Saturday, February 28, 2009

Ideas that make as much sense as the Versus Network

I was thinking about the Versus Network's unique blend of programming. Who would think to mix bass fishing, bull riding, cage fighting and bicycle racing into one hot mess of a network? I don't know, but I wanted to honor their creative genius by thinking of some combinations of things that make just as much sense.

Toddlers and broken glass.
Fixed gear bikes with pie plates.
ESPN and poker tournaments.
Ice cream and tabasco sauce.
Swimming, biking and running in one contest.

As I understand it, and I may not, cable channels put together a line-up of programming to attract viewers and then the cable channel sells advertising time. They look for ad agencies and marketers targeting their particular viewer. So just what product do you sell to the psychopathic viewer who was just waiting for a channel featuring cage fighting, bass fishing, hockey and a side of Liege-Bastogne-Liege? Do you remember the Sesame Street song, "one of these things doesn't belong with the others"?

And just what does the "average" viewer of Versus look like? Remember that at the bar down the street the average net worth of the patrons looks dramatically different when Bill Gates pulls up a stool (If you don't understand this concept, stop reading this blog and take a basic math class). So, as a bike snob, don't you suspect that the "average" Versus viewer looks dramatically different when you add in the income and education of the cycling viewers as opposed to the extreme cage fighting idiots, I mean, viewers? (Sure, I'm worried that one of them is going to read this blog and threaten to beat me up. That's precisely my point about the kind of neanderthal who likes cage fighting.)

In light of this, it makes sense to me suddenly why someone at the network would decide that what two guys like Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen really need to help them commentate on a bike race is someone who has never raced a bike, is not a cycling fan and is enough of an idiot that he will attempt to take up 80% of the air time. It all comes clear. Mix up some bull riding, bass fishing, cage fighting and throw this into the mix:

From Misc Bike Pics
Photo from Swimming World Magazine

Friday, February 27, 2009

Things more annoying than Rasika Mathur

As a public service to viewers of the Versus Network, we provide a list of things that are MORE annoying than Rasika Mathur doing interviews during a bike race:

Nothing. Absolutely Nothing.

Sorry, I really thought and thought about this, but I've got nothing.

From Misc Bike Pics
Photo from Rediff News

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Things more annoying than Craig Hummer

As a public service to viewers of the Versus Network, we provide a list of things that are MORE annoying than listening to Craig Hummer commentate on a bike race alongside Phil Ligget and Paul Sherwen:

Having an English Sparrow drop his coconut, land on your shoulder and peck at your ears while you are incapacitated and unable to make it stop.

Excitedly buying a new porkpie hat to wear to a Henry Rollins spoken-word concert, pulling it directly from the hat box to put on your head and discovering that it was filled with acid that pours down your face.

Getting ready to leave the house in the morning, searching for your glasses, putting them on and being horrified to find as they pierce your eyeballs that someone replaced the lenses with sharp pointy things.

Having a blonde himbo mangle the English language, constantly interrupt more intelligent and more eloquent people and begin screeching in a higher and higher pitch to generate false excitement about virtually nothing at all. Oh, sorry, that is EXACTLY as annoying as Craig Hummer.

From Misc Bike Pics
Photo from Swimming World Magazine

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Dr. Spalm Discusses Craig Hummer

Dr. Spalm - Can you explain to me the decision by the Versus Network to have Craig Hummer join Phil and Paul for the broadcast duties while Bob Roll is limited to short pieces and post-race interviews?
Wanting to Watch, but Not Enjoying it.

Dear WtWbNEi -
No, I don't think that anyone can explain this decision. Some corporate level decisions seem to have no rational basis. As evidence of this, please see the national economy. There are some factors to consider, however.

First, Bob Roll. For those who have been paying attention to Bob Roll for years, we remember his early days as a columnist for VeloNews. His essays were unlike any other writing. Please note that I did not say unlike any other "bicycle" writing. His writings appeared to have been the result of putting a typewriter in front of him after mescaline ingestion. They had a surreal, other-worldy quality and most often required footnotes to explain the various nicknames and Rollesque short-hand. People who write in this fashion usually move on to careers in performance art or coffee pouring. Bob Roll, however, became a cult hero among the cycling literati. This made him a logical addition to the long-time Brits who were the nonpareil of cycling commentating. Why not a little American flavor to spice up the droll Brits? One problem, it was Bob Roll. The man is slightly crazed and he probably got under the skin of Phil and Paul.

Second, Versus TV Executives. Early on during their decision to combine pro bass fishing, bull riding and bicycle racing, someone undoubtedly said, we need a blonde bimbo who looks good in swim suit to sit at the desk with Phil and Paul. Someone who can make the sport understandable for newcomers. They came up with Kirsten Gum. That didn't work so they went the opposite direction - how about a grizzled TV/Sports veteran to sit with the Brits? They came up with Al Trautwig. That didn't work so they went back to their first formula - blonde bimbo who looks good in a swimsuit. Here is what they came up with this time:

From Misc Bike Pics
Photo from Swimming World Magazine

Clearly the Versus Network is home to group of bull-riding, bass-fishing, bicycle-hating executives. Executives in the derogatory sense of the word.

