Rambling of a cyclist on hiatus…

   

Every avid cyclist has been there, the rumination of your mind as you approach the base of a big climb, usually starting with the early optimism when for a minute it seems like you might be able to hang in the pack till the top, then early signs of anxiety slowly emerging from the corners of your mind like new born critters poking their heads in the sunlight for the first time. No power is the registered error message as you try to keep pace with the pack, the road tilts skywards, a gap opens up and the group gradually becomes a sperk in the distance. 

  

It is at this point of desolation that I pondered the gamut of emotions that we go through as humans, how diverse, compelling and most acutely, how fickle…our emotions are. I contemplate how thin the craverse is between love and hate, how elation and ruin walk side by side, how the only constant is change. I think on this age of “pay as you go” marriages, a woman could walk by her ex husband, one she spent 15 years years of her life with, through joy, pain, loss an triumph uttering nary a word but watering down such overwhelming ironies in statements like I saw Joe yesterday…

The mysteries of our passions are quite intangible and in emotions lie the essence  and reasons for our indulgence . 
Passion is in many ways an epiphany to me, it is an amalgamation of emotion, drive, ambition, external influences, internal inspirations and the intangibles. During this 15 minutes climb which felt like 2 hours, it occurred to me that no group of people are bigger slaves and masters of their passion as Musicians. Capable of fully opening themselves to the fury of the creative process and fully in touch with the intangible to command, bend and express it in its fullness, music can bring you to your knees emotionally as you watch the musician poured out. Many times we walk through life like a plugged stream, able to let out only portions of our essence, dammed, by fear… Fear of judgment, failure… Fear to be vulnerable and called out into the light. Musicians on the other hand seem to be able to break that dam and if only momentarily flow at full force, portraying their full self in all its splendor all the while pulling the listener out from behind his mask and exposing to the light deep things rarely seen. 

A great song is to me like the view from a mountain submit, stiring so much of your souls that the best you can offer is speechlessness and a nodding of the head. This brings to mind Nathaniel Rateliff, Ben Howard, CEF, Jon Foreman

   
 On this climb I thought of my brother CEF, a musician and artist in its true sense, living his life in seasons and servitude to his musical calling, capable of disarming the most distraught with the wail of his voice and contortions of his face, evidence of the deep spring from which the music flows. Right now I wish there was a spring from which to draw energy to get up this hill, alas I must ride this current emotion out, looking down every 50 yards to see if miraculously an extra gear appears and waiting for a gay emotion at the summit all the while  humming the song Hero and trying to recreate the magic only music can give. 

  
Sing on, play on, ride on…

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God loves cyclocross 

Every couple months I get to talk to my good friend AD, we go way back to a rainy day on a basketball court, sometimes I make the call and other times he does, the instigator never really has any bearings on the tone, level or strength of our connection. We are brother be it at home or abroad, we pick up right where we left up the last time we spoke. I dare say that is the sign of good friendship one formed through years bonding and numerous days lounging in campus dormitories gnawing on 2 day old pizza. I have had other friends, more sophisticated, more ambitious, ones who make me feel like if I keeping nurturing the relationship I will be on the front page of the NY Times before I know it. The latter group however is short on long-suffering (pun intended), a couple weeks of being incommunicado and you are dropped from the speed dial setting. 

  
What does this all have to do with cyclocross or God you say? Well hear, hear: The trustee cyclocross bike is in my opinion the most loyal of the never ending genres under which bikes are classified these days, they go as fast as your legs will propel them, keep up with any roadbike, all the while looking as good as the parts you hang on them.  Cross bikes are willing to be the winter bike and venture into any terrain your heart desires. The cyclocross mirrors how we feel inside; the dirtbag who would rather have panniers, fat tires, a flask and a destination with no plans on how to get there or the wannabe racer with 60mm deep wheels, you can dress a cross bike to be the embodiment of your current or desired mental state. 

