Friday, April 30, 2010

Cycling Nuts... A special breed

Back when I was a kid, riding a bike was a rite of passage. Something that you started to do when you were between 6 and 8 in order to get to the neighbor's house faster, or to go all the way down the block without having to bug Mom or Dad to drive you the .01 mile it would take. For some of us, when we got a little older, it became a way to go to and from school, without having to sit on the bus with all the younger kids or the bullies, and we got to wave coolly, passing the bus, knowing we were free from any establishment-imposed schedule.

Of course, for most of us in the Fairfield County area, by the time we were 16, our eyes were set on getting our driver's license and being able to shuttle around our friends, laughing at the poor Freshman and Sophomores that had to bike to and from places, while we jetted about in four-walled contraptions that made sad excuses for cars.

Once college came around, we were back to bi-pedaling, as cars didn't cut it on the cobbled pave-ways that wove in between dorms and department buildings. Or, worse yet, were banned for those of us until we were seniors. But it was the cool thing to do, especially if you had the oldest bike, that you could spray paint and decorate with as many indie band and club opening stickers as humanly possible. And, for those of us who went to Oberlin College, knowing that it would likely be sacrificed to the bicycle gods in a ball of fire otherwise known as the Bike Derby. (Those were the days... )

Perhaps it was at this point in some of our lives when we made the subconscious shift from riding a bike to becoming a "cyclist". There's nothing wrong with riding a bike. I do it every day when I commute to work. It's a utility. A mode of transportation.

I think, some of us may be genetically predisposed to being a "cyclist," or, more accurately, a "Cycling Nut". Like a shark who can chill out at the bottom of the ocean until that one whiff of a blood droplet, pupils dilate, adrenaline rushes, and all of a sudden, we are transformed. Those who ride a bike cruise around, having a blast. But those who cross over into the Cycling Nut category salivate. Of course, it's also the stuff that makes our mothers' worst nightmares come true. Everything she warned us about - from the dangers of running with scissors, to not swimming right after eating, to looking both ways before you do anything and slow and steady will win the race - goes out the window once the Cycling Nut inside emerges. And she's left at home praying the Cycling Nut comes to their senses.

Whereas most normal people would see a crash, searing skin into pavement as a bad thing, as a painful thing, the road Cycling Nut secretly looks forward to the opportunity to become one with the street, shredding their chamois, seeping blood, and getting back on the bike to prove to the other Cycling Nuts that it was "merely a flesh wound." The Cycling Nut rides despite bad weather - a thunderstorm? Spontaneous lighting and a killer soundtrack. Snow? One less reason to have to chill the water in the bladder pack. Heat wave? And excuse to ride around with the jersey unzipped, as though mounting Ventoux after hammering for 100 miles at a Lance-like cadence.

For the mountain Cycling Nut, of course, the badges of honor just get grittier. Crashing sternum to handlebar on the verge of toppling down a ravine? Affirmation of life. Looking at a drop that a normal person would have the sudden urge to build a barrier to prevent innocents from falling to their doom? Killer descent, without even DREAMING of using brakes - front or back.

In fact, the mountain Cycling Nut reminds me of a song we used to sing at camp, "Going on a Lion Hunt." There's a point in the song where certain things get in the way... "Uh oh! There's mud ahead! Can't go over it! Can't go under it! Can't go around it! We'd better go through it!" And so it goes with a lake, a gate, tall grass, a mountain, a cave, etc. Clearly, the difference between the lion hunter and the mountain Cycling Nut is that the lion hunter uses reason. It won't try and go over or through the closed gate. It will go around the lake, and not through it. The mountain Cycling Nut? Watch them bunny hop onto the wall next to the gate, bouncing over the top, and shooting down the other side.

The good news, however, about cycling, is that we don't have to choose whether or not we fit into the bike rider, cyclist, or Cycling Nut category. It naturally self-sorts. Or, what's even more fun, is when we notice we evolve from one and to the other. Take it from me...

My name is Rica Mendes. I am a cycle-holic. I'm a former bike rider turned cyclist turned Cycling Nut... can't wait for the sprained back to heal enough so I can get back to training for my mountain bike races and my century rides... oh, and riding my bike to and from work, too... don't worry, Mom, I've got my life insurance up-to-date!


Little plug: If you liked reading this blog and want to keep me riding this year, or sponsor a race I'm doing this year, please consider making a donation to my LIVESTRONG Challenge Account. Yes, that's for real - I'm trying to raise $25,000 by September 30. Every bit counts - any donation - large or small - is appreciated.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Time is flying - and we're only 2 days away from ROCK the RIDE and RUN!

Can you believe it? I can't! Months of planning, weeks of networking and lining up sponsors and registered runners and riders, and we only have 2 days until we ROCK the RIDE and RUN to benefit LIVESTRONG! We have 20+ registered participants, and I know of almost double that, who are planning to register in person!

