Wednesday, June 15, 2016

High Cadence Vs. High Power. How Do You Climb?

Links to this post
Which is the best way to climb?


This might surprise you, but there really is no right or wrong way to climb hills on a bike. Well, there are bad gearing choices and wrong positioning that can hinder a cyclist from climbing at their best. But this article relates to climbing efficiency based on proven techniques that many professionals use. There are two camps that have come out of this debate on which is better. High cadence (ie: Chris Froome, Lance Armstrong, Miguel Indurain) versus high power (ie: Alberto Contador, Nairo Quintana, Marco Pantani). So which is better, dancing or spinning on the bike? Both skills are equally important, as a well rounded and successful climber must be able to do both. This article will describe the best scenarios where it would be most beneficial to use one skill or the other.


Dancing On The Pedals: "Dancing" on the bike usually refers to pedaling off the saddle for a sustained period of time, kind of like a really long sprint uphill, but riding at tempo instead of all out. When the rider dances on the pedals, it should look like the are on a StairMaster instead of on a bike. The back should be straight, the arms relaxed and slightly bent, hands resting on the brake hoods. The arms and legs should be parallel to each other, nothing sticking out the sides or bowing out. The bike should sway from side to side with each turn of the cranks, the rider shouldn't have to rock their hips for propulsion. If you climb out of the saddle this way, you are doing it right. This is a technique worth practicing, as it is used by some of the best climbers in the world. Alberto Contador regularly goes on training rides where he will ride off the saddle for more than an hour, just to hone this technique. Keep in mind that this technique requires good endurance and power. It is good for uphill accelerations or for breaking away from a pack on sustained climbs. It also trains the legs to put more power down on a lower cadence.


Keep in mind when doing this technique that it is impossible to ride off the saddle for an entire climb. At a certain point, the legs will lose the ability to propel this way, especially as the grade gets steeper and the climb gets longer. The legs will eventually need to recharge and to flush the lactic acid that they have been accumulating. That is where the high spinning technique comes into play.


Spinning On The Bike: Two time Tour De France champion Chris Froome has used the high spin, high cadence climb to an art form. His ability to sprint from 90 to over 100rpm on very steep gradients of a given climb have gone unmatched and unrivaled by no other in the sport. The only rider in the past few years who can trade blows with him on the mountains is Nairo Quintana, the light framed climber from Colombia. Chris Froome's climb is his signature trademark. He never lets his cadence drop below 90rpm while he is climbing, no matter how steep the grade. He makes full use of the lower range of  his gearing, in order to keep spinning no matter what. His climbing style is reminiscent to that of Miguel Indurain, as it is mostly on the saddle as opposed to off the saddle. He doesn't freak out when his opponents attack him, rather he raises his cadence and closes the gap quickly. In addition, Chris Froome uses a power meter, so he knows when he is reaching his red line and hardly ever pedals beyond his power wattage threshold. He is exacting and calculating in the way he rides, which has become a point of contention with some cycling fans which want to see more spontaneity in cycling. Nevertheless it's a style he has been proven to be very effective for him, regardless of his critics.


The key to successful climbing is knowing when to use each of these techniques. It helps to know the climb and ride it beforehand. If it is a climb featured on one of your regular club rides, then you will have the upper hand on your friends if you can practice on it regularly. Some climbs are gradual ascents that get steeper towards the crest of the hill. Other climbs are broken up into sections where the climb will level off and then pitch up again. Other climbs are monsters that go continually upward without letup while the road winds up the mountain. If you have those kind of climbs in your area then consider yourself lucky; you have what you need to become a very good climber.


For rolling terrain I recommend an off the saddle, on the saddle approach. For sustained gradients it is best to stay on the saddle and only come off the saddle towards the crest of the climb. For climbs with switchbacks I recommend riding the switchbacks off the saddle towards the outside of the turn. Never attack on the climb early. Your speed should gradually increase as you ascend on the climb. Save your energy for the steepest sections. Climb at your rhythm, even if that means getting dropped the first few times. Stick to your game plan, refine it as you see necessary, but don't chase the wheel of a guy who attacks early. You can pace yourself back but you will end up blowing up if you give chase. Those are my tips on how to be a better climber.






Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Thoughts And Ponderings- April 2016

Links to this post
Man, I haven't written a blog post in a while...



Today is the first day in weeks that I actually have a little bit of downtime to collect my thoughts and put something down in print. I have been so busy as of late and will most likely continue to be busy throughout this year. There is a lot of things that I am currently planning for ( selling my rental home, planing vacations, repairing bicycles as a business, etc., etc). I have basically had to decide where to place my time best. Writing has taken a back seat behind repairing bicycles at this point. So rather than try to write a blog post with a specific subject in mind, I'm just going to write a collection of thoughts and ideas that I have had lately.


There should be a "L'Eroica" style race here in Texas: I have been thinking for years that this would be a great idea. It would be a bicycle race for vintage road bikes, with an added twist. All bikes must be bike boom bikes from the seventies and eighties, with stem shifters, platform pedals and center pull brakes. Bikes could also have downtube shifters and side pull brakes, but nothing ridiculously  high end from that period (ie: Cinelli, Masi, etc.). Just a race for the low to mid range bikes that the majority of people bought and rode back then (I'm thinking Schwinn bikes, Centurions, Peugeots, Nishiki and other Japanese brands). Also, no spandex allowed. This would be a great way to get a bunch of bike flippers, college kids and old, curmudgeon retro-grouches to do some exercise with  the bikes they already own. If anyone is interested in getting an event like this going, contact me and let's set something up.

I can't seem to sell my vintage bikes anymore: I can't seem to command a good price for my vintage bikes anymore. It seems that if a vintage bike is worth more than $200, people are hesistant to buy or will try and talk me down to the $200 price range. As with everything else, sometimes the price is the price. There are some bikes that I can't take less than $300 for because I would then be giving them away and taking a huge loss on the money that I invested on them. Yet because newer bikes are getting less and less expensive, people in general do not see the value of vintage bikes anymore. This is a trend that I predicted would happen and it has finally occurred. The vintage bicycle has become to the modern cyclist what Tulips are to Amsterdam. The flipping of old bikes is a bubble that has busted. To all my fellow bike flippers, we had a good run from 2007-2011. By 2014, bicycle reselling was on life support. By 2015, it had already keeled over and died. Oh well, I guess I'll be stuck with a few vintage bikes to donate to a museum one day.


Housing in North Texas is getting expensive: Texas was always the cheapest place to live for many years. Ever since I moved here in 1990, Texas has beat all other states in terms of affordability in housing, taxes, goods, services, etc. There is a rapid growth occurring in the number of people moving into DFW, so much so that some houses have appraised for 30% more than what they were worth only a year ago. I'm in the process of fixing up and selling my rental, but know that I won't even be able to buy a foreclosure in the area once I sell my property. Meanwhile, it's a great time to buy up beach front property in Puerto Rico, as the housing market has collapsed due to Puerto Rico defaulting on it's national debt and many Puerto Ricans selling their homes to move to the mainland U.S. 


Riding bikes is way more fun than fixing them: Since I have been so busy lately, I have had to prioritize the things that I do on my free time. If stuck between having time to ride my bike and finding another  project to work on, I always go with a bike ride. These days riding my bike is way more beneficial for me because it is an escape from the stresses of the day and is getting me in shape. I currently weigh what I weighed when I was 20 and single, which is a feat of it's own as a married 31 year old. This is because I have given exercising and eating healthy a priority over all the other stuff that I could be doing. There is very little time to sit around and think anymore. Every once in a while I will take a break to find my muse, draw something or play the piano. The truth is however, that I will neither host an art gallery exibition or be a concert pianist, because I will be too busy riding to do what it takes to become a professional artist or musician. I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything either, because I rather be a healthy adult than anything else at this point of my life.


