Surviving and thriving after a terrible bike accident

A guest post by Pearson Constantino

Growing up the bike was everything for me.  It was my entertainment, it helped fuel my imagination, it took me to school, to my friends’ houses, and was my escape. As I got older and more experienced, with a 400 mile bike tour to Cape Cod under my belt, the bike became true unbridled adolescent freedom. I would ride for the sake of riding. Without destination, I rode to feel the wind in my hair.

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After college, living in New York I rode everywhere, to work, for exercise, for fun, I felt great, until one morning a stranger changed my life. I was hit from behind by an SUV, there were no witnesses and I was left by the side of road, my bike totally destroyed, my body badly injured. After two weeks in the hospital, I had resolved to get back on my bike and ride it across the United States! 

Two years of rehab later that's exactly what I did. With the help of my brother Pete we embarked on a cross-country adventure on our bikes to encourage people to get back on their bikes, and drivers to share the road. This is my story. 

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by Julia Wrona: 

I documented Pearson’s recovery and then followed his journey with Pete across America filming their encounters with drivers, meetings with other car-on-bike victims, and the beauty of the American landscape.

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The Long Bike Back
is now fully edited, but we need some help with the cost of the final technical processes (color correction and sound mixing) so that we can release the film this summer.  Our crowdfunding campaign is quickly drawing to a close: http://igg.me/at/lbb Please consider contributing (there are perks, like a DVD, soundtrack, photo book, and more) and sharing the link with your friends and followers.

Here’s the film’s trailer, which illustrates Pearson’s spirit, the mission, and some of the amazing miles of cycling he and Pete covered. http://youtu.be/0M4Eni8GfGk

A note from Lloyd Lemons

Please consider helping to fund this worthy project. Cyclist and motorists everywhere need these stories, to learn that we must share the road. 

View the trailer here: http://youtu.be/0M4Eni8GfGk

Please make a contribution here: ttp://igg.me/at/lbb  (and time is of the essence!) 

Thank you!


Riding your bike on purpose, or just for fun

I’M ONE OF THOSE CYCLISTS WHO LIKE NUMBERS. When I ride, I monitor my heart rate, I know my speed and cadence, and I track my mileage and calorie burn. There’s nothing wrong with that, I just happen to enjoy keeping the numerical values of each ride.

But I also know the importance of riding for the shear enjoyment of it. It’s easy to fall into the trap of over-analyzing each ride, a habit that has the potential of reducing the fun and making your ride seem more like a duty.

I think about this often, and offer you a few ways to keep cycling fun and interesting, and something to talk about with the folks who aren’t interested in your numbers. Take a look at the bike rides you do from a new perspective--at least some of the time.

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Do you smell rain in the air? Analyze the clouds and wind direction and plot a course to escape the rain. If it adds ten miles to your ride, great! It’ll subtract additional calories from your daily intake. And it's fun challenge!

Interval action: Crank it up past that house with the loose, barking dog in the yard. Feeling strong or just a little bit daring? Go back the other way and give Fido a real aerobic workout. Throw him a doggie bone if he gets too close.

Find an alternate route. Research and map a new course to avoid that dusty, bumpy road construction.

Elevate the mundane. Your bike can elevate tedious car trips and errands into something that's enjoyable, healthy and memorable. Did you forget to mail those holiday cards to the nieces and nephews? Ride to the post office and drop them off. Or make your bank deposit from your bike at the drive up window. Getting in the queue with cars is always good for some quizzical looks and commentary from the kids in the car next to you.

Plan for fun. Don’t waste time sitting in the car waiting on someone. Recently, I drove my wife to an interview in an area of town I wasn’t familiar with. I checked out the roads on Google Maps, threw my bike in the back of the Jeep, and delivered her to her interview. Rather than a long boring wait sitting in the car, I unloaded my bike, went for a fun ride on some beautiful open roads in the outskirts of town, and came back an hour later. By the time I cooled down and re-loaded my bike, my wife was finished and we drove home--me with 600 calories less than when we started.

