August 14, 2018 § 23 Comments
It is crazy how expensive bikes are. When you add up all the stuff, it can set you back $5k or more just to get started. What a ripoff!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Heart valve replacement: $170,000
Heart bypass surgery: $123,000
Diabetic medical care: $9,601 per year (multiply times 10, 15, or 20!)
Hypertension: $2,000 per year
Atherosclerosis treatment: $12,888 per year
Erectile dysfunction: $1,727.75 annually ($69.11 per pill x 25 sessions per year)
Drug/Alcohol rehab: $1,000 (outpatient detox), $6,000 – $60,000 (inpatient rehab), $5,000 – $10,000 (outpatient rehab), $4,700/year (medications)
Insomnia-related costs: $1,431 – $1,510 per year
Depression treatment: $8,000 per year
Sedentary lifestyle: $1,437 per year
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May 22, 2018 § 16 Comments
I have a friend named Nancy. She rides bikes. She is a super friendly lady. Nancy always smiles at you, compliments you, has something nice to say. Weirder still, it’s sincere.
Occasionally I will do a bike seminar with her and her friends and she always finds some way to thank me. Sometimes it’s a coffee card, sometimes it’s a treat at a coffee shop, and most recently it was a gift card to an Italian cafe that specializes in … coffee.
Nancy knows what I like.
Down at the grass roots
Thing is, Nancy knows what everyone likes, and what everyone likes is a good word. It’s funny how a good word here and a good word there can make good things happen. For instance, if I asked you to name the biggest bike club in Los Angeles you might say it was Velo Club La Grange, or Team Lizard Collectors, or Beach Cities Cycling Club, or Team Gargantua, but you would be wrong.
The honkingest bike club in Los Angeles is almost certainly the PV Bike Chicks, with over 900 members. I’ve totally made up the statement that they’re the biggest, but you have to admit, 900 is massive.
How did it get that way? I’m sure I don’t know. But part of it has to do with the vibe that Nancy is famous for. It’s the vibe of inclusiveness and friendliness. In fact, all of the PV Bike Chicks I’ve ever met are that way. Chicks on bikes just want to have fun, apparently.
I’ve noticed something else about my friend Nancy. She’s always trying to figure out how to help local businesses get a toehold.
How can I help?
Remember Steve Bowen, the wonderful man who ran the PV Bicycle Center? Nancy was an ardent supporter of his. The new bike shop over on Deep Valley that opened up a little while ago? Nancy makes sure everyone knows about it. The little cafe next to the PV Ranch Market? Yep, Nancy makes sure to patronize it and introduce other folks to it, along with the other businesses there.
So when she gave me a $25 gift card to a new coffee shop called Caffe Tre Venezie that has opened up on PCH and Madison, we went over to check it out. As you might expect, the moment we showed the owner our gift card, he smiled broadly. “You must be friends of Nancy!”
Alessandro is Italian, and his cappuccino is sublime. The gelato, equally so. There was even a dude hunched over an Italian textbook, practicing phrases with Alessandro in between customers. The coffee and gelato were great, but the vibe was even better. And of course it always feels good to thumb your nose at Starbucks.
Being there made me think about how powerful one person can be when she’s out there trying to do good, saying good things about people, supporting their businesses, doing what she can to make the hard work of entrepreneurship just a little bit easier.
What if everyone were that way?
We bought our coffee with a gift card, but your $2.99 will help my habit when I go back. Please consider subscribing … Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!
May 21, 2018 § 12 Comments
If you have grown kids who have moved out of the house, gone to some faraway place and started a family of their own, you may have experienced “conversation awkwardness,” especially if you are a guy talking to your son. This happens when you are having a conversation and the son is very animated and updates you on all kinds of interesting stuff, after which he lobs the ball back into your court.
“So what’s new with you, dad?”
Well, the fact is that there’s nothing new with you and hasn’t been for about twenty years. You are stuck in a rut deeper than the folds in Trump’s chins, and although you might be able to muster up a news item or two, chances are good that when you reflect on your past week or month, everything seems like it’s been painted with the old unvarying color of same.
“Oh, not much. Same old stuff, really.”
