Sunday, February 17, 2013

Blank Canvas

Blizzard, Peter Forg, Somerville MA
For many of my cycling friends, winter is the time for making big plans. Like the vast snowscape outside, the seasons ahead spread out, blank canvas-like, glittering with possibilities. We are increasingly spoiled for choice here: Beautiful unpaved rides, formal and informal brevets, invitational weekend getaways - it's enough to make one's head spin. And it all requires budgeting, scheduling, prioritising, oftentimes with advanced planning and registration. And so in the coldest days of February, over cups of scalding coffee, cyclists speak in agonised whispers of events to come in the summer months.

I used to listen with curiosity and detached amusement. As someone who generally resists planning, I could not imagine scheduling a summer's worth of weekends around cycling events. But this time around I am getting swept up in it all. 

Staring at the pile of snow outside my window, I find myself considering a hill climb race. I don't expect to do well at all, but I think I might enjoy it. Feeling that is a surprise to me; wanting to do it is a surprise. But when I imagine the climbing and the festive atmosphere, I want to be there - pedaling and feeling the strain, delirious as I strive for a summit I might not have the stamina to reach. Weird, isn't it, the things we can enjoy.

Plodding along the riverside trail, I contemplate this year's brevet series. I love the idea of randonneuring. But truthfully, I don't think I am serious about it - or ready for it, depending on how you look at it. On long rides that pass through beautiful places, what I really want to do is explore, carry a big camera, stop any time I like and constantly take photos - which is at odds with being on the clock. It might make more sense to finally put aside some time for a light multi-day tour. 

Cleaning the salt and crud off my bike after a slushy outing, I remember long dreamy rides on unpaved roads. It seems almost fictional now: Going from the "baby" D2R2 route to the hair-raising loose descents of the Kearsarge Klassic in a matter of weeks, riding borrowed bikes with unfamiliar components, rental cars at 5:00 in the morning... Absurd. But oh how I long to do it again (minus the borrowed bikes, I hope), and how I long to find more rides in the same vein. I am even willing to plan in advance and make commitments. 

This winter is turning out to be brutal. But the months ahead are a blank canvas, and putting down the initial sketch is keeping me sane. 

31 comments:

  1. My sympathies. Living in The Bay Area we ride nearly 365 days a year - at least we try. Occasionally the morning temperatures are in the high 30's - low 40's and some of us fade out and take the bus.

    So come west and enjoy the winters ("Winters? What winters?)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As I'm getting older the idea is beginning to seem increasingly appealing. I would love to visit at least. Might be a possibility in the coming year.

      Delete
  2. Here in Florida we have to have to miss out on all this winter wonderland. I don't think I would make a very good New England cyclist.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'm not much of a planner either but trying to get some adventures adventured without getting fired or divorced is forcing me to be a bit more intentional.

    My problem sounds a bit like yours, there are SO many rides I want to do this spring and summer but in my case, unless I want to commit to a couple of specific race series I'm going to be doing it solo. My crowd seems to be split down the middle between the ones who want to stay around here and just do the local stuff and those who are planning a campaign to try to win such and such a series.

    The riders I know who are doing a variety of neat events and low-key races in new and interesting places are all in the (way)under 30 group. They're fun to ride with but I feel a bit out of place after the ride when the party starts. It's cool to be invited and they ARE more fun than the other old farts my age but dang, they don't sleep before they collapse and I have to remember they don't invite me along to remind them to "Make good choices..."

    I hope by striking out on my own a little more and going farther afield I can find some grown-ups I can go play with.

    Spindizzy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Around here I find that age is generally irrelevant among cyclists. I ride with people in their late 20s- mi 60s, and they all feel to be "around my age." Kind of nice really.

      Delete
    2. That's pretty true around here as well until you try to find people to go do rides over the horizon with. If you want to go do anything other than racing that's farther away than 100 miles or so (like D2R2 or other Rando type stuff) than the interested crowd is the under 30 demographic.

      It's not the riding that's a problem(although some of them are just way faster than me now), it's traveling with and sharing accommodations with a mixed group of 6 or 8 25 year old singles that makes me feel a bit out of place at times. I don't mind going by myself to do something like that, but it's nice to have friends to carpool with, share some of the costs, etc. Especially if you don't know anyone where you're going and are a bit reserved. But the big attraction for me now are the long rides in new places so I'll be out there whether I go by myself or not. I expect I'll make some new friends and it'll be just grand.

      Spindizzy

      Delete
  4. Velouria, there's a difference between fantasizing and planning. I'm not much of a planner myself, but "when the weather is frightful", I'll often fantasize about a ride I'd like to do when the snow clears.

    Actually, a light multi-day tour can be done without a lot of planning. You seem to have an idea of the kind of ride you'd want it to be. The main things to think about are what kind of accommodations you want (camping, hostels, small hotels, etc) and your budget. The rest of it will more or less fall into place.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The good thing about the route I am considering, is that there are plenty of cheap motels along the way. I prefer that to camping, because I want to travel lightly. And yes, I need to just go. This might just be my #1 priority this summer.

