People say a lot of stuff that's supposed to be wise. Conventional wisdom, I think they call it. The problem is, a lot of conventional wisdom is a Jedi axiom posing as common knowledge. "Oh yeah, sure. Right. I get it. No problem. Simple." That's what everybody says, right before they demonstrate an abject inability to understand what was said, as proved by their miserable failure to execute. I'm here to give a big "oh no, it's not!" to some commonly heard expressions and explain why I think they're farked.
If you have any doubts about your ability to ride it, walk. Safety first.
It wasn't the first time, but the most memorable time I heard it Fat Marc told me (and 190 other people in the field) this gem prior to the big mountain bike race at Granogue. I proceeded to run headfirst into a tree, crack my helmet and concuss myself, endo twice hard on a rocky descent, and endo again at the dropoff/creek crossing. When I came in after one lap, I was looped, bleeding everywhere, and destroyed. Well, duh! Everybody knows you should get off your bike and walk when it gets too dangerous. The problem is that nobody knows where the breaking point is between safe and "too dangerous," until that brief moment in time when they are upside down, about to go incisors-first into a mossy rock. The first inkling occurs when the front wheel starts to tuck under, your weight shifts over the handlebars, and you see the front of the tire, rather than the top. True enlightenment occurs when the rear wheel obtains an altitude of 48" off the ground. For that instant, it’s perfectly clear what safe is, and what unsafe is. It's so easy, a Geico caveman could do it. But to know the difference ahead of time, you need to be really, really f***ing good on a bicycle, to the point where that type of situation isn't really dangerous at all to you. Most of us aren't really, really f***ing good on a bicycle, and we only glimpse the truth when we're upside down, immediately pre-impact. Unfortunately the resulting concussion appears to knock this key piece of knowledge clear out of our brains, to be replaced with a similar piece of knowledge called “The War Story,” which contains identical facts but none of the lessons learned.
Modern clinchers are just as good as tubulars.
You'll read this in supposedly reputable bicycling magazines, like Bicycling, Velo News, and in the red light district of the riding world, Pez.
You want to know a secret? It's a lie.
I figured this out starting last year during 'cross season, but it really hit home over the summer. I got a set of tubular wheels built up for 'cross. 36 spoke Ultegra hubs, straight gauge spokes on Velocity Deep Vees. You can find more rigid hoops, but they tend to be made of cast iron. These wheels should ride really, really, painfully bad. Just to break in the hubs a little I threw on the cheapest training tubulars I could find, some Tufo S-22s. These tires are as thick as a brick and stiff, they have an impossibly low thread count, and they feel as rigid as Tyler Hamilton's adherence to his doping denials.
You know how they rode?
Like heaven. While my Giant's carbon fiber took the big hits out of the ride, the square edged bumps and expansion joints, the occasional pothole, the tubulars took away the high frequency vibration, the road buzz you always feel riding along. Chipseal roads on tubulars are a tiny bit bumpier than brand new 'champagne tarmac' but they aren't the tooth-rattling ordeal they are on a set of Conti Grand Prix pumped up to 120 PSI. In spite of the wheelset's weight, they also felt a lot more responsive and light on climbs. Come to find out, Cyclocross Magazine did a roll-down test where they rolled (gravity only, no pedaling) down a bumpy hill on different types of tires, and tubulars run at low pressure produced insanely faster descents. So in spite of frequently higher rolling resistance, they may actually be faster too.
I asked a few teammates who ride tubulars a lot about this. They said, in effect, "yeah, no shit they're lots better than clinchers. When did you figure this out?"
Admittedly, there are some exceptions. Although tubulars ride much, much better in bumpy terrain on 'cross bikes, my Vittoria Evo 'cross tubulars are evil-handling on wet grass, just treacherous. But I'm told that Grifo's new Fango and the Dugast Rhino are the antidote to this problem, plus they still have that plush tubular ride. So why are the trade journals high on tubulars? I don't know. Maybe you ought to ask their marketing departments about how much money they get to advertaise clinchers, versus how much they're paid to advertise tubulars.
You need to move to the front. It's easier up there.
