Monday, January 30, 2006

Riding Faster Brevets

On the SIR List on of the newer members of the Seattle International Randonneurs was concerned about her average riding speed on brevets and asked:

Does anybody have any tips on getting faster? Right now I kind of feel like I'm not really progressing much. Any tips or feedback would be greatly appreciated! Thanks so much!

Various folks posted a range of good advice. My contribution to the thread (slightly edited to allow for the lack of context here) was this:

You do have more options [on a brevet] if you can learn to go faster, so here are some thoughts about that.

My main approach is not to worry about going fast, I worry about not going slow. These are two different things. For example, there is no speed slower than stopped. Let's say you opt for a "fast" light, relatively fragile tire. That would make sense if you want to go "fast" but it makes very little sense if you want to avoid going slow. One flat tire and you are not going fast. But with a somewhat beefier tire, the odds improve that you will keep going.

One big difference between the experienced randos and the new folks can be seen at the controls, when they are off the bike. The more experienced folks tend to be quicker through the controls. Some times you do need to take a break but the more you are on the bike, the further you get down the road. Jan Heine, a fast and experienced fellow, advocates eating while riding and many, many randos do that. Again, moving is faster than not moving.

To really go faster, you need to turn the pedals faster. Years ago, back when I raced, my coach locked us into using our small chain rings for the spring training rides before the races. We learned to spin, training our bodies toward higher RPMs. As we got stronger, then we'd get to use the big ring and we found we'd still turn those higher RPMs. Net result: we actually were faster.

Another way to actually develop speed is to do intervals, short bursts of speed. They are a pain in the butt, but you will develop speed. Most people tend to use the multiple gears on their bikes to try to maintain a constant cadence or effort, in interval training you don't do that, you train to put out higher efforts for short bursts. That's important for racing and much less so for randonneuring but as a training technique it will help you build speed.

I do most of my riding on fixed gear bikes which tend to make any non-flat ride into a form of interval training. I have to apply a lot of power on the climbs and I have to spin fast on the descents. The bike can't coast or downshift, so my body must adapt to the terrain. Fixed riding certainly isn't for everyone but various people have found it to be an enjoyable and useful alternative to riding a geared, coasting bike.

I'd also advise you to work on climbing hills and night riding. Rando events certainly include hills and the longer rides almost always involve night riding (unless you are really, really fast!). I never worry about descending fast (I suck on descents) but I try to work on not letting climbs slow me down too much. And night riding, like any skill, is something you get better at the more you do.

Have a friend look at you riding at night with your lights and gear so you know what really shows up. Good lights and reflective gear do a lot to help increase your safety and confidence on the road.

Finally, yeah some folks are always going to be faster. Some folks are always going to make it look easy. Some day or some night you'll feel like crap. Everybody does at sometime. Don't worry about that. Don't even worry that much about the big goal. Focus on the next thing to get you the next kilometer down the road.

Nobody has lights that will reach 1200 kilometers down the road. At best, your light illuminates a little patch of the road in front of you. Ride into that patch of light and you'll see the patch of light is a little further down the road. Ride into that patch. Repeat as necessary.

Have fun and keep rolling,

Kent Peterson
Issaquah WA USA

Three Dumb Guys Riding in the Rain

Back in November I posted a lovely photo of my Peugeot PX-10 on a sunny day with blue sky. I titled that entry "It Doesn't Always Rain." Since that day, it's been raining damn near every day and night. We had some kind of record going for most days of continuous rain but then we had one freakish rain-free day to ruin the new record but it's pretty safe to say that it's been quite damp here for the past couple of months.

You can get used to rain and it can even be nice to ride in light rain. Much of the time we don't get really heavy rain in the Puget Sound area. If you're a bike commuter in this part of the country, you get pretty good at dealing with rain.

