Mt Dora – Day One

Taking off on a road trip and especially one that leads to a three day cycling weekend fills me with anticipation. I left work early to do some last minute packing and head north on a four hour drive to Mt. Dora. There is some mysterious and inexplicable force that pulls at me, holding me back, slowing me down, and keeping me from escaping the comfort of home. There is always one more thing to pack, to do, and check before I bounce.

Once on the road the sense of freedom engulfs me as I enter the freeway and gain cruising speed. Old school music streams down from the heavens and through the speakers adding to the road trippin’ vibe reminding me of old times with the Rudy’s. “Have tunes, will travel” was announced before every trip and just prior to inserting the latest cassette tape.

The morning’s ritual includes donning brand new Rapha Classic kit purchased and received just in time. The folks are keeping a gentleman’s pace as we ride through some residential areas and around East Crooked Lake beneath tree cover dripping with moss. It is a beautiful, cool morning. Heading north we crossed a highway and turned west towards Lake Eustis this time with the sun warming our backs. The lake is glowing a turquoise blue usually reserved for the Caribbean ocean and what little ripples exist are gleaming with a bright yellow and Chartreuse green stained by the sun.

As we roll up and over the first set of hills we ride tempo along a huge rolling pasture lined with horse fence. The sun continues its magic across the open field. “A perfect day for riding” is being muttered throughout the peloton. The tempo quickens and so silences the group. A series of rolling hills increases the effort even more creating gaps in the pace line. I lose the lead group reminding me I am not the man rider I was just 12 short months ago.

After rolling into town and receiving a post shower massage I am greeted by Sal and family, David and Marilyn. Sal invites me to join them for lunch and we sit on the shade covered patio of Cecile’s French Corner and casually pass the time away with conversation and crepes. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a Friday afternoon.

Chasing Wheels

Two flights and six taxi rides sends me to NYC and returns me home safely. Business trips mess with my training and mess with my head. I don’t feel like sleeping. I can’t wake up. When I am awake it feels like I am asleep. I want to ride but the legs have something less stressful in mind. It makes me wonder how pro cyclists deal with the long transfers between stages of a grand tour. As the length and quantity of transfers seem to be a topic of debate when new grand tour routes are announced or even while a tour is under way, I am guessing the peloton has the same opinion.

Then there is this self imposed pressure to catch-up on training in an attempt to regain lost fitness. After returning from Germany I managed to complete two rides and an hour in the gym. That’s two rides in twelve days!

 “Where do you get the energy?”my wife questions while standing naked before me. “I have to ride”, I respond with conviction. Now I can tell you that leaving a beautiful, naked woman at home in bed on a Saturday morning is just about the most difficult thing a man can do… at least this man anyway. You do this on enough Saturday mornings and you start to seriously question your priorities.

I ride out to Miami City Hall only to discover that the 18-22mph group is not riding this week. Without a moment to spare, I head south towards Casa Larios knowing I had little chance of getting there before the guys roll on. As expected, the parking lot was free of the telling, anxious riders rolling around in semi-circular and squiggly patterns like scout bees returning to their hive. So I roll on.

Now just about every Miami group ride that heads south towards Black Point, Bayfront or Homestead follows the same route which begins by meandering through the residential district of Pinecrest. The only way I was going catch a fast moving group ride is to cut the distance by making a beeline towards Cutler Bay. Questioning my sanity I am riddled with self doubt as I calculate the effort required to hold the wheels of a group cranked up above 30 mph. I am surprised when I find myself keeping a 20-22mph pace as I solo towards the rotary connecting Galloway with Old Cutler Road. I am impressed with my legs as they are working well at tempo without the all too familiar sting of lactic acid buildup. Is my fitness improving? Are my legs just rested? Where’s the travel affect? Could it be the royal jelly in my water bottle? Is it just motivation?

While searching for answers my attention is now directed towards a group moving through the rotary at speed towards Black Point. Is it Larios? Can I do it? Can I bridge a half mile gap? Instinctually I pick up the pace to 22-23mph, hit the rotary, slow down for a truck towing a boat and accelerate again to 23-24mph.  I quickly mark the group at about one third of mile away. I have made decent ground, but if this is Larios they are going to accelerate to 28mph soon and then they will be gone. I top out at 24.5 mph and hold it. After a few minutes I slide off to 23mph. Out of the saddle I push it back to 24.5mph and hold. “Just one more” and with another acceleration, I reach the back of the peloton where I stay while I regain my composure. They are rolling at 22mph. This can’t be Larios?

I accelerate up into an open gap in the pace line and confirm with my new partner that this group is indeed not the Larios group. We are keeping a gentleman’s pace of 22-23mph and so I decide to hang on and see where they lead. We travel through the palm tree nurseries between Black Point and Bayfront maintaining a double pace line at a steady tempo. I am second wheel when we turn left after the bridge and over the channel towards Bayfront. The front guys peel off and my partner asks, ”where do you want to put it”. “Twenty two-twenty-three”, I reply. We bring it up to 22mph into a headwind and hold.

There is a little bridge just before the entrance of Bayfront Park that marks the sprint  line. I am not sure why, but in Miami we don’t sprint for county lines, we sprint for bridges.

We pull on the front for a mile leaving a mile to go before the bridge. Soft pedaling I roll back and find a gap in the pace line after five riders. The guys at the front spy a small group of riders and so like bees to a hummingbird we accelerate forward until we are all mixed up and on the attack. The new guys try to maintain their dominance on the front but we engulf them anyway. That’s when things heat up and we are in full flight towards the bridge.

As is always the case, my time at the front too close to the sprint caused me to fall off too soon but not before hitting 29mph. A nice long break at Bayfront preceded the ride home that stayed at a steady tempo. Later a brief break at Starbucks resulted in a rare Miami Rapha kit sighting. After talking with the young chap for moment I joined his group for ten of the twenty miles home to close out a seventy five mile ride.

Tuesday morning finds me in a taxi on the way to the airport.

Even when I am not on the bike I am still chasing wheels.

Hand Made

I spent the last week in Germany on business motoring from village to village desperately seeking hand-made products in decent quantity.  Like the wine regions of France, German villages and regions are well known for their distinct manufacturing skill set. Whether it is the watches and clocks from the Black Forest, cutlery and steel implements from Solingen or cosmetic brushes from Nuremburg; Germans have been passing unique manufacturing skills down to new generations for generations.

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Mass consumer desire for affordable throw away goods, the global economy and changes in the career paths of today’s youth has created a vacuum of knowledge and skill required to manufacture high quality hand-made products.  

Translation: A skilled labor force is in short supply.

The grey haired guys are increasing the void even further as they are unwilling to teach their now rare skills to anyone in an effort to sustain their own self-importance into retirement.

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Sunday morning I am stateside and find myself pondering the affects of a mechanized, mass produced world on the quality of life as the sun rises over Biscayne Bay and South Beach.

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A simple bike ride can be a study in global economics.

I prepare for riding my custom steel frame fabricated by the hands of Peter Mooney in Belmont, MA by inspecting the drive train made by Shimano in Japan. Next I pump up the tires from Continental in Germany mounted on custom wheels built by the hands of Jude Kirstein of Epic Sugar Wheelworks in Portland, OR.  The wheels are assembled from rims made by HED in Shoreview, MN with hubs made by Phil Wood in San Jose, CA and CycleOps in Madison, WI. I apply chamois cream made by Mad Alchemy now in Broomfield, CO and then pull on my Italian made Rapha Bibs. It appears the balance of my kit still comes from China.

Yes there is a theme here beyond listing all the states in the U.S. and all the countries of the industrialized world. I am partial to products made in the western world and particularly keen on developing a relationship, however small, with the person who makes it. When you spend eight to ten grand on a bike and almost the same on your kit and gear you want a little more from the experience than simply handing over your AmEx to a store clerk.

 I know I do.

So I roll out by 11am to knock off the forty mile ride out to Starbucks and back. As expected, the week away from my bike has left my legs a bit lethargic.  A simple reminder to “enjoy the bike” kept me from worrying about the numbers although a couple of wayward challengers still managed to keep the ride interesting.

Twenty miles in I enjoyed a latte while checking this out.

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Center-pull brakes and friction shifters

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This gentleman informed me he received this gift 49 years ago on his 17th birthday.

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I hope I will be riding the Mooney in 46 years.