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Welcome to Cycling Nirvana!

BEGINNING AUGUST 27th, THIS BLOG WILL BE UNDERGOING A MAKEOVER.

All the existing content will still be here, and new content will be added too, but there may be a minor  “Under re-Construction” obstacle (or two) to navigate. I apologize for any inconvenience.

I think you'll appreciate the changes that are coming. Here are a few of them.

Posts will be targeted to men and women of any age, but with a leaning toward riders of a certain age who are predominantly interested in road cycling and the many benefits it provides. (This may include late-bloomers, second chancers, or bike riding aficionados who want to be part of a collective that is encouraging and helpful to those less experienced.

  • I’ll be aiming for a more diversified content base to include ride reports, rider profiles, product reviews, fitness topics, safety, cycling culture, and a few topics off-the-beaten-path, but still of interest to those who ride bikes.
  • More photos!
  • Guest posts!
  • How-to-posts!
  • Other news you can use.

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I hope you like the forthcoming changes, and will stay with me to share your knowledge and love for the great sport of road cycling. I look forward to writing and editing Cycling Nirvana for many years to come. Please let me know if you like what your read here, and feel free to offer any constructive criticism.

Ride on my friends! Be safe out there!

Lloyd


Avoid overheating on your next summer ride

HERE ARE A FEW BRIEF TIPS for surviving the summer heat while riding your bike. There are dozens of articles by experts that will give you the deep science about body heat and fluids and other stuff. And if all those numbers and matrices make you feel more confident, then by all means read the articles.

As for me, I’m not an expert in physiology, but I’ve survived some pretty stupid stunts in my time, and I can certainly share some wisdom from practical experience. I’ve ridden my bike in the 115+ degree heat of the parched Sonoran Desert of Arizona, as well as the 98 degree, 96 percent humidity of the Gulf Coast states. And while everyone tolerates heat differently, the following pointers will give you some measure of safety when riding in the summer heat.

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Listen to your body
The first and most important rule is: Use common sense. You have to make adjustments in your riding program. You can’t ride in the summer heat at the same intensity you ride in the 60 and 70 degree temps of spring and expect to excel. Your body is highly adaptive, but you need to gradually build-up your heat coping mechanism. Spend the first couple of weeks in summer heat “working into it”.

Your body is talking to you. You know when something isn’t right. If you’re feeling weak, or dizzy or chilled when you should be feeling hot, something is going wrong and you should stop and reevaluate your condition.

Avoid unnecessary heat if you can. Try to schedule your rides in the early morning, or the late afternoon when the sun isn’t so intense. Or, scout out some routes that provide more shade.

Learn how to drink. In other words, don’t ride like a Tour de France competitor for 45 minutes and then slam 20 ounces of water to catch up. Sip your fluids, a couple of gulps every few minutes. When I’m out on a hot day, I drink approximately every 4-miles: a gulp of Gatorade with two gulps of water after it. But everyone is different. You’ll have to discover your own rate of hydration, but it should have consistency.

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Discover your best hydration practice
Learn what to drink. Water is a given, but you need more than water. You need a mineral and electrolyte replacement drink. Blood doesn’t work well if it gets too watered down (hyponatremia), and that’s what can happen if on a hot, sweaty day you drink only water for an extended period. The main ingredients that help keep you stabilized are sodium, potassium, chloride and magnesium. These are available in many sports drinks and water additives. I often drink Gatorade, but not all cyclists can tolerate Gatorade. Some of the other products available are NUUNClif Shots and Clif BlocksCamelbak Elixir and Accelerade, to name just a few. If you get too dehydrated or too “watered down” your endurance wanes, recovery takes longer, or worse, you could put yourself in a serious condition. Experiment with proper hydration to see what works best for you, and what your stomach can tolerate.  

Another way to maintain sodium in your blood on a hot, sweaty day, is to try munching on salty foods along your ride. Salted peanuts, beef jerky or similar prepared foods help you maintain your sodium levels. I know a few long-distance cyclists who buy one of those jumbo dill pickles at every convenience store stop.

