I attempted a new V4 Tuesday. I got stuck halfway through and hopped off.

I attempted that same V4 this morning. For some reason, I remembered and channeled something I’d seen “good” climbers do: I weighted my foot on the side I wanted to move toward, trusted it, and shifted my weight onto it. That gave me incredible reach, and bypassed the sketchy moves that didn’t work for me earlier in the week.

I finished that V4 this morning. All because of one change in technique.

Shift. Trust.


Look Down, Not Up

I woke up super early this morning to spend the day climbing at Mt. Diablo. This was an REI outing, which meant they provided a guide and all the hardware. All I had to do was show up with my shoes and harness. (They also provided those, but that’s the climbing equivalent of hockey skates and a stick, or mountain biking pedals and a seat. You’re much better off using your own.)

I signed up for this because outdoor climbing is to indoor what mountain biking is to road. Or ice hockey is to roller? (That second one is a total guess because I’ve never played roller hockey.) IMO it requires more effort, more skill, more care, more thinking.

It also rendered me unable to unlock my phone with my fingerprint. But that’s not why I’m writing this post.

I’m writing this post because our guide gave us a good tip in the form of a sticky mantra: Look down, not up. Your feet placement is so much more important than your hands. Especially on slabs.

I’ll have to remember this at the gym this week.

Full Helicopter

There were only 4 of us at middle-of-the-long-weekend o-daiko class last night, which meant we got no rotation breaks. No rotation = Learn lots of stuff!

My sideways stance right arm helicopter with left arm tail spin is functional now. I can definitely refine my form some more, but I’m happy I no longer look at the move with amused bewilderment.

I’m also much better at this series of moves, which I shall henceforth refer to as the Benihana double chop. Because it’s that fancy.

In the middle of class, I discovered we’re learning not one, but two songs right now. This, after sensei spent 9 minutes teaching us a set of phrases that took an hour to teach in Tuesday class. Turns out there’s an o-daiko part of that song. I would have been so confused if we hadn’t already learned it on chu-daiko.

I’m dialing my stance in some more. I realized after many demos that my rear leg doesn’t have to be straight like in a yoga warrior. This gives me a lot more movement to play with and eases the intense hip flexor stretch.

Monday morning status: Tired but not can’t-lift-my-arms exhausted like when I first started. Progress!

One Wheelin’

Well this is interesting. The big honking Jeffsy is more wheelie-able than the Mojo.

I know this because I spent a couple evenings this week playing around with wheelies, and today I achieved 15 pedal strokes. In a row! For reals!

For some reason, it’s a heck of a lot easier to keep this bike straight in a wheelie. Do the wider handlebars make a difference?

There were a lot of families at the school for baseball. I made a small child stare in amazement with a wheelie, and a grown adult wow with a stoppie. Bikes are fun you guys, y’all should play too!

I made no one react with a bunny hop, because I’m still terrible at them. I guess that why I practice.


What does improv mean to you? Until earlier this year, I thought “improv” meant being funny on stage with no script in front of a bunch of strangers.

Earlier this year, I was gifted a book by a former coworker, whom I’d gotten to know from the many training courses she’d put together for us. I’d been telling her about my fascination with how people operate and communicate, and she thought I’d enjoy this read.

The author is a former actor who now studies how to make scientists better at communicating with non-scientists. His tool? Improv.

And this is how I learned about all the things you do to prepare for being funny on stage with no script in front of a bunch of strangers. It’s not about being funny. It’s not about being on stage. It’s not about performing for strangers.

It’s about being able to read someone’s intentions, being able to empathize, being able to build on what they’re trying to do, and being clear in conveying what you’re trying to do.

It’s about communication.

How does one learn to do all these things? By playing games. Improv games. Improv games with no stage in sight.

This sounded fun, so I researched some classes and signed up for a 3 hour intro workshop.

I walked into the workshop expecting to spend a few hours playing improv games. In the first exercise, we were tasked with sharing with our partner what we hoped to get out of the class.

