Friday, August 31, 2007
Another mythical character has been turning up in the news lately. Remember the professional concert violinist/ bicyclist who was abused by a cop at the Minneapolis airport? Now, bicycling concert violinists rank up there with Hell's Angels and WWII German paratroopers in the hellraising department, but it was still a bit weird when violinist Stephen Orsak was roughed up, tased, treated really badly by a cop at the airport. Orsak claimed this cop told him it was illegal to ride his bicycle on a public road, and Orsak further alleged that when he questioned this dubious assertion in a polite manner, the cop went all Chuck Norris on him. You may have read about this from a link from Racing Union or maybe the WABA board; Mr. Orsak blogged the incident. Cops don't just make up charges against people, right?
Based on the writeups, I was sure Orsak was exaggerating. Good cops, even bad cops, normally don't act that stupidly. Nevertheless, Orsak was charged with six crimes, including the usual run of the mill resisting arrest, assaulting an officer, refusal to obey an order of an officer, etc. As of today, he has beaten five of the six charges, and is still fighting the sixth charge. The name of this mythical law enforcement officer, the Haywood Jablome of the story, was Sgt. David Karsnia.
Ironically enough, Sergeant Karsnia has turned up in the news again - just like Heywood Jablome. It turns out that a man was recently arrested for soliciting sex in a restroom at the Minneapolis airport, and the arresting officer is a real life Haywood Jablome, turning up again at the center of controversy. Yes, it is Sergeant David Karsnia.
Anyhow, the guy Sgt. Karsnia arrested claims he was looking for an open stall in the airport toilet, rattling doors, looking in the cracks to see which one was occupied, hopping around nervously, trying to find an open throne room. Eventually, the man claims, one stall opened up, he trudged in, dragged his bag in with him (wouldn't want airport security taking a 'deserted' bag out on the runway and blowing it up now, would we...), and began to do what nature intended man to do after a big bowl of bran flakes and two cups of coffee at the airport Starbucks. This guy claims that at this point, the mythical Sergeant Karsnia arrested him, for no apparent reason, ginned up a false soliciting sex / indecent and lewd conduct charge, and attempted to destroy his career.
That's what Sergeant Karsnia recorded in his record of the arrest, anyhow. During the interrogation the suspect called him a liar to his face, and argued with him that some of the allegations (like sticking the left hand under the right side of the stall) were impossible from a seated position with a bag crammed in the stall.
Sergeant Karsnia still maintains that the man, Senator Larry Craig (R-Idaho) solicited him for sex in a public restroom in the Minneapolis airport in June. He bases this on a series of things that sound pretty sinister when he recites them, but almost pretty reasonable when the Senator recites them. Maybe things aren't so clear. Knowing the officer's background, I'm becoming very leery.
You want to know the amazing (to me) thing about this? Until I found out that Sergeant Karsnia was involved in both wild incidents, I believed both police reports without serious questioning. I was even talking about this with friends as early as this morning, as late as a half hour ago.
Now? Not so much. In fact, I feel like a complete fool, more complete than usual. If my years as an agent and now as an attorney have taught me anything, it's to not jump to conclusions. Unfortunately, it's a lesson I have to re-learn every so often, much to my disgrace.
Why do I do this? Why does anybody jump to conclusions? I'd like to think that I am like most people, and I'm easily suckered in by things that fit a preconceived narrative, a schema. When I read the Orsak story, I looked at it, thought, "hmmm... artsy type, greeny hippie... bet he pulled some space cadet crap on that cop, and the cop gave him the what-for, for basically violating the unwritten rule, though shalt not screw with The Man.
When I read the Larry Craig story, it fit another schema we're familiar with lately, pervy Republican politician in trouble for being pervy and abusing his position. It sort of reeked of Mark Foley and the couple southern Republican state-level pols recently fired for this kind of misbehavior.
So I was pretty easily suckered, because I wasn't willing to question my own preconceptions. But then I found out the same cop was behind both ridiculous incidents, and now I'm feeling queasy, and not just from the tortellini I ate for lunch. I may be proven right in the end - it may be that Orsak got a little loopy on the cop and needed to be tased; and maybe Sen. Craig screwed up too. But if I'm right, it's kind of irrelevant because I'm right for the wrong reasons. That ain't good. I need to be a little slower on the trigger finger.
I doubt either of them reads this little blog, but if they do, Sen. Craig and Stephen Orsak should take my admission as an apology. Orsak's tale may be true, and Sen. Craig's story, insofar as he is claiming to have been railroaded, may be true as well. What's worse for a politician hit with a false charge of that nature - pleading it out and hoping it goes away, or getting in a protracted court battle? There's no good out, and even if the charge is utterly fraudulent, fighting it only puts it in the public eye.
The upshot is both Orsak and Sen. Craig deserve the benefit of a doubt for now. Me? Not so much. I've been proven wrong, or likely wrong, twice today.
Oh, one other thing. Y'know how a certain kind of moron loves to drive by you when you are out for a ride and holler, "Get off the road you effing queer?" Do you see any kind of a common thread in the Orsak and Craig situations? I'm not saying there is, I'm going to be careful about jumping to conclusions here, but I will tell you that I'm starting to really wonder about that cop.
Have a nice weekend, people. Try not to take anything I say too seriously, at least until I deserve to be taken too seriously.
Okay, enough shilling for other clubs' events. You need some fun in your life. Via BikeSnob NYC, check out this amazing race finishing sequence. Pretty frickin' quick thinking, if you ask me.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Every so often, you have to recalibrate Cycling Peaks. You get a little more or less fit, the schoolmarm wants to test you to see what you're capable of. She wants to know what your anaerobic threshold is. That way, if you've turned into a Sella Italia potato, she isn't making fun of the cycling equivalent of a special needs kid, or for that matter if you've turned into Lance overnight, she isn't letting you skate with too easy of a workout.
So today I was pressed for time, and snuck out of the office at lunch to do a hard 20 minute effort, an all out time trial to measure my threshold. How hard? Almost hard enough to have snot running down my chin. Not quite seeing spots hard, but just a bit short of it. Fat Marc talks about climbing into the pain cave to have a beer... this is crawling under the mountain and letting it drop on your back for 20 minutes, while somebody hits you with a beer bottle. It's not the searing agony of a real bad injury, it's just a steady, big old hurt about 95% of what I'd give it in a race where I was actually competitive and approaching the finish line. I'd give it a six on a one to twenty scale for hurting.
Anyhow, I dove under the mountain pretty good, got to diggin. I cut across D.C., did a few traffic sprints to open up, did an easy spin, pushed a little harder up M Street, then pounced when I passed the boathouses. Grind grind grind up the slope I went, very slight rise out to Fletcher's Boathouse, then a bit more of a slope up the old rail grade, through distant Northwest and up to Bethesda. It hurt plenty. I tried to keep the needle up around 400 watts or so, I was shooting for a 350 average if I could manage it, since my threshold was 310 in June. With the PowerTap, you have to shoot a bit high - little dips seem to have a disproportionate downward pull on the overall average. I know that's just my imagination but if I shoot to keep it at 300, I'll average 290 or 289, that's just how it seems to work.
