Everybody up! Iron Horse Bicycle Classic 2017

The community here gets behind any cycling event 100%. –Howard Grotts, 2017 IHBC King of the Mountain

Cycling up Coal Bank pass, the sound of water flowing in the high mountain streams along the road, I felt completely in the moment.  The road was open solely for the Iron Horse participants.  I concentrated on my breathing and my mind was quiet.  As I rode the bike I was aware of my surroundings.  Wet evergreen needles glistening in alpine sun.  The endless white of the San Juan mountains touching the blue sky.  With every breath I inhaled the fragrance of sweet forest.   Rivulets of water streamed down the stone-faced mountainsides, reminding me of the soothing ambiance of the Florida River rolling over the polished rocks by the cabin where we had slept.  It was a seamless experience.  The rhythm of heart and legs pumping.  Breathing deeply in the silence.  Here I am.  This is the reason we cycle.  To dream big and immerse ourselves in the cycling experience, becoming a part of something greater and timeless.

Finishing second. Thanks Mai @ http://sansai.photoshelter.com for the amazing photos in this blog entry (all but the Molas pass photo)

I enjoyed the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic more than ever this year.  There are a number of events over the weekend inlcuding kids races, mountain biking, a cruiser parade, BMX, and more.  I focused on Saturday’s road race from Durango to Silverton.  It’s an incredible course traveling up the Animas River Valley and over two high mountain passes before making a fast, sweeping descent into Silverton.  It’s one of the most beautiful courses in the country.

The community not only gets behind the events, they actually get in the events!  There are thousands of riders cycling from Durango to Silverton.  You can race or ride at your own pace.  Either way, everyone challenges themselves and shares the cycling experience.  The citizens cheering along the course are equally extraordinary, and it takes so many volunteers and staff to make the events happen.  No matter if you are riding, racing, cheering, working, or waiting for your family member to finish in Silverton, all participants infuse the festivities with special value.  And the event promoters are careful to make the community integral in every aspect of the weekend’s adventures.

Mai was waiting in Silverton and that was extra uplifting

My race went off at 7:30am Saturday.  The field was stacked with impressive talent.  My basic plan was to ride with the main pack for the first 20 or so flat miles through the river valley, and wait for when the climbing began in earnest to spend my energy.  But I saw Sepp Kuss, a professioal cyclist from Durango, was there, as well as Howard Grotts, a superb climber.  My teammate Drew saw them as well and advised me that if I could get in a break early and save some legs for the climbs, that it wouldn’t be a bad strategy.  As the race rolled out of town, I found myself moving up in the pack.  And then I saw an opening at the front and just kept going.  I was riding solo off the front.

Drew in Silverton. A teammate in the race, especially one as great as Drew, is a huge help & morale boost

I rested my forearms on the tops of my bars and time trialed to the base of the first climb.  On Coal Bank Pass the race official’s vehicle pulled up next to me and told me I had a six mintue gap.  It was beautiful riding higher and higher into the mountains but it was getting more difficult and I knew they would be charging hard across that gap.  I told myself that if I make over Coal Bank Pass still solo that I had a chance to hang on for the win.  I did go over Coal Bank solo and started the Molas Pass alone as well, but when I glanced across the valley I saw the orange kit of the Rally Cycling rider Sepp Kuss about a minute behind.  I was suprised how quickly he caught me and how effortlessly he spooled by, like climbing on air.  I kept my own pace and started looking over my shoulder, but didn’t see anyone else.  I crested Molas Pass ok, stayed safe on the descent, and pedalled hard up through the tunnel of cheering fans.  You can’t help but get shivers, and feel so happy to have made it, knowing you did your best effort on the ride.  It was awesome.  The first person I saw was Matt Caruso of Caruso Cycleworks, my mechanic, and then I found Mai.  It was a fun celebration.  As the racers came in we all congratulated one another, happy for each other and the challenge, laughing as we recapped our experiences.  The spirit of cycling in Durango is positive, energitic, rewarding, super fun.