Lunch rides: If I know I can’t get away for a longer ride, I’ll take a short lunch ride. Short is better than none. I generally leave after 1:00 P.M. to avoid lunch hour traffic and get in 45 to 60 minutes of riding. Back at work, I feel energized for the remainder of the day.

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You say your Saturday morning ride buddies cancelled? Now would be a great time to take a small camera with you on the ride, and photograph some other cyclists that you pass along the way, or the fishing boats pulling out of the harbor, or the livestock lounging in the pasture. Try to get your bike in the photo as well. It’ll make your story more interesting later.

So, is your cycling on purpose, or for fun? Your bike, that simplest of human-powered machines can be both--and more. It can help you make a statement, save fuel and money, reduce your carbon footprint, burn calories, become your fitness regimen, or just deliver fun, purposeful, memorable good times. Cycling is what you make it.

 


What’s your favorite part of cycling?

I ENJOY SIMPLICITY. And the bicycle is the simplest of machines, yet it provides so many benefits. For me the bike is a freedom machine. When I get on it and ride, it might as well be a space ship going on some new adventure. The most fun rides are those where my destination is unknown and I have no time limits.

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Of course, I also have some practical uses for the bicycle as well. I run errands on it, and it’s my main piece of health and fitness equipment. It’s important to me to get out there and crank it up; get my heart rate up, push myself past my comfort zone. That’s a big part of how I achieve fitness.

Some folks like to race. Criterium, or crit races,  are run on short courses and often held on closed off city streets. They’re fast and furious and often filled with passionate younger riders—for obvious reasons. There are also road races. Road racing began as an organized sport in 1868, and has gotten quite diverse and competitive over the past 150 years. There are many levels of road races, and you’ll find competitors of all ages. And then there’s cyclocross. Cyclocross racing is wild and wacky, fun and strenuous, fast and competitive. I've never done it, but it looks like a blast!

Every cyclist has her favorite thing to do on a bike and her favorite reason for cycling. Here are just a few reasons that people of all ages like to get out and pedal: 

  • to free the mind and heal the psyche
  • to burn calories
  • to commute to work
  • to tour the world
  • to share quality family time
  • to promote health and fitness
  • to spend a week in France (or California) touring the vineyards
  • to explore neighborhoods
  • to spend time in the outdoors
  • to get their adventure fix
  • to get rid of their gas guzzler
  • to discover new like-minded friends
  • to ride far, as in Rando or RAAM
  • and even to tow their kayak to the river 

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There are many ways to have fun on a bicycle, and everyone has their own favorite part of cycling. When I was first getting serious about cycling as an “older guy”, a friend of mine told me, cycling is a beautiful thing, you can make it anything you want it to be. He was right! It’s one of the most versatile sports I can think of. So grab a bike and start crankin’! And remember this: it’s never too late to have a happy childhood.


Seven more crash avoidance tips for new road cyclists

IN MY PREVIOUS POST, I WROTE ABOUT A FEW WAYS to avoid crashes as a new roadie. This post continues that theme. If you’re new to riding a road bike, these tips will help you to keep the rubber side down.

Don’t trust bike lanes. Lots of new bike riders think bike lanes are the solution to safe cycling. That’s seldom true. It’s obvious to me that the people who designed bike lanes probably don’t ride much. In my town we have bike lanes that conflict with adjacent traffic lanes, and bike lanes that end without warning, dumping the unsuspecting cyclist amid three lanes of fast moving traffic.

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Use bike lanes with caution. Watch out for surprise endings, excessive trash like stones, sticks, glass, broken concrete, lane-wide grates and motorists who completely disregard the lanes.

Don’t ride with headphones or earbuds. When you’re riding on the road, it’s safer if you can hear what’s going on around you. Plugging both ears with loud music, or media of any kind is dangerous, and illegal in many states. If you want to listen to music use just one earbud so your other ear is available for ambient warning signals.

Know what sharrows mean. I like sharrows better than bike lanes, because they are intended to communicate with both cyclists and motorists.

