VC:VC There are two kinds of VC

As I just noted, there are two kinds of cyclist (those who have fallen, and those who will). There are also two kinds of Venture Capitalist ... those who have experienced a failed investment and those who will. The good ones have experienced several. This posting is another in my VC:VC series, comparing venture cycling with venture capital.

Falling off a bike, especially when you can't get out of your clipless pedals when stopping, is embarrassing and may cause some scrapes. A failed investment generally involves the loss of several million dollars. This is where the American (or Anglo Saxon) approach to entrepreneurship shines. By seeing failure as an opportunity to learn, and by actually embracing failure, more risks are taken and more rewards are reaped. Fear of failing stifles new ideas since new ideas, by definition, may or may not succeed. The Venture Capital industry in the USA is built on the willingness of both entrepreneurs and investors to take risks, and the friendlier responses to failure enshrined here in law, regulation and culture.

In terms of learning from failure, Brad Feld has been running an occasional series about failure on his blog. His articles are well worth reading.

It is more than a friendly response to failure, or learning from failure, that stands out, however. VC's actively embrace failure. Why do VC's actively embrace failure, when venture cyclists try their hardest to avoid falling?

In early-stage investing (and this may be true in other types of investing, I am just not familiar with any other stage), a portfolio which does not have a few failures is unlikely to deliver industry leading returns. If a VC firm is so conservative as to only back companies which are very unlikely to fail, then they must be "sure bets", and so the price to invest will likely preclude the opportunity for a 10-bagger. We choose to invest in less certain outcomes, and so we seek less popular opportunities. With fewer investors chasing the deal, the shares are cheaper, and the potential reward is proportionally larger. If my $4m investment buys 50% of a company, selling it a few years later for a high price brings much higher rewards than if my original $4m only buys 10% of the company.

This is, in a sense, the underlying reason that VC funds experience a J-curve. We could avoid a J-curve by avoiding investments that might fail, but then we would be avoiding the higher returns we are supposed to be generating. VC funds track their capital loss ratio (the percent of a fund that is lost in failed investments). No one wants a high ratio, but anything approaching zero is not a good predictor of high returns either.

Of course, each deal we do always starts off as a potential 10-bagger; why else would we invest? We just know that over time some will fail, and that is to be expected. We don't seek failure, but we know that to do our job well, we are likely to experience it from time to time.

In a final note, I suppose one could say venture cyclists also embrace failure. I am about to start using clipless pedals, which increases the possibility of a scrape. Why? It is because I can exert extra power pulling as well as pushing on the pedals (using the complete rotation of the pedals on each leg to impart energy to the bike), and I can reduce the energy I use to keep my feet on the pedals (fighting gravity, especially on a recumbent). I am not seeking failure, or desiring failure, but I understand the upside that I do seek brings with it the chance of a fall.

There are two kinds of cyclist ...

... those who have fallen, and those who will. (Thanks, Greg.)

I purchased a pair of black Sidi Dominator 5 Lorica Mountain Bike Shoes today in the sale at Wheelworks. This is the first stage towards clipless pedals. Mountain bike shoes have recessed cleats, so they are a little less like raised-front tap shoes than road bike shoes. However, despite everyone telling me that it is easy to get in and out of properly fitted clipless pedals, I expect to cross the boundary between those yet to fall, and those who have. Generally you want to take your foot out of the pedal when stopping, so such falls tend to be slow speed affairs - ungainly, but not much worse. However, with Greg's words ringing in my ears, I may buy cycling gloves as well! (If you fall, you throw your hands down instinctively, and are in danger of scrapes and cuts.)

Alien Invasion Provides Great Ride Scenery

I had a wonderful ride this morning with Gregg Stern, who introduced me to the Minuteman Bikeway from Somerville to Bedford. Gregg tells me he is fairly novice at serious riding, so I believe his Google number is two. We met at the start of the trail in Somerville a little before 7am and made it to Bedford Depot by 8am (11.5 miles). We stopped and chatted for a few minutes, and I flushed my buffers, before heading back down. We were all done with the entire 23 miles by 9.15am.

As we rode, we noted lots of pretty views especially in the Lexington and Bedford stretches. There were several meadows of beautiful purple wild flowers. I mentioned to Gregg that something this dominant in the scenery is probably an invasive species. I entered invasive purple meadow flower massachusetts into Google, and found I was right. [Photo by Bernd Blossey, courtesy of]

This bike trail, like many, is a converted rail line. Thus, the grades are basically 2% or less and this makes it faster and easier than my local Heartbreak Hill rides. It is heartening that even after this, my longest ride to date, I felt fine for the rest of the day hanging out and playing with my seven year-old twins.

Checklist for a bike ride

As I contemplate an early morning bike ride tomorrow, I realize I need a checklist.

GPS and heart monitor
Bike bag (containing bandaids, wipes, spare inner-tube, pump, bike lock)
Route map/plan
Cell phone

Not too bad.

Food for bikes

Bikes don't actually need food, but bike riders do.

I decided to compare some of the nutrition bars that are out there (no more than one a day). Mostly this is about whether I like the bar; I assume they all provide more-or-less the same nutrition. I welcome comments about what I should be eating (and when) on bike rides (especially long ones). As you can see, I am a chocaholic (I like Cadbury's milk chocolate and most dark chocolates). Here are the first three bars rated. Look for additional reviews as I chomp my way through others. This article should be taken with a good drink of water.

