2014 A Productive Year in Cycling

Well it’s Friday evening and it is the start of the Christmas Holiday break. This gives me an opportunity to reflect on cycling adventures that I’ve had this year. While my cycling has slowed in December with more indoor trainer intervals, I still have time to get out there and ride on the streets. That I will do but let me ponder what I’ve done this year.

I’ve done a lot less of the charity rides this year. I’m not sure as to why but I haven’t. I usually end up doing my own ride that day or the following day for free! Then again the charity loses out on my $35. Sometimes I have paid for the event but fail to show up. In that case I don’t feel so bad about it.

Before I got off of Facebook, I used it to create cycling events for group rides West of Mission. These are routes that cyclist generally don’t take for some reason. To me, they are perfectly good, safe (or safer) routes that have interesting things along the way. We had three good rides out that way to see the 900 year old Montezuma Bald Cyprus tree, further on out is the Los Ebanos Ferry that’s worth the check-out and then we closed the summer with a BBQ and Swimming at the Rancho El Charco facility.

My quest to get to Rio Grande City was squashed with poor, unsafe roads. I got as far as La Grulla which is about the half way mark before I turned around. Next year I’ll safely make it over and back. I know I will.

I won the Lone Rider award at the El Tour de 5AM Challenge dinner party. It was a surprise to me and I graciously accepted the award. No long speeches were given. With plenty of eats and a great video montage of fellow cyclists it was a fun evening.

This year I got the commute to work bug big time. I always wanted to ride to work but after one excuse after another I never did it until this year. Only problem was I didn’t have a commuter bike. I had my road bike and my hybrid. Neither had the little eyelets to install a bike rack and since both bikes are of the carbon type, I was a little concerned that I wouldn’t be able to pull it off. I was not keen on taking a change in clothes the day before and bring it back the day after the ride. Seemed like a lot of trouble. After some research, I found a place that carried racks that will work with my Sirrus hybrid and went ahead and built up a nice commuter bike with panniers. I’ve enjoyed commuting to work several times a week and saved me some cash on gas for the car. This is something I think I’ll continue to do.

I’m a gear junkie and this year was good over all. I got a new bike computer from Magellan and love it. Some new platform pedals for the Sirrus for my commutes :) Love those Specialized Bennies! The Specialized Keg turned out to be a good buy that’s very useful. I use it to carry the spare tube and tire levers along with some cash. I can take the keg from bike-to-bike without needing to move the seat saddle along with it. Just pop it in to the water bottle cage and off I go.

One piece of gear that turned out to be a dud was the Wahoo RFLKT+. I don’t know if it was a defective unit or just poor design and execution of the product but it was a terrible experience.  When it worked it was great but when it didn’t it was frustrating. I gave up on that device.

Luckily Wahoo made another product that is da bomb! It’s an indoor trainer called The Kickr. Nothing but positive thoughts and vibes from this trainer. I got it paired up with iMobileIntervals and more recently TrainerRoad to do my power based intervals indoors. Quiet enough to watch Netflix while I sweat it out doing my intervals. Worth the money I spent on it.

This year was also the year of trips. Took off to San Antonio with a friend to pick up her new Oreba bike. Off to the trails we went in San Antonio then a quick trip to Austin to ride the hilly downtown to the State Capitol. We capped the evening with an outdoor musical of Oklahoma at Zilker park. What a fun trip that was.

My other trip was to New York City! I’ve never had so much fun walking around than I did in New York. The Subways, busses, walking and yes biking. I didn’t take my bike over there but I hopped on one of those CitiBikes and took off length Hudson river. Nice! Loved it. What great scenery and nice people. Wish I had more time to spend cycling but didn’t. Like everyone else, I want to go back.

I can safely say that 2014 was a good year for me cycling wise. Some bucket list items were checked off and others added. Next year I hope to do more of the same with new touring destinations in little known spots here in the Rio Grande Valley. I just might have to get back on Facebook to create events but who knows. Until then, I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

Times Have Changed in the Rio Grande Valley

When I lived in the Dallas during the late 80’s and all the 90’s, I would often take part in the charity cycling rides that seem to be in great abundance. Just about every suburb had their own sportive event that were fun and challenging. As my circumstances changed, I moved back to the Valley and found little to none in the way of those same events. Maybe I wasn’t aware of them or the word didn’t spread as they do now with high-speed Internet. Never-the-less, I didn’t participate in any nor was I aware of any. That was then, this is now. Now days, there is an over abundance sportive events to choose from. Not just cycling, but mountain biking, marathons, duathlons, triathlons and various fun runs.

