Friday, September 24, 2010


While on vacation recently (a whole story in itself worth retelling) I visited one of the premiere recumbent dealers in the country, Angletech.  In a span of a two hours I test rode the best bikes available:
  • Tour Easy (Fold Easy)
  • Rans Stratus XP
  • Rans Enduro Sport
  • Rans F5
  • Bacchetta Corsa
  • Challenge Seiran
  • Rans X-Stream
  • Challenge Fujin
I also rode the ICE B2, a bike somewhere between the Rans Enduro Sport and F5 in seat/crank reclination.  The list is ordered from more upright to more laidback, which is the order in which I test rode the bikes, to find where my comfort zone really is.  In the end, I liked the Rans Enduro Sport the best, which is a popular design for short wheelbase recumbent bikes.  I was acutally surprised by this, as my limited recumbent riding led me to believe I was more of a Tour Easy guy.  But after riding these bikes in sequence two times, the Tour Easy felt way too upright, like I had very poor power transfer to the pedals.  After these recumbents, I rode the "Crank Forward" bikes:
  • Rans Fusion
  • Rans Dynamik
  • Rans Alterra
The Rans Dynamik was the best feeling to me, very comfortable.  And last the tricycles:
  • Terratrike Rover
  • Terratrike Cruiser
  • ICE Adventure 3fs
  • ICE Sprint2
  • Greenspeed X5
  • ICE Vortex
I liked the ICE Sprint2 the best, it was low and had suspension.  But the connection to the ground was not as nice as with the bikes, so the Rans Enduro Sport was the overall favorite of all that I tested.  Who knows if a longer test period (weeks) would confirm these first impressions?  It would be great to do that!  And I would've loved to try the tandem recumbents, but after the lengthy test rides I had no willing participants.

All those were only a fraction of the bikes on the crowded display room floor, so the next day wondering if I'd missed a rare opportunity, I called back to see if Kelvin Clark, the owner, had any Cruzbikes like the Quest.  He said he didn't, and furthermore gave good reasons why he though that if I had tried one, I wouldn't have liked it over and above the Enduro Sport that I selected as my personal favorite.  Now as it was, I liked that bike for the sheer pleasure of the riding experience, but some people might value other characteristics at least as much, such as cargo capacity.  Needless to say, there were bikes there designed to meet that need admirably as well.  And finding one's personal “nirvana” on a bike is more than simply a factor of seat/crank height.  For example, Rans created the Enduro as a response to consumer requests to lower the seat height on their popular V-Rex bike.  The seat height felt right to me.

Bikes are vehicles, archetypal things that move us, but they require the attention of a navigator to steer a path. This isn't much different from life, where we must steer a path to avoid the shoals of disaster. Life is always in motion, and we are all going somewhere. It is obvious when riding a bike that one must be attentive to everything in the environment around them. Though it is less obvious, so too must one be attentive in life in order to get anywhere. This is one reason why I love riding a bike. I can really get around for very little energy, in fact I put more energy into paying attention to where I am going than I put into making the bike move!

(On the subject of how riding a bike increases one's attentiveness to the here and now, what about a sauna? Stepping into a very hot room, then stepping out into the cold bare naked makes one aware of the largest organ on their body – the skin.)


Humans are essentially the same the world over, so what are the barriers to understanding and empathizing with one another?  Physical appearance and cultural differences are one, and among the cultural differences a big one is the use of different languages.  Without a translator, dictionary, or translation program to refer to, if you don't know the language you are helpless.  The less foreign languages become a barrier, the more we will understand what makes the human experience unique for each of the six billion plus people on this planet, our only home.  Foreign languages and literature is an interesting field.  I can never know every one of us, but I should know more nonetheless.  I'd like to be fluent in all forms of communication basic to human society and familiar with the information [for which] they were created to represent.  Then I can call myself literate, a scholar, and an expert in any field I work in.  I must admit I don't read enough English literature as it is. 

Saturday, September 4, 2010


Life as it is, here and now, is as good as it gets.  When something catches my attention and I want to turn toward it, I also turn away from the rest of my life.  I have to be careful with my attention!  (Zen contains a corollary message.)  When I follow the necessity of transient circumstances, my life is best, and it flows more smoothly.  By allowing myself to be receptive to the changing needs of life I become more accepting, appreciative, and compassionate.  And my thoughts and actions reflect this attitude. 

It used to be that we could only satisfy our basic needs; an ascetic lifestyle was the norm for our early ancestors.  Then, when culture and technology rapidly changed our lifestyle, we learned how to satisfy almost any need we could imagine, faster than ever before.  But we lack the native wisdom to know which desires should be satisfied and which should not, which impulses to act on and which to restrain.  This wasn't a problem before, we simply couldn't satisfy most of our creative desires, so the temptation was much less.  But now, in our instant gratification society, being careful with where we place our attention is more difficult than ever.  Perhaps the contemplative traditions like Buddhism arose to remind us that it is now up to us to impose on ourselves the control that the environment can no longer exercise over us.

The last few days I knew that my circumstances necessitated that I attend to various work and chores, but I became infected with a desire to watch episodes of the television series "Firefly." It was easier to do this than my work, so I easily caved and watched them.  While enjoyable, my work still needed to be done, only now I had even less time to do it in. 

"To study Buddhism is to study the self.  To study the self is to forget the self.  To forget the self is to become enlightened by all things."
"When other sects speak well of Zen, the first thing that they praise is its poverty."
"If he cannot stop the mind that seeks after fame and profit, he will spend his life without finding peace."
- Dogen

"My sermons are criticized by certain audiences. They say that my sermons are hollow, not holy. I agree with them because I myself am not holy. The Buddha's teaching guides people to the place where there is nothing special... People often misunderstand faith as kind of ecstasy of intoxication... True faith is sobering up from such intoxication."
- Kodo Sawaki

"No thought, no reflection, no analysis, no cultivation, no intention; let it settle itself."
- Tilopa