But when it's a day when you don't have to go anywhere and it's cold and windy and raining heavily, well that is the time when a sane person or a smart person would stay inside where it's warm and dry. And any individual sane, smart person would do that. But as my wife will tell you "the three of you together are way dumber than you are on your own." In this case the three were myself, Mark Vande Kamp and Ken Krichman. The day was yesterday, Sunday January 29th, 2006. And the rain was not fun.

The rain was heavy and wet and the wind was just enough to make things nasty. And this wasn't an epic trip, a trip to make folks think "man, those guys are tough." It wasn't even enough to make us think anything of the sort. It was just a trip to make us think "man, we're not that bright."

The mission wasn't even much of a mission. Ken wanted to ride my old PX-10 to see if it was right for him. I wanted to see Mark's prototype Kogswell Porteur. Mark and Ken wanted to see my new Kogswell Model G. We could have done all those things and not left Issaquah but instead we rode out in the rain, up and over the Issaquah Plateau, out to Carnation to have coffee at Sandy's Espresso. And then we rode back. Twenty-nine miles of stupidity.

Now I could say that the part of the ride where we were not riding, where we were sitting in Sandy's drinking lattes and mochas was pleasant, but honestly damply drinking coffee while wringing the water out of your gloves probably isn't as pleasant as just staying dry at home and drinking coffee.

And no, there are no pictures. My camera is still on vacation, Mark left his camera at home and I've never seen Ken with a camera in my life. Mark's super-secret prototype Kogswell Porteur is the ugliest shade of blue I've ever seen (I think the prototypes are purposely ugly so no-one will confuse them with the real thing.) The bike looks like it handles really well and Mark had lots of good off-the-record things to say about the bike. The Porteur is designed handle best with a load up front and even with a good-sized handlebar bag Mark could pretty much ride no-handed at will. My model G is similarly well-behaved but I carry the main load on a rear rack.

Ken didn't bond with the PX-10. He hasn't ridden fixed in quite some time so the hills were a bit more exciting than he'd prefer. Also the handling of the PX-10, which you could call responsive if you like it or twitchy if you don't, wasn't to his liking on this wet and windy day.

So I still have one too many bikes at my place and it's still raining.

There is no moral to this story. Just three dumb guys riding in the rain.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Kogswell Model G Impressions

Product reviews are always subjective. If you've bought something, you have an ego invested interest in somehow showing that you are not a fool who has recently parted with your money. If the item in question was given to you, the question must always be asked as to how much you are biased by the gift. You can try to fill your review with objective facts but at some point there will be some subjectivity. But, of course, we experience the world subjectively. We bring ourselves into the process and if we are fond of numbers or think in terms of metaphors, those things come out in our discussions. We are not just talking about the object of our review, we are talking about our relationship with the object.

I don't know enough to review the Kogswell Model G. I own one now. The frame and a few other key bits were a gift from Matthew Grimm. I was able to put it together with some other bike parts I'd accumulated and saved over the years. The only new part I added to the bike was a single speed chain. I've invested this machine with gratitude and time, a tiny bit of money and a sense of what my bike should be. I can't review it, but I can consider it. I've only got about 70 miles on the bike so far, so at best these are initial impressions.

The Kogswell is solid. I know that solid is not a very sexy adjective but when I pulled the frame out of the box and put the whole thing together my thought wasn't "wow, this is light" or "wow, this is pretty". It's not the lightest frame out there and yeah it's got some decent looking lugs and the powdercoat finish looks quite good but the overall impression is one of strength. And when the whole bike came together, it didn't build up as a super light bike. I don't know what the whole thing weighs but I'm pretty sure it's heavier than my old PX-10.

Speaking of my PX-10, that's the bike from which I took measurements to guide my in putting the Kogswell together. Then I tweaked a few things. On my first test ride the Kogswell's saddle felt a bit high and the stem felt a bit long. Going back and rechecking the numbers it turns out that my impressions were right and my measurements had been slightly off. I did have the saddle a bit high and the bars were just a bit too far forward. The bikes aren't identical but my bikes all tend toward very similar layouts in terms of the relationship between bars, pedals and saddle. When it's right I know it and when it's off I feel it.