I started running through the list of road biking events that I’ve participated in and those that I didn’t. Here is what I came up with (the help of my friends):

  1. January – Keep McAllen Beautiful Arbor Day Cycling Tour & Criterium
  2. February – Jalapeno 100
  3. March – Oblate Trail Ride
  4. March – Bike to the Beach
  5. April – Walk n Rolla
  6. May – Pedal to Padre
  7. June – SB250
  8. July – Freedom Ride
  9. August – Pedal Against Crime
  10. September – King of the Causeway
  11. October – Breast Cancer Awareness Ride (Oncology Ride)
  12. November – Pedal Against Child Abuse
  13. December – Pico de Gallo 100
  14. December – Toys for Tots Ride

One or two of them seems to have been a one-time event but I included them anyways. As you can see, there is an event for every month in the year. The Valley’s mild winters allows us to pretty much cycle all year round. Add some mountain bike events, time trials and personal tours the Valley has really come a long way in providing venues for cycling and the fitness benefits that go along with it.

This is only the cycling part of outdoor activities. Cycling is not your thing? Not to worry, we got you covered with hunting, fishing, birdwatching, skeet shooting, archery, softball, tennis, golf, marathons, duathlons, triathlon, the many 3k-10k runs and turkey trots. They Valley has something for everyone. It’s not slowing down either. More and more people are taking up one, two or even three sports. Businesses are sprouting up to support the sports and the market is maturing. More work needs to be done on safe roads, education and enforcement. Times have changed here in the Rio Grande Valley and I love it.

Cycle-In Cinema, Edinburg’s First Try

Cycle-In Cinema Photo ShotA few months ago a friend of mine posted an article on Facebook about San Antonio’s Cycle-In Cinema being a great success. After reading it, I thought to myself, “We can do that!”. It was a neat idea that could work here in the Rio Grande Valley. I’ve been to other outdoor movie venues in the Sharyland area and enjoyed watching the free movies outside. Those events were well attended so I knew it could work again but this time with a cycling element. I had visions of cycling power games before the movie to see who could generate the most power. Similar to the old carnival games of ringing the bell with that sledge-hammer. Or maybe charging the batteries on the generator and the movie won’t start until the batteries are topped off. Or just cycle to provide the power to the projector with one or two intermissions to change out cyclists. To me, that sound like fun and with those ideas in mind, I threw down the gauntlet and put forth the challenge. “Make it happen!”, I said.

Soon we were exchanging emails and ideas on what to do and how to do it. This eventually progressed to a meetings with interested parties. The meeting consisted of some University of Texas – Pan American staff (soon to be UT-RGV) , Edinburg Public Library (Dustin M. Sekula Memorial Library) and Ciclistas Urbanos (a local social cycling club). We debated on how to power and how much of the equipment should be powered. Finally it was agreed to hold off on powering anything due to time constraints and funds.

Not having funds to build didn’t stop us from planning an outdoor movie. At this point in time we opted for showing a flick with the emphasis on cycling to the event. We are in the baby steps phase and felt that this was a good start. We needed to gather movie showing equipment and promote the event. If we can do this, then we will have completed two-thirds of the puzzle, coordinating people and equipment and promoting. The last piece of the puzzle is the actual bike powered generator. That will come later.

First order of business was the movie and the license needed to publicly show it. Dustin M. Sekula Memorial Library took care of that issue and found a sponsor to pay for the license. The movie selected was unanimous, Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. I have personally never seen the movie and was excited to watch it.

City Hall’s plaza was picked as the place to show the movie due to large grassy area and available power outlets. The equipment came from both the City of Edinburg (various departments) and a private individual that had a projector that we could use. Initially we were going to rent a projection screen but one of the city departments had a huge 10×10 banner that we could reverse and use as a projection screen.

I suggested that we gather all the equipment needed and do a check on both the location and the gear to make sure everything worked together. After a spell of bad weather we were finally able to do an equipment check. There was some initial concern that the projector wouldn’t be bright enough to use but even with the plaza lights still on the projection was just fine. At least good enough to carry on. With some PA speakers hooked up the sound was a great!

The movie was scheduled to run in conjunction of another event that was happening on the other side of city hall. This made it easier to advertise and put the word out. Flyers and Facebook events were created with each of us spreading the word out to various groups. I felt we didn’t have enough time to promote it but we made do with what we had.

On the day of the event I had planned on commuting to work on my bike but the forecast predicted rain during my ride. It also predicted rain throughout the afternoon so that kept my bike at home. As it turned out, it only lightly sprinkled in the morning and the rest was nice and clear.

Movie goersBy the time we started to set up the sun was down and the weather was nice and breezy. You couldn’t have picked a better time to show a movie. Soon cyclists started to show up and others that walked or drove over to check it out. I had my snacks ready for the showing of Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.

Having never seen this film before it was a blast watching it. In fact everyone had a good time laughing. It brought back many memories for a lot of people there. Good ones I hope. After the movie everyone stayed and chatted with one another catching up on lost time. I did miss a few people that didn’t show up but what can you do.

Relaxing on the grass and enjoying the showDespite the fact that we didn’t have a bicycle generator, we feel that the event was a success. We were able to plan the showing rather quickly, get the word out, have people show up on their bikes and everyone had a good time. Yes, we need to work on getting an actual bike generator and we got people working on that. We already have people submitting ideas to improve the experience for the next showing. I think the Cycle-In Cinema is here to stay and will only get better.