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Thursday, March 27, 2003

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  • Jerry Katz
    Issue #1384 - Thursday, March 27, 2003 - Editor: Jerry Greg No Hands http://www.oldskooltrack.com/ No Brakes -- or, Zen on Wheels Greg Goode, Ph.D. A track
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 28, 2003
      Issue #1384 - Thursday, March 27, 2003 - Editor: Jerry
      Greg No Hands



      No Brakes -- or,
      Zen on Wheels

      Greg Goode, Ph.D.

      A track bike, no brakes, riding on the street -- you're one with everything.
      --Paul Allemby, Graphic Artist

      It doesn't coast. That's the thing about it.
      --Kent Peterson, from Sheldon Brown's "Fixed Gear Testimonial" web page

      No brakes? You'll kill yourself!
      --Concerned bystander, 5th Avenue, Manhattan

      What does cycling has to do with nonduality? Is this something about unicycles?

      No it's not, even though unicycles have only one wheel. And it's true that nonduality has to do with everything. So just what is nondual about bicycling? The track bike!

      The "track bike" or "fixed-gear bike" is famous among bicycle aficionados for giving its rider a serene, concentrated feeling of unbroken connectedness with everything. When people imagine that nonduality is like a certain feeling, this is the kind of feeling they imagine :-) . It's like being in "The Zone" all the time.

      What They Are

      What's so special about a track bike? Bicycle messengers in large cities like them for being simple and ultra low-maintenance. Kevin Bacon rode one all over San Francisco in the movie "Quicksilver." They are used in Olympic velodrome events and the exciting Japanese "keirin" racing, which involves mild jostling and the country's wildest betting. In the early 1900's, track biking was the most popular sport in the U.S.

      What really makes these bikes special however, is that they have a direct-drive system. The single rear sprocket is fixed to the back axle and doesn't spin freely. This means that the pedals never coast. Whenever the wheels are moving, the pedals are moving, whether forwards or backwards. It is a fixed-gear system with no slippage and no coasting. The the chain is connected to the large chainring on the front and the small cog on the back. The small cog is fixed to the bicycle's back wheel. Track bikes are also special because they are minimalistic. Originally designed for velodrome racing on glassy smooth banked oval tracks, these bikes are very very light -- they've got no cables or levers or shifters. No extra apparatus at all. Track bikes look like sleek racing bikes, with very thin tires and curvy "drop"-style handlebars. And there are no brakes and no derailleurs! The acceleration, speed, deceleration and stopping are all managed by controlling the spin of th e pedals. Experienced racers can pedal at the rate of 3 or 4 revolutions per second. (Click here for a track bike photo from Harris Cyclery.)

      My Quest

      I first saw a track bike in a 1990 bicycle guide. There was a photo and a very poetic description of how this kind of cycling can improve one's pedalling technique. I loved the slim, taught lines of the bike. I was intrigued by the reviewer's cautious tones, warning that "suicidal New York bike messengers" like to ride these bikes with no brakes in the street. I was hooked! I lived in upstate New York in the city of Rochester, and none of the local bike shops knew about track bikes. So I drove 10 hours to New York and asked a lot of questions.

      Some bike shops didn't even like to talk about them, as they were illegal to ride in the city without brakes. It was one of those things where they'll give you information if it sounds like you know what you're talking about. And certainly I didn't! But I kept on looking and asking, going through the Manhattan yellow pages for bike shops. Finally I found a nice shop in Greenwich Village that took kindly to my earnest questions. So I bought the bike on the spot, including the front brake they suggested. They even had a salesman who was able to give me a few pointers on how to stop without the brake! I took it back to Rochester, to practice in the safe streets of suburbia. And whenever I visited Manhattan, I'd quiz anyone I'd see riding a fixed gear bike. Mostly the questions were, "How do you stop it?" It turned out there are lots of ways to stop, including several emergency measures you can take if the chain breaks. (The chain is your accelerator and your brake.)

      Greg's Marinoni:

      Mystical Experiences and Sensei

      It turns out that Jamaicans are the ones who brought the popularity of fixed-gear cycling to New York. They ride these bikes in Jamaica growing up. Coming to NYC, they ended up teaching lots of New York cyclists. Over the years going to every bike shop in the city, I've found a great bike shop owned and operated by Jamaicans -- Larry and Jeff's Bicycles Plus. With an owner who has an affection for track bikes, and mechanics who include former Jamaican national track champions and Olympic competitors, they really know this kind of bicycle, and effortlessly keep my bikes in tip-top shape.

