Tuesday, April 15, 2014

weapon of choice

This is one of the happiest things I know:

I've written it before elsewhere, but it's worth repeating: this is perhaps the most important music video of the century.


Because it calls into question the inevitability of growing irrelevant with age.  It's an expression of a harmony that is possible, but by no means assured, between the grace that comes with age and youthful exuberance and innovation.  Note that the onus falls on the elders to remain relevant.  The old can come and meet the young, with effort.  But when the old demand that the young meet them on their terms generations divide.

I'm also in love with the triumphant Christian motif at the end.  First of all, happy sailboats on peaceful summer waters as a representations of Calvary's hill is brilliant in and of itself.  But as a backdrop to the dignified elation of an older, weathered man--the end of a life worth living--upon finding his salvation (in communion with humanity across generations) it is just genius.

One hundred percent love.

Monday, April 7, 2014

battenkill on film

Colin Sandberg had a video camera on his bike.  He posted some fun footage from a critical stretch.  And there's really cool performance metrics integrated, so that's awesome.

Bike racing is cool.

2014 tour of the battenkill

Monday morning.  Tired.  A little depleted.  Would rather be just lying around than trying to get back to work.  Post-race weekend blues...

There's surely a whole lot of things I could and maybe should write about the weekend, but too tired to be clever and/or comprehensive, and with too much pressing to indulge this bit of procrastination long, I'll simply toss out some thoughts in the most lazy form possible: bullet points.

* Has the popularity of the Tour of the Battenkill ran its course?  The cat 2 field was small (maybe 80?).  And was there only one cat 3 field?  Kind of disappointed with this, actually.  I like this race.  And I like the idea of it being a major goal for a significant portion of the NE/mid-Atlantic racing population.  Gives (or gave) it the feel of a sort of championship event. 

* Heavy rains Friday night eased up Saturday morning.  The cat 2 race was the first to go off at 8:30.  Cold, wet start, mushy, peanut-butter filled dirt roads, but nice not to have to fight stragglers on the course.

* Everyone seems to have got the memo that early breaks don't work in this race.  So there was no serious break.  I wish there had been.  I think it would have kept the racing more consistently fast...instead of leisurely through the flats punctuated with brief periods of ferocity on the climbs.

* I say the pace was ferocious on the climbs, but not really.  Strava confirms that last year was faster on Juniper Swamp and Joe Bean.  The wet, sticky conditions could account for the slower speeds on the dirt climbs (it is certainly a factor), but not on the paved stuff.

* A lot of dudes don't know how to ride a road bike in the mud.  I sort of feel like everybody has a little cyclocross experience by this point, but I guess that's not true.  Watching people try (and sometimes fail spectacularly) to run with and remount their bikes was pure comedy.

* I was a little out-classed in this race, at least by the top dozen or so.  I would get gapped a little by the leaders at the top of each climb, but I was right there and it was easy to chase back on until...

* Everything exploded on Harrington Hill and then through the Meetinghouse Rd section.  On Meetinghouse I was somewhere in the teens, lined out with a series of not-super-well-grouped riders, when I flatted...I think about 12 miles from the finish.  Had to wait a bit for the support car.  Not a super fast wheel change.  But then off and running.

* Mopped up several riders on the run to Stage Rd.  Ditched them on the climb.  Caught one more rider on the flats to the finish.  Ended up 27th.  Alan 9th.  Calvin 14th.  Bernie (I think) 16th.

* I was stronger than my placing, but maybe not top 10 strong.  A few percentage points short, unfortunately.

* Raced the 35+ on Sunday.  I think only 50 starters.  Surprising...and a bit disappointing.

* No breakaway attempts in this race at all...not until Joe Bean, anyway.

* Super slow through the flats, a gentlemanly punchy pace up the climbs.

* Easier for me to stay in the front on the climbs in this race.  (I actually felt better at the start on Sunday than I did on Saturday).

* Things again exploded with 20 to go on Harrington Hill.  Had a really hard time punching out from the beginning, but once I was warmed up I moved to the front of the stragglers and was looking at about 100 m to the lead group of eight.  It was one of those moments...  I remember thinking that a top 10 finish was up the road, and that if I wanted it I had to go get it.  But that it would be hard.  I wanted it.  It was hard.  But I closed the gap by the top of the climb...and unfortunately pulled up five or six with me.