This is a pretty classic dad answer, even if you manage to garnish it with a doodad or two about a bike ride or something you read in the news.
Prepping for conversation
Since re-entering the gladiator ring of Facebag I’ve been super savvy. Before I log on, I take out a notepad and jot down exactly what I’m going to say. Then I go online, type in my update, do a couple of other things, and log off.
Although the idea behind this strategy is self-protection from the Face-abyss (Destroyer once told me I was #socmed bipolar), it occurred to me that this technique might also be, at least in part, a good strategy for kidversations. So before I dialed up my son in Vienna this morning, I jotted down a few notes to prepare myself for the inevitable “What’s new with you, dad?”
The notes are reprinted below for your benefit. Feel free to use them in your next kidversation, or to make up your own.
What’s new with me
“Well, I’ve been baking bread lately, as you know, and I made a little outline so that there would be some give as well as take in the give-and-take. So here’s what’s new with me, son:
- A mostly-bread diet has helped me control my weight. Sounds crazy, but whole grains chock full of seeds and eaten with butter, cheese, and jam fill you up from one meal to the next, so no snacking. [Opportunity for son to express disbelief at this latest quack theory.]
- By baking every day you have way more bread than you can possibly eat, so I’ve been giving it away. It’s fun to give away bread. People seem to like it. [Opportunity for son to express amazement that I would spend so much time doing something and then simply donate it to the bottomless pit charity of cyclist stomachs.]
- Bread is great for cycling. You don’t have to buy candy bars anymore or snacks of any kind. Just wrap up a couple of small bricks with PBJ in tinfoil and you’re good for 100 miles. [Opportunity for son to note that home baking, when you factor in the time, is about 1,000 times more expensive than a Clif bar.]
- Little kids love it. Grandkids and friends’ small children like fresh bread. This is way better than a new video game. [Opportunity for son to openly doubt that small children like gnarly, 281-grain bread with the density of the atmosphere on Venus.]
- Baking everyday is a great part of a healthy morning routine. [Opportunity for son to scoff at having to awake daily at 4:00 AM for anything, ever.]
- Every time you pull a loaf out of the oven it’s exciting to see how it will look. An adventure in every loaf! [Opportunity for son to wonder why, after the first three hundred loaves, you’re still unsure how it’s going to turn out. Competency issues?]
- Bread is a great intersection with all things Germanic. Think Viennese bakeries! Sechskornbrot! [Opportunity for son to point out that you can get all the same recipes by running them through Google Translate without having to mutilate German.]
- Super fun meeting other home bakers, who also happen to be cyclists, and who share your passion for 4:00 AM. [Opportunity for son to doubt that other home bakers are equally unbalanced.]
- Learning how to bake requires dad to avail himself of mom’s baking expertise, which leads to lots of great spousal interactions in the kitchen, teamwork-type stuff. [Opportunity for son to closely question how long this goes on before it leads to an argument.]
- Down with consumerism! Home baking frees you from the shackles of the supermarket’s industrial food chain and Wonder Bread, and you can bake only what you need using basic, organic, healthy ingredients. [Opportunity for son to ask why, if it’s so economical, you make so much you have to give it away, and also have to buy a $500 home grain-mill.]
- Books! Anyone who bakes will eventually buy a library of baking books, and reading is its own highest good. [Opportunity for son to point out how this is more rampant consumerism disguised as education.]
- Travel opportunities for bread bakers abound. Now, each trip abroad can focus on visiting a quaint bakery with some local, historical specialty. [Opportunity for son to note that 10% of global carbon emissions are from tourism.]
- Reducing needless food purchases because good bread goes with everything. [Opportunity for son to note that no, it doesn’t, you’re just on a bread kick now, dad, and will soon tire of it.]
- Home baking is a new hipster trend that has outflanked craft beer and beard care products. Your old man is now on the cutting edge! [Opportunity for son to sigh.]
In the final analysis
As the conversation wrapped up, my son looked at me through the Facetime thingy and smiled, especially after I gave him a tour of the giant 11-gallon buckets filled with flour, seeds, and wheat berries.
“My family is … funny,” he said.