In the heat of the summer, water and sports drinks get warm on your bike. When you make a stop put some ice in your drinks or buy a cold drink. Putting cool fluids into your system will help keep your core temperature down. Experimentation is in order here as well. Super cold water on a hot ride gives some riders stomach cramps, so go easy at first.

And finally, water is not just for drinking. If you have an ample supply, and need a cool down, consider pouring water over your head, down your neck or over your shoulders. It can provide some welcome relief in the heat of the day. The same is true for an ice-sock. I’ve never used one, but I’m told it works well.

Reflect and dissipate heat
I love cotton fabric. But not for cycling on hot days. Cotton gets wet and stays wet. It won’t effectively wick the sweat from your body and when it’s stuck to your skin with sweat, it won’t allow you to dissipate heat. There are many technical fabrics available that are better for summer cycling. Check out Boure’Garneau or Canari. Read what they have to say about their clothing and you’ll see the benefits.

Also, give some thought to light colors to reflect the sun, and long sleeves to keep the sun off your arms. There’s a good reason the desert dwelling Arabs are always covered up,no matter how high the temperature. I bought a long sleeve summer jersey and wore it for the first time recently. It works very well to keep my skin surface for overheating.

Stop in the shade and off the hot pavement. Shade is not always available, but if you have to repair a flat tire try to do it in the shade. If you stop to rest, try to find a comfortable spot in the shade.

Try using a helmet with adequate ventilation. Here’s a look at styles of helmets available, you’ll notice some are well vented and some are not. On a hot summer day, you’re going to want some air circulating over the top of your head.  

Common sense, acclimatization and proper hydration will help you steer clear of over-heating while riding in high temps and humidity. The bottom line on all of this is to understand the messages your body sends and know it's limitations.

Everyone is unique, so experiment to see what works best for you, and enjoy riding this summer. You might also want to join the National Bike Challenge. It’s FREE, FUN, and you might even win a prize.


Product Review: Siquar Pedals

THERE ARE MYRIAD CHOICES WHEN IT COMES TO BUYING PEDALS for your bike. Many brands. Many styles. Many mechanisms to attach your foot and become one with the bike, and of course, pedals with no method to attach your foot to the bike--often called flat pedals.

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Siquar Manufacturing, a Taiwanese manufacturer of metal products has made their first flat bike pedal. My Siquar Pedals installed easily with an 8mm hex wrench. The pedal body is a unique design made from an aluminum alloy. The axles are CR-MO steel, and employ sealed bearings for a smooth spin. The pedals are incredibly light, weighing only 207g for the pair.

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Construction
The pedal body is smaller than most popular flat pedals on the market. It uses no pins for gripping a rider’s shoe, but provides a grippy, porous type of finish. Manufactured by CNC processing, these pedals have nothing to adjust or replace. Their efficient, one-piece design has a kind of “blade” or traction node that provides a one-way grip for the shoe. Additionally, there is a channel on the front and back of the pedal that could be used to insert a reflective panel to increase visibility in low light. The sealed bearings provide a very smooth spinning action. The entire unit appears clean, well thought out and professionally made.

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I wondered about the smaller pedal surface, but a 10-mile ride found them to be comfortable and grippy using my athletic shoes. They also worked well with my partner's soft soled, ladies shoes. The smaller size platform was virtually unnoticeable. I could imagine these pedals being installed on cruiser bikes, comfort bikes, hybrid bikes, city bikes or who knows? Pedal choices are as varied as the number of pedals on the market. Everyone has a favorite.

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There was no pricing information available at post time, but further information can found at the company’s website: www.siquar.com/  Also see: www.facebook.com/siquarhardwareindustry


Eight suggestions for confident cycling

LATE ONE AFTERNOON, ABOUT 10-YEARS AGO, when I was just getting started in serious road cycling, I was riding toward home when I noticed a group gathering at the local bike shop. I pulled in and quickly discovered that I was amid preparations for the Thursday evening shop ride. I watched as people were making final adjustments to their bikes and locking up their vehicles. At the last minute, I decided to join them. 

