Thursday, April 30, 2009
Dave is out there advertising that his feet are really, really wide. And you know what that means, right ladies?
Yep, that's right. It's very difficult to find cycling shoes that fit.
I don't know why, exactly, but this video is funny as hell.
Just some amateur mountain bikers crashing all over the place. Also pretty funny.
Here - go huck yourself! Nothin' funny about this trail. Just some adrenalin, in case that second cup of Friday AM coffee hasn't kicked in yet. Serious flow over some big humps...
The Stelvio: not just an epic road stage in the Giro, but epic mountain biking too. Sweet.
Consistent with the policies implemented by the management and shareholders of this blog, the following music video contains 100% of the FDA recommended daily allowance of FUNK.
Warning: The Surgeon General of the United States has determined that excessive Turning This Mother Out may be harmful to your healf.
Of course, that isn't going to stop me from turnin' this mother out to an unhealfy degree:
And when we're done turnin' the mother out... well, we still gotta have that funk, and if that fails, we'll turn that funker out. . . This one gets double bonus points for high Snoop Dogg content, and 110% more Buckethead than comparable videos:
Have a nice, and happy weekend my peeps!
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Mom: So I finally got out on my bike yesterday. I went down to the Canal towpath.
Me: Awesome. How was it?
Mom: Pretty good. I rode out about a half hour then turned around to come back. I didn't ride the stationary bike over the winter and I started to get tired.
Me: Yeah, I can relate to that.
Mom: But then this thing happened.
Me: What do you mean?
Mom: Well, I'm riding along and I see this woman jogging up the path. She's not in her lane, she's right in the middle.
Me: So did you ring the bell I sent you?
Mom: Oh yeah, a bunch of times. And I started shouting at the woman. Then I stopped about a foot in front of her because I couldn't go any further.
Me: Was she stoned or something?
Mom: I don't know. But just then I'm standing there, she looks at me and says, "Oh!" and jumps to the side and keeps running.
Me: Yeah, I've seen stuff like that down here.
Mom: What in the hell is wrong with these people? What is wrong with them? I can't stand it when they do that.
So really, that was our conversation. Now you know where I get it from.
My dad, in contrast, would have come home and said nothing (having probably had some words on the trail), and the next time we passed a jogger on the road he would have said, "I hate those people. What they do makes no sense."
Many in my family are capable of great subtlety and forebearance. It's just that they rarely choose to deploy either.
Monday, April 27, 2009
A little David Allen Coe for my friend Fat Marc, who is hosting a race that weekend, and who does not carry a brief for hippies. Remarkable, in that this is one of the few DAC songs that isn't patently offensive, bigoted, socially unacceptable and just plain wrong. Suffice to say, David Allen Coe is a one man walking free speech zone.
Vintage Hot Country Chick Patsy Cline sings Walkin' After Midnight. Smokin.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
It's not like zone 2 on a fixie is a cakewalk; it isn't because you work the whole time (and that's why I like to do it - there's no cheating there). I don't pull a huge gear, sticking with a utilitarian 44:18 for around 65 gear inches, which gives me about 17.5 indicated at 90 RPM on the massive (and slow rolling, hard-to-push) 700x28 Armadillos. Rolling steady at about 18 on a flat on that setup keeps me in a steady high zone 2 heartrate - about 2-4 MPH slower than I'd be going on the nice carbon fiber road bike at an equivalent effort level, and when I hit long downhill false flats or steeper downhills I push the RPMs way up to keep the Hr up, and keep the Hr down by doing a big ring drill, low cadence mashing, when I'm going uphill. So it's steady, relentless work, gets you coming and going. If your knees will take it, integrating some fixed gear riding is one of the quickest routes from zero to basic race fitness.
My dryness was compounded by my 90 degree blue Accellerade. I mixed it too strong and had trouble choking it down - it was fizzing and making my bottles burp, like some cartoon science experiment gone awry. By mile 25 I was starting to suffer pretty damn bad (despite the moderate pace), and when I eventually looped through Annapolis, I stopped at a 7-11 and bought a 1.5 liter bottle of water. I swigged half on the spot and then used the rest to cut / cool my remaining Accellerade. You hearing any alarm bells there when I tell you I swigged .75 liters at a gulp? I sure am.
The rest of the trip back home was pretty miserable. I had a heat headache that was getting bigger and bigger, my ass hurt disproportionately (3 hours of steady pedaling, plus heat problems make everything feel worse) and my Hr wouldn't drop below high zone 2 / low tempo despite soft pedaling for an extended period of time. Throw in the stiff headwind I was facing, and it wasn't a fun last 12 miles. About halfway down Route 450, I stopped to eat a gel. Here two revelations hit me.
First, Hammer Apple Cinnamon gel is the most delightful tasting pie filling I have ever eaten. Had I known it tasted this good, I'd have eaten some Turkey and Cranberry flavored Shot Bloks earlier in the ride (Gu makes Cranberry Shot Bloks, so they must make Turkey Shot Bloks, right?), and would have brought an Espresso Love flavored Gu as a finisher. It was *so* damn tasty that I may hand this out at Thanksgiving instead of pie. Not sure if I'd like eating them all day, but the things do taste great as a treat, or when the body is in trouble and craving some fast energy. You could almost eat them as a desert after dinner, if you didn't mind the phlegmy texture.
Second, I can't subsist on gels for very long, but pounding a gel when in dire need, producing 10-15 minutes of instant energy, is just the ticket. I was cramping up and utterly gassed, but that gel saved my butt. Mid-ride, if you're going to eat gels, you need to pop maybe 3/hour. It's a pain and you'd probably have to fight off dry-mouth; it's much easier to eat a Clif or Odwalla bar, or God forbid, real food as your mid-ride mainstay. But you should always carry a gel as an emergency food ration. You can also use the empty packet to boot a tire or shim up a part that's suddenly gone loose (like a handlebar after you have tweaked it in a crash).
