One week

Climb to Kaiser is one week away from today. If all goes to plan, I’ll be on Big Creek Road climbing 2,000 feet in 4 miles before Huntington Lake and a short break. From there, it’s up to Kaiser Pass and its 9,700-foot summit, then a massive descent and flat passage through hell. The ride is an annual way to remind myself how lucky I am to pedal. To be in the mountains is to witness beauty, to share in the struggle. To come back to civilization is to have convenience. As we dig to make the goal to the top, we’re all insignificant on the mountain. The mountain doesn’t move for anyone. And each year, it seems bigger than we remembered it. Climbing high mountains on a bike is a high calling. I hear it in the distance. And I’m drawn to it.

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Seriously, I’m doing this for free. . .

I don’t want to monetize BikeCrave.

Seriously. No auto-reply DMs from me. No email spam. No ad sales. No affiliate links. I’m building the site with my own money. I’ve developed it with a blizzard of ideas, plus feedback from cyclists around the world. 

No monetization? Are you nuts?

Hardly.

What I’d like BikeCrave to do is simple: Spread bike mojo. Coax a laugh. Help someone. Make people think. Maybe even be thankful. 

Why?

I don’t routinely share this piece of personal info online. My wife is a cancer survivor. She’s been in remission going on 6 years. And believe me, I try to remember every day I’m alive to be thankful. The big “C” changes everything — even when you’re not the one wearing the scarlet letter. I will always wear a yellow bracelet.  

Now it’s time to try and give back, to honor others who can’t (or couldn’t) pedal like I can — or pedal like you can. We’re fortunate. When I did the Ride for the Roses in 2003 and 2004 in Austin, Texas, I never witnessed such profound human bravery and compassion. I’m puny by comparison. Giving back. Tough concept to grasp? For some in today’s difficult world, maybe so. Pedal on, we must. 

On a ride after work this evening, I chatted with a very fit guy. We met up on the bike path. He wanted to hammer it. I wanted recovery in the small ring. Yet we still had something in common. It’s how rides can go. All that’s required are two people, four wheels, and a conversation. Things were splendid.

But when I mentioned BikeCrave with excitement, the rider had questions. He was instantly skeptical. Rather than see a few altruistic possibilities, he saw barriers, and motives. “How will people find your website?” “Won’t people be skeptical that you’re trying to make money?” “What’s in it for you? There’s got to be something in it for you.”

The guy was an old-time salesman, so I dismissed much of what he said with a smile. He’ll never understand the Web and why people can connect without ever having met — if only out of passion for something. For him, maybe the day is primarily about money. I’m glad I’m not in sales.

My answers to him were very easy: “They’ll find BikeCrave through their friends and other cyclists.” “They can scour the site’s source code for affiliate links or Google AdWords, and they’ll find none.” “Purpose”

Every day, I happily work at a publicly held software company, helping position products and services for people who will pay more than half a billion dollars for them this fiscal year. I’m lucky. I’m not rich. Never will be. Not a goal. 

The only money I want to see mentioned in the same sentence with BikeCrave are donations going to worthy causes. Donations that people decide to make privately on the basis of a “penny per mile” concept — in the privacy of their own lives. Donations that happen (maybe) because they provide people a bit more purpose in this world. You know, thinking of others. Trying to help out. BikeCrave is not my career. Social media is not my calling. Having a huge number of “Followers” on Twitter doesn’t interest me. BikeCrave is my way to give back and tap into my athletic passion and zest for life.

If someday BikeCrave enables me the opportunity to set up a local bike touring company in San Diego, I suppose I’d be lucky. But if that touring company also helped those less fortunate, I might just say I’d be the luckiest man in the world.

Seriously.

Pedal, climb, descend, repeat . . .

Climb to Kaiser is just four weeks out. Time to emphasize steep climbs and more weekly elevation before starting the taper June 23.

This afternoon was repeats on Highland Valley Road, which includes three main climbing sections as you roll east. The pro peloton gobbled up the first section of climb during this year’s Tour of California before turning left on Bandy Canyon Road.

I kept plowing toward Ramona.

Three times.

Three repeats on Highland Valley easily gets you total elevation gain over 4,000 feet but not at high elevation. It also throws some 15%+ pitch in spots.

Such steepness is necessary to prepare for Big Creek Road, the most critical section of Climb to Kaiser. There’s no substitute, but try we must to prepare.  

 highland valley 3x

Doing, not saying . . .

Kicked off the build of http://www.bikecrave.com today. Official site launch is June 15. 

BikeCrave is an idea that has been in my brain for over a year now. It’s become a labor of love and shared project (with cyclists around the world) as a place to celebrate all things cycling, and the cycling lifestyle. I’m providing blog updates here (and DMs and emails) as a way to share the “process” and demystify the “social media” thing. Too many buzzwords and not enough reality. Let’s strip it down to the pure essence. 

BikeCrave? It’s real. URL secured. Host secured. Design direction and architecture complete. Brand guidelines done. WP template for customization complete. Plug-ins chosen. Designer and coder hired. Chief content producer (me) hired.

