Tuesday, March 31, 2009

When I'm fast

It's usually because the wind is at my back. I'm riding along, feeling good, and I think, "Damn, I'm fast today!" And then I realize that there's a 25 knot wind at my back. Yeah, you're fast, douchebag!

You can tell if the wind is at your back, if you can hear. When there is a head or side wind, you get that ocean sound in your ears, and you have to tilt your head out of the breeze to hear. I find this is especially helpful when determining if that rumbling sound is a truck driving up your ass. I mean, sometimes you just can't afford to look over your left shoulder.

It's too bad the road isn't like this blog. I appear to be completely alone here.

Cyclosaur and Meatball claim to be "too busy" to bless us with their wisdom. Or maybe they've been hit by the bus.

Should have cocked their head sideways. Would have heard it coming.

Monday, March 30, 2009

My favorite rider wins!

Jens Voigt is my favorite pro rider for a number of reasons. First of all, he doesn't take his shit too seriously. Second, he's both German AND funny. Third, no one gets in more breakaways. No one is more aggressive. He's loyal, selfless, the perfect teammate. Finally, he's older than I am. We're both 37, but he was born in September, and I was born in December.

Voigt won the Criterium International this weekend. It was the fifth time he's won it. That beats Jacque Anquetil's total and ties Raymond Poulidor for the most ever. The Criterium is a particularly cool race, because it's a three stage race (one flat, one mountain, one time-trial) held in two days. It requires all the skills of top-level cycling and all the tenacity of the most hardcore cyclist.

This Cycling News Interview held before the race tells you everything you need to know about this guy.

Here's a choice quote:

CN: The bad weather is good news for you?
JV: Yes, you can say that anything that makes the race bad and difficult is good for me.

In another interview he talks about liking a race where he can throw everybody into the meat grinder, including himself, and see what comes out.

Here's video of him crushing the field at the end of this year's Criterium:

Friday, March 27, 2009

Your Weekend Video Inspiration

Stage Four - Vuelta a Castilla y Leon

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Fucking with 5-0, Parts II & III

Look, I know I shouldn't do these things, but I was the kind of kid that made model airplanes and then set them on fire, inhaling deeply from the black, plasticky, evil smoke. Discretion has never been one of my strengths.

So last night as I was rolling up Dartmouth towards the river I came upon two bike cops going the same way. I'm not sure why they were headed for the river, perhaps to patrol for hot co-eds jogging in their spring finery. Anyway, I never understand the police bicycle. It seems to be designed for maximum slowness. Who are they going to catch on those things? Not to mention the fact that it's always the most red-faced, obese cops that get bike duty. Ridiculous.

We arrived together at the foot bridge that crosses Storrow Drive, and I got stuck behind them, because the two of them had the raw climbing speed of a pair of snails on Xanax. At the top of the ramp I passed them, and over my shoulder I said, "You guys aren't going to catch anybody riding like that," laughed and rode off. They might have yelled after me, but I think they were both huffing and puffing too hard.

This morning, I was rolling along with another guy, a guy I met on the path, and we were crossing Back Bay and having a casual conversation about how the drivers are all so oblivious (which is just a little better than having them be aggressively hostile), when all of a sudden this SUV cuts him off fully, no signal, no warning, just cuts across the lane into a parking space. I glance over, cause I'm on the opposite side of the road, and I notice that it's a cop driving, and he's got his window down.

So I say, loud enough for him to hear, "Of course, this guy doesn't care. He's a cop."

I heard him yell, "Hey!" as I sped away, and I laughed to myself. Fucking cops are a big part of the problem here in Boston. They don't give a squirt of piss for cyclists. They don't use their signals. They run lights. And they let everyone else do the same shit.

I know I shouldn't be poking sticks through the bars of the cage, but you know...you just gotta fuck with 5-0.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


For the last month or so I've really been struggling with my legs. I've been sore and exhausted constantly. It's as if, after months and months of riding, I've actually become weaker. It's frustrating.