It feels good to stay current: It feels good to stay current with all the trends that are occurring and all of the changes that are going on as I get older. Staying current not only applies to faddish things like music, pop-culture and hairstyles, it also applies to making life changes such as selling a rental property and simplifying my life. It applies to losing weight, becoming "mostly" a vegetarian and finding what I'm really good at and sticking with it. When I was younger I wanted to be in a hundred different places at once. Getting other people's approval was more important for me. Now I see things differently. Staying current to me also means to adjust my point of view when necessary and to not have such a hard-lined, staunch interpretation of things that I don't really know much about. I used to look down on fixed geared bikes, now I own one. I used to not like 29ers, now I also have a 29er. Sometimes our ideas and perceptions of things come down to our experience. No one should ever form a judgement on something if their experience in that given area is limited. As long as it is not illegal, unhealthy or immoral, people should be open to trying new things. That way we do not become old before our time and a burden on the younger generations that follow with our expired logic and outdated thinking. Sometimes we are quick to criticize the next tech advancement in cycling as a passing fad, such as new wheel sizes, electronic shifting and carbon fiber frames. If we are honest with ourselves, we realize that much of these criticisms stem from the fact that these technologies may be out of our reach, financially speaking or otherwise. It used to be everytime I walked into a bike shop and looked at a 29er or a carbon fiber road bike, I would walk out with sticker shock. Now, within reason, I entertain the idea of being able to walk into a bike shop and walk out with a brand new bike. There is nothing wrong with being able to keep up with friends on an old, beat up, mended up 26er. There is also nothing wrong with being able to keep up with friends on a 29er or whatever other wheel sizes are out there. The important thing is to have fun on a solid bike that won't unexpectedly break down on the trail. Bikes do wear out over time and when they do, there is nothing wrong with replacing them with the latest technology. Just like there is nothing wrong with getting a high fade pompadour, waxing your mustache and wearing V-neck T-shirts and RayBan sunglasses while drinking a craft beer. If you are that one guy still wearing a Smashing Pumpkins tee shirt under a plaid layer with a chili bowl hair cut, that's cool too. Just know that you are in the wrong decade and will stand out like a sore thumb. It's better to stay current, age with grace and be relatable to your kids when they become teenagers. 






Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Enjoying The Warm Weather? Let's Talk Climate Change

Links to this post
Climate Change, How it Affects Us and How it Should Effect Our Choices



NASA recently published a study last month where it showed February to be the hottest month on record globally. It broke the previous record, set only a month before in January of this year. February was 1.35 degrees Celsius warmer than the long term global average. This means that some places around the world didn't even experience the winter season. The month of March is continuing this trend, as parts of the Northern Hemisphere have already surpassed 2 degrees Celsius and will most likely break February's record as being the hottest month globally. 


To put things into perspective, it has taken over 150 years since the industrial revolution started until this past month for temperatures to rise above one degree Celsius. In less than a month temperatures have risen another degree. This indicates a steep rise in global temperatures and is backed with both satellite and ground data. If this trend continues we should be experiencing scorching weather come summertime.    

Its funny that the rise in global temperatures almost coincides with two things, the rise of carbon emissions and the lower price of fuel. According to 350.org*(see footnote), now called 400.350.org, carbon emissions for the first time reached 400 parts per million worldwide in July of 2015. The sharp decline in gasoline prices started exactly one year before carbon emissions reached the 400ppm mark. Prices again took another gradual fall after July of last year. Coincidentally, the price of crude has dropped as a result of overproduction and oversupply that has outweighed the demand for oil consumption. What this means is that carbon emissions are a huge contributing factor to the rising temperatures. There is a direct correlation between the ramping up of oil production and the unsafe levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. When oil is pumped out of the ground and refined, Carbon Dioxide is the by-product of that process. In addition, the low cost of fuel has encouraged consumers to use more of it.





This isn't a political discourse. The responsibility to maintain one's environment falls on the individual. There will never be a worldwide consensus on any public policy made to reduce greenhouse gases and carbon emissions. As long as there is greed, special interests, opportunism and an apathy for the environment, people and companies will do as they please with a complete lack of regard for the long term consequences. If the data is correct, some of those consequences may be felt pretty soon. 


What choices do people have to improve their environment? Many people claim that they care about saving the whales and saving the rain forest. While that is all nice and good people will do a complete 180 degree turn if saving the environment requires doing things that will sacrifice their convenience. This is the attitude that people need to change if their concerns are not passive. Will everyone want to make adjustments to improve their environment? Honestly the answer is no. However that doesn't mean we shouldn't do our part individually. 


People need to ask themselves the following: Do I need two cars? Do I need an SUV if I have a small family? Am I taking advantage of all the environmental tax credits like purchasing an electric vehicle or going solar? If I work from home and everything I need is within a two mile radius of me, do I even need a car to begin with? The most important question that people should ask themselves is "Am I using this as an opportunity to ride my bike more?"




Bicycle commuting, while it may be all the way down on someone's priority list, shouldn't be overlooked as an option. The more people on bicycles, the more money will be spent on bicycle infrastructure and the less cars will be given priority. When there is "safety in numbers" cyclists will be safer on the roads because all road users will know to expect us. Cycling has health and emotional benefits, but it also is an activity that can save money and contribute to a better environment. It saves money by allowing us not to be held at the mercy of fluctuating gas prices. It improves the environment by reducing our carbon footprint.


The U.S has 4.4% of the world's population, yet it consumes 17% of the world's energy, consumes a 5th of the world's oil and produces 17 metric tons per capita of Carbon Dioxide every year. In contrast India, the second most populated country with 18% of the world's population consumes only 5% of the world's oil and produces a little less than one and a half metric tons of Carbon Dioxide per capita. Something to think about.




*350 carbon particles per million is the what is considered the safe level for a healthy environment.



Thursday, February 11, 2016

A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

Links to this post
Tribute To An Unnamed Cyclist
Courtesy of www.ciclismopr.com

To whomever the gentleman in the picture above is:

Even though I don't know you, what your name is, whether or not you are still even alive (this picture seems to be taken in the 80's or early  90's) I can tell the struggles you have endured and the passion you have for cycling. Every 3,000 foot summit has etched a new line in your legs and your long, narrow calf muscles give you away as an experienced climber. You could have been a pro, just by your physiology, your climbing position and the ease of posture with which you seemingly glide up some  mountainside, maybe on a stretch where the gradient has leveled up to 5% from a 20% pitch. The background is also a giveaway of how high you have climbed, as we can see the valley and the farms which you have left below as you continue your ascent to the heavens. Like a true, hard working Jibaro* from the campo# you sport a full but graying mustache, your hair also graying which tells me you must at least have been in your late 50's when this photo was taken. Your lean physique is the consequence of being brought up on plantains, rice, beans, yucca, bananas, mangoes, guanabana, pana and other fruits and vegetables that grow about the island. The staple food of simple, hard working farmers and sugar cane growers that has been looked down upon by the new, lazier generations as "old people food". Yet while younger Puerto Ricans are suffering from diabetes and a host of other illnesses, you are probably still riding that bike up some mountain top, leaner and fitter than ever in your golden age. 


There were no scouts looking around for raw talent such as yours, there wasn't even a way you could show the world how good you were on Strava or on any other phone app. Your secrets stay safe with the near unreachable mountains you used to climb or might still be climbing. There was no Puerto Rican cycling federation or even a USA Cycling program that could have spotted you, that could have known of your existence. You are a trend setter, an original installment of cycling in Puerto Rico. Before it was cool, before most people had even seen a road bike, you already had one and you were ripping up the mountains with it. Yet the only witnesses to your accomplishments were a passerby on horseback, a couple of cows  or a goat gnawing on the edge of the fence line and the singing Coqui frogs which filled the night air with music.


The world just wasn't ready for you, my old friend. They couldn't have stomached the thought of Miguel Indurain or Lance Armstrong having their rear end handed to them on a silver platter by an old man from the Puerto Rican mountains. You would have beat these guys on any given Sunday no matter how much cocaine they snorted or how much EPO they took. 

None of this mattered to you, or if it did, you soon came to a realization that you had no control over it. You had nothing to prove to the world because you already had everything, a beautiful mountain to climb on, and your bicycle. All the money in the world you could have made as a professional athlete couldn't buy the contentment of just riding your bike along a paradisaical backdrop and feeling the thinning air and cool breeze of the mountains.

