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1. Well, there goes my theory that you can’t get a speeding ticket in a Prius.

2. I brought three (3) pieces of kit that deserved use (In order from Bottom to Top, In to Out) :

– The Twin Six Standard Bib Short (Black, Large)

– The Search And State S1-A Riding Jersey (Black, Large)

The Rapha Classic Wind Jacket* (Chartreuse, Large)

*Did not receive use during July 31st through August the 3rd, 2014

3. Omaha Bicycle Co. : A true community bike shop. Having never been in before (much less never been in Benson), it felt as comfortable as your favorite pair of shoes. I imagine it would not be very difficult to set up base-camp and stop in every morning for a wonderful shot of espresso before heading out into the gravel hills which surround the community. Sarah and Vince have created a shop I think anyone would be proud to call their own.

4. Come Get It Bae – Pharrell

5. Dario’s Brasserie has a ‘Beer Float’ which consists of Indeman’s framboise raspberry lambic with vanilla ice cream. Failing to notice this is possibly the worst part of my trip.

6. Being in an elevator with three Golden Retrievers who were pretty much the happiest dogs I’ve ever seen.

7. Archetype Coffee in Midtown produced a darn fine espresso shot. It was bright, nutty and welcome at 8 AM post-#Fleche. The decor was sparse, but well thought out. Possessed the feeling of a fresh notebook.

8. Speaking of the #Fleche : August 2nd, 2014 the #Fleche took place in two locations for the first time. One took place in Minneapolis/St. Paul as it is apt to do, the other in and around Midtown and was led by Mr. Jonathan Neve. It was through Jonathan’s photos that I first was captivated by the Omaha area and I’m certain if you do yourself a solid and follow him on Instagram he’ll do the same for his new home. Thanks for the ride, sir.

9. The Wabash Trace Nature Trail heads from Council Bluffs, IA to Blanchard, IA. It is maintained by individuals who donate their time and private property (as opposed to many other trail projects). This wonderful trail that can be enjoyed for only $1 per day. After setting out from the trail head, Doug and Kim Scherlie accompanied us and informed us of the trail’s history, ‘Margharitaville’ and the infamous ‘Taco Ride’. Truly, there are no better guides to the world of Nebraskan cycling. We rode down to dinner and then started back just as the sun was setting over the hills of southwest Iowa.

The sound of gravel beneath tires, laughter of friends and slow descent into the evening made it familiar. The amount of fireflies was impressive and awe-inspiring as we made our way back until, they too, decided to pack it up and call it a night.

10.

‘Why should we fly off to Paris or Rome?

When we have long Summer nights right here at home.’

– G. Keillor, Midwest

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ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageIt’s been awhile, so let’s see if I remember how to do this.

seven cycles : 10 Thoughts, Observations, Recollections

1. There is one ‘Dunkin’ for every ten Bostonians. This is based on intense scientific research(1a) backed up by visual confirmation(1b).

2. The proliferation of affordable and tasty doughnuts seems to have little to no effect on the local riding populous. This is evidenced by velocb’s ability to ride me into the ground. Thankfully, he took pity on my ghostly white frame and flabby legs and allowed me a generous draft for the majority of our tour.

3. There exists not one straight road in all of Massachusetts.

4. For the urban bicyclist – a recalibration of expectations is important. For instance :

a – ‘Safe’ Passing distance is around 1 to 4 inches

b – The car’s horn is not a fancy ornament that is never used (except in grave circumstances), but instead something to be hit constantly and without warning for little or no observable reason

c – Any vehicle that isn’t an actual school bus but has a large sign declaring that it is – indeed – a ‘School Bus’, is to be avoided at all costs

d. It will be ‘hella’ fun

6. Seven Cycles is based in Watertown, MA – just to the North West of Boston proper. It is made up of a large group of cyclists who care about where the Industry is going and work their hardest to not only make an amazing product, but also take care of the people who sell them. Also they have the nicest shop dog ever.

7. The Ride Studio Cafe is based in Lexington, MA. It is a lovely Cafe/Bike Shop that sells some of the best products available to today’s riders. Furthermore – the folks who work there are incredibly friendly and offer up their expertise freely to anyone who walks in. So you know, they have that going for them.

8. Honey Bikes is based in Watertown, MA. The aforementioned velocb takes point for their marketing/relations and does a fine job of it. Their lovely production steel bikes are made by none other than the folks at Seven.

9. John Lewis tried to expand my culinary horizons and almost succeeded. He also wrote this before I got a chance to meet him I thought ‘There’s a dude I’d like to meet’ and what do you know. So anyways, read this – Winter Moths

10. Read this, also.

There is more to say, and it will be said, but for now this will have to do. Thank you to my new friends on the eastern seaboard. You’ve done some amazing things and I’m glad I got to see them first hand.