First I tried the Solo Chocolate Charger “low glycemic nutrition bar”.
First bite: yummy, very chocolatey, a little chewy
Last bite: yummy, rich, medium workout but not jaw breaking
Nutrition info: 200 cal, 60 from fat. 7g=10% fat, 3g=14% sat fat. 26g carb 4g fiber. 11g protein. 120mg sodium.
Overall points out of 5: 4

Second I tried the Pria Double Chocolate Cookie bar (from PowerBar).
First bite: crunchy, good chocolate taste
Last bite: excellent – not too chewy – nice crunch
Nutrition info: 110 cal, 25 from fat. 3g=5% fat, 2.5g=13% sat fat. 16g carb 1g fiber. 5g protein. 100mg sodium.
Overall points: 5

Next was the awful GoLean Malted Chocolate Crisp bar (from Kashi).
First bite: OMG, what kind of concrete is this
Last bite: chocolate is cloying, no malted taste, jaw is tired out from effort
Nutrition info: 290 cal, 50 from fat. 6g=10% fat, 4g=20% sat fat. 49g carb 6g fiber. 13g protein. 200mg sodium.
Overall points: 0 (yes, zero)

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Biking, blogging, 'bsessing

The combination of biking and blogging allows for a certain amount of obsessing. Based on various articles I read on the internet I find that by watching my resting heart rate (pulse while lying in bed immediately after waking), I can discover if I how fast I am recovering from workouts and how well I am building cardio strength. I can also track my heartrate during the day after a ride to see how fast it returns to normal.

After my workout yesterday, I find this morning's resting heart rate is 63.

On a related note, I do feel much less overworked today after yesterday's ride, than I did the week prior (see Tired Legs).

Expect more charts!

Back to biking

The folks at Wheelworks had found the 5th gear problem to be a bent cog, which they fixed. So, I got back on my bike today and cycled 19.5 miles (the two digit accuracy of the device prevents me from claiming 20 miles). I am still very new on the bike (total of only just over 100 miles). I plan to grow this significantly over the next few weeks.

Here is the latest chart showing the rides I have done - distance in miles on the vertical axis against date on the horizontal. The trendline is still good.

The first hour was much more fun than the second because of Jason Glasgow's presence. Jason is a veteran cyclist and a veteran of the Hazon Israel ride. He swung by early and off we went. I could see his pedal cadence was faster than mine in most situations, and so I decided I was using too high a gear. I started aiming for a faster cadence, and lower gear. The rest of the ride seemed to go well with this adjustment. Jason had to get back in time for his carpool, and so I did the second half of the ride alone.

Although much, much better, the 5th gear problem did recur. Jason asked, "did they give you a new cassette (set of gears)?" I think they did not, but just fixed what I had. I may need to go back again on this one.

Based on my background reading on hydration and nutrition I made a point of eating a nutrition bar halfway through the ride, and coming back and eating a good breakfast. Hopefully this will help my body build up strength (rather than feel lousy).

Flushing Buffers

At the end of many a meeting (or in the middle of long ones), I get to hear various euphemisms as people rush to the restroom. In the high-tech world, there may be some self-amused comments about flushing buffers, especially when the rush to the restroom is to be followed by more to drink.

Advice to cyclists is always to "drink before you are thirsty" because thirst is a delayed reaction, and if you are thirsty you are already on the way to dehydration. Apparently I should be drinking a 22-33oz per hour. Being a conscientious type, I follow this advice, and then end up needing to flush my buffers every hour or so. This is as it should be according to the Hazon ride book, but not always convenient on the roads of Newton.

Hmm... was this really a VC:VC posting?

More on Google numbers

In a recent post, I suggested you find your Google number (search for your name on Google, and look for the number of the first entry that refers to you, as opposed to others with your name).

A couple of friends noted that the entire first page of results is about them.

Here are some further ego-surfing suggestions.
  1. What is your Google sur-number? Search against just your surname to see where you show up.
  2. What is your Google job-number? Search against your job title. This is a tough one. George Bush (searching "President") has a Google job-number of 1. It is cheating to put your company name. Few people have good Google job-numbers.
  3. What is your Google subject-number? Search against a specific subject. For example, Brad Feld has a Google subject-number of 5 for the subject vc blog.

The longest Starbucks order

I was in Starbucks today, and ordered my favorite cold drink: a medium skim decaf iced mocha (light on the ice). Starbucks aficionados will know that there is no such thing as medium (it is Grande), and I probably have it in the wrong order, but I feel this is the situation in which the customer always wrong.

It always seems like such a mouthful to order and, as usual, I wondered what the longest Starbucks order is. Of course, I am not the first person to think of this. Here is one suggestion, and here are a couple of others.

Stuck in 5th gear

My bike workouts are stuck in fifth gear as I reported in Saturday's post on Tired Legs. This prompted a helpful and encouraging comment from Brad Feld, as well as a call from a close friend and marathoner John Sinclair. The takeaway seems to be that how I feel during a ride will include some degree of randomness, and that the rest periods are as important as the workouts.