I salute you, old, unknown and anonymous cyclist. I say old in the most respectful way, out of reverence and not to diminish you. I wish I knew someone like you that could show me around Puerto Rico, that could guide me on how to climb mountains higher and better than I currently can. If for some odd reason I would be the fitter one between us I would happily wait for you as you ascend the climbs, just to benefit from your experience. I hope where ever you are and whatever you are doing, you are as free of life's burdens as you look riding on your bike.

*Jibaro-The Puerto Rican word meaning tenant farmer or general agricultural worker

#Campo-Spanish word for countryside. Other synonyms are fields, valleys, farms and other rural landscapes.

Friday, December 11, 2015

2015: A Year in Review

Links to this post
2015 done and dusted: Does time fly quickly or what?



It seemed like a couple of weeks ago that I was typing January's blog post about my first mountain bike race. Flash forward 12 months later and it will soon be January again in a couple of weeks. This year was packed with travel, illness and a couple of trips to the emergency room. Between all of us in the family we met our yearly medical insurance deductible for the first time in doctor's visits. First I injured my leg the day before my mountain bike race which resulted in a big bruise that filled with fluid in my leg called either a seroma or hematoma.  A few months after that the whole family contracted mononucleosis after a cruise to the tropics. My son was in the emergency room twice, once for slipping at a water park which resulted in stitches on his head and he is currently recovering from a broken leg from landing incorrectly on a trampoline. My wife and I both had our tonsils removed and as I write this it has been two days since my tonsil surgery. During the week of Thanksgiving before my surgery I got a nasty stomach bug, possibly food poisoning and had to run to the emergency room for some anti-biotics. Between all these trips to the hospital and elsewhere I managed to squeeze in the Collin Classic bike rally as well as the Hotter N' Hell Hundred, finishing the Hotter N' Hell over two hours faster than last year's attempt. The sun was more damaging this year than in past years and I developed some sort of sun rash from riding my bike without wearing sun screen. I rode the latter half of the summer in long sleeve jerseys and thankfully the rash is almost gone now. 

The highlights of my year include seeing one of my youngest cousins graduate high school and getting to go to her graduation party as well as spending two weeks in Puerto Rico and bringing my bicycle with me. Another highlight this year was seeing my son start Kindergarten, which was a life changing moment for him as well as for me. Up to that point I had been exclusively a stay at home dad with no way of getting a full time employment that wouldn't conflict with my family life. Now I am starting to branch out, doing paid projects for people and freelancing. I am slowly tip toeing into gainful employment, although this time I think I will remain self-employed.


It seems that I was all over the place this year with things I was doing, things I was planning to do and things I wish I could have done more. I wish we could have had a cooler summer as well as an extra 3 months tacked on to the year. I guess I stayed busy in a good way but there were other goals that I had just started or didn't even get to start. I am currently in the process of getting out my vintage medium format film cameras and starting to shoot film again, just as a hobby for personal enjoyment. I found a place that repairs old cameras and had one of my cameras recently serviced there. This place is literally the last holdout for film camera enthusiasts, and the guy who fixed my camera must have been at least 80. Film for these cameras is expensive, now at $8 a roll. I need to get all my equipment up to date, which includes getting new batteries for my light meter and other cameras. A couple of hundred bucks later, I should have a couple of rolls of film processed and a semblance of a photo album coming together. I have not had the time to shoot like I would have wanted to, and I fear I might miss some awesome shots of this year's fall foliage. 

I have also started to draw again. I bought a couple of sketch books and have been filling the pages with comic book style art. It's a departure for the realistic style I normally use, but I'm sure I'll be getting comfortable with my old technique in no time. The art and the photography are my actual therapy. Being into sports and doing a lot of work with my hands has made me too extroverted and has given me sort of a mild attention deficit disorder. I used to be quite the opposite, focused but somewhat introverted. I'm using my old hobbies to sort myself out and find balance. Once that balance is achieved, I can decide what path my life will take me to next.


This year I have heard too many politics on the news. Too many negative people out there bashing the President and too many incompetent candidates that think that they can do a better job than he has done in the last 8 years. I'm not a Democrat or a Republican and I am politically neutral, yet I have a respect for authority, law and order, because that is what being a good citizen is all about. So when I say this I am saying it completely unbiased and sticking only to the facts. In 2008 I lost my job two days after I came back from my honeymoon, in what was then the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. Gas was at over $4 a gallon, I had a 30 commute to and from work each day by car and I was supporting myself on $11.25 an hour. Thank goodness my wife went to school, got a good education and was able to make up the deficit. Her job will always be needed because she is in the medical field. Flash forward to today; there are more employment opportunities now than there once were, several corporate headquarters have moved into town offering respectable jobs and pay, and minimum wage is at $8.25 an hour. Gas is well under $3 a gallon, DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit) is now one of the largest light rail systems in the country and a new bill has been passed guaranteeing funding for bicycle infrastructure for the next 5 years. Whatever your personal position or opinion may be about it, for better or for worse there is now a way to get health insurance with a pre-existing condition and young adults can be under the same plan as their parents until the age of 25. That is a big deal, my friends. Yet people are still complaining, still bickering about partisan politics and still wearing their tin foil hats wound tight around their heads about Obama's birth certificate. The problem is that there are either a large number of people like these or they are the loudest, disrespectful and most vocal denominator, I really don't know which, but either way it's annoying. It has completely turned me off from watching the news, because these days the media seems to be creating the news rather than reporting on it. It's like nails scratching on a chalkboard every time I turn on the TV. This is a negative and worrisome trend and is an indicator of how people are starting to lose their marbles in society. I can only hope that someone with common sense and with the power to do something about it can intervene. All I can say is to respect the highest office of the land. This is coming from somebody who is as neutral as Switzerland.


Let's talk about bikes real quick. I learned something new about bikes this year, which is if you let go of your cool old bikes then a cool new one will come along. If you give a friend a good deal on one of your bikes he will be more likely to go riding with you, or help spread the word about other bikes you might be selling and that riding new bikes are just as fun as riding old ones. I used to be very emotionally attached to my bikes and I would be lying if I said that that still isn't the case entirely. Yet the time for doting on bikes and endlessly working on them has passed. My time needs to go towards more constructive and important things. So letting go of projects or finishing and passing projects on has helped me to simplify my life. At the same time, letting go of old bikes has made room for 2 or 3 new bikes, which is also pretty cool. Vicious cycle, I guess, no pun intended.


Next year's posts will be discussing more diversified topics. Since 2009 I have been sticking to this blog as a bikes only discussion page about things cycling related. I feel that if I keep going that route that I will soon shut this blog down, because there is only so much one person can write about a particular subject. I just can't keep dragging the conversation any further. There is so much more to talk about and I haven't even gotten started yet. Stay tuned for next year's posts, where other subjects on drawing, photography and other diversified interests will be covered in addition to the usual bike tech and cycling rants already featured on this blog. Stay tuned for more posts from a Bicycle's Point Of View.




























Friday, November 13, 2015

E-Bikes: The Future of Cycling? Why I Think So

Links to this post
E-Bikes are the future of cycling, here are some reasons why


The Lapierre Overvolt full suspension mountain bike. Picture courtesy of Lapierre Bicycles and Big-Bike Magazine

I'll be the first one to admit that I wasn't a fan of the idea of electric assisted bicycles being used on the trail or on the roads by recreational cyclists. The purist in me wants all my effort to come 100% from me and feels that anything less than that would be cheating. However I have come to the conclusion that this point of view is very narrow minded. E-bikes, although still in their developmental phase, are the future of cycling and will eventually become a popular choice for all cyclists once the trickle down economics come into play and once there is enough R&D in place to make a good product at an affordable price for most people. Let me explain why.


