Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Help, I've Fallen and I Can't Get Back Up

No, the headline is not completely true. We haven't fallen but we have stopped treating this baby as a daily obligation.

Two Wheel Transit was sold recently and it has left Team Two Wheel a bit up in the air. We don't have a commitment from Two Wheel Transit to keep up the team or blog and we don't have a commitment from any other shop, however, we are having one such conversation.

If it comes together, you can expect to see some more posts and if it doesn't, then we will have to see what becomes of all this work and nonsense.

It has been a pleasure having this conversation with you, our beloved readers. We will get back to you before the end of the month with more news or to put this expirement out of its misery.

Thanks for reading.
Rider 3

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Vuelta and More

No, we haven't fallen off the face of the earth, although our little blog has indeed gone dark for the past week or so. In fact we have a slew of posts that are almost ready to go. In the mean time, here are a few things to check out:

In the mean time, check out this link from today's Vuelta. N-A-S-T-Y crash. Ick.

If you haven't read it yet, Joe Parkin's "Dog in a Hat" is a great read. I knew Joe a bit back in my time running mountain bike teams, and he's one of those guys that in retrospect I wish I had talked with more about his experiences on the road in Europe. Andy Bishop rode for me and I absolutely loved hearing about him learning Dutch, riding for PDM, what it was like as a pioneering pro, etc. Anyway, in addition to Joe's book he has a great blog. Loved this checklist.

Unlike some people's take on Serotta, the brand will forever remind me of the Coors Light team from the 90's and the first team I worked for, Morgul Bismark. The team was sponsored by a bike shop owned by Ron Kiefel and Davis Phinney, as well as Serotta, Mavic (in the days of Mavic Zap and the most difficult to install/maintain bottom bracket in history), Killer Loop, Pearlizumi and others. That team was stacked with some seriously talented riders and is worthy of many, many blog posts. I still have vivid memories of driving around the country in a van with Tyler Hamilton, Anton Villatoro, Patrick Eyk and others. We rode very sweet custom Serottas painted in flourescent yellow and purple. Pez has a review of a custom Serotta that for some reason brought me back. And I think this is the most blinged out, pimped out rig I've seen in a long time.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

That worked so well, let's try it again. Remember this when Team Shack hits the road next year

Even CEO Can't Figure Out How RadioShack Still In Business

April 23, 2007 | Issue 43•17

FORT WORTH, TX—Despite having been on the job for nine months, RadioShack CEO Julian Day said Monday that he still has "no idea" how the home electronics store manages to stay open.

RadioShack CEO

CEO Julian Day

"There must be some sort of business model that enables this company to make money, but I'll be damned if I know what it is," Day said. "You wouldn't think that people still buy enough strobe lights and extension cords to support an entire nationwide chain, but I guess they must, or I wouldn't have this desk to sit behind all day."

The retail outlet boasts more than 6,000 locations in the United States, and is known best for its wall-sized displays of obscure-looking analog electronics components and its notoriously desperate, high-pressure sales staff. Nevertheless, it ranks as a Fortune 500 company, with gross revenues of over $4.5 billion and fiscal quarter earnings averaging tens of millions of dollars.

"Have you even been inside of a RadioShack recently?" Day asked. "Just walking into the place makes you feel vaguely depressed and alienated. Maybe our customers are at the mall anyway and don't feel like driving to Best Buy? I suppose that's possible, but still, it's just...weird."

Enlarge Image RadioShack

A RadioShack store that somehow manages to bring in enough paying customers to turn a profit.

After taking over as CEO, Day ordered a comprehensive, top-down review of RadioShack's administrative operations, inventory and purchasing, suppliers, demographics, and marketing strategies. He has also diligently pored over weekly budget reports, met with investors, taken numerous conference calls with regional managers about "circulars or flyers or something," and even spent hours playing with the company's "baffling" 200-In-One electronics kit. Yet so far none of these things have helped Day understand the moribund company's apparent allure.

"Even the name 'RadioShack'—can you imagine two less appealing words placed next to one another?" Day said. "What is that, some kind of World War II terminology? Are ham radio operators still around, even? Aren't we in the digital age?"

"Well, our customers are out there somewhere, and thank God they are," Day added.

One of Day's theories about RadioShack's continued solvency involves wedding DJs, emergency cord replacement, and off-brand wireless telephones. Another theory entails countless RadioShack gift cards that sit unredeemed in their recipients' wallets. Day has even conjectured that the store is "still coasting on" an enormous fortune made from remote-control toy cars in the mid-1970s.

RadioShack Revenues

Day admitted, however, that none of these theories seems particularly plausible.

"I once went into a RadioShack location incognito in order to gauge customer service," Day said. "It was about as inviting as a visit to the DMV. For the life of me, I couldn't see anything I wanted to buy. Finally, I figured I'd pick up some Enercell AA batteries, though truthfully they're not appreciably cheaper than the name brands."

"I know one thing," Day continued. "If Sony and JVC start including gold-tipped cable cords with their products, we're screwed."

In the cover letter to his December 2006 report to investors, "Radio Shack: Still Here In The 21st Century," Day wrote that he had no reason to believe that the coming year would not be every bit as good as years past, provided that people kept on doing things much the same way they always had.

Despite this cheerful boosterism, Day admitted that nothing has changed during his tenure and he doesn't exactly know what he can do to improve the chain.

"I'd like to capitalize on the store's strong points, but I honestly don't know what they are," Day said. "Every location is full of bizarre adapters, random chargers, and old boom boxes, and some sales guy is constantly hovering over you. It's like walking into your grandpa's basement. You always expect to see something cool, but it never delivers."

Added Day: "I may never know the answer. No matter how many times I punch the sales figures into this crappy Tandy desk calculator, it just doesn't add up."

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Blog Post Stolen Directly from The Onion

Non-Doping Cyclists Finish Tour De France

August 30, 2007 | Onion Sports

PARIS—A small but enthusiastic crowd of several dozen was on hand at the Tour de France's finish line on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées Tuesday to applaud the efforts of the 28 cyclists who completed the grueling 20-stage, 2,208.3-mile race without the aid of performance-enhancing drugs.

Enlarge Image Non Doping

Great Britain's Bradley Wiggins finished the final 56km time trial in a respectable and drug-free 4 hours and 38 minutes.

Finland's Piet Kvistik, a domestique with the Crédit Mondial team, was this year's highest-finishing non-doping rider (142nd overall). Kvistik claimed the maillot propre, the blue jersey worn by the highest-placed "clean" rider, on the ninth stage of the race when the six riders who had previously worn it tested positive for EPO, elevated levels of testosterone, and blood-packing.

"This is a very, very proud day for me," said the 115-pound Kvistik, who lost 45% of his body mass during the event, toppled from his saddle moments after finishing, and had to be administered oxygen, fed intravenously, and injected with adrenaline by attending medical personnel. "They say it is physically impossible to ride all of the Tour without drugs, but we prove them wrong this day."

"What day is it, anyway?" asked Kvistik, his eyes rolling wildly in his head. "I can no longer tell."

Kvistik's overall time for the Tour was 571 hours, 22 minutes, and 33 seconds, beating by over an hour the previous record for a non-enhanced rider, set by Albrect Påart during 1923's infamous ether-and-morphine-shortened race. Kvistik finished a mere 480 hours behind Alberto Contador, the overall winner, making 2007's margin between doping and non-doping riders the closest in history.

"It became most difficult for us on the 7th stage, which was almost 200 kilometers and the first stage through the mountains," Kvistik said while accepting the non-doping victor's 100-franc check from his stretcher. "Not only did the excruciating pain and weakness in my legs make it difficult to walk my bike on the steeper stretches, it was mentally very hard to know that half the other clean riders were dead or dying. Also, the other 141 riders finished the Tour in Paris that morning, which made it all that much harder."

"It's rather a shame that the Tour's 'clean' riders, or 'lanternes naturelles' as the fans call them, receive so little attention, for their monumental achievement," said cycling commentator Phil Liggett, reporting on the non-doping riders' finish for Versus-2, the little-sister network to Versus, who carried the main Tour de France coverage. "It's nearly impossible to compete in the full Tour while shot full of human growth hormone, erythropoietin, testosterone, glucocorticosteroids, synthetic testosterone, anabolic steroids, horse testosterone, amphetamines, and one's own pre-packed oxygen-rich red blood cells. To do it on water and bananas is almost heroic, no matter what one's time is."

While Kvistik's achievement is being celebrated by cycling insiders, critics of the Tour de France maintain that not enough is being done to combat the use of performance-enhancing substances in cycling's premier event.

"Nonsense—pure nonsense," said Tour general director Christian Prudhomme, who was vacationing in Switzerland as Kvistik crossed the finish line. "We have done everything we could imagine, both in terms of prize money and other incentives, to promote riders who compete without pharmaceutical aid. But we simply do not have the resources, nor the viewers the interest, to televise the entire two months it takes for a normal, unadulterated human to circumnavigate an entire nation on a bicycle."

