Team CSP-SBI’s Tom Sisk receives science award

Team CSP-SBI cycling ambassador Tom Sisk was honored by the Defenders of Wildlife with a science award this Fall.  Tom joined a prestigious group including Senator Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, and Dr. Nathan Varley and Linda Thurston from Yellowstone National Park, for making “lasting and extraordinary contributions to wildlife and habitat conservation.” Tom is a pioneer in ecology, environmental management, education, outreach and leadership training.  In his remarks from the award ceremony, Tom noted healthy ecosystems depend on all people having “opportunities to experience, learn about, and value nature.”

Dr. Tom Sisk, on left, receiving the Spirit of Defenders Science Award, from the Defenders of Wildlife

One of the highlights of my year was experiencing the great outdoors with Tom and more Team CSP-SBI ambassadors at the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic this past May.  Cycling connects us with wild places and the spirit of life within ourselves. Cycling gives us opportunity to get oriented, and gain first-hand knowledge of the places where we ride.  We learn about them in detail through our senses, while connecting with the communities that conserve them.  Riding a bike with teammates and thousands of friendly people in a place as grand as the San Juan Mountains of Southwestern Colorado was incredibly energizing.  Cycling’s light footprint and positive health impact makes it a great match for safeguarding lands and habitat.  Plus sharing a bicycle ride is a great way to bring communities together and forge memories that bond people of all ages and backgrounds for a lifetime.  Cycling opens the way for community engagement, action-oriented learning, and thriving communities.  So fun!  Congratulations to Dr. Tom Sisk for the Spirit of Defenders Science Award, and wishing him lots more productive work and cycling.

Tom Sisk cycling at the Iron Horse with Wendy Palen, May 2017.  The bike heritage in Durango is special.

References / Credits:
Award photo and opening quote from the Defenders of Wildlife Blog

You can learn more on Dr. Sisk’s work at:
Landscape Conservation Initiaitive where he is director
Conservation Science Partners where is a founding board member

Learn more about Team CSP-SBI at the Iron Horse on SBI’s Blog

Cycling traditions in Albuquerque, NM

Pez Cycling published a feature article on Albuquerque cycling stalwart John Frey.  Over the 3+ years I’ve lived here I’ve met John many times while out cycling.  Even before I moved here I was aware of the US 40 kilometer time trial record he set in 1990 on one of the fastest courses in the world in Moriarty, NM.  John averaged nearly 32 mph!  And his record still stands.  Pez Cycling’s article helped me learn much more about the depth and detail of John’s accomplishments and the prominent cycling traditions here in Albuquerque.

John Frey, featured in Pez Cycling’s ‘Chrono Legend’ article linked at the end of this post

I grew up in Tucumcari, New Mexico and discovered cycling by visiting a small pro shop in Albuquerque, NM while attending the university and using the bike for transportation. I was intrigued by the specialized equipment and [the] fact that bicycles were raced like horses, even the cleats were nailed onto the shoe.  –John Frey on getting into cycle sport

Each time I’ve met John it has been an impromptu meeting on the bike, and every time has been memorable.  I first met John on the North Diversion Channel multi-use trail, while I was cruising with my friend Chris.  We stopped and said hello.  Another day I was climbing the Sandia Crest and rode up beside John and he started talking to me.  I matched his pace for a while and he told me how popular this climb was for cycling.  As I recall he got through a couple different subjects including steel bicycle frames before I spooled ahead.  The last time I met him we rode together north to Bernalillo and east through Placitas.

John Frey on the right, yielding to horses (photo by Mark Aasmundstad)

It was a fun ride.  John was on a team ride with Sandia Cycles, a bike shop in Albuquerque, and the group I was with bumped into them at the traffic circle on Tramway Road, a common meet-up spot for group rides.  We all decided to share the road together and headed to Bernalillo and then Placitas.  During the ride we came across a herd of horses.  We carefully chose our path around them.  On the same ride John led us through a series of backroads bypassing busier roads.  It was a new route for me, and a beautiful one.

John takes us past the wild horses, just before the road turns to dirt and climbs the Sandias

John is a lot like New Mexico.  His down-to-earth authenticity makes his monumental stature approachable, if you can keep pace with all the interesting stories.  On the Placitas ride he was looking after his teammates and keeping the herd of cyclists together.  As typical on a medium sized group ride, you ride side by side and change partners as the group rotates through.  I heard a lot of stories from John and his teammates about the cycling heritage and traditions here in Albuquerque and New Mexico.  John’s feats of speed on the bike did not surface.  You have to read the Pez Cycling article for that!  The links are at the end of this post.