E-bikes appeal to both the competitive and the commuter-recreational cyclist communities. While a commuter might use an e-bike to get around town and keep up with the pace of traffic, a competitive cyclist may have more devious reasons. For example, there are now stealth electric motors that can fit inside the seat tube of the bicycle and connect to the crankset directly, producing as much as 250 watts anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, allowing an otherwise novice climber to summit hills like Chris Froome. To put into perspective what 200 watts is on a bicycle, If I held 200 watts for an hour, according to my weight I would average 20 or more miles an hour over varied terrain. 250 watts combined with a rider that can produce around 200 watts is a combined 450 watts of energy, which is what top level athletes can produce on climbs in the Tour De France. It would be enough to summit a 10 kilometer climb in the 30 minute time window that the motor has before it runs out of battery. Here is a demonstration by Greg Lemond of what these stealth motors can do.






Vivax Assist, a German based company sells these motors for a little over $2,000 as well as complete bikes for about four grand. Carrera bicycle company in Italy is also working on an electric assist road bike with the same capabilities. If a competitive cyclist wants a serious advantage over their competition, speed can now be bought for a price and it won't involve taking drugs or doping. This technology would suit the road racer more than the time trialist or the criterium racer, being as the motor can only be engaged for short periods of time when climbing punchy gradients. Minutes can be taken out of competitors with the same fitness level or fitter, as a result.

So would it be cheating if a professional road racer used an electric motor on their bicycle? As long as doping is allowed in professional cycling than the answer, at least in my opinion, is no. The UCI is still turning a blind eye to dopers, such as team Astana which is still allowed to compete even though 5 guys tested positive for banned substances this year. Then there are riders from doping teams moving into teams with a "squeaky clean" reputation. One of Team Sky's claims is that they would never work with a professional if they had a doping past. How about if they have a doping present, or come from a team of dopers? Just throwing that out there, because I personally do not think anyone is absolved of guilt on the professional level. Clean riders shouldn't be subjected to getting dropped in every single race because the competition is dirty. The law of omerta should now be "don't say what I have under my hood, and I won't tell anyone what you have running in your veins, okay?".


Now that we covered competitive cyclists, how about the rest of us? How are E-bikes appealing to the mass population? The answer is simple. The majority of people are inclined to laziness. If there is a more efficient, less physically exerting way of getting the same results or better without putting in as much effort, people generally always choose the easiest route. Why would it be any different when it comes to riding a bike? Another reason that E-Bikes are appealing to the majority of us is because we don't have to go out of our way to ride one. We don't need special clothing, an aerodynamically efficient yet uncomfortable riding position or a 15 pound, $5,000 bicycle. Someone on 50 pound E-bike can be doing the same speeds if not faster than a "serious" cyclist while riding on their bike in their baggy clothing with their kids and a load of groceries in tow and not even breaking a sweat. Who wouldn't want that convenience?



Picture courtesy of gearjunkie.com

Electric assist bicycles are the great equalizer, not just among cyclists but among all vehicles. One common complaint about cyclists is that they can't keep up with the speed of traffic. The E-bike eliminates this concern and takes the pressure and the perceived responsibility off of the cyclist. While one couldn't pedal one on the freeway yet, an E-bike works well for neighborhood, suburban and country roads, basically anywhere where there are 20 to 35 mile an hour speed limits. 

If I could afford an E-bike like the LaPierre Overvolt pictured at the beginning of the article, I would be setting Strava KOMs all over the place and probably matching or exceeding speeds of the local racers where I live. I would be enjoying the bewildered looks on their faces as I zoom by them up hills. I would definitely be having fun on an E-bike and that is the reason why I think they are the future of cycling.


On a side note, I also wanted to say that this blog is almost six years old. I'm not running out of material to write about, I just don't have the same enthusiasm as I did when I started writing about cycling, restoring old bicycles and other related topics. Starting next year I might update this blog maybe once a month or so. I want to make it a point to focus my mind on other things. I hope this blog has left an imprint on some of my readers and has served for inspiration. I'm no Sheldon Brown, but I have given my 10 cents worth into the small online cycling community.



Monday, November 9, 2015

...And Lest We Forget

Links to this post
How To Become More Grounded in Our Bike Obsession
By Johnny- A Bicycle's Point of View


When we first get on a bike, we are not paying any attention whatsoever to the machine that is below our seat. Our objective is simple, to get from one place to another while exercising. Along the way, some of us start to pay attention to the nuances of the experience. We start describing our rides as harsh, compliant, fast, slow, labored and the list goes on and on. In our search for a heightened and more enlightened cycling experience, we start to shell out the dollars on parts, components and eventually complete bikes that in our minds will bring us closer to the desired outcome. Some of us are collectors by nature, some with addictive personalities that get consumed by our hobbies and passions. Some of us are trying to fill a void left empty by the absence of an important person in our lives. Bike riding to some may replace an experience that otherwise would have involved a mother, a father, a brother or a sister. We cling on to the one thing that makes everything else not matter while we are doing it. The mental, emotional and physical escape from life is a welcome relief at times, especially when things aren't going particularly our way. Loss of a job or unemployability, a forced living situation, loss of financial or emotional independence can make bike riding even more important for some of us. We come to see the world in two halves, when we are riding a bike and when we do not.


Some of us take it a step further and research everything there is to know about cycling, from the professional sporting side of cycling to the mechanics involved to finely tune and calibrate our machines. Some of us end up owning every tool you could find at a local bike shop and some of us even become bike mechanics by trade. Steel, spokes, wires and rubber all of the sudden become mobile art projects rather than the transportation tools they were originally intended for. Satisfaction only comes when we can take a rusted pile of bike and turn it into a shiny bicycle that rides like new. Our appetites are satiated only momentarily, then it's on to the next project. Some of us spend our winter months in our garages, fixing every $20 bicycle we picked up earlier in the year. Some try to sell our projects to our friends, in the often vain attempt to get them involved in our world. More than anything, some of us want to be understood by those closest to us, not realizing that we are the ones who have strayed from reality. While we have a window into their world, they can only see a mirror into ours.  


So why am I writing this? Because Bike Obsession is something that a lot of cyclists have. Heck, if you found this blog on a Google search, chances are you too are as obsessed about bicycles as I am. Bike Obsession has been well documented throughout the blogosphere and even in literature, just read "Need For The Bike" by Paul Fournel and you'll see what I'm talking about.  But is all that obsession healthy?

Sometimes we need to go back to square one and remember why we started riding a bike in the first place. The bike has always only been just a machine, a means to an end. No matter how much we romanticize it, nothing can change that fact. It's hard to look at our passion objectively, but we will miss out on the here and now if we are not at least a little bit pragmatic. It's like dating a beautiful woman who is physically divine and all you want to do is paint her on a canvas and worship her beauty. She might have flaws about her that you are willing to ignore or worse yet, she might not be as much into you as you are into her. You can lose years of your life if you do not see someone for who they really are, not as you imagine them to be. Likewise good relationships can be ruined and good experiences can be left out of our lives if we impose our need to always be on our bikes instead of enjoying our time with others. That may require us to bend our will to the activities they enjoy doing. Just remember that relationships are give and take and one day you might have a new biking buddy if you are willing to be a friend first. The bicycle is only there to connect the dots in between, a vessel to transport us to and from meaningful activities, people and places. After all, it's only a machine and a means to an end.

An Open Letter For Those Plagiarizing Off My Blog

Links to this post

To Whom it May Concern,


 I'm glad you are a fan of my work and display almost all of my blog posts on your website. What I am not happy with is the fact that you are claiming authorship to my material. You are in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and my intellectual property rights. You know I don't have the money to sue you, as you do not have the money to lawyer up in case I call you out by name on my blog (which I'm really struggling not to do, by the way). I could report you to the governmental agencies that deal with intellectual property theft, but I am not that high minded about my work nor do I possess in my literature anything ground breaking or Nobel Peace Prize winning. I'm just a guy who writes a bike blog about bikes as a hobby and as a passion. You know that and exploit it to the fullest, copying and pasting my images and articles without linking back to my webpage or naming the source from where you got the information you acquired. Then you have the audacity to tell others not to copy and paste your articles on their pages in your disclosure policy.