      I remember how I came to take the front caliper brake off after a year of practice. It was almost a mystical experience. For about 3-4 months, I had been using the brake less and less, almost not at all. Then one day I had a deep insight, an out-of-body experience like a flowering realization -- I was watching myself riding and feeling how it was to negotiate on the bike without the brake. It culminated in a very natural and positive feeling of, "I can do this!" So I took it off, and never rode a track bike with a brake since. And the totally connected oceanic riding experience is there, every time. Since 1991, I've purchased and designed several custom tracks of different styles. I was fortunate to hook up with a group of old-time track riders at Central Park, one of whom became like a sensei to myself and some of the other newcomers. He taught us track techniques that even the messengers and bike mechanics didn't know, and took us on trips via little-known routes out side Manhattan. Today I ride my track bikes everywhere, including up and down steep hills, in NYC rush hour traffic, over the 59th Street Bridge to Queens, over the George Washington Bridge to New Jersey, and even on the streets of London, where the traffic goes the "other" way!

      Greg's Chester:

      My First Teacher

      Actually, it was track bikes that turned me towards non-dualism! One day in 1992 I was riding my track in Central Park. I was a church-going born-again Christian at the time. As I rode the bike, I approached another guy who happened also to be riding a track. I slowed down a bit and we nodded, commenting sagely on each other's bikes (it's a guy thing). We rode a few laps around the park together. It turned out that he was also interested in philosophy, but not the academic kind I'd gone to grad school for. Rather, he liked the perennial philosophy. He was interested in Rudolf Steiner, Anthroposophy and Theosophy. He spoke of the astral body, Jupiter spirits, and God being within us. I'd never heard of any of this! It all sounded vaguely New Age-ish to me, but I wasn't sure, having been enclosed in a Christian cultural bubble throughout the 1980's. I was fascinated however, so I sought out the Steiner book he recommended. That book and that bike rider opened up huge vistas for me through both Western and Eastern spiritual paths. The rider and I became wonderful friends, he being a great teacher to me. His name is Paul Allemby, and his quote is at the top of this article.

      What Others Say

      The quotes are true! In fact, here are some more comments and testimonials, from other aficionados of fixed-gear track cycling:

      Riding a track bike is a totally Zen-like experience. You are in total contact with the bike, the road, and everything around you. A track bike is cycling stripped down to its barest essentials.
      --Brian Dorfmann, Programmer at a large Manhattan law firm

      A "fixed" is the best kind of bike. You're always pedalling so your concentration is, like, really there.
      --Doug, track cyclist, habitue of Central Park

      I have so much fun riding the track bike that it is frustrating that I can't convince riders to spend more time on a fixed gear. The fixed gear builds a wonderful sense of oneness with the bike that can't be duplicated with a freewheel bike. I am absolutely convinced that the fixed gear is better than a freewheel, not only in developing and maintaining the pedal stroke, but also in developing strength and power.
      --Steve Cox

      Fixed-gear is a totally new dimension in riding. I really feel like I'm part of the bike.
      --Patrick Murphy

      It's probably all in my head, but it does seem that I'm more aware of the pedals moving in circles, and to what extent my legs are with them.
      --Dennis Cotcamp

      This is riding. This is a bicycle that teaches me something every time I ride it, that makes me more by virtue of it's being less. It's the bike I ride until the street lights come on and sometimes even longer. It's the bike I put away sadly and take out joyfully. It's the bike that never forgets why we ride.
      --Kent Peterson


      Incense Making 101. The Basics. Part One.
      by Mother's Hearth
      from  Incense_Exchange
      Here is a photo taken on the road between Lhasa and Xigatse......it's an incense making operation using a
      mountain stream. At this place they make cedar 'bricks' to go into incense. Photo by Dianne Boons (Dgboons@...)
      So, want to try your hand at incense making?  I understand, as I love making
      incense.  It is truly art.  As a result, it is both very simple and very
      complex at the same time.  The physical process of creating incense,
      especially basic incense, is not that difficult.  If you have a good recipe,
      your incense should burn when it's dry.  But making incense is much more
      than that.

      Some people, including some on this list, think that the best way to become
      an incense maker is to examine and study one ingredient at a time.  They
      believe that studying the various scents and how they interact is a key step
      in the learning process.  Simply jumping in and rolling incense without
      sufficient background study just isn't proper and will not yield the best
      results.  Know what?  They're right.  Getting to know the individual
      components of incense is a lifelong process and very important to becoming a
      great incense maker.

      But some of us might lack the depth of interest, time, patience and devotion
      to study required - especially when first starting.  Many people want to
      make incense as a craft or a hobby.  Other's are more interested in creating
      combustible forms of loose incense that they are burning now.  Some just
      want to add to their overall base of knowledge.  As a result, I'm going to
      do these messages in a form that some here will consider backwards.  I
      apologize for that, but experience shows me that this is what people are
      most interested in.  It's a more journalistic approach than a literary one.
      We'll start with the punch line and then work our way back to where we
      should have started.

      I'm not going to offer any philosophy with these first messages (egads -
      heresy!) just the basics of becoming a home incense maker.  This is my own
      approach to incense making and other approaches are equally valid, but this
      works for me.

