Friday, May 29, 2009

Friday Video Inspiration

The dude that made last week's cyclocross documentary has a new film coming out. This is the trailer. I'm gob-smacked.

Back on the trail

Only sort of.

I busted out the door last Sunday for my first trail ride in an eon-and-a-half. I live a little over a mile from an excellent trail head, so you can imagine what sort of incursions have been made on my free time to prevent me from off-roading more or less since my first son was born four years ago.

So, here's the funny thing. Leaving the house, I noticed that my MTB shoes had two different cleats in them. Ha! That's funny! Why would that be?

Oh yeah, it's because I gave some SPD pedals to a friend a year or two back, and I wasn't sure which cleats went with which pedals, so I set her shoes up with one of each of the cleats I had and told her to figure it out. Well, apparently, afterward, I was too f'ing lazy to put my shoes back the way they were.

So I left the house with mismatched cleats, though there were both SPD, so I thought, "How big a deal could it be?"

And on the road on the way over, the smooth road, there was very little problem. The right clip was tight, and the left was less sturdy, but rideable. I hadn't been on the trail in a long time, so I wasn't really expecting peak performance anyway, so I kept rolling.

As it turned out, as soon as I hit the first rocky patch, roughly ten yards up from the trail head, my left foot went flying out of its clip. Problem. I couldn't keep the fucker clipped in. It was completely debilitating. Couldn't climb. Couldn't descend.

I grunted and sweated on for about a mile, before I decided to cut bait. Then I just pulled out of the woods and rolled home, disappointed but not homicidally enraged, which I would have been had I tried to make it all the way around the six-mile loop I was on.

So, an ignominious return to mountain biking, but a return nonetheless.

I am pleased to report that, even in my hobbled state, I was able to get a tiny peek back into the joy of trail riding, and after this minor set back, I foresee a summer of bruised palms and bloody knees, so that's cool.

GIRO Comment:

I've been pulling for Carlos Sastre, and he has taken two exciting uphill stage wins, but it looks like he'll finish just off the podium now, unless he pulls off the TT of his life on Sunday. Good race this year. Excellent race. And great coverage from Universal Sports.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Giro comments

I try not to talk about pro cycling TOO much here, because I know not everybody is into it, and I really like to keep room here on the bracket for ALL kinds of cycling, but I can't let another Saturday pass without just a couple of comments regarding the Giro d'Italia, currently underway in that funny, boot-shaped country where they eat all them noodles.

1) Wow! Di Luca, Menchov, Leipheimer, Basso, Sastre. Any of those guys could win this thing, and I wouldn't be surprised. Unlike the seven snooze fests that the Big Lance won in France (ok, they weren't ALL boring), this is real race. Wide open. The English language commentary is pretty slanted toward Leipheimer pulling something out of his rear passage, but I have to believe that Di Luca is the real monster. He's obviously super-motivated, has huge crowd support and has his whole season built around winning the Giro. Dark horse candidate to win: Sastre. I doubt he'll push too hard for it, saving himself for the Tour, but if he's in striking distance and he can gap some guys on one of the remaining climbs, don't be shocked.

2) Cavendish. The dude is clearly the fastest sprinter in the world now, and the lead out his team gives him is also the best. But to pull out of the Giro now, after winning three stages is lame. I don't understand this at all. I didn't like it when McEwen did it. I didn't like it when Cippolini did it. I don't like it. Race the race or stay home.

3) Lance. I'm not talking about Lance. There's really nothing to talk about.

4) Universal Sports rules. Great coverage. Free. On demand. I miss Phil Liggett, but really, for an event that's not on TV, Universal's coverage is awesome.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Friday Video - Cross Doc

I've never raced cross, but it fascinates me. Perhaps one day.

Seeing the Future

Riding in the city requires foresight. There are a number of forces at work against you. Cars. Pedestrians. Potholes. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Being safe means being able to anticipate what is going to happen next. People who have been riding cities for long periods of time develop a sixth sense, an awareness that mostly not even aware of. It leads them to tell non-riders that it's really not that dangerous riding in thick urban traffic.

It is. It's very dangerous. But there are some things you can do to develop this sense, to make yourself a little safer. Here are some tips (and I'd love to hear more if anyone has them):

1) Know your lights. I'm talking here about both the traffic lights AND the walk signs. I find it really, really valuable to know when walk signs signal an upcoming red traffic light or when a red light gives way to a walk sign moving the same direction, a situation that makes the intersection relatively safe, rather than crowded with cars moving perpendicular to your path. The truth is, I cheat on lights all the time. I run them. But I don't do it in the kamikaze rush I did ten years ago, plowing into the intersection and hoping to figure my way across once I got there. No. Now I know the lights that have long yellows. I know the timing of the turn signals and the walks. I can look at the walk sign and know what the traffic light will do. I use all that information to make decisions about when to plow forward and when to pull up.

