The Race Across America (RAAM) is one of the most challenging and rewarding races in the world. It’s something that many cyclists aspire to achieve and I know it’s on the mind of at least a few of you right now.
This photo from last year’s Race Across America is one of my favorite cycling photos ever. Not only did I have to share it with all of you, I wanted to let you know more about the photographer, location, and rider pictured in it as well. It’s a beautiful cycling photo, but just might serve as motivation for you as well.
Dex Tooke in Monument Valley RAAM 2011 – Photo by Dan Joder
Date: June 17, 2011
Camera: Nikon D90, f/11, 1/125, ISO200, 70-300 Nikkor zoom at 100mm
Description of photo by Dan Joder:
This is a classic image of RAAM–the solo rider climbing a long grade in the spectacular Monument Valley. Although there was almost no traffic in the area, there were two or three cars on the road in the far distance as Dex approached my lens–I had hoped to have a completely clear highway to emphasize the feeling of emptiness and space. The clone tool in Photoshop took care of the motor vehicle problem and turned the image into what I felt and saw when I was there. I also experimented with various versions of this image from B&W to different special effects as Dex was, at one time, considering the image for the cover of his book.
Although Dan has spent the past 25 years of his life as a Cat 3 (and presently a Masters) bike racer, he doesn’t consider his photography to be focused on cycling. Generally his photos are of nature, landscapes, and streets. But when he crewed for his friend, Dex Tooke, in the 2011 Race Across America that all changed.
During last year’s RAAM, Dan’s official job was taking a shift as one of the “Navigators” in the follow van, but whenever his hands were free, he was shooting photos of Dex and the scenery around him.
Going coast to coast at 15mph is a great way to see the country! If you don’t know much about RAAM though, rest assured, it is most certainly the Mt. Everest of competitive ultra cycling. For these riders, the competition is much more an internal, psychological affair than a battle against one another. All, from the fastest to the slowest, deal with fatigue, saddle sores, hallucinations, sleep deprivation, wind, hail, heat, traffic, crew conflicts, navigation errors, mechanical issues and more in their 3000-mile crossing of America.
If you get a chance to crew for a RAAM rider–DO IT!
– Dan Joder
Last year, Dex Tooke
was on his second attempt to tame the Beast that is RAAM. You could say he had some “unfinished business” (his slogan and the likely title of his upcoming book) because, in 2010, he was forced to withdraw just 180 miles short of the finish line in Annapolis. In 2011, he was successful, crossing the finish less than three hours before the time cut-off. By doing so, he became just the sixth rider over 60 years of age to complete the event. To put this in even greater perspective, ten times
more people have climbed Mt. Everest than have successfully finished RAAM as a solo racer.
Ryan & Nick with Me and the kids.
I was very fortunate (and Thankful) to spend three days with a couple incredible guys who are currently cycling their way across the United States. I’ve been online buddies with Ryan van Duzer for over a year now and have enjoyed following his amazing adventures. I watched the Out of the Wild television series last year only because Ryan was one of the cast members, but so glad I did because it was a very interesting show. Nick Albini was also on Out of the Wild and has joined Ryan on his latest cycling endeavour.
Nick and Ryan should arrive in Florida around December 12th and you can follow their wild escapade at www.ryanvanduzer.com. These guys are super fun, positive, and inspirational…..before they took off, we sat down together and talked about “The Cycling Life”.
There was so much great information and wisdom that flowed from Ryan and Nick that I decided to put together an extended version of this video with much more footage. To view the longer version of the video, check it out right here.
How about you? Have you ever wanted to go Cycling Touring? If so, what would you like to accomplish?
I love all things about cycling, but one of the things I love to hear about is when people tell me about their Car-Less lifestyle. I’m totally amazed by what these people are doing and have the utmost respect for anyone who has chosen to take this route in life.
There is also the term “Car-Light” which, as the name implies, is a step down from living a full out Car-Less life and only occasionally taking out the car. Living extremely Car-Light has been on our goal sheet for the past six months now, and my wife and I are doing what we can to move ourselves into that reality. I hadn’t really considered it before, but it mentioned that in today’s society, families who get by on only one car could pretty much be considered “Car-Light”….I realised that I’m closer than I thought. We’ve been a one car family for 7 of the past 9 years, and I love it.
So what’s it like living Car-Less?
I really wanted to know more about this lifestyle, so I reached out to some people in the cycling community to find out. To me, the king of living Car-Less has got to be Ryan Van Duzer. Not only has he been living his life without a car, he doesn’t even have a driver’s license.
I’ve never had a license!!! When I turned 16 I kept on riding my bike, while all my friends got cars and forgot about their bicycles.
-Ryan Van Duzer
And what a life he’s been living. Keep your eyes on this dude because he is totally going places. Fresh off being the star of “Out of the Wild“, he was awarded the gig of being host of the show “
Ryan’s adventurous Car-Less life didn’t just happen, he made it happen:
People always ask how I live without a car…truth is, I created a life that doesn’t require a car…When I travel, I look up bike stores to rent a bike, not Avis.
