Tuesday, June 30, 2009
In short, I’ve sold a few people on riding the bike, and they’ve gotten hooked. How does that happen? I don’t know, exactly. But I’ll tell you how it doesn’t happen.
Over the weekend, I was listening to ESPN radio. They were having a good chuckle at the improbable U.S. run at the Confederation Cup, an off-year version of the World Cup. The U.S. did pretty well and the host made the mistake of asking what it would take for soccer to cross over into the mainstream and hit it big – NFL big – in the United States.
In retaliation, soccer fans unloaded on him. About half were simply pleased to death that the U.S. did well in the Confederations Cup.
The other half enjoyed their 15 seconds of fame explaining, via text, email and phone call, that the U.S. is a stupid bad place because we are all fat and stupid and out of step with the rest of the world and like the NFL and we’re unsophisticated and maybe this will straighten us out and don’t make me take a breath because I’m on a rant here and America just blows compared to the soccer friendly countries and we have a new president who should help and why doesn’t ESPN knock hockey off the network (they did) and football (yeah right) and what the hell is wrong with them don’t they know it’s the biggest game in the world and…
This is simple sports chauvinism and it's stupid if you’re trying to win fans to your sport.
In fact, it does the opposite of winning fans to your sport. It alienates people from it.
On the merits of the claims of the rabid fans, I have news for you people. Soccer is the sport of the lumpenproles in most of the world. They don’t fancy themselves sophisticates who get it when all round them just don’t see their tortured genius. They don't fancy themselves much of anything, to tell the truth. They're mostly busy just trying to get along. If you are short on teeth, shirts, shoes and sobriety, and you live in a place which consumes less per capita per annum than the typical Real Hollywood Wives Personal Assistant does in the course of a morning, then soccer is likely your sport.
Excuse me, soccer fanatics. I meant, Foooot… ah-Bowl fahns. Because if you don’t say it right, that is like a semi-literate Honduran on a German team being interviewed in English by a Russian announcer at a friendly match in Turkey, it means you just don’t get the Foooot…ah-Bowl mystique. If you have tribal or religious or centuries-old political rivalries and The Officials no longer let you practice the blood feud, soccer is likely your sport. Birmingham City v. Wolverhampton, anyone? What, British racist skinheads not your fancy? Then would you care for a sophisticated serving of Catania-Palermo, with a side dish of Lazio-Livorno, washed down with a neat little shot of Celtic-Rangers?
But this is all irrelevant. I’m not trying to run down soccer, which I like alright, but to run down sports chauvinism generally. Yeah, it’s wonderful that soccer is popular in Europe and South America and in third grade classes alike. That doesn’t mean it’s right for everybody. If majority rule was the determinant of excellence, we’d all be striving to eat rice for every meal, we’d wear bluejeans everywhere (including at our own funerals) and we’d be stuck listening to Menudo. Or maybe Rush Limbaugh, who just might have the top talk political talk show worldwide.
You want to live in a world like that? I don’t. (No offense meant, Rush. Please don’t have me killed by Mr. Snerdly).
Arguing lifestyle/cultural supremacy as a selling point for your way of life is like telling people who hate spinach to eat spinach, and then telling them they’ll go to hell if they don’t convince themselves they love it. (Note to Self: Contact American Spinach Counsel and remind them not to do this). Ultimately, it’s a way to inculcate hatred of spinach in people who otherwise wouldn’t be enemies. The people you turn off – the people you convert to the spinach- (or soccer-) hating cause will tell others at the water cooler that the thing you are passionate about sucks. There’s nothing wrong with soccer fans worldwide. But understand that the superiority that the soccer fanatics are trying to push on us – the Euro- or MesoAmerican soccer culture that is supposedly superior to NHL or NFL or MLB fan-dom, involves getting wicked hammered; for many it involves rioting or streetfights based on blind rivalry and stupid grudges; and it involves causing the noses of the middle-to-upper classes in their respective countries to curl up in disgust.
Yes, that’s right, you heard it here first: soccer is not the darling of the elite in most of the countries cited; it’s their NASCAR, but without sweet V-8 iron, peaceful crowds, and most of all without NASCAR’s amazingly upscale fan demographics.
The attempt to shame people into loving a sport is always stupid and lame.
Thing is, people like what they will like. You don't sell a sport by attacking people who like other sports.
You probably know where this is going now.
I sometimes hear cyclists arguing for cycling by saying we'd be smarter and thinner and prettier and more in step with the rest of the world if we rode bikes a lot more. Racing would be more popular if Americans were just better people. If only there was more television coverage, everybody would love it. (Because if 6 hours of coverage of a flat stage of the TdF isn’t enough to turn people on to the sport, I don’t know what is…)
Do we know what pro bike racing really is?
American neo-pros are always shocked to have to go into a smoky bar and get their race number from some drunk old Belgian guy who is hammering gin and eating Frites with greasy fingers. We’re always shocked to hear about riders doing desperate things to compete and win. The pain of the riders sounds terrifying. A lot of the teams are run by sharp dealers. Supposedly premier races are run by shoddy promoters and sketchy sanctioning bodies. We’re appalled by all this. When a rider can’t handle fame and fortune and becomes a junkie, we act like it’s shocking that they didn’t handle their success well. It’s as if we expected something a lot better.
It’s like we’re the cycling counterparts of the evil half of the American soccer fans. Like we’re proselytizing for an idealized version of a sport that doesn’t actually exist, where the racers are all clean and articulate and faster than average, and all the other riders are cute Copenhagen girls on the just the perfect city bike. But this is our upscale image of the sport and the vehicle. Upscale foreign soccer, clean always exciting upscale bicycling... don't exist. Ultimately, it's just kicking a damn ball around or riding a damn bike, either of which is a great thing, but it's as simple and common as sneezing or walking.
Consider the possibility that maybe we’re cycling chauvinists, and that maybe cycling will sell itself in this country as it sells itself, no faster. Be open to making new converts, but don’t try to force people into it, and don’t lecture them about how dumb they are if they don’t ride. Particularly don’t lecture them about their inferiority to the Chinese, the Dutch, Africans. It doesn’t work, and believe me, if you talk to a Chinese or African cyclist, what they really want is to save up for a car. The Dutch… well… they sell a lot of dope in Amsterdam, I guess.
So what works to sell cycling, and our sport of racing? Well, Lance brought a lot of people into cycling, so did higher gas prices. The next great American cyclist - and there are some in the pipeline like (maybe) Tyler Farrar - may bring more people to racing. This is all good. The current boomlet is nice, maybe if we do some bike advocacy to make the world friendlier for riders, maybe if we talk up the sport in a positive way when asked, ask the boss for showers at work for commuters, maybe if we schedule a viewing party – for the last 90 minutes of a great TdF stage – we can win some converts.