2) Read the pedestrians. Pedestrians are slower than you are. By and large they look before they cross in front of cars (if not when they step in front of bikes), so coming to an intersection, you can usually tell whether you need to stop by seeing what the pedestrians are doing. Here on the East Coast, no one waits for the walk sign. Folks cross against the light all the time. You can use them to know what's going on down roads you can't see down yet. You can also use them as shields, since cars very, very seldom plow through a gaggle of foot-bound humanity. I use them to protect me from turning cars and as canaries in the mine of wide intersections.

3) Profile drivers. If you see a motorist on the phone while smoking a cigarette, it's a good idea to assume they're going to drive like an asshat. If you see a driver ahead of you squeezing into the bike lane (where there are bike lanes) or switching lanes without signaling, you really have to be extra careful passing them. Also, you should ALWAYS beware of women driving Volvos, men driving pick up trucks, cabs, buses, cops and box trucks. I won't get into the reasoning behind singling these people out. Just take it on faith that they are dangerous and keep a safe distance.

4) Talk to yourself. The biggest danger in urban riding is ADD. There is so much input coming out you at high speed from every corner of your vision, that maintaining concentration is a real challenge. I talk to myself, articulating what's going on in front of me. If I see a cab driver getting ready to pull out of a cab stand, I say, "Douchebag in the cab. Douchebag in the cab," over and over until I've passed the danger. It makes you look and sound crazy, but it reduces the risk of getting creamed by a douchebag.

5) Use your lizard vision. Coming into a crowded intersection, it's very difficult to see all the things you need to see. At times like that I try to let my sight blur a bit, using my peripheral vision to see left AND right at the same time. This is especially useful when watching for cars on one side and pedestrians on the other.

6) Sometimes brake lights are turn signals. In Boston, only about 40% of the population uses their turn signals. Every time I've been hit or nearly hit, it's been because a driver has suddenly cut across my lane with no signal. I've come to see that when a car brakes coming into an intersection, it's often because they're going to turn. I try not to get myself between them and their turn. I try to slow and insert myself in the space behind them, so that, as they turn, I can slip ahead of them on the left, without blocking traffic or getting crushed.

There is more. I will try to get more of these things down in the future.

Be safe.

Video coming later. It's Friday.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Redeemer and redeemed

Once upon a time my every day bike, a black Surly Cross Check set up as a 44x17 fixed gear, was just a frame hanging on a wall in my man cave. There it hung for a month or two while I collected bits and pieces to bolt to it, handmade wheels; an old, white, Italian saddle; a new, heavy-duty chainring. And then I brought it to life, redeemed it from a life of dusty wall-hanging.

And now I ride it nearly every day. It is my road whore. It is my speed machine. It is my death bringer and head banger and quad burner.

And when my day is bad, and I need a helping hand, and nothing is very much fun anymore, that bike picks me up by the scruff of the neck. It launches me off curbs. It marshals the winds and washes the gray right out of my hair. Calgon! Calgon! Take me the fuck away!

Monday, May 18, 2009

A morning of epic fail.

I woke up to a 4am hangup call. It's either my sister-in-law or some issue regarding her. Since there is some high school game going on, she didn't leave a message, but did call back 30 minutes later. Again not leaving a message. Ok. Fine. I'll get up.

I packed my camelback the night before so I'd be ready to leave for a ride to work with no futzing around. I fill up my camelback, grab a jersey undershirt, and my bike socks and hop in the car. I throw all my gear on the passenger seat and my camelback on top. I'm off to the park and ride. I park. I ride. My bike.

It's a little cold at the park and ride. So I grab my jersey undershirt. It's soaking wet. I grab my socks. They're soaking wet. I look and see my camelback mouth piece was under the weight of my pack. It drained out all over my seat and clothes. I ride with soaking wet socks.

I'm riding really well. Very strong. I'm a bit surprised. It's been a week since I last rode. I'm flying. I'm freezing, but I'm flying. I'm in the home stretch now. About a mile from the office now. Really cruising! A bug hits my nose. I rub it. Blood pours out all over. I stop and open my pack and bleed all over it. I search in a pocket. No tissue, just a skull cap. I stand in front of some guy's house as his sprinklers come on and hold the cap to my face to wait out the clotting. No, the sprinklers didn't hit me. We'll save that for the movie version. My nose stops bleeding and I leave a pattern of blood droplets on the curb and mount up.

