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Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Devil, The Angel & The Group Ride Blob

Look at Jerky Jane. She’s coasting & eating on the front of the paceline and everyone’s freaking stacking up behind her. Dufus up there keeps drifting to the left every time he reaches for a bottle. That dodgy dick needs to learn how to soft pedal and get off the brakes. Someone should tell that putz he doesn’t need to point and shout out every pebble in the road and just worry about the objects that could cause a problem. You want to say it. You’re chamois is in a bundle, but you don’t want to tip the testosterone test tube on a group ride. So you put up with it. Who’s the dufus now?

You. You Jerry are the dufus. (Seinfeld…when Elaine is running the catalog)

Bad bike habits left unchecked never change. In fact, they get more ingrained with time. It’s like The Blob, you gotta stop it now or it’ll overrun your group ride and vaporize everyone. Don’t be a dufus. You must stop the blob.

You could take the Devil approach, ride up next to the squirrel in question and say something like, “hey AD-Dufus stop looking at the cows and flowers and old barns and freaking on every crack in the road and toying with your computer and focus on something else like, I don’t know, how about maybe riding your bike in a straight line!” Unfortunately, that’ll get you an FU real quick.

Recently I gave a few tips to someone who committed a few group ride/pace line sins. They didn’t say FU. The response I got back was this, and I quote, “The words of advice are much appreciated.”

That’s quite a departure from an FU. How did I do it? I put ‘em in a figure-four leg lock and gave them cauliflower ears till they gave in. Really, I just took the Angel approach, waited till the right moment, kept it private and gave them constructive advice. For me, it was someone I knew fairly well, so I sent an email a day after the ride:

Dude,

I don't know if someone mentioned something to ya or not, but yesterday I noticed to that you tend to slightly speed up and slow down in the paceline. I'm sure you'd rather hear it from a buddy than getting hollered at by some jerk wad. So here's a one word tip for riding in the paceline. SMOOTH. Don't make any abrupt changes in speed. The person behind you is just inches from your wheel. If they touch your wheel and/or crash, they're going to blame you. Try to anticipate changes in the paceline’s speed. Keep your eyes ahead for little hills, obstacles, corners etc. Keep pedaling and take it easy on the brakes. Stay just slightly to one side of the wheel in front of you. That way, if the person in front of you slows down a bit, you can soft pedal and have room to react rather than touching the brakes or stop pedaling, which causes a chain reaction with the person behind you.

Your pal,

Joe

I waited till the day after, but the right moment can be when the ride slows down to a chatty noodle, during a natural break, or after the ride when folks are packing up and saying their goodbyes. Trick is to do it privately. It’s cycling, not an episode of The View where the girls grill Octo-mom. There’s no reason to air the dirty laundry in front of the group or for anyone else on the ride to chime in. That’ll make the offender feel like they’re being teamed up on. Just wait for a chilled out moment. Keep it private & constructive.

Here’s some common offenses and how to listen to the Angel on your shoulder:

Offense: Jacking The Pace
Devil: Quit jacking the pace on the front of the group you jag.
Angel: Ya know the person in front of you is having a hard time latching back on to the back after their pull. If ya keep the pace steady when you get to the front, they’ll have an easier time getting back on. Plus we won’t end up dropping ‘em and waiting for ‘em later. They’re a little weaker, so maybe take a longer pull instead of going faster.

Offense: Over use of brakes in the paceline.
Devil: Hey man, lay off the brakes. Jesus! You ride like my Grandma.
Angel: You know it saves more energy and it’s more efficient to soft pedal when the pace lets up than to hit the brakes and then have to get back up to speed. Plus it gives the dude behind you more time to react to pace changes.

Offense: Eating or Drinking On The Front (my biggest pet peeve)
Devil: Hey man, what are you having a freakin’ picnic up there. A paceline is like a mullet. Work on the front. Party in the back.
Angel: Just to let ya know, it’s a little safer for the other riders to eat or drink when on the back on the group. Plus, it’ll keep the pace steadier.

Offense: Drifting and/or not holding their line
Devil: Hey boner, what are you sightseeing! Hold yer line!
Angel: (after figuring out why they’re drifting) Hey, I just noticed that every time you, (point out an obstacle, relax, take a drink, look to the left, scratch your nuts) you tend to drift to one side. It wasn’t that big a deal to me, but there’s a few other less experienced people out here that might not be able to react as quick and could end up touching wheels with ya.

