Wednesday, July 29, 2009

My Bike Art

Have been messing with stencils lately, as evidenced by the bag picture I posted a couple weeks ago.

Here are two canvases I finished spraying last night...you know, cause real art goes on canvas, right?


This is Fausto Coppi, the Champion of Champions, in his classic climbing pose. I did this one with water color paper, which, in retrospect, gives too much tear out to be really good for stencil making.












This is Raymond Poulidor, the Eternal Second or Le Deuxieme Eternel. I cut this one out of an empty granola box and sprayed it up with Krylon Flat Black. That thin cereal box cardboard strikes the right balance between stiffness and cutability.








I have more of these. Email me if you want one. We'll work something out.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Back from Vacation - Tour Wrap Up

I'm back, bitches. And now I'll give you my final Tour de France comments for 2009, cause I know you don't want me to go on boring you with this crap.

Here goes:

1) Big congratulations to Yauheni Hutarovich, Champion of Belarus, for winning this year's Lanterne Rouge. Most uninformed folks look at the Lanterne Rouge as some sort of pathetic, no talent ass hat. He finished last. He must suck.

HOWEVER.

He does not suck. He is a great rider. I wonder how many water bottles Hutarovich carried. I wonder how much time he spent grinding his way back from the team car to the peloton. The Lanterne Rouge is a hero, my kind of hero.

2) Mark Cavendish is young. He makes the mistakes a young guy would make. It's one thing to mouth off with a microphone in your face. That can be entertaining, especially if you can back it up, and by and large the Manx Missile has the skills to pay those bills.

HOWEVER.

You don't talk down a giant Norwegian before you've got the Green Jersey tied up. Otherwise, he might just prove he's a better bike rider than you are. Write that down, Mark. You'll probably need it next year.

3) As a fellow 37-year-old, I'm proud of Lance Armstrong finishing third. Nice job. Good ride. That's all.

4) Alberto Contador is not a doping suspect just because he won the Tour. That kind of mentality is what will end up destroying the sport more quickly than the dope itself. There are tests. If they come back negative, riders are innocent. It's that simple.

AND.

Greg LeMond is doing a good thing in bringing to the fore new ways of detecting drug cheats and advocating standardization and transparency. But, jeeze louise, Greg, could you try to act like less of a sanctimonious prick while you do it? Publishing a piece in LeMonde before the end of the Tour, calling the sport's golden boy out? Not classy. Not helpful. Not effective. You really want those top riders to cooperate with you, which is a taller ask when you're constantly insinuating that they're cheating.

5) Some have said that Pellizotti is an unworthy Polka Dot Jersey because he wasn't the best climber in the race, and that is perhaps true.

HOWEVER.

The King of the Mountains competition this year wasn't designed to identify the best pure climber. Like the Green Jersey competition, the KOM is a contest within the contest. It's set up in advance, and everyone knows the rules. Pellizotti won according to those rules. And he has a ridiculous golden perm. That makes him worthy in my book.

6) I love the Tour, but thank gosh o' golly that thing is over, cause it was eating my life.

And now we move on.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Tour Comments

I'm away on vacation, but thanks to the miracle of wifi am still able to reach out and touch you with my cycling love. Unfortunately, the miracle of wifi does not come with the added cable sports package necessary to watch today's stage on the miracle of Versus.

Regardless, some comments on yesterday's stage:

1) I really, really wanted George Hincapie in the yellow jersey. I don't know what's so compelling about Big George. In interviews, he has all the charisma of an already licked postage stamp. I guess it's the years of service to better riders and the crap luck he's had in the Spring Classics. Anyway, it would have been nice to see him wear the jersey for a day.

Having said that, suck it up, everybody. He was eight seconds too slow. It wasn't Garmin's fault. It wasn't Columbia's fault. It wasn't Astana's fault. It just didn't work out. This the Tour de Freaking France, not High School Musical. Sometimes the endings aren't happy.

