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Further brevet notes

This is only the second time I've ever seen a LIVE ARMADILLO in the US. It was so exciting I want to tell you about it again. The first time was shortly after I'd moved to Texas. Someone had already stopped to look at it, so it didn't feel like much of a discovery that first time. This time, it ran across the road right in front of us.

I just put all of my randonneuring photos from this year's brevets into a Flickr album. The captions tell many of the small stories.

I wish I had photographed at least one of the cemeteries we rode past. Several of them were beautifully bedecked with flags for Memorial Day, unfurled in the breeze.

As we rode towards one tiny town, we saw a bunch of people on the horizon, standing near the side of the road. From a distance, they looked like teenaged hooligan hitchhikers. When we got closer, we discovered they were holding out bottles of water for us! It was a family that had driven past us a couple of times while we were riding. The motorists along the route were generally phenomenal - patient and completely changing lanes to pass us.

I tried an experiment this time. After the 400k, my knees were bothering me pretty badly. So this time, I did not stand up to climb the hills. My knees feel fine. End of experiment. It's strange, though. I think I'm able to stand and climb more comfortably on the Jolly Roger, which differs from Froinlavin in several notable ways. First, more roomy cockpit - I can put my hands out wider while standing, and being upright is more comfortable. Second, platform pedals. Third, the Jolly Roger's mass just feels more solid than Froinlavin - maybe a lower center of gravity? Now, I've never ridden the Jolly Roger for 370 continuous miles, so this is a limited comparison. Could it all have to do with Froinlavin having a shorter top tube? In the very least, I know I was able to maintain a happy speed even without standing to climb, so I have a workable strategy available. And I know to trust my instinct that says that standing to climb just doesn't feel comfortable or right. I suspect I will wind up asking about it on the "randon" listserv.

I have determined that it is time for new: gloves, shorts, tires, chain/cassette, and helmet. Actually, my neck also feels better than after the 400k. But I do worry about my google-eye helmet's extra mass generating problems further down the road, and I would feel extremely stupid if I wound up with Shermer's Neck from wearing it (note: prepare to be a little disturbed if you image search that phrase). Even before I ask the above climbing question, I'm going to ask the Randos for particular recommendations for gloves and shorts. I received a terrible recommendation for my last set of bike gloves from a random person working at a bike shop, and my hands have suffered the consequences.

While riding, I was reminded of this beginner's guide to preparing for a cycling trip (highly recommended read). SK, R and I also chatted about some of the exotic bikes we'd seen on brevets, which made me go and look up that wonderful essay written by Mark Twain about learning to ride a pennyfarthing. I believe only one pennyfarthing has ever completed the entire Paris-Brest-Paris.


( 13 remarks — Remark )
May. 26th, 2015 04:22 am (UTC)
Wait, google-eye helmet? What is this? Yeah, the lightest helmet is a big deal on long rides.

So, climbing. We argue about this all the time.
A longer wheelbase, taller, wider-handlebars, longer-trail bike, particularly if it has short chainstays, will feel better for out of the saddle sprinting.
I only out-of-the-saddle if my butt just can't stand being on the seat any longer, which is only on flat roads, if I physically can't push the pedals because the hill's so steep, which I consider a gearing failure with a bad emergency move to try to recover, or if I absolutely have to hang onto someone's wheel and have to go full power. Out of the saddle riding results in lower cadence, higher strain on the knees and back, higher heart rate for the same speed (according to research done on pro racers) and because of the lower cadence, lower power, unless you're simply pushing harder -- which, again, higher strain. I personally think it's just a bad idea.
It works great for other people. One of my coworkers does half his pace leads out of the saddle for an entire pull. Totally not my style. As a result, my may-be-flawed advice is stay seated as much as humanly possible.
May. 26th, 2015 05:08 pm (UTC)
Actually, I think your advice absolutely validates my decision to return to what has been most comfortable for me!

I can tell that standing to climb sends my heart rate up as well, and my pedal stroke gets choppy. I don't think I'm going to go so far as to sneer at those who stand to climb, but I think I'm going to stick with sitting and spinning, only standing to rest my butt.

But I wanted to practice the stand-and-climb, because I was amazed by how many riders were standing to climb up the hills on PBP, and in that context on the previous bike I could feel that it spread the work out across different muscle groups on different parts of the hills. Some idiot know-it-all roadie also lectured me once in the middle of a brevet on the subject, but he was a century rider, not a long-distance rider, who just happened to be out riding along the same route.

I figured that I could try it all out across the shorter brevets here, and see if I got any better/stronger at it. Conclusion: nope.

Unfortunately, on PBP standing to climb made my underprepared knee very unhappy, which cost me the ride.
May. 27th, 2015 02:01 am (UTC)
I won't sneer at out-of-the-saddle: they win races that I don't. But man, it doesn't work for me, even (generally) as an emergency move, because I'll be so wiped out that I'm too tired to stay up after the climb's done.
And if your knee is complaining, well...
May. 26th, 2015 08:36 pm (UTC)
Oh, and google-eyed helmet = a Bern helmet that I decorated with reflective google eyes - the one pictured here. The Bern's are suitable for skiing and snowboarding, so you can imagine that they're a bit heavier than what most cyclists wear. I really, really, really like the snap-out and washable padding. It hasn't been as critical in Nebraska yet, but it was helpful in Texas.

May. 26th, 2015 09:19 pm (UTC)
Hooray armadillo -- that's awesome! And the motorists being great is fantastic too; it's brilliant when other people are supportive and encouraging.

Holy crap, Shermer's Neck. (And what an interesting guy! I searched that phrase. I'm glad it was temporary, but eeeek.) So thanks for linking even if the duct tape solutions out there were a bit wow.
May. 26th, 2015 10:22 pm (UTC)
Shermer's Neck seems related to what you just posted about ultramarathon runners. I haven't had time to read the backstory, but it made me think of what it's like to talk to people who are century riders (100 miles). On the one hand, I recognize that it's a big accomplishment to work one's way up to a 100-mile bike ride, so those who do so are right to feel proud. But then on the other hand, I think, "These folks have no idea what it's like to ride a REALLY long distance."

I suspect that ultramarathon runners have a similar perception of things. I think most such people recognize that they've taken something unusual, and gone even further with it. So they tend to interpret what you mean when someone like you says "can go forever" as referring to conventional distances, not crazy ones.
May. 27th, 2015 04:29 pm (UTC)
Hah, yeah. I think one of my takeaways is that it's very relative and so knowing your audience is key. There's a thing -- Sunstone calls it "riding the curve" -- where people who love anything have a tendency to want to keep doing more of it, bigger longer faster more extreme, until they reach the edge of what they can do/what they want to do. And we sometimes rank ourselves by how far out we got, and we're not always self-aware about the process, such that some people go out past the point of where they want to be doing this or are having any fun because they have to bigger longer faster more extreme than they did last time. (And I've definitely seen people give up on things they loved because they couldn't keep pushing outwards any more, even though they were just fine with the not-outwards they were doing before.) I have to rein it it on myself sometimes even when it's not a thing I love. Mayhem posted about wanting to do a 50k and I was all "I could do that if the cutoff time was far enough out". Even though I didn't like the marathon. Even though I don't like running. (And that's more than I have to do for my health; there's no substantial difference between a half marathon and any longer distance health-wise AFAICT.) WTF, brain.

So, I think they recognize that they've taken on something unusual, but I wonder how much they go "well, not REALLY forever" as opposed to "good for you!" or "maybe she is an ultrarunner", heh. And how they structure their minds to have the reaction they want, whichever one that is. So much of the mental side of endurance sports for me is trying to decide how I want to react under trying circumstances and then trying to reconcile what my brain actually wants to do (not always predictable!) with that chosen expression, heh. On the plus side, with endurance sports you have lots of time to work on it, haha.
May. 27th, 2015 02:04 am (UTC)
Shermer's an interesting guy. He's written a bunch of books about skepticism, fads, and religion, that convince me that he's really bright and probably really annoying to be around in person.
May. 27th, 2015 02:27 am (UTC)
Heh, I often feel that way about people who think that their views around religion are so good that you should have their views too. Interesting to read about! Interesting to discuss with people who want a give-and-take discussion, or a collaborative one. I'm a lot less interested when it becomes "let me tell you how right I am and you're not". Are his books worth reading?
May. 27th, 2015 02:45 am (UTC)
Yes, with caveats.
They're kind of like nonfiction Neal Stephenson novels: insightful but verbose and sometimes kind of rambling. Like, if "why people believe weird things" had been half as long it would have been much better.
May. 27th, 2015 04:37 pm (UTC)
[nods] In general, I prefer the skeptic/atheist writings that are more about neurology or behavioural psych to the ones that are theoretical or philosophical arguments against religion. The former are fact-based and that's interesting and potentially learning about the world. The latter are almost always targeted at a monotheistic worldview that I don't hold, which is frustrating for me and (in real conversations) my conversation partner too. They're all "ha HA, I have a killer argument against your beliefs!" and I'm kind of baffled because I didn't hold [monotheistic pillar thing here] in the first place, so it ends up feeling like a series of annoying straw men. We usually agree about science, I think religion is definitionally in the realm of the unprovable (like philosophy or art or music or literature), and so as long as you're not making testable claims about the world (I do not think I do that in my expression of religion) or trying to force everyone else to hold your religious views via public policy (I mostly do not do this, though my it's chicken and egg whether I'm a pagan because I'm a tree hugging environmentalist or the other way around) then eh, no harm no foul.

So, all that said, is he generally more in the "about neurology" box, or in the "argues about monotheism" box?
May. 28th, 2015 03:25 am (UTC)
I went into a couple of his books hoping that I'd find something analogous to a skeptic's toolkit: a systematic way to reveal and consider claims, meta-claims, and unspoken premises. I got some of that, but I also got a lot of "these people are stupid because..."
Now, I should point out that I read these ten years ago and much of what I remember are my biases, rather than factual information.

(Jared Diamond actually did a much more interesting -- to me -- discussion of the relationship between religion, class structure, and power structure over the transition from tribes to states, in "the world before tomorrow.")

I don't feel like Shermer was specifically an argues-about-monotheism person, although certainly that's what you'd expect, given his background. People raised in evangelical households, even when they stop believing in god, continue to internalize the structure of their culture.
I also don't feel like Shermer was strawmanning his way through western civilization. My memory was that he was talking more about why belief is so important to people -- and chunks of 'why people believe weird things' weren't about religion, they were about UFO's or fortune-telling. He's a broad-spectrum skeptic.

I dunno if that makes it sound more or less interesting.


Okay, so here's my summary of my recollection of 'why people believe weird things': five chapters of discussion about the relationship between belief and community, and then ten chapters of "here's a dumb belief and here's why it's dumb." So I was like 1/3 this rocks and 2/3 pick on someone your own size whoah people actually think THAT? urgh I feel dirty just reading this because I'm morbidly fascinated...
May. 28th, 2015 04:42 am (UTC)
Heh, yeah. I often wish for better clarity of thought there... for similar reasons, I loved the rhetorical and formal logic parts of philosophy because you could parse out the actual structure of the claim and find ways to shim it into science if any of it was testable. But I'm not interested in tribalist sneering, and that cuts both ways. (I don't want to cut down others but fail to consider my own feet of clay, nor do I want to engage in a conversation about how flawed everything I think is where everyone else goes "Yeah! You suck!", heh. Basically, I want everyone to be considering in good faith, and to be rough peers in self-awareness and ability to take and give insightful critique without being nasty about it. When it comes to Arguing on the Internet, I might as well throw "and I want a pony" in there, heh. Books are sometimes better, but only sometimes. I've read two others of Jared Diamond's there -- I loved "Collapse" and thought "Guns, Germs, and Steel" was kind of an anticlimax -- so I might check that one out, thanks! And yeah, sounds like your reaction there might be about where mine would be, heh.
( 13 remarks — Remark )

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