Monthly Archives: June 2013

Use the gear you have

Last week I had the chance to co-teach not only a workshop about bike touring for women, but also a mini workshop about randonneuring. Both were awesome, and both reminded me of how much I fricken love teaching–especially to people who are super psyched about whatever the subject matter is. (I guess there’s a reason I went into teaching originally after all:)

I didn’t necessarily think that there’d be much overlap between the two workshops, but there was definitely a theme that came across loud and clear in both of them: use the gear you have. I said this over and over in both workshops, and I think it bears repeating again here.

You do not have to have exactly the “right” equipment to enjoy something that you haven’t done before. 95% of the time, whatever you already have will be more than adequate.

So many people, it seems, are foiled by thinking that they don’t have the right gear. Perhaps someone wants to take a bike tour but doesn’t think they have the right camping equipment. Or someone wants to go on a 300k ride with the Oregon Randonneurs but doesn’t have a randonneuring bike. Or someone is afraid of riding too far because she doesn’t have clipless pedals.

I hate to see something like that stop people.

harrison park trek(This is not a touring bike. Or a randonneuring bike. It doesn’t take real fenders. I didn’t have clipless pedals on it for the first two years or so. And yet it’s served me well for touring, randonneuring, and basically everything else I’ve wanted to do thus far.)

While sometimes it’s certainly nicer to have something that you don’t–a super light campstove, for example, instead of your clunker–there’s no reason that you can’t camp with your clunker. There’s no reason you need a specific randonneuring bike to take long rides. There’s no reason you need to have the equipment that you believe everyone else has (which, chances are, not everyone has anyway).

And while it’s certainly helpful to see what other people do or how they pack for whatever it is you want to do too, it doesn’t mean that you have to do exactly what they do. That’s what I tried to emphasize over and over in both workshops. Don’t let the gear (or lack thereof) stop you. As long as you already have the baseline necessities, you can start with what you have and change it up as you go if you find it’s not working for you.

It’s true that I am approaching this from my stasia-frugal perspective–I do really hate buying stuff and would much rather adapt something I already have than pay for something new and thus also contribute to the massive pile of stuff that already exists in the world. But this isn’t just a frugal thing, it’s a pragmatic one. You could wait forever until you have just the right gear for what you want to do. Or you could just make do with the baseline stuff you already have, slowly supplement if if you need, and in the meantime be enjoying yourself on all the awesome adventures you’re having with imperfect but adequate gear.

I say, get out there and make it happen. By all means, talk to other people about what they do or what they bring–I certainly get great new ideas all the time from doing that kind of thing. But the best way to figure out what you personally need is to try something and see if it works for you. Don’t let the gear stop you.

Why I’m not a professional cyclist:)

I’m not really a fast cyclist. For all that I like to talk about working hard on my bike, it doesn’t actually mean, objectively speaking, that I’m all that speedy.

But that being said, I do sometimes like the feeling of flying. Last night, with too much pent-up energy, I found myself pounding it hard down an eerily empty Springwater Corridor. And then in totally un-stasialike fashion, I also found myself cranking up and down and up and down and up and down the also eerily quiet Riverview Cemetery.  Un-stasialike fashion, I say, because I’m not really into going up and down things over and over–I’d rather find another hill and see something new–but for whatever reason last night it seemed appealing.

And it did feel so good to crank it like hell up the hill and zoom back down, even if, like I said, it probably wasn’t objectively all that fast. It felt fast to me, and that’s what I was going for. (Though promise me you won’t do the zoom thing when there are people around in the cemetery).

It also kind of gave me a bigger appreciation for those stalwart few (or many?) of you who actually do stuff like this on a normal basis for training. Those of you who actually motivate to go up and down ad nauseum because you’re keeping track of things like heart rate and speed and cadence and what-have-you–you guys have my respect. I liked doing it yesterday when I was looking to burn off a whole bunch of pent-up energy, but I really don’t know that I could be motivated to do it all the time, just with the tenuous belief that it’s making me a better cyclist.

