Monthly Archives: March 2020

Elements of Cycling — Bicycle Maintenance

“Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe?” –RW Emerson, Nature

As more people are discovering freedom on two wheels and the joys and benefits of self-powered locomotion outside, we are reminded how essential cycling businesses are for supporting basic transportation.  Some public health orders were not clear on whether bicycle shops were designated as ‘essential businesses’ during the current public health crisis.  Bike shops are definitely providing essential services to families and especially our children.  The first rule of cycling safety is maintenance and a pre-trip inspection.  In addition to maintenance, bike shops do repairs, match us to appropriate equipment, and provide a host of services from bike fitting to route finding and local expertise.


as a professional truck driver, I inspected my truck every day, and at every stop, certifying it in my driver’s log;

“One of the principles of health promotion is to support an individual or community in taking control of their own health.”  –BCCHC (Bernalillo County Community Health Council, March 2020 announcement)

Many of the workers we rely upon use the bicycle to commute to work, such as doctors, nurses, food workers and more, plus the bicycle is used for deliveries and essential errands.  It’s important to ensure people have the assistance they need to make sure their bicycle is safe to operate.  This ‘basic bike check‘ is the first step before any ride.


Bicycle shops are foundational to healthy communities.  They provide the equivalency of services that automotive shops do for cars.  As we review things with fresh eyes, we are recognizing bike shops as essential service providers for transportation safety for all. Don’t let the simplicity of the bicycle fool you–it’s incredibly effective at making seamless work of uniting our basic needs for health, community, and sustainable mobility for perpetuity.

Resources to get (and keep) riding safely:
The community network of bike shops, instructors, orgs., etc. in New Mexico by the LAB, can be of assistance if you are started riding.  I’m listed as an instructor.  Drop me a line

City of Albuquerque bicycling information, including a bike map

PedBikeSafe is a resource about road design elements that citizens can use to be more informed and understand proactive safety measures, risks and hazards, and countermeasures.

On March 28th, the Dept. of Homeland Security amended its guidance to include “bicycle maintenance” and “employees who repair and maintain …bicycles” as part of the essential workforce: This is guidance.  It only becomes law if our states and local entities follow it

Bloomberg Philanthropies partners with NACTO to provide the Transportation Response Center including tools for cities to support cycling

Jose Jimenez, a professor of chemistry at the Univ. of CO Boulder specializing in aerosol science, recommends keeping up to 25 feet away from others while exercising outside

Cycling empathy

“Selfless awareness is the state we’re in when Nature or art or music creates a sense of wonder.”  –Deepak Chopra, Forward to Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life (NVC)

“Empathy: emptying our mind and listening with our whole being”–Marshall Rosenberg, NVC

Cycling has been a path into the greater world that has opened up space for me to live, learn and breath.  It’s enabled me to give up the stories I clung onto, and build up empathy.  Cycling works a lot like music or poetry or visual arts in this way.  It encourages us to be present to both ourselves and to the ‘other’ dimensions of the world, the material, the numinous, the interrelations.

Though the bicycle is an extraordinary tool for exploring the external world, what’s also interesting is the way it shines a spotlight, very subtly, on our own being.  As we cycle more and more, we discover that our powers are small and limited, but at the same time they are strong and sufficient.  And when we apply our focused selves through the instrument it is amazing where we can go and what we can achieve.

It’s a long journey!  And it is both a social and a solitary one.  Sometimes when I go somewhere the simple goal of returning home is a monument. You’re out there in the weather, that relentless summer sun, digging into the breeze, looking deep within yourself to muster up the strength to get back home.  Adrift and alone in a precarious situation!  We have to measure our energy stores, use our planning faculties and read the topography of the land.

It’s exciting to stretch your limits little by little.  Like a yoga class, we work into those postures gradually.  We recognize the form when we see it in our teachers and classmates, and we know we can picture our body getting there.  But it takes time and continual practice. Once we put our minds eye on the destination we begin the process of figuring out how to get there. It can be as basic as cycling to work or school or the grocery store.

I’ve experienced several disruptions in my cycling life, but each one has been particularly useful.  When I started driving a car somehow I dropped cycling.  I loved the range motorized transport brought me and the scale at which I could view the countryside.  But when I came back to the bicycle I found the intimacy and detail wonderful.  All of a sudden it felt like I lived in the places I was moving through.  The way the bicycle opened my whole being to listening in a way and activated all my senses.  It’s a mystery the way the world becomes incorporated into our being, but from what I can observe, a lot of that process is happening directly while cycling.