I passed a few people going up the trail - no big deal except for the funny looks. You don't often see some fat dude in full race gear pulling 22 MPH, breathing hard (eeeeeeh hoooooo eeeeeeeeh hoooooo) chugging up the Cap Crescent like a train.
A couple really big guys passed me, heading down the trail - looked like that 6'5" sort of triathletes. 3 minutes down... 5 down, only 15 left. 7 13, 8 12...
I distinctly remember thinking at this point I would borrow Marc's pain cave for a while, sit in a hammock with a beer and my PowerTap CPU in the other hammock, and ask that little Cyclops 2.4 if it wanted some burned quadriceps, perhaps with a few fava beans and a delightful chianti. Weird thoughts, admittedly, but you do what you have to do to keep the mind occupied.
10 minutes down, halfway. Heartrate just now breaking over threshold. That's either a good thing, or a cue that I need to stop at the cardiac unit in Sidley hospital on the way back down. Now it's starting to get a bit rough.
12:30 down, under 8. You can do 8. Pass a couple on the tandem. Suck the snot off the lips and chin with a deep mouth breath. Can't look bad... Ack, yuck. Spit it right back onto the lips & chin.
Under 6 now... no problem. This is shorter than the big ring drills, slightly lower power and it hurts less than 8 minutes pulling 28 in 53-11. On we go... Pass some guys on mountain bikes.
Stand up for the bridge into Bethesda. Heartrate goes through the roof immediately. Oh well. And it was such a bloody relaxing and delightful ride up to this point...Just three left to go... running out of road, hope I finish soon. Running out of patience for this hurtin'. Hope I finish soon.
Down to two minutes, definitely running out of road. Stand up and pedal for a second, the cramp in my ass and up the side of my leg is brutal, maybe this will help. Down to one minute, way too close to the end of the trail, need to keep it near 20 full minutes... screw it!
Drag the brakes, slow down to 16, push hard against the resistance of the brakes. Keep pushing. 30 seconds, 15, 10, aaah, screw it, out of trail.
19:57, close enough.
Now, easy spin back down the Cap Crescent, then across town to work.
Wonder what my wattage was?
Cough out a couple huge, disturbingly brown and solid chunks of God-knows-what that have been hiding out in my lungs for perhaps many years. Cough a bunch of times, try to get the drool off my chin before those tandem riders I passed earlier come by. Heartrate down to 130 in no time flat, good. Drink some water, slide back to the office... well done, lad. That hurt a lot but you hung in. Good work.
I slow pedaled back to the office, could not get the legs to break about 85 RPM until I was nearly Pennsylvania and 18th. I felt okay - a little high, a tiny bit woozy but alright.
Got back to the office, toweled off, took a couple hits of anti-stank spray, and put the suit back on. Ate a banana and a pear, drank a quart of water, then this enormous nausea set in. I wanted desparately to throw up, but couldn't bring myself to do it. Still a tiny bit nauseous at 8:30 tonight writing this. Oh yeah, that was a good solid effort. It didn't hurt as bad as the one in June did, I'm nauseous but my legs are okay, I'm getting used to digging deep like this, I'll be fine in the morning.
Yeah, that's what racing does to you, it drives you to put a PowerTap on your bike, to try to become a much better racer by reminding you how inadequate you are at one, three, five or ten second intervals, depending on the data sampling rate you pick. It drives you to dig deep enough that you sometimes suffer from lactosis and its side effects for a half day after you work out. It forces you to not only bring a suitcase full of pain, but to maybe also open up a steamer trunk and on some days a U-Haul full of the damn stuff.
But struggle is what makes you remember that you are alive. It is what puts the color into your life, even if the "color" is the green/red bichromatic vision you suffer from when your brain is oxygen starved. I don't remember 90 percent of the details of my day, but you know, I remember damn near every second of the stupid 20 minute effort. The odor from the sewer vent pipe near the boat house is more nauseating than usual, the water I swigged at the end is more sweet, the yellow and orange jerseys on the tandem riders are more colorful because of the minor struggle I threw myself into today.
Not every training day has an epic feel to it. Not every day is a max effort that requires you to dig real deep. But when you race and train halfway seriously, a lot of days are like that.
Tim Krabbe wrote The Rider, a short modern classic about a racer in a long roadrace and the powerful sensations that grip him, the struggles he faces. In it, toward the front, he says something really profound about what the intensity of racing does to your outlook, how racing fills up all the open spaces in your life:
Meyrueis, Lozere, June 26 1977. Hot an overcast. I take my gear out of the car
and put my bike together. Tourists and locals are watching from sidewalk cafes.
Non-racers. The emptiness of those lives shocks me.
Damned if that doesn't sum it up. To them, I'm just a guy on a bike.
But I know what they don't. I know depths and heights, colors, smells and tastes they can't imagine. They don't know their limits, I get pretty close to mine regularly, and touch them every now and again. They wince at a little pain - I take a bucket of it and pour it on my head. They have a couple clear thoughts each day, but as long as my legs are turning, each thought I have is crystalline, especially the thoughts that give purpose to my riding. A lot of days, the work on the bike is a day at the office - a very good day. On the really good days, days where you transcend what you thought your limits are, where you sink deeper but also rise higher - it's like nothing else.
What makes you a racing and training junky is that if you look for those moments in daily life, you get one every so often. You look for moments like that on the bike, where you stretch, you struggle, you do something epic at least as defined by blasting full speed into your own limits and maybe going further - you look for moments like that you can find one a week, if you work at it.
Yep. That was my training ride. But to those casual riders on the trail, the pastry eaters at Dean & DiLuca, the Asian lady in the van that nearly hit me on my way back to the office, I'm just some guy on a bike. A twenty minute power test is a very small thing, a routine many racers go through several times a year. But it forces you to tap your strength, physically and mentally. The suffering gives you a chance to focus, a chance to reflect on what you are doing here, how this is part of your life, how it is your life.
Hmmmph. Non-racers. The emptiness of their lives shocks me.
For Wattage Geeks Only
Avg Power: 314 367
Norm Power: 337 372
FTP: 299 349
So, functional threshold power is up roughly 16% since June. Not bad. Whether or not this pays off in races remains to be seen - and as for this fall that may come back in part to how well the diet works out. Still struggling there, but the needle is moving on that gauge too.
Mentioned in this entry:
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Much to my surprise, it went swimmingly. I have totally lost all form on the barriers, but that is to be expected. On the steep runup, I performed a nice tipover, a move I mastered last year. Good to know I remember how to do that. I also threw my chain twice - no, not my enormous gold rope bling, I'm talking the SRAM 9 speed dealy on the bike. It's a wee bit too long and I may need chain guards as well. But that's the sum total of the bad news.
The good news? I'm unfit compared to actually good racers, but about ten times stronger than I was last year. My handling is much improved - I have grown a lot more comfortable with riding along in slippery grass on off-camber hills, my skinny tires sliding, and I'm learning how to carve lines while skidding a bit. It's like being French* - I find myself totally comfortable in slimy, ambiguous, dangerous situations where I can't get much traction and don't know what I'm doing, yet still find myself reacting hastily, with great arrogance. Also, as I suspected, top end on dry ground and pavement will be my friend this year. The hills - not so much.
Also on the upside, the Vicious Cycle is working pretty well. I need to shorten the chain and look into chainguards. I'm in the midst of ditching the utterly ineffective basic Shimano mini-cantilever brakes in favor the the TRP Eurox cantilever brakes that are in the mail (I'm told...). This totally awesome upgrade will improve my brake power from its current state (positively shitawful) to a nirvana like state of perfection (i.e. pisspoor - cantis suck no matter what). The true cantilevers have the advantage of providing lots of mud/grass/loosespokeuntruedrim clearance - and I generally need the latter. The mini-cantilevers have to be adjusted too close to the rim to really work well, and as soon as the merest 8 pounds of mud and grass gets clogged up in there, the mini-cantis prove uncharacteristically effective at slowing the bike. Oh yeah, and the TRPs are totally blingy, Euro - pro looking things. Not as groovy as Spookys, but pretty close.
but Mucho Blingified Brakey Goodness.
Other than those minor, soon-to-be remedied issues, it was completely nice riding the Surly with gears. At times, I forget how wonderful Crosschecks are. Crosschecks are wonderful bikes, mmmmkay? We will brook no dissent on this point.
In other good news, I bruised up my feet today. That sounds horrible, but it seems to signify:
1) My carbon-soled Shimano road shoes really do the trick - I've gotten used to never being bothered by the pedal platform. My mountain shoes are the touring/dual use walkable type, with really flexy soles and not up to the severe pressure 'cross puts on them (especially not after training with Gros for a year). I swear I could feel the individual rings of steel in the springs in the Shimano 540s I'm running. So my feet muscles are out of shape for handling this kind of strain, but it means my road shoes are working damned good. That's a nice feeling.
2) You realize, this is an excuse to buy some new mountain shoes, right? I'm going to get cheap crappy ones for now, something with a reasonably stiff (not too stiff) sole, and holes for toe spikes. The toe spikes and the sharp-ish rubber cleats on a real pair of mountain shoes will definitely help on the runups. Or if somebody pisses me off, and I have to stomp them and carve my initials into their back, old school rugby-style. (Yeah, right...)
Well, that's all talk-talk. The rubber hits the... um... mixture of road, grassy, rocky, wooden and sandy surfaces in about 4 weeks at Charm City. Until then, I can only sit around and fantasize how nice it will be and how much better I'll do this year then last. Time will tell. Meanwhile, practice, practice, practice, dismount, run hop run run run hop remount practice practice practice.
for Squadra Coppi Tacchino Cross
Finally, other good news... In spite of constantly swimming upstream with no respite, Chris Nystrom has spawned again! Drop by his site and congratulate him for making like Beckham and slipping another one past the goalie.
*If you are French and find this offensive, I apologize. I wouldn't want the French Army storming my rezee-dahntz, I have absolutely no place to put thousands of prisoners, and really don't want a bunch of people stinking up the joint with Gauloises. Seriously, please, I know everybody who is anybody in Frahwntz simply lives to make major fun of stupid fat boorish Americans (with bad bike handling skills). I grew up in the country, drive a pickup truck, own guns and have been known to vote Republican from time to time, and while I can generally spot good wine from bad, I'm not above taking a $50 bottle, ramming the cork down the throat with a pen, then chugging, picking up the cheese and taking a bite out of it, and refusing to live in a spirit of existential gloom. Other than the fact that I don't attend a fundamentalist Christian church, I am everything that the French elite *love* to hate about America. So please, take my modest joke about stereotypical French elitists in the spirit in which it's offered - that is, to fulfil a contractual obligation to my wife, who is English. She makes me make cracks about the French. If it was up to me, I'd spend all my time picking on the Dutch, but it's not, so there. If you've got comebacks, leave 'em in comments.
Monday, August 27, 2007
- Damn, but it was hot on Saturday. Rode a bit over three hours zone 2 with James K, didn't go hard but three hours of steady exertion had us pretty well popped when we finished. Went to a great housewarming party of some cool friends in Falls Church, and stood around sweating *hard* with everybody. The good thing about that is I always sweat at parties, it's nice not to be the only one dripping wet.
- Sometimes, I'm a moron. I did an easy commute today even though it's a rest day, because my legs were tight as hell after Sunday's workout. (Two long form sprints, 5 minutes at 110% of threshold, 4x2 at 125% of threshold, if you must know). Anyhow, it was really hard going, I had a really high perceived exertion just to go dead slow. So I get home, go to take the rear wheel off because I had a slow leak, and discover the left rear brake pad has been rubbing the whole day. It's worn down to a nub, just melted. I wonder how much faster I could have gone, if I'd been riding without the brakes on. The kicker: this is not the first time I've done this. Moron.
- The Flamenco Chuckwagon asks and provides answers for the ultimate question of NooBs, "Am I ready to race?" The answer, of course, is Hells No, Foo! You aren't ready to race. You really can't be anything close to ready until you've done it. Even then, even if you get good, you won't be ready enough. People find their levels eventually in racing, win some lose some, just glad to be here, that's why they play the game, good Lord willing, etc... and they find out that no matter how ready they are, they aren't ready enough. If you want to try racing, I urge you to do so and then stick with it for a while, you'll improve. But don't let fear of the unknown stop you from trying. Racing is all about working without a safety net and you'll find once you've made the leap once or twice, it's not that hard. You get used to it.
- Gwadzilla says he feels fat. No offense meant, G, but I laugh at that. Ride a mile in my XXL bibs. One of your commenters is right - if you feel good on the bike and are riding strong, it doesn't matter too much if the jersey looks too tight. It is enjoyable to crush people who look like they should be very fast...
- I don't know what Scott is up to with the Racing Union Blog, but it's pretty damn funny. And I'd like some of what he's drinking...
- I still hate the pathletes. You know what the worst kind of BikeTrailGuy is? The wheelsucker. He latches on to your wheel, and you can go 12, or you can go 20, but short of doing a VO2max interval, you aren't dropping him. Very frustrating. I don't mind getting wheelsucked all that much, but if I have to stop fast, I have no idea how well the wheelsucker is going to handle the quick stop. So it's not too safe from my perspective. Honorable mention: People who have to stand up and sprint to pass you on the bike trail. I'm thinking about starting to commute on surface streets for a month or two until the pathletes thin out. It's really hard to ride near some of them. I'd rather fight traffic.
- I think we're going to be in for a cold-ash winter. The winds on the Cap Crescent have already changed - in your face in the AM if you're traveling into D.C., into your face on the way home. It should be called the ExGirlfriend Breeze, because it can't make up its mind, but no matter what it chooses to do, it will hurt you. Combine this with last week's rain and cold gray skies, and I feel like Summer has already passed away across the oceans, and Winter is getting ready to bed down with us. Better make sure you buy those Carmichael Training Systems dvds now... that, or some Lake winter boots and some nice winter bib tights. That, and make sure your brakes aren't on - the wind seems milder when you ride without braking the whole way.
- I think I may get cranked up and ride the Bay Country Century out of Owings, MD. ABRT (formerly Snow Valley) always put on a good ride, and the route is nice and scenic and rolling. They have shorter options (metric, half English, quarter) that are pretty as well. It's great terrain, nothing too taxing, nothing too easy, and most of it is on rarely-traveled back roads adjacent to the Chesapeake. They usually have very good refreshments at the rest stops, and the North Beach stop 10 or 15 miles from the end is second only to the Potomac Pedalers Historic Backroads Century as penultimate stops go. The start is about 20 minutes from downtown D.C. - a class event. It's listed on BikeReg and $10 of the $37 entry fee goes to help Save the Bay. See you out there, I hope.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
I take comfort in knowing my fixed Cross-Check is so utterly boring that Bike Snob wouldn't give it a second look.
