Critical Mass

The phrase "critical mass", as the name of an article in Wikipedia, references critical mass bike rides. At the end of the Hazon NY ride each Labor Day weekend, we have a mini critical mass ride from the boathouse in Riverside Park, up a few blocks to the JCC. A couple of hundred cyclists all riding together in Manhattan is something to be seen. It is always a highlight of the ride, and lots of fun.

Using the more, shall we say, pedestrian use of the phrase, we have certainly reached critical mass for registration this year, as usual, but because we are in a larger venue, there is still room to join us. Please consider it ... check out all the details at the Hazon NY Ride website, and feel free to send me questions directly or in the comments section of this blog posting.

This morning we did not really have a critical mass, but we did have the first ever Hazon training bike ride in the Boston area. Aaron Desatnik led a great ride from Alewife to the Charles, down to Jamaica Pond and the Arboretum and back through Brookline. Seven cyclists started in misty cool weather a little after 9am and 26 miles later returned in burning sun. Our pace was very comfortable and everyone seemed to have fun, and enjoy the fact that if they could do this, the NY ride itself would be easy to build up to in a couple of months. I look forward to more of these in the weeks ahead, and would also welcome anyone to join us. Again, contact me to be put on the list!

Doctor or Farmer

Today I rode 41 miles with Guy Sapirstein and Lee Goldfinch ... we did our "standard" route out through Weston and Lincoln to Concord and back. It was a glorious ride on a beautiful spring morning. We made amazing time; my moving average speed was 13.8mph, pretty much as fast as I have ever cycled that route ... and today was my first 40-miler of the year, so I feel great.

At the Dunkin' Donuts at our half way point I met a the daughter of a friend who has been working at Drumlin Farm over the last few months, having decided to take some time away from medical school.

I was struck that, despite Jewish parental instincts, this is not a crazy career move right now (without commenting on this particular person's long-term plans).

Health care is in crisis right now. That exact phrase garners nearly 5,000 entries from Google and without the quote-marks it gets millions! Being a doctor is no longer a sure way to a big income, professional frustrations are many, and the entire US health care system always seems on the brink of seizing up entirely.

On the other hand, food prices are suddenly on the upswing, and farming can now include non-food products as well: from bio-fuels to bio-tech drugs. Whether participating in industrial agriculture or in local, organic farming, farmers are doing better now than they have for years.

"My son or daughter, the farmer" may no longer be a lament.

Drinks for bikes

What do bikes drink? At the recommendation of Scott Chamberlain at Wheelworks, mine drinks T9 bike lube from Boeshield. After cleaning my chain for the first time earlier this year, I decided to lube regularly (didn't do so for the last two years ... hmm). So far the T9 seems to be great, but what do I know? Of course, I will report on any interesting artifacts of actually keeping my bike in shape more proactively. Watch, as they say, this space.

More importantly, what does a cyclist drink? I mostly drink water on rides, but know I need to keep my electrolytes up. I tried OJ and other fruit juices but even diluted those are a little acidic. I thought I would try some of the sports drinks available at Whole Foods locally. Here is the first of my reviews - this one of Function Shock Sports Lemon-Lime Calamansi.

My first impression was of the lemon lime flavor ... not unpleasant. However it was quickly superseded by the slightly salty, mineral taste of what, electrolyte drinks, swimming pool water? It sat fine in my system (no burps or feeling of acid), and was drinkable, but was not a pleasant experience. I think a FIVE out of a possible 10 for this one. Watch out for future reviews over the next weeks.

Knowing what to look for

I cycle past things that I don't notice all the time. I know this because when I am sensitized to looking for something in particular, there it is.

A little while ago, I read another of Jon Regosin's great Natural Newton blog postings, this one about tent caterpillars. I have never (knowingly) seen tent caterpillars before, but during my very next bike ride, I looked up when huffing and puffing up a hill, and there were several such tents, right there above my head.

Of course, this is the same in many parts of my life.

In my venture capital world it is often my partners at Sigma, or an entrepreneur at a portfolio company, or even a lawyer working on a transaction for us who will mention to look out for a particular issue, and there it is, all around me. We develop checklists for all the things to look out for, and then we don't see the next (often important) thing, because we have not been sensitized to that.

Someone once said that an executive makes four important decisions each year, but the trick is knowing which four, of the many to be made, are the important ones. We can be sensitized to the issues which have been important in the past, but still not see the next issue, the next opportunity, because we have yet to really learn of its importance. Within a little while its importance becomes apparent. That learning sometimes comes at a cost, and sometimes brings a smile, as with tent caterpillars.

Did it really happen?

Sad to say, when I turned on my Garmin Edge 305 GPS this morning it complained it had no charge in it. Since I charge it after every ride I know this is a sign of its age (and not mine). However, the question is whether, if I go out on my bike without my 305 recording the data, did it really happen?

Of course it did... and the experience of cycling is very real with or without the electronic note-taker. However, once back in my air-conditioned home, perhaps a few days later, can I really be sure that my memory is correct? Luckily the "Training Center" software allows me to enter rides manually (even though it doesn't show the track, the speed and the heart rate data).

