Yesterday I made it from the Westside to downtown L.A. half an hour early. In rush hour traffic, the bike is faster than the bus. Faster than driving, too, in a lot of situations.

Not to mention an early morning cruise along the beach, then zipping past quiet homes with lush trees and interesting gardens.

It's good to challenge yourself. It's good to have these happy reminders of why we do it.

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One of the best parts of biking in the rain is the looks you get, and the conversations it inspires. When you're biking in foul weather, especially in a place like LA where foul weather is rare, people take notice. It gives you a chance to change their minds.

riding a bike in the rain

While you're out there pedaling through Valhalla, breathing free air and attacking the most menacing hills, the mortal masses are growing dull and weak behind electronic screens. Entire generations are hyperinsulated from the real world, and we're paying the price:

Last year's economic meltdown was caused by a potent mix of greed and laziness, the mindset that easy money should be a given, the bovine mentality that comfort is the norm and serious effort is unnecessary.

The purely physical aspects of life have become so easy for most of us that it's easy to get lost in this mindset, easy to lose touch with reality, almost impossible to do anything as our resources and freedoms slip away.

At the same time, the few people who stay active and engaged with the world are beating the trend and thriving. The courageous heroes who squarely face the challenges that life throws at them, or who seek out challenges on their own, these are the people who continue to grow and succeed.

If you're a regular bike commuter, I suspect you have a distinct advantage in your social and economic life, in addition to better health. And whenever you ride, you're a beacon to all the wandering souls behind glass panes, a reminder of the independence, resourcefulness, and work ethic that made this country great.

When it's raining cats and dogs, especially in a place like Los Angeles where it rarely rains very hard for very long, the weather separates the heroes from the common folk. If you ride boldly and blatantly where others fear to tread, you're forcing the world to wake up and take notice.

You have a choice to make. We're on the cusp of human evolution, but it's different this time. We're not going to be naturally selected by a meteor or some other environmental catastrophe. We're going to choose our own fate.

So get on your bike, especially when the storms are raging all around you.

You don't realize it, but your bottom bracket holds the future of America, and maybe of all humanity.

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Every time you use your own power, you expand that power. And here you are. We are extraordinary human beings, and we don't do ourselves justice if we stay inside our comfort zones all the time. You can do something extraordinary today. Right now.

It was pouring rain in Los Angeles today, and I was skidding all over the place as I weaved my bike around drivers who aren't used to driving in the rain.

But in this case, the destination was more important than the journey. I was heading for Griffith Park with two goal in mind:

1. To stop procrastinating and begin doing hill sprints--as I had told myself I would do six months ago.

2. To practice taijutsu--another promise I made to myself.

Maybe there was a little bit of the macho thing going on, riding out in the rain to do strenuous exercise and crazy martial arts stuff in the mud. But even if it had been sunny, I would have done it.

We're not in this world to sit like rocks, and slowly erode in the weather. We're here to rise and grow and always seek greater heights.

As the drizzle streamed down my face, I launched myself at the top of the first hill, sprinting full on, trying to get up there as fast as humanly possible. Finding the limits, and pushing beyond them. Flinging past gravity, mud, exhaustion--any obstacle that dares to say, "This is all you are. You can go no further."

Riding a bike is the same battle, in slow motion. Every time you use your own power, you expand that power. And here you are. We are extraordinary human beings, and we don't do ourselves justice if we stay inside our comfort zones all the time. You can do something extraordinary today. Right now.

That's why I ride.

A few weeks ago I started learning Enbukan battojutsu, a school of Japanese sword fighting. After biking to Griffith park to practice, and pondering the connection between biking and martial arts (which I've mentioned before), I wanted to share this with you.

Italy biker Lorenzo Viaggi writes:

"The cyclist should practice his skills and regard them with the same discipline and reverence as the Japanese of old mastered their fighting arts. When you conquer a hill or a great mountain pass, when you complete a long journey, your bicycle becomes a tool of honor, and instrument as sacred as a finely-crafted steel sword."

--Lorenzo Viaggi, La Via della Bici (Which could be translated as "The Way of the Bike")

I'm still at the stage where I can barely draw a wooden sword out of the sheath without hurting my wrist. If I had a real sword I'd be all stitched up by now, probably with a few missing fingers. I tell you this only to point out that my Italian translation skills are somewhat better than my swordsmanship, but any mistakes in Lorenzo's quote are mine.

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Almost everyone knows the benefits of bike riding. But I've been thinking about the similarities between biking and various martial arts.

Both are essentially practical survival skills that benefit your health and physical fitness as a "side effect," (Although for many people this side effect is the main reason to take up the art.)

If you get into it at all, it can become a lifestyle with social, mental, philosophical and spiritual dimensions. The experts incorporate daily rituals that include stretching and breathing, possibly visualization, and eventually dedication to the care and maintenance of your equipment. (For the bike Samurai, your bike is your sword).

Could this evolve into the richness of a martial art? Are there certain qualifications to be considered a master? What do you have to do to become a bike blackbelt? Who are the different, rival schools? (Think Karate vs. Kung Fu, Mountain Bikers vs. Roadies or Commuters vs. Messengers.)

At what point does a "sport" become an art, or a way of life? Are we there yet?

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