There’ some serious fun to be had out there…

Wow. This looks like a lot of pai… er, fun:

The normal 40 feels like a long way.  100?  Yes!  Yes!  Yes!  It hurts!

Then there’s the westside dirty benjamin- 100 miles on gravel  Let’s hope they do it again in 2011.  No way was I going to survive that far this year, but if I keep this up next year should be doable.

I think I might ride around Lake Pepin soon.  It’s about 70 miles, nicely scenic, and I have a place to crash in Lake City.  A cursory search reveals that I’m not the only one, or the silliest one, to have this idea.  These silly bu… er, recreationists? Have been doing a 3-speed tour around the lake since 2006.  In period garb.  All I have to say is: CHAFING!

I guess that’s what do when you’re into re-enactments, bicycles, and you live nowhere near anything that has a relationship to the Civil War…  More power to ’em.

Anyway, I’ll probably take the road bike.  Or set up the fixie with a gear (42-24?) that might let me scale the precipice south of Maiden Rock with quads intact.  Need to get this one done in July though.  August looks pretty crazy right now.  Holler at me if you’re in- there’s room to sleep about 3 people on the boat in Lake City (more if there are couples.)

Nice day for a ride

I say that every day, though.  Last night at about 11pm  I went for a ride in a thunderstorm on the fixie.  It was awesome.  I got soaked.  The lighting was unbelievable.  Hardest part was seeing where I was going- it had been quite a warm day, and the rain was steaming as it hit the road.   Throw a headlight on and you get some pretty good fog reflection.  Happily, even though this was at prime drunk time in Wisconsin on a Saturday night, everybody gave me a wide berth.

Today’s two-wheeled self-motivated hijinks started out as a simple spin to get my legs unkinked from hammering on the new TT bike, and a vicious Crossfit workout that made it hard to get out of bed this morning.  I didn’t really have an idea of where I was going, except that I wanted to start into the wind so I didn’t have to fight a headwind on the way home.  I didn’t really have an idea of how far I wanted to go, either.  I just wanted to see some white lines whizzing by and let my thoughts wander.

I think the thinking is part of what is so appealing about bicycling and motorcycling- you have en excuse not to be doing anything else for the duration of the ride.  I think of it as rolling meditation.  Oddly, in my mental model of “cool things to do of an afternoon,” I ascribe similar levels of effort to riding a motorcycle as I do riding a bicycle.  Sure, the motorcycle moves you along, but the wind at highway speeds beats you up more, and the risk is probably a lot greater, so you have to be a little more “signed in” if you want to keep the rubber side down.  My legs come back more tired from a bicycle ride, but the rest of me gets more of a workout on the motorcycle.

Anyway, I went out for a good meditate just after 1pm.  Can’t tell you what I thought about, really.  Well, I can a bit- I broke a spoke and my newly reassembled bottom bracket has resumed its creaky ways, so those got some attention.  But the rest of it is through and gone.  I pondered some deep questions, but I didn’t really think about anything in a manner that allows me to remember what I thought.  It was very refreshing.

Here’s the route I took:

Once I got to about the 22 mile point, I stopped by my favorite cafe/bike shop: The Bikery .  What a great combination- carbs, caffeine, and bicycles.   They have an Eddy Merckx track frame hanging in the window, along with some local artists’ work.  I have some photos from the Stillwater Criterium hanging there, including in the Ladies’ loo (or so my wife tells me.)  A mocha and a cookie (Shhh! don’t tell anyone) later, and I was feeling refreshed.  I drooled over some high end road bikes (the Argon 18s are beautiful and surprisingly reasonable), chatted with the gentleman in the bike shop, and then set off again.

22 miles, 4 miles from home, big nasty awful hill that I abhor (more for traffic reasons than because it’s steep), and I didn’t think 26 miles was going to be enough after last weekend’s 51 mile Houlton-Hudson-Prescott and back adventure (avoid county road F.  They mean it… it’s ucking Fawful.)  So I headed south through town, past the OPH prison (always feel vaguely guilty riding past there, in case any incarcerated cyclists get twitchy legs watching me go by) and south to Afton.  My idea was to ride the Afton hill then head home.  It was a bit of a grind, but I made it.  Then I went down one of my favorite hills, and along the St. Croix past some amazing houses on my way back north.

Lakeland and Lakeland shores are unremarkable, and the road isn’t much to write home about, but it has roundabouts, and I love roundabouts.  There are three of them, right in a row.  Wheee!

Once across the 94 bridge and into Hudson, I felt compelled to make a short detour to ride one of my other favorite roads- Trout Brook Road.  It’s a Rustic Road, and it winds along for a few miles before climbing out of the little river valley that it crosses.  It’s a nasty little climb, with a false summit about 2/3 of the way up.  At this point, I had about 45 miles in my legs, and really suffered.  But it was good suffering, the kind that allows you to think things and then completely forget them.

