Thursday, May 27, 2010

my racist lawnmower

Yesterday, my racist lawnmower stopped mid-way through the job. It was done. Wouldn't work.

After walking away for a couple of hours (things like this are prone to throw me into fits of rage which, later, are embarassing), I confronted the lawnmower with a fist full of tools. And this is the important part:

I took it apart, diagnosed the problem, fixed the problem, and put it back together. It started on the second pull.

This pencil-necked PhD may make a living at the chalk and key boards, but I can also fix a lawnmower.

Yes. Yes, I can. (Even a racist one.)

Friday, May 21, 2010


Everyone's talking about it, and so must I...

So my favorite take on all the hullabaloo thus far has been from Adam Myerson. Which is interesting, to me, because after Transitions (if you've seen the trailer, and liked it, don't spoil the good feeling by watching the whole film), I walked away thinking this guy was a complete douche--wouldn't even want to have dinner with the dude.

But his take on this mess I find utterly refreshing. I hate to put too fine a point on it, but, really, this is about as deep and insightful as you're going to get in the world of pro bicycle racing commentary. (Which, personally, is of course a little troubling because it's forcing me to rethink my opinion of Myerson.)

For your reading pleasure, I've reprinted most of his post here:

Pretty Boy Floyd

So by now, I'm sure you've heard about Floyd's confession. The Wall Street Journal broke the story, apparently, and there's an excellent follow up on I'll let you get caught up rather than recap it here, because I want to get at what I think is the heart of the matter. Before I could even write it myself, Floyd said it to ESPN:

"I don't feel guilty at all about having doped. I did what I did because that's what we [cyclists] did and it was a choice I had to make after 10 years or 12 years of hard work to get there, and that was a decision I had to make to make the next step. My choices were, do it and see if I can win, or don't do it and I tell people I just don't want to do that, and I decided to do it."

I've actually had a blog entry about Floyd percolating for a while. I've been racing with him a lot over the past two seasons since he came back. And much like Tyler, Floyd was (is) always really nice to me. Says hi, smiles, is friendly. He doesn't ride around with an attitude, he doesn't yell at guys in the races, and when he has legs, he works hard. There was definitely a lot of "parade riding" in his first year back where he seemed to just be showing up, going to the bar at night, and not putting a lot of effort into the races. But when his form came back around, he was always willing to work for his teammates.

And so just as I did with Tyler, I struggled when Floyd was nice to me. He was not the same guy I raced with back in the day, when he was a mountain biker dabbling in the road races, or on Mercury after that. I wanted to spit on him. If he was near me in the pack, I made a point of not giving him room. If he was coming back from an attack or I was passing him in a turn, maybe I turned a little wider than I needed to. You can't make room for someone you consider invisible, or a pariah, right?

Well, that kind of negativity eats at you, too. It doesn't feel good to go out of your way to fuck with someone, and it takes something away from you. Eventually I got over it, and tried to just treat Floyd as a human who deserved a certain amount of consideration and respect. All we really want to do is race our bikes. I needed to let Floyd do that, too.

Late last season, I started to turn the corner even further on Floyd. Maybe it was the collection of Sunday nights at the bar, watching him buy people drinks after races and just generally being a funny, friendly, approachable guy. Maybe it was him saying hi in the elevators at race hotels, shyly, but with that mischievous smirk on his face. Maybe it was just watching how he kept his head down in the races, was just happy to be racing his bike - I dunno, but at some point I decided I liked Floyd Landis. And I didn't really know what to do with that.

At the same time, at no point did I think Landis was innocent, or that he hadn't been doping. But every time I'd see him talk about it, I felt like he was always winking while he did it. My understanding of Floyd's position went something like this: "Oh fuck yes I doped. I doped just like everyone else did. I did not invent doping, and I understood that at the level I was at, it was part of my job description, like Lance, like George. So why should I be the only one who goes down for it?" I saw Landis fighting the charges not because he hadn't doped, because like all his peers, he had. I saw him fighting it because he thought the system was fucked up, and I mean the whole system. The team he was on that encouraged him to dope, the labs that didn't follow their own rules, the UCI that had its own interests to protect. Why would any of us expect Floyd to "do the right thing" here, and in his mind, take the fall or be the scapegoat for a system he participated in by choice, but that he sure didn't invent?