Kvistik remains in critical condition at the Hôpital Neuilly-sur-Seine, where he was placed in a medically induced coma to aid his recovery from exhaustion, malnutrition, and loss of bone density. Attending physicians say he is not expected to return to cycling.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Friday Fun

Fun for me will be making the final tweaks on my new bike this evening.

Also, just found out that there's a hillclimb and a crit in Wallace, Idaho this weekend. Nice combo in the town famous for its brothels, its silver mines, and of course being the self-proclaimed "Center of the Universe." Too bad I can't make it. Wallace is very funky and would be an awesome place for a fun crit. I'm seriously bummed, although 6 weeks without racing (and barely riding) would be brutal. Not sure that a downtown crit is the best place for the new bike's maiden voyage, anyway.

And here's some goofiness to get your weekend started. Have fun and good luck at the races, if that's your thing.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

2010 Trek Madone - Early Happy Snaps

So I just got back from Two Wheel Transit with my co-worker Nick. Good news is my new bike came in today, two days early. Very cool!

It's only mostly assembled--I'll set it up tonight, but in the mean time, here are a few pics. For those of you who care about this kind of thing, it weighed in at 14.1 pounds without pedals (those are at home), but including bottle cages. Not bad for a bike with aluminum clinchers.

More to come...including actually riding it.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


OK, even though Two Wheel Transit isn't a Cervelo dealer, I need to give them a plug. This doesn't have anything to do with their bikes, although I do think they do a good job. I've had the chance to ride them quite a bit over the past couple of years and I like them, although I decided not to buy one over the Trek (which will be here this Friday).

Anyway, I finally got around to checking out www.bartape.net. This is the home for Cervelo's series of documentaries (sort of) about their racing team.

In fact these shorts are extremely well done. The photography is gorgeous. The first time I saw them I thought for sure they were shot on film. The quality is that good. My guess is that it's not--rather it's shot on high-def video, but with a damn good camera.

And I think they found a nice balance between a look behind the curtains and a marketing piece. In fact it's an effective marketing piece because they DON'T hit you over the head with a "we're Cervelo and here's all the reasons our bikes are so great" agenda. Well, with the exception of the Paris Roubaix segment. We can let that slide though, right?

So the pictures are great, and so are some of the interviews. You get a sense anyway of how brutal some of the classics are (all of them, really) and I especially like the segment on Flanders. Plus, Andreas Klier has one of the all-time coolest nicknames--"GPS Klier." I may need to start calling Quicksilver that since he has a similar innate knowledge of roads. They just happen to be the roads around Spokane, not the roads around Liege. The discussion on the race radio between Klier and Daniel Lloyd during Flanders is awesome. I'd transcirbe it here, but it's not particularly safe for work.

But what's up with Henrich Haussler? He's exciting to watch race, but I'm not so sure about the man behind the helmet. Pretty boy? Oh yeah. But the dude can move on a bike, so that makes up for a lot of his apparent dearth of personality. I guess.

If you're looking for something to watch, check it out. Way more interesting than Grey's Anatomy, anyway.

Friday, August 7, 2009

New Bike - New Seat

I recently regaled you with tales of my new bike. Short version - 2009 Trek Madone 6.9 from a warranty replacement. Speaking of which, here is a shout-out to Trek and Two Wheel. From finding the crack to having a new bike was amazingly fast and hassle free. Just what you would hope a warranty experience would be; except that I can't think of any that actually go that way. Love the bike.

But, my seat was broken down from many miles and hours, not to mention my Clydesdale Plus size heiny. I had been riding a Selle Italia Trans Am Gel Flow, or something. I started riding this seat a long time ago and actually bought three of them, so that I have one on my trainer, one on my rain/cyclocross bike and one on my main bike. So, deciding to try out new seats seemed like a big deal to me. I wanted to dive in and find what worked. And now, I am going to share my experiences with you except I want you to keep in mind one thing - you should ignore every word I have to say. Instead, you should just try a few seats and find what works. There are lots of different types of asses, bone structures and riding positions. As a result, there is no seat that "works" for everyone or even most people. You gotta find your seat through trial and error.

Here are my trials and errors.

Fiziks Aliante S - Rider 1 described his experience with this seat. It is part of the group of seats that Two Wheel has to test ride. Rider 1 described this seat as one that you sit "in", rather than sit "on". It has a bit of a hammock sense to it. I suspected that it would not work for me, but I also wanted to try the style, so it was the first seat on my new steed. This was a seat that I had to adjust and adjust and adjust. I couldn't get it quite right; it was either too nose up or nose down. With the nose down, I seemed to be falling off the front and had to forcefully push back up onto the seat. With the nose up, it became apparent immediately that this taint the seat for me. I mean, it put pressure on my perineum. When I finally got the seat in just the right place, it was tolerable, but it was obviously not the right seat for me. My guess is that this type of seat works for lighter people and I can see that the seat would provide a good base for the right person. I think the support would also help with the overall control of the bike, as you would be well connected to the bike with the contact of this seat.

Fiziks Arionne - This was seat two in my seat odessy. It was like Homer's Odessy, except much less adventure and notably less than 10 years. The Fiziks Arionne is a very "pro" seat. It is long and lean. For me, who is rather more long than lean, it was a bit too narrow. Unlike the Aliante it was very easy to adjust. It was "right" almost straight away, because the seat is very straight across the top. When I sat upon it, it was clear that it was in the right spot and reasonably comfortable. It was, however, not enough seat for me. The Aliante seat is 135 mm wide at the widest part. The Arionne is 128 mm wide. The Bontrager seat system suggested that I needed the widest of their three seats at 154 mm. Even though these pesky milimeters are rather small, when you add them up, it turns out that it makes a difference. In this case, I could rather noticably detect that I was sitting on the outside of the seat and that it was not offering enough support. Unfortunately, the longer I sat on the seat, the more noticable this problem became. In fact, I was rather looking forward to ending my ride. Rider 1 had a similar response and, in fact, if you look back at his description you will see that he felt compelled to mention his taint over and over. I would do the same if he had not done so quite ably. Again, this turns out it taint the seat for me.

Fizik Vitesse - The Vitesse seat comes in a couple of versions, which are all women's seats. Unlike some seats designed for women, this seat does not obviously appear to be one for women. In other words, it isn't pink, it doesn't proclaim on the side that it was designed by and for women, and it doesn't have a vajayjay shaped cut-out. I have to confess that if I had known it was a women's saddle, I would not have picked it to try, but it didn't look gender specific and it looked like a shape that might work. In fact, a helpful Two Wheel dude told me that a prior employee at Two Wheel has one on his bike, as does every member of his family, male and female.

When I got on this seat, it wasn't love at first sit, but it was a long way from hate. I did a longer ride on this one, around 2 1/2 hours, than the prior seats and I was glad that this was the one for the longer ride. It fit me much better than the longer and narrower seats I had tried. This seat looks reminiscent of the Aliante, but less of the hammock approach. So really it rises towards the tail but is flatter at the nose. All in all, this seat was not a bad one for me. I finished the ride pondering whether to just ride this seat or whether to put on the last seat I had borrowed to try. It didn't seem perfect, but it was much, much closer. In fact, I found that I was riding for extended periods without thinking about the seat at all, which really should be the goal, and I thought I could work with this one. However, wanting to try the Bontrager seat, I removed this and moved on to the next saddle.

Bontrager RXL 154 mm - Bontrager makes three saddles for men, the R, RL and RXL, and it makes each of these in three sizes, 128 mm wide, 146 mm and 154 mm. Bontrager has a website devoted specifically to this seat (Link) and they have a study that says their seat distributes your weight better over the whole seat and still maintains appropriate blood flow, while cut-out seats concentrate weight in two spots which can lead to discomfort (even though they allow blood flow). This micro-website is very complete and reasonably convincing, but honestly, only after I rode it. Prior to that I assumed it was mostly marketing hype and that no matter what the study said, the only way to know if it works is to go ride it. And, to their credit, Bontrager offers a 90-day money back guarantee. If you buy one and don't like, you can bring it back for a full refund, no questions asked. That is impressive and important. I feel lucky that Two Wheel has some test seats and I have a good relationship with them so they were willing to work with me to try out a number of seats, but even if you don't have that relationship, the money back guarantee would make me confident of trying out one of these seats.

To get the right size, you sit on a bench that has a bunch of squishy white gel in it, which indicates where your sitz bones are (this is not a technical term, I don't think. I should check with Dr. Spalm, but he is in a no stimulation therapy pod today - don't ask . . .). The website says that your overall size doesn't indicate your pelvic structure, but I was not suprised to find I needed the largest size. This also confirmed my feelings about some narrower saddles.

