Monday, March 30, 2009

A perfect ride...

Today is the first weekday following the change to daylight savings time here in Europe. I always look forward to this. It is the 'official' sign that the short, dark, dreary days of winter will soon be a memory. It signals the arrival of spring. And more daylight. Nicer weather, and more riding time. What more can a cyclist ask for?

So, this afternoon I left work at about 17:30 (as opposed to staying later and getting more work done) and... ended up extending my commute a wee bit... OK, a lot. Instead of a ~8 km ride home, I raced to the seashore (18 km from my office) and back home. A 36 km ride. By the way, did I mention that it was wonderfully sunny and the temperature was about 16

It was perfect. The kind of day that reaffirms everything we love about this sport.

Home in time for a quick shower and dinner with the family. And when we sat down for dinner there was still sunlight outside. Spring is almost here. And we can ride.

Happy, happy Powerful Pete.

Friday, March 27, 2009

My commute...

While I have a number of potential routes, my standard commute is about 7.5 km each way, through my neighborhood in southern Rome to my office. As you may or may not know, traffic here in Rome is absolutely hectic. At rush hour. Actually, all the time. Always. As an Italian and Roman I am used to it now, but I notice that whenever family or guests visit us from the United States (or anywhere in Europe), they are absolutely terrorized.

You see, the whole concept of heavy traffic and safety distance is different here... notice the beautiful weather (last week) and... what is normal traffic on my way to work!

Remember, there are 60-odd million of us in a country the size of a rather small American state. And a road network that was designed by Roman (as in the Roman Empire) city planner, oh, about 2-odd thousand years ago. And chariot size and traffic density is not the same as a whole lot of Fiats on the road at the same time! Which of course mean
s that things are rather tight. I read U.S. blogs trying to enforce a three foot minimum distance when passing. If I am right, that is about a meter, and let me tell you, I am shocked when I get that much distance in rush hour traffic...

In any event, I am not trying to present myself as a hero. The roads in this part of town are relatively new and modern (Mussolini's city planning, built after the war and finished for the 1960 Olympics). So I cannot complain. And, as I may have mentioned, I absolutely love the commute... it gets me to work (traffic, red lights and all) in less than 25 minutes on a slow day - about half the time it took me in a car on a good day. Combine that with the rush, and after my shower and changing into my work cl
othes, I always feel like I am getting away with something for the first few hours in the office every day!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

My first real ride...

I was never the cool and athletic kid in school. Rather pudgy, as a matter of fact. No hand-eye coordination (I blame my mom for that!). No real ability to play team sports. Something of a tragedy for a growing pre- and early teen desperate for acceptance by his peers (and for the interest of the other sex!).

Then my father introduced me to cycling.

It all started on a glorious spring afternoon in Rome. I believe I was 12. With my dad we went out, purchased an Atala SL frame (the original Atala, made by Rizzato in Padova - the picture above is from ebay, but that is what my frame looked like), set it up with Gipiemme components (great stuff, cheaper than Campagnolo, but really the only option if you were not willing to pay top Lira for Super Record - what was Shimano? the Japanese make components? no way!). We then went digging in some cabinets and my father produced two pairs of wool cycling shorts. Deerskin padding included. Apparently unused for the better part of the last quarter century (any idea how 25 year old deerskin padding feels?). We donned them, along with equally old wool jerseys (I still remember my mother, who was very concerned by all this, making me wear a flannel checkered shirt to protect me from the wind - it's an Italian mothers' thing - you wouldn't understand) and immediately set off. Powerful Pete on his Atala. My father on his specialissima made to measure about 25-odd years beforehand. Yes, it was a beautiful afternoon.

Random thoughts, yes?

The first ride was 32 kilometers. Once I began to gain confidence in the (for me) twitchy steering on a racing bike, I was transformed, a catharthis. I cannot begin to describe the emotions. I was free. I was moving what felt like immense distances at breathtaking speeds (ok, they weren't, but it sure felt like it). I was no longer the last guy left standing when teams were picked for a football (soccer to you Americans!) game. From that moment, somewhere around kilometer 18 or so, I knew. This was my sport, my pastime, the activity that would help define me. No matter what I did, where I ended up, how successful or popular I would become, cycling would be a part of my life. It is my little secret. It is a very important part of what makes Powerful Pete.

And to this day, through all the vagaries of life, riding is still a part of me. Sometimes I barely ride for a month or two. But I always crane my neck when I see another rider on the road. It is my dirty little secret. And I always start riding 'seriously' again. Grazie papa'. This is truly a lifelong gift. I only hope that I can pass on the passion to my own children... but that is the sweetest of challenges.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Kona...

I love to ride. To the point that I decided to sell my perfectly good car and purchase a... Kona Jake the Snake to commute to work. Added on a set of Arkel panniers on an Old Man Mountain rack, started commuting in August 2008, and have never looked back.

She is a beauty. Handles crappy Rome roads (and crazed drivers) with ease. And although I am a Campagnolo man through and through (more on that later!) I cannot complain about the Shimano 105 equipment (the shifting is fine, albeit clunky in comparison to the Campagnolo Chorus kit on my De Rosa). Although the FSA Gossamer crankset is another issue altogether...

I do believe she would look even better with full Centaur kit (yes, the carbon ergopowers would look really, really nice on this Kona!), but that is for another day, when there is a wee bit more cash available for less than necessary upgrades. Now if I could only get a set of Boras past 'the chain'...

My first post...

Well, here goes. The first post. I must admit that I have been playing around with the idea of blogging about my cycling passion, along with the many other bits and pieces of my life that I feel an urge to share with friends and family.

I have great ideas and plans for this blog. As always, I am excited by this new adventure... I hope to be able to keep things entertaining for all of you out there!

Please wish me luck!