And honestly, why should Landis have confessed at that point? Why shouldn't he fight the charges, if the mindset of the guys at the top level is that doping is part of the job? To understand this, you have to think about doping as the equivalent of slashing or crosschecking in hockey, or traveling in basketball - essentially any kind of play that's subject to a penalty. When someone gets called for crosschecking, you don't think of them as a cheater, do you? But of course, they're breaking the rules. They are absolutely cheating. But it's part of the game, and absolutely mandatory to be successful at the game, to hook or slash or crosscheck as much as you can, while still getting away with it. The point is not to NOT slash or hook. The point is to not get caught. In the previous generations of pro cycling at the highest level, this was the mindset. It's not about morals or fair play. It's just a game. It's not real life, and this is how the game was played.

On another hand, you have to also consider doping in the mindset of rider health. It may sound backward, when we're told that doping has long lasting, negative health effects. But when you train and race at that level, you literally make yourself sick with training. Hematocrit is suppressed, hormone levels drop, and the doctor comes in to bring you back up to normal health. The biggest risks appear to come when you go over the top, and try to turn your mule into a race horse. But for those guys, they have mechanics to tune the bikes, so why not doctors to monitor their health? In their insular, narrow world, it doesn't even appear to be an unethical choice. Ethics aren't even on the table. You're just in, or out.

You see the difference after guys come back, and you presume they're racing clean. Tyler and Floyd, when they were racing in the US were good, top level. They were both obviously, always talented. But it was always strange to be racing crits and being competitive with guys who won Olympic gold medals and the Tour. I found it ironic that after all they'd been through, they were right back riding in circles in America with me, like we were ten years earlier. Of course there were plenty of guys who DID say no. Danny Pate, Mike Creed, Tim Johnson - for me those are the glaring examples of guys who had a chance to be pros in Europe (Pate and Creed on Saeco, Tim on Saunier Duval) at a time when doping was still de rigueur, but unlike Floyd and Tyler, just said no and came home. And now, in a cleaner era, you see them competing at the highest level of the sport. I believe in those guys, and I think they're representative of the other path that was available to Tyler and Floyd.

Landis' defense wasn't about whether he was guilty or not. Of course he was guilty of doping. He knew it, and he knew you knew it. His defense was against being the scapegoat, being the one who took the fall. His defense was an attack on the hypocrisy of the system. So why finally come out with it now, during the TOC and Giro? Why the fuck not now? If you're Landis, and you know that despite serving your suspension and being free to race, you'll never be allowed back in at the top level, why not burn the whole fucking thing down? Why should Lance get to be an international star and hero to the world, when he's guilty of all the same crimes as Landis? Landis clearly loves bike racing and just wants to race his bike. If he can't play, then who can blame him for calling bullshit on the whole thing?

So burn down Babylon. Burn pro cycling down. There will still be racing, there will still be races. Burn it down, so we can build it up again new. I condemn Landis' original decision to participate in a corrupt, immoral system. But I'll stand in front of the flames with him and watch it burn.

I'll shake his smokey hand the next time I see him.


I don't think there's any question that Landis is a little bit crazy. Maybe even a lot bit crazy. And maybe even a snake. But he's also painfully simple. There's nothing sophisticated or cosmopolitan about that dude. He'd probably score around 450 on the SAT (well, that may not be fair...he uses a reference to scarlet letters appropriately in an interview, and that's saying something). He just likes to ride his bike. Drink. Watch stupid movies. And hang out with other dudes that do the same sort of thing.

But I'm just as confident that Lance is every bit the charlatan that his critics make him out to be. He's just really, really good at the deceit. And he has money. And he's terribly charismatic. That the media, in reporting Landis' comments, doesn't even mention past evidence against Armstrong (a bunch of it, now six years old(!), is summarized neatly here, and that doesn't even include Franie Andreu or Greg LeMond's testimony, of which the former is especially damning), speaks to the power Armstrong wields. But the cards will come tumbling down eventually. I'm sure of it.

I mean, listen to this (and watch the body language). He so clearly does have something to hide. A lot of something. Clearly.

UPDATE: Something else worth reading on the matter (in case you missed it):

Kimmage: Landis allegations will decide the sport’s future



Now, for a complete change of subject:

Specialized give California an American Flyers feel.