* On Meetinghouse I began to feel I was one of the strongest of those left around me (first time I felt this way all day), I was certainly descending faster and with more confidence, and was wishing the race was another 20 miles long.

* Right at the crest of Meetinghouse two guys slipped away, a third jumped to join them.  Four of us chasing behind.  They only had 15 feet or so going over the hill and I thought we were together.  Before I knew it we weren't.  One more joined us from behind, one was dropped from the group in front.  So going onto Stage Rd there were two ahead...then my group of six.

* Midway up Stage I tried to push the pace and drop my compatriots, thought I must have dislodged one or two, but over the top was distressed to find that I had simply dragged all five up and over with me.

* Trading turns on the run to the finish I plotted how to dump these guys.  Not wanting to take my chances in a sprint, I attacked with about 1200 m to go.  Had a nice gap.  But didn't keep up the pace like I should have.  They pulled me back in with about 300 m to go.  That's the moment I would do over.  Finished 8th.  Fifty bucks.

* Three plus hours of racing and it all comes down to your mental fortitude over the span of a few seconds...  And that's the beauty and anguish of bike racing.

* The weekend was punctuated by driving over to Stage Rd for the finish of the elite women's and P/1 men's field.  Calvin, Alan, and I stripped down to the waist, made ourselves ridiculous, and screamed like maniacs as we ran alongside the racers up a steep section of the Stage Rd climb.  Good times.  (I think it better not to provide the interwebs with photographic evidence of our shenanigans.)

Alan, Calvin, myself, and Bernie after Saturday's 82-mile cat 2 race.  Notice how my front wheel (acquired from the Vittoria support vehicle behind us) is cleaner...well, everything.
Feed zone shot on day 2.

Monday, March 24, 2014

goat, circa 1983

Goat visiting Goates cousins in West Valley, UT.  Summer, 1983.

Monday, February 24, 2014

southern x 2014 race report/review

(1) Weather.  Perfect.  Both for the race on Saturday and the RHR-South team gap ride Sunday morning.  Worth the trip just to warm my skin in the seventy degree sunshine.  Great company.  And those Georgia mountains are just so awesome...the paved roads, the dirt roads, the whole works.  Would really like to spend more time playing in those woods.

Photo: Woody Gap. @roundhereracing
Atop Woody Gap Sunday morning.  Wonderful.

(2) Race.  Kind of disappointing.  Ok, but not stellar.  Completely broken by the finish, which I hate, and clearly a sign that I'm a long way from anything resembling form.  (And I know that no one that finished behind me wants to hear that crap, but, you know, it's my blog...)

Photo: Southern X 2014. A bit stiffer competition this year--lots of tough dudes showed up for a bit of a dust up. Anyway, fifth in the old guy class. Yay for mid-life. I guess...
Managed 5th in the old guy class.  Yay for mid-life?

(3) Event.  Pretty sub-par.  Last year  I sort of gave them a pass, but this year I was really pretty disappointed how sort of tossed together everything seemed.  Always sort of obnoxious for racers to do this sort of calculation, but J.B. and I were asking ourselves  what it was that our $80 bought us.  Not much.  In terms of the event being a _special_ event, of the four ultraCX events I've done, Iron Cross certainly wins.  Three Peaks & Hilly Billy next.  SX is bringing up the rear.  By a lot.  I mean, the course is cool.  All the potential is there.  It just needs a little tender loving care.

(4) T-shirt design/2014 logo.  Really?

Photo: Currently at  Saucebox...
Too much baggage with that symbol.  Bury it.  Let it die.

Who in their right mind still thinks it's ok to glorify the stars and bars?  I've lived in the south.  I get it.  I know it's called the "Southern Cross."  I know it figured in the old Georgia state flag.  It's all very clever and punny and whatever.  But, still, I don't get it.  I mean, it's too bad, because aesthetically it really is a cool flag (and t-shirt/logo design).  No doubt.  But context (always!) matters.  And that design is just...no.  (Funny, only after making it so obvious this year did I recognize that the stars and bars made their way into past designs as well...just much more subtly.) So what am I supposed to do now with that t-shirt?  I mean, I can't even give it to a thrift store.  SX, I love you.  Race promoters everywhere, I love you.  But seriously.  Think.