Last night though I took a route home that had me climbing a good long hill, one I used to climb all the time. My legs were tired, but, "Fuck it!" I thought. I like to climb, and if I woke up with no legs, well, I'd just do what I always do, ride anyway. I thrashed the climb. The air was crisp and it felt good to grind it out.

I woke up this morning and busted out onto the road. WOW, I felt strong.I was fast. Again, good weather, not much wind. Wind might have something to do with it.

The way I ride certainly does.

I tend to hammer all the time. I like to go fast. I have this wrong-headed notion that the more I suffer the stronger I'll get. I don't warm up or cool down. As a result I get a lot of lactic acid buildup. Soreness. And though lactic acid is actually part of the fuel that drives your muscles, there comes a point when you just can't process it all.

And that's where I've been.

I have to believe that more miles at a moderate pace is what I need, but I've got kids. I don't have time to put more miles under my wheels.

Then again, I'm not training for anything. Riding is its own reward for me. I'm only riding to go fast, to hammer, to climb.

So, you know, whatever.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


In order to expand our domination of bicycle culture and broaden the perspective of our invective, we are adding another blogger to the Bottom Bracket team. I take great pleasure in welcoming Meatball.

With Cyclosaur on the West Coast and myself on the East Coast, we clearly needed to add some representation from the Center Coast, or Colorado, or whatever, and that's where Meatball be at.

So welcome him. Put him on top of spaghetti. Kill him like Sacco and Venzetti. Don't call him Sasquatch when he's really the Yeti.

Blow Me!

Many people think that Chicago is called the Windy City because of the stiff (I couldn't resist) breeze blowing in off the lake. In fact, it got that name because of all the hot air the local politicians blow. In reality, Boston is the windiest big city in America, and it's been particularly windy lately.

Last week, as I was coming down along the river to work I noticed that there were waves on the river. This, in and of itself, is not extraordinary. What was odd is that the waves were rolling back up the river, against the current. As you can imagine, that kind of wind will keep you from getting where you want to go.

When I left work last night the wind was howling. I rode over the river, and discovered large waves again. This time moving horizontally across the surface and breaking on the bank. I skipped the long, flat Mass Ave bridge, and rode up to Harvard Square to come across at a narrower point. As it was, I couldn't seem to get my nose out of the wind. Every time I turned I expected the headwind to die, but it wouldn't. I cursed and spit into it.

Then this morning the weatherman was calling for 20-30mph winds, and it was already cold, so I figured I was going to freeze my ass off on the way in, but instead, I seemed to have it at my back all the way. Go figure.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Because I am a robot...

...I am also a mechanical genius.

Faced with the problem of a sprung spring on the rear V-brake on my mountain bike, I simply removed the spring, bent it outward to create more torque when it was tensioned and reinstalled it. VOI-FREAKING-LA! Fixed.

I did the same with the sprung caliper on my everyday fixed rig. Somebody buy that robot a pint of oil!!

Mechanical triumphs aside, I failed to convert the tuning up of my MTB into a spin on the trails. I walked the local woods with my wife and kids on Saturday, and then thought I'd get up at the cracko' on Sunday, but it was cold and still dark and stayed in bed instead.

I did a little brakeless riding later in the day, just cause I hadn't yet fixed the aforementioned caliper, but that was pretty mundane. It was more risky to sneak a brakeless bike out of the house under my wife's watchful eye, than it was to brook the city traffic without the benefit of stopping machines.

And, since I'm on a video binge lately, here's the last kilometer of Mark Cavendish's win at Milan-San Remo from Saturday:

Notice the way he jumps Hausler's wheel instead of Hushovd being there, and then how he chooses the last possible second to pull out of the slipstream and snatch the win.

This is big stuff because, no one thought Cavendish could ride well enough in the mountains to be able to contest the sprint in a race like this. That he is proving himself the fastest sprinter on the road with increasingly regularity, AND is now able to put himself into more race ending sprints, suggests that young Mister Cavendish is going to put up A FREAKING TON of wins this season.

I had previously thought he was a cocky little prick, but I've revised that view. He's a sprinter, remember, so cocky is part of the job. But he also wins enough to back up what he says and reps his team after every win. I'm not usually a fan of the sprinterly type. I prefer the climbers. But, I'm getting to like Mark Cavendish, if only because the French and Italians must hate him.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Weekend Bike Peeping

I don't ride BMX (yet), but I find this shit so inspiring:

Project 5/DUB BMX Jam - Rampworx from Seventies Distribution on Vimeo.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Inspiration and Humility

I woke up Monday morning, and I thought, "I don't wanna ride today." It was cold, and I was tired from being up with a sick kid. I'm near the end of a good book. It was one of those rare moments when riding didn't seem like the thing to do.

Then, as I was checking in on the laptop over breakfast, I got an email from the Cyclosaur asking me a question about fixed gear bicycles. And truthfully, I could write all I know about fixed gear bikes on a grain of rice, with a Sharpie. I ride one every day, but I'm no expert.


It got me thinking about riding. "Fuck it!" I thought. "I'm gonna ride." It was all the inspiration I needed.

Then last night I watched the last two stages of Paris-Nice, which I had recorded on Sunday. I knew what was going to happen. I'd read all about it on Velo News, but seeing guys race and reading about it are two different things. Reading about it gets you information. Seeing it is inspiring.

So I rode again today, despite spending more time sleeping on the floor next to a feverish child last night.

Which brings me to humility. Sometimes, especially when I'm tired, I ride as though I own the road. I look for drivers to pick fights with. I'm angry, and I'm on the prowl for someone to get it all over.

So this morning I got cut off by a guy in an SUV. I gave him the shrug sign and yelled, "What the FUCK?" He lurched forward in his seat, as though he was jumping out of the truck to fight me. I bid him fuck himself. And then I rode off.

Now, the old me would have stewed over this all the way to work. Self-righteous anger would cloud my head. And, if I'm honest, the same thing started to happen this morning.

So I stopped.

I pulled over, got off the bike and stood for a few minutes until I felt I could ride on humbly, which is to say, without acting like I was the only one in the world. Because whether that guy was right or wrong is immaterial. After the conflict I had to go on riding my bike. I could either stew and miss the whole ride, rolling along on angry autopilot, or I could pull back, adjust attitude and enjoy the rest of my route.

I chose the latter. I think I chose well.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Know yourself

Getting my new bike really taught me something. It taught me that I've been messing around for a long time riding bikes that don't fit. I'm still amazed at how comfortable I am on my new bike and just how miserable I am on my other bikes. The Raleigh has been reduced to parts and is currently banished to the metal shed where bikes seldom return - just ask the 10 year old mountain bike. The Swobo, the single speed, is still in a heavy rotation schedule as it's my commuter. But damn it if I'm not now miserable on it. Now, I can fix all the things that bug me. I can get a different seat. I can get a shorter stem. I will tighten the chain (Had "Da Robot" moment where my chain thought about leaving). But fact is, I need to make a lot of changes to that bike.

The thing is, I think I wouldn't have changed anything if it wasn't for the new bike. I have a tendency to just keep grinding away on things that there are easier ways to get done. But once I'm enlightened, I am quick to identify the areas that needed improvement. The thing that gets me is I didn't know what comfort on a bike was. I expected to be sore and cramped and have difficulty. When I see someone ride for 4 hours I just assume they felt awful and were tougher than me. Maybe I was the toughest riding my tiny clown bike up the mountain.

I'm sitting here thinking how do you know if you're comfortable if you only have one bike? How do you compare? Is it an intuition that you could be better off with a different seat? A longer stem? Sliding your clips back a "scoach"? I dunno. I may just be totally out of touch with my body, but to me it seems you need to ride a lot of bikes. And by ride, I mean to ride them for longer periods than you ride bikes at a shop on a test ride. Oh and before you say get fitted by a pro, I've been fitted. It's just someone lining you up with the accepted criteria of what's considered the correct cycling posture. That still may not be what YOU think is comfortable.

