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Monday, November 30, 2009

Kicking Television Video

All in the family I guess. My sister in law had to make a video for a class she's taking. So, here's a pretty good funny little video of my brother getting in and out of shape...and riding a bike, a circa 1991 Giant Sedona to be exact.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Welcome To New Bikedom

Traveling to New Bikedom is like traveling to grandma’s for Thanksgiving. You know you’ll have a good time when you get there, but whether you’ll have to fly or drive, stay with family or in a nice hotel, pack a lunch or eat out, zip through the tollway or take the less expensive bypass are bridges needed to be crossed. A trip to New Bikedom is littered with budgetary garbage, strewn with agonizing compromise, and has too many exits to Rational Decisionburg. I look foward to passing through Rational Decisionburg as much as the oil tanks, rusty train tracks and broken pavement of Gary, Indiana. I wish New Bikedom was more like New Shoeville. While I don’t get the same rise out of New Shoeville, women tell me its first class all the way, leaving is nearly impossible and it’s so wonderful return trips are certain.

Whenever I go down the road to New Bikedom, I can barely make out the skyline. It looks like a new bike on the horizon, but the details are blurred in a fog of finances and guilt. Do you splurge on the steakhouse, or is it better to settle for a few bites of Ultegra? Will the trip be that much better perched on carbon rails, or is a seat in coach just fine? Even after the details are ironed out, travels to New Bikedom always turn out more expensive than expected. Like traffic jams in Chicago, when traveling to New Bikedom, you’ll most certainly forget about tax, pedals, cables, bar tape and that your blue bottle cages just won’t look right with the pearly white and red landscape of New Bikedom.

Then there’s the ungodly guilt. Like traveling to Grandma’s for Thanksgiving, you have to help with dishes before setting roots in the couch or face Mom's consequences. If you go to New Bikedom, you’ll most certainly have to put off traveling to other exotic locales such as Laptopville or Kayakistan. I hear they’re beautiful this time of year.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Spin Session F.A.R.T. Protocol


By guest blogger Corey Green of Cincinnati (edited by The Best Bike Blog Ever*)
As a reader of the Best Bike Blog Ever, the post "Who Poofed in the Peloton" brought tears to my eyes. I didn't realize that the tears would reappear days later. This time, however, they weren’t tears of laughter but the type of wincing tears you’d get from say finding a cat poo outside the litter box or when a train full of sulfur derails in your front yard.
Starting with the fall time change, my circle of cycling buddies has a tradition to ride indoors, a group ride on trainers, a static peloton of sorts, whatever you want to call it. The nine of us 9 to 5ers gather in a dark room thundering with classic rock (Skynryd!), teeming with cyclocross smack talk and reeking of the type of sweaty man funk that can only be achieved through a full day of work and intervals in a musty basement. That mental image alone is enough to urk up a tiny puke. The other night’s “incident” would’ve sent the Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs host, Mike Rowe, crying for his mama.
The term "poof" brings a mental image. It’s soft and fluffy and, while offending, usually floats right by. When a “poof” is preceded by the word "repeat," the peloton gets a little testy. Now add in the word "indoor" with the phrase and you’ll get the full scratch-and-sniff picture. I’m talking about the "indoor repeat poofer." That’s ground for dirty tactics like a towel in the spokes or a non-invite to the next static peloton session.
Masking your poof may be easy in a peloton, as the cone of poof probability provides a certain level of protection. The cone does not exist in indoor cycling be it in basements, garages or spin classes. You poof indoors and guys can track it down like a bloodhound on bacon. So, indoor cycling has certain protocols that must be heeded when you are at risk of poofing on your mates. Take note potential poofers, they are as follows:
Fans: This should be self explanatory. However some make the wrong choice. If you are in a high poofing risk category, use your fan as your assistant. Point it AWAY from the group. In a spin class, position yourself so the fan does not broadcast the poof to the pack.
Action: Frequent poofing typically foreshadows that something needs to be done. We know you really want to get in the full workout, but the beauty of indoor riding is that no one gets dropped. Take the necessary action.
Rank: As a potential serial poofer, know your place amongst the ranks. Don't sit in the front and force those behind you to partake in your magic. Fall in near the door. While you may find it humorous, a mutiny won't help your bike power.
Transmit: A little heads up, courtesy, warning, notice, alarm, proclamation or declaration that you could be "a little rumbly" can improve your lot. We all are more congenial to the person that gives us warning instead of fogging us unexpectedly. In fact, you might find the guys suggesting ways to keep it to yourself.
These rules, collectively known as the FART protocol, also apply to indoor spin sessions at your local fitness club. The attractive lady spinning next to you probably won't hang out and chat if she has had to endure the secondhand sauerkraut you found delicious at the downtown hotdog cart.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Who Poofed In The Peloton?