It’s enough to make a guy want to blog about it.

1(a) – No science was harmed in the making of that incredibly inaccurate statement

2 (b) – I tried photographing them all and quit at number sixteen

And thanks to Honey for writing up about our little excursion. If you want to see photos of me pretending to be a famous statue, here you go – Minneapolis Musette.

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The Almanzo 100 : 10 Thoughts, Observations, Recollections

1. It is important to ‘Roll with a Good Crew’.

1(a) – See Birchwood Bike Team

1(b) – See Omnium Bike Shop

1(c) – See the Banjo Brothers

1(d) – See Greg Neis and Brianna Lane

2.  The Almanzo 100 is now large enough that saying ‘Howdy’ or giving high fives to all of those I should is highly improbable without a large amount of planning. To those of you I missed, consider this your ‘Howdy’, your ‘Good Luck’, your highest of fives.

3. If you see flowing water, there is a climb up ahead.

4. Chris Skogen is Saving Cycling

5. Cycling never needed saving.

6. The Banjo Brothers Frame Pack, Medium (Item # 01064 – MSRP $34.99 – 102 Cu In.) has made it incredibly easy for a person to stuff their face while riding their bike.  This, along with the invention of the Swedish Fish candy, has made long distance riding on a bicycle finally possible.

7. Shoot To Thrill – AC/DC

8. 11 hours, 18 minutes and 48 seconds into the 2013 edition of the Almanzo 100 my GPS cycling computer died.

9. The spirit of the Oregon Trail (the computer game) is alive and well in Minnesotan cyclists.

10. 161.95 km into the ride, I unclipped, used my top tube as a seat and waited. The Sun made her last grasp at the fields, roads and forests surrounding me. The birds called out to their loved ones, bringing them home for the night. The wind calmed itself, tired of pushing back the hordes that had challenged it. So there I sat, listening, waiting. It was in this moment that I realized I had everything I ever wanted. It was in this moment I found my contentment. It was in this moment I felt the whole of what cycling could be.

It is this moment that will bring me back for years to come.

Thank you, Mr. Skogen. With your two hands, friends and family you have created something much larger than yourself. You have left your mark on this world  and it is a positive one.

Chapeau, sir.

The buckle is frozen. The God Dammed thing won’t release the ratchet and I can’t get my foot out of the frozen brick that was a Brontrager RL MTB shoe. It takes a good five minutes with a hair dryer to get it unstuck. It snaps free and I release my foot from it’s icy grasp. The wool socks come off with a wet ‘Sloptttt’ as I throw them to the floor, sand falling and snapping as it hits the linoleum tile below. I towel off and get some dry clothes on – too cold for a shower just yet.

I forgot how bad it can get. How fast it goes from painful to dangerous. That said, this might be my one wardrobe mistake of the season. It doesn’t take much to get the message – Winter is here. It’s in the ice that developed on the frame and handlebars. It’s in the sharp, painful balls of ‘rain’ falling from the sky. Here is where the choice is made – the Trainer or the sharply deteriorating Outdoors. I’m lucky enough to know two who will brave the rest of the Winter outside, the Trainer being a necessary evil that I’ve locked away for an hour each week on Thursday nights.

And there’s beauty to be had. Perhaps not readily apparent beauty, but it is there. A Dura Ace 7800 gruppo (an easy winner for my favorite of all time) on a ‘B’ bike. It slowly degenerates with the weather, until the gear he’s chosen is the gear he’s in for the long haul. A mixture of Ice and Grit covering every available surface, the looks and ease-of-use which made it such a desirable product have been stripped away. What once bike-nerds freeze framed photos of in the Tour, wondering about the new shiny parts adorning their Gods; is now nothing more than a glorified ice-tray. It’s good to see it used like this. It takes away from concentrating on the fact I can’t feel my toes.

Probably time for some new shoes, I think.

I remember that snow was still on the ground. It was cold, so I wore pretty much everything I owned. My recently purchased pair of Pearl Izumi tights were perhaps a size small, but ‘fit’. I thought I might get lost I did get lost, so I left a good hour and a half early. I felt like I was going to my first boy/girl dance again. In pants that were far too small.

This is to say that I wanted to vomit.

Sitting in the old Cars R Coffins, idly stirring my latte and attempting to keep my cookies where they belonged (in my stomach), I waited for Jason. Jason had taken pity on me a couple months previous and began the process of changing me from a bike rider to a bike racer. We had gone on a couple of rides together, each time I had found a new meaning for the word ‘broken’. I started to feel as though this whole foray was a mess – a waste. But every day I saw the photos of the PROs, or of just local guys mixing it up at OPUS and I knew I wanted to be apart of that. To get there, I had to start here. Clammy hands and all.