Amsterdam and Copenhagen seem like places where everyone lives the Car-Free lifestyle…what about the European country of Sweden? I asked Marcus Ljungqvist (not to be mistaken with the Pro Cyclist, Marcus Ljungqvist from Sweden) what the cycling situation is like in Sweden:
“Malmö is the best bike-city in Sweden and probably pretty good in an international standard too. It is light years behind cities like Amsterdam and Copenhagen, but is working hard to close the gap.”
Marcus began commuting to work about 2.5 years ago and soon realised that the 50km round trip didn’t really take much longer than his car or the bus. He says that taking his bike is a fourfold win. The four factors that he builds his argument against when promoting the bike as the Ultimate Transport are: “time, economy, environment and exercise.”
Now that he’s living the Car-Free life, Marcus says it feels really strange to not take a bike somewhere. ”The very rare occasions when I use the car within the city, I always hate it; congestion, parking and the cost of gas.”
Andrew Wright’s Car-Less journey began when his vehicle was taken off the road due to a “roadworthiness” issue. He and is wife live in Australia and decided to give it a go by riding busses and trains as their means of transportation. Before too long, Andrew realised that co-ordinating the schedules between these two sources really “sucked” and he looked to the bike to save him. As a guy who used to say, “If it has no motor between the wheels then I’m not interested”, this was a major shift in lifestyle. He bought himself a $20 garage sale bike and hit the road. Within 3 months Andrew had lost over 40 pounds and was hooked on the Car-Free life. His love of cycling has now filtered down to his three daughters and he rides them to school almost every day…even in the winter.
“So there is my story. We cycle. We catch the bus. We catch the train. We borrow a car when necessary.”
If you’re not able to live the full out Car-Free life, becoming Car-Light is a great option….especially when you have a family. Rob Perks of oceanaircycles.com started living Car-Light four years ago so that he could combine outdoor exercise with his commute to work.
With a young family, you’d think it might be a little challenging, but what does Rob say about living car-light?
“It’s not too hard. Our daughter is almost big enough to ride in a kid seat and then we will be able to ride again as a family. For now my wife and I mostly ride in shifts. I run many of our errands by bike. When we do fire up the car we combine as much stuff into one loop around town as we can.”
Cyclelicous‘ Richard Masoner has been living the car-light lifestyle since he was in college…..and continues this way now that he’s married and has a family. He doesn’t really consider his family to be “car-light” because they do own and drive a car for certain things….but in my opinion, he’s definitely living it and doing a great job of promoting this lifestyle along the way. Richard says all the “schlepping” to and from events can be challenging, but “cycling is it’s own reward” and makes it all so worth it.
The list of people living Car-Less and Light goes on and on…here are few tweets from Twitter friends living the lifestyle:
Advice from the Car-less/light Experts:
So what do you think? If you’ve been thinking about making the switch to a car-less or car-light lifestyle, here are come comments and advice to those already doing it:
Marcus Ljungqvist: “Just do it. A lot of people see it as a huge challenge, but it is a lot easier than one could imagine. For sure, some things might get a bit more complicated, like buying new furniture, but you may still have your car, a friend with a car, car-rental and so on. Some stuff are actually easier, like dropping the kids off in the morning and grocery-shopping (using a bike-carrier or cargo-bike).”
Ryan Van Duzer: Don’t be scared of leaving the car behind, the bicycle will bring so much joy to your life that you’ll forget all about that heavy box on wheels!
Richard Masoner: LIVE CLOSE TO WORK, SCHOOL, SHOPPING!
Rob Perks: Start with whatever bike you have, even a rusty beach cruiser with a flashlight taped to the bars will work. Do not obsess over “needing” the right bike to get going. Start with easy stuff like going to dinner where there is less time constraint. Move more and more of your car time to bike time as it comfortably works for your situation. As you ride more and gain experience you can tailor you bike(s) to better suit your needs. Once you start to cut the car dependence you will wonder why it took you so long to get started.
Are you living car-less or light? What advice do you have for others thinking of making the switch? If you’ve been thinking about moving to this lifestyle, what barriers are preventing you from doing it?
Photos c/o Michael Graham Richard, Ryan Van Duzer, and Marcus Ljungqvist
Do you picture bikes or cycling when you think about the Caribbean? I’m sure sun, sand, and palm trees pop into your head a lot sooner then the idea of riding a bicycle in the Caribbean….especially on the beautiful island of Bonaire. But I’m here to tell you that bikes and Bonaire go hand in hand.
I was lucky enough to spend three years of my life living on the amazing island of St. Kitts, which is also in the Caribbean just a little north of Bonaire. It too is a great cycling island and one of the most memorable rides I’ve ever had was on it’s South East Peninsula. Many other islands should be looked at as good places to cycle as well, but I wanted to point out the fabulous Dutch island of Bonaire in this post.