  
 I just reactivated my Giant TCX. I put on some 28cc tires, new bottle cages and bar tape. The first ride was akin to a conversation with your high school sweetheart at the class reunion, awkward and forced, trying to find a conversational angle that skirts the elephant in the room. The sensation of speed was subpar, I searched for that feeling of riding a wild horse, the lurking aggression apparent in a race bike, the twitchiness of a steep head angle apt to respond to input from your pinky. I put in more effort try to coax that same feeling out of the aluminum frame to no avail, stood up and mashed the pedal, hoping to rouse the slumbering Cheeta within… No dice. Then something happened… I gave up. 

   

  
 I relaxed into a slow cadence, sat up and looked around, I soaked in every bump usually absorbed by the compliance of carbon strands, felt the tingling in my hands from my fingers up to my neck, the 28cc tires took the edge off but the frame stayed live.  On the decents, the relaxed geometry seemed to curve around the contours of the road and I thought … Hey this reminds me of God! We constantly chase speed, upgrading to the latest and greatest all the while relegating our first love to hang in the basement, with only the occasional call up when the fast bike is in the shop or the weather is bad. The cross bike never complains, always reliable, always willing. Romans 8:35 says what shall separate us from the love of God, not trouble or hardship or persecution or famine… 

As always it is hard for me to juxtapose the premise of a need for speed and one to look up and smell the roses on the bike just as in life. God can help me see through the fog and one of the ways he does it is through a 5 year old aluminum  cyclocross bike. 

Thanks for stopping by…

Riding the Motherland part II

Check out Part 1 of this report here if you have not already. 

   

After some tinkering, he was back on and we were off. The two Europeans were putting on a clinic on how to colonize the locals, IB and I were struggling to hold their wheels. I am not accustomed to being the weakest link but the heat, humidity and non-stop pedaling was slowly breaking me down (hey I have to have an excuse). There were hardly any downhills to rejuvenate my weary muscle and sitting on the wheel of skinny people at some point begins to become generate deminishing returns (insufficient reward from lackluster wind buffering). Right before we turn onto Kubwa expressway, I blow sky high, my heart rate is really high, my legs feel like anvils and it difficult to even stay upright, figuring that the chase car would move around me to Cather to his master “sorry sucker” I wave a resignatory wave and fix my gaze on my handle bar as the gap between me and the group continues to widen.

Miraculously, the driver Mazé motions me to hold onto the car while he bridges the gap for me (pro style). I could have kissed him, I held on thinking ” men! This is the kind of stuff the pros do!” Mazè slowly eases me to the group with the patience of someone repeating an action they are proficient at, it’s actually harder than it looks hanging on, I realized I actually had to pedal a little bit to keep me balance and since we were moving faster than my legs wanted to churn, in some way it felt harder than just crawling till I fell over on the side of the road. Back in the fold, I tucked in and hung on, ignoring the calls of my long lost concubine lady Cramps.  
 

I’m the only one not sucking in my gut…i promise, they all have beer bellies too… ok, dont believe me then…

 

The group again stops for Lucato change his bike , as noted in the above picture he is now on a Cervelo also. We head towards Lifecamp roundabout and at this point my eyes a peeled for the most convenient exit via which to limp home. It is obvious I have a lot more work to do. 

I end up making it to the end, I rode 53 miles that day at an average speed of 19.8mph with over 2k feet of climbing. Not bad by my standard, not bad at all. 

Here are some other random pictures from other rides I took while in Abuja. 

 

National Mosque in the distance, stunning to behold in person.

  

NNPC Plaza where Nigeria’s oil money is divied out.

  

love these kinds of shots..

    

like a plantain/banana plantation under the city. you see them usually under bridges. very fertile land Nigeria

      

i font know the name of this building but interesting Architecture

    

Mango seller… Tasted awesome, fresh and real

  

Gwari woman carry firewood in a calabash on her neck/shoulder

  

Selfie on my ride… no i do not own a selfie stick.

  

  

Next to Jabi lake.

  

Hotel being built next to the lake, opposite the shopping mall on the other side.


