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Caught Between Two Pleasures

February 6, 2016

Another morning where I didn’t go for a bike ride. This was fifth consecutive morning where I have been free and the fifth consecutive morning when I didn’t go for a ride. Granted, the first two mornings we had things going on and so I wasn’t able to go, but I have been able to past three mornings and I haven’t been out yet.

Three days ago I got up early and got ready to go. After a few problems with my bike — two flat tires — and switching bikes I got on the road but within one minute of starting my ride it started to rain. So I turned around and went back home. Yesterday when I woke up to go for a ride it was pouring rain outside.

That brings us to this morning. A cold snap moved in yesterday, meaning it was quite chilly this morning. It was also quite windy. It was, I decided, too cold and windy to go for a ride. It was also a little bit late when I got up and debated going for a ride because I got out of bed a little bit later due to being woken up at around four o’clock by the earthquake.

The weather app on my phone said it was ten degrees when I got out of bed. About an hour and a half later — as I just finished the exercises I did in lieu of going for a ride — it said it was nine degrees. The weather was getting cooler. So I was probably right for staying at home.

Maybe I just chickened out. But with the cold, the wind, and the waking up too early, I didn’t *really* feel like going out. I wanted to stay home.

I still enjoy cycling as much as I used to. I still want to do it as much as I used to. But sometimes I just don’t want to go out as much as I used to.

If I’m planning a ride for the next morning, I’m thinking all afternoon, evening, and night about the ride. I anticipate it; I can’t wait. But then when morning comes around and it’s time to go, there’s a part of me that doesn’t really want to go. Sometimes I think I look for any excuse to *not* go. Maybe that’s what I did this morning.

The problem is not that I don’t enjoy the cycling part. I want to go; I want to be on the road, alone, with my bike. But I also want to be home with my family. I really enjoy being at home in the morning, eating breakfast with my family, spending time with them in the morning. If I go for a ride, I can’t do that.

So it’s often a lot easier to go for a ride — especially a *long* ride — if the kids and my wife aren’t home. If they’re going out somewhere — or even going to school — it is a lot easier and a lot more enjoyable to go for a ride. If they’re at home waiting for me to come home, I spend almost the entire ride wanting to go home. It’s a strange feeling: I’m on the road enjoying my ride, enjoying my time with my bicycle, but also wishing that I were at home.

I’m stuck between the two things that I enjoy most in life: riding my bike and spending time with my family. It’s hard to do both. Hopefully when they kids are older and are much more independent, it’ll be easier to get on the road. Maybe by that time I’ll *want* to get out of the house and away from them.

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Heeding the Signs

February 3, 2016

I’m all dressed and ready for my ride. I go downstairs and take out the bike I’m planning to ride and discover that *both* tires are flat. How that happened, I have no idea, but I don’t feel like checking it out now. So I get out my other bike and go to pump up the tires as it’s been a few weeks since I’ve ridden that one. After pumping up the rear tire I have trouble getting the valve loosened on te front tire. The valve wants to come off rather than loosening. And all this time I’m wondering if I’m wearing too much or not enough; I don’t *really* like riding in this weather, but riding in this weather is better than not riding at all.

But now I’m all ready and it’s time to hit the road. So I take off and literally — and I literally mean *literally* — I hear something and then feel something. Yup, *it’s starting to rain*. I take that as a sign. The whole time I was getting ready for my ride a part of me was thinking that as much as I want to go for a bike ride, I would also like to stay home with my family and where it is warm. So I take the fact that it’s raining as a sign that I should give up on my ride and go back home.

You may say that I’m wimping out and just don’t want to ride in the cold and you may be right, but if I go home I can try again tomorrow morning. I’m on vacation — it’s the start Chinese New Year here and I still have ten more free mornings after today — and so in theory I have lots of time and chances to ride. And I’m safe.

You see, a couple years ago there were a number of signs that told me I shouldn’t go out for a ride. I didn’t heed them; I went out anyways. That morning was cold, much colder than I was expecting, and so I wasn’t dressed warmlyl enough. It was a cold ride. And then, on my way home, a dog ran across the road in front of me and ran right into my front wheel. I went down and pulled my groin and was off the bike for over a month and my groin bothered me for a lot longer.