Well, anyway...

I don't mean to end on a sour note.  I loved coming down to the race this year just as I did last (and I'll probably come again in 2015).  The course is awesome, the environment was awesome, I loved seeing old buddies and making a few new ones.

Long live bike racing...  Racing bicycles is awesome.

Monday, September 16, 2013

interbike 2013: outdoor demo day one

Rode a few bikes today.  Liked all of them, but some more than others. In the order they were ridden:

Specialized S-Works Camber.  

I liked this bike.  A lot.  But I never got very comfortable with it through the corners, even through two laps.  Later I realized the problem was likely the lax head tube angle.  Too lax for me, anyway.  It's clear I prefer a more aggressive posture.  But I'm sure with time I could grow to love a bike like this.  With time.  I think I commented at the time, "Riding this bike would make me a much more confident mountain biker."

Pivot Mach429.

My brother loves this bike...but he admits he may be biased as he rides an earlier version.  But the bike was also my nephew's favorite.  It was not mine.  Which is not to say I didn't enjoy it, I did.  But it took a little while.  When I first got on it I was sure I liked the Camber better, but after riding it a bit I grew to appreciate it.  Again, however, the less aggressive angles and tall handlebars just really aren't my style, even if it makes descending the nasty nasty so easy and confident.

LaPierre Zesty.

Or it may be the Spicy.  I can't remember.  I don't know this brand very well, didn't know it at all before riding this one.  It's unique feature (besides its 650b wheel size) is that its suspension is electronically controlled.  Rather, the rear shock is electronically controlled.  The fork talks to the rear shock; the fork takes a hit the shock opens up, when the fork is doing nothing the shock locks up.  You can override the auto setting via the control computer which is integrated nicely into the head tube stack.

I liked this bike, even though the saddle was set much too low.  My nephew didn't.  But I should say this is the first bike I've ridden with 650b wheels, so I may have liked that.  Anyway, an interesting idea, and it's easy to see the idea taking traction in the future, but I can assure you that, for me, the electronics wouldn't be worth the $800 premium over the non-electronic suspension version.

Pinarello Dogma.

On my way to ride more 650b mountain bikes I got distracted by the Pinarello tent.  So I rode this bike.  I'm glad I did.  I don't know why, but I've had the impression that the Dogma was a bit of a, well...a dog.  But this one wasn't at all.  Light.  Stiff.  Responsive.  Nimble.  Really.  I really liked riding it.  And wish I could take it out for a several hour ride.  Maybe they'll let me take it home...

And this particular bike, well, guess who once rode it:

Pinarello Dogma XC.

After riding the road Dogma I wanted to try their F/S XC rig.  However, they only brought mediums.  And the large hard tail was out.  So I rode this extra large.  But besides looking super silly with just a touch of seat post showing, I really liked this bike.  I love me some tasty hard tail.  Other than that, I don't have much to say.  It's a hard tail.  It climbs well.  It feels like a real bike.  I corners well.  It's hard to keep the back wheel planted on the rough stuff.  It's a hard tail...

Specialized Epic WC Expert.

On my way back with the Pinarello I noticed the line at the Big S tent was short.  So, further distracted from finding more middle-sized wheel bikes, I hurried over to try to find an Epic to ride.  None in size large, but they gave me this one in an XL.  It was a bit big for me, but...  I LOVE this bike.

The funny thing is that people have been telling me I would love this bike.  They tell me that, but who knows.  And I hadn't ridden it.  But now I have, and I loved it.

This bike does what I want it to do.  It climbs wonderful.  In the saddle and out of the saddle.  I rode it confidently over all the big drop stuff (as big as I'm willing to drop) and while it certainly wasn't as cushy as the first three bikes I rode today, I felt strong and confident through everything.  But, best of all, it cornered so wonderfully.  It's that head tube angle again.  Steeper head tube angle on this bike and suddenly I just know how it's going to handle through the corners.  It knows where to go.  Or maybe my body just knows where to push it.  But it was a wonderful ride.  Fast.  Confident.  Fun.  I want one of these bikes...  (In a large, please.)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

the photo

Appalachia Visited Road Race, 2013

Sunday, August 25, 2013

the old men of appalachia

I'm honestly not that cool with turning 40 (in like six weeks), but so far the 40+ has been good to me. My first foray into the category and I manage to stumble onto the top step of the podium.

