Saturday, October 01, 2022

Not Rough Enough

 I volunteered to be a tea bag for Tim G’s rough water coaching certificate.

The plan was to launch out of Ft. Weatherill, but the prevailing winds were knocking down any conditions.

After some discussion, we decided on King’s Beach in Newport as an alternate launch. It faces the other direction, is more exposed, and has reefs to make things more interesting.

King's Beach was better, but still not rough enough to meet the requirements for the coaching certificate. John Carmody, the evaluator, decided that it was best to cancel the exam and reschedule for a different day.

Since a bunch of us had traveled and the weather was perfect, we decided to go have a play in the conditions we could find.

We found some nice play spots between King's Beach and First Beach, where the rocks and swell set up some interesting surf zones. There was also some nice rock gardening to be had.

Sadly, I had to leave at lunch and get home. It was definitely a fun morning and the rest of the group stayed and continued to explore.

Monday, September 19, 2022

2022 Oiz H10 TR

A very nice bonus from work, and some well planned savings, got me to where I needed to afford upgrading to a full suspension mountain bike this spring.

It turns out saving up for the upgrade one is the easiest part of upgrading...

Picking the right full suspension bike is like picking the right kayak.

There are a zillion different things that change how a suspension bike rides. The tire size, the amount of suspension, the suspension tuning, the confounding number of frame measurements like reach and down tube angle, and the level of components.

The component level and frame material are dependent on the price - more money better components and carbon frames.

My budget meant that I could get good components on an aluminum frame or OK ones on a carbon frame. To me the decision was easy: better components are worth more than a few pounds.

The rest of the things to think about made my head hurt while doing online research and trying to narrow down the list of bikes to test out.

I came up with a shortish list and headed down to the local bike shops where most of the bikes on my list were out of stock… COVID did a number on new bike availability between the surge in demand and the constricted supply.

Fortunately, Wheelworks in Belmont had a decent selection and plenty of sales people with mountain biking experience to help me sort through the details. They had me try bikes in a range of suspension sizes from 120mm fronts to 150mm fronts paired up with 100mm backs to 150mm backs and whole boatload of geometries. Doing test rides on pavement wasn’t ideal, but it did let me get a sense of the differences between the bikes.

In general, more suspension means a bigger, heavier bike. It also means a slacker head tube angle and a longer wheelbase. This makes the bike more plush and well mannered. On the road test I could tell that the bigger bikes would be great fun bombing down steep rocky hills while not feeling like riding on the wrong edge of control.

The bikes with smaller travel, 100-120mm, felt more lively. Less squish means more bounce. The geometries on the short travel bikes were more variable. The longer and slacker bikes were bouncy but well mannered. The shorter steeper ones turned and accelerated quickly. The agility translates into feeling like one is on the wrong edge of control when bombing down steep rocky hills. 

The slack short travel bikes were easy to rule out. I didn’t think the trade offs were made for a better ride. If I was going to lose out on some comfort, I definitely wanted to gain something.

In the end I narrowed my list to two bikes by Obera: the Occam, a 140mm trail slayer, and the Oiz TR, a 120mm XC speed daemon.

In the end I picked the Oiz H10 TR. The H10 version is the top end aluminum model. The TR version of the Oiz is basically the same frame geometry as the standard Oiz, which is a dedicated XC race bike, but with and extra 10mm of travel and a dropper post.

It felt like a rocket ship and turned on a dime. Super fun…

The first ride on the trails it was obvious that the Oiz was a rocket ship with way more capabilities than I could handle. I spent more time falling than moving despite being on easy trails that I know well.

After three or four rides I got a better handle on the suspension controls and using the dropper post and I started going faster, and trying harder features. I didn’t start falling less though…

My skills hadn’t improved enough to match what the bike was capable of tricking me into doing. I am not always good at knowing my limits until things get really uncomfortable. On my old hard tail things got uncomfortable just before I reached the edge of what I could manage. On the Oiz, things rarely got uncomfortable until I was past the edge. It accelerated faster, turned faster, and maintained speed better than I the old bike. It also felt more controlled at much higher speeds and much sketchier situations.

For example, there is a nice switchbacking descent near my house that I had gotten pretty comfortable riding on the hard tail. I wasn’t blazing fast and always felt pretty close to the edge, but I also never fell. The first few times down the descent on the Oiz, I felt great and was moving fast until I would hit one of the turns a little too fast and a tad off the proper line and end up eating dirt.

Now that I’ve gotten a handle on how the Oiz rides and relearned how to ride the trail, I fly down at speed and have way more fun doing it. I’m not as fast as some of the people I ride with who have longer, slacker bikes with more suspension.

However, I crush them on the ups and the more flowy trails. I can pick up speed much quicker and snake through tight turns faster. On flat sections of trail, I can lock out the suspension and put all of my energy into going forward. On climbs, I can adjust the suspension for the best combination of tractions and efficiency.

I think it is a fair trade off. I get 95% of the downhill fun and a whole lot more efficiency for longer rides.

The upgrade required some break in time before I could really start using the bike. Once I got over that hump, I started gaining the skills needed to really have fun. I still have a lot to learn, but now I have a much better platform.

Saturday, September 10, 2022


URI’s Bay Campus beach is a great place to launch for a paddle because it offers a variety of paddles. You can paddle up the Bay for a nice touring paddle; you can cross over to Jamestown; you can paddle down the bay to get more ocean conditions.

Our plan for the day was to head south along the Narragansett shore and look for rocks and swell for some playing.

The way south didn’t offer much. The conditions were mostly flat along Bonnet Cliffs and crossing the cove.

Whale Rock looked relatively fierce. The spot just in front of the tower offered a nice spot to bob around and practice holding position in swell.

After Whale Rock we headed back north to the cove just south of Bonnet Shores. The swell was setting up  nearly perfect for surfing. The was a biggish outer break and a smaller inner break that were spaced so that you could catch the outer break and link your ride with one from the inner break. You could also be adventurous and use the break close to the rocks and catch a bigger break.

We spent a good amount of time playing before heading in for lunch.

After lunch, we went back out and did more surfing.

The surf was perfect for the group. People could hang inside and take the small waves, head to the back and ride the big waves, or test your mettle trying to catch a big wave and not get surfed into a rock. There was also plenty of space to just float and enjoy the weather.

I mostly spent my time on the outside break and trying to maintain speed and control so I could extend my rides by catching the small break. When I didn't mistime the wave or just misjudge a swell that looked like it would break, I did pretty well.

I worked on using forward strokes to maneuver without killing my speed. The Aries is swede form boat with most of its rocker upfront on the flat planing bow, so the bow never takes much to swing around. It is the stern that has all the keel and requires a bit of work to free up. I good sweep stroke was enough to keep things going straight. I also was more conscious of using my edges to control the hull. The edging seemed to help in freeing up the stern enough to keep the wave from overpowering my attempts to maneuver the bow.

Catching the second break was always a nice little rush. Just as I could feel the kayak losing speed, the stern would lift up a little. A few quick strokes and I was flying along again.

Compared to the surfing, the paddle home was tame. We did try to find some rocks to dodge.