That day the signs told me to stay home and I didn’t and if I had heeded them I would have been able to still ride for the next month. So with all those signs *this* morning I decided to listen to them and stay home. Who knows what might have happened out there this morning. I lose a ride this morning, yes, but this way I can try again tomorrow morning or even the next morning. Maybe something would have happened while I was out there this morning and I would have lost the chance to ride for the foreseeable future. So I went home.

Also, today is my wife’s birthday. Maybe it’s better to stay home anyways.

The Ride ➡️ Ruishui, Taiping (瑞水, 太平)

February 22, 2015

I had planned on a ride for early this morning. Since it was an early morning ride — and my wife was thinking about taking a family a trip today — it was going to be a ride on my Rincon and be fairly close to home. I would have about three or so to ride, but since I had to be back home at a certain time, I didn’t want to go to far from home in case something happened — like a flat tire that proved hard to fix — and I had trouble getting home. But when I woke up in the morning I wasn’t feeling well and so I decided to stay home.

I really wasn’t feeling well; during breakfast my wife decided to take the kids out so I could be at home by myself and rest. I was starting to feel worse, too, not physically, but mentally. Looking outside while I was eating breakfast I noticed that it was a beautiful day out there. It was perfect weather for riding a bicycle and here I was unable to ride. That was very hard to stomach.

An hour or so after my wife and children left, however, I started to feel better. I sent a message to my wife telling her I was feeling better and she responded by suggesting I go for a bike ride. Not wanting to waste the chance, I stopped what I was doing and got ready to go.

I was a little bit worried about this ride, though. First there was the worry that my body — since I wasn’t feeling well earlier — wouldn’t be up for something too strenuous. Second, there was the time of day. By this time it was getting close to eleven o’clock in the morning which meant that I would be riding during lunchtime. That would mean that I wouldn’t be eating lunch, at least not a real lunch. Would I have the energy to finish the ride without bonking?

That was stuff to worry about later, though. More important was trying to decide which bike to ride and where to go. Since the weather was so nice and I had quite a bit of time (my wife and children wouldn’t be home until quite later) I decided to go somewhere I hadn’t gone in a while, somewhere I hadn’t had the chance to go lately, somewhere not so close to home (as I had been riding the roads close to home almost consistently for the past few months). Up into the mountains also seemed like a good idea as with the cooler weather lately I hadn’t been going up there, worried that the descent would be too cold. But with the beautiful weather we were having today, it was the perfect time to head back to the mountains.

So I decided to ride my GT and head up to Ruishui (瑞水). I had thought about going up to Huashan (華山) but there is a group ride scheduled to go up there next Sunday so if I get the chance to ride with them on that day, I’ll be going up there then so somewhere different would be better for today. So Ruishui or 36 Turns seemed like good choices. I opted for Ruishui because it’s a much nicer ride. I’m not sure which one is more difficult — they’re both really, really hard — but going up through Ruishui is much prettier. And has less traffic.

So off I go. It’s a long, hard climb. It’s about ten or eleven — I was trying to keep track but forgot to check when I got to the top — kilometres of non-stop climbing and a lot of it is at a gradient of over eight percent, some of it getting up to eleven and twelve percent. Definitely not easy, especially for someone who looks like me — and is using a standard 53/39T chainring — and a few times I was reaching for a lower gear that wasn’t there.

A couple times during the climb I was debating whether or not I wanted to continue or even if I could continue. But, in the end, I did make it to the top. And the view at the top made all the hard work worth it:

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It took me quite a long time to take this picture, though. I moved my bike to a suitable — this — location, grabbed my phone, and backed up to take a picture. Should be easy. But, just as I was about to take a picture, an elderly man stepped in front of my bike and started to look at it. He then commented to his family members that it was quite amazing that I had ridden this all the way up there, that it was hard to do in a car and so doing it on a bike was quite extraordinary. He then commenced to look at my bike more closely, even picking it up to see how light it was. He looked at my pedals which led to a discussion amongst his family members of the pedals (Speedplay Zeroes, as you can see) and how they worked. Another man, presumably the elderly man’s son seemed to know a little bit about cycling and started to ask me questions about where I rode from, and how long it took me to get up there (one hour and forty minutes from home, seventy minutes for the climb itself). Since they were still curious about the pedals, I then had to show them my shoes and my cleats and had to give a demonstration on how they worked. They looked at my tires and the frame and the speed/cadence sensor on my chainstay. A couple female members of the family then came over and picked up my bike to check it’s weight. Finally they were all satisfied and they piled into their three vehicles and left, so that I was finally able to take a picture and grab a quick bite to eat to replenish my energy. And so my break was a lot longer than I had planned.