“What is true is that the world has a great deal to tell us…”  –Cormac McCarthy in Nautilus

The social part of cycling for me is about the communion we can build with other people.  Cycling is a lot like a community of artists, or scientists, or any profession, wherein the practice is a joint learning enterprise.  There is a collective knowledge and experience that forms the cultural foundation and shapes the education and expression.  Cycling culture reminds me of the way Luther’s reformation re-introduced congregational singing of vernacular music into church services, therefore enlisting the broader community in an active role in shaping the spiritual scene.  When I participated in the Slow Roll 505 ride in Albuquerque, or the Iron Horse, it is like being in the middle of a church choir song in nature’s cathedrals.

And so I keep circling back to our cycling traditions, the faith in its power to restore our  empathy with individual selves, our families and communities, and all of nature grows stronger.  In Barry Lopez’s interview with The Sun magazine in December 2019, he suggests what our present situation really requires is attention to stability and justice.  “Who provides stability in the chaos of modern life?  It is people living in a prayerful way” (The World We Still Have, p. 15).  In a metaphorical sense I recognize the force cycling brings into my daily life.  It is so plain, mundane and ordinary and beyond compare.

Morten Lauridsen on the writing of “O Magnum Mysterium”

A sky as large as the ocean

Yes, we all experience terrible things… I like to see it as this is our species-wide endeavor.  How do we change what happened to us into how to live better.  That’s the great great conundrum.  –Ocean Vuong on PBS

Every year I read the MacArthur Foundation awards.  The writer Ocean Vuong was amongst the class of 2019 MacArthur Fellows.  Over a series of a few days I watched the two or three minute summary videos posted for each fellow.  Ocean’s stood out to me, but it wasn’t until a few months later when I came back to it, and found more interviews with him that I started to understand why his work resonated with me.  There were parallels to the way he was trying to write about a new way of being in the world to what I have been trying to do here, write about cycling as a way to live that is powerful and vibrant.


In Nevada my friend Dave and I rode the horse trails across the Humboldt Range after getting our bikes lifted to the start on 4-wheeler by his father Burl

Ocean’s novel, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, is a lot of things, but a central theme has to be American masculinity.  What does it mean to be a man?  On the bicycle I discovered I had strengths I didn’t recognize before, and one of those was a loving heart.  The heart literally drives your motion on the bicycle.  This is so powerful to let your light shine this way but somehow rather than celebrating it universally our society can sometimes be critical of those who ride bicycles.

Writing helped me understand, that although you can technically be a victim…whether you live in victimhood is up to you.  We can’t change what happens to us.  But we can change how we live in order to have a successful life.  I think one of the great powers of writing is when you can take your story and present an alternate future of where it is headed, you can take control of your life.  —Ocean Vuong


There is a wisdom to accepting what happened is beyond your control.–Ocean Vuong

What I learned from these refuge women is you don’t have to talk it out.  That is the great western myth.  That you got to talk it out, get a therapist, lay it all out.  –Ocean Vuong

A lot of the times I ride it out, and work it out by using that energy to try and understand where people are coming from.  One of the great gifts of cycling is it helps cultivate self-empathy if you let it.  And starting with self-compassion, you can expand your awareness more to what is going on with others, who are unique, and also not so different from us.


One of the greatest joys is riding with my family

What they can do is say regardless of what happened, I care for you, and I’m going to find a way to keep caring for you.  —Ocean Vuong

Recently my mother told me to keep riding my bike.  This kind of verbal encouragement and acceptance of what I do, of who I am, means a lot to me.  It starts here, creating that culture of encouragement between our loved ones, within our families.

Rage and anger are energies.  They are raw energies ready to be recycled and reused.  But if we use them, anger is a force that extinguishes the wielder as well as the world.  I’m more interested in using the energy of compassion and understanding.  I’m at my best when I say, I’m angry about this, but I need to know why you are doing it to me.  —Ocean Vuong


It is true we are all alone in this world, but equally true we couldn’t do anything by ourselves.  Vuong gives ‘the ten books he needed to write my novel’ here at Literary Hub.  I’ve tried to document my sources of inspiration here on this blog, including the first hand experience that I am having on my everyday rides with my friends in our community.  The really beautiful and exceptional thing about cycling is everyone can embody this identity and experience the world in this way.  That’s why I keep inviting people to join the fun fun fun.  We can actually do what Thoreau urges us to do, and experience the world through each other’s eyes, like what literature does.  Hope to see your light shining on a ride!




What a man leaves behind is what a man is.  –Toni Morrison, “A Mercy”, quoted in The Sun Magazine, March 2020

Further Reading: A previous post on Comprehensive Planning as a tool for humanity’s development: