By Whatever Means Necessary

Sunday morning I was supposed to get out for the usual weekly ride with Titus, but it was pouring rain. We decided hesitantly to pull the plug. I don’t mind the rain really – it’s terrible for the bikes and means they would require more attention post ride – but when you get pretty much soaked and/or completely saturated within 5 minutes of leaving, it gets to be a drag really fast.

The TLDR version is I should have gone anyway.

The rest of my day went downhill from there – and my day started pretty early. So there was still a lot of downhill left.

Titus texted me later:

Titus: This one time, 
I'm glad we didn't go. 
It's still raining 
and it's cold and I 
am sore everywhere 
from farming.

Me: If you say so. 
I wish I'd gone. 
I should know better 
by now.

Titus: In all honesty, 
I live by that whole 
"one corrective 
action" philosophy...
it just so happens that 
for once it was the 
right thing to do 
to stay put.

Me: I should have learned, 
maybe have learned 
now that whenever I can 
ride bike, I should ride 
bike. Rest of my day has 
been shit. I should have 
gone even if it was just 
getting on my stupid bike 
with a basket and fenders 
and gone for coffee.

Titus: Sorry to hear that.

I have a bunch of bikes and quite the assortment of specialized and technical gear and apparel. Sometimes that all doesn’t matter. I’m always telling people asking me about gear or getting started cycling – “don’t worry about all that stuff. Just ride your bike. In whatever way you’re comfortable. If you’re not comfortable, you’re not going to ride and continuing to ride is the important part.” It’s still easy for even me to get caught up in all the trappings and bullshit.

Titus and I have developed simple philosophy/credo by which we feel most, if not all, of life can be navigated: ride bikes

As evening came and darkness was descending, the skies had somewhat quieted and my stir crazy was at a fever pitch. I basically jumped on a bike in what I was wearing and headed out. I texted Titus from the ride:

Me: Full Dirtbag Hoodride 
in effect. Hoodie, ball 
cap. Zero fucks given. 

Me: Considering an 
addendum to the Credo: 

Me: Always. Ride. 
Fucking. Bikes.

Titus: 'struth. 
By whatever means 

To the 5 Boroughs

For the most part any non-paved trails or trails in the woods are still snow-covered. The roads and shoulders are in terrible shape. Wet, crumbling, full of potholes. So we do ‘road’ bike rides on our mountain bikes this time of year. Doesn’t ruin your road bike, you don’t spend all your time fixing flats in skinny tires and, the most enjoyable benefit, when you find a big long, muddy dirt or gravel road, you can see where it goes.

My compatriot Mr. T. and I had a rough idea of a route to visit 5 neighborhoods local to us. Our ‘homage’ to the Beasties record, if you will, check it out.

Because Titus Says So

I am gonna sit here an write this because Titus told me to I don’t know why. I don’t know why I’m writing or what to write about.

I don’t believe in blogs anymore. There are too many blogs. Blogs are dead. Blogs are news magazines. Blogs are old news. Some blogs are fake news. I can remember when there were no blogs. People used to sit and write in their journals and keep shit to themselves. Now we have to tell everyone and it’s become increasingly difficult to find anything worth reading. I’ve returned to books. 

I don’t have anything to say. At least nothing that someone else probably hasn’t said already on one of the 350 million Tumbler blogs alone on the internet. More WordPress blogs. Blogspot. Blogger. Blot. Squarespace. Millions. Millions of words and people who want to be heard. Are they getting what they want? What they need? Do they know?

I’ve felt compelled lately to start writing and posting to my blog again. My glob. My glob of words and nonsense. I don’t know why. Few people will read it. I’m not interested in stats. I’m not interested in page views. I’m not really interested in validation through comments. Or confirmation. Or trivial argument. Or “yeah, I feel you dude’s”. This is not an affront to my past commenters, it’s just that social media picked up that comment thread – literally – and wore it the fuck out. For all intents and purposes comment threads are the dumpster of the internet. I’m convinced it’s the worst possible way to engage with anyone on a serious level. You want discourse, email me – and let’s get it on – old school style. Make sure you bring some well thought out and fully composed sentences and paragraphs. Check your damn spelling and punctuation. REREAD what you’ve written for clarity and content. Make sure it MAKES SENSE. If I wanted sentence fragments spouted from your thumbs while you’re in the process of taking a dump I’d have stayed on Twitter. 

I’m not interested in my old posts. No one is really. No one goes back and reads old blog posts. I don’t anyway. Not mine. Not anyone else’s. When was the last time you did? We don’t have the time. We are about now. About economy. About disposability. We’ve got notifications to attend to. We read words and if they don’t instantly capture us, we dump them and move on. We don’t even read whole blog posts anymore unless they are confirming what we already believe, filling a need, creating a warm fuzzy feeling or in some other way validating us. If you don’t have your reader by the short and curlys in the first sentence. You’ve lost them. They’re gone. They just went and bought something online. They’ve forgotten about you. I think I will start making posts just a sentence long. And overwriting the previous one. It’s there, then it’s gone. You either get it or you don’t. It’s an instant. 