It probably wasn’t that remarkable a ride in many respects, apart from being my longest since I left California in late 2000.  I certainly didn’t cover it with any great speed (16.3 MPH), but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Today was day 75 of #30daysofbiking.  Proof that I’m not very good with directions.

Oh, and I took some pictures with the Olympus XA, but it’ll be a while before I finish the roll.

On product development

[edit: this got consigned to being a draft far too long ago.  Then I got busy with buying houses, saying goodbye to dogs I’ve had for many years, buying tractors, and resurrecting old Jeeps.  I’m reading it more than a year later, and it rings even more true than it did when I wrote it.  Therefore: worth sharing.]

So today is day 58 of 30.  That seems like an odd way to say it, but it’s representative of how things went down, man.  #30daysofbiking was in full swing (hipsters in MPLS kicked it off April 1) and I glommed on through some facebook postings and started on April 16th.  At the end I didn’t see any good reason to stop, and plenty of reasons to keep going.

That 16 day delay about sums it up for me trend-wise.  I like to let ’em age out a bit.  Those early adopters have a rough time of it.  Electronic shifting on bicycles in the 1990’s?  sheesh.  Apple Newton?  Pshaw.

The old Diamond Rio mp3 players ?  No thanks.   I first saw one in 1998 visiting a friend in Boston, Massachusetts and was amazed.  But it didn’t make sense, particularly when you factored in how long it took to download songs into it.

Now I have days worth of music in my pocket most of the time.  Course, it was still hundreds of dollars, but some things will never change.  I even came to the iPhone party relatively late.  Glad I did.  Early generations of anything inevitably take a little while to iron out.  Take it from me- I do new things for a living.  Not that there’s necessarily any bugs or anything wrong with the first generation.  It’s just that the design team hasn’t been through sequential iterations of developing, releasing, and getting feedback from real customers who put hard-earned money on the table.

My buddy Glen at work (Lead for the last project I worked on) always quotes his Rule of Three:  It takes three tries to get it right.  I think that’s right (it’s also why I’m making damn sure to plan 3 attempts at my next project before we even come close to having to produce something fit for public consumption.)  On our last project, the first bikes were so-so at the first attempt, okay at the second (some would have said acceptable for production), then stellar.  It took more than a year of working in secret to get there after we had, at least nominally, finished the design.   This was with a team that had been through the wringer and should have been able to hit it out of the park on their first try.

But they didn’t, and that’s intensely interesting to me.  They didn’t do anything wrong, not in the slightest.  They did their level best.  It just wasn’t good enough.  They had to try and find where they’d failed, fix those problems, and try again.  The important thing is being honest about the gap between what you did and what the customer expects, and having the courage to swallow your pride and redo things so that the final product is right.  That’s sometimes the toughest thing in the world, because you have to take something you’ve nurtured and developed, and basically throw parts (if you’re good and/or lucky) or all (if you’re neither) of it out.  Not easy if you’ve been slaving overtime and have brought your best game and found it lacking.  Humbling.  Terrifying, even.  Bad enough to make you not want to try, or to try and bargain your way out of it.  We see all the stages of grief in product development.

Managing that process can be daunting.  Setting up an environment where people want to put their best thinking and creativity into their design, then offer it up willingly like a lamb to slaughter is not a straightforward affair.  Maintaining a sense of perspective about things, and knowing how to do good triage- separating the designs that are right from those that just need work is hard enough, but knowing the designs that are so architecturally hamstrung that they need taking out back and shooting?  That’s hard work.  Factor in that people are involved, and they all care about what is going on, and they all have different ideas about what the right thing to do.  Throw in a senior manager that thinks they need to give input, and that you have to do what they say?  Ay yi yi.

I remember an interesting editorial in a windsurfing magazine back in the 90’s.  The overall theme was: don’t be learning how to do something when it’s critical and your life depends on it.  Don’t learn to waterstart in the Gorge when a barge is bearing down on you.  Don’t learn to handle an overpowered sail when the wind is offshore and the next shore is further away than you can sail.  It’s fine to do dangerous things, just give yourself some room to learn them where the odds are in your favor.

This sort of thing

Back to bikes.  I can’t believe I didn’t ride as much as I have for as long as I did.  Or didn’t.  Being back on a bike feels so good.

[edit: I didn’t ride my bike nearly as much in 2011 as I wanted to.  Heck, I didn’t even get in a decent motorcycle trip, or ride on the track.  But it will be all worth it in the long run.  You’ll see. 🙂 ]