Appalachia Visited Road Race. Saturday, August 24. With a Round Here win last year I had to represent. And this is your report:

There aren't many races in this area with an elevation profile like this.
Fairly decent-sized combined field left town at a Sunday-afternoon-ride pace. Two early mile-long climbs got the heart beating and sweat dripping but saw no real excitement. Then 18 miles in the first real climb, 5 miles climbing over 1,000' (the Strava segment shows 1028' in 6 miles), broke things up a bit. Gunner Shogren and I took turns pacing the group and we went over the top in a group of eight. Four 40+, three 50+, and one 60+.

The next 15-20 miles we rolled over hill and dale without a great deal of action, but when we hit the last big climb (Strava says 1,191' in 6.8 miles, or 1,002' in 3.6 for the business portion) I just went to the front and drilled it. First, two dropped away. Then three more. And then it was just Gunner and John Blumenauer, who has won all the other ABRA 40+ events this year. I jumped out of the saddle for a bit, looked back, and there was only Gunner. I let him sit for a bit and then jumped again. Poof. He was gone. And I had the last 1/3 - 1/2 of the climb to contemplate my victory salute.

Fast descent. Two mile flat TT. And that was that. (First in the 40+; first in the combined masters field.)

No one else in the photo. The only way to win a bike race.


Chistopher Woltemade made the selection of eight atop Texas Mountain and held on for fourth in the 40+. And, it should be said, was riding the early hills very well. Heading to the front, setting his own pace, and ripping the legs off lesser riders.

Can't manage to not look goofy on the podium. Second, third, and fifth, if you're reading this, please follow this link.

For those that don't know, USA Cycling calculates your racing age based on the age you'll be at the end of the year. As my birthday is in October, in USAC-speak I'm 40 all year long.

I really hope a photo surfaces of my crossing-the-line victory salute. We win so few races, you know? Well, at least I win so few races. I'd like to have it properly documented.

As I crossed the line I'm not sure that those few spectators at the finish knew (or cared) that I'd just won my race. There was so very little noise. It was so quiet, in fact, that I yelled, "Come on... Cheer! I don't win these things that often!"

The final descent near the finish was very fun. Its danger was grossly oversold at start. And since I didn't know the descent, I slowed much more than I needed to around the corners. In the end it didn't really matter (in terms of race results), except that it could have potentially been much more fun, and that I have fifth (in a tie) on the Strava segment...

Speaking of KOMs, turns out my push up the George Washington Highway climb was pretty impressive by any field's standard. Granted, I think our race was a bit easier on the front end than some of the other fields, but I presently hold the Strava KOM on the uphill by a solid 34 seconds. And I was lead wheel the whole way.

8/27 UPDATE: Thanks to the generosity of Fred Jordan, a photo of my victory celebration has surfaced.  And here it is.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

uci embraces its public image

Yes.  Unbelievably, this is the logo for the 2013 UCI Road World Championships.

Parody as reality.  Is this the UCI embracing (and laughing at) its obvious credibility problem?  Or is this some bizarre Italian cultural barrier which I'm simply not capable of doing the mental gymnastics to get over? 

(I'm sure it's the later, but it's still unreal.  Isn't there anyone in Geneva that has to approve this stuff?)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

bike tip of the day

There is often a right way and a wrong way to do things.  In cycling (as in so much of life), it's not always obvious what the reasons for the right way are.  In fact, I'm not sure it's even appropriate to ask.  Why.  (Isn't it enough, for instance, to know that Merckx did it that way?)  But it is appropriate to ask what.  And so here's your tip of the day:

Skewer position.

Can you tell me which pictures below depict properly positioned skewers?

What do you think?  Do you have it?

If not, I've created a handy graphic to help you.

I hope you had it right.