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I already had about 15-miles in my legs, so I felt warmed up enough to ride with this younger-than-me group of about 20 cyclists. Plus, I had a brand new carbon fiber bike that I wanted to put through its paces. We all took off down the divided highway at rush hour. The lineup was a little messy at first, with everyone jockeying for position, so I felt most comfortable being one of the last in line. As we headed south down the busy road, things got more organized and the speed picked up rapidly. About six miles into the ride, we made a sharp right onto a less busy road -- one that was unfamiliar to me.

The group cranked up the pace

Within minutes the friendly banter had stopped, and all I could hear was the wind and the whirr of many tires rolling on smooth blacktop--these guys were serious. We wound through treed lanes, over creeks and at times into the low setting sun. I was getting tired. A space opened up between me and the rider in front of me. The few riders behind me began to pass and fill up the void. I continued to spin as hard as I could, but I was losing ground. Within a few minutes I was dropped. Not only was I alone, but I was in strange territory, and in my supreme effort to keep up, I hadn’t been paying much attention to how I got there.

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My confidence level evaporated

It was too late, of course, but I realized I had hooked up with a group that exceeded my abilities. Whoops! Lesson learned the hard way. It also bruised my confidence. Now, as twilight was setting in, I had to find my way back home, weary from a couple of hours of hard riding.

Preparedness will help you feel confident and comfortable on your next ride. Here are eight tips that I recommend:

1. Know your bike

Know how it feels, reacts, handles. Does it fit you properly? Do some of the components need adjusting? Is it making a weird noise? Get it fixed. You don’t need distractions when you’re 20 miles from home and you're exhausted.

2. Know how to fix basic things

Little things can go wrong and ruin a ride. Learn how to quickly repair a flat tire, or make a minor derailleur or brake adjustment.

3. Know the rules of the road

This is very important. You ARE traffic. You should ride your bike safely, and so other users of the road can anticipate your next move. Go to Cycling Savvy to learn more.

4. Know the terrain

Will you be riding where steep climbing is required, or where super fast, curvy descents will test your bike handling skills? Will you be riding on gravel, or paved roads with lots of potholes, or narrow roads with no bike lanes? Knowing in advance what you’re getting into will increase your confidence level.

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5. Know your endurance limits

Can you ride 20-miles, 30-miles, or more? Can you ride at 24 mph for extended periods? If you’re a casual rider think twice before you agree to ride with someone who rides 300 miles a week. Bonking can be miserable and embarrassing.

6. Know your group rides

First, do you know the etiquette and techniques associated with group rides? If not, group rides can be dangerous for everyone involved. Second, match the group ride level with your own abilities. Groups are often graded as A, B, C rides, etc. A-rides are normally fast rides, where C-rides are often casual or social rides.

7. Know the best time to ride

Do you really want to ride during rush hour--do you have the skills to do so? Mid-summer afternoons in Florida are very hot and humid, so I often ride in the morning, right after rush hour. But I don’t like to ride east first thing in the morning because the rising sun is blinding--for me and for motorists. What’s the best time for your ride?

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8. Know what you need to carry

Do you have tools and supplies to get you out of a minor mechanical jam? Do you have your hydration and nutritional needs covered based on how far you’re riding? Do you have some cash (some rural retailers don’t take plastic) and a cell phone? Do you have lights in case you don’t make it home before dark?

By following these guidelines you're more likely to ride free of major problems that could ruin your ride or make you wonder why you didn't stick with golf. Preparedness and knowing what you’re getting into will go a long way toward riding with confidence.

If you’d like to add your own tips, please comment below, and feel free to share this post with others.


