The Rules.

After teaching a three day workshop with a singular subject focus last weekend, my sketching this week was sporadic and decidedly UN-focused. A bit of randomness felt good after having stayed on target for the entirety of my workshop, as well as the Urban Sketchers International Day in the Life event that followed me.

I realized, too, that I hadn’t been bike sketching for a while, or added a sketch to The Early Morning Cyclist for even longer so it felt like it was time to do so. There’s nothing earth shattering about the location pictured above, and no dramatic story that I know of that accompanies it. It’s simply a structure along one of my regular routes, a picturesque place that I like to stop and look at for a moment before I continue on my way.

Stopping to sketch at this spot was a pleasant moment in time. Later, after posting it to my Instagram account, the image spurred a brief online conversation with a fellow artist who follows me there. In a nutshell, the discussion centered around my desire to eliminate everything that is unnecessary in a sketch, while still remaining unquestionably drawn by hand. It’s a very “Bauhaus-ian” approach, and purposely so. I teach design, following Bauhaus principles and (hopefully) passing along those tenets to my design students.

Not incidentally, these ideas are notably at the core of what I find especially appealing about cycling. Sometimes as I pedal, I like to ponder such things. Somewhere along the way I began to formulate some rules of thumb. And somewhere further along the way, those began to take shape as a list… an as yet incomplete list, I’ll grant you, but a list nevertheless that I’ll share here:

The Early Morning Cyclist Rules of the Road

Article One. Always wave whenever you encounter another cyclist. Regardless of what the other cyclist is looks like, regardless of what they are riding, regardless of what they are wearing, and regardless of whether or not they acknowledge you – as you pass one another, greet the other rider.
Article Two. Don’t be a dick. It’s true that there are a plenty of Bad Ass Serious Racer Type Cyclists (BASRTCs) out there on the road. But even if that happens to be you, don’t be a dick.
Article Three. Sport a bell on your handlebars or stem. Nothing makes a BASRTC less intimidating and less threatening to the world than the tinkle tinkle tinkle of a little bell as one’s bike approaches other riders or pedestrians from behind. When you tinkle that bell, you, my friend, are officially a friend of the world and everyone smiles with you.
Article Four. Wear clothing of threads that are made at least partially from something found in nature. Both you and the viewing public will thank me for this advice. Form-fitting Lycra isn’t for everybody… In fact I would argue it’s not for anybody who is not racing in the Tour de France or something of similarly serious ilk. Try cotton, smart wool, lightweight wool – something that at least partially grew on a vine or a bush or a tree originally. Maybe it’s just me, but I find that stuff a whole lot more comfortable. Want to wear a diaper? Fine. I usually do. But put it on underneath a pair of cargo shorts. Life isn’t a race…oh, and unless you’ve got an actual sponsor, ditch the logo covered jerseys. 
Article Five. Install the widest, most supple tires that will (a) fit on your bike, and (b) that you can afford. Go ahead. Do the research on wide tires if you feel like adding them is going to slow you down. Or better yet, just trust me. Get them.
Article Six. Your hands should be stained… With the juice from the mulberries you have plucked from a tree along the side of the road. Or blackberries. Or blueberries. Or strawberries that you bought from a roadside stand and stuffed into your mouth while straddling your bike. The point is, stop and smell the roses. And while you’re at it, eat a handful of berries.

See? Doesn’t that look like it’s worth stopping for?

Oh, what the heck – stopping at a farmer’s market for a blueberry pastry does the trick too.


The Big BAM Ride (Bike Across Missouri) kicks off tomorrow, and I’m nearly ready to go. The bike is lubed and tuned. I found an LBS that stocks actual tube patches using actual glue instead what I can only imagine to be remnants of bumper stickers punched out into stupid little green circles. Sun block, on-bike snacks, a small sketch kit, etc. are all spread out on my floor for a final check.

The ride starts on my side of the state, with the first day’s stopping point just a couple miles down the road from my house. And the route passes right through my home town on Day Four. Hot weather and stiff breezes are forecast, and I can only hope to discover that wind will be at my back. But it probably won’t be.

Live music each night at the campsite. Hot showers and cold beer. Stiff breeze, be damned.

Biding my time

It’s 9:00 am, Sunday morning. I’ve been up since a little after four, grading art history essays; the bank of windows that line my wall next to me have gradually changed from a densely black night through the various colors and values of a rosy dawn. And now the day beyond the glass looks marvelous. The sky is blue with only a few wisps of cloud. Nary a branch moves; there is not a hint of wind. A quick check of the internet informs me that the outside temps are hovering – for the moment – just below freezing.