Balloons are being blown for the businesses participating, mechanics from Eastern Mountain Sport & Bicycle World are prepping their portable bike shops as I type this, and, hopefully, runners and riders are taking advantage of today's sunny weather to train and get their gear in order for Sunday.

Of course, there is still time to register - for my friends who live abroad and cannot attend in-person, you can always ROCK the RIDE & RUN virtually at home - and kids can still register for $10 for the Children's Ride to the park and back!

And, please don't forget the raffle - where you can win a signed jersey by Lance Armstrong (it's Astana - even more of a conversation piece - thanks to John Korioth) and a Giant MTB+Giro Transfer helment (thanks to Bicycle World) or one of many other prizes, including over $750-worth of interior decorating from Arbitare, gift certificates from a number of bicycle & outdoor shops, Albano Electric, etc! For every $10 you donate to my Austin LIVESTRONG Challenge account, you get one ticket! (So, $20=2 tickets, $30=3 tickets, etc... )

Spread the word, spread the love, and let's KICK CANCER ON SUNDAY!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

I got a feeling... ROCK the RIDE and RUN Updates

To say that a pair of sick kids is a blessing in disguise is an understatement. Yesterday, both kids were home sick with a cold. I had to run an errand for them in Bedford yesterday, and, on the way back home, I briefly stopped at Bicycle World on Main Street in Mount Kisco. Talk about an amazing strike of luck!
  1. They have donated a black & white Giant Boulder Hard-Tail Mountain Bike & a matching Giro Transfer helmet to raffle off! Features of the bike are:
    • Spinner Grind 1, 80mm suspension fork
    • Shimano trigger shifting, Shimano Altus rear derailleur
    • Alloy direct-pull brakes
    • Alloy rim/alloy disc hub wheelset
  2. A full-mechanics' tent at the Start/Finish point
  3. A leader for a NEW FEATURE TO THE RIDE - a Children's Ride! For $10, you can register your youngster for a casual ride from Scotts Corner Market to the Town Park (on the bike path) and back!
SO... to register your kids for the ROCK the RIDE and RUN (the children's ride will start at 1pm at Scotts Corner Market), or to register yourself, please go to:

For every $10 donation or more from today through April 25 at 12:01 am EST made to my LIVESTRONG Challenge account, you will receive a ticket to win the Giant Bike & Helmet, or one of other amazing prizes, including a signed Astana jersey autographed by Lance Armstrong!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Some guys have all the luck, some guys have all the pain...

Rarely are those guys the same guys. But, let's hope to turn that around for my friend, Annemiekeh.

Annemiekeh is the portrait of fighter. She is a cancer co-survivor (as documented here on Voices of Survivors), which led her to become a LIVESTRONG Leader in the Netherlands. Due to an accident while riding her bike, she relies on crutches, at least to help her walk. But her spirit and determination, when many people would just settle for the crutches, makes Annemiekeh stand tall, proud, and apart from your average person.

This year, Annemiekeh has been challenging herself to ride her bike. Not just casually. Not just for a mile or two. She has given herself a significant challenge - a LIVESTRONG Challenge - The LIVESTRONG Challenge in Austin. Yes, the same Challenge that many of us, who haven't suffered the kinds of injuries that could have prevented us from riding again, are training hard to participate in. From her LIVESTRONG Challenge Page:
On December 2nd 1999, I became the victim of a hit and run that left me depending on crutches for the rest of my life. In the same year I had seen Lance Armstrong win his first Tour de France after surviving cancer. His courage to fight and go on gave me the strength and inspiration to do the same. In the last 10 years I saw Lance win 6 more Tours and do a remarkable Comeback 2.0 I worked on 5 hours of exercises each day to be able to walk on crutches. Last year I got the change to honor Lance's courage and the 9 family members that have been affected by cancer by becoming a Local LiveStrong Leader and this year I got the go ahead to get back on a bike and train for the Austin LiveStrong Challenge 2010. Please help me reach my goal and help those afflicted by cancer!
Pretty powerful words from an even more powerful lady.

Now, here's the rub. A mutual friend very graciously gifted a bike to her earlier this year so that she could start riding and training on the road (she'd been doing ridiculously long indoor training sessions that, as I told her, put me to absolute shame). And she's been riding her dear heart out. Until the other day, when, like me in October, she was hit by a car. Fortunately, she is ok. But the bike was totaled.

She's not letting it stop her - she's still training indoors, but obviously, she needs a bike. Badly. She needs a bike to train with in the Netherlands, and she needs a bike to ride in Austin.

If I learned anything in the fall of 2009, when my only road bike was totaled, and friends from LIVESTRONG gathered far and wide to connect me with my Bianchi Eros, since, I, like Annemieke, didn't have the funds to purchase a new bike, it's that miracles can happen - even to those that seem to only have all the pain and none of the luck.

So, here's this week's LIVESTRONG Challenge for my readers, friends and colleagues - help me and her other LIVESTRONG friends from around the country, help Annemieke get back on two wheels!

If you have any resources, contacts or ideas, please contact me directly at!

Thank you! And please share this blog!