Offense: Letting a gap go.
Devil: Close that shit up man!
Angel: Ya know, you’ll get a better draft, save more energy and the pace will be smoother if you get right up there within a few inches of that rear wheel and soft pedal to stay there. Maybe try to get within a foot and with time try to get even closer.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Snowmageddon 2010: Who Says You Can't Ride Outside?


My bike stood straight up by itself, its wheels held tight in a bike rack of foot deep snow. Welcome to Snowmageddon 2010.

Like Armageddon, riders prepared for anything. A week ago, Cincinnati saw 8 to 14 inches of snow. With slightly above freezing temps and rain over the week, a slow melt was underway and we had no idea what to expect aside from a 30 minute “race” where we’d be required to at the very least possess a bike and get pelted by spectator snowballs. Most brought a mountain bike and a cyclocross bike. Some wore Camelbacks. One guy brought cross country skis. There was a Surly Pugsley snow/sand all terrain bike with 5 inch wide tires. There were platform pedals and carbon wheels. Duffels and backpacks were stuffed with an array of embrocation, knee/leg warmers, lobster claws and standard gloves. With the deep snow, I even questioned why I was wearing a helmet, till I saw one guy get nailed in the helmet vents by an ice ball. After a few practice laps switching between bikes, it was certainly faster to run than even try to ride the deep snow. I opted for the carbon wheeled cross bike, not for the aerodynamic qualities, but simply because it’d be lighter and easier to carry for five-sixths of the course. I dropped the psi till the tires nearly bottomed out on the rim.

Aside from a shallow stretch of snow of maybe 40 meters, the course was completely unrideable. Of course that “rideable” stretch was snowball alley. We lined up alongside our bikes and when some dude shouted go, we shouldered and suitcased our bikes and set off plodding and hoofing at a top speed that might’ve reached 5mph. The race could’ve been decided 1 lap of the 300 meter circle. I’m almost certain the guy who won ran the entire time. Within a half lap, I fell into 3rd or 4th and it stayed that way the whole time, 260 meter run, and 40 meters of skiddering through 3 inch slush and slightly closing the gap to the guy lumbering in front of me while ducking snowballs. I say snowballs, but as you can tell by the photos, snow bombs were also being launched by my guesstimate of 25-35 spectators. Ka-smack! Yow! That smarts! I got stung in the back of the knee with a wicked ice ball. Afterward I would learn that they were aiming at my legs because I was the one doofus who went completely bare legged in shorts. Parents brought kids and schooled them that this would be the only time they could pelt strangers with snowballs. Unfortunately for the male riders, the family jewels were about the exact height of the crest of a 2 ½ foot tall kid tossing a snowball. Ooof! I got nailed in the nuts at least three times. Late in the “race” riders began to pass a beer. “Take a swig and pass it to the person behind you!” I did, cringing, laughing and smiling the whole time.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Due Ore Il Trainer

Deux heures sur le formateur. That’s “two hours on the trainer,” in French according to Google translate. 2 hours on the trainer is a long time, long enough to wonder what “two hours on the trainer” also sounds like in Italian: due ore il trainer. Ooh that’s pretty. Thank you web capable phone. Well that killed 5 minutes. Can’t do that while riding down the street. So went my two hour spin in the garage yesterday. I did intervals, entertainment intervals. It started with15 minutes of IPod and Let’s Make a Deal. After the IPod died, which always seems to happen when extreme boredom arises, I switched to an hour of stage 5 of the 2006 Tour De France on DVD. When I got sick of fast forwarding through the Smiling Bob commercials on OLN, I kept it steady with a 15 minutes of white death Cincinnati snow coverage on the 5 O’clock News followed by 15 minutes of callers complaining about unplowed streets on the radio. Thoughts entered and left my mind. Unable to hang onto any one for any length of time, I started to think what two hours on the trainer actually does for a cyclist: burning 1000-1200 calories, losing some fat, developing a stronger endurance base…blah, blah, blah. As I spun, I surmised two boring hours on the trainer may make you more mentally tough, even tough enough to survive:

The 2nd hour of The Biggest Loser.

A telecast of a PGA golf game without Tiger Woods.

The wait for sunrise during a mountain snowstorm forced bivouac.

A company wide conference call with an uptight CEO that speaks broken English.

The dull straight drive between Gary and Indianapolis, Indiana.

A movie with the chatty chat sisters behind you.

Going to three grocery stores in a row on a warm sunny Saturday afternoon.

The middle seat, without a book, headphones or IPod, on the flight from LA to Hawaii.

The unruly two year old doing jumping jacks in the restaurant booth behind you.

A spin class with a fartus eruptus.