After what seemed like two hours, the bike brought me home. I hadn't quite made it to Heatinjuryville, but I'd passed through the outskirts on Route 69, the Ohshit Highway. After sitting down in the basement and shaking for 5 minutes, I straggled upstairs and drank the better part of a pint of ice cold apple juice. (Seeing how nice that went down, it's possible I may have passed near Bonkton on this ride too... perhaps the Granola, despite a plethora of calories and protein, wasn't the right fuel). Stuffed an overripe banana, about 1.5 cups of strawberries, a tablespoon of flax seeds and a half bottle of Accellerade into the blender and smoothied away. Once it was in fact smooth, another handful of ice made it into a frozen drink. I swilled a half liter of that, then added more ice, creating a full liter of it (no extra kcals though - just more ice in the blender). After swilling another liter of the stuff (this is two liters of fluid in, in a half hour), I felt cooled down enough to move. An icy cold shower later, I felt semi-human... and promptly fell asleep on the couch watching Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
Summer's here kids. Be careful and take some time to get used to the heat, and try to remember your strategies for dealing with it. Kenny Rogers style, don't ya do the things I done. Aight?
That song is stalky-er than I remembered it...
Saturday, April 25, 2009
Which put me in mind of this Home Depot ad:
Lordy... what a ridiculous ad, but it features hot chicks and industrial-grade power tools. Throw in a punch press pounding away on some sheet steel and I'd catch wood - which coincidentally is also on sale right now at Home Depot.
But I digress. Despite the ad being totally cartoonish and ridiculous, I prefer it to the Lowe's ads featuring the clueless gardening suburban dad jagoff, which portrays fatherhood/family manhood in an equally stereotypical and probably offensive-to-some manner. Those ads are voiced over by Gene Hackman, which is cool, but it's like getting Samuel L. Jackson to do the traffic report on drive time radio - isn't that a little below him?
The other thing about the Lowes ads is that they play to a kinda stupid generalized societal stereotype that probably isn't true. We're supposed to take the ad seriously and relate to doofus dad - as a guy who is pretty competent at most things, I really don't see myself in him.
On the other hand, this Home Depot ad isn't supposed to be taken seriously, you're supposed to laugh and maybe enjoy the eye candy, laugh some more, and remember they have saws and drills on sale. I could see it openly appealing to two of Home Depot's core demographic groups - blue collar guys, and a certain kind of girl who digs hot girls (many of whom shop Home Depot, just in case you haven't noticed). The the add also probably appeals to clueless suburban dads, but I suspect most of them would be afraid to admit it. The ad is Sir Mixalot's "I Like Big Butts" for the home improvement set. I give it an A-, but it only gets the "-" because it's not feature-length.
Friday, April 24, 2009
A road biker on my team saw the big video and asked, "so is this what mountain biking is about these days?"
Clearly some punk kids in the neighborhood, probably teenagers, had stuffed a dead squirrel up a neighbor's drain pipe. Bastards!
That particular neighbor is often away from her house, so I thought I'd pull the dead squirrel out, to prevent a disgusting backup if it rained. I braced myself for the stench, grasped the tail, and
Screeeeeeeee! Scrabbble scrabble scrabble scrabble!
The squirrel was alive. He howled, and scrambled at my touch, but couldn't move. The little bugger was stuck!
So I did what any self-respecting suburban-dwelling guy would do. I went and got my gardening gloves and the needlenose pliers, and got ready to do some surgery on the pipe to get my pal Rocky out of there.
Before I went to work on the pipe with the pliers, I decided to grasp firmly, and give the little fuzzy bugger's tail a tug, just to see if I could release him before vandalizing the neighbor's pipe. I did, and the squirrel popped out, just like pulling a rabbit out of a hat. Only the squirrel was pissed off, squealing, and trying to bite me. I let him go, he ran a little ways off and stood there glaring at me, angry that I had both yanked on his tail, and that I was privy to this, the most public of his many public humiliations.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Other factors said to cause teh glerbal warmening, which should be banned or at least held up to ridicule, are (1) mean people, who suck; (2) people who enjoy life more than I do; (3) people who have political, religious, or sporting opinions I don't agree with; and, (number 4 through 100,000,000) anything I don't like.
If Big Al And I Ate Less
So check it out. If you have any regard for Mother Earth, you'll become an anorexic vegan immediately. Otherwise... well, you're just not a very good person, and you're going to have to live with that.
Since Eurosport apparently felt pretty comfortable plagiarizing me (yes, I made most of those up, or based them on variations of well known Chuck Norris cracks) I think I'll return the favor.
Drop me a line, Blazing Saddles. I'll drop you an address where you can send the check.
If you scour the internet, you'll see infinite 'facts' about the man who Voigt has come to personify on a bike. Memorable ones include "Chuck Norris can kill two stones with one bird", "Chuck Norris doesn't wear a watch, HE decides what time it is" and "Chuck Norris doesn't get frostbite, Chuck Norris bites frost".
But now cycling fans are updating these gems to fit in with the Pit Bull of the Peloton, including: "Jens Voigt doesn't have a shadow because he dropped it repeatedly until it retired", "Jens Voigt puts the 'laughter' in 'manslaughter'" and "If Jens Voigt was a planet, he'd be the World of Pain".
Blazin' Saddles' personal favourite is the less punchy, yet equally evocative: "The grass is always greener on the other side - unless Jens Voigt has been riding on the other side in which case it's white with the salty, dried tears of all the riders whose souls he has crushed." (BS salutes the chap who wrote that one: what elegant, evocative prose.)
Monday, April 20, 2009
John H's wife, Deb, was a stellar one-woman support crew. John, if the balloon goes up and we're all in big trouble, we're voting Deb into the bunker. You too, probably, 'cuz she'd no doubt insist on it. But you're only getting in 'cuz of her, understand? I take that back, John. You're a stud too and rode frickin' great.