Back at the beach people thought rolling practice was a good idea, so I joined the fun. For a while I was just being a spotter and offering my bow to anyone who needed a boost. When it was my turn, I managed OK. One on each side.

I also tried some rest position sculling where you lay flat back on the water and gently scull to catch your breath. I hadn't done it in years, but once I got over the nerves it was pretty easy. Kayaking and bike riding  are pretty similar in that once you learn, you never forget.

The rolling and sculling was a great way to end a great day.

Saturday, September 03, 2022

King's Beach Touring

A paddle out of King’s Beach is always a rocks and surf paddle.

Then there was today’s paddle out of King’s beach...

The water was like glass. It was a perfect day to ogle the mansions and ostentatious luxury of the Newport scene.

We paddled over along to the cliff walk and inspected the wave damage.

We took advantage of any play spots we could find. In most cases, it took a lot of imagination to call what we found “play” spots. They did all involve rocks, wavelets, and some quick maneuvering, so they made for good practice for the real thing.

We lunched on a small rocky beach near the cliff walk.

The conditions on the way home were slightly rougher, but hardly typical for King’s Beach.

We stuck closer to the coast on the return so there was more opportunities to maneuver around rocks.

The nice thing about kayaking is that you don’t need conditions to enjoy the day. A nice relaxing tour of a lovely coast can be just as reinvigorating.

Saturday, August 27, 2022

I Lead a Paddle?

Life has been getting a little rough as of late and I needed some kayak time - preferable kayak time involving at least the possibility for danger. I kept watching the RICKA message board for someone to post a paddle, but by Thursday I was getting desperate. I couldn’t run the risk of nobody posting, so I took the leap.

The plan was to launch from Ft. Wetherill and paddle towards Beavertail with at least a few people confirmed. (I am not allowed to paddle solo.)

The first thing I did in the pre-launch briefing was make it very clear that I was not leading anything…. I was just a person with a desperate need to paddle. I was more than happy to do whatever the group wanted as long as it involved paddling.

The conditions looked promising in the morning. There was enough swell rolling in to make the rocks between Wetherill and Mackreel Cove interesting. I hoped that it would also make the coast going down towards Beavertail fun as well.

We made our way out of Wetherill hugging the coast to make the most of the conditions. There was plenty of bounce in the water to make the rocks fun and create the illusion of danger. At a minimum it was feeding my need for adrenaline.

We found a nice play spot where waves were breaking over a rock. It was a feature that looked challenging and appeared to offer some level of danger. After a few runs, the feature maintained its fun level but lost its sense of danger.

Fortunately, one of us mistimed a wave just enough to get knocked over. It was a minor thing. Paddler and kayak were unscathed (ego might have been a bit bruised).

The rescue also brought the sense of danger back to the rock and we milked it for all it was worth.

From there we worked our way along the coast playing in any rocks the looked interesting. We  found plenty of opportunities before we got to Mackerel Cove.

From Mackerel Cove to Hull Cove conditions flattened out.

We lunched at Hulls Cove. We hoped to find some surf, but it was pretty dead.

The return paddle was mostly just a touring paddle. We tried to eke out any play opportunities we could find, but they were few and far between.

It was probably best that the return trip was less active.

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Mt. Desert Island

 Our annual Maine family vacation was a bit up and down, but mostly up.

I am not going to lie. The best part was having my kayak available for daily paddles. I took it out just about every morning. The paddling was not challenging, but it was scenic and relaxing. The only thing I missed this year was a porpoise spotting.

We took a trip out to the Cranberry Islands. I wasn’t exactly thrilled with the plan, but it turned out to be very pleasant. Little Cranberry was the highlight of the trip. The museum was really good. The ship building shed was amazing. The have kids building sea worthy dories and canoes. We took a very nice walk along the beach and stopped at an art gallery. Big Cranberry was nice as well, but there was not as much to do or see.

Other highlights included biking on the carriage trails, eating at Jordan Pond House, hiking with Heather, and chillaxing at camp.

The low light was a midweek down pour. The clouds dropped like 5 inches of rain on us in one soggy day. The tents leaked a little and there was just not much to do, but stay inside and try to stay dry. We did take one adventure in the rain. We took the Island Explorer to South West Harbor and walked to Beal’s Lobster Pier. It was wet, but the food was worth it.

The other highlight was lots of yummy pastries and ice cream!

Thursday, August 04, 2022

Paddling with the Heater

The major joy of summer camps that do overnights is the day parents get to spend a whole adult day.

H decided to spend one of these days getting out on an ocean like kayak trip. She also wanted to see Classic Tim.

We decided to do a mid-week paddle out of Sakonnet Point and head north up river for a bit. The route is on the ocean, with some ocean conditions, but is also protected by Aquidneck Island.

We decided to take a leisurely approach to the day. We put in latish - closer to 11am than 10am.

We slow paddled around the harbor to let H get her sea legs under her before heading out into the river. It was nice to ease into things and take a little time to practice turning and just feel the kayak move.

The conditions out in the river were relatively tame. There was some swell and wind put a nice slow bounce on the water.

We stuck pretty close to shore and took our time paddling.

To Tim and I, H looked great in her kayak. She was moving along at a nice clip with a smile on her face and a nice, confident forward stroke. H can move her Capella around like a pro - or at least fake it very well.

After about an hour, we found a sandy spot to put in for lunch and a chat.

H reported that it felt good to be back in her kayak, but that she felt a little nervous with some of the swells. It has been a long while since she paddled in anything like open water.

The paddle back was much like the morning paddle, just going the other way.  Tim and I stayed in close to shore to catch what little action was around. H stayed further out and bounced around in the swell.

It was a chill and relaxing day on the water.

We followed the paddle up with ice cream and a Bender drop in.

Paddling and catching up with old friends makes for a great day.

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Classics at Sakonnet

The paddle today was a special event. Two old hats made appearances. Classic Tim was down from Maine taking a vacation from house construction woes. Bob H. was in town for the Newport Jazz festival.

This was the first time this year I had seen Classic Tim and I cannot remember when I last saw Bob.

The plan was to paddle out of Sakonnet Harbor, out the lighthouse, play along the rocks, and have lunch at a nice surf beach.

The conditions were pretty mild, so the chances of trouble were low as were the chances for good surfing.

The rocks were nice with the mellow conditions. Paddlers could get pretty close into the features without much danger of catastrophe.

Then we headed up the coast to find a nice surf beach.

The best surf we could find wasn’t much. There was some breaking swell, but it was infrequent and unpredictable.

Most people just headed in for lunch.

After lunch, the surf was slightly better and we all took tries getting runs.

I found it frustrating. I just couldn't seem to find any good waves.

Other paddlers had better luck than I.

Just because the surf wasn't great didn't mean there were not several people who went in the water. I was one of them...

I caught a decent wave that petered out in a shallow rocky spot and before I could get turned back out, a sneaky wave came in and knocked me right over. I started to set up for a roll but my hand scraped against a rock. I bailed and swam the kayak back into the beach.

The paddle back was very pleasant and relaxing. Things were pretty flat and we skipped most of the rock playing options.

