Sunday, November 6, 2011

Arab Spring ...

 Rando Autumn.

As I go through my days I often encounter blog topics in the rough; a conversation, a picture, or news item that suggests a little exploration.  Bike rides are grist for the mill.  Why then has it been 43 days since the last widget came rolling off the line?

Believe me, there has been no shortage of material to work with.  Consider the popular media:  Dictators have been deposed, famous people have made fools of themselves, the season has turned, local elections, and of course there is politics in general; The 16 month one sided presidential campaign to consider.  Can you believe that running for president has become a full time job?  The whole side show that national mis-governance has become. 

What is the difference between the boy scouts and the US Congress?  The boy scouts have adult leaders.  THAT’S A JOKE - PLEASE DON’T FLAME ME IF YOU ARE ONE OF THE 18 PEOPLE WHO HAVE A FAVORABLE OPIONION OF CONGRESS.

So, obviously there has been plenty of muck for the staff at Codfish Reporting And Publishing to run their rakes through. The question put was why no production?  There are a few reasons, maybe hurdles in series contributed.  Anyway, in no particular order:

My computer ...
 spun off the tracks and came to a screeching halt in a rather unspectacular crash.  It isn’t clear why but a major redo was required.  I’m not technical, so when I got it home and it was cleaner than a used car on a sunny day … but all my files were on this little portable hard drive, well that is akin to giving a monkey a banana inside of a milk bottle. 

I am at a point in life where almost as many of my friends are retired as are still employed.  I am ‘eligible’ to retire according to my employer’s definition but, according to my definition I’m not quite there. (Retirement: that age when you no longer need your paycheck)  So I labor for the man.  Having been at this for a long time, I have developed some skill at pacing my work to make sure I am done before I am cooked through.  (that sounds  suspiciously Dilbert doesn’t it?) Long story short, in the last 43 days I have cranked out a bucket full of widgets.   

The seasons changed. 
That is enormous fodder for blog posts.  I love to wax poetic about the ‘crisp fall air’, ‘the big yellow Maple leaves scuttling along the pavement, in the chill autumn breeze, clattering like Dungeness crabs seeking a rock to hide under’.  But of course the change of seasons is like the 10Km kite in a euro-pro bike race:  Time to grab a lower gear and race through all the ‘deferred maintenance’ around the ranch that must be done before the ground turns hard.  A more permanent fix for some of that outdoor wiring, insulating that hard to get to water line, or finishing off that last little landscape project.  Removing the rotting tomato plants, mulching the potato patch, heading the annuals, pruning the lilacs, in with the hummer feeders, and out with the suet feeder.  Sheesh, where are Pedro and Manuel when I need them?  Probably been deported for ‘taking all our jobs” (see foolish politico’s rant above) 

Riding my Bike. 
Yes I actually have been riding my bike and I know that complaining that riding my bike takes away from time to write about riding my bike is perhaps just a little too self involved.  But then, if one must choose, the riding part is clearly the better option than the writing part. Ride now, write later (see change of season rant above).

What to write. 
Here is another self absorbed bit; If I have been out of publication for an extended period, what story to lead with when CRAP comes back on line?  Ideally in this world of epic postings, I should come out with a recounting of my epic 10,000 km ride down the spine of the Andes, complete with data (thousands of  feet climbed, max and average heart rate, steepest and average grade, etc. etc) accompanied with pictures of road rash (protruding bone ends so much the better).

I choose instead to remark on the quiet, possibly invisible revolution developing in the rando universe.  Our Rando club, SIR held its annual meeting in early October.  An unremarkable accomplishment on its face; a group of geeky bike nerds gather at a local brew pub for lunch, a minimum amount of club business, and of course regalement with friends over events of the past year.  So formulaic in fact that it is often a push; if anything else of significance falls on that date then the ACM drops from ‘top priority’ status.   I am really glad that I went and not just because it was fun to catch up with other folks I have not ridden with much this season.  

More than just the vote of acclimation for the officers, more than the formal announcement of the ride schedule for next season, there was some spirited, and thankfully respectful dialogue about what we do, how we do it, and what we might do to get better at it.  You non-bikish readers are probably scratching  your heads right now:  “they ride bikes, what’s to figure out?”

We had a great discussion of what we might do to attract more, and a more diverse group of riders.  It was great to hear people acknowledge that there are certain aspects of our sport that are limiting to some potential members. 

This business takes a lot of time.  If you want to go out on a weekend and ride your bike for 40 hours, tright.  That obviously takes a lot of time.  But what isn’t immediately obvious is that you are going to need to spend a lot more time (orders of magnitude) practicing to get good at that.  Note the telling word here is time.  If you are in your 50’s, comfortably employed (or retired) all your kids are grown and gone, you probably have the time it takes.  It is no surprise then that this formula produces a cohort that is pretty old, pretty white, and pretty male.  The fraternity of old, white guys on bikes with a smattering of young tattooed dudes (many childless) and a few women here and there (also, by and large without dependent children) who somehow have been able to divine the secret handshake.

It sounds like a scathing indictment but it was enlightening for me.  The very nature of the fun we love limits participation for many.  But we didn’t just lay it down there and go on with a weak ‘oh well’.

There was an extended, spirited internet discussion after the meeting, also very respectful in its tone.  In past years I think people have been reluctant to speak out about the monolithic culture of SIR.  That makes sense because it was a much smaller, homogenous club.  We always did what we always had done because those big rides through the Cascades, or around the Olympic Peninsula were, well, what we did.

The club is bigger, and more diverse now and what I took away from the meeting was that we don’t need to stop or change what we do, we just need to expand what we do.  Sure everyone is invited and encouraged to ride the 5 pass 600K (no drop bags not allowed!) but we should perhaps also offer a few more 200Km events through the summer.  We could offer a night start 200Km to help ease the skittish into riding when the sun goes down.  My own bias was exposed: I really dislike riding in urban environs.  I know this about me, and I know that the older I get the more set I am.  But I looked back at the results of our more urban populaires and there is no denying that those rides draw a lot of new and younger riders. 

One Theory of change goes like this:

·         Recognition of issue
·         Identification of strategy
·         Connection to tangible results

We recognized a few issues.  As mentioned some we can’t overcome (this stuff does take time) but some we will address.  One example:  We will offer a monthly 100Km populiare, beginning this month.  These rides will generally be located in proximity to urban areas with an eye to drawing those younger riders who may be interested in getting a taste of the rando magic, without having to scale Mount Doom.   Conveniently, they woll also count toward the P-12 award for current members.
There is one limiting factor that absolutely must be addressed if we are going to have success.  All the things we want to do, the things we saw we could do, are dependent on volunteers.  If people really want to see change in our club, they must step up and say ‘I’ll do that.’  Of all the volunteer organizations I have been involved with, this one has the highest participation rate.  We have a much bigger club than we did 10 years ago so it is not unreasonable to expect that we will get a bump in volunteers, they just have to be motivated and supported. The core group of old white guys can do a great job of helping the newer members learn the ropes of putting on an event.  

I hope that at next year’s ACM we can take a look at some tangible results.  It will be simple to compare the results year to year.  We will not only be able to report kilometers, and brevets ridden but we can also see if our outreach efforts have bumped the needle on the old white guy metric.  I’m excited.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Dr. C,

    What's wrong with climbing Mt. Doom, other than the likelihood that you'll end up mi__ing all the key_troke_ you'd _trike _ith your ring finger?

    Can't you get the same effect with cyclist's palsy?



    William M. deRosset
    Fort Collins, CO

    (that'd be the "x", "s", "w", "2", and "@" sign on a QWERTY keyboard....)