That got me thinking about my own CrossCheck, why it's different from the powder-coated aero spoked Nishikis with cut rate Japanese pseudo "kierin" components.
My Surly - it's The Vicious Cycle to me - is first of all really solid and functional. I normally ride it fixed, and take advantage of the flip-flop hub to race cross single speed. I decided I'd like to try to be somewhat competitive in overall placing this year so I put on a 9 speed road wheel and cassette, wired up some STI's and inline brake levers, and now I have a nice cyclocross rig. Not the lightest, not the most glam, but a Bean Green Thrashin' Machine that will hold up under my big butt, carry me as fast as my VO2Max is capable of propelling me, and not complain. Better yet, I'll be able to convert it back to fixed once cross season is over, sling on some fenders, and use it for training on the days I'm not doing a wattage-conscious ride. Next spring, it will be happy to be a part-time commuter and carry me to various brew pubs. The setup is modest - Salsa Poco drop bars, Salsa Delgado Cross rims on Surly Basic flip-flop hubs (a Deep Vee now), simple canti brakes (some TRP Eurox brakes off EBay en route, kinda blingy but old school bling, nothing neon), a FiZik Rondine saddle, a Nashbar stem... simple, honest parts, that add up to a bike that performs wonderfully and is a smooth, responsive joy to ride. It does everything - I've done light camping/touring on it, long and short road rides, fixed and single, now geared, commuted and trained on it. I've even seen guys racing Crosschecks in crits, with some success. (Though there are easier ways to go, I will admit). It's just a damn good bike, solid, and does *way* more than it is advertised to do. It is simply wonderful, and it didn't cost much at all.
I look at it, and I think: "That's a quality ride right there."
But what makes a bike "a quality ride"? How the hell do you define quality in bikes and bike products?
Most bike afficionados are like Justice Potter Stewart when he decided First Amendment / Pornography cases on the Supreme Court. He didn't know how to define pornography, but he once famously said, "I know it when I see it." That's bike quality - it's hard to buttonhole, but we all know it when we see it.
I think there are several aspects of "quality" as the term is applied to bikes and gear. It's not just high performance - in fact, while high performance is part of the equation, a lot of the highest performance parts probably don't make the cut. That's because cost, durability, and other factors enter into the equation. It's sort of a floating scale, based on how well a bike does what it is supposed to do.
The top element of bike quality, of course, is performance. A quality bike or component has to get the job done without drama. "It just works" is what you should be able to say about it, without inserting "but," "except," and "most of the time." It also has to be good when you exceed design parameters a little bit. For instance, a Ksyrium SL is a really nice wheel. Not sure I'd put it under my ~250 pound butt, load it up with 50 pounds of camping gear, then hammer it down the bumpy sections of the C&O Canal towpath on a fixie. The Ksyrium is well made, but my Salsa Delgado Cross rims, which eat up abuse without complaint and also roll really, really well, are quality. They do what they should do, and a bit more.
The next element of quality is value. We're not talking high cost, the amount of money you can sink into a product when you buy it. Instead, we're talking about bang for the buck, performance that exceeds the money you pay for it. While a $22,000 bike may be lovely to look at, it probably doesn't have a high ratio of cost-to-performance. In fact, once you get past about $3,000 or $3,500 on a road bike, I suspect you are paying mucho dollars for merely incremental performance improvements. On the other hand, the difference between a $700 bike and a nice $2k Felt or Giant is enormous. Yep, they're both bikes... but other than two wheels and handlebars, sometimes it's hard to believe they are in the same family. The significant differences between a $2500 bike and a $6k bike... well, there's a lot less money in your bank account...
Another aspect of quality is workmanship. Now, workmanship is an idea that functions on a couple sliding scales. There's a workmanship-per-dollar value that is related to function, then there's a workmanship-as-art-per-dollar function that is related to craftsmanship. A hammer is going to be less polished than a Lie-Nielson hand plane, but it can be a quality woodworking tool if it is well balanced and useful. Similarly, you expect a $500 Redline Conquest to be stout like a bull, and it is. For a $500 bike, it is packed with the quality of workmanship. At the same time, a $2000 Waterford is packed with quality, but it has the quality of artisanship to go along with its sturdy nature - polished welds, a paint job that rivals the clear coated hot rod dream cars at auto shows. Both bikes are quality bikes, though they express their high quality quite differently.
The final aspect of quality is an intangible factor, a something you maybe can't articulate, but you just get it. Shimano road SPD pedals are like that - they don't while and creak like Looks, they have a broad platform that is okay for big guys, they are silky smooth especially after they are broken in, and I haven't been able to make a pair fail in spite of some ridiculous power spikes doing sprint workouts... they are just damn good, to the point where you don't need to think about them. Maybe that's how you define that indefinable 'it' - so good, you can take it for granted.
So what is my Quality Top Ten?
10. Pretty much any bike by Surly, but especially the versatile Crosscheck and Karate Monkey. Honorable mention to Surly's range of components - simple hubs, very nice chainrings and cogs, and whisky flasks among other things. All that I've tried have exuded quality, of the well-built, not-terribly-expensive, stout, good-for-many missions type of quality. In a world of bikes that flaunt matchless polish at a high price, many bikes are like Henckel's cutlery. Surly, in contrast, makes my favorite utility knife. Now ask me whether I carry an 8" cold steel chef's knife in my pocket and use it twice a day...
9. Problem Solvers goofy little range of products - travel agents to make vee brakes compatible with linear pull brake levers, valve stem extenders, handlebar and steering stem shims... good stuff, inexpensive, does what it's advertised to do. These are small parts at low prices, that have a big impact on how well your bike works - they do important jobs and have a bang for the buck factor that can only be measured with exponential numbers. That's quality.
8. SRAM Powerlink Chains. Good chains to start with, and easily fixable on the road. Carry an extra Powerlink with you and you can fix a buddy's chain if need be. It's a great design, and in spite of the retrogrouch distrust of any chains that aren't fully pinned together, I've had no problems using them on a fixed gear and when I race single speed. They're a damn good design.
7. Specialized Body Geometry line. The stuff just fits - and if you don't fit one piece of kit, try it in the next size up, down, or sideways from the one in your hand. The saddles are comfortable and similar models come in varying widths and lengths. The clothing comes in various tweaked sizes tailored to real-world bodies. I got a pair of Body Geometry gloves for my birthday and they are lovely, super comfortable. Not terribly expensive, no frills... they just work right and you can find a size that fits perfectly. This attention to fit and to ergonomics, coupled with the quality of the products embodies a hard to finger aspect of quality - gear that does what it should do in such a way, that it disappears, you just don't think about it. Honorable mention: The FiZik Arione. When I broke one last year, FiZik replaced it, no questions asked. Comfortable saddle thanks to the adaptive "wing flex" technology, it disappears when I ride it, it is durable (full disclosure: I'm brutal on gear) and the company stands behind its gear. Quality doesn't mean you can't break it; quality means that you have to be doing something outside the gear's design parameters, or if not, the company backs it up without question. Super bonus points, the new integrated tailbags are a wonderful idea.
