Layers count

Good gear, stay warm photo/J Ferris

Good gear, stay warm photo/J Ferris

Winter brings colder weather, at least in our part of the world. In the Sierra it means consistent cold, especially this year. In mid-America and back east, it’s really cold. Staying warm is critical if you’re to continue enjoying riding, hiking, xc skiing, snowshoeing, skiing and so on.

First rule is this: leave all your cotton gear at home. Cotton will not keep you warm, and if it gets wet, can be a big detriment to your health. Depending on where you are, it could lead to very serious consequences, like death. Hypothermia really is a killer.

Wear either wool, smart wool, or synthetics when you venture out in the cold. These fabrics not only keep you warm, they dry quickly and will wick moisture away from your skin. Layer everything. You’ll be able to shed a layer if you start to feel too warm, or add a layer if the cold starts to settle in. Gen

erally speaking, if you are too comfortable when you start out, you’ve got too many layers on. Ideally you will be just a bit on the cool side.

When you start whatever activity it is that you’ve chosen, you’ll start to generate heat. That’s good, and the reason you don’t need to be completely over layered when you start out.

If you’re headed out into a cloudy day, or into the back country, always take rain gear with you. If your top layer keeps you dry, it’s a much better day. Worst combo is cold and wet. Bad, very bad.

Knowing the weather forecast is especially important if you’re out in the mountains. or out there quite a ways on a trail. In town, you still need to know if there is rain heading your way. Stay warm, stay dry and your day will be much more enjoyable.

You’d think Boomers would know all this. We’ve had plenty of time to learn it. It bears repeating though. Mother Nature doesn’t care whether you’re dressed for the prevailing conditions. You’re on your own, so stay smart out there.



Winter is here

Winter is here

The snows started to fall in the Sierra early this year. It hasn’t stopped, and everyone in California is grinning. The biggest grins are on the faces of anyone who enjoys snow sports of any kind.

Boomers around the Sierra in California, from 4,000 feet up, may have to park their bikes for a few days. Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows reported 4 feet of new snow over the last day and a half. Christmas Eve will bring in a robust and cold storm, with snow levels dropping to 2,500 feet.

This doesn’t mean that the more mature generation will head for the couch. Hot chocolate maybe, but the lure of keeping active simply means that we’ll head out into the snow. For hard core cyclists there are fat bikes to explore. These bikes have very wide tires, knobby for gripping the snow, and apparently are great for pedaling about in the slippery white stuff. If you are at a spot where they are available for rent, it’s probably worth it to climb on one and find out how they do. Could be fun.

There’s also Alpine and Nordic skiing. In the Sierra around Lake Tahoe there’s a boatload of places to do both. If strapping waxed boards to your feet and launching yourself down a steep hill is too much for you, snowshoes could be what you’re looking for.

Snowshoes simply allow you to hike in the snow without sinking in up to your ears. You’ll need poles along with the snow shoes. What you’ll get is a wonderful experience in the quiet winter woods. Sounds good to me.

The whole point is that winter is here, and there’s still plenty to do, where ever you are. Do it. Get outside!


Outside with the Boomers

DSCN0838While this blog is named Boomers on Bicycles, and certainly covers the older crowd on bikes, that’s not all we do. BoomerGen, which is us, in younger people speak, is an active and diverse bunch of people. Right now, it’s cold outside in most places, and anyone within range of a mountain probably has a set of skis, a snowboard, xc skis, or snowshoes in addition to the two wheeled steed.

Some things cut across all cold weather outside sports. Staying warm and dry is critical not only to your comfort, it’s critical to your continued existence. The first caveat is that all the cool cotton clothing that you trot about town in needs to stay home when you head out to the forest, the trails, or the bike paths, in cold weather.

The layers that you wear need should be either wool, smart wool, or synthetics of some kind. These fabrics have the ability to wick moisture away from your skin. When wet they retain some ability to trap whatever heat you are generating, and they dry quickly while doing so.

Layers are important because you can easily take off one if you are too warm, or add something when you start to get chilly. Most of them are lightweight but have the ability to keep you comfortable. If they have a wind blocking fabric built in, so much the better.

If you are too comfortable when you first start out on your trek you’ve probably got one too many layers on. As soon as you start hiking, skiing, snowshoeing and so on, your body will heat up. If you’re overdressed to begin with, you’ll have to stop and shed a layer. Starting out with the right mix simply means you get to hoof for a longer and more comfortable period of time before shedding that layer.

While this is a bit of repeat of the last post, it bears repeating. There are stories every year about back country travelers who, while wearing cotton clothing, got caught in the wet and cold and died. It really is critical.


Turn on the lights

Early autumn ride, Lake Tahoe photo/J Ferris

Early autumn ride, Lake Tahoe photo/J Ferris

Ah, the joys of autumn. The trees putting on the their annual color parade, riding through fallen leaves, eating more warm pastries than we should–it’s great.

It’s also getting darker earlier. Slowly but surely, the light fades out just a bit earlier every day. Soon, taking off for a ride at around 4 p.m. will be a bit sketchy.

