of her school and all of this complicates the story. But you love Wadjda because she will find a way. She will study and she will persevere. Right? See I didn’t spoil the plot.

She reminds me of … the best of myself, especially at that age. I love this kid. Abdullah is also a great friend. The mom is amazing. Even the dad who loves his Wadjda is amazing, but he’s stuck in a traditional system that means he will be taking another wife despite his love for Wadjda’s drop-dead gorgeous mom.

Wadjda is an exceptional film. I loved every frame and I think you will too. The bike is freedom and there are borders that even it will have a hard time crossing. I will stifle the urge to type in all capital letters, bolded and with underlining, that this is a movie you have got to see and you have to tell your friends to see it.

One more thing: After you watch the film you will want to know more about the director Haifaa Al Mansour, read this interview.

Thank you Haifaa for this story. Thank you for Wadjda.

Happy riding and watching!

Be safe out there.
BG

 

 

 

Alterations! Please!

When it comes to fashion, women know all about alterations. Hemming pants, letting out a seam, or taking in a little at the waist or hips. Gathering, ruching, stitching are all part of tailoring an outfit to certain measurements and specifications.

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Why wouldn’t we do something similar with a bike? Last week I met with a frame builder. I will talk more about that experience in an upcoming post. While meeting with him I asked what I could do right now with my current bike to make it more comfortable. I have been riding this bike, the Kona Roundabout, since 2012 and I always experience some measure of neck and shoulder pain. My instinct was to correct the saddle, but in a moment he said the handlebar stem looked too low, my suspicions were confirmed.

Too low? I have always wondered about that but frankly I didn’t want to spend the time or money on a full blown fitting. I suspected as much, but lacked the confidence to say, “Hey, I need a different stem.” My frame builder suggested we go next door to the bike shop and see if they had a stem a little shorter and higher. A slight rise might help alleviate the problem.

The floppy handlebars was one sign I should have paid attention to. Another was that I couldn’t balance without both hands. I kick myself for not talking about it, but there’s always the danger of being upsold something I didn’t need. I did not need new handlebars. I suspected something was amiss, but I lacked the confidence to talk about it and I didn’t think it was significant. For three years I haven’t had the alterations.

The frame builder could see it because he’s seen it before. He lives in the world of alterations and modifications. I think about my mother and her mother and how they could eyeball a suit jacket on my father and say it was too big in the shoulders. It looked fine to me, but after years of watching how they would tailer something to the frame of the wearer, I could see it too. The difference was millimeters, but it fit ever so slightly better which meant it fit like is should, for me.
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This elusive detail might escape the local bike shop.But for the most part it could be that one little adjustment to make the difference between someone riding and someone saying their bike isn’t comfortable. Something may look good, it may look close, but it still may not be the right fit. Does a millimeter make a difference? Short answer is a resounding Yes. This one adjustment means I can ride my bike like it was made for me.

Wish you were riding more? One step is to think about what hurts when you ride? Where and why? Talk with someone about what bugs you about your bike. Maybe you really do need a new one, but maybe there are some alternations to be made to help you and your bike fit together better. The stem change on my Kona was $35. Less than hemming a pair of pants. Probably not, but close. Like the flower? Someone actually left than on the road. It has a home now on my basket!

Happy riding!

Welcome

Welcome!

I have a passion for bike riding. Ever since I can recall, I have loved bike riding. Of course there’s a sense of freedom and of course they’re practical but most importantly they’re fun to ride. They are the first form of transportation most of us own and they have the key which unlocks our wanderlust. At least that’s my story. Learning how to ride a bike wasn’t easy for me. But more about that later. This blog is all about me and my adventures with my bike.