Thus, in conclusion, Dr. Spalm, as a man of science, cannot explain the illogical and irrational decision to allow Craig Hummer to sully the live broadcast with his excessive and inane prattling, but thank you for asking.
Dr. Spalm

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Thoughts on the Tour of California

The rest of this week will be devoted to the Tour of California. Yes, I know that it was last week, but just like economists and politicians, I drive much better looking in the rear-view mirror. I have had time to digest my thoughts, distill my suggestions into gems of wisdom and I have thought of 936 people who would add more to the Tour of California coverage than Craig Hummer. But more on that later. In the meantime, in compliance with the terms and conditions of the Blogger Code, I present Random Miscellaneous Musings on the Tour of California:

1 - Fatcyclist got burned badly by the Versus Coverage of the Tour of California. First, he did great liveblogging and he is admired by all, but it is really sad to read his and his wife's reaction to the "Breakaway from Cancer" commercials. No one needs a kick in the gut from a cancer support group while you or your family is dealing with cancer. A little more thought on the next round of commercials, please. Second, Fatty cooked up the idea getting Bob Roll to shave his head if he could get his readers to donate $5,000 to cancer research before the end of the Tour of California. I could have done the same thing except I have no way to get a hold of Bob Roll, or convince him to do such a thing and I have the expectation that our readers would be reluctant to donate 50 cents to anything we suggested. So, I have a lot of respect for this idea and, amazingly, they raised over $8,000 AND Bob Roll shaved his head. That part was great, but they never gave any of the credit to Fatty and his readers for the whole thing. Fatty has been very gracious about it, but it chaps my ass.

2 - Tyler Hamilton. Maybe we can forgive his blood doping and his absurd chimera twin defense, but his hair cannot be forgiven.

3 - Floyd Landis. Please see above comment when next looking at that thing that almost appears to be a goatee growing on your face.

4 - Dave Zabriskie. It's great to see Dave Z going fast again and it's great to see that he shaved off his 70's porn-star mustache. Have you noticed that Dave Z sounds astonishingly like a Muppet?

5 - Do my comments about Bob Roll's hair, Tyler Hamilton's hair, Floyd Landis' facial hair and Dave Zabriskie's facial hair indicate I have a thing about hair. I don't think so, but I should let you know that I have Bob Roll's hairdo and I was not allowed by my parents to fulfill my childhood dream of going to cosmetology school.

6 - George Hincapie. I like George Hincapie a lot and very much want to see him win Paris-Roubaix. Rider 1 knew George as a U-23 rider and says he is both a nice guy and a super-human athlete, but every time he comes on the screen someone calls him "Big George Hincapie." Big George is 6' 3", which I will grant you is tall, but the guy weighs 165 pounds! I have the impression that if I were standing next to Big George, I would ask why no one feeds him. Since when do skeletal humans qualify as "big"?

7 - Astana. Does anyone else think it is funny that a group of Kazakhstan mafia, I mean Kazakhstan industrial companies, have sponsored a team named after the capital of the country and it has become all about Lance? And that Lance takes every opportunity to wear his LiveStrong stuff over his Astana gear?

8 - Who knew it was ever going to possible that we would miss Kirsten Gum as a cycling commentator?

9 - Levi Leipheimer - Remember last year's campaign to "Let Levi Ride"? How about this year's campaign, Let Levi Slide!

From Misc Bike Pics
Picture from Velonews/Casey B. Gibson

Monday, February 23, 2009

BikeSnob NYC Responds

With great care and thought, Team Two Wheel invited BikeSnob NYC to come to Spokane to ride and check out the scene (Link Here).

I don't have Mr. BSNYC's permission to reproduce his e-mail response, but I will paraphrase it here: NO.

There was more to it. While BikeSnob NYC is funny and undoubtedly cutting, he is also unfailingly polite in his non-blog communications. Take a look at the comments he posts sometime if you don't believe this suggestion. Similarly, he took the time to politely turn us down.

I am convinced, however, that he will eventually come out and ride with us, because 1) we care and 2) Spokane is a truly fantastic and unusual place to ride bikes. In future postings, we will start describing some of our favorite rides, but in the meantime trust us.

For a glimpse of the non-cycling parts of Spokane, here is a promo music video produced for the annual meeting of a downtown Spokane organization.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Chamois sniffing: How to attack

In case you haven’t noticed, Rider 3 has been calling me out lately. First there was the Mr. Adjustment reference. Then he compared me with the Princess from “Princess and the Pea.” And then he talks about chamois sniffing?

I'm actually overstating things quite a bit. Rider 3 is very nice. I’ll still take the high road though and instead embrace my inner sniffer.

I now offer you some winter motivation. If watching Levi & Co. (as opposed to Lance & Co., or Levi Strauss & Co). suffer through absolutely heinous conditions isn’t giving you the juice to get through your next trainer session, the video below might.

Tutto solo. I love it. Translated, it means “all alone.” Props to Belgian Knee Warmers for finding this.

Now THAT is the way to lay down an attack. He hit the front going what, 10 mph faster than the rest of the group? Check out Ballan’s form. An upper body that quiet during an attack that hard in the last 3K of the World’s? Totally impressive.