But we shouldn’t start from the premise that there’s something wrong with people who just don’t get it. Yeah, our sport is the greatest sport there is – for us. Other people maybe just haven’t seen the light yet. If we want to win converts to the sport, it’s our job to show our light to them – not to curse them out for standing in the darkness.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
To overcome an injury, you have to move past it. Not just heal up, but let go of it mentally. The mind heals slower than the body, sometimes.
Versus was showing a retrospective of Lance's greatest stages all day today. It really struck me how doping has decimated our sport. You see the leaders around Lance on any key stage, and the prime movers among the domestiques - it's all dopers. Vino, Ulrich, Basso, Heras, il Pirato, Hamilton, Floyd, Millar. It goes on and on. After watching a few episodes, it seemed to me like the could-have-been-greats of the last generation were cut down by doping the way wheat is cut down by a scythe. It's their own, and the team's, damned fault, but it doesn't make it easier to bear. Imagine if the baseball hall of fame had no players from a 20 year period. That would be weird, wouldn't it? We're stuck with a 20 year period of cycling that we just can't trust. It made me queasy. I'm going to watch the TdF, but I really can't get all breathless about it knowing it will likely be ground zero of whatever the latest doping scandal is.
Friday, June 26, 2009
For one thing, they are engaged in the kind of protest that is really appealing to activists, but which repulses many people in the mainstream, the folks you need to win over if you want your cause to prevail. It's like the jackasses who use Critical Mass as an excuse to get stoned up and foul and to break stuff - people may put up with gentle civil disobedience and still listen to you, but when you start threatening to kick their asses, the argument is over, and the guy brandishing the fists has lost. Thing is, we need to be responsible in how we manage the oceans, and this kind of foolishness does much to discredit legitimate conservationists who follow the laws, by allowing their opponents to smear them with the deeds of the 'direct action' protesters. Don't get me wrong - I think Critical Mass done right, in the style of civil disobedience, is just the thing to protest police and prosecutor inaction in the face of vehicular manslaughter, and to protest policy travesties that shaft the bicycling community. But it can go too far, and when it does, it hurts the cause more than it helps, and the only thing that gets advanced is the ego of the protesters.
For another thing, they are really freaking incompetent. They have a first mate who can't navigate, for example. He seems unable to do a reverse azimuth - that means he can't look at a small ship on the radar bearing 10 degrees, and radio to them that they need to travel on a course of 190 degrees to return to the ship. He's also an abrasive and smarmy know-it-all. In the office, somebody like this is merely insufferable. On an expedition, on a ship or in battle, somebody like that is the sort of fool who gets people killed. They have a bunch of crew, for another example, who don't know how to make fast their personal gear. Every episode shot during choppy seas features a bunch of expensive laptops, books and the like hitting the deck when the ship rolls a tiny bit. And the worst part is, the competent people on the ship seem to be stuck in second fiddle positions, under a captain who does not do what is necessary to run a ship. Afloat, the captain is God, king, priest and doctor; a captain who is indecisive and lets the ship be run as a democracy endangers the ship. The Steve Irwin appears to be operated like a New England town hall meeting. It happens that direct democracy is an okay way to run a small town; it's just not a great way to run what is in essence a paramilitary operation, particularly when it occurs in an inherently dangerous environment like a boat where the outcome hinges much more on technical expertise and decisive action than on empowering even the lowest ranked 'citizens.'
For another 'nother thing, there's no discipline. When the small boats lose touch with the mothership (take that term how you like) they stop communicating by radio. There's something like panic on the big ship. Eventually, the small boats show up. They inform the officers they stopped communicating by radio because the seas were really rough. Then there's the rubber boat launching drill. They have a couple rubber boats that they use to chase down the whalers for boarding or stink bombing. It seems to take them forever to get the boats off their moorings on the deck, and into the water. Now I'm not a sailor, but I've been on enough boats big and small to know that the crew have to be disciplined and know what they are doing, or you wind up putting lives in danger unnecessarily. I also know from military and some limited EMS experience that radio discipline is absolutely essential to this. You simply do not miss status checks on the radio; otherwise you may trigger a rescue attempt as people try to find the missing units (a dangerous activity in and of itself) or you may get left behind as a result. Same too with the boats - watching the zodiacs bounce off the side of the big boat, with a bunch of crew spectating and a couple hands trying futilely to control the movement, is a picture of undiscipline. I'm betting that pretty much any navy worth the name, and any successful commercial vessel that relied on small boat operations would drill boat launching until the crew could do it in their sleep, half drunk, at 50% staffing. When your entire mission relies on getting the boats in the water quickly, wouldn't you think that drilling on boat launching would be one of the main preoccuptions of the ship?
The bottom line for me is this. I'm more on the side of the Sea Shepherds than against them. I agree that illegal whaling (and for that matter a lot of illegal overharvesting of the seas) must be stopped. But I hate the incompetent, dangerous, probably illegal and ultimately ineffective way they are going about it. In the long run, like some Critical Mass events, it may do more to undercut a good cause than to advance it.
I think they're worse than wrong. They're incompetent.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Like a Reverse Facebook Photo:
Better Looking in Person Swobo Baxter
One of the staffers chatted with me a bit and elicited the fact I was traveling and just stopping in to get a few trinkets. He invited me to join the crew for the basement studio spin class. The studio is a state of the art, wired for power, sound and video workout space with virtual reality trainers and all sorts of bikes and techy goodies. I can't even describe the gear geekery emanating from the basement. "Oh yeah, those are some of Lance's bikes leaning on that wall." So I'm there looking at an amazing array of Lance and shop bikes and training gear and chatting with former DC Tri and DCMTB guys and here's the conversation.
Staffer: You should stop by for the spin class at 6:00 AM.
Me: I dunno.
Staffer: It's really not fair to call it a spin class. It's not really like spinning at all.
Me: I'm not sure about my schedule in the AM. It's pretty tight.
Staffer: Kevin Livingston leads the class.
Me: Kevin... WTF?
Staffer: Y'know, Lance's old teammate? He coaches and consults. He's friends with Lance and Lance invited him in to do this. It's kind of not like any spin class you've ever done.
Me: Okay. I hate to say this but I've been laid up for most of the spring. I'm totally unfit. That class would kill me right now. Seriously. You don't want that.
Staffer: Yeah, I just about pass out occasionally. It's pretty insane.
Random Racer Chick (who reminded me of Mega-Deau) Who Was Just Passing By: I totally passed out a couple weeks ago in the class and fell off the bike. It was really embarassing. [Giggle].
Me: Next time I'm in town I'll make time for it. And make sure I'm peaking first...