(From The Best Bike Blog 2006 Archives) You're rolling down the road at 23-25mph and it hits you. You squinch your nose and turn your head away from the offending poof. Woo-wee! Dang. That's nasty.

In the peloton it is nearly impossible to figure out who poofed. There are too many variables and outside sources to figure it out, such as: traffic & bike noise pollution, changing wind direction, and turbulence from churning pedals and legs. Not to mention, based on physics and aerodynamic principals, the rule that whoever smelt it-dealt it does not apply. Within a second of the poof leaving the poof factory, it can be dozens of meters away.

However, one rule does apply. If you smelt it, it most definitely came from within the "cone of poof probability" in front of you. The vortex of the "cone of poof probability" is the shorts of the person in front of you and stretches forward in either direction to the sides of the peloton. Poofs on a bike don't travel side to side too quickly. So the person directly to the right or left of the person in front of you are unlikely sources of the poof.

The first thing you need to do is figure out whether it was an actual poof or some other offending odor. It's not so easy. But, if you're on a route that you're familiar with, you should be familiar with the odors in that area. Is there a creek or river nearby? Are you in a trashy part of town? Are you out in the farmlands? Does the odor smell like any of these things? Or, does it smell like the remains of a mushroom & broccoli omelet or day old pizza.

Ah ha! Now you know it was a poof. But, who poofed in the peloton?

First, let's revisit the "cone of poof probability." The "cone of poof probability" is rather small and based on the speed you're traveling at. At ten miles per hour, the cone may be a ninety-degree angle from the buttocks of the person in front of you. However, at 25 miles per hour, that cone gets much thinner, maybe only 60 degrees.

What you need to do, is count the number of people in that area. Say you're in the front third of a pack of fifty riders, traveling at 25 miles per hour. There are maybe 18 people in front of you. But, at 25 miles an hour, there are probably only 8-9 people within the "cone of poof probability."

Now, out of those eight and based on pure experience alone, I think you can rule out the really skinny riders. For some reason, larger riders tend to poof more in public. Maybe it's because they eat more meat, cheese and fats. I do. I weigh 163 and have been know to poof in the peloton. I'd use 155 pounds as your cut off. That should at least cut 4 people out of the equation.

So, now we're down to 4 or 5 riders over 155 pounds that could possibly have poofed in the peloton. Now it comes down to an educated guess.

Do you know those riders? Who's the fattest, not the biggest? Who's more jovial? Who's more outspoken? Who's the prankster? Who's the goofball? Who's most unkempt? Who's got the messiest car in the parking lot at the race? Who would think it's funny to beef a poof in the peloton? Who wouldn't care about poofing on his fellow racers?

Out of the five possible offenders, rate them. On a scale of one to five, who's the most likely poofer? I'm pretty sure by now you know whom poofed in the peloton.

So, now what. Big deal. You know whom poofed. What good is that information? I really don't know. I don't think there's a USCF rule against poofing in the peloton. But, by now, having taken your mind off the race for a few minutes, you're probably relaxed and recovered.

I'd attack that damn poofer.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Exploding Gear Bag of Race Day

A stinking frog pond of Lycra, denim and North Face lily pads filled my Toyota 4-Runner from dash to tailgate. On top lay a film of tools, water bottles and helmets. Yeah, we had 5 people in the truck, but I said pack light. They abided. Each person only had a single backpack or bag. I was the only one with a cooler bag. On the way down, there was plenty of room so we packed in spare wheels, a bike stand, a pump and even two camp chairs. It was organized and tidy, everything had its place. Aside from the bikes on the roof, you would never guess that five people were traveling in the same car. Someone even commented how roomy it was in the back.

Now, the gear was two feet deep in my truck. About 45 minutes before my race, I stopped back at the truck to grab a water bottle and I had to reach through the window or risk a waterfall of stinky chamois cascading out the door. Nate apologized that his helmet had rolled off the passenger seat mountain and into the valley under the steering wheel. Like a trailside cairn, a pair of shoes and a tub of chamois butter sat on top of my small cooler bag. A multi tool in three pieces now sat atop Mt. Nate. The back seat looked in as much disarray as the clearance T-shirt bin at Wal-Mart, if Wal-Mart carried North Face and Verge gear.