So, the adjustment from the Vitesse to the Bontrager required me to raise the seat mast, because the Vitesse sits very tall on its rails, while the Bontragers are all low. The differences between the R, RL and RXL are 1) price, 2) overall weight, 4) materials (plastic base vs. carbon composite base) degree of padding. The more you pay, the less padding. I went with the RXL because the padding was more similar to my old saddle and I thought the stiffer carbon base would stand up better to my weight.

When I got this saddle on, I almost immediately forgot I had a new saddle. I rolled out and after the first five minutes I kept forgetting that I was trying out saddles and found myself thinking about all the random and specific things I usually ponder on the bike. This saddle looks wide at the back and very flat. For those of you who need visual cues:

From Product Testing

I thought that after trying multiple saddles that I would either have a hard time deciding or ultimately decide to special order the latest version of my old saddle. I was pleased and surprised to find that I found a new saddle that was immediately comfortable and, at least for the two 1+ hours rides I have done, still comfortable. I think the proof will be a 3-4 hour ride, but that will have to wait a couple of weeks while I do some family vacationing without my bike. In the meantime, I have the comfort of my money-back guarantee to know that when that ride comes along in August, September or October, I still have the option of taking it back and starting over. I'll let you know.
Rider 3

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Random Thoughts: Part Deux

To piggyback on Rider 3's post from earlier in the week, I too have some random thoughts. In a way it's a sad state for me when it comes to riding. I don't have a bike to race on, and often lose focus on riding when I'm not working towards something/want to avoid completely embarrassing myself. Of course working like crazy and being up to my neck in dust during a massive house remodel doesn't help. Anyway, here's a cornucopia of bullets from the cacophony of my mind:

  • On Alberto vs. Lance: How dare Alberto ride for the win! Didn't he learn from the times in Lance's career when he worked hard to make sure teamates ended up on the Tour podium? Like that one time Lance pulled Acevedo up to...never mind. Or that time he helped Floyd win the stage to...uhhh. Or when Lance tolerated dissension and the opinions of his domestiques...ehhhh.
  • Then again...Whatever you think of Lance, he still did a mind-boggling ride. Seriously, three years after retirement, at his age, and just a couple of months after breaking a collarbone? Unbelieveable. He's two weeks older than I am, but a world more talented.
  • On what you see riding: If you ride enough, you invariably come across cool, often crazy, and sometimes disgusting sights. In the last few months I've been within 100 feet of a moose, a bald eagle, a red-tailed hawk carrying a snake in its talons, five blue heron (my vote for the coolest bird ever), a 30 year old rusted shell of a car along a mountain bike trail, a guy with his aerobars 20 inches or so above his seat, a couple of hypodermic needles, an ashtray (evidently someone couldn't stand to have it in their car for ONE MORE SECOND), what I think was human feces, and someone plowing their field with a donkey.
  • On sucking ass: I freaking HATE getting dropped. I'm known for being mild-mannered to a fault and don't think I've ever lost my temper. Seriously. If I were a killer, I'd be a stone-cold killer. But my form has gone to crap and lately I get very, very angry every time I go uphill. I don't think I can fake it much longer. Sooner or later the older gents are going to realize I'm not hanging back just to be nice and pace them back to the faster guys at the top of the hill. In short, I hate sucking ass.
  • On ultra-hot days/nights: No, this isn't the buildup to an announcement for a new FOX reality show. It's been hot in Spokane lately. 100-degrees hot. Our 97-year-old house doesn't have AC, which is fine with us. Usually. Its deep eaves do a good job keeping things cool, but after a certain number of hot days it magically turns into a heatsink. So after weekend days where I've been uncomfortable all day and an evening of fitful sleep on sweaty sheets, nothing feels better than an early-morning ride. The descent out of my front door, when it's still cool enough to get goosebumps from the cold? Bliss.
  • On making a cyclist happy: One of my best friends rode for U.S. Postal Service for a few years. And no, I'm not here to name drop. But I think he was still riding the same bike he did the Vuelta on in '97 or '98. Seriously, the thing is a wreck. Anyway, I helped him source a new Trek Madone 6.9 for a good price, and he rode it for the first time earlier this week. It's amazing to hear the joy a new bike can bring, even for those of us who have been on many, many bikes over the years, with a majority of them coming for free. Of course it cracked me up when he called on its maiden voyage as he was walking the last mile to work. Evidently he ran over something that put a giant hole in one of the tires.
  • On my own new bike: Not here yet. But to say I'm looking forward to it arriving is a massive understatement. Last night my wife asked if I was more excited for the new bike, or for our remodeling project to be complete. I replied that I was excited for both of them, but in different ways. Is it bad to tell this kind of white lie?
  • On Clunkers for Cash: What if the Fed put 1/100th of its proposed $2 Billion into the bike industry, subsidizing the price of emissions-free bikes anywhere from $300 to $1,000 (or whatever) depending on the price of the bike. It's a relatively paltry sum, and would do a hell of a lot more for reducing carbon emissions, oil independence, improving people's health, etc., while also supporting strapped manufacturers and local retailers. If you want to get patriotic about things, the program could be limited to bikes that are built or assembled in the U.S. How is this a bad idea? Even the Italians pulled off something similar.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

New Bike - Madone 6.9

I have a new bike, sort of. I have been meaning to write a review of my old bike, which isn't that old, because it is a great bike. I don't know why I haven't, because it isn't as if Bike Polo is more compelling.

Two years ago, just as they were introduced, I got a very early Madone 6.9 frameset. I had recruited a new rider to the sport and promised to sell my frame at a reasonable price in order to lure them in. He was able to get an inexpensive grouppo and I had a handy excuse to get a new frame. Due to some luck, circumstances and a long-standing relationship with my local bike shop, Two Wheel Transit, who is a Trek dealer, I was able to get a Madone 6.9 when they were really cool. Here is my one sentence review - I loved it.

Trek did some new and some proprietary things on this bike. They changed the bottom bracket, they changed the head tube, and they added a no-cut seat mast. There are probably more things, but you will have to go elsewhere for the rest of the sales pitch. I will recount one conversation when I was considering this bike. I was talking to Rider 1 about the relative merits of the Trek vs. Cervelos and their engineering. Rider 1's comment was that Cervelo may have a really high percentage of engineers to sales people at their company, but the number of engineers at Trek is probably greater than the whole work force at Cervelo. In other words, don't sell short the ability of a big company to produce the goods. And in this case, they did.

This bike had the most solid bottom bracket I had ever ridden (my last bike was an aluminum Klein, which is maligned at times for being too harsh from stiffness) and it felt solid and comfortable. The bike was described as a great all-arounder, although some reviewers seem to say this as if it was a bad thing. Lacking the services of a full-time mechanic and a fleet of bikes and wheels, I have the crazy notion that it is a GOOD thing when your nice bike is a great all-arounder.

I read once that riders sense the flex in their wheels as a matter of confidence in descending. In other words, a rider may not "know" that they have a flexy wheel, but they will descend slower instinctively because that is what feels comfortable. I think the same thing is true with the whole bike set-up.

I was able to ride my 6.9 downhill faster than any bike I ever owned. I am not a daredevil descender, but I found that I was keeping up with even fast groups with confidence. I was not keeping up with the killer-racers-who-have-no-fear, but it felt great. I was also able to ride hands free as well on this bike as any I have owned. To me, this meant it was stable and had the right mix of characteristics to make a bike that handles well.

As for the stiffness and bottom bracket, up until this bike, I had measured how stiff a bike was by "how much flex" it had. I have had bikes with very little flex and one with a fair amount of flex. Keep in mind that I am a LARGE rider. I think Clydesdales are a bunch of underfed lightweights. I also, hopefully not to overstate things, produce a fair amount of power. I think I have to to move this carcass around, but in any case, I can put the wood to most frames. With the Madone, there was no flex, at all. It felt like the bottom bracket was attached to something solid. Frankly, I don't understand quite how they do this, but I was impressed.

The other side of stiff is usually uncomfortable. A bike that is just stiff is also considered harsh or uncomfortable. I am not the kind of rider who has really had bikes that are "comfortable" or "uncomfortable". I tend to get on with riding them and figure that getting tired or uncomfortable is just one of those things that happens when you frequently ride a bike 3-4 hours. Maybe I have been on the wrong bikes, but after having steel, aluminum and carbon, I haven't been able to detect a big difference between those that "soak up the road" versus those that are harsh. I thinks it relates to the same "sense" that I have previously described between Mr. Millimeter (Rider 1) and me. Rider 1 knows to the millimeter what is "right" on his bike. I ride mine in whatever condition until I detect a large problem. I have been trying out new seats and that process is obvious, but which will be described in a later post. My sense of these things is akin to getting the attention of a labrador retriever; as a dog trainer once said to my brother, "it'll take a 2x4 to get through to that dog". Anyway, I find the bike comfortable, but don't look to me to describe in exquisite detail the vertical compliance.

