Category Archives: Training

The crazies out there

Here’s an example of what some bicyclists have to contend with when they ride on rural roads.
Check out this YouTube video of two cyclists riding on a quiet Sunday morning near Longmont, Colo.

The cyclists were pedaling on the right-hand side of the right lane when an SUV driven by an elderly male came up behind them and repeatedly honked at them for more that two minutes, even though there was little traffic on the road and the driver had plenty of room to pass.
“At least we kept our cool,” one of the cyclists, Dirk Friel, told the Boulder Daily Camera.
Both cyclists were experienced road riders. But Friel pointed out that the constant honking, which seemed to amount to nothing more than harassment, could have distracted less experienced cyclists and even caused a crash.
He said that when the SUV finally did pass, it sped by so close to his companion that he pushed off the vehicle.
Fortunately, the cyclists got a video of the incident with a smart phone and the driver’s license plate number. The Colorado State Patrol said it is investigating the incident for possible “enforcement action.”
So be careful out there. There are a lot of crazies on the road.


Filed under Americana, Cycling across America, Training

An obligatory stop

BOULDER, Colo. — A visit to Boulder wouldn’t be complete without a stop at University Bicycles, the oldest bike shop in this university town and one of the best I’ve ever found.

Cruiser bikes at University Bicycles

I dropped in the other day, not so much to shop but simply to soak up some of the thriving biking culture in this fitness-concious town, where my youngest son spent four years at the University of Colorado.
It’s the sort of town where, on a Sunday morning, say, throngs of Boulderites are out at sunrise, biking, jogging or hiking. It seems as if a city ordinance requires all residents to engage in early-morning physical activity, with heavy fines for slugabeds.
A focal point for the fitness buffs is University Bicycles, on Pearl Street in downtown Boulder. The shop opened in a small basement on Pearl Street in March 1985. Within eight months, the growing business moved to its current location at Pearl and Ninth streets.
For any cyclist visiting Boulder, University Bicycles is an obligatory stop.

Mural on the side of University Bicycles

1 Comment

Filed under Products, Training, Travels, Urban cycling

In memoriam …

The somber, gray skies reflected the mood of more than 100 bicyclists on Sunday as they turned out in Hurst, Texas, for a tribute ride in memory of Megan Baab, a local cyclist who was killed during training near her college in North Carolina.

Tribute ride for Megan Baab. Photo by WFAA-TV/Channel 8

Megan’s father, Chris Baab, also a cyclist, led the ride, which began at the Hurst store of Bicycles Inc. and followed one of Megan’s favorite training routes when she was growing up in Texas.
“There’s people showing up here that I haven’t seen in years,” Chris Baab said. “It’s just so comforting, and to know that they loved my daughter just as much as I did.”
Megan, 19, was killed on Thursday afternoon when a truck struck her head-on while she was doing a training ride on a rural road in Altamont, N.C., near Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk, N.C., where she was a freshman. Megan competed on the national recognized Lees-McRae cycling team.

1 Comment

Filed under Training, Urban cycling

‘So sad, so young’

Some sad news for local cyclists: Megan Baab of Euless, Texas — in the Mid-Cities between Fort Worth and Dallas — was killed on Thursday during a training ride in Altamont, N.C.

Megan Baab

She was a freshman at Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk, N.C., and a member of the nationally recognized cycling team at the college, nestled in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina.
Megan, 19, and her father, Chris, also an avid cyclist, are well know among cyclists in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. News of Megan’s death prompted a flurry of condolence messages on Facebook and cycling Web sites.
“So sad, so young,” said one comment on Facebook.
A news release posted on the college Web site said Megan had competed on the national level for Lees-McRae in the USA Cycling National Championships (track and mountain bike) and was planning to compete in January for the college at the USA Cycling Cyclocross Championships.
The college cited news reports as saying that Megan “was traveling north on U.S. 221 in Altamont, N.C., when a southbound truck crossed the center line and struck her.” She was airlifted to Johnson City Medical Center, across the state line in Tennessee, “but was pronounced dead soon after arrival at the medical center from the injuries sustained.”
A report on the Winston-Salem Journal Web site said: “It’s the second time in a year the Lees-McRae community is mourning the death of one of their cyclists while on a training ride. Senior Carla Swart, the most-decorated cyclist in collegiate history, died in her native South Africa after a collision with a truck while she was on a training ride in January. She was 23.”
Let’s all be careful out there.

Leave a comment

Filed under Training, Urban cycling

‘Are you crazy?’ ‘No, I’m a cyclist.’

