It’s complicated. And not unlike many people’s relationship status, there’s a lot going on. I’m not a journalist and this isn’t an extensively researched analysis of the industry. From what I’ve gleaned, and experienced first-hand from contacting half a dozen Austin, Texas bicycle shops, the supply chain is busted thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. There’s apparently a byzantine network of large and small shops, distributors, manufacturers, brokers and more behind the scenes. Normally, tons more people re/discovering bicycling for exercise, transportation, stress-relief, and other reasons would be a good thing. But it’s that same demand coupled with crippled supply chain that is making it a feast for some and a famine for others. You can read all about that later, but here’s the story of one dude just trying to fix his bike so he can Just Keep Pedalin’.
Someone asked me this, and I think it’s a good question. I don’t think about it much, and the answer(s) aren’t necessarily earth-shattering. But I may as well give it a shot. I also want to try to write 500 words in 30 minutes again, so this will probably be a list article. I’m allowed a listicle once in a while, especially in winter, right? Yes. Read on, won’t you please?
For a while now I’ve been sitting down at the computer on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings to write a blog post. Often I have a topic in mind, usually something that’s come to me from my daily bicycle ride, walk or yoga practice. Sometimes I think of it afterward. Then I publish it so that a few readers in Europe can see it first thing, and maybe some night owls in the US see it, too. I try to get it done quickly, in the 30-minute time-frame that I’ve come to break many things down into. But a decently written blog with photos and links can sometimes take me hours. Especially if I start late, and the later it gets, the fuzzier the brain. Clarity on a national scale seems a bit more hopeful. After the American horror story that was the last four years under the raging, narcissistic, assholian tyranny of POTUS #45, it seems like maybe things are sorta kinda starting to get back to normal. Except the problems #46, good ol’ Scranton Joe, has inherited are serious: the economy tanking due to the still raging coronavirus pandemic, with no quick end in sight to either. It feels to me as if I’m bicycling while Rome is burning.
To commemorate my birthday I’ve gone on longer bike rides for the last few years. Last year it was cold and rainy, so I only got in part of it, and went for the full distance a week later. But I still managed to git ‘er done. This year, the weather was dry and hot with a high of 99 F. Despite the heat, I wore a mask the entire time I was near friends or other riders. It’s a bloody pandemic that’s killed a million people, people! Here’s a short report with photos for your enjoyment, edification, education, etc.
Strava, the fitness tracking app, has been a useful repository of rides, walks, swims and photos thereof, a good source of data, and a fun place to encourage others and to be encouraged. Unlike many social media sites (so far in my experience, and as I’m told), it’s a pretty positive place. This post explores a few of the features relating to followers. If you’re a cyclist not on the app, you may want to consider it, and these tips can help even if you are and may not be aware. And, before I forget, kudos to you for reading this post!
Back when the Reverend Jesse Jackson, Jr., was running for president, he gave a speech at the University of Texas at Austin. By the end, he had the crowd of 5,000 Longhorns and some townie interlopers like me all riled up. He said “Repeat after me: “I am somebody. I AM Somebody! I AM SOMEBODY!” In true call-and-response gospel fashion, we chanted in full voice back. I believe that most of the time. But other days I’m just some dude who rides a bike and stuff, edits my bike memoir, and writes this blog. Sometimes there is no one theme for a post, so only a hodgepodge will do. This is one of those days. To quote John Lennon, another American icon of peace and justice: “My momma never told me there’d be days like these.”
Back in May, I wrote a post about the downsides of a car-free lifestyle. I only touched on the social aspect, and lately I’ve been thinking about it (especially now that I’m back to longer solo bike rides.) So, it depends who you ask. My roommate is sort of car-free, in that he commutes to work, but he shares a car with his wife. For him, it’s not an impediment. Some people in big cities have never known otherwise, so they have nothing to compare it to. So these things are hard to measure objectively. Subjectively, let’s explore.
A few weeks ago, I accidentally (on purpose) may have started a bike gang. After some scheduling difficulties, a handful of us gathered for a potluck and another night time bike ride. Although small in number, each person brought an interesting perspective and passion to some aspect of bicycling as transportation, recreation and fun. So here are a few thoughts and images about this interesting experiment in neighborhood and community organizing for better and safer biking and walking in yes, Austin, Texas.
