Wednesday, April 27, 2011

How to Get Great Service on Your Next Bike Ride

It seems to me that road cyclists understand the importance of serving others. We do it all the time in our pacelines: pointing out road hazards to the rider behind us, offering hand signals for our next turn, offering spare tubes to a rider with a flat. It's part of our culture. At our core, we're "cycling servants."

This past Saturday's ride showcased our cycling servant culture. And it was a joy to watch it all unfold.

Our ride began under baby blue skies. Finally. For our coldest April on record, we were rejoicing that today's ride would be in temps broke the 65 degree barrier. After I shared a brief devotional message for this Easter weekend and then prayed, we hopped on our bikes and headed west along the Burke-Gilman trail into Kenmore. We were headed to Mukilteo for our favorite coffee and lunch stop on this circuit—Red Cup Café—overlooking the Mukilteo ferry terminal and Possession Sound.

The route weaved through Kenmore and Briar and then we jumped on the Interurban Trail. I've mentioned before that the Interurban Trail generally follows the route once used by the Interurban Trolley that ran from downtown Seattle to Everett from 1910 through 1939. I like this paved trail for two reasons. It's not well known so there are few other cyclists, walkers, joggers, dog owners crowding it. And it's not well known so often I'll have cyclists with me experiencing it for the first time. For Bob D., who usually rides in the south end, that was the case. New territory for him.

We were pedaling toward Martha Lake behind a Walmart when I heard the call from behind me, "Flat!" Kimberly had flatted—or as the British like to say, "punctured." We pulled to the side of the road and I casually mentioned to Kimberly to give her tire to Mike as he was the champion tube changer on our team. Five flats on one ride earned him that title. Mike didn't miss a beat and gladly donned his rubber gloves and pulled out his tools. Kimberly's tire was repaired in record time. Unknowingly, Mike had just set the theme for today's ride. Serving.

Before we left our impromptu stop, a middle-aged man in a blue cargo van called over to us. "Are you a cycling club?" I walked over to him and told him yes, we're from Eastside Foursquare Church. He was looking for a cycling club to ride with. I gave him my card with a map on the back and invited him to join us some Saturday. Serving. This is feeling good.

We pressed on to the north, back on the Interurban Trail as it parallels Interstate 5. We passed Everett Mall, Casino Road, and were descending a small hill and about to turn left onto Beverly Blvd. when I heard what sounded like a gunshot. I looked behind and saw Jim pulling off the road. No blood. But instead he leaned over his bike and inspected his rear tire. Not only did he have a flat—our second for the day's ride—he had a rear rim that had splintered.

The rim was original and hadn't been replaced since Jim bought the bike several years ago. The brake wear had worn through the rim and caused it to break much like when a sidewall on a semi-truck rips away from the rest of the tire. He held the splintered and frayed rim in his hands and we all gathered around brainstorming a solution. There was a Bicycle Centre bike shop 2.2 miles north of us. Too far to walk. Should we call his wife? (We all have at some point in our riding career). A taxi? Maybe a guy in a pickup truck would come by and give Jim a lift, I thought out loud.

Not a moment later, a minivan with a 4-position bike rack on the back carrying a single road bike and the passenger window down rolled to a stop at the traffic light next to us. Mike ran over to the van and explained our situation. The driver quickly nodded yes and pulled into the parking lot next to us.

We introduced ourselves to Zack and thanked him for stopping. We couldn't have planned a better solution. Zack was more than willing to give Jim and his bike a ride to the Bicycle Centres shop. The rest of us would pedal on and meet him there. Talk about service. This guy was an answer to prayer. One cyclist gladly serving his fellow cyclists. This was real serving.

By the time we reached the shop, Zack was just about to drive away. We shouted our thanks and then went inside to find Jim and his bike eyeing a new pair of rims. Since the repair and installation was probably going to take an hour, the five of us with bikes intact decided to ride on to Mukilteo. We would either meet Jim back here or give him directions to catch up with us.

I found a quick route to get us back on course and soon we were flying along Mukilteo Boulevard under warm sun and bright blue sky. At Red Cup Café, we placed our orders, sat back in the sun, shared good conversation, and enjoyed our coffee and sandwiches. As we were finishing, Jim phoned. His bike was done. I gave him directions for the 5.5 miles between him and us. Within 20 minutes he made his appearance at the Red Cup complete with brand spanking new rims. The best part, now Jim could finish the ride with us... all the way back to Bothell.

So our thanks goes out to Zack. The guy driving the white minivan, carrying a bike rack, and arriving at just the right time.

Thanks for serving your fellow cyclist.

Riders: Jim, Bob D., Mike, Kimberly, Randy, Bob H.
Distance: 50.8 miles
Time: 3:31
Flats: 2
Servant-hearted Cyclists: 2 (at least)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sharing and Oversharing on the Red Brick Road

I suppose this is all my fault. I began today's ride by sharing something. I shared with Ken and Randy why I was riding today on very little energy. I was on a liquid diet and hadn't eaten anything since Saturday evening. I explained that later today I would be "clearing the fuel lines" to prepare for a procedure tomorrow.


Randy and Ken knew all about this from their own personal experience. I don't know if they admired me for cycling today on no fuel or thought I was crazy. I took a swig of my Gatorade and hoped the two bottles would be enough.

A few minutes later, Tenille and her boyfriend Brad arrived and greeted us. They were a bit panicked and hurrying to change and get their gear ready. Our ride was set to start at 1:00 but she thought it was at 1:30. So, Ken, Randy and I shared some more conversation while we waited. (Sharing.)

