Press the Fight

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A coworker used the phrase in the title a couple of weeks ago to describe the mindset needed to work in a tactical environment. As he put it, “if someone is shooting at you, you press the fight, you move forward to eliminate the threat.” I certainly don’t work in a tactical environment, but the phrase stuck in my head and I’ve tried to adapt that mindset to other situations in my life. Maybe I’ve always done it–just a little–but now I have a phrase to mutter to myself while pressing forward.

I used the phrase last weekend while struggling up a long gravel road in Westchester, NY. I’d been up the road from the other direction once or twice. Depending on my fitness level, it is either tough or it outright sucks. I hadn’t been riding too many hills before last weekend’s ride, so it was more toward the “suck” end of the spectrum; luckily there was a cool breeze to prevent overheating. It would have been easy to pull over half way and take a breather but, armed with my new phrase, I pressed the fight to the top of the climb and then flew down the other side at nearly 45 mph. Keep moving forward.

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I’m not a big fan of the rain. I never begin a ride in the rain. If it rains while I’m already out, I’ll don a jacket and keep riding. I’ve bailed on events I paid money to enter based on the threat of rain. Until recently, the thought of purposefully setting out in the rain seemed foolish. Why would I knowingly subject myself to the slop and aggravation associated with a long, wet ride?

And then my mindset slowly began to change. There are a lot of otherwise nice days that just happen to include rain. My main riding opportunities occur on the weekends, and it rains on the weekends. I realized I was limiting myself, retreating if you will, from some good opportunities. Moreover, what’s the point of having a fender bike if it never gets wet?! So a couple of months ago I ordered some rain pants and waterproof gloves from Showers Pass with the goal of extending my riding into days that include rain, serious rain, and not being reluctant to start a ride in the rain.

As luck would have it, today was the first weekend day that would allow me to Press the Fight against rain. The weather was truly crappy with wind driven rain and coastal flooding. The wind was ferocious enough that I waited until after lunch time to suit up. Bib shorts. Wool t-shirt. Rain pants. Rain jacket. Winter boots. Waterproof gloves.

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Out to the garage I went to pump a few pounds of air into the tires. Open garage door. Clip in and exit garage. Rain stops!

Press the Fight. Eliminate the threat.

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Out the Door

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The hardest part of starting an adventure is getting out the door.

I spend a lot of time reading about other people’s adventures in books, magazines and social media. I also spend time researching gear choices, identifying the latest and greatest to be used on my own explorations. Rarely, however, do I take that knowledge and actually go on an adventure. There’s always something that seems to get in the way: work, family obligations, the weather, wondering if I have the right gear…the list of excuses is endless. I’ve even loaded up my pack and bike to do ‘practice trips’ while stopping short of taking the actual trip.

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This weekend I changed all that and actually left the house and had a S240 micro adventure. A micro adventure is a short (often less than 24 hours) trip with the intent of getting out to explore and spend the night out. It can be planned or spur of the moment, usually local, and shouldn’t require a lot of gear or technical experience.

My S24O came about when a colleague  mentioned that he was looking for a place to hike or camp this weekend. I’ve done a fair amount of day hiking, so I started describing nice hikes and provided a map for a local fire tower hike. I was really glad to share the information and, at the same time, it provoked me to take action on my unfulfilled camping aspirations.  I promised myself not to let the weekend go by without doing a S24O.

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I had just the route in mind, a short loop in Harriman State Park that would take me to a mountain-top shelter that also has tent sites. I knew from a previous ‘practice hike’ that I could complete the trip comfortably, not have to worry about water, and could bail out if I had to and be back at the car within about an hour.

The plan was to be packed and ready to go at the end of work on Friday but Dorian intervened with high winds and threatening rain and, as such, I postponed my departure until Saturday. A micro adventure is meant to be fun; no point heading into a heavy storm. I packed up Saturday morning, prepared some real food for the trip and left just after lunch. The drive to the park took about two hours. I made relatively quick work of the ascent to the shelter and proceeded to locate an unacceptable site for my tent, whereupon I fussed with it for 40 minutes before giving up.

Experienced Northeast hikers will recognize the problem with the tent site pictured above. The lovely, mossy spot that I pitched upon is actually a slab of rock! And it’s gently sloping toward the left. I had a hard time placing the stakes and the slope made sleeping very…..dynamic. I loved the site despite this shortcoming, so I made do the best I could.

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One of the things I obsess about thus keeping me from actually doing anything is food. Freeze dried camping meals are either (1) good but expensive or (2) absolutely awful for you because of all the salt they contain. I chose to prep some real food at home in the morning and bring it with me. Pictured above: grilled brats in some ramen (don’t use the spice package). I’ve done a pretty good job of getting my base pack weight down and so I packed a can of beer as a guilty pleasure. Delicious real food.