2) I like Thor Hushovd. Nice guy off the bike. Hard worker on it. He somehow remains competitive in the sprints, despite having no lead out train to speak of. But seriously Thor, get over it. I've watched the video half a dozen times, and I don't see Cavendish blocking you. A braver man makes that gap every time. And I hope the margin of Cav's penalty isn't what puts you in the Green Jersey in Paris, cause you're gonna feel like a fraud if it does.

Christ, I hope Thor Hushovd doesn't show up at my house to kick my ass. Dude is huge.

So that's it. Today the Tour heads up, which is when we'll finally find out which are the men and which are the boys.

Finally.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Friday Video - Greatest Pro Racer Ever

The cure for Lance overdose:

Some stuff that may be true about Lance Armstrong

These are unsubstantiated, but probably true:

1) Everyone knows Lance has one nut, but that nut is actually made of gold.

2) Lance did your mom.

3) Your mom is kind of a whore.

Something I love about bicycles - Part IV

Milk crates.

I don't know who the nerd-ass-motherfucker is who first dared to strap a milk crate to his rear rack, but there are legions upon legions of nerd-ass-motherfuckers who owe that guy (or gal) a huge debt of gratitude. It's the poor man's panniers. It's the trunk, or the boot if you're in Old Blighty. It's a place keep your tools or a severed head. Or...um...some milk.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Race Radio

Today is the first of two TdF stages that is being raced without radios. By and large, the riders seem to be really pissed off about it, too. Some say racing without radios is going backwards technologically, that radios are a natural progression, like carbon fiber and wind-tunnel testing. Some say they make racing safer by alerting riders to obstacles and tricky spots on the course.

On the other side of the argument, the one taken by ASO, the company that own the Tour, people are saying that the radios take the thinking out of the race. The riders just have to wait for their director to give them instructions. Bernard Hinault called radios, "A gameboy with a gigolo on the other end." Riders who see the benefit of racing without an earpiece say that they actually make things less safe, because every rider in the peloton is receiving the same direction for tight turns, i.e. be on the outside or be on the inside, so that all 150 of them try to take the same line through the turn.

I see both sides. And I'm inclined to that latter view, that radios take something OUT of the race by making it too controlled.

I'm not religious about that view though. What I think about today's kerfuffle, with talk of a boycott or a neutralized stage, is that if the teams were going to pitch a hissy, they should have done it back in June when the UCI validated ASO's decision to run two stages sans-radio. That would have been the time to band together and protest, not in the thick of the race.

By and large, I take the riders' side. They were right when, during the Giro, they neutralized the stage in Milan due to parked cars being left on the tight and twisty course. That made sense. It wasn't good to see that stage killed, but the organizers should have had more respect for the riders' safety. And even in this case with the radios, I might prefer to see them race without, but if they really think their safety is being compromised, I have no problem with them using radios.

What I do have a problem with is the disorganization. Pro cycling is always this way. The teams can't get together to speak with one voice. The UCI and various other testing, oversight and race organizations can't agree on protocols. It makes being a fan harder. It injects emotion in all the wrong places and leaves us thinking about rules when we should be watching races.

I love pro cycling. I really, really love it. But, what I like is the race, not the side show.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Fuel to the Fire

From today's Guardian:

"One cherished Tour tradition is the fans' habit of covering the roads with hand-painted exhortations to their heroes. This year four black and yellow Livestrong vans are travelling ahead of the race, selling the wristbands and promoting the charity while neatly stencilling the course, a kilometre at a time, with messages from Armstrong's supporters: "Get a goal and reach further", "Enjoy living not just life", "It's about hope, not the bike".

Ever since I went to a Celtics game (my one and only basketball game, I might add) and witnessed the painful commercialization of sport (music playing all the time, new advertisements emblazoned all over the court and walls and hoarding every fifteen seconds, idiotic automated "let's make some noise" announcements, playboy bunnies shooting t-shirts out of handheld air cannons into the crowd, and an interruption every two or three minutes for some inane showpiece on the court (trampolining, middle school kid shoots a free throw for a bag of Doritos), I've been terrified that this kind of nonsense is going to overflow into the rest of the world and ruin its fine sporting traditions. Apparently it's already happening at football matches in the UK, and now, apparently, the soul of the Tour de France (or what is left of it, at least) is all but sucked dry.

