Friday, March 28, 2008

Charge what you're worth. Be worth what you charge.

Rule #1: Charge enough for your work that you're willing to slow down and do a good job.

Rule #2: Do a good enough job to be worth what you charge.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Unusual Spring Hazard

Bottles hurled from cars have been bouncing off the towering, iron-hard snowbanks and shattering on the pavement. This puts far more broken glass than usual into the area commonly traveled by bicyclists.

In a normal year, nothing would stop those missiles from landing much farther from the travel way.

As an interesting sociological note, drunk drivers consume far more wine than I ever realized. I don't know if the high proportion of full-sized wine bottles represents a new trend toward a higher class of drunk or if the larger bottles flew farther into the woods in normal years, making them harder to see than the lightweight beer cans and smaller beer bottles. These wine bottles are not from bottom-shelf swill. I'm waiting to see shattered brandy snifters. If you're going to get ploughed and drive, it should be on the best stuff you can get. After all, you only live once, and not for long, you thoughtless pigs.

Nocturnal Technicians

A chance remark about brakes left unhooked reminded me of the all-too-frequent scene in a busy bike shop, in which a mechanic gets interrupted in the middle of a long job. In a shop with a small staff or an unevenly trained one, this can happen a lot.

The technician has to backtrack if the interruption was a long one, to make sure nothing gets overlooked. It's not quite like an obsessive compulsive counter having to start over again at "one," but it slows things down.

In the first shop I worked in, the workshop was in the cavernous labyrinth of the basement. The mechanics never had to deal with walk-in customers. They developed their own subculture down there. Whatever else might break their work flow, customers did not.

We still ended up working into the night because none of us had anywhere else to go. Even without direct distractions, it was easier to settle into the groove after closing than during the posted business hours. Upstairs staff could slide into a work station to bang out a few repairs or assemblies.

The guy who fixes my car has slid into a semi-nocturnal schedule to get his work done. He occasionally has someone to answer the telephone for him, but most of the time he has to take care of everything. He became a creature of the night to gather a reliable few hours of uninterrupted work time.

We don't have the luxury of concealment where I work now. I can gain a little elbow room just by being surly, but that only goes so far. So that means trying to put the time in early or late when customers bring us a pile of work.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Still Skiing

Around here, most side streets and driveways are still blind entrances between tall snowbanks. Cars and bloated SUVs poke their noses into the narrowed travel way as drivers try to see around the obstruction. Bicycling isn't a really good idea. To get into drivers' eye line from side streets a cyclist would have to ride in the middle of the road. There's a time for that, but conditions now would call for a lot of it.

Meanwhile, the snow is still deep and cross-country ski trails are groomed. Who knows when we'll see snow cover like this again? Can't just let it melt away. Mix Nordic with some indoor riding to condition the sitting parts and start to shape the body to pedaling again. I'll hit the road with too much arm and shoulder mass, but sometimes it's like that.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Brand X will kill you, too.

Not much to talk about but the perfect playlist for roller riding. I'm sure everyone has their contenders. There's a ton of music out there.

A little at a time I am compiling a scientific collection of single-artist and mix tapes to provide tempos for varied intensity workouts. Since this is but one of many unimportant projects, it could easily never be finished or even progress beyond this point.

Back in the ancient past, when Phil Collins had hair, Brand X produced music described, for want of a better term, as jazz-fusion. For the cyclist they offer cadences that may be overtly fast or concealed. In what seems like a slow tune, a complex underbeat flickers like the mouth parts of a crustacean that otherwise appears sluggish or at rest. Frequently the tunes offer layered beats that give the rider options to pursue an interval workout in the fast layers and rest in the slower ones.

Brand X music can drive some people right out of the room. I like the stuff and it can even drive me out of the room. Everything's cruising along melodically when suddenly you notice that they've really cranked up the jangle factor. It's still melodic and musically tight, just as soothing as a smoke alarm. That can be good when you want to get hyped up for a puking ultra-spin. Pretend you're trying to get out of the room.

Can we call them albums anymore? The albums Unorthodox Behavior and Livestock are more tuneful than offerings like Moroccan Roll and Masques. Since most lyrics annoy me, I haven't spent a lot of time with anything they did with identifiable words. Any of their albums (discs, whatever) may harbor something useful. I just haven't bothered to mine them and put them together yet. As I said, it's not that compellingly important.

Right now I'm looking out at a rerun of February. Snow sifts down from a mat of gray. Directionless light casts a shadowless glare over the fields outside. In whatever the weather brings, I hope to be able to go for a scamper on the skis after work. It could be cold, driving rain.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Predawn: 33 degrees and snowing

It's funny to throw the cross-country ski physique onto the rollers and feel my legs complain about forming perfectly circular pedal strokes after the different loading and range of motion required by skiing.

At least two months, maybe three, had passed since I pushed a pedal. Back in December I had barely been off the bike before I hit the rollers for a couple of workouts. Then this bizarre early ski season hit and never stopped. So I got on the rollers without fresh roller skills, but with a recently reinforced pedal stroke. It was easy to follow the music with a smooth pressure around the entire circle.

Now, trying to get some saddle time and begin reshaping muscle to the needs of the bike I felt how completely my body had committed to a heavily accented rhythm bearing weight fully on one side at a time. Even with very smooth music encouraging a high tempo without strong beats I had trouble controlling the urge to shift upper body mass from side to side to stay on top of what would be the driving leg in skiing.

