Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Dreaming of Riding

My dreams of hitting the road late into the season remain unrealized. Gone are the fast days of fall, the blur of color on a warm day, and sneaking out for an afternoon ride.

Winter is here and even though the days are getting longer, there is no end in sight. Only February lies ahead—a month of cold, of gray, of Groundhog Day. It is truly the dead of winter, the time of year when the more literary among us read the Russian novels that delve into the bleak realities of the human condition. I’ve opted for a regular pint at Zeno’s.

I dream of riding, of quick turns and lazy afternoons on back roads. I keep a list of small towns and promising diners. Of the places I remember from childhood and last week. I map them out on my topo, the same one where I log trout streams. Spring—or warmer weather, I don't care which—can't get here soon enough.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

A Break In the Weather

Last Tuesday opened with blue skies and temperatures lingering near the 70-degree mark. For a moment January had been put on hold, and after a long working weekend at the Pennsylvania Farm Show, I escaped.

I picked up a trickle charger a few weeks ago in order to maintain the battery and up my chance to get out and ride on a day like this. Thirty dollars well spent. After six weeks sitting idle, the slash-7 started on the first try.

The road conditions were good, but varied in dryness depending on how long the surface spent in the sun. Corners were quick when the surface was dry, but a wet and oily sheen coated them if they sat in the shade all day. I remained cautious.

This was the first time I took the bike off the paved road. A road of gravel and dirt mix between the backside of the airport and Fisherman’s Paradise gave me a new appreciation of the words ‘flat’ and ‘dry.’ Speeds slow, awareness increases, and every little pothole is cause for concern.

Slowing down brings the landscape into perspective. The temptation to stop every quarter-mile to make a photograph is hard to resist. I am beginning to understand Steve Williams’ love of the Vespa and the way in which it has opened his appreciation for the passing landscape (Sorry Steve, I’m still not buying one).

The cold has settled in again, and I don’t see any relief in sight. The long range forecast remains in January mode. It looks like the warm weather won’t be around for a while. Time to hunker down and chip away at everything I’ve been putting off until winter.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Line Quality

The temperature rose on Tuesday. A quick 50 miles through dappled sunlight and changing surface conditions took the edge of a week loaded with deadlines and pressure.

As I become more familiar with my abilities and the bike, the ride is turning into something much different than it was in the fall. I’m hitting the corners with more confidence—pushing through, leaning hard, and twisting the throttle. There is a heightened sense of purpose. It’s exhilarating.

The challenges for me at this point are to find the best line in a curve, and when to shift in order to accelerate smoothly out of the other side. Then there’s the timing— when to lean, and when to shift my weight to the other side as I move through an ess curve.

So far I’ve been sticking to familiar roads—the ones that I know well in a car. I don’t want any surprises. I’m surprised to say that I haven’t been tempted to over do it on the speed. I like the thrill, but right now mastering the basics and understanding how the bike reacts are my biggest priorities. I'm looking for that perfect line.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Why Cake No Longer Matters

Looking back on my holiday break I realize that I missed at least one, possibly two good riding days where the mercury rose and the roads were clear and dry. But I was in the car and heading to grandmother’s house, and all the while wondering why I wasn't riding.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the holidays. I enjoy traveling with family to see the relatives. And regardless of whatever awkward silences or sweaty in-laws each of us might have to cope with, a holiday meal with the family is one of the few times where it all works out. It is the one thing that keeps civilization from drifting into chaos.

However, there are times when we get a glimpse of what the world really looks like when we didn’t have rules, when communications break down. Times when we hold in our hand that crispy piece of skin that we stole before the turkey was presented or that last piece of cake promised to the children. Family moments like these are when the holiday meal becomes a one day seminar in micro-diplomacy.

But now that I have a bike in my garage, the civil war that brews over who was responsible for ruining Christmas dinner falls by the wayside. My biggest concern at this point is the long-range forecast on weather.com and when will I ride again.

Next Wednesday is looking pretty good. With any luck I might be able to stop off at a diner and get my own slice of cake.