A ride for Jessica

RIDING A BIKE MEANS SOMETHING DIFFERENT for anyone whose ever put their butt on a saddle. For some it’s a fresh look at the neighborhood. For others, it’s a race through the mud. For me, it’s often a way to clear my mind, reflect on the day’s offerings, relieve stress and improve my attitude.

Last weekend was a difficult one. I traveled to Tampa for a memorial. There, I met with many other family members and friends to honor my 30-year old niece who had recently died from breast cancer. Saturday was a gut wrenching day of sadness for everyone. Jessica had little opportunity to enjoy her life or her husband. I left the memorial with a mixed bag of emotions: anger, sadness and a plethora of frustrations.

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Then, I went to my church

I was staying on Clearwater Beach and had the forethought to bring my bike along. I took two rides during my 4-day stay on the beach. They were both similar in distance and direction, but so different in experiences.

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On the first ride I cranked the pedals until my legs ached and my heart reached its limits. I felt only sorrow, the Florida heat and sweat. Visually, all I remember is the blur of cars, the shade of trees and the glare of water.

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Wherever you go, there you are

On my second ride I slowed down and took in my surroundings -- the smell of neighborhoods, birds that I couldn’t identify, and fish swimming near the surface in an inlet. I meandered around a bit, had a bite to eat, and climbed the same three bridges that I climbed on my previous ride, but this time I took in the views of the many waterways along the Gulf.

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I’ve discovered in recent years that, for me, cycling is an effective coping mechanism. I’m sure that those 70-miles of saddle time made my 5-hour drive back to Jacksonville a little more tolerable.

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We love you Jessica. Rest in peace.


Things more important than cycling

ANYONE WHO KNOWS ME knows that cycling is a big part of my life. When friends think of me, they think of bikes. In fact, I take full responsibility for hurting the Nielson Ratings on many TV shows, because I’ve motivated numerous couch potatoes to turn off the tube and spend time riding a bicycle.

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But I must admit, there are times when I don’t ride

In the interest of self-preservation, I try not to ride in severe weather. Living in Florida means that cycling is a year-round activity, however, we are the lightning capital of the world. Also, we do have the occasional hurricane, and we do have torrential rain storms that I’ve seen dump 9-inches in 45 minutes. During those times I let my bike rest, although I have been caught several times in rain so heavy that I’ve had to get off the road.

I also rest from the ride when I have certain physical issues. For example, over the years I’ve had a few back surgeries and several surgeries on my eyes. During these recovery periods I stay off the bike until I’m properly healed--although cycling, done right, often speeds the healing process.

One other thing that keeps me from riding, and even writing about cycling, is a family emergency. When my son was injured in Iraq, a few years ago, I was so preoccupied with getting him home that nearly all routine activities halted.

Likewise, for the past month, my 91-year old mother, who has lived with me and my wife for 11-years, took ill. We’ve all been consumed by emergency care, a hospital stay, a long stay in a rehab facility, and battling with health care professionals over something I’ve never experienced before, namely: Age-Based Health Care Rationing. (Something we will likely all come to know.)

My greatest cycling supporter

The good news is, my Mom is back home and is getting stronger day by day. She is getting in-home nursing help and is, amazingly, doing physical therapy on her own. (She says she’s not ready to leave this earth yet, because she’s not done harassing me!) In truth, she is my greatest supporter when it comes to cycling, and wants to know the details of my ride nearly every day. She’s a big fan of the Tour de France, watches it every year, and was supremely disappointed when Lance Armstrong failed us. It has bothered her too, that I haven’t been riding my bike this past month--she feels responsible. All this, from a woman who has never experienced the joy of riding a bike herself.

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So, there are certain things that will keep me off the bike. I’m never unmotivated, but I am sometimes preoccupied with life’s challenges. Today, I’m officially back to writing and back to riding. I’m looking forward to finishing up the final month of the National Bike Challenge with some decent mileage. And I’m looking forward to cycling during the cooler days of winter which are right around the corner.

And, of course, I’ll report my mileage to Mom every day!

