Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Cyclists vs. Motorists

As the weather gets better, cyclists and motorists are out in force together on the roads.  Do you follow the rules of the road as a cyclist, or do you follow the rules of common sense and simple consideration of other road users?

Here are a couple of interesting (and humorous) videos - the first one is a completely biased report by a Minneapolis t.v. station about cyclists breaking the law.  Notice that there's no video of cars speeding, people talking on cell phones while driving, rolling stops at stop signs, etc.  Also notice that the stop sign is a three-way stop, and the cyclists are in a bike lane - shouldn't be dangerous to run the sign if there are no cars on the left.  I know that when I ride, and I think this goes for most of the people I ride with, I never run stop lights, but will run a stop sign rather than unclipping if it is obviously safe to do so.

Click here for the news report.

Here is another video that, shall we say, represents another side of the story :)

Monday, April 28, 2008

Reflections on Group Rides

Last week I went on a group ride (the Monday Husker ride) that had a new kid who was a relatively strong rider, but had no clue about how to ride in a group. He had trouble holding a line, swerved in and out of his place in line too abruptly, immediately sped up instead of holding his speed steady when the leaders in front of him pulled off of the front, etc. I just tried to stay away from him (most of the time, I tried to stay in front to avoid being behind him in case he caused a wreck).

Seeing his lack of experience got me thinking about how much I have learned in the last year, and made me thankful for all of the people who have helped me learn. Last year at about this time I went on my first ever group ride. Up till then I had only ridden on bike paths in town, and some solo rides out to Sprague or Pioneers Park. I think my longest ride ever at the time was about 30 miles.

One day last March,when I was coming home on the bike path, a rider on a road bike pulled up next to me at the South street light. We started chatting - he said he was heading out for a training ride as he prepared for the Spring Classic races. He asked me if I ever went on group rides, and encouraged me to try the Husker ride or the Saturday morning Wilderness Perk (LBC) ride. It was a good feeling to have somebody invite me for a ride - made me feel like I must not look like a complete idiot if he felt comfortable asking me to ride with him in a group.

After reading everything I could find online about group riding etiquette, (one very humorous thread on can be read here), I got up the courage to try the Husker ride. It was advertised as a "recovery" ride, so I figured that I would have a chance to keep up. I showed up, introduced myself, and let the group leader know that I had never ridden with a group, and promptly got my first pieces of valuable advice:

1) Stay at the back and watch until you get a feel for how things work
2) Ride smoothly - no sudden moves

Next I got a great taste for how slow I was as we headed out 14th at 20mph into the wind - and then flew down S.W. 12th towards Pioneers at 28 mph. I managed to stay with the 2nd group behind the leaders (who I later learned were teamFIRE members Adrian and Aaron, and Chet from the Husker team) and had a nice conversation with a guy named Dave (Dave M., also of teamFIRE) who invited me to try the Wednesday teamFIRE "No Rider Left Behind" ride. I had so much fun on my first ride, I took Dave up on his invitation, and showed up at their next ride. I went OTB as soon as we went up a hill, but Jace stayed back with me and helped me catch up to the group so I could finish with them. I've been going (and falling off the back) ever since. I also got some great instruction on paceline riding from an ex racer named Rose with whom I rode on one of the early spring Saturday morning rides - Dave Rowe and Bill Ganzel were on that ride as well, and the three of them taught me how to stay smooth and rotate in a paceline. Adrian has also given me tips to help improve my climbing (I climb much in the same way that a brick floats).

Which brings me to this spring's rides. I don't know if it is the year's worth of experience and the additional miles in my legs, or the fact that I started riding with the groups earlier this year, but it seems much easier and smoother for me riding in a group this spring. It probably has more to do with the fact that it is early in the year, (pace is slower than it will be as we approach summer) and not with any increase in my ability, but for whatever reason I am much more comfortable riding at the front and am able to stay with the group much better than last year. In fact, tonight I heard something I never thought I would hear on a ride as I was leading the group around the airport - "Slow down, Bob, we're dropping everybody". Nicol is my witness - she heard it (told you I'd work that into the blog, Nicol). I just started laughing - what a difference a year makes.

So, thanks to all of the folks who are inviting, inclusive, and patient with road bike noobs like me. It makes a difference.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Stefon Harris

Stefon Harris, the vibraphonist who played at the Lied Center Saturday night, came out to work with my jazz ensemble at Southeast last week. He is one of the most exciting young musicians in the jazz world, and one of the best I have seen at working with kids. He is doing a multi-year residency in Lincoln to teach and perform at UN-L and to work with students in LPS. There is a great article and video on the Daily Nebraskan web site which also features my oldest son, Paul, playing flugelhorn and former LSE student Tommy van den Berg playing trombone with the UN-L Jazz Combo I.

You can read the article and view the video here.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

NJO Concert on Sunday

For those of you who are jazz fans - come check out the Nebraska Jazz Orchestra's next concert featuring Scott Wendholt, acclaimed trumpet soloist for New York’s Vanguard Jazz Orchestra. We will also be celebrating the music of Nebraska native Neal Hefti. The concert will also feature the UNL Jazz Ensemble I.

The concert is this Sunday at 3:00 p.m. at the Embassy Suites. I'm sure it is going to be too windy/cold/rainy/hot/sunny/cloudy (take your pick) to ride bikes anyway. Tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for students.

Scott Wendholt, Trumpet

Monday, April 14, 2008

Too much, too early?