Other notes: great selection of bike-related fashion and hipster gear, from Swobo and Rapha to Hincapie and non-descript Mellow Johnny's label stuff. Good selection of bikes from barebones commuters to shoot-the-moon racers. Not as much stock as you'd expect, but good stuff up and down the line. Beautiful shop jerseys, the same stuff you see Lance practicing in, except it's not Livestrong (they sell that stuff too) it's Mellow Johnny's or Juan Pelota Cafe gear. Whoever is their fashion buyer is smart, with classic, timeless tastes. Very nice. It's a sweet high end local bike shop, just candy to a cyclist. And you can get a decent espresso ristretto at the Juan Pelota Cafe within the shop. Awesome.
Like I say, love Lance or hate him, he's a force of nature to be reckoned with and his shop reflects that. It's a first rate operation.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
It's tough on riders though. I thought of renting a bike but the roadies I've seen don't look happy. The weather has been in the low 100s here, and guys who look like they should be total hammerheads, in team jerseys, pedal along like cockroaches that have been dosed with Raid... slowly, uncomfortably, with great effort, like some june bugs ate the last of the cornbread crums and there's nothing left but some coumadin. It's also flatter than a North Dakota accent around here.
So I hit the hotel gym. It's minimalist with three or four cardio machines and a few Universal machines. And a huge freakin' big screen. So I did about an hour on the elliptical trainer. A thousand calories later, I was out of there. I hadn't done that in several years - hanging out there in epic mundane fashion reminded me why I love riding. 20 years of life as a gym rat - either running or pumping iron to get fit for rugby - burned me out on hanging in gyms. And while ESPN Sportcenter was lovely, the 'running' got monotonous pretty quick. Still, with all the foot issues I've had lately I was exceedingly grateful to be able to use the elliptical at all with only moderate foot pain. Gotta be grateful for what I can get.
Tomorrow I'm heading toward Austin. I hope to check out Mellow Johnnies at some point, maybe see if I can score some T-shirts or something. Maybe I'll run into Lance himself. If so, I'll have to ask: "If you were forced to choose and could hit only one of the Olson twins... "
Monday, June 22, 2009
In the interest of full disclosure, I thought it was important that I come clean about the vast pile of schwag I've accumulated as a result about blogging about bike gear.
First of all, there's that Ultegra stuff I keep bragging about as being nearly as good as Dura Ace, and way way cheaper than Campagnolo stuff, with replacement parts that are available no matter where you go. That was all a lie. The truth is the head of the Ultegra product design team at Shimano, a guy who owns three Hummers and an Escalade and lives in Texas, gives me free chain pins and derailer cable housing to say that. In reality, Ultegra costs nearly twice what Dura Ace does, and you can hardly find it in any shop, plus it breaks if you look at it funny. It also weighs nearly 12 pounds, making it the single heaviest part of your bike. In contrast, you can find Campagnolo gear nearly anyplace, and when I said their cassette cost $438 I 'forgot' to put in the decimal point. A Campy 11 cassette only costs $4.38, and it's so light that it flies off into the heavens if you don't tie it down. Yeah, that's right, Campy 11 is the best value on the market and Ultegra is a vile group designed by a bunch of Texas SUV drivers who hate cyclists. I'm sorry I misled you about that.
Then there was my discussion about training with power. It's bullshit, it's bogus. I only talk it up because Saris and Training Peaks gave me a free login after I had locked myself out of the software upgrade website. They give it to everybody for free but I am such a gear whore that I sold out for something I would have gotten free anyhow. Pathetic, no? The truth is that power training does not help you at all. It only distracts you from the real training plan you should be following, which is "go wicked hard all the time." Many Cat 5 and Cat 4 riders train using this method, and just look at their results! When you see power training kit on bikes, it's only because the UCI and WADA imposed Confidential Rule 220.127.116.11 a couple years ago following the late 90's drug scandals as a method of punishing dopers without scandalizing the entire sport. The rule requires all riders who are caught doping to ride heavier bikes as a punishment. That's right, all those riders with power measuring equipment are convicted dopers. A Powertap is the easiest, most plausible way to add a half kilo to a bike's weight without putting a ball and chain on it and a big sticker saying, "I'm a doper." And I'm totally not saying this to get my rivals for mid-pack B Master cyclocross finishes to quit training with power, you can trust me on that. Besides, even if they wanted to stop training with power, they couldn't thanks to the WADA rule.
Speaking of coming clean, a while back, I spoke highly of Pedro's Cleaning Kit and Citracleen. I only did this because I got some free at a race in a schwag bag. Now, I don't know whether I need to sell out for the race or for the gear, so I sold out for the gear. What I said about the Pedro's brushes being the schizzle, an essential part of a rider's toolkit and just the ticket to clean a dirty bike was a total fabrication. Fact is, the brushes seem to be made out of pure sodium, and when you expose them to water, they burst into flame. This is horrifying when using Citracleen, which is actually made out of Texaco Super Unleaded, rather than the citrus by-products I claimed they were made with. I'm sorry if any of you have been burned by the Pedro's Spontaneously Combusting cleaning products and the Citracleen, which is also useful as a napalm substitute.
Finally, I recently said good things about Continental Gatorskin tires. I said they were tough, gripped pretty well in dry conditions, and were light. The fact is I got them at race team shop discount prices, basically a 50% discount. I should have disclosed that at the time. But I didn't. I just hope none of you have been injured by the metal snow studs that fly out of the tires when you descend fast hills, and that their regular off-gasing of flaming helium hasn't caused you any injuries. Oh yeah, and the 'flat resistant lining' is actually a lead sheet, so if your legs felt a little heavy riding them, well, it's because they actually weigh 21,000 grams, not the 210 grams I said they weighed. I feel horrible that I misled so many of you, but the fact that I've been able to profit grossly from this - perhaps profiting as much a $26 - sort of soothes that nagging ache.
It used to be that I would be bummed about increased government surveillance of this lucrative blogging operation. The fact is that I like profiting unduly from the major freebies that the manufacturers throw at me, and this is a thought I cherish as I burn $20 bills to keep the new wing of the Rouleur mansion at a comfortable 85 degrees in winter. Yep, I would have been bothered, but since I recently upgraded my 80% lean hamburger to Kobe beef filets, and since I bought the new Bentley to haul bikes to the races, I just don't care all that much about the intervention. After all, if a big evil business like my blog could escape regulation, what kinds of things would escape FTC regulation next? Fiendishly profit-oriented roadside lemonade stands operated by kindergarteners, that sell lemonade to all buyers regardless of whether they are diabetic or have sensitive teeth that might be irritated by lemon juice? Girl Scout cookie sales moguls amassing a fortune through their indirect sales networks (i.e. 'parents')? Bike races, which advertise themselves as "fun" but which are primarily comprised of suffering?
There's simply no telling what could happen if we don't keep a close eye on these bloggers to ensure their speech about products is as responsible as it ought to be and to ensure that they fully disclose where the goods discussed were sourced from.