One thing I enjoy about cycling is the near-zero tolerance for fakery. You either climb the mountain, or you go back and reach a fitness level that will power you up the mountain. Or you pick a smaller mountain, also known as a “hill.” The point is, you’ve got to start somewhere. It doesn’t really matter where as long as you reach the goal, and you enjoy the journey. You may only want to ride flats in Tuscany and sip wine. Or work on your glove tan lines along Highway 101. Way cool, each.   

But no faking. 

We can’t talk ourselves up the mountain or down the coast in a 20 mph headwind. We can’t slog through a cold rainstorm without something deep inside. I’ve been there, digging about in an empty suitcase of courage, harkening back to times when the legs were stronger and the heart more capable of carrying red blood cells to hungry muscles. 

Doing, not saying.

That’s top of mind this afternoon before I kit up and do my ride.

A tad cliche? Yep.

The best route? Always.

Hope you’re having a great weekend and doing what you love, which may even include two wheels.

Getting closer . . .

This weekend I should have wrapped up:

(a) Brand platform, logo, tagline and color palette

(b) Web site architecture, layout and design

I’ve shared comps with several Twitter cycling compatriots. This comp is 97% there (minus the background).

I’m very jazzed about this project, and the conversations I’ve had with several folks. A heartfelt thank you to all of you who have given me feedback and been so kind to share you thoughts so far. It means a lot.

More to come soon!

bikecrave_radio_fm_100_px_comp

BikeDesire or BikeCrave . . .

I have a dream. It gets better when I’m awake.

With your help, I hope to build a community Web site/blog that blends the best of all things cycling–and the people who love the lifestyle. Newbies. Club riders. Cruisers. Ultras. Racers. Tourers. Roleurs. I’ve met you on the road (and dirt) and Internet. I think we all share something.

I have narrowed the site down to two names: BikeDesire or BikeCrave 

There’s equal parts black art and metrics-driven rationale to starting a brand. Focus groups tell you a lot, but ultimately people shape community sites and why others decide to visit. Good ideas spread. 

A brand is just one piece. It’s goes beyond logo, typeface or color palette. It’s what you feel. It’s why you pick Specialized over Trek, or Moots over Seven, or Colnago over Pinarello. It’s why you’re a Campy fan or a DA disciple. And vice versa. It’s why you made the leap to SRAM. 

I’m working to turn on the BikeDesire or BikeCrave site in late June before the Tour de France. I hope it’s a compendium of what I like best about the Web: Ulility, Sharing, Helping, Experiencing, Going deep on a topic about which you’re passionate.

Cyclists desire or crave many things in the pursuit of cycling. Enjoyment. Fitness. Comraderie. Peace. Competition. Status. Belonging (group rides). Not belonging (going against the automobile grain). Exploration. Conquest. Of course, Bikes. There’s something that happens when we throw our leg over the top tube and start turning the pedals on these bikes. We can’t always articulate it. But we have the common bond. We desire/crave it, and it becomes part of our the fabric of our lives, mirroring seasons and establishing milestones. Our families and loved ones understand. They support cycling and the great things it can do–and does.

I’ll initially organize the Web site in 3 main categories:

  1. Need (topics, basics, things that cyclists need)
  2. Want (products, experiences, access to other things that cyclists want)
  3. Have (photos, tips, stories, races, routes, fundraisers that cyclists have)

 

As I go down this path, I hope you’ll join me. I plan to share the process so you can see and help shape the outcome. Visuals always help, so here are a few of some 20 logo comps (pre-color) that are on the wall for consideration. Thanks for the early feedback on naming through your tweets, and please be safe out there when riding.

 

bike desire logo with one forward slash grotzec
bikecrave flama semicondense basic
bikedesire radio fm comp
bikecrave flama semicondensed medium

bikecrave radio fm 100 px comp

Breathing and Agonizing…

Let me start with just two words: Great ride.

If that’s all you need to know, you can stop reading now. If you want texture, a bit of flavor, and some weird commentary, then plow onward.

Breathless Agony, which sells out very fast in advance, is a fabulous ride. It’s got some beautiful roads, plenty of climbing (12,000 feet officially), and a personable host in Chuck Bramwell (love the guy).  

Onyx Summit — the ride’s highest point — is at 8,443, according to the sign on the side of the road. You’ll smile when you reach it. Take a photo with the grim reaper, who seems even more grim because he’s at least 6-feet-8-inches, no kidding. Party with friends made along the way after you plop your bike down on special mats.

The timer turns off the second you get there.

My total pedal time per Garmin was right on 6:05 (it was beyond 7:00 counting for rest stations, but more on that later).

So, Onyx Summit is above the snow line? A grim reaper nearly the height of SHAQ? Breathless and Agony together?

What the h#&%!

It’s not as bad as you think.

I swear to you on my white Fizik Arione saddle and a stack of freshly laundered and folded DeFeet Levitator socks.

Here’s the deal: Yes, there is 12,000 total feet of climbing, and nearly 98% of it you’ll tackle in fewer than 80 miles. But the majority of the climbing is on managable grades. You will not encounter sustained 10%+ stretches that turn your legs to dead stone and your back to shattered glass. You will be in the saddle for long stretches as you make your way upward, but you won’t be blowing chunks on the side of the road (a la Mullholland Challenge in 2008 and 100-degree heat, according to hardcore locals).

Just climb.

Oh, and be sure to stay topped off with fluids and your food of choice. Very important.

Warning: There was no Hammer Nutrition at feed stations for this ride.

I focused so much on preparations for rain (that never materialized), I didn’t take a few Ziplock bags of my own stash of Perpetuem (prefer not to eat on hefty climbs; it disagrees with my stomach).

Combine that blunder with a meager dinner of a low-cal veggie burrito the night before, and less than 3 hours of sleep (worrying about the no-show rain), and you get less ride enjoyment, more work and a few leg cramps to boot.

Huh?

What a damn minute here. I had more than 2,700 miles and 225,000 feet of climbing in my legs for calendar year 2009 before Breathless Agony. I was out of breath and in agony on Palomar Mountain many times already to ensure the ride would be a smooth, uneventful cruise.

Such is the cruel and unusual nature of cycling and the beauty of learning.

This time, I got a lesson in humility. Maybe this blog post was a precursor.

A sharp cramp in my left inside quad greeted me at mile 50. That put a giant kabosh on plans to rip the ride in the saddle the entire way up. I alternated saddle time with odd standing intervals to the top. On less than severe grades, standing just doesn’t feel right unless you’re putting it down in the big ring and trying to drill it.

Instead, I was the one being drilled — by the moutain. 

Regardless, an experienced cyclist should know better than to:

(a) Show up without his own Perpetuem

(b) Try to expect something special on less than 3 hours sleep

(c) Eat a low-calorie veggie burrito the night before as “fuel” a serious effort

Despite my goofs, the ride remains a great one. I harbor no ill will toward it, the veggie burrito that I ate or the friendly people at the feed stations. I powered a few PB&J sandwiches before the top and turned on my low-RPM diesel engine. A fellow rider gave me his stash of Perpetuem, and two others handed me Endurolyte tablets from elaborate plastic cases pulled from their jersey pockets. These nice folks saved me from my own stupidity. And to them, I am indebted.

Here are my ratings for the 2009 Breathless Agony ride:

Overall: 9/10 

Scenery: 8/10 (don’t miss the snowcaps in front of you between miles 80 and 90)

People: 9/10 (very nice long-distance riding type crowd; no attitudes)

Pros: Climb from Angeles Oaks to Onyx Summit is quality; Jack Rabbit Trail just rough enough to give you fantasies of Paris-Roubaix (without the Belgian flags and frites).

Cons: A 2-mile piece on Highway 60 with semi-trucks; the last 10 miles backdoor Redlands after a glorious descent.

Pics below at mile 45, mile 74 and mile 82 (approx).

Note: elevation profile is missing 4 miles where I failed to turn on Garmin after stuffing face with said PB&J sandwiches.

Mile 45

Mile 45

At the top

At the top

Mile 82 (approx) on descent

Mile 82 (approx) on descent

Profile minus 4 miles after Angeles Oaks Feed Station

Profile minus 4 miles after Angeles Oaks Feed Station

Fresh air and friends…

It’s been awhile since I ventured up above 6,000+ feet on two wheels. On Saturday, I go where the air is thinner. Onyx Summit is a bit over 8,000 feet in Southern California, and part of a century ride called Breathless Agony.

Climbing is as pure as it gets. 

You, your bike, and the mountains.

It’s where you go deep inside yourself and learn about commitment. It’s where you see if your training measures up. Drafting is pointless. Explosive attacks are only for the 10% who can pull them off. “Dancing on the pedals”? Sure, if you weigh 140 pounds or less and race professionally.

Real mountains and elevation help you make real friends. Suffering equalizes everything from socio-economics to education. No one cares if you have a custom-built bike when they can barely remember their own beneath them as they trundle upward. Lack of oxygen and 190 beats per minute forces all but the fundamental instincts out of the brain.

Cadence, power, and measured effort. We try to get comfortable. We we try to dose the wattage. We try not to bonk.

When we are digging deep, dangling off the back, and secretly begging for help, we are humbled.

No words need to be said. The sounds alone of breathing tell us everything: We are alive, we are outside and we are among friends.

Achoo..!

Flatting right at twilight before damp offshore clouds roll in is never good for you. One minute, you’re warm, working and mobile, the next you’re wet, chilly and stuck.

Rather than change the tube and pedal home among headlights and high risks, I called home for a ride. Just 15 minutes of waiting can do you in.

Four hearty sneezes this morning are a clear message: be careful and stay healthy.

And for goodness sakes, try to flat under a warm midday sun.

Damn construction staples. Impossible to see. Always trouble.