2023

The Kingdom of Paper

I have been helping my sisters clear out my parents’ old place, and I’ve been dealing with paper. I’ve got three piles going: recycle, shred, keep. The shred pile—anything with personally identifying information—currently comprises about 14 banker boxes. One of my sisters has been hauling away the recycling pile as we go, so I have not fully appreciated its majesty, but it may be about as big. The keep pile is a box and a half. My parents kept every piece of paper that ever entered their lives; they generated paper whenever they had to add up a column of numbers—and then kept that piece of paper, devoid of context. My mom printed every piece of e-mail that seemed like it might be useful someday. Of course, when you print everything that might be important, you guarantee you’ll never be able to find anything without a very labor-intensive filing system, which she didn’t have. Among the papers that I ran across today: at some point, my mom logged into Apple’s website to set up a support call; this led her to a confirmation screen showing that her call was scheduled, with a session ID. She printed that confirmation screen—the most ephemeral thing in the world.

In her book In the Age of the Smart Machine, Shoshana Zuboff wrote about clerical workers at an insurance company around the time the company switched to computerized records. These workers continued to refer to paper files because the computerized information wasn’t “real” to them. Those people were probably from about the same generation as my parents, which I think explains my parents’ relationship with paper somewhat. I’m the opposite—if I print something, it’s because I need it in paper form temporarily, and the electronic version is the canonical, permanent one.

Some of the old paperwork is interesting to consider from our current perspective.

Here’s my father’s old Rolodex. I’ve pulled all but one of the cards out to put in the shred pile. The Rolodex was so dominant that businesses would print their cards on stock with slots to fit on the Rolodex’ rails, and in the case shown here, sometimes had a little tab to get your attention, shouldering aside all those other cards.

Here’s a “home expense record” from 1966. This is basically a paper spreadsheet from the days before spreadsheets. The monthly-record pages are laid out with useful categories, with spaces for budgets and actuals, and each page is a pocket for storing old receipts. At the back is more pages to summarize the year and plan taxes. It’s all well-considered.

I especially like the category for “Miscellaneous expenses: Tobacco – Cosmetics – Beverages – Liquor
Confections – Etc.”

I found so, so many letters, thoughtfully composed and meticulously typed (often by a secretary). It’s a different form of communication that we have all but lost.

Accretory debt

There’s a concept from the world of software development called “technical debt”—basically, that code you write today needs to be maintained in the future, and the jankier your code is today, the harder it will be to maintain in the future.

There’s an analog to this in the tangible world. Call it accretory debt.

I’m helping clear out my parents’ home. My sisters have done the vast majority of the work if for no other reason than proximity, but I’m spending my xmas break catching up a little. My parents accreted a lot of stuff. I wouldn’t call it hoarding, exactly, but it’s not far off. There’s a lot of good stuff as well as a lot of stuff that just…never got dealt with. I found tax returns from 1997. My 2nd grade report card. The last of my mother’s baby teeth. My grandfather’s college diploma. There’s going to be an estate sale to try to sell the good stuff, although there’s so much in it that we tend to devalue everything that’s not obviously valuable, and there’s not enough room to display even the stuff that is obviously valuable. Surveying all the stuff is demoralizing, and we keep finding more.

Some of this stuff has been stored for the last 35+ years in the dank basement of the rambling house my parents moved into when I was in college, where it has rotted and/or been chewed on by mice. Now we need to haul it all up stairs, rent a roll-off, have a scrapper come out, have a shredding service come out, etc. Failing to deal with that stuff in a timely manner has inflicted a debt on the future.

Reasonably priced bike gear

Cycling is expensive. Any activity that requires equipment is going to involve some expense, and cycling’s equipment requirements are fractal in nature. You don’t just get a bike, you get clothing. You don’t just get clothing, you get warm-weather clothing, and foul-weather clothing, and cold-weather clothing. You get tools, and not just tools, but tools you carry on the bike and tools you use at home. And so on.

As with most things, you reach a point of diminishing returns in terms of price:performance as you spend more and more money on bike stuff. Where that point lands is an interesting question. There are some good deals out there.

I am in the USA and writing this mostly for a U.S. audience. I’m a roadie so that’s what I know.