Because if we don't police the bloggers to ensure their speech is responsible, then, um, the bloggers will have won.
Ps. If you're the lawyers for any of the companies mentioned above, the commentary above is satire. It's found in the dictionary somewhere after the words "onerous" and "regulation."
I'm going through that right now. Things are fine at work, I'm pretty sure the family scene is copacetic, at least as far as the immediate family goes, but my bicycling, general fitness and overall happiness level... it's about zero.
The recovery of the milled big toe is more or less on pace, so that alone isn't grounds to be unhappy. The doc ground off maybe a third of the bone on the first metatarsal about three, four weeks ago, so the moderate pain there, akin to a broken toe, isn't surprising. It has kept me off the bike a lot, slows down my walking, and keeps me from doing a lot of fun things I'd otherwise be doing right now. I've gotten in about 6 rides since the start of June. Pathetic.
Then last week I was visiting family in Syracuse. Since I was traveling as a single parent for this visit, I got in precisely no rides. That's not thoroughly accurate - I did pedal ten or twelve miles twice hauling the third wheel and the kid - but it's as close to nothing as possible.
I'm off today on some business travel, getting back at oh-dark-thirty on Friday. Work is going fine, if being da man and doing enough work for three people is what you consider fine. Seriously, I'm going full tilt Army Mule at work, really moving the ball, but also wearing my own ass out in the process. In order to get away for leave last week, I worked 13 out of 14 days, long days, prior to going on leave. I got back Saturday night then spent much of yesterday (Sunday) in the office.
I know. Given my glamorous Blogger To The Stars lifestyle, you think this is just whingeing. It is. That doesn't make it any less of a pain in the ass to my own fragile Id. I'm very unhappy right now. No ride, no happy.
Meanwhile, the two bikes I have out in the Mancave are staring at me, and my tight pants.
Each time I walk by them it's lie a reproach.
I had ambitious plans for the season too. I was really amped up going into the off-season, kept my legs under me reasonably well, was looking forward to doing some roadracing...
It just all turned to shit when my ankle blew up in January, then in March. Then again in mid-May, leading to the foot surgery.
Now I'm sitting here looking at my two bikes, the biggest cash investment in my life beside my house, and they are just doing nothing.
Family demands aren't ceasing either. I'm supposed to take Rouleur Offspring up to New York to spend time with the family in July, another week of single parenting and no riding whatsoever. Then there's a wedding of a distant cousin I'm being pressured to attend in August, aother near-week of travel and no riding.
This is just getting ridiculous. Everything is totally out of whack. I don't mind being a bit low on the priority list in my own life but I'm not even really making the list at all right now.
All I want is a consistent 90 minutes of down time, 5 times a week, for a couple months. Me, alone, on the bike, turning the pedals, hopefully on a consistent basis. Seriously, I don't want money, fame, or fancy cars. Just 90 minutes.
And no, having 90 minutes just before bed, as I sit there exhausted at the end of an 18 hour day, doesn't count. 90 minutes once a week on a Saturday morning doesn't really count either. That only makes it worse - it just points out everything I'm not doing right.
The bikes only weigh 17 or 18 pounds. When I look at them, however, I feel like they weigh a thousand pounds. Like their presence is a reproach for me letting my life run me, rather than the other way around.
Saturday, June 20, 2009
Depeche Mode - Personal Jesus
Cynical. Egotistical. Predatory. An offer to put himself at the center of the distressed person's universe.
Johnny Cash - Personal Jesus
Prayerful. An offer to help the distressed person find faith.
Marilyn Manson - Personal Jesus
Not on my I-Pod, unfortunately, but a lot of the imagery seems a knowing indictment of those who put their breathless faith in politicians and others who lead secular cults. It's a deeply spiritual version of the song with subversive graphics that reject the notion of earthly saviors. Then Manson mixes that imagery in with the usual jarring Goth stuff and reduces the message to incoherence. Still, I thought he was off to a good start.
In fact, the rejection of secular 'spiritual' leadership makes me think Manson is drawing inspiration from and mashing up this video:
In Living Colour - Cult of Personality
Anyhow, like I was saying, tone matters a lot. English isn't a tonal language so we tend not to treat tone (or its cousin connotation) with the delicacy it deserves. Most of us swing around words the way a bad apprentice framing carpenter swings a hammer. We tend to dent the timber.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Thursday, June 11, 2009
[Update]: got out for 90 minutes this morning, pre-breakfast. Highlights include:
riding along Route 450 with a Great Heron flying along each side of me, one about 5 feet to the right, one about 10 feet to the left. We raced for about 200 yards.
seeing two enormously fat does, estimated 200 pounds, underneath the powerlines off Johns Hopkins Road.
pulling my bike up to The Bravest Rabbit In The World, who just looked at me from 3 feet away as I pushed my bike into my back yard. I see this rabbit a lot. He glares at me like Clint Eastwood glares at the bad guy in a western.
I was thinking about getting a set of Mavic R-Sys wheels. But then I realized there are cheaper ways to break my neck. Actually, I think the R-Sys is just Mavic's way of aiming for a Federal bailout. But first they need to go bankrupt, and the easiest way for a wheel manufacturer to do that is to put an exploding wheel underneath the front end of the bike ridden by the Tech Editor for Velo News.
Yeah, that should do it...
Time for a little Mewsick.
I like Celtic themed rock/punk bands. That sort of music always gets me going.
The Dropkick Murphys / I'm Shipping Up to Boston
Pretty good, eh?
Celtic music is actually really old and punk & hip-hop are just the latest forms to which it has adapted. A lot of ethnologists say the Celts are actually Aryans. Not a prison gang or Germans, but the warrior people who traveled from India several hundred years BCE, wreaking havoc on Asia minor, sowing their seed in Germany and France, and eventually sweeping over the British Isles, forming the backbone of the Welsh, Scottish and Irish people. You know who looks like Irish Celts genetically? The Koreans. But I digress. The music of the Celts is adaptable. Rhythms and high pitched melodies that maybe predate recorded time work in a variety of genres.
Celtic music works, for instance, as metal.
Metallica: Whisky in the Jar
It works in Harrisonburg too.
Carbon Leaf: "Irish Song" (Morrison's Jig)
They work in Boston, and in Bombay:
Bollywood Mashup: House of Pain "Jump Around"
Man, if that little cultural loop-de-loop doesn't make your head hurt, nothing will.
And now, unrelated to anything, some old school hip hop / dance hall.
What I do for roadrash is a good cleaning followed by Tegaderm and Brave Soldier antiseptic cream. Keep the Tegaderm taped on and keep it covered for a week. Then enjoy the new skin. That works on mild abrasions. See your doc for anything more serious. Hint: puncture wounds, torn flesh, green stick fractures, gangrene and infections are not curable with topical ointment and Band-Aids. Your mileage may vary so use your own judgment here - it's your skin.