My man Trevor M is a f***in' mountain biking machine. There are a few people who are faster and trickier. There aren't many with his combination of good speed, and sheer grinding power, and he turned in a strong and gutsy performance on Saturday. Much respect, T.
The bummer about doing the solo thing is there isn't time or energy enough to go socialize with buddies around the encampment. I feel bad for having missed out on that part of it this last weekend. To all my pals who I snubbed, sorry guys and gals. I trust you had fun in spite of it though. ;-D
I knew that I was shattered after I got off the bike because the racer gut set in with vengeance. Not long after I got off the bike, I found myself in the portacan basically hitting my head on the fiberglass wall, sweating, shivering, and doing what I do best. This was so much fun that I had several encore performances that night, a couple the next morning, a few the next afternoon, and a half dozen at work today. Racer Gut is your body's way of saying, "okay, you want to dance, fatboy?"
It's possible my suffering is bad karma that rubbed off from Gwadz. He apparently had pre-emptive bad karma that caused a crash. Later, when he was standing near me, some girl pitched halfway into a firepit. He was ready with three quick insults, two of which were actually quite funny. Today, he reports he's down with the creeping crud. Don't screw with karma, Joel - or adolescent girls who fall down in the dark!
Finally, I explained to Ken Woodrow mid-race that I was busy eating the Donuts of Misery. What is a miserable donut? It's one of these:
Every time you go around, you take a bite of the donut. Eventually, you find you've eaten the whole Donut of Misery, one bite at a time.
I note with some dismay that Adam Driscoll took 18 bites to eat his donut. @$&#!!!!
Unrelated note: Mad props to the Coppis who represented big time at the Battenkill Roubaix, including Gregg Strimbu (3d in the Cat 3 at Battenkill) (Rob Sheffield - winner, Cat 3 - Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!) and to Jason Hall who went ....s deep at Carl Dolan, knocking out 6th place in the 1-2-3 race. Way to go Jason! There were numerous other good placings over the weekend. A good weekend for the Azzurri.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Things I did which weren't firsts: showing up horribly out of shape to race.* Not having any suspicion of what the hell I was getting myself into.** Turning my lungs inside out and coughing up big hunks of stuff that... well, I don't know how to describe it. Getting awesome support at a race from my great teammates - Jean, Adriane, fellow racers Ken and Scott*****, Meg and Jon. I love my teammates.*** Hanging out with Sven and Mel Nystrom**** and the Adventures for the Cure crew (who *hammered* it). Saying too-brief hellos to pals on other teams or missing them entirely in my solo haze. Spent most of the day after pounding Advil and walking around in a post-beatdown daze. Typing with numb hands. Resolving to get in a lot better shape, give it another try, and come back and kick the race's ass.
I so wasn't ready for this. I'd like to give it a better go next time around.
*People probably thought I was pre-loading excuses about not being in shape to race. Nope, no excuses. Just painful truth.
** I feel like I was ambushed by a wolverine on crack.
***My teammates are great - especially the gals, who pulled 5 top-20 finishes at the Syn-Fit Crit, and then showed up to cheer us Dirty Azzuri at Leesburg. Well done, ladies.
****Awesome cupcakes, Mel. Thanks.
***** Major manliness there, Scott, racing through the severe RacerGut. Way to hang.
Friday, April 17, 2009
I started out with an Ascent Mega Force Pump from Performance. It had a valve on it that looked like this:
The valve wore out quick, though the volume of air pumped by the thing, and its ease of pumping, was really exceptional. The valve wore out really quick though - it wouldn't release sufficiently on a presta valve to allow easy removal, so the rubber gasket got shredded really quick.
Then I tried a Topeak Joe Blow Sport, with the "Twin Head" valve. That looks like this.
own hand, so don't get all excited about it being disembodied).
That was a pretty good pump, the twin head valve worked well, but the rubber wore out pretty quick. More importantly, the internal pump gasket wore out in about six months of more or less daily use.
I wound up mating the twin head valve to the Ascent pump, and sticking it in the truck for an on-the-spot pump. The valve doesn't seal so great but you can get it to work by pumping with one hand, and getting the valve in a clench up against the rim. A finger on the disused side of the valve keeps it sealed, and the upward pressure keeps it latched onto the stem. Not a great solution, but I assume the truck will get broken into and the cobbled pump will get stolen. I will not cry when it happens.
This crash at the Grote Scheldeprijs von Knickernknackern von Hauptkopf von Ulm, or whatever unpronounceable name they called that venerable midweek semi-demi-hemi-classic, was definitely not McEwen's fault, according to an unimpeachable source, Wee Rabbie himself. Looks to me like he half wheeled the guy in front, wasn't prepared when the guy slowed down, and tried to squeeze into a spot that would be too small for anybody, then bounced off Tommeke when he tried to force Tommeke over. But what the hell do I know.
I'm sorry that I haven't been keeping y'all more entertained this week. Between some stuff that went down last week at work, and some stuff that went down this week, I have been crushed at work and under a sort of pressure that's pretty hard to imagine if it's not your turn in the barrel. So the blogging has been light, along with the sleep. I'm cool now though, and frantically trying to get my crap together for the Bakers Dozen race at Leesburg tomorrow - 13 hours, on a mountain bike, 20 pounds over my 'race' weight which is still ridiculously fat, on a single speed, solo... The thought has occurred that there's something not quite right with me.
Update: I almost forgot about this. I'm a book you can judge by it's cover. But even so, you probably shouldn't judge books by their cover. Stunning case in point right here. Forget the rest of my videos this week but seriously, follow that link if you do one thing today. (Can't embed it, sorry). You gotta have a good story, but if you do... well, a first folio of Shakespeare looks like a used snot rag. It would be a mistake to dismiss it on that basis. Enjoy that link.
Theme Song for this weekend: Bela Fleck, Hoedown. Special bonus: Teh Whitest Audience Evah. This must have been made for a PBS special or something.