Spencer and Little Guy showed up first. Sam Starr showed up next; we had worked together so he introduced me to the group. Eventually Jason, his wife Margaret and Super Rookie would show, completing the group. The plan laid out was to head out to Excelsior for some early-season base. A quick espresso, a little chit chat and we were off.

I was so far out of my comfort zone, I inadvertently managed to behave the way I should. No attacking, no silly stuff, just held my line and made idle chit chat. I was too busy trying not to die to try anything stupid. And I didn’t die. I didn’t get dropped. I didn’t say enough to seem stupid (despite my best efforts with what little words I allowed myself).

Every time I get set up for a ride and head out to the meeting point I feel a bit of that unease that I felt that first day. It reminds me to hold my line, to behave the way you should in a group – that it’s an inherently dangerous thing, no matter how easy it becomes. I like the fact that it’s stuck with me this long; that every ride I do is just like the first time. Maybe it’ll always be like that.

It’s probably for the best.

A casual focus commands the right attention.

I’m not good enough (really) to work on other’s bikes. This is not to say that I can’t adjust some tension, or turn a screw or two, but that I’d rather leave that to a more deft hand than I possess. That said, on my own bicycles, I feel qualified enough. Enough so that when the repair is over, I’m not constantly worried that my down tube is going to shear in half just due to my stupidity.

Riding a bicycle and working on a bicycle are both freeing acts, and largely in the same way. Focus is required, but it’s a more casual focus. The worries, cares and edges of the Day are laid aside and the bicycle and it’s simple grace are all that command your vision. Part by part you disassemble, and then reassemble – looking for the odd, the out-of-place and setting it right. The physical acts of riding and repairing helping you to escape your perspective and find a new one.

Just like riding a bicycle, there will be heart rending moments. Have you ever lost that incredibly tiny shifter spring at eleven PM? As much as I love QBP, they’re not sending me a box that late to get me home. Or how about turning that screw just a bit tight. You heard those tiny threads strip to hell, and no amount of ‘Oh, please, just work for me baby’ is going to make that right. Time to break out that tap, get a new bolt, find that torque wrench that you were too lazy to get the first time and get ready for your ten minute repair to take a full three hours. Better crack open another beer, you’re not making it to the bar.

But above all, that final wrap of the bar tape. That final turn of that 4mm. That chunk of the quick release axle slotting into that rear dropout; that makes it all worthwhile. I can understand why bicycle mechanics are often the most avid of cyclists. I can also understand how some go down into that rabbit hole fully and take up a torch to begin to fabricate their own from the most basic of forms. And as long as I ride, I’ll break my bikes and I’ll repair them.

If you don’t work on your own stuff, I’d strongly recommend taking up a Park Tool three-way (4, 5 & 6) and figuring it out.

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‘Roll with a good crew.’

– Jeremy Dunn

We’re moving along at a good clip, the five other riders and myself. Two x Two – the form a good group tends to fall into when riding for any distance of note. My front wheel spins a few inches behind Mr. Mattio’s, and my left shoulder hovers next to Mr. Easton who speaks easily about his latest retirement project. As we spin by a town sign I give a little bike throw, just to see if anyone else was thinking about how to come around at the last second.

No one notices and I smile a bit.

Josh always has something good to say, something with a bit of truth. We talk about the Musette. We talk about Three Stars. The conversation invariably winds it’s way to how gorgeous of a ride it is. How spectacular that we’ve found ourselves with this Friday off – a day removed from the traditional weekend rest. It’s hard to ignore the change of Seasons so apparent around us. I stare at Mattio’s front hub, through his bike. Practicing something that’s already second nature. Using fitness that’s meant for something else. Maybe something more serious.

It’s funny that this is the real pay out. Podiums, medals, accolades: I’m not so sure you can keep it up with that alone. There’ll always be someone better, someone faster, someone smarter. I’ve seen a lot of friends try and sustain their love of cycling on arbitrary numbers. I’ve seen a lot of them fail (but not all).

Sitting at Leo’s in Stillwater, feeling the sun on a new jersey. Adjusting my old cap to keep it out of my eyes. Stories being told. Fries being shared. This, it feels to me, is the real secret. The way you keep going. Despite the cold. Despite the doubt. Despite the pain. These rides, these hours spent in the saddle on gorgeous Fall days, are more than enough. A harvest meant for those who’ve toiled all season.

A chance to spin easy and smile.