Bikes

There are often closeouts on last year’s model of bike, and there are some ebay vendors that seem to specialize in this: here’s one. They have a top-end 2021 model listed for less than half its original retail price (but still very expensive).

The difference between this year’s model and last is usually trivial or nonexistent. Every few years, manufacturers will roll out new versions of their models, but these are not generally earthshaking changes.

Note that when buying a bike this way, it still needs a fair amount of setup work, some of which might not be obvious. You’ll either need to be a competent bike mechanic or hire one to set it up, which will offset some of the discount. Shipping will also be a chunk of change.

There are a number of direct-to-consumer bike brands now. I haven’t ridden any of these, but they’ve been favorably reviewed.

As of this writing, a Trek Domane SL5 is listing for $3500, compared to $2000 for a Canyon Endurace CF7 or $1800 for a Fezzari Empire Sport (on sale right now). These are all carbon-framed endurance bikes equipped with Shimano 105 (11-speed)—very respectable, especially for a cycling newcomer. There may be differences in “finishing kit”—saddle, handlebars, etc—and tires that change the balance somewhat.

There are benefits to buying a bike from a local bike shop. They normally throw in a tune-up for free, and will often let you substitute parts to make the bike suit you better for cost. And that’s something you should be prepared for: the stem might be the wrong length, the handlebars the wrong width, the saddle might just be wrong. And there is a benefit in having a relationship with a local bike shop. But damn, that’s a big price difference to overcome. You can pay retail for new saddle, stem, and bars and still come out way ahead. As with a remaindered bike, it would probably be a good idea for cycling newcomers to pay a shop to set up their consumer-direct bike, even though those consumer-direct brands do a better job of shipping the bikes in a ready-to-ride condition.

Clothes

Cycling kit can be ludicrously expensive. The brand that seems to be at the top of the heap, Assos, has a jacket they charge $700 for. Most of us aren’t riding at a level where we can benefit from the marginal performance improvements at those high prices. Here’s some recommendations:

  • The Black Bibs. Basic designs. Three grades of bib shorts: I’ve got the cheapest ($40) and the most expensive ($80). The expensive ones aren’t as nice as my (much more expensive) Castellis, but they’re absolutely good enough for most riding.
  • Wiggle’s house brand DHB. Wiggle is a UK sporting-goods vendor. They’ve got a few tiers of clothing products that span a wider price range than The Black Bibs. With the post-pandemic bike bust, they’ve been having financial difficulties, and I read that they might be suspending sales outside the UK, but for now, they still seem to sell internationally.
  • Galibier. A small UK-based brand. I’ve gotten quite a bit of foul-weather gear from them. Good quality, reasonable prices.
  • NeoPro. Another inexpensive U.S. brand. As far as I can tell, these guys have one tier of product in everything, and their pricing looks to be in the midrange compared to The Black Bibs. I have not bought from them.

I don’t have any recommendations for shoes. I’ve got one pair of Pearl Izumi cleats that fit me fine, and another from the same brand that I can’t get comfortable in (and would like to sell, if you’re interested). Fit is so contingent on the individual.

Accessories

There are a lot of expensive accessory brands and some reasonably priced accessory brands, but I’m not aware of any distinct bargains. Cheap tools are never a bargain in my experience.

I’ve always had good luck with pumps and tools from Lezyne, and tools from Pedro’s—Pedro’s makes the best tire levers.

If you are jumping into cycling, you should budget for some of this stuff: You should carry on your bike a mini pump, a couple of tubes, a set of tire levers, and a multi-tool. And have some place to store all this stuff—in your jersey pockets, a seat bag, etc. At home, you probably want at least a floor pump. A set of hex wrenches and other hand tools is nice but not necessary. Wera makes excellent tools and their Tool Check Plus is a nice compact home toolkit that’s a good value.

Dynamo hubs, USB converters, power banks, and phones

My bike has a SONdelux dynamo hub and I recommend it to anyone interested in distance riding, especially when self-sufficiency is important. I also ride with a power bank, and use my iPhone in lieu of a bike computer. A lot of cyclists dismiss using phones rather than dedicated head units, citing battery-life problems. If you use your phone exactly as you would use a head unit, battery life would be a problem, but you can use a phone differently, in a way that gives good battery life: leave the screen dark and rely on periodic spoken status announcements. For the kind of riding I do, this is fine. Both the Ride with GPS app and the Cyclemeter app can do this, possibly others. Even so, in a multi-day self-supported event, you still need to optimize your phone charging.