Tenille pulled her bike off the roof rack and I immediately noticed it was her old ride. She had left the new Orbea Orca at home. I shared my disappointment. (Sharing.) We all wanted to see this new, shiny bike and experience a ride with Tenille on a "real road bike." Brad's bike was a mountain bike with slicks. As I shook hands with him and welcomed him to our group, I shared my suspicion that Tenille left the fast bike at home so he could keep up. (Sharing.)

I casually shared with Tenille and Brad that I was going to make today an easy ride—in part because Brad wasn't ready for the torture we sometimes offer—but also because I was on very little fuel. She wanted to know why. So... I overshared.

Immediately, she named the procedure. "Oh! You're having a..." Her recent classes in Anatomy and Biology and whatever else taught her well. She shared how she even got to dissect something related to this procedure. (Nice.)

Time for a devotional and prayer before we headed out. Each of us briefly talked about the morning's sermon and the power of the cross as we looked forward to Good Friday and Easter. (Sharing.) Then I prayed for our ride and for our group. Off we went.

Our ride headed over to Woodinville and onto Rt. 202 through the winery district. I noticed several people walking along the sidewalk with wine glasses in hand as they visited the various tasting rooms sharing a glass of wine. (Sharing.)

As we continued on, a light rain began to fall and then soon turned to hail. The scattered clouds over the valley made the showers and hail very localized. All I had to do was turn right, get onto the Sammamish River Trail, and we were out from under the clouds and in the sunshine.

We entered Redmond and passed Redmond Town Center. I could smell Claim Jumper before we even saw it. Man, I'm hungry. I took another swig of Gatorade wishing it was maybe a cheeseburger. We rode on and reached a streetlight where all five of us regathered. Hearing my complaints of my hunger pains, Tenille asked if I was allowed to eat a gel? I didn't think so but when I saw she had an espresso flavored one, I couldn't resist. I traded a raspberry gel I had on hand and took her espresso gel. I thanked her for sharing, ripped it open, sucked it down, read the ingredients, and then figured my doctor would have said that energy gels aren't on the list of "clear liquids." No matter. I felt better already.

Route 202 turned to the east up a long incline and then a short descent where we turned left onto 196th Avenue NE, also known as the Red Brick Road. This historical road contains the longest stretch of exposed historic red brick highway in King County. We stopped next to the bright blue historical information sign and posed for a group shot. Then we hit the bricks.

The red brick surface is bumpy, bone-jarring, and teeth-chattering. On the upside, you get a nice hand massage as your handlebars rattle back and forth. On the downside, the road is about a mile and a half long. After a quarter mile, Tenille loudly shared, "Okay, I'm about done with the bricks!"

Not me. I pressed on, snapping photos and smiling in the sunshine. I love sharing this hidden road with those who didn't even know it existed much less ridden it. At the end of the road, we headed back to Redmond for a coffee stop at Victor's Coffee.

We pulled into Victor's Coffee and I purchased a tall Americano. A far cry from my now prohibited white chocolate mocha. As I exited, I noticed that Tenille and Brad were without drinks. Since she was the one who asked about the coffee stop, I inquired why. No cash, she explained. Victor's apparently doesn't take plastic. I had four bucks on me. So I willingly shared what I had with Tenille. (Sharing.)

As we sat outside Victor's chatting, I got to know Brad a little better as he shared about his work, education, and where he lived. As the temps dipped, Tenille shared how she was getting cold. I offered to dump my Americano down the back her jersey to warm her up. (That really would be oversharing.) Brad mentioned that would be a lot like what happened on Saturday at the gun range in Issaquah when a very hot spent cartridge went down Tenille's shirt. "Yeah! I got burned! Look, you can see the burn mark!" She then proceeded to unzip her jersey, pull at her collar and show a bright red mark just below her neckline.

A few inches lower and that would be... Oversharing.

Ken's moment of oversharing came when he mentioned that he still couldn't get that song out of his head. He's been practicing the drum part to it and now it was firmly embedded. What song? "Telephone" by Lady Gaga. Ummm... Okay. Thanks for sharing.

We jumped on the bikes and headed out of Redmond. As we neared the Sammamish River Trail, I polled the group. "Who's ready for at least one hill today?" No one objected, so I shared my hill with them—the Willows Road hairpin hillclimb up to NE 132nd Street. At the top, we heard the tones of an ice cream truck. Kids were running out of their apartment building with cash in hand to buy some overpriced ice cream novelties. They weren't sharing. Not with us anyway. I was hungry enough to eat five or six.

Now we were on the home stretch. Apparently Randy was in a hurry because he had a Skype call scheduled for 4:30 with his new long-distance flame. Earlier he shared with us a photo on his cell phone of her. Cute gal. She calls him "pooky." He calls her "babe." (Oversharing.) But I did appreciate Randy's prayer for me for the procedure tomorrow. That's good sharing.

Our remaining mile or two was through a neighborhood near Eastside Foursquare Church. The scent of an early spring barbecue wafted through the air. "I can't stand it!" I shouted. My friends urged me onward. "You can do it, Bob." I was thankful for their shared support.

Finally we arrived back at Eastside and I thanked everyone for enjoying the ride with me. I had made it. But man was I looking forward to a visit to Red Robin tomorrow. Before I pulled away, I offered to share on Facebook the photos that would be taken tomorrow at the doctor's office. No takers.

That would be oversharing.

Riders: Randy, Ken, Tenille, Brad, Bob
Distance: 25.5 miles
Ride Time: 2:05
Average Speed: 13.3 mph
Max Speed: 38.0 mph
Average Climb: 3%
Max Climb: 11%