Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Magic of the Bicycle

Many people bike for many different reasons. Those are not the people I want to address. They already know why they bike and how it betters their lives. I want to speak to those of you who don't bike and have no clue as to the many benefits and the enjoyment that can come with making cycling a part of your life. Bicycling is special.  It's freeing, energizing, and relaxing. It can destroy stress and depression. It can take you many places at a pace that allows you to observe the world around you, instead of the typical speed of society, where you see only a blur as you fly by.

For some it's just a small superficial reason to bike such as to stay a little more healthy. For others, it's a deep, spiritual connection to themselves and to the world around them. The bicycle brings them peace, understanding, and simplicity. But what ever the reason, it is a certainty that a bike can give everyone a bit of magic in their personal life. That magical experience is different for everyone, but only by spending time on a bike can you truly find out how it can change your life and become a special part in how you live. Just a simple act of spinning around the block can bring back a flood of memories from your childhood and fill you with so much nostalgia that you couldn't possibly doubt the magic.

It's amazing that most of you, who don't ride, see a bike as hard work, exercise and exhaustion. Really? Why? You can control how fast you go, how far, where, and with the multiple gears on most bikes you can even control the ease at which you navigate your local terrain. I have even heard people say it's boring. Really? Considering that bikes brought you great joy as kids and took you everywhere you wanted to go, what changed? Did the bike become less fun? Or did you? Are you afraid? Or lazy? Why do we limit ourselves to the idea that it's too hard, it's exercise, I don't have time, or it's for young people? Just about any excuse you can come up with is absurd.

Obviously not everyone, who doesn't ride, is going to jump on a bike and change their life after reading this blog. But even if only one person does and gives it an honest whirl, they won't regret it. I hope that person is you! Take a chance and better your life both physically and mentally. If you do, I guarantee you will add some awesome memories as well.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Take Care Of Your Gear.

It just makes sense, if you want your gear to be dependable and last as long as possible, take care of it.  Your equipment is far too important to neglect and costly at that.  All equipment from your bikes, to your canoes and kayaks, to your tents and hammocks, even your cookware, must be cleaned and maintained regularly.  It's far too easy to go out and enjoy that planned weekend, then come home afterwards and disregard the work of cleaning and properly storing your gear.  But this type of laziness bites you in the rear, because the next time you go to use it, the gear is dirty, damaged and in disarray.

Part of the experience of outdoor adventure is self-reliance.  It's being able to take care of yourself and your gear so that you can be safe and prepared, but also so you can enjoy the experience without worrying about something failing or left at home.  It's responsability!  You do not want to go out in the woods without being responsible.  That's asking for trouble.

Make it a priority to maintain your gear and to check it regularly for defects.  It's a good idea to start when you buy it.  Take it out of the box and test it.  Then clean and properly store it so that it's ready to go when you want it.  Then check it again before your trip departure.  After you return, clean and check it again, before storing it properly.  Repetition is key here.  It prevents you from forgetting an important part of your gear and helps you to take notice of a possible defect or damaged part you might have missed the last time around.

Take the time to take care of your gear.  It's a small sacrifice to make so that you can spend your time living it up and having the time of your life without worry!  Peace of mind comes from proper planning and maintaining of the necessities needed to go on that adventure.  Do it right and have fun!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Finding The Right Bike!

The secret to picking out the right bike is not listening to anyone! There are bike shop owners who can lend tips and suggestions, but beware, what I have found out is that their advice can be biased and self-serving. So why listen to me? Because I am not going to tell you what type of bike to buy, but rather, help you find out what you want in a bike. The rest is up to you.

The first thing that you have to determine is what you expect to do with the bike. Are you wanting to race, exercise, ride on dirt trails, or just cruise around the neighborhood? Or maybe a combination? This is where you have to make your first smart decision. What do you want the bike to do? There is a bike for every type of riding. And remember, if you start with one bike and decide to try another style of riding, you can always buy another bike. You can't have too many!

Once you decide which type of bike fits what you expect to do with it, then you have to go and try some out. Whether it be new or used, make sure you find the one that is the best fit. The majority of shops let you test ride their bikes. If they don't, go to another shop. This is not the shop you want to do business with. Remember, bikes come in different sizes to fit short people to very tall people. This is where bike shop owners can help size you to the appropriate size frame. But beware of them trying to redirect you to something other than what you have decided you want. They may try to sell you the whole store if you let them, so stay on target with what you want. Also, visit multiple shops. They each carry multiple brands, which differ in how they fit a rider. Comfort and fit is the next important decision you have to make. No one brand is the best, and each company may have a lot to offer in quality bikes. But get branding out of your head. You are looking at what feels good to you and looks good to you.

What? Looks good? Why does that matter? If it doesn't look like you want it to or if it's not the color you really like, then are you truly going to enjoy every aspect of riding? A bike is a personal machine and an accessory to your life. It's yours. It has to speak to you and speak to others about what type of person you are. It's like a trustworthy friend that you can always enjoy coming to and sharing quality time with.

Now comes an even harder decision...paying the cash for the bike. There are bikes for every budget, but remember you get what you pay for. It's better to spend a little more and buy a quality bike that will hold up with minimal periodic maintenance rather than buying a low quality one and spending a lot of money in excessive maintenance. Besides, if your bike is always needing adjustment and work done on it, it's not reliable and you definitely won't enjoy riding it. So, shop wisely!

Once the money has been laid down, ride the damn bike! There is nothing worse than someone buying a beautiful bike and letting it sit and waste away in the garage. This is your final decision to overcome, and that's to get off your butt and ride. It's easy to talk about what you want to do and it's easy to buy things that you think you will use doing those things. However, in reality, actually getting out and doing it is the hardest part and you have to stay on task. But, you can do it and you won't regret it.