    

Hanging with my brother CEF on his roller blades. 

    

 

Recovery meal: Native soup with periwinkle,dried fish,snail and cow leg.

 
Great trip overall, just HOT!

Yup riding in the motherland again…

Shrieks and yells jerk my attention from my Garmin’s read-out of 28mph on the flats, I look up and there is Yakub the Polish diplomat trying to get the attention of the taxi driver who can obviously see us but still tries to cut in front of the group. Yakub then does something faciniting and funny, he raises his hand in the air, five fingers spread out (like a high five), this is the national flip-off sign, it’s usually done with the phrase WAKA. I have never met a foreigner who knows about that or even does it, it was for me and the driver hilarious. This was about the third time a cacophonous chorus had erupted from our foursome on a peppy escortion around the capital city of Abuja, Nigeria. The city’s topography is primarily flat with granite hills rising out of the horizon in every direction, like centurions guarding the planes. The ring leader was Luca again, who I have ridden with on previous trips, he showed up with a TT bike so I knew it was going to be a sufferfest kind of day. 

This sight meant it was going to be a long hard day

 IB, the resident godfather of Nigerian cycling also made a showing on his brand new Cervelo S5. I was going to bring along my Specialized Tarmac on this trip but decided not to, I had a lot of business lined up on this trip and had no idea how much riding I could get in. I therefore settled for some wheels to replace my busted one on my old Giant TCX I already left here 2 years ago. As usual, I got the “that’s what you are going to ride” look… from the group, I’m now used to it with this crowd…and most other crowds, these guys were riding top of the line race machines, I’m usually very secure in myself but I must admit I was a little ashamed of the bike. The saving grace is I’m usually able to keep up with those guys with their F1 carbon et al.

 

Check out the Peuguot Pickup… that things probably 30yrs old

  

No paint to designate lanes in a 3 lane highway…makes for some hairy driving

 

 The ride started with short loop from Maitama into Wuse 2 and back, naturally it began at 6:30, the most appropriate confluence between temperature and light (it’s not too hot that you want ride naked and lit enough to ride without a chase car). The city was already mostly awake, a remarkable ensemble of birds greets a listening ear, the temperate climate is conducive for a great variety of birds. Watching the streets slowly come alive, I notice how the primary source of livelihood for a lot of these early rising pedestrian are things most westerners take for granted: that air compressor sitting unused in your garage, that feeds the tire guy’s (vulcanizer) family, he sets up by the side of the road and does all tire related repairs for motorists, the antic Singer sewing machine your mother left you is the mobile tailor’s (Duma-Duma) tool of trade; with his portable sewing machine on his head, he logs 20 miles daily around the city calling out for work, Dumas fix any rips, make adjustments and even see complete outfits in minutes…the Michael Kors of the poor.  The list goes on to include the water guy (Mai Ruwa) who pushes the largest wheelbarrow you ever saw loaded with 50 liter gallons and selling water, those who pick fruit from trees and walk around town selling them. These craftsmen stop, crane their necks, observe the spectacle of spandex clad men as we speed by on a most unusual locomotive they must think. 

 

These guys go around looking for jobs mowing… they mow fields with just a weedwacker

  

Trash guy AKA babam Bola…stop at your house and take care if your trash for a price. thry also salvage for recyclables

  

Bala, the human troll

  

Magnet picks up metal as he walks around. st the end of the day he sells whatever he “attracts”

  

selling hot food

  

Roadside roasted corn and pear… top quality carbs if you ask me

 

