Sunday, April 13, 2008

What to do?

Ask anyone who rides a bike on the road in any amount and they'll most likely tell you that there is a problem with the way drivers treat cyclists on the road. Most cyclists would agree that drivers are primarily the problem. Most drivers who aren't also cyclists would agree that cyclists are the problem. That statement, made by me, no matter how speculative is where the problem lies. Drivers, unfortunately view cyclists and cycling as a problem...

So what exactly is the problem? A while back in an Arizona newspaper that will remain nameless, a commentary was published by a reader who lambasted cyclists for being "slower" than traffic, and thus deserving whatever "end" they met when "going up against" traffic. Now, this guy's opinion is obviously outside of the norm (or is it?) and most motorists don't believe that cyclists deserve a tragic ending for venturing out onto public roads.

Although most drivers don't think that cyclists should die, there are a number of beliefs that most motorists hold that are not only incorrect but dangerously wrong. Here are some basics.

1. Cyclists don't belong on the road, thus take their lives in their own hands each time they go out on public roads.

2. Cyclists give up basic human rights on public roads

3. Since there are bike lanes in some places, that's only where cyclists belong

4. Cyclists are pedestrians and not vehicles.

We obviously know these are completely wrong, and I think if most motorists stopped and thought about things for a few seconds they would feel the same way. Pedestrians are called that because they walk. Cyclists are called that because they cycle, or ride a cycle, often a bicycle, which is a type of vehicle.

So what can be done? What should be done about motorists who just don't seem to get it? Someone told me once that you can't change anyone but yourself, and this is true. I think the first step is to ride politely when we go out on the road as cyclists. Kill 'em with kindness someone told me once. As a cyclist, you're obviously not going to give lectures to drivers at 20 miles an hour, but there are other steps that can be taken.

As gas prices go up, more and more people are riding bikes to take care of they're daily chores. Don't be a jerk to new riders. We can also work to exact more legal change. Currently there are cities nation wide that are taking many steps to make their roads more friendly for cyclists, whether they be recreational riders or commuters. When laws come up for review, or there are public debates, make sure to get involved. My personal feeling is that more needs to be done in the arena of Driver education and punishment. That is something I've chosen to make a push for in local meetings.

I know there isn't much to this, and I hope this gets you the reader thinking. What can you do to make some change?
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Never Stop Learning...Mulholland Challenge 08 Ride Report

When I was much, much younger than I am today a friend's parent told me to never stop learning. "You'll continue to encounter valuable lessons throughout the rest of your life; things will happen, you'll meet people who will teach you things. If you leave your mind open to each of these experiences and allow yourself to learn from them you'll be a richer, wiser person" or something like that. I've never forgotten that quote, despite all the heavy drinking and recreational drug use I've managed to hold onto that quote and live by it pretty well. One thing I learned in my formative years is this: "The more difficult something is the more rewarding it is when it's done." along side that I've figured out that "the more adversity you face, the more you take away from it". Yesterday was very difficult, and wrought with adversity. Here is a list of the things the Mulholland Challenge taught me...

1. Read the Route slip. When you are riding a ride that is 110 miles and has 12,000 ft. of gain you should follow directions. You should especially follow directions if the ride consists of riders doing 100 miles, or 200 miles, because if you follow the people doing 200 miles it WILL take you off course and you're not going to know you're lost early enough. So always follow directions. Within this lesson I also learned that adding an unexpected 10 miles and 1200 ft. of climbing is bad. And by bad I mean not good.

2. Gloves are good. Fingered gloves are good to have for these rides that start cold and then warm up very quickly. I thought I was being smart by not packing any cold weather gear since the ride was only going to be cold for the first hour. "I'll deal with the cold" I told myself...And I did, in a numbingly painful way. I couldn't feel my fingers to pull the brakes for the first 30 minutes of the ride. It was miserable.

3. Eating is good. Unlike centuries past, I forced myself to eat according to schedule. I planned on alternating Hammer gel and Clif Bloks every 30 minutes. This combined with drinking Cytomax and washing down a salt tab every once and a while should keep me sharp and focused and crampless. I stuck to the plan pretty well. So well in fact that I felt comfortable enough to give one of my last bags of blocks and my last two salt tabs to an ailing rider on Stunt road. Of course on the home stretch My left thigh cramped up so bad that I thought I was going to fall off my bike. I only brought one extra serving of Cytomax though, I should have brought 2 extra.

4. Decker rd. is an Evil Mistress. It's true. Decker lures you with the prospect of glory, then pummels you with ridiculously steep gradients. You hear stories of the road that is Decker and you think how much of a legend you'll become when you've ridden up it. You get past what you think is the most difficult part, onto the sections that are only slightly less steep and then it tempts you with false tops that bend around deceiving corners. Every time you think the climbing is done around that bend, it bends around again in the opposite direction to expose more road that is much higher than where you are. The rest stop on Decker is where I took my longest break. It was the hottest part of the day, and I was completely out of water and Cytomax when I got to the top.

5. Once you've climbed Decker, everything else seems like a highway overpass. I thought the climbing on Cotherin was hard. I thought sections of Topanga were a bit difficult. I thought parts of roads all over Southern California were difficult, but none of it is anything like Decker.

6. A 12-25 cassette is not suitable for this ride. It might be for some others, but not for me.

7. Heat sucks. No matter what Doug Wolfe tells you, riding in the heat is really, really hard. Nothing works efficiently when you're really hot. Your heart rate runs high, you process fluids much faster, you cramp easier. Yesterday peaked at around 95 degrees. It was ridiculous. I told myself "I've ridden in heat like this, I'll be fine". Wrong. Yesterday was a struggle. Despite the fact that I never bonked and staved off any cramping until the last mile I was still contemplating dropping out at one point.

8. Eating nothing but Clif Bloks, Hammer Gel and Bananas all day is bad. I don't really need to tell you the details of how I figured this out, I'll just tell you that it's bad and you should take my word for it. Also, at mile 104 bloks just stop tasting good. I ate half a bag at the last rest stop, and left the other half there, I've never done that before.

9. Not all Descents are fun. Descending down Yerba Buena, Cotherin and Deer Creek was the worst part of the ride. The roads were more poorly maintained than the restricted roads in Griffith Park and the asphalt was rougher than your grandma's calloused hands. I had parts of my body going numb that never go numb on rides, and my feet, legs and shoulders killed because of it. I washed out in one bend and nearly lost it too, which left me a bit sketched out for the rest of the ride.

10. This was the best ride ever. Now that I've had time to sleep on it and recover a little bit I can say with some confidence that I really think this is one of the best rides ever. Despite the few rough roads the ride took me though some of the most beautiful parks of Southern California. I couldn't believe how beautiful some of the views were. There were definitely times that I wanted to stop and take a picture, but that just wasn't going to happen as the 123 mile ride took me about 10 hours without the tourist stops.

The route for Mulholland challenge. It was difficult, but extremely rewarding.
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