Did you ever hear this in a crit or circuit race? Well, it's not true. It's hell to get up there, and hell to try to stay, and there's a hell of a lot of problems that come with riding near the front, problems that would not arise if you would pick a good mid-pack position and try to stick there. Up front, in the top 5 or 10, everybody up there is trying to get somebody else to pull the train. And if you aren't, you're stupid and doing the work for other people. And if you're not pushing the pace, a whole string of people are resting and just about to pass you and drive the pace sky-high, totally screwing you for the next three laps as you try to pass them back and as you're desperately hoping one of them doesn't crash you out and put you in the hospital.
No, it's not easier up front. It's just a different set of problems that may, sometimes, be preferable to the problems you'd have elsewhere in the pack.
On the other hand, I can say without reservations that riding anywhere near the back of the pack is much, much harder. That much is true.
Buy low, sell high. Everybody knows this is the key to getting rich.
Really? So what's low, and what's high? If anybody actually knew, they’d be richer than God. Okay, I'm getting away from cycling a bit here but with the markets in a tailspin, it's worth thinking about questioning all the things supposed money experts say all the time. This saying in particular bugs me. The only person who even has a clue about how to do this, is Warren Buffet. His motto is Buy Low, and be friends with a lot of politicians and regulators. Works for him, right? I don’t think he knows how to sell anything though, that’s why he lives in a modest house and drives a modest car and tells all the rest of us how to live. If that wasn't the case, if he knew how to sell his holdings, he'd be suffocated under a pile of cash even bigger than his current pile, deep inside his house made of stacked $20 bills, adjacent to his Rolls Royce with seats stuffed with shredded C notes. People who sell high seem to do so out of luck, fortuitous timing, more than anything. I bet there's a guy out there just kicking himself for selling his 20 shares of Intel stock when it had increased from $10/share to $150/share in just 5 short years between 1967 and 1972. "Sell high, they told me. So I did. But it'd be worth $20 million today! Screw them..." And of course there's nothing in there about not taking loans out against your 401(k) (what's left of it) to buy a new Colnago Extreme Power, not wasting your money on a $750/month Mercedes rental, or not blowing cash on blow, booze, and individuals of ill repute, or not wasting $2.6 million defending yourself against a doping suspension. But I should think those are all secrets to getting rich as well, but other than a few religiously-oriented economic advisors - kind of like 'jumbo shrimp' given the relationship between mammon and morality - saying "don't waste your money in a world class attempt to corrupt yourself." Weird; you'd think that would be common advice. But no, we get "buy low, sell high." Whatever that means.
“_______ is the new black.”
This phrase really bugs the crap out of me because it either means something is trendy and fashionable, or it’s a civil rights cause-du jour. It’s a phrase that has jumped the shark so frequently, it should be wearing a stars and stripes jumpsuit and performing three times daily over the world’s biggest shark tub in Vegas for a crowd comprised of bachelor party-ers, Teamster officials and people who got free tickets after being pitched a time share at Tahiti Village. Every time something is now trendy, or if somebody is asking for special treatment under the laws, this is the quip/argument you hear.
Besides, I think if gay was the new black a year or two ago, then fat is now the new black, at least among a subset of obviously-not-caring-enough 40+ bicyclists. This works in at least a couple respects. I notice a lot of us in the 40+ set aren’t exactly ripped, and even a lot of the skinny guys are kind of on the pasty/flabby side. Apparently most of us get to choose – mushy and reasonably fast on a bike, or hit the gym and be muscle-y and ride a bike for crap. Ahh, the compromises thrust on us by aging, mortgages and kids, right? But don't worry, it's both trendy and a civil rights cause. Since everybody’s doing it, or so many of us, I have to conclude it’s trendy, ergo fat is the new black. You even have really fat people – folks who pass for fat not only among cyclists but among ‘civilians’ lobbying for extra airline seats for their extra wide asses, low insurance premiums, and “person with a disability” status under the Americans with Disabilities Act. We insist we were pretty much born like this, that it’s an unchangeable characteristic of who we are. Thus it’s a civil rights cause too. Next thing you know, a 5'1" climber who has bulked up to 131 pounds - 20 pounds over his optimal race weight - will be getting a blue handicap sticker to put on his bike so the refs can give him a preferential starting position at Poolesville.
So in both ways, Fat is the New Black. Except that nobody is out there looking for that perfect little fat cyclist to flaunt at cocktail parties, and I haven’t idea what to chant when we have our million big person march. Perhaps, No Justice, No Peas? I'm down with that.