So anyway, my Madone 6.9 was a great bike, hands down. Until about a month ago, when an attentive mechanic at Two Wheel noticed I had a crack in the frame. Long story, short: Trek says there was too much resin in the paint mix so the cracks were cosmetic, but they would warranty the frame. Okay by me, except the same week this happened, they introduced a NEW 6.9, which meant that my new 6.9 would be the newly obsolete 6.9. It is hard to complain about getting a brand new bike, but I have to admit it take a bit of the high out of the experience.

So, that means two things: one, I have a new 2009 Madone 6.9 and it is a great, great bike, and two, most people won't really care to read about it because we are all bike whores and only want to salivate over the latest and greatest. So, if you are looking at one of the 6.9's that are left across the country in Trek shops and in particular if your dealer is discounting them, I would strongly urge you to jump in. You will not be unhappy with this bike unless you don't think a solid performer that does everything well is the right bike for you. As Rider 1 says, this bike won't be holding you back. It is a pro-tour team bike and my guess is that any reader here won't have greater needs than those guys.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Random Thoughts

A couple of quick, random thoughts.

1) You meet nice people on bikes. I was out a few days ago and ended up riding along with a guy named Lance from Texas. Seriously.

No, it wasn't that Lance, but it was a nice guy and we rode along for about 20 minutes talking about bikes and motorcycles. It's a reminder of why I like this sport so much.

2) I recently heard Rider 1 breathing hard. Now, I have always assumed that this happens, but it would usually happen when I was several hundred meters behind him on a hill, or when he is racing in a category above mine, or when he is out doing intervals on his own, but it has been a long, long time since I personally experienced this. I happen to catch him on just the perfect day; he had put in a long, exhausting day of physical labor the day before and was tired before he slung a leg over his bike. Perfect. We were rolling along, came to a rise and lo and behold, as we approached a turn we slowed together and I realized he was breathing hard. No, not really hard, but more than I remember hearing. Wow, I also saw Rider 2 use his small chainring this year, so I guess I have experienced it all.

3) I have now ridden six days in a row. I'm sure this is the first time in 2009 that this has happened and it is really nice. I have been trying out saddles (see Friday's post) and wanted to do it day after day to keep in mind the differences, issues, etc. Also, the new bike excitement probably helps (see Wednesday's post). Anyway, the hot weather we have been having leaves the early morning the perfect time to get out and ride. I have been by myself except for Sunday which is also nice.

4) I should remember to ride by myself. I don't have a hard time pushing myself when I am by myself, in fact I probably do it too much, but riding by myself means that I have had the leisure to futz with my saddle, bike adjustments and riding issues with no pressure to not hold up others. Also, I have been more thoughtful about things like pedal motions and various position issues. It's nice to get out on my own to remember these things.

5) I miss riding with groups. Because of my schedule, I haven't made many group rides lately and I miss rolling out with a group of 20-30 riders just because of the camaraderie, shared joy and misery, various BS that gets handed out, and knowing that the larger the group, the more likely that I will be able to hang until the end.

6) I don't have visions of Tour de France glory when I ride, but I have hit or narrowly missed a few bumps lately that gave me visions of Jens Voigt. There but for the grace of divinity go I . . .

7) Yes, in the 50's they told us to walk and ride AGAINST the traffic. The authorities stopped telling kids to do that a LONG time ago. Please don't do it and tell others when you have the chance. I nearly got into a head-on crash with an 800 year old woman (no, not a typo) because she was pedaling 2.5 mph against traffic and I almost didn't see her in time. Yes, I should have been looking up more, but I was tired, it was windy, it was slightly uphill and I DIDN'T EXPECT ANYONE TO BE RIDING AGAINST TRAFFIC ON THE SHOULDER COMING AT ME.

8) Speaking of old riders, saw one Saturday who I knew. He looks and acts at least a decade younger than he is. I hope to hell someone says that about me some day as I tool around on my comfort bike with the handlebars 18-24" above my seat level.

9) Speaking of young riders, my 14 year old is the proud owner of his first road bike. I have been out with him a few times, but I need to ride with him more. I took up this sport without any parental involvement, so I don't know what this will do to him, but I hope he has fun with it and that it is at least a couple years before I can't keep up with him.
Rider 3

Friday, July 31, 2009

Dr. Spalm Returns

A recent Rider 1 post resulted in questions being posed for Dr. Spalm. Having just returned from the tour, no not that tour, but instead a tour of scientifically interesting sights throughout Eastern Europe seeking the latest and most unusual in medical techniques and off-label drug use, Dr. Spalm is now in need of replenishing his coffers by providing answers to the readers of said blog at his usual per-word recompense level. So now, without further ado.

Rider 1 recently described a phenomena of riding in very warm weather and not sweating until he stopped exercising (Blog Link here). A reader describing himself as "Mark" (surely a pseudonym meant to disguise his real identity) asks "Why do I sweat? And, why do I smell burnt toast on White Road?" (Actually, Mark asked his questions in a less grammatically correct form, but Dr. Spalm has graciously corrected these minor errors to help the readers of this blog post be more comfortable with the actual question; recognizing, as Dr. Spalm does, that most readers of this blog are highly erudite and mannered.)

These two questions are in fact very different kinds of questions. The first, why do I sweat, is an easily explained pysiological response to certain stimulus. The second, why does the reader smell burnt toast on White Road, is much more interesting and layered. To dispense with the first, you sweat because you have applied a physical stimulus to your body causing this reaction. In other words, if you apply heat to the organ known as "skin" or more clearly to your entire body, whether from external sources or from an internal workload, your body's response is to sweat. This means that the pores in your skin will dilate or open, and allow the tiny demons living in your soul to leave. These tiny demons are tricked into thinking that you have entered hell and they are assuming that they will be welcomed back home. As these demons exit your skin, the lack of the real heat from eternal damnation is not present in the atmosphere and they cannot survive such temperate conditions; therefore they oxidize immediately and the condensation from this process appears on your skin as water or sweat. As we all know, the tiny demons are inside you because we are all evil at our core.

Now, to the more interesting question of smelling burned toast. This is not a phenomena that is capable of such a clear and cogent explanation. In fact, there are multiple reasons that you might have the smell of burnt toast within your nostrils as you travel up White Road. For those of you not familiar with our local area, White Road in this question refers to the 3/4 of a mile section of said road that rises at a 10-15% pitch from Highway 195 up towards Cedar Road. In about 7/10's of a mile, the road gains 800 feet in elevation. As a result, a rather significant exertion is required to ride this portion of the road.

A number of potential reasons come to mind to explain this occurrence. First, and odd that you paired these questions, because White Road is known to have a strong demonic presence. So the smell you may be picking up may not actually be burnt toast, but burnt souls that have been collected across the Palouse and brought to the White Road Demonic Processing Center. Many people have been known to confuse these smells, which is ironic because toast can be such a comfort, while having your soul demonically processed would be just the opposite. Very ironic, like a fly in your chardonnay.

Second, and continuing with our demonic theme, it may be that you sweat more going up White Road and therefore there are more little demon oxidizations going on all around you. By the way, for proof of my theory, after a long ride take off your riding shorts, close the waist band opening to allow you to put your nose in and take a deep sniff. If that is not proof of demons, I don't know what would be.

Third, it is possible that you commonly ride up White Road during one of two times; either in the morning or during the mid-afternoon. Mrs. Magillicutty has four boys that she is raising in a rented duplex about half-way up White Road and she makes toast for them almost every morning for their breakfast and again in the afternoon for a snack. Because those four kids are a bit wild, ruffians if you will, it is not uncommon for Mrs. Magillicutty to burn the toast while she endeavors to re-direct the boys' energies. Be forewarned, however, Mr. Magillicutty was a cyclist and left the family to serve espresso to Euro-pros in Girona, so Mrs. Magillicutty's is not a good place to stop for water. Or toast.

Fourth, there is a wive's tale that one smells burnt toast as a sign of stroke. There are two problems with this suggestion as a solution to your question. There is no scientific evidence that this "burnt toast" phenomena is actually attached to stroke; it would be considered an olfactory hallucination, but you are just as likely to smell figs or your grandmother's perfume as toast if it is indeed a precursor to stroke. Next, the more likely medical condition from climbing White Road is tachycardia followed by myocardial infarction. Much more likely than stroke. Also, myocardial infarction is a lot more fun to say. Try it. BTW, rumor has it that Mrs. Magillicutty has a home defibrillator. On the other side of the road, Satan is not rumored to have one, so be careful about where you seek help.

Fifth, you have entered a parallel universe in which you can literally smell analogies or similes. In this world, which is extrapolated from the quantum mechanics work of DeWitt, you are "toasted" or "burned like toast", and your olfactory senses can actually detect this in the air. This is not the same as an olfactory hallucination, in which you are sensing something that does not exist. Keep two things in mind if this is the case; a) Be glad you didn't enter the anthropomorphic alternative universe; and b) feel free to be "toasted", but don't tell your riding buddy that you feel like a piece of shit.