Where did Bela Fleck and that crazy jam band crew of his come up with the song? Easy. Neo-Classical composer and quiet revolutionary red Aaron Copland.
Where else have you heard that song? These guys used it to sell steak. Like steak needs any selling. Funny seeing the cattlemen linked to Copland. Good music, but still a funny linkage - it would be like somebody at the National Chamber of Commerce using the Communist Manifesto as a paperweight.
What else did Copland do that you might recognize? Fanfare For The Common Man, of course.
It's funny how capitalism appropriates everything eventually, including Copland and silkscreens of Che. I believe the misunderstanding about capitalism is that it's a "system," when a lot of people would argue that buying, selling, and price equilibrium are actually natural phenomena. I think that's why capitalism 'appropriates' - it tends to take things over the way weeds or vines or mold does. You can't escape natural processes.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
I know a guy who spent maybe 8 years caddying for his girlfriend on the Women's Nike / Bestbuy or whatever they call that LPGA developmental tour. I got to know her (and him, the caddy) through one of my cousins, who has a membership at a golf club in Syracuse that hosts a tour stop. Bush league golfers, especially on the women's side, don't have tons of money. So fans - usually members of whatever club is hosting an event - put them up. My cousin put up one of the female pros and her caddy / boyfriend every time they came through on the tour. I used to hang out with them a very little bit; nice girl, great guy, very fine people, tremendously companionable. I usually was staying at my cousin's sizeable house when the tour was in town, that's how I got to know them. They got to be pretty good friends with my cousin.
It was a tough life for them, since a top 10 finish might net $750, and she'd maybe hit a decent finish three or four times a year. So there they were driving around the country in a ratty Ford Taurus wagon, golfing a lot, crashing in other people's houses. The problem was that she could turn in a 62 one day, and a 92 the next. You just never knew which golfer was going to show up, and while she could string together a couple good days in a row, you need 3 out of 4 good days, plus another day where the hemmorhaging is under control if you want a chance to be a pro on the big tour. What makes it doubly tough is that it's like the 3 to 2 upgrade in cycling. There are no upgrades based on pack finishes; you need wins, or a hell of a lot of podium finishes, if you want to upgrade. She never could quite manage it, and after spending a lot of money trying to get good enough to make a lot of money, she quit and they retired back to Argentina, where they settled down together and she got a great job as a club pro, while her caddy, Ruben, kept on hauling bags for other pros.
Eventually (it didn't take long, actually), Ruben hooked up full time with a pretty good pro that he had caddied for off and on, on the Big Boy Tour. Ruben and his pro kept traveling around the world, playing golf (and Ruben kept on giving great, great shot advice) and the pro started to really succeed. The pro was a guy who started out like Ruben, he came from a home of extremely modest means, he'd been a caddy, and a rich guy sponsored him to become a pro golfer. Ruben - he stayed a caddy. A jock. A looper.
I liked hitting 'em with Ruben around - he's a smart guy and can look at your swing (in my case strong but with a hopeless slice) and straighten you out with a couple words, tell you what club will work best, and what to think about. He isn't a coach, he just fixes things if you listen to him. He says less rather than more. It's easier to play better golf with Ruben working as your brain. Leave your brain in your bag alongside the other useless golf instrument, your 1 iron, and let Ruben do the thinking for you. He must have been good because that pro from back in the old country was constantly calling him for advice about European Tour courses or here on the PGA while Ruben was with Mara. Ruben could have been caddying for the PGA / EPGA pro, but he put his girl first during her golf season.
I hadn't thought about Ruben in a year or two; he and the girl packed it in maybe three or four years ago. He was way out of my mind.
But last weekend, Ruben and his golfer hit it pretty big. I didn't realize it because I didn't watch the golf on TV - I had other things going on, y'know.
If you're wondering, that's my cousin's pal, Ruben Yorio, wearing the uniform caddies are required to wear at Augusta. He's comparing notes with Angel Cabrera, his long time client who won The Masters last weekend.
My cousin spoke to Ruben yesterday. He asked him what the significance of the win was, besides the 10% cut of the ~$2 million purse.
"I think my wife will probably want new drapes for the house now."
Monday, April 13, 2009
[F]enderlessness is a sign of cycling immaturity (racing bikes and offroad bikes excluded). Realizing you need fenders is as elementary as toilet training, and in both cases there's nothing as immature as not knowing how to keep your own ass dry.Yeah, that nails it. Plus the existence of Speed-Ez means you really don't have a "hey it's my racing bike" excise either. And some of the raddest marginally SFW people rock fenders...
Keeping your ass dry is one of the secrets for a happy life.
If you are sixty-something and on trial for second degree murder, and thinking about rocking the Jewfro for your appearance on the witness stand, let's just don't do it unless you're going for the insanity defense? And for the love of Y-, if you must rock it, don't do the blowout, okay? The blowout looks terrifying to the jury when it's found on an otherwise attractive young brother who is up for murder, and on an elderly white Jewish former rock producer, a jury views it as both both terrifying and psychotic.
Seriously. Trust me on this one. It isn't going to help your case. You want to have a happy life? Don't do this. Really. Even if you aren't on trial for murder.
A rider like Jens Voigt, he sacrificed a lot last year, too. With a big champion like him, he wakes up and smells the air and says, ‘this is my day.’ You can do what you want, but he’s already determined that his day is his, it’s over. Like that day he won in the Giro last year, it was cold, it was rainy, everyone had on arm warmers, leg warmers, rain jackets. Then Voigt rolls up, short sleeves, short pants, I say to Alberto, today Jens will win. He’s crazy. We’re going and boom! – 20 riders in a break, then – boom! – Jens Voigt alone. That’s it. Some riders are special, some have that extra spark.The extra spark, I'm pretty sure is conviction. It's hard to ride with conviction. When you manage to talk yourself into it, you can ride well. The trick is making it show up when you need it. You want to be happy, figure out how to do that.