 Also interesting was the reactions of pedestrians and motorists for to the spectacle I assume we were. I came to the conclusion that Nigerians are a people for whom nothing is too unusual to see or believe, this might sterm from their hybrid religious disposition an practices ; it is common for people to say they have experienced the supernatural like seeing a human being turn into a goat or knowing someone  whose mother inlay took out her womb, tie it up and stash it somewhere so she stays barren and they are completely believed by the audience, everyone knows a witch and every misfortune was perpetuated by one. Even with a strong Christian and Muslim presence in the country there still is patronization of indigenous oracles and religions pre dating them, there is a strong believe and appreciation for the spiritual world, realms westerners consider fairytale, delusional voodoo crap.  I say this because most times as we flew by people, we only got a “that’s interesting” look that did not linger very long (an interested glance and a return to the hustle at hand) not the expected fanfare we see on TV. There was really no chasing of our bikes by village children, or Entire towns shutting down to go look at the foreigners on iron horses… I’m sure some of this is because we were in a big city, the capital at that but the most I could get from the faces of children who looked a little longer was a ” men I sure would love to try that” expression, then they went back to their own hustle of selling peanuts, water or even fuel (black market). 

 

Thats thr fuel queue on the right, not traffic hold up

 

 The pace was punishing as we got on the Kubwa express way, sometimes touching 30mph and this was not on a downhill stretch, for a mountain rider albeit a very fat one (no hyperbole there) with approximately 300 total miles ridden this year, I was feeling the pace and avoiding the front like the plague. That early on a Saturday morning, the roads were not choked full of cars running at -as fast as your engine and load would let you- speed. I could already see the maturity in my riding, usually I can’t wait to get to the front and show how to pull a train at Mach 1 albeit for 4 miles before exploding, I already gave myself a pep talk citing as examples the numerous flat-landers who come to the Appalachian mountains and try to show off to some hairy-legged locals because they head 20mph average group rides where they’re from – Different specialization of your leg muscles, because you are fast on the fasts does not mean you would be when the tarmac points upwards and vise versa…I think fast twitch vs slow twitch…who cares you show off, you usually fall off. 

 

For how close Abuja is to the arid desert north, it is a very green and fertile land.

 

 Luca was doing all the work and a mighty fine job he was doing, I figure as with most diplomats he has to be very cautious with everything and It seemed he never felt comfortable sitting on anyone’s wheel, just my thought for all I know he could have Tritophobia (disease exclusive to triathletes where they feel they will get penalized for drafting so they ride very awkwardly in groups… I know you know what I’m talking about). I’m still feeling relatively fresh and finally get on the front to motor our multinational gang onwards and get rid of some nervous energy most of the time though I sat in a tuck and got pulled along at 24mph. The traffic circles AKA roundabouts as we ex British colonies call them are tricky to navigate, the chase car does its best to block rearward traffic but given that the circle is fed by 4 junctions, only one entry point can be blocked and then it’s really an “every man for himself” kind of situation. 

Forgive my digressive writing style, my brain is a lot faster than my pen; I have mixed feelings about riding in a 3rd world country with a chase car. You definitely feel a lot safer, safer from traffic where there is no speed limits,places you wrestle with jalopies going at 70mph as well as the vagabond goat on the interstate. Riding with a chase car however usually involves running lights, bullying other cars and putting you on a pedestal. Iris almost like you see yourself higher than these people, they can stay in line but because I can afford to I will go around. I feel people who would have waved and smiled only look and picture you as some ambassador or something, some unattainable standard,and instead of inspiring you end up solidifying sentiments of glass ceilings and complexes. It’s a love/hate relationship for me with chase cars, you will most likely arrive home alive but it serves as a cocoon, a glove shielding you from the environment, you might as well have ridden on a spinner with the heater turned on high to simulate the African heat… But I digress

We regroup outside the circle with three and not four men… No chase car either.


Luca chooses to keep riding, figuring IB would bridge across shortly, it’s probably embassy protocol to not stay idle without security for more than 2 minutes… Ok I’m just milking this now… surprisingly, the pace did not lighten, we kept on riding tempo and rotating at that. Every once in a while we would look back for IB but he never showed, after about 5 miles we finally and thankfully pulled off on the side of the road to wait. 10 minutes later, our comrade pulls up in the front seat of the car, bike in the trunk. This was the first ride he had ridden on that bike (2015 Cervelo S5) since it was built up, cable stretch and loosen bolts resulted in a sliding seat mast and inadequate shifting.