JaxSharrows

Sharrows position bike riders in the lane and alert motorists that cyclists may use the full lane. Sharrows are intended to help cyclists and motorists when they must share a narrow lane, and it should help prevent getting doored from parked cars. But be aware of your surroundings and don’t let sharrows give you a false sense of safety.

Don’t get doored. New cyclists are most fearful of fast moving traffic. But parked cars can be hazardous to your health too. With today’s tinted windows it’s hard to tell if a vehicle has a driver behind the wheel.

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A parked car can move suddenly into your lane when you’re least expecting it causing a crash, or pushing you into the next lane of traffic. Another scenario is when the driver in a parked car opens her door into your lane just as you’re riding by. If you’re too close you’ll crash into her door. Make sure you leave enough space to avoid the door zone.

Railroad crossings can take you down if you do it wrong.  The metal rails are slippery, and the deep, wide gaps in the road’s surface are rough and can bounce you around. I’ve read that you should approach rail crossings at a 90 degree angle. Well, that might be the ideal scenario, but it’s not always practical. When tracks cross the road at an angle, it could take some radical maneuvering combined with bike handling acrobatics to put you at a 90 degree angle. Those types of movements will rattle motorists who can’t figure out what you’re up to. Here’s how I do it: I approach rail crossings straight on. I get a firm grip on my handlebars and tense my arm muscles so the bumps don’t jerk my steering. I raise my butt slightly off the saddle; my bent knees will act as shock absorbers as the bike bounces over the tracks. I use enough speed so that momentum will carry me across. I don’t lean. I don’t pedal, and I don’t brake. I have not fallen yet.

It’s fun to ride in a paceline. Plus, it conserves your energy when you ride in someone else’s slipstream—aka drafting. But please, gain experience on your road bike for several hours before attempting to ride with a group, and learn paceline etiquette. Pacelines operate as an integrated unit, like birds flying in formation. When a group is riding at high-speed and drafting one another there is little room for error. One false move and you could be responsible for taking out all the riders behind you in a sprawling crash. And you won’t like how that makes you feel. So get confident on your bike, learn paceline rules first, and then start out at the back of the line. You should also tell the other riders that you’re a newbie.

Avoid loose surfaces. In my previous post I mentioned the slipperiness of the painted lines when roads get wet. There are a number of other things that can make the road surface unstable, i.e., wet leaves, loose sand that may have washed across the surface during yesterday’s rain, or even the loose pebble-like residue that appears when blacktop is old and has been ground down. This often occurs in intersections and on corners. Any of these surfaces can make you fall if you’re not expecting them. If you notice the danger, but it’s too late to avoid it, don’t panic. Simply stop pedaling, stay seated to keep your center of gravity low, and coast through it. Try to keep the bike as vertical as possible. Avoid any sharp steering or hard braking.

There you have it. Seven more crash avoidance tips for new road cyclists. I hope you enjoy your new road bike, and ride according to the rules of the road. Check with your state transportation authority for a bicycle law enforcement guide. Most states publish one and give them away for free. It will give you the specific rules for your roads.

Be safe out there!

(Excerpted from my new book in progress: Riding for Our Lives.)


A few crash avoidance tips for new road cyclists

A FRIEND OF MINE JUST BOUGHT A NEW ROAD BIKE. He’s been riding a hybrid for a few years, with its fatter tires, straight handlebars and upright riding posture, but he test rode one of my road bikes a few months ago and liked it. So on Black Friday, he was able to get a screaming deal on a beautiful carbon fiber Trek.

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It occurred to me that the difference between casually riding a hybrid around the neighborhood, compared to mounting a faster, sleeker road bike and cranking it up on the highway, could be problematic at first. I thought I would point out a few differences that the average rider might not be immediately aware of.

Road bikes can be a little fussy

If you’re new to skinny tires and the more forward posture used on road bikes, here are few tips to keep in mind that will help you keep the rubber side down.

  • Road bikes handle much differently than bikes with fat tires and straight handle bars. For example, steering is tighter and less forgiving. Take a few days of slow easy riding in a variety of settings to get used to this new feel before trying to negotiate traffic during rush hour.
  • If there’s rain or dampness on the road surface, avoid the painted lines as much as possible. They are slippery when wet. If you do need to cross them, do so in a vertical position, preferably seated and either coasting or soft pedaling.