      Blah, blah, blah.  Let's make incense!

      Incense is made up of three dry components: aromatic, base and binder.  The
      aromatic is the part you want to smell.  The base is used to assist in
      burning and to "mellow" the scent of strong aromatics (although most bases
      are also aromatic).  The binder is the "glue" that holds it all together.
      There is also a liquid component, usually water, that you have to add to
      activate the binder, but then you have to wait until it's all evaporated to
      burn your incense.

      As you might have seen in recent messages on the list, the simplest way to
      roll incense is to make sandalwood incense and add essential oils to the
      mix.  I suggest using sandalwood because it's such a wonderful aromatic in
      its own right and an excellent base as well.  You can use other powdered
      woods as long as they don't smell bad when burned (red cedar and pine are
      good, inexpensive choices).

      For a binder, I recommend guar gum, gum tragacanth or makko/tabu.  Many
      books recommend using gum arabic, but it's not a good binder.  It's very
      sticky (so it sticks to your hands and tools) and not very strong, not to
      mention that it's no easier to locate than any other binder.  On the topic
      of incense books, many recommend using saltpeter (or saltpetre a.k.a.
      potassium nitrate) - avoid it.  A recipe that won't burn without saltpeter
      is not worthwhile.  Reformulate it.  I will talk more about these substances
      in later messages.

      If you use one of the gum binders, try this recipe:
      Carefully mix:
      1 tablespoon sandalwood powder
      1/8 teaspoon guar gum or tragacanth gum
      in a bowl.  Mix completely.

      If you want to use makko/tabu as a binder, try a mixture of 2 teaspoons
      sandalwood and one teaspoon makko.

      Gradually add 2 teaspoons of water.  Use the least amount of water possible
      to completely moisten the mix.

      Stir the mix and put on some latex (or similar) gloves.  Press the mix
      together and it should stay in one lump.

      Pick up your incense "dough" and begin to knead it.  When you begin, the
      dough might have bits that don't stick or drop out of your hands.  Knead the
      dough over the mixing bowl and add any bits that drop off back into the

      Knead the dough for several minutes.  It will become a uniform color and

      Finally, you need to roll your incense.  If you'd like to make cones, take
      about 1/4 teaspoon of your dough and form a rough, four-sided pyramid
      between your fingers.  Make sure it is tall and thin, not short and fat.  If
      you'd like, you can dry it in that shape, but for better results, lay the
      rough cone in the palm of one of your hands.  With the index finger of the
      other hand, press down on the cone with the tip of your finger over the tip
      of the cone (the cone is now hidden by your finger).  Press down lightly on
      the cone and roll it back and forth in the palm of your hand.  Keep more
      pressure on the tip area and less along the length to keep the tapered
      shape.  This will make your cone smoother, thinner and taller.  The base of
      your cone should be no thicker than an unsharpened pencil.

      If you want to make stick incense there are several approaches.  You can use
      an extruder (the topic of a future message) if you have one.  You can
      actually roll nice, thin Japanese-style incense sticks by simply rolling out
      a "rope" of dough.  It's just like playing with clay when you were a kid!
      Finally, and this is the easiest approach for new incense makers, you can
      use a dowel rod like a rolling pin to roll the dough out flat.  You can then
      use a knife or razor blade to slice the dough into thin sticks.  They'll be
      square instead of round, but that won't have a significant impact on their
      burning properties.

      Here comes the hard part - drying.  Don't try to hasten drying times.  I've
      tried it all and every approach can damage your incense.  Don't destroy all
      the time and materials you've used by trying to hasten the drying.  In fact,
      the slower the better as long as it does not mold.  Fast drying can lead to
      serious distortions and even cracking.  Cracks often cause cones to stop

      For cones, set the wet cone down on a drying board as if you were going to
      burn it.  Allow it to sit in that position over night and then lay it on its
      side and allow to dry for two more days.  If you light a cone and it goes
      out before it burns completely, allow the other cones to dry for another

      Sticks will distort as they dry.  The faster you dry them, the more they
      will distort.  To greatly reduce the warping, try this little tip.  Put your
      sticks on a drying board and then slide the board into a plastic bag.  Don't
      let the bag touch your incense.  Keep the bag closed for 24 hours and then
      open the end for 24 hours.  Remove the sticks and, if they are still
      flexible, dry for another day outside the bag.

      That was pretty simple, wasn't it?  If you want to experiment with oils, you
      can add them directly to your dough once you've kneaded it for several
      minutes.  You can add a drop or two to a single cones, or add more to scent
      the entire batch of dough. Personally, I rarely use oils in my incense, but
      you certainly can.  Lots of people have a large store of oils and want to
      experiment with them in incense.  I say trust your education and experiment
      with them if you wish.