Sixth, you are pregant. The burnt toast phenomena is associated with early pregnancy symptoms. I think this is the mostly likely answer.

Thank you for asking.
Dr. Spalm

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Craigslist Favorite

This post went onto Craigslist on May 27, but I just saw it today thanks to @nlawhead. Pretty funny stuff from a dude in a Seattle bikeshop that is apparently a cranky child-molester. Enjoy this bit of sage advice.

A few things from the bike shop.

Date: 2009-05-27, 4:05PM PDT

Whoo-hoo Seattle, the sun is out! Let's discuss a few things before you fumble with swapping the unused ski rack for the unused bike rack on the Subaru.

So yes, you've noticed the sun is out, and hey!- maybe it would be cool to to some bike riding. Let's keep in mind that the sun came out of all 600,000 of us, so for the most part, you're not the only one who noticed. Please remember that when you walk into my shop on a bright, sunny Saturday morning. It will save you from looking like a complete twat that huffs "Why are there so many people here?"

Are we all on the same page now about it being sunny outside? Have we all figured out that we're not the only clever people that feel sunny days are good for bike riding? Great. I want to kiss all of you on your forehead for sharing this moment with me. Put your vitamin D starved fingers in mine, and we'll move on together to some pointers that will make life easier.


- I don't know what size of bike you need. The only thing that I can tell over the phone is that you sound fat. I don't care how tall you are. I don't care how long your inseam is. Don't complain to me that you don't want to come ALL THE WAY down to the bike shop to get fitted for a bike. I have two hundred bikes in my inventory. I will find one that fits you. Whether you come from the north or the south, my shop is downhill. Pretend you're going to smell a fart, ball up, and roll your fat ass down here.

- Don't get high and call me. Write it down, call me later. When I have four phone lines ringing, and a herdlet
of people waiting for help, I can't deal with you sitting there "uuuuhhh"-ing and "uuummm"-ing while your brain tries to put together some cheeto-xbox-fixie conundrum. We didn't get disconnected, I left you on hold to figure your shit out.

-I really do need to see your bike to know what is wrong with it. You've already figured out that when you car makes a noise, the mechanic needs to see it. When your TV goes blank, a technician needs to see it. I can tell you, if there is one thing I've learned from you fucking squirrels, it's that "doesn't shift right" means your bike could need a slight cable adjustment, or you might just need to stop backing into it with the Subaru. Bring it in, I'll let you know for sure.

- No, I don't know how much a good bike costs. For some, spending $500 dollars is a kingly sum. For others, $500 won't buy you one good wheel. You really need to have an idea of what you want, because every one of you raccoons "doesn't want to spend too much".


- Just because you think is should exist, doesn't mean that it does. I know that to you, a 14 inch quill stem makes perfect sense, but what makes more sense is buying a bike that fits you, not trying to make your mountain bike that was too small for you to begin with into a comfort bike.

- If some twat on some message board somewhere says that you can use the lockring from your bottom bracket as a lockring for a fixie conversion doesn't mean that A: you can, or B: you should. Please listen to me on this stuff, I really do have your best interests at heart.

- I love that you have the enthusiasm to build yourself a recumbent in the off season. That does not mean however, that I share your enthusiasm; ergo I won't do the "final tweaks" for you. You figure out why that Sram shifter and that Shimano rear derailleur don't work together. While we're at it, you recumbent people scare me a little. Don't bring that lumbering fucking thing anywhere near me.


-If you shitheads had any money, you wouldn't NEED a vintage Poo-zhow to get laid. Go have an ironic mustache growing contest in front of American Apparel, so that I can continue selling $300 bikes to fatties, which is what keeps the lights on.

- Being made in the 80's may make something cool, but that doesn't automatically make something good. The reason that no one has ridden that "vintage" Murray is because it's shit. It was shit in the 80's, a trend it carried proudly through the 90's, and rallied with into the '00's. What I mean to say is, no, I can't make it work better. It's still shit, even with more air in the tires.


Good for you! Biking is awesome. It's easy, it's fun, it's good for you. I want you to bike, I really do. To that end, I am here to help you.

-Your co-worker that's "really into biking" knows fuck all. Stop asking for his advice. He could care less about you having the right bike. He wants to validate his bike purchase(s) through you. He also wants to sleep with you, and wear matching bike shorts with you.

- You're not a triathlete. You're not. If you were, you wouldn't be here, and we both know it.

- You're not a racer. If you were, I'd know you already, and you wouldn't be here, and we both know it.

- So you want a bike that you can ride to work, goes really fast, is good for that triathlon you're doing this summer (snicker), is good on trails and mud, and costs less than $300. Yeah. Listen, I want a car that can go 200 miles an hour, tow a boat, has room for five adults, is easy to parallel park but can carry plywood, gets 60mpg, and only costs $3,000. I also want a unicorn to blow me. What are we even talking about here? Oh yeah. Listen, bikes can be fast, light, cheap and comfortable. Pick two, and we're all good.


Your kids are amazing. Sure are. No one else has kids as smart, able, funny or as good looking as you. Nope. Never see THAT around here.

- I have no idea how long you kid will be able to use this bike. As it seems to me, your precious is a little retarded, and can't even use the damn thing now. More likely, your budding genius is going to leave the bike in the driveway where you will Subaru the bike to death LONG before the nose picker outgrows the bike.

- Stop being so jumpy. I am not a molester. You people REALLY watch too much TV. When I hold the back of the bike while your kid is on it, it's not because I get a thrill from *almost* having my hand on kid butt, it's because kids are unpredictable, and generally take off whenever possible, usually not in the direction you think they might go. Listen, if I were going to do anything bad to your kids, I'd feed them to sharks, because sharks are FUCKING AWESOME.

I hope this helps, and have fun this summer riding your kick-ass bike!

  • Location: Seattle
  • it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
PostingID: 1192150038

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Fun with perspiration

It's summer. The mercury in eastern Washington has been soaring well into the 90's every day, making riding, well, hot.

A week or so ago I couldn't get out of the house for a Saturday ride until 10:00 or so. It was a great loop--mostly shady roads, but definitely with sections where the sun had a chance to beat down on my back, arms and legs (my trucker tan is getting fierce).

Even though I was only out for two hours, during a time far from the hottest part of the day, after about an hour I could actually feel any perspiration instantly evaporate. The sensation is odd. You're aware of being warm, but never getting sweaty. You know you're pounding down water, but your skin only gets salty. Even my lips felt dry.

Riding last night with a friend we compared notes on post-ride sweating. I guess we ran out of more adult things to talk about: politics, business, contemporary art (did you check out Lance's Paris bike? Holy crap!), family, etc. It's funny because a decade or so ago the focus of conversations used to be on motorcycles, bikes, women and, well that was it--motos, bikes and women. I know, I'm a real bastard. Or at least I used to be.

Anyway, a number of times lately I've finished rides feeling completely parched, a bit out of sorts, smelly and salty (the coarse kind--like sea salt), but not at all sweaty. That is until I stepped foot into my cooler and shaded garage. In the time it took to open the door, take off my helmet, remove the water bottles and hang up my bike, I was absolutely soaked in sweat. I'm not talking about a little bit on my legs, I'm talking about rivers of perspriation pouring from my skin. It's kind of freaky.

So with that outstanding visual, I leave you to an enjoyable Tuesday morning (or whenever).

And here's to the miraculous cooling effect of evaporation.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Tour de France

To read this blog, you might think that we Team Two Wheeler's were oblivious to the Tour de France. And, blog-wise, you are right. We haven't done any TdF posts for this year, up until now. Here is your complete and total Tour de France re-cap right here. Everything you need to remember about the 2009 Tour de France when it is time to whip ourselves into a frenzy for next year's edition featuring Team Radio Shack and a resurgent Lance!

Tour Organization/Route - I give the ASO a solid B, but that is because I am a softy. They deserve credit for trying, even if they didn't get everything right. No radios for riders - dumb idea; we can't pretend that the world keeps moving ahead even if the French have a national passion for doing so. No time bonuses - I liked this, so that we didn't have stupid games the first week with sprinters "buying" their way into the Yellow jersey; it probably took something away from some mountain stages because it mattered less if you were 2nd or 6th in a group that got the same time, but overall this was reasonable. Team Time Trial - loved having it back even though I usually skip watching it; if you want to win the Tour, you have to show up with a team that can perform and this enforces that idea. I also liked that they just let the time stand, rather than artificially limiting the time between teams the way they did a few years ago. Route overall - hey, they tried. The idea was to leave the race unknown until the last week and potentially the last day. Mt. Ventoux was a bit anticlimactic, because the standings didn't change much, but that is because every one of the top ten did his job and held his place. It could have been much different if someone had a bad day; which would have been more likely with a few more mountains before Mt. Ventoux, but again - I give credit for trying. The downside was that some of the mid-first week until the end of the second week was completely miss-able, but frankly, even though I am slavishly devoted to the coverage, that is true almost every year. So, overall, enough time trialing, enough mountain top finishes to create gaps, and mountain base finishes to keep riders working, and a decent mix that wasn't afraid to try some next roads and mix up the direction. Lastly, loved the Monte Carlo start.

