twenty nineteen, the year of the revolution

Because it’s never a bad time to have a revolution, let’s make a new year a great excuse! In the last 12 months, the false peak of shitty politics has been summited many times, we appear to be living in a time where the shit has hit the fan, the walls, the ceiling, the floor, with a huge steaming blob right in the delicious mojito of your life.

Something has to give – so it might as well be us.

Wait what? shouldn’t we hit the streets and rage against the machine and all its fetid produce? Well yes. But two and a half decades of variously raging, supporting raging, watching raging, raging a bit more has led to an Einstenian conclusion:

We can’t change the machine using the type of raging the machine encourages and permits.

(that’s a terrible paraphrase of this quote, by the way)

So all that raging is useless, without first raging at myself and understanding how, where and why I fit with the universe, the machine to be raged at, and everything. It’s not an easy process – it’s like taking up running – it hurts, you suck at it, it hurts more, you suck at it more, then one day after much hurt and sucking you’re actually feeling OK about running.

…until you forget to run for a week. Then you’re back in the hurt/suck pit. For far too long.

Revolutions require discipline.

So in the year of twenty nineteen what’s my revolution? How can I legitimately call for the year of the revolution, unless I engage with it myself?

I took a small step in the last calendar year – at the ripe young age of 44, deciding I needed help with my shit, asking for it, and actually paying real money for it. I can already feel it’s the most valuable thing I’ve done in ages. In the next 12 months I’ll expand on that, and keep working on myself and all the stuff I’ve tried to ignore/overcome/bury for years.

I left a lucrative startup job in order to pilot my own boat as an independent consultant. I have to just trust that it’s going to work. This is huge for me!

I also leaped headlong into taking ownership of a community I’ve benefitted from for years, organising an open source geospatial conference – for me this was big and uncomfortable, negotiating serious challenges, having to push ideas past people who I’ve never met, fusing multiple strategies and priorities, forging something new with 14 other people. In the next 12 months, I’m excited to continue my journey growing and nurturing this community in the Oceania region.

Finally, I acquired running shoes… the physical hurt/suck is, for me, a powerful reminder of the emotional and spiritual hurt/suck we all put off, fearing that part instead of looking past to what we will become by embracing and owning it.

Realistically, I have no idea what 2019 holds, and how anything might even be achieved. I’ll need to use this little word spew to remind myself every so often, and see how far things have progressed, regressed, or stayed still. It’s all OK.

Revolutions happen when we’re ready for them to happen

Happy 2019 – let’s all have the revolution we need!

Fox Metah Helmet

New helmet time is always amazing, because old helmets get worn to death. This time I grabbed a Fox Metah from mountainbikesdirect.com.au. Here is a picture of me wearing it.

You can see it instantly turns any ugly bugger right into a hardcore bike ninja supermodel!

Unfortunately, it doesn’t hide wrinkles or the fact that I’m bald. I rely 100% on people looking from far away and not taking a second glance. You can see in this side on photo that indeed, on second glance, even the overpowering mojo of the Metah can’t screen everything.

It does, however, snug my cranium snugly and feels nice and safe. It’s coverage is well on par with the Bell Super 2 it replaced. And it is just as cosy to wear. Those huge vents are a plus over the Bell – Australia is bloody hot, making head ventilation is a winner in my book. I have to wear my pirate bandana to prevent helmetburn in summer anyway, so moar vents is moar goodness – to a degree. I don’t want a large log to be able to fit through them.

I expect the clever magpies will find a way to peck my head in new and more painful places come springtime. I don’t do that zip tie porcupine thing, it looks stupid, wastes zip ties, doesn’t work and risks poking them in the eye, enraging them further. Fox designers clearly don’t live anyplace near magpies, hence massive magpie-penetrable venting – but I still think the massive vents and the instant mojo are a plus. Mostly the mojo. And the vents.

My summary? I like it, I don’t notice it when I’m out riding, and it looks the biz. Three stars for the Metah! If I ever test it in anger, I’ll let you know exactly how many metres shorter the mountain is afterward.

…but if you’re like me, make sure you ride fast. As awesome as the Metah is, the ninja rockstar mountain biker mojo field it exudes can only cover so much for so long. If you are an actual ninja rockstar mountain biker, then this is your helmet. Well, really, any helmet is your helmet unless your head shape is totally wrong for it – but the Metah is a winner from the fox folks in my book.

3 600 km of absolute black

A month or two ago my absoluteblack CX oval chainring passed it’s 3 600th kilometre of week in, week out, all weather commuting plus a few longer road rides and gravel grinds. One of these was 82 km and 1800 vertical metres. A ride to the corner shop in the European alps, but a pretty big deal in Australia.

How’s it travelling? Check the photos. Even in a ‘just got back from a dirty ride’ state I’d say it’s doing just fine for a while longer. Tooth profiles still look good, anodising worn off but that happens. And it is still nice and straight – despite it’s feathery appearance. It’s solid!