Once we turned into the river, the group split into two. Classic Tim suggested sticking close to the shore to avoid fighting the current and the following seas and took his own advice. Most of the rest of the group decided to stay out in the middle of the river in the midst of the current for some reason.

I decided that Classic Tim knew what he was talking about and stayed inside the other paddlers, but the "good group" side of me made sure I split the distance just in case the main pod ran into trouble.

There was a small post paddle gathering at Coastal Roasters (the best coffee around). We sat chatting and looking out over the river.

Is there a better way to spend a day than paddling with old friends followed by sharing excellent coffee with an excellent view?

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Return of the Pumpkin

 On Friday Dr. Carl called to say the Pumpkin was ready for pick-up. After a little yip for joy, I drove down and retrieved her. I could hardly see the extensive repairs. The bow was completely new and there were several patches along the sides. The only visible signs were some missing decals and subtle differences in color were the fiberglass was replaced.

Carl's timing could not have been better because Tim G. was running one of his coach training sessions out to the reefs in Stonington on Sunday. Tide races are the Aries natural habitat.

Tim planned out a day where were going to hit just two of the races. The weather wasn’t looking good for playing at Wiccopisett. Instead we planned on heading straight out to race between Wiccopisett and Sugar Reef.

The first reef had erratic, tight wave sets. The conditions made trying to predict the rides difficult, but fun. Unlike the Capella, the Aries doesn’t take much of a wave to get its surf on, so catching waves was not an issue. Staying on the waves was a little more problematic. The Capella’s straight hull and defined keel minimized the breaching effects of the waves. The Ares is as straight as a banana and has a flat hull designed to skip across the top of the water; any force that pushes on it will initiate a turn. If I didn’t get on a wave in the sweet spot, and stay there, the stern would get pushed around. Waves popping up at the bow pushed the bow around. The Ares’ hull makes it very maneuverable, which is its best and worst feature. I could easily make corrections using some edging and well placed strokes, but I was constantly making them. More times than I’d like to admit, I was over correcting.

Don’t get me wrong, I was having a blast and learning a lot. I was also working pretty hard. Truth be told, I prefer the Ares’ behavior in the races over the Capella’s. The Capella is very balanced and well behaved, but it is also very boring. The Ares’s is unruly, but more capable and way more fun. The trick with the Ares was finding the right set of strokes to tame it.

Sugar Reef presented a very different look. It had predictable, well spaced wave sets. I could find a wave and pretty much ride the train the whole way out if I could keep the Ares straight… I got more consistent rides with much less work. In the more predictable wave sets, forward strokes that put force on the bow worked best. They provided just enough push to keep moving into the next wave, kept my body position forward, and pushed the bow around just enough to keep in line with the waves.

After play time, we lunched at Napatree and discussed what we had learned. For me, it was all about readjusting to the Ares’ more playful hull and refining the skills we have been working on each time we go out to the reefs. I worked on refining my stern draw and learning when it is most effective. I played with using body position to trim the Ares’ speed profile and edging for turns.

On the way home everyone tried their luck catching waves at the molars. I was very conservative to avoid any chance of damaging the hull, so I didn’t get much. However, because the Ares takes so little action to surf, I did manage to catch a small ride.

This was a great day to get back in the Ares. Carl did great work patching her up and getting her sea worthy. Tim provided a great venue to really enjoy paddling her and shaking out the cobwebs.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

The Reefs, The Reefs Are Calling

The paddle for the weekend was planned to be a rough water outing in the reefs off of Stonington, so I was really hoping that the Aries was ready to go. She is built for playing in the races. Sadly, Dr. Carl still has some work to do to get her sea worthy.

The Capella is no slouch in the fun stuff, but tidal play is not her raison. Also, I just miss paddling the Aries.

When Tim asked what we were hoping to learn out on the reefs, I knew one of the things was going to be adjusting to a different kayak. That was in addition to learning a better feel for catching waves, learning to control the kayak while surfing, and linking rides together.

The predicted conditions were perfect for learning. The current was just fast enough with the right amount of wind to kick up some waves. However, it was not strong enough to make things dangerous. We could get up to the edge without worrying about going too far. Removing some of the worry males space for reflection and observation in the moment.

We started out at Wiccopisett. The race there was a well formed field of waves. It provided a great warm up spot. I spent some time remembering how to time the waves to the motions of the kayak. When the bow starts going up, get ready to paddle hard; as the bow starts coming down, paddle hard; as the stern lifts, surf. Once on the waves, I started playing with maneuvering. Unlike the Aries, the Capella wants to go straight which is a blessing and a curse. The Capella is less likely to breach, but it is also harder to turn and correct. I found that if I kept my speed up, I could maneuver with little sweep turns and a little edging. If I lost speed, or needed to do serious turning, I needed to resort to rudders, stern draws, and serious edging. For the most part I edged into the turns and used my foot to push the bow where I wanted it to go. The only time I edged opposite the turn and used my knee to pull the bow around was when I was turning into the waves to get from the front of the race to back of the race.

After first lunch on Wiccopisett, we made our way north along the reef line heading towards Watch Hill.

The next play spot had more action. The waves were bigger and less orderly. Tim suggested playing with how I was edging, I had some success with varying how I edged the kayak. Sometimes I would edge away from the turn and try to yank the bow around other times I would edge into the turn. The edging away from the turn and yanking seemed to work best when the stern was really stuck. It felt a little dodgy, but I never went over. I gave up trying to string rides together because the field was too messy and I was more focused on my edging.

Our final play spot was Sugar Reef. The wave here were more organized, but closer together. This meant that even if I caught a wave perfectly, there was a good chance the one behind it would grab my stern. I mostly worked on using forward strokes to maneuver and keep up speed. This help me trim the kayak so the stern was up and less likely to get caught. It also made it easier to move from one wave to the next. Reading the field was much easier because the waves set up relatively parallel. You basically used the one you were on to ride into the one in front of you. It was a fun time.

We had second lunch at Napatree point and reviewed the day.

Some of the group tried to surf the molars on the way home. I opted out. The wave was too small and too unpredictable for the energy.

The rest of the rest of the of the return paddle was a nice wind down.

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Returning to the Scene of the Crime

Father's Day, and the whole weekend thing, totally snuck up on me. H asked me what I wanted to do for Father's Day and if there were any paddles I wanted to do over the weekend and I was like "What you talking about Wilson?"

I was torn about what to do: I felt like I should do something with the family, but I really wanted to go kayaking. Since nobody in the family had anything they wanted to do as a family, I decided that I would do something I wanted to do - well mostly what I wanted to do. Since I am still relying on the kindness of H for a kayak I am bound by certain constraints concerning proximity to rocks and other possible dangers...

The original venue was URI Bay Campus. The opportunities for kayak destroying rock encounters were pretty low.

At the last minute the venue was changes to Fort Weatherill… Last time I paddled out of Weatherill, I came back with a hatch full of water and significantly less gel coat. The Aries bow was crushed and one side of it was devoid of gel coat.

H was a little less enthusiastic about me taking her kayak out of Weatherill, but I swore I would definitely not paddle near any rocks. I would avoid any situations where the chances of contact between her hull and a rock were greater than 10 percent. (I did try to offer zero percent, but neither of us believed that was a promise I could keep.)