I have tried a few different mounting systems for my phone, and Quadlock, which makes the mount I am using currently, does offer a mount with a built-in Qi charger. I’ve tried it, it does work, but the mount is huge and charges less efficiently than the charging port. If you use one of these, you will end your ride with less charge than you started with. If you plug into the charging port, you can keep the phone at 100% charge.

You can charge the phone from the dyno via a USB rectifier (I have this, which is part of a kit with a dyno-powered headlight), or you can hook up a power bank in series and charge your phone and other electronics using pass-through charging. I’ve tried two different power banks at this point: the Nitecore and this Anker model. They both have the same capacity: 10k mAh. The Nitecore, attractively, is the smallest and lightest power bank with that capacity, but the Anker has a couple useful features. One is that it has a Qi charger on its body. This could be important if your phone’s charging port gets wet (this has happened to me on a long ride–it can take a long time for that port to dry out once wet): you can’t charge via the port when it’s wet, but with a Qi charger, you can still charge wirelessly. I also found that my bone-conduction headset draws so little power when it’s charging that the Nitecore pretends it’s not there, but the Anker recognizes it, and even has a special trickle mode. Note: I’ve got an older Nitecore. It looks like the new model also has trickle charging.

Both of these power banks do support pass-through charging, but they behave differently when receiving power from a dyno hub. If you are charging your phone via pass-through charging with the Nitecore, power is available from a very low speed–maybe 4 mph. The Anker requires a higher threshold to pass through the charge–maybe 9 mph–and on one day, I found that my speed was hovering around that threshold for a long time, so the phone was constantly entering and exiting a charging state. This is annoying if nothing else, and probably not great for the phone.

I also found that one of the iPhone cables I was carrying (I had a few) was fussy about its power source–it would not charge my phone when plugged into the USB rectifier, but it would charge from the power bank.

A smart setup might be to get two 5k mAh chargers (perhaps this), with one strictly receiving a charge from the dyno and the other discharging to power your other electronics, swapping the two as needed. This is slightly less efficient, but offers some redundancy.

Here’s a visual breakdown of the various charging schemes I discuss.

Ride report: Ontario, OR

I got off to a reasonably early start after sleeping like the dead. The weather was cloudy and cool, which was a nice change from the day before.

The first part of the day was riding along a dam reservoir on the Snake River. That was flat at least. Kind to my knees and easy for me to manage with my reduced power, although just the climb out of the river valley, starting at the Idaho border, was a challenge. This was followed immediately by a more serious climb that was just a slog. At the summit, traffic was stopped. There was a vehicle fire about a quarter of a mile down the road. I chatted with a couple of old-timers while we waited for emergency services to make the scene safe, which took the better part of an hour. No one was hurt, as far as I know.

Descended into the small town of Cambridge, ID. Rode around it a little to see what my dining options were–weirdly, the only restaurant on the map was a Chinese restaurant, but I found a coffee-and-sandwich place and stopped there to eat and assess.

Looking at my planning spreadsheet, I would be hitting one of the toughest climbs of the race, Lolo Pass, in a day or two. I didn’t think my knees could take it, and even if my knees weren’t a problem, my power output was so diminished I was worried about getting up it. I was already using my lowest gear on climbs that were hard but not that hard. I didn’t know how I’d get up Lolo Pass. Cambridge also looked like my best bailout option for a very long time, since I was pretty close to Boise.

I talked to Gwen about it for a while, but in the back of my mind, I knew it was over. One piece of advice I read for prospective racers was that you need to be really clear with yourself about why you’re doing this, because you will need that focus to sustain you through some very hard parts. I think that’s true, and I think my own reasons were nebulous. I’ll add to that: you need to really believe that what you’ll get out of it is worth what you put into it. Because you will put a lot into it. The juice needs to be worth the squeeze, and I realized right then that for me, it wasn’t. So I didn’t get what I wanted out of the race, but I did get something: knowledge of self.

Janie Hayes, who finished the TABR twice with fast times, wrote about scratching in the Tour Divide. I read that when I was preparing for TABR 2021, and was a bit mystified by it at the time, but it makes more sense to me now.