Every serious cyclist almost certainly has had conversations with puzzled friends and relatives about why they engage in a sport that can be physically demanding to the point of pain and usually offers only a meager reward – the satisfaction of accomplishing something very difficult, and maybe a cheap water bottle and T-shirt.
“Why would you want to spend two months riding a bicycle across the United States, hauling all your stuff on the bike and camping out in seedy RV parks?” a friend might ask. “If you want to do a bike trip, why not do it, say, in the Napa Valley. Ride a few miles a day from one winery to another, taste some wine and good food, and then spend the night at a nice bed-and-breakfast?”
A few years ago when I used to ride regularly in the annual Bicycle Tour of Colorado – five times between 1997 and 2002 – a work colleague was baffled that I would choose to spend my vacation torturing myself by riding more than 400 miles in a week through the high passes of the Rocky Mountains … and pay to do it.
“I’d be glad to beat you up side the head with a 2-by-4 in exchange for that ride fee,” he once joked.
So I got a kick out of a video animation called “Cycling Explained.” (Click on the link below.). It reminded me of all those conversations at work, with friends and at family gatherings.
“Bike rider. Cyclist. What’s the difference? You still ride a bike,” says the woman in the animation. The answer: “True. But ‘bike riders’ ride their bikes for fun, while a ‘cyclist’ rides to suffer and feel excruciating pain.”
There’s more than a grain of truth in that.


Filed under Americana, Cycling across America, Journeys, Training

Cycling in the news

Nearly every day I troll the Internet in search of snippets about bicycling. Here are a few from today’s cull:

– After John Markoff crashed on his bike while riding downhill at 30 mph on the back roads of the San Francisco Peninsula, he was alert and oriented when the medics got to him. But he had no memory of what led to the crash. “Ultimately,” he wrote for The New York Times Science section, “I was able to put the puzzle together with the cyclist’s equivalent of a black box: the digital record of my speed, location, pedal rate and heart rate that was stored in the Garmin cyclometer on my handlebars. I also learned that other cyclists involved in accidents have been able to use similar data to prove what happened in their crashes.”

Neighbor and fellow cyclist Josh Lindsay checks out the Velib system during a bike ride in France this summer

– Since Paris Mayor Bernard Delanoe introduced the first Velib rental bikes in 2006, Parisians have embraced the bicycle in numbers not seen since World War II, says Bicycling magazine. Today no less than 20,000 Velib bikes, can be found a hundreds of stations on the city streets of Paris. As a result, cyclists can simply pick up a bike from one of the stations, go for a ride, and drop it back at any station they choose. But this quiet revolution would not have possible if it weren’t for the expansion of bike lanes or bike-friendly lanes. Currently the mayor’s office claims 645 kilometers of protected or semi-protected routes.

– “I learned long time ago that my body is what I have to work with,” writes Dennis Wyatt, managing editor of the Manteca Bulletin of Manteca, Calif. “I’ll never be an athlete but I can maximize the body I was dealt in the DNA sweepstakes. So what if I can’t even throw like a girl? And just because I’m a klutz who could give Chevy Chase a run for his money doesn’t mean I have to sit on my tail. Exercising and your health should be about you and not about anyone else whether it is Jack LaLane, Lance Armstrong, or some chain-smoking mountain biker.”

– The Leopard-Trek cycling team is joining forces for the 2012 and 2013 seasons with the RadioShack team formerly led by seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong, according to news service reports.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cool stuff, Products, Training, Travels, Urban cycling

An epic ride dedicated to Mom

His name will be entered in Le Grande Livre, an enduring chronicle of one of the world’s oldest and most grueling of sporting events.
That was the simple goal for Jeremy Shlachter, neighbor, longtime friend and custom bike builder, when he began training for PBP 2011, this year’s edition of the Paris-Brest-Paris bicycling event, an endurance ride of 1,200 kilometers from Paris to the Atlantic Coast and back to Paris. The ride — equivalent to more than 745 miles, nearly the distance between Chicago and New York — had to be finished in 90 hours.
“Paris Brest Paris time 78 hours and 31 minutes,” Jeremy posted today on Facebook from Paris after his finish, more than 11 hours before the deadline. “Whole new kinds of hurt mixed in with some old ones.”
In a later Facebook post in response to congratulations from well-wishers, Jeremy wrote: “thanks everybody. it was so hard. nearly all hills. 3.5 hours sleep total. rode through a thunder storm. but the scenery and experience was beautiful. glasgow bound tomorrow, london on the 7th, texas on the 10th. and yes i did have a paris brest pastry and it was delicious.”
Riders in the PBP are an elite breed of cyclists called randonneurs, French for “ramblers.” They train their bodies to ride ridiculous distances of hundreds of miles during a single weekend.
This year’s Paris-Brest-Paris event, held every four years in August, began on Sunday and ended today after 90 hours had elapsed.