Conditions were good for me keeping my promises. The wind was light, the swells were small, and the tide was high. It looked like one would have to go out of their way to be in any danger. I planned on going the other way and working extra hard to stay out of trouble.

Staying out of trouble was a fun challenge. The challenge was purely internal. I am highly susceptible to the siren’s song; I often just find myself in the rocks without knowing how….

The fun was in continuing to learn the ways of the Cappella. Paddling a new kayak once is sort of liking getting high for the first time. You know things are a little off, but you don't notice the details. Also, the first time I paddled the Capella was in moving water and open water swells is a very different paddling field.

The Capella, despite its diminutive size, is built to be a touring kayak. It has a long water line, a defined keel, and not a ton of rocker. It goes straight very nicely. It turns languidly unless pushed. A sweep stroke or a little edge will get it to turn, but not quickly. Big, fast turns it require fineness and a bit of aggression.

The Capella needs to be edged to release the hull and sometimes it needs to be edged a lot and given a nudge. I realize that I'm speaking as somebody who has spent years paddling the sea kayak equivalent of a whitewater kayak. I'm used to just turning my head in the direction I want to go and having the kayak spin underneath me. The Aries is all rocker and flat hull.

Playing near the rocks and zigging in and out of the bumps in the shore takes more thought and effort. This was even more true given the slack conditions. There was almost no swell to assist in getting the hull to release. The upside of the easy conditions, and a strength of the Capella in general, was that getting and staying on edge is easy and comfortable.

Where the Capella really shined was when we crossed Mackerel Cove. The wind was blowing into the cove enough that the Aries would have required some serious work to keep straight. The Capella, however, just moved along on a straight line. I didn't need to waste any effort on correcting strokes or using the skeg.

After lunch a Hull Cove, I decided to add a little more challenge to my day. I packed the stick onto the deck and assembled the trusty old Lendal. If I was going to paddle an old school British sea kayak, I might as well do so with an old school British kayak paddle.

I noticed two things right away. First, the Lendal puts a lot more force on my body. Second, the Lendal generates a lot more immediate force when put in the water. I didn't gain any super powers, but I could get the Capella to react faster.

We paddled south along the coast a little ways to visit "the cave." It was a very cool little cave that is just wide enough to back into if you are willing to use your hands against the edges. The passage gets too narrow for a paddle.

After the cave we made our way back along the coast towards the put in. Along the way I kept experimenting with the Lendal to see what it could do and how it behaved. Overall, I was pretty happy with it although not enough to switch full time. The power is all front loaded, which can be nice, but it does take a toll on old joints. Ultimately, I didn't find anything I couldn't have done with the stick. The stick requires a little more finesse and commitment for some things, but it gets the job done.

One fun fact about paddling the Capella with the Lendal is that both the kayak and the paddle are nearly old enough to have driver's licenses. I am definitely and old timer....

Back at the beach, I tried my roll with the Capella and the Lendal. It did not go well. The paddle dove and the hip snap didn't compensate enough. I tried to switch paddles, but just couldn't stay under long enough to get the stick assembled and into position. After a failed renter and roll attempt where I couldn't seem to get myself properly positioned in the cockpit, I was pulled out of the water feeling a little dejected.

Just so I could say I finished strong, I did manage one roll with the stick. It was not the prettiest thing in the world, but it worked. The Capella seems to require more commitment to roll; or paddling a few miles with the Lendal wore me out....

Life isn't as fun when your not learning new things...

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Paddling a Very Small Kayak Very Safely

After my mishap with the pumpkin, I wasn’t sure when I’d get to paddle again. The good Dr. Carl wasn’t giving any timelines other than that I would need to borrow a kayak if I wanted to paddle this weekend. Apparently repeated smashing into rocks by big waves is not healthy for the bow of a kayak...

But one of my buddies is going for his BCU instructor certification and was doing a tide race clinic at the mouth of the Narrow River. The fun/danger ratio was decidedly in my favor. I might end up swimming, but I was unlikely to bash into any rocks.

All I needed was a kayak and my very understanding wife to give me a third paddling weekend in as many weeks…

Getting my hands on a kayak was not too hard; getting a kayak that was not built for tiny people was nigh impossible. One person offered to let me use there slightly abused Nordkap LV and another offered to let me use a Scorpio LV. H also said if she let me go kayaking I could use her Capella 160 which is also made for wee people.

Against her better judgment, H decided it was better to let me paddle than to suffer the perils of not letting me burn off steam. She did make me promise to stay away from rocks and not scratch her kayak.

I promised to try to stay out of trouble… I really didn’t think that there would be many opportunities to smash a kayak playing in a tide race.

Once I got in the Capella I knew it would an interesting day. Not only is the Capella built for someone about 50lbs light than me, it has a completely different hull design than the Aries. While the Capella can be maneuverable, its is primarily made for touring. The Aries on the other hand can be a touring kayak, but is is made for playing (It is basically a white water kayak for the ocean.)

Getting down the river to the race was a good chance to get comfortable in the Capella. It was a little tippier than the Aries, the edges were in a different place, and the edges were definitely needed for quick turning. That said, it paddle very nicely.

Once we got out to the race, we stopped at the beach to see how things were shaping up and to see what people wanted to do. The race wasn’t too big and the surf was pretty small, but there were conditions. The trickiest part of the location was the sandbar that constricted the front of the race. There was only a few feet between the rocks and where the sand bar made the waves get ugly.

We divided up into pairs based on interest and skill levels before heading out into the race. We paddled out past the head and tucked into the eddy behind it. From there we paddled back around the head and into the race trying to find the eddy on the other side of the head.

To minimize my chanced of hitting anything, I tried to take the the turn wide and got caught up in the slop caused by the sand bar. It was ugly, a little scary, and very educational. I got very familiar with the balance points on the Capella and using edges for turning. It really does like to go straight.

On the way into the race, I got a new perspective on long boat surfing. The Capella's sharp bow and v-shaped hull makes it easier to keep straight on the wave because the bow stays pinned in the trough. The trade off is a less speed and getting the bow trapped. It was interesting watching the bow under the water as I surfed down the wave and tried to maneuver into the eddy.

Our group spent time transiting the race interface and maneuvering in the race. We explored the fastest ways to travel forward and backwards in the race while keeping control of our kayaks. We explored what works best for turns in current. For me it was a whole new world because of the different kayak. Even in current, the Aries is easy to maneuver. The ample rocker and the planing bow make carving turns easy even when you don’t choose the most efficient stroke (The trade off is that any stray wave can grab the stern and spin the kayak around just as easy.) The Cappella’s pointy nose and defined keel makes turning a much more intentional affair. You need to edge properly and get the strokes correct to get where you want to go (The trade off is that staying on a straight course is easy.)

My partner and I then decided to head out of the race and around the point. We completely mistimed things. As soon as we poked our bows from behind the point a huge set of swells roared toward the beach. I was the second kayak, but was initially sticking pretty close. When the first swell rose up and my partner’s kayak started going vertical, I back paddled and leaned backward to get some distance between us. Then I immediately leaned into the wave as it hit me and pushed through. Unlike the Aries which would just float over the crest of the wave, the Capella punched through.

