Monday, May 30, 2005

What is trekking?

Trekking is an interesting word, referring to the making of a slow or arduous journey. In the sense of getting out & about on a bicycle, the word is contrasted with bicycle touring, which seems to refer to sight-seeing on a bike for pleasure and recreation.

Can bicycle touring be slow and arduous? Most definitely! But it doesn't have to be.

You can bicycle tour without trekking, and you can trek on a bicycle without touring. But in the sense of long-distance recreational bicycling, there's a certain room for overlap in usage.

So, why am I Trekking Bob, and not Touring Bob? Well, I think of touring as something I'd ultimately like to do, but as a rule I'm more into getting out and doing the challenging stuff than I am into sight-seeing. I also like to swim up near my limits and do other things that are a real stretch.

According to

"Trek was borrowed into English in South Africa, where the word was used by the Boers for a journey by ox wagon. A seminal event in the history of South Africa was the “Groot Trek” from 1835-1843, in which more than 10,000 Boers, the Voortrekkers, left the Cape Colony and traveled north and northeast because of economic problems, conflict with the Xhosa, and discontent with British colonial authorities, who had forbidden the slave trade and postulated the equality of whites and non-whites. The British, who seized control of South Africa from the Boers at the turn of the 20th century, seized the word trek during the 19th. Trek is recorded earliest in 1822 in the compound trektow, “a rope joining the wagon pole and the yoke to which oxen were fastened.” Trek in this compound is either the noun or the stem of the corresponding verb in Afrikaans, trekken. The earliest recorded use of the noun by itself is found in 1849, where it means “a stage in a journey by ox wagon."

Saturday, May 28, 2005

I've been swimming once and cycling semi-constantly over the last few days. Will likely take a day or two off from the bike at this point just to let my muscles & such catch up with me. Still plenty I can do to the tune of stretching, push-ups, and other forms of exercise. Cross-training after a fashion, I guess.

I try to google up interesting info on the bike I've got on order, and while what I can find tends to be interesting, there's little of it. (Although if I could read Dutch or German, I'd apparently be able to find more on it.) I have, however, found out that the Trek X500 is currently being used for U.S. Postal Service delivery in several major U.S. cities and for 7-day tours of the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. On the website for the Vietnam bicycle tour, they describe the X500 as Ultimate trekking bike, a real achiever.

I guess that speaks well of it, because I'm certain that mail carriers cover lots of interesting terrain under heavy loads, and the Mekong Delta tour involves 50-60 km of cycling per day on a variety of roads (including dirt roads).

Not only does this suggest that the bike can hold its own, but if only because of the mail carrier gig, I won't be the only guy in the U.S. that's got one. heh

I have found a few guys making comments in actual English about their own X500's.

Says one cyclist: I have a trek X500. Heavy as a tank. I would guess about 35 pounds before any baggage. It’s advantage is that there is nothing to buy except bags. It has cheap lights (LED), good racks, bell, fenders and mud flaps, disk breaks, good kick stand, built in pump, 37mm tires and a built in lock. The kitchen sink might be there too I have not looked. It also has ridiculously low gearing. Inner chain ring 22, largest rear gear 38, that is low! I love the built in lock. Just like locking your car.

I use it around town, for shopping etc, It does not need good roads. My longest rides are in the 60-70 mile range loaded with junk. I’m planning in riding from Orlando FL to Boston MA next month. Best part of it is that it makes my Seven feel like it is nothing but a rocket engine.

And another: I purchased a Trek X500 in January 2005 and I love it. Great geometry, very comfortable and stable ride. Gearing is great for around town and commuting. The ride reminds me of the early 70s General Motors cars with the big bench seat and the smooth ride down the highway! I am a clydesdale (6', 260lbs) and this bike is built to carry not only my load, but also any cargo - it's built like a tank, with great wheels and 700X35 tires. The racks are bomb-proof, too - very high quality and very sturdy not only with mounting but with a load as well. The only cheesy thing that came with the bike is the less-than-efficient headlamp. I also have a great racing bike and a mountain bike, but the X500 is absolutely perfect for errands around town and commuting. Park the car!

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Today I had the pleasure of hanging out at the most gorgeous golf course I've ever seen with the naked eye. Patrick Farms, right here in Rankin County, is just stunning.

I was sponsoring a hole at a charity golf scramble (will post pics later) and got to hang out with a whole bunch of cool people in a darn pleasant atmosphere. Then I had to head back to the office, because I needed to prepare for a 4-hour training session I'm providing in Crystal Springs first thing in the a.m. Such is life.