 

waiting for our lost friend

  

how many mechanics does it take to adjust a derailear

 
The solution was for IB to stay on the big ring while we stop at a friends house to get some tools. The break did little good as, my legs started complaining once we set off again. 

This is a good place to stop for now, I will conclude the report tomorrow. If you have not read my previous reports on riding in Nigeria, do so and leave a comment I would love to know what you think.  Thanks for stopping by

Finally some quality miles. 

Lately I have been making an effort to reserve Saturdays for the family, given my upcoming trip which would take me away for a significant amount of time. However, when I was invited to ride with the senior citizens power rangers ( a group of older guys who are properly quick) I brokered a deal with the misses and was on my way double quick to the meeting spot. 

The route is mostly “flattish” with a couple lumps here and there. The difficult part is usually hanging on to a wheel on the flat/false flat drags that comprise most of the route when the pace picks up… Which is usually from the start.  

 

Rich’s new steed…

 
The first thing that got my HR spiking was the sight of Sir Rich’s (SR) new Bianchi machine with deep November wheels (though it was just May – bad joke I know).  Rick on the other hand brought his B bike… I had mixed feeling about that, on the one hand it was comforting to see he was not planning on participating in the self-mutilation that was sure to ensue but on the hand, it seemed like he came with a cupout reason as to why he couldn’t hang…idk. We struck out, and in the first mile we had dropped 2 guys already, which make sense since Sir Richs was setting a pace akin to the run in to the finish line on the first day of a grand tour. 
   
  
We slowed down only after he murdered an indecisive squirrel in his path…maybe that’s too harsh but after the encounter only SR was upright with any sort kinetic energy that were not reflexive convulsions.  We slowed up, regrouped and headed up Highway 96. This stretch, a false flat of about 6 miles, usually windy and requiring an organized group to stay smooth, inform of road debris, cars from the rear and more importantly safely getting off the front and tagging back in. 

   
    We turned off the highway and unto a quiet 2 lane country road where Rich Mike (RM) the resident snow bird who just returned from Florida with crisp cyclist tan lines and serious bike fitness to boot bedazzled us with tales of fast group rides In the Florida planes. We took a brake and ogled SR new bikes some more, then headed up the only significant climb once the group was back together. 

   

  

Atop Evitts

    
     

At the top, we stopped and collectively admired the beauty of the valley we were headed towards. Standing next to 3 men over twice my age I couldn’t help but admire the agelessness of standing over your top tube, looking into the paradise we all call home, brain still euphoric from the effort that earns such a view. I look at these great gentlemen and see decisions being lived out, mistakes accepted and triumphs embraced. I wonder what their legacies would be, what demons they fight when they pedal around these steep green hills, I wonder what they wish they did more of and the things they wish they had never done, the words they wish they say more of and those they pray they never utter. I wonder what such a ride would be like for me in 40years. 

   
 

Whatever the answer to those questions would be, I embrace the truth that right now, right here they are happy doing what they love to do, teaching unspoken lessons and inspiring the next generation. I’m sure it would be great if the scales favor a lot more victories than failures when that time comes for me but I sure do hope I’m still on my bike at that age. 

We take a second break at BuffaloMills where I fix a flat and put the hammer down all the way back to the cars. All in all, a good ride, great day but the best possible company. 

Into the Fog…

The Velo virus is a progressive neurological disorder common among avid recreational cyclist. Those infected are in a perpetual state of bike-jonsing, biking seems to be all they think about: riding, buying, and living voraciously through bike videos and blogs. The velo virus brings with it the secondary infection “upgraditis” causing involuntary trolling of online bike retail websites, Craigslist, and physical bike shops, in search of the next shiny part to make you bike lighter, blingier, faster… Some or all of the above. You live by the N+1 rule (where N is the number of bikes you currently have): N+1 is the acceptable number of bikes an infected person should have. 