When the US men's soccer team (or Team USA! USA! USA!) finally and inevitably win the World Cup, I will pack up my few worldly possessions and head for the hills. I couldn't live in a world like that.



Sunday, July 12, 2009

Just Happy

I'm just happy that Lance is back in the Tour, on account of I had totally forgotten about cancer! I suspect the rest of the world had too. It's nice of him to sacrifice himself to remind us. Never seen a less self-aggrandizing person in my life. So refreshing. And his selfless corporate sponsors too.

It's just like in the old days of cycling.

When people rode for the fun of it.

Modern life is rubbish.

Bah.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Stenciled Bike Bag

Here is the new bag I wrote about the other day, with Fausto Coppi stencil applied.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Tour de France - Voekler's Big Win

Hey, so Thomas Voekler won yesterday's stage after a long, dramatic breakaway that outlasted the peloton by just seven seconds.

My friend Sarah Beth was amazed that "the lead withstood the winds with only six of them while the rest of the peloton battled it together and got totally split apart."

And it brought up a really important bit of cycling dynamics that sometimes allows these breakaways to work and thrill us all with the audacity and grit of a single rider.

See, it all depends on when the attacks come and where the wind is at the time. Also, the peloton is harder to organize than a six man break. A disciplined break can be very efficient. On the other hand, it can be hard, within the main group, to decide who is going to do the hard work of chasing down a break.

Typically, in the flats, you expect the sprinters' teams to do the work, but there has been some controversy in recent days because Columbia has felt they were doing too much work, while the other sprint teams (Garmin, Cervelo, et. al.) sat back and rested. Any ambivalence in the peloton about who is going to set the pace gives an advantage to the breakaway. That ambivalence, coupled with unpredictable wind conditions, can make the peloton an unwieldy weapon.

Also, specifically as regards side winds, when the peloton is forced into echelons (those diagonal formations across the road) to fight the wind, it is far less powerful than when the riders are arranged in an arrow formation into a head wind.

This bike, highlighted on one of my favorite cycling blogs, is an excellent primer: http://redkiteprayer.com/?p=183

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Better to be lucky than smart

There was a dump truck pulling a long, low, flat trailer down one of the main stretches of my commute this morning. It had perfect handholds on it, so I cruised up and took ahold of the one on the very end of the trailer. I thought I'd just let him pull me about a mile down the road and then let go. I could easily have passed him, but there was a free ride, so I held on at the back.

Then he started to drift over, so I let go and backed off a little. The trailer swung into the bike lane and pinched right up next to the curb. I would have been crushed. I yelled, but he didn't hear a thing, just kept on trucking.

"Fuck," I thought. "That was lucky." At the next light I rolled by him fast, and kept going.

Half a minute later I was skidding to a stop, as a woman threw her passenger side door open, straight across the bike lane, and stepped out directly in front of me. "No! No! No!" I yelled. "You can't get out in the middle of traffic like this!" She smiled and apologized and skittered away onto the sidewalk.

Her boyfriend/husband/driver then honked at me and called me a "fucking asshole" and then bade me fuck myself. I told him he looked very tough sitting in his car. Again, I rode away. I'm a cyclist, not a ninja.

And then I thought (as I often do in the post-conflict period when my adrenaline and sense of righteous indignation are all aflutter), "He's lucky I didn't kill his girlfriend." While he was busy hurling expletives at me, it never even occurred to him that, had his significant other waited two more seconds to fling her door open, I would most certainly have completely wrecked her. She would have been pulling my headset out of her face. She might have been pulling my front wheel out of her...well...you can picture it.

The guy was/is an idiot. But then, so am I. This morning we were BOTH more lucky than smart.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Papa's got a brand new bag.

I bought a new bike bag. I don't call it a courier bag or a messenger bag, on accounta I ain't a courier or a messenger.