After John and his team turned around I headed up the gravel road climbing the Sandias with Chris and Dean

Continue crazy for the bike, but enjoy anything outdoors in New Mexico altitude with my wife, Kelly, who is still on my wheel after plenty of rough road and bad weather! Advocate for cycling and health prevention to anyone, whenever possible.  –John Frey on what he’s up to now

Displaying IMG_20171215_113827759.jpg

Tramway road leading towards the Sandias is one of many assets making Albuquerque a great place to cycle

Links and references:

Pez Cycling talks to chrono legend John Frey, part 1

Pez Cycling talks to chrono legend John Frey, part 2

USA Cycling National Records

Movement is life, and more reasons to cycle to work

“Imagine if a team of scientists devised a drug which massively reduced people’s chances of developing cancer or heart disease, cutting their overall likelihood of dying early by 40%….That drug is already here, albeit administered in a slightly different way: it’s called cycling to work.”  —The Miracle Pill

“The benefits of physical activity are just so overwhelmingly large.”–Cycling to work means better health and a longer life.  Here’s how to get started.

On September 8 the Washington Post published an article on cycling to work in their Health & Science section.  It relates scientific evidence of cycling’s amazing benefits to the real life experiences of six bike commuters, making the benefits palpable.  One commuter, Carlos, says he’s saved $7000.  Another, Tricia, says cycling helps you see your city “in a way you’ve never seen it before”, and cycling to work clears her head.  “It’s exercise, there’s sunshine and it’s really cheap. It makes me happier.”  All of the commuters interviewed for the article “said they liked how biking built exercise into their day.”  It makes exercise come naturally and easily.

Not exercising is definitely risky.  Humans are designed to move.  But is cycling perceived to be safe?  Even though cycling crashes resulting in a death are relatively rare, Southwestern cities—Albuquerque, Tucson, Las Vegas, and Phoenix—led the nation in cycling crash rates in 2014-2015.  The growth boom of Southwestern cities after WWII produced a “transportation infrastructure focused almost exclusively on the private motor car” (from the FHWA doc. linked below). This is definitely a wake up call that we need to prioritize cyclist safety so the public feels more confident making healthy decisions.  Southwest Bike Initiative focuses on improving traffic safety and service for all travelers here in the Southwest US so citizens can share in the prosperity of cycling’s restorative effects.

One super cool thing about cycling to work is it shifts our perspective.  By changing behavior, changes in attitudes follow.  When I’m cycling I feel more connected and compassionate.  Our city’s purpose is to nurture our citizen’s collective well-being. We don’t want to be fit into a system that doesn’t make us fit or enhance our fitness.  Choosing independent movement through a self-powered vehicle like a bicycle makes us fitter, and is therefore very fitting.  It takes a new vision and education to positively change our social norms and habits, and leadership from the community.  It’s a matter of conscious choice and free will.    Carol says in the Washington Post article: “I think a lot of people have this idea that ‘real cyclists’ will look down on them if they only bike some of the time, or only for short distances, but there are no ‘real cyclists’; there are just people who put on their clothes and get on a bike.”  Cycling really is for everyone.

References:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/bike-blog/2017/sep/17/the-miracle-pill-how-cycling-could-save-the-nhs

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/cycling-to-work-means-better-health-and-a-longer-life-heres-how-to-get-started/2017/09/08/b48d13f2-72ed-11e7-9eac-d56bd5568db8_story.html?utm_term=.509d666c2b0e

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/bike-blog/2017/apr/20/its-good-to-hear-cycling-to-work-reduces-your-risk-of-dying-but-thats-not-why-i-do-it

Kenneth Burke—“people may be unfitted by being fit in an unfit fitness.” quoted in The Well-Tempered City by Jonathan F.P. Rose

https://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/intersection/other_topics/fhwasa09027/resources/Design%20Guidance%20Accommodating%20Bicycle%20and%20Pedestrian%20Travel.pdf

Cycling for kids: Strider Bikes and Specialized Foundation

What will this do to our community?  –Wendell Berry quoting the Amish in The Sun Magazine, August 2017

Imagine if we made cycling accessible for everyone, from the moment we could walk to our last steps on this earth?  Strider Bikes and the Specialized Foundation are two companies hard at work making this dream possible.  Strider Bikes makes bicycles without pedals so people simply use their natural leg motion to propel the bike forward.  Riders learn the feeling of steering and balancing while gliding at moderate speeds.  Strider bikes are also called balance bikes.  They have handbrakes for stopping.  Strider Bikes makes a range of bicycles, beginning with one designed for children who are 18 months old.   Balance bikes are fun for all ages and all abilities.  I could see these helping senior cyclists.  It is like walking on a bicycle.  But it has that cycling magic, a gliding feel, like we are walking on air.

