Sunday, August 11, 2013

Buddhism and Mountain Biking

Buddhism and Mountain Biking

In his writings, the Dalai Lama describes the nine levels of meditation. So, too the mountain biker needs to go through the necessary stages in order to obtain true singletrack bliss. Below are the stages leading to enlightenment.

Stage 1-The New Biker
The new biker, commonly called a “newbie” is the wide eyed lad in the bike shop, looking at the array of gleaming mountain bikes with stars in his eyes. He might have an old beater he rides around town or if he’s really young, a BMX bike. But, now he has the fever. He’s read dozens of issues of Mountain Bike Action and pored over the various web sites reading the reviews. He’s watch Kranked-versions 1 through 100 and is in a word “stoked.” It’s likely that he possesses little or no technical skills, but he knows he wants to SHRED!!!!!

            If he’s lucky, the newbie will have a friend who is an intermediate or an expert who can steer him away from the Schwinns and the other lower end bikes. If not, maybe he can meet an honest salesman at the shop who knows a $5,000.00 carbon Santa Cruz or Ibis won’t be the right fit at this point. Having read the mountains of research, the Newbie is full of jargon that he uses hoping to impress the guys in the shop. It doesn’t.

            So, the newbie heads out to the trails with his buddies. Hopefully they aren’t too cruel and take him to some nice trails with some rollers and some climbing. But, that’s not very likely because experienced mountain bikers tend to be sadistic bastards who think it’s just so funny to watch the terrified newbie try to negotiate some nasty rock gardens on a steep downhill pitch.  Then when he crashes, they laugh-“that was so fucking funny man the way your legs got all tangled up in your frame and your head got bashed by the wheel, so funny Dude!!”

            If the Newbie doesn’t toss the bike in the dark corner of the garage, he becomes convinced that technology is the answer. The Newbie heads back to the shop and spends even more money on carbon crap-doesn’t matter what it is, if its made of carbon, it must be good stuff. He might buy some jerseys, likely ones with advertisements for obscure beers on the front, maybe buy a full face helmet too.

Stage 2-the Intermediate Biker

The Intermediate  biker, having managed to stay alive and minimize the number of broken bones changes his focus on other riders, specifically, he wants to race. He’s convinced that because he regularly waxes the Newbies on the local trails that he is primed for competition.  He is confident that with his experience and an upgrade in his bike or at least the components on his bike, he will achieve fame and glory.
Fueled by the competitive fever and insane desire for equipment, the Intermediate biker maxes out the credit card, starts living on Ramen noodles to pay for it.

He rides to work so he can “train” everyday. The Intermediate is driven by results and the admiration of his fellow racers. No ride is just for fun. Every ride, even if its with his buddies is competition. Hence, the temptation to inflict cruel jokes on Newbies.
As a result of become a racer, the Intermediate exhibits all the signs of someone with OCD. His bikes (not just one will do, he has to have a racing bike and a training bike) are so clean, he can see his face in the waxed paint jobs. He has a closet just for biking wear, all color coordinated to match gloves and helmets. All have the appropriate logo of his bike.
            The intermediate reads training books and tries to incorporate everything into his “program.” He will go out and drop $400 on a GoPro helmet camera to record all his “Epic rides.” He will post these videos on YouTube. He will ask people on Forums to look at the videos.
Work? Who has time for work? Eating becomes fueling. He resents time spent away from training, never mind that he’s the assistant manager at a Home Depot, has a wife and kids who are begging for his attention. If he’s not careful, the intermediate can end up in a studio apartment crammed with 6 bikes, several boxes of bike parts and a six foot high stack of Velo and Mountain Bike Action Magazine. He uses Pedros bike wash in the shower.  His idea of a 3 course meal is a Cliff Bar, beef jerky and Gatorade.

Stage 3-The Expert
Someone whose identity is as an "expert" allows his ego to be the driving force in their decision making and actions. An "expert" is compelled to give advice to lesser bikers. An expert rides sections because to not ride them would be evidence that he’s not an expert. After he white knuckles it down the section, he will wait at the bottom and critique the rest of the riders as they bounce their way down.
The expert can often be found hanging out at the local bike shop, offering commentary on World Cup races or why he would have beaten Ned Overend in his prime.  Note-Ned won the first two World Championship Mountain Bike races which were conveniently located in Durango Colorado, his hometown.

Granted, experts are talented and experienced on the local trials, but are noticeably absent at the big race podiums. But, they are happy to tell you why their derailier ate a chain or  a spectator jumped in his way and he crashed, preventing him from his glorious victory. Or worse, the expert will be happy to show you his trophy and neglect to mention that he sandbagged his way into winning the Novice division.

Stage 4-The Blissful Biker
Blissful bikers, often race at an elite level, are sponsored and get paid to
Ride. Brian Lopes comes to mind.