      I hope that showed you the light on the ease of incense making.  In the next
      message, I'll talk about using aromatics and how to prepare incense
      ingredients.  I'm sure there are some questions, so please fire away.

      The Basic Premise of Sorcery

         I personally detest the darkness and morbidity of the mind.  I
      like the immensity of thought.  However, regardless of my likes and
      dislikes, I have to give due credit to the sorcerers of antiquity,
      for they were the first to find out and do everything we know and do
      today.  Don Juan explained that their most important attainment was
      to perceive the energetic essence of things.  This insight was of
      such importance that it was turned into the basic premise of sorcery.

      Sorcerers of Antiquity
      An Introduction
      Carlos Castaneda

      About the Now
      The now has been popularized by Eckhart Tolle.
      I haven't read his book, The Power of Now, but
      I am sure that to be such a runaway best
      seller, it is worth reading. I would like to
      raise a question....has the now been
      populated...can it be...should it be? We have
      all driven through sleepy little towns with
      signs reading, "Population five hundred." The
      now is rather weird in that respect. It is made
      up of no one and everyone. The sign would read,
      "You are entering the Now, population no one
      and everyone. Come back soon."
      It's fun to speculate. Is there a Now P.D. ? Do
      Now's finest drive motorcyles and ticket
      passengers who are illegally parked. Obviously
      not. Is there a Now Cafe where people hang out
      talking about the whether? I wonder if people
      have sex in Now, have babies in Now. Is there a
      Now 500....a Now Steeplechase?
      Whenever I have found myself in Now, it seems
      as if everything is proceeding exactly as it
      should. No crimes are being committed....there
      are no streakers, no soap box preachers, no
      baseball bleachers....no classroom
      teachers....just me experiencing the moment.
      There is something very mysterious about the
      town of Now. You can be there on the Now Square
      enjoying the feel of sunlight on your face and
      boom! all of a sudden you find yourself in the
      town of Then. In Then it's overgrown with weeds
      and you are apt to get poison ivy before you
      know it. You find yourself scratching the itch
      of memories, both good and bad.
      Once when I was in Now I decided to take a
      stroll to the local cemetary. All of the grave
      markers read the same way: Never born, never
      died. This begged the question, "Why do they
      have a cemetary in the first place, if no one
      has ever born or will ever die in Now?' I guess
      it's for the bodies...
      Some people come to Now for a long weekend. The
      locals call them No-hows. They come to Now but
      don't know how to stay. Sometimes people rent
      them room over their garages, only to find the
      space mysteriously empty most of the time. They
      have returned to Then as quickly as they could.
      I am not quite prepared to live in Now myself.
      I like the mountain ranges and the clear blue
      sky. The annual rainfall is perfect and the
      temperature is always seventy degrees.
      Sometimes celebrities purchase elegant pads in
      Now. They venture out onto the streets wearing
      Wayfarers and driving little Vespas. Sadly, I
      heard it said that Celine Dion wants to move
      into the Now as soon as she finishes her
      three-year stint in Vegas. I am not at all sure
      that Now recognizes celebrity, though. Perhaps
      she would be happier in Then.
      Well, that's about all I can think of to say
      about living in Now. It's more of an
      experience, anyway. The next time I go to Now,
      I'll try and send you a postcard. And if you
      get there before I do, enjoy.


      Selection from

      Self Enquiry

      Of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi


      D: What are the characteristics of the jivan-mukta (the liberated in life) and the videha-mukta (the liberated at death)?

      M: 'I am not the body; I am Brahman which is manifest as the Self. In me who am the plenary Reality*, the world consisting of bodies etc., are mere appearance, like the blue of the sky'. He who has realized the truth thus is a jivan-mukta. Yet so long as his mind has not been resolved, there may arise some misery for him because of relation to objects on account of prarabdha (karma which has begun to fructify and whose result is the present body), and as the movement of mind has not ceased there will not be also the experience of bliss. The experience of Self is possible only for the mind that has become subtle and unmoving as a result of prolonged meditation. He who is thus endowed with a mind that has become subtle, and who has the experience of the Self is called a jivan-mukta. It is the state of jivan-mukti that is referred to as the attributeless Brahman and as the Turiya. When even the subtle mind gets resolved, and experience of self ceases, and when one is immersed in the ocean of bliss and has become one with it without any differentiated existence, one is called a videha-mukta. It is the state of videha-mukti that is referred to as the transcendent attributeless Brahman and as the transcendent Turiya. This is the final goal. Because of the grades in misery and happiness, the released ones, the jivan-muktas and videha-muktas, may be spoken of as belonging to four categories - Brahmavid, - vara--variyan, and varishtha. But these distinctions are from the standpoint of the others who look at them; in reality, however, there are no distinctions in release gained through jnana.

      * If there is prolonged meditation that the worlds are an appearance in me who am the plenary Reality, where can ignorance stand?

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