A Little Bit About Me and Biking off to Mallorca

Hey friends, I’m back again. Some time ago I suffered a serious spinal cord injury, and cycling became part of my recovery. I was encouraged by mentors to write my story down, and after nine months of pushing me I finally did. The process of writing was great for me, and learning that my story inspired others gave me a sense of accomplishment and purpose that I was not expecting.

I truly do believe that cycling is freedom. Freedom to explore, to exercise, meet new people, go far away places and enjoying the beauty of the nature. Cycling is freedom from the confines of our modern world and an opportunity to spend time outside wrestling with nothing more than our own weaknesses (and from time to time weather). Cycling’s rhythm encourages meditation, centers me and allows me to think about things. Even in a large group, it is a quiet time.

After writing this essay on cycling, I was encouraged to tell a less cycling focused version of my story for a local live storytelling production called OralFixation who were doing a show called “Baby Steps.” Since I had relearned to walk, everybody thought this was a great idea. Except me. After a bit of prodding, I did, and it was a great experience! Among the dozens, I’ve chosen the following story to share with you today. I’ll share no photo today.

But, as I travel a bit this year to ride bikes I will post videos and commentary on where I am and the people I meet only if you ask me to do so. I may also post my thoughts on what is happening in the cycling world (see twitter @Sportingoodsinf) or a funny video or two. This could be very boring, quite exciting, or simply a fun experiment (for me).

Gladly Off to Mallorca:

off to mallorca

2morrow I am off to pedal the island of Mallorca. I’m very excited to be going, and a bit anxious about the hills as well as how well my left leg will hold up. I did take a ride out to Cedar Hill to get some topography in, but still only a shadow of what is to come.

I do love a challenge, but hope I don’t keep any other riders from having all the fun they planned. However, stay tuned for posts from Mallorca, and if all goes well some video too! In other news, some spy photos of my new MeiVici have surfaced. It looks fantastic and the signatures of the team on the rear triangle are a great touch. I hope whoever took these photos doesn’t get caught. But, Alas! I’ve lost the album.

Most of the way to Mallorca:

Dusseldorf airport

Here I sit in a lounge at the Dusseldorf airport, enjoying a cappuccino and croissant (with apricot jam, since you asked). My flight was fine as I knew how to make it fine, and in fact the inflight entertainment was good. Navigating the airports has been a breeze with just my small messenger bag, since this combo weighed too much and I had to check my rolling bag.

I blame it on the pedals and the saddle inside… I sure hope they make all the connections – I don’t like the idea of riding a bike without them! I do love Germany – beer with breakfast is a tradition we should bring to the US. Civilized seating while I wait for my flight to Palma softens the 3+ hour wait.

Riding in Mallorca: Day One

We had a nice ride today with a good climb at the end – finished the day just short of 140km and 1.2km climbing (84mi and 4k feet of climbing). The big climb was 3miles with an average 7.4% grade with some sections north of 15% up to Sant Salvador de Felanitx. I shot some video going up and coming down. Of course there was a cafe at the top, where we grabbed a bite to eat and a coffee before our descent and ride back to the hotel (with a bonus climb along the way).

Headwinds all the way home slowed us down a bit, and I did get a bit sweaty climbing up so I threw on my Mirage vest for the descent and pedal home. Tomorrow looks to be a bit cooler, and we will be getting a bit more elevation, so I’ll be layering up a bit more to stay warm – hoping to stay out of the lobster mitts, but happy to have them here if I need them. Word is there is some new snow in the mountains this week, which doesn’t make for good cycling if it is fresh on the road. We’ll see, but for now it’s off to bed to rest tired muscles and get ready to get after it again in the morning.

Riding in Mallorca: Day Two

Today was relatively flat and relatively short compared to yesterday, but by no means easy or uneventful.  We started out in the rain (not an auspicious beginning), and stayed wet the whole day. Our ride profile was not super difficult, but we did have some ups and downs to keep us alert. After the largest climb of the day, I got a flat on the front, and the group stopped while we changed it. While this sounds good to get a rest, it actually was not as everyone cooled down from the climb and then we descended, getting cold. I got a flat on the run back to the hotel as well, but was able to soft pedal in safely.