In terms of gearing, the Kogswell and the PX-10 are the same: 170 mm cranks with a 42 tooth chainring and a 16 tooth rear fixed cog and both bikes have decent wheels shod with heavy, flat-resistant Specialized Armadillo tires. But the two bikes feel different.

The PX-10 feels quicker. It feels more lively. It seems like I can feel the frame flex more over bumps. The Kogswell, on the other hand, feels solid. Not at all uncomfortable, it actually feels very comfortable and if anything I think I'm less aware of road shock than I am on the PX-10. But the PX-10 feels faster.

Climbing, the PX-10 feels quick. Descending, it feels a little racier. The Kogswell just doesn't feel as fast.

But here's the thing: I like the ride of the Kogswell better. It's like when you have a good mattress you don't think about it, you just sleep. If you have a mattress with a lump, you learn to move around so you don't sleep on the lump. So I'm thinking that the Kogswell is my lump-free mattress. Once again, not a really sexy description. I've got a bike that's solid and comfortable.

And I like the ride. I mean I really like the ride. It's just right. I almost wrote predictable, but that's not right. You don't predict the way you like your morning coffee, you just know it. If it is off you know it and if it is right, it is just right. The Kogswell rides right.

Now I haven't weighed my Kogswell but I'm pretty sure it's heavier than some other bikes. I have not weighed it because there isn't much I'd be willing to do to change the weight. I know what wheels, tires, saddle, bars, and so on work for me. Knowing what all that plus the frame weighs isn't a number that is of any real use to me. But I'm pretty sure it is heavier than the PX-10. And the PX-10 feels faster.

So just when I figure that I'm OK with having this solid, comfortable, right bike and that Ghandi was correct when he said that "there is more to life than increasing it's speed," I found the most interesting thing.

The Kogswell seems to go up the hills just fine. That solid feeling seems to translate whatever I'm putting into the pedals into moving the bike up the hill. Downhills I don't feel that the bike is getting away from me but it's easy to spin the pedals as fast as I need to go.

I don't feel fast, but I sure don't feel slow. And the numbers on my cycle computer look perfectly fine. Oddly, they look better than fine.

I commuted to the Bike Alliance on Friday on the Kogswell and I got there a few minutes earlier than usual. Probably a fluke.

I rode home Friday night and again I'm a little quicker than I thought I would be.

Yesterday, I rode up to my weekend job at Sammamish Cycle. Again on the Kogswell, again quicker that I thought I would be. Going home, the same thing.

Once could be a fluke. I suspect that four fast times is not a fluke. It's a pattern.

The Kogswell doesn't feel as fast as the PX-10 and it's not.

It's faster.


My friend Ken has a fondness for old French bikes and shares my belief that life is simpler with fewer gears and less stuff. Ken also has an old Compte bike that has various dire problems including a headset with a deathwish. Even Ken has finally admitted that his Compte is too hazardous for him to ride.

Ken needs a bike and I've got at least one bike too many right now.

He's picking up the PX-10 on Wednesday.


Keep 'em rolling folks. Maybe I'll see you on the road someday. I'll be the guy on the Kogswell Model G with coroplast fenders and a powdercoat finish the color of duct tape. The guy on the solid, comfortable, right bike.


PS. For those of you waiting for pictures of my new machine, you will have to wait a while longer. I loaned my camera to a friend who was headed off to research and write a book on chocolate. I don't have a pressing need to photograph the world right now and it's always good to have a semi-pro chocolate dude owe you a favor.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

If this isn't nice, I don't know what is

In his article Knowing What's Nice, Kurt Vonnegut urges us to follow his Uncle Alex's example and to notice when we are happy and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, "if this isn't nice, I don't know what is."