Now I had another decision to make: Which way to go home? One option was to just turn around and go down the same way I came up. Another option was to go back a little bit to a fork in the road. That fork would take me down a small road that links up the road I was on with the road going to Taiping (太平) and 36 Turns (it actually comes up a little past and a touch higher than 36 Turns). Yet another option was to keep on going the way I had come up, but that route — while being quite beautiful from what I’ve heard — would make the ride really, really long as it would take me into the area of Alishan. One of these days I’ll do that route, but today was not the day to try it. It was too late — already one o’clock in the afternoon — for something like that.

I opted to head over to Taiping because I hadn’t been over that way in a long time. Doing so, however, required a little bit more climbing as the road first heads downwards for a while before heading back up to get to Taiping. It was a little difficult, but I made it:

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All that was left was the descent, a descent that covers twelve kilometres of distance, close to one thousand metres of altitude, thirty-six (hence the name “36 Turns”) hairpin turns, and countless other smaller turns. That and the rolling ride from the village of Meishan to my home.

The descent is quite technical, and the traffic going up and down at times doesn’t make it easier. It’s a good way to increase your average speed for the ride, though. Except this time for me it wasn’t.

If you look at my average speed for this ride, it’s under twenty kilometres an hour, which is a little low. I didn’t feel that slow, though. My average speed when I finished the climb was about fifteen, which is a little lower than usual for me at the end of a climb, but it was a really long and steep climb and I didn’t do much riding in the flats before I started the climb. The descent should have put me back into respectable numbers, though. The problem was that twice during the descent I got stuck behind cars that were going very, very slowly. They were going so slowly they almost slowed to a stop going around the hairpin turns. For a long time I didn’t have a safe place to pass them and so I was forced to descend much slower than I would have liked.

And that’s about it: I made it home, took a shower, ate something, watched my clothes, spoke with my children, and put another ride in the books. I now know that I can still make it up there.

Riding in the Rain

December 12, 2014

I sometimes talk to my classes about being unhappy because I had or will have the chance to (finally) go for a bike ride and the weather either was or will be terrible. The problem is the rain. I don’t want to ride in the rain.

My students tell me to just put on a rain suit. Well, that won’t work.

You see, the problem isn’t with me getting wet. I’m not afraid of getting wet. In what passes for winter here (in reality there is no winter here, there is just nine months of summer and three months of chilly cycling) getting wet might be a problem because it might make me cold on the ride but it’s not a problem in the summer. For most of the year rain on the ride might be welcome. The rain will cool me off. (Summer temperatures are usually in the mid-thirties centigrade and with the humidity and the sun it feels very, very hot.) Also, since I’m outside in the heat of Taiwan and exercising, my clothes are already quite wet with sweat. Extra dampness from rainwater isn’t really an issue. It actually helps wash away some of the odour and salt caused by continuous sweating.

No, the problem isn’t with me getting wet. The problem is with my bike getting wet.

Riding a bike in the rain means the bike gets dirty. Very dirty. The tires pick up water and dirt from the road and spray it all over the frame — and me. (Fenders would help, yes, but I can’t put fenders on my road bike and I haven’t gotten around to seeing if I can put them on my other bike. I should look into that, though, shouldn’t I?) Dirt gets on my wheels and when I have to slow down or stop that dirt gets spread all the way around the rims and on to the brake pads. That in itself isn’t a problem, the problem is that when it gets dirty, somebody has to clean it. And then someone is almost always me. And I just don’t have the time to clean it.

Once while riding with other people we stopped for a break and some tea. While we were enjoying our team it started to pour rain. We waited for a while for the rain to stop, but we eventually decided to just head home because the rain showed no sign of letting up. I ended up riding about forty kilometres or so in the pouring rain. When I got home it took me three hours to clean my bike.

