Don’t Let Anything Stop You From Getting Out


Since the beginning of the year, for a myriad of reasons, most days I’ve been trudging out to my unheated garage and pounding through an hour on the bike trainer. It’s been a good experience, I’m learning a lot about myself and making progress. It ain’t riding outside though.

Yesterday after watching yet another internet video of people riding bikes in all manner of conditions, the realization struck. I used to do all that kind of crap too, in fact I was sorta known for it at some point. What happened? I vowed to get out that day.

Not afraid to say I got a little soft. I love winter and I love getting out in winter, but I’ve realized this year that the amount of love I have for it is directly proportional to how much I get out into it. It’s real easy to start making excuses, and it gets even easier when you can’t even remember the last time you got out. Guilty as charged. Cold, dark, motivation, time. All these things become reasons you can’t do something. But they are all things over which we have some control.

Often getting out the door is the hardest part. I admit to being a little bit of a gear junkie and obsessive planner. Even if I’m going for a 2 hour ride, I’ve gotta think about what I’m gonna wear, what I’m gonna bring with me, where I’m going to go, and why. While there’s something to be said for making sure you’re prepared – especially in less-than-hospitable conditions – it can also become a roadblock.

On the drive home yesterday, I started planning in my head. “The temperature and conditions are this, so I think I’ll wear this – no – maybe that, yeah that, but I’ll BRING this too, and that other thing. In case.”

Got home. Got dressed. Changed shoes. Get the bike and throw stuff in the bags. Remove the extra pair of gloves still in there from last ride. “Won’t need these – SUPER WARM out today!” Put the Garmin on the bike and it won’t start. Battery’s dead or something. The internal argument starts. “This shouldn’t matter. I should be able to ride a bike without keeping track of how far or fast I ride it. But then why did I spend a chunk of change on the Garmin? Maybe I should just get rid of it?” Meanwhile the clock is ticking and the ride window is closing.

I remember I have the GPS on my Garmin watch – ok, use that. Being a gear junkie sometimes has it’s benefits. Half way down the driveway and I can’t keep my feet on the pedals. The shoes are slipping off constantly. I wore my winter cycling shoes for warmth, but they’ve got cleats on the bottom and hard, Vibram soles that are getting no love from the platform pedals. Back to the garage. Change shoes. Running shoes with wool socks. These’ll be fine.

Animal tracks in the snow.
Critter tracks on a frozen river.

I still had no idea where I was going or what trails would be passable in the snow, so I just went.

It was fantastic to get out. The sun was shining, it was mild, not much wind – and the kicker – I’d dressed perfectly for the conditions. I commended myself. Luckily I had the Garmin to tell me just how ponderously slow I was going, oy, only checked that once.

Got to my turnaround point and started to head home. “Hmm, lookit that, clouding up a bit. Not so much sun.” Pedal faster means stay warmer, I said. Half hour from home and things have cooled down considerably. Sun setting. Hands we kinda cold. “Nice one ditching the extra gloves,” I chided myself. Well, at least I’d managed to keep my feet warm and dry. 10 minutes later and the front wheel washes out on the snowmobile track, the bike goes down, I eject and end up running off trail into the thigh deep snow. In my sneakers. AND shorts. Yeah, shorts, it was MILD out remember? So much for the dry warm feet.


Back on the bike, grumbling. Cold. Muttering about what a dumbass I was. “Lucky you’re only 20 minutes from home or you’d be losing fingers and toes out here tonight. Some freaking polar explorer you are…” But then I realized, I WAS really only 20 minutes from home. I wasn’t blazing an unmarked trail across an uncharted section of continent looking for someplace to camp for the night. Spirits brightened, even if the weather didn’t.

Then I had another realization. The reality is, 99% of the time we’re only a cell phone call away from a pickup. I didn’t feel as dumb as I was initially accusing myself of being. I’d made a few mistakes, but nothing that was a big deal and nothing, I decided, that should spoil the great time I was having. I wasn’t one of my YouTube heroes trekking across and Andalusian pass with nothing but what was attached to him and the bike for survival. At most I was a 20 minute WALK from an Ultramar.

So yeah, I could have made some better choices heading out – I should have known better, but I shouldn’t let my mistakes this time keep me from going out next time. I’m glad I got out. And super glad I didn’t end up having to call the Mrs. for a pickup, cause that stings a lot worse than the cold.

Poets of Instagram

Photo by Eric Larsen, www.ericlarsenexplore.com

I’ve really grown to love Instagram as a social media platform, it’s become one of my favourite places to visit online. It’s currently the only social media app I have on my phone.

