Sunday, September 23, 2012

Another round of winter biking

photo from Chicago bike winter
It's late September.  Way up here in Wisconsin, that means we are staring down the gaping maw of old man winter.  I'll be honest, I'm not looking forward to it.  I'm trying to see the bright side, but there is no way I'd rather ride in twenty layers vs. the t-shirt, shorts and Chacos I'm donning right now.  The real tear jerker, and yeah, a few will be rolling down my face, is that my weekly group rides, with The Church of the Spoken Wheel, are about to end.  We'll extend the season as long as we can, but in about a month, I'm sure most members will drop like flies.   Until then, I check the weather all too regularly.  What time is sunrise/sunset?  Are the wind conditions under 25mph?  If it's under 50 degrees, what is the chance of rain?  Hell.  I should buy stock in the weather channel.

The first snow or freezing rain event is always a slap in the face.  All of a sudden, my fifteen minute commute to work becomes twenty five (thirty five if you count the time to get dressed).  I look like Bambi out there with new legs.  Even though my tires have been switched from my speedy slicks to my sluggish knobbies, I have no confidence in my skills.  Come spring, rolling through any condition seems easy, but until then, I continue to gimp along, clad in blinking lights, covered head to toe in synthetic, wool and reflective tape.

After a blizzard, there is always a bright side (even if it causes snow blindness).  The sky opens up and becomes the crispest blue.  If you're lucky, this all happens before the plows come and freshies can be had on city streets.  This is the image I have to keep in my head so as not to go "shining" on my husband.  Luckily, here in Madison, we have a group that a) gets people out of the house and on their bikes in the winter and b) gives local bars way too much business considering we are rolling out of the bar on two wheels...some without studs.

Madison Bike Winter was formed by Aaron Crandall several years back.  He snagged the idea from the Chicago group and has somehow made it much a much smaller city (currently the group is over 750 members).  I get the pleasure of helping him create events and babysitting the facebook page when he's vacationing in warm tropical locations.  Without it, I would either move out of Madison for the winter or end up on a street corner screaming obscenities.

Last year, our winter-bike-to-work day, turned into an entire week of activities.  From coffee and bacon on the commuter paths for the early risers to a winter bike clothing fashion show, yoga for cyclists and a "singles" ride for the evening crowd.  This year, we have grand ideas of a frozen lake criterium and gold sprints to keep the spirits up.  Next week will be our first Madison Bike Winter "meet-up" and I'm guessing Aaron will leave with a mile long list of fun activities to keep us out of, or get us into trouble.  I sadly will miss the first meeting due to a weekend long bike date with my husband.  Since he's not much of a winter rider, aside from commuting to work, we have to squeeze out all the precious time we have before the first flakes fly.

For those of you unfamiliar with winter riding, I urge you to check with your local bike shop and see if there are rides/groups to get involved with.  Yeah, you might feel goofy riding with ski goggles and four inch tires but hey, you'll have fun!

artwork by Dave Schlabowske

Monday, September 17, 2012

One heck of a house party

The Capitol Pedaler
It's Thursday night.  The Packers are playing the Bears.  Any other time, this showdown--amongst two of the largest football rivals--would occur, every Wisconsinite would hole themselves up in their home in front of a 50 inch screen t.v. or head to the nearest bar.  But not this night.  Instead, about a hundred local cyclists gathered at Tex Tubb's to celebrate cycling and support what the Wisconsin Bicycle Federation does for them.

As a board member, I planned this shindig a couple months ago in hopes of sharing what the bike fed has been up to, introducing those not familiar with us, and of course, raising some funds and getting people to join.  I did not ever think the Packers would be playing...on a Thursday.

Savvy event organizers will look far ahead on the calender to see if a football game is planned on the day their event is.  For those of you not from Wisconsin, I'm not joking when I say the entire city disappears if the Badgers or Green Bay are playing.  Cyclists joke it's the best time to ride since no one is on the road.  Alas, I wasn't "savvy" and was concerned very few would show after I, along with the bike fed staff, had worked so hard to pull this party together.

Our faithful staff and volunteers
I shouldn't have worried.  There is something so magical that happens when a cycling event is put on in Madison.  People show up--in almost any weather condition.  I swear die-hards would have been there even if tornado sirens were blaring.  As friends and new acquaintances, from all types of riding circles, came through the doors, an overwhelming warmth spread throughout my body.  I really began to appreciate the true meaning of our cycling community.  We may all ride for different reasons, and all own different types of bikes, but we are all bound together with the love of two wheels.

I guess the act that bowls me over the most is how local businesses jump at the chance to contribute to bike events.  I've had the pleasure of putting on other gatherings in the past, and I can only think of two instances where people have turned me down for donations or use of their space.  It's an amazing thing to hear someone say "You know, I'm not much of a cyclist, however, I really support what you're doing...I'd love to help out."  When the planning stage was still in effect, I was greeted with a "yes" by everyone almost immediately.

The Krause Family Band

What came out of this party?  I'm so pleased to say we raised $1,256 and got twenty-five new members!  Now the bike fed is twenty-five more people strong.  So here is where I have to send out my heart felt "thank-you's".  First, I want to acknowledge everyone that showed up--this includes all the volunteers!  YOU are all the face of Wisconsin cyclists and the bike fed couldn't exist without you.  Next, the Foodfight crew--especially those at Tex Tubb's.  Foodfight has supported so many of my events with space and product.  They are truly a bike friendly business.  There are no words for my gratitude towards the Krause Family Band.  They played for over two hours and I'm sure got a ton of new followers.  Finally, the Capitol Pedaler came out and gave us rides on the Big Red Bike which made us all feel like kids again. 