Along with my work, you have used other sources from prominent bloggers in the bike blog community. For example, you have copied and pasted several articles from "Lovely Bicycle!" which I'm sure you will have to answer for once the original author of that blog finds out. They will probably not be as lenient as I am, especially if they are writing a blog for a living.

If you really look up to me as an author, feel free to keep using my material, but quote me as a source and link directly back to my original posts.


I'm going to give you a pass because when I type the name of your blog in Google search, my blog is the second one on the search results list that shows up and your blog is nowhere to be seen. That is the irony of someone who is not creative enough to come up with their own material and tries to profit off others's talent.

Sincerely,

Jonathan a.k.a "Johnny" Guzman

A Bicycle's Point Of View

P.S- Consider this also a cease and desist letter.

Friday, October 16, 2015

October Ramblings and a Little Bit About Everything

Links to this post
October Rambings: It's still summer in Texas, back to mountain biking and why 
I've been riding a fixie lately.




In a few days, the weather pattern will change and then we will be complaining why it's so freakishly cold here in Texas. For now, we are still getting high's in the 90's, although mornings are a lot cooler than they were a few months ago. Texas weather changes in an instant. Many times trees here do not get to show off their fall colors before a cold snap comes and shakes all the leaves off of them. Winters in Texas are very hard. They are as cold as up north but usually without the snow and the general wintertime ambience. What we do get in the winter here in texas are strong winds, cold winds, howling winds. Wind gusts that can easily knock someone off of their bike if they are riding out in the countryside. In short, I'm not looking forward to the upcoming weather, but it is a part of life and if I manage to dodge getting bronchitis this year I'll consider it a good winter.


A few years back I wrote an article about fixed gear bikes.  Although I'd like to point out that I was mostly accurate about everything I said in the article, I also made an error in judgement. I portrayed fixed gear bikes in a mostly negative light and made implications that those who ride fixies are reckless adrenaline junkies that don't really care about cycling. In doing so I dismissed a whole movement, a whole subculture that took place in the mid-aughts right underneath our noses. What's worse is that most of the guys who really took to riding fixed gear bikes are around my age. I got into cycling a different way, riding geared racing bikes with the older demographic of Sunday club riders. Fixed gear riders didn't need Lance Armstrong or Phil Liggett to tell them that cycling was cool. While many of them were tricksters and rode their bikes like I use to ride my skateboard, fixies got many young people on bikes that ended up being really good cyclists. When I worked at a bike shop, the strongest riders in the shop all rode on fixed gear bikes. All of them could hold 20mph averages and had good climbing and sprinting ability. Maybe I should have been racing alleycat races instead of training for the Hotter N' Hell, or working on my track standing ability instead of obsessing over bike components and weight. So recently I bought a fixed gear bike, and it has been almost exclusively the bike that I use when I do road riding. It's a bike that leaves my thighs reeling in pain, and I get more fitter doing shorter distances on my fixie than longer distances on my geared bikes, even if my average speed is higher on the geared bikes. Fixed geared bikes also have an advantage in that they are the only road bikes that come with traditional geometry someone can buy new. In a sea of compact frame options, only a handful of manufacturers are making steel and traditional frame geometry bicycles. Those that do charge north of $2,000 for a bike, but the fixed equivalent of the same bike can be had for $400-$500 brand new. Putting it that way, fixed gear bikes have the biggest bang for the buck.


With the shorter days and the cooling weather its time to take the mountain bikes out of the shed and hit the local area trails. I have already started doing one or two mountain bike rides a week. When the cold wind gusts get unbearable, I will probably be exclusively riding in the woods on my mountain bike, where at least I will be shielded by the trees. I'm looking forward to more mountain biking adventures in the coming months.


Stay tuned for more "ramblings" from A Bicycle's Point of View.















Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Secret To Averaging 19mph on a Bike

Links to this post
Tips and Tricks to Becoming a Faster Recreational Cyclist

Not Trying to toot my own horn here, but a few times a year I belong to the 19+mph club.

Why 19mph? Why not set a 20+mph average speed as a personal goal? First of all, because I only speak from experience. In all of my 8 or more years of cycling recreationally, I have yet to do a 20mph average speed on a ride, group or solo. I have soloed 18 to 19mph riding alone doing distances of over 20 miles. Second of all, anyone averaging over 20mph on a solo ride or in a group setting has improved to a whole other level. Averaging 20+mph consistently on long rides sets the rider up for racing and holding 24mph averages in criteriums. The difference between an 18-19mph average and a 20mph average is what separates the riders from the racers in the cycling world.  I have enough experience to offer suggestions to my readers on at least how to get to my level, which has taken me a long time (maybe a little too long) to achieve. For those of my readers new to cycling, this article is for you. My hope is that anyone looking to get faster on a bike will have an accelerated learning curve by following the tips and suggestions that I offer.

Rule #1: Pay Your Dues: There are no shortcuts to building endurance, because endurance is how well we manage pain. For the first time rider or even the veteran rider, that means getting out on your bike regularly. Even with regular amounts of cycling, speed comes in stages and there will be plateaus both physically as well as in overall performance. Plateaus don't generally last long, as long as the cyclist is willing to push through them. Averaging 16 to 17mph is a plateau most people can't or don't want to overcome. That is because they are either content with their speed or don't have the time or the energy to go a little farther out on their rides and push a little harder. Paying your dues in cycling means holding on to pacelines on group rides knowing that you will inevitably fall off the pace and get dropped. It involves overcoming discouraging experiences being willing to go through the same experiences again the next  time. Mental fortitude is as important as physical gains (maybe even more so) when trying to improve one's performance, especially when it comes to cycling.

Rule#2: Ride Hills, Ride them Hard: Hills are natural intervals we encounter while out riding. While many cyclists dread going up hills and generally avoid them on their routes, I say embrace them. Hills are  a part of life. In life, we have our ups and downs. Whatever doesn't keep us down makes us stronger individuals the next time we have to pick ourselves up. Successful cyclists approach hills the same way they approach life. I'm not trying to get philosophical here, but most 16mph cyclists don't ride hills, they cruise on flat terrain thinking that they are going fast.  They are content to take the easy approach to riding, therefore many of them are fat or potbellied and don't look good in Lycra. Want to be a fine and fit cyclist? Ride hills. Don't just look at hills as part of the ride or a mere obstacle to overcome, look at hills as the main event. When approaching a hill, the objective to should be to give it as much gas up the hill as possible. This doesn't always mean getting into your climbing gears, either. To build strength up the hills, it's best to practice climbing them on a harder gear than you would normally do otherwise. Use the time not climbing hills to recover, riding tempo while you approach the next hill. While descending skills are important, climbing skills are even more so and merit the most attention. The foundation of  a cyclist's speed and endurance is made going up and down hills.

Rule#3: Ride Some More Hills on your Fixie: "What?!?!? Blasphemy!" One might say. "A fixie for training?" Yes, and let me explain why. Fixed geared bikes have their purpose. Their purpose is not to be used for posing around campus trying to look cool or to be in the next Macaframa video. Although skidding is a neat trick on a fixed geared bike that is not all a fixed gear bike is intended to do. Actually, a fixed geared bike is sort of a bonus tool that a cyclist can possess in building leg muscle and perfecting pedaling technique and timing. 

My new fixed gear bike is giving me impressive results when I hop back on my regular bikes. Note the brakes on the bike. I'm crazy but I'm not stupid. ;)

On a fixed geared bike, backpedaling is an essential skill that not only helps control speeds going downhill but also builds strength in the hamstring region of the thigh. Most cyclists boast impressive quads and many overdevelop their quads to the point of looking like track sprinters. The hamstrings are just as important to exercise as they activate more quickly than quads when climbing. So while the gear ratio can't change on a fixed geared bike, a fixed geared bike has the potential to make someone a better climber. A fixed geared bike is also a great tool for the time crunched cyclist because a big workout can be had in a shorter distance than on a regular 20 mile ride. So if you already have a geared bike and want an awesome training bike that can be used to run errands or to sit on your trainer in the wintertime, get a fixie. Preferably buy a purpose built track bike like the one in the picture rather than hacking up a classic 80's frame just to make it a fixed gear. Oh yeah, and use brakes if you want to stop.

