Cars and Mindfulness

“Get the fuck off the road!”

-Abraham Lincoln, from the “Gettysburg Address”

Just kidding. This gem was–you guessed it–yelled at me by a guy in a passing car on my ride today as I waited in a turn lane.

Every cyclist has heard someone shout that, or something like it. Unfortunately, unless you live in Amsterdam or Majorca or another cycling paradise, you deal with rude drivers. Hell, I’m sure it happens even in the most shining, glossy, polished, platinum bike-friendly cities. At best, they are angry. At worst, they are a threat to your life.

But there is a second part to this story. As he drove away I aimed a not-quiet “Fuck you!” in the general direction of his quickly receding black sedan. He was already too far away to hear, and with the noise of traffic wouldn’t have heard it unless I was right next to his rolled down window.

After I made the turn and continued riding, I pondered my split-second interaction. First I thought about him, an anonymous angry man who apparently had a problem with me using a public road in a vehicle that wasn’t breathing carbon dioxide into the air. Screw him. How uneducated and unhappy do you have to be to yell at cyclists? What kind of power trip are you on? But those thoughts didn’t lead anywhere, at least anywhere new or interesting. Unfortunately there are assholes on the road, and dealing with them is part of being a cyclist. Being upset about them, without further action (getting involved in advocacy, riding as safely as possible), won’t accomplish anything.

Then I thought about my reaction. And I was ashamed of it. What if he had heard me, if I had said it right to his face? Would it have changed his already-formed opinion of me as a douche in lyrca? Unlikely. It would have only confirmed his opinion, transforming it from baseless to plausible. And he would have carried that opinion around and yelled at the next cyclist he passed, maybe getting a similar reaction, another confirmation of an opinion that began as a mirage.

It would have been much more decent of me, I realized, to say nothing. Or, better yet, to say “Have a nice day, sir,” with a smile on my face. I won’t lie and say this would be a genuine sentiment. It wouldn’t be. But it would have a couple benefits. First, seeing his reaction would be a lot of fun. When people are spoiling for a fight and get the opposite, it throws them off. Their response is either more anger or less anger. Which brings me to the second benefit: the chance of de-escalation. Maybe he would have freaked out and yelled some more. That’s certainly a possibility. But it’s just as likely that he would have felt shame, and reconsidered why exactly he felt the need to yell at a perfectly nice fellow human just out for a bike ride on a beautiful day, and maybe not yelled at the next cyclist.

Problem is, my reaction was so instantaneous. So utterly thoughtless. It escaped my lips before I even fully comprehended the situation, like a shriek in a haunted house or a string of curse words from someone who has just dropped an anvil on their foot. In fact, a couple more times on this very ride, I responded in similar ways to other drivers. Yes, they were being idiots and endangering my life, but still. I need to be more mindful, more measured in my responses. I don’t want to be the person who yells “fuck you” when something happens. I just don’t. I want to either be able to pause and actually think before reacting, or at least to ingrain a new set of instantaneous responses that aren’t so defensive and aggressive. Re-committing to daily meditation would be a good first step.

So, in summary: As cyclists, let’s not act in a way that confirms stereotypes and makes it more likely that people will continue drive in a manner that puts our friends and family at risk. We can be better than that. We are better than that. So the next time someone cuts me off or tells me to ride on the sidewalk (LOL), I’m going to try to do my part.


Recipe: Super Easy Banana Muffins

This is a quick, healthy recipe for banana muffins. No added sugar, no oil. Maybe they won’t be sweet or fatty enough for some taste buds, but…get over it. I enjoy them and they seem to go over well with friends/unwitting taste testers. They’re also small and hardy enough to stuff into a jersey pocket before a ride.

Super Easy Banana Muffins

Makes 4 decent-sized muffins

600 calories total/150 per muffin

  1. Put two bananas and about a half cup water in your blender of choice and blend.
  2. Throw the yellow mixture in a bowl.
  3. Add a cup of whole wheat all purpose flour.
  4. Add a splash of vanilla.
  5. Add a couple spoonfuls of baking powder.
  6. Mix it all up.
  7. Add water in small increments and mix until desired consistency is achieved. It should have a creamy texture, not thick like cookie batter but not as thin as pancake batter. I never measure the water; I just do it by feel. Sorry I don’t have specifics.
  8. Spoon into a sprayed muffin tin
  9. Bake on 375 for about 20-25 minutes or until golden brown (duh)

That’s about it. These are plenty tasty on their own, but if you’re feeling funky, you could add all kinds of stuff: chocolate chips, nuts, other fruit, frosting, coconut, maple syrup. You could use non-dairy milk instead of water, or a half-cup apple sauce as an egg replacement. But none of that is really necessary.


banana muffin

A Weekend Ramble

I spent my weekend in Rothrock State Forest, enjoying fall in the best way I know how: riding a bike and running. I had a blast.