Early on I had mentioned that I was experiencing gear slippage and my good friend Ken left a comment (anonymously because he couldn't get registered easily) suggesting the dealer look at the idler position. I have spoken to Scott Chamberlain at Wheelworks a couple of times about this because I have had continued problems, mostly in fifth gear. Scott suggested (a) making sure the gear mechanism was lined up and (b) tightening the control cable if needed. I had done both of these, and to no avail.

I visited Wheelworks yesterday because the Bacchetta folks were in town giving test rides and dispensing advice. Rich and Mike were both really helpful and patient - kudos to them and Bacchetta as a whole - and this is how the story unfolded.

I asked them to look at the gear problem. The first thing they found was that because I had tightened the cable so much the gear mechanism was not aligned. As they tried to back out of this (loosening the nut), they realized the cable itself was not seated properly into the gear switch control on the handlebar. Aha! Perhaps this was the problem. They pulled the control cable at various points to give it the needed slack, and reseated it. Off I went on a test drive ... but I still had the same problem. In fifth gear (pretty much only that gear, but maybe once in sixth), I experienced significant gear wandering (slippage?) for up to 30 seconds or so after changing into the gear. The Bacchetta guys were very patient and looked again. This time they observed the same thing and had no immediate solution.

So my bike is now at Wheelworks undergoing a tuneup to diagnose and fix the problem, and I am stuck in 5th gear for another day, looking forward to getting back on the bike soon.

Tired legs

Dorit (my wife) is very sympathetic. Yesterday she assured me that when she swims she sometimes feels like she's flying through the water, and at other times that she is about to sink from the moment she gets in the pool. She shared this with me because I was feeling pretty lousy after a (mere) 17 mile ride on Thursday, which was not that much more than my previous max of 14 miles. My average moving speed is over 9mph (or under 10mph, depending on whether you are a glass half-full or half-empty kind of person), and my heart rate was slightly lower than the previous ride. However, I felt drained and although my legs didn't hurt, I could feel the effort in the muscles until this morning.
I have to wait until Monday for my next ride (camp pickup for my daughter tomorrow). If I need more rest between new 'longest' rides, then this is the right prescription. I am looking forward to feeling like flying again, rather than sinking.

VC:VC Good for the Land ~ Best of the Land

You may have heard talk about buying a share in a farm for a year. This is the basic ingredient of a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) project. The farm pre-sells its produce directly to consumers by selling these shares. Each week during the summer and fall, the share-holders receive their share of the produce from the farm. CSA projects generally revolve around local, organic (or sustainable-methods) farms. The equation is that the consumers are supporting farming practices that they value (and getting great, organic, local produce) by pre-purchasing a share, and the farm has a guaranteed minimum income which is locked in ahead of time. As usual Wikipedia has a great article. My family is a member of the new CSA at the Newton Community Farm, and are enjoying wonderful food from it each week.

What does this have to do with VC: venture cycling, or VC: venture capital? The first answer is that CSAs are one of the few hands-on examples of equity financing in which individuals participate at a retail level.

Even when we, as individuals, own shares in publicly traded companies, we generally buy them on a stock market from someone who sells them to us (not from the company itself). Shares are a proportionate claim on the assets and future cash-flow of the company. When you buy shares from someone else (the usual transaction in your brokerage account), you are buying them in the secondary market. The previous owner owned that claim on some (usually small) proportion of the company's assets and cash-flow, and you are paying them so you can now own that claim. The very first owner of those shares did buy them from the company, which uses the cash to invest in the business. This avoids borrowing money and having fixed interest payments to worry about, but does mean the profits (if any) are shared out to the shareholders (through dividends).

In a CSA you are buying a claim to a share of the farm produce for a particular season. This is a direct transaction, and you generally keep hold of your share (although they can be sold on a secondary market, too). Each week you get a proportionate share of the produce harvested, whether it is a good season or not. Generally everyone gets lots of Collards and Mustard Greens, but if it is a poor season the more delicate produce is not so abundant. The cash generated by pre-selling the farm shares is used to buy the seeds, rent the farm equipment, pay the farmhands and so forth. It also allows the farmer to avoid borrowing. The dividends from a farm are the fruits and vegetables each share-holder receives each week. Just like shares in public companies, the farmer chooses what part of his harvest is shared as dividends, and which is retained as an investment (in this case, seed stock for future seasons). Unlike company shares, a CSA share is generally a one-year agreement, but the parallels are striking.

Venture Capital is also similar. We invest in startups and, in return, own shares. These companies are unlikely to be able to borrow money from a bank even if they wanted to (because, as startups, they have no business history or income yet!). We generally don't reap our rewards in weekly or annual dividends, but in selling those shares later, after their value has increased because the company has become successful.

The second answer to my question (what do CSAs have to do with venture cycling or venture capital?) is that I am now a venture cyclist because of my involvement with Hazon and their bike rides. However, Hazon has also pioneered a Jewish oriented CSA program, now running at five sites in the USA. Their program is called Tuv Ha'aretz. The hebrew phrase Tuv Ha'aretz suggests two meanings: "Good for the Land" and "Best of the Land". It is a great name, because CSA projects really do provide you the best of the land and really are good for the land. I suggest you seek one out next year.

See the sidebar to view other posts in my VC:VC series comparing Venture Capital to Venture Cycling.


A quick, but heartfelt, public thanks to all of you who have sponsored me so far for the Hazon ride.