Now, usually it's not for us to ask why in such matters, but in this case I'll explain.

Safety.  If your skewer is in the position depicted in the upper right-hand picture, I will assume that your wheel is not fastened securely, and that over the next bump or around the next sharp turn that your wheel will be departing your dropouts for good.  Thus, a skewer lever pointed down means that a wheel is not securely attached.  That's the only reason one should be pointed downward.

Doucheness.  If your skewer is positioned like the one depicted in the upper left-hand picture, your bike looks ridiculous, and, by extension, it's going to be awfully hard for me to take you seriously as either a rider or, frankly, a human being.  So while you're droning on about your latest epic ride, if your front skewer lever is pointed the direction we're traveling, all I'm thinking about is how I can get you away from your bike for a minute so that I can quietly and discretely correct this sin against theology and geometry.  For the bike's sake, if not necessarily yours.  Don't be a douche.  Take care where your lever points.

Ok, so at this point you may be asking what rules actually govern proper skewer lever placement.  I'll tell you.

(1) Skewer levers are ALWAYS secured on the non-drive side of the bicycle.  For balance.  Aesthetic balance, if not actual balance.  Of mass.  There are no exceptions, no excuses.

(2) In the case of an internal cam-type skewer, such as old-school Campy, most Shimano skewers, and the ones depicted above, the front wheel skewer lever should align as close to parallel to the fork blade as possible.  But it may also dip down, clockwise, to the 3 o'clock position, but no further.  Basically anywhere between parallel to the fork blade and 3 o'clock is fine, but at either extreme is best.  With a suspension mountain bike fork, no position other than parallel to the fork blade is acceptable.

(3) When your wheel manufacturer has been discourteous enough to provide you with the other kind of skewer, an external cam-type, I would first recommend making every effort to get a new skewer (incidentally, the Angry Asian agrees), but if that's not possible, then the best position for the front wheel skewer is straight up, 12 o'clock, or any position between 12 and 3 o'clock, with preference again to the extremes or, in the best case scenario, and if your dropout placement allows it, parallel to your fork blade (this is always the case with suspension mountain bike forks).

(4) Internal cam-operated rear wheel skewer levers should be positioned parallel to the chain stay.  They may also rest between the chain and seat stays or, if you must, at 3 o'clock.

(5) If your rear wheel has the other kind of skewer, it should be positioned between the stays.  Or at 3 o'clock.  (If you're feeling iconoclastic, 12 o'clock is acceptable, but discouraged.)

That's it!

Follow these simple rules to keep your wheel skewer levers in compliance and may you enjoy many miles of safe, smug, stylish, self-satisfied joy upon your trusty steed. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

bike racing in central park

This past weekend a few guys from the team rolled over to the big city for the Maltese Invitational.  No results, but good fun. 

Bike racing in Central Park:  It is, to me, one of the great joys of bike racing. It is reward enough for doing what one does to become a competent bike racer.  I guess I've done it a half dozen times now (usually when no warmer than 30 degrees) and it just doesn't get old.  Something about just being in the middle of the big city (the BIG city), riding shoulder-to-shoulder with my brothers, the breakneck pace (my field averaged 27.5 mph for 57 miles), the insane corner dives, the smell of burning brake pads, the collection of road grime on sweaty legs, the whir of a thousand spokes spinning in concert…  It just makes you feel…alive.  The picture of health.  Like the fulfillment of a bazillion years of evolutionary progress (the measure of my creation).  Like all the universe is rejoicing at my physical prowess.  There’s only one other thing I do that makes me feel that way…

But it's not just the bike racing, it's the bike racing in context.  It's New York City.  It's the BIG city.  BIG on a scale of nothing else I know.  Frightening.  Wonderful.  Intoxicating.  Obscene.  All of that.  A smorgasbord of sensory delight and horror.