Victim Says, "Zebediah Didn't Hold His Goldurned Line!"
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
This week’s interview is with Joe Whitehair. He rides with the SingleSpeed Outlaw Factory Team, writes an interesting blog, competes on the mountain bike, and does a lot of work organizing rides and supporting trail work in the area. He’s a racer, rider, writer and advocate, and part of a crew of local guys and gals who work hard to make sure that mountain biking is play. I know Joe from riding ‘with’ him, if ‘with’ means seeing him at ride start, saying hello, then watching him fly off into the distance and then having a beer later. I wanted to get to know him, and the singlespeed and mid-Atlantic MTB scene a little bitter, and thought you might too.
Hey, you’re Joe Whitehair. What’s your deal?
I’m just a guy riding a bike who can’t get enough of it
Age: Closing in on 40 (shit!)
Hometown and where ya live now: Lived most of my life in Baltimore, MD and now I’m in Frederick, digging the small city and its proximity to the best riding in the state.
Family Status: Married to a great wife who understood and tolerated my bike obsessions long before she found her own interest in two wheels. Now she’s a biker too which makes her even better.
Job in ‘real life’: Currently unemployed and being a bike bum. When I earn a paycheck it is in the IS field like so many other people. And I’ll occasionally freelance for mags like Dirt Rag.
Describe your first bike, and the first ride you can recall.
I don’t recall the brand (maybe Monkey Wards) but it was a red fixed gear, solid rubber tires, a “foot brake” mounted to the downtube. I rode it far longer than I should have, but my parents were rather clueless about bikes. I recall riding it in circles on our small patio (derby?) and on our dead end street. Hmmmm, you know, this may explain a lot…
Ahh, early memorable fixed gear exposure. Were you a bikey kid, or was riding an adult onset condition? Did you have an athletic background as a kid? If so, what sports?
I was definitely a bike kid, it was my road to freedom, allowing me to travel to other neighborhoods where most of my classmates lived, to soccer and baseball practice and just go exploring. There weren’t any guys in my neighborhood my age, so the bike was my ticket to get out and about.
What is your cycling background?
After my first bike I was “upgraded” to a 5 speed department store bike with drop bars. Think 10 speed w/ a single ring (ahead of it’s time?) and big foam grips. After breaking the fork jumping it, I eventually saved money from cutting lawns for a chrome Huffy and thus began my BMX “career”. Dirt jumping on local trails, dropping off of walls, just having fun and ripping it up with my friends. This eventually led to freestyle riding which was in its infancy. I remember Bob Haro’s first “how to” book showing basic flatland tricks. From there it was riding as much as we could and learning as many tricks as we could as the sport evolved. Halfpipes, quarter pipes, the Lansdowne Bowl, street riding, more dirt jumping. If it looked fun on a BMX bike we were doing it. Retired the BMX bike in my junior year of high school, had “transportation bikes” for a couple of years, then while in college I discovered mountain biking and said “hey, this is like BMX for big kids”. That was around 1990. The rest, as they say, is history.
What’s the best part of riding for you? What moves you?
This might sound boring, but just getting out and riding does it. Every ride is different, whether it’s location, trail conditions, weather or who you are riding with. The thing I like I like best is the fact that, after all of these years, I can still get stoked to ride every time I head out. That said, I do have a special thing for snow rides. When conditions are prime it’s one of the best times to be on a bike.
I'm with you there. You can't ride fast, you can only have fun - you can just turn the lights off and just go like a ghost in the moonlight. It's pretty special and I envy Jill Homer in some ways.
Assume for a second you are riding down Soapstone at Patapsco. You stop for a drink, and a bush catches fire in front of you but does not burn. You drop the Surly flask containing tequila, thinking it must have quite a bit more cowbell than usual, and then God speaks to you. He sounds (and looks) suspiciously like Sheldon Brown, and tells you that you are only going to be allowed one more ride, then he’s calling you home to build a pump track and some mean single track in this virgin forest they have outside the Pearly Gates. In consolation, before you go, you can take one ride anywhere in the world. What ride do you ask for?
Wow, tough one. On one hand I’d say I want to go somewhere I’ve never been. On the other hand, that ride might be more hype than quality, it’s an unknown quantity. So, I’d have to say I’d take my wife to ride Crested Butte. The trails are high caliber, the views are amazing, the town has a cool vibe and she’s never been there.
What cycling disciplines do you ride (e.g. road, track, cross, MTB, touring, vacations in Hong Kong driving a pedicab)?
MTB is the big one. Fixed gear road rides that usually involve hitting dirt and gravel roads. Small tours of a couple days. S24O rides. Getting around town/commuting.
I know you do plenty of ‘grass roots’ mountain biking events, casual things that involve races or other competitions or epic riding put together by yourself or other single speeders. Do you ever do any sanctioned races? Why or why not?
I hardly do sanctioned races, mostly just 24 hour team relay stuff. One big reason is races tend to force you into a schedule and schedules feel like work. I like flexibility in my riding, if I want to take off on a trip to hit new trail system, I don’t want my weekends booked with races. Or, if I’m free I don’t want to not do a particular ride because it’s too long/hard/short/whatever because a race is coming up and it will screw up my “training”. A lot of races tend to be “lap” races and, with the exception of the team relay, I don’t have the desire to pay money to ride around in circles. I’ve got nothing against racers or racing, I’ve just found that most of it doesn’t appeal to my personality.
Can you describe the appeal of grass roots events (such as Liberty Jam or more racey stuff like some of the 12 and 24 hour events)?
Fun, period. Getting out and riding with a bunch of friends who have the proper attitude.
What are your top 3 grass roots events (as distinct from mere informal rides), and briefly explain why.
Dirt Rag’s Punk Bike Enduro: Fun suffering in adverse conditions with good people.
Liberty Jamboree: Beer drinking. Bike racing. Reservoir swimming. Cooking out. What’s not to love. Jim and Co. do it up right.
Single Speed World Championship: an excuse to travel to a cool location with like-minded people who you might only see once a year and ride single speeds on cool local trails. Hard to beat that.
I don't know about the others but second you on the Liberty Jam. Most fun I ever had on a bike, hardest day ever, until I tried a 12 hour solo.
Have you ever had a positive life changing or really glorious moment on a bike?
I suppose when my wife decided to take up MTBing that was pretty life changing. Among other things, the number of bikes in the garage has pretty much doubled and now she has a real appreciation for how much time cycling can eat up ;)
What was the worst moment you’ve ever had, on a bike or immediately attributable to bicycling?
Tearing the ligament in my thumb (on a night road ride) that required surgery and time off the bike. All things considered, it could have been worse.
How did you come to be a one cog enthusiast? (I’ll lump in single and fixed here).
