Category Archives: Rando Reflections

The Mind’s Journey

I began this year feeling quite uncertain, almost ambivalent, about the brevets. The past year has included some serious and unexpected health issues in my family. These scrambled up my head, and prompted a reassessment of that big question “What am I doing with my life?”

There are so many more important things in life than bike riding, I told myself. Why, when there is so much to experience in this one life, would brevets be worth all the effort and occasional annoyance?

Before the brevets began, my family’s health situations seemed to settle somewhat. Despite my reservations about randonneuring and my “one life” choices, I signed up, just to see how the season would go.

If you’re a regular reader, you know I have been oddly preoccupied about my lack of physical preparation for randonneuring. Out of shape, riding myself into shape, the lack of winter miles, blah blah blah. I have spent many words on my lack of cycling fitness.

The brevets are steadily teaching me that I don’t have to be in peak form to savor what only a rando ride can offer. These events are not just physical journeys. They are mental explorations as well.

Felkerino 300K

As each ride has begun, my mind has been consumed by themes like the work week, how I’m doing in the job I began in December, worry about my parents, bills I need to pay and errands I should run, what my purpose is in this one life and how I’m probably not doing it.

Yet the longer I ride, the more these preoccupations change. I set aside the bills and errands. Work is put into a larger context. My worry for my parents becomes appreciation for who they are and how they raised me, and I am able to set them aside for a moment. Questioning life’s purpose doesn’t seem as critical as arriving safely at the next control and making sure someone signs my brevet card.

The shift in scenery, from the asphalt congestion of Washington, D.C., to the lush landscapes of the country where people mow gigantic yards and spend the weekends fishing in nearby creeks has a cleansing effect on my mind.

A century isn’t long enough to offer entry into that kind of mental journey. But an excursion that pedals me into the  delicious first light of day and carries me through to the sunset hour and maybe even a moonrise is.

The journey of the mind runs parallel to the physical aspects of the brevet experience.  My thoughts are no longer trapped in the maze of the everyday. They can roam through the valleys and up mountainsides as Felkerino and I progress. Newborn calves and farm cats stir a hope in me that all will be okay.

The spring sun pricks me with its rays and afternoon sweat stings my eyes. My head reorganizes. I am part of a bigger world than I can ever conceptualize. Trivial thoughts have no place now. Other concerns will wait. My legs must pedal and my senses can’t help but absorb the day. The journey consumes me, and I am grateful.

Randonneuring In Retrospect

I’m a randonneur romantic. Sure, longer brevets almost always include periods where I question my recreational pursuits due to discomfort, exhaustion, or some dissatisfaction with a route segment, but they don’t hang on. Eventually, those feelings fade and bike riding reclaims its place on my list of favorite things to do. Continue reading Randonneuring In Retrospect

Bringing Made-Up Words to Life: Coffeeneuring and Errandonnee

I don’t mean to shock anyone, but the words “coffeeneuring” and “errandonnee” are totally made-up words. That’s right, both are fake words used to describe activities that people do on bicycles.

These terms were born out of similar circumstances. Continue reading Bringing Made-Up Words to Life: Coffeeneuring and Errandonnee

The Truth and Nonsense of the N+1 Principle of Bicycles

If you’ve been around bikes long enough, you’re likely familiar with the “n+1″ principle. Velominati describes it as follows:

The correct number of bikes to own is n+1.

While the minimum number of bikes one should own is three, the correct number is n+1, where n is the number of bikes currently owned. This equation may also be re-written as s-1, where s is the number of bikes owned that would result in separation from your partner.

I became quite caught up in the n + 1 principle in my early days as a bike enthusiast, although I did not know it had a name. My stable quickly grew from one Fuji road bike to a road bike + fixed gear + light touring bike + a commuter/touring bike + folding bike + single speed folding bike + you get the idea. Continue reading The Truth and Nonsense of the N+1 Principle of Bicycles

The Randonap

Since beginning my glamorous randonneuring career in 2005, I’ve not only ridden in places I never imagined, but I’ve dozed in an assortment of spots I never before would have considered comfortable or conducive to sleeping.

Ride long enough, sleep little enough, and you too will find yourself mastering the strategy of the perfect randonap. Continue reading The Randonap

Why Write About Bicycling

As I was padding around the Mall on a meditative lunch run, I pondered what keeps me writing about time spent on my bicycle. Continue reading Why Write About Bicycling

2015 Question Marks

January– a cold month prone to dreary days and shades of brown on all sides– is generally an optimal time for me to hang out inside and ponder big ideas for the year ahead.

Usually at least two or three appealing active undertakings grab me and won’t let me go. Last year those big doings were our two-week Colorado tour, the Appalachian Adventure 1000K, and my bike tour-marathon combination in Harpers Ferry.

A year falls into place under the umbrella of these bigger scale activities, and free time is dedicated to condition the body and mind so events might be enjoyed and not endured.

I like shaping years this way. Felkerino and I share a few common goals that we work toward together. Big activities give me long-term structure, and I have concrete milestones to anticipate and hopefully achieve.

Running at sunset

This year is starting out strangely for me, as I’m not seeing anything significant calling my heart and legs. I hope to ride the brevets, but I’m on the fence about PBP. I’d like to complete at least two marathons this year, but what else is out there? I don’t know.

I’ve jotted down a bike tour, but as to where it will take place? I’m not sure. I’m not setting any mileage goals, but plan to ride and run regularly and continue my commitment to active transportation.

Small goals occupy my mind, many of which have little to do with riding or running– eat healthy, prepare my own lunches, reduce sugar and alcohol consumption, return to regular strength training, and fully engage in my work.

These are not small goals, exactly, but rather the type that require more rigorous daily attention. They have a more general purpose of improvement to my overall health and well-being.

As I muddled through this post I had an “Aha!” moment. Maybe I don’t have to have grand bicycling or running goals for 2015. Who cares? They can be question marks for now, while I attend to the smaller-scale activities that demand my attention.

Felkerino and I will figure out PBP in the next month or so. We love being outside on our bikes and always manage to find places and time to bike tour. Running is my meditation. I will continue to do it, whether or not I write down a specific goal about it.

Question marks are okay. Question marks mean I’m taking my time. I’m open to possibility.

PBP 2015: To Go or Not to Go Again?

The turning of the calendar to 2015 also means the arrival of a “PBP year.” Paris-Brest-Paris, the most heralded, historic, and international of all grand randonnees now peeps its head around the corner and beckons to us randonneurs, a mere eight months away.

I thought that deciding on a return trip to PBP would take little internal debate. I would set my sights on it, no matter what. Yet, as of this writing, I feel mixed. Like the self-help books taught me, I drafted a list of pros and cons to aid my decision-making. Continue reading PBP 2015: To Go or Not to Go Again?