Apparently the back-end system is a little slow at passing on the details to me (or displaying them on my sponsorship page), and so I have not been able to thank you personally yet. I am assured it will all be sorted out soon.

VC:VC Does cycling have a J curve?

This continues my occassional series on how cycling compares with Venture Capital, by looking for a J-curve in cycling.

In Venture Capital, we make investments and we work with companies, and it takes time to know whether the outcomes will be positive or negative. Failure tends to occur sooner than success. Failure may show when a company is unable even to get off the ground, or get past some tough early hurdles. For a company to succeed, however, it has to get over these early hurdles, and then work even harder, often for an extended period, before success is achieved. This is particularly true for the early stage investing that we are involved with at Sigma Partners.

Now, the money invested by each VC firm is organized into time limited portfolios known as funds. Like most VC firms, we imaginatively name our funds something like Sigma 1, Sigma 2 and so on (we are currently investing from Sigma 7). Generally a firm invests into new companies with a specific fund for two to four years or so. This uses 30-50% of that fund's total capital. During the remaining life of the fund the rest of the capital is used to support those companies. At that time a new fund is started to invest in the next group of startups.

Given that portfolio companies tend to fail faster than they succeed, if we invest in, say, 30 companies using a specific fund, then a couple of years into the fund several of our failures may have revealed themselves, but no successes are yet on the books. This makes it look like we have lost money so far for the fund as a whole. Later in the fund life, as the good companies mature, the value of the fund increases with the successes, and then heads up and to the right (steeply, we hope).

The chart on the right illustrates a fictional $600m fund.
As you can see, the graph looks somewhat like a "J", hence the name "J-curve" which is a familiar term in the VC world. The value at any given moment is the total value of the fund made up of investments at all the capital lifecycle stages, which are:

  • as yet unspent (cash)
  • written off (a $20m investment fails, so we deduct $20m from our value total)
  • distributed to investors (we invested $20m and subsequently the company is sold or goes public, giving us proceeds of $200m, so we add $180 to our total)
  • marked to some valuation while it continues to evolve (we invested $20m, events occur which demonstrate it is now worth $50m, so we add $30m to our total)

Where is the J-Curve in cycling?

If I sit low enough on my recumbent, with my legs in the air, I suppose I might look like a J-curve... but no - not that.

At the macro level I suppose I could drop out and be one of those early failures which never makes it, but that is more of a binary than linear (or J-curve) phenomenon - there is no portfolio here. Is the J-curve related to the hard work and investment which goes into any exercise regimen? Looking at investments and returns, you might think the time and effort (and dollars) it takes me to get going, get fit, get comfortable, get sponsored, all take me below the zero mark, before I start to see the value going up.

However, my experience (all two weeks of it so far) is that there is no J-curve. It is a straight up-slope.

I am having fun, getting fitter and more comfortable on the bike. I am learning lots, making new friends, blogging, thinking, raising money and awareness for Hazon ... these are all valuable from day one.

Let's hope it is not an n-curve!

The first post in my series comparing cycling with VC was: Is cycling a 10-bagger?

    First Flat, Detailed Stats

    Well it happened. On a perfectly nice morning for a more extended ride, accompanied by a good friend, I got a flat tire.

    I had not practiced changing inner tubes, as suggested by Jason, so I had to learn on the fly (or on the edge of the carriage lane). Anyway I managed it. The most complex part was getting the tire off at the start, and then, at the end, getting the pump to engage so I could inflate the new one.

    So, although I was out this morning for two hours, between the tire stop, rest/drink stops and traffic light stops, I really only spent an hour or so actually moving.

    My trusty new Garmin Edge 305 did give me all the vital stats, including a max heart rate of 159 bpm, average (moving) speed of 9.2 mph and total ascent/descent of 1000 feet. The bottom to top run up Heartbreak Hill is about 150 feet.

    What's your Google number?

    I have no idea if I am the first person to think of this, but it is a fun game to play.

    If you enter exactly the same search terms on Google that I do at the same time, then we would both receive the same results.

    If you search for Richard Dale (no quotes) in Google, then the first entry in the search results that refers to me is eighth on the list. Hence my Google number is 8. As it happens, this entry is for my board bio on the Hazon website. My brother, Andy Dale, has a Google number of 1, as does my wife.

    Obviously a mixture of an unusual name and/or fame will improve your Google number (improvement means moving closer to, or getting to, 1).

    I am flattered that it is Hazon that has brought my Google number into single digits. Previously my Google number was not economically computable (I didn't show up for pages and pages). Maybe this blog, over time, will improve my number even more. I am not holding my breath!

    If you use the new Google Personalized Search this will distort the numbers (by making the search results dependent on your own search history, rather than purely on the Google page rank algorithm). If you use the Personalized Search service, I assume that logging out from your account normalizes the results again.

    What's your Google number?

    PS: as I prepare this post, I googled "google number" and found an alternate version dating back a few years: seeing the number of hits against your name (in quotes) that Google returns. This seems unsatisfactory to me, since many of the hits may have nothing to do with you (as in my own case).

    PPS: I also just checked my Yahoo! Search number - it is unknown (but greater than 100). Clearly Google is a superior search engine!

    VC:VC Is cycling a 10-bagger?