The Italians rocked this race. Bettini’s group gets caught, and Ballan immediately puts in a massive attack. Check out the part about at about 1:30 into the clip. The Dane was pulling at warp speed and who’s on his wheel? Bettini and Cunego. Awesome.

If you like cycling and haven’t been to a big race in Italy and experienced the Tifosi, you must do this at some point in your life. I’m surprised those commentators didn’t have heart attacks. I'm quite sure that at least one Italian woman in her 50's passed out.

The topic of chamois sniffing reminds me a story a friend once told me. He was a pro riding mostly in Europe at the time for U.S. Postal. A bunch of chamois sniffers (kind of like I am now) asked whether Phil Liggett had ever commentated about him. The answer was no, but in private he said that his real goal was to make enough money to pay Paul and Phil to commentate while said rider was in bed with his girlfriend. “Oh me oh my, he’s really on the ride of his life today...”

You get the idea.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Weekend Riding

 I may be on shaky ground after already promising good riding weather once before, only to have a bunch of riders blame me for much colder weather. But has anyone else checked out the weekend forecast? 47 degrees in February—it’ll feel (almost) tropical.

Spokane, WA

Mostly Sunny

47° | 29°

 So, this tells me:

  1)      We’ll have a good sized group at the Rocket Bakery on 14th Street tomorrow for our ride at Noon.

2)      Rider 2 – a.k.a. Quicksilver – will show up wearing knickers and armwarmers, no booties and no ear protection. And he’ll be hot.

3)      Rider 3 will show up wearing no fewer than two base layers, booties, thermal socks and gloves appropriate for an Antarctic expedition. And he’ll be cold.

4)      It will feel great to get a few hours of time in on the road.

5)      I will need to wash my bike tomorrow morning. It’s been a month and I’m pretty sure I’ve destroyed my chain because of the lack of maintenance.


Here’s another good reason to show up Saturday. Check out the forecast for Sunday. Unless you want to pretend you're in Flanders on Sunday, Saturday should be much more pleasant.

Spokane, WA

45° | 34°

Team Two Wheel

As February in Spokane drags on, and on, and on, and on, cycling is limited to a few cold outdoor rides, trainer time as it can be born, and mostly dreaming of warmer weather and longer days. This leads to 1) time to contemplate cycling instead of actually cycling and 2) not enough cycling to cover in a blog that purports to be about cycling.

So today, I was contemplating Team Two Wheel. This is very similar to gazing upon one's own navel, but at least in my case, substantially less hairy. I ride with a lot of different people and I enjoy almost all of them. I ride road bikes and mountain bikes and I commute to work on my bike. These different types of rides lead to time with different types of riders. Also, in the many years that I have been riding, I have gained and lost many riding partners due to moving cities, moving neighborhoods, various marriages and divorces, the births of children or children leaving the nest, gaining or losing jobs that change ride habits, joining or leaving racing teams and all the other things that cause people to ride more or less or on different schedules or just with me or not with me. So, why do I ride with the other guys on Team Two Wheel?

There are clear differences in our riding experiences and styles. Rider 1 has managed national-level racing teams and worked with and for major bike companies and suppliers. Rider 2 has raced much more than I have. Both are faster and fitter than I am. One is younger and one is older. So why do we ride together? Let me count the whys.

1 - We share cycling philosophy about training. We believe that training rides are about training. Simple, but not well understood. There are different types of training, but a lot of training should mean a relatively steady pace, the guy in front should know to move back before exploding and you should know and understand the value of both sitting in and taking your turn.
2 - We enjoy and respect the traditions and history of riding and racing.
3 - We share a belief that racing is when you pin on a number and sign a release form. All the other stuff is riding or training or something that is not the same as racing.
4 - We all agree that actual racing is very humbling. Rider 2 said recently that 97% of racing is suffering and 3% is joy that non-racers simply can't understand. Yup.
5 - We agree that in a race chasing down a rider with a different team jersey is a good idea. Chasing down one in the same team jersey is never acceptable. Can you tell this has happened to each of us? Okay, this is a particular pet peeve of mine and Rider 1 and Rider 2 at least tolerate my oft-stated views on this topic.
6 - We each have bike shorts that we have had longer than we have had our wives, even though in my case that is 20 years. That says something about our ability to commit, to cycling.

If I go on, I will be accused of having a bromance, but I am comfortable enough in my manhood to tolerate that. The bottom line is, these guys know cycling, we never run out of stuff to talk about when we ride and they wait for me at the top of every hill. What more could you ask for?
Rider 3

Thursday, February 19, 2009

An Open Letter to BikeSnob NYC

Dear BikeSnob: You may not remember me, but we exchanged e-mails and correspondence under my actual name. Here is proof of that correspondence.

From Misc Bike Pics

In part as an homage to you, I have also adopted an anonymous persona under which I comment on cycling. My stage is dramatically smaller than NYC, but that is the reason for this open letter.

