Category Archives: Philosophical Musings

The GIFT that Keeps on Giving

While biking to work today I had an epiphany.  And by epiphany I mean the kind of realization that arrives with the clarity afforded by a near death experience.

Because that is in fact what I experienced.

Three times.

In less than ten minutes.

There was the guy who roared through a red light at the Key Bridge M Street intersection.  There was the woman who did a no-look pull out from her parking spot (and almost took out the car ahead of me as well).  The final one happened a mere hundred meters from the entrance to my work when some shitwit in a Land Rover (an oldie but a goodie: What is the difference between a Land Rover and a hedgehog?  With a hedgehog the pricks are on the outside) roared out of the parking spot where he’d just been dropping off his his over-privileged ankle-biter at the snooty private high school down the road with such velocity that he careered into the oncoming lane of traffic.  As my brother would say, obviously running late for his meeting of Arseholes Anonymous.

People in this area love to debate with either mild jocularity or spittle-flinging fury (depending on whether the conversation is around the water cooler or over the Internet (more about that in a moment)) whether DC, Maryland or Virginia drivers are the worst in the region.  However this is basically like debating which is worse: a serial killer, a cannibal serial killer, or a necrophiliac cannibal serial killer.

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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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Fuck You, GoogleMaps

Clouds in the Water

Experimental Solo Bike Tour, Day 4
Gettysburg to Antietam Creek
50 miles, 2200 feet of climbing

Rolling Resistance

One thing that has disconcerted me a little about this bike tour: it takes me an age to get all my gear packed up and ready to go.  I start getting myself organized, and then time abruptly compresses and suddenly it is an hour and a half later, 45 minutes after I was intending to leave.  I’m mostly at a loss to explain this.  I’m not sitting down and taking nap breaks although that is what the results would seem to indicate.  Furthermore I don’t have that much stuff!  The only thing I can put this down to is that there is an inverse relationship between the amount of stuff you are carrying and the time necessary for packing. When car camping, which is what I do mostly, you can shovel all your shit into the capacious maw of your vehicle, even if it isn’t perfectly packed, confident that you can roll to your next destination and sort it all out at the end.  But on a bike, although you have less stuff, it more or less has to be disassembled and then packed in the same order.  Practice should make perfect.

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Echoes of Battle

Honored Dead

Experimental Solo Bike Tour Day 3

Consumer Alert! This post contains some Civil War Geekery.  While every attempt has been made to keep such material to a minimum readers should enter at their own risk.

Today offered me the chance to do something I’ve wanted to do since I first visited the Gettysburg battlefield as an adult many years ago: ride around the battlefield on a bike.

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Why do they hate us so much?

Cracked Helmet 1

Photo by Sam Kim. Creative Commons License.

Rage Against the Machine

In the Washington Post Magazine Concerned Citizen Athur Mason offered this thoughtful, well-reasoned response to an article about the growth of the DC Metro area’s biking infrastructure:

Leah Binkovitz’s article was one of the most biased I have ever read.  Let’s start with the picture on Page 20 captioned “Bikers wait for a green light.”  How long did you have to look for bikers waiting for a green light?  They never wait for the green light.  Anytime I talk to a D.C. driver, the subject always gets around to the lawless biking community.  Red lights, one-way signs, do-not-enter signs mean nothing to them.  They act like they are entitled to go anywhere on any street or sidewalk at any time.  Now wonder they get in accidents.  They have the politicians’ ear and laws passed making it an offense for cars to annoy them in any way.

October 13, 2013

Now I’ll be honest.  The cyclists not waiting at lights thing actually kinda bugs me too.  On an individual level biking for me is about trying to be a different kind of person; and with the remaining shreds of idealism that I have left, I’d also like to believe that biking is also part of the path to a different, hopefully better, kind of world.  You have to wait for 30 seconds at a stop light.  Oh.  My.  God!  The humanity!  Biking is supposed to be about not being the kind of jackass in a car that is concerned with getting from point A to point B as fast as humanly possible.  So if you are a cyclist, stop at that light.  Take a moment to get your head out of your ass and look around at your surroundings.  Don’t be a car driver.  So the letter writer and I have that in common.

Beyond that, however, we don’t have much in common because this person is clearly a tool.

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“I’m Not a Feminist, But. . .”

Marianne Vos

Marianne Vos, arguably one of the greatest cyclists, male or female of all time. Who would probably make more money flipping burgers.

Last night my partner and I went to see Half the Road: The Passion, Pitfalls, and Power of Women’s Professional Cycling, a documentary by Kathryn Bertine that describes the deliberate and systematic discrimination directed against women professional cyclists.  It is chocka with a who’s who of the women’s professional peloton (both past and present), the majority of them mightily pissed, and with good reason.  Despite the fact that women have been riding and racing bikes for as long as men, women cyclists are paid a fraction of what men are (and I mean a fraction; this is no debate about whether women make 70 or 80 per cent of a male wage; if women cyclists currently made even that much it would be a huge improvement), find it difficult to find sponsorship (and even harder to keep it), can’t usually get multi-year contracts, have fewer professional races (at any distance, often less than a third of the number of men’s races), and are actively prohibited from racing the same distances as men.

No, for those of you checking your calendars at this point,  we are not talking about something taking place in the 1800s.

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Cycling with Abandon

Mountains of Misery
Blacksburg, VA
May 25, 2014

The madness that was May finally came to an end with the Mountains of Misery Double Metric Century.  Mountains of Misery is an event with which I’ve always had an “interesting” relationship (interesting in the sense that you might describe the relationship with an abusive ex-spouse as “interesting”).  Both the century and 200k versions have a healthy dose of climbing (10K and 13K feet respectively).  There are certainly bike rides that are tougher on paper (the Garrett County Diabolical Double, for example) but there isn’t much out there that is as tough as the final 3 miles of MoM, a daunting climb of approximately 2000 feet that keeps getting steeper until it maxes out at nearly 15% for long stretches.  Thrown into any ride it would be a leg breaker.  At the end of a century or a 200k?  It is a heart breaker.

It is also, however, one of the loveliest rides I’ve ever done.  Tragically, the more beautiful of the two is the longer one; it features all the best descending and a stunning stretch of more than ten miles of wonderful slightly downhill tempo riding.  Our triathlon team also had a very large contingent going this year, approximately 30 riders.  Many of them were first-timers to the century, and most of the group I was riding with had done the century before but not the 200k.  So I was looking forward to it.

There was, however, one slight problem.

The previous 6 weeks.

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