With so much snow, I will have to do more indoor riding than usual. This will be good for technique.

I would get some studded tires and ride on the snomo trails, but judging by the sounds that travel all too well through the woods, the motorheads are out there 24 hours a day. Why deal with traffic any sooner than I have to, especially in the essentially lawless environment of off-highway recreational vehicles? I would much rather bushwhack silently on skis or snowshoes to places they won't go. There are fewer and fewer of those.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Daylight Relocating Time

By decree, evening becomes afternoon. The shift to lighter evenings would help a lot if the winter had not brought so much snow. I would be able to lay down some base miles after work, to get ready for the bike commute when I shift back to my southern, summer location.

This year the snowbanks tower over my training roads. The evening light will permit some full-length ski workouts without a headlamp, if the temperature swings cooperate, but that delays the reshaping of muscle mass to the needs of cycling. I'm hardly brawny, but my arms and shoulders feel really heavy when I'm dragging them up a climb on the first bike rides of the new cycling season. Those same arms and shoulders feel spindly and twiglike at the start of a ski season. The body is moldable clay, but it needs to be squeezed into its new form.

Leg muscles need to be reminded how to power the perfect circle of the pedal stroke after the swinging motion and sustained supporting role while gliding on skis.

The later light gives a deceptive impression that spring is further advanced. Once you get past the late sunrise, the rising arc of the sun each day and its slow drift toward the western horizon bolster the impression that it's later than you think.

Time to hop on the rollers and start regaining saddle toughness and a smooth spin for when the glaciers really do recede.

Friday, March 07, 2008

What about spring?

Coincidentally, two decades ago at this time of year I was just coming out of my first full winter up here and starting to train for the double century I planned for the summer solstice of 1988. The winter had been moderate, though full of exciting mountain activity. The snow had already started to recede from the roadsides.

The magazine I had moved north to work for was obviously going down the tubes. After repeated bouncing paychecks, the staff had all walked out. I followed the first rule of the working class cyclist: when unemployed, train hard.

Road training isn't happening this year. Walls of snow hem in all the minor roads. They'll be around for awhile. Our local conservation commission won't be able to have the usual Earth Day roadside cleanup because we won't be able to get at most of the roadsides by then.

I usually start bike commuting as soon as I rotate back to Wolfe City. Even that is in question, as the Jackson touring center may try to keep flogging it until late April instead of the beginning of the month. More than half of the last eight years, we haven't even made it to April. And it's traditional that consumer interest usually ends at least a week before we pull the plug up there.

Ski conditions will deteriorate long before the road look inviting or the trails are even visible. Maybe I'll have to go for an hour slog on slush-shoes before heading to work between the end of skiing and the beginning of practical riding.

Monday, March 03, 2008

News Flash: Chinese Factory Workers Must be Treated as Human After All

A front page article in Bicycle Retailer and Industry News for February 1 announced that various pressures will drive costs higher in the bike industry for 2008. In addition to material and energy costs, Chinese factories are now required to provide health care, benefits and a higher minimum wage for their workers.

I have been saying for years that we could not continue to prop up our prosperity on virtual slavery in other countries. One bike rep laughed at me in the late nineties when I asked how soon we would run out of underdeveloped nations to exploit.

"China's huge," he said. "If costs go up in one town or province we can just move to another one."

People only belatedly realize that evolution accelerates exponentially, so each disadvantaged nation realizes its true advantages far more quickly than the last one did. Sooner than expected, you have to come up with a system that is actually fair to all.

How terribly inconvenient.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

How about another foot of snow?

March is coming in like a big, wet sneeze. After the foot of snow now being delivered, we can expect a brief break with daytime temperatures above freezing before three days of snow, sleet, rain and freezing rain, according to today's National Weather Service forecast.

The snow banks along my section of road are already well over six feet high. This is a flat, straight stretch without a lot of slope to the ground to give the snow an artificial lift. In tighter sections the snowbanks pinch the road so that two large vehicles can't fit through at the same time. I mean pickup trucks and fatass SUVs, not the really big things, like dump trucks, logging trucks and other massive beasts.

A few cyclists still defy the weather and defensive driving wisdom by going out. One was not only riding south down the shoulder of NH Route 16 in Intervale with inadequate lighting in the deep dusk next to heavy traffic, he was swerving wildly to avoid the large and frequent patches of ice coating said shoulder. His swerves brought him up to, and occasionally into, the travel lane. And this was someone equipped in a way that made him appear to be a real cyclist, not some unfortunate DUI dub on his WallyCo full suspension Mound of Bike. He was cutting sometimes as much as four feet laterally at a speed in the mid to high teens, so it was pretty abrupt.

Inadequate lighting seems to be a theme. Down in the meat grinder of North Conway, at the same hour of a different day, I saw another inadequately lighted cyclist on a mid- to high-grade older mountain bike, just heading into the death canyon between the heavy traffic pulsing through main street's narrowed lanes and the parked cars. Doors swung into that space even as pedestrians popped out from between cars at random intervals. And the grey slush swilled all around, all around, and the grey slush swilled all around. One strip of fixed red LEDs gleamed dully from his seatpost,while a single blue-white helmet lamp announced his arrival in front. Oncoming traffic in the narrowed roadway made it impossible to give him generous clearance and his cautious speed made it pretty unworkable to stay behind him until conditions improved, which would probably be May.

Reveling in the Nordic ski conditions, I still understand the lure of summer's open roads, and the private spring classics we all ride to prepare for them. Just make sure you actually get there.