It’s the final week of the On Writing & Riding series. Only three blogs remain! I hope you’ve liked following along.
Today we go to San Francisco for a conversation with mmmmbike!, another of my favorite randonneuring blogs.
When I read mmmmbike!, this is some of what dances through my mind. Ride over mountains. Ride by the ocean. Ride on pavement and even on dirt. Pursue your goals with gusto. Share the challenge and make good rando-memories with your friends.
1. Could you tell us a little about the general geographic area where you ride?
I ride in northern California, an area with lots of hills, redwood forests, coastal cliffs, and farmland. Marin County and Mount Tam are within short biking distance of my doorstep, so I’m pretty lucky in that respect.
2. What is one sentence or blog that summarizes your blog?
Appetizing bike rides while in pursuit of the Randonneurs USA (RUSA) R-12 award and beyond.
3. I love the title of your blog– although I never know how many “m”s I technically need. How did you come up with your blog’s name, mmmmbike!?
Yeah, I guess four m’s might be pushing it! :) I wanted something to let people know I don’t take myself too seriously. And eating is a big part of bike riding to me, so it seemed to fit.
“mmmm” is also something you say when you’re thinking, so there’s a slightly deeper undercurrent there, too. But not too deep.
4. Your blog is primarily about the randonneuring events you do. What aspects or facets of randonneuring do you like to blog about?
Randonneuring is such an unusual sport. There are so many things to like about it! I think it embodies the unbounded freedom of traveling by bicycle.
The fact that randonneuring is noncompetitive opens it to personal interpretation in a way that few sports do. You can really decide for yourself what you want to do with it.
Some people ride to elevate their personal best, some for companionship, some for the open air, some just to take pictures along the way. In fact, the title “Lanterne Rouge” is kind of an honor.
For me, I enjoy exploring remote places; I like climbing hills and looking over forests and valleys; and, maybe it’s silly, but I really just love my bike.
5. I enjoy reading your ride reports so much. You make me want to ride with the San Francisco Randonneurs! In reading your own and others’ stories, what are the elements you think that make for a good ride report?
I sure hope you do get to come out and ride with us! We have some great terrain out here for beautiful and challenging bike rides, and the company’s not so bad either!
When I first started randonneuring, I absolutely devoured peoples’ ride reports. I learned so much that way. Tangible details like what someone ate, what clothing they wore, information about their bikes, the weather, and the general course of events on a long ride that contributed to the rider’s successes and failures still completely capture my attention.
Every time I write a ride report, I try to include information that might be helpful to others who might want to do that brevet or permanent route.
It’s nice to try to give a ride report some levity, too, though. I’ve read (and written) a lot of dry ones. It’s important to me that a ride report has some humanity to it, as well as a sense of humor.
6. You also include ride pictures in your posts. What role do photos play in your blog?
Photos can be really helpful to people considering doing the same route. It’s also interesting to compare photos of the same route from different years, especially if the weather happens to be very different. Looking over my photos from the ride also helps me jog my memory as I write.
When I take pictures, I try to show the feelings of connection with the landscape that are a common experience for many cyclists. I take note of the people, plants, animals, birds, geology…
One great thing about riding in California is all the relatively unspoiled land we have here. I like to push this point in my blog, because I often hear that public lands are being sold off to industry or otherwise compromised.
I like showing in my blog the national, state, and local parks I visit, and that public lands are valuable and beautiful.
7. How does it affect your experience to be one of a small population of women in the sport– a quick search of the demographics notes that 19% of RUSA members are women— or do you really think about that or notice it? (This is something I think about and wanted to ask you, although for me it is a bit of a different slice on
it because most of the time I ride brevets on tandem.)
I think the topic of women in randonneuring is really fascinating and complicated. One of the first things I noticed about brevets is that women and men ride together: there are no gender separated events as there are in most sports, including competitive cycling and even Race Across America (RAAM).
All my life I’ve gotten the message that women can never participate on a par with men in sports, but in randonneuring this is not the case. If you look at the finishing times of women and men in the San Francisco group results page, there are many women whose times are faster than mens’.
Put slightly differently, there are many contributing factors to a fast finishing time, and it seems to me that gender is low on the list. So although there may be a low percentage of female RUSA members (and it’s important to remember that the demographics shown indicate membership and not participation in brevets), there are many well-respected women in leadership positions in the governing association, and at least in my region, it seems like there is a relatively high level of participation of women. I have been fortunate to ride with several whom I admire, as athletes and as people.
One other interesting demographic about randonneuring that changes the flavor of it is age: 39% are between the ages of 50-59.
But I feel that compared with other sports, especially with other types of cycling, women have made valued contributions to randonneuring and that there is a long tradition of that, particularly in France and especially with strong stokers on tandem teams.
Cycling is a male-dominated sport, though. Before I started randonneuring, I dreaded even walking into a bike shop, even though I rode every day. It would be great if more women participated in randonneuring or even rode bikes more in general.
A friend of mine told me her mom told her to buy a new car recently because it’s important for women to have that freedom. Really? Bicycles are far more liberating in my opinion.
One of my favorite things to see out on the trails and roads is girls on their bicycles. I always smile or wink at them or say, “Cool bike!” Once I was out by myself on a ride and had stopped at the Safeway in Healdsburg, about 80 +/- miles from my ride start in San Francisco, and there were some Girl Scouts selling cookies there.
One of the Scouts saw my Girl Scout pin that I keep on my handlebar bag, and she asked me, “Is that yours?” I said, “Yep, I rode my bike with that pin all the way from San Francisco today, and now I’m going to ride back home.” She turned around right away and went to tell her friend, and then tell her mom. That has to be one of my proudest moments in randonneuring!
8. Who are you writing for? Do you have a particular audience in mind?
Well, my dad is the one who comments on my blog the most, so I guess it would be him primarily. Other riders are at the forefront of my mind, though.
I always ask myself, “What would someone wanting to do this ride want to know?” I also think about who I rode with and try to recall the best moments or something funny that happened to remind us.
9. What do you like about blogging in general?
I just like creating a record of the rides I’ve done: I have a terrible memory, so it’s nice to be able to look back through my ride reports. My blog posts are like postcards, as well, to friends who live far away.
10. Was there anything about maintaining a blog that surprised you?
People other than my closest friends and family members might be reading! I always knew it would become public information, but in the beginning I thought it would be very unlikely that anyone else would read it.
I started the blog purely for myself, to remind myself of how a ride went and to get practice at writing ride reports of my own. Now I try to write for a slightly wider audience.
11. Do you have any favorite posts?
- Freestone Bread Run. The concept of this ride captures the essence of randonneuring for me: enjoy life, ride 200k just to acquire a really good loaf of bread. And not even get RUSA credit.
- SCR Dart 2012. This was the first ride I did with John, who makes riding fun in so many ways for me.
- The most recent one! I always obsess over a post for a couple days after publishing it and tweak it several times.
12. What did I forget to ask you?
mmmm… don’t know.
Thank you, mmmmbike!, for being part of On Writing & Riding!