Fight Seasonal Affective Disorder with a Healthy Dose of Underbiking

Brian and James underbiking in the Frederick Watershed, shot by Matt Delorme.


Fight Seasonal Affective Disorder with a Healthy Dose of Underbiking.

Also in this post: dubious connections between art and riding, youtube videos you can click on at work (if you have headphones), upcoming clinics, changes at the shop, shop rides that you need thick socks for, and more, maybe. Scroll down to get to the news stuff.

Life is about addition. New friends, new connections, linking in, moving up, promotions, new children, new hobbies, new exercise regimes. Buy more, do more, electronically schedule life so it’s broken down into life bites to optimize time. Time however, can not be optimized. It proceeds at it’s own pace, and it is only your actions within time that can be changed. We often buy advice on how to reverse our overlife habits. Subscribe to Real Simple magazine (it’s all about buying more stuff, not getting rid of stuff, contrary to it’s title), subscribe to the ‘O’ channel, reading time management books, the list goes on. Our overlife culture is deeply ingrained. Instead of getting the time management book from the library, we buy it, don’t read it, and add it to our shelf, where it collects dust and looks self important. Overlife habits are hard to break. Probably impossible. Hence all of the capitalism being introduced in formerly communist countries. More is always better.

Agnes was fond of a quick cocktail napkin doodle.

Or is it? Reduction actually does have its merits. Let’s look for example, at the work of Agnes Martin. Martin was a Minimalist artist (in form if not in spirit) whose work aimed to elevate the core elements of painting and drawing through the process of distillation. Strip away the content: no more traditional subject. The subject is line and color and light. The surface of the painting is the entire content. Martin viewed the work as meditative, a refuge for the eyes and mind. By removing the concept of a traditional subject, Martin arrives at pure expression, simultaneously reducing potential readings and enlarging the readings into the realm of the infinite. You can read a Martin anyway you want, with no subject to hang a preconceived notion on. Martin conveys a sense of openness with exceedingly simple materials. She does not rely on gimmicks, mind games, illusions, metaphor, virtuosity or history. Martin’s sublime work is based on distillation and reduction, her goals reached in the simplest way possible.

Pablo Casals only smoked strawberry flavored pipe tobacco, claiming it brought him closer core of Bach’s soul.

Maybe Minimalism isn’t your bag. It is certainly best viewed in person, where the picture can take up your whole visual plane. So let’s move on to something you don’t need to take a road trip to experience. Music. You can listen anywhere, with some headphones. So plug in, put this You Tube video on as something to listen to (not to watch) and read on. The concept of reduction in music is as old as music itself. Even during the height of musical elaboration, composers were looking at how to get more with less. Could the emotional heft of a Chamber Orchestra be carried by just 3 players? Just one? J.S. Bach tested the waters. His works for Solo Cello convey the full range of human emotion with an instrument that is often viewed as a supporting instrument. It’s like rewriting a book to only focus of the supporting characters, and realizing we know more about the protagonist because we have seen him through the eyes of those around him. Or like making a magnificent house out of stones, but no mortar, windows or wood. Pablo Casals made the Cello Solo work his life, practicing them every single morning from his early teens on. Here he is, channeling the emotions of the Spanish Civil War, the Second World War, and the Cold War in this recording from 1954. To take an instrument with a relatively limited range and reveal it’s capacity for empathy is to unlock the power of reduction and distillation.

There are of course contemporary versions of this concept. Brian recently told me about Bill Orcutt, who makes challenging, compelling music with a guitar stripped of most of it’s strings. His reduction of the strings has forced him to compose music in a nontraditional, inventive fashion. The sound of the missing strings is as important as the sound of the remaining strings. Here’s a track of him playing a two string guitar. This reduction of the capability of the instrument as a key to creativity plays an important part in Morphine, a band based around a 2 string slide bass guitar. It also features heavily in the Rolling Stones’ mid-career output, where Keith Richards had custom built 5 string guitars made to facilitate his new style of gut bucket blues guitar. Listen to Exile on Mainstreet for a prime example of that sound.

Rock garden plus 28mm tires. Yes

Underbiking is the cycling equivalent of this bare bones approach. Take a bike designed for a narrow purpose and use it for something it clearly was not designed for. By using one bike for almost all of your cycling needs you are expanding your riding abilities, and rediscovering what it means to ride in the first place. Riding a road bike on mountain bike trails forces you to look at the trails in a different light. Rocks and soil have a different dimension. Trail elements normally eaten by suspension are amplified and must be reconsidered under thin tires and a total lack of suspension. Being under prepared for the conditions ahead allows you to re-read your riding, and rethink what it means to go fast, to handle a bike, to maintain traction, to know the landscape. Technology that is specifically designed to make our ride easier also alienates from the very trails we are trying to experience. Many mountain trails are rideable on a road bike with some patience and skill. Lines must be carefully considered, traction becomes a superfluous luxury, braking is a concept more than an absolute.

There are other ways to go underbiking. Ride a townie on a group road ride, take a slow mountain bike on a casual ride with the family, so you have to work harder to keep up on a cruise around the ‘hood, take a fixed gear on an overnite tour. Explore beyond, and find something in riding you didn’t even know existed.

Shop news!

3 dollar American Made Koozies with your favorite cycling hero ever.

We’re gearing up for the Holidays. Check out our new Bike Doctor epic koozies, which at 3 bucks are a great stocking stuffer.

Join us this Wednesday for a class on how to make some cool recycled bike part jewelry and or tree ornaments. The class, which is taught by a local art teacher and former professional crafter, will be two hours of inventive hands on crafting. We’ll supply everything. If you have some old weird small bike bits you want to bring, great, but we’ll have lots of stuff, and all the tools needed. 10 bucks gets you in. RSVP on our wordpress blog at: under the clinics / classes link at the top of the page.

Check out that same link for other upcoming clinics, and be sure to watch our facebook page for breaking deals and sales.

Don’t forget that we have a big clearance section going right now, with great deals on shoes, clothes, socks, tires and more. Everything in the clearance section is at least 20 percent off, and some is way more! Lots of great shoes for over 50% off.

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