Your blog is obviously a phenomena. It is interesting that you and the Fat Cyclist, who have dramatically different styles and outlooks, have become the best known of the bike writers in the blogosphere. Your cutting comments and endless fixations are entertaining, insightful and influential. Because of you, I can no longer tolerate being on the same street with a pie plate without having the strong desire to photograph it and pen an appropriate castigation of the wretch operating the machine. It has gotten so bad that I carry notepaper with me in case I see such abominations. The reach is not nearly as great as your internet spectrum, and the comment section doesn't work nearly as well (see below), but it does allow me to remain calm in the face of inappropriately amalgamated bikes.

From Misc Bike Pics

A few weeks ago, you posted an entry about a ride you took. I don't recall the whereabouts or particulars of your ride, but I know that I read it shortly before heading out on a ride myself. As I rolled along, I couldn't help but be struck by the enormous differences between your riding experiences and mine. Yours appear to involve discourteous drivers, idiotic transit drivers, absurd cyclists and the most crowded streets in the United States. While you have not been writing recently about your racing, your mentions of non-commuting cycling lead me to believe that you do get out of NYC for occasional bike rides and otherwise find the best options for some type of training even within the city. After all, at a Saturday morning crit, those Serotta-straddling dentists aren't going defeat themselves, are they? I guess they do, but that is a digression from my main point, which is this: BikeSnob, you need to get out of NYC to experience other types of cycling.

I do recall that you took a recent trip to Austin, but apparently the margaritas and Juan Pelota espressos combined to keep you off the local roads, as that was not part of the travelogue. Other than that, your perspective is cynically filled with the extraordinary mass of humanity in your immediate vicinity that is riding, craigslisting, being hip and track-standing in alleys waiting for dalliance opportunities. Sure, it sounds great when I put it like that, but there are other perspectives on riding.

So, if you accept the idea that it might be useful, interesting or excruciating, but in any case something to blog about for the next year, you might consider getting out of town to ride a bike.

There are lots of places to consider. For instance, much the way movie stars hang out with movie stars, you might go to Utah to visit the other significant bike blogger, Fatty himself. He does, however, have his hands full with his family and taking care of his wife. You might also decide to go to one of cycling's capitals in the US, like Austin or Boulder. However, much as your mother may have suggested that tubers were good for you, I would like to suggest that you should come to a wholesome and filling venue like Spokane. To this end, Team Two Wheel would like to formally invite you to come ride with us in Spokane.

Here are the reasons you should do this. First, we understand, in our small town way, the idea of anonymous blogging, as evidenced by our identities only as Rider 1, Rider 2 and Rider 3. Second, we are sufficiently off the map that even if we introduced you as BikeSnobNYC, most people in our burg would have no idea what that means. Third, we really do have a wide variety of extraordinary riding in our area. We have miles of surprisingly empty paved trails that run along rivers, streams and lakes. We have virtually empty highways and byways that run through Palouse fields, across valley floors, or among pine trees at your choosing. We also have miles of mountain bike trails such that Rock Shock even considered moving here at one time (yes, we screwed the pooch on that one). Fourth, Team Two Wheel will plan your itinerary, loan you a bicycle and take turns offering you a couch on which to sleep. Fifth, and this is really the most compelling non-cycling reason, one of our team members owns a local brewery.

So, BikeSnob, we all need a break from the routine sometimes and this is an opportunity to take a walk on the mild side. Also, we have a very small fixie crowd, so you are virtually guaranteed to not see any pie-plated fixed gear bikes on your sojourn. What more could you ask for?

We will look forward to hearing from you.

Team Two Wheel - Brothers in anonymity

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Dr. Spalm Answers Reader Questions

Dr. Spalm - I am an organizer of a local racing team. We have a bunch of riders and cover all categories, from first-time racers to experienced and fast folks. After an unfortunate and nauseating experience last year, I am interested in instituting a new rule that would limit the purchase of skin suits to those team members who are really skinny enough to not gross people out. Any suggestions?
Open-minded, but not THAT open-minded

Dear Mostly Open-Minded:
Thank you for the opportunity to address this issue. A few years ago Dr. Spalm was actively petioning Wal-Mart to stop selling white cotton/lycra stretch pants to women that should NOT, under any circumstances, be wearing such garments. These poor women apparently did not own mirrors, nor were they aware that to cut costs, these pants had a limited amount of fabric that was forced to stretch extraordinary distances to cover their subjects. As such, these pants became lattice-like and see-through and not movie star "how could I have not known that when the paparazzi took flash pictures these intimate body parts would be "accidentally" exposed" see through, but instead "Omar the Tent-Maker had 3-packs of these panties with teddy bears on them" see through. Let's just say that Wal-Mart was steadfast in their stand that women of ALL sizes should be able to wear cotton/lycra stretch pants, but thankfully they have fallen out of fashion.

So, where does that leave us with skin suits. You might consider some simple objective tests, such as a percentage body-fat test or a BMI index rating. You might also consider pointing out to these large, or more likely, extra-large, riders that their speed on a bicycle is not being limited by the aerodynamics of their clothing as much as the extra weight being supported by their bike frame. However, these might all lead to uncomfortable conversations in which reality is unpleasantly imposed on the dreams of these undertrained and overfed riders. Instead, I suggest that you tell them the skinsuits are not made in their sizes and if they persist in finding factual information to the contrary, the best option is to lose their orders and ask them to wait until next year when team clothing is re-ordered.