That’s really all. It’s pretty, fuss free, and still lets me keep a good cadence just that little bit longer up hills. I’d say worth the fuss. It’s now up to 4 200 km and still doing just fine.

If ever I would stop thinking about bikes and politics…

Being able to paraphrase Michael Franti in a blog post title is awesome. And even better, this post is relevant to one way of interpreting the song. For those unfamiliar with his work, google ‘If ever I would stop thinking about music and politics’, ‘Disposable heroes of hiphoprisy’ (yes it’s an old song by now), and ‘Michal Franti and Spearhead’ (and probably more). It’s a song that has stuck with me for decades now – but really, the message has taken a really long time to start sinking in. Let’s look at one small part:

If ever I would stop thinking about music and politics
I would tell you that the personal revolution
is far more difficult
and is the first step in any revolution

What does that mean? And where does it fit into the context of a web page which is ostensibly about bikes (so far)? And why am I writing about this now?

To answer the first question, Michael Franti echoes an ancient anecdote to speak about the difficulty of evolving oneself to look inward from the outside. To see ourselves as active agents in our destiny, rather than passive drifters on the seas of chance. The second question is easy – we’re also talking about evolution here. As for the third? It follows from the recent US election, which on the surface is the tip of an iceberg of ignorance.

I care about this, although I’m half a world away, because it represents an enormous challenge and an even more enormous opportunity. I’m certain many analysts will dissect the reasons for Trump, brexit, successive conservative governments in Australia, the rise of nationalist right wing movements elsewhere, the retreat from humane, empathetic approaches to refugees, the almost-frenzied destruction of our living planet.

I’m going to simplify it a lot, and boil many essays down to one word: Fear.

Specifically, fear of the future, fear of uncertainty, fear of the other.

…and fear of our own selves. How can this be so? How can we be afraid of ourselves? Look again, consider – what holds you back? Why do you get angry about stuff? If you believe that other people are somehow different from you, what drives that belief?

Consider the words quoted above. The hardest step is an internal revolution, which must be undertaken before external change can thrive. We must first evolve ourselves, our attitudes and outlooks, before the change we wish to see can take root and thrive.

Speaking for myself, yes, I’m awash with fears of various things.. and my journey to evolve is only proceeding slowly. Fatherhood has helped. So has passing through the eye of a needle in terms of the unemployment/stability/PhD/family/reemployment matrix. Growing older, and of course, spending time in the wild, breathing the air, being with the wind.

So why is this internal revolution the hardest? Ever been rock climbing? How hard do you try to hang on to that hold, realising you’re about to fall, before you let go, relax, and fall into the safety of the rope. That’s why. It’s that same kind of hardness – the difficulty of letting go, of shedding the old. I’ve fought many unnecessary battles for precisely this reason. I could not just relax and let go.

Back to politics – viewed one way, things look pretty grim. Viewed another, these times may just be the motivating spark that we need to start our internal revolutions!

How can we make change? Start in ourselves. Taking from another great source of inspiration:

A warrior trusts other people because, first and foremost, he trusts himself.
– Paulo Coelho, the manual of the Warrior of Light

This is actually really difficult. To trust that everything will be as it is meant to be, and to trust wholly that we are here for a purpose even if we never gain any form of conscious knowledge of what that is. There’s always something we are here to do.

For now, my task is to shine a light within, find my fears and let them pass through me – so that I can shine a light for others too! To trust myself, and the universe. To speak out honestly, kindly, and firmly. And encourage everyone I can to do the same. I might never become a politician, or a billionaire, but that doesn’t mean I have no power. I have more power than I can imagine! My question is: what is stopping me from using it?

And the same goes for you. We are made from exploded stars. What could possibly be more awesome?

We are the best and most powerful tools for our own evolution. So right now, in these crazy times, take courage. Change will come, and we will bring it – so long as we can begin first with ourselves.

I hope this kind of potted philosophy has lightened your day. Go listen to some of Michael Franti’s songs – or some other awesome music. Treat your soul! Ride a bike too. Catch some wilderness time, go see what really matters. And then come back, refuelled and ready to see a different world take shape.

Oh – I never answered the second question. Why write about this now? No idea – seemed like the right time…

Humble pie, and how to eat it.

A few weeks ago now, I got involved in an online discussion about fork valving modification. I proposed a shim stack change, which would theoretically reduce high speed compression damping for the fork involved, aiming to make it a bit more sensitive to small bumps.

What I actually proposed was a modification to the mid valve shim stack, which, well, was actually a really awful idea (very few people actually want less mid stroke support). Fortunately I was quickly corrected and took down all my posts on the topic.

So this is my confession. And what did I learn from the experience?

  1. read the manual
  2. read it again, properly this time
  3. test any modifications myself before recommending them to anyone
  4. let the real pros (eg Cyclinic, NS Dynamics, Vorsprung, TFT) do suspension valving changes

I’ll still service bouncy parts, but I’ll leave messing with valving to the experts.

Welcome

Hi. You might or might not have guessed that this space will be about bicycles. Bicycles as a tool to help your evolution, however you choose to go about using them.