Bonaire is well known as one of the best diving locations in the world, and is also highly regarded as a windsurfing and kitesurfing haven, but what about cycling? Well, here is what the people from Bonaire Bike Tours have to say about riding on their island:
The best way to experience the beauty and outdoors, meet the locals, and enjoy all Bonaire has to offer, is on a bike. See the flora and fauna, cycle past our natural history, and get exercise in our clean Caribbean air. We have challenging climbs, incredible mountain bike terrain, and miles and miles of fabulous road and off-road cycling routes.
Here are my top 5 reasons you should consider Bonaire as your next great cycling escape, holiday, or adventure:
1. Where else do you get to go cycling in a beautiful climate (consistently between 24 and 30 C / 75 and 90 F), with limited rain, and located outside the hurricane belt? I’ll bet that sounds awfully nice as the temperatures begin to drop in your home town.
2. Cycling is important enough on this island that they even have a Cycling Map available. I’ve never seen one of these for any other Caribbean island:
3. Cycle along with Donkeys and Flamingos – Bonaire has both a donkey and a flamingo sanctuary on the island….and who doesn’t like donkeys and flamingos? This is sure to be scenery that you don’t generally experience at home.
4. Learn Dutch or Papiamentu – The official language of Bonaire is Dutch, but English is widely spoken. But the native language just happens to be Papiamentu which is a mixture of many languages including Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese, French, English, Caribbean Indian, and African. Imagine how beautiful that must sound.
5. Road and MTB Riding – Mountain Biking is probably the most popular type of cycling on Bonaire, but they do have some excellent road riding as well. There may not be a lot of options for road riding (the island is only 180 sq. km / 112 sq. miles, with only part of that with paved roads), but they do have great riding on the north end of the island that includes a small climbing optional section as well.
If you’re looking for a beautiful cycling package to get you to Bonaire to experience all the island has to offer, have a look at this Bonaire Cycling Holiday: Click here.
As a follow up to the first post I put up here at Cycling Shorts, I thought I’d continue along the same theme and pose another question to you all. Does a More Expensive Bike Make a Faster Cyclist?
You’re out riding, and you see a guy (or girl) on a pimped out $6,000 road bike… what’s the first thing that goes through your head? Probably a few different things (and feel free to let me know what those things are with a comment below), but one possible thought is “man, this person must be a really good cyclist to have a bike like that”.
Image ©Copyright Save a few bob
Possibly… but it could also just mean that he or she has a lot of money available to sink into a bike.
Okay, so lets flip it and put a really good cyclist on a cheap no-name road bike….what happens? A lot of discomfort, perhaps… but I’m thinking that they’re still going to kick my butt as
long as it’s in good working condition.
Image ©Copyright Trek Bicycles
There is no doubt that buying a good quality bike is worth the money and will alleviate a lifetime of unnecessary repairs and grief. But once you buy a good quality bike, what is the increased performance/amount spent graph look like?
I debate this question quite often. Maybe I use it as a way to justify the thought of me walking into a bike shop and dropping a few thousand on a bike, so that I can upgrade to a new one. Maybe it really would help with my performance. It’s a tough call. I’d be very interested in hearing your thoughts on this one.
What I do know, is that Canadians are buying less bikes, but ones of better quality. Momentum Magazine has listed that:
Companies that supply bicycles to independent Canadian bike shops have reported an increase in overall sales for 2009, but a decrease in the number of bikes sold. Combined with a 23 per cent spike in the average price of bikes that were sold to retailers, the Bicycle Trade Association of Canada (BTAC) says this indicates a trend towards consumers buying higher quality bikes in the independent bike shop sector.
It looks like Canadians have got the first part right, and realize that it makes good sense to buy quality… now where are the studies showing me performance vs price? Let’s have you decide it…..does a more expensive bike improve performance and speed, or is it simply up to the rider to deliver this?
Wade Wallace And His Calves - Image ©Copyright - cyclingtipsblog.com
You’ve probably noticed a lot of cyclists out there with these wicked big calves. They look great and give an impression of pure strength, but do they contribute to providing more power and speed on the bike?
My buddy, Wade over at Cycling Tips is one of these dudes with killer calves, and those are his bad boys in the picture at the top of this post. Wade also just happened to pass over this great little diagram on legs and how the pedal stroke relates to each body part.
As you can see in the diagram, the calves play a role right around the 5:00 mark of the pedal stroke and is somewhat on the low end of muscle groups used in the stroke. But I personally can’t help but think that strong calves do help make you faster… even if just slightly. The reason I say this is because all it takes is a glance down to the calves of pretty much any pro rider and you’ll see a nice set of Gastrocnemius’ on them. Not all of them, but I think that’s because not everyone has the potential for massive looking calves. But I’ll guarantee that they’re still strong even if they don’t look that way. I don’t feel that having shaved calves is what makes them appear bigger and stronger… they’ve been built up in response to the work load they take while pounding the pedals.
Just have a look at these boulders on the legs of Yaroslav Popovych… he’s just one of the cyclists with amazing calves, but his are just incredible.
So to sum up, it’s safe to say that big strong quads will make you a faster cyclist… but I also feel that strong calves will help out as well. It may just be a small advantage, but still helpful none-the-less. How about you? What’s your take on calves and cycling? Let’s hear it.