Both my partner and I lost a little ground, but kept moving forward into the next set of waves which were even bigger. Once again, I needed to bleed off a little speed to keep  safe distance and by the time I got ready to punch through the wave I was getting back surfed into the sandbar. I stayed up right on the first wave, but the one behind it did me in. The water was too shallow and confused to roll, so I popped out and dragged the kayak to the beach.

Once back in the kayak, I did make it around the point. The swells had weakened a little so my second attempt was much easier. Getting back to the beach side of the point, however was less easy. Another big set rolled through and I got to experience the fun of panic surfing the Capella while trying to keep it away from anything that could scratch it….

After the point fiasco, I stayed in the race and worked on boat handling. It was not exciting, but it was challenging and informative.

During lunch, we all talked about different things that we learned which was nice.

After lunch we decided to head around the point and try to find some place to surf. As I had promised, I stay well out to sea and didn’t do any rock play while we hunted the elusive surf.

The one spot that offered decent surf for people to play with was over a big rock and the waves pushed straight into a shallow rock garden. There were some little side waves that I thought were safe to try, but for the most part I just worked on boat handling in the cove and relaxed.

Most of the other paddlers in the group got some impressive looking rides. They worked hard for them though since you had to be in just the right spot to catch them and that spot was not the safest place to be…

Once everyone had their fill of surfing, we headed back to the put in.

By the time we got back to the mouth of the Narrow River, the race was pretty much out of steam. That meant that the river was also out of water so we had to carefully pick our way back up the channel. I only got muckbound once… Mud generally doesn’t scratch, so I was still keeping my promise not to damage my wife’s kayak.

Back at the put in we did another quick debrief and packed up.

While I enjoyed paddling my wife’s Capella, I do hope that my Aries is back on the water soon. The Capella 161 is just a wee bit small for someone my size which makes paddling it in conditions a wee bit less fun. Also while it is good to be reminded how a “real” sea kayak handles, I really enjoy managing the Aries. It is a little unruly, but that is where the fun happens.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

The Day the Luck Ran Out

Somehow, I managed to convince my most excellent wife to let me escape two weekends in a row!! How lucky am I to have a great wife and the chance to paddle on a great day?

I was surprised that I got a paddle day considering that her dance recital soaked up one of the days - her class did a kick-ass dance to a classic boy band song that put the kids to shame:)

The plan was to paddle out of Ft. Wetherill and play on the coast heading down to Beavertail. Conditions were excellent: clear skies, gentle breeze, some swell, but not too much, and low tide to expose more features.

We headed south towards Mackerel Cove and took every opportunity to play in the rocks.

There were slots to navigate and just enough swell to make things interesting. It was perfect conditions for pushing the Aries and I just to edge of the zone. I had to pay attention and paddle with intention, but didn't have to worry too much about getting smashed or smashing someone else.

Once we crossed Mackerel Cove and were more exposed to the open ocean the swell got bigger and pushier, but still well within play limits. There were a few spots were the adrenaline got pumped up to 11, but nothing serious.

It was a fun morning.

We popped into Hull Cove for lunch and enjoyed the sun and good conversation.

The swells had picked up some power while we ate. They weren’t rolling up the against the rocks; they were crashing against the rocks.

The swell upgrade didn’t deter some of us from getting in close. If anything the bigger swells made paddling in close more fun until it stopped being fun.

I was following Tim G along the shore and there started to be more white water than green water. The swells were starting to get pushier and it was time to move out.

Tim turned out over a good size wave. As soon as he was clear I edged over and started a sweep turn out to sea.

As I initiated the turn a deep trough formed next to the rock and a gigantic swell picked up my bow. Then it picked up the rest of the kayak, carried over one rock, and slammed it into the rock shore. The bow was pinned in a crevice so any attempt to swing out before the next swell slammed into me was not going to work. I hoped that maybe it would be a nice gentle swell that would lift the bow up enough to free it. No luck. I was upside down in the rocks.

Fortunately, the water was deep and I remembered to stay close to the deck. I pulled the deck and popped out while making sure to keep the kayak between me and the bigger wall of rocks and to keep my hands ready to protect my head.

The cavalry was already in place by the time my head popped out of the water. They had me push the kayak out of the rocks and towed it clear of the break. Once the kayak was clear, I swam out to a waiting kayak that pulled me the rest of the way out of the danger zone. Because of the rocks and swell and such, the rescue took some time, but it was done as quick as possible. The rescue team did an excellent job staying calm and radiating that calm to me.

Once I was back in the kayak, it was time to assess the damage. 

Other than being a little rattled, I was fine. Luckily, I managed to avoid any contact with the rocks. I was properly dressed for the water and was back in the kayak within a few minutes.

The pumpkin was a different story. There were a few patches where the gel coat was missing and a few visible cracks.  It was hard to tell if it was taking on water, but it seemed to be floating normally. The cockpit was staying dry which was good.

In assessing the incident and what could have been done better, one thing was clear: I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Once the wave came in, there was not much I could do to escape. It picked up the bow and pushed it into the shore with more force than I could counteract. Once the poop hit the fan, things went about as smoothly as one could expect. Once on the wave I presented the hull to the shore to take most of the impact. I did my best to keep balanced so when I was dropped, I might have a shot at getting out. Once I knew I was going over, I tucked tight to avoid hitting my head and made sure to come up so that I was not between the kayak and the rocks. The rescuers set up quickly and did all the right things to get me and the pumpkin safe.

Someone suggested that we high tail it back to the put in just in case I had some shadow injury or the damage to the pumpkin was worse than it looked. I rejected that idea because I was fine and the pumpkin was floating just fine. If the situation changed, we could adjust as needed. There was no reason to ruin everyone else’s fun.

I continued to play in the rocks along the way back to the put in, but was more cautious. The swells also got smaller as we moved further up the bay. Despite the incident I was still feeling in the groove and the pumpkin was doing fine.

The last set of rocks humbled me. I set up to run a slot through them and just mistimed things. The swell came in behind me fast and hot. Before I knew what was what I was turned sideways in a hole that was too narrow for even the pumpkin to turn. I got jammed up in the rocks and had to come out of the kayak again…

It was another quick rescue, but once I got back in the pumpkin I could tell she had water in the bow.

We were just about back to the put so it was not a big deal. I just stayed away from any more rocks.

Back at the beach people were doing rolling practice and I could not resist participating. I needed a win after the incidents. My roll did not disappoint.

Once back on the beach, it was time to do a full kayak damage assessment. The front hatch was full of water and you could see daylight in more than one place. There was also a big spot on the side of the cockpit that was missing gel coat and was letting the daylight through. The spot on the cockpit wasn’t as worrying as the bow because the cockpit didn’t seem to be taking on water.

One of the paddlers who lives near to Dr. Carl offered to take my kayak to see about if the pumpkin could be repaired. (Dr. Carl assures me that it can be repaired despite looking like it got shot off the roof of a car at 60mph.)