    How is Venture Cycling like Venture Capital investing? With this post I am starting an occassional series comparing the two activities, called my VC:VC (Venture Cycling:Venture Capital) series.

    First a little introduction. I have a particular view of Venture Capital, based on a fairly narrow angle of view on our industry. I work at Sigma Partners, which is a boutique firm investing in early stage technology companies. Although I have previously been a co-founder or executive with several VC-funded startups, what you read here is really colored by how we do things at Sigma.

    You have probably heard that when VC's invest in 10 companies we expect one or two to be big hits, one or two to fail entirely, and the rest to fall in the spectrum in between. The numbers vary (all VC's tell you their numbers are better than the average). When a VC talks about a big hit you might hear them calling it a 10-bagger (a phrase apparently coined by Peter Lynch, of Fidelity Maggellan fame). A 10-bagger means that for every $1 of investment made, the VC fund receives $10 back when they sell their stake (either selling the company to someone else, or after an IPO). 10-baggers are pretty rare; 50-baggers are mythical, even though a few were spotted during the bubble.

    Obviously this is perfectly analagous to cycling, and clearly I have a 10-bagger on my hands. Read on...

    So far I have invested a certain amount of money into a bike and a bunch of accessories. I have no plans to buy 10 bikes, and even if I did, I would not expect one or two of them to make me lots of money, let alone become a 10-bagger. I have made one follow-on investment, in the Garmin Edge 305 which is a multi function device for cyclists (GPS to track my routes and a heart monitor so I can see if I am in the right cardio-training zone). This follow-on investment is unlikely to be my last. However, that still does not make it more likely to be a 10-bagger.

    The returns on my investment might be considered a 10-bagger from other angles however.

    First my health: I am in good health, and plan to stay that way. My father, Alec Brian Dale (z"l), died at age 42 of a sudden heart-attack, so heart-health is on my mind. Those who are tuned in to this will understand my joy at now being 43 (last year was not the most relaxed of my life). My cholesterol numbers are good, my blood pressure is great, my weight is tolerable, my stress levels are pretty manageable, and I exercise on that bl**dy (I'm a Brit, don't you know) Nordic Track machine throughout the year. However, I have been aware that I could be exercising more, and this venture cycling is what is getting me going.

    Obviously, it is not just the fact I own a bike that has me riding it ... I have also committed to riding in the Hazon bike rides. That means training up to do 120 miles over two days later this summer, and if I can manage it, the 250-300 miles of the Israel ride next spring. I am guessing the latter means lots of spinning classes over the winter. However, if I maintain the increased level of exercise I have undertaken since purchasing this bike, then I do feel I will have a 10-bagger on my hands. I will surely be stronger, have more stamina, and may yet fit in those 35" waist shorts again.

    This gets me to the second way I may have a 10-bagger on my hands. Over the years I hope to raise more money for charity than just 10 times the investment in the bike and its sundries. As you know I am starting with the Hazon 2006 New York Bike ride. I will be ramping up my fundraising for this in the next couple of weeks. If you want to help out, please go right ahead.

    Raining, Training

    It's raining again in the Boston area. As of the end of June we were 11 inches of rain above normal for the year.

    As I write this, we are under a flash flood warning ... here is an extract from the text

    Between a childcare hiccup and this rain, I will not be riding today, and probably not tomorrow morning either. Oh, well, back to the Nordic Track ski machine.

    Several of my readers have offered thoughts on my training goals.

    Jason Glasgow did the 2006 Israel Ride, and notes:
    Riding for an hour on a spinning machine, 5 minutes up, 5 minutes down is GREAT exercise and I think, very close to the experience of riding outside. Leading up to the [Israel] ride, which was mostly 60 mile days, I found that riding once a week for 40 miles, once a week for 25, combined with 1 hours sessions on the spinning machine 3 days a week was plenty of preparation for the Israel ride. Your mileage may vary. I don't know how a recumbent alters the exercise equation. Probably not much.

    David Harlow is an avid cyclist as well, and pointed me to the Pan-Mass Challenge training website, of which he comments "the level of detail and seriousness is almost comical."

    I also found some websites, including and Some are scarier than others. One mentions over-training - but that only applies to top-level athletes - no chance of that here!

    I did check the box on the Hazon ride registration form for a training coach. This is someone who will call me every couple of weeks and give me some calm advice and encouragement. I look forward to that.

    Shameless self-promotion

    I just registered for the Hazon New York bike ride, as planned.
    This posting is all about asking you to sponsor me. I set myself a goal of $3,600 in fundraising, and hope I can do better than that with support from friends and family.

    Hazon raises money during its New York ride for a variety of excellent environmental organizations in the US and Israel. My particular favorite is The Arava Institute for Environmental Studies where Jewish and Arab students (Israeli, Palestinian, Jordanian and North American) are learning about how to protect their environment and make peace in the Middle East. As you can imagine, both of these goals take work, and your help will support that work.

    So please click on the dollar sign, and sponsor my ride. Then subscribe to this blog and keep track of my progress.

    Many thanks!

    Charts and Trendlines

    I love numbers and charts. Let's play!

    My bike rides to date have been 1, 2.5, 2.5, 4.5, 4.5 and 9 miles long. From this I can create a chart in Microsoft Excel.

