Thursday, May 31, 2007

Get Up, Stand Up for your Hills

How to get up hills on a 1-gear bike?

Lets talk physics.

You got your potential energy and you got your kinetic energy. Potential energy is really energy based on the position of the object to do work whereas kinetic energy is energy when the object is actually in motion. For example, a large boulder sitting on top of a cliff has the potential to roll down the cliff and cause some serious damage to the climbers below. The rolling boulder itself is the kinetic energy.

Physics was not my strongest subject in school, but you get the general picture of energy.

Getting up hills on a 1-gear bike is all about converting that potential energy into kinetic energy. As you approach any hill, you need to increase or at the very least, maintain your speed as you begin your ascent. In other words, you need to carry your momentum all the way through and attack the hill with speed, which makes sense because momentum is just the product of mass times velocity (p = m x v).

On the road this is pretty easy to do, just crank it up and go after the hill like it’s your long lost girlfriend. Hopefully, you are topped out before oxygen debt kicks in. On the dirt, it’s a different story. It’s not always easy to build up momentum before you attack a hill. That’s why reading the terrain on a 1-gear mt. bike is so important and takes some experience to dial it in. You need to know when to rev it up and when to coast through. This makes riding single speed mt. bikes fun and challenging, too.

Free tip # 1– people talk about weaving your fixed down a hill like a salmon ski racer in order to slow down. But I say, weave your way up a hill to make it easier. Think about hiking up a mountain. Most mountains have switchbacks to make the climb easier. So on a tough hill, cut across the road to reduce the steepness of the climb. Also, practice coming out of the “S” turn at a sharp angle and you’ll pick up a little speed to see you through the next turn (kind of like pumping your skateboard on the flats to maintain speed).

Friday, May 25, 2007

Al Gore is Right

I was never a big Al Gore fan, but he’s onto something – global warming.

What does a single-speeder like me know about global warming? The answer is lots. I won’t bore you with the details, but I spent ~ 3 years drilling and analyzing ice cores from Greenland and the South Pole ( And the fact is, Earth is heading down a rough road. Throw in the future lack of oil into the mix, and we have a world of trouble ahead of us.

I’ll probably be dead by the time the world implodes, but future generations will have a lot to deal with.

The ice core data show that man is impacting the atmosphere and the planet is slowly warming – no debate there. As that continues to happen, all sorts of shit will hit the fan - Mad Max part II. Water will become more valuable than oil.

What will affect the Earth the most, in my opinion? Well, as the temperature begins to increase, huge amounts of fresh water (from the melting polar ice caps) will be dumped into the world’s oceans. In very simple terms, the oceans affect the global climate. So, you start messing around with the oceans; you’ll change the global climate for sure.

Look at the company Patagonia; they are slowly shifting from an alpine company to a surf company – less ice, more surf (

Can “one gear conquers all” save the world? Sure it can. By living simply, you can do a lot to slow down global warming. We are all consumers. The question is how can we each reduce our own footprint?

For me, it’s simple. I live in a modest house, keep my thermostat at 60°F & use no AC in the summer. Yes, I drive a car, but I bike to work about 7 months out of the year. I do other things like try to buy locally, use an old-fashion push lawn mower when possible, etc., but the most important thing that I do is THINK before I buy. It takes lots of energy to make & ship stuff, be it sneakers or CDs. So before I buy something, I say, “do I really need it?”

“Wear it out, make it last, make do or do without it” – An old New England saying.

Does one suffer from the lack of crap? No. By reducing the crap in your life, you become more focused on the things that really matter to you. Reduction is clarity. Think about a fixed gear bike. All the unnecessary parts are stripped away and you just focus on one thing – pedaling. How great is that?

Do your part to prove Al Gore wrong.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Reflections on a Fine Adventure

About this time last year, I along with two buddies rode our bikes from the Bay Area down to San Diego, CA. Two of us (Casey Shimizu & Roman Holiday) rode our single speed bikes. A few weeks later, I wrote a short story called “Never Pass Up a Clean Bathroom”, which was posted on October 31, 2006. That short piece of literature was a first hand narrative of our travels over five days.

Looking back on that trip after a year has passed me by; I have realized that our bike trip was much more than just pedaling our way down the coast.

Way back in 1984, when I was just 21 years old and obsessed with rock climbing (and pissed off with my ex-girl friend), I stuffed $300 (all of my savings) into my wallet and headed West on a Greyhound bus (sounds like a country song). About 4 days later, I was sleeping on pine needles in Yosemite Valley. I had a photocopy of a map from an old National Geographic magazine & enough oatmeal to last me the summer. I was set for life.

I spent the summer living on about $3 a day (it was easy to skip out on campground fees back in those days when you were a backpacker). Living so simply allowed me to climb, hike and enjoy the mountains everyday – no distractions. That trip drove home my love for the mountains that has been with me my whole life. Yosemite Valley is firmly implanted in my brain forever.

OK, back to present.