(The above photo is me and my Mom at a century ride in 2006. Yes, I was a little heavier then.)


Crash avoidance: 9 poor choices when cycling

EVERYONE MAKES POOR CHOICES IN LIFE from time-to-time. If we’re smart, when we see the err of our ways, we make corrections. For most things, the world is forgiving. We try not to worry too much about the past, and we move forward with little regret.

Cycling, or bike riding in any form is often less forgiving of poor choices. You can’t make poor choices on a bike for long before something life-changing happens, and you may never be able to recover from it or live-on without regret.

Here are just a few poor choices (that I’ve witnessed repeatedly) that you don’t want to make on a bike.

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Salmoning. Salmoning is when a cyclist rides against the flow of traffic. That’s dangerous, because motorists, semi-truck drivers, speeding ambulances and six-ton construction vehicles with large trailers loaded with a bunch of loose equipment… are not looking or expecting you to magically appear from the wrong direction.

Riding at night with no lights or reflective equipment. Visibility is your most important asset on a bike. If motorists can’t see you, you probably don’t exist.

Multi-tasking while riding. Riding with no hands or attempting to eat or drink on the bike while challenging rush hour traffic is just plain stupid. Put both hands on the handlebars and pay attention to your surroundings. Focus!

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Trying to navigate urban traffic using aero bars. If you’re on a busy road, you’re not racing, and you’re not testing your endurance capability. Sit up straight, master your maneuverability, ride tall and be seen.

Riding in the gutter. There’s no U.S. law that says you have to ride in the gutter. There’s trash, and glass, and rocks, and curbs, and grates, and uneven pavement in there. Ride in the bike lane, or if there is no bike lane, ride on the right-hand third of the traffic lane. You are traffic.

Riding on sidewalks. Sidewalks are made for walking and walking speeds. The only time sidewalk riding is acceptable is if you are accompanying a small child on a bike or a trike.

Riding too close to parked cars. Imagine cruising along at 16-mph, when the door on that Suburban parked just ahead flings open right into your path. You’ve just been doored! It hurts, or worse. It could push you into adjacent traffic. Don’t get doored.

Texting or yapping on the phone while you’re riding. Leave the smartphone in your pocket. Trying to fiddle with a phone while riding is just as dangerous as it is in a car.

Ignoring red lights and other rules of the road. As a cyclist on U.S. roadways you must “drive” your bicycle in much the same way as you drive your car--legally. Use signaling. Use courtesy. Drive defensively. If you drive your bicycle according to the rules of the road, motorists will be better able to anticipate your next move.

These are certainly not all of the poor choices that cyclists make, but they're common ones. Avoiding these nine will make it safer for everyone on the road. 


Bike Touring in Washington State

Book Review:
Cycling Sojourner
A Guide to the Best Multi-Day Tours in Washington

IF YOU’RE LOOKING FOR ADVENTURE. If you’d like to plan a fantastic get-away. Or if you want to get back to basics and experience the countryside and a renewed sense of freedom, I can think of no better way than on a bicycle. And one of the best, most pristine locations in the US to do just that is Washington State.

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I’ve ridden my bike in 13 states, and have 37 to go to reach item #1 on my Bucket List. I’ve not ridden in Washington yet, but I know many cyclists who have, and who have shared their stories and photography with me. So, how serendipitous is it that bike tour leader and guidebook author Ellee Thalheimer has created Cycling Sojourner, the perfect guide book for me, and for anyone who wants to explore Washington from a whole new vantage point.

Get ready to hop on your bike and experience Washington state more intimately than anyone can in a motor vehicle. Never toured before? Don’t worry. If you can handle a bicycle, you can tour--no matter your age or level of experience.

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Thalheimer offers a variety of tours to fit nearly everyone’s budget, and all levels of cycle touring experience. She lays out the basics of getting ready, and does the legwork and research to make a Washington bike tour an experience of a lifetime. This book will guide you through untouched landscapes, snow capped mountains and river valleys laced with vineyards, and it provides advice on road conditions and terrain along the way. Thalheimer also shows you opportunities for lodging and campsites, eateries, wineries, brew houses, museums, parks, resorts, festivals, hiking and fishing venues, enjoyable side trips and much more.

