Friday, April 29, 2011

The Power of the Bike

It may be hard to believe but I was once a punk 20 year old kid with a pretty big disregard for my and others personal safety. I'd say that is common for that demographic but a bit out of character for me. Mtn biking in Northern California where I happened to be residing at the time is a very different style of riding. It is mountain biking. Aka you ride on mountains. East Coast style probably should be called woods riding or root and rock riding...but I digress. But back to my days as a punk and mtn biking in Marin County. The beauty of those mountains is that if you are funemployed and get to ride during the week it is a ghost town. You can shred the mountains at will and pretty much with impunity. Descending on a dirt bike on a switch backed fireroad at 25-30 mph is a lesson in faith and stupidity. I had a few close calls with ranger vehicles being parked in the middle of the trail or huge washed out rain ruts but never a "conflict" with another trail user.

Until I met Marylin Price. Marylin Price is an amazing woman. And she changed my life. But back to that meeting. I was shredding the fireroad descent into Muir Valley when I came across a blind corner and there was an older women pushing her bike in the middle of the trail. Luckily I was able to avoid hitting her and crashing myself and her out. But it was close. Like a hairs breath between my right shoulder and her helmet close. Well. Marylin lit into me. Yelling at me as I took the next turn. I was a jerk. No doubt I deserved every word she yelled at me. But instead of just blowing it off and being an even bigger jerk for some reason I stopped. I rode back up to her and apologized. She went from yelling at me to explaining to me in a very calm voice how precarious the trail access situation was in this area. She also invited me to come to lunch at her outreach organization called Trips for Kids. I think that might have been my last act as a punk 20 year old. And its just one of the many examples of the Power of the Bike. It can transform you. And the connections you make change you and make you a better person.
I was never a philanthropic person. I was 24 after all. But one visit to Trips for Kids and I was sold. It became my own personal cause. If I had extra bike parts I'd donate them to TFK. I always made sure to donate some money to them at least once a year. Any chance that I had to help I did. If Marylin ever needed anything I tried to help. But back to the present. My good friends Adam Myerson and David Wilcox are very involved in Bikes Not Bombs. I have helped with fundraising for BNB through the Ronde de Rosey the last couple of years. My babymomma even donated her old orange Stumpjumper to BNB. But I really didn't know much about the organization. I assumed it was very similar to TFK. But while it may be in some ways it is very, very different.
David and Adam were table captains at a fundraiser for BNB this week. Again I went mainly to support my two friends not out of any philanthropic ideal. I sort of expected it to be similar to that first lunch I had with Marylin Price about 2o years ago. Small scale downhome outreach. What I was a part of was totally not what I expected. There were at least 100-200 people in attendance at the breakfast held in Franklin Park. The NECX was well represented with three full tables. But we were only a small part of the participants. The other contingent were professional people and people clearly impassioned by the cause. The organization is much larger (and professional!) than I expected and its impact not only on the local community it serves but the global community is far greater than I anticipated.
They did such a great job of presenting what BNB core mission is and talking about the impact they have. There were so many highlights of the presentation. I wish I had been more journalistic about it and taped all that was said as it really had an impact on me. But two stories to me framed up the day. A young woman named Zacorah Jackman spoke to us about her personal experience at BNB. She is 18 and has been a part of BNB for a while. She will be the intern for BNB Girls in Action Program this summer. I was sooo impressed not only by her ability to stand up at a podium and address a room full of people as I was by her story.

She told the story of how she came to BNB and about her mentor Elijah Rodriguez. He sounds like an amazing person. Like Trips for Kids they teach the kids bike safety, how to work on bikes and then the kids can earn a bike. She told the story of the day she finally earned her new bike with so much pride I almost shed a tear. The other things that hit home were what an impact BNB has on her community. In her own words she talked about how it helped her to learn about other people as she mainly only interacted with a small community within her neighborhood.

She also had the quote of the day. She said she sometimes "feels like a shark in a goldfish bowl." But now with BNB she feels like a shark in the ocean. She meant this as she now can see the possibilities. She is never bored, she loves to ride and work with other kids. She loves that BNB lets her be free and to grow. Its obviously such a nurturing and empowering environment. She loved that she could be herself and that she didn't have to conform. But she also said that she knew when one day she become a CEO or worked in business she might have to wear a suit. It was pretty amazing for an 18 year old to have that type of introspection.

On a more serious note Samantha Wechsler BNB's executive director told the story of a young man who was part of the program. He had been coming for about a week when they heard that his cousin had been killed in gun violence. They knew this would be a crisis for him. When he left that night Sam asked him to please not retaliate. He promised her he wouldn't. They worried about him obviously. When he came back they were all thrilled to see him. Sam asked him what happened. He said he and some of his friends went looking for who killed his cousin. But he left early. She asked him why did he go home. He said because he promised her he wouldn't retaliate. That is Power to change people's lives.