Not sure where any of this is going. As I write on and on I think this really says more about me and my dislike of talking to people in bike shops and being assertive when being fitted. Or maybe it's that the shops in my town where I got fitted really did truly suck like I remember, because the guy who built my bike did an amazing job and maybe I'm not giving him enough credit. I'm not sure. I just know that you don't have to be uncomfortable. It's possible to be comfortable on a bike. And it's really nice too.

Oh and a last thing about comfort before I stop ( which I should have about 3 paragraphs ago - this is a wretched post): You know what's not comfortable? Any trackpad that's not the new buttonless macbook trackpad. Holy shit is it hard to go back to a trackpad with a button. I've stopped numerous times trying to remember how to "right-click". I want my 13" macbook! This Macbook Air is thin and light and a dream to commute with but man oh man, once you use that new trackpad you really can't go back.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A good bike shop

I frequent a couple of different bike shops. One is a one man shop that specializes in repair. Anything I can't fix myself, I take to him. Occasionally I buy parts from him, but he seldom has anything in the way of inventory, so I'm often forced to go someplace else when I need a specific thing.

Last night I stopped at my other regular shop, one of two in a chain (Can two stores be a chain? Two points make a line, and a chain is little more than a glorified line, right?). I've purchased many bikes from them, and I know three or four of the people who have been working there for what seems like forever (as an aside, what compels a person to work at (and not own) a bike shop for years on end?).

So last night I rode up to their door, stepped inside and asked if someone didn't have a minute to tighten my headset a scoach (scoach is a unit of measurement). Bruce stepped up, whipped out an Allen key, and offered his immediate assistance.

"Oh," he said. "Your headset top cap is plastic. It's flexing too much. That's why you keep feeling loose. Let me see what I've got."

So he disappeared for a minute and then returned with a couple of different metal caps, figured out which one fit best and then bolted it down. Problem solved.

I said, "Cool, thanks. How much?" He said, "Don't worry about it." And I rode off.

THAT is what makes a good bike shop, a place that knows that the flotsam and jetsam of bike repair, the bits leftover after conversions and upgrades and strip jobs, that those things are the currency of loyalty.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Yeah, so I finally got doored. Twenty years of riding all over Boston, and someone finally got me. Fortunately, he only caught the outside of my knee, as I threw myself into a position roughly mirroring the shape of his door to try to avoid being taken down completely.

I yelled, but didn't call him any names.

He said he was sorry. I rode on. My knee feels like someone pinged it from the side with a ball peen hammer.

But I'm grateful to have escaped mostly intact.

Monday, March 9, 2009

the past/the future

Was just remembering a mountain bike ride from five or six years ago, back when my dog, Eddie, could run with me all day. I was at my local trail system, the Middlesex Fells, and I came to a brook littered with bowling ball-sized rocks running across the trail. At the time, I was into practicing trials-like maneuvers. I had an elevated sense of my own bike handling skills. I threw myself into the brook looking to carom my front tire off the first rock and use it to hop the rest of the way across the water.

Instead, I planted my wheel just off center on that slippery stone and while moving body forward to unweight the rear end, I went careening sideways across the rocks, bashing and gashing my ankle. I came to rest half in the water and half out. Sensing my predicament, punctuated by a spell of manly tears, Eddie circled back to lick my face. I lay there for about five minutes wondering if my ankle was broken before picking my sorry ass up and riding on.

I was thinking how much I miss those days and hurting myself through ego-fueled idiocy, and now I'm really looking forward to Sunday mornings on the trail this summer.

So that's nice.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Out of Control

As I mentioned yesterday, I threw my chain on my morning commute. I was coming down the back side of the Longfellow Bridge, a moderately steep descent, when I hit a bump (it's all fucking bumps really) and lost my pedals. This event brought on an immediate and pressing examination of some of the choices I've made with my new bicycle.

See, I had to stop, if only to put the chain back on, and because I put a brake on the bike I was able to do that. Stop.

Now, I can skid stop that bike. It's fun, if not a little hard on the rear tire and drive train (chain stretch anyone?), but when it comes right down to it, when I'm riding in the city, I just don't want to depend on skidding to stop. I need a brake.