There is always much we can rage against in this world, the stupid and the evil, but there is also much that is good. We can rage against corporate greed but also see that it is possible to be in business and still do good. Folks like Gary Erickson, Yvon Chouinard and Grant Petersen each have managed to create businesses that remain true to their visions of a better world.

Matthew Grimm is a similarly practical dreamer. While it's fashionable these days to rage against globalization, Matthew saw that the problem isn't one of geography, it's one of greed. Things like a global economy and the information age are not the sole province of the super rich or the mega greedy. Little guys can have a vision and a voice and make things and send them out in the world.

Matthew designs and builds bicycles. Actually that's not quite true. Matthew designed and built a company called Kogswell Cycles. Matthew's customers and Matthew design bicycles. Matthew and folks with factories in places like Taiwan build Kogswells. Matthew's vision is simple: lever the power of a global economy and the power of an interactive electronic forum to make good bicycles at affordable prices.

The results are amazing. Very nice frames at very nice prices. Really interesting products in the world now, really nice things coming down the pipe and a small but growing legion of happy customers.

I'd seen Kogswells around for a year or so but I didn't need a bike and I didn't think that much about them. But a while back I got an email from Matthew Grimm saying basically "great job on the Great Divide Race, I want to give you a bike for your next adventure." I wrote him back basically saying "thanks, but no thanks." I explained that I really had no idea what my next adventure would be. "It doesn't matter," Matthew insisted, "I know you'll be doing something interesting. Go to my website and see if there is something you can use."

So I went and I looked and I found a Model G. Fixed gear with relaxed angles for road riding. A tough, powdercoat finish. Big clearances to run fat tires.


My kind of bike.

Tuesday night a 54 cm Model G was waiting for me when I got home: frame, fork, headset and big clearance brakes. Silver, the color of duct tape.

I already had pretty much all the other parts I needed to build up the G: wheels, crankset, pedals, seatpost, saddle, stem, bars, brake levers. So far the only new part on the bike that I had to pay for was a chain. I made a set of coroplast fenders from a campaign sign I'd harvested last November.

I got the bike together last night. It's not quite right yet and still needs a little dialing in. I'm going to swap the stem for one that's a little shorter and a little lower. I need to find a cycle computer so I can follow cues on brevet route sheets and there will be other tweaks I'll make as the miles tell me what I need to know.

But I know this now. As I was riding in the darkess, I had this thought, "If this isn't nice, I don't know what is."

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Heart Rate Monitor

(Pulled from the archives of the Monocog log)

Date: Mon, 11 Apr 2005 6:28 AM
From: "Kent Peterson"
To: "Michael Rasmussen"
Subject: Re: Advice from other randos

On Sun, 10 Apr 2005 17:22:02 -0700, "Michael Rasmussen" said:

> This is something I think you'll appreciate.
> For the first time ever I"ve received unsolicited advice about riding
> with a heart rate monitor.
> Dave said "You should use one. You'll know when you're slacking and can
> ride faster. If you're riding along and your heart is only at 120 you
> know you can speed up."
> Susan said "Use one to control yourself. Set a max and don't exceed it.
> When I do this I finish the ride with plenty of energy left."
> Seemingly at odds. But I know there's a central truth. Both use the
> tool to meet their goals. Dave, though I've only met him this once,
> seems to be in it for the challenge of performance. Besides, he's pretty
> fast, in a native talent sense. Susan is a slow, extremely steady, ride
> on and on and on type.
> --
> Michael Rasmussen, Portland Oregon
> Be appropriate && Follow your curiosity

Probably both valid points. I haven't used a heart monitor in years and I've often said that it either is telling me info I already know or telling me things I don't want to know. But then as near as I can tell I'm much more driven by internal cues than external devices. For example, alarm clocks always struck me as an awful assault on the body, so I trained myself to wake via internal cues. Thoreau wrote "We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us in our soundest sleep." That always made sense to me. And the late Marco Pantani once said, while speaking of heart monitors, "I can think of no device which has done more to remove the poetry from our sport."

Heart monitors can be valuable devices, but I've seen many, many people become slaves to the numbers. The heart monitor can tell you how fast your heart is beating, but it knows nothing of the desire that is in your heart. And that desire is what sends you out to train in the rain, to continue when you feel down, to ride the ride that ultimately is yours alone.

Kent Peterson
Issaquah WA USA

And now a word from our sponsor...

A week or so ago I wrote a blog entry about the Princeton Tec EOS light. In that entry I included a link to via their Associates program. It looks like a few people bought themselves an EOS by following that link. I don't want to clutter this blog with a lot of commercial stuff but I'm not adverse to making a little money either. My solution to this can be seen in a couple of links on the right panel of this blog:

Mountain Turtle Market will take you to a page I made of books and other mostly bike-related items. OK, there is a bit of general adventure and philosophy stuff there as well, but the underlying theme is stuff that I use and like. My Cafe Press store still sells T-shirts and other items with the "Any Distance Is Biking Distance", "Not A nutritional Role Model", "Shiftless Bum" and "Hasten Slowly" designs. Proceeds from both of these stores go to financing my various adventures.

My intent is to keep giving away the bulk of what I write. Stories and articles like "The Way of the Mountain Turtle" can reach much farther via the web than they can as books or magazine articles and on the web I can shape them exactly the way I like.

On this blog I'll continue to talk about things I use and like but I don't want the blog to become overwhelmed with product reviews and commercial stuff. This blog is about biking, having adventures and rolling through the world on two wheels

Keep 'em rolling folks


Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Best Lightbulb Ever

My wife will tell you that I have a real obsession with lighting. I just like tinkering around with various lights. For Christmas I got the most expensive little lightbulb I've ever seen, an EverLED. ($40 and no, I'm not getting any kickback from the EverLED people.)

Like the Princeton Tec EOS I blogged about last week, this is a 1 Watt Luxeon LED plus some circuitry but the EverLED crams all the smarts into a little package the size of a conventional PR flange bulb. So I get to mess around with putting the bulb in various housings, trying out various beam patterns and battery packs. The EverLED can run on anything from one to six batteries and it regulates the voltage and current to draw the most from your batteries while giving nice, white light of a constant brightness. When it's drained the batteries, it just winks out and you really don't get any warning, so you want to make sure you've got backup batteries and something handy like a helmet light but this really is a nifty device. Some pretty cheap flashlights and inexpensive halogen bike lights actually have pretty good reflectors and this very expensive bulb lets you tinker to your hearts content.

Memoirs of an Invisible Man

The other night as I was riding home in the dark rain, a woman's voice called out to me from within her SUV. "Those are very nice lights. Thank you," the voice said. I responded with a quick "thanks" of my own and we both proceeded on our respective journeys.

I do try to be visible and vigilant and with my bright yellow jacket, reflective tape, glow gloves, 4 rear lights, front bike and helmet lights. I like to think that I mostly succeed. But at best all these attempts at conspicuity only partially counteract the one amazing super power I possess. This super power isn’t super because it’s rare or because it’s a really cool like the ability to fly. Unfortunately my super power is far too common and it’s a curse.

 I am invisible.

 At some points every day we all are invisible. We are trees falling in the forest but no one is listening. We are clad in bright yellow and we have flashing lights and we signal and make eye contact and all the rest of the things we are supposed to do and yet somehow someone does not see us. And it’s easy to think that the people who don’t see us are idiots or evil. And while there certainly are idiots and evil people in this world, there are far more people who are simply harried human beings.

I know I am not one hundred percent focused one hundred percent of the time. I am human. I make mistakes. I try to hold myself in the moment to be here now, to pay attention to what is going on. I try to be the traveler I'd like to encounter, to be the calm and not the storm. But I know that I do not succeed one hundred percent of the time.

As a cyclist, I have many advantages. I am traffic. I am small and vulnerable and my bike has no illusion that it is a place. And I’m rolling through the world at a pace that is slower than most of my fellow travelers. I have more time to think and react. My brain and body know I am small and vulnerable. My ingrained instincts view cars and their ilk as big metal monsters. I try to keep track of those monsters. My life does depend on it.

I know that drivers are not monsters, they are humans like me, but the metaphor of cars as fast dangerous, dumb beasts is a handy one. I can feel empathy for the driver and still maintain a healthy fear of the vehicle. The car is not really a beast, but to its pilot it is a rolling illusion of place. It is a cocoon, a capsule insulating the driver from the outside world. And that outside world is encountered at in-human speeds. The human brain is a remarkable instrument, but it has limits. Add in a packed 24/7 schedule, a cell-phone or perhaps a screaming kid in the back and you have information overload. The brain can’t process all the signals fast enough, so some signals get lost. We don’t even know we are missing things but we are missing things. This happens to all of us. Even the best driver. Even the best cyclist. I’m not “here” 100% of the time and neither are you. But most of us are “here”, most of the time. Think about all the interactions you have with drivers every day. In general, things work. But sometimes they don’t. Whoever you are, wherever you travel, remember this. At some point you will be invisible to someone.

I don’t have a great recipe to cure this condition; I’m merely pointing it out. Never assume you are seen. Where bright yellow and deck yourself out in lights. But don’t think that will make everyone see you. It’s worth doing and it increases the odds but to someone you’ll still be invisible. But maybe that flash of yellow will break through and save you from a dicey situation. Or maybe remembering your own invisibility will help keep you alive.

Let me leave you with one more story. A few years ago I was retrieving my bike from a fire station. A van had turned in front of me in a sequence of events that led to my bike and I being taken away in an ambulance. I wound up at the hospital and my bike wound up at the fire station. While I was chatting with one of the fire fighters about my accident, I was brainstorming what else I could do to be more visible. The van driver, of course, had commented that he never saw me. While the fire fighter approved of my various schemes for brighter clothes, more lights and more reflective gear, he also cautioned me. “You’ll never make everybody see you. The other night we were out on a call in that,” he said pointing to a large, bright yellow hook and ladder truck. “It was parked in front of a burning house and a guy driving down the road slammed right into the back of it. When we pried him out of the car the first thing he said was ‘I never saw you.’”

Be careful out there. Keep ‘em rolling,

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson 
Issaquah WA USA

Breezy on the Bridge

Every weekday morning and evening I ride across the I-90 floating bridge that connects Mercer Island to Seattle. I also ride across a smaller bridge that connects Mercer Island to south Bellevue, but the big bridge is the exciting one. On a day like today with 25 mile per hour gusts coming out of the south, it's quite exciting.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Kelly Kettle

I don't actually have one of these, but ever since Dan Goldenberg raved about this on his year-end "tried and liked in 2005" posting over on the iBOB mailing list, I've wanted one. The Kelly Kettle is a modern, yet very traditional, recreation of the Irish fisherman's kettle. Their website explains how the kettle works. Essentially it's a double-walled flask that holds water. You build a tiny fire in the base and in about five or six minutes you've got boiling water for tea, cocoa, instant coffee or whatever.

For most of my fast and light bike trips, I've been going without cooking gear. But there is something very nice about firing up a quick hot beverage first thing in the morning or at a quick back-country lunch stop. The little one-pint version of the kettle weighs a bit over a pound, and that weight might be worth carrying around. It's definitely lighter than packing a separate stove, fuel and cooking pot.