Charles Terront , winner of the first Paris-Brest-Paris ride in 1891

Each rider finishing within the allotted time receives a PBP finisher’s medal and has his or her name entered into the event’s Le Grande Livre (“The Great Book”) along with every other finisher dating back to the first Paris-Brest-Paris ride in 1891.
All participants in PBP had to qualify by doing a “super randonneur” series of “brevets,” or rides, of 200, 300, 400 and 600 kilometers in the year of the event and complete the series by mid-June.
The qualifying rides are overseen by the governing body of randonneuring in each participant’s country. The governing body for the United States is RUSA, or Randonneurs USA. The club for North Texas, which organizes and monitors randonneuring events, is Lone Star Randonneurs.

Jeremy Shlachter after 24 hours in the saddle during his 600-kilometer "brevet"

During a randonneuring event, the clock runs continuously. Participants ride through the night, sleeping as little as possible, sometimes catching a brief catnap beside the road before continuing.
On one weekend in the spring, the last of his qualifying brevets, Jeremy rode 600 kilometers (375 miles) in 27 hours and 6 minutes on a course mapped out around Italy, Texas, south of Dallas.
In his last major weekend ride before PBP — not needed for qualification but to keep his physical edge — Jeremy rode 800 kilometers (497 miles), broken down into two separate brevets of 600 kilometers on June 11-12 and 200 kilomters on June 13. From then until shortly before leaving for France, he rode shorter routes in the heat of this beastly Texas summer.
In a post on his blog today, Jeremy wrote of the Paris-Brest-Paris ride: “This will definitely go down as one of my greatest sporting accomplishments and most sensastional experiences. I don’t think I would want to even know what is a harder event then PBP.”
But then he put things into perspective:

Vintage PBP poster

“I have been extremely quiet about this in the public realm of my business, but now I feel it is necessary to share. Though this was a tough experience it does not compare to the pain and suffering my mother has been experiencing for well over a year now fighting brain cancer. My grand randoneé is completely dedicated to her. It would not have been possible without her love, support, and guidance. She has approached her situation with the same class, dignity, and compassion that has always defined her as a person. Her perseverance has been the greatest influence on my success and determination.”
Jeremy’s parents and brother had hoped to travel to France for his epic ride. But Amrita Shlachter’s illness made that impossible.
Well ridden, Jeremy, and well said!

1 Comment

Filed under Cool stuff, History, Journeys, Training

Be careful out there

As we go into our 20th consecutive day of 100-degree temperatures in Dallas-Fort Worth, a sad story out of Wichita, Kan., takes on special relevance and provides some lessons.
Larry L. Godfrey, an experienced cyclist who was training for a charity ride, was found dead on Saturday, apparently of heat stroke, along a road near Oxford, in Sumner County southeast of Wichita.
Godfrey, 47, was riding alone on a regular training route from his home in Arkansas City, Kan., to Oxford and back, a round trip of about 50 miles. The temperature that Saturday was about 105 degrees.
When he arrived in Oxford, said a report on Wichita TV station KWCH/Channel 12, he called his wife at 11:05 a.m. to say that he was turning around and heading home. At about 11:50, he called his wife again to tell her that “he was in distress.”

Larry Godfrey

His wife jumped into her car to try to find her husband along his training route. But a sheriff’s deputy patrolling Oxford Road found Godfrey first, the TV report said. “He was not breathing and had no pulse. Emergency crews adminstered aid, but he was pronounced dead at the hospital.” Godfrey still had water in his hydrapack, and doctors believe he had a heat stroke, the TV report said.
Godfrey was training for a two-day bicycling fundraiser for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. The 150 mile, two-day ride begins Sept. 17 in Olathe, overnights in Lawrence and ends Sept. 18 back in Olathe.
I had my own experience with overwhelming heat on July 2, the Saturday of the Fourth of July weekend. The temperature that day, too, was well over 100 degrees.
I and a group of friends were cycling from downtown Fort Worth to downtown Dallas along an indirect route of nearly 50 miles that aimed to avoid much of the traffic in this sprawling Metroplex. (See July 8 blog post, “Craziness in the genes.”)
After 41 miles, in a leafy neighborhood of north Dallas, I hit the wall. My caring friends recognized the onset of heat exhaustion, brought bottles of cold water from a house on the street where I bonked and commandeered a garden hose to spray me with cool water to bring down my core temperature. One rider, whose wife happened to be visting her father in Dallas, asked her to fetch me in her minivan and take me and my bike to a downtown resturant where we were planning to have lunch before taking the train back to Fort Worth.
The experience drove home a couple guidelines that I had ignored myself many times while cycling in very hot weather: Don’t ride alone. And choose a route where help is readily available in case of an emergency.
Be careful out there.