The tent held up despite high winds and one stake that was kind of sketchy. I rarely get a very good night’s sleep in the tent and this weekend I determined why: it’s like lying in a coffin! It’s a nice tent, just not for someone who is very tall and tends to roll around a bit. I’ve also concluded that my inflatable pad is too narrow for my carcass. I would have known this sooner if I actually went on trips. Experience is the best teacher.

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I rose a little after 6 am, packed up, hiked out and was on the way home by 7 am. I got home in time to cook breakfast for the family. I didn’t get the best night’s sleep but I got out. I had an experience in the outdoors. I learned something about my gear, practiced my outdoor skills and— I hope–broke the chain of excuses that have prevented me from spending nights out in the woods.

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Label Me a Wahooligan

IMG_0480Six years ago I wrote my most viewed post sharing my utter dissatisfaction with my Garmin bike computer and Garmin products in general. Based on the responses I received, I was not alone in thinking the company had made a habit of letting its customers down. I ditched my automotive devices many years ago after smart phone technology made having a dashboard mounted GPS unnecessary. I pitched my cycling computer into the trash about a year ago when the battery gave up the ghost.

I’ve been rolling with my smart phone as my primary navigation device on the bicycle since December using a Quad Lock mount on the stem as pictured below.

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My reasoning for this was based on not wanting to purchase another Garmin device ever! I carry my cell phone with me pretty much everywhere and rely on Ride with GPS for all of my route planning and navigation needs. Even when I had the Garmin, I would create the route on my computer and send it to the device, so eliminating the middle man bike computer seemed like a good idea since there’s a perfectly functional Ride with GPS smart phone application. If you haven’t tried the app, you should. It’s great and provides turn by turn navigation and audible prompts. Best of all, you’re not held hostage by Garmin’s map subscriptions or quirky firmware updates.

The Quad Lock mount and the associated phone case are excellent. It holds the phone securely and attaches to the stem or bars in a matter of moments. I did a number of rides with it and was perfectly happy with its performance. I’d recommend it if you are doing a ride where being able to view a large scale map route on your phone is important or if you need frequent access to a browser or some other feature of your smart phone during the ride.

Depending on the size of your phone, however, this arrangement can take up a lot of cockpit real estate . On my bike, the phone took up the entire stem and partially limited access to the stem cap, which also serves as the on/off switch for my dynamo light. Additionally, having your phone attached to the cockpit makes it vulnerable to theft or damage while riding. I don’t worry too much about theft when riding, but I did become concerned about what would happen if my phone were damaged in a crash or fall; I’d have no way to call for help (which is the whole reason I carry a phone while riding).

And so I began thinking about alternative bike computers about a month ago. I kept seeing Wahoo devices on the bikes of people I follow on social media and began the deliberation process. I settled on an Elemnt, placing my order literally 18 hours before they announced their latest model, the Roam!

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I’m completely satisfied by this device. It does everything I need a bike computer to do: track speed, mileage, time etc, and provides turn by turn navigation by synching to the Ride with GPS app on my phone safely stashed in my bag or pocket. It took about 40 seconds to set up and does not require a map subscription or computer to manage its contents. It’s everything a Garmin should have been if Garmin actually paid attention to the needs of cyclists. Oh, and it’s cheaper than a Garmin.

Now critics will say that the maps on a Garmin are more detailed and they’d be correct. But I don’t stare at the map when pedaling. All I need is a prompt to turn and the name of the street to turn onto and the Elemnt does that. If I need a detailed street or topo map I’ll pull out my phone or a paper map. The interoperability with Ride with GPS is perfect as far as I can tell. Great battery life. Software updates that don’t render the device useless. Clear, detailed screen. It’s everything I need and nothing extra, and about a third the size of my phone.

Count me in the camp of Wahooligans.

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Flats

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Call me old, or call me sensible. Maybe I’m both.

Today I added flat pedals to my 650b all road, gravel, go-anywhere bike. It seemed like the next logical progression in my riding style, which has drifted from fast club rides to more utilitarian undertakings in the past couple of years.  Lately I’ve been using the Seven to go shopping, scout hiking and camping locations and just generally tooling around. Not exactly high performance activities justifying the use of cleats and dedicated shoes.

A couple of years ago, I removed the clipless pedals from my mountain bike. I’ve always been a little bit wary of falling over when clipped in on technical terrain. I immediately experienced an increase in confidence when I made the switch, and was more likely to roll over an obstacle that I normally would have avoided. Mountain biking became fun again. Fast forward to a few weeks ago when I took my young son for what was supposed to be a pleasant trail ride in Orange County, NY. The trail was significantly more difficult (for our skill levels) than the guidebooks and map caused us to believe. We spent a fair amount of time walking and pushing the bikes across rocky sections of trail. I really appreciated the flat pedals on that ride.