 

Wendy Palen from Team CSP-SBI finished strong with teammate Tom Sisk

 

Tom Sisk, the leader of the Landscape Conservation Initiative, put in a great ride

The celebration continued for hours as riders rolled across the finish line.  One of the best parts of the weekend was the arrival of my teammates in Silverton.  Team CSP-SBI had three riders in the citizens ride.  Wonderful how cycling brings us all together.  Shared joy filled the atmosphere.  The grace and beauty of all the people on bikes in epic landscapes.

The Iron Horse Bicycle Classic reunites us with old friends and family and helps us make new ones.  It is such a family friendly event.  So many interesting people, it just absolutely flattens all boundaries to coming together as one community.  The whole world seems bicycle-oriented, and the incredible mountains, snow, and sky make the setting especially delightful.

I don’t know these people, but they look like they are having a good time

 

Mindy Caruso from Albuquerque won the Womens Pro race with a stupendous ride. Way to go!

It is inspiring.  I think the most incredible thing is experiencing the joy of others, and seeing their accomplishments.  Mindy Caruso from Albuquerque won the womens race in remarkable fashion.  I was so happy for Sepp Kuss, winning his hometown-race.  Howard Grotts, another hometown hero, would win the mountain bike race the next day and win the inaugural King of the Mountain competition.  Ned Overend was there representing the best in the cycling tradition.  At 61, his experience and strength is awesome.  Iron Horse turned me on to so many inspirational stories.  You learn more about the triumph of the human spirit.  On our podium Sepp called out “everybody up” for us to gather around him.  He wanted us all on the top step with him.  I feel lucky to be a part.

Sepp is a generous champion

 

the womens podium, go Mindy from Albuquerque!

 

the mens

 

Teammates celebrating together in Silverton

 

Team CSP-SBI on Molas pass showing the spirit of the Iron Horse

The story of the mens and womens pro races, w/ video, in the Durango Herald:
https://durangoherald.com/articles/161665
The kids race attracted over three hundred youth!
https://durangoherald.com/articles/161825-iron-horse-kids-race-participation-x2018-sky-rocketing-x2019
The BMX event was an exhilirating success:
https://durangoherald.com/articles/161850-bmx-proves-it-belongs-at-iron-horse-bicycle-classic
There are more stories at the Durango Herald, and also other media such as Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/IHBCDurango/

Thank you to my teammates, friends and family, Southwest Bike Initiative’s fiscal sponsor SINC, and our team sponsors.

What is sustainable transportation?

Once when I did a visioning session with some German engineering students, they had no trouble seeing sustainable farms, sustainable forestry, even sustainable chemistry… But none of these engineers could envision a sustainable transportation system, though some of them actually worked in designing solar vehicles. Finally they concluded that transportation is a cost, not a benefit, that it’s noisy, disrupting, energy- and time-consuming, and inherently unsatisfying, and that it would be best if everyone were already where they wanted to be, with whom they wanted to be. In a sustainable society, they concluded, travel would be almost unnecessary.  –Donella Meadows, Envisioning a Sustainable World

Changing our world begins with imaginative ideas.  A vision of where we are heading.  What does it mean to want sustainable transportation, and what would that world look like?  A scientist advised me that nothing in nature is sustainable.  We use things and matter changes form.  Since then I’ve thought of sustainability as more of a guidance system, a continuum.  Not a point of perfection that we’ll reach, but a standard we’ll measure by, an ideal to strive for, a prism to look through.  We want to work wisely with nature, not use it up.  We want to align our lives with nature, not work against it. Sustainability is a principle we infuse throughout our living processes.  When applied to transportation, sustainability steers our approach so it is more renewable, uses less finite materials, and is fitting with the whole context of nature, especially as indicated in the human form and measured by wellness and self-sufficiency.