Since those of us in the more mature group, or so we think anyway, may already have some vision issues, riding in fading light can be a bit of challenge.

Considering that Boomers are also driving in fading light, it seems important to shout out my yearly blast about lighting up your bike. It doesn’t take much brain power to understand the results of a car hitting a bicycle. Bikes lose, it’s that simple.

I don’t race, and am unconcerned about whether I am in the super cool crowd who wouldn’t ever put lights on their bikes. They weigh too much, they produce drag, and other very elite arguments, just don’t have anything to do with me.

My bikes have lights, road and mountain, front and back. ¬†Before I saddle up, the lights go on, every time. I don’t ride in fading light or in the dark. I do have to say that, once, on what was supposed to be a “group” ride, I ended up riding half of it in very poor light, by myself. I didn’t appreciate either the dark or the alone part. I was quite happy I had lights on my bike though.

The reason most of us wear brightly colored jerseys and so on is so that we will be seen by the motoring public. It’s good to be seen. I wear the colorful jerseys, and I have bright flashing lights too. I got hit once. Didn’t like it.

Not only do I have the lights, I actually change the batteries twice a year. As I said, being seen while on the road is good.

As we ride into the wonderful light of autumn, remember to light up. No excuses. Our older bones don’t need any auto hits.

Suit up, turn the lights on, and ride on!


Time to ride

The autumn ride at Blue Lakes/photo Placerville Bike Shop

The autumn ride at Blue Lakes/photo Placerville Bike Shop

We have about two weeks of summer left. The Autumnal Equinox is on September 22, at about 1:44 p.m. PDT. The dog days of August are over. Nothing to do with dogs by the way. It’s simply when Sirius, the dog star, launches onto the night stage in the sky.

Schools are in session. The weekends are devoted to football and homework, plays, music to be learned and so on. What that leaves is fewer people out on the trails. For those of us of a certain age, this is good. We aren’t as likely to be passed up by a young person in the single digits of their life. Really, when a 9 year old blows past, and you are already working hard, it just isn’t fair.

Bike shops will soon be looking to draw down their 2013 inventory further than they already have. The 2014 uber wonderful bikes are on the way, and there has to be room for them. It’s time to look for sales, and to bargain when you’re buying.

It’s also time to realize that the daylight hours are very subtly shortening. Beginning on September 23, the subtle aspects will start to disappear. Long late afternoon rides are still possible for a while. What we will all face though is fading light earlier in the afternoon. Bike commuters especially will have to deal with this.

It’s time to make certain the batteries in the lights on your bike are fresh. Riding about at dusk without good lights isn’t very smart. It’s a good thing when cars are able to see you.

It’s a wonderful time of year to ride, no matter where you are. All you have to do is saddle up and start pushing the pedals. Ride on!


Pay attention!

Rider and bike at Lake Tahoe

Ride, ride, ride, and do it safely. Pay attention!

Recently, I wrote about a pedestrian who was hit by a drunk bicyclist in Truckee, on July 4. On July 9, the gentleman who was hit died from his head injuries.

About 3 days ago, there was an article in the Sacramento Bee about another cycling accident. Seems a cyclist ran a stop sign, and was hit and seriously injured by a car which had the right of way. Both of these accidents were completely preventable. I don’t know if the stop sign running cyclist has survived or not.

It is distressing to be in the Sacramento area, Folsom to Mid-Town, Downtown, Roseville, Granite Bay, Citrus Heights, and so on, and observe so many cyclists simply ignoring the rules of the road. I ride, a lot. I stop at stop signs. I actually signal my turns. I don’t think it takes any more brains or energy to ride safely.

Now, I may not look like a Tour de France rider, or a club rider, or a model for spandex, but I do know that, gray beard and all, the rules of the road apply to me and every other bike rider out there.

I stink at math, but simple physics tells me that since my bike and I weigh less than the average set of tires on a car, I will be the clear loser in any crash with an auto of any kind.

A very long time ago, while in my teens, an older driver, stopped at a stop sign, decided that it was OK to pull out into the main road, where I was riding, and had the right of way. He looked right, then left, right at me, then forward, and, gripping the huge steering wheel with both hands, pulled right on out.

I had no chance, although I vaguely remember slamming on the brakes and attempting to swerve out of his way. It didn’t work. I was T-boned, meeting the great chrome bumper on his great big tank of a car, and subsequently greeting the pavement, where, fortunately, no other cars were travelling. I didn’t enjoy the experience very much, nor did my bike. Physics and experience are at work here.

There is no excuse for any rider to ignore stop signs, stop lights, pedestrians, or any common sense rules. Those who do endanger all of us. There are already too many car drivers who’d rather we didn’t ride. Pay attention. Being an idiot on a bike is a losing proposition. Wise up.


