The Grind: Coffeeneuring Ride 3

Ride 3
November 5
Mileage: 2.2 miles round trip
Beverage: Chai (hot)
Destination: Philz Coffee, 1775 17th Street San Francisco

Something I haven’t yet mentioned is the marked lack of coffee in my coffeeneuring. The thing is, I gave up coffee several years ago–mostly. Occasionally I will have a single espresso shot for those times (often while randonneuring) when I’m dangerously drowsy. But due to stomach issues, coffee just doesn’t work for me, so it is making my committment to coffeeneur more interesting.

In my work as a bookbinder, an important component is teaching, and several times per year, I step out of my studio to teach bookbinding for one week, 9 am to 6 pm, in San Francisco. There are some pretty great cafes in SF, so decided to try to include one in my coffeeneuring clatch. I had originally planned to visit Daily Driver since I miss bagels here in CA. But unfortunately there wasn’t enough time to ride there before work, so as a backup, I settled on what would be closest: Philz on 17th street in Potrero Hill.

The ride from the BART station was fun since there’s a little hill on the route, and riding it on my fixie-townie is always a good morning warmup. On this particular morning, I happened upon another fixie rider on the hill who was riding at just about my same pace, maybe a little faster. He had cool striped kneesocks exposed by his folded jeans cuff. I stepped up my pace a little to keep up, and at the next red light commented how nice it is to see another fixie rider on the hill. He smiled and nodded in agreement.

Sometimes after a long brevet I enjoy riding my fixed gear just to have a totally different ride experience. It’s a different way of pacing, a different relationship to one’s bike which is welcome on those days when commuting by bike is necessary though less than appealing. Sometime I’ll have to figure out a way to ride brevets on my fixed gear, but just riding around town on it makes me pretty happy too.

my fixie townie


Coffeeneuring 2019 Ride 2: Is Bicycling Meditative?

Ride 2
October 18, 2019
Mileage: 6.0 miles round trip
Beverage: ginger tea
Destination: Berkeley Zen Center, 1931 Russell St Berkeley CA/

Whenever I explain randonneuring to people who have never heard of it, there’s always someone who comments that it must be very meditative. Sometimes people ask what I think about over so many hours on the (mostly) open road. I always cringe a little when people suggest that something (other than meditating) is meditative, because meditating can be really hard at times. It’s only as peaceful as the inside of your mind, and we all know just about how peaceful that can be. I also cringe since there are so many ways people seem to misuse the term Zen, especially to sell things such as their social media marketing schemes or even just boiling it all down to Zen in a Jar!

There was a moment on the fleche from 2 years ago when Dan and I rode past the driveway to a Zen monastery up in the mountains on Skyline, and Dan commented that he’d love to just sit around all day, it must be easier than riding our bikes for 24 hours straight. I expressed my doubts at this conjecture, though I’ve never tried sitting zazen for a full day (so far). At least while riding, one has the road to distract one from the thoughts that occur to one’s oft-befuddled mind.

That said, I do think there are a few parallels between meditation and randonneuring, though they may not be ones you’d expect. The first thing that comes to mind is in both activities, you spend a lot of time with most or all of your weight on your sit bones. Having to tolerate muscle soreness, possible joint pain, and tenderness in the sit bone area are all things you might experience. I’m not sure if you can get saddle sores from a zafu, but you need to develop a tolerance for small amounts of physical pain or distraction in order to sit zazen. Quite often in randonneuring, things like this will come up, too: a pain in my knee that randomly appears, then an hour later, disappears, also for no reason. I’ve learned that it’s not worth giving too much attention to these sensations, and this is something meditators also know. My randonneuring and zazen habits tend to support each other: it helps to have solid core strength to sit zazen, and it certainly helps to develop patience to be a randonneur. Another unexpected similarity between the two activities is the feeling of freedom I experience in both, although both activities carry with them the possibility of Type 2 fun.

Regardless of whether it’s good for you or enjoyable in the way most people seem to think, I’ve been meditating every so often on my own since I was a teenager. I have almost no memory of how it occurred to me to do this, but as soon as I started, I never stopped. One thing I haven’t done this whole time, though, is visit a zendo or try to meditate with others. I finally realized about two months ago that the Bay Area is home to several world class Zen centers, so maybe I should go see what they are like.

I settled on Berkeley Zen Center because it’s very small, and very close to my apartment. I went first for the weekly meditation instruction they offer on Saturday mornings, and then started going for Monday morning zazen (sitting meditation) which begins at 5:40 am. Already I felt comfortable getting up that early because I do that so often for brevets and perms, and I learned that everything good starts early when no one else is out.