Listening to others bitch about their job that you know nothing about.

C-span.

When a phone call to ask a simple question turns into a marathon conversation.

The last seven entries on The Best Bike Blog Ever.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Slow Rides & First Tracks

Lying in a frozen creek with a broken hip on an 8 degree Sunday morning is not how I plan to leave this world. After snapping a few pictures with the sun glinting off the snow covered trees, I turned around when I realized the rushing melt water was flowing over a layer of ice in the normally easily crossable creek at East Fork. I remembered when I used to try to ride across hockey rinks in Madison, Wisconsin. That was 13 years ago, before I read “Between a Rock and a Hardplace.” I did have a cell phone, but between riding solo and figuring a cell phone could easily get swept away from my jacket pocket during a fall, I saw no reason to risk an Aron Ralston by attempting the fjord to the technical trail.

At first I was bummed that others didn’t show. On Friday there was some chest thumping on the Ohio MTB forum about weekend snow riding possibilities. The way I figured it, at least I wouldn’t have to wheeze like a donkey trying to keep up with the guys on the front this time. Besides, one of my buddies only has a cross bike. Seeing that I could barely get through in granny gear, a bike with only a 42t chainring would have some issues. 2-3 inches of grainy powder covered about an inch to inch and a half of frozen slush in most places on the trail. Riding with Notyounano, my Ipod, was fine with me. As I shuffled down the trail, it shuffled through a mix of Foo Fighters, Rage Against the Machine, Metallica and the errant Katy Perry and Ting Tings song.

Riding solo, you get washed in your thoughts, almost like a running conversation with yourself. I thought about how 8 degrees really feels no colder than 15-18. However, it wasn’t until I got back and saw the temperature in my car read 22, I realized it had likely warmed from 8 to 16 degrees as the sun touched the snow painted trees. Countless winter spin classes had a good impact on my pedal stroke. I turned perfect granny gear circles to keep my tire from spinning out on the frozen slush under the snow. I looked around for good photo ops. I looked at the time and laughed. The easier trail loops I could normally ride in 15-20 minutes in the big ring, were now taking 30-40 using the small ring in four inches of fresh snow. There’s certainly something to be said for the slow ride and first tracks.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Out Pippin’ The Pipper

After 40 miles of sweet chilled out rolling goodness, we crested the last riser. On the other side, Bromley Kentucky and the wooden sign that proves it. Beyond that, the usual easy 10 mile city cruise over the Ohio River and along the other shore to home. The thought was in my mind. Rolling with my favorite wingman, Tony, my wife and a guy from another team, I knew at least 3 out of 4 were thinking sprint. The guy from the other team, not familiar with our little ride, probably didn’t know about the sign. Plus, it was January and it was a chilled out just glad to be on the bikes type of ride. I decided not to sprint, not fair if there’s someone in the bunch that doesn’t know about it. Tony, usually sharing the same cyclo-ethics as I do, I guessed would do the same and just roll on through the sign. My evil wife on the other hand…

The pace stayed civil toward the climb. I led nearly up to it. On purpose of course, it would give me a position on the back to sprint from. It may be January, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn't be at least thinking like a bike racer. Tony took it to the top and pulled off. The guy from the other team, unknowing that a sprint sign loomed, took it down toward the line. I didn’t even look back under my arm to confirm that Tony wouldn’t go for it. He wouldn’t. Besides, he can outsprint me 9 out of 10 times from the front spot. 250 meters-ish. Downhill. I stayed on the hoods. 200. 150. 100. I remembered I had a Clif Bar in my pocket. 50. My wife pulls out and gives it for the sucker-pip! Dang! I launched to her wheel and around! 25! 3 wide at the front. 15-10. I threw my bike and got her by a half wheel. “Aw man,” she shouted in fun as she half heartedly banged her bars with her cute girl fist. I looked back and smiled.

Let her win? No way! I’m not an asshole. She simply wouldn’t want me to let her win and besides, I’ve seen her beat the boys all on her own, present company included. She’s a smart and strong rider and can hold her own. That’s being a good hubby. Sometimes we’ll get in cahoots and I’ll lead her out. That’s a blast. Other times, she’ll go for the line and I’ll take the wheel of anyone who follows so we at least go 1-2 or 1-3. Regardless, a pip is hardly a sprint. The pip and smile is the friendly sucker punch of cycling. From my wife, the pip says, I love you honey bunny. It puts that little sprinkle of sugar on a sour cold winter ride. However, what’s even sweeter is out pippin' the pipper.