Are you kidding me?! I'm practically dying of awesomeness! You have no idea how I want one of those red SL3s... And the t-shirt... And the stupid cowboy hat... And the red van...

And watching stupid Andy Schleck get to have all the fun is almost too much. I mean, what could a Luxenburger know of the coolness of the layers of American irony that are wrapped up in that whole thing?

Oh, the awesomeness actually hurts...

Monday, May 17, 2010


I've three (really cool) items on eBay right now. In case I've any readers are interested...

A crazy awesome long-sleeved black and white (plain--no custom logos or anything) Cervelo skinsuit. Turned out it was too big for me.

A super-sleek 3T Funda Pro fork. Red. The kind Cervelo puts on all its bikes.

And a 2008 Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL2, 58 cm. Sick naked carbon finish. The same bike that's featured in the little picture on the top right-hand corner of this blog, actually. (That picture is now going to have to be updated, come to think of it.)


I think my eBay item descriptions are pretty great, and I don't mind saying so. And I don't mind saying either that 95 percent of eBay item descriptions are an abomination.

People, there's no excuse for not at least trying to write well, regardless of the medium.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

five summits

Rather than post pictures of routes and elevation profiles (that's so yesterday), I'm going to try something new and spiffy (facebookers, y'all are probably gonna have to visit the blog to see the something-new-and-spiffy).

(Click here for a much bigger map that's easier to follow.)

Anyway... This is a variation on my favorite training ride. And I think I like this variation better than the original, so I guess that makes this my new favorite training ride.

Forty-six miles. Forty-six hundred feet of climbing. (Bikely said 4200 ft. So who knows. But I like the sound of 4600, because I like the symmetry of averaging 100 ft elevation gain per mile.)

When I come back from a ride like this it's hard to imagine a better way of spending two and a half hours. Beautiful terrain. A wonderfully performing bicycle. Pleasant weather. It's good to be a cyclist.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


(Facebookers, go here for the video.)

Monday, May 10, 2010

the cultural artifacts of rural pee-aay

When you see "HOOK UP OR SHUT UP" hand painted on the tailgate of a 25 year-old Chevy pickup belching smoke from modified, upright exhaust pipes and the stars-and-bars where a front license plate would be, what does it mean?

Friday, May 7, 2010

the alure of what is "classic"

Of the several loose frames I have lying around in the basement there are:

(1) 1990 Specialized Allez Epic (58 cm)

(2) 2008 Specialized Tarmac SL2 (58 cm)

The second I'm trying to sell. The first I never will.

For those not in the know, the first, that Allez Epic, was a pretty hot frame in its day. Companies like Kestrel and Trek (do you remember the Trek 5000?--link is to a picture...and, tangentially, a case study in how to make a pretty bike truly grotesque through douchbaggery--the strap-on pump? the saddlebag the size of a doghouse? the stem angle and patchwork handlebar tape? and is that a spare tire behind the seatpost? ugh...) were blazing virgin territory with their monocoque carbon fiber frame designs, but those frames were crazy expensive. And in the case of the Trek, not very reliable. But others (Trek included), like Calfee and Specialized, were making bicycle frames out of carbon fiber in the traditional way that bicycles are made--eight tubes bonded together at their various junctions in some manner. The Epic was one of these frames. In 1990, it was one of the hottest things around. And I had one.

The second bike--I'm just going to say it--was the hottest thing around two years ago. (Since then, Specialized has introduced the SL3, and that makes the SL2 merely the second hottest thing around. Yup, still cooler than all those poser Cervelos, Madones, SystemSixes, etc. There might be a Ridley that's on par, but until Cervelo updates its S2s and S3s, that's as far as I'm willing to go.)


A fun little game I've been playing lately is to invite people to my basement and put in each of their hands one of these frames. The state-of-the-art 20 years ago. The state-of-the-art today. The difference is astonishing, even to those that are expecting it.


So now that I have my dream build...*

(Apologies for the weird in-and-out-of-focus photo. Blame it on the iPhone. I wish I could blame forgetting to put the chain on the big ring on my phone as well. Yikes. It's kind of like forgetting to comb your hair on picture day. Notice the snazzy WickWerks rings.)

(Sometimes I like to think of what my 16 year-old self would of thought of this bike...I might have short-circuited something if I knew that one day I'd get to ride this thing. Any time I want.)