Maybe Titus is right. I just start writing with no idea at all and came up with an idea. Just because I felt like I needed to write. I had some ideas whirling in my head earlier today thatI thought were going to compose a post and none of them made the cut. I don’t know where they are now. Really, when you think about it, that’s about all there is really, to life maybe. One sentence at a time. Call it an experiment. Call it lazy. Call it an idea that someone else on the internet has probably already come up with – but I’m too lazy to look for it. 

Carve Yourself From Stone

A guest post from my compatriot, the Bard of Bicycling himself, Andrew Titus as we prepare to ride bikes across a rather large island.

My memory, clouded by time and coloured by the wishes and desires of a late 40 year old, tells the story of me learning to ride a bike at 5 years old, my Dad holding onto the seat as we wound round and round his office building parking lot until I yelled ‘ok, let go!’, only to discover he already had. It was evening, late summer, I wore shorts and freedom smelled like a spent afternoon and cooling pavement. It remains, to this day, one moment in just a handful where I knew that life would never be the same. It is so much a part of me, so unquestionably pure, that even in the worst days and months of the intervening years, I have kept riding my bike.

The NYC Bike Snob says he lucked out, that while most give up riding bikes as it becomes synonymous with being a kid (that is, when we start driving cars), he just kept on rolling, that cost and parking and all the rest just kind of conveniently got in the way and he kept cranking the pedals. Most don’t do that — most stop, if not forever, then at least until it becomes a vehicle for fitness or fills the need created by a midlife crisis. I have no problem with either of these options (and, without looking to offend anyone, deem this a far better solution to those problems than zumba or a gross little convertible), but fortunately enough I navigated my way, miraculously, through my teens and twenties still on the rig. As The Snob says, “cycling has always been part of my life not because it follows me around but because I follow cycling around. It’s my bliss. Knowing what you love is knowing yourself, and something that you love can serve as a guide.”

But the guide is not a chaperon; they leave sometimes, their voice becomes quiet, they test you to discover if you can do it on your own. You can lead a horse to water, as they say, but you can’t make it drink; likewise, you can point a bike’s a wheel, but you must make it move, your all-too-human power is its power, you are symbiotically connected. And even as we revel in quotes like the famous one from Einstein in a letter to his son where he says that “It is the same with people as it is with riding a bike; only when moving can one comfortably maintain one’s balance”, we also need to recall that before Baron Karl von Drais in 1817, no one in the history of the world knew that a person could balance themselves and move forward on two in-line wheels. The modern world, despite all of its failings, is still a world of wonder and this guide of ours, this machine that erupted from both a shamanic imagination and the necessity of survival, is still so fresh and new and we are still unsure and wobbly when it comes to learning what it can do for us, where it might guide us. It is not warhorse or synagogue, neither raft nor poetry nor fire pit; as a guide, it is still learning too.

Since that day in the parking lot, the bicycle has always meant freedom for me; it got me out of my house and then out of my hood. It got me out of tight places when my crowd veered in ways I didn’t want to go, and maybe most importantly it has always gotten me out of my own way, out of my own head. As Jens Voigt says, “when the legs are pumping, the brain is empty.” Longer rides over the past couple of years have now started to take me out of town (and even county); it’s a beautiful machine, emblem of liberation, and what creates poetic balance in my life. This weekend two friends of mine, along with a loyal and obsessive crew mate, are going to ride from one tip of Prince Edward Island to the other in one day-long push — a trip that will measure almost three times as long as my longest ride. It promises, in no uncertain terms, to take me directly into the unknown, into myself, into the realm of human consciousness where we come face to face with ourselves. I do this on purpose, with my eyes wide open, ready for the hurt, unsure and nervous and excited. Freedom is not necessarily a Sound of Music thing, but can also be the source of the greatest fear; as Sartre says, “Freedom is what you do with what has been done to you”; that is, set afloat in a world entirely not of your making, where you must create significance, against the industries of time’s rapid advancement and your own immanent demise. One must, as he also said, see this as fortune, and fashion oneself as a tough optimist, engaged in joyous battle to that end.

I’m ok with all of that. Last week my Dad got some bad medical news, the following weekend we went to his place and he made us dinner. He’s wise like that, always aware of what’s at stake and able to prioritize — family always come first. He teaches me a lot about life, but mostly about balance; and yeah, I pulled the same trick on all three of my kids when I taught them to ride their bikes, running behind and laughing as they told me to let go. We all know when it’s time to let go. We all know when you and the guide become one. We all know where the bliss is, but how many of us will go after it? Crusty old bugger HG Wells once said that “Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race” and what more evidence could you ask for? Pessimists are often right; our job is to turn it to enterprise.

My bags are almost packed. In my head, I’m already there; our Facebook chat tells me the same of my friends, that we rush into the abyss, crazy eager. It’s a human thing, this longing to jump off cliffs and charge into the night, perhaps it is our greatest character, that which makes us forgive-able. For my part, I fill water bottles and recheck lists, imagine and hope and am filled with gratitude that I can do this thing. After all, it’s really just like it was on that hot summer’s eve, and it really does just come down to me and my bike and that feeling of ultimate freedom.

Andrew Titus is a running, cycling, wordsmith educator, who along with his sidekick superhero dog, Tuck, seeks to inspire and nurture the woods that live in all of us. Catch up with him on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter. You’ll be glad you did.

The Red Island Ripper

In just over a week I will try, along with some other crazy mofos, to ride my bike across Prince Edward Island, along the Confederation Trail. 297kms. In one day. It will be both the farthest I’ve ever ridden in one ride and the longest I’ve ever been on a bike. The trail itself is not that long and doesn’t run the full island, so we’ve tacked on 2 road sections at the beginning and end to make it a true ‘tip-to-tip’ ride. If you’re so inclined, you can view the route here.

I’m not sure I can do it, but that’s probably not the point.

A year or so ago, my buddy Andrew Titus had this crazy idea, that somehow became a plan. Initially the idea was to do a big bike ride the day before the Brookvale Ultra, and then do the run the next day. Sort of a crazy man’s duathlon type thing. I’m not the ultra runner he is so I would have done, like the 10k. Somewhere along the line when looking for the ride portion, it occurred to someone to just ride across the whole island.

Over the span of the year there have been many people who signed on for the endeavor but for various reasons (injury, time commitment, schedule) have opted out. Indeed, even Fearless Leader Andrew, who was initially going to do the ride and run can no longer do the run portion due to injury/timing. So it’s become mostly about the ride. As it stands we’ve got +/- 5 riders slated to go, with a few still to confirm for sure. What started out as a ride/run has become mostly just a ride. I think there’s currently 1 rider who anticipates also doing the run the following day. We’ll see what happens next year if it becomes an annual thing.

To say I have ‘trained’ for this would be a lie.  I have ridden my bike when and as far as I can. The general consensus I’ve always heard from more experienced riders than I is that anyone can pretty much do 2x what their longest ride has been. I’ve done 160k.

More importantly I have tried to get my head straight approaching the whole thing which I think is probably more important when you’re looking at spending 12-14 hours on the bike. I think a huge chunk of the work will be mental.

It’s not that long really. Tour riders do 300k in a day. And do it in 4 hours. They average 50k an hour though. We’re looking to average 20k. Not that long. Ha.

From the recon we have, the trail is predominately the hard, packed red clay PEI is known for (hence the ‘Red Island’ moniker) and crusher dust trail, relatively flat and rolling. I’m thinking that my Giant Defy Advanced will be the perfect bike for the ride with the inclusion of some puncture-resistant 28mm file-tread tires on it. (Bontrager AW3s). I’ve spent the past few months riding it and trying to focus on and really dial in the fit for a long day in the saddle.

We’ve got a good buddy, Matt Tibbits, a distance runner himself and crew veteran to several other local ultra runners, who’s volunteered to step up and drive our SAG Wagon and meet us with food, water and kicks in the ass at various pre-planned points along the route.

I don’t know what I will get out of it. What I hope to get out of it. I hope it’s a beginning. A beginning of something that remains yet unclear. I’ve spent the last 2 years trying to change the way I approached life and the living of it. Last year I tried the Elgin 120 MTB race, and failed. It was still a massive learning experience, and positive overall. Though initially hesitant I finally decided to try this. See what happens. I’ve resolved to start doing things with unsure outcomes – something that was previously foreign to me. For many years I thought to be extreme meant I had to do so in far less healthy and beneficial ways.

The experience is much clearer now. That word extreme has an entirely new meaning.

My wife, though tacitly supportive, doesn’t get it I don’t think – and I don’t blame her. Pursuits of this kind are a relatively new interest for me. I think she sees it as selfish, and in some respects, she’s right. I try to walk the line between being a good, present Dad but also trying to be an example of how to live your life – to pursue the things that are important to you and make you happy, because ultimately that makes you a better person for those close to you. It’s still hard. It’s cliché, but it is a balance thing as a million internet posts attribute – and I know sometimes I don’t always get it right.

I don’t think my kids get it – but I haven’t really talked to them about it yet either. ‘Dad’s going to ride his bike.’ They can’t come this time. That bums them out. I hope that when I come back I’ll have better insight and a story to tell them that may make more sense, even if it’s not until they’re older and facing their own challenges.

I hope to share some of the prep and buildup to the ride, as well as the ride itself via instagram and Facebook so if you’re interested, follow along. #RIRPR2017

Andrew recently sent me a relevant quote from a book he’s reading, Simon Donato’s The Boundless Life: 13 Lessons Learned the Hard Way:

…sometimes what lifts us up and allows us to be our best is not going it alone for glory, but sharing the experience with people who matter to you.”

Let’s see who comes out the other side.