Lastly, I would like to make it clear that Dr. Spalm is not opposed to extra large riders (Chapeau mon ami, Rider 3), but is merely opposed to skinsuits (or white cotton/lycra stretch pants) on these generously-proportioned and jolly riders.
Dr. Spalm

Dr. Spalm - After the usual middle-age process of having kids and getting ahead at work, I have put on a few pounds and need to get active again. I really want to do a triathlon, but the only bike I have is a mountain bike I bought at Costco. Do you suggest I ride that or buy another bike? I really like the looks of the time trial bikes.
Trying to Tri

Dear Very (Trying that is):
I am not sure how to answer you. It leads to a number of questions I have. Putting aside the question of why anyone would want to do a triathlon, my answer would be either a) Are you serious? (said ironically), or b) Are you serious? (said seriously).

The only thing sillier than trying to train for and complete a triathlon on a department-store style mountain bike would be buying a special purpose time trial bike before you have started riding or training for a triathlon. Actually, maybe the reverse is truer. I'm not sure.

Here is my suggestion. First, go ride the bike you have. Ride it as fast as you can for approximately the distance you plan to ride in the triathlon. Immediately after completing this distance, if you then feel the strong urge to hop off the bike as fast as you can and start running, preferably a marathon, then maybe you're right that triathlons are appropriate for your future.

As a second test, I suggest that you sit down at a bar with some appropriate beverage in front of you. Briefly consider the distance the drink sits in front of you. Now, put the drink at least two bar seats away from you and then reach out to try to drink from it from this position. If you find that this new position is preferable to your starting position, then a time trial bike might be a good option for you.

Lastly, regardless of these tests, if you find that you can't ride a bike in a straight line, you probably are a born triathlete. Good luck.
Dr. Spalm

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Team Two Wheel Plans

Other than speculation about the whereabouts of Lance's TTX bike, yesterday's post mentioned some Team Two Wheel plans. Here are a few things we are working on.

Shop Rides - Starting on the First Friday of April, 4/3/09, we will be hosting a shop ride leaving from Two Wheel Transit at 1405 W. First Avenue in the Carnegie Square neighborhood of Downtown Spokane. We will be rolling out of the shop around 5.30 pm and doing a loop of about 15 - 20 miles. The ride will be easy-to-moderate pace with no-drops, meaning that you won't get ditched on the ride just because we go up a hill. Whether you've done group rides before or not, you are welcome to join us. We are hoping to talk the shop into offering some deals for our Shop Ride night, so stay posted. We are planning on shop rides each First Friday of the month through the riding season.

Pro Night - If you want to learn more about cycling there are lots of sources online these days, but not that many chances to get to talk to experts face-to-face. We are hoping to host some industry insiders and experts to offer us insight into training, technical issues and upcoming trends. We have tentatively scheduled our first Pro Night for XXXXXXXXX, at 6.30 pm [Oops. First date didn't work out. Back to the calendar for new dates]. Invitations to the speakers have been issued and we will give you more details as they get firmed up. Expect 60-90 minutes of interesting information and some bike gossip, so [soon we will be able to] mark your calendars.

Team Two Wheel T-shirts - Into production this week, Team Two Wheel t-shirts will be available soon. Featuring the team motto, "Fortitudine Vincimus -- By Endurance We Shall Conquer", these will be the hottest apres ride gear in Spokane this year. For most locals, these shirts will be moderately priced. For Rock Racing fans, we will also be offering a special edition t-shirt that has invisble gold dust sprinkled onto the shirt for an additional $100, so get your credit cards ready.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Lance's TTX Stolen

For better or for worse, Team Two Wheel canceled bike riding plans for Sunday. With snow on the ground and rain in the forecast, it seemed like the right thing to do. The expected rain didn't materialize until much later, so maybe it was the wrong call, but if my trainer time was indicative, it is a good thing I skipped a group ride. Despite 4 - 5 hours on the bike the prior weekend, the following week held zero bike or trainer time and overindulgences justified by Valentine's Day were weighing heavily on me while I sweated out a weak, slow, miserable 45 minutes on the trainer.

In place of a ride, Team Two Wheel got together to make some plans and "chamois sniff". This isn't as sordid as it sounds, nor do we need to call in Dr. Spalm to clarify. Rider 1 calls time spent gabbing about pro cycling while NOT riding a bike "chamois sniffing". With the arrival of the racing season and the start of the Tour of California, we couldn't help talking about what the field looks like and where things are going this year. As a former race team manager, Rider 1 has limited tolerance for all forms of "chamois time" that is not "saddle time". Let that be a lesson to us all.

So, back to the post title. As we were breaking up our meeting, Rider 1 commented on a recent article about Lance's comeback bike. Readers may recall that Rider 1 is very attuned to the measurements and adjustment of his bike and noticed that his bike set-up was almost identical to Lance's. I now find out that Lance's TTX bike is missing from the Tour of California. Coincidence? Let's just say that if Rider 1 is very reticent about letting you see the interior of his garage, there may be something to it.