However, there had to be a beverage involved to qualify as a coffeeneuring ride, so this visit was for their Friday afternoon tea, discussion, and zazen. At the discussion, there was a Presbyterian scholar of religion who was dropping in to chat. He didn’t want to stay for meditation, although he professed to want to “improve his thinking.” This confused the rest of us, and though no one pressured him to stay, one person commented that meditation is a good way to “defrag your brain,” which I though was an apt analogy. Another parallel between rando and Zen is the emphasis on the role of the community in one’s development. If you want to go far in Rando or in Zen, go with others. It was a lively discussion we all had over tea and cookies, and then we crossed the garden for a short period of zazen followed by bowing and chanting the heart sutra.  Since I have only visited Berkeley Zen Center four or five times, I am still lost when it comes to the choreography of the ceremony, but others have been helping out and, like randonneuring’s structure and rules, I’m sure it will become natural to me soon. I wonder if there is a coffeeneuring equivalent in Zen? Hmmm.

Parallel Randoverse: Coffeeneuring 2019

My first attempt at coffeeneuring ever! I did the Errandonnee years ago, maybe 2013? 2014? I still had my beloved teal blue Motobecane then which died of a deeply indexed headset and subsequent unsolveable steerer tube issues. But… why coffeeneuring?  It’s not going to be easy, since I don’t drink coffee! I am not sure how best to document fun rides, either. Not having to collect receipts is confusing. At least there’s a control card that somewhat resembles a brevet card. It’s funny, even though I don’t feel compelled to rando for credit as much as I once did, randonneuring has deeply affected my riding habits. I’d like to think of this coffee(neuring) clatch of rides as a way of taking a snapshot of my relationship with bicycling, how it looks at this moment, and see where it takes me. Also, I’ve run into some other fun coffeeneurs over the past year, even rode with one in Nevada!

Day one: Gamblers 1000k

Day one: Gamblers 1000k

October 12, 2019
Ride 1
Mileage: 27.46
Beverage: coffee stout
Destination: Biketoberfest, downtown Fairfax, CA 760 Center Blvd Fairfax 94930

The route for this first coffeeneuring ride was an easy dirt route to Fairfax from San Francisco. I love this route, and John and I have trodden this path many times.

Blithedale Ridge from Eldridge Trail

View of Blithedale Ridge from Eldridge Trail… or possibly from Hoo Koo E Koo

John is Not randonneuring today

I get my own sticker

Bike: 650b blue Pelican with WTB resolute tires which don’t mount well to my Velocity rims. There’s always a bump or something–they don’t inflate evenly. This time, I tried overinflating them to even them out, then letting off some air. It has definitely improved but not eliminated the problem. Otherwise the tires are perfect for that paved/dirt mix which characterize most of my routes these days.

When we got to Biketoberfest in downtown Fairfax, John and I parked our bikes at the free bike valet and almost immediately found our friend we were planning to meet. She was directing traffic on busy Center Boulevard so that fairgoers would be able to visit the tents and vendors on both sides of the street without worrying about cars speeding through.

Downtown Fairfax... so fair

Downtown Fairfax… so fair

Biketoberfest 2019

Biketoberfest 2019

Like several other of the fair volunteers, she was in a German folk dancing costume and a cool velvet porkpie hat with a feather! She gave us her beer glasses and we got a couple small glasses of beer–coffee stout for me, lager or something for John.

As soon as we sat down with our beer and our sandwiches, I noticed our friend Braxton roll right by with his two daughters, aged ten and seven (?) and his gal Erin! They said they were planning on taking the ferry back to San Francisco later, so when it was time to go, we joined them and rode with them to the ferry terminal. This wasn’t really part of the coffeeneuring ride, but it was so much fun! Braxton’s daughter Claire is riding pretty fast now *and* we have matching wrist watches.

After we got back to SF, it was time for John and me to go to the memorial celebration for SFR founder and past RBA Darryl Skrabak. This was sad for me since I never got to meet him, but he seemed like a pretty cool guy for many reasons. He built and maintained boats for the Dolphin Club, where the event was held; he was a draft resister in the Viet Nam war; he rode both on pavement and on trails like I do; and he even played the accordion.

Darryl's PBP bike

Darryl’s PBP bike

Custom fabs

Custom fabs

Darryl Skrabak

Darryl Skrabak: rest in peace, though we wish you could have been with us a little longer.