Rule #4: Exercise off the bike: All the fast guys that I ride with are triathletes. When I say fast, I mean regular 20+mph cyclists.  The secret to their speed is that they are working out all parts of their bodies; their upper bodies while swimming, their abs when running and their legs when cycling. So what if you, like me, are not a triathlete and are not inclined to run? You can still find another sport away from cycling that engages the body in another way. Playing soccer, skateboarding and playing basketball are all complete cardio workouts that don't involve repetitive running or swimming laps, but have the same positive benefits. Hiking trails is a great way to get out in nature while getting the same benefits of running. 


These are my tricks and "cheats" to becoming a faster cyclist. If I could add one more it would be to make it interesting, not boring, not a chore for you or your loved one. However, don't do it just enough to hate it. Stay consistent, and you will see results. 











Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Hotter N' Hell 2015: How Did it Go?

Links to this post

The 2015 Hotter N' Hell Hundred


Carlos (Center of the photo) finished the ride in 5:10, Levi (Left hand side) came in 10 minutes after me (on the Right). I finished the ride with an elapsed time of 5:38 and a moving time of 5:10.

With the hot month of July we had this year, I thought this year's Hotter N' Hell was going to be a scorcher. Well, it was, in the sense that I am now officially a "Scorcher", or a sub 6 hour century rider. The actual temperature itself averaged in the low 80's, freakishly cool for this time of year in what is supposed to be the hottest part of the country right now.  I am by no means complaining that it wasn't hot enough. You see the guy in the blue, long sleeved jersey in the photo above? Yep, that's me, dressed up trying to protect myself from the sun. The cool, overcast and breezy day kept me fresh on the bike and contributed to my performance.

The first 50 miles of the race, as opposed to last year's Hotter N' Hell, were the hardest.  The roads were so bumpy that even my Selle SMP TRK saddle didn't help to take the edge off the harshness of the ride. I rode the last couple of miles to the 50 mile rest stop standing on my pedals and cramping. At the rest stop, I ate a hot dog and knocked back a few bottles of pickle juice. That might sound disgusting, but after 15 minutes the cramping started to go away. My cramps were so bad that I had to slowly remount and pedal the bike once I was on my way. The pickle juice basically saved me from falling off the pace, maybe even from ending my ride early.

At the starting line.


The 50 mile rest stop.




I rode the rest of the ride at my own pace and wasn't even looking at my average speed until the end of the ride. I caught several pacelines on the way to the finish, dropping back whenever I needed to recover or when I needed a swig of water. I  only stopped one other time at the 85 mile mark, because I had run out of water by that point. I tried to fill up my bottles as quickly as I could and was off to the finish line.





This year was about breaking my personal record, as well as redemption for having been the last among my friends to cross the finish line. I not only broke my record by over two hours but I now can start at the front of the race with all of the other "Scorchers" should I decide to do this again next year. The Hotter N' Hell is basically the one event a year we non-professional riders can aspire to. It's a great event and a bucket list item if you are a cyclist living in Texas that takes riding seriously. If you have a fleeting interest in the sport then this ride is not for you. This race is tough, even though this year it wasn't particularly hot, cyclists still had to turn the pedals for a 100 miles to finish it. Last year we had temperatures around 103 and headwinds of 20 mph for the last 30 miles of the race. In years like that it takes the entire year to train up for a 100 mile race. I'm glad things worked out the way they did this year, because I have not been training as much as I did last year and in years past. This might very well be the last century ride that I do in August, although next year I'm looking at going to Hotter N' Hell for the triple threat. We'll see what happens next year.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Johnny's Mobile Bicycle Repair

Links to this post
Back in Business! Mobile bike mechanic Servicing the north DFW area and Collin County 

 Readers of my blog already know that I'm an experienced bike mechanic. For the past 6 years, I have been in and around bike shops building bicycles and doing everything from changing flat tires to advanced services like hydraulic disc brake bleeds. The truth is, I live, breathe even bleed bikes. Is that all I'm good at? Readers who follow my blog know the answer to that also. Although I have done photography as a business and have an affinity for drawing, repairing bicycles is the thing that I currently enjoy the most, the thing that I can focus my attention on. I have always been a hands-on kind of guy. I have had office jobs that I have hated and know myself well enough to say I rather work standing up and moving around than sitting down, fixated on a computer screen. That is where the idea of Johnny's Mobile Bike Repair came up.

I actually started brainstorming on this idea almost six months ago, debating the feasibility of working for myself as a home based but traveling bicycle mechanic. I realized that I already possessed most of the tools and the knowledge needed to put the idea into practice. I started advertising a couple of weeks ago and now I'm starting to gain a following on Facebook and from business referrals. 

The concept is actually pretty simple, one most established bike shops wouldn't even dream of considering. What if the customer didn't have to go to the bike shop? What if the mechanic came to them, picked up their bicycle, fixed it and delivered it back to them within a reasonable amount of time? This is how Johnny's Mobile Bicycle Repair works. In addition, I do concessions for customers with large cargo bicycles to have them repaired on site. In other words, I will at times bring my tools and perform repairs at the customer's home, based on how I see fit. Because it is impossible to haul a garage full of tools everywhere I go, I can only do on site repairs on an as needed basis.  


My shop bench with the tools of the trade.

I have plenty of rack storage to handle a decent sized workload.



So far the reception has been positive and I have had a steady stream of work trickling in. Hopefully this business will grow as more people in the DFW area find out about me. Here are some of the services that I am currently offering.

-Tune ups starting at $40
-Brake bleed services
-Bicycle Restorations
-Parts replacement and install
-Bike builds and tear downs for travelers
-Frame powdercoating
-Rust removal*
-..and much more

I am a full service bicycle shop based in my garage. There is little that I can not do and no part that I can't order. Not having a commercial overhead or a retail business is what allows me to offer my services at competitive prices with a fast turnaround. I encourage all customers to have their parts purchased if they want to replace anything on the bicycle before making an appointment. I stock a variety of basic parts but do not stock bicycle components. I can order anything but that will delay the repair by one to two weeks. 

I have the ability to fix all kinds of bicycles, however my target audience is the adult bicycle market. The parts that I stock are mostly for road bikes and mountain bikes. I can fix cruisers, BMX bikes, recumbents and tandems, however I will have to order parts in to work on those bicycles. I say this to be as transparent as possible to anyone wishing to use my services. 

Find me on Facebook, email me or call me if...

-you love cycling and riding your bike
-you are tired of the turnaround times at your local bike shop
-you resent the overinflated prices being charged to you
-your club needs a wrench and the established shops are ignoring you
-you are an avid mountain biker
-you commute by bike
-you do triathlons
-you are a roadie, fixed geared hipster, old guy on a recumbent, vintage retro-grouch, all of the above, call me if you love to ride whatever bike it may be

If you are this kind of customer, I can definitely help you out. My goal is to grow my business within the dedicated community of cyclists, and give cyclists freedom of choice rather than forcing them to take their bicycles to a bike shop every time they need something fixed on it. No matter what the make and model is on your bicycle, I will not turn down anybody who loves cycling.

I may turn down business if I get asked the following questions...

-I left my cheap department store bike sitting out in the rain for a few years, how much do you charge to fix it?
-I'm wondering if it's cheaper to fix my bike than to replace it?
-Can you fix a wheel on a dirt bike?
-I have a part on my bike that is broken, do you have any spare parts lying around? (I do, but that's not the point).
-Can you do a price bundle, you know, work your magic?
-Your wall racks look cool, do you have any spare ones that I can buy off of you?
-Do you have liability insurance?

I charge according to the quality of service that I provide. The value of the bike has nothing to do with the prices that I charge. I have spare parts, but I'm not a junker. I don't touch bikes that are covered in rust, unless there is a realistic chance of reviving them and a lot of money to restore them. I work on bicycles, not motorcycles.  I'm trying to make a living, I'm not a charity or a co-op. My wall racks are not for sale. I don't have liability insurance, because I'm not planing on getting sued. As a side note, these are all actual questions that I have been asked.


Now that we got that out of the way, Let me know what I can do for you! There is a minimum onsite service fee of $40 that I charge every time I go out. This means that the customer must purchase $40 or more worth of services. If the customer purchases a tune-up and that is all they need, the service fee will also cover the cost of the tune-up. However, residents out of Collin county will pay the $40 service fee indivually of the work being performed. That means if you live in Ft. Worth, you will pay $40 plus the labor charge for the tune up or other service provided to you. Customers can also drop off their bikes at my home based shop. Customers that need special order parts can either pay me to come out, drop off and pickup the bicycle for a $40 delivery fee or can drop off their bicycles at the shop. The turnaround for ordering parts and fixing a bicycle is about two weeks. If parts are not needed, it takes me approximately two hours to perform any extensive repair, about 30 minutes to an hour to perform a basic tune.



*I remove rust on chrome plated parts and components only.


Check out my Facebook page for more information at www.facebook.com/bicycledoctor


Stay tuned for more informative posts from A Bicycle's Point of View.


Monday, July 27, 2015

More Puerto Rico Updates

Links to this post
Ismael, another friend I made on the island. We rode through a trail in the town of Cabo Rojo 


Looking out towards the inland bay at Cabo Rojo






I'm back in town now, after two weeks in Puerto Rico. I hope I can plan my next trip over there soon because I really enjoyed my visit and the time I spent with my cousins and other family members. I'm from Puerto Rico, but I have no skin in the game as to what life is like for people who live on the island day in and day out.  I left the island at the age of 5 through no fault of my own; I was a kid and my parents wanted/needed to move. This trip gave me a glimpse at what it would have been like if I had stayed.

 Everyone here says that it's not easy to make a living on the island. There is a shortage of jobs and a lot of laws have been passed to keep manufacturing down and to keep individuals from empowering themselves. However, that doesn't mean it's impossible to live here. For as much strife and financial hardship as there seems to be this is a place where every morning you can wake up to good cup of coffee and million dollar views. Everywhere you look there is a mountain on the horizon to climb. The mountainsides are spattered with the reds of the Flamboyan trees and other hues from other fruit trees as well as little wooden houses scattered throughout. Fruit here is sold at fruit stands and for a few bucks one can walk home with about ten pounds of locally grown bananas, mangoes, papayas, soursop and other fruits. This place wouldn't be an expensive to live in for someone who owns their own business abroad or collects a retirement check there. It is expensive for most locals, even those who have college degrees but who do not have contacts in the business sector that can get them jobs. 80% of Puerto Rican households make less than $40,000 a year, and Puerto Ricans pay an 11.5% sales tax on all goods, the highest of any U.S owned territory. Puerto Ricans also pay income taxes to the government of Puerto Rico, sometimes at a higher rate than the Federal income taxes paid in the rest of the U.S. The good majority of Puerto Ricans have to settle with $7.25/ hour, or the Federal minimum wage. Unless someone is a fruit vendor or a farmer, they are subject to paying annual income taxes which is pretty much the majority of Puerto Ricans. Due to the high tax demands on individuals who own businesses, there are many cash in hand transactions and many places will not accept credit or debit cards. Many have to do this to make a profit otherwise all of their profits will go to paying taxes to the government and to merchant fees. While this may not paint a complete picture as to what it must be like living over there, it does give us a small window to peek in.

Riding a bike in Puerto Rico is awesome. During my stay there I rode on the southwest side of the island, to and from my relatives houses and into the city centers of San German and Sabana Grande. The distances aren't very far between towns, but the elevation and gradients make up for the short distances. Some of the roads up the mountains average at 8% incline grades, which sections as steep as 25% or more. Even the roads leading to and from the city centers are steep. Here are a couple of rides that I did while I was there. Check out the elevation profiles versus the distance ridden.








My goal is to one day be able to live in Puerto Rico with my family with complete financial independence. It's an ambitious goal to say the least and a lot of Puerto Ricans don't or can't make it a reality. I can't let it go without at least trying, since ever since my trip I haven't stopped looking back. The palm trees and mountains of Puerto Rico go in harsh contrast to the hot, 100 degree ocean-less landscape that I am currently living in. Maybe it's time for this prodigal son to finally come home.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

I took my bike to Puerto Rico

Links to this post
The Porta Coeli Monastery is the oldest church in the western Hemisphere in one of the oldest founded settlements of the New World.
 Some of my readers may have heard things about Puerto Rico, some good, some not so good. I 'm here to clear the air and misconceptions that anyone reading this article might have, whatever those might be. Furthermore I want to share the awesome experience that I have had cycling on the west side of the island, climbing gradients that would even make Vincenzo Nibali wince in pain.


Puerto Rico has been in the news lately, for all the wrong reasons. The alleged default on the national debt of the island has many people calling Puerto Rico the "new" Greece. I'm not going to bore you with the politics of the island and of those abroad, because this is a bike blog and I want to talk about bikes. Essentially, what people are hearing on the news is a bunch of hyped up, sensationalized rhetoric being used as a platform for scoring political points by opposing parties. People can still shop and eat here and even have some money left over for recreation. Puerto Rico is nowhere near 3rd world country status or anywhere near where Greece was when it needed austerity measures. Are people leaving Puerto Rico in search of better opportunities? Sure they are, as is everyone everywhere who thinks the grass is greener on the other side. For all the negative news about Puerto Rico's economy there hasn't been a national discussion about the cause for Puerto Rico's financial woes or about whatever happened to the national referendum that never left the U.S congress's desk. For those who wish to know more about that subject, research the Jones Act of 1920 as well as all the import, export and trade restrictions and tariffs being laid on the island. Look into how many major corporations like Wal-Mart and others have benefited from these laws by not having to report all of their earnings in Puerto Rico, getting tax breaks and exemptions that businesses on the island do not receive and killing the local economy by artificially lowering their prices to the point that small businesses can no longer compete.  I'm done talking about it, let's talk bike riding.


As with the hyped up news about the economy, several sources told me I had a death wish for wanting to bring my bike to the island and ride around during my stay. The roads around the towns of San German and Sabana Grande are mostly rural, winding, steep and sometimes feature pedestrian and horse traffic. Some drivers might be a little more aggressive on the roads than others, and it might not be a good idea to ride during peak traffic hours. However, the cycling is the best riding that I have done anywhere, period. I'm surprised a Puerto Rican hasn't won the Giro D' Italia yet, because the climbing profiles out here feature grades from 17% to 25% and even more in some places. For the cyclist who loves to climb, this is your paradise.

See those mountains in the background? This is real climbing out here. 
Even the roads in the center of town are steep
 I rode with my cousin during my second day of visiting. We wound through plantain fields and small city districts. It was  really neat to have the mountains as a backdrop the whole time I rode. This made for some really cool pictures.


What a priceless view in such a beautiful place! My cousin Waldito on the right hand side of the photo.

This is the first blog post I write while still abroad. My stay in Puerto Rico is not over yet, and I will be doing more riding as well as documenting my rides before I leave. So far, the experience I have had has not disappointed me. Stay tuned for more blog posts about Puerto Rico and more informative posts.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

My 2015 Motobecane Super Strada Review

Links to this post
My New Motobecane Super Strada Review


I recently purchased another awesome bike from Bikes Direct. Let me tell you, this website can do no wrong. Everything that I have purchased from them has been of excellent quality. I'm not getting paid to review their products, I just think that they deserve credit for being one of the few reputable online bike distributors that give the consumer what they want at a reasonable price. 


The Motobecane Super Strada is an awesome bike that cuts no corners in terms of quality. While it did come with a compact frame design which made me feel a bit cramped in the cockpit area, I was able to remedy this with a few adjustments such as swapping out the stem. The biggest selling point of this bicycle is the compact gearing and Mavic Aksium wheelset that it comes with. The Shimano Ultegra 6800 shifters and derailleurs are top of the line and provide flawless shifting even while going up climbs. With the 11-32 rear cassette and the 50/34 crankset chainrings, one never runs out of gears to spin on while going uphill and most mild gradients can be done on the 50 tooth chainring. The Mavic wheels are super low maintenance, as I have had to true them only once in the 300 miles that I have ridden on them. 

The following is a video review I made about this bike. It basically mentions everything I mentioned above. Check out the video and let me know your thoughts.










Thursday, June 25, 2015

Transit Oriented Developments: Bikable, Walkable Cities or an Economic Double Standard?

Links to this post
Transit Oriented Development

Discussing the modern effects of mixed used zoning, both good and bad

Downtown Las Colinas was the first transit oriented development in the mid-west. This residential and office district now features a light rail, connecting it to the rest of Dallas.


As a former resident of the Las Colinas/Greater Dallas area, I am a huge fan of Transit Oriented Developments and mixed used zoning. When I lived in the area, I could ride my bike to the library, the post office, the local pizza shop and even the grocery store. Las Colinas has a 10 mile bicycle trail connecting it to the neighboring suburb of Valley Ranch. Valley Ranch is a township of the city of Irving, with an extensive trail and canal system running through it's core. Back in 2007 it was the place to be if you were a twenty-something, young, single person or a young couple without kids. I have many fond memories of this place in the 3 years that I lived there, although after 2008 I was hard pressed to find work due to the economic recession. With the addition of a new member to the family, after 2010 it soon did not make economic sense to stay there any longer. My wife and I took advantage of the depressed housing market and we have been living in the suburbs ever since. Not the happy ending I was hoping for, but a happy one nonetheless. 


Don't get me wrong, I love living in apartments. I love living on the chic, trendy side of town with endless choices of good eateries and high end retail. I would be lying to myself if I said I didn't miss the convenience of not having to mow my own lawn, repair my own house, or drive to my favorite restaurant. I miss the late nights as a single guy where I would go jogging around the canals or go free-running in downtown Las Colinas, jumping over trash cans and clearing bus stops. I miss being an urbanist. Maybe one day I can get back to that place, maybe make it a goal. The point is I couldn't afford to live there any longer, I was priced out of the market. I have since made my peace with it and moved on, because change is inevitable and the Valley Ranch/ Las Colinas area isn't what it was 8 years ago anyway.


The truth is, after I lost my job and had a kid, the concept of livable, walkable cities became more and more foreign to me. The fact of the matter is that living in a place where all you do is spend money eating out and shopping goes against everything that someone struggling financially would do. The master plans and zoning regulations of most New Urbanist developments in the United States favor and cater to high end retail, niche boutiques and haute cuisine dinning. Where are all the corner stores and delis? Where are the Aldi's? The Lidl's? The pharmacies? The farmer's market? Is a community that is supposed to be walkable, livable, really sustainable without these things?


The answer to the latter question is no. The minute the economy turned many young people abandoned ship and left Las Colinas to go live with their parents, or to go live in the suburbs where the cost of housing is relatively cheaper. The fall of the economy also coincided with rising costs of living and renting in the area. One could say that a figurative noose was tightening around our necks, as apartment costs out-priced home mortgages. It didn't matter how walkable or bike friendly a place Las Colinas was, essential goods and services were out of reach and the area had no "real" economy to sustain itself with. During hard times, people will eat out less, shop less and drink more coffee at home. Therefore a mixed used zoning development that has businesses such as jewelry stores, coffee shops and organic burger joints will not be able to weather the storm when hard times hit. The people living there will not be able to sustain their consumer spending lifestyle of eating out all the time and not having food in their refrigerators. Yet here in the U.S, at least in North Texas where I live, there are no practical businesses in these types of Transit Oriented Developments being built. The businesses moving in seem to be taking out the corner stores, bakeries, tax offices, and other vital businesses that the existing communities have relied on for years. This is especially true in the case of historical downtown re-developments, or downtown revitalizations. Main streets all across the country have been neglected for about 50 years thanks to suburban sprawl. In the meantime many city centers became working class communities and cultural districts. Commercial and residential property values crashed in these areas and in a lot of cases it brought poverty and crime as a result. In the last 10 years or so, the kids of suburban dwellers started to rediscover urban centers and their affordable cost of living. Many of them started to buy back commercial spaces and historical homes. Now property values in these areas have increased and become too expensive for the blue collar residents that have been living there for generations. Whether intentionally or consequently, Transit Oriented Development has led to gentrifying of whole neighborhoods and communities. We only need to look at places like Brooklyn, New York to confirm this is true.


This is the double standard of Transit Oriented Development. It's affordable for "some", but not affordable to all. It gives the illusion of a walkable, bike friendly community, but without the accessibility to get one's basic necessities. This is what is fundamentally wrong with this model as it is being currently implemented. If I pay over $1,000.00 a month for rent on an apartment, I'm not going to be eating $10 burgers everyday and driving to the next town to find a grocery store. That defeats the point of paying for the "privilege" and convenience of living in a mixed used zoning development. It's better to live in a suburb with a real sense of community rather than in a "fake" economy, glorified strip mall with flats on the second floor. All retail business that do not provide an essential service to the community are "fake" economy businesses. All they do is take up commercial space that would otherwise be used by more permanent entrepreneurs. Many of these businesses stick around an area while they are in vogue, later closing down the minute their sales start to drop. The result is a high turnover of residents and little to no investment in the community. The long term outlook for these new urban developments is bleak unless grocers, bankers, pharmacies and other real businesses start getting in on the action and setting up their shops in them. For that to happen, the current consumer and corporate mindset alike has to change. The concept of the "supermarket" or "superstore" is one that is hardwired and ingrained in everyone living in the U.S. Having a grocery store in a corner retail slot rather than in a stand alone building can be as foreign a concept as the moon to most people living here. Retail businesses are currently increasing rather than decreasing their store sizes, reasoning to themselves that "bigger is better as long as there is somewhere to build it". Case in point Nebraska Furniture Mart, a furniture store that takes up 77 acres of land, or several football fields in size. I mean, who needs a furniture store that big? In order for things to change, consumers need to demand it with their wallets. 


No one wants to hear or to talk about the negative effects of Transit Oriented Developments. Everyone wants to talk about sustainability, complete streets and environmental friendliness. Land developers, architects and investors need to practice what they preach. A truly sustainable community is one were all the residents rely on each other. It's a community where people work, shop, buy their necessities and don't shop at Wal-Mart or other big box stores. It's a community that in a way has it's own GDP; where economic growth comes from within by an exchange of services and not from outside consumer spending. Sustainable developments don't kick the current residents to the curb by raising the rent on them. They adapt and cater to all levels of income and demographic types. The conclusion we can draw is that there is currently a double standard to Transit Oriented Development. It's a situation that could spell the end of master planned, livable communities in the long term unless things change. Many of these projects have been abandoned mid-stage, many end up being converted into office spaces or even ghost towns as a result of unresolved issues. We shouldn't leave good ideas like  the Transit Oriented Development to die. Otherwise people will remember these developments as failed social experiments, not for the potential that they once had. I'm no one with the power to change that though, I'm just a guy writing a blog. Developers, businesses, local governments and entrepreneurs alike need to work with each other and come up with the solution. All I know is if I were the venture capitalist of a master planned community and my aim was livability, I wouldn't allow any $10 burger joints or stand alone supermarkets to be zoned there. End of rant.



P.S on this article: 

I also wanted to say that bike friendly neighborhoods have been a cause that I have personally defended and championed in the past. I still feel that it is the way to go to counteract the negative effects of car-culture. However, I am strongly against any action that would displace others for the sake of "the greater good". I understand that things change, landscapes change and cities change. Change is inevitable. There are people who have come to call a place home only to get uprooted or forced to leave because they were "not a right fit" financially or otherwise. Those people have skin in the game, a real relationship with their community and are heavily invested in their properties. I for one know what it's like to have to leave an area after thinking I had laid down my roots and settled down. So while I'm in favor of purpose built communities and "revitalizations" that favor bicycle transport and walkability, I can't say I agree with the way TODs are being carried out.