I'm racing the Baker's Dozen in Leesburg on Saturday with a couple hundred of my closest friends. 13 hours of mountain bike fun, and in this case, I'm attempting it solo, on the single speed. Due to the bad gam during January and the ~5 week layup, I'm in crummy shape. I'm only just starting to get my legs under me, and lawdy, am I ever fat. If you want to have a happy life, do not do this. Ever.
Finally, if you get in an argument with people in your family, stick to fisticuffs, small knives, and perhaps stale, hardened biscuits as your weapons of choice. Foreswear the use of the sword, if you wish to live a happy life.
Saturday, April 11, 2009
Suffice to say, the three Classics - two Classics and a semi-Classic, really - are events that are far bigger than the man. While the grand tours are epic feats of endurance, one can see how a grand tour is won. It takes a team, great strategy, thinking two or three steps ahead of the competition, and one or two great performances out of 20 by the prima ballerina who will win it. Because one can see how a grand tour is won, it isn't a mystery; the beauty of them is how the race unfolds. It is like a normal one day race or omnium or mini stage race writ large. It's understandable.
The Cobbled Classics, on the other hand, are so hard, so brutal, and so capricious, that very rarely do team tactics matter. To the extent team tactics matter, like Quickstep's three man tag team last week at the Ronde van Vlaanderen, it is because the team distracts other competitors from what is going on, acting as camouflage. Very rarely does a team have three or four men strong enough to pull a champion around all day in a manner sufficient to alter the outcome.
What a Cobbled Classic winner comes down to, is a man who had good legs, who maybe got a little lucky, but most of all who completely exceeded himself on the day of the race. The strongest man always wins, in the sense that the man must have the strongest legs on the day, plus the strongest head, plus determination, an iron resolution that a win is afoot, more than any other competitor. The man who has the highest cumulative score in those categories will usually win. It's not just physical though and it doesn't always make sense.
Like the sunflowers during the Tour de France, or just the right Belgian beer in the fall after you managed to turn in your top 'cross performance of the season, there are material things that do more to convince you of God's existence than all the metaphysical arguments in the world.
Watching a man triumph, through strength of legs and will, over the elements, over 185 other men, over capriciously deteriorating cobbles, is one of those things. You see hints of the divine spark in that. The fact that Flanders arose again after World War I to hold these races, that Paris-Roubaix is run right through the fields of French national death, bears stronger witness to man's love of life and his hopefulness than any poet's sonnet or politician's tribute.
Each year when we watch the Cobbled Classics, we are born again as cyclists, and our hope is renewed as humans. We look for a transcendent performance. When we see it, we see a performance that is bigger than the race, bigger than cycling; it speaks directly to the human condition and the fact that sometimes man can pull off an achievement that seems to exceed the design limits of the human machine. You see a performance like that, it is almost hard to digest because it doesn't seem possible that somebody just did that. That's why they call these races "the Monuments." They stand for something, like a battle, the father of a country, or a great sportsman; all phenomena that can't be encompassed in a little plaque, something that just doesn't fit into the normal scale of life. It can be monumental. Sometimes we get a performance like that, where the result exceeds the physical components of the race. Sometimes we don't.
Then again, sometimes we get it twice in a row, from the same guys, at the same races. It's a monument upon a monument.
You see a performance like that and you realize that man can shoot the moon once in a while. There's something more to it than a meatsack comprised of $5 worth of chemicals. And that gives us hope in areas of life well beyond cycling. Man isn't doomed to life in the muck; man is capable of greatness.
Chapeaux, Stijn van Devolder, Tom Boonen. Chapeaux.
Thursday, April 09, 2009
Wednesday, April 08, 2009
Given last year's exploits running into trees and cracking my skid lid twice, not to mention my face, this is what I've decided to rock for the 2009 season. Sure, it's a bit scary looking. And the ventilation isn't great. But it does protect my face when trees try to establish the powerplay or to crowd the crease.
Okay, that's not my helmet, but seeing as we're getting to the end of the hockey season, I thought I'd recognize the fact that the three best parts of the sporting calendar - NCAA hoops tourney, classics season and playoff hockey - occur at just about the same time. Coincidence? I think not. Double extra bonus points to any reader who can identify the owner of that famous mask and write it up in comments. Meanwhile, as for helmet choice:
I'll rock anything as long as it's comfortable. Like saddles, helmet choice is an individual thing. Most of the helmets on the market, from what I've seen, pass fairly stringent tests. You mainly need to make sure your helmet fits right, that it's fastened properly (no flapping loose straps) and that you wear it all the time. Other than that, wear what you like. Um, except no visors on roadbike rides, okay?
Right now I use a Giro Saros, though I think the same one was marketed under another name a year or so ago when I bought it. It cost around $100, has a bigger coverage area than the Giro Atmos (important when your secondary mountain bike braking mechanism involves headbutting maple trees or if you have the economy size head) and is quite comfortable. It fits me really well and the adjuster on the back works perfectly. I think it's mainly a road helmet, but what the hell. I use it for any kind of riding that I do. It stays in place pretty well, is reasonably cool, and looks shahp. I would buy it again though I might go for something with more vents.
Before that, I had a Bell Furio. It worked pretty well, except that it would slip down over my forehead and onto my eyebrows. This would have been handy if I had managed to ram my face into the road or a tree and hit my eyebrow on the ground or into the bark. Unfortunately, I mainly focused on hitting my cheek into trees last year, or sometimes hitting the top of my head on them. So the handy 'slips down over your eyebrows' feature sort of went to waste, though I appreciated the fact that Bell was looking out for my eyebrows. In all seriousness, it fit okay, but I needed some supplemental pads to make it fit just right and I never got around to getting them. The adjuster worked fine but the shape wasn't right - as David points out, some people have Bell heads, others have Giro heads. Mine's a Giro head, his is a Bell. This helmet was reasonably cool for me, not as comfortable as the Giro (but still not bad) and a bargain at about $50. I think Bell packaged it with a couple supplemental foam pads that I should have used to fit it properly, but I never cottoned on to the fact that I could do that and instead spent two years constantly pushing the helmet up on my head.
