Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Rationally Optimistic Bicyclist

"The world of things ... is indeed often subject to diminishing returns. But the world of ideas is not. The more knowledge you generate, the more you can generate. And the engine that is driving prosperity in the modern world is the accelerating generation of useful knowledge. So, for example, a bicycle is a thing and is subject to diminishing returns. One bicycle is very useful, but there is not much extra gain in having two, let alone three. But the idea 'bicycle' does not diminish in value. No matter how many times you tell somebody how to make or ride a bicycle, the idea will not grow stale or useless or fray at the edges." From The Rational Optimist, by Matt Ridley

I'm really enjoying The Rational Optimist, even though I don't agree with all of Matt Ridley's points. This book has been well worth my time and I heartily recommend it.

That being said, let's take a moment to talk about the paragraph quoted at the top of this post.

I understand that he's just using the bicycle as an analogy here, but, I'm going to have to take exception to the sentence "One bicycle is very useful, but there is not much extra gain in having two, let alone three." Ridley talks a great deal about specialization in earlier chapters but left it out here.

Were he to open my garage, Matt Ridley would see I've got two hybrids and a beach cruiser (I won't count my old 10 speed hidden away up in the attic because it needs too much work at the moment to count as a full bicycle). What do I gain by having two hybrids? I've got a spare bike for use when one of my bikeless children want to go along on a bike ride - or - in the inevitable event the "diminishing returns" of mechanical failure means my beloved Bucephalus needs to go to the shop.

I've got the third bike, a beach cruiser, for use during the winter. It's cheap and has big balloon tires that work great on ice and snow. With the third bike I gain an inexpensive option to the wear and maintenance that would be incurred by riding a nicer bike in the snow, slush and road salt.

I DO, on the other hand, agree that the idea 'bicycle' never grows stale or useless. So, share the idea 'bicycle' with others today.

He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. -- Thomas Jefferson
The Rational Optimist via Amazon

The Rational Optimist via Barnes and Noble

Friday, February 01, 2013

Lesson Learned During 2012 BAK

Monday's high temperature was 74° F. The last couple of days it only made it up to the mid-twenties. You'd think that I would have made sure that I got out on my bike when the temperatures were so spring like. Nope, it was pretty windy and one of the results of BAK back in June is a reluctance on my part to ride when it is really windy. I'd rather ride in the teens and mid-twenties with light winds than windy mid-seventies.

Biking Across Kansas 2012 took a lot out of me (just look at the date of my previous post). Don't get me wrong, looking back now I admit I enjoyed it, but it was so windy that 7 of the 9 days we rode were a lot of work. Two of those days were horrible. All due to strong winds.

Kansa in the Kaw language is roughly translated "People of the south wind" but the one day we were riding north the wind shifted so that it was coming from the north at 40 miles per hour sustained and gusts to 50 miles per hour. Our anticipated tailwind became a brutal headwind. Oh, I should mention that the first 19 miles of that ride were consistently up hill with the last mile or so being adjacent to a feed lot. A couple miles from that lot I thought we were riding into a sand storm. After we got through it we all looked like coal miners after a hard day. While digging the dust out of my ears I commented to another rider that I didn't think I'd ever get all this dirt out; he replied "That isn't dirt..."

I'm not sure you can tell how windy it was in this picture, but the corn in this field was bent over a good 45° or more.

A little over half way up that monster hill my riding buddy Chris and I stopped with a few other cyclists. You might not be able to see how windy it was, but the audio should get the point across.

I had hoped that the days would include opportunities to explore all the towns we rode through, but it turned out to take so much effort that most of us just wanted to power through and get to our next overnight stop. Our hosts towns were WONDERFUL. Most of the other riders were very friendly and courteous. Most of them.

Boiled down:
The week before BAK: "I can't wait for BAK."
Beginning of BAK: "This is gonna be great!"
Half way through BAK: "Why did I want to do this?"
At the end of BAK: "I'll never do this again."
One month after BAK: "I might do it again."
Two months after BAK: "I'll probably do BAK again in a few years."
Three months after BAK: "I wonder what route they're going to ride this year..."

They've announced the route for this year's BAK and I'm thinking about it. If they'd just guarantee light winds I would sign up in a heartbeat.

Just  few more pictures from BAK 2012