Although winter is fast approaching, there are still many more opportunities to tune into your local bike community.  Check out the bike fed event page...and you'll be on your way!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Hello, Goodbye

Saying "goodbye" is always tough.  Especially when it's to bikes that you love and have given so many great adventures.  The thing is that my husband and I only have so much basement space, and we refuse to buy a larger house just to get more bikes.  This said, I must give up two bikes sometime this winter or spring to make room for a new road bike and a new touring bike.  Don't get me wrong, I'm super stoked to be getting these sweet new rides.  There are very few things that make me happier than getting a new bike.  But this joy is bittersweet and I'm sure a few tears will be shed.

Consider this a mini farewell and pardon my gushing.  First to go is my Bianchi road bike.  For the past four or five years, this bike has brought me up and down more hills than I can count.  It has whipped my ass into shape in the spring (compact crank vs. my husband's triple chain ring), it made me consider road racing again--then I came to my senses, it allowed me to hit 54mph down Cleveland hill and it's what I've ridden for most Sunday group rides.  It's also what I used to beat the blues out when I felt down.  I used to joke about carbon frames--being a "steel is real" girl, but after riding it a few times, it was true love.  When it finds a new home, I know someone will be as happy as I was with it.  It's replacement will be a Trek Madone 5.5.  Now I'm a true Wisconsinite!

The other goodbye goes out to my Cannondale touring bike.  This workhorse is what got me into touring.  Many years ago, I decided to bike up to Minneapolis from Madison alone.  It was my first taste of being completely reliant on my bike and now I'm completely hooked on that mode of travel.  It's also the bike that got me from Bayfield back to Madison on my 10th anniversary tour with my husband.  Memories are burned into my mind about this trip.  I fell in love even more with my husband during those ten days and got to really see the state we live in...the way it was meant to be seen.  It never failed me.  It got me over gravel roads, through numerous rain storms, over torn out bridges and through wilderness areas.  Nothing will take it's place, but my next tour, around lake Superior, will be done on an All-City Spacehorse. 

I look forward to many new adventures on both bikes and thank the ones moving on. 

Ode to Bicycles

I was walking
a sizzling road:
the sun popped like
a field of blazing maize,
was hot,
an infinite circle
with an empty
blue sky overhead.
A few bicycles
me by,
the only
that dry
moment of summer,
barely stirred
the air.

Workers and girls
were riding to their
their eyes
to summer,
their heads to the sky,
sitting on the
beetle backs
of the whirling
that whirred
as they rode by
bridges, rosebushes, brambles
and midday.
I thought about evening when
the boys
wash up,
sing, eat, raise
a cup
of wine
in honor
of love
and life,
and waiting
at the door,
the bicycle,
only moving
does it have a soul,
and fallen there
it isn't
a translucent insect
through summer
a cold
that will return to
when it's needed,
when it's light,
that is,
of each day.

-Pablo Neruda

Saturday, September 1, 2012

It's my birthday and I'll bike if I want to!

Tunnel break near Bellville

Birthdays mean two things to me (neither have anything to do with getting one step closer to the grave).  #1  It's a cheap excuse to get together with a bunch of good friends.  #2  It's a great time to have an adventure.  This year was no exception.  Last night, about fifteen minutes 'til the end of my birthday, my husband and I met about ten friends--as well as forty others--down at the capitol for the start of Pick Me Up At The Border.

I must say that my husband is such a trooper.  I have gotten him into some nutty cycling adventures this year, and even though he had to work the entire following day, he agreed to do an overnight ride to the Illinois border with me on no sleep.  Around midnight, we rolled off the capitol square and onto the Badger State Trail that would lead us South about 45 miles.  The first six to ten miles were paved and smooth as a baby's bottom.  The rest were hard packed limestone with hidden gopher holes, sweepers and bridge crossings.  This year's ride fell on a blue moon--the second full moon of the month--but cloud cover forced us to use our bike lights.  No bother.  It was unbelievably serene limiting our world to a small circle of light and watching the red blinky dots dance in front of us.

my bike in the tunnel
Pick Me Up At The Border was started several years ago by a guy named Richard aka brass nipples.  Essentially everyone starts out together, then when we hit the limestone, it's a race to the state line.  The first rider there "gets" to hook up a trailer full of beer to their bike and start the slog back to the Bellville tunnel for a social hour of sorts.  If you haven't hit the border yet, you turn around as the caravan engulfs you.  After the tunnel, riders take their own pace back to the capitol for coffee and pastries.  Richard puts this thing on by donation only and all of the profits go to the Badger State Trail.

Okay, I'll admit it.  A few of us didn't hit the state line.  We made it to the town of Monroe, about five miles away.  Knowing I was running on about 24 hours of zero sleep (I still haven't slept), and my husband faced an entire day of work, we were being conservative with our energy.  All said and done, with the ride to the start and back home, we put in about 90 miles.

the beginning of a beautiful sunrise
Riding back to Madison, we were treated to skies that turned shades from deep midnight blue to purple and then to pink and orange.  We were also treated to a nice little headwind that just about did me in.  The screaming in my quads was only silenced after squelching them with sugar and caffeine.

Next year I get to do two birthday adventures.  Of course we'll partake in the border ride again, but we are also planning a ride around lake Superior.  It's times like this that I want to scream " feels great to be alive!"

The trophy we won for being good citizens and buying a trail pass at 2am