      Delete
  5. Regarding randonneuring, do a populaire. Defer the brevet decision for after that.
    Hillclimb - You have one of the best mentors in the country right to hand.
    Your riding style is already diverse and eclectic; and you build bridges for all of us by your experience and writing about it. Sometimes the question, "What is your favorite ride?" is moot and irrelevant. You can't do them all all of the time, but that doesn't mean you can't sally forth and partake in any experience you have an interest in. You create interest for yourself and others every time you explore - and your writing and photos are of a quality that convey the experience to all of us. Well, maybe not GR Jim. ;-)
    As for the blank canvas, Pearl Buck said, "Order is the shape upon which beauty depends." And so the scheduling and resource-handling are not part of the art, but essential. I've read this blog since shortly after you started it. It's a portfolio of experiences, mostly about bicycles. Each one started as a blank canvas, and we are all richer for the diversity and expression you've put there.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Hillclimb - You have one of the best mentors in the country right to hand..."

      Where do you think I got the idea : )

      Delete
    2. More of a "Hillistine", GR Jim. ;)
      It's the Xtracycle thing.

      V- the motel-to-motel tour. Do it! It's fun.

      Delete
  6. I will be doing both D2R2 and Kearsarge this summer, the latter partly thanks to you. Putting these events on the calendar early allowed me to plan my family's vacation around them. Now everyone is happy and I am looking forward to the summer more than ever!

    ReplyDelete
  7. It's nice to dream of the summer, especially on a day like today. Is anyone riding in Boston today?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not today. After the latest snow today, streets near my house a mess of deep slush. Hopefully will be ridable tomorrow.

      Delete
    2. Not much happening in my part of Va. today either, 18 degrees and wind gusts of 15-25 mph this morning. Stayed in, built wheels and thought about spring.

      Spindizzy

      Delete
  8. Which hill climb are you thinking of doing? You are too late for Mt. Washington, unless you've registered already!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Um, I was thinking more like Mt. Wachusett : ) It's early, but I think it could be okay.

      Delete
    2. Mt Wachusett isn't all that bad. I did it as part of the Climb to the Clouds a while back. The view from the top is worth the effort.

      Delete
    3. 1100 ft. in 3.5 miles is nothing; my normal loop features a warmup of 1.8k/6 miles. Trial by fire.

      Anyways you don't race a hill climb you go at your own pace. The only thing you're trying to do is not blow.

      Delete
    4. Having a flat warm up is best for me. I never start on a big hill since it seems my muscles need to warm up before doing anything halfway serious. Maybe my age is showing or I'm just not in the right league.

      Hill climb for GR Jim - the toughest climb I ever did, 1k in 1.8 miles, Hurricane Mountain Road in North Conway, NH. You will have to get out here but there is a decent amount of hills to try out. Combine it with the Kearsarge Classic.

      I'm fantasizing about a brevet, an overnighter like the Dirigo Dynamo, a S24O, and a short tour. The latter two are most probable and I have friends who are interested and have bikes for the purpose.

      Delete
    5. The Mt. Wachusett climb should be a good intro to ease me into the whole concept of these things. The climb itself is nothing extraordinary, but the atmosphere of the event itself will be a new experience. Basically an uphill time trial, as I understand it, with a large group of riders starting simultaneously.

      By the way, New England Bicyclist - did you see they've added Mt Kearsarge to the hill climb series? It's toward the end, new this year.

      Delete
    6. The hill climb will be a new experience for sure! Be prepared for lots of people!! But you will have breathing room too, and the slow speed makes it pretty safe. If you do decide to go for it, I hope you write about it here.

      Delete
    7. I didn't hear about Kearsarge until looking at the hill climbing link. It looks nearly as steep as Mt Washington. It also looks like it doesn't summit the peak but it is close enough. I considered Newton's Revenge but I'm not convinced I will have time to get ready in half way decent shape but it is intriguing. They still had spaces as of yesterday.

      Delete
  9. My blank canvas's are 95% filled with mistakes/bad ideas by the time they've got some coverage. Here's to success in filling yours. Cheers!

    ReplyDelete
  10. death valley century ?

    ReplyDelete
  11. My hill climbing is long ago but a favourite was the annual ride from Port Angeles, Washington, starting at sea level, to the visitor center of the Olympic Mountains National Park; 19.5 miles, 5242 ft.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've done that hill as part of a tour from Seattle to Kalaloch long ago (late 80's) but stayed in the campground at 2000 feet then rode the rest of the way the next day. The view from the visitors center is fabulous. I continued on to Obstruction Point, which wasn't so much a hill climb (though there is a lot of elevation gain) as a gravel test for my touring bike. I'd love to do a tour like that again.

      Delete
  12. Funny......last night I started thinking/planning/commiting to some rides on my "canvas" for the year. I'd like to do my first populaire, and I've committed to a 37 mile ride in April, now scouting a metric century to do in May, and hopefully the populaire (115K) in late June.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like it when randonneuring orgs have multiple Populaires spread out through the season. Ours is in April; too early for many people, and especially the beginners it's meant to attract.

      Delete
  13. Hill climbs are fun. There's an energy and community about them, just like cyclocross. It's especially nice if one can find someone with the same rhythm -- same is true in running/distance races. I'm curious to hear about your touring adventure, however. That's a different language when it comes to cycling and I find they don't overlap so well. What's exciting about one is absent in the other and short tours are problematic b/c one barely gets things figured out then it's over. Kinda frustrating.
    Sounds like a fun summer ahead. Godspeed!

    ReplyDelete