Harry, a teammate, calls it the exploding gear bag. This post was his idea. I’ve seen his truck midway through a race day and you would’ve thought he crammed 4 guys in his old pick up, but Harry usually travels solo. He too will swear, but in an Appalachian drawl, that he reckons he only packed one bag, a spare set of wheels, a small cooler, a trainer and a thermos of red beans and rice. Somehow the bed of his truck and inside of his cab looked like he got divorced the morning of the race.

It doesn’t seem to matter how organized the people in the car are at home or in their career. Harry’s an electrician by trade. I’ve seen his work van and the organization of tools in the back would make Bob Villa jealous. Of the people in my car, Amanda’s a journalist, Jake’s an engineer, Brian’s a pilot, Nate’s a salesperson and I’m a creative radio production dork. The only common thread is that we’re all cyclists and we all seem to handle race prep the same methodological way. You arrive. You sign in. You scout the course. You eat a bit. You tweak the bike. You pin on you number. You warm up. You down a Gu. You race. The seemly disorganized pile of gear is simply a byproduct of racing.

I guess racing is a sport of needs. There’s not a whole lot of giving. Bike needs lube. I need to register. I got to take a crap before I put on the skinsuit. Aside, from the occasional help given to a teammate to pin on a number or quickly change a warm-up flat, if it doesn’t directly have an impact on the outcome of the race, it can wait. And so, from the tool box, the wheel bag, the backpack, and the cooler…the debris from the exploding gear bag flows through the car.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

And Now, You May Race The Bride

(My wife and I were talking the other day about some favorite stories and the one about the competitive couple popped up. I reread it and deemed it good enough for a repost. Originally posted on the Joe Biker Blog January, 2008, enjoy "And Now, You May Race The Bride.")


It was as if they started their lives together with the words, “with this ring, I thee race.” I can imagine their first kiss, seemingly endless, with both parties taking it way past the point of public comfortableness to see who could endure the longest as the guests covered the eyes of their children. It was game on from day one. As I watched them from my perch along the trail above them, I wondered who drank more at the reception, who opened the most gifts the day after, and if I was witnessing their honeymoon right now.


My first experience with Mr. & Mrs. Race was at Arches National Park near Moab, Utah. The cover shot of the Rand McNally road atlas spread across the sky, the Delicate Arch. To get there, my wife and I rode our mountain bikes from the lot nearest the entry off the highway. It was our first two week vacation together, plenty of time to mountain bike Moab, ride the trails around the 10-Mile Range near Vail, and then head to northern Wisconsin for the Chequamegon 40 mountain bike race. It was a dream vacation for a pair of daytime amateur adventurers.


There’s no bikes allowed on the trail to the Delicate Arch. So, we leaned our bikes against a sign post and hiked the shortish trail to the vista point in our cycling shoes. Just up the trail was another couple, a little older than us maybe in their mid 30’s, and the spunk they had in their steps was a tish more than most people on the trail had, given the tendency of the epic landscape panorama to make you stop and eek out a silent wow. As we paused to take in another view along the trail, we noticed something peculiar about the other couple up the trail. Maybe we spend too much time watching Seinfeld, but as they crossed into our view, they were hiking, quickly, almost at the point of stepping into a jog, but never quite crossing the line. It was almost hard to look at, like their tempo was ruining the landscape.


Sure they could’ve been Moab locals out for an everyday hike in their backyard, but still, this was the Delicate Arch. Like the Grand Canyon or Niagara Falls, you could probably see it hundreds of times and, every time it would look different and stun you with another eye popper. Still, they held their uncomfortable clip along the trail. Long stretching steps, pumping arms, they overlapped their strides and covered more ground with every step than seemed possible. My wife asked, “Are they racing?” I looked. The woman passed the guy when he got hung up on a corner of loose rocks. Not to be outdone, the guy quickly passed her back, even turning sideways to get around on the tight trail. “I dunno, maybe they’re just locals out training for an adventure race or something. There’s some pro athletes that live out here.” We wrote it off.


We reached the Arch, dropped out bags and dug out our camera. Amazingly, Mr. & Mrs. Race did too. Granted they had a tiny lightweight camera to match their pace, but still they obviously were photo snapping snacking tourists just like us. Now granted, at the time, we were nothing resembling fast hikers, just your average couple that enjoyed doing stuff in the outdoors. Maybe we we’re just slow in our bike shoes and witnessing a couple with a few years on us sticking it to the lesser fit. We downed a Snickers and a not-so-yellow banana, asked a woman from a bus tour to take our picture in front of the arch, and we were off.


