Category Archives: Life, and Other Ephemera

Sagging Saddles and Sexy Stems


Still plenty of life left in this one! (Doghead Saddle, by Jordon Esser, Creative Commons Licence).

To a surprising degree, we live our lives according to notions of genre.  When it comes to entertainment the role of genre is obvious.  We like rom-coms but don’t like sci-fi or horror (I don’t understand those people, but they do exist).  Yet genre rules our work lives as well (the types of reports we produce, the inter-office memos. . .all of these often fall into predictable categories with their own conventions and sets of expectations).  But it is equally true of our mediated social lives.  It is one of the reasons I’ve pretty much abandoned FB; every visit I see the same old genres of posts playing out over and over again, people saying the same old stuff, engaging in the same old debates, occupying the same old positions, the stunning lack of originality of our species on soul-sapping display 24/7.

Recent exchanges on the listserv of our local randonneuring club, however, also had me thinking about some of the predictable but odd genres that seem to characterize the discussions that randonneurs have.  Now some of these are specific to the strange world of long-distance cycling, but not a few of them also seem to cross over into the more general world of cycling.  And not a few of those (especially the medical ones; see below) I see (or used to see) all the time on FB.  So for my own amusement and, I hope, yours, I’ve collected a few of the more prominent genres of rando-talk here.

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Losing (and finding) my religion

Stand in the place where you live
Now face North
Think about direction
Wonder why you haven’t before.

And yes, before anyone points out the obvious, I’m mixing my REM references.

My partner and I often talk about our Bike Mojo.  But it occurred to me recently that we use “mojo” in a different way than most people.  When people talk about their mojo they are using it to describe a skill or ability.  Whether you are claiming to be an awesome playuh with the opposite sex or an awesome player of the guitar, talking about your mojo conveys something about your flash and dash.

But for us mojo  connotes in part our enjoyment of an activity, but also our desire for the activity in the first place.  So we’ll often have a conversation about how one or other of us has “lost their Bike Mojo.”  That doesn’t just mean that we don’t feel like biking, it means that when we do go biking, we don’t enjoy it.  The weather might be great, the road might roll accommodatingly, the wind might be always at our backs. . .but there’s no delight.  No joy.

My Bike Mojo has taken a few serious hits recently.

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What is the furthest you’ve ever biked?

Recently, I’ve been waxing. . .hold on, hold on, settle down, not that kind of waxing.  Sure, I shave my legs but I do it the old fashioned manly way!  No, I’ve been waxing nostalgic for my first real season of triathlon training, the lead-up to IM MOO.

One of the things that I noticed in so many of the people I was training with, and that I’ve seen in so many of my team-mates since as they have trained for their first Ironman (TM), is the palpable sense of discovery and achievement created by distance.  A sizable percentage of people undertaking their first Ironman (TM) have not previously biked the kinds of distances that you need to bike during training.  The rides themselves may be brutal or slightly less brutal, hard or not quite so hard, but at the end of every ride, people are standing around in the parking lot and it is slowly dawning on them: I just rode the furthest I’ve ever ridden in my life.  And for a while, the next week brings a new “furthest,” and the week after that yet another milestone.

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The Last Piece of the Puzzle

I can see you!

I can see you!

Actually, the title of this post is a lie.  If you are a cyclist you know there is no end to the puzzle; there are always new gaps to be filled, new pieces to add.  I may, for example, have in the past occasionally mentioned my lack of matching leather bar tape once or quince.   But I finally added the last major set of components I need for Gypsy Rose to be fully ready to rando: a full-scale lighting system.

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An Open Letter to All DC Residents Born North of the Mason-Dixon

Buried Bike

For the true Northern Cyclist, a minor setback. (Photo by Jason Persse, Creative Commons Licence)

We get it.  You are tough.

Where you are from, when it snowed, the only vehicle that could get into your driveway was one of those giant machines that Metro uses to bore train tunnels.  As a kid you used to dogsled all the way to Hudson Bay just to pick up the local paper.  And your schools never, ever, closed.  For example, there was the great blizzard of ____ where the entire school was buried for six whole months and the only thing that happened was that the kids got really, really good at their multiplication tables.

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Words to Ride By

The language that we use to talk about bikes treats them as filled with personality.  Bikes are lively, sprightly, twitchy, springy, relaxed, stiff, and eager, to use just a few of the adjectives that crop up regularly in bike reviews and casual post-ride conversation.  It is a thing we humans seem to do, attribute personality to inanimate objects (a category that also includes many people) with whom which we spend a lot of time.  But bikes are like cars in that we invest them with much more personality than other everyday artifacts like an office chair or a flat screen TV (both objects with which I probably spend about the same amount of time as my bike).  Bikes literally and metaphorically take us places; as such they are not simply extensions of our personality (or attempts at counterbalance; cycling certainly has no shortage of guys (usually) and gals (occasionally) who are obviously over-compensating for something).  Rather, they have often helped to shape our self and personality.  Sometimes those changes are obvious (the most recent issue of Bicycling has an impressive series of stories of people who lost dramatic amounts of weight through biking), sometimes they are more subtle, reflecting a new level of confidence or calm.

Yet this tendency to see our bikes as imbued with personality is countered by another cycling trend: riders’ willingness to de-personalize both themselves and their bikes visually.

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Potential Energy

Safety First! This bike has supernatural powers.

Safety First! This bike has supernatural powers.

There’s a new addition to the Velorage, which brings the number of bikes owned by my partner and myself to. . .well, an obscenely large number.  Perhaps this is why the walls of the Velorage are beginning to bulge outward.  This is only temporary since I’m going to start selling off a couple of the former steeds.  They are all in good condition but I just don’t ride them anymore and can’t see that that will change anytime in the next couple of years.  By which time bike technology will have advanced and it will be time to buy new bikes!

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