When I reentered cellular coverage in Cambridge, I also learned that a racer I had spent a fair amount of time around had since been diagnosed with Covid. I had no obvious symptoms, but it was concerning. I wondered if I had a mild case that was just bad enough to blunt my performance.

I did some checking and found a town with an Enterprise rent-a-car agency in Ontario, OR, roughly halfway to Boise, and without further ado, decided to ride there, rent a car from them, and road-trip home. Fortunately, that leg of the ride was mostly downhill–I was going fast enough to fool myself into thinking I was riding strongly, all of a sudden, and regretted my decision to scratch, but as soon as I hit even a bit of a climb, my regret went away. I incidentally saw the truck that had caught fire on the summit before Cambridge, being hauled on a flatbed. I stopped in the town of Weiser to get a snack and e-mail Nathan, the race director, word that I was scratching.

My first stop in Ontario was at a drugstore to get a home Covid test. I rented a hotel room and took the test: negative–I have to admit it would be nice to be able to blame scratching on it.

Next, arranging a car rental. Turned out not to be as simple as I thought. Enterprise seems to be the only car-rental agency with locations away from airports, but what I was quickly learning is that only the airport locations (for any rental agency) offer one-way rentals, which I needed. What I also learned is that even many of those airport locations would not offer a one-way rental, but Avis would. I booked the reservation online. I resolved to get an early start the next day, ride to Boise’s airport, and pick up a car. I had a plan. I was looking forward to taking a little road trip at this point, and made arrangements to see a couple friends along the way.

While this is going on, dot-watchers on the TABR facebook group have noticed I’m off course. From my hotel room, I checked in on the group and let them know I had scratched. Cody, a dot-watcher in Boise, offered to help me out, and we arranged for him to meet me partway between Ontario and Boise–I really didn’t relish riding my bike into the airport, which are generally not bike-friendly places.

So the next day I start riding toward his house and he texts me the location of an intercept point where we meet. He also took me to buy street clothes, let me shower, and then delivered me and my stuff to the airport. A real mensch.

At the Avis desk, I learned that I could not rent a car on a one-way rental from them without a physical credit card in hand that they could swipe. I was not carrying a credit card. I had the info for a credit card saved on my phone, and I had a debit card, but that wasn’t good enough. There was nothing I could say that would change their mind. They told me that all the other rental agencies had the same policy.

Time for a new plan. I need to fly home.

I get in touch with Cody again and we strategize. I book a flight departing that evening. He meets me at the airport, takes me and my bike to a bike shop (Bauer Haus, a real candy-store of a bike shop) that will pack and ship it. I took Cody and his daughter to lunch (meager compensation for their trouble), then they delivered me back to the airport. I had a connection in Denver and walked in my front door at 1:30 AM.

Ride report: Halfway, OR

The big push into Baker City took a lot out of me.

I was staying at the Churchill School bike hostel, and rolled out late because I did laundry there. I stopped in town for breakfast and discovered how weird my appetite has gotten. I was beyond hungry. I was at a nice restaurant having food I liked. And I still had to force myself to finish it. I don’t understand.

I planned on making the day’s ride shorter, but between the late departure and my low speed, it wound up being really short. It’s known that your peak heart rate and power go down when you’re exhausted. Two days ago, I couldn’t get my HR over 120 bpm. In the ride into Halfway, I could barely get it over 100.

Much of the day’s riding was through Hell’s Canyon, and the name is apt. It was hot and humid, and no trees, no shade. Nowhere to stop and take a break until the town of Richland, about 40 miles in, and the only shade there was the awning in front of the grocery store.

When I got to Halfway, I had an early dinner and went to bed. I slept long and hard, and I’m hoping I’ve pushed a reset button.

I will admit that I am feeling discouraged about this undertaking. Part of the reason I wanted to do this was to find out how I would be changed by the experience at the end. But I also have to admit that I romanticized the suffering. I am at the point where the suffering has lost whatever romance it may have had, and I am asking myself whether what I will get out of this will be worth what I put in. I didn’t enjoy being on the bike yesterday–it was just a slog.

My goal for today is to see if I can at least enjoy being on the bike, and forget my mileage targets.