Sure enough, the fast hiking couple was already on their way back, once again, just a hundred yards or so down the trail. And, they were at it again, a fraction of a mile per hour from running, but still hiking. It was almost hard to ignore now. I had to force myself to look away and enjoy probably the only day in my life I would ever see this landscape. My wife said, “It’s like they’re the competitive couple.” We joked, notched up our pace and mocked them by passing each other as we giggled along the trail.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Cycling's Ultimate Sacrifice, Bike Race Carpool Domestique

(Driving cheap-wad cycling buddies to the next race/ride? Print 3 copies of this and put them in the seatpockets of your car)

Dear Bike Race/Ride Carpool People,

It has been brought to my attention by The Best Bike Blog Ever* that not all cyclists are tighter than a fresh out-of-the-shrink-wrap skinsuit. So, when the car pulls up to the pump on the way home, it is highly encouraged that you kick-in a couple extra bucks more than the minimum amount on the gas pump gauge divided by the car’s occupants. It may be called “gas money,” but it’s oh so much more than that.

While you may not perceive it, there is a real value in being able to nod off on the way home from the race and having the freedom to install toe-spikes on mountain bike shoes while en-route to the race. On the way home, you may not realize it, but the driver wants nothing more than to put his head down and take a little snoozy nappy nap at 75mph. However, the fear of crashing the car with four friends and a fortune of carbon fiber on the roof in Nowhere County USA keeps him in a higher state of nervous alertness than riding a cliff-side trail in Moab.

So, feel very lucky to be traveling in this race carpool. The driver is a highly skilled bike race driver. Over the course of many years of racing he precisely knows how get you to the race with time to spare, while avoiding tickets and running your carbon fiber frame into the overhang at the out of town ATM. Essentially, it’s encouraged to tip your driver, simply for driving. For example, while a trip from Cincinnati to Lexington and back may only cost $23 worth of gas, I heard the guy who writes The Best Bike Blog Ever was very thankful to his teammates and riding companions to have $28 in his wallet Monday Morning and yummy burrito leftovers from a free lunch at El Mariachi. In fact, the next day he all but forgot that he missed the podium at the race, but had a great time with friends.

Ya see, while your still in a morning fog and sipping from the BikeReg.com coffee mug you won last week, the driver of the carpool is fully alert and spending energy which otherwise might be used on the race course. In short, it’s cycling’s ultimate sacrifice. Like a road race domestique, the driver is using his reserves in order to get you to the race in time to comfortably take care of business, accidently pin your number on the wrong side and, if it’s a cyclocross race, make the open course window.

You may not have realized it, but before you even stuffed your oversized duffle in the back, the driver put in at least an hours worth of work researching the route and printing off maps. He also back timed the departure time to account for a pee & coffee stop, the transfer of bicycles, and to navigate the idiotic circle freeway system of the race town. Plus he likely pre-programmed the GPS, cleaned the fast food wrappers out of the car and brushed the dog hair off the upholstery the night before the race. Kindly, he also packed his own pump, tool box and bike stand, so you wouldn’t have to bring yours.

While the driver is well aware of the safety of your bike and person, keep in mind, in order to buy you a few extra minutes in case of a long line at the single godforsaken race venue port-a-poddy, he’s also driving at 11-19mph over the speed limit while keeping his eye out for angry State Troopers that got stuck working on Sunday morning in Nowhere County USA. He may appear as calm as the cows in the meadow on the side of the road and might fool you with a few jokes in conversation, however the driver of the race carpool is also uncomfortably ultra aware that there is approximately ten thousand dollars worth of bikes on the roof. During the course of the trip the shocking thought will cross his mind at least three times that he isn’t quite sure if there were to be a mishap with a drive thru window overhang what his insurance would actually cover, what the deductible would be and if the incident would mess up an otherwise great friendship.

So please, if the pump reads $34.58 when we make our gas stop, and there are five stinky souls in the car, do not consult your cell phone calculator and start the division. Just round it up to the next highest ten dollar amount, divide by the amount of passengers, hand over $10 and say, “thanks for driving.”

What, you didn’t bring cash? No worries. The driver realizes that some occupants don’t routinely deal in cash transactions. If that’s the case, paying for the driver’s post race lunch is highly encouraged and can take the place of the ante for the gas. Another nice gesture is to meet the driver before he swipes his card at the pump and offer to put the first ten bucks on your card.

Thank you and enjoy your race day,

The Management

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

CX Back Row Starts: Get A Jump On The Front

So, you got a back row call up at this weekend’s cyclocross race. So what! Don’t beat yourself up for not registering in August or doing the three races that may have got you enough points to get you up front on the grid. Granted, anyone will have a better race with a better spot on the start line, but there’s a technique I’ve used to at least make the most out of the first straightaway and soft corner to get you closer to the front going into the hole shot.