When I made it home, I hung tight for a while expecting to hear from a bud to go biking & swimming, but we wound up going in separate directions. Worked out for me, though, because I've been craving some longer rides and wound up biking around 15 miles at the pace of my choosing. Was nice.

My hands are feeling it a bit, though, because I outgrew my cycling gloves a good while back and haven't replaced 'em yet. So all the road shock hammers into my hands. No big, of course. In a worst case scenario, I'll just not be able to do another 15 tomorrow. Will have to see.

If I do get in a few more 15-milers this weekend, I'm thinking Wednesday or so might be a good day to do a bike commute to work, which I guesstimate to be between 15 and 20 miles each way. I may drive or bike the route this weekend to find out exact mileage (and if I bike it, to find out how long I should expect it to take).

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

MS Laws Relating to Bicycles is a MS Dept. of Transporation page listing laws pertaining to bicycles in this state.

I'd only known of a couple of these prior to this evening, so this was an interesting find.

I've made a .pdf file with this information and printed it off for future reference. I'm thinking it may be handy to have a copy sealed up in a freezer bag to carry along when biking on the roads.

MDOT's site turned out to have a bunch of info not found on other sites I've found, including:

Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinator
Sue Pitts
P.O. Box 1850
Jackson, MS 39215-1850
Phone (601)359-7883

MDOT's got a Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinator? Cool. That info might come in handy.


There are lots of different reasons to get out of the house and get active.

I, for one, love a good thrill on occasion and a good bit of novelty on a regular basis. It just keeps things interesting.

Then, of course, are the obvious health factors. I like to feel better, look better, and have a sense that I'm doing OK for myself.

Competition can be a factor at times, particularly for people with particularly competitive mindsets. Who doesn't want to earn a little esteem from peers?

My brother-in-law wants to get in better shape so he can be around to watch my niece grow up. I'm stuck staring at computer screens, circuit boards, and (worst of all) dashboards for far too much of my working life, and work takes up most of my waking hours.

You don't have to think about your motivations to get out and have a good time. Or maybe in your case it'll help. Either way, get up off your butt and go! ;)

thwarted by weather

Today just wasn't my day to get out and ride, swim, etc. Weather intervened.

Was hot and swampy nearly all day, and just as we began to plot out our afternoon plans for some cycling and swimming, all hell broke loose. Torrents of water thrashed from the sky, punctuated by lighting and driven by winds so sharp my car was tossed around like a bean bag.

Days like this don't have to be a total wash, though. It's perfectly OK to take a day or two off to just rest and vegetate.

On other occasions, I'll do a few push-ups, piffle about with weights, some stretching, and/or whatever blows my skirt up. It's a good idea to do at least a little stretching even on the vegetation days, anyway. Stretching good. :)

If nothing else, knock back a shot of pure agave tequila or Hangar One. Lubrication in moderation is a great sensation and worthy of participation!

Monday, May 23, 2005

Technology and Bicycle Distance

How far did you bike today, Bob?

I, like many cyclists, like to have some idea of how far I'm biking. Reasons for this range from curiosity and pure vanity to more or less vague notions of physical fitness.

Although a cyclist can use a variety of tools to answer the question of distance biked, most boil down to variations on a few basic themes.

You can use maps and/or time spend biking to arrive at (usually crude) estimates of distance, or rely on technologies such as odometers and GPS receivers, which, when used properly, will tend to produce fairly accurate estimates.

Use of maps is limited by the fact that paths and the land beneath them change constantly. Maps are generally also two-dimensional, printed on paper, and therefore can not fully express contour details. Add in the curviness of paths biked and problems related to scale, and the challenges become even more pointed.

Estimating based on the amount of time spent riding the bike amounts to educated guesswork at best.

Quality GPS (Global Positioning System) receivers can yield quite accurate estimates by calculating position based on information received from military satellites orbiting the planet. However, a variety of compromising factors can throw everything off. They can be highly accurate, grossly inaccurate, or somewhere in between. The savvy cyclist can make some determination of accuracy by examining GPS receiver (GPSr for short, but that just doesn't look right to me) output and comparing it with known values. Anywhere near home, I can generally squeeze the needed info from them, but it can be hit & miss at times.

Odometers usually work by counting the number of times a bike tire rotates and calculating based on the diameter of the tire. Inaccuracy usually comes by way of tire diameter. Tire diameter isn't the same once a rider plops down on the bike. Also, tire diameter fluctuates along with the amount of air in the tube. There are ways to compensate for these problems, and quality odometers can be as accurate as one would reasonably hope under most normal circumstances.