From Misc Bike Pics

Friday, February 13, 2009

First Team Two Wheel Product Review

The internet news has been carrying a story about a guy who blogged about his negative experience with Gold4Cash, and then was offered a several thousand dollars by Gold4Cash to take down the blog. With this background, I would like to offer this first product review from Team Two Wheel. I would also like to offer these three caveats or comments.

1) You do have to wonder seriously about the customer experience you are going to get from a company that features Ed McMahon and M.C. Hammer as spokespersons during the Super Bowl. Did you run out and buy insurance from the company that hired Kevin Federline last year? I didn't think so.

2) If anyone offers Team Two Wheel even a couple of thousand dollars, not even "several" thousand, we will take down any blog post. In fact, I would like to offer a fee schedule: Remove or edit any post: $10, except for Dr. Spalm advice, which we will remove for only $5. Three for two deals available on Double Down Wednesdays.

3) If you have any cycling products that you would like Team Two Wheel to review, please forward them to our attention. Team Rider 1 has suggested that Team Rider 3, by dint of copious amounts of both power and bulk, makes an ideal product tester. If you look at the weight and height of most professional cyclists, you get the idea that they could make frames out of equal parts carbon and balsa wood. To stand up to Rider 3, they should ideally be equal parts carbon and high tensile strength I-beams. Most wheelsets these days have 12-24 spokes per wheel. Rider 3's wheelsets would ideally consist of 48 spokes, soldered and tied. Let's just say, the guy is big, really big.

The first product we have to review is actually two PowerBar products called, "Energy Bites" and "Protein Plus Bites". Basically these are small balls in a foil pouch [Please insert your own joke here]. The foil packet has a resealable top. Since we only want to provide top notch information for you, I tried to do some research on these bite-sized balls. I knew they were a new product from PowerBar, but the sample package doesn't have a lot of other information. When I looked on-line, I found descriptions of a product that looks similar, but was introduced in 2003 and subsequently withdrawn from the market. As a result, I can't find out much about them, beyond what is on the sample package and my own taste.

From Product Testing

We had the chance to try two types of "Bites", chocolate/peanut butter and oatmeal raisin. With both flavors, rather than pushing the carbohydrate angle that most ride products spout, these both mention protein with one having 20 grams of "Tri-Source Protein" in the Protein Plus Bites and the other containing 11 grams of protein and something called "C2 Max Dual Source Energy Blend". The claim is that this provides carbs in a mix that is easier for athletes to absorb. Again, I am lacking empirical evidence. I would ask Dr. Spalm to do some laboratory testing of them, but we can hardly afford his wordiness without any real work, so we will have to forgo this step.

So here is what I can tell you. On shorter rides, like under 90 minutes, I rarely eat anything solid. By the time I am riding 2 hours and certainly longer, it is important to eat. That means you have to be carrying something that is both edible and "seems" edible after your appetite is impacted by the ride.

From Product Testing

Rider 2 and I tried the peanut butter/chocolate bites after a two hour ride. Our reaction was about the same, "ummm, pretty good, I guess I could eat those." They held up well to two hours in a jersey pocket. Although it was cold, there were protected and I thought they might be a bit melted. Instead they were in good shape. Honestly, I didn't eat them and think "wow", but I certainly thought edible. I wonder how the chocolate exterior would hold up to warm weather, but otherwise a decent addition and I'm sure appealing to some.

The oatmeal raisin was more to my taste. I not only tried this on a ride, but I also had family members give them a taste. The Rider 3 household was in agreement on these, which is that they were tasty, reminiscent of an actual oatmeal raisin cookie, and left us a bit thirsty. On a ride, this is probably a good thing, since drinking water is almost always a good idea. Also, it is my personal experience that PowerBar products need to be consumed with plenty of fluids for best results. That wouldn't be a problem after these bites, as they induced some thirst and mixed well with water. To be the ultimate food, they would also need to blend well with malted beverages or tequila, but that is a product test for another day.

Bottom line - On a major endurance ride, in the 4 - 10 hour range, the trick is to eat whatever seems appealing. It gets harder and harder to eat an appropriate amount and mix. For me, the longer the ride, the more I feel like eating some "real" food, rather than just energy bars, energy gels and energy drinks. I will definitely think about adding some oatmeal raisin PowerBar Energy Bites to the group of things I would take along on an epic ride. These won't be available to the public for another few weeks, but keep an eye out for them at Two Wheel Transit.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Review: Tour down Under and Tour of Qatar

I would like to offer brief reviews of the Tour of Down Under and the Tour of Qatar.

Tour Down Under: Very hot; breakaway, follow up by breakaway with Lance Armstrong; breakaway caught; mass sprint. Repeat six times.

Tour of Qatar: Very hot; Very windy; echelon riding in wind; survivors of echelons in mass sprint. Repeat five times. Scheduled to be six but for tragic death of cyclist that no one so far wants to attribute to performance enhancing drugs.

There are elements to the great cycling events that make them great. None of those elements are repeated in these races. And don't get me started on the Mallorca Challenge.

Rider 3

Britney Spears Naked

No, there are no pictures of Britney Spears naked on this blog, but I read that naked celebrity pictures was the best way to boost readership numbers. So, if you stopped by for the former Mrs. Federline's picture, I apologize, but while you are here, feel free to read something about cycling and one of the nation's best places to ride a bike, Spokane.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Mr. Adjustment

One problem with having a blog is that people read it. Sure, it would seem like that was the idea, but it's different when it actually happens. For instance, there are three members of Team Two Wheel. We are known by the names our parents gave us in the "real" world, but on this blog we are known as Rider 1, Rider 2 and Rider 3. Unlike BikeSnobNYC, who is reported to have two roommates and six siblings, none of whom know his identity, if you happen to ride bikes with us, you can also reasonably identify us. Also, it turns out that when I referred to my team mates as Mr. Millimeter and Quicksilver, it turns out they read it. Of course, I meant these terms with all the love and respect I usually show them in person. I don't know, maybe that's why they didn't like it.

I can't really explain why Rider 2 is adopting the name "Quicksilver", but Mr. Millimeter is a bit more obvious. I really don't mean it as a term of disrespect. I am frankly amazed by the idea that someone can see, feel or sense very small differences in seat position, stack height or Q ratio.

As a child, my brother had a dog that was well intentioned, but completely dense. At a dog obedience class, the instructor said that the animal was a "2 by 4" dog. PETA will object to this idea, but the instructor said that meant you had to hit the dog with a 2" x 4" piece of wood to get his attention. I would caution that it was not meant in a literal sense (nor literary sense), but it clearly expressed a level of attention to the world at large. So, if Mr. Millimeter is akin to the Princess of the "Princess and the Pea" fame, then honestly my riding sense is much more like the 2x4 dog. Instead of adjustments by the millimeter, I tend to adjust equipment with a rock and some duct tape.

When I am on a ride, I also tend to ignore anything that I possibly can. I once finished a 200 mile ride on a flat because I was sick of changing a problem tire. I am convinced that any success I have had on a bike (by the way, my personal definition of the term "success" is being the slowest guy who can still keep up with the group, not a real fast group, but just a group) is a function of my ability to ignore minor and major discomforts.

So, the point to this whole post was to discuss a ride I took with another Mr. Adjustment type of guy. This particular rider was a friend of mine, but not a rider. Yes, it is true, I have non-cycling friends. Not close friend, but you know. Anyway, this guy was being influenced by a number of mutual friends to adopt cycling as the truth and the light, the way most of have. To help with his conversion, I agreed to go on a ride with him. We took a common South Hill ride, the Hangman Loop, heading down Hatch Road and back up Baltimore into town and to his house.

We met at a spot a few blocks from the top of Hatch Road. For the benefit of non-Spokane riders, this is a steep mile and a half hill that leads to a nice valley road and a more gentle climb back into town. The loop is about 15 miles the way we were riding. Even with a slow rider, it should have been about an hour. Instead, it was about two hours.

Here is how our ride would be narrated by Mr. Adjustment.

[Top of Hatch hill] Wow, this hill is long and steep. I better ride my brakes the whole way down. I'm secure enough in my manhood that I don't mind that grandma on her trike passing me.

[Bottom of Hatch hill] Something doesn't feel right. I need to adjust my seat.

[300 yards after spending five minutes adjusting the seat] Something doesn't feel right. I need to adjust my seat again.

[1/4 mile after spending five more minutes adjusting the seat] I think there is something wrong with my shoe. I need to adjust my straps or something.

[300 yards after this adjustment] No, not right yet. I need to stop again.

After repeating this process for the next ten miles, I had spent an equal amount of time riding my bike as sitting and watching Mr. Adjustment fiddle with every single thing on his bike. I had no idea you could adjust your fork rake on the road.

We finally made it up the hill and back into town. Since this was a friend and someone new to cycling, I was completely frustrated, but trying to be patient and supportive (people who know me will be expressing disbelief at this concept). Less than a mile from Mr. Adjustment's house, we came up to a stop light. I had been putting something back into my jersey pocket when Mr. Adjustment accelerated through a yellow light. I stopped, which gave me a great view of Mr. Adjustment riding off into the distance. For the first time since descending the hill, Mr. Adjustment had found it in himself to ride for more than a 300 yards without stopping. He dug deep and found it in himself, in fact, to hit his highest speed.

I assume that this new found sense of speed and purpose was due to either 1) finally making every adjustment possible on his bike so that it reached a state of perfection, or 2) his house was finally close enough that he could taste the relief of not having to be on the saddle anymore. I don't know the answer to this question because I couldn't catch him before he turned off to his house. Interestingly, I never had the "opportunity" to ride with Mr. Adjustment again.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Knackered Redux Two

I thought that was what he meant.
Rider 2

Knackered Redux

I want to assure our readers that all of us, or at least most of us, here at Team Two Wheel are sensitive to the world’s many cultures. Also, there may be some readers who bristle to the loss of family values in our society, and we are in no way a part of this societal problem. Except for when we are.

You may be wondering where I’m going with this.