Despite the incidents, this was one of my favorite paddles of the year. The weather was great and the rock play was exhilarating. I also felt like I was in the zone for most of the day. Even the incidents were more fun than scary. I felt like both were just bad timing and I did the best I could with hand I was dealt.

The only thing stood between the paddle and perfection was the knowledge that I’d be missing the pumpkin for some time.

It truly is better to be upside down in my kayak than almost anywhere else.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Batting 750

 When you have a pre-teen, you need breaks. A nice paddle out of the Westport river on a pleasant day is a perfect way to wind down and get some perspective.

Hopefully it is also a good way to burn some adrenaline surfing and dodging rocks.

Oh and this time I made sure I had my helmet…

We paddled out of the river and made sure we crossed the mouth in a tight pod.

The current formed a small race at the mouth, so we all took a warm up run. Then we rounded the nubble and headed south in search of rock formations.

Our first stop was a set of rocks with a nice big slot to run through. Everyone took a few good rides through the slot both with and against the current. On one run I was trying to be cute and instead of taking the straight shot was going to go through against the current and bang a sharp turn through a little side slot. I moved into position slowly and while I was scoping things out a not very big swell washed through with just enough force and at just the right angle to push me backwards and off balance. Next thing I know I’m upside down in the cold water feeling like a fool. Fortunately, it was an easy roll back up.

I did make the cute run a few times after that. You gotta love an Aries in the rocks.

We then moved onto a different rock formation for some more playing. The swells were just enough to make things fun without being dangerous.

Before lunch we headed to the point to surf the break. It was setting up fairly nicely along the outside edge so one could stay clear of the rocks and catch some rides.

The bigger wave were breaking further out and more to the inside. Taking a ride on one of them meant paying attention and peeling off before the rocks.

I caught a few small rides along the edge before deciding to head out into the bigger stuff.

One of the things I struggle with is timing waves. I often either get out in front of them and miss the break or I don’t get up enough speed and the pass under me. Some times they also just trap my stern and breach me - or as the cool kids say “I get windowshaded”.

I waited for a bit and caught what I thought would be a good wave. I paddled hard to get on it and started to have a good ride. I was focusing on using forward strokes to steer without dropping speed. At some point I must have gotten to far in front of the wave as it was breaking. My stern got pinned and spun around. I tried to correct with forward strokes and then a really hard prying rudder with no luck. I managed to get a good brace as I side surfed; until the wave sputtered out… I mistimed easing off the brace and wound up hanging upside down in the water. Not a problem… Set up, sweep out, hip snap, paddle out of the zone, and go look for more waves…

We all got some sweet rides. I caught a few nice waves. I spent some time missing nice waves due to bad timing or lack of giddy up. Just as we were getting ready to break for lunch, I caught a nice wave, rode it in a ways and once again got windowshaded. This time, however, I was pretty close to the rocks and didn’t have much water under me. I tired to roll and got smacked down.

I pulled the plug and did my best to make sure the kayak was between me and the rocks and that I had hold on my paddle and the kayak. Tim and Brenda swooped in, pulled me and the kayak out of the, and plopped me back in the kayak.

Not content to break for lunch on a failure, I caught one more small ride on one of the edge waves before heading to the beach.

At lunch I talk to Tim G about how to up my surf game. He pointed out that one of the tricks was to keep the wave from grabbing your stern. Once the wave has the stern, the wave is in control. This is particularly true with a kayak like and Aries that has a planning bow for surfing. The bow just glides around as the wave pushes the stern sideways. So, one thing to do is to keep forward in the cockpit to help keep the stern up. The other trick is to keep the peak of the wave just behind the cockpit and not any further back.

I focused on trying using this knowledge on the point after lunch. I spent some time on the edge trying to catch smaller waves and getting small rides. It was a bit frustrating because they were hard to time, but it was a good learning zone.

Then I headed out to the bigger surf and caught a few big rides. There were a few times where my stern started to get turned and I was able to correct with a good rudder - less often with a good sweep or draw. It was tricky using a rudder without leaning back. The trick really is timing. Maybe you are too far in front of the wave and leaning back burns enough speed to put you back in position. Sometimes burning speed sends the wave under you and you fall off the back. Sometimes a forward stroke will keep you on the wave. Other times, it will pull you forward just enough to keep the stern trapped or pull you right off the front of the wave.

It was great until it wasn’t. I caught a wave and after a short ride I was breached and upside down. Set up, sweep out, hip snap, and see a big wave waiting to push me right into the rocks…. Paddle very fast to clear the zone, and go looking for one more wave… (no I do not know when it is time to quit)

After a few more runs, we made our way back home. The paddle up the river was a nice cool down to end an exciting day.

Sunday, April 03, 2022

Spring Warm Up

 After about a month without kayaking and I start to go a little more looney than my baseline, so after three months without kayaking I was living in toon town. Working at home where my main source of social interaction is a dog and a few other neighborhood dog owners that are occasionally out at the same time as the dog walks me, was not helping.

The smart bike trainer makes riding in the basement more interesting, but it does not make it like riding on trails or even the road….

When Tim G. posted an easy warm up paddle out of Bay Campus on a day that was potentially free of family commitments, I put in for a day pass. K’s school musical was the Friday night and Saturday before the paddle (the show was excellent), so H was a little worried that K would be super cranky due to physical and emotional exhaustion. She also had things she wanted to do… But being an angel, she granted me the day pass because paddling would degrumpify me for at least a few weeks.

The day did not start off auspiciously. I got a late start and needed to gas the truck. The gas station was jammed. They were getting a delivery and the tanker had half the pumps blocked off. That put me even further behind schedule. My ETA was still before the launch time, but I am not exactly known for being a speedy unpacker - particularly when I haven’t done it in months…

We were only 20 minutes late getting on the water….

The conditions were perfect for getting the cobwebs out. It was sunny with almost no wind. The sea had just a little bounce to it and it was high tide. The plan was to head towards Narragansett. In addition to getting a little push from the current, we were treated with increasing swells which would make playing in the rocks more fun.

I had made the decision to leave my helmet in the truck so that I couldn’t go play in the rocks and simply enjoy some nice open ocean paddling…. 

On the way south, the action was tame. I didn’t feel too bad getting a little close to the rocks and maybe trying to slip through intriguing slot now and again.

After lunch the water was a little lower and the swells a little bigger. I told myself that I would not do anything crazy. I definitely not follow Tim or Gary into anything. I was sticking to things without points or big waves rushing through them. I definitely was not going to anywhere near breaking waves….

I mostly stuck to my plan… I at least did my best to avoid anything that looked potentially dangerous. I may have surfed through a couple of tight spots or needed to wait for a swell to put enough water in a hole to make it passable. However, nothing too hard and noting with really big swells.

I was having a lot of fun and who paddles an Aries without getting into the rocks?

About a third of the way back to Bay Campus, before crossing the Bonnet Shores inlet, there was a nice group of rocks for play. They offered several different slots to run all with slightly different feels and some required making pretty quick turns to squeak through.