Ride report: Baker City, OR

I am writing this post the day after the ride–technically, my ride ended after midnight, so arguably it is the same day.

I reached Mitchell–home of the Spoke’n Hostel–pretty early and had their spaghetti for breakfast, although the 30-mile climb out of Prineville meant I wasn’t too early. Mitchell is in a valley, so after that long climb, you give up all that altitude, and then climb it again to get out. By the time I left, the day has heated up.

Most of the rest of the day is a blur. The three big climbs after Mitchell were all late in the ride, well after the halfway point. By the time I finished the second of them, it was chilly enough that I needed my jacket for the descent. After the third, it was cold enough that I needed to add more warm clothes, and my sweat-soaked jersey was chilling me, so I needed to take that off. Finding a place I could even lean my bike took a while, and then I was working in complete darkness. I was exhausted enough that I knew to be concerned about dumb mistakes, and tried to be very methodical. Even so, I rode off without my bone-conduction headset on, but it was hooked around my handlebars, so no loss there.

One minute after I passed the Baker City City limit sign, the sky opened up. I was only in the rain for about 10 minutes but got soaked.

I had set the goal of reaching Baker City because there’s a bike hostel there. I knew it would be a big push.

It was too long. 195 miles with 5 major climbs. My appetite has been hit-or-miss, and my last solid food of the day wasn’t sufficient.

Ride report: Prineville, OR

Slept well and woke up at 5:30. Got rolling about 45 minutes later. Not great efficiency. Rode to Lewisburg and stopped at a greasy spoon for breakfast.

At some point while riding along the McKenzie River, I pulled over to strip off my warm clothes, and was passed by another racer, Richard. We rode together for a bit and stopped at a convenience store shortly before the turnoff for McKenzie Pass, the day’s main event. As we pulled in, another racer was pulling out and yelled his recommendation for the chicken tenders.

I rolled out a little before Richard and reached the turnoff. A couple of guys from Portland were getting their bikes ready; we chatted for a bit about whether the road was really closed due to a recent rockslide that needed to be cleaned up. We all agreed it was worth chancing it. I rode in ahead, knowing they’d pass me quickly.

The pass is at an altitude of about 5200 feet; the base is at about 1000 feet. As you ascend, you pass altitude markers every 1000 feet. At about 3500 feet, I had to take a break–I was whipped, my back hurts, and I ran across a rail I could use as a bench and prop for my bike. Before reaching 4000 feet, I came upon the Portland guys. I assumed they had already reached the top and were coming down. Nope. They were taking their time, I guess. There were a lot of cyclists on the climb–it’s a well known destination, especially right now when it is closed to motor traffic. There are gates at the east and west sides partway up that cyclists and peds can bypass.

I ran across a couple more racers, Mike and another guy whose name I didn’t catch. Mike and I rode together for a bit; I learned he’d read my blog entries about the 2021 race.

The top of the mountain is like Mount Doom–no life, just broken lava rock everywhere.

On the way down, I chatted with a rider going the other way, and later, at the eastern gate, there was another rider coming the other way. We chatted for a bit too. Something seemed familiar about him, and after he asked my name, I told him and said “and you’re Evan Deutsch, aren’t you?” He was. He’s won the TABR and has some very high placements when he didn’t. Nice guy, very down-to-earth.

I made it to the next town of Sisters, a very cute town blessed with two bike shops, which is pretty rare. Only one was open, so I went there. Blazin Saddles. My shifting has been off, and I hadn’t been able to fix it myself, so I suspected the derailleur hanger was out of alignment. It was. They dropped everything and got me fixed right up. Another racer was in there buying spares.

As long as I was making a stop in Sisters, I decided to eat. I found a food truck serving Mexican food and ordered a taco plate. Weirdly enough, I had to force myself to eat it–i just don’t have much of an appetite. This is a problem. There’s only so far I can go on stored fat.

My original goal for today has been Mitchell OR. What I realized was that I’d be arriving after nightfall, and the descent into town is scary enough in the daylight. I wound up stopping 40 miles short, in Prineville.

Ride report: Springfield, OR

A big day on the bike. We had a strong tailwind almost all day, and it’s clear many of the racers are making hay while the sun shines. The guys at the pointy end are all around 300 miles for the day, and probably not stopping.

A lot of climbing too, including a couple of very long, steep grades. I saw one racers going up the first of these on foot. Somehow, much later, I saw he had beat me to a road–but was on the wrong side of it. There was another racers I kept swapping positions with. I rode faster than him, but stopped more often.

My goal has been to average 180 miles/day, and it’s nice to start off with some extra miles in the bank.

I stopped in Tillamook for an early lunch at the Safeway, where I encountered my first dot-watcher, had a few snacks along the way, and stopped in Corvallis for dinner at a semi-fancy pasta place called Pastini. It was nice pretending to be civilized. I pushed on another 40 or so miles to Coburg, and am actually a little off course at a Motel 6 in Eugene. The place reeks of despair.

I’m going to sleep until I’m done sleeping.

Packed and ready

Take to the Sky, ready to go

Apart from a handful of small items I’ll need between now and tomorrow morning, my bike is ready for the Trans Am Bike Race.

My self, that’s another matter.

TABR gear list

Here’s my packing list for the Trans Am Bike Race 2023.

Tools, gadgets, and spares

Left to right, top to bottom (more or less)

  • Short length of gorilla tape
  • Zip tipes
  • Paracord
  • Derailleur cable
  • Fiberfix spoke
  • Disc brake pads
  • Extra length of chain
  • Chain tool
  • Extra spokes
  • Extra master links
  • Sugru
  • Thread locker
  • Extra SPD cleat
  • Random small screws
  • Derailleur hanger
  • CR2032 battery (for heart-rate monitor)
  • Spare dynaplug plugs
  • 2 innertubes
  • Tire boots
  • Pump
  • Tyre key
  • Shokz headset
  • Multi-head USB cable
  • Wolf Tooth 8-bit tool
  • USB converter for dynamo
  • Gerber Dime multitool
  • Dynaplug
  • Power bank
  • Wall charger
  • Patch kit
  • Extra valve cores
  • Taillights: Lezyne Strip × 2 plus Cygolite Hypershot 350
  • Secondary headlight: Magicshine ZX Pro (main headlight is on bikes).

This stuff will be stored in my Camelbak pocket, top-tube bag, and Tailfin bag, based on how likely I am to need it. It all packs down pretty small, and I will depackage the stuff that needs it. I’ll probably cut that paracord shorter. Everything in this picture weighs 1325 g.

My wheels are set up tubeless, but I do need to be able to fall back to tubes if necessary. I am debating bringing a spare tire.

Not shown:

  • Chain lube: I will be bringing 2 oz of Silca liquid wax lube.
  • Garmin InReach Messenger satellite tracker

Clothing

  • Smartwool undershirt
  • Spatzwear undershirt
  • Gore leg warmers
  • Running shorts (in case I can wash all my stuff and need to stay decent)
  • Galibier jacket (doesn’t seem to be currently listed on their website)
  • Stolen goat jerseys × 2
  • Castelli shorts × 2
  • Galibier shoe covers
  • Gore Wear cool-weather cloves
  • Specialized cold-weather gloves
  • Reflectoes socks × 2
  • Specialized Grail gloves
  • Beanie

All this weighs 2103 g. Some of it will be on my body at any given time.

Not shown:

  • Lake cycling shoes
  • Wool cold-weather socks

Personal care

  • Minimal first-aid kit
  • Hibiclens
  • Electrolyte caps
  • Toothpaste
  • Toothbrush
  • Cutemol
  • Pill case for prescriptions
  • Sunblock

I had trouble with saddle sores in 2021, and am packing the Hibiclens and Cutemol in the hopes of preventing that. All this weighs 690 g.

Not shown:

  • Lip balm

Sleep setup

  • Sea to Summit Spark SP1 sleeping bag
  • Klymit Inertia 0 sleeping pad
  • SOL Escape Light emergency bivvy

I will probably sleep in hotels mostly, but don’t feel right not having something to sleep outdoors in. Weight of all this stuff: 870 g.

Total weight: 4,988 g. Plus the bags I’ll be carrying this stuff in.

The bags I’ll be using are:

Blister clear

I got involved in Burning Flipside and burns in general through firedancing. At the time I got started in firedancing there was a weekly firedancing get-together at Pato’s Tacos (RIP), and most of the people I met there were involved in Flipside.