Versus Coverage - Wow, long-time readers expect me to launch into Craig Hummer, but honestly, I think you have to give the guy credit. He has improved. During the Tour of California I thought he was failing to hide a meth problem the way his mouth motored on and on and on and on, right past having anything to say or motoring over his elders with much more insight and experience. Now, I almost exclusively watched the morning coverage that had the Phil and Paul commentary, but what I saw of re-broadcasts made me think that Craig Hummer deserves credit for learning and growing. He still doesn't bring to the booth the obvious charisma of Kirsten Gum, but I may have to give up on that particular fading fantasy.

As for Bob, they seem to have gotten his medication almost perfect. He was able to spin some of those analogies and metaphors, but keep his head about him and do the job at hand. He still has his lips so firmly attached to Lance's kiester that you would think this is the most serious bro-mance ever, but Bob manages to do it with an impish charm that makes it work.

Phil and Paul are still the champs, but I think that they have moved into a new stage where they recognize that people are paying attention to what they say and they have to mix up their phrases a bit more. I don't need any more of Paul's "funny feelings", which are neither funny nor feelings, but we do need Phil to down a bottle of his favorite Bordeaux and come up with a suitable addition to suitcase of courage.

Lastly, I have to give praise to the cycling gods who have blessed us with live coverage and DVRs. On the west coast timing, I can get up early, hit the beginning of the DVR-saved broadcast and skip commercials right up until the end of the show, usually catching up to the live broadcast by the end or so close that my blackberry hasn't ruined the surprise. As a cycling fan from the 80's, you new cycling fans have no g-d'm idea how easy you have it. I will rail about that again another day.

Riders - Lance Armstrong - Love him or hate him, you have to give the old guy credit. Damn fine job of showing the world how to compete in a bike race when your brain is stronger than your legs. I had to laugh a few times since Lance would have put a hit out on any other rider who expressed "team" opinions the way he did, but give the guy props for obeying the team rules even when Contador was not. My beef with Lance is that much of the world thinks he is a lovable survivor, when he is in fact a cold-blooded killing machine, but that is exactly what made him capable of winning the world's hardest sporting event an unimaginable seven times in a row. Can't wait to see him teach Taylor Phinney how to do it all over again after taking one more shot in 2010.

Alberto Contador - Dude can climb better than the climbers and time trial better than the time trialers. How do you do that?

Mark Cavendish / Thor Hushvold - Awesome battle. I wish Cavendish would shut his mouth sometimes, but you gotta take the good with the bad. Guy's legs have more 500 meter wattage than anyone would think possible. He did it on the flat, uphill, straight on, with curves, you name it. On the other hand, Thor did it old school, making sure he was there always and that mountain ride to take up points was classic. I'm glad he got the green jersey. Oh yeah, Tyler Farrar. Oh man, that many second places would indicate that late-career Erik Zabel was his mentor, not Cavendish's. Farrar will rack up some wins, but it's too bad he didn't get one here (except for the Garmin curse which he must live with).

George Hincapie - The Garmin curse befalls all members of the Garmin team for jacking Big George out of the yellow jersey. When a mountain of cycling class has that kind of well-deserved recognition grabbed away from him by the petty-ness of Matt White and Jonathon Vaughters (even though he wasn't there, he is covered with the shit splatter from White's decision), they deserve to be cursed. Columbia-HTC didn't need any favors from anyone, but George Hincapie is one of those riders who deserve the right treatment from any American rider, team or cycling fan. I think it would have been great to see Lance in the jersey for a day, except for Contador being an ass, and George "resplendent" in yellow, except for Garmin leadership being asses. I hope George will get a ride for the next couple of tours and be the guy with the most tours under his belt. He may not get Paris-Roubaix the way he deserves, but he can get that record with the incredible work ethic and monster strength that he embodies.

Jens Voigt - You aren't allowed to talk work ethic and monster strength in cycling without including an ode to Jens Voigt. The Tour will not be same without him in a few years, but let's hope his horrible face-scrapping won't slow him down for long. His accident is one of those things that could happen to any of us, losing his grip on the bars due to a bump, but it is pure Jens to have done it at 50 kph just after the summit of a mountain where he was being super domestique when it would have been much more reasonable for him to be in the auto-bus or laughing group. I don't know how Lance keeps up his testosterone with one ball, but maybe Jens could give him one of his multiple cast-iron left-overs.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Bike Polo Follow Up

I had some questions about the bike polo process and picture, so here is a truncated version of the actual e-mails exchanged that led to my match. This points out that I don't tell stories completely accurately, but not completely inaccurately either.

On 6/25/09 2:24 PM, "Rider 3" wrote:

PW – We just figured out our trip schedule . . . and we would like to come to Tacoma to visit you and your family (okay, mostly your family), stay with you that night and we would need to leave by noon the next day.

So, can we come crash at your place Thursday night?
Rider 3


From: PW
Sent: Friday, June 26, 2009 10:36 AM
To: Rider 3
Subject: Re: Visit

Yes, for sure, but you will have to play bike polo on Thursday evening with us.


On 6/26/09 11:33 AM, "Rider 3"wrote:

Bike Polo – Hmmm. Have you got a bike and mallet?

We are all looking forward to a quick visit.


From: PW
Sent: Friday, June 26, 2009 11:45 AM
To: Rider 3
Subject: Re: Visit

Bikes, mallets no problems.


From Rides


On 6/26/09 11:51 AM, "Rider 3" wrote:

It's a sickness with you, isn't it? Can you get medicated or do you just have to live with it?


From: PW
Sent: Friday, June 26, 2009 1:50 PM
To: Rider 3
Subject: Re: Visit

I think that question should be addressed to my wife, in my mind I'm perfectly "Normal".


On 6/26/09 2:08 PM, "Rider 3" wrote:

You're a math guy, right? Let's think about "normal", as in representative of the "norm" – not dissimilar to the concepts of median or mean. Oh, I just remembered you aren't a math guy, you are an economics guys. Let me see if I can put this in terms you can understand . . .

If the X axis represents the number of aging white males in suburban King County neighborhoods and the Y axis represents the number of people participating in a combination of bike polo, BMW GS ownership, cyclocross racing, mountain climbing and extraordinary acts of vacationing while maintaining a job, you would find a lack of correlation between these statistical groups. We can infer from this behavioral-statistical model that there are only 4 inhabitants of the correlative cross section and of those, 3 are institutionalized. The remaining group is made up of one individual; initials PW. This would indicate that the sample is either not statistically valid or that the remaining member of that group does not meet the normative standards or mores of the remaining societal group.

Is that clear?


From: PW
Sent: Friday, June 26, 2009 2:20 PM
To: Rider 3
Subject: Re: Visit

I just remembered you majored in English and everything you say is idle prattle.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Two Wheel Adventures - Bike Polo

From Rides

During one of my recent absences from blogging I stopped in to visit a friend out-of-town. I e-mailed and said that my family and I had an extra day and we could stop in to see them overnight on the tail end of a trip. His response was "you can stay with us as long as you play bike polo with me."

This is really why you maintain friendships over years and years, isn't it? So that you have comrades who have no hesitation in placing absurd demands on you. "Sure, I'll do that as long as we finish this bottle of tequila" is one I remember. Actually, the demands of this friendship have resulted in a number of things, including the topic of my blog after this blog, but in this case, it resulted in that offer. Of course I said yes.

So, we arrived in town, had a lovely barbecue dinner, a bottle and a half of wine, the kids played together and then Paul announced it was time to go play bike polo. I had hoped he had forgotten.

I have bike gear for mountain biking, and for road riding, and for family trail riding, and commuting and I suppose most things you can do on a bike. But I had no real good idea of what to wear for bike polo, but I had packed a pair of shorts I didn't mind tearing, a Team Two Wheel t-shirt, a pair of Keens and a baseball cap just for this occasion. It was the right outfit. There was no lycra and no functional cycling gear to be had. A helmet would, in fact, have been a good idea, but since no one else was sporting one, I didn't either.

Can we pause for a moment and think about how stupid that is?

Thank you. Let's move on.

I was borrowing a bike, which turns out was a 29" mountain bike. My buddy was riding a fixed gear bike more suitable for a ride to the local coffee shop. There was every manner of non-road bike in the group of 12 people, but mostly beater-style mountain bikes.