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  • When riding on the side of a lane, avoid that expansion joint or crack in the pavement where two slabs of pavement come together. They can make your skinny tires flinch from side to side, or if wide enough you can get the front tire jammed in the crack. Either occurrence could lead to a crash.
  • Also, avoid riding over grates in the road. Your front wheel will likely slip right through a parallel grate, and going cross-ways over a grate can be slippery. About six months ago my back tire slipped off of a steel grate. I maintained control of my bike, but the rim and tire were both damaged when they hit the jagged edge of the concrete surround.
  • Hold your line. In other words don’t weave back and forth over the width of your lane. A car or even another cyclist approaching from the rear will expect you to ride steady and in a straight line. Even minor swerving left or right could lead to disaster, or at least make others on the road very nervous about your intentions.
  • When overtaking a bike or a runner or a walker, call out, “on you left!” before you reach them. The warning could keep them from absentmindedly turning into you as you ride by.
  • When riding over speed bumps, lift your butt off the seat, bend your knees, and shift your weight to the rear of the bike. Your center of gravity is more forward on a road bike. The first time I road skinny tires, I tried to ride over a large speed bump in a casual position and was thrown over the handle bars when the front wheel came to an abrupt stop in front of the bump. You’ll want to avoid that embarrassment.
  • Ride your road bike as you drive your car. In other words ride WITH traffic, not against it. Obey road signs and traffic lights. Make no unnecessary or radical moves. Signal your turns and intentions. You’ll want others in your vicinity to be able to anticipate your movements.
  • When you ride your bike you are essentially “driving a vehicle”—you must yield to pedestrians.

These are a few tips to get the new roadie started safely, I be back next week to cover sharrows, bike lanes, listening to music and more.

Be safe out there, and enjoy the ride!

(Excerpted from my new book in progress: Riding for Our Lives.)


Mobile app helps cyclists at a crash

CYCLISTS ARE INVOLVED IN CRASHES with motor vehicles way too often. To minimize this problem cyclists need to obey the rules of the road, utilize safety equipment and become adept bicycle handlers. Motor vehicle drivers must understand that cyclists have a right to the road; they too need to obey the rules of the road, and be 100% focused on how they're handling their 4000+lb vehicle. A little respect and courtesy from both groups will go a long way toward reducing injury and death.

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If you do get into a crash with a car or truck, and are still able to walk away from it, there's a mobile app that just might help you gather the information you need.

This is not necessarily an endorsement of the product. Read the story here, then you be the judge.   


It’s easy to get started riding a bike at any age

A guest post by Angelina Foster at Cycle Stuff Direct.

CYCLING IS LOVED BY MANY PEOPLE AROUND THE GLOBE and it’s not just for young people. Some of the most passionate cyclists are middle aged, so if you’ve been thinking about it, it’s not too late to start! It can be daunting knowing where to begin, so we have provided a rough guide for all who are about to explore this wonderful sport.

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The bike
If you’re starting out in cycling, buying a bicycle can definitely be confusing as there are different types of bikes and many manufacturers to choose from. Road bikes, hybrids and mountain bikes are the most popular. Visit a specialist bike shop that can advise you on the correct frame size and help you pick the best bike to suit the kind of riding you will be doing.

For short journeys any working bike will be fine, but if you’re picking up a second-hand bike, it’s advisable to get it serviced at a bike shop to make sure that it’s safe and in good working order. If you’ve already got a bike, congratulations – you’re already half way there!

Essential accessories
It may be tempting to buy all the latest bike accessories and clothing gear when taking up your new hobby, but here are the things you’ll really need:

Helmet – Helmet shapes and styles vary from manufacturer to manufacturer so try on a range of helmets until you find one that feels comfortable. We would advise buying a good quality one, because even though it’s not a legal requirement, a good helmet can protect you from serious head injury.

Clothing – You can wear almost anything you like when cycling (we recommend fabrics that dry quickly), but bright, reflective clothing is always a good choice. If you had to pick one item of clothing may we suggest a decent waterproof, breathable jacket.