He’s a very literate guy. I’m sure that wasn’t the first adjective that came to mind.
$2.99 buys five pounds of organic flour in bulk. Basically, you’re saving the world one loaf at a time. Please consider subscribing … Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!
May 6, 2018 § 5 Comments
I know I am. Or rather, I’ve finished about eight weeks of feeling great on the bike and now the peak has passed. To continue, experience tells me, will result in much badness filled with unhappiness and sadness and etc.
What are the symptoms of overtraining? You certainly don’t need to look here, as it is well covered by numerous other #fakesports publications.
- Bodybuilding has you covered!
- Men’s fitness has you covered!
- Wikipedia has you covered!
- Bicycling has you covered!
- Cycling Weekly has you covered!
- Joe Friel has you covered!
- Cycling Tips has you covered!
- Pez Cycling has you covered!
- GCN has you covered!
- And thank goodness, Semi-Pro Cycling has you covered!
Reading through all these tips and clickbait and insurance offers for cyclists who ride more than 50 miles a week, you may well get overtrained from reading about overtraining.
However, Cycling in the South Bay can save you from all those other articles with a quick, ad-free list. Here’s how you know you’ve fallen into the hole.
- The little voice inside your head (or all fifty of them) shrieks “Fuck you!” when people harass and disturb you by saying things like “Good morning!”
- You glare at your bicycle.
- Every non-cycling thing you’ve ever done in your life and given up on seems incredibly fascinating.
- Amazon. For hours.
- Your idea of social time with friends is staying in bed, alone.
- Astonishing soreness in your legs when you attempt major physical efforts, such as standing.
- The last ride you did you felt invincible. For ten minutes. After that, you felt like you look.
- Food appears to be a kind of poison.
- Ordinarily stupid things like the Giro and the Tour seem like crimes against intellectual humanity.
- If you had to choose between doing another interval and being strapped to a Nazi fallbeil, it would be the easiest choice you ever made.
Sticks and stones may break your bones, but to really feel awful it takes words, and lots of ’em, lined up in mostly the right order, which takes time, effort, and lots of care. Please consider subscribing … Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!
May 1, 2018 § 10 Comments
A few decades ago I bought fifteen or twenty small hardback books from the Modern Library. Some had green dust covers, some had red. One of the red ones was the Letters of Seneca. I remember little of the book, but I took from it a line that has stayed with me ever since: “Men don’t know the value of time, they squander it as if it were free.”
But after more than thirty years I began to wonder if that were really the quote. After all I had engraved on my memory two unforgettable lines, neither of which the Internet can find. This one from Shakespeare: “A tooth is more precious than a diamond.”
And this one from Samuel Johnson: “If a man hates at all, he will hate his neighbor.”
Though I’ve never been able to confirm either quote, they are pithy and brilliant such that I could never have thought them up; if I had I’d never attribute them to someone else. But if I could be so wrong about those made-up quotes, I wondered if perhaps I were also wrong about the quote by Seneca.
This time, the Internet didn’t fail me. After clicking on a few search results for “Seneca and time” I hit the mother lode, and the quote was actually not too far from how I had misremembered it: “Nobody works out the value of time: men use it lavishly as if it cost nothing.” Seneca’s was better, though. Duh.
Rehashing the hashed hash
A few clicks down the wormhole and up popped a whole bunch of other quotes about time from Seneca the Stoic.
Indeed the state of all who are preoccupied is wretched, but the most wretched are those who are toiling not even at their own preoccupations, but must regulate their sleep by another’s, and their walk by another’s pace, and obey orders in those freest of all things, loving and hating. If such people want to know how short their lives are, let them reflect how small a portion is their own.
Ouch. A whole lot of people should be feeling ouch about right now.
But like any good philosopher, Seneca had a few more granite blocks to drop on your big toe. Like this one:
It is inevitable that life will be not just very short but very miserable for those who acquire by great toil what they must keep by greater toil. They achieve what they want laboriously; they possess what they have achieved anxiously; and meanwhile they take no account of time that will never more return. New preoccupations take the place of the old, hope excites more hope and ambition more ambition. They do not look for an end to their misery, but simply change the reason for it.
In sum, the problem, as you may surmise, is you.