The rules are fairly simple. You start off with a joust, in which two opposing cyclists charge the ball mid-field. In this case, we played on a field about the size of a soccer field, used soccer goals with the nets off or up so you can ride through, and with four players per team. No idea if this is standard. You can only hit the ball three times before another player has to hit it. The person with the shallowest angle of approach to the direction the ball is traveling has the right of way. And lastly, don't bust the spokes out of your friend's Industry Nine wheels.

I added that last one. Not to give away the ending, but I didn't bust them. For that I am pleased.

We played two halves, although I don't know how long each lasted. We had all adult males, but I know that prior weeks they had kids and females playing. Thankfully there were no women or children to add sense or sensibility this particular evening's display of testosterone and manly bike skills.

The group had used croquet mallets in prior weeks, along with a greatly oversized tennis ball, but this week someone had purchased a selection of actual bike polo mallets and people were borrowing them and then buying them in order to play in future weeks. Clearly, this neighborhood group was more organized than mine. I guess that comes from living in a neighborhood of million dollar homes with water views. But I digress.

The game itself is a lot of fun. It involves slow-speed bike handling with interspersed moments of sprinting frenzy. There is very little that it is subtle or nuanced about the bike polo I played. We were either charging with the ball or in something that looked like a bike rugby scrum. Those are the moments that offer the most opportunity for crashes and idiocy. I started out a bit slow, since I didn't know any of the players or any of the rules, but I know that at in at least a couple of instances later in the game I was not being looked upon favorably for either misunderstanding or ignoring the "shallowest angle of approach" rule. I was genuinely confused by the concept when the ball is sitting still on the field. Since the ball was not moving, how do you decide who has the shallowest angle relative to the angle of travel? Using my highly evolved sense of physics and geometry, I decided that whoever was moving faster must be that person, so a couple of times I got the hell out of the way and a couple of times I charged at it. I may have crossed the line over which the gentlemen of this neighborhood usually do not, but at the local tavern afterwards my transgressions were either overlooked or forgiven.

So yes, that poses two final bits of information that should be imparted to give the full picture. Who won the game and where did the beer come in? As to who won the game, I think that is purely besides the point. This was a neighborhood group of bicycle loving folks that come together on Thursday evenings for some camaraderie and exercise. The teams were picked on the field and players substituted in and out as they arrived or had to leave. Thus, who won or what the score was is clearly irrelevant.

Which leads to the other point to the game, at least in this neighborhood. After the game, at which there were a few family spectators, everyone rode home to drop off bikes and family, and then the players re-organized at the local tavern for a pitcher or two to discuss the match, upcoming rides and other sorts of gentlemanly topics. This portion of the night was just as important as the match and was the perfect compliment to the evening. It highlighted the enjoyment I get from cycling and hanging out with cyclists. Even though I only knew my friend, I had an instant connection to others who showed up. Our cycling provided a bond cemented by the pitcher of IPA on the table. And who won or lost, and who scored, all fell to the side as everyone looked forward to future matches among the members of the Tacoma Old Town Bike Polo and Duffer Society.

Oh yeah, my team won. 5-4. I scored twice.

I can't help myself.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Of Bonking

Last post, I wrote about a guy who reached the end of his proverbial rope and kept riding. This is different than bonking. I certainly am not the guy to explain the physiological differences, but here is my layman approach. Reaching the end of your capacity means that you have just ridden all that you can reasonably do on that particular day. Your legs have nothing left; you are out of steam, out of snap, at the bottom of the tank, or whatever.

Bonking, by contrast, is when you run out of fuel for your body. You may have ridden more miles on prior days, or had harder rides. It's not that you were not trained for the distance or challenge, but instead you have used up all the immediately available energy. I have heard it said that you are out of glycogen in your muscles, although I don't know if this is the whole story. In any case, you hit a point where you don't just feel like slowing down, instead you feel like stopping, you feel like getting off the bike, laying down by the road and letting the process of ashes to ashes, dust to dust begin right there.

The French say that you have been visited by "the man with the hammer", which you then hear trans-morphed into a "hunger knock". In either case, when you bonk, you are functionally done.

On my ride to Steptoe Butte, I talked to Steev about bonking and said that it had been years and years since I had seriously bonked. I regaled him with a tale of the pre-cell phone days when I bonked on a ride on the old Palouse Highway. Everytime I ride up that hill I am reminded of the day that I was forced to get off of my bike and sit by the road. I had no food, no more water, no cell phone and I was at least a mile, probably two, to the next house. I was about 10 miles from home. I had been riding on absolute empty for miles and I finally came to the climb that I thought might end up being my final resting spot. I stopped my bike in a tiny bit of shade and sat down in the dirt and gravel off the side of the road. There was nothing on which to sit, no curb or rock, and no person with a choice would have sat down on this hot, dry slope. I was that person who was out of choices. After sitting there for about a half of an hour, I finally gathered enough mental and physical strength to get back on my bike and slowly, every so slowly, rode home.

Because of my size, and hopefully my discretion and planning, it had been a long time since I was that drained. At least a decade, almost two. But I managed to get back there recently.

I was looking forward to the particular ride. It is one of Rider 2's prefered rides - the Troika course. Heading up Thorpe, across the west plains to Medical Lake and then through his boyhood neighborhood back into town. It is about a 60 mile loop from my house and I had done this ride a couple of times already this year. I even blogged about it once. On this day, it was going to be one of the first rides where all of TTW was going to be together for a while, so I was looking forward to seeing the "team." I was feeling fairly good and while I am not the rider that either of my teammates are, I felt good about my ability to take a few pulls and hang in for a good ride.

It was not to be.

On the way up Thorpe I was actually in front of the group and someone complained about my speed up a hill. If you have ever ridden with me, you know how unlikely that is. I didn't go nuts, but I did take a few big pulls with Rider 2 (Hey Rider 2, did you realize you HAVE a small chain ring?). Twenty or thirty miles later, however, I noticed that I was getting tired after we crossed Highway 2. In fact, I found that my legs were leaving me on each uphill. At one point, Rider 1 had a broken spoke and I waited down the road knowing that there was a steep climb and I wanted to use the 1,000 yard advantage to keep up with the group over the crest.

Didn't happen.

Soon after that I realized that I was going to crap. I couldn't keep pace if the road tilted up more than 2 degrees. I caught back up a time or two and then we hit the bottom of Coulee-Hite Road. At that point, for some reason completely unknown and incomprehensible, my team-mates decided to bash in everyone's skull - figuratively speaking. As we hit the flat, slightly downhill run-off, Rider 1 ramped up over 30 mph. I thought to myself that if I could just hang on to the tail of the group for his pull, I would be able keep up when the next person inevitably slowed down.


Rider 2 decided to assert some authoratative leadership and continued with an extended, extended pull at the same or higher pace. Everyone in the group suffered, but I died. At that point, it was time to leave me beside the road to end my suffering in some peace and quiet. In a bit of faux-selflessness, I told the group to go on without me. It was meant as a plea for help. Instead, to my surprise, they said "great", they would go on without me. Left to my own, I did the only thing a self-respecting cyclist could do. I used my cell phone to call my wife for a ride home.

It will be a long time before I get into that spot again. I hope.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Of Steptoe Butte, Bonking and Dead Legs

In early June, I asked my riding buddy Steev (this name has been changed to protect the identity of this bike-riding captain of industry) if he would be interested in riding up Steptoe Butte. Steev is one of those guys who sees the benefit of facing a challenge in a direct and head-on manner. He is not (yet) a hill climber, so his immediate preference is to attack any hill in proximity to give him a sense of what it takes and how to acclimate to this challenge. As such, and lacking a good idea of what he was readily agreeing to, Steev said "Sure, let's go ride up Steptoe Butte".

An aside, this reminds me of a conversation in which I asked Rider 1 to train for and ride the Leadville 100 with me. His response, as a former Boulder, Colorado resident was, "The Leadville 100 is for people who don't live in Colorado. People who live there know how stupid it is to race a mountain bike at that altitude." Apparently lacking knowledge of a challenge is the best way to decide to do it.

Anyway, the short version of our long ride is this. Because of the time it would take, we decided to drive to Spangle and ride from there. We took the Old 195 Highway through Rosalia, Oakesdale and to Steptoe Butte. At the base of Steptoe Butte, we took a picture to memorialize the ride ahead.

From Rides

Riding up to Steptoe Butte there are times it lears in the distance like a mini-Mt. Ventoux. It rises somewhat oddly in the midst of the rolling Palouse Hills. I have heard that on a crystal clear day you can see all the way to Mt. Rainier from the top, but I have never been there on a day clear enough to test this. I do know that it is the highest point for many, many miles. The road up to it climbs around the butte like the swirls of a soft-serve cone. After the steep, steep ramp at the bottom, you begin making a gentle left-hand turn for the couple of miles to the top. At the top, there is a cruel joke of another 50 meter pitch that is so steep that I accidentally lifted my front wheel off of the ground by gently pulling on the bars. After that, you are on the top.