My first Flipside was in 2004. Even before that, I got roped into coordinating the fire conclave. I overthought it and ran myself ragged during the event finding fire performers to take part. It turned out pretty good.

I skipped Flipside 2005, but returned to coordinating the conclave after that and continued doing it. One year some hoopers who were not using fire asked if they could be in it. I asked Pat, then a board member, and he left the decision to me. This was a small thing, but it taught me an important lesson about how Flipside works.

Over the years I continued to improve the way that I ran the conclave, and I took on other related responsibilities. I took over as a theme-camp lead. I helped run the informal secondary market for tickets. I joined Flipside’s advisory body. I helped organize a major art project.

It was in April 2012, during a work day for that art project, The Hive Project, that I got a call from Sparky, a then-serving board member, inviting me to go on a ride-along with a board member during the event, and to consider joining the board. I crumpled up on the floor but said OK. My reaction was both “why me?” and “if not me, who?”. I couldn’t expect other people to do it if I wasn’t willing to. I still argued that I felt I was contributing to Flipside without being a member of the board. I forget exactly what psychological aikido move Thomas used on me to counter that argument, but it worked. In the tradition of the microscopic culture that is Flipside’s board, two other invitees, Princes and Izzi, and I sat down with the board for beers at Scholz Beer Garden, to discuss joining them as provisional members. We all said yes.

The ride-along shift itself, with Beth, was uneventful and did not scare me off.

I had a severe case of imposter syndrome about the whole thing, but I also made a conscious decision that I was going to dedicate a big chunk of my life, my time, and my thoughts to my new role.

I continued serving as a provisional member until September or October 2012, when I signed the paperwork to become a full member.

Flipside 2013 would be my first event as a board member, which kicked my imposter syndrome up to a new level. I lost a huge amount of sleep in the month or so before the event, lying in bed and mentally working through scenarios. During the event, on the afternoon before burn night (when we’re all busy with burn-night prep), a massive pecan tree fell, while I was on shift. It didn’t hurt anyone, amazingly, and luckily there were experienced safety volunteers to manage that incident because I was not ready to (a tree collapse was not a scenario I had mentally rehearsed).

Over time my imposter syndrome ebbed, and I saw possibilities for improving the event that my role made possible. I focused in particular on improving documentation for the event. Old board members retired, new ones joined. Eventually no one who had been on the board when I joined, or who joined when I did, was left on the board.

Right at the beginning of 2020, I resolved to compete in the Trans Am Bike Race, and to focus on that, I would need to resign from Flipside’s board. We all know how that went. The TABR was cancelled in 2020. Flipside was cancelled in both 2020 and ’21. Because of those cancellations, I did not feel that the board could do an adequate job bringing new people on (no ride-alongs), and if I quit with no successors lined up, that would leave four on the board, which is not enough. So I stayed on. I did start TABR ’21, but had to abandon. But with Flipside 2022 in the books, we had four people lined up who were interested in joining the board. I wanted to take another stab at the TABR. And it was time to give other people a turn at the wheel. I gave plenty of notice and documented the things I did as a board member to smooth the transition. I set today as my last possible day.

On the Slack workspace that the organization uses for board members and senior managers, I announced that today was my last day as a board member. I had some powerful and complicated feelings after I sent that message. I’ve been doing this thing for over ten years, and it has taken over a big chunk of my life. I am glad I have something else to focus on, but it will be a strange feeling with nothing planned for Monday nights. Joining Flipside’s board has turned out to be one of the best things I’ve done with my life.

Later

I thought about when I moved back to the U.S. from Japan. I had somewhat similar feelings then. For one thing, I had put a lot of work into figuring out how to live in Tokyo, and I felt like I was throwing that investment away. I’m not feeling that way now. But being an American living abroad, being a Japan hand, had become part of my identity, and I felt like I was giving that up too, and I am feeling some of that this time. Being a board member for Flipside has become a significant part of my identity.

I also thought about something I’ve observed in some other volunteers that I call the Death Grip. You hold on to a role, not because you enjoy it, but because you’ve convinced yourself the role needs you–no one else can do it. I’ll admit I felt a pang of that, but I am letting go.

And of course, there’s the camaraderie that develops among board members. We spend a lot of time with each other. We have bonding through shared hardship.