6. Castelli and De Marchi cycling clothes. Comfortable like a second skin, priced in the second tier of Italian road gear prices, and they getter better as a long ride goes on. Most riding gear feels okay once you start riding, but it's not great to sit around in. These brands actually feel really good to slid on before a ride, like a set of silk boxers. I guess that's another intangible aspect of quality - a quality product will often pleasantly surprise you, usually in very unexpected ways. Honorable mention: Mattisse&Jack's roll-your-own nutrition bars. Who knew cook-at-home on-bike nutrition could be so damn tasty? Better than Clif bars any day.
5. Hammer nutritionals. You may or may not like the taste a whole lot, but if you are using them as directed, you will not run out of gas on the road. It's that simple. Yep, they are expensive, yep the flavors are sometimes oddballs. But you can always add a drop or two of lemon juice to make them really tasty, and if I was doing RAAM or Furnace Creek or some similar, can't-let-myself-fail endurance event, I know what I'd be drinking and eating. Hammer everything. Honorable mention: Accellerade, PB&J, turkey sandwiches, and sliced tomato, mayo, salt, pepper and lettuce on whole wheat. You need real fuel to power a real big engine.
4. High quality Asian bikes. There's a word for Colnagos... "Giant." A number of Asian manufacturers in the bike market consistently bring in very good bikes at one or two price points lower than their quality warrants, and it's common knowledge that the carbon fiber manufacturing plant that Giant stood up is bike industry state-of-the-art. At times, they have made up to 50% of the carbon fiber bikes in the world, which are then re-badged and re-sold under other people's names. In Colnago's case, many mid-range carbon models are made by Giant - mid-range for Colnago running about as expensive as most people's notions of high end. I have first had experience with Giants, and know a lot of people who swear by Fujis, and lower priced sourced-in-Taiwan bikes like Kogswell and IRO. They must be doing something right - a fair number of midrange Colnagos are rebadged Giants. Yep, old world craftsmanship is nice, but when you want to max out the modestly-priced bang-for-the-buck factor, the Far East is rocking these days. Yep, it would be great to only buy American, but in the real world, the choice would be between riding gear made in Taiwan or Japan, or riding nothing at all. I'd rather ride, even if Jimmy Hoffa's corpse rolls over every time I slip on the bibs. Ps - most Surly gear is made in Taiwan.
3. The killer B's - Bellwether, Blackburn, and Bell. Now, I know they make some crap low end stuff, but their midrange and upper range gear is truly excellent in terms of performance, and generally modest with respect to price. I have a set of Bellwether shorts that cost about $40, they are very comfortable, they have a good chamois (perfect for me, simple, not too thick) and some very durable, very smooth lycra. Nice shorts, low price, they just do the job right - quality. I have a set of Blackburn x-6 lights. Again, modest price, coupled with performance that you normally need twice as much money to obtain. They have been really durable, easy to use, and highly effective. And Bell just makes tons of good stuff, usually selling it at modest prices. Unlike racers, most people who ride just want to ride, and being able to buy decent, workable, reliable stuff without breaking the bank is very important to them. They can't ride without modestly priced gear, because they don't organize their whole lives around cycling. The killer B's make sure these folks ride rather than not riding. What's cooler is that they stand behind their products in interesting ways. For example, you bust up a Bell helmet in a crash, they want to see it and if you send it in, they will give you a discount on a new one, even though they didn't have anything to do with busting it in the first place. That's pretty cool. The killer B's highlight another aspect of quality- quality gear doesn't have to be painted in lime green neon colors to be good. Quality bikes and gear usually aren't the flashiest stuff around. Compare Assos' high end ~$300 bibs, with Pearl Izumi's insane ~$600 bibs featuring integrated I-Pod controls. Sorry, I'd rather have the comfortable, well built Assos stuff for the money and buy twice as much, than have the flashy Pearl's with the needless bling. Quality is usually quiet, and in the case of the killer B's, it's vewy, vewy quiet.
2. Velocity rims. Inexpensive, stout as hell, and good performance. When I first got back on the bike, I was rather rotund. Yes, even rotunder than I am now, quite a bit in fact. This played hell with my wheels, especially the rear, which would last around 30 minutes before going so far off true that it could run for high political office. Jon S hooked me up with a Deep Vee that I haven't trued in a year. Yes, a year. I recently took it off the rain bike and put it on the Crosscheck. It seems to be ready to deal with the strains of 'cross season. Meanwhile, my "A" bike has a Deep Vee Powertap wheel, and a set of Velocity Fusions, arranged around Ultegra hubs. Velocity rims highlight another aspect of quality. A quality part may be so focused on doing the job at hand, that irrelevant aspects of the part suffer. Surlys have ugly / goofy paint. I recall reading on the Surly Blog that the bikes wind up one color or another, often, "because that's what we had on hand." Velocity rims, for example, often show up a bit out of round. It takes some mad skillz to true them vertically and horizontally until they are perfect or near perfect. Know what? It doesn't matter. I suspect that Velocity took a look at how the rims come off the line, asked whether the defects and imperfections would hurt the wheel's functions, decided they wouldn't, and shipped the wheels to market. A quality bike or part may do more than just getting the job done, but if it's also a bang-for-the-buck champ, irrelevant aspects may be ignored in favor of boosting performance.
1. Shimano Ultegra. This queen of the gruppos performs just as well, in my experience, as Dura Ace. It is a little bit heavier, but it costs half of what DA costs - and bang for the buck matters. Big sprinter Art tells me that the chainrings and cranks are actually more solid than Dura Ace - he had the same chain-throwing big ring bending problem that I had with my Race Face and Truvativ cranks, but his problem was with the ultra light Dura Ace crankset. He switched to Ultegra, and the problem was solved. My problems were solved by the Ultegra cranks as well. They are stout under really hard use, and stout means quality. Then there's the shifting. I don't notice any difference at all between the Ultegra and Dura Ace. None. I'm told you can rebuild the DA STI shifters. That's interesting, and some day when I start riding in a manner where my STIs wear out before they break in crashes, that may matter. Right now it doesn't. Then you have the Ultegra hubs, which are smooth rolling. PowerTap wheels are built around Ultegra hubs. When you're buying a $900(or more) wheel, and the manufacturer ( who really is tired of all the warranty claims) picks Ultegra, that should tell you something. Ultegras embody the final aspect of a quality bike or part. When you have it, you really don't consider upgrading, and if you do consider upgrading, you have a tough time justifying it because you know damn well what you have in hand does the job just fine and then some. Show of hands - who out there riding Ultegra thinks they need to upgrade to Dura Ace for performance reasons?
Yeah, didn't think so.
So what bikes or bike bits do you have that you would define as possessing "quality"??
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
I was very happy in my pain cave, and in fact had set up a hammock and was enjoying a cold beer in there.Start from the start of the tale, why don't you.
