Ask Stevil

Every month or so, we collect the questions submitted to our friend Stevil and present them to him for his oracular pronouncements. And pronounce he does. Wisdom. Quippery. Quixotic musings. It’s all here. Enjoy.

If you could make your living doing anything other than what you do, just assuming you instantly had the talent or whatever it takes to do that job, what would you do?

I’ve had this conversation tons of times with tons of people. For the most part, if I could do anything in the whole world, and as boring as it is to say, I would likely continue doing what I am. I love my job, but I would also really love to be able to make enough of a living to say, save for my golden years, or maybe even take a proper vacation every once in a while. I like writing, and drawing, and painting, and playing in the woods the most, so I’m gonna stick with it, but just for the sake of argument, and at least for a little while, I think maybe being a rock star might be marginally appealing? Not like a Steven Tyler or Mick Jagger sort of star mind you. Maybe like a John Reis, or a Greg Dulli type of figure. Not so much as to know what it’s like to perform music I love in front of adoring fans, but mostly just to understand what it’s like to live with such a preposterous abundance of swagger. 

A friend wants me to do one of the big, big gravel events with them this year. I love riding my bike, but I’m nervous about overcommitting. Like you, I’m not young anymore. How would you approach either getting ready for a 150+ mile gravel race or weaseling out of one?

I’m probably the very last person to whom this question should be posed, but I appreciate your confidence just the same.

I love engaging in big ambitious challenges like this every now and again, though have a very basic understanding regarding preparation for any of them. As simple as it sounds, I would say starting now, do your best to get lots of good, long distances in your legs, (or as Captain Dave refers to it ‘do lots of LSD’- long, slow distances). This not only builds fitness but reminds you what an entire day on your bike feels like. Two other vitally important and (as far as I go) consistently overlooked components to this magical equation are hydration and nutrition. While you’re churning out those miles either in preparation for, or on the day of, always remember to regularly eat before you’re hungry, and drink before you’re thirsty. Before long, the idea of weaseling out of this epic endeavor will seem as ludicrous an idea to you as committing to all of those miles perhaps does right now. 

Like you, I love music and riding bikes, but I never let myself listen while I ride. Using headphones feels dangerous or potentially discourteous to other humans, not to mention a lot of the time I’m trying to connect with nature. At the same time, a Bluetooth speaker feels WAY out of bounds. Am I wrong on this? Do you ever listen to music while you ride?

Way back in the early ‘90s I spent a fair amount of time riding with headphones, both in traffic, as well as on trails. As a matter of fact, I clearly remember being inspired to do so by my friend Danny Norton (the one who got me into riding mountain bikes to begin with) after he returned from one of our local loops, super excited that he’d done the whole thing within the time it took him to listen to both sides of Metallica’s ‘Kill ‘Em All’. But in time I decided I much preferred the sound of my tires on the dirt more than any music I might have on hand.

Road riding, or riding in traffic is different however, and I will occasionally have a music player with a single earphone stuffed into my right ear. Somewhat relatedly, riding in city streets during the initial Covid shutdown was the safest I’ve ever felt on a bike in traffic, and was the things that renewed my interest in listening to music while on the go anyway, but for the most part I just tend to leave it at home. As for the second part of your question, anyone who goes into a natural situation with amplified music (blue tooth speaker on a ride, car stereo at a camp spot, what have you) is a whole ‘nother conversation. I don’t like it, I don’t agree with it, and breaking it all down to brass tacks, leads me to believe that they are the sort of people who are wholly uncomfortable with their own thoughts. Personally, I believe that silence drowns out my mania. Someone else forcing their music on me only makes my internal voices speak louder.

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