I’ve set aside my rubrics and finished reading art history essays, and I could easily layer up and hit the road, but I linger. There’s no question I will get in a few hours of saddle time today. The question is when.

Do you ever do this? Bide your time until the “optimal” conditions present themselves? Well, I certainly have done…and from time to time it bites me in the ass to do so. Not so many weeks back the January weather promised a late afternoon window of opportunity. The morning had been freezing drizzle and the evening looked equally forbidding. But that afternoon of promise was forecast to be a small slice of heaven.

So I waited, and bide my time. The morning drizzle never appeared. In fact, the temps weren’t at all as miserable as the published forecast. Still, I knew that the afternoon would be terrific, so my bike continued to lean against the wall. The morning passed by, and as mid-day turned to afternoon, and the sky began to turn gray, so too did my mood. Rechecking the online forecast, I was shocked to see that the world had turned upside down. Instead of an incredible afternoon, conditions were only going to get worse. The morning freezing drizzle arrived late and by the time I realized what I’d missed the road was glazing over with ice.

I see that this afternoon promises to be in the upper forties. I could bide my time and wait for things to improve, but I can already hear a bird chirping outside my window. Squirrels are racing up and down one of the huge cottonwoods. And I think I’ll take what I’ve got right now.

Exploring New Roads

Chancing upon a gravel road, I pedaled that path to see where it led, round tight corners bordering Missouri River bluffs and through farmlands pretty and cozy and nestled and hidden. Between fields I rode, flanked by ponds and streams; horses, livestock, and waterfowl were my neighbors, and one cowboy rehearsing with a lariat, a young steer his understudy. Up and over very steep hills, I climbed and panted; my breathing at times labored as my wheels reached each summit. And yet the November air brought forth a growing chill in the waning afternoon light.

Tweed Ride 2016

This year’s Tweed Ride was fun, but just a wee bit disappointing. Why? Well, I sure wish there had been more vintage bikes on hand – other than my own, of course. Modern bikes and dress up. Hmmm.

I do look forward to this event though. It’s fun to get out and ride one of my vintage bikes, get all duded up in something resembling period attire, and join a group of others of similar mind. This annual ride is sort of turning into a hip, fashiony event. But still cool. Folks are out on bikes, enjoying themselves and the day.

My bike of choice today was a 1946 Hobbs of Barbican. It’s a fixed wheel time trial bike. Staying true to the form of the time I was dressed head to toe in black as British time trialists would have done in the 30’s and 40’s. (An alpaca jacket would have been required – which I don’t have. Fortunately, it was a warm day so no harm, no foul.)

I arrived early, hoping to get in some sketching. Unfortunately, I found out the damn ink was running low in my pen.

Well crap. Guess I’ll just ride my bike.

Tweed Ride 2016

5 October, 2016. This year’s Tweed Ride was fun, but just a wee bit disappointing. Why? Well, I sure wish there had been more vintage bikes on hand – other than my own, of course. Modern bikes and dress up. Hmmm.

I do look forward to this event though. It’s fun to get out and ride one of my vintage bikes, get all duded up in something resembling period attire, and join a group of others of similar mind. This annual ride is sort of turning into a hip, fashiony event. But still cool. Folks are out on bikes, enjoying themselves and the day.

My bike of choice today was a 1946 Hobbs of Barbican. It’s a fixed wheel time trial bike. Staying true to the form of the time I was dressed head to toe in black as British time trialists would have done in the 30’s and 40’s. (An alpaca jacket would have been required – which I don’t have. Fortunately, it was a warm day so no harm, no foul.)

I arrived early, hoping to get in some sketching. Unfortunately, I found out the damn ink was running low in my pen.

Well crap. (Pentel Pocket Brush Pen in Canson 180 sketchbook; Kansas City, Missouri.)

Rambling.

It’s Autumn, which means it’s time for a bit of rambling. Appropriate, I guess, because this post will pretty much be nothing but rambling.

The leaves are turning and the weather, albeit mighty slow in coming, is turning toward the colder months. One would hardly be aware of it though, the days being as nice as they are. A few have been more appropriately seasonal and I’ve gotten to wear long sleeves as I crunch through fallen leaves that are beginning to blanket the less traveled roads. But for the moment I’m mostly togged out in shorts and a t-shirt, nearly ideal riding wear for the girth-challenged road tire bikes I’ve come to prefer.

To say the least, my rides have been enjoyable. It’s frightening how quickly the passage of time takes place. It seems like just last week I was hitting the just melted off streets for a quick Spring outing. Summer, and the subsequent months of classes is now a blur; I realize nearly all of my riding has been solitary during that time.

Welcome, indeed, have been the recent overtures to get out and enjoy these days in good company. More than one friend has wheeled up to the house and it’s with glad heart I’ve accompanied them down the lane for a pleasant hour or two.