I came away from the breakfast so inspired and awed. Bikes Not Bombs is now going to be my cause. There are so many causes that need help and are important but this one is something special. I am so lucky to have friends like Adam and David who push you to be a better person and to be a bigger part of the community. And the beauty of those two is they don't beat you over the head with it or hop up on some soap box they just offer you an opportunity to open your heart and reach out. What a great morning. And to say I was impressed by the professionalism and warmth that I experienced from BNB would be an understatement.

And of course in the end it all comes back to the bike. Most of my good friends rode their bikes to the breakfast. I wanted to sooo bad but the timing was tight. But it was so cool to see Mo and David and Colin all on bikes. And as a bike geek I found myself checking out Mo's sweet commuter machine and Dave Chiu's basket bike. Hilarious when I am barely looking at resultsboys sick Spooky road racing machine to check out basket bikes! I also saw a huge group of Crack of Dawn riders heading back to the burbs through Jamaica Plain on my way home. Great day and again can't say how much it moved me.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Lion Will Roar Sunday

Yes the Flags of Flanders will be all over the course at Paris-Roubaix on Sunday. Will it be another surprise victory like last weekend or will one of the big guns take that cobble and raise it high above his head....hard to say. But when I said the Lion would roar I meant in the NECX. Ronde de Rosey v2.0 is this Sunday. We rode the Rosey pain train for 5 hrs while you were all sipping machiatos and watching Flanders. The course is not one for the weak of body or heart. We were all crushed by the time we got back to Brighton. Even Rosey got all quiet after we hit Wells. When Rosey gets quite your legs are about to be ripped clean off your me on that one.
These two photos of Rosey and Yash are from last year's Ronde. It was a success by any definition. But I thought with so many new faces on the start list we should go over the Rules of the Ronde. Rule #1. If anyone asks if you are on a race the answer is no we are just out riding. Kind of like Fight Club okay. Rule #2. No complaining. That may be the most important rule. This is a bandit/adventure race. Its meant to be fun. If you aren't having fun maybe peel off and get lunch or do some lawn bowling. Rule #3. You will get lost. Racers will get really, really lost. Trust me. They tend to just put there heads down and go really really fast. Guess what the course is marked but this is not a race its almost like orienteering. You need to keep your head up and look for the lay of the land. If you do get lost don't freak out just plot your own course and get back on track. Half the fun last year was seeing all the different Garmin data about the routes people created. If you do happen to find some sweet trails out there please tell us about them so we can ride them later!
Rule #4. No swearing, bike throwing, pushing shoving, menacing or general poor sportsmanship. We will disown you if we here about any of that okay? We are rolling through a lot of conservation land do not yell at dog walkers, drivers, nice old ladies, bird watchers, man rapers and let live or just put on the blinders for this 5 hr ride. What you do in your neck of the woods is your business. Rule #5 Use your head. Kind of like a Zombie attack. Use your head cut off theirs. Kidding. Be safe. Do not cross the yellow line. Pacelining will be key but try and not piss of cars or put yourself in danger in any way. Rule #6. Tip. Tip? Yes at the Washington Square Tavern and Ride Studio Cafe if a nice barista makes you a coffee please give them a dollar. If a nice bartender opens your beer for you at the WST please tip them a dollar. Thank you for that. Rule #7. Ticks suck. I don't want to relive my own personal horror but put some deet repellant on your shoes and socks/leg warmers. When you get home sunday night do a tick check.
#8 Leg warmers. Speaking of leg warmers do the right thing ok. Those knees have a long season be nice to them...#9. Trestle Bridge. It is safe. But back to #5 USE YOUR HEAD. You want to ride it? Fine go for it but its your call ok. I'd walk it. Its over in second a bit of vertigo but thats it. #10. CFR. Cross does indeed F'n Rule. This is why we do the Ronde. Cause you the NECX rule and cross bikes rule. #11. Plan ahead. We do have some checkpoints etc. But you are on your own. The beauty of rides like this is you get to rely on each other. But be smart. Bring a full set of tools etc. Last year we had some great stories of people converting bikes to single speeds and riding the whole course. But they couldn't have done it without tools. Also bring lots of food. 5 hrs is a long time. You need to eat or you will bonk. Bonking sucks. Drinking beer after bonking is just a quick trip to happy nappy land. One PRO Tip. If you feel a stick in your rear wheel stop pedaling. Your rear derailler will thank me.

See you all Sunday! Hup! Hup! A HUGE thanks to our sponsors! Washington Square Tavern, Ride Studio Cafe, Harpoon Brewery, Rapha, Raleigh, Mad Alchemy, Newbury Comics, Zanconato, Pedros, Lazer Helmets, Schwalbe. At the end of the day this is all done as a Benefit for Bikes Not Bombs. All the proceeds from the event go right to Bikes Not Bombs! Thanks for your support