I just don’t have that kind of time to spend cleaning my bike. I have a hard enough time finding the time to lube my chain and keep my bike looking somewhat respectable. I don’t have time for a thorough cleaning job. If I did, I would be able to post on here more often. If I did, I would have more time to ride my bike. But as it is, I hardly have time for either.

And that is why I don’t ride in the rain.

This (At Least) Once a Week Thing

December 11, 2014

A few weeks ago I tried to make a promise with myself to get out — on the road — at least once every seven days. Basically once a week. The point wasn’t so much making sure I got out once every week, but more that I would not go more than seven days between rides.

Fortunately it wasn’t so much of a promise as much as an idea. That is “fortunately” because it hasn’t been happening. In fact, it’s been almost two weeks since my last ride on the road.

It’s not really my fault or the fault of anyone else either. It’s more weather and circumstances. The weather hasn’t been that good lately. And while we have had nice days, on the days when I should have had the chance to ride, it’s been raining and raining quite hard. And quite cool. Tests at the school and an already busy work schedule haven’t helped either. And neither has my brother-in-law’s wife giving birth to their third child.

But while I haven’t been getting on the road it’s not like I haven’t been exercising. I’ve gotten on the rollers – doing a little more than one hour and a little more than thirty kilometres – a couple times, gone running a couple times, and done core and upper body body exercises a few times (I’m trying to work myself up to doing one hundred sit-ups and pushups in one session.)

I just haven’t gotten on the road lately. Almost two weeks.

With luck I can get out tomorrow. But I’m not getting my hopes up. While the weather hasn’t been that cool, it has been quite cloudy the past few days. And lots of clouds means there’s a chance it might rain.

And I don’t want to ride in the rain. I’ll explain why later.

My Return

December 5, 2014

The last time you heard from me I had just hit a dog. That was just over a year ago. I hope you didn’t miss me too much.
I missed my bike for a month after hitting the dog. It took that long for my groin to heal enough for me to ride again. That was a hard month. It was hard not just because I couldn’t ride, but because just before hitting the dog my fitness was finally getting back to something close to where it was B.C. (before children). Not quite, but almost. I could do most of the rides I had done five years before. And then I not only lost a month of riding, I also lost a part of that conditioning to a month of inactivity.
Now, however, it is one year later. That’s another eleven months of riding, and with my children getting older (my boy is almost six now and my girl is almost three and a half) I’m also able to ride more often and for longer. Right now I am I just about at the same point fitness-wise as I was at B.C.
That means that right now I feel that I can do just about any ride that I could have done six years ago. I’m not exactly sure if I can do Alishan (阿里山) or a 200-kilometre ride, but I also won’t know if I can until I try. But I can do — and have done — every other notable climb around here. In the past six years there have been some climbs that I was scared to do because I didn’t think I could do them; now I have the confidence that I can do them.
The only difference between six years ago and now is that I think I am a little slower now than I was then. I can get up the climbs, yes, but I can’t do it as fast as I could before. That, however, might not have as much to do with fitness as with weight. I am still about five or six kilograms heavier than I was back then. I am working on the weight thing, however, and it is coming off.
In the past year I have ridden two events. One was a 108km ride around Tainan County (台南縣)[^1] and the other was a 105-km ride around Nantou County (南投縣) and which included a climb up to, past, and down Sun Moon Lake (日月潭).
Hopefully the next year brings more. I’m planning on going up to Alishan sometime, I just don’t know when I’ll have the chance to do so. It won’t be for a while, though, as the cold weather has come and that means the descent from there is going to be too chilly. I’d also like to ride to Sun Moon Lake and back home in one day — a journey of over two hundred kilometres, I have heard — but will have to wait until either the spring or the fall for the weather for that[^2].
Hopefully I’ll also be able to keep you up to date on all this too.
[^1]: Yes, I know that Tainan County no longer exists, that what was once called Tainan County is now known as Tainan City, but I still think of it as Tainan County and still consider what used to be Tainan City to be Tainan City. What we rode through was the County, it was countryside; it wasn’t the City and it wasn’t urbanised.
[^2]: The weather in the winter is too unpredictable for long rides like that. It could be warm but it also could be cold and rainy. I wouldn’t know until a day or two before I went what the weather might be like and even if I had some idea, by late morning or early afternoon the weather may have changed. In the summer it’ll be too hot late in the morning and early afternoon and there’s too much of a chance of rain in the early afternoon at that time of year. The weather is much more predictable and suitable in March, April, or October.