The herd of bikes and frames that line the ceiling of my studio has slowly dwindled. I’m reaching a point where it’s become extremely difficult to decide which stays and which goes. With mixed feelings, I passed along the Cycles Toussaint Velo-Routier most recently. And with a certainty, the next to go will be one of the racier frame sets that, with equal certainty, likely enough won’t put rubber to road more than once a year.

I’ve deliberated between building the sharp looking Katakura Silk back up, or finding a new home for it. With the Cycles Toussaint gone, I’ve decided the Silk will go back to 650b so that I have a bike to fit that niche.

That build has been moving at a purposely slow pace. I want to savor the mechanical nature of the build up. I enjoy working with my hands, making things. Spending most of my time teaching drawing and painting these past eight weeks, rather than doing any drawing myself means looking for a creative surrogate. The build satisfies some of that urge.

A few weeks ago I was asked to complete a survey and offered a substantial gift card for my carefully considered opinions. I promptly forgot about that until it arrived in the mail last week. Ever since my 1946 Hobbs of Barbican arrived in the studio I had envisioned it with Lauterwasser bars. Gift card in hand, I ordered a reproduction pair from Soma and installed them over the weekend.

I recall reading somewhere that these are very comfortable handlebars. Frankly, I was dubious. I briefly had a pair of mustache bars and found them to be simply awful. The resemblance to Lauterwasser bars left me in doubt. But hey! The gift card meant I could get a pair with no real cost to me. I figured I had little to lose.  And after a few rides Sunday and Monday, I can say with certainty that they are indeed surprisingly comfortable.

Meanwhile, the other wish list item for this bike has been an appropriate cottered crank set. One of the terrific members of BikeForums reached out to me this weekend with an offer of a Williams that would fit the bill quite nicely. Yes, this bike has turned into a money pit, but it’s such a joy to ride a seventy-year old time trial bike. The ride quality is excellent. And how do you put a price on that sort of experience?

Beautiful weather

Oh my gosh, what a beautiful afternoon – both last weekend and this – especially for the middle of February! Last Monday was President’s Day so no school that day either, which made it a perfect opportunity to head out for a couple of hours of bike sketching.

I really enjoy inking trees and limbs entirely freehand, without the safety net of penciled construction lines. Ambling along on the bike trails that roughly trace the forested Eastern shorelines of Smithville Lake, my greatest difficulty was simply choosing which trees to draw. It seemed like every bend I’d ride around would yield an abundance of subject matter! I finally stopped to sit and watch for eagles at the end of a particularly pleasant point on the lake. I’d spotted a single bald eagle less than five minutes after heading down the first path, but there were no more to be seen after that. I satisfied myself by using my break to sketch out this gnarly tree, then hopped on my bike and continued on my merry way.


Despite a week of unreasonably and unseasonably wonderful weather, it seemed as though the following days left me with limited time to enjoy the roads. Too much to do, too many meetings, too many interviews, just too much, way too much. Saturday couldn’t arrive soon enough. And with an afternoon in the mid-70’s, I was off!

I’d like to have called this a JRA outing, but the truth is that I had a goal and destination in mind. Although I stopped to briefly sketch the city-wide wine tasting taking place on the town square, I wanted to head out of town on one of my well traveled routes, take in some hills and get in some mileage that I’ve been missing these past wintery months.

It didn’t take long to realize the trainer hasn’t done enough to keep my legs in the same shape they were last September. Hills seemed longer, gears seemed higher, and my legs got rubbery far too soon. Blast it all! Not a moment too soon, I found myself enjoying the flat miles of the river bottom farmlands. For a while I managed to simply pedal and ponder, lose myself in the moment and place. And that, after all, is the true value of these rides.


Today, the temps are beginning to drop. The weatherman forecasts a return to something close to the norms, although his predictions still sound better than I remember February being. The winds picked up today, but I was itching to get back out again and wanting to do some shorter mileage on my fixed wheel bike. I enjoy the fact that fixed wheel keeps me churning the entire time I’m out. The problem, of course, was that my legs are out of condition, the winds were a bit harsh and gusty, and my legs are out of condition. Also, my legs are out of condition. The hills seemed even longer and steeper today than they did yesterday riding my geared bike. One fixed gear felt ponderous, so my outing turned out to be painfully short. Instead of riding into the wind I made a quick sketch of my fixed wheel 1946 Hobbs of Barbican.

The good news for me is that the days are perceptively longer, the weather grows more reasonably with each passing day, and soon enough I’ll be back out on the roads every afternoon and morning. The hills will get shorter. The miles, too.

And the outings will get longer, and that’s just fine by me.