I enjoy the nature of it – the fact that it’s primarily visual. I’m pretty selective with who I follow and for me, it’s a visual hit of inspiration whenever I check in. In some cases, folks have gone one further and are using their Instagram accounts as more of a blog, including lengthy, well-composed posts as the captions to their photos. Indeed some of them have an Instagram account as their sole online presence, nothing else, not even a personal website.

That said, I thought I’d share a few of my favourites – people I feel are really doing something different, unique and inspiring with the app.

Captain Winter

Eric Larsen (@elexplore) is a polar explorer. That’s a pretty cool job title. I don’t know the all the details of exactly what that entails, but I think the general gist pretty obvious. He’s a guy that digs the cold and winter. He’s on a one-man-mission to try and get you to as well. His Instagram feed is full of fun and inspirational photos and commentary about trips to the coldest, whitest areas of the planet.  He throws around some great stay-warm tips as well. As a fellow fan of winter, I know how much fun it can be. I also have discovered lately, that the more I get out in winter, the more I enjoy and embrace it. Conversely, when I’m not able to get out due to the to-do list or schedule, it’s a lot harder to tolerate winter and morale suffers. When the calendar is crunched and I can’t fit in a snowshoe, sometimes a choice post from Eric will suffice and keep the winter mojo going to the next outing.

Always thinking snow. I’m not sure what happened to me along the way but I seem to have an unexplainable bias toward winter. Don’t get me wrong, I like spring, summer and fall, too (kind of). But Winter has a strange hold on me. I think it’s because there’s a serenity to Winter that doesn’t exist in other seasons. I also like that being outside in Winter requires more thoughtfulness and planning. There are more reasons, of course, but I’ll leave it at that for now. . . #unrulydreamers #icephoto #staylit #winter #coldculture #thinksnow #adventure #brrr #belowzero #coldworld #camping #expedition #feelalive #icecube #lifeisbetteroutside #nature #optoutside #onthhorizon #photography #polartraining #throughourlens #wearezeal #stanleyness

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The Bicycle Craftsman

To anyone who’s been around in bikes for a long time, Richard Sachs (@therichardsachs)will probably need no introduction. The guy has been hand-building bike frames since before it was the new artisanal thing to do. In the world of bicycle as art, he’s an Old Master. Although he’s been building some of the best bikes in the world for almost 40 years, he recently ‘reinvented’ himself, for lack of a better word. He built a new, solitary shop and returned to building bikes the way he’d started, one at a time, by hand, with hand tools. In the process he has been sharing his reflections on the industry, life, his craft and topics like passion and drive, all via his Instagram feed, often accompanied by some great photos of both bikes and process. You don’t have to be a fan of bikes to appreciate his posts on inspiration, drive, and why we do what we do.

‘ Once every decade or less, I make one that I know I’ll never forget. . That I’ll remember for all time and after that too. . This frame from 2005 is one of those. . I was still doing a few units with the pre IC era parts and the older diameters. . Some even had a threaded steerer – this one did. . And braze-ons and hub spacings and brake dimensions from Merckx’s time. . I didn’t have my chops developed back when bicycles like this were ubiquitous. . When I finally paid off my down payment and I could do most of this blindfolded and with dull files, the landscape had changed. . So when I use my present stance and channel a past model, I can put it together and it zings. . This one zings and it did from conception to the day after the paint dried. . And it still does. . All This By Hand . #hauteframebuilding #neverfuckingrelent #brandonneuring

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Honourable Mentions

A few other cats also holding it down on the ‘gram and continually turning out inspiring content:

  • @slimwonder – Repping the Dads and bikes set, with bebop flava. #sockgame always on point.
  • @allhailtheblackmarket – Punk rock, discontent, skating, bikes and art. Through the disgruntled lens of middle-age.
  • @coldbike – Another winter nut. Bikes, Dad skills, kids, adventure.
  • @outsideisfred – Shenanigans.
  • @hotsaucecycling – Elite World Cup Cross Racing. Shoestring budget. Canadian, eh?
  • @targetsalad – Good espresso pulls. Mule Deer. Dad life. The World’s Most Interesting Bike Club.

Fits and Starts.

Here is this year’s blog reboot.

I have stopped and started this thing more times than I can count, so I’ve stopped trying. It would seem, at some point, what I am destined to do, so I will roll with it. I have a bit of a new format this time, a renewed habit of writing offline, and a few posts in the vault so we’ll see what that gets us. As someone of the age who has seen the birth and development of ‘blogs’ it never ceases to amaze me the breadth they now encompass and people’s compulsion to keep feeding them, including mine. It seems quite silly, really. If everyone had placed messages in bottles and tossed them in the sea, we’d have a sea of bottles. Essentially the same game. Well, I guess now you can search for a specific bottle, but whatevs.