The day seemed to get gradually colder and wetter, and in fact I heard another rider say they were reading 1C (34F) – I think we were a bit warmer than that, but on a descent at 30mph when you are soaked, fingers get numb and the cold penetrates deep. I inserted the weather for the next couple of days – hoping for more sun.

When we got back to the hotel, I jumped in the tepid tub (not sure why the hot tub is turned down so low), then gave up on that and went to the sauna, which helped me get warm again.  Tracy and Louise showed me the trick of putting your shoes in the sauna to dry them out, which was great since I am sure we will see some wet and cold tomorrow.

I also stopped off in the local cycling shop and got some proper rain covers for my feet for a very reasonable price! Hopefully having them will prevent me needing them. The rest of the group will thank me for this selfless gesture later, ha ha.

Just before dinner I walked into the lobby and found some of my fellow GPM10 riders using the interwebs, which are much more powerful in the lobby than in our rooms.  As I sat looking at them, and wishing I could have gotten a nice soft seat like they had, I saw that they were all using Apple products and had sorted themselves from largest to smallest.

Riding in Mallorca: Day Three

Today started out with the same route as yesterday, but without the rain, and it was beautiful! We shed layers as it got to a balmy 46 degrees, and then started to climb the Col de sa Batalla. At 5 miles and a Category 2 climb, it was a good 30 minute climb with amazing scenery and wonderful roads!

At the top of the climb we stopped into a coffee shop for something warm and a snack before our descent. I snapped a pic of our awesome photographer Peter Drinkell and ride leader Mark Neep (much to his chagrin). Two great guys who never get in front of the camera!

When we left the coffee shop and started across the top of the mountain, it started to snow, or maybe it was very tiny hail. At first I loved this because I was not getting wet, but then when my speed picked up it really started to hurt. We then had a very cold and very wet run down the mountain, after which we went to the hotel rather than up Sa Colabra because everyone was cold. The tough guys (Nigel and Scott) went out for another ride after drying some of their clothes – they had great weather and were all smiles when they returned. I also dried my clothes, and used the trick Tracy and Louise taught me to dry my shoes again.

Fourth Day in Mallorca

Today was full of fun! We climbed some big hills, had some great descents, and for the first time this week I don’t have to dry my shoes! Even Puig Major was nice with no rain/snow! Sorry for not having GoPro video, but I did shoot a bit with my phone. No complaints about quality please, I was working hard! This first one is before our first big climb, which is why I’m still smiling.

At the top of our first big climb (Col de Orient), Julian was nice enough to take my picture, and I snapped a picture of where I’d come from before heading down the other side with Luke. After a quick stop for lunch and the all important coffee (con leche por favor), we set off up to Soller and then Puig Major.

Part of the way up Major, I shot some photos and video – you can see Puig Major in this video, then snow as I get closer to the summit tunnel – I was a bit faster when not shooting video, but not much. But, no video or photos here because I’ve lost them.

When Scott, Nigel, Ester, Mike, Morgan and Richie waited for me a little way down on the other side, Scott got this pic with the other side of Puig Major behind me. Still quite a lot of work to be done in getting back to the hotel though.

Richie cheerfully pedaled by and snapped a picture of me part way up. And after this I was too tired to take any more photos, and even though the run back to the hotel after the big descent was downhill, a nice headwind made it feel decidedly less so… Many thanks to Nigel for doing the lion’s share of work on the front in the wind! Tomorrow is a rest day, with 70% chance of rain. If it clears in the afternoon there is talk of a quick run up Sa Colabra or out to the Lighthouse. We’ll see…..