Changes in the Tour? Maybe

saddle with nails protruding

Time for a reality check photo/C. Ferris

This years Tour de France, lit off last Saturday, thundered through Corsica, and hit the French mainland with panache. Always full of fun, strategery, crashes, miracles, and just good excitement, it’s one time of the year that I’ll put off my ride for an hour while I wait to see the peloton appear like something out of Starwars as it reels in the breakaway not far from the finish. Always exciting.

Are things changing in the Tour? What may, and only may, be different this year is that the young riders coming up through the ranks seem to be doing so on their own power. Tejay Van Garderen, Peter Sagan, Andrew Talansky, Peter Kennaugh, Cameron Meyer, Nairo Quintana, and others who are in the younger group, seem determined to put the doping stupidity out of its misery. I want to know without a hint of a doubt that the Manx Missile, Mark Cavendish, is powered only by his training and ability and desire to outsprint everyone.

I can only hope this is true. Time will tell of course.¬† Armstrong’s contention that you couldn’t win the Tour, at least while he was riding, without a chemical boost may be true.

For the next generation of great riders, perhaps not. As I have said before, if I want to see spaced out weirdness, I can go see it on the streets of any big city. I’m not interested in watching it while someone is pedaling up a HC mountain in the Tour, or demolishing another rider in a breakaway.

I really enjoy watching the Tour. It is inspiring, even to a grey beard rider like me. Let’s hope that this really is the start of something new in the pro ranks. Ride on!

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It’s hot, now what?

Rider and bike at Lake Tahoe

Ride, ride, ride

Temperatures across the western US have been scorching for the last few days. That is, they’ve been in the over 95 degree range, early in the day. In places, it’s climbed to 115 degrees.

The question is: Do you ride anyway? As with many things, it depends. Here are some tips so that you can keep the pedals turning without visiting the emergency room or the local morgue. Heat can and does kill.

  • Ride early in the mornings, before it gets too hot
  • Drink water before you ride, and carry enough water with you to get through the ride, at least one bottle for every hour you are on the bike
  • Dive for the shade whenever you safely can
  • Put on lots of sunscreen
  • If you find a cool spot along the way, take a break, cool down
  • Curtail your ride: Long rides in very hot conditions are for the pros, not you. Alas, you aren’t one.
  • Keep the extreme pedal turning to a minimum.
  • Take it easy today so you can ride tomorrow
  • Know when to stop
  • If it is really hot, stay off the bike. Sooner or later the weather will change, and you can ride again

You might think this is just plain good common sense. It is. There isn’t any reason to take risks on a very hot day. Bragging rights aren’t worth it from you hospital bed.

We’ve made it this far, might as well extend the streak, yes? Ride on!


Really? Beer rounds?

saddle with nails protruding

Time for a reality check

On May 9, Bicycling arrived in my email in box. Featured story was “Best Brewery Rides”, “Beer Here! Six Brewery Rides.”¬†The appalling message is that it is OK to ride to a brewery, have a beer or more, then ride to another one and repeat the process.

It is stunning that in a magazine like Bicycling that such an article would be front and center. It was not followed up with stats about the number of cyclists who have been busted for BUI, who have been injured or killed due to intoxicated cycling, or who have been killed by drivers who were drunk.

One rider said it was safer than doing the brewery rounds while driving a car. For whom is it more safe? How about recognizing that it’s an all around bad idea.

If you and yours deem it necessary to visit breweries, or brew pubs, or “craft” beer houses, and drink the time away, you should absolutely stay out of your car and off your bike. Hire a service for the evening: cab, limo, anything with a stone cold sober driver behind the wheel.

While I don’t personally care if you manage to kill or maim yourself while you’re drunk or “impaired”, you have no right to endanger the rest of us.

Get a grip. Brewery bicycle, or car, tours, are simply stupid.

Ride to enjoy life, not to put it in danger.


Radio Shack no more

Ride, ride, ride

Ride, ride, ride

Radio Shack recently announced that they were dropping their sponsorship of pro bike racing. The short version of their announcement is that it’s just not worth it any more.

The reason it’s not worth it is all the doping, fantastical excuses, and outright inability of so many in the pro ranks to just fess up to what ever transgressions they have been involved in.

They probably won’t be the only ones. If, during the upcoming season, or as a result of a re-examination of past cases, the ranks are more drug infested than any one could prove prior to this, others will probably jump ship too.

Considering that the buy-in to sponsor a team is a minimum of $1 million, USD, it wouldn’t be overly surprising. There isn’t any reason to associate your brand with stupidity. What that does or doesn’t mean for the future of the sport is anyone’s guess. A crystal ball would be handy about now.

On the local level, it doesn’t mean much. Most of the riders I know just don’t care any more. What most of us want is a clean field, racing only on whatever training and talent they naturally have.

Those of us who ride do so for the joy of it, or because we have a competitive streak that needs to be fed. The hum of the tires, the wind whistling through your helmet, the sights and sounds of the road or trail, the satisfaction of a ride well ridden. That’s it.

The spring season is on us. Let’s just ride and enjoy ourselves. Pay more attention to the wonder that we can all do so after all the years that we’ve put on our own frames, let alone the bike frames. It’s just a kick. Ride on!

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