Saturday was an eventful day for me on and relating to the bike. I somehow got my butt up early and the five miles down to the start of a training ride. Then later I attended a party for the bike manufacturer of my bike, Sophie the Weekender Archer. As usual, engaging with various people in different realms of the bicycle community was meaningful and fun. Seeing people you know and meeting ones you didn’t is always cool, right? Yes.
Breast Cancer Charity Ride
I haven’t registered yet, but last year I missed all the training rides, so I figured I’d at least get myself to the first one in town. If I do join the main event, it will be the fourth time. The ride itself is September 21, 2019. Given that I’ve raised over $5,000 total over rides #1-#3 (2015 and 2017-18), my goal would be to meet or beat that. I think $3,000 is very doable.
The cool thing about the money raised for this ride is that it really is for a good cause — seven local groups that support women surviving the disease, and their families. It’s for services mostly, like wigs, or counseling — not all research, unlike some events. So whether I do it will depend on availability, health, and pledges from donors. Could you be one? We shall see.
Arriving at the cancer support headquarters of Livestrong, I found around 80 people waiting for the ride to start. I said hi to some folks I recognized and took Sophie right over to the Buda Bike Company tent. Her chain has been slipping ever since I regreased it at Yellow Bike Project. The nice mechanic took a look and must have tweaked it a little, because I didn’t have a problem all day. A nice perk of showing up, a free adjustment!
I signed in with my waiver, got a wrist band, and greeted the director, Marion, who seemed happy to see me. A few board members where there. And then it was time for the speeches and mentioning the Sustainable Food Center, the beneficiary of the day. They provide cooking classes for women with breast cancer, how cool is that?
We divided ourselves into fast, medium and relaxed groups. But by the time I got myself organized the medium group had left, and I saw the familiar freckled face of Marty at the rear, so joined her as sweeper. We were off and chatted about where she’d traveled, where I hadn’t (a quick conversation), and other things like how the office is moving.
The ride went east and north and then got on the Southern Walnut Creek Trail. It’s great for novices and not so great for conversation and group riding. The whole distance was only going to be 13 miles, but for some that’s a lot. We gathered at almost the halfway point, the bottom of the steep hill where a YMCA sits for a break. The leader and Marty let the mostly women riders know they could skip it if they wanted, but everyone was game. I reminded folks not to grind, but to spin in a lower gear.
I went up first to possibly inspire and also to avoid congestion, but then I quickly got smoked by two fast women eager to build up speed and get it over with. My fitness, energy and legs aren’t what they used to be, and good on them. At the top we cheered on everyone as they crested the hill.
After a stop at the urination station, some water and wi-fi, we were back down reversing our tracks. At the end I scooped out the sausage, cheese, egg or potato from several kolaches and had a couple of fruit popsicles, too. A pair of free bib shorts and some promo materials were also gifted to me, and I hung out to help put things up a bit and chat some more. It was a pleasant ride and I was happy to “support the girls.”
I then went out and did another 15 miles for a total of 33 so far. I got a flat, even with a new back tire, which was super taut and took a long time to fix. I got caught in some heavy rain which I waited out at a bus stop. My speed had been averaging 11.5 but began to drop as I tired. By the time I returned home I was ready for a shower, some food, and a nap. It was good to put on the official Big Wig Fundraiser jersey and bib shorts and put in some mileage.
HEY YOU! PLEASE READ THIS! If you’d like to pledge to financially support me doing this ride on the first day of autumn, or you’re in Austin and want to get a jersey and be a member of Team T.ime I.n T.he S.addle, please contact me, my Gmail is ADudeAbikes.
Fairdale Bikes Party
I had heard about this shindig on the Mamma Jamma Ride, so I cancelled other plans and after recuperating, I headed back downtown. The gathering was in full swing by the time I got there, but mostly just people hanging outside behind this clothing shop and art space. They were talking and drinking free beer (which never motivates me – I prefer my carbs in solid, chocolate form). There was also a BMX / skateboard ramp, and dudes were throwing tricks on that. I met some Fairdale as well, including Mia, a brand ambassador and was just back from breaking her elbow in Germany.
The new line of bikes was available for viewing, but I didn’t pay much attention, not being in a position to buy one. I did buy a raffle ticket to win a new one. Since I won Sophie in a raffle, and Sookie the FujiSilhouette has been forcibly retired, I figured I’d try my luck again. It was looking up because not only was Katie, the manager of my nearest Bicycle Sport Shop there, but so was a former co-worker of mine who was also a bicyclist and former mechanic.
Meghan seemed happy to see me as I was her. Hugs were exchanged and I was reintroduced to Katie’s husband Reese and Meghan’s boyfriend Aaron. The women already knew each other from the shop world, which was pretty cool. Worlds collide, as it was said on Seinfeld. Aaron and I chatted about this blog, which he seemed genuinely interested in, having had some health challenges himself. We talked about the book I’m writing, his biking, health, art versus commerce, and a lot more. He’s a creative himself, doing art for a job.
I got some water and talked with some BMX dudes. One owned a bike company, another took photographs, and there was Carlye, who is Jared’s girlfriend. They were a cute young couple but I didn’t feel up to asking people to pose for a picture. We talked for a while about animals and her writing and photography and not being ready to share it on her blog. Jared came over and I told him I was interested in profiling more types of cyclists and that I was fascinated by the risk-taking of BMX’rs. He said his big toe was injured and showed me a video of the two-story jump he did when he injured it.
Everyone I met were nice people. Jarred ran off to do some jumps, and I went back to the group. Katie had to leave by bike with her co-workers, so she rushed over and gave me her three raffle tickets. I was taken aback and didn’t know what to say except thank you and gave her a hug of gratitude. I had just been speaking to Meghan and Aaron about how unfailingly nice she was. She said I deserved them and she could get an employee discount anytime, which was sweet.
Finally it was raffle time, and several smaller prizes were awarded. Then the bike was awarded, and several people had left so missed out. The winning number was six digits away from mine. So it was not A Dude Abike’s karma to win a second Fairdale. That’s ok, it was only seven-speed, two less than Sophie. The highlight of the evening had passed, so the energy petered out pretty quickly. Goodbyes were said, and Jim with Fairdale nicely gave me a branded water bottle with some grape juice in it. So I didn’t leave empty handed. I got another 11 miles for my efforts, too.
Heading home, I was aware of an insight that you might even say is a theme of this blog. Once again, even though I’m so often a solitary rider, and a writer in solitude, that there’s a world of other people around who ride, love and live bikes. Because no matter what kind of bike you ride (even a stationery one) or what kind of shape you’re in, if you ride a bike, you’re a winner in my book.
If you don’t bike yet and are able to, maybe I’ll inspire you to get on a bike someday. There are always going to be plenty of faster, fitter folks out there (and if you’re one of them, good on you!). But if you’re like me, a middle-aged fathlete who struggles with knee and other aches and pains, lack of sleep, etc. can do 44 miles in a day, I bet many of you can, too. So, pedal on, people! And if you can’t do that, cheering is good, too.
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“Dude! That’s a sweet bike you’ve got there,” says a random person on a bike every week or two at a stoplight or while I’m locking or unlocking my bike. They’re talking about Sophie the sea foam Fairdale Weekender Archer, my main squeeze these days. “Yeah, she is, thanks. I won her in a raffle from Bike Austin,” I counter.
“Really? Wow, that’s great!” they say. “I love that color too, it’s really pretty.” I reply, a skosh sardonically, “Yes, she’s pretty, just like me. And she was worth $850 new! Lucky me, right?” That’s usually the extent of it. Some car people talk about their cars in a similar fashion, but it doesn’t seem the same. Back when I had one, 14 years ago, I didn’t have such conversations. It wasn’t pretty, it just got me from point A to point B.
BENEFIT #1: For me, these little chats are specific to being out on a bike. It’s a small thing, but they brighten my day. (Sophie loves it too.)