The past two weekends have been spent scouting a rail-trail based route for an overnight bikepacking trip in Westchester. There are some options to hop off the bike to buy groceries if needed and to hike in the park where I will camp. There’s also the issue of whether to bring camp shoes. More and more situations pointing to the convenience of riding in a regular shoe on flat pedals. Don’t get me wrong, cleats have their place in the world but for rides that involve walking, hiking, going in and out of buildings and such, flats seem to be the answer.

The pedals pictured above came from One Up Components They are plastic. Yes, plastic! To my eye they are very durable, and to my feet they provide a very stable and secure platform for thick rubber-bottom shoes like FiveTen Guide Tennies or the like. The pedals have good user reviews on multiple sites and at $50 USD seemed like a good option for when cleats and cycling shoes aren’t the best choice for a ride.

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Cowboys

Today we were cowboys, riding our steel horses picking our way through the pines,exploring long forgotten places.

In a break from the frigid cold, we capitalized on the near 50 degree weather to extricate ourselves from the couch, surrender the game controller and disconnect from the work email to go outside and move. On a day that most people stayed indoors to prepare for the Superlative Concave Vessel football game ( the real name is subject to licensing fees that I won’t pay!) we chose to be bold and explore the woods.

My job now, as a parent, is to let him lead. I offer occasional advice, such as to go harder up a hill, but I let him determine the route and pace. I let him determine when it is time to snack…

I thought he’d want to head back after the snack but he kept riding, finding his way to the more challenging side trails that had rollers and jumps.

Time in the woods on a bike is refreshing. To spend that time with your son is priceless.

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Scattered

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I have been all over the place the past few months. Scattered, really.
My seemingly insatiable appetite for learning new things took me down a rabbit hole into the world of archery with the grand hope that I’d hunt and harvest my own game. I practiced my socks off, even purchased the necessary tags and doo-dads for calling deer. At some point, however, I realized that no amount of practicing archery would transform me into a hunter. There’s a lot more to hunting than pulling a trigger or releasing an arrow, and reading about it is not the same as developing the skills to be successful. As fall approached, I realized that I hadn’t made the necessary social connections to find a partner/coach/buddy to mentor me. I wasn’t about to walk into the woods and sit for hours not knowing for sure what the hell I was doing, and I certainly wasn’t going to climb into a tree stand by myself. Last but not least, my family was less than enthused about me bringing home wild venison.

I slowly drifted back to the one or two things that have always been there for me: cycling and hiking. I’ve always found peace on the bike or walking in the woods, and neither require any particular skill or additional equipment. I’ve been happiest lately on the mountain and fat bikes, cruising around local and not-so-local trail systems. I still love my road bike, but the proliferation of motorists staring at their cell phones has been discouraging to me to the point that I’d rather avoid automobile traffic.

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Today I explored some new trails in Connecticut. It was good to get off the long island and see new terrain. The trees provided shelter from the cold, biting wind. My 10 plus year old Moots still gets the job done with its 29r wheels rolling effortlessly over obstacles.

And I’ve been hiking. The whole family can join in this activity. We recently visited the High Peaks region of New York, arriving with the first significant snow of the season and nearly freezing our asses off!

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I love being outdoors. I love being outdoors with my family. Nature is a blessing. It always resets me when I’ve allowed myself to become stressed or scattered.

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Making Progress

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In February I wrote about dipping my toes into the archery space with the grandiose plan of using the skills to harvest turkey and deer. I was frustrated with my inability to find a quality lesson. I realize now that offering lessons isn’t really in the business plan for most archery stores; lessons represent lost time compared to selling merchandise to customers. And, for some shops, the goal is to get potential customers shooting well enough to make a purchase knowing that they may never see the customer again.

I hit the jackpot when I found Flying Arrow Sports in Carmel, NY. They spent the time with me to get my shot sequence squared away and instill some much-needed confidence that I could actually “do” archery. I subsequently returned and purchased a Mathews Halon. The selection process was thorough and un-rushed: I shot five or six different bows before settling on the Halon, which literally spoke to me in the smoothness of the draw cycle. I should add that finding a store that keeps 6 different lefty bows in stock is uncommon according to some social media research I conducted, so Lady Luck dealt me a particularly nice hand when I found Flying Arrow.

I’ve been shooting the bow for a little over a month and cannot be happier. When I do my part by adhering to a good shot sequence, it does its part delivering the arrows to the intended spot. Just like sporting clays, the instrument is only as good as the person controlling it. When my process and form are correct, I can achieve results like those pictured above which might translate to several delicious meals. When I’m sloppy or distracted, the arrows go into the ground and burrow out of sight.

I’m fortunate to live within easy driving distance of a commercial indoor range and a public outdoor range. The outdoor range is in a wind corridor near the water and a parkway and, as such, I’m learning a lot about managing wind. Both ranges are close enough that I can scoot to them after work for a short session. The public range does not permit 3D targets (I’m not sure how they feel about 2D targets with animals on them like my Morrell bag pictured above!), so my next goal is to find a 3D range or participate in a 3D shoot to gain that experience in preparation for hunting.

Next up: locating the animals!

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