Cycling Sojourner is a travel and guidebook written in a friendly “let me show you” style. It’s full of insider knowledge from cyclists who’ve done it, and the kind of nuts and bolts, how-to information that is so useful to newbies and experienced cyclists alike.

Jim Sayer, executive director of Adventure Cycling Association, says this about Thalheimer: ...she acts as a convivial, detail oriented bike concierge who gives you insight into the best multi-day loop tours in the state, local culture, and the most delicious places to eat, drink, and see the sights. A “bike concierge”, that’s an appropriate description.

It’s a given among the cycling community at-large that Washington has some of the best cycling culture and infrastructure in the country. So if you’ve considered parking the car, locking up the house, and taking on a new adventure, a bicycle tour in Washington is a world-class way to do it. I recommend Cycling Sojourner for the valuable guidance it offers any cyclist planning a tour in Washington.

For more information on Thalheimer, Cycling Sojourner, or her other publications click here: http://cyclingsojourner.com/

SPECIAL NOTE: Please check out the important comment below from Washington Bikes.


Berlin girl

SOMETIMES A RIDE IS NOT JUST A RIDE, IT’S BETTER. I started to ride into the One Spark festival this past Sunday morning, but it was so dense with pedestrians that I decided not to enter the zone. (It consumed 20 square blocks right behind that tallest building in the photo, and had 260,000 visitors by its end. More on One Spark.

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So, my ride turned random. I rode around town, from the South Bank to the North Bank, trying to avoid all the construction zones in this city, which is no easy task. As I was going through one rather ominous and shabby neighborhood, I came across a pretty, young, blonde woman who stood on the side of the street amid heavy construction vehicles. She looked entirely out-of-place--like a fashion model standing in a war zone. She was well dressed, and had a pink beach cruiser leaning against her hip. She was focused on a sheet of paper in her hands. I stopped and asked if I couild help her in any way. She looked up at me, smiled, and blurted out, in a strong foreign accent, Oh, yes! Thank you, for stopping. I can’t figure out where I am. She handed me the paper, which was one of those cartoonish maps the Chamber of Commerce often hands out. It had markings on it that I couldn’t make out.

She told me she was looking for a certain record store to buy some American rock albums for her boyfriend back in Germany. The person who gave her the map told her the store was in Five Points. The trouble was she had gotten off course and was about two miles away from Five Points--bewildered and a little nervous about her surroundings.  

Me: You’re from Germany?

She: Yes, Berlin.

Me: That’s interesting. I just came from a festival downtown called One Spark. They’re going to have their next festival in Berlin in September.

She: Yes I know! That’s why I’m here. I’m doing research for my company back home, so that we can get the most from One Spark before it comes to Berlin. I’ve been at the festival for three days, but today I was doing a little exploring. I’ve been to the Riverside Arts Market and San Marco, but this map is confusing. Right now I need breakfast, I’m starved! And I’d like to find the record store.   

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I pointed down the road, and tried to explain how she could get to Five Points, but the look on her face wasn’t too reassuring. I didn’t want to leave her alone in that neighborhood, so I rode with her to Five Points. She seemed relieved. We chatted as we rode.

She: This is so wonderful! I feel like I’m getting a bicycle escort. Thank you so much!

Me: Oh, you're welcome! I’m happy to do it. I was just out doing a little exploring myself.

We talked about the festival and her travel adventure. She remarked how wide open and big Jacksonville was--how it seemed everyone had a car and there were few bikes. She told me that in her neighborhood the streets were cramped and few people owned cars. I told her to be very careful riding in the city, because Jacksonville wasn’t exactly bike-friendly. We stopped for a few red lights--me all sweaty in my standard cycling gear, riding my road bike, and she in her very feminine pink and yellow tourist clothing, riding a pink beach cruiser.

