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.