Other helpful things to add to the list are lights, a quality lock, a patch kit and a pump!

Starting out
Start in a traffic-free area like a park to get comfortable with your new bike. Practice looking over your shoulders to improve your visual awareness; and riding single-handed while you make hand signals. Next try cycling around your local area where the roads are quiet. You should be feeling more confident now! Take it slowly and increase your rides gradually.

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Keep going
Make cycling a habit by getting on your bike regularly, whether it’s commuting, shopping or dropping your kids off to school. You could even join a like-minded cycling group to help you stay motivated. Bike rides can boost your mood and keep your weight under control. Above all, have fun!


Bike farther, ride longer with whole grains

A guest post by J. Baird at Grape-Nuts

WITH ALL THE HEALTH AND SOCIAL BENEFITS of cycling, baby boomers are hopping on their bikes now more than ever. But aging can affect your stamina. So, how can you improve stamina and increase your energy level for your next bike ride?

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That’s where whole grains come to the rescue. Whole-grain foods are a healthy choice because they contain nutrients, fiber and other healthy plant compounds found naturally in the grain. Not only does eating whole grains promote health maintenance, it can also help you power up short-term for your next bike ride. Here are 4 reasons why incorporating whole grains into your diet can help maximize your performance and comfort during your ride:

1. Sustain Your Energy. The body digests whole-grain carbohydrates more slowly than simple carbs, providing a constant source of fuel that keeps energy levels stable throughout your ride. You won’t feel the surge-and-crash effect of caffeine or sugar.

2. Feel Full Longer. The Mayo Clinic reports that including fiber in your diet can make a meal feel larger and linger longer, so you stay full for a greater amount of time. Perfect for those long, leisurely Sunday rides.

3. Be Versatile. Combine whole grains with a variety of light, nutritious ingredients, like fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts and lean meats. Not only will you end up with a satisfying way to power up for action, you’ll have plenty of snacks and meal ideas to choose from.

4. Maximize Your Energy. Aim to eat a small meal or snack one to two hours before you head out the door. A relatively high-carbohydrate, moderate protein, low-fat meal is best to consume before a workout, like a half-cup serving of Post Grape-Nuts cereal (which contains 52 grams of whole grains and 7 grams of naturally occurring fiber). Sprinkle Grape-Nuts on pro-biotic yogurt for a fiber boost with a satisfying crunch, or add fresh fruit to your Grape-Nuts with milk for a naturally sweet and healthy way to power your ride.


7 ways a cyclist can tame the headwinds

THE HOUSING BUBBLE HAS HURT MANY PEOPLE in the US, including me. My house is worth a fraction of what it once was. To add insult to injury, there are new housing developments that have been stalled for years. We have huge would-be communities around north Florida that began mid-decade and haven’t been built-out yet.

Although the housing bubble has caused grief for many, I must admit to finding joy in one aspect of it. You see, all these new communities that were started five and six years ago, began with the road system. We have seemingly endless miles of beautiful paved roads with nothing but street lights on them; few if any houses and very minimal traffic. And for a cyclist who likes to get out and crank it up, this is heaven!

Northeast Florida is a very flat region, save for the many bridges that crisscross our waterways. But in place of leg-busting hill climbs, we have leg-busting headwinds, the consequence of living amidst a web of waterways including the St. Johns River, the Intercoastal Waterway, dozens of smaller rivers, and the Atlantic Ocean. The wind, out where all of these new, but empty communities are waiting to be built, can be unbelievably strong.

Last month I was out on one of these new, smooth, wide-open, black-topped surfaces, and I was struggling. I was riding into an unobstructed headwind that had to be over 35-mph. My legs were screaming. My heart rate was at 181. And I was only moving at 12 miles per hour! I felt like I had my own private Alpe d’ Huez.

My wife hates riding in strong wind. I’ve come to love it. I often tell her, ya know, there’s a blessing in disguise here, but she ain’t buyin’ it. Although you can’t stop Mother Nature, there are a few things you can do to make your ride easier.