Obviously, if I didn't have one, I could have stuck my foot between the fork and front wheel and slowed myself down enough to get out of the situation I was in, or I could have dropped down onto the top tube and dragged my feet, but that assumes I had time for fifty feet of homemade friction-braking.

In this instance, I did, but you know, the city is awfully fucking unpredictable, and I have too many kids to be skidding off of bridges out of control.

One way I HAVE lost the tether though, is in my pursuit of single-speed bicycles. I have two now, and another one on the stand, slowly lurching it's way toward the road.

I don't need three single-speed bicycles. I guess it's four if you count the cruiser I ride on Sundays. Anyway, I don't need so many flavors of the same thing. Probably better to get a cheap freestyle BMX bike than build up another fixed gear Frankenstein.

SO...I'm gonna finish the one I've started, and then see which two of the three I like best and sell the odd bike out. I like to have two, because one I set up with full fenders for rain and snow riding, and the other I like to have stripped down, so I can go fast when it's nice out. It's complete luxury, but fuck it, I'm a bike whore. It's what I do.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

How you know when your winter gloves have had it:

You thrown your chain, put it back on with your gloves still on, then get to work to discover that you've still got grease all over your hands.

Monday, March 2, 2009

It's here!

My new bike is here!
To bring everyone (no one is reading this so this is a waste of time, but I'll go through the motions...) up to speed: I bought a great 58" Torelli Countach frame and fork on ebay. Got an amazing deal. The frame is a few years old but it's still brand new. It even had the tags still on it. I took the bike to a shop that is local to where I work and they did an AMAZING job putting it together.

When I went to the shop they immediately understood my goals with this bike. A comfortable, durable, easy to maintain, classic looking bike. I wasn't going to make a decision on a part because of the weight. So I have very very limited amounts of carbon fiber, just some on the wheel hubs and some on the real derailleur. The shop did a great job suggesting and finding parts that kept the bike very classic looking. I never had to remind them of my goals, they listened and took off running with it.

So I picked up the bike last Thursday and rode it on my Saturday ride with a friend into some foothills. I tried to keep the ride to about 25 miles as I was un-familiar with the bike and didn't know how much adjusting I would need to do. This turned out not to be a problem at all. I didn't make a single adjustment to the bike. The fit that the shop did on the bike was perfect. I have never been more comfortable and confident on a bike.

My old Raleigh was size "large" which isn't very helpful when you're trying to figure out bike sizing. I had measured my inseam numerous times and did some formulas and came away with my ideal bike frame size is a 58. I couldn't imagine my Raleigh was a 56 so I assumed it was a 58 and I must have some odd body (to steal from Vonnegut, my body looks like a broken kite) and the new bike was going to be a bit uncomfortable too. This was wrong and it was quickly obvious! I used my old saddle and seat post on the new bike and the saddle had to be lowered to the "max" line where before it was a couple inches out. Then when I tried to fix my pump to the crossbar it didn't fit, it wasn't long enough! My old bike was a 56! And let me tell you, a 58 is perfect for me. Like said earlier, I've never been more comfortable.

Out on the road the bike was a rocket in the flats. The steel frame of the Torelli felt like a ghost on the road. The Zipp wheels rolled so smooth it was like getting an extra gear. The Campagnolo Centaur group was responsive and shifted sharply. The brakes were phenomenal. I never knew how shitty my old brakes were. Now that I see what nice gears and brakes are like, I can see that old bike was downright dangerous.

A few things I noticed on the ride that I loved were: On a downhill I passed my friend without pedaling. My bike just rolled faster. On a flat where we raced a bit, I just got in the drops, stuck my chin out, felt my body get low and my abs lock in and it was like a turbo boost. I've never been able to get that kind of power when pedaling hard in the drops. I guess not being folded up like cheap lawnchair makes a difference. Finally, the last thing I noticed was that the calculations we did in the shop, to pick the right gearing ratios to make my move from a triple to a compact double, were perfect. I had enough gear to do everything I wanted to. Just nailed it. It was amazing.

So now I'm waiting for the time change and the return to bike to work. I can't wait to get some long rides in on this bike without being run over in the dark!