Oh...and don't forget to personalize your bike. Put a rack on the back, a basket on the front, maybe a bell, or any other item you would like. Upgrade the seat to something a little more comfortable, or change the grips to something other than black. Again, your bike is a personal machine that needs additions that give it the functionality and aesthetics that fit your lifestyle. Enjoy the bike and make it a part of your life!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Kids Need To Play Outside!

What happened to kids being able to go out and ride their bike, build a fort, climb a tree, or play hide-and-seek? What happened to them being able to go out and explore their little part of the world while pretending, learning, and creating as they went? What happened to them being able to go outside and get dirty and maybe a skinned knee? 
I know I'm not the only one that has realized that kids don't play outside much anymore. And I know I'm not the only one that is saddened by that. Yet, kids still don't play outside much. I have talked to many parents and read countless articles supporting kids needing to get outside but have seen very little physical support. And I know that some parents will argue that their kids play sports and get a lot of outside time playing them. While that's healthy and fun, I am talking more about time outside doing unplanned things that they themselves get to come up with. 

It is through this type of unhindered playing that kids strengthen themselves. They make themselves who they want to be. They learn things on their own, build and fix things on their own, socialize on their own, and best of all, learn to be themselves on their own. 

Now, if your kids aren't used to playing outside on their own, they may not know what to do at first and may not be motivated to come up with the endless ways to occupy themselves. However, I found in my own experience of changing the downward spiral of kids growing up too fast, that once they catch the outdoor itch, they beg to go outside. Even if they have to be kicked out of the house a few times first. Trust me, the motivation soon comes. There's nothing like going outside to see your kids playing hardcore in the dirt or running around the yard playing tag. It's priceless!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A Better Tasting Ride!

Coconut Macaroons - High energy,
 great tasting, and easy to make.
Like most other riders, I got into the habit of packing all the popular, expensive, and not always great tasting food that is heavily marketed for today's riders. How easy to grab a few sports bars out of your pantry and toss them into your pack. But, also like many of those riders, I got very tired of them quickly. 

So, I began researching healthy, high energy, and easy to make foods that would pack well. Oh...and tasted great. There are many great resources available on the internet and once you start experimenting, you will find that you can add much of your own creativity as well.  

There are many benefits to making your own riding food. For one thing, fresher ingredients. Who doesn't like that? It also costs much less. I think we all like to save money. There is definitely more variety.  It's fun researching and coming up with new things to try.  And let's not forget the most important thing, it tastes better! 

I believe we all fall into the traps of the quick and easy, or this is what the pros are using and all the hype that goes with it, that we forget about about what we can do ourselves. Just like the great feeling of accomplishment we get when we finish a long ride on our own power, there is a similar feeling when we feed that power with our own, homemade fuel. There is power in being self-sufficient. So, start experimenting and enjoy a better tasting ride!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Connecting With People.

One of the best things about getting out and enjoying outdoor adventures, is the ability to connect with others, whether that be with spouses, best friends, or the people we meet along the way. Even in my solo adventures, I have had the luxury of meeting and enjoying conversations with new people. It's part of the adventure. We aren't just trying to find new places, we are also trying to find new people and cultures.  And maybe in the process, find a little more of ourselves. 

There are so many people on this globe and a lot of them have some very interesting things to share. Opening yourself up to those connections allow you to expand your little part of the globe while they get to expand theirs. Communication, whether it was used for information sharing or social entertainment, has been a way of life since the beginning. It's who we are. It's what we do.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Don't have time to ride your bike? BS!

Finding time to ride is always a challenge. However, despite what you may think, it is not impossible and in fact you can ride everyday. We have all been stuck in that job that feels like it takes our entire day away. We all have after work commitments such as home projects, children's school events, church activities, etc. But, for our physical and mental health, we owe it to ourselves to get out and enjoy the benefits of riding a bike. And the best part is, that the more you get out, the more time that magically materializes.

Here's how to squeeze in some extra bike time.

  1. Set a time aside for riding everyday, even if it is only 15 minutes or so.  Get up a half hour early, or buy some bike lights to go out after dark. A quick jaunt around the block or two will make a difference. The act of just getting out is the hardest part. 
  2. Keep your bike maintained and easily accessible.  If your bike doesn't function well, or you can't get to it behind all the clutter in your garage you might as well forget about it. But, if it's sitting where you see it and can't ignore it, you're more likely to grab it and go.
  3. Instead of running your simple errands in the car, take your bike!  I can get to just about anywhere I need within 15 minutes. The grocery store, the post office, whatever.  There is no better way to do what you need to do and save some gas in the process. And when I can't pack everything in my backpack, I use my trusty bike trailer. 
  4. Find a riding buddy or two!  It's always easier to do something with team support, for you and your team mates. 
  5. Ride local group rides and sign up for charity/fun rides.  There are usually group rides available in most areas that are free to join.  Many of them are sponsored by local bike shops or individuals who want to build support for biking. And most of them are designed solely for relaxed, recreational riding only.  There are also charity rides and fun rides that you can sign up for, obviously with entrance fees to raise money.  But even better, not only do you get to do something you love with hundreds of other great people doing what they love, but you do it for a great cause as well!
  6. Download MapMyRide or Strava.  These free apps allow you to track your rides.  You can see where you have gone, how long it took you, how many calories you've burned, and even post it to your friends.  These apps just add a little more fun to your ride and can help feed your habit.