The good news is nature equipped us with renewable transportation.  Sustainable transportation is human-powered mobility.  When we exercise it makes us stronger.  Since we were babies we longed to move our feet.  Walking and talking develop together.  They are simple yet profound.  Combine them and you have some of the most compelling expressions of human force, such as public marches, and lifestyles that show a commitment to “walking the talk”, metaphorically speaking.  It’s strange that we’ve designed transportation systems that alienate us from our native powers and make us reliant on more costly methods.   Just like no-till agriculture prevents unnecessary waste, human-powered transport meets most of our needs neatly and sufficiently.  And in fact, it seems almost like it is a requirement to live close to our nature, as our health and well-being suffers if we don’t.  It seems that tending to nature is a moral imperative.  We should plan and design for walking and cycling at every instance, so citizens can act on our positive inclinations whenever we can, especially for transportation needs at the local and community scale.  Transportation needs include commuting, recreation and exercise.  We need recreation and exercise!

In an essay called Living Lightly and Inconsistently on the Land from The Global Citizen newspaper column, Donella Meadows cautioned against “setting up us/them and right/wrong categories”.  We live in a culture and era where living lightly on the land is nearly impossible.  The key is keeping our life simple when we can, and growing in areas where there are no limits, such as developing our capacities to understand and appreciate the world, extending our network of relationships and growing our concept of family so it’s more inclusive, and increasing our compassion and care.  Walking and cycling are amazingly practical tools that help us to grow as people, accomplish our daily living objectives, while simultaneously activating curiosity, wonder, empathy and vision.  They actually shift our perspective, transform us.  Through better integration of the activities of walking and cycling in the way we design our cities and set up our living arrangements, by refining our transportation practices, we may even experience a taste of the world we envision, as if our picture of the ideal life we wish for could be granted today.  Try and we shall see.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote:  “The central Unity is still more conspicuous in actions…An action is the perfection and publication of thought.  A right action seems to fill the eye, and to be related to all nature.  The wise man, in doing one thing, does all; or, in the one thing he does rightly, he sees the likeness of all which is done rightly.”  Sustainable transportation doesn’t mean we have to walk and cycle all the time, only that these choices should be primary, open, dignified, seen as useful, and be well-planned for, so that we may join freely with nature, while exercising our own good nature to make a better, longer lasting and more fulfilling world.  We can see it out there and move towards it.

Cycling for climate adaptation, water and stories

It [language] crossed mountains and oceans as if they werent there.  –Cormac McCarthy, “The Kekule Problem:  Where did language come from?” in Nautilus, issue 47

Devi Lockwood is traveling the world by bicycle with the goal of collecting 1001 stories.  The Guardian newspaper has run a couple of features about Devi’s trek to talk with citizens across the globe about their personal experiences with water and climate change, issues that Devi sees as being key challenges of her times.  “I use my bicycle as a tool for human connection..a way of meeting people and listening to their stories,” says Devi.

We use language to organize our unconscious knowledge into narratives, or stories, that we communicate across space and time and around the world.  Devi is intentionally cycling as slowly as possible in order to be a close listener, so she can hear the stories that people have, and diffuse an understanding about the changes happening.  In New Zealand–a place long thought of us a last refuge of wild space–she observes farmers struggling to come up with a system to manage the booming dairy industry, the waste of which is running into the water supply.  Devi’s observations at the community and individual level documents the real but oftentimes unaccounted-for costs hidden in our economy.

Devi’s work is pretty amazing, but we can also be close observers in our own communities at home.  A lot of citizens are struggling and it is an important time to listen to our stories and understand what is happening.  Cycling awakens our senses and helps us tune in, even to how the changes around us affect our own bodies, emotions and mind.  Cycling lends itself well to exploring our complex, interlocking world.  It teaches us more about place, more about our co-citizens, and gives us direct knowledge through our own biological feedback system–our health and well-being–while at the same time building up resiliency, sustainability and connections.  Cycling stories help us put together all of  that data we are gathering about the world in a way that is engaging, illuminating and fun.

Devi Lockwood’s professional website:  http://devi-lockwood.com
The Guardian bike blog stories on Devi:
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/bike-blog/2015/sep/21/one-bike-and-1001-stories-on-climate-change
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/apr/28/devi-lockwood-climate-march-1001-climate-change-stories