Filed under Environment, Training

Are these guys from Krypton?

“They are seekers, madmen and angels hell-bent on riding across America on a bicycle in less than 10 days.”
— From a synopsis of the 2009 documentary Bicycle Dreams, about the annual Race Across America

It’s good to keep things in perspective.
I try to remember that
as I read or hear about the exploits of cyclists who seem to be endowed with superhuman abilities.
I consider myself a pretty good bicyclist. Despite my age, 67, I still have sufficient stamina for a long-haul ride. I rode across the United States last fall — from San Diego, Calif., to St. Augustine, Fla. — and a few weeks ago did a 273-mile ride across Missouri on the Katy Trail and then on to my hometown, Alton, Ill., for a high school reunion.
But I learned long ago that someone is always stronger and faster — some man of steel who will surely kick your butt whenever you start feeling that you’re a pretty studly specimen.
There are some cyclists, for example, who inhabit a different planet — maybe Krypton, where Superman is from. Even when I was young, I wouldn’t even have dreamt of being in the same league with these cyclists.
There are the pros, of course, who routinely ride about 20,000 miles a year — more miles than most people put on their cars — and compete in such grueling events as the Tour de France, three weeks of body-punishing riding at speeds averaging about 25 mph.
Consider, also, the Race Across America, which calls itself “the world’s toughest bicycle race.” The aim is to ride across the United States from the West Coast to the East Coast in the fastest possible time.
Unlike most multiday bike races such as the Tour de France, RAAM has no stages. Riders have no specified distance to travel each day. Until recently, there were no designated rest periods for food and sleep. Sleep was optional.
As in a time trial, the clock runs continuously from start to finish; the overall time includes rest periods.
The winner is whoever can ride the fastest while making the fewest and shortest stops. The victor usually finishes in eight to nine days, after riding about 22 hours per day through mountains, deserts and plains.

Jure Robic on the road

Participants have to complete the journey in 12 days to be considered a “finisher.”
The record time for the crossing was set in 1992 by Rob Kish, who rode 2,911 miles in eight days, three hours and 11 minutes at an average speed of 14.91 mph. But Kish rode a course that was a bit shorter than the current one.
In terms of speed, the fastest for a male participant was set by Pete Penseyres in 1986, when he rode 3,107 miles (5,000 kilometers) at 15.40 mph (24.8 kph) in 8 days, 9 hours, and 47 minutes.
This year’s winner in the “solo male” category for entrants under 50 years of age was Jure Robic of Slovenia, who covered the 3,005.1 miles from Oceanside, Calif., to Annapolis, Md., in nine days and 46 minutes. It was the fifth time that Robic had won the event, which began in 1982 and is held every year in June.
Sadly, Robic was killed Sept. 24 in a road accident near his home in Jesenice, Slovenia. Police reports said that Robic, while descending a narrow mountain road on his bike near his home, collided head-on with a car driven by a 55-year-old local man. Robic, 45, a former Slovenian soldier turned long-distance cyclist, trained nearly every day, cycling in a year the distance around the world at the equator.
A 2009 documentary, Bicycle Dreams, focuses on several veteran participants in the RAAM, including Robic, who was known for opening insurmountable leads at the start of a race by riding for more than 40 hours without sleep.
“It’s painful — yet weirdly inspiring — to watch the riders gradually break down as the miles mount,” said a review on the website
“They hallucinate. They weep. They bicker with their crew. They collapse. But they keep going. It’s about challenging your limits, one says. It’s a spiritual journey, explains another. It’s ordinary people accomplishing extraordinary things, adds a third. As one commentator says, ‘There’s no way these people are normal.'”