This morning I rode just 15 miles because I had to be back in time for a complicated carpool switch off with Dorit. However, it was strenuous enough in the 80 degrees and humidity we are experiencing right now. Guy rode to the half way point with me and then took to complete a 30 or 40 mile loop ... I may not be too jealous of him today given the heat. I think I made reasonable time -- but without that 305 data, how do I know?

At about mile 10, friend Paul Gompers steamed past me on his triathlon bike... I am instantly recognisable on my recumbent with my Hazon jersey, so he yelled out "hi Richard" and disappeared into the haze ahead of me. I have a feeling he was towards the end of a longer ride, having already swum, and perhaps still planning to run.

Paul is the epitome of an iron-man... I on the other hand, am made of chocolate.

Bikes and Food

There was a time, a simpler time perhaps, when I could describe Hazon (a Jewish environmental non-profit whose board I chair) as being about Jews, Bikes and Food.

Jews: we do aim to mobilize the Jewish community and Jewish participants, but, as one of our ride taglines puts it, "Jews on Bikes ... and you don't have to be Jewish" ... in fact most Hazon events include Palestinian Muslims (through our partnership with the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies) and other non-Jews regularly join us as well.

Bikes: our series of environmental bike rides, from cross-USA, to the Israel Ride, to the annual NY ride (and others) ... and this area has now expanded to include Hikes and Goat-packing trips in our "Outdoor Adventures" area.

Food: Hazon created and sponsors nearly 20 CSA (community supported agriculture) projects, aka Farm Share schemes, in Jewish community centers, and Synagogues, as well as hosting the leading Jewish Food Conference each year, and publishing curricula for schools and adults.

So imagine my delight when someone else put bikes and food together, and then topped it off with an environmental bike ride. The very beautiful and well written EcoVelo blog yesterday had a great post on CSAs (and why they are related to bikes), and today shouted out to Liza Stoner, a 14 year old planning a long distance ride this summer to promote electric vehicles as good for the environment.

Interestingly, today also saw another of my favorite bloggers taking a detour to discuss CSAs. John Halamka, an ER doc and chief information officer of Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center writes a great blog called Geek Doctor, about his life as a healthcare CIO. On Thursdays he blogs about his hobbies and passions, and today he has a post on CSAs and their health benefits.

All this makes me hungry for some local fresh food, and this month our very own Newton Community Farm CSA (of which we have been members each year since its inception in 2006) will begin its weekly distributions, and I can't wait!

Bike 2.0

Yet more web 2.0 intrigue... this time bike related. It starts with Twitter and ends on a personalized Google map, going via tinyurl.

Today I read a tweet (Twitter posting) from ctanowitz who noted: "One day while biking to work a car is going to hit me here Even if I give a hand signal they don't care."

What is that "tinyurl" thing? It is a free service where you copy and paste a long unweildy URL (web address) and it gives you a tiny URL like the one in the message. This is great for many uses, especially for twitter with its 140 character limit on each posting. Someone is now going to ask me how the tinyurl service makes money ... I have no idea!

Setting aside someone else's money worries and click on that tinyurl link to get a fabulous map where he marks the spot about which he is so worried... a small rotary in Waltham which I use pretty frequently. As a cyclist myself (although not on that rotary), I think I am a reasonably thoughtful driver around bikes ... I sure hope he's not complaining about me!

On a related (bike 2.0) note, I wrote yesterday that my GPS elevation change readings differ significantly from those on Guy Sapirstein's GPS. I felt sure I could easily get an elevation chart based on proper surveys (rather than consumer GPS barometers) for any route by looking on Google Earth or some other web 2.0 site ... so far no good - anyone care to make suggestions?

Five minutes - big difference

Since last posting I have cycled a 27m Needham-Dover route with Guy Sapirstein twice - once on Memorial Day and again just this morning. Last week my Garmin 305 tells me we did this in exactly two hours of cycling time at an average of 13.7mph. This week we did the same route (plus .2m for a slight detour) in 1' 55" - just five minutes faster, and an average speed of 14.4mph. I like that math - makes me feel good to see the improvement over the week.

I also got an eight mile ride with Baruch Krauss during the week on the carriage lane of Comm Ave in Newton. That was also as fast as I have ever done that loop at 12.3mph. That is a hillier route (and more traffic). My GPS gives completely different ascent/descent readings than Guy's GPS... but for comparison purposes: the 8 mile Comm Ave route involves 600 feet of ascent and descent; the 27 miles through Needham/Dover is about 1400 feet. Clearly the shorter route has more hill per mile!

Last Monday's 27 miler with Guy was very hard work for me. It was a windy day and my legs felt leaden - especially after the short break we took at the half-way mark. The following day I also felt knocked out ... and this made me realize I may not have eaten enough before/during the ride and just starved my body of the energy it needed for a ride of this length so early in my training season. This week was a world of difference ... it was a less windy day certainly, and that contributed to the faster time I am sure ... but I also felt better all the way through, and some of that is the extra food at breakfast and in my bike bag.

Guy reminded me we are doing longer/faster rides this year than we did at the same time last year, and my GPS data shows the difference to be more significant than I would have guessed. That, plus the five minutes I made up this week, is a good foundation for a fun season of cycling ahead.