From Rides

On this day, the three cars of people and few motorcyclists standing around on top all turned to look at the odd phenomena of bike riders appearing. It is the kind of moment when you are proud of the work it takes to make it to the top, no matter how slowly.

As you can see from the photo, it was a cloudy day and while we were on top of this beast, we heard the first thunder in the distance. We turned our bikes downhill and headed back the 40+ miles to the car. On the way, we were rained on and blown around a bit between Oakesdale and Rosalia, but were lucky that the lightening headed another direction and as we exited Rosalia it stopped raining. It was cool and we were under-prepared, but okay for the remaining ride.

The way back though, is what made this ride noteworthy. Steev had completed a century the prior year, but this ride was probably a bit too long for his training this riding season. In any case, he was largely out of steam by the time we left Rosalia and still had 15-20 miles to go. Every passing mile became more and more difficult. Steev had not bonked, but just had ridden all that he could do in good shape. I have another riding buddy who says "Action is what makes a man." In this case, I think it was reaction that made the rider. Instead of taking any of the alternatives, like stopping, whining or faking an injury, Steev just gamely pressed on. Even as our pace slowed and it became a struggle to keep moving, Steev just kept his head down and pushed on the pedals. He knew that I would have been glad to ride ahead and get the car to pick him up, or that there were other options, but those weren't options in his mind. The only choice available was to do his best and get back to the car.

It was one of those days that stands out for a variety of reasons. It is a great road with a real highlight of reaching the top of Steptoe Butte. It was a day that could have turned to complete hell if we got caught in a thunderstorm or if the temperature had dropped dramatically. It was a tough ride under the best of circumstances, but the rain added to it. But mostly, it was one of those days that makes you measure yourself as a rider and as a person, and makes you glad to be a cyclist.
Rider 3

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Rider 2 Comments on the Return of Rider 3

Here is some advice for Rider 3 - More cycling, less government mission bullshit.

Rider 2

Rider 3 Returns

It has been a long time since I created a post for our beloved blog. I have been on a secret government mission and wasn't able to access the internet for blog purposes. You have probably immediately assumed that I was on VP Cheney's "Munich"-style death squad, but even if I was, I wouldn't be able to confirm it.

And to be more accurate, I wasn't actually on a "secret" government mission. And it wasn't actually a "government" mission. And, no, it wasn't really a "mission". So I guess you can just ignore these first two paragraphs. In fact, let's just start over.

Rider 3 Returns

It has been a long time since I created a post for our beloved blog. I have been a serious slacker when it comes to both biking and blogging. Pesky things like work and family keep interfering with my cycling and blogging time. Sometimes you just have to choose what your priority is, and then you have to go to work anyway.

Speaking of which, work is demanding more of my attention again, but I do have a few posts coming your way in the next few days. I am going to stretch all the way back to June for a couple of ride experiences and pull a couple of new two wheel experiences out of my secret government mission fanny pack.
Rider 3

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Now for something different.

OK, I'm not a massive dirt jumper or trials fan, but this video is pretty freaking cool. Talk about being balanced and comfortable on your bike...

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Getting geeky with bike fit and geometry

My order for a new bike has been officially placed. You might have guessed this from earlier posts, but I ended up going with a new Trek Madone 6.5. Fancy stuff for sure and I'm really excited about it. In fact it's the first bike I'll have paid for since I was a junior in high school (and this year marked my 20 year high school reunion), so it was fun to put together exactly what I wanted. Well, within reason anyway.

Trek's new Project One site is fun to play with. It's possible to put together some absolutely garish designs, but there are also some nicely understated options. I couldn't help going with custom paint. It'll take an extra couple of weeks for the bike to come in, but luckily my friend John--nice guy that he is--offered to let me use his rain bike during the interim.

Ordering a new bike meant rethinking what size bike to order. For the past decade I've ridden a series of 58cm Treks. This means a bike with a 57.3mm top tube, which is a better estimate of the size of the bike.

Warning: The rest of this post has some pretty nerdy frame geometry/bike fit content. If this kind of discussion makes your eyes glaze over you can stop reading now. OK?

There are a bunch of factors that go into which size bike to get, so for you bike fit geeks out there, this post is for you!

Rider 3 is forever giving me a hard time about bike fit. It's all in fun though. He knows how important it is too. And I'll be this first to admit that I'm hyper-sensitive about my position. The reality is that I've had way too many injuries (four knee surgeries and counting, plus a dodgy neck), so I now have trouble riding a super-aggressive position. I also know first-hand about how much more I enjoy riding when I can finish a long ride and actually sleep through the night, without my achy neck waking me up at 3 a.m.

So anyway, I've been riding the same size bike for a long time, but my position has changed. For the better. I used to ride with a 15 cm drop from the top of my seat to the top of my bars. I now ride with a 7 cm drop. This is a huge difference, but in fact my back is flatter, I'm more comfortable and can actually breathe--something I've heard that comes in handy while riding. The 15 cm thing might have worked when I was 24, but it doesn't anymore. Plus, with my position now I can still get very low by, get this, bending my elbows.

Trek's bikes tend to put riders into a pretty aggressive position. For example, look at a 56cm Trek Madone compared with another relatively aggressive bike, the Cervelo. The top tubes are within 5mm of each other at 56 cm and 56.5 cm respectively. But the Trek "Pro Fit" has a 140mm head tube, vs, 160 on the Cervelo. That's a big difference, and is part of why, for example, I've been running a +12 degree stem (with no spacers) for the past couple of years.

For reference, a 56 cm Pinarello Prince has a 165mm headtube, while a Ridley Helium has a 175mm headtube. And a Trek "Performace Fit" has a 170mm headtube.

From Team Two Wheel
Fit isn't always about riding in a "slammed" position. Note the spacer stack.

Anyway, back to me. I've been on a 58, but spending some time on Trek's site, and with the boys at Two Wheel Transit, I started to rethink my options. I don't have a terribly high seat height (relative to my height) at 744mm. Here's a chart from Trek that shows some ballpark recommendations about frame size. (Ignore the green line and reference to John Burke. He is not me!)


So you see I could go either way (between the 58 and 56).

Now let's look at reach and stack height. Reach is helpful to study between frames. It's essentially a measure of the length of the front half of the bike--if you draw vertical lines through the bottom bracket and the headtube, then measure between them you have the frame's reach. This is more accurate than looking only at the top tube because the reach is independent of the frame's seat tube angle, which effects top tube length (as well as how far in front of or behind the bottom bracket you can adjust your seat), but not your reach to the bars.

Stack height, on the other hand, helps describe how tall the frame is from the bottom bracket to the top of the head tube. This time you'll need horizontal lines through the bottom bracket and along the top edge of the headtube. So when you're trying to compare your position on the bike from one frame to another, it's a more accurate than looking at head tube length indepedently because it removes the bike's bottom bracket height as a factor.

This picture should help clarify the last couple of paragraphs:

Trek offers two fit options for its frames, which is wildly helpful. The "Pro Fit" has a shorter headtube, while the "Performance Fit" is 3cm taller. I've been riding a 58cm bike in large part because the 56 had too short of a head tube, and it doesn't make sense to run a bike with 4 cm (or whatever) of spacers under the stem. I also used to need the longer top tube, but have shortened the size stem I use a bit over the years.

Other riders may need to look at stack height in a different way. These riders--typically tall guys with ultra-long arms--need to ensure they can get long and low enough. Rider 2 is someone who has to think about this. For a more extreme example take a look at Robert Gesink's bike. Notice the drop between the seat and the top of the bars? Contrast this with the bike of, say, Lance Armstrong.

OK, let's look at my comparison between the 58cm "Pro Fit" and the 56cm "Performance Fit," the two sizes I considered.

The 56cm Performance Fit gives me a stack of 576mm and reach of 387.
The 58cm Pro Fit gives me a stack of stack of 567 and reach of 400.

So the 58 Pro Fit would be 9 mm lower. But remember I'm currently using a +12 degree stem. So having a bit more stack is actually helpful. (Each degree of rise in a stem equals roughly 2mm in height.)

The 58cm Pro fit is also longer by 13mm. But I'm currently running a 110mm stem, so moving to a 120mm version is no problem and running it in the -7 degree position gives even more effective length. To show how it all comes together I plugged the numbers into this helpful stem calculator.
So in the end I ordered a 56cm Performance Fit Madone 6.5. I'll run a 120mm stem in the -7 degree position with 20mm of spacers below it (maybe a bit more or less depending on the height of the headset cap) and will end up with a nearly identical position to the one I have now. And in fact I've wanted to be a hair more stretched out and a tad lower than I have been, so on paper anyway, the bike should be perfect.

Wish me luck. The bike should be here in about 30 days.