Slogans for Bike Shirts

Thanks to local screen printers and services like Cafe Press, it's pretty easy to get any slogan you want onto a T-shirt. I recently found a wiki at:

that is a collection of various bike-related slogans. A wiki is a publicly editibable page on the internet, kind of an electronic chalk board that anyone can edit. My favorite slogan on the list is:

This Vehicle Runs On Alternative Fuel (With A Picture Of A Donut Next To It)

I've never seen a shirt like that but I may have to spend a little time with some imaging software and make one up.

If you've got a great idea for a T-shirt slogan, stop on by the wiki and add your own.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

My New Helmet Light

LED headlights are getting better all the time. This little guy is a one Watt Luxeon LED with very good power regulation. Regulation means that the light gets the most from a set of batteries and keeps the light at a given brightness instead of dimming as the batteries weaken. The Princeton Tec EOS has three brightness settings and a flash mode. I actually find the flash mode to be too slow to be useful on the bike and it flashes at full power but these are minor nits. I'd also prefer if the light used AA instead of AAA cells. So I guess there are two things I don't like about this light.

But the positives far outweigh the negatives. The light is small and is supposed to be waterproof to one meter. (I don't ride under water so I haven't tested that feature!) It's easy to operate and the batteries are easy to change. The light pattern seems to be just right for my riding. I use this light on my helmet but it also comes with a handlebar mount. I run the light at the lowest power setting most of the time and that's fine for reading my bike computer or cue sheets. The middle setting is better for general riding, spotting road signs and potholes and things like that. At the highest setting, you get the brightest beam but of course that eats through the batteries quicker.

I'm pretty sure the circuit in this light was designed by Willie Hunt, a real guru in bike lighting circles. And yes, I'm enough of a nerd that I actually keep track of things like that. Anyhow, the Princeton Tec EOS is my latest favorite bike toy.

The link at the top of this post will take you to Amazon and they have a good deal on this light now. In the interest of full disclosure, you should know that if you buy the light via the link, I get a little kick-back from Amazon. This internet stuff is wild. In the old days I'd just tell my buddies about stuff and that would be it. Now there are actually micro-revenue streams. But I really do like this light and I'm not writing about it because of the kick-back. I'm writing about it because it is a cool light (in a bike-nerdy sort of way!)

Keep 'em rolling,


Sunday, January 01, 2006

Numbers Game

Human beings like to measure the world. As near as I can tell, most creatures who live and die on this planet go through their given allotment of days without measuring their allotment of days. A cheetah can reach speeds in excess of 60 miles per hour without ever bothering with the concepts of either miles or hours. Monarch butterflies migrate between Canada and Mexico without the need of maps or borders or the reassuring signals beaming down from global positioning satellites. But we humans are a different breed. We are counting creatures armed with mathematics and maps and these tools help us find our way in the world. We live not just in the moment but we measure our moments. We have futures to foresee and pasts to ponder.

We attach numbers to our years and when those numbers change we tend to take stock of our progress and contemplate the next steps in our journeys. This is the season where my cycling friends and I tally up our past year's riding and plot out adventures for the coming year. Numbers help us do that. I have friends who get worked up over turning one more digit on an odometer and others who get equally worked up over proudly not knowing some stat. Whatever works. I try to stick to what works for me. When I started randonneuring, I tracked my distances and followed cues marked in kilometers. In 2005 my big ride down the Divide was mapped in miles, so I tracked in miles. It's just numbers, it doesn't matter. The metric fundamentalists will probably kick me out of their club for saying this, but I don't think the world cares if we measure it decimally or not. I could track my progress in furlongs per fortnight or angstroms per second but I don't think I love math quite that much.

I've got my little pile of year end numbers. I've got my map of days in the coming year. I've got ratios of gear teeth to inches traveled. I've got plans and equations. I've got places to go, people to see and lots and lots of numbers to keep me company. I'm a human being. I love numbers. I can't help it. Cheetahs chase, butterflies fly, I count.

We love our numbers. We want them to be happy. We name our years after them.

Have a happy 2006.

Keep those numbers rolling,