As we were preparing to move on, I decide to try one last run. It involved getting through one slot then making a quick left turn into deeper water to avoid the rock ledge on shore and then spinning around and running the gap past the rock I started behind. I waited and watched how the water was behaving. Nothing alarming, some small swells that would make the left turn a little hard, but I was planning on going through between swells.

I was perfectly lined up as the last paddler ran the gap between the shore and the slot I was waiting to run. She rode a nice little swell through and I made my move. The timing should have been perfect, by the time I needed to make my turn the next swell would be on its way out….

I got through the first slot, edged over and initiated a sharp left turn just as a big swell broke and pushed my bow straight into the ledge. Before I could do anything I was upside down with my bow pinned on a rocky shore.

I would love to be able to say that I actually thought through my options and devised a good plan to get me out of trouble. Instead I acted on pure instinct - I held onto my paddle, picked the side that seemed to be the side the swells were coming from and tried a roll. Surprisingly, the roll worked. I was right side up and had enough water to get out of the rocks. I took advantage of the water and got my butt out of dodge.

The photographers and videographers were sad that they didn’t get any shots of what happened… Stupid is best left undocumented as far as I am concerned. Also, pictorial proof would have made it look cool when really it was dumb luck.

After the incident, I should have been smart enough to realize that I had just used up a considerable amount of my luck for the day and just kept away from the rocks….

Not long after the incident, I decided to follow another kayaker through an area that was pretty deep but had a bit of a ledge on the shoreward side. The incoming swells were trivial; nothing that would push me into or over the ledge... When I got into the middle of the area a huge swell came through and bounced me right over the ledge and into the rocky shore. I could feel the gelcoat chipping off and knew that if I didn't get off the swell and turned back out to open water I was toast.  Luck was still on my side and I managed to spin the Aries around and back out to open water.

I knew it was time to stay away from the rocks for the rest of the day. Luck was on my side once more because we were just about at the end of the Bonnet Shores cliffs and rocks are scarce between there and Bay Campus.

Before we could get clear of the cliffs I heard some one yelling that a paddler was in the water. A few of rushed over to help, but Cat was right there and did the rescue. She did a nice job getting the paddler back in his boat. Getting the kayak pumped out was a different story...

It seems unfair that I took a lot of stupid risks and ended up looking like a rock star and a paddler who did all the right things ended up in the drink.

I think next paddle I'll be safer and at least wear my helmet....

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

First Ride of 2022

 With the warmish weather upon us, it was time to dust off the mt. bike and hit the trails for an early season introduction ride. Something easy to dust off the cobwebs-get my sea legs back.

I wasn't worried about stamina or distance; I've been crushing it on the trainer all winter. I was concerned about not doing anything too technical; trainers cannot simulate rocks or trees...

The ride to the trails is a short, flat stretch of road from my house. As I headed down the road I noticed a slight breeze and then realized my legs felt like they were working way harder than they should on flat terrain... Apparently trainers do not account for wind or the actual weight of a bike or the rolling resistance of chunky 29" trail tires.

Anyway I was still warming up. Once I got into the groove things would feel good.

When I made the turn onto the trail, I nearly locked up the brakes and sent myself tumbling into a tree. The trail is a narrow gently sloping turn that leads into the woods that I have ridden hundreds of times, but initial reaction was panic about smashing into one of the trees. It took a good bit of mental effort to will my hands to stay off the breaks and my feet to keep pedaling.

This was the ride for at least the next mile or so. See feature that you've ridden hundreds of times, panic, force panic down so reflexes can do their job, and repeat. Most of the time the force panic down part was successful and I got through. A few times I did end up walking a feature and then berating myself for being a scaredy cat and vowing that I'd crush it the next time while knowing that there was always a chance that the panic would win again.

Fortunately, the panic becomes background noise after awhile. The cadence of the peddles, the quiet of the woods, the successfully getting over features makes the panic smaller and smaller. It is like putting on noise cancelling headphones, I can still hear the panic but it is so muffled it doesn't intrude.

Once the panic faded and the muscles warmed up it was a great ride. I stuck to mainly flat, single track trails. There were a few technical sections with a lot of roots, sharp turns, rocks, and logs covering the trail. Things came back pretty quickly when it came to shifting and body position to keep moving forward and upright.

On the last section of trails I felt the backend get that swishy feeling that means you need to put air in the tire. Sure enough, it was flat.

My first thought was just to pump enough air into the tire to get home - I was technically at lunch - as quick as possible. I whipped out my handy micro pump and went to town. Except I couldn't get any air into the stupid tire. I was convinced it was either me being a rock head or the pump because I couldn't seem to get a good seal on the valve. It was either too loose the air would seep out or it was jammed and the air wouldn't go in. After about ten minutes, I was ready to give up and accept the fact that I was going to have to carry the stupid bike a mile plus back through the woods...

Then my brain stopped being trapped in "you're an idiot and life sucks" mode and I wondered if I had a spare tube. Maybe the problem was that I had popped the tire or ruined the valve on the one on the bike. I did have a spare tube because I usually don't suck too much.

Now all I had to do was remember how to get the back tire off the bike without destroying the derailer. Is it put the chain on the biggest ring or the smallest ring? 50-50 chance so I pick the big ring - WRONG. I tried, then cussed myself out for being stupid, but was not stupid enough to really force anything. Once I got the tire reseated, I shifted the chain into the smallest ring and things went much better.

Five minutes later I was back on the trail and, despite the little hick up, still feeling like I'm in the groove.

There was one nasty clump of rocks I walked, but it was a rational decision. It was just after I got back on the bike and didn't really have enough speed to glide over or enough time to shift into a gear where I could plough through.

It wasn't until after I decided that my lunch cover was already blown and that I could extend my ride a bit that I realized the flat had turned off the noise canceling headphones that kept the panic quiet.

There is a nice rock wall that crosses the trail and is usually very fun to barrel over. It is just after some really tight windy single track but with plenty of room between the last turn and the wall to get up a good head of steam. It is also just enough room for the panic to grow louder. I ignored it until I was just at the wall and then my hands went for the brakes... I'm not sure what happened, but my body took over in a nick of time. My hands opened up and my legs drove the pedals in a huge surge of power.

Once I was in the clearing after the wall I just stopped and gasped air. I was happy to not be a heap on the ground, but pissed at myself for nearly putting me in a heap on the ground. It took a few minutes to catch my breath and stop yelling at myself. I had made it over and was OK. Now I just needed to finish off the next two miles of the ride without that happening again....

I was able to find my groove again and quiet the panic. The rest of the ride was a nice way to finish off the day.

I am hopeful that now that I've gotten the first ride out of the way, it will be easier and easier to quiet the panic and get a break from it.

Saturday, March 05, 2022

Tacx Flow Smart Trainer

My old indoor trainer, a Cycleworks Magneto, was getting long in the tooth and the local bike shop was having a good sale on new trainers. I also was getting a little bored with the linear resistance thing, so was jonesing for a “smart” trainer.

What I wasn’t looking to do was drop $1000 on a bike trainer that I would only use for a couple of months a year or one that required a ton of work to set up. That ruled out most of the smart trainers. They all seem to be wheel off set ups that require buying a trainer and a rear cassette. That does allow for more accurate power adjustment, simulating road feel, and quieter use. It also looked like it allows for greater “true” power ranges.