 The great part of any group ride or organized ride is the bike lust you indulge at the starting point… Is that the new Pinerello, how do you like those disc brakes, can I pick it up and see how light it is. Machines you have only drooled over in glossy magazine pages and high res online images are there in the flesh to gawk at, touch and if you’re nice, the owner might let you throw a leg over. 

  

source: spokespparel.com

   
Velo disease is the product of life and society, a state of mind where what we have is never enough, the grass is always greener, all that glitters has to be gold… Doesn’t it? Very few are truly free of this pressure, most (like myself) preach of a longing for simpler times, when we were not all paper-chasing and trying to keep up with the jones while at the same time trying to creating room in our credit card for that new wheelset that just came up on Pricepoint. I know I have a severe case of VD, I have actually permitted myself to lust for what I can not afford not just in bikes but at work, with family, with relationships…

 The endless pit of N+1 is insatiable, but we do not seek to quench the thirst of this beast, we just want to scratch the itch. As a kid, I actually liked getting little abrasions those I knew would scab over… picking the scab gave the perfect amount of pain and pleasure. 

  
 

 Satisfaction is akin to riding into the fog, you can see only a few feet ahead, but you are content with that.  You are within yourself, you know your limits and you know when time for change arrives you will be able to see and know it. In my case, VD epitomizes my helplessness : the things I want to do, I do not and the things I do not want to do, that’s what I do… 

So, I strive to go back to simpler times, to focus on the spirit behind endeavors and not just the colors and packages come in. I resolve to be content with the journey and not the destination. 

The Intangible. 

Slow days at work put me In a state of malaise and deep introspection, I sit feeling un/underutilized like a luxury sports girl used only to run errands…wasting. I wrestle between desiring full utilization and living a bohemian nonconformist life style, do I press to be a CEO and control the destiny of others or sell all I have buy a VW Westiva and drive cross country biking and skiing whatever my pleasure. Both options contain room for doubt and discontent. Deliverance at such times come in a slow long ride (SLR). I punched out early, bundles up and rolled out for a lumpy, windy, slow spring ride on an overcast 45degree day. 

  

Irons mountain remains my second favorite place in the world, the beauty of that place hunts and hugs me simultaneously. It is an ode to the solitude usually required for such beauty and the urban infrastructural cost (lack of). I love to drive up that mountain on my lunch break and watch the turkey vultures soar, jib and juke with the thermals as the rise out of the adjoining valley. The ride to the top was tasking to put it lightly, my legs were flat and instead of ruminating on my thoughts and figuring out the world’s problems, I was wrestling the mountain gradient, mentally struggling not to abort, point my front wheel downhill and do what ever thinking I had hoped for in front of a TV set. I suppose there are some climbs great for getting in a zone, where the body goes into autopilot, churns out the miles liberating the mind to think and there are others where all faculties (physical and mental) are summoned to maintain forward momentum. 

   

 

Lately I have been working on relocating to Nigeria, there is so much to look forward to, and so much to miss in that one decision. Endless sunny days to ride, a slower pace of life and community alien to western living where you actually know your neighbor beyond the once in month hello exchanged as you walk out to get the Sunday paper.  There is however the price paid in the forfeit of some level of comfort: Mosquitos with teeth, insecurity, lack of snow and winter sports, state parks, the vibrant Appalachian mountains in the Fall. This was what I was chewing over on this ambitious ride for someone with Spring leggs I have taken many a long rides intent on sifting through the fog, to convincingly articulate to myself the reason I am really trying to move there, many times I end with more questions than answers. 

  

Grinding up Warrior mountain, on the section with a steady 7% grade, it becomes clear, the answer is “the intangible” that which can not be quantified, can’t be articulated, qualities like providence, destiny, serendipity. The intangible if the anchor that keeps one commited to a resolve when all fails. The enigma however is that we seek to unravel the intangible, to clearly articulate and bring to the light the ethos of our motivation, but we fail every time. I guess we have to keep going on those Slow Long Rides.