I had Monday afternoon off from work, and it was finally a nice day, so I wanted to take advantage and get a good ride in - intended to go about 40 miles. I headed out into the wind, taking 77 to Cortland. After a short break, I felt good enough to keep going, so I got on 77 and headed south. As I passed the junction with 41, I thought that it might be fun to go to Adams, so I turned around and headed east on 41 to Adams. I then rode with the wind up 43 towards Bennett, then took the Roca rollers through Roca and back to 77 and then home. Ended up being 55 miles at about a 15.7 mph avg. speed (39.8 max speed down a hill between Adams and Bennett, couldn't push it over 40) - slow average for most I'm sure, but pretty good for me for a solo ride. This was the longest solo ride I've ever done - last year at this time my longest ride ever was 30 miles.

Anyway, I didn't really feel any significant fatigue until I got about halfway through the rollers, and didn't really feel any pain until I got home - when I noticed pain just above and to the inside of my left knee (not the problem I had last summer). It almost feels bruised. I tried ice and ibuprofen - hopefully I'll be ok for Wednesday night's ride.

Weekend Ride Report

Nada. Zilch. Again. I am getting tired of this cold, windy, weather. It is extremely difficult for me to motivate myself to ride solo when the wind is above 25 mph and the temp is below 50 degrees. It was also my son's 18th birthday on Sunday, the Masters was on t.v., I had an audition to listen to, we had to get groceries, do laundry, blah, blah, blah.

My wife and I went north on Saturday to get some stuff at Sam's Club - afterwards I persuaded her to drive with me out to Branched Oak to see if we could see some of the race. We didn't have time to stay, so we drove once around the lake in the outside lane to see what we could see. Coming around the west side of the lake we saw Kevin Murray working hard coming up the big hill there. I rolled my window down (my wife is saying "Don't yell at him, he'll probably just get startled and fall over") and tried to cheer him on. He gave me the funniest look - I think he thought I was some random idiot yelling at him:) At least he didn't fall over - or punch me. Man, those folks (saw Janna and Megan too, but didn't yell at them) are tough to race in that weather.

No class for me at Southeast this afternoon because of All-City Music Contest, so I think I'll head out to Cortland. I have 250 miles to go to reach my goal for this month, so I better get cranking. Time to HTFU, as the bike forums members like to say.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

teamFIRE at Las Margaritas

Nothing is better after a cold, windy 25 mile ride than laughing over chips, salsa, and $2.50 margaritas. The only bad part was riding home as the sun was setting - it got about 10 degrees colder while we sat in the bar. The blurry quality of the cell phone pic below perfectly captures how I felt riding the last mile or two.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Weekend Ride Report

On Friday, I broke out the Treks and took my wife and my daughter on the Jamaica trail out to Roca be after school - beautiful day for a ride. I can't wait until everything is green and the trees have leaves. It was nice and cool with almost no wind.

On Saturday, I rode with six other hardy souls (or hard-core loonies) out to Sprague, then to the Kramer cutoff, then to Denton, and home for about a 40 mile loop. The worst wind was at the beginning (14th street and 77) and the end coming back from Denton. The original intent was to go to Cortland, but the south wind (30 mph, with higher gusts) was so extreme we decided to get off of the highway as soon as we could. I felt good and was able to stay with the fast guys, Mike (can't remember his last name) and Dave Rowe until about a mile after climbing the Denton hill.

If I was ever going to get somebody addicted to road riding, I think I would drop them off at the beginning of the Denton alps with a good south tailwind. What a blast! We were going 25-30 mph over the hills and several times got up over 40 mph going downhill. Coming home from Denton was a little rough, though, as the wind had shifted just slightly to the east by the time we were on Denton road.

Thanks to Mike, Tami, Craig, Dave, and Don for coming out for a nice afternoon ride.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Saturday Ride

When: 1:00 p.m.
Where: Wilderness Perk (14th and Pine Lake strip mall)
Route: Decide on the spot - probably about 30-40 miles - return with the wind
Weather: Warm and quite windy

Check this blog on Saturday by noon for confirmation or cancellation depending on the severity of the wind and how many people let me know they are coming - if we have enough people to take turns fighting the headwind, it might not be too bad. Should be lots of fun coming home with the tailwind. Reply here or send me an email if you are riding.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Randy Brecker

On Tuesday, I got a chance to meet and work with one of my musical heroes, trumpet artist Randy Brecker - he came to town with the UNO Jazz Ensemble to perform a concert at Southeast - he also performed with the LSE Jazz Band which I direct. Randy is a multiple Grammy Award winner, and was one of the players I tried to emulate when I was a student in high school. He and his brother Michael had a jazz/rock band called the Brecker Brothers back in the late 1970s that recorded a number of hit albums - I put together a band with some of my friends that tried to learn and perform tunes from those albums.

In addition to his jazz performances with many of the great players of the last 40 years (Jaco Pastorius, Dave Sanborn, Horace Silver, Larry Coryell, and many, many others), Randy has also performed and recorded with pop and rock artists as diverse as Steely Dan, Frank Sinatra, Chaka Khan, Frank Zappa, George Benson, Bruce Springsteen, Parliament-Funkadelics, and James Taylor.

A pic of Randy and me after the concert - in the process of autographing the CD he was giving me:

Here is some video of his performance with my students - Randy's solo starts at about 4:30 into the recording (btw, the first trumpet soloist is my son Tommy). The piece the kids are playing is an original composition called Southeast Six Step - commissioned specifically for the LSE Jazz Ensemble I, and written by Eric Richards.

At Nicol's request, I dug up an old photo from another time I got to work with a Grammy Award winner - who happened to be a former student. I'm the trumpet player on the left of the row of four horn players - right next to us is my former student James Valentine, now a member of Maroon 5. That was a pretty fun night.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Carbon Fiber wrap

Here is an interesting article in Cycling News about some new technology - definitely worth checking out.