PS: What’s up with cryptic title? My callsign on comms is “Blister”; “clear” is what you say when you’re ending a communication on comms.

Reflections on my anniversary

Gwen and I celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary with a weekend trip to Dallas. Nerd that I am, I reflected on an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation that featured a character, Kamala, who became whatever the man around her wanted her to be. If she spent enough time in the presence of one man, she’d imprint on him, and would permanently be what that man wanted in a woman. One of the ideas suggested–but never spelled out–by this episode is that the way she expressed her own individuality is in the man she chose to imprint on.

And I thought about how, in marriage or any long-term relationship, we are changed by the person we are with. One partner will bring out one side of us, a different partner would bring out a different side. We consciously choose who we want to be with, but what I never thought about before is the fact that in doing so, we are also choosing who we want to be.

I did well on both counts.

Accessory mounting plates for aerobars

Updated–see end of post

I’ve written before about different options for mounting gadgets on aerobars. None of them really address the needs of bikepacking cyclists, who may want to have two sets of lights, two computers, and possibly other stuff out front, so I’m taking matters into my own hands and having a couple of designs fabbed up by SendCutSend.

Both designs use four lateral slots with P-clamps to attach to the aerobars with some positioning flexibility. I’ve found a source for high-quality, dimensionally precise P-clamps with silicone coating for a little vibration damping. Both designs require straight sections of aerobars to clamp to, and will work better on “J-bend” bars than “S-bend.”

Each design has its pros and cons.

The first one (“New York Style”) is being produced out of thin 6061 aluminum, but could be made of carbon fiber. It gives a little more room for different attachments, and might be a better basis for a single do-it-all mounting base.

The second (“Chicago Style”) is being produced out of .25″ 6061 aluminum (could get it as thick as 0.5″). This is thick enough to tap the holes, which obviates the need for separate nuts (or other fixtures). There are some limits on what SendCutSend can do–for instance, it can’t tap an M3 hole in a thicker plate than this. Because of the material’s inherent rigidity, the fore and aft slots can be closer together. This lets it fit on bars where there’s a relatively short straight section, which might make it feasible on S-bend bars.

Both designs provide a bunch of mounting holes for specific purposes. I’ve got one set of AMPS holes for installing a Quadlock mount. The New York Style plate has a few Garmin/Wahoo combo hole patterns, holes for mounting a bottle cage, and holes for GoPro bases–these serve as a sort of universal adapter for lots of gadgets. Many kinds of headlights can be used with a GoPro adapter; there are also Garmin/GoPro adapters, which give you control over the viewing angle. This particular iteration of the Chicago Style plate has fewer mounting options.

Update

I’ve received my first “New York style” prototype, mounted it, and taken it for a good test ride. The plate is 0.125″ 6061 aluminum and it feels much more solid in the hand than I expected. The plate by itself is 89 grams; with bar clamps, a Garmin mounting “biscuit” and a couple of GoPro mounts, 195 g. On a “grams per gadget” basis, this works out heavier than most out-front mounts, but not by a big factor. I’ve also received but not used my “Chicago style” prototype, and despite being twice as thick, the smaller footprint means it’s about 10 g lighter. A slightly longer center section would make it more functional.

The plate itself is a little rough around the edges, literally. The fabrication service I used doesn’t offer edge-chamfering. If they did, I’d use it. That said, unless you plan to spend a lot of time stroking its perimeter, this won’t be a problem.

It was absolutely solid and silent on my ride. Having received it and used it, I can see some ways to optimize it. It’s definitely overbuilt.

Interested in getting one of these? I am soliciting input for a small production batch..

A prototype of a plate for mounting accessories between aerobars

Shown with 2 headlights, a Quadlock phone mount, and a Garmin mount,

Shown with 2 headlights, a Quadlock phone mount, and a Garmin mount,

Shown with 2 headlights, a Quadlock phone mount, and a Garmin mount,

Finally, I’ve developed a variation on the “Chicago style” plate above that you might call “Chicago style with everything” — this has room for two Garmin 830s, a headlight, and a water bottle. Or skip the water bottle and add an undermount headlight. Or skip the Garmins and add a phone. This measures slightly less than 100 × 200 mm. This is realistically about as much will fit.

A design for an accessory mounting plate