Friday morning I drove up to Penn Roosevelt State Park, which is less a state park and more a collection of rustic tent-only campsites around a small lake in the middle of thousands of acres of public wilderness near the college town where football legends are excused for heinous negligence (aka State College). The leaves are in color, though not peaking yet because of this late-season heat. Still beautiful though, mostly golden, some copper.

From my base camp at the park, I went for a 38-mile gravel ride with 4,600 feet of elevation gain. The mountains were shrouded in fog. Some of the roads were less gravel and more grass/big rocks; despite my frustration while picking my way down them, it was invigorating to just be out exploring, encountering the unexpected. My Masi CXR, set up with ‘cross tires for the first time, was super solid. I found that by riding with a mindset of adventure/exploration instead of speed/get-a-good-workout-in, I was able to roll with the navigation and terrain issues. I wasn’t discouraged by the slow average speed, or the relative lack of distance. I rode up to a fire tower in the mist and saw woodsmoke curling up from remote cabins and had miles of gravel all to myself: basically, I created an experience in a new place, and challenged myself at the same time. That’s the whole point, right? Maybe not for others, but increasingly it is for me.

The next day I did a 20-mile trail run, my longest run ever. 1,800 feet of gain, most of it steady and not at all miserable. Everything was great until the last couple miles, when I went off trail to connect with the road that would take me back to the park and ended up hiking through underbrush over the biggest ridge yet. I was moving so slowly that my Garmin auto-paused even as I was making forward progress. But all told, I made it back to the car in under four hours, with my legs still attached. I figure that 20 miles on the trail is probably tougher than 26 on flat pavement, so at this point I’m as ready as I’ll ever be for the marathon.

It’s amazing what 36 hours in the woods (especially with no cell phone service) will do for you. The trip followed the familiar cycle of all my trips alone: excitement to leave, anxiety once left, enjoyment and frustration during the activity, comfort in the tent, satisfaction on the drive home. On day two, during my run, I was much more relaxed than the first day. I could have probably camped another night and ridden again the next morning. Still, as always, these trips would be more fun with some friends.

Small slide show below. I would take more pictures, but I don’t like stopping all that much.

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Recently while scoping out bikes for my dreamed-of expedition, I came across one with an internal geared hub (IGH). To be honest, it was the first time I’d seen one. At first I thought it was a singlespeed. Then I wondered why a) a singlespeed would be on a commuter/touring bike and b) why the hub looked like a PowerTap power meter on steroids. A quick glance at the specs and a Google search soon enlightened me.

Why aren’t these things more popular in the States? Straight chain line, no grit and grime from bad weather, basically no maintenance besides swapping chains, no stupid front derailleur to rub. Sign me up.

Some more research revealed that, while the Rohloff speedhub is revered worldwide for touring and commuting alike, other offerings get mixed reviews (and, like most cars, are much cheaper than their German-engineered counterparts). And I found some of the downsides: they are heavy, make changing a flat a trickier proposition, and pretty much un-repairable on the road. Alas, nothing is perfect, after all.

The particular bike I was looking at, the Marin Nicasio RC, uses a Shimano Nexus 8-speed hub. In my search for bikes with a Rohloff hub, I waded into territory that was more expensive and, increasingly, in incomprehensible foreign languages. Finally I found Co-Motion, a Portland-based company that makes bikes with Rohloff hubs. But those bikes are over $5,000, which is not really my price range for my touring setup.

I’m still not sure where I stand on the IGH issue. I’d like to ride one to see how it feels. I can see why a lot of Americans just say “screw it, I’ll stick with the derailleur system because it’s what I know, and hey there might be a 1/1000 change I get stranded on a mountain pass and I’d rather not take that chance.” But then again, carriage drivers in the early 1900s were probably pointing out the unreliable nature of automobiles, and look where that got them. Out of a job and ultimately forgotten. The IGH does, on balance, seem like a better technology for the riding that most people (read: people who use bikes to get places, not to explore compensation issues on Strava) do. Color me intrigued.

My brief internet foray into the IGH world reminded me of a broader point: every time I think I know a lot about bikes, I realize there is something I was totally ignorant of. Two years ago it was gear ratios. A year ago it was headsets and thru-axles. Now it’s the IGH. What will it be next?