Yes, we got a few looks.

We talked some more, exchanged pleasantries, and I introduced her to Five Points. I pointed out some restaurants, places she could ask the whereabouts of the record store, she thanked me again, and then we said goodbye.

It was truly the most enjoyable part of my two hour ride. It always make me feel good when helping out another bike rider. Berlin girl made a great ride even better.

My ride: Join me on Garmin


A little remedy for the expensive bike trip

WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU THOUGHT about that big road trip? I've been wanting to ride the Southern Tier for some time now, but I've been denied either for health reasons or finances. Big trips are expensive, and there's a lot of leg work to be done before the rubber ever meets the road. And considering it's a 30-day tour--well, that's a big deal in more ways than one.

The solution for many is the over-nighter ride. They're cheaper, less planning is required, and by staying reasonably close to home, you can't get into too much trouble. 

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As soon as the weather gets a little more predictable, I'm planning an over-nighter from Jax to Clearwater Beach, FL--about 260 miles one way. I'll spend one night in Mt. Dora, and complete the ride the following day. I'll spend a day or two with friends, and if I'm feeling up to it, I'll ride home using a different route. If I'm not feeling up to the ride home, I'll throw my bike on Amtrak, it's a cheap and relaxing way home. My choice will be to ride home, but it's nice to know I have that option, without a lot of painstaking planning and budgeting. 

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So, even if that dreamed about long tour is out of the question right now, because of finances, job demands or family obligations, consider riding an over-nighter to a small town, or a park in your region. It's fun, you can meet some great people on the road and in towns along the way, and you can still get in some serious cycling and adventure. 


What to listen for on your next bike ride

WHEN YOU RIDE A BIKE THERE ARE MANY interesting sounds that seep into your ears if you’re paying attention. Sounds that you normally never hear while motoring in a car or even taking a short walk. Take a nice long ride on your bike and pay attention to the symphony of life that is all around you.

Here are a few things I hear while riding my bike

Nature. I ride on several rural or tree lined roads in NE Florida that are teeming with wildlife. I get to experience squirrels chattering, birds singing, the screech of a hawk flying high above, the sound of horse hooves running in the corral next to me, rabbits running through the brush, and other animals including deer and the occasional alligator, and they all make noises that add to nature’s choir.

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Children playing. When my ride is nearing its end, I make a final turn near my house where there’s a school yard. There’s nearly always children playing outside on the playground. There’s really nothing that can compare to a yard full of kids running, swinging, sliding, laughing and having fun together. To me it sounds like pure joy.

Commerce. I often hear jets and small aircraft flying overhead, boat horns signaling to open the drawbridge, and the ferry blowing its air horn as it departs the dock. I also hear trains clicking down the tracks, and train signals at crossings.

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Voices. When I ride through the historic part of San Marco, I often stop at a red light near a restaurant with umbrellas and sidewalk dining. For a moment or two I can eavesdrop on conversations and hear the laughter of people enjoying one another’s company while sharing a meal.

Wind. I love the white noise of the wind rushing past my ears. Headphones or earbuds have become a fashion accessory these days, forcing media into your ears nonstop. I enjoy a break from the noise, a break from music, a break from the screams of advertising. Listening to the wind is a welcome relief.

My bike. When I get farther out of town I hear things closest to me. I hear bike tires rolling on pavement, chain movement when I shift gears, and the clicking of a coasting rear hub.

Me. I hear my breath. I enjoy listening to my breathing. When it’s deep and clear, I feel like I’ve done something good for my body. When its raspy or strained, like after having a cold, I know I am working to make myself well again.

Take a nice long ride or your bicycle, leave the earbuds at home, and pay close attention to the myriad sounds you’ll hear. You will gain a renewed sense of community, and it may even bring back some memories of when you rode your bike as a kid. The sounds of life are happening all around you. The symphony is free of advertising and the sounds just may renew your spirit.