It’s a (Rainy) Rest Day:

If we have spent time together, you likely know that I firmly believe Cycling has been instrumental in helping me defy very long odds that were given me after my injury. Cycling provides freedom for me from physical pain, the pain of self doubt and is my meditation. It is the one place where I don’t feel “different,” because I don’t limp on a bike. Cycling, especially in a group, requires focus and that you live in the moment. When you are riding alone it can be very meditative and centering as your mind works through thoughts you have set aside. I love the outdoors and enjoy birds singing and seeing other animals while I am pushing myself.

Yesterday I spent several good blocks of time pedaling on my own up some difficult roads. I was able to soak in the beauty of my environment, appreciate that I am healthy enough to ride the way I do, and enjoy the pain I was putting into my legs without thinking about one of the most troubling things in my life in recent years.

Last weekend I lost a dear friend to his own hand. He was one of the good guys who moved mountains to help others and was always ready with a smile. This is not the first friend I have lost, but it is the first time I have had the pain of having lost someone who helped shape me. We spent quite a bit of time together in high school, and then went to the same university together. Out of all of us, he was the most together, the most likely to be a responsible parent, and the most likely to succeed in whatever he attempted. His passing has been all consuming. There are no answers, only questions.

Yesterday was the first day I did not think of him for most of the day. While I don’t want to forget him, I can’t let it consume me. Struggling up Puig Major forced me to focus, and in forcing me to focus it freed me from my the constant questions and confusion surrounding his death. Again, cycling brought me freedom.

This morning I woke up to a note letting me know when his memorial will be. I look forward to celebrating his life with the many others he loved and who loved him. It is a testament to his life that so many struggle with his passing. I don’t expect full closure, perhaps ever, but I do hope to see his family smile when they see the outpouring of support from his friends. I feel like he taught me a lot, and in some ways continues to do so. I miss him, but will cherish the memories we made together, both on and off the bike.

Riding in Mallorca: Day Five

The trip to Sa Colabra featured some good climbing, followed by a fantastic descent, then a climb back up that descent through some of the most amazing terrain on the island.

On the way up, my GoPro wireless died, so I snapped some pics and made a short video with my phone. There was this great “corkscrew” portion of the road (Ruth is the rider waving from the top of the corkscrew).

When I got to where Ruth was, I shot that short video, and near the end you can see (if I get the video from other riders and can share it with you) the road we had just cycled up (music added later).

Sixth Day, The Departure Day in Mallorca:

Today is the last day and everyone is heading home. John F was persistent in encouraging Morgan, Scott and me to ride the lighthouse road to Cap de Formentor. It was supremely windy, but dry and otherwise beautiful. Not a massive ride, but one with spectacular views and great descending (Scott and I were running video, which will get out here soon). What a great trip and a perfect last day!

To Be Concluded:

I brought a bit of Mallorca home with me – in more ways than one. I loved my trip to Mallorca so much that I brought some of it home with me. Not just the great memories, or the confidence I built, but some kit and weather… Today the rain in Dallas was very similar to that which we rode through in Mallorca, I rode a similar mountain bike, and had a great time! I actually got about 30mi in without rain, riding with DM, then 16.5mi in the rain. Great Ride!

I rode a wonderful demo bike with GPM10 (if you ever consider cycling in EU, look them up – they are the best and simply without equal)- it was a size 59 Serotta MeiVici SG, with Campy SR EPS, Shamal wheels, and a saddle I brought from home. Here it is as a reminder.

Note the similar weather and similar bike. You’ll also note that I made off with two GPM10 water bottles. The bike is my Ultimate Ride bike – I expected it to be just as awesome as the SG I rode in Mallorca, but it was even smoother and more responsive! I know that custom brings a lot of tuning to the mix, especially the way Serotta does it with different tubes and layup based on rider profile/preference, but I was still shocked at how it felt.

In addition to riding this wonderful bike, another piece of kit I talked one of my fellow Mallorca adventurers into selling me (because it was too big for him, although he wouldn’t sell it to me when I needed it there unless I paid triple price – thank you Scott), which made my ride in the rain far more pleasant – what a great jacket these Rapha guys made – yes Luke, I know you don’t like the jersey, but it was covered by a nice jacket!