Most Blissful bikers are not professionals. However, they could be if they wanted but they don’t, because they have too much fun doing other stuff.  The “experts” always want to ride with them, but the Blisful biker isn’t interested. He likes to ride in peace and listening to some guy receite everything he knows about the latest SRAM components would not be fun.
They rarely go to bike shops unless they work in one. They don’t read Mountain Bike Action or Velo magazine because they feel no need to buy equipment to replace stuff that still works fine.  If something breaks, he likes to do his wrenching at home, in peace.
On the trails, the Blissful Biker sees the lines that the Intermediate riders
and most of the “Experts miss. They are happy to ride with anybody who is cool, no matter what their skill level  or alone. They rarely wear logo wear, unless they got it for free from a shop or a sponsor. They’re happy to wear cut offs and an old tee shirt and Converse, sometimes doing it to make the ride more of a challenge. This guy FLOWS on the trails.  He doesn’t shred the trail. There is no conquering the mountain. He’s a part of it.  SO SHOULD YOU.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Why Greg LeMond is a Douchebag and Lance Armstrong isn't


            I’ve been riding bikes for 53 years now (I’m 57) and I love bikes in all their forms.  From riding my mountain bike on singletrack in Marin and the Oakland hills, to riding mu road bike on Mt. Diablo and to riding my townie around San Francisco, I love every minute of it, no matter how painful or frustrating it may be to be outclassed by the likes of the uber-bikers in the bay area.
            So,  just why I think Lance is a good guy?  In a word loyalty. Anybody that is not sponsored by Shiner Bock beer or Peets coffee and yet who goes out of his way to promote both products has the right sense of loyalty. Greg LeMond-if you don’t pay, he won’t say.  He jumped from team to team for the all might Euro.  If LeMond were an American, I might have said dollar, but, LeMond has always been a wannabe Frenchman.
            LeMond is a wanna be Frenchman from way back.  He reminds me and probably most of you of the person who goes over to France for a semester of school and comes back complaining about how “gauche” Americans are. He also embraced the innate disloyalty of the French, a people who celebrate stabbing people in the back. Would LeMond drink Shiner Bock beer? No way-mon frier, only the finest wines for LeMond. He probably calls French Fries (okay-I admit, they got one thing right) “frites” as they do over there.
            Oh, back to the loyalty thing. It’s true that once a person betrayed Lance, he went out of his way for some payback. LeMond and the payees of course say this is awful, terrible behavior.  I would call it consistent behavior and conduct. For LeMond, stabbing someone in the back and then doing business with them to make a buck a few years down the road might seem okay, but, MEN, remember disloyalty and treat the betrayers accordingly.
            And face it, would you want to hang out with Greg LeMond, the famous tattletale and scold?  How much fun would that be? To listen to a self righteous jerk who goes around the world saying-“I told you, I told you” to anybody would listen. Do people talk about how LeMond came to their hospital bed and willed them to recovery? Nope-no money in that for LeMond.  No surprise that he is a (it’s a French word) DOUCHEBAG.
Lance helped millions of people who had cancer or who lived with cancer patients and NEVER ASKED FOR A DIME FOR HIMSELF. Instead, he hit up corporate types to donate their money to help others.
            So it all boils down to this-of given a choice, would I rather get paid to hang out with LeMond and bask in his 3 Tour de France victories while he raves about some wine I’ve never heard of to corporate people I avoid at all times OR would I rather hang out with Lance in Austin, ride the mountain bikes and enjoy a Shiner Bock or two afterwards.  You already know the answer, what you don’t know is I’d interest Lance in some Anchor Steam Beer. He might change his mind about Shiner Bock-eh, probably not.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Coffee Shop Musings

Leaving the job hasn't been all fun and games. I have been logging some serious chair time at the Peets Coffee shops on College Ave in Berkeley and Piedmont Ave in Oakland. And then there are the overtime hours spent at Caffe Triest, also on Piedmont Ave., There, I check my e-mail for job notices, send resumes and cut and past cover letters that have little likelihood of being read. I also put in some serious time people watching and chronicling human behavior. So, what conclusions have I reached? They would be:

1) There is no majority demographic that hangs out in coffee shops. There are the students, the retirees, novel writers and job seekers. There are hipsters, yuppies, jocks, sorority girls and frat boys all there to pick up some caffeine.

2) The music playing in the background is rarely mainstream. No hip hop, no metal or even rock from the 60's. No, the music is light and happy mostly from Brazil, the islands of Hawaii, Jamaica etc and occasionally the border regions of Berkeley and Albany. While dive bars have inspired songs like "In the Wee Hours of the Morning" these shops only inspire people to write short stories that won't be read by anyone or to have light fluffy conversations about topics that are forgettable and non-controversial like this blog.

3) No one will mistake the coffee shop for the round table at the Aloquin Hotel. Mention the name Sarte and the frat boys will think you are making a fart joke, the hipsters will strain to remember the name and decide to go to the City Lights bookstore and find out and the ancients will remember Jean Paul as being some lefty that was against Trust Funds and places like Piedmont in general. No, the conversations at the coffee shop mostly revolve around academia-classes, tuition and how to get tickets to the Dave Matthews concert.

Still, there are worse places to hang out and until I get a job, you will find me here, checking my e-mail, reading and trying to decide whether to get the peanut butter or oatmeal cookie.