We believe it [cycling] has positive benefits far beyond what we currently understand, and we hope that our primary scientific research will lend itself to a broader discussion around how activities, like cycling, can help with all types of health-related issues.  –Mike Sinyard, Specialized Bicycles

Specialized bicycles are world class.  You see them underneath winners of the Tour de France.  The Specialized Foundation is developing specific applications for cycling as a treatment for ADHD in kids.  Mike Sinyard, Specialized’s Founder and CEO, has dealt with ADHD his whole life, and he noticed cycling alleviates symptoms.  A few years ago he decided to partner with researchers at Stanford to study the exact mechanisms of action that are helpful.  As part of the Foundation’s mission to “advance the understanding of how cycling can help improve the social, emotional, and physical wellbeing of children”, they have a grant program for schools who can apply for assistance supporting cycling for middle school aged kids, 11-14 years old.  Every cyclist I know expounds upon the benefits cycling introduces to their lives.  With scientific studies like this one, we are just beginning to understand what is possible using cycling as medicine.

For the lucky ones, cycling is a continuous journey that blooms throughout life.  To create more opportunity for more people to discover and enjoy the incredible powers of cycling, we have to improve traffic safety.  Here at Southwest Bike Initiative, we believe if we get safety right, automatic and beneficial effects are generated in our transportation and related systems, such as healthcare (where America spends 18% of our GDP!), creative economies, biodiversity, and better connected, more livable communities.  Cycling is such an appropriate technology for so many of our trips.  It makes our bodies feel whole again, well-suited and sufficient.  A safe traffic system is structural encouragement for active transportation.  We can feel free to use our independent mobility powers.

Cycling is a technological innovation delivering profound boosts to the entire community.  Let’s use it to our fullest capabilities!  And remember, the most important reason to cycle is fun.  People take to bicycles like birds take to the air.

References and credits:

All three photos are from Strider Bikes:  https://www.striderbikes.com/learn-to-ride

Story of Specialized Foundation:  https://www.specialized.com/us/en/specialized-foundation-about-us

Outside’s story on Specialized’s work, “Road bikes not ritalin, how cycling could help kids with adhd”:
https://www.outsideonline.com/2095101/road-bikes-not-ritalin-how-cycling-could-help-kids-adhd

Health care data from the World Health Org.,: http://apps.who.int/nha/database

A Ride

story and photos by Team CSP-SBI’s Michael Ort
—————–

I wake up with an ear worm: “Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel shall come to you, O Israel”.  No idea where it came from, but it’s there.  By 6:45, I’ve had my tea and some too-sweet granola (the store must have changed its supplier), and am out the door on my cross bike.  No one out on the streets – Sundays are delightful that way.  Up the hill behind Thorpe Park.  Funny that the ride starts with the steepest hill.  Up onto the mesa and beginning to stretch out.  Ten cow elk cross the dirt road in front of me.  I wonder where the pronghorns I used to see around here have gone.  Bouncing along over ruts and rocks – the big trucks doing the forest thinning sure mess up the road.  The heavy equipment used to put in the Snowbowl water line a few years ago must not have been cleaned of noxious seeds before coming in.  The cheatgrass came in at that time and is spreading quickly.  All the forest clearing might be for naught if the cheatgrass carries the fires instead.  Pass through a covey of sleeping campers with vehicles on both sides of the road.  No dogs come out, good!  Bouncing bouncing bouncing, Rejoice rejoice Emmanuel!

We had dinner out with our daughter last night.  She moved out last weekend.  I was surprised how good it was to see her.  I miss her.  The nest is empty.  Legs feeling good – rejoice!  We are going to do the Ride the Rockies next week, and I have not really done any training.  This ride might tell me whether I can do the miles, but it is too late to train.  I was working on Reunion Island for a couple of weeks, where I managed a couple of runs on the track outside my dorm room, but the work was pretty demanding.  Then a day in Dublin to drop off suitcases – why bring them home if we are moving back there in a couple of months? – and then to Oxford to work on a proposal for a couple of days.  It was good to meet my two colleagues – we had only corresponded via email and chatted on skype previously.  But one just could not seem to get her mind around the project and focus on obtaining the results we need from her.  After the meeting, the other colleague told me she wants the first one off the proposal – she doesn’t have the skills to do the work we need.  Colleague number two is right, but these are people, not robots.  I am the lead on this – it falls to me.  I wrote a letter, but is it kind?  Is it clear?  It is sitting on my computer now, waiting for me to decide.  I need advice from someone.  Who?  Guido would be good – I’ll write him.  Bam – oof!  Hit that rock a bit hard.  Rejoice!  Come back to now.