Paul de Vivie, considered the father of randonneuring

Closer to home, we have the randonneurs of North Texas.
Randonneuring — which comes from the French word randonneur, or long-distance cyclist — is one of those crazy-people sports like BASE jumping, free climbing and sky surfing. It involves riding a bicycle hundreds of miles in a single weekend. It was invented and promoted in the late 19th century, during the golden age of cycling, by Frenchman Paul de Vivie, known by his nickname “Velocio.”
During the weekend of Sept. 23-25, the Lone Star Randonneurs held their annual Texas Time Trials, a qualifying event for the Race Across America. The featured event was the Tejas 500, in which participants had to ride 500 miles in 48 hours to qualify for RAAM.
Twenty-seven male riders began the Tejas 500 and 17 finished. Gary Gottlieb of Aledo, who placed third in overall time in last year’s race, was the first male rider to finish the 500 miles with a time of 29 hours and 37 minutes, averaging 17 mph. One female, Sharon Stevens of Richardson, was able to ride all of the 19 laps in the allotted time.

Jeremy Shlachter

Riding that same weekend in another event, a 400-kilometer (248-mile) “brevet” — a long-distance bike ride with checkpoint countrols — was longtime friend and neighbor Jeremy Shlachter.
Jeremy was doing the 400-kilometer brevet to complete an annual brevet series — events of 200, 300, 400 and 600 kilometers. He rode the 600-kilometer brevet the weekend of Sept. 4-5. He finished that ride with a time of 35 hours and 10 minutes, well under the allotted time of 40 hours.
Once a rider completes the full brevet series, he or she wins the appellation of “super randonneur.”
“I probably wouldn’t put myself through something like a brevet series if the word super was not attached to it,” Jeremy wrote on his blog, Gallus, which is also the name of a line of bikes that he builds.

Jeremy in his shop

“From the start of the ride,” Jeremy wrote of the 400-kilometer brevet, “my only goal was to get through the ride and finish the series. Randonneuring does not offer any bonus for finishing first or having the best time.”
Perhaps the real heroes of long-distance cycling are not the big-name pros — who get most of the attention but all too often seem to derive their superhuman abilitites from a hypodermic needle — but riders like Jure Robic, Gary Gottlieb and Jeremy Shlachter. They do what they do not for high-dollar salaries and endorsement contracts, but for the challenge and love of the sport.
The goal is simply to complete the journey.
That’s my goal, too. But, keeping in mind that all things are relative, my journeys will probably be a bit shorter and I’ll take time to smell the wildflowers.
Check out the trailer for the documentary Bicycle Dreams:


Filed under Americana, Cycling across America, Training

The lazy days of summer

“Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability.”
Sam Keen, American author, professor, philosopher

The summer doldrums, a sojourn in Spain and a lack of imagination have taken a toll on the frequency of the posts to Jim’s Bike Blog during this hot, lazy season.
As production has dropped off, so have the page views. I’ll try to rectify that.
At this time last year — Texas furnace heat, be damned — I was preparing full bore for a transcontinental bicycle ride in the autumn from San Diego to St. Augustine, Fla., and was closing in on 3,000 training miles. This year, I’ve logged only a little more than 1,000 miles. And my upcoming bike excursion is not nearly as challenging as last fall’s: a ride of about 260 miles across Missouri on the mostly flat Katy Trail and then to my hometown, Alton, Ill., during the week before Labor Day.
Last year, I had much to write about as I trained, assembled gear and researched the cross-country route of more than 3,000 miles along the southern tier of the United States — California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.
This year, after achieving that long-held dream of riding a bicycle across America, the inevitable letdown has set in as I try to focus on some new adventure to forestall the relentless advance of old age. Perhaps hiking the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine while I’m still in good enough shape for such a trek?
I have all the gear — tent, sleeping bag, etc. It’s been tested and proven. My legs are still strong.
I’ve envied other members of last fall’s trans-America ride: Dolores, who, like the Energizer Bunny, is crossing the country again, this time along the northern tier of states from Anacortes, Wash., to Bar Harbor, Maine; Kami, who has been leading adventure-travel trekkers in the Himalayas and the Andes; and Cathy and Derrik, who so far have logged about 1,500 miles on a bike ride through western Canada and the United States.
I should be out on my bike during these sultry days of late July, preparing for the steamy bottom lands of the Missouri River along the Katy Trail. I’ve ridden some, but not nearly as frequently as last summer at this time.
Instead, I’ve been trying to shake the residual fatigue of nearly three weeks on the go in Spain — traveling and studying Spanish — by napping and reading, trying to bring some respectability to laziness. Books in progress: Iberia by James A. Michener, D-Day by Stephen E. Ambrose and Tales of the Alhambra by Washington Irving.
Bring me another margarita, please.


Filed under Americana, Cycling across America, Journeys, Literary musings, Training, Travels