I get to work. The company gym. I think I have blood all over my face. I can't tell. Haven't seen my reflection yet. I'm pretty sure I have blood smeared on my face. No one says anything. I hit the locker room. Yeah, I'm covered in blood. I hit the showers. I come back to my locker. I un-pack my camelback and dress. I manage to get blood from my pack all over my shirt. Looking real professional today.

I get on my bike and ride to my building. I adjust my sunglasses. I break the arm in half. Of course I broke my glasses. I am not even phased at this point. I get to my office. I turn on my music. I lock the door behind me. Fuck the world.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Two things that bother me

1) People who ride with headphones on. Hey, I wanna listen to music while I ride too, but when I do that I can't hear people coming up behind me. Yeah, you're in the middle of the lane and no one can get by you, and you can't hear me yelling at the back of your head.

2) Roller bladers. I have a lot of time for pedestrians and even for some drivers, but really, roller bladers? Just cut it out.

Bonus thing that bothers me:

Saw this guy a few weeks ago on a vintage Colnago track bike that he had set up with mustache bars. He was pedaling along at two miles an hour. He had sandals on. Now mostly, I stick to the mantra, "I don't have to ride your bike, so I don't care what you ride," but riding a Colnago track bike like it was a cruiser is just rude. It's like using a Ferrari for golf cart. Cut it the fuck out.


So I've got two everyday bikes, a Bianchi Pista (I couldn't resist the chrome) and a Surly Cross Check. Both are set up as fixed. The Cross Check takes fenders and is a less tight ride overall. The Pista is fast. People hate on Pistas, but they fast.

Anyway, I also have an old Gios Torino Professional frame that I was planning on building up as another fixed gear, but that's stupid. Who needs three? Especially when that same person also wants a new road bike and maybe a freestyle BMX.

So what I'm thinking is I'll strip the Pista, move as many parts as possible onto the Gios, and then sell the frame. I can probably get $300 for it, and I can use that to finish off the Gios with a Cinelli stem and some other geeky shit.

What do you think of that plan?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Green Eyed Monster

I was listening to The Rosewood Thieves and grilling some chicken breasts when I spotted a guy riding by on a brand new Trek Top Fuel. It was brand new. That bike costs a lot of money. Even a used one is outside my (wet) dream budget.

And I got to thinking of all of the bikes I've owned and how sad it is that I made terrible financial decisions and now have nothing to show for them except a Swobo. Don't get me wrong, I love the Swobster, but I do think longingly of my Cannondale Track frame with full Suntour Superbe Pro groupset. I dream sometimes of my Willier Alpe d'Huez. The way I feel when I see a Colnago Dream that looks like my old Colnago Dream doesn't bear thinking about.

I'm an ex-cyclist. I have to accept it.

But I'll be damned if I'm going to accept some a-hole brazenly flaunting his Trek Top Fuel around the neighborhood. I'm off to wreak some havoc.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A New Road Bike?

Hey, I'm thinking of investing in a new road bike. Something in the sub-$1500 range. I ain't racing nobody.

Any thoughts?

I know the Cyclosaur will say I should build a custom Torelli, but I don't think I can do that for under $1500.

Shit, I don't even think my wife will go for that, but a girl can dream, right?

In other news, how about that Alessandro Petacchi? That mother fucker is fast. Maybe Mark Cavendish doesn't know everything there is to know about sprinting just yet.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Watching the Giro

Just a quick note for you pro cycling fans. You can watch the Giro d'Italia fuh free here.

I'm gonna.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Friday Video - Giro d'Italia Special

The Giro starts tomorrow with a team time trial that runs the length of the sand bar that protects Venice from washing into the Adriatic.

In anticipation, I give you this video of the greatest ever Italian rider.

Things that have nearly hit me today

1) The School Bus - Just pulled right the hell out in front of me. Slammed on my brakes (yeah for having brakes on my bike!). Gave the universal sign for WHAT THE FUCK!?!?! Received apologetic wave. Rode on.

2) A Lexus SUV - This one I courted. He honked at a woman riding in front of me. I took it upon myself to harangue him, ride out in front of him tauntingly, ask him why he was in such a huge fucking rush to get to the red light thirty yards in front of us. Received one-finger-salute. Rode on.

3) The Brinks Truck - Yeah. 14,000 pounds of steel just cut over on me without signaling. Again, gave universal sign for WHAT THE FUCK!?!?!!? Again, received apologetic wave. Rode on.

Ran into a bike cop at lunchtime. Asked him what he thought about downtown traffic and whether he derives pleasure from writing tickets. He says he doesn't bother. "It's chaos down here," he reasons. "There's no changing it."