I've been getting my gear together, buying a few tires, and I even put gears on the Surly. Yeah, my outsize ego got the best of me and rather than "being the best rider I can be," Stuart Smalley-style, I decided I'd rather "place as well as my legs will carry me." I took the single speed rear off the Crosscheck, and rigged it with a single chainring (44t) 9 speed setup. I may run single speed if any of the events are truly muddy, but for now I'm looking forward to having major top end advantages over how I rode last year. I don't have many advantages over skinny dudes, but I can lay down major wattage and some good top end speed, an advantage that is totally nullified when I'm turning a 2:1 ratio gear.
Yep, I'm packed and racked, the only thing I'm missing is practice. It's just tough to fit practice into my schedule. Squadra Coppi has a practice or two each week (feel free to join in, if you're so inclined), one at Bluemont Regional Park at 6:30 - 7:00 AM, and the other out at Lake Reston one or two evenings. But I live near Annapolis! Those are hard to make.
So instead of being tied to those practices, I decided to roll my own. There are a few cross riders out this way, and maybe they'd be interested in charting out a little course in Crofton Park or over at the Davidsonville Dog Park (Bell Branch) - we'll see. The key is having the right terrain, and a good set of barriers. I think I've at least got the barriers now.
They aren't hard to make, and only cost about $15 for a set of two. Here's what you need for each barrier (all pipe dimensions are 3/4" PVC pipe):
2x ten foot lengths of pipe
6x 90 degree elbow fittings
2x "T" junctions
Cut the pipe as follows:
2x 16" (this gives you a barrier about 1" higher than UCI standards - train high, feel like you're racing low...)
Here's what it looks like when everything is cut and laid out:
Now for the easy assembly. Couple the 24" sections together, and put a 90 degree fitting on each end of the assembled 48" length.
Now take the T junctions. Put the 8" pieces into the sides of the T junction, then put a 16" piece into the perpendicular part of the fitting.
Now start snapping the segments together in obvious fashion.
Pretty cool, huh? The best part is that nothing is longer than about 25". That means you can cram two barriers into a small backpack, and haul them out to the local park to practice your dismounts. No need to commute to find some cyclocross training - just grab your bag and find a local park with some workable terrain.
Monday, August 20, 2007
34 seconds off my TT at the Sept. 16 District TT Championships.
but mainly snake bite. I may need to go tubeless.
This is Bob, the guy who motorpaces me in training. Not only is he the first guy wide enough to actually give me a good draft, he's the first guy who is able to slow the scooter down enough on the hills to avoid outrunning me. I wonder how he does it.
Okay, fine, it's a groundhog. It's still embarassing when people find out your grandma keeps rodents as pets.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
Let's see... he'd lead a couple long breaks in the TdF, win his second consecutive Tour of Germany, be an outspoken anti-doping advocate, share his own blood test records with the German media, and be immensely popular and well respected.
Of course that doesn't help me fix the clutch on my truck, find a white exterior latex paint for the fascia board on the front bay window of my house, or tell me how much of this friggin' basil I'm supposed to put in the damn puttanesca, but it's a useful exercise anyhow. And I'm not the only one who thinks this way.
Besides, Jens Voigt doesn't need to find white paint for his house... He merely fixes his steely gaze on it, and it turns white with fear.
Saturday, August 18, 2007
But I'm selling a kid's bike trailer and a tricycle today on Craigslist, and I saw some mighty fishy ads. I thought it would be interesting to try to figure out what was stolen, and if an item looked stolen, what the ad should say, if there was some pre-cog / full disclosure law in place. Let's start with this ad:
2 adult bikes and a 2-bike Thule bike rack - $130
I have two MTN TEK bikes plus a Thule bike rack and lock that I am selling. Both bikes are in good condition besides one of them missing a front tire due to it getting stolen two days ago. The bikes are estimated to be about 7 years old and the bike rack is 1 to 2 years old in perfect condition.
I can also sell these items separately:
2-bike Thule hitch(2 inch) bike rack = $30
whole bike = $75
bike with missing front tire = $25.
Please email me if you are interested ... located in the King Farm area of Rockville. Cash only please.
Hmmm. Interesting ad. It's a little weird, because in one photo the whole bike rack is removed from the car, with the bikes on it. That's odd... who takes the whole rack off their car? Then in another photo, they show the rack with what looks like a bike lock, but it may not be.
Odd bikes too... MTN TEK? Here's what a rider/reviewer at MTBR.com says:
Wow, pretty scathing. I'm guessing MTN TEK bikes aren't exactly high end. So what are these two bikes doing on a Thule rack? I've never seen *anybody,* other than a severe bike degenerate, carry bikes on a Thule rack. That rack is worth probably more than the two bikes are, possibly by an order of magnitude.
FavoriteTrail: the parts that fell of this bike
Duration Product Used: 6 months
Price Paid: $35
Purchased At: pawn
Strengths: I don't want to lead anyone on. there are no upsides to owning this spectacularly underwhelming velo-pile. I hesitate to even call it a bicycle.
Weaknesses: I could go on for pages. The low end parts fall from the frame quicker than leaves on a tree in an October windstorm. Rust develops on the frame and components, even though neither have ever been subjected to any type of moisture. Under the spotty bright paint, I belive the actual frame tubing to be made of electrical conduit. The frame flexes so badly with each gentle srtoke of the pedals, that it shifts from high gear back to low and back again. I would have to compare the handling to a drunken rhinoceris on a wet clay riverbank. Not good by any stretch of anyones imagination.
Similar Products Tried: illeagal mushrooms, spray paint in a plastic baggie, peyote. with this flexy frame, it bends your mind too.
Bike Setup: bike frame, components neatly stuffed into Hefty brand trash bag.
Bottom Line: Why not just throw yourself of a nice tall bridge and get it over with. This bike will induce not only rather viscious sneers from your riding buddies and complete strangers, but vomit too. I did like the Hefty brand garbage bag that I put it in though. That's one tough bag. Every one who buys any MTN-TEK bicycle should get one.
Then there are some funny things in the ad. Well, I'll just do an edit, full-disclosure style, with my edits in red. That'll explain what I think is incongruous about the text.
2 adult bikes and a 2-bike Thule bike rack - $130
I have two MTN TEK bikes plus a Thule bike rack and lock that I am selling. Both bikes are in good condition other than the fact they are crap department store bikes to begin with, and besides one of them missing a front tire due to it getting stolen two days ago by me. Well, it wasn't stolen by me, the front wheel was locked to a Chevy Yukon, and that's where it stayed. I just took the rest of the bike. Feh, if you're dumb enough to think I'm legit, that probably didn't occur to you, did it? Moron. The bikes are estimated to be about 7 years old (unfortunately I only have an estimate of their model year because I didn't exactly buy these, know what I mean?) and the bike rack is 1 to 2 years old in perfect condition and it's being included in this sale because I can't move the thing together with the Trek Madone I stole the other week, because somebody might figure out that something was up.
I can also sell these items separately:
2-bike Thule hitch(2 inch) bike rack = $30 (which I would know is worth probably $100 used, had I bought the thing to begin with)
whole bike = $75 (Or at least as whole as an MTN TEK bike can get)
bike with missing front tire = $25.
Please email me if you are interested ... located in the King Farm area of Rockville. Cash only please. (It's harder to convict somebody of fraud if there's no trail of checks, y'know? No, of course you don't. You're the moron who is about to pay me cash.)
