Posts Tagged ‘Cycling’

I’ll come back

March 25, 2011

Cycling  in Irvine is like riding through a ghost town. The constant rush of engines rising from (the) 405 subsists into a mock-silence, and as the sole cyclist on the roads, I get the creeping, post-apocalyptic feeling that I’m the last of my kind. The threat of rain or radiation must have held people indoors today, I think. Really, though, this is how it always is down here. Everything you need is so close but so far. So people drive there, and drive with their windows rolled up. I’m alone for a while  until I cross paths with an old man on a rusty beach cruiser. I fancy him Orange County manifestation of the Mountain Man, lost in another time. Leatherskinned and oilhaired, the vacancy behind his sunglasses suggests no acknowledgment. He rides ahead slowly and his blue flip-flops curl limply over the cruiser’s thick plastic pedals.

A sign planted in the sagebrush landscape across the freeway reads: “Open Space Preserve (The Irvine Company).” The Irvine Company never lets you forget it’s there, or that today is today. I ride up what I think looks like a good hill—only to discover a gated community (None Shall Pass) before the summit. A small notice posted next to the sprinkler head smugly reminds: “Don’t Drink Reclaimed Water.” Frustration, frustration.

Just days ago we were (not, by any means) lost somewhere in the primordial ferns and Jurassic Park forests of Humboldt County. The North, with its wet fields and red houses send me spinning to another North—I didn’t know I could be so moved by the sight of herds of cattle grazing an open field by a rainy ocean. The trees, of course, are bigger. It’s not so simple to judge what is more of a wonder: the regenerative urgency of the thousands of clovers swelling on the forest floor or the behemoth hush of the redwoods having outlived, already, thousands of regenerations of clovers.

The North Coast is so dramatic it has a beach made of colorful glass pebbles. Really they’re just shards of beer bottles smoothed by the ocean, mostly. Some of them must have been Tiffany lamps, priceless vases, and church windows. I’d like to think that the bit of blue glass I found may be from a stained glass window destroyed in a Viking raid or during the sacking of Constantinople. But probably, it’s a blue beer bottle.

Seven hours shooting through the parched middle on the tail of the cerulean aqueduct in its wind through through brown hills and olive farms, and I’m back to The City of Angels, Fountain Valley, Santa Ana, Irvine, Desert, Mall, Ocean, Sky.

Experiencing the nearly the entire length of California (–coming home–) in a span of three days is quite a trip.

almost famous

May 7, 2010

Yesterday evening as I rolled up to Clemenstorget right in the nick of time (read: almost late) I found CK Lunedi all lined up and posing for a dude with a semi-professional-looking camera. I hopped right in the middle between Denize and Mountainbike-kille (sorry, I mean Daniel, the German one) and grinned a big, holy-crap-it’s-freeezing-but-we’re-still-gonna-ride-grin. After the photo was snapped someone explained that the founding member of our club was being honored as cyclist of the year in Lund, and that the photo would run in Skånska Dagbladet (local paper) the next day. Boy, was excited to make the newspaper!

Excited until I actually picked up Skånska Dagbladet this morning and discovered that the photographer had used one of the pictures that had been taken before I showed up. They may call it ‘choosing the best picture,’ but I call it gross editorializing and possibly even libel.

CK Lunedi, minus one very important member

I should be right in between the shorter girl in the black jacket and the guy in the white (yup, that’s mountainbike). Right in the middle there. Just imagine me there, because trust me, I was! But in any case, there they are, CK Lunedi, my Swedish biking pals. They are awesome. Skånska Dagbladet: not so awesome. From now on I read only Sydsvenskan and that’s that.

Oh, if you can read Swedish and are interested, here’s the article about the club founder.

det visste jag inte

May 2, 2010

Pine forests and birch forests stand on opposing sides of the road. The birch are thin-trunked and chalk white: their leaves nearing golden, they assume a slender elegance of a storybook quality. The pines are darker. Not towering like the sequoias, they still do their best, casting cool shadows and concealing small red cottages and secret lakes. The forest floor is a patchwork blanket of white and green: The vitsippor have blommed at last. At the forest’s edge the landscape opens up into sweeping agricultural land, painted in a shade of green that doesn’t exist in parched California, punctuated by small villages with more Icelandic horses than people. As we approach the shores of expansive Vombsjön, the wealth of birdsong all around us becomes even more intense.