    The next question is whether I am on track for the New York ride, which involves ~60 miles on day one and ~40 on day two. So I add a linear trendline (in pink, see detail, above left) and have the chart extend out to September (full chart, right).

    This begs the question: do I have to be doing 60 mile rides consistently if that is the one-time target? What length training rides get me on track to do 60 miles on the day? I know marathon runners don't run 26 mile training runs on a regular basis. So what do I need to build up to and when? 25 mile training rides? 30-40? Now I have more research to do and advice to find (your comments welcome below).

    Here is another chart. This is from the Google Map Pedometer site I have mentioned in a previous post. It shows the elevation of my early 2.5 mile short out-and-back route (hence it is symmetrical around the mid-point).

    I present this here to illustrate that (a) it does look like a heartbreaker of a hill, and (b) I really do have to go uphill both leaving home and uphill going back home, too.


    "No matter how much fashion experience you have in the clothing world, even the best of us are at a loss when it comes to adding spunk and pizzazz with accessories." (Thanks, Buzzle.)

    This sage comment seems to apply to bikes, as well, to say nothing of their riders.

    When I picked up my bike at Wheelworks last week, I arrived with a list of items that I wanted to ask about. Helmet, of course. Reflector, of course. Bike rack for car (Volvos do not fit on the back of any recumbent). Bag, maybe. Lock, probably. Pump, patch kit, spare inner tubes, tire levers... spare bike?!

    Here is the list and the outcome:

    • Helmet: Giro Monza (White)
    • Bike Rack: Allen Deluxe Trunk Mounted 2-Bike Carrier
    • Bag: "Big Bag" from Bacchetta
    • Pump: Topeak Road Morph Bicycle Pump (with built-in gauge)
    • Mirror: Mirrycle MTB Bar End Mirror , Round, Black 109519
    • Lock: chain lock? U lock with wheel locks? cable lock? eek! too much choice (see Barry Schwartz's "The Paradox of Choice", a fabulous read) ... no lock (yet) ... meanwhile, don't leave bike out unattended
    • Gloves: Jason said I need gloves... Scott said I didn't ... no gloves
    • Reflector: yes, itty bitty standard reflector in front; bag has one in back
    • Emergency repairs: spare inner tubes, check; patch kit, check; tire levers, check.
    • Fancy lycra spandex bike outfit to make me look fit and trim: the emperor is wearing them right now ... perhaps later
    • Amazing cool looking cycling sunglasses: won't fit over my middle-age spectacles ... perhaps over-glasses
    • Hydration system: formerly known as water bottle ... now check out Camelbak ... the 100oz UnBottle is still on the list to go in my "Big Bag"
    • Lubricants/cleaners for all those sprockety things: Scott says no need to worry for a few months
    • GPS/Exercise tracking thingy: checking out the Garmin Edge 205 or 305
    • Clipless pedals and associated shoes: not until I can ride without falling over

    I know that tire levers and spare inner-tubes are somehow related. I wonder if AAA will change a bike tire?

    Well, all you bike riders. What did I purchase unnecessarily or forget to even think about?

    Hazon means Vision

    So why the bike, and why the training?
    My plan is to ride in the Hazon New York bike ride over Labor Day weekend.

    Hazon is the hebrew word for vision.

    Hazon is the name of the non-profit organization which runs a variety of programs related to the physical world from a Jewish perspective.

    This is a reasonably radical statement. Jewish perspectives (especially over the last 2,000 years) have often had very little to do with the physical world. Although much of earlier Jewish history (and much of Jewish teaching) does relate to the land, to agriculture, and to farming, this atrophied as an area of communal interest once exiled from the land of Israel. Any farming was related to subsistence or making a basic living, and was relegated to the realm of regular work. Jews looked beyond farming or other work and aspired to contributing to the wellbeing of the community, charity (or tzedakah, related to the word "justice"), study of Torah or other texts, prayer in Synagogue, and other communal and cerebral activities. Jews did not ignore the physical world, but nor did they seek to better themselves through it.

    This does not mean Jews denied the physical world entirely. Jewish perspectives can and do recognize the physical world - but mostly around issues of the body. Much physical daily activity is regulated by Jewish law - the laws of Kosher food being a great example. The rules of eating Kosher food present a concrete, physical, reminder of a basic bodily funtion. Even Jews who do not keep the rules of eating Kosher face similar physical manifestations at festival meals (the Passover seder) or fast days (such as Yom Kippur).

    A century ago many Zionists saw the rebuilding of a Jewish State in Israel as an opportunity to reconnect Jews to the land, the outdoors, the environment. (A Zionist is a Jewish patriot, despite other people's desire to define it otherwise.) This came from religious Zionists, who looked forward to reestablishing the sabbatical year (when agricultural land lies fallow every seventh year) and from anti-religious Zionists, who looked for the opportunity to give Jews access to the most basic means of production: the land.

    Yossi Abramowitz quotes Ahad Ha'am, in aspiring to the formation of the modern State of Israel,

    "If, as we hope, there is to be a third (Jewish commonwealth) its fundamental principle, on the national as on the individual plane, will be neither the ascendancy of the body over spirit, nor the suppression of the body for the spirit’s sake, but the uplifting of the body by the spirit."
    Ahad Ha'am saw the balance of the spiritual and the physical being the hope of the Jewish people.