These wheels are pretty strong.  Had them built last summer, set up tubeless, and now can ride fatter tires.  35 rear, 40 up front.  My first long ride on them was this same route, I think.  It was before I did that ride put on by that organization in Phoenix, riding up to the Canyon.  I did not know anybody on the ride, but my daughter ran the scheduling for friends who were giving massages at the finish.  We all camped there that night.  And then I ran into Dara – Troy was off doing something – and so there was someone to chat with.  She had her little gas molecule with her, running around playing.  I was beat from riding a cross bike on a mountain-bike course, but bang!  Didn’t see that rock in the shade.  I really should get some lighter sunglasses so I can see in mottled light.  Legs still feeling good. Dropping down behind Wing Mountain.  Cool, a coyote!  And cows.  Rejoice, rejoice!  I wonder where that song comes from.  Can’t think of any more words to it – could it be from Dad’s temple?  No, I can’t remember singing there.  Mom’s church?  Maybe – they did a lot of singing back then.  It was an ecumenical time.  That seems to have passed – do churches still invite people from other faiths to discuss their belief systems?  I learned a lot from those but I can’t seem to believe in the Judeo-Christian-Muslim god any more.  After seeing my daughter in the hospital with Stevens-Johnson syndrome, skin blistering from a reaction to her epilepsy meds, I couldn’t see any god that allowed that as merciful or loving, or else he/she/it wasn’t very powerful.  The forest feels powerful today.  Maybe god is something else.  Cool, arriving at road 222.  Fast and no traffic – haven’t seen a car moving yet.  Where is my shortcut – that one?  No, I’ll recognize it.  Don’t second-guess yourself.  There it is – turn off!  A couple mule deer.  Now road 171 – heading toward Kendrick.  The lava tube is over there.  It is nice the tourists don’t know about the better caves.  Ahh, the first car passes me, respectfully and slowly, keeping the dust down.  Give them a wave.  Oh, two hours in now, time to eat something.  Quiet out here, good time to sit.  Rejoice, Emmanuel, whoever you are!  Along the foot of Kendrick and then south on road 100 through Government Prairie.  Pass the Government Prairie vent – coolest scoria cone around, with benmoreite, rhyolite, and dacite all erupted together.  The students I take here are always amazed and confused by it.  What a wide-open area!

The road goes straight along the range boundary.  Glad we don’t use township and range much anymore.  GPS and UTM sure simplify things!  Through the little housing community – they just graded this road.  Up to 35 mph on the downhill, with a bit of sliding on some turns.  Rejoice!  Left on old route 66, dirt here.  And uphill.  Hmm, my legs are getting tired, and it is hot.  Stop at the top for another bit of food, and refill my bottles from the one-liter platypus in the big seat bag I put on the bike for this ride.  Great invention, but I am still going to be pretty dry by the end.  Twenty miles to go now, forty miles in.  More sunscreen? Nah – too much sweat on me, so the cream won’t stick.  Downhill to that little housing area – I wonder if it has a name?  See my second (and third, fourth, fifth, and sixth) vehicles on the road – old pickups each with one person inside, in single file moving slowly.  Wonder what that is about.  Damn Assos bib shorts.  I bought them because everyone said they are so comfortable.  They always feel noticeable when I wear them, chamois too thick, bib straps push on my shoulders.  I want shorts I don’t notice.  After these shorts failed, I started buying Castelli.  Those fit me, and disappear when I am on the bike.  My nipples hurt – the stupid bib straps are chafing them.  Do I need to put bandaids on them like in a marathon?  Bouncing along probably accentuates the problem.  Pavement!  I wonder how long this stretch is.  Long fast cruise downhill, to turn back onto road 171.  Three miles of pavement to the turn.  Wave and call out greetings to the pack of runners returning from their run and getting into their cars.  Damn, I should have asked them if they had any extra water.  Up the hill – three more cars pass by – and turn onto 222A.  This will be a grunt – my legs are tired.  Forgot how loose and rocky it is too.  A big guy in a huge pickup stops and gets out, heading off into the woods.  He waves, and remotely locks the pickup, which chirps as I pass by.  Finally at the top – Rejoice, Emmanuel.  Who was Emmanuel?  Isn’t that another name for Jesus?  For people who had no surnames, the various forms of god sure had a lot of given names.  Cruising down the road toward A1 Mountain now.  Brake quickly at the rough patches.  Better lighting than earlier this morning, but I am tired and need to be careful.  Stop for my last food and drain one bottle.  Still have half the other to drink.  I’ll make it.  An SUV comes by and stops and asks if I am okay.  I probably look pretty beat.  I should – I am.  I thank them.  Damn!  Should have asked for water.  Or maybe a beer.  Out into A1 meadow.  No animals out now.  Down the hill to Thorpe Park, slowing and ringing my bell for the walkers.  Pavement, up the hill, and home.  Pine pollen covers everything in yellow.  Except me.  I am covered in dust.  And my bike too.  Hose us both off. Rejoice, rejoice!  I’ll lube the chain later.  

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.