I've also gone through an Ascent helmet that had really low quality padding which immediately shredded and fell out (that was comfortable having the velcro sticking into my forehead all the time... not), and a department store Bell that looked dorky as hell but which fit nicely and was really comfortable.
Of all the pieces of biking gear you have... no, I'm not going to say what you think I'm about to say. Of all the pieces of gear you have, helmets are by far the stinkiest. You sweat, spit, and blow snot on them, smear Gu on 'em, drip Cytomax all over them, your dog licks the pads when you aren't looking, then they fester in your hot car for days after a long ride (which is why your car smells like ass too, just in case you were wondering). A two year-old helmet stinks so bad, that even goats find it too odorous to contemplate.
But good news! The treatment for Skank Helmet™ is easy. Hop into a warm shower with it on, give it a good rinse, then shampoo the outside, the innards, the pads, and most of all the straps with whatever you use for your hair. You don't need to condition it, and I wouldn't recommend using shampoo with weird additives like anti-dandruff shampoo or Rogaine shampoo, just in case. Rinse it out really well, then let it dry. This will take care of the horrendous odor for at least a couple weeks, and you will find the straps and the pads to be uncharacteristically non-greasy. It will feel like you're wearing somebody else's helmet for a while, and the cat litter box odor will be almost gone.
Now I will say what you expect me to say. Wear the damn thing, replace it if you bounce your head on the ground during a crash or if you see visible cracks in the plastic or any serious dents (or any cracks at all) in the foam, and get a new one every couple years. You spend thousands on your bikes, isn't your brain worth a hundred every few years?
Tuesday, April 07, 2009
- A Belgian is going to win at least one of the cobbled classics, and quite possibly three Belgians will win this week. Maybe an Italian will sneak in there... but if the Versus commentators sound like they're choking on chicken bones pronouncing names, it must be Classics Season.
- Lance Armstrong is pissed about doping controls and protesting his innocence; French doping controllers are acting like asses toward him.
- Tom Danielson has to withdraw from a spring race with unspecified stomach troubles.
- Velo News readers are pissed at the magazine's temerity to run a couple April Fools spoofs on April 1st. This is about grown men in tight lycra riding around on bikes, Velo News - this is serious business - and we don't appreciate your levity!
- Performance Bikes, The King of Eh, Good Enough, is having a huge 10% off sale (Everything! 10% off full MSRP!) and blowing out the neoprene booties and other winter gear that will only dry rot if they leave it out in the woodshed over the summer. Gotta make room for the Primal jerseys in the warehouse...
- People are bitching about their performances at Jeff Cup and the other races starting the local roadracing season, getting warmed up to really bitch about their bad performances for the rest of the season. It's important to exercise your bitching muscles, if you want to bitch well for the rest of the season.
- Hoovis is lettin' the hot chicks duke it out in his Mmmmmmarch Madness tournament.
- And Fat Marc thinks racing makes his ass look fat.
Who needs a clock when you've got this stuff to tell you what time it is?
Pretty good flash mob in the Antwerpen train station there, eh? I'm sure those crazy Belgians are just celebrating Stijn van Devolder's big win (second year in a row) in the Ronde van Vlaanderen over the weekend.
Monday, April 06, 2009
A boxing metaphor that expresses a really admirable characteristic that cyclists ought to consider is, 'he punches above his weight.' This is used to describe a boxer who punches like a much larger fighter, a boxer who is pound-for-pound better than those who have a natural size and strength advantage. I want to do a series on this where we can talk about this kid of gear, and these kinds of people.
Now I'm not going to talk about climbers, who are pound-for-pound the strongest men and women in cycling. Talking about climbers punching above their weight in climbing because they climb well would be like talking about dentists being exceptionally good among doctors because, unlike other doctors, they are really good at pulling teeth.
What I want to try to think about in a small periodic series are riders, kit, workouts and anything about cycling that performs better than you'd expect in places where you wouldn't expect it. A climber who lays down a great TT might be an example, or a rouleur who proves himself an exceptional climber would fit the definition. So too would a great bit of gear that comes at a low price, or which can do something unusual that you wouldn't expect. Feel free to chip in with nominations on the topic.
For the first one, I'm going to talk about components that punch above their weight, that do more than you'd expect. You may have some ideas about this, and please feel free to share, but here's three components that punch well above their weight.
- The Ultegra gruppo. Jared Nieters seems high on the new Ultegra gruppo. And why not? I can't tell the difference while riding, other than *possibly* (I'm not sure) better front derailer shifting from DA. Ultegra weighs about 220 grams more than Dura Ace (that's a quarter pound), but costs about half as much or less, and some parts (like the cranks) are thought by some smart guys to be a lot stiffer on the Ultegra. Ultegra offers [rp quality performance for amateurs who have to pay for their own gear.
- Conti Folding Gatorskin 700x23 and 700x25 clinchers. Conti Gatorskins offer nearly the flat resistance of Specialized Armadillos, but also have the handling characteristics of a journeyman premium race tire. They come in at around 225 grams (average weight for a basic premium race tire), and they are priced around $40 (average to low price for tires of that quality). While the wire bead Gatorskins are a decent training and okay race tire (at ~300 grams and $25), the kevlar bead (folding version) makes no excuses. It's cheaper than the Vredestein Fortezza and Michelin Pro Race 3, lighter than the Fortezza, the same weight as the Hutchinson Fusion, and only about ~25 grams heavier than the excellent handling Michelin. The Michelin - kind of the standard in my mind - doesn't last 25% as long as the Gatorskin. You shouldn't do this, but I often go from the trainer to the road on them during winter, with no adverse effects; I've ridden them down to the cords without flatting. Unrivalled durability + par handling + par weight = a superb tire.