    Nowadays this seems almost trite. Yoga and exercise, organic food and clean air ... these are seen as spiritual as well as physical imperatives. The Jewish community too is finding its way forward in these areas, and Hazon is a leading example. There are many other examples out there including my old friend Rabbi Mike Comins and his TorahTrek initiative, Diane Bloomfield with her TorahYoga work, COEJL, the Teva Learning Center, Adama Fellowship program, and more at the Isabella Freedman Jewish retreat center. This is a short list, and I am sure I have offended at least one close friend by forgetting their favorite project. In Israel there are myriads of such organizations as well.

    However, seen through the prism of the mainstream Jewish community, especially outside Israel, it is still a radical notion to look at the physical world from a Jewish perspective. I am a supporter of Hazon, and a board member, precisely because of this synthesis.

    Hazon is a leader in thinking about such opportunities to touch people's spiritual lives through the physical world, and touch people's physical wellbeing through a Jewish prism. The bike rides are not the only Hazon activities, but they are the flagship programs right now. I think Ahad Ha'am's notion of the body being uplifted by the spirit is absolutely congruent with the Vision of Hazon, and this is one of the extra little self-encouragements I need while my legs uplift my body up the hills of Newton on my new bike.

    Feel free to ask me questions about Hazon and the bike rides. Perhaps I will see you at one of them.

    Habit forming

    I seem to remember that there is a proverb that if you do something for three times, then it is a habit. I can't find the source (hint to readers), but today I completed my third bike ride, this time 4.3 miles long by extending my Heartbreak Hill route a little West on the Comm Ave carriage lane. This is one habit I aim to keep.

    With no segue at all I will mention the great lunch I had today with a business colleague at Masala Art in Needham. The lunch buffet is spectacular and I highly recommend it. This is gourmet Indian food, and different from most of the other local Indian restaurants. For a functional vegetarian like me, the variety of veggie options at Indian restaurants is always welcome. Masala Art is also wonderful for dinner whether with a group of friends or a romantic dinner for two. I hear the spice bar is amazing, and that is still on my list to experience.

    Blogging Logging

    I rode 2.4583 miles on my bike today. It was the same route as yesterday, only this time I went from the bottom to the top (Heartbreak Hill for those who have just joined the thread) without stopping. I can also start a little more consistently, even pointing uphill.

    So how do I know I rode 2.4583 miles?

    The truth is, I don't have a clue about keeping fit. My exercise routine for years has been on the Nordic Track ski machine. I have been doing this for cardio rather than anything else, and aim to get into the optimal heartrate range and stay there for as long as possible. I just do the workout with my legs, and keep my arms free for playing games on my laptop. I generally play poker for funny money on Pacific Poker (I am up over $100k - but it is only funny money). If I watch TV I last 30 minutes; playing poker I can go an hour or more.

    But now I am on a bike, and I have to be serious - how far did I travel today, yesterday, tomorrow, next week?

    I hear from friends who are serious worker-outers that they keep logs of their workouts, or runs, or rides, or climbs, or games. This always seemed like hard work to me, but now I am spending as much time blogging as riding my bike, and so it makes sense I should spend some of it keeping track. Hence the title of this post, blogging about logging... "Blogging Logging".

    I first set up a spreadsheet to keep track of the date, route, distance and duration of my rides, plus any notes. I imagine there are some websites I can use to do this ... please use the comment form for any suggestions (or send me an email).

    Meanwhile, how far did I ride today (or any day)? A quick google of "route length google maps mashup" brings up various options, including (via a WombatNation posting - don't ask me!) to Gmaps Pedometer. This is a mashup over Google Maps that allows you to trace any route on a map from point to point. Once you have dotted the dots, the program calculates the distance travelled, the elevation chart and even calories burned (unlikely to be accurate, but for completeness: 334).

    So that's how I know I travelled 2.4583 miles. I think that accuracy to four decimal places is a little unnecessary, but it's nice to know someone cares.

    Tomorrow maybe I will ride 2.4584 miles.

    You can be sure I will log it, and blog it, and maybe blog logging it.

    Paved with good intentions

    The road to hell is paved with good intentions (*). More to the point, I think the road to good intentions is paved with hills. The road back to my house, from any direction, is badly paved (New England pot holes - yeuch), and, to the point, the road back to my house, from any direction, is uphill. Even worse (better?), to get to my current favorite ride, I have to start uphill as well (the local topography is complicated, but this really is true). This makes for a fun prelude and finale to any ride I might take which starts and ends at home.

    This morning I went out for a ride on my trusty Strada (I think I may need to name it ... suggestions anyone?). I rode up the length of Heartbreak Hill (~15 minutes) and drafted back down (~5 minutes).

    After working up a sweat in the muggy Newton morning, and enjoying the easy ride back down Heartbreak Hill, I then had my few final minutes of punishment riding back up the hill home. Luckily the area is quiet since I cannot control the bike as well as I should when going very slowly (which is what happens going uphill). I need to work out the right pacing for myself in such situations; higher gear equals better control but harder work.

    As I was thinking about the gear slippage (which was worse this morning), I remembered Scott showing me the special nut to turn to tighten the control cable. I did that, and magically the gears stopped slipping.

    The fact I accomplished the ride I planned (up the hill and back), and fixed the gear slippage - well what more can a rider wish for on his first day on a new bike.