Though I could see that it would be good for you, I’m not sure I have the heart for training in the conventional sense of the term. My “training” is to ride my bike as much as I possibly can, because I like it, and to seek out hills, also because I like them. This is probably why I’m not the speediest speedster in the west: I’m only doing what I like–which does involve pushing myself because I like the feeling of having met a challenge, but it’s definitely not the strategic and plotted pushing of formal training. Those of you who can do that are kind of amazing.

Things you might see while biking: impromptu live music!

Not too long ago, I wrote about how awesome it is that being on a bike makes you nimble: you can stop, turn around, change your mind mid-trip relatively easily, without endangering yourself or other people on the road.

I’ve also written that I love being on my bike for how much more it allows me to interact with the surrounding world–I hear more, see more, smell more, experience more about the world through which I’m traveling.

If you combine those two things, you get what I sometimes fondly think of as the aural quest for impromptu live music. That is, the phenomena of hearing music and then following it until I find out what’s going on.

Sometimes, it leads to me music that is for a purpose and has clearly been planned in advance, like these mariachis I found on First Thursday this month.


And sometimes, I find a random guy playing his bagpipe on the river.

Either way, it makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something when I can track down music I hear from a distance. And then I get a free concert. An all-around win:)

Officially an Oregon driver!

That’s right. This morning I officially gave up my California license to become a real Oregonian. Let’s overlook the fact that I should, technically speaking, have done this–well, a pretty darn long time ago. (It’s easy to just keep one’s out-of-state license when one doesn’t own a car and one’s job doesn’t require that one’s license be from Oregon, and one’s old state of residence keeps letting one renew by mail. That’s all I’m sayin’.)

We’ll overlook that and just celebrate the fact that I am now officially a holder of a real live Oregon driver’s license.


I’d been led to believe that the knowledge test required here to get your license was going to be difficult, so I’d made it a point in the last two days to actually read the driver’s handbook. I wasn’t particularly excited about doing it, but you know what? Now that I have, I’ve come to the conclusion that people actually should read it. And probably not only the once when they first take the test when they’re 16 (or 15). The handbook is periodically updated to reflect changing laws or infrastructure–shouldn’t our knowledge of it periodically be updated, too?

I’ve been driving for about 13 years of my life. I mean, I don’t really drive in my normal daily life anymore, but I do drive for work and have been known to take the occasional zip car or a friend’s car out of town. I would consider myself a very safe, very considerate driver, and I follow the rules of the road. That being said, there was definitely stuff in that handbook that I didn’t know.

Some of it’s stuff that I’m not sure I need to know, like for how long your license will be revoked if you get a DUII. But some of it was actually kind of interesting, and I think knowing it makes me a more cogent driver. For example, did you know that if you see someone on a horse, say, and they raise their hand, that’s a signal that their horse is spooked and you shouldn’t pass them yet? I didn’t. And maybe that example doesn’t really come up much in normal life, but do you know all the rules about when you can turn right or left on a red light? How about rules about bike boxes? Or that if you’re driving over 60mph at night, you’re essentially driving blind, since your headlights don’t illuminate far enough ahead of you for your speed?

A lot of driving knowledge comes from common sense or from seeing what other people do–but as infrastructure changes (bike boxes, for example, which didn’t exist when many current drivers took their knowledge tests), doesn’t it make sense that we would expect people to keep current too? Not simply by absorbing (or not) the knowledge by osmosis somehow, but by actually reviewing the educational materials that are created to ensure that there’s a shared knowledge base about how to behave?

I’m not sure if I’m calling for regular testing here or what, but it seems kind of silly to me that we assume that once you read whatever version of the driver’s handbook is current when you first get your license, you’ll then forever know all the rules and courtesies about driving. Even if those rules sometimes change. (This also hearkens back to something I wrote over a year ago about licensing and how it’s hard to renew your license here for all the wrong reasons.)

I’m actually kind of glad I read what Oregon currently has to say about what it takes to safely operate a motor vehicle. And I kind of want to know that other people know it, too.