- Thomson Stems and Seatposts: Unbreakable, lighter than most comparable metal components, solid-looking in a stout, function over-form sort of way. The posts have a lovely saddle angle adjuster that is easy to dial in very precisely; the stems have a pinch plate that seems to lock them in place tighter than a drum - though there are some caveats with carbon steerers. The price is also extremely reasonable when compared with carbon components, which are a bit lighter but much less durable. Here's some comparisons for 300mm seatposts, 27.2 mm diameter:
Easton EC70 200g $150
Ritchey WCS Carbon 182g $180
Thomson Elite 220g $100
Any components you'd like to add to the "punches above their weight" list?
So you give up as much as 40g compared to similar carbon seatposts, but save $50-$80, and you will never worry about snapping a Thomson component - your seattube and steerer will likely splinter long before that seatpost snaps or the stem crumples. Thomson components are still on the light side of average, but possess Wookie strength. What Thomson says about their seatposts (and I believe them):The tube will start to yield and bend at the seat tube clamp at about 250 foot-lbs of torque. Remember all brand-x posts we tested flew apart at less than 150 foot-lbs of torque.
Bottom line: Thomson should be cited for violating Bontrager's Iron Triangle Rule - Strong, light and cheap, pick any two.
Sunday, April 05, 2009
So did I order a new part? Of course not. Instead I went to the trusty workbench, got a cotter pin, opened it up (so it was just a thick wire), drove out the pivot rivet with the pin, then cut off the ends of the pin and bent the ends so that the pin is secured and doing the job the rivet used to do. Total cost: $0.01, at most. I apologize Mike. Lesson learned.
Today's Ride: 40 miles solo on the fixed gear, 2:35. Jon was attacked by a rampaging enchilada so we bagged the trail maintenance notion and I used the morning for a bit of selfish fun.
Saturday, April 04, 2009
I'll leave you with a couple thoughts:
- One of the worst things you can do is to be a bad wheel on a group ride - speeding up, slowing down, speeding up, slowing suddenly, swerving. It drives people around you into a rage. Smooooth, people. And straight.
- When you've only been doing base riding, or steady harder efforts, a series of a couple dozen 20 second VO2 surges in an accordion-ing paceline will blow you up in short order. The ability to grind zone 2 for hours sticks, but it's amazing how VO2 fitness completely disappears when you take some time off the bike.
- Walkersville sounds like it was a frickin' disaster today. I'm rarely of a mindset to say "I'm glad I didn't race," but today sounds like one of those days, with multiple crashes, including, I hear, the 1-2-3 race stacking it into some support vehicles that were clearing an earlier wreck. A bunch of my Coppi buddies had horrendous luck, getting inopportune flats and getting crashed out by swerving riders in the high winds. Flamenco Chuckwagon couldn't even get to the race without getting hit by a flying sofa... I hope things go better for everybody at Tysons tomorrow.
- My Tarheels advanced to the NCAA final on Monday night. I'm a little in awe of this team. I like watching them play because they have a good attitude; they grind awful hard for a team packed with stars. It also takes me back to law school days in Chapel Hill; it's a great place to spend a couple or three years, if you ever get the chance. Even if you have to live just 8 miles from Duke to do it.
- Just kidding. Duke, or the South Campus of Princeton, as we used to refer to it, is a wonderful school. Too bad about the basketball team though...
- Hoovis' marginally NSFW cycling hot chicks tournament is down to the Final Four, and Liz Hatch figures prominently. Now, I like what I like when it comes to women, and Liz ain't quite my cup of tea, but even so, I am pretty much in awe of how good looking she is, and I don't find it shocking that she capitalizes on it. I find threads like this one interesting, in which there's a big debate about whether female athletes degrade their sport by flaunting their looks. Thing is, Liz Hatch and Looney and a lot of other female cyclists aren't the first ones to do this, and when you see pictures and videos of a lot of the great male champs back in the day, they had a similar rock star appeal and definitely capitalized on it. Coppi and Mercx come to mind as pretty faces who could definitely ride, but you see them on video in their prime, and you can only compare them to folks like Bruce Lee, Cary Grant, or Sophia Loren: total package media figures. They move with a grace that is either studied poise or some odd natural ability to always look good, the emanate a "wouldn't you like to be like me" vibe, and you can't help but stop and shake your head and think, "damn, what a specimen." The great athlete/media figures just happen to do a sport for their main gig, rather than acting. So no, I don't have a problem with Liz Hatch (or Michael Phelps) or any other athlete who seeks to market their star power. You may not like it but they are standing in a long line of distinguished athletes. I judge athletes based on a lot of factors, but making money because they look damn good? That doesn't seem like a valid criterium.
Thursday, April 02, 2009
I've been on a 'brainless rock' kick this week. Brainless rock isn't bad sometimes though; there's a lot that goes into it if it's done right. Call 'em bar bands, call 'em dinosaurs, call 'em what you want. Some brainless rock bands play some damn good music.
Here's a great band you probably have forgotten about... The Allman Brothers. They played some really wonderful Southern Rock / Bluegrass. They have some pretty serious musical chops; their pop holds up even after all these years as serious music, yet here they are playing this roots music that wouldn't be out of place in a juke joint or a honky tonk. Amazing.
Another great 70's Southern Fried Rock band was Lynyrd Skynyrd. Skynyrd is sort of a punchline to some people, I guess every band becomes a punchline eventually. But you have to check out the energy they had back in the day. Holy shit, this had to be an amazing show. The crowd is really interesting - since it's the 70's, most of them are probably stoned to the bejeezus, but they are totally caught up in the music. Turn the speakers up or put on some headphones and roll with it. It's 103 proof distilled essence of rock, my brothers... there's nothing quite like it.
Skynyrd was a really great rock band. You need to check 'em out on YouTube, and just hit up all the links to other bands' covers of their songs. No band that is a jokes would be that copied. The music is accessible, you totally think you understand it, but it just keeps turning up in surprising places - with bands like Nirvana, or Jewel, or Kid Rock. Skynyrd even inspired what is perhaps the most insane and culturally shocking cover of any rock song I've ever seen - the Leningrad Cowboys & Red Army Choir cover of Sweet Home Alabama.
Then there's ZZ Top. Haw haw haw haw.
I use that line in conversation all the time. It works to cover up any awkward silences or social gaffes. Like you mistakenly hug the Queen in a rope line, the Scotland Yard security detail starts to rush you, and you hold up your hand, and go, "Haw haw haw haw!" Totally works, every time. But seriously, ZZ Top's image with the beards and stuff is pretty crazy, but they are an awesome blues rock band. They totally bring the musical heat fuzing Texas blues guitar to a reverb-fueled rock sound. Hell yeah!
Then there's Friend of ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons, George Thorogood. A great cover artist, great guitarist, but not enough original stuff to be a Hall of Famer. Still, the Delaware Destroyers were a great bar band, and I think Ol' George still makes his living playing music, so he must be doing something right.
Let's end with ZZ Top's iconic blues song, Jesus Just Left Chicago. This just blows me away, it's so damn good.
Brenton says the fights are complex and dangerous. "I equate them to solving a 1000-mph, three-dimensional chess game where the loser dies," he says. "The radio chatter can become so confusing that it's like blaring rock music in your ears at full volume. You have to act fast, think continuously, pull upwards of 9 g's over and over, monitor your fuel state, track your weapons status, make adjustments to the jets' internal systems, avoid the ground, stay in formation with your wingmen, operate your fire-control radar, scan the airspace visually for threats, decipher your blaring radar-warning-receiver signals and ensure that you kill all the bad guys. Then you must dodge the SAMs, engage a ground target with live bombs successfully, turn around and fight your way back out through the regenerated Red Air one more time before heading home."You got it? That's all you have to do to survive a 20 minute encounter with *friendly* forces playing the bad guys. Real enemies trying to really kill you is probably a little more stressful. The 20 minutes discussed above is at the apogee of at least 5 years of training that starts with taking mind bending difficult math and engineering courses, flight school where you might kill yourself despite the best efforts of your instructor, constant training and study... and if you get through it all you may find yourself trying to find a carrier deck at 3:00 AM as it heads into 20 foot swells at 30 knots. Or cruising around over some mountain in the Hindu Kush after a 4 hour flight to get on station, and trying to keep your concentration up and not crash into the damn thing. It's a very tough job and a dangerous one, and the people who do it know the risks and the arduousness and still they take it on. I'm damned grateful that they do because I know in my heart of hearts, it's not something I could do successfully.
The Right Stuff apparently includes a good portion of luck, along with a slightly superhuman level of talent and the right attitude. Three of the four young men I knew who chose that career are dead now, killed in training accidents, two of them probably by mechanical failures that were completely out of their hands.
Like most re-entry cyclists I was casting around a few years ago for a rack that would get me by. Like most re-entry cyclists, I was willing to settle for a less than perfect rack that would git 'er done at a fairly low cost. Like most re-entry cyclists, I got a trunk rack since it satisfied a wide variety of needs - 1) cheap; 2) readily available; 3) cheap. So I got a Performance 3-bike trunk rack, very much like the one shown below. It was cheap. It was in fact readily available. It also leaves some scuff marks on the trunk of the car when I use it, and it has some sharp bits exposed like bolt heads that will put unsightly (and if you ride carbon seriously damaging) deep scratches onto your bike. It doesn't work well with small frame sizes or oddball mountain bike frames, and the system of long nylon straps could have been inspired by some S&M dungeon. Still, it gets the job done when you need it and I keep mine around for when I need to carry more than two bikes on the roof rack. If you need something right now, and it has to be cheap and versatile and sturdy (and you don't have a small, oddly shaped, or fragile frame) and you don't mind mildly scuffing the paint on your car, then this will be good enough for you.
I bought my new-ish truck a couple years ago. It has a nifty basic rack on it already, but it's a bit of an odd-sized Ford OEM piece of gear. The good part is that the basic rack that came with the truck from the factory is mounted permanently to the roof, and the guts of it, the crossbar system, slides back off the rear of the truck and into a vertical position, with the bottom of the crossbar system locked onto the rear bumper. This makes for easy loading and unloading, but the crossbar system is quite unusual, with inconveniently placed and unusually shaped flat cross bars. So I had a problem figuring out what to mount. I settled on Rocky Mounts Noose SL. Basically, it's just a fork mount bike rail that mounts to the factory-supplied cross bars on your vehicle. It's competitively priced with the big boys like Yakima and Thule - I got a team deal but they retail for $99 per rail. They are versatile, with mounts that could be described as universal fit. The downside to that is that they need to be tightened periodically, because the fit isn't (and never could be) absolutely perfect, and it took a bit of head scratching to figure out exactly how to fit them. But fit them I did, albeit with my bikes facing backwards due to the unusual factory rack on my SUV. They've been a pretty good buy. The fork mount racks are kind to smaller and carbon frames, they are easy to use once you figure out how to use them, and they've been fairly durable. The downside to them is you have to purchase the lock cores separately to secure the fork locks (~$14) and you may need long bolt kit for vehicles like Nissan XTerras that have funny shaped cross bars. They are a little flimsy - I'm an idiot and haven't managed to break mine even after running into an overhead sign so take that with a grain of salt and consider it a perception maybe more than a reality. But I am happy with them after two years and they've held up well so far with nearly daily use.
Wednesday, April 01, 2009
If you're into weeping and gnashing your teeth, some enterprising soul posted parts of the press conference for us here.
[Update: April Fools! And from now on, that is going to be the official RickRoll video of this blog. Consistent with blog policy for FY 2009, all content will contain 14% more funk than other blogs of comparable size. Even my RickRolls will have more funk. I promise.]