It’s simple really. Know who the strongest riders are, and where they are on the grid in relation to you. You? You’re the green “X” in row #6. The fast people are marked with red X's. Sorry, as you can see, I'm not a graphics guru. Then again, everybody's familiar with the X's and O's. Next time you roll up to a sea of jerseys in front of you, narrow them down to just the really fast people. If everyone does their job and hits their hole, you’ll know which way to go before the starters pistol fires.

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Being the green “X,” there’s a fast guy (red X) in front of you to your left. No doubt, he’ll see a hole open up made by the two guys in front of him and slightly to the right. Ya see where I’m going with this? I’ll highlight the fast dudes, and you connect the yellow dots.

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It all really starts with the fast guys on the front row. The fast guys behind them will jump on their wheel. The fast guys behind them in the 3rd row will naturally move towards the hole they opened up and so on. So if you’re a poor ‘ol green X on the back row in this race, you can see that you’ll more or less be able to snake your way by first going left, then right and more or less left.

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Granted, there’s no way in hell you’re going to go from the back to the front before the first corner, but maybe this theory will help you get past a few more guys than you normally would before the hole shot.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Cyclists Don’t Play Bingo

I AM going to Yoga at 11:30am. I am NOT wearing a dress. I am NOT 60. So went the morning I surprised my wife on her birthday by throwing a brunch with all her friends. I had planned this brunch for three weeks, involved just about every one of her closest friends, sent out the E-vite to her closest gal pals I thought could attend, created a mushy gushy video to stir the emotions, bought her gifts at he soon to be favorite store-Nordstrom, had Ace of Cakes style cupcakes crafted and didn’t blog for an entire week. When I sprung the surprise, I seriously think she was two seconds away from tossing my bike, a duffle bag of clothes, and my custom confections on the front lawn.

As you can see, she is a cyclist. Since it was raining, Yoga took the place of her Saturday morning ride, which was upsetting enough. There is not a rainy day, a stressful workweek or a single a life event that can put the nix on a cyclist’s Saturday ride. Just the other day a friend of mine did a Cyclocross race on the same afternoon they had planned a family Christmas card photo shoot. Even I went for a ride the day before my mom’s retirement party. We rode on our honeymoon. Here I was trying to tell the woman who went mountain biking on a 33 degree morning before her cousin’s wedding in Wisconsin she would have to skip exercising on her birthday weekend. That’s like trying to stop a ferocious charging African Lion from chowing down on a wounded Wildebeest.

Mistake number two: Cyclists don’t do formal wear. In fact there is a whole chart describing what minimal level of formality is absolutely necessary for each event. It kind of looks like this:

WEDDINGS:

Being in the Bridal Party: Dress or Jacket & Tie

Anything Else: Nice jeans.

DEATH:

Spouse: Dress or Jacket & Tie

Anything Else: Nice jeans.

HOLIDAY FAMILY EVENTS:

Parents Present: Dress or Jacket & Tie

No Parents: Nice jeans.

Please note that a brunch with friends isn’t even on the formal attire list. Needless to say, out of the 10 girls that attended, only one wore a dress. Amazingly, she was a cyclist. Consequently, I could practically see her skin crawl when she noticed all the other girls wearing…nice jeans. I apologized profusely for my stupidity of even thinking that a bunch of cyclists would get dressed up for anything else besides the death of a spouse, being in a bridal party or attending a family event with their parents.

Third mistake: cyclists don’t do things that sound like they’re for old people. In fact, anything that reminds a cyclist that they could even be remotely close to the end of their life is avoided with the same fear as riding off a 200 foot cliff. There is a reason they don’t advertise cruises in cycling magazines. Unless there is beer involved and a ride has taken place, cyclists don’t do bingo. There’s a reason Masters races are called Masters races and not “you’re too old to compete with the regular younger guys category so we’ll call you Masters to make it sound like you’ve mastered this cycling thing” category. Seriously, the mailman better get ready to run the day he drops a social security check in my mailbox. Brunch? What the hell was I thinking?

Somehow she obliged. She wore nice jeans. I promised we could ride in the afternoon and reasoned that it wasn’t really a brunch but more of a lunch with friends with cupcakes and presents involved. I don’t think we spoke in the car. The restaurant door swung open. Inside were all her friends, except one, wearing nice jeans. She melted into the conversation. While nothing takes the place of a Saturday morning ride, being with your friends, eating devilishly delicious cupcakes, and opening presents is certainly a close 2nd.