My preferred approach is a combination of GPSr and odometer measurements. This reflects my geekery as much as anything else. When the new bike comes in, I have in mind to see just how much geeky stuff I can reasonably fit on it. And I'm prepared to budge a bit on the definition of reasonable.


first swim of the year

It's been tough to get a swim in this year (due in large part to the lake in which we swim being locked off and barbwired, which adds challenge points), but we finally made it out yesterday.

Since I'm used to starting swimming season weeks earlier, I went straight to swimming laps. Just one lap across the pond & back, plus some general back-and-forth swimming to keep up the pace.

It's a way-too-short bike trip to the lake, so when the new one comes in I imagine I'll work out a longer route to & from. But I've been cautioned about ragging out the borrowed bike before returning it, and I'm not keen on having to replace the drive train on it out of pocket. ;)

How do so many people stay sane without access to trees, ponds, and back roads? Or do they?

Sunday, May 22, 2005

What kind of bike...?

If you're thinking of doing some bicycling, you may not be sure what kind of bike would suit you. In fact, unless you already bike so much that you've simply already figured it out, you're almost certainly uncertain (or have already been sold on a vision of the perfect bike that may or may not be right for you). If you're drawing a complete blank, you may want to check out this helpful website.

I gave a lot of thought to what I'd want out of a bike when I started shopping for my next bike. But most of that thought had already taken place in the back of my mind over the last few years.

When biking to the lake for a swim, I've found that I really wish I had some way to carry along a few things, like a towel, some sandals, maybe dry clothes, etc. And when I bike around the neighborhood to a friend's house, I'd generally like to take a few things along (maybe just my house keys, but different situations call for different stuff). The list goes on, but the gist of it is that the perfect bike for me has to be able to carry some stuff around.

My neighborhood is also very hilly, with less than ideal surfacing in many areas. So I need a bike with a wide range of gears and high-end gearing system, powerful brakes, and tires for mixed conditions. If your neighborhood is flat and well-paved, you may not need such demanding specifications for casual riding.

When I'm riding in traffic or just doing some recreational sight-seeing, I need a more upright position than is typical on a racing bike and most street bikes. The simple reason for this is that I want to see where I'm going and what's happening around me, for both safety and enjoyment. But I don't need to be as upright as a 60-year-old with severe joint trouble (and yes, they make bikes with this in mind). So my handlebar and seat decisions have been narrowed down considerably just by keeping these factors in mind.

I need fenders to keep muddy groundwater from splashing back up on myself and any luggage I may be carrying. If you, like my best bud, seriously don't care to bike in sketchy conditions, you won't need 'em.

Not planning on ever, ever, ever cycling at or after dusk? You can skip the headlight and taillight options unless your local legal system requires them.

If you're thinking of a bike purchase, try to realistically consider what you want out of a bike. Plan to take it shopping or to the office? Just going to cruise around your flat, gated neighborhood for quick social excursions? Expecting to race, or to take long trips down the Natchez Trace, or to hop from rock to rock in the mountains?

If there are absolutely no mountains or mountain-like conditions within 200 miles of your home, your primary bike probably doesn't need to be a mountain bike. If racing, touring, or other specialized riding options are similarly unrealistic for you, consider whether a bike designed for such purposes is really the right choice.

You may not need the kind of high-end trekking bike that suits my circumstances. An inexpensive bike for scooting around town and picking up groceries might be a better fit. Or whatever suits you.

What I'm getting at here is that, even if you're just buying a bike to get some exercise, you'll get more exercise on the right bike for you. You should like it and have some idea of how you'd like to use it.

Only the disciplined mind consistently decides to just ride the bike for the sake of fitness. Where discipline leaves off, your desire to see some nice scenery, or to pick up some groceries, or spend some time with the grandkids, or whatever, can pick up.

And that's when you'll really go cycling!

Ragin' Golf forum

I host the Ragin' Golf forum, which is basically a free-flowing discussion about golf and whatever blows through our minds.

We have moments of civic-mindedness, such as sponsoring a hole in the Richland High School Community Golf Scramble, which rewards a worthy high school senior's efforts to go to college.

In general, we talk about playing golf, building golf clubs, improving scores, generally razzing one another vigorously, and maintaining a fun on-line community atmosphere.

Check us out!

some of what I like to do outside

I've been an outdoorsy guy most of my life, particularly since I live in a place that's darn near paradise, complete with lakes, hills, and a lot of geological & biological diversity in general.