I hadn’t considered this. I’d signed up thinking it’d be interesting, probably fun, and a good way to improve my empathy and communication over time.

“I hope by the end of this class, I’ll be able to speak without the filter I run everything through during the day.” It sounded like a lofty goal. How does one break a lifelong habit / skill so crucial to our ability to function in society?

From there we were off. We introduced ourselves with gestures, made up secret handshakes, counted with actions, morphed into nouns and verbs and adjectives. We passed imaginary objects, gifted imaginary objects to one another, interacted as imaginary objects. We planned weekend getaways to Antarctica and constructed profoundly deep words of wisdom.

We played a lot of games, laughing the entire time. Toward the end, we played a game called 3-Headed Expert, in which a team of three people function as one, answering questions one word at a time, one person at a time.

It’s a thing of beauty when you focus and flow as a team. When you have no idea what you’re doing or where you’re going, but you all manage to push in the same direction. When you drop your filter and devote yourself entirely to speaking as one with your fellow Expert Heads.

We were hilarious. If only you could have seen us on stage. :)

Filterless flow in 3 hours. I suspect there will be more improv in my future.

Our intro games, for posterity:

Texting and Riding

This is a picture I did not take of a guy on a motorcycle, riding 15 feet behind a car in the fast lane on 101, wearing jeans and a 3/4 sleeve leather jacket (??!?), no gloves, half tuck, elbows in his ribs, right hand on the throttle, left hand typing on his phone.

He changed lanes shortly after my not taking a picture. I hope he’d finished typing by then.

What happens if he drops his phone?

It seems silly to be wondering about the guy’s phone. It’s so trivial compared to his life.

One Bike To Rule Them All

I’ve neglected to document my new mountain bike.

It’s been 7 years since I got the Enduro. Mountain bike technology has advanced in leaps and bounds, and I decided it was time to upgrade. I also used this as a chance to simplify. I wanted a single mountain bike, one I could ride anywhere in the Bay Area. One bike to rule them all.

I spent months researching various options. I placed an order in January. It arrived in February. We assembled it in March. I’ve been riding it ever since.

I had intended to write about it after a few rides so I could document its differences from the Mojo and Enduro. But really what’s been happening is I’ve been collecting notes as I adjust the suspension every ride, and now I’m so many rides in that my new bike feels like an extension of my body like the Mojo did, and I can no longer do a fair comparison.

So… meet the 2019 YT Jeffsy 29 CF Pro Race, henceforth referred to as simply “the Jeffsy”.

It’s a big honking bike with big honking handlebars. It forces me to really get over the bars and lean the bike in corners. I feel so pro riding this thing!

This is also a wheel size upgrade for me. I first rode a 29er eight years ago, in Austin. The big wheels made me feel so confident I rode up a set of stairs on a whim. Interestingly, I don’t feel the same way this time around. I’ve actually had to relearn technical climbing. (But that could also be due to rust and a lack of bike fitness.)

Given all this bike, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to wheelie it. After playing around with it last weekend, I’m feeling pretty good about being able to pick up my wheelie practice on this rig.

I’ve even learned a new skill on it: stoppies!

Welcome to the family, Jeffsy.

Bouncy Helicopter

Another week, another adjustment, from another classmate. This is four different classmates now in as many weeks, and I am overflowing with gratitude.

This week, another tweak to my chu-daiko showy arms on the song we’re working on. I think I’ve now adjusted my timing and punch; today’s feedback was a refinement of that. When I strike, I need to stop the bounce of the bachi, THEN do a sharp lift, instead of using the energy of the bounce to initiate the lift. Definitely more work, but way more controlled, and a showier show.

In o-daiko news, this past Sunday sensei introduced a new move: striking from a sideways stance, with our right arm doing a swoop down to up to helicopter into the next strike.

The left arm does something too, but we didn’t get that far. :)

I’m not yet at the point where I feel experienced enough to start helping newer students, but my veteran classmates are setting a good example for the day I’m ready.

Trek Dirt Series Mountain Bike Camp 2019

Dirt Series, take 3.