It was pretty anti-climatic. A friend and I had heard about the single speed thing and decided to build up some old frames we had collecting dust. In short time I saw the benefits and quickly was consumed. It wasn’t hard to push me over the edge, I was already a technology hold out (thumb shifters, reluctant to move to a suspension fork) and the single speed thing just felt right for me.
What do you view as the advantages and disadvantages of a single speed MTB over a geared bike?
I prefer riding my bike more than working on it and I’m generally hard on equipment. The single speed means more time riding, less time wrenching.
What are the strengths and weaknesses of the 2 (2.5 considering 650b) primary wheel sizes? Do you see any benefits to the mix & match bikes (96’er, 69’er)?
I primarily ride a 29er these days but I’m no zealot. My personal opinion is wheel size should be proportionate to the rider size. You’ll hear people say they have fit riders 5’0” and under on 29ers but there are compromises to be made and it just seems stupid. 29ers aren’t a magic bullet. The 650b movement for MTBs seems unnecessary. Nothing wrong with the wheel size necessarily, but splitting the difference between 26 and 29 seems unnecessarily small. That said, run what works for you. Who am I to say what’s best for you?
Some people are pretty stringent about simplicity and frown on suspension. Do you have any strong feelings about suspension (mainly just front) on single speeds or any suspension on other MTBs? Also, how does the Jones fork and his flexy fat tired Ti bikes fit into this universe? Is it the Unitarian Universalism that will ultimately end the war between the rigid riders and the folks on 140 mm travel downhill forks?
If suspension makes the ride more fun for you, do it. Having fun should be first on the list when riding your bike. I prefer the simplicity of the rigid fork but it’s not for everyone. Contrary to popular belief, the Jones fork is actually stiffer than most standard rigid forks due to the truss design. It doesn’t feel harsh because of the head tube angle and the fork rake. The fat tire is a cool option for a lot of conditions but not for everything. Anyone who wants a lot of travel isn’t going to give up the 140mm for an Endomorph [4" MTB tire manufactured by Surly], but it’s fun to ride.
Why ride a fixed gear on the road?
Simplicity. Challenge. Double the workout in the same time as a freewheel.
Why ride a fixed gear mountain bike? What is different / most difficult about it?
The fixed MTB rules in the snow and ice. Direct drive train transfer means less time on the brakes and equals more control, especially in the corners. In the summer it will sharpen your skills or kill you. The toughest part is navigating technical rocks and logs and minimizing pedal strike. The fixed MTB is fun but I doubt I’ll ever give up the freewheel, the fast downhills are just too good on it. For the second year in a row we’ll have an all fixed gear team at the 24 Hours of Big Bear this weekend.
Can I gush for a second? I'm in awe of the guys who can ride fixed MTB and ride them really well, like RickyD. I can't even comprehend the skill it takes. Watching them, I feel like my dog when he takes notice of an NHL game on the TV. I see what they're doing, totally don't know how they do it.
What areas, and what parts of them, are your three favorite rides in the Mid-Atlantic that you’d be willing to share with my readers, many of whom are serious roadies or crossers who maintain a love interest on the side with dirt?
The Tour de Patapsco: an all day adventure right outside of a suburban area. Great trails, long distance on the dirt and a chance to navigate and figure out the route on your own.
Exploring the Frederick Watershed: With no official maps and more trails than you can ride in a day it’s got more options than most realize. Big climbs, small climbs, XC, freeride/downhill, gravel roads, bears and rattlesnakes. Never a boring time.
Elizabeth Furnace – Signal Knob/Meneka Peak/Bear Wallow loop: Around 70 miles from DC and the perfect introduction to the George Washington National Forest. Beautiful views, great climbs, enough technical stuff to keep you on your toes and a 4 – 5 mile downhill finish that will have you grinning ear to ear.
I like your blog, particularly the back issues when the single speed scene was just exploding and there was so much novel stuff for you to review – I’ll google a part and you will have reviewed it, or the first generation version of it, back in 2004. You also seem to take and discuss interesting rides. I get the blogging and like it. But why a Single Speed Outlaw Factory Team?
No team seemed to fit exactly what I was looking for or fit a lot of the people I was riding with so I figured the best way to get that was to do it myself. Most of us wouldn’t fit on a traditional racing team but I felt we had a lot to offer potential sponsors. So far it seems to be working. It’s a lot more work developing a team than I realized, but we’ve also been more successful than I had hoped.
How do you feel about MORE and the work done by the trail liaisons and volunteers, and what has the impact of that group been over the years in this area?
Overall I think MORE is great and has done a lot of good things. No organization is perfect and not every person is going to be happy with every decision. I’m involved because I want better trails, more access and I want to make sure that my voice is heard within MORE. Getting involved means having a seat at the table.
What do you view as our biggest challenges, not just as single speeders but as MTB’ers generally, in the mid-Atlantic?
Educating MTBers, especially about when to ride or not ride and what the impacts of all trail users are on the trail. There are a lot of people using the trails (bikers/hikers/equestrians) that don’t realize the amount of work that goes into local trails to build and maintain them. Educating them about that time spent and getting them to come out to help on trail work days is a challenge, but I think we’ve made great progress over the last few years.
Who has had an influence on you as a cyclist, either from a coaching/racing/performance standpoint, or from a bicycling / cultural standpoint?
You know, in a lot of ways I don’t follow the sport all that closely, like knowing stats of riders/racers over the years and I’ve never been one for hero worship, but a few people come to mind when I think of bicycle culture: Sheldon Brown (RIP) for his vast knowledge of all things bicycle and his wiliness to share it. Richard Sachs, dig around and you’ll see he’s contributed a ton of info to up and coming frame builders on the internet. He represents handcrafted building in a way that seemed in danger of going away but hopefully remains here to stay. Bob Roll for doing it his own way all of these years. Joe Breeze: there from the beginning of the MTB explosion but doesn’t need to tell you about it. Charlie Cunningham: way ahead of his time in terms of MTB innovation.
Who are your favorite MTB riders in the area, to watch or hang out with? Name names.
Tough question, so many great people in this area to ride with and leaving any off of the list is sure to piss someone off. I’ll defer that part and just list a couple of local riders I like to watch: Dan Atkins, who is racing with me at Big Bear. He’s a young gun who is laying the hammer down these days. Good guy with no ego. Keep an eye on him. Another one that comes to mind is Cheryl Sornson, local Trek rider. Down to earth, won the NUE series last year, holds a real job. Role model for the girls and guys alike.
Are you working on any particular bike-related projects that you can talk about right now?
We are currently working on a big reroute of a section of the Catoctin Trail in the Frederick Watershed. The new piece is 9/10th of a mile and is largely complete. We’ve got over 550 volunteer hours in this so far. This is a big deal because it’s the first time we’ve been authorized by the City of Frederick to build new trail. They’ve been really happy with the work and we are looking forward to other projects when this one is complete. You can follow the progress here.