It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing. So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it… Life is long if you know how to use it.
Five or six years ago my wife started baking bread, and about three years ago we stopped buying bread pretty much completely. Then a couple of years ago we started roasting our own coffee. Last year? Making our own yogurt, making our own jam. This year? Making our own granola. Last week? Grinding our own wheat into flour.
As one of my friends said, “Keep at it, Seth! Pretty soon you’ll have entered the 19th Century! You might need a bigger apartment for the bags of cotton, the spinning wheel and loom, though. And the Merino sheep may not fit in the living room too well.”
Behind the humor was a criticism, which I’d roughly approximate as “What the fuck are you doing?” As he put it, “It’s awesome that you bake bread, but you know I can buy a loaf at the store for $1.99.”
“I’m cheap,” I said. “My bread costs a few pennies a loaf because we buy the wheat in 50-lb. sacks. And,” I added with my holiest-than-thou, “what you’re buying at the store isn’t bread. It’s a chemical cocktail.”
He laughed. “Of course it’s bread. Flour, water, yeast, salt, sugar, and 47 FDA-approved additives. You may not like the taste, but it’s still bread.”
He was right, you know. The next day I went for a bike ride and thought about it.
No woolen underwear for this cowboy
In fact, I am cheap. But also in fact, I’m not trying to get back to a past I never knew. The next step isn’t raising my own sheep and growing my own cotton so that I can weave my own clothes. There is no next step, because “next step” suggests a plan, a method, a strategy, a goal. I have none of those things, exactly.
But over time I’ve consistently tried, often failing, to choose things that extract the maximum value out of my time, and have eschewed those rote, common-sense choices that have never made any sense, at least to me. And few things have been as value-laden as bicycling. It’s bicycling, in fact, that has kept my needle pointing due north. If you’re willing to forego many of the “must-haves” in life so that you can pedal your bike around the planet, you’re probably going to end up jettisoning more and more must-haves as you age, quickly determining that rather than “must-haves” they are “must-avoids.”
And if you ride enough and read enough and travel enough and look around enough, you eventually start to focus on what you eat, even more so if you’re sober. In my case, if you ride enough and you’re cheap enough, you come around to bread. And mark my words, the rumblings of the biker bread revolution are already here. How do I know? Let me tell you how I know…
Flogging for fun and gluten
Last Thursday I finished the Flog Ride and a new rider came up to me atop La Cuesta. “I love this ride!” he said, which is what people always say after their first flogging, and which is invariably followed by their failure to ever come back.
“Great,” I said. “That makes you weird.”
“Well, cyclist,” he said.
“Good point. How’d you find out about it? Most people in the South Bay make a point of pretending they’ve never heard of it, even people who live within 100 yards of the start there at Malaga Cove Plaza.”
“Your blog,” he said. “You’re kind of into baking, right?”
This was a difficult question. Yes, I was into baking, but like virtually everything else I’ve ever been into [such as: archery, guitar, piano, flute, harmonica, Thai, Chinese, Slovak, Japanese, French, German, Spanish, shaving with a straight razor, Chaucer, self-published journals on Japanese law, birdwatching, nature trails, backpacking, butterfly identification, surfing, swimming, running, ceramics, sumo, podcasting, cyclocross, photography, blogging, poetry, beer making, beer drinking, bike racing, coffee roasting, web site designing, museum consulting, and countless other things of varied scope and longevity] there’s a big difference between being “into” something and being “good” at something.
“I like to bake bread,” I said cautiously, sensing a trap, but it was too late.
“What kind of organic stone-milled flour do you use?”
Just as I had feared! Someone who was an actual baker about to grill me on my fumbling and amateurish techniques. So I went big. “I grind my own.”
“Yeah,” I said, trying to pretend that I always walked around with four aces or a royal flush. “we grind our own flour at home. Buy the wheat in bulk and grind as needed.”
The significance of this wasn’t the posing. That’s a given for any bike group ride, and mandatory for the Flog. The significance was that some biker dude, instead of asking me about watts and power meters and Strava, was asking me about organic stone-milled flour. This is what’s known as a harbinger. The world is changing and it changes with the hipsters first, and this dude wore his hipster cred on his chin, with a beard that would have easily housed a colony of weaver birds.