(But Oh! how I'm materialistic. I probably deserve a public slapping for liking a thing so much. But then I remind myself, as a way of putting perspective on it and/or as naked rationalization, that there are people who shamelessly own and drive Hummers and Cadillac SUVs and think nothing of it. They deserve to be slapped three times, then tried for crimes against humanity. I just like to ride bicycles.)

...I can't help but look to the past. To dream bikes, if you will, from yesteryear.

There are two bikes in which I'm particularly interested. As showpieces. Art. I want to hang them in my living room (Val will give me space for a time).

The first, a Vitus 979 (or possibly a 992) from the late 80s. Something like these:

(Interestingly, I recognize the rims in this picture as being the same as I laced up in my first wheel build project last summer.)

The second, an early generation Kestrel 4000. A really early one, with an aluminum fork:

(Once in my possession, I would take decent photographs of them and post them on the internets in such a way that people looking for a picture of one through the pipes could find them easily.)

If I built them up, I would do it with period-correct Dura-Ace (on one) and C-Record complete with Delta brakes (on the other). If I could find it, SunTour Superbe Pro. Or I might leave them as frames only. Either way, they would be beautiful, and I might charge admission for people to look at them. But probably not. Because beauty should be shared. Freely.

*To me, a "dream build" is one where you can't really imagine doing anything else to it; no desire to upgrade a single piece or component, even if money wasn't an issue. This one is pretty much there (especially after I replaced the setback S-Works seatpost with a zero-setback Easton EC90). However, I'm far from my "dream build" in the tt, mtb, and cross categories. And my wheel quiver feels far too light. So there's plenty of work yet to do. And, of course, there's this.

Monday, May 3, 2010

turkey hill 2010

I've ran this race three times, which is as much as I've run any single weekend course in my odd little cycling career (I'm thinking the only other course I've raced that many times is the one I did in Ontario, Oregon every spring when I was in high school), and every time it's kicked my butt.

Turkey Hill: my Pennsylvania cycling bugaboo.

In 2007, Carney (a teammate) was off the front alone for about half the race. We caught him on the rollers leading into the finish and I remember (1) how mad he was at all of us (teammates) for not attacking immediately after he was caught and (2) how completely toasted I was at that point and how completely impossible it would have been to attack.

In 2009, I felt great all the way through, and was poised to have a nice finish, but rather than choose the smart tactic and take my good feelings on the attack in the last couple of miles, I tried to find a good position for the sprint and ended up getting pushed off the road and crashing at 30+ mph with about 1K to go.

And in 2010... The big mistake was hydration. Or lack of it. I'm usually peeing clear and with great volume right before a race. Saturday, nothing. It was already over 80 degrees an hour before start time, and I was harried with registration, getting the kids settled, putting up their sun shelter and folding chairs, making sure Audrey had backup coverage in watching Reuben, and then trying to get in a hurried warm-up. What a ridiculous way to get prepped for a race.

But a few laps in and I was feeling fine. I initiated a nice little attack just before the finish line for props from the announcer and to show off for Mrs. Goatesauce (who was officiating--awesome). And I felt good enough to attack again in the same place with two laps to go, an effort which resulted in a half-lap solo bridge effort (there were a couple up the road at this point). When I was caught the second time, I was just 1/4 the way into my second bottle of the day. At that point we'd been riding for about two hours. I had drank, up until then, just one and one quarter bottles. Such foolishness...

So I chilled at the back of the field for the next bit. Picked up a fresh bottle in the feedzone to start the final lap, and then, after that last turn, trying to bring Jon up to the front on those finishing rollers, it all just sort of fell apart. I got out of the saddle and my thighs cramped like I've never felt them cramp before. I sat down, downshifted, tried to pedal hard, but I was just completely out of gas. Such a shame...

Such an embarrassment, really. The results show I finished 45th of 48 (finishers). What they don't show is that 52 people were either pulled or dropped out. It was a tough, hot day. And given the weather we've had lately I think that caught a lot of people off guard. But it's still embarrassing.

And the thing is, while Turkey Hill is a well-run event with fun start/finish area stuff going on during the race, the course is really quite dull. It's just a dumb little circuit with a bunch of unremarkable rollers, and yet it beats me up every year. So silly...

So, I'll see you next year, Turkey Hill... I'll see you next year...