    It's a bike!

    I am now the proud owner of a recumbent bicycle. To be more precise, I am the proud owner of a Bacchetta Strada. Each Bacchetta recumbent model has its own color, and Stradas are red, so (echoes of Henry Ford), mine is red.

    Here is proof I can actually ride it.

    After the photo session when I got home (and after I put my helmet on, don't worry), I rode up and down the carriage lane on Commonwealth Ave (part of the Boston Marathon's famed Heartbreak Hill). I am still about two for three on starting from a stop, with particular comedy if I am heading uphill.

    I rode for 15 minutes or so, trying to get the hang of the gears. Last time I had a bike it had three gears ... this one has 27 (9/3 configuration). I learned to drive a car with a manual gearbox so I understand the basic idea, but even a fancy car only has 5 gears (maybe 6). Dealing with 27 promises to be fun. In some of the gears I felt the gearing slip from time to time. I have no idea if this is my fault or the bike needs some sort of tuning. I am sure I will learn soon, or at least I sure hope I will learn soon.

    Hard work uphill

    I decided that if I was going to buy a bike, I was going to buy a recumbent. Nigel Savage (founder and Executive Director of Hazon) rides a recumbent. He has been a good friend for many years and he more or less got me into this biking thing. In the summer of 2000 Nigel had walked into a bike store in Seattle, WA, purchased a recumbent, and proceeded to ride it across the USA to Washington, DC.

    Nigel, and other fans of recumbents, all talk up its comfort and style (and hard work uphill). There are many kinds of recumbents, and I will write more about them in future posts.

    I found my way to Wheelworks in Belmont. As recommended by Isaac B. (and subsequently several others), I called the store and asked if they sold recumbent bikes.
    I was told "You want to talk to Scott Chamberlain." So I did... and then I went to the store and met him. He found a recumbent bike, lent me a helmet, and took me out for a humiliation session.

    As you know (if you have been reading this blog), I have been able to ride a bike since my childhood. However, riding a regular bike does not translate directly to riding a recumbent ... at least not when it comes to starting up. Luckily, learning to ride a recumbent does not involve falling off ... just a little humiliation. After about 30 minutes I got the hang of starting up, and can now do it two times out of three without looking like a complete dork. Scott, who had been looking on and coaching me (part of the humiliation, it felt to me) reassured me; he said that it took him, an accomplished cyclist, TWO DAYS to learn since he had no-one to help or coach him. He had thought the entire thing was an elaborate joke. He told me he kept calling the manufacturer to ask them whether the bike was defective (or upside down?). We both succeeded... but I am standing on the shoulders of giants here (or at least sitting, recumbent, on the shoulders of giants). Thanks, Scott.

    Since then I have spent an hour or so on two or three models, and have decided what I am going to buy. I spoke to Danny Kayne who just did the Hazon Israel ride on almost exactly the same model, and he told me it was great, but hard work uphill.

    In a few minutes I am going to pick up my bike from the store. I expect it to be hard work uphill.

    Weblog... Whyblog... Why blog?

    Why am I indulging myself with a blog?

    Blog is a contraction for weblog, and is an online journal. Some blogs are read by tens of thousands, or millions of people. Mine will be read by a few loyal relatives and friends. It is really a way to stay in touch, for those who want to read of my adventures, and my presumptive progress.

    Also, as well as being a Venture Cyclist (and I am not that yet, and won't be until I own a bike... soon, don't worry), I am a Venture Capitalist. With that in mind I thought I should understand what it takes to participate in the Web 2.0 world, of which blogging is a key component.

    Setting up a blog can be done in many ways. If I hosted my own domain on my own servers I could install my own blogging software. Absent that (which is the case here) I can choose from many free or fee-based blog hosting options. Blogger seems to be a reasonably functional middle ground between completely unremarkable and tailored-to-the-max. I also added some Feedburner capabilities (I am a fan of Brad Feld's blog and he is an investor in Feedburner).

    I have also been inspired by other blogs...

    If you don't already have some kind of reader for blogs, you can arrange for your MyYahoo page or the like to automatically receive updates from your chosen blogs (like mine). You can also choose to get updates by email (click here). Let me know if you need help subscribing to my blog (you can email me if you know my address, or leave a comment on this page).

    First post: The Past

    Many years ago... I was eight or nine years old... I used to visit my friend who lived just round the corner. I would ride my bike out of our driveway, turning right onto Temple Road in Dorridge (near Solihull, of Jasper Carrot fame, in turn near Birmingham in the English midlands). I would ride less than 100 yards and then turn left and ride up Knowle Wood Road the same distance before turning into Foxbury Drive, where my friend lived.

    I do remember one such ride in particular. It was the one where I fell off my bike just at the end of Temple Road. No-one was seriously hurt, in fact I was the only one around ... but I do remember it. Ouch.

    In the following years I was a utilitarian bike rider. I would ride to see my friends and ride with my friends (to the special hide-out in the woods, I recall). Then, when I was 12, we moved to London, and I stopped riding my bike and started riding the bus and the tube.

    Fast forward thirty something years ... I am about to start riding a bike again. Being a cerebral type I am going to wear a helmet (to protect my cerebral parts), and I am going to write a blog about it.

    Why a bike? Why a blog? Stay tuned.