Here's a quick list of some of the outdoor pass-times I've taken up over the years:
  • Golf is a newer passion of mine. I started playing late in 2004 and like to get out when I can. I'm a terrible, but enthusiastic, player.
  • Walking is an activity I enjoy less than biking, but quite a bit when the mood strikes me. I've walked all through many towns in Mississippi, exploring nooks & crannies that most people probably never discover.
  • Swimming is something I learned a bit about when I was probably 5 years old in Dallas, Texas. But I never really mastered it until around the age of 12, when I found myself living with a lake in the back yard. Once I get the hang of things during swimming season, I like to swim laps across a nearby pond. We also play a game we call Suicide Frisbee, which is an endurance game of frisbee played in deep water. More on that in future posts, probably within the next several weeks.
  • Long before I took up golf, we used to play with slingshots and home-made slings. It's really fun to hurl projectiles out here.
  • I love to canoe down the Okatoma, on lakes, and pretty much wherever I can. I'm long overdue for another canoe trip.
  • Camping is just plain cool. I seldom get to do it but am hoping the new bike will help address some of the reasons I don't do it as often as I'd like. I have always enjoyed just getting out, simplifying things, and waking up outside instead of in one of the manufactured caves we tend to call home.
  • Geocaching is something I discovered a little over a year ago, leading to my purchase of a GPS receiver. In a nutshell, someone stashes a "treasure" somewhere, and posts the GPS coordinates on the web. Then you use your GPS receiver to find the location and search for it. It can be lots of fun, and a great way to find some neat places.
I'm sure I could continue adding to the list, but just working on the list makes me want to get up out of the chair and get moving! ;)

the new bike: 2005 Trek X500

I've ordered a new Trek X500 bike for general use. It should arrive within the next several weeks, which gives me a little time to sock away the money for it.

It'll be the first high-end bike I've actually owned, and I've taken some care to choose a bike suited to my own tastes and goals.

I want to be able to ride the bike to work (15 miles or more), grocery shopping (around 5 miles), camping, touring some of the many cool places Mississippi has to offer (and there are many cool places to visit in Mississippi), etc.

It needs to be able to carry a big rider with lots of gear over considerable distances over bad roads comfortably. That's a tall order, but this bike should do the job just fine.

It features 27 speeds, pannier racks for carrying gear, fenders to counter muddy splash-back on soggy roads, a headlight, bell (for warning pedestrians, who might not hear or see me coming), built-in tire pump, and disc brakes (far superior to traditional brakes in traffic and quick-decision situations).

I can hardly wait for this puppy to arrive. I shouldn't have to make too many modifications to it, although I'm definitely planning on adding flashing LED lights and such, to make it easier for others on & near the road to see me.

And I may switch from mechanical disc brakes to hydraulic disc brakes. I was considering having this done at the time of bike assembly, but unless it costs considerably less to do so at that time, I'm now thinking I'll stick with the mechanicals for a while, which will free up that money for other purposes, such as the pannier bags.

the current bike

This is my current bike, a Trek 8000 on more or less indefinite loan from my best friend. From what I've been able to determine, it was a high-end mountain bike at the time of its purchase, back in the early- or mid-1990's.

It's still a very good bike, with Shimano Deore components, internal cable routing, etc.

However, it's a bit small for me, as the picture shows.

I've got a Magellan SporTrak GPS receiver mounted on the handlebar, which I find handy in a variety of ways.

This bike is great for off-road, and even on-road it holds its own nicely.

hitting the road

I learned to ride a bike when I was 4 or 5 years old, on what I dimly recall to have been a banana yellow bike with training wheels (which didn't last long).

Aside from a fairly sedentary period that snuck up during my twenties, I've always been something of a biker. But only in the last few years have I been riding on really high-quality bikes.

No clue how or when it happened, but at some point I fell in love with Trek bikes in particular. I've been riding one borrowed from a friend for the last few years. (A friend who loans you a $3K bike to destroy for a few years is a friend indeed!)

We like to ride after work when weather permits even a modest degree of comfort, and bike to the lake for swimming. Our current rides tend to range between 4.5 and just over 6 miles, although last Sunday I rode twice for a total of just over 16 miles.

Yesterday I rode (mostly with my companion rider) about 5 miles.

I've recently ordered a nice Trekking bike, to be described in a subsequent post and plan to use it for longer rides, commuting, tourism, etc.

In this blog, I'll be recording notes on my travels, bikes, etc.