It’s been 8 years since my last camp. After the 2011 camp, I gained a lot of skills, rode a ton, did some races, and proceeded to ride very little for a few years.

I upgraded to a fancy new bike this year, and decided to shake out the rust with a clinic.

The format of the camp is still the same: skill sessions in the mornings and practice on the trails in the afternoons. Even though most of my sessions were review, I still got something out of each of them.

Straight Line Riding – I’m way more comfortable adjusting my balance on a plank now than I was before. The one surprise was when our instructor asked us to modulate our rear brake while pedaling for control. I’d never considered this combo and was skeptical at first, but then I tried it on a plank and it felt great! Super fascinating.

Downhill Dismount – I still remember my first Dirt Series where I learned the magic of dismounting behind the bike on a downhill. I haven’t needed it recently, and hadn’t tried it on my new bike. Buzz!! Hello, 29″ tires.

Slow Speed Drops – Basically pushing the front of the bike off a small drop. While I can do this easily, I couldn’t quite assemble all the instructions into how exactly our coach Lindsay wanted us to look until she talked about how Aaron Gwin’s head and torso remain perfectly still as his bike does goes full rodeo under him. With this in mind, I executed the next go around to spec. What drop?

High Speed Cornering – Attack position! Body forward, chest down, elbows up. Turn the head, torso, hips, knees; moon the outside corner. And then something totally new to me: Pedals level, not outside pedal down. Then something else totally new to me: inside straight arm relaxed, outside bent arm pushing down on the handlebar. Putting this one on my practice list.

Jumps – We worked on breaking my habit of landing rear wheel first, which had developed as a way of avoiding the dreaded endo. Coach Lindsay explained that this didn’t give you control, and if you had a choice, put your front wheel down first. After a couple rounds on the alligator ramp, she put a target for me to land my front wheel on. I adjusted my entry speed, trajectory, and pitch in-air, and stomped it. Holy cow!! I’d never even considered that I could target a landing that precisely, much less execute it.

Pumping Rollers – This is a skill session I’ve never done before. Coach Laurie did a great job of breaking down the arms, the legs, then putting them together. Keys to this? Attack position! Body forward, chest down, elbows up. Push forward and down with your arms after cresting the roller. Push forward and down with your legs close to the BOTTOM of the roller. Waaait… what? My mind was blown. I’ve literally been timing the leg push wrong all these years. I was fortunate enough to ride Endor in the afternoon after learning this, and holy cow, the rollers feel amazing when timed correctly.

Stoppies – This was not an official skills session, but one of the camp assistants was doing them for fun during lunch the first day. I mentioned this the second morning, and she showed me how to do them during lunch the second day. Hanging out with high school kids FTW!!!

A couple huge takeaways:

(1) Attack position! I’m not forward enough when I ride. Getting into attack position will let me turn better, pump better, Aaron Gwin better. The nice thing is, I’ve started noticing when I’m not forward enough on trail, and fixing it. I’m piloting the bike, not riding as a passenger.

(2) Deliberately doing something slow so you can break it down and learn exactly what it feels like to do it right. Following a perfect pace set by coach Laurie down Endor with zero pedaling and minimal braking felt so much better than going too fast, messing up, scrubbing speed, and pedaling to get going again.

I learned a couple new skills on my own while waiting in line during the morning sessions:

(a) Turning rear wheel lifts. Because I thought turning on its own was boring.

(b) One handed track stands. Because I track standed so much I needed a bigger challenge.

Using my inability to stand still to my advantage!

Current status: Trying to convince my Dirt Series friends to go to the Angel Fire camp this September.

30×30 Complete

The difference active contribution and gratitude became really clear to me after a few days.

I felt gratitude over all sorts of things.

I actively contributed for a single thing: other people. Every single day, without exception, my active contribution was for someone else: making something better for others to enjoy, checking on someone’s welfare, helping, teaching, sharing.

Making the world a better place, one small act at a time.

I had not expected this theme to emerge. I’m so glad I did this 30 Days.

30×7 and 30×30 work well together. Be grateful for what you have, and pay it forward.