I was excited to see that the bike shop offered one wheel on smart trainer option and that it was not crazy expensive. The Tacx Flow was only $350 and allows me to pop the bike into it with a simple click. One the bike is on the trainer, you should do a quick calibration to make sure the resistance and power readings are accurate.

Time to get bike on trainer and calibrated is under five minutes. It makes it is easy for those days when I want to ride but the rain gets in the way.

The Flow easily connects to several apps like Tacx’s own app and Strava. Getting the Tacx app connected to the trainer was a snap. It comes with a free month trail period, so it was a good way to get started. The app has a wide variety of rides. Some have nice videos and others are just GPS tracks, but they cover the gamut of rides. There are nice easy rides through the countryside or along the shore and there are long brutal climbs. The did experience a few hiccups where the videos would buffer, but the bike is far away from the hotspot and I have a tween who lives on TikTok. The other odd thing about the app was that if it connected to my bike’s cadence sensor, it would not record cadence data. I’m not sure how the trainer figures out cadence better than a sensor stuck on my pedal. I decided to pony up for the $100 yearly subscription without trying any other apps. I don’t know any Strava heads and liked the movies.

The trainer can also be driven by my fenix watch which can be loaded up with GPS courses from Garmin Connect. In some ways this a better way to use the trainer as the data integrates better with my other Garmin data and I can train on rides that I actually take instead of dreaming of far off lands.

In either case, the trainer gives me a better workout than the linear resistance of a non-smart trainer. It is more fun to have to deal with simulated climbs or to run a workout where the resistance changes to simulate sprints.

I also like the fact that I get power readings from the trainer. Power is not a metric I would pay $1000 dollars to add to my bike, but for $350 it is a nice to have. I might miss it once I am back on the roads and trails.

Is the Flow a great smart trainer? No. It is not a great trainer. It doesn’t simulate road feel and can really only simulate up to a 5 percent grade with any accuracy. It also requires regular calibration to make sure the bike’s tire and the trainer are properly connected.

It is however a great trainer for my needs. It didn’t break the bank. It is easy to set up and use all year long. When properly calibrated it can programmatically fake more than a 5 percent grade and really most of the places I ride don’t have very steep hills.

For a recreational rider in his 50’s with moderate needs. It is more than enough.

I would rather spend the extra money on upgrading my mountain bike to full suspension or enjoying fancy ciders after a long ride.

Monday, February 28, 2022


2021 was supposed to be the year we escaped COVID and returned to some semblance of 2019.

January and February were cold and the winter surge was ravaging the world, but vaccines were on the way. The media was saying that by summer COVID would be a bad memory and in my more optimistic moments I could almost believe the hype. Mostly though, we were all still just stuck at home trying to make it through the day without losing our minds after hours of Google school, Zoom meetings, and dog walking.

March and April was waiting to qualify for vaccines based seemingly random eligibility requirements. Then there was the mad dash to find shots. Refreshing web pages, sitting on hold, watching random Facebook groups for hours a day was a normal addition to the already hectic juggling of work and homeschool monitoring. There was also guilt because I randomly qualified for vaccination before some people who really needed shots; it may have been the only time that having smoked 20 years ago and kidney stones got me more than grief.

April also brought the mixed blessing of in person school. Going back into school was definitely better from a learning and mental health perspective. It was also better from an adult getting work done perspective. However, it added to the underlying stress of wondering when COVID would come knocking on your door. There was also all the new adjustments to schedules, like making time to actually get dressed for and walk up to the school. Added to that was the social stressors of trying to reestablish friendships that had lay dormant for a year or had blossomed online but couldn't survive the pressure of meatspace reality. Learning how to sit still, facing forward, wearing a mask, and barely being able to talk with friends was also new and unpleasant.

Late Spring and Summer were pleasant. There was still a lot of confusion about what was OK and not OK to do; who was comfortable with what; where did deadly COVID risk lurk instead of just acceptable COVID risk? The weather, I think, was the key thing. COVID risk plummeted outside and the weather was warm and sunny most of the time.

We ate at restaurants - with outdoor seating; I kayaked; we vacationed; K did summer camps; we had company - outside; I went on group mt. biking rides. It was almost like a normal summer.

The difference was the mask always hanging off my wrist for venturing inside. The threat of COVID was still omni-present. Entry to summer camp required a PCR test; entry to our campground required proof of vaccination; the news still reported daily case counts and the ongoing struggles of getting people vaccinated and how much to loosen up on the safety protocols. Go out and live like its 2019, but don't forget that there is still a deadly virus out there stalking all the indoor spots.

Lingering over the summer was the knowledge that school would be open season for a barely contained virus being allowed to rip through a caged and unvaccinated population. Sure kids are less likely to get really sick and the benefits of in person schooling out weigh the risks and kids in school frees up parents to be less stressed out slaves to their jobs....

Fortunately, our school year started off uneventfully and with only a "minor trickle" of cases each week. Sure kids and teachers would regularly disappear from school for 10 days now and then. The school nurse was insanely strict about staying home if you had a cough. Facebook was flooded with stories about how unfair it was to keep asymptomatic kids home and how unsafe it was not to have regular testing in place and to not be quarantining close contacts. All in all, it wasn't too bad.

Delta swept in, but was balanced out by vaccines for kids and boosters for adults.

The good vibes from the summer were still lingering.

Malaise was also part of the equation. How long can you live under constant existential threat before becoming numb to it? Also, I had stopped reading the news because it was just too depressing.

Were we going to the movies or eating inside restaurants? Were we doing sleep overs and having a ton of friends in the house? No.

Were we hanging out inside with people we knew well? Yes. We had family over for Thanksgiving.

Work started and stopped and started and stopped with calls to reopen the office. Things seemed to settle into a "we'd love to see you in the office, but understand if you don't feel comfortable" sort of vibe. I cannot say it was a great vibe because it was always pretty clear that the bosses wanted people in the office, but knew pushing to hard would cost them employees they were not willing to lose - I am not one of the employees and operated under the knowledge that if push came to push I'd be back in the open hell pit that is the office along with hundreds of other bitter unhappy drones.

Then came the winter of Omicron and the Big Lie.

Getting excited for Christmas was tough. The strain of fall started showing. Figuring out what to shop for and when to shop for it and how to hide deliveries. There was also some pressure to make Christmas great to make up for all the strain of COVID times.

Then the logistics of getting together with family under the threat of Omicron reared its head. Do we all need PCR tests before getting together? Can we just do gifts and keep our masks on? If we all rapid test can we do dinner? What if someone isn't boosted?

At least Omicron, for as contagious as it is, is not nearly as terrible as it name sounds. Maybe the people calling Omicron COVIDs last gasp before becoming a seasonal flu are right.....

Maybe we will get a moderate, non-megalomaniac septuagenarian President as the face of our fully dysfunctional government.

Or maybe 2022 will be just as confused and angst filled as 2021 with a barely understood virus that is super contagious mutating its way around our vaccines waiting to send us hiding back in our bubbles to listen to rantings of a power mad lunatic.