Commuter Rigs of the Early Days

I started commuting by bike daily around 2003. I rode from Reston to Falls Church in Virginia along the W&OD. This was pre-smartphones and ride tracking apps. I don’t have many photos from back then. A few though from the archives. [1] The first was my daily rider for several years – A @gary_fisher HooKooEKoo. It belonged to my Uncle-in-law and i inherited it when he passed away. I put a Surly rigid fork on it, flat bars cut real skinny with bar ends – pretty much to mimic the hoods of a drop bar bike. I eventually rode it into the ground. I stripped the bottom-bracket threads and I thought it was done, so I gave it a hero’s send off [2] and figured that was it.

I didn’t want to give up though and researching on the internet I found out that you could re-thread stripped BBs the opposite way and use a EuroItalian bottom bracket. So I found a shop in Maryland – College Park Bikes – who said they could do it. The bike lives on now, sitting in my garage. Around 2004 we moved to Annandale and I had the dream commute to Falls Church – we lived literally on the edge of Wakefield Park, so I could get an MTB rip in on my way to AND from work.

[3,4] Here’s a few pictures form those commutes. First, a Schwinn Moab that was actually my wife’s and way too small for me, and second, a nice slice of trail in Wakefield. When the Gary Fisher first died, a buddy of mine sent me a beater MTB frame and fork from Colorado – a Schwinn High Plains. I built it up as a drop bar single speed. [4]

I rode that to work for years and it was in the stable until just last year when I finally sold it. As with every bike I’ve ever sold, I regret it now, but it seemed like the right thing to do at the time. Never sell bikes, kids. We moved to New Brunswick in October of 2006, and in January of 2007 was one of my first commutes here – on a fixed-gear beater Specialized MTB that I’d bought off Craigslist in DC for $100 [5].

It was -28ºC in this photo. I’m finding it really hard to believe I’ve been commuting for over 15 years. You’d have thought I might have stopped then. I’m sure my fingers and toes wish I had.

Commutes Are Coming

Commutes are hopefully coming. Being that during the school year I need to get home in time to be there for my youngest two when they get off the bus, I don’t have the time, even with an adjusted work schedule, to ride the bike to work like I used to. There was a several year stretch when the were little and Mrs. Designer was still at home that I commuted pretty much every day, year round. We were even a one car family for awhile. I really miss it, so whenever there’s s school holiday or occasion that I can commute during the school year, I make an effort to do so. This year, we aren’t travelling anywhere for March Break, so this is one of those chances to get in a few days before summer and schools out. Being New Brunswick, and being winter, no idea what weather and/or road conditions will be. As such, I’ve prepared two steeds. The Disc Trucker if the roads are clear and iceless enough and the Pugsley if it gets ugly and it’s easier to take the snowmobile trail. 

Cross is Coming, Have No Doubt

Really, if you think about it, that’s kind of a dumb saying.  I mean, I get it and all, particularly in a motivational sense but really, in one way or another, cross is always coming.

I was listening to a talk the other day on the Buddhist concept of the ‘5 Hindrances’. The talk is here if you’re interested, but the quick breakdown:

According to Buddha – or at least him and everyone that’s been writing his stuff down since the 6th century – there’s 5 things getting in your (my, anyone’s) way. Way forward, way to ‘enlightenment’, way to your goals – whatever – take your pick:

  1. Sensory desire (kāmacchanda): the particular type of wanting that seeks for happiness through the five senses of sight, sound, smell, taste and physical feeling. Sometimes also referred to as ‘lust’.
  2. Ill-will (vyāpāda; also spelled byāpāda): all kinds of thought related to wanting to reject; feelings of hostility, resentment, hatred and bitterness. Also sometimes referred to as ‘aversion’.
  3. Sloth-and-torpor (thīnamiddha): heaviness of body and dullness of mind which drag one down into disabling inertia and thick depression.
  4. Restlessness-and-worry (uddhaccakukkucca): the inability to calm the mind.
  5. Doubt (vicikicchā): lack of conviction or trust.

From Wikipedia

So I’m chugging along, listening to Vinny break it down in his talk and it occurs to me, one of my things is Doubt. I’ve got doubt. I’ve used doubt. I’ve used doubt a lot as a reason to not do work. Sometimes to not even start. To not even plan.

By using my doubt as an excuse, I could get out of committing to things, plans, and actions due to my lack faith that I could follow through or complete them.

“Yeah, I don’t think I can do that. ” So just don’t try. Problem, solved.

You could also tag this as a fear. A fear of failure.

I’ve been working on what David over at Raptitude calls ‘getting better at being human’. Overhauling things. Working on fitness both mental and physical.

In the physical sense, I found I needed a goal, and something specific. ‘Loosing weight’ and ‘getting in shape’ were too arbitrary, they weren’t cutting it.

Last year, my goal was to ride my bike across an island in one day. I managed to do it, but I knew even then that I hadn’t really trained for it. I said I was going to, but I didn’t. I showed up for the ride and winged it. I made it, barely. A learning experience for sure, and one not to be dismissed.

I’ve always dug the sport of cyclocross. I like the brutality of it. The combination of various bike and athletic skills. The fact that it is, for the most part, carried out in weather and conditions that most people in their right mind would want nothing to do with.

I’ve ‘raced’ cross twice over the years. The first time I was mostly concerned with nabbing goofy handups and for the most part finished feeling terrible. In hindsight, this was a perfect example of doubt winning. I had no faith that I could actually ride well in the event, so chose to just go for the door prizes.

The second time, I was in slightly better shape, tried to focus more on riding, and did better. It was a ‘success’ I guess, in however you’d determine entering a C Cat cross race and finishing without dying or major injury would be a success. I certainly didn’t place, nor did I have any delusions that I would. And I definitely had the feeling that I had no idea what I was doing.

A few months ago I came up with an indoor trainer program to see if I could stick with it. I managed to do so for the most part, and even made notes on my daily progress, revised goals and expectations – like a real grown-up.

So I decided to look further out. Now, cross season is the new goal. I hear tell there’s around 6 races planned in New Brunswick – well 6 VeloNB ones anyway – so I’ve decided to give the season a go. I don’t know exactly how many I’ll be able to hit yet, but we’ll see. If memory/history serves me, they’re all pretty much within one day driving distance of me.

More interestingly, I have no idea how I’ll determine what success is. Is it starting? Is it finishing more than one? Is it placement? I don’t know. I think I will figure this out as part of the process. And really, the process – the commitment – is what I’m working on here. I can’t remember when, or even if, I’ve committed to something this long/far out before. (For those not in the know – cross season usually starts around September.)

Today starts the first phase. I’ve found a 12 week cycling base-building training program from a source on the web.  After that I’ve got another 12 week program in the coffers as well as an 8 week cross-specific program. I’ll decide where to go after the first 12 weeks. In addition I’m sprinkling in some mobility and strength training where there’s spots to slot it in the 12 week program. Add in some changes in diet and nutrition I’ve been working on and continue to tweak and the numbers/tracking geek in me is pretty excited. I plan to keep track of things, make notes, revise as needed. Revise as needed vs. quitting – will be the key to defeating Doubt.

I don’t really know how I’ll measure success. I’m not deluded into thinking I’ll win whatever category I enter, or even make a podium. I’m not really sure what my concrete goal is. Doubt would have me just not even try since so much was unresolved.

Maybe that’s the goal, just making sure doubt doesn’t win between now and the start line.

I think in some respects success will be showing up and making sure I finish feeling like I did my best and did the work between now and then justice.