Basic preparation for riding in the wind

1. WEAR SNUG-FITTING CLOTHING. The idea is to make your body as aerodynamic as possible. A loose fitting shirt or unzipped jacket that flaps in the wind or billows-up from your back can create a significant drag.

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2. TUCK. Road bikes were designed with curved, drop down handlebars for a reason: (a) for comfort, so you can change your hand position on long rides and, (b) to get low for an aerodynamic profile. So, get in the drops to ride lower. Tuck your elbows in, keep your knees close to the top tube, and keep your head down. Making your body compact can make a huge difference.

3. REDUCE DRAG. Keep your bike as naked as possible. A bike free of handlebar bags or other comfort equipment will slice through the wind easier. Also you may want to rethink those high-profile aero-rims. They can make bike handling difficult in strong crosswinds.

4. GEAR DOWN. Most modern road bikes and even hybrids and mountain bikes have multiple gear options. On my rides, I frequently notice riders who don’t use their gearing options to the best advantage. Gear down and try to keep your cadence in the 85 to 95 rpm range for optimum efficiency.

5. DRAFT. If you can ride in someone else’s slipstream (paceline) you’ll find pedaling much easier, and you can save as much as 30% of your energy. Other riders in your group will expect you to rotate your position to give everyone a break.

6. RIDE WITH THE WIND. Try to configure your ride for minimal exposure to headwinds. Or, put another way; try to configure your ride so that you can benefit from a tailwind on the homeward stretch. Where I live, that’s nearly impossible, because the wind is always changing direction, but it might work in your area.

7. GET YOUR HEAD RIGHT. Don’t hate the wind. Embrace it. Minimize its effects. It’s a great workout. You’ll strengthen your legs, your heart, and you’ll burn extra calories.

 


Freshen up your standard bike ride

I’M STILL ATTEMPTING TO GIVE A GOOD SHOWING for the National Bike Challenge, so today I rode out to one of my old standby destinations, Mandarin Park. I’ve been riding nearly the same route for six years or more, but today, I decided to change that up a bit, and it was really fun.

My standard route traverses quiet neighborhoods along two-lane roads that have no shoulder or bike lane. Traffic is normally minimal and the speed limit is 35-mph.

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I’m occasionally challenged by belligerent drivers along this route, but haven’t had any serious confrontations. It’s about a 24-mile out-n-back ride that’s mostly peaceful. Sounds nice right? So why mess with a good thing? Because I’ve done it hundreds of times and I was getting bored with the same scenery.

Off the beaten path
Today, my path to the same destination started from a different location, and I took a set of roads I’d never been on before. For me, part of the fun of riding a bike is to explore new regions. The roads I took today included some heavily treed narrow two-laners, some wide rural lanes with an ample shoulder, and

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some city avenues with sharrows. Then, it opened up to a busy six-lane thoroughfare with mad traffic and a bike lane. That got the heart pumping a little faster, but only lasted for little more than a mile. Then the route went back to shady lanes with sharrows.

It’s amazing what you’ll find
Today’s ride to the park was quite different. First, I discovered an interesting part of the city, just a few miles from my house, that I didn’t know existed! Also, this ride had more exposure to the sun, and there were a whole range of new sights, smells, neighborhoods, road surfaces and speed limits. Instead of an out-n-back format, it’s now a loop, and I also extended the ride a bit to include a five-mile mini-loop at the end. My total mileage to Mandarin Park using this route was 34-miles. I don’t like short-cuts; I’m more of a long-cuts guy.

So the next time you feel yourself getting bored with your ride, change it up! My way is to take a look at the city map to get an idea of the lay of the land. I want to make sure I have a continuous circuit, free of dead ends and freeway blockages. I make some mental notes of the new route, or if it’s a long ride, I might even write down a simple cue sheet. Then I take off on a new adventure.

Next up, I think I’ll ride to the beach. Rather than the boring 20-minute ride in the car, I know a perfectly serviceable route by bike, down some beautiful back country roads that will end up being about 65-miles and require about 4 hours in the saddle. Now that’s a beach ride!