Bread and bikes
You’ll not be surprised to know that baking bread is easy and cheap. How easy? It’s so easy that I can do it. Watch me surf sometime, or watch me try to change a tire, and you’ll realize how easy baking has to be. The thing about bread that is mystical and magical, though, isn’t simply that you can feed a family on it. What’s mystical is that something so simple can be so filling and substantial.
Over the years, my wife has given out countless loaves of bread to friends and family, and she’s even made it an offering of sorts, as time allows, for #profamateurs who conquer the wind out at Telo. People’s reactions are uniform–they tear into it, and in a very short while, it’s all gone. Every piece, every crumb. Note: This isn’t what happens when you give someone a $1.99 loaf from Von’s.
Making your own bread plays into Seneca’s hands, because it forces you to sacrifice that one commodity you can never replenish, time. Like learning a foreign language, the time expenditure seems vast until you’re staring at the hieroglyphics that you now can read, until you’re pushing into your mouth the fresh slab covered with butter, until you’re listening to the smile in the voice of the person with whom you’re breaking bread, experiencing second-hand their joy at an unspeakable luxury that for you is … your daily bread.
None of these things happens unless you’re willing to turn your back on the must-haves. As simple as baking a good loaf of bread may be, you have to give something up. What will that be? #socmed? Noooooo! The big game(s)? Noooooooo! Dinner out? Noooooooo! In fact, there’s even a great series of Internet lists that sums up all the things you have done today or are going to do tomorrow that will get between you and a fresh loaf of bread, a/k/a Unbelievably Stupid Shit That You Waste Your Time On:
- Not too sure about No. 7, but No. 20? Yessss!
- Pretty sure I’ve never done No. 4, or No. 24. No. 16? GUILTY!
- I especially like No. 1.
As you scroll through these lists, cringing, hopefully, imagine how your life might change with a couple of more hours in the day, hours spend getting your hands doughy. In fact, the craft bread movement, with cyclists in the lead, has been well underway for a while. Team Lizard Collectors member Gregory Cooke, a fantastic baker, was the first person who advised us on flour. French cyclist and baker Marilyne Faye feeds her family on home baked bred. Local hammer Alex Barnes is married to a magnificent baker; they’ve recently installed a commercial oven and are going to begin sharing Lisa’s astonishing bread-artwork with the public.
Bikers off the front, but instead of shooting up EPO, they’re peddling bread crack. Yum.
But what about my tummy???
The big fear for most cyclists isn’t squandering the precious minutes in their life on something worthless, they’re cyclists, for dog’s sake. The true fear of a full-on bread diet is the calorie count; my standard sourdough loaf packs almost 3,000 kcal. As with most phobias, the phobia of bread = fat is a fallacy. Home baked whole grain bread that’s dense and eaten with butter actually helps you keep your waistline in check.
For one, the whole grain and the butter slow down the digestion, so you don’t get the crazy sugar spike + sugar crash that come from eating Twinkies, Wonderbread, or other commercial snacks. In point of fact, for the 5.5 hours I spent flogging myself on the BWR, I had a baggie of raisins and almonds, and two tinfoils with sourdough-and-pb. I ran out of watts, but never came close to running out of energy. I think Surfer powered a chunk of his BWR on Wanky Bread & pb, too.
Aside from the nutrition of home baked loaves where you–not a CEO with a degree in chemistry–get to choose the ingredients, there’s another factor that helps keep uncontrolled eating down, and it’s the simple fact that when you’re the one who has to make the stuff, you’re not quite as cavalier about eating it. After the gluttony of the first few dozen loaves wears off, you realize that every slice you eat is a slice you’re going to have to bake later. And with this comes something long lost from most of our lives: The preciousness of food itself.
It’s this process of synching what you consume with what you create that, like a millstone, grinds down the obstacles standing in between you and the things that can add meaning to the minutes you’re here. And you don’t, emphatically, have to return to 1850 to do it.
It takes energy to ride yer bike. Why not power it with something you make yourself? Please consider subscribing … Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!