I never knew that the sun could be so mild, or that the light could look this way. I have said many times that the light, the air in here is just different. It is not as heavy. You don’t feel like you have to cut your way through it. It is just bit cooler, softer, both in temperature and in hue. It is harder to paint colors or in words, but it is easier to breathe.

I don’t care what the rest of Sweden says. Skåne is beautiful.

Rolling down the backside of a gentle hill I think to myself: This is why I ride.

And then I think again: No, this is why I live.

ode to cyclists

April 11, 2010

It’s time to face the facts:

If it wasn’t for the kindness, understanding, and unfathomably amazing mechanical abilities of the special breed of people on this earth known as cyclists, I would likely be dead on the side of the road somewhere in Berkeley. Probably Tunnel.

If it weren’t for teammates who wait for me at the top of climbs, I probably would have given up on this whole crazy obsession a long time ago.

If it weren’t for teammates who have loaned me food, water, or clothing, I’d probably have either fainted from hunger or dehydration, or lost my hands to frostbite by this point.

If it weren’t for teammates who ride along side of me every inch of the way on a route I’ve never taken, I’d probably only be just crawling into the Orinda Bart station, or worse, right now.

Or, even more likely, living a primitive, survivor-man-like existence in the forest somewhere in Santa Cruz, Tahoe, or Tilden Park, using the shards of my shattered bike frame to hunt wild boars for sustenance and trying to signal helicopters with my shiny survival blanket.

And on top of that  I’d still have my keys locked inside of my car.

Gosh, how tough life would be without Calcycling.

What’s more, I might be stuck in a ditch in såmevvhere, Sveeeden, beginning the long walk home in my increasingly impractical cleats as volvos and traktors and rednecks on atvs (apparently, not an exclusively American phenomenon) zoom by me with out a care in the world.

And that’s actually exactly where I would still be right now, all joking aside, if it weren’t for CK Lunedei. After a pothole and a backflat, (punktering) and a failed patch kit from Mikes Bikes (which led to another backflat) I soon had someone’s spare tube offered up to me. I spent several minutes then arguing the whole yes-I-am-a-girl-but-I-can-change-my-own-tire thing and the yes-I-am-a-girl-but-I-can-find-my-way-home thing. After already having forced a group of 15 or so dudes to wait for quite an unreasonable amount of time on a one-lane-two-direction highway, I finally convinced them to sätt iväg (get on the road) without me and leave me to change the tire (the second time) myself. I was getting tired of their weird Swedish pacelines anyway. Instead I got some nice ITT practice (more like dying in the wind) on the way home.

Yes, this does mean that CK Lunedei dropped me again—but this time it wasn’t my fault (blame it on the tire, typical). Even so, while CK Lunedei usually kicks my ass—today, today they saved it.

Thanks, cyclists. You rock. Tack så jätte jätte mycket.

top twenty

April 10, 2010

Reasons why Skåne is an amazing place to ride a bike:

1. No Tunnel rd.

2. No Wildcat Canyon rd.

3. Sometimes these little things called castles pop up on the horizon.

Yesh, like that one.

and that one. Nope, definately not in Kansas anymore.

4. Getting caught in giant, manure-filled tractor tailwind adds an enticing element of danger.

5. BABY LAMBS. (Sorry, I should have taken a picture. But I couldn’t stop. I had an awesome tailwind. I knew you’d understand.)

6. Pooooonies!

7. Long streches of fairly flat road with a nice sprinkling of managable rollers.

8. Looming forests.

9. Windmills

10. Skies so big that it makes Montana jealous

11. Country roads have so few turnoffs, it makes it hard to get lost.

12. Sensical signage. The road I took to Hörby: “Hörbyvägen”. The road I took home to Lund: “Lundavägen”.

13. Harmonious marriage of pastoral resplendence and hyper-modern renewable energy.

14. I don’t think it will ever be too hot—at least not when compared with The Great Santa Cruz Dehydration Debacle of 2009.

15. Skånespåret. 800 km of cykeltrails that connect all of Skåne.

16. Every once in a while, you’ll pass someone riding rollerblades and using ski poles (Vassaloppet training, maybe?)

17. Roundabouts (rondellar) and cobblestones (kullersten) povide ample opportunity to imagine you are in le Tour de France.

18. Very old buildings that provide ample opportunity to imagine you are in another time, or at least in The Lord of the Rings.