Our 2006 “One Gear One Coast” bike trip is also firmly implanted in my brain cells for similar reasons. Casey Shimizu and I decided to stripped away all of the bullshit and just focus on the ride – no distractions.

So, we packed lightly and rode simply.

This allowed us to solely focus on the movement of the bike through some incredible scenery.

Most of those five days of traveling down the coast are really just a blur in my mind, but certain sections of the trip still remain very clear in my memory. Times when work is rough, I often think about us three hammering our way towards San Diego as I also think about my many “sleeping under the stars” nights during my summer in Yosemite.

At the end of the day, only four things really matter in life - family, friends, health and memories. So get on that bike and go. Keep your trips simple. Memories of fine adventures will last you a lifetime.

For Casey Shimizu’s description of his single speed adventure, please read “The Original Ride” -

Friday, May 11, 2007

The Three Kings - Bouldering in NJ

Forget Cradle Rock in Princeton (NJ). Princeton is full of snobs anyways and spoiled college kids. And plus, Cradle Rock is now closed to climbers.

Morris County (NJ) is the place to be for bouldering in the Garden State (and yes, there are still gardens in NJ). Trust me on this one. I’ve been looking for boulders in NJ for almost 18 years now. And the funny thing is that the three best places to hit are all within ~ 15 minutes or so of each other.

The Three Kings are:

Tourne Park
Pyramid Mountain
Split Rock

I have been bouldering for a long time throughout the Northeast and a little bit out West, and some of these rocks are good as it gets. No need to travel up to the Gunks every weekend and contend with the beanie-wearing kids who probably don’t even know who John Gill is. How can you boulder and not know who John Gill is? Read “John Gill: Master of Rock” by Pat Ament.

All of these boulders are essentially located within the Denville / Boonton town lines.

Maps can be obtained through the Morris County NJ Park Commission and/or just buy a Morris County road map.

Here’s the skinny are each area.

First, some rules to (please) follow:

No. 1: Bouldering is not “officially” allowed in these parks - maintain a low profile bro.
No. 2: Be nice to the hikers and the high school kids making out in the woods.
No. 3: Don’t even think about littering.
No. 4: Keep your group small (2 - 3 people max).
No. 5: Ease up on the chalk.
No. 6: No landscaping around the boulders.
No. 7: Check yourself for ticks, especially for deer ticks.

Tourne Park:

Most of the good boulders are located inside of the “loop” trail. The rocks are very easy to find. This is a great place to get a lot of hang time without burning too much daylight as most of the boulders are close to each other. Have fun. Afterwards, hit the Denville Diary for a vanilla milk shake (the original power drink).

Pyramid Mountain:

This is my favorite place to trail run & explore in NJ. Check out my Dec. 20th (2006) posting for the low down on the boulders. Lots to do here – enjoy the area.

Split Rock:

This is my newest area to explore. I have scouted out some nice boulders during some of my hikes here. The hike around the lake is a great trail run. Also, this is a great place to practice open water swimming even though swimming is not allowed here. But again, keep a low profile and you should be OK. Just stay away from the dam; otherwise you’ll be sucked over the falls. I’ll report more on the bouldering once I fully check out the rocks here, but there appears to be lots to do.

To sum it all up, 3 of the best places to boulder in NJ, in my opinion, are all located in beautiful and expensive Morris County NJ. Like most of my posted “guides”, I purposefully leave out the details so that individuals can explore and make some mistakes along the way.

In today’s world of GPS, OnStar, www, etc., there’s not much out there to discover on your own. So roam through the woods, get dirty, figure things out on your own & climb as many rocks as you can, and may be I’ll see you out there.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Respect Your Elders

“Experience beats youth every time.”

Let me set the stage for you. I am older than 40, but younger than 45, and consider myself to be in decent shape with the amount of training that I can squeeze in between work and life.

As I was cycling home yesterday from work (~ 25 miles one way), I hooked up with another cyclist with about 9 miles to go. I am guessing that this guy was about 55 or so.

The cat and mouse game begins.

I pass him; he passes me. Every time that I think I dropped him, he’s right back on my wheel. As we come upon a red light, I slow down in order to stop. I turned to my left and this guy blows right through the red light. I’m like, shit, this guy is serious. So, I pushed hard and passed him again.

I start feeling sick to my stomach, which means that I am at or near my max heart rate. Anyways, this guy is giving me a true run for my money.

As we slow down and approach town together, he reaches out and shakes my hand and says, “Hello, I’m Johnny D.” I’m still in a race haze, so I am not sure if I caught his name correctly. We talked for a bit, a real friendly guy.

Then I said, “I don’t mean to be rude, but how old are you?” Johnny D. says, “67.” Damn, you’re 20 years older than me and you taught me a lesson out there on the road. “Well, I try to ride 25 miles everyday” says Mr. D.

As we went our separate ways, I said, “You’re a true inspiration to me, 67 and still schooling the youngsters. God bless you.”

I vowed to push my training a bit harder next time.