Thanks for playing, Joe!
Tuesday, June 09, 2009
As for the rest of the story - the Tour de 'Toona was scheduled in conflict with the Giro. We figured there wouldn't be enough 1-2 racers left to make a decent field at the Giro, and to the extent anybody showed up we would be taking a handful of racers away from a premier race that is very well attended by local 1-2 racers. So we added an extra lower class, to really give the lunchpail racers some options. Cat 4 and 3 men (and 5s) and masters form the backbone of MABRA racing, and their fees subsidize all the other classes, including the nice the prize lists in the men's and women's P-1-2 races. These classes pay for the other classes, but their racers are often shut out of races because the fields fill up really quickly. So we decided to do a good deed.
After we had set up these fields, obtained permits from MABRA and USA Cycling, obtained insurance and set all the other race details, the promoters of 'Toona announced they were cancelling their races. To change fields, we would have had to re-do the whole process, and sticking our volunteer promoters with that duty (along with asking all the other administrative people outside the club to hurry-hurry) wouldn't have been fair. So, younger 1-2 racers, we're sorry that we won't be seeing you this year, but please understand that we weren't trying to 'dis you. It's just how it shook out. We anticipate that we will have a senior 1-2 next year.
For what it's worth, the 5 and 4 races are full, the 4/5 35+ is approaching 50 (in a 75 rider field), the 3s are about one third full. A handful of Masters 35+ racers have registered, and precisely zero women are in as of 6:15 this morning.
Sunday, June 07, 2009
And in other news the shop ride went fine. I can't climb standing up or pull over 600 watts without serious foot discomfort, but I can cruise at threshold or a hundred watts over it, so the training starts again. We weren't going that hard, just a steady grind over close to 40 miles, but I managed an NP of 297 (WKO claims an IF of .975, but I haven't tested threshold in a while) so we probably weren't going that easy either.
God bless Italy, little Italian cobblers, soft frickin' leather, and Sidi. They aren't going to improve the efficiency of my anaerobic efforts, but they will be a lot more comfy everywhere else. Man, what I've been missing... I thought it was normal for my feet to hurt all the time on a ride.
Friday, June 05, 2009
My friend and teammate Ryan at The Service Course has been en fuego lately. The Giro provided plenty of grist for his insightful and funny commentary; he covered the Clarendon Cup and the Air Force Cycling Classic for Velo News, putting interesting notes and commentary on his blog. Ryan is an excellent writer; I wish I could write like he does. He's busy with babies and work, but we'd all be better off if he had the time to write more. Check him out and bookmark him, if you haven't already.
Burt NSFW Hoovis, MABRA's own walking First Amendment Zone, recently found himself on a flight to San Francisco, when he "noticed that there were a bunch of really hot russian chicks on the flight." I just so happens that it was the Bolshoi Ballet. The post is really disappointing because 1) there are no pictures; and 2) there are no pictures of half nekkid Russian ballerinas in a booth at the Cheers bar in San Francisco International kissing on each other. If you're the kind of person who gets offended at Burt's blog, I'm sure you can still find plenty to be offended at anyhow. But I'm just saying that when I read he'd encountered a passel of the world's hottest, fittest Russian girls, I would have expected some photographic evidence. It's probably not what I would have done under the circumstances, but he should have at least tried. You see, Burt has a standard that he sticks to, and I'm all about holding people to the standards, even if their standard is "entertainingly pervy." Frankly, I'm a little disappointed.
Going on to the blogroll is ironically named The Old Bag, who appears to be neither old, nor baggy. She commented this week. I'd never seen her blog before, but she writes beautifully. I read a bunch of her older posts and found she has almost a John Dos Passos vibe to her writing. She rides road and mountain and... oh, who cares. She writes beautifully. Take your time when you read her more artsy stuff, give it a chance to sink in and for you to see what she's doing with the language. As Auden wrote in his ode to W.B. Yeats, In Memory of W.B. Yeats:
Time that is intolerantA few people on the blogroll here don't write much but they're on the list because when they write, they write damn well. The Old Bag writes quite well and she writes pretty often. I think Gwadz would particularly like her style, and I suspect anybody who likes good writing generally will. Click through and check her out.
Of the brave and the innocent,
And indifferent in a week
To a beautiful physique,
Worships language and forgives
Everyone by whom it lives;
Pardons cowardice, conceit,
Lays its honours at their feet.
Time that with this strange excuse
Pardoned Kipling and his views,
And will pardon Paul Claudel,
Pardons him for writing well.
Angela Brown doesn't write that much either, but she usually says interesting things when she does write. Like this bit about spending a weekend at a resort with her husband, who doesn't ride. Being a MTB racer, Angela naturally got in a ride. A relatively epic ride, from the sounds of it. I don't know how she pulled that off but suspect she's got some strong mojo and/or a great guy. Angela gets double bonus points for turning me on to Cage the Elephant, a young band that sounds like Beck meets Southern Culture on the Skids, they get hammered with In Living Color, do something regrettable and then have a love child with the Beastie Boys. I'll be looking for this band to hit the mainstream, I hope they hit it big. They probably won't because they play rock music instead of focus group tested pre-chewed pop, but you never know. Maybe we can catch 'em at Rams Head sometime.
Here's a little more:
I also like DCMTB (Brought to you by Family Bikes) and their new kit. (H/t GamJams). Hey, is Mike Klasmeier's mouth open with lots of words coming out? Major respect for DCMTB - lot of good guys and gals on that club whom I respect for reasons other than just racing prowess, and most of 'em you only get to see from behind, at least once the whistle blows. Many racers and clubs are primarily about training and racing; they could be triathletes, for all they care about bike culture generally. In contrast, some are about bike culture too, appreciating the beauty of nice bikes and respecting other cycling achievments (e.g. PBP Randonees, the guys who commute even in the snow, Iditarod-Bike, touring in Italy, practical commuting on a whatever bike is handy, pub crawls, bike community activities). These are bike people. I know a lot of bike people on DCMTB and as a member of Squadra Coppi, a velo club that has a lot of bike people and a focus on conveying racing *culture* to its members, I have a lot of respect for DCMTB's tribe.
Now for the news you didn't hear on CNN this week:
A woman in Detroit shoots and stabs her father to death in a fight over a dinner roll. Man, I hope that roll was worth it.
A man sues a strip club, claiming that a stripper permanently injured him with a kick to the head. Um, isn't getting your ass kicked one of the risks you assume when you decide to start slapping strippers on the ass? IMHO, he's lucky that the 5'1" stripper beat him up, and not one of the bouncers.