19.  Skåne churches.

20. Reason Twenty is poooonies again.

——

So to summarize:

Number of months waited to ride bike: 3

Number of dollars to bring bike on airplane: 50

Number of times I’ve been dropped by CK Lunedei: Same as the number of rides with CK Lunedei I’ve been on.

BUT

Blowing a snot-rocket in a perfectly quaint medieval street or agrarian landscape somewhere in Sweden: Priceless. O my. It all just became worthwhile.

I take that back.

March 29, 2010

You know you’re in for quite the ride when you’re wearing less warmth-retaining clothing than twenty Swedish men on bicycles. Add to that the fact that it’s raining with a force that would inspire the utterly descriptive term “Storm of the Century” from naïve lips of many a humble Southern Californian, and you know you’re in for an adventure.

Such is how I found myself Saturday morning, meeting for my first ride with CK Lunedi in the could-have-been -anywhere gray morning darkness of an industrial park in southern Sweden. Just what I wanted from my Saturday morning: freezing my you-know-what off in TetraPak’s back yard with a bunch of old dudes, dying internally from the special brand of silent awkwardness that I’m positive is Sweden’s most widespread national disaster.

The ride leader explains the hand signs, the rules of the road, a little bit about the route, and a bit about how CK Lunedi teaches the rotating pace-line. I am impressed at my ability to understand everything he says, but very disappointed in what seems like a very stupid way of pace-lining. The line on the left speeds up until the first rider in  is able to pull in front of the right hand line and take the wind? Seems a whole lot less efficient then just having the person in front of the right line drop off to the left–but I’m not about to argue.

So we roll out. And it’s fine for a while. Skåne is sort of like Davis in terms of terrain, and it is sort of a miracle for someone who is used to Berkeley to be able to be able to stay in the big ring for an entire ride.

About ten minutes in, it’s not fine anymore. An old Swedish dude rides up next to me first of all says that usually there are women along too (I sort of don’t believe him) and secondly that aren’t my handlebars crooked? I look down.

“Jaaa. (Major shame. Why does this always happen to me? At least my seat didn’t snap off) Det är det. Det kan jag fixar när stannar vi i Dalby (we’re stopping in Dalby, right…hehe?).

I’m too busy blinking the mud out of my eyes to really look at the fields around me, but somehow I manage to keep them open enough to catch a glimpse of a snow-filled ditch on the side of the road. Another Swedish dude rides up next to me and asks me if I’m cold. No way, I answer, trying to sound more badass than I actually am (this could in fact be the story of my entire life). I can’t help but think there’s a whole team of cyclists at home who want to kill me for my mind-numbingly stupid decision to not wear my full-fingered gloves, even though I now actually have them.

About halfway through the ride, I find myself in a group that is starting to get dropped. So we decide to take it calm and ride two groups. This helps a little bit with my misery. The ride leader tells me to just yell if I get dropped. OK. About 10 minutes later I find myself falling off the back….”JAG TAPPASSSSS!!” I’M DROPPINGGGGG! They slow, the ride leader rides in of me…”hålla på min rulle” Hold on to my wheel. God, how many times have I heard that one.

At last we’re in an area I recognize. Good thing we’re almost back to the industrial park. Another Swede rides up next to me and says something about how my fingers are going to fall off. I have no words to answer him and only say nej in a very raspy, short of breath voice.

When I finally make it home, I have no feeling in my feet or hands. Somehow I make it upstairs with my bike and almost immediately jump into what would become a very unsustainable shower.

LESSONS LEARNED: Sweden is still freaking cold. Don’t be an idiot. Boys ride bikes fast. Check your handle bars.

You think that would be obvious, right? Apparently not.

Also,  for a victory on the language side, I am not sure that any of them actually found out that I’m not Swedish. Although the AIDS Lifecycle Kneewarmers may have given it away….

Victory!

March 26, 2010

Now, this is what Euro really means. Also, I rode on dirt to get up there. Heck. Yes.

Ch-ch-ch-changes

March 2, 2010

Today, I went running. Yes, you heard me. Running. Outside. Like out of doors. Like not in the gym. Yeah.

I am coming off a period of final exams, illness, and being in Berlin. And also a short period when a precariously ice-skating around the city park while listening to the Lord of the Rings sound track as old ladies and toddlers frolicked around me counted as a day’s exercise. No longer! I’ve been spinning and yoga-ing a lot since I’ve been home.