Okay, fine, that sale may be legit. But there is an awful lot of silly stuff going on there, that would just get my nose hairs up a trifle. It's not blatant, it's just a Star Trek problem - somebody is out of phase, and everybody suspects a problem but can't really prove anything. I would be really, really careful. [Ed] - (Unless it was cheap Dura Ace parts... I'd be all over that, no questions asked. Cash? Fine. Cigarettes? Cool. *Of course* I believe that you're only selling it because somebody took your SRAM Powerlink, and that caused you to quit riding forever and part out your bike. What's that? You have this set of cranks and a goofy bottom bracket that say "SRM Power" and a bike computer you'd part with for $50 cash? Sure, I'll be happy to take it off your hands. Anything to help out...)
Thursday, August 16, 2007
If he doesn't, he probably should.
Okay, fine, he might drive a half-primer El Camino instead. Take a good look. It just fits.
My Name is
Hey, you think the Caisse d'Epargne team bus is actually double wide? I'm just sayin...
And rockin' a wicked mullet...
Now just try telling me this guy couldn't drive for NASCAR...
Tegaderm and Amgen. The number 8 Pinarello
was runnin' reeeeaaall goood out there today..."
Screw it. I like this guy. I'm adding him to the news crawl. All Vladi, All the Time! Cuz that's how we roll.
Unholy Rouleur Blastmaster 5000 Project
C/o Mr. S.K. Etchy, Esq.
Sub Rosa Bank
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
First, Kevin's comments:
Some of the first non-Union riders I met were Coppi riders and after a fixed spin down at hains a group of us including Jim and Eric went out for drinks at Gordon Birsch, getting drenched in a sudden downpour on the way and sporting our classy cycling gear to boot; quite the GB style of clientele I might add. The Coppi riders I have spoken with and ridden with since have always been friendly and gracious riders; one even going so far as to offer a few words of encouragement following my disappointing performance at Giro di Coppi. Plus, how can you not love those powder blue kits; many with the matching powder blue bikes."Yeah baby. A Bike & Brew. You can't beat that for making friends, and we should try to do it more often. The nice thing is most of the Coppis are down-to-earth, even (maybe especially) the guys who can flat out break your sorry legs. Warmth and humility are sometimes a rare combination in good riders. I'm not a particularly representative member of the club, I'm generally slower, more brash and aggressive than most, but the character of the members is what drew me to the club. Here's what Mike has to say:
As for me, my next favorite had to meet a few specific criteria:
1. They must promote a race
2. The race has to be in some way remarkable (I produce conferences and events for a living, and while I recognize that the industrial park crit is the bread and butter of local racing, I'm generous with style points and they're weighted heavily)
3. They have to race like a team, not a bunch of individual racers wearing the same kits
4. They should recognize that "racing" isn't just defined by local racing - there's a big world out there, with many events worth sacrificing some BAR points to travel to
5. They should have a clear and definable mission to somehow support the sport
My criteria rule out a lot of great clubs - teams with strong collective and individual personalities, and team-focused strategies, and otherwise powerful ambassadors to the sport. But I think one local team has all of this (which, admittedly, isn't all of what constitutes a good team - these are just my criteria), and that team is Squadra Coppi. Here's how they fulfill my criteria:
1. The Giro di Coppi, of course
2. The Giro is the hardest race I've done around here, ever. Extra suffering points awarded.
3. Look at how they put one of their racers on top of the podium at the Giro this year. A Cat 4 racer.
4. I remember noting earlier in the season that Coppi was the only local squad with racers in the Cat 3 event at Somerville, and after that I noticed them almost everywhere I went, and in every results list I looked through from out-of-town events. Never a full team contingent, where some corporate decision was made and executed, but always a handful of racers who happened to make the trip. Maybe it was yellow beetle syndrome (once you notice one, you suddenly see them everywhere), but it's pretty clear that Coppi represents extraregionally.
5. Coppi has a whole page on their website about Why We Ride. Their mission isn't as focused as Artemis', or as high-minded as the Racing Union's. But broadly it's a mission to grow the sport of bike racing, and make it more enjoyable and fulfilling to people who participate in it. And that's pretty close to GamJams.net's position as well.
Kevin, who is new to racing, gives the club props for being welcoming and very supportive, even of rivals. Mike, who is a more experienced racer, cites the Squadra for putting on a topnotch event (in a region packed with good races), for riding and working together, for having a love of racing generally, and for working to advance the sport.
I'm proud of my fellow Coppis and glad they let me ride with them. Their actions say more about the club than I ever could.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
I made a few changes to the blog format tonight, updated the blogroll, and sold my soul to Google by agreeing to run some AdSense ads. Supposedly, they'll be related to blog content. Given my riding style and fitness level, you should be able to locate some bib shorts, a cross bike, ham or a defibrillator, via these ads. Tell me how you like the changes using that new poll on the top.
The only thing interesting I have to say is that Chris Mayhew kindly offered me some advice on a cranky Powertap that was giving me periodic (and then one long permanent) data drops. Turns out a flat wheel had at some time rubbed the pickup wire for the sharkfin, and shorted it out. So, I wired'er up. I cut the old line, whipped out the soldering iron and wire strippers, spliced the four little tiny wires, soldered them, gave myself mild burns on one finger, then taped it up. It works fine now. Naturally, Ken indicated he had shrink wrap for the wires... y'know, in case I cared to do it the right way. Yeah, even my cob jobs are substandard. But my poll... everybody digs my poll.
You fat bastard. When should cross practice start? What should we do? Should I try to hook up with a team and a coach? You have a wealth of experience here - a handful of races! That's tons of experience compared to me, and unlike most people, you're willing to share your ignorance. So help a brother out here!
Dave, you don't need to wait for formal instruction to become a thoroughly mediocre cyclocross racer. Here's my practice routine:
First, find a bike that is manifestly unsuitable for riding in the dirt - something with skinny tires and drop bars. Try in vain to compensate for this design flaw by buying ungodly expensive glue-on tires with knobs the size of infant chipmunk nipples, plus some $375 Assos knickers. If you must crash, you should look good doing so.
Then find a hilly off camber field near some woods. Wait until it has rained for a few days. Ride back and forth across the field, paying careful attention to turn tightly and head back the other way across the field, but only turn in spots where there is copious mud, roots, gravel, or off-camber wet grass. Don't worry it won't hurt - the ground. You, it will hurt plenty.
Occasionally, foray into the woods. When you get to a downed tree, hop off, drag the bike over the dead tree any way you know how. Try to bang your shin on the tree, or trip over it - it helps if the tree lacks bark and is somewhat slimy. Don't worry about form, if you are riding with appropriate intensity, you won't be capable of good form. Not until you've mastered bad form anyhow.
Find a short, sharp, steep and preferably slippery hill to practice your run-ups. Ideally, a cross racer should come into the base of the hill at full steam, smoothly dismount as the bike slows, shoulder the bike, and sprint to the top, maintaining momentum the whole way. As a novice, you should ride too far up the hill so that you come to a complete stop, and then stumble off the bike as it starts to roll backwards and tip over. You can even practice getting your feet stuck in the pedals and falling over while still clipped in, if you want. Practice like you will race, right? Once you're off the bike, slowly push it to the top of the runup, falling down once or twice if the ground is slippery. Remount after once again coming to a complete stop.