I had initially deliberated about starting separate blogs for the different topics I tend to write about but eventually nixed that as too hard. I still felt that tons of categories was kind of a drag and overbearing so I’ve winnowed it down to 3 categories that sort of encompass what I write about for the most part.

Headspace and meatspace.

I continue to try to enrich my mental experience on the planet while also trying to optimize the condition of the meatsuit that carries me around it. I had been pretty successful in losing some weight last year, have gained some back, and sort of plateaued. Changing things up some now, specifically with regards to what and how I’m eating to try and shake things up a bit. Exercise has never been an issue aside of time to do it, and I’m finding more of that now, in addition to making it more of a priority. All of this is greatly improving the ambience in my head – combined with an increase of reading and introspection and decrease in visits to the Internet.

Contradiction.

Fitting that I’d be writing about leaving the Internet alone on a blog. Weird that it’s like a ‘thing’. “HEY. STOP PLAYING WITH YOUR INTERNET.” Since it’s inception I’ve been fascinated by it and even more so with social media. I’m sure it’s been unhealthy at points. But I found, sometime around the time I took this blog offline, that it wasn’t really all that fulfilling anymore. Checking in on various sites and SM platforms was only making me angry, frustrated, or leaving me with a feeling of hopelessness, or WTF? So I checked out for a bit. Stopped following all those people who annoyed me but I’d felt obligated to for some reason. Life’s too short for that.

I stopped commenting, for the most part, because in most cases it’s the cyber equivalent of banging your head against the wall. People come online and post stuff they’re passionate about partly to validate it for themselves. You’re not going to change anyone’s mind with a comment on their post. You’re just not.

I’ve been trying to be much more discriminating about what I post. There’s a bunch of different acronyms out there I think, floating in the inter-ether about things you should ask yourself before posting something on the internet. I’ve basically narrowed it down to is it informative or uplifting. I try to steer clear of pretty much everything else. I don’t know how well I’m succeeding, but I’m trying.

Things I’ve Been Reading

As I said I’ve been trying to read more, and to read more actual books, vs reading ebooks on my phone. I initially thought that was great because I could read books anywhere, but I found though I was reading more, I was actually absorbing less due to distractions of the environments around me or the compulsion to click away and answer a text or email etc. I’ve gone back to – gasp – checking books out from the Library. I’ve found that the ability to take a book somewhere and leave my phone entirely somewhere else has been hugely liberating.

One book I read recently that addresses that very thing was The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr. A great read. Ironically I read it on my phone, when I was still doing a lot of that. Interesting discussion around theories and studies that support that current generations of peoples’ brains are actually being physiologically changed by the way they read and consume material. This book is kind of old too, so I’m sure there’s a lot more out there about it now. On a sort of related note, there’s a new book out I’m anxious to read, Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus: How Growth Became the Enemy of Prosperity by Douglas Rushkoff. I want to read it real bad, but am trying not to cave and get the ebook version. Kicker is that I’m not sure I want to spend the beans for a physical copy and of course it’s not at the library yet.

Other books I’ve read recently and enjoyed greatly include Robert Pirsig’s classic Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, An Inquiry into Values and Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There. Both of these were fantastic and made a huge impression on me. The kicker for me is whenever I come across I look forward to re-reading, then I know I’m on the right track. Both of these fall in that category.

I also recently finished Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air – a book I’ve heard about for years, but just finally got around to. I’d read Into the Wild a few months back as a precursor, so I was looking forward to this one. Both of these books I read in a matter of 2-3 days’ binge reading – I don’t know if that’s a testament to my enjoyment and immersion in them or Krakauer’s writing style. I do find I like the way he writes and Into Thin Air lived up to every bit of its hype.

Some months back, Ryan Correy posted a video of Dan Harris talking about his experience with meditation, something I was curious about. Dan’s talk resonated with me and I’ve been meditating fairly regularly since. In the video he mentions a book by Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now. I was interested in reading some of his work, as I’d been hearing his name various places for a while as an author to check out. I picked up The Power of Now from the library, and though I found it an enjoyable and informative read, it got a bit spacey for me towards the end. There are definitely some good ideas and takeaways in it that I have found useful and/or inspiring.

The next read.

Somewhere in my internet wanderings I came across the High Existence website through a shared link, or something, I don’t remember. They have a suggested reading page which I found had some interesting titles. I picked up one of them yesterday from my library, The Consolations of Philosophy by Alain de Botton and am looking forward to digging into it. I’ve got an account over at Goodreads.com, so if you’re into that sort of thing, let’s hook up – I’m always looking for books to add to my ‘Want to Read’ list.