Leaving Berlin, I was excited to get back to Sweden, where the snow was still snow rather than disgusting slush. Where winter was still white and the stinking remains of New Years festivities weren’t materializing on every street corner as the ice melted. When I stepped of the Train in Lund, I noticed something peculiar: it was raining. För fan! Damn! There’s the end of my ice-skating dreams. Now I’ll never make the Olympics.

I forgot that my part of Sweden is, after all, Skåne. And Skåne is, after all, wet. But rain also means that the snow is slowly but surely disappearing. Some days it still snows, as if the weather can’t make up it’s mind. And then the next day it rains. And then the next day it’s beautiful, and the sun shines.

Today, we here in Skåne reached a temperature high of a boiling 3 degrees. I had to take advantage, and so I ran. I ran for a long, long time (for me)…almost 2 hours. I ran to the outskirts of town and marveled at the low-laying, patchwork of agricultural land that is Southern Sweden opened up before me. I was serenaded by cooing doves. I even saw some grass. That’s right, grass. And it was green. Fancy that!

I can sense that the day is coming when the sweet blue Specialized Allez (in layman’s terms: my bike) sitting next to me collecting dust will get to come out and see what Sweden looks like. I know for sure that day will come when I stop seeing the hard-core old man who wears bib-shorts to spinning class at the gym. He looks like he knows what he’s doing, and when he’s out and riding in the real world, then I’ll know it’s time. Hopefully that time is soon.

Våren kommer snart! Spring is on the way!

My Turn.

January 1, 2010

Yes, it is my turn. At long last! It is at long last my turn to rant about ridiculous cycling clothing choices.

And I will copy her format too.

An open letter to 80% of the cyclists in Orange County.

Dear Fellow Cyclists:

I respectfully take issue with the wardrobes you choose to employ for the activity of cycling.

Take for example, the gentleman I saw while riding in Irvine. He pedalled a sweet little carbon-fiber frame at a moderate pace down one of the straight, flat roads in the vicinity of UCI. He tucked in and grasped his aero bars as a look of steady resolve spread across his face. One would assume that all of this was perfectly legitimate behavior. Not so. I have left out one egregious detail from my depiction: the man was wearing street clothes.

I wonder, Sir, if you realize that wearing cargo shorts and a cotton T-shirt effectively cancels out the effect of your pricey little aerobars? In most normal situations, I would not consider myself a major advocate for old men wearing spandex. But this is not a normal situation. Nor is this an isolated example. This is a dire crisis of Physics and must be addressed immediately.

In short: If you have $3,000 to spend on a full-carbon bike, you sure as heck have $50 to spend on bike shorts. Do yourself a favor and go buy some. Just looking at you is making me uncomfortable in places I don’t want to talk about.

Furthermore, Cyclists of Orange County: Do you realize that it is 68 degrees outside? I believe there must be some sort of safety advisory warning from the surgeon general against wearing full leg-warmers and horrendously neon windbreakers when it is a perfectly beautiful, warm, sunny day. It can’t be healthy—it simply just can’t. But I suppose, after all, you are the same people who drive around in your cars on beautiful days with your windows rolled up and your air conditioners blasting. This too, is a dire crisis of Physics. My only suggestion to you in this matter is that you take a deep breath and enjoy your own sunshine. You can bet that if in your position, the rest of the world most certainly would.

Sincerely,

A Cyclist who thanks God everyday for Northern California

P.S. (Added two days later) Arm warmers and a sleeveless jersey are also, by and large, not acceptable. Especially if you are a man.

Ride Report: San Anselmo to San Francisco

August 3, 2009

IMG_2893

The thick mist that surrounds us parts for but a moment and below there is a flash of the grey sea, churning itself awake and casting about, blinking its increasingly baltic eyes in the incriminating glimmer of what little sunlight pierces the fog. The wind is so strong that rounding the posts is like turning the oaken cogs of some ancient machine, slow and ungainly.

Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge in July or crossing the Øresund in September? You decide. (although I think it should be quite obvious…).

My teammate Sabrina and I rode from San Anselmo to San Francisco and back, traveling through a couple micro-climates along the way. We didn’t have any arm warmers, any jackets…we had only our inherent bad-assedness and thick blood to keep us warm. We aren’t sure how many miles. We don’t really care. Oh the glories of off-season road biking. And now I can say I have biked over the Bridge. Not that I saw any of the view.