Every so often you should tip over for no apparent reason. This will balance out the tipovers that have an actual cause, like mud, skinny tires, roadbike geometry, wet grass and off camber turns. Once in a while, shoot out into the road on your mud-covered tires. Try not to low side. When you ride back into the field, skip the culvert, ride through the ditch. Try not to endo. Repeat.
Do this for roughly 50 minutes.
Once you get deep enough into oxygen debt, you'll notice some imaginary Belgian friends standing out on some hellish little corner of your practice area with cowbells, urging you on. If you need to cross train and the hallucenogenic cowbells are bugging you, just get off the bike and bludgeon the fans with your seat post. Consider the bludgeoning to be an upper body workout. Make sure that in your delirium, you aren't mistaking Peter and Ken for your imaginary friends - both have been known to shout tips and encouragement from the sidelines. (Note: the blood pouring out of your ears may make it difficult to hear the cowbells. Don't worry about it if you can't hear cowbells...imaginary cowbells are overrated.)
When you near your imaginary finishing line, let an imaginary team with a ridiculous name - say, the Delaware Cyclocross Coalition of Delaware - blow by you on their cross bikes, just to provide a realistic training experience. It's okay, you can have a good cry now.
After you're done, sit on the side and drink some Le Chouffe with Peter and Ken, or your imaginary friends, and ask yourself what it is you did, to make you want to punish yourself like that. Then go home, and sign up for Granogue, Worcester, and five other 'cross races you've never heard of before. Tell yourself it's okay... you can quit any time you like. Really.
Sunday, August 12, 2007
*That's a Charlton Heston / NRA Convention reference, for any Secret Service guys reading this. No, not a threat. Just a cultural reference.
Whatever else you can say about the guy, he does love his mountain biking. He says he'd consider going on vacation in France - provided he can go mountain biking there. Nice. Wonder if the First Lady rolls her eyes when he says that, and asks, "Cripes, George, can't we go someplace with a good library just once? Why the mountain biking? Trek this, Paragon that, now a 29'er? I think you love that bike more than you love me."**
I say, get that man a cross bike and see if he's interested in going to Hoogleide-Gits... I hear Belgium could use a little love these days too, as always.
*You got a problem with that reference, fine, I'm on Outlook, my office hours are usually 7:30 or so to 5:30. Send one of the uniformed division bike guys, I'm more likely to talk to them. Here's the cultural reference, just in case you missed it.
** Major shoutouts to Ken W. that tasty linkage.
Feel free to leave suggested captions for either photo in comments.
Saturday, August 11, 2007
Want to see the best bah-gin evah? Here you go.
is anyone interested in a great bike - $300
Date: 2007-08-10, 1:17PM EDT
i have a humvee aluminum rock zone royce union mountain bike if anyone is interested please contact me back. little cap missing from wheel to hide the piece to fill up wheel, but does not mess with the bike whatsoever SERIOUS OFFERS ONLY i will play with with price if really intersted
SERIOUS OFFERS ONLY? Got it? He'll play with price if you're really intersted. M'kay?
So what do the readers at Mountain Bike Review.com - those who ride these bikes, these paragons of hucking, these giants of cross country, these fishers of would-be mountain bike big fish, have to say about them?
Here's MTBR.com reader/reviewer Spencer, who bought a Royce Union Humvee for $70:
Strengths: I dont have to lock it, if someone steals it ill laugh, The only thing i have to worry about is someone returing it to me,
Weaknesses: Rims break on the smalllest jumps, i just got into mountian biking and am only going of 2-4 foot jumps! I cant get any air due to the massive front heavy frame, my shifters jam half the time, the flywheel sticks, the shocks are crap, both my brakes are now broken, i cant keep up to my friends on it, i spend more time fixing it than riding it and one of my pedals fell of on the way home today!
Oooh, bummer, Spence. I'm sure you just got a bad one. Good price though. Let's see how John did with his Royce Union Humvee model mountain bike:
Strengths: It's not literally a piece of crap.
Weaknesses: Figuratively it IS a piece of crap. Components suck, brakes are spongy and suck, both rims are bent now so they suck, the grip shift grips suck, handling sucks, suspension sucks, pedals are metal/plastic hybrid (suck), rear axle is now bent so it sucks, crankset is badly bent now so it sucks, bars suck, frame weighs the same as a small car so it sucks, derailleurs suck, this bike gives new meaning to the word suck
Similar Products Tried: My brother's Trek VRX 200
Bike Setup: Vomit on a turd sandwich with a side of suck and a glass of urine to wash it down is how this bike is setup...oh, and 'shocks, pegs...lucky!'
Oh, bummer John-boy. And compared to Spence, you got ripped off. $75 bucks? Sucka! Shoulda just stolen a Kogswell, man, I'm tellin' ya. But that's just coincidence, right, two bad experiences in a row. Surely, other people are having better luck with them. Right? Right? Hey, Brandon, you like yours, right? Right? Oh, no...
Strengths: Looks. Frame has to be durable as heavy as the bike is. Seat isn't not too bad considering the rest of the bike.
Weaknesses: Otherwise POS!
Similar Products Tried: This is the worst bike I've ever owned, I wouldn't say it's similar to anything. Ha! I've ridden Trek and Specialized.
Bottom Line: First and third gears didn't work after the first ride. It shifts like s**t. The bike is a tank. You'll never pick up the front end of this bike, so just eat the curb, etc. Hehe! Even if you are just going to ride a bike on the weekends do yourself a favor and pay a little more and whatever you do don't purchase this bike.
Well hey, at least you like it's looks, right? Too bad you paid $200 for it. What, did you buy it off Craigslist? So what's the bottom line on the Royce Union Humvee? Here's James (unrelated):
Strengths: Nothing. I used the bike for one month and broke. I finaly gave up on it and sold it to a friend for 50 dollors (I made a profit) and it was not worth the hassle of buying.
Weaknesses: Everything. That Explains it. Broke within a month, without going off road. Bottoms out easily and is only worth about 50 dollors, if that.
Similar Products Tried: other Royce Union Bikes
Bike Setup: Terible
Bottom Line: F*cking Sucks. Never buy this bike. All you will do is bottom out if you go off a 5" curb. Most Royce Union Products are like this. The Rear shox isn't that good either, along with the whole brake and gear system. My Next Bike will definently be the Specialized FSR Enduro Pro (I know it won't brake)
Sure, all that sounds sort of negative. But that's okay. If you make a SERIOUS OFFER ONLY to some guy on Craigslist, you can have one of these gems for just $300, barely a hundred bucks more than the asking price for the bike new, and probably about only $200 more than they actually sell for.
Yep, they sound bad. But if you have a blog, think of the nifty tales you'll be able to tell about taco-ed wheels, shattered seatposts, and throwing your back out in interesting locales when you get so frustrated with this utter piece of shit, that you try (unsuccessfully) to heave the fat bastard into the woods. Even better, you've always wanted to make the crew that hangs out at the local bike shop laugh, right? Well forget your lame jokes, just buy this $300 Royce Union, and bring it into the shop on Friday afternoon and ask when's the next race at Lodi. Laughter will ensue, trust me - not least from the guy who sold this thing to you.
So really, you need to go buy this bike immediately. I don't see how you can possibly go wrong.