So. A new bag.

Let's start from the beginning. I'm not getting any younger. My legs are always sore. So're my neck, back and shoulders. I'm one good crash away from being an invalid. You might think a backpack might be a good idea. But then I'd tell you this, and you'd see that a backpack just won't work:

I sweat a hell of a lot. I'm sweating now. Typing really gets me into a lather. You can imagine what riding a bicycle does.

I've seen a million (this is hyperbole) different backpacks with "venting systems." None of them work. Anything that holds my shirt/jersey/pelt next to my skin will cause all areas of my robotic flesh to transform into salty liquid in mere nanoseconds. The whole reason for getting a new bag is that my everyday bag (a Chrome Citizen) is too big. It turns into a de facto blanket in summer time when it's got less stuff in it. I can't wear a blanket to ride in. That's just dumb.

And sweaty.

So I decided to get a smaller bag, one that, when full, would have only a small point of contact with my back. With that criteria (criterium actually...double nintendo) in mind, I looked at a million-and-a-half different bags. Nine-hundred-thousand of them were too expensive. Sorry, I've got kids, I can't spend $300 on a custom bag that is the fruit of a year of collaboration between some esoteric bag company and some kid I've never heard of before who is a designer AND a fixed-gear trick master. Oh, I would LOVE to buy one of those bags, but I've got kids. And gray hair. I ain't foolin' nobody ((double negative implies I might actually be fooling someone) probably myself).

After untold (untolled?) hours converting yen to dollars and euros to yen and straw to gold, I decided on a bag from these guys. I got the C-Scow, their smallest sack.

It has the following going for it:
1) It's the right size. It just fits my small took kit, a change of summer clothes and some food.
2) It's made of recycled materials. Sail cloth and old tire tubes.
3) It's ugly.
4) The sail cloth doesn't absorb smells (odors, if I'm honest) like canvas bags do.
5) It's very light.
6) It's water proof.
7) Cinched up tight and full of stuff, it makes a very small contact point on my back, which allows air to dive down the collar of my shirt and mitigate the accumulation of perspiration and limit the deleterious effects of alliteration.
8) It's going to take a stencil very nicely.
9) It was only $80, which is super cheap for a handmade product, if you ask me.
10) It was made in America. In Michigan, which given its national-high unemployment rate, means that I've done more to stimulate our economy than everything congress has done in the last decade.

Once I get the stencil sprayed on, I will take a photo, and you can commence to pining for a summer bag of similar coolness.

Monkey on a mini-bike!!

The Tour So Far

OK. I didn't expect Cancellara to win the Prologue. I thought Contador would take it, thus establishing himself as the unquestioned leader of Astana. I still think he should be their leader, even if Lance is higher on GC today. Does anyone think Lance is going to drop Contador on a climb? If AC can out time trial LA, then what chance has old man Texas got?

Next, fucking Cavendish. Seriously? Seriously? Are you really just going to win every sprint stage? Cause that's kind of rude. I mean, it's totally awesome to watch, but leave a crumb for Hushovd or Bennatti, please? Also, get a better I-won-the-stage salute. And get a new for Contador while you're at it. That gun shooter thing he does is SUPERFUCKINGLAME!!!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Friday Video on Thursday

Cause I'm off to Vermont to sit by lakes and drink coffee and rest my tired legs.

Also, though I'm not a big Lance fan, what he has to say here is pretty interesting.


Tour Preview

No. No. No. I'm not going to go on and on about the coming Tour (Prologue is Saturday, BITCHES!!!!!), even though there is a TON to talk about. It'll all be on Versus in this country (USA), though their website sucks such complete ass that I can't give you a schedule.

I'm going to limit my comments to this:

1) I don't think Lance will win it.
2) I am pulling for Carlos Sastre or Andy Schleck.
3) Alberto Contador will probably win.
4) Someone will get kicked out for doping.

I will probably have a lot more to say as the thing goes on. I won't be able to resist.

So you can suck it.