Hitting Dogs

December 14, 2013
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I had just come up a fairly long and steep climb and turned on to the main road. Shortly after completing the turn and before I had time to get up to full speed, I was passed by another cyclist who had the advantage of not having gone up a steep hill, not having to slow down to turn, and the downwards slope of the road. Not pleased at getting passed, I wanted to see if I could catch him. Then, having caught him, I wanted to pass him to let him know that I was faster.
I wanted to make my ride just a little bit longer and had decided to turn down a less-frequently used road and making a loop instead of just going straight. I thought my chances to pass this guy were gone, but he took the same road I was planning on taking. The chase was still on.
Shortly after turning on to this road, with both of us riding quite fast, two dogs appeared at the right side of the road. They got startled by the guy ahead of me and decided that going home would be much safer. Unfortunately their home was on the left side of the road and so in order to get there they had to cross the road. Since I was behind the guy who startled them, that meant that they were crossing the road right in front of me. I didn’t have time to stop or even slow down; avoidance was my best bet. But when one of the dogs cut back in an attempt to do what only he knows, he placed himself right in the path of my bicycle.
The impact caused me to lose balance. I hit the road. The speed at which I was going caused forward momentum. I slid down the road. Friction between my body and the road caused me to slow down. I stopped in pain.
After a few minutes and with a little bit of help — the guy in front of me heard the noise I made and turned back to help out — I was able to get up and sit down in a chair that was provided for me by the owners of both the house and the dog. After a few more minutes they offered to give me a ride home. That was much appreciated since I would not have been able to ride my bike home. Fortunately my home was not too far away.
The list of injuries sustained consists of a bruised right forearm, sore muscles in my right upper arm and shoulder, a sore chest, a sore back, a large bruise on my right hip, and — the really big one — a pulled left groin. That last one means that I will probably not be able to ride my bike for at least another three weeks.
How can I say with such certainty that it will be at least three weeks? Because this is not the first time. The first time for what? Well, this is neither the first time I have pulled my groin nor the first time I have hit a dog.
This is actually the second time I have pulled my groin — and, ironically, it was the same groin — and the third time I have hit a dog.
The first time I hit a dog was much worse than this time. That time was a beautiful sunny day, unlike this time which was one of the coldest days I have ridden on. (About half an hour into my ride my Garmin was telling me the temperature was under ten degrees. The good thing about that was because it was so cold I was wearing quite a few clothes. My entire body was covered by some kind of clothing. That meant that when I went sliding down the road, there was no exposed skin to also slide down the road.) The roads were clear — it was very early in the morning — and there was a slight downward slope to the road which meant that I was going quite fast, probably close to forty-five kilometres an hour.
There was a dog on the left side of the road and when he saw me he decided to give chase. But, as I was going so fast, I wasn’t worried because I felt I could ride faster than he could run. Well, I was right and everything was fine. But, this dog had a friend. This friend was on the other side of the road, the side closer to me, and he was in front of me. He looked up, saw me, saw his friend, and decided that that looked like fun. He then jumped in front of me. I had time to emit an “Uhhhhh….!” sound and then came the impact me. I remember flying through the air and, as I was flying through the air, looking behind me and seeing my bicycle sliding down the road. Then I hit the road. My head bounced off the road twice. (So, remember to always wear a helmet.)
I had trouble moving and getting up that time.1 A trip to the hospital, however, indicated that nothing was seriously wrong. Just a pulled groin and some road rash. I wasn’t able, though, to walk without assistance for four days. I couldn’t ride my bike for four weeks. And because I couldn’t do anything for those four weeks, I gained four kilograms over that time. **I really hope the same thing does not happen this time.

        1.        By the time I did get up, the dogs were long gone. That is impotant to note because every time I tell theses stories to people, the first thing they ask is not whether or not I was okay or even if my bike was okay, they ask if the dog was okay.