And in other news, a squirrel has been caught stealing tiny American flags off the graves of veterans in a Michigan cemetary. It's inexplicable. Inexplicable, that is, unlesss it's a Red Squirrel...
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want.
David was clearly not a road cyclist.
Road cycling is about three or four things, near as I can tell. It’s about riding like a lazy dog most of the time, then riding like the very hounds of hell are chasing you, and you are dripping au jus. It’s about having a basically psychotic relationship with food, saying, “Hello, Clarice…” to pizza and hating it and wanting to kill it while simultaneously having a sick nearly sexual obsession with it. It’s about acting in ways that would make bitchy supermodels recoil and think you indecent and uncivil, not to mention depressingly skinny. But most of all, it’s about upgrading your shit.
Nothing is ever good enough. No matter what you have, it’s not a closer. It’s not getting’ it done. It’s mailin’ it in. Think of a euphemism for Epic Fail, and that’s what your equipment is, no matter how nice it is.
It doesn’t start out that way. It starts out being gold plated cherries on top of a diabetic nightmare of a 7 scoop banana split of bicycling joy. You love that stuff, it's the best ever, it's the tits, you're going to ride it forever, your friends are goddang sick of hearing you talk about it but you don't even care...
Then as soon as you see the ad copy, or a spy photo, or a rumor in Pez (the paragon of the Naaah, I Wouldn’t Shit You, Brah School of Journalism) your old gear is as wanted as a hemorrhoid on a rural
You want to get rid of that old shit so fast and replace it with new stuff that you practically ache.
Take Zipp 404s. They have been the shiznit for a long time. They aren’t the most expensive carbon hoops – nobody puts Campy in a corner on that one – but they are the gold standard. But then they come out with Zipps with dimples that save point-oh-three watts at VO2 power levels, so the old Zipps – truly wonderful wheels, and revolutionary – are suddenly about as desirable as running into an ex-wife’s divorce lawyer in the sauna at the gym. Just not good.
So then you upgrade to the must-have Zipps with dimples, ad the next year, you find the upgrade version is faster in ways that are only detectable to Steven Hawking, and even his theory is being contested by that Asian dude on the Science Channel, but the new design also features dimples that are actually patterned after Shirley Temple’s face. Not only are they fifty percent more kukamungorious than previous sets of Zipps, but if you buy them you will actually get to meet the Lollipop Kids and be appointed U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Everybody will love you. You simply must have them.
You see how it goes, right?
So what kind of sick, twisted traitor to all that is good in road cycling am I, to say that I don’t have a must-have upgrade? I really don’t.
For reasons I’ve gone on ad infinitum here, I happen to really like Ultegra gruppos. I’ve got a 10 on my road bike, a 9 on the cross bike and I’m even thinking about downgrading to an 8 or 7 if it will get me a stronger chain that doesn’t snap two or three times a season in cross races when I stomp on it. It's good stuff, reasonably priced for the high level of performance it gives, and just the ticket for a working man racer. You don't need better; nothing is a must have compared to Ultegra. Other gruppos are only 'would like to haves.'
I like my Giro helmet. It’s wonderfully comfortable. When it gets too skanky to wear (unlikely given my low hygiene standards) or when I destroy it in a headfirst crash (quite likely) I’ll maybe upgrade to the next higher level of Giro… but a new one isn’t a must upgrade. I'm not even thinking about it.
I recently upgraded my cycling shoes, so I can’t write about them – went for the Sidi Carbon 5.5 Pro something or other. They’re nice, but not a lust object must get. In fact I can tell already they’re too soft, I just got them because they are wider and the too-soft leather which was probably made from the scrotums of select fetal harp seals, feels lovely on my feet, including the achy post-surgical one.
And it goes on. I’ve found a lot of products, mostly high midrange stuff, that works really well. I like to stick to it. The marginal performance improvement of most upgrades to my current position is not worth the gobsmack that comes with the marginal cost.
Sheldon Brown is my shepherd. I shall not want.
Well, sort of.
Brothers and sisters, I have to confess to struggling with lust.
I do have one thing I’d upgrade if I could get away with it. My bike frame.
I love my Giant TCR. I really do. And I can’t possibly justify getting rid of it and getting a new bike right now. Trying to refi the house, needing to do some home improvement, we’ve got a few other things going on that require cash on hand. I need to hold off. That’s what a responsible guy would do. Besides, it's a wonderful bike and I'm not capable of riding to its limits.
But I have to admit, I’ve fallen quite in love with a couple of the new carbon road bikes.
The Giant TCR Advanced SL is one. It’s a beautiful bike and to all accounts rides nicer than my regular old TCR Advanced.
How could you not like this?
The only thing that could make that thing hotter is if Tyra Banks was sitting on it. And don’t get me started about the BMCs. They are basically Borg to the aesthetic centers of my brain – resistance is futile. So we’re talking about must-haves that are in the delayed gratification inbox of my brain… I’ll get to them, but I'm kind of dreading it.
But it gets worse. I also have a bit of a craving for cold steel, actually an Independent Fabrication Crown Jewel. It’s steel. It’s not the lightest bike in the world, though it’s pretty light and rides nice by all accounts. More importantly, it just looks right. It’s how a bike should look. I’d even get it painted white with some cow spots on it. Yeah, I’ve got some major lust for Indy Fab bikes. That’s my must have upgrade, right there. It's the one I really want. A Crown Jewel.
But I’m here in the valley of evil, talking this way, right?
I’m the Contented Cyclist. The Lord provides my draft, I shall not want? Right? These aren’t must haves, there’s no such thing as a must have.
I mean, that’s what I tell myself. I won’t want. Can’t afford it right now. What I have is good enough.
So that’s how I found myself riding home today, on my perfectly lovely carbon fiber bike, wondering if it couldn’t do me a favor and just break. Y’know, nothing major, just a busted chainstay. Or a crack in the top tube – my aluminum Giant did that for me. Hell, I’d settle for cracks around the braze-ons. I thought about riding over some of the big rocks on the Georgetown Branch or trying to do some MTB stunts in and out of the new concrete ditch, hoping to bust up the seat tube, or crack the bottom bracket...
Anything to give me an excuse. Pleeeeeese.
I’m thinking about going to church and offering a novena to the Blessed Virgin – in her incarnation as the Madonna di Ghisallo – asking her to intercede with whichever archangel governs the modulus and failure levels of carbon fiber, just to get a break here. She’s the patron of cyclists. Surely she’d understand that this bit of covetousness isn’t sin, it’s a sickness, and the only cure is more cowbell in the form of a sweeeeet new ride. I shouldn’t want, but I do.
Blessed Mary... couldja hook a brother up?
Is that wrong? Am I a bad person?
I’m telling you, King David was not a road cyclist.
That, or that whole book of Psalms about how he was content and cool with things despite riding through the valley of death was just him trying to talk himself out of getting a new bike.