Then Monday comes.  We’re back at computers with fingers click-clacking away at a living.  Like little machetes slashing through maze jungles of institutional bureaucracy.  A wheel.  A gear.  Flexing a muscle to turn a pedal.  All of that makes sense.  When engaged, one gains clarity.  A kind of tunnel vision of peace, purpose, and certainty.  But the rest of this…from the harum scarum ordering of symbols on my keyboard (a technological artifact frozen in the tar pits of social reality) to navigating the social order that controls the means of wealth and well-being.  This makes no sense.  It is a dark place of brigands, unnatural heteroclites, and (probably) R.O.U.S.  Mondays are when you discover one of your daughter's hamsters, dead, its butt half eaten by the other.  Mondays are NYC.  Bike racing in NYC is a kind of triumph of the pure, beautiful human over the everything that humans--as a group, a hive--create that makes being human--individual, autonomous--so difficult, confusing, heartbreaking, and painful.

And that's why I like bike racing in Central Park.

(I should have been a carpenter.)

 A too-perfect metaphor for the corporate subjugation of labor...wrapped in the gloss of materialism.  (Lego corporate logo constructed of colored Lego men.)

Reuben, contemplating his complicity in said corporate subjugation.

Monday, July 1, 2013

a quality saturday ride

This past Saturday, June 29, I had a great little ride.  Solo.  I'm confident I've never ridden this far alone before.  I remember once doing 85-90 miles on my own in high school.  That was a mostly flat ride.  I came home completely destroyed.  This Saturday I came home feeling terrific.  Some days are like that.  And that's reason enough to ride a bike.

113 miles.
9,300 ft.
243 NP.
Strava Suffer Score: 168
11 water bottles.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

dirt road magesty

Went for a lovely ride today, with about 15 miles of crunchy gravel dirt road, about two thirds of which I've never ridden before.

I took a picture:

Picture taken about here.

The forest is such an enchanting color after (and during, as it would turn out) a bit of rain.  And it's the second best time of year (after fall) to be riding in the woods.  Love.  Heart.  Good feelings all around.  When I finally came out of the woods, transitioning from gravel to paved road, I noticed with amusement that my hands were in the air, full-on victory salute style.  It was the kind of celebration one makes after rocking a particularly awesome water slide.  Or a great roller coaster.  Or whatever.  I was just having a lot of fun.

On a related note, my one disappointment with the EVO is that because of the angle in which the rear brake is installed, the bridge of the rear brake won't clear a 28mm tire.  (My Tarmac's fork had trouble with a 28mm tire as well.)

Which leads me to exclaim that my ideal go-to bicycle would be this: A top-shelf carbon fiber frame with zero-compromise race geometry, one size smaller than any bike shop would fit me, short head tube, long stem, with fork and stays wide enough to comfortably clear a 28mm tire.  Sturdy aluminum hoops.  Thick, heavy, puncture-resistant tires.  Top-shelf everything else.

So, basically what I've been riding for the past four or five years, plus the clearance thing.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Oh the cycling adventures I would have if I could have such adventures.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

the podium celebration

I feel I need to make a brief, general note on podium celebration and demeanor in the age of Facebook.  Why does FB change things?  Because before Facebook no one saw your podium celebration and no one cared.  But if you're going to post your podium shot on FB, well, we probably still don't care, but you should at least put a little effort into getting it right.

In short, you only get to lift both hands in the air if you won.  The end.  Or if the stage begins to collapse and if you failed to lift your hands you (and other innocents) would be crushed otherwise.  This is the first and most critical rule of podium celebration.

In lifting your arms, there should only be the slightest bend at the elbow, if any at all.  If your biceps are parallel to the surface you're standing on then you're doing it wrong.

The winner may also only lift one arm if he or she chooses to.

If you finished second or third, you should lift one arm, but it must be the arm furthest away from the winner.  Don't try to steal the winner's thunder.  It's his day, not yours.  You lost.

When you lift your hands, they should have something in them.  Like a trophy or a bouquet of flowers.  If you don't have anything to lift, your gesture should be as if you are celebrating, animated, the fingers unclenched and extended, as if waving (without actually waving) to an intimate friend from across a crowded room.

Also, if you finished second or third, it's sort of badass to look grumpy that you didn't win, but it shows better sportsmanship to look pleasant. 

The winner should always smile and otherwise demonstrate the utmost in grace and charm (which includes being gracious, both to the promoter and to fellow competitors).  Act like you're not unfamiliar with the top place on the podium, but that there's no place you'd rather be.

Podium celebration done right.