Will have video treat for you later. Because it's Friday. And that's what I do.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Epic Fail

Monday morning. Flying along the path by the river. A wooden footbridge. I'm going just a scoach (The scoach is a unit of measure. It transcends English and metric systems. One scoach is equal to approximately one CH) too fast. I lean into the turn off the end of the bridge and clip a pedal on the ground. My rear wheel flies out. My hand gets caught between my pursuit bars and the wooden railing, removing two large patches of skin from my right hand.

Blood runs off my hand. Drips down my leg. Splatters my cranks and shoes. FAIL!

This is how the week begins. Next I realize that my chain line is too slack. On the way back home I go to tighten the chain, but alas, there is too much stretch in it. The rear drop outs are not horizontal track drop outs. This is a cross frame. So I have to cut two links out of the chain to get it properly tightened.

Monday evening I descend to my basement man cave to perform the work. I line up the chain tool. I push the pin forward through the link, intending to leave it hanging there, stuck in the very outer plate of the back link. But I push a scoach too far. The pin pops out. FAIL.

You can never recover from this. No pin will be reinserted into a greasy chain. FAIL! FAIL! FAIL!

I yell. I swear. I break some things.

On Tuesday I acquire a new chain. I take it home, measure it, cut it, attach it. I lube. I pump tires and reattach fenders. I buff. I polish. I leave the man cave feeling ready.

During the night the tube in the rear tire blows. There is a loud pop. The blowout is powerful enough to the lift the tire right off the rim. Wednesday morning is bleak. I am sad. In order to get to work, I have to pull a wheel off my other fixed ride (Who keeps two fixed wheel bikes? What kind of tool does that? Me. That's who.)

This seems like a good solution, but the cog and chain don't align properly. Every time I torque the pedals the chain grinds. FAIL!

Wednesday night I spend a half hour trying to fix the flat on the wheel that goes with my every day bike. My kids climb on me. I have to patch a tube, because I'm out of new tubes. I have a dozen flats that need patching. I patch several of them. None of those has a valve stem long enough to reach through the Deep V rim on the wheel I'm fixing. I give up. FAIL!

This morning I return to flat fixing. I patch two tubes. One of them requires two patches and then still won't hold air. The other one patches up fine, but I pinch it with the tire tool, trying to get the tire back on the rim. I'm out of patches. I have to keep riding the swapped, grindy wheel. FAIL!

Tonight I will buy more tubes. I will go the man cave. I will pray to the lord of velocipedic benevolence that the curse lifts, that my mechanical buffoonery abates.

Fuck, my hand hurts!


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Look Mom! No Bike!

I went running yesterday. Running, for those of you who, like me, are primarily velocipedal, is like cycling, but without a bicycle.

I don't particularly recommend it. It's jolly hard work. Physically, it's a walk in the park (or, in my case, a run in the woods). The problem is figuring out how to attach all of my gear. I couldn't (for obvious reasons) use the allen screws provided to bolt the water bottle cages to my shins. So I had to wrap duct tape around the cages and behind my calves. It made the bottles harder to insert and extract, but whatever. It was fine.

More of a concern was how to make the speedometer and cadence meter work. I began by estimating the circumference of the (approximate) circle described by my right leg when running, and plugged that value into the computer. I then attached the speedometer magnet to my right ankle and... well yes. I couldn't attach the sensor to my left ankle because that wouldn't be stationary when running. My ingenious solution was to fasten a long wooden pole to my back (with more duct tape), in line with my spine, extending to about ankle height between my legs. To this pole, I attached the speedometer sensor.

So as to avoid interference between the speedometer and the cadence meter, I attached the cadence magnet to my right wrist, and the cadence sensor on the right side of my waist. This required me to move my right arm forward and back in perfect time with my right leg for an accurate cadence reading, giving me a somewhat lopsided gait. Next time, I think I will affix the cadence setup to the left side of my body.

I must confess to feeling somewhat conspicuous on the trail, but I comforted myself with the thought that should I trip over the wooden pole extending between my legs, I would at least have a soft landing thanks to the padded seat on my shorts. 

It was a good run. Distance: 357 meters; Time: 47 minutes; Average Cadence: 8; Average HR: 182; Max HR: 188. I'm hoping to improve for next time. 

Friday, May 1, 2009

Again, you will think this is not about cycling...

...but again, you will be wrong.

The Cyclosaur nearly got crushed by a car. He yelled and screamed and scared her so that she urinated in her pants. He should tell the story, though.

I'll just give you this, because you deserve it: