Inside Stories

“This is what made you cry”, I asked?

“It reminds me of you!”, she replied with an outpour of emotion instantly conveying to me that I was in her heart and in her mind… that I was loved deeply and without restraint. 20140610_082642-1

I had just finished reading a page from Inside Stories II upon her request as she was admittedly unable to complete the read on her own. The book is a sequel to Inside Stories containing pictures of the very labels you can find sewn inside a pocket or inside flap of one of their high quality road cycling garments. Apparently this label hit home.20140610_082737-1

It reads:

“We ride silently, like mime artists, through the city. Invisible lines guide us as we negotiate favourite corners, ridden with a little extra speed; that bench at the top of the hill, the perfect stop to marvel at the skyline; a shortcut behind an old pub, memories still ringing with drunken laughter.

We move with hardly a sound, uncovering the city with movement. Every rider draws their own intimate map of the metropolis with these untraceable grooves. The road continues to buzz with hard reality, but in amidst the din, thousands of invisible routes are blooming, as the two wheels carve new lines through the madness.”

One of the objectives of a savvy marketing team on a storied brand is to make an emotional connection with the consumer. Touch them in a way that cultivates a loyalty to the brand. To go so far as make an emotional connection with a customer’s spouse, well, then you know these guys have a finger on the pulse. I am speaking, of course, about the marketing genius of Rapha.

I discovered Rapha in 2009 while searching for tasteful cycling kit that performed well. What I found was an internet based brand with a website filled with road cycling content. The Continental was making its way across the USA, riding steep gravel roads on little known routes in some very remote areas of our beautiful country. The stories written by one of the riders in the group, photographs taken, or video filmed in iconic black and white, conveyed the effort and emotion, the very suffering experienced during a difficult climb or extended route through extreme weather. These stories reminded me of the countless hours I had spent in the saddle 25 years past.

Rapha had made that connection and then delivered on its promise.

Autumn Colors

The Polar Vortex has made its second coming and is wrapping the country in a freezing blanket of sub zero temperatures and snow. Miami finds itself somewhere in the fifties causing some of our vibrant colors to finally fade to green. Riding this time of year is quite pleasant as groups seem to calm down a bit working together to get through the miles void of the sprints that cause inflammation in the bronchial tubes when performed in temps below sixty degrees.


I do miss the colors of autumn in the Northeast. The smell of leaf decay and the glow of sunlight filtered through the leaves of deciduous trees in an array of vivid and muted colors combined with the sound of the wind through the trees calms the mind and fills the senses. Miami however delivers a display of colors during autumn from flowering trees and shrubs that border on the sublime.

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Get on a bike and ride!

Festive 500 Day Four Thru Seven

0 Miles

0 Kilometers

I was happy on Thursday when I posted my mileage on day three to find I was 46th out of 1600 riders posting mileage. I knew it would be short lived as a planned vacation takes me away from home and bicycle. I hardly sleep a wink as I think, fret, dream about how I could get mileage in on Jamaica. The sleeplessness continues as I dream about next year and how I can do 100 miles a day for eight days. How will I keep it going?, Logistics?



STOP this insanity!

It is so bizarre how one can become so obsessed. It is time to let it go.

I travel to Jamaica where we enjoy five days of Travel, rest and relaxation. The Island roads are covered with bicyclists and bicycles. They are used more for transportation than recreation and come in many forms.


There was no riding for me.


Not until I return.


Festive 500 – Day One

116 Miles

187 Kilometers

After tossing and turning all night I pull myself out of bed before the alarm could wake Renate. She remained sleeping as I prepared coffee and headed out on the veranda to check the winter weather. In the darkness a dedicated few were awake pursuing their daily habits of walking the dog, running or strolling in the park below.  I can count no more than four.

It is the morning of Christmas Eve. There is no reason to rise from your bed so early. It is a day to relax, share time and stories with friends and family. A day for foie gras, oysters, lobsters and wine carefully paired with each. Not so for we, the noble few, these crazy gentleman riders.

The weather is perfect. I cannot help but notice that there is absolutely no wind. Not a rustle of the palm or shutter of a leaf, Nothing….


Excited at the prospect of a windless ride I wondered how far I could go. Last night I took care to prepare my bike, clothes and nutrition and so without the pressure of time I enjoy the coffee and stare into the east as the sun prepares to make its appearance.


A lone airplane passes overhead making its descent to MIA.

It’s time to Kit up, Pump up and Go!

I begin my ride as I almost always do by riding through Overtown. Most cyclists will circumvent this impoverished community for fear of their safety. I ride through it as a reminder of the truth. There is poverty, homelessness  hopelessness and starvation in America.It is closer to us than we are willing to admit. The homeless rise from their temporary shelters and seek to find new refuge for the day.

 As I ride over the channel the sun makes its appearance. It is so bright it mutes the color of the surrounding buildings and even the sky.


 Obstacles to progress comes in many forms.

A wayward bicyclist travelling in the wrong lane.

Never bridge a city bus on the right; it will only bring you grief. The graphics on its rear panel seems to mock me as I wait for it to slowly lurch forward.


And the ever present garbage can in the bike lane.


Through coconut grove


Past Plymouth church and on to Starbucks for a cup of coffee and a rice cake.


The weekly group ride would never stop this soon but today I have many miles to lay down and I am doing it solo. Here I begin to imagine the possibility of riding to Key Largo. It is a torture on a windy day as it is a long road exposed to the wind off the water. You just don’t ride it solo.

But today, today is a windless day.

I ride past Black Point and through the palm tree nurseries careful to check out the channels. The water is clear blue green with not a ripple on the surface, no evidence of wind. In fact you can see the details of the seaweed, the fish swimming effortlessly, the sandy bottom.


I must take advantage of this day.

After a quick break in Florida City I mount the Mooney and head further south. When you ride Card Sound Road it appears you are on a false flat. You look towards the horizon and perspective fools you into thinking, seeing a slight incline. It is in fact flat. Seawater on either side, there is no mistake; you are riding at sea level. The flattest. The only challenge is fitness, friction, relative wind and will.

Did I say it is a long road? Yeah, the view doesn’t change, the grade, the effort… all the same. Eventually the toll booth comes into view and I know I will be rewarded soon.


Card Sound Bridge is not an easy climb but it is short.


 Spectacular views




I arrive at Circle K in Key Largo. After 69 miles, I can feel it in my legs. A couple of peppermint chocolates lighten my mood and make me think of Renate. I post a picture on FB and text her, “at Key Largo, likely 5 more hours to home”.



I start to dream of the possibility of completing 135 miles for the first time and on the first day of the Festive. Card Sound road had other plans. A small headwind kicked up as the weatherman predicted and Card Sound Road is pointing directly into it.

I get to the Florida peninsula in one piece, but my pace has fallen off. There is only forty more miles to home and only twenty to Starbucks. Once again I travel back through the palm nursery where the man with the hammer strikes his fateful blow. I am bonking, like an engine with no compression my legs just can’t do the work. I stop at Black Point and give home a ring. We agree to meet at Starbucks. It takes almost forty minutes to ride 5 miles.



These legs are cooked.


Sitting at Sarbucks waiting for calvary I still can’t help to think…

I can still make it.


2013 Festive 500 Begins

The Festive 500 is one of those annual events you do just to see where you are and what kind of season you have ahead of you. I have been participating in this challenge since its inception in 2010. The challenge itself is simple in concept, ride 500km in eight days between Dec 23rd and Dec 31st. Complete the challenge and you receive a patch bearing its name.


If you take a pragmatic approach, the challenge appears in a word…doable. Forty miles a day is an effort most recreational cyclists can afford. However, need I remind you, we are talking December and most of the country and a fair bit of the cycling world is held hostage by sub freezing temperatures blanketed by snow. Climbing a 5% incline is tough in June….try it with icicles hanging from your beard.

Even in Miami, Mother Nature seems to conspire with Aeolus and kicks up a headwind so strong it wears down even the the most stubborn among us. Throw in familiar obligations, friendly gatherings and plenty of opportunities to overindulge and the Festive 500 begins to seem all but impossible.

Even so, each year thousands of cyclists of all shapes, sizes and age attempt to complete the arduous task. Many not only complete the challenge but blow it away, others put on display their creative genius with dramatic stories and artful photos, then still others do it in such hardman style it serves as inspiration to all but the least initiated of human existence. If you want to read some stories of challenges past hit the Rapha blog site for some tales of suffering, defeat and achievement.

This year I have chosen to relax for 5 days in Jamaica sans velo. This leaves me with only 3 days to complete the challenge.

Yeah, your math is correct……107 per day.

There is some shoulder time around flight days that might allow me to catch up miles I may miss in the first three.

 All I want for Christmas is the legs to see me through the 2013 Festive 500.

 And a patch to prove it…..

 And a T-shirt too.


Century Season

Autumn is Century Season in South Florida. It begins with The Tour of Sebring and ends with the Highlands Bike Fest. Unfortunately, I am in base building mode and just not ready to take on 100 miles at speed. So this year it will be Metric Century Season and begins this weekend with Mt Dora Bicycle Festival.

I have participated in this festival for the last three years. This year marks it’s 39th annual and is one of the best run, most attended bicycle festivals I have attended. For three days, hordes of cyclist of all shapes, sizes and speeds descend upon this quaint little town nestled in Lake County, Fl. Lake County contains some of the only hills in Florida of any significant grade so the festival has appeal to those looking to climb a little.

Friday’s ride is a nice warm-up for Saturday’s century.  Some energetic riders itching for a fight are reeled in by the ride leader who reminds them of the weight of the following day’s labor.

Saturday’s century starts in the dark in cool temperatures and is an all out road race for anyone trying to stay in the lead group or groups. It includes a short steep hill affectionately referred to as “The Wall” which serves to filter out the pure flatlanders from the experienced hill riders. A true Grimpeur  will scoff at the small climbs but in Florida you have to take what you can get. Cyclists who choose to ride the full century are rewarded with 15-20 miles of head and cross winds that will cause some to question their resolve.

Sunday’s ride will just take whatever energy or will you have left and consume it dry. Give it away willingly.

There are two or three alternative routes on Saturday and Sunday for those riders interested less in speed and distances and more interested in the pure love of riding, in a bucolic setting, free of automobiles, and full of joy.

Century season continues with the following festivals/rides:

October 20th                                     Speedway Century

November 10th                                  Miami Gran Fondo

December 6th & 7th                            Escape to Key West

December 6th -8th                              Highlands Bike Fest

Then there are those rock’ em – sock’em SAG supported century rides that Keith Harrod organizes from November through December. These rides will find you in a large group barreling down the highway at 22-26 mph while working in organized echelons against some serious cross-winds. If you are feeling Belgium, order the fries with mayonnaise and find Keith on Facebook.

So, if you are suffering with cabin fever in colder climes and praying for warmer days and short sleeve jerseys, sign up for one or all of these rides and change your latitude.

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.


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.


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.


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.


Center-pull brakes and friction shifters


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


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