Rider 3 has an excellent grasp of the English language, and is an impressive writer and grammarian. For example, I’m sure Rider 3 could explain why the statement “eats roots, shoots and leaves” could describe a marsupial, while “eats, roots, shoots, and leaves” could describe a porn star. But I digress. While “knackered” is indeed an often-used term by our team and cyclists in general, it has another very common meaning, especially in the land that birthed the English language: England. Over there, knackered typically describes a post-coital state. Look it up in the urban dictionary if you’d like more explicit examples.

When riding with people from other countries it is important to be sensitive to these cultural differences.

Knackered isn’t the only word that represents a dangerous double-entendre. “Bonking” is another. I’ll never forget the look on the face of an Australian athlete I had just recruited and hired, fresh off the plane, that asked me how one of his new teammates fared in a World Cup race. It went something like this:

“What happened to Racer X today? I thought he was in the lead group.”

“He was,” I said, “until he started bonking on the back side of the course on the third lap.”

The Australian looked disturbed and very confused.

“Racer X was bonking during the race? With who?”

“I don’t know for sure. He ended up with some Dutch riders. I guess he didn’t drink enough.”

“Didn’t drink enough? I thought drinking often led to bonking.”

“Haven’t you ever bonked during a race?”

“Are you daft? I’ve bonked in the back of my parents’ estate wagon, but never during a race.”

“What made you bonk in the back of a car?”

“Well, I was in high school and we didn’t have anywhere else to go.”

“What does that have to do with bonking?”

“We were having sex. What the hell are you talking about?”

“I’m talking about running out of energy during the race!”

“Oh, you mean hunger knock.”

Freaking Aussies. And don’t ever get an Australian going about “tuna fish.” I guarantee you’ll get a lecture about “hamburger cow,” “chicken bird,” and “pork pig.”


There are lots of terms that I use primarily to describe cycling. Spalm, for instance, is one that I rarely, if ever, use unless I am with a group of cyclists. "Knackered" is another one of those terms.

After riding Saturday and Sunday, I was knackered. This is a state of complete, total and utter exhaustion. It is past tired, spent, toasted or wiped out. It is a state of mind and body that only athletes or people in extremis can fully comprehend. A guy who spends the day doing yardwork can be tired or even exhausted, but not knackered.

I do have a problem with athletes who think that this somehow exalts them though. There are times when I can't decide whether pushing yourself to such point of exhaustion is a good idea. On one hand, there must be something to this idea of civilization and progress. We don't have to chase woolly mammoths across the land for our food, so do we really need to ride our bikes at sustained high speeds until collapse seems imminent? I don' t know, but for some reason, I enjoy it.

Saturday: Rider 2 and I met a former racer who now spends his cycling time tending to twin 3-year olds. As anyone with kids can tell you, it tends to cut into your free time if you are doing it right. Or even wrong. For me, this caused me some hope that Rider 2, not known as Quicksilver, would have less opportunity to ride me into the ground. It was false hope. Did I mention that Chris, pictured below, was a former racer? It is the case that bikes don't lie, but people who have learned to suffer on a bike retain this ability well beyond the ability of their muscles to recall their last set of intervals. Chris suffered admirably and, as a result, I suffered, although less admirably.

From Rides

Sunday: Rider 1 and Rider 2 lured others out for a ride, promising 45 degree temperatures and a no-drop endurance ride. These were false promises to go along with the false hope of the day before. We should have known what the day would hold when the discussion of the ride went like this:

How long are we going to ride?

Don't know. A while.

Where are we going?

Don't know. Where do you want to go?

I don't care where we go, this is one of my first rides of the year so I don't want to go too long.

Don't worry. It'll be fine.

The temperature hovered between 32 - 37F, but there was dearth of sunshine and an abundance of intermittent winds that kept it feeling colder than the stated temperature. Despite this, we headed out and decided to ride towards Cheney. At each intersection where we could decide to go farther or less far, however, Rider 1 or Rider 2 optioned for the "farther" direction. My friend Bob used to like to add a side trip past a group of unrestrained Rotweilers to every trip, no matter what part of town. On one point on Sunday I would have taken Rotweilers over yet another series of rollers, like the ones both behind and ahead of us in this picture.

From Rides

That group is surprisingly good looking, isn't it?

We finally made our way out and back, taking about 2 1/2 hours and covering almost 50 miles in less than favorable conditions. I made the mistake of taking only one water bottle and not eating anything. Here is a picture of the post-ride coffee with Rider 2 offering insightful analysis to someone off-camera. I think he was saying, "And then Nelson Vails and Kevin Bacon were racing to see who could deliver the package first . . ." The most surprising thing about this picture is that I was not laying on the floor to take it. I managed to stay upright and pretend that I was sentient despite being completely knackered.

From Rides

Speaking of sentience, I am thinking about taking up ice fishing. Rider 1 made it sound warmer and more appealing than the ride we took.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Dr. Spalm

Dr. Spalm - I received an e-mail from a Team Two Wheel rider inviting me to join in on a group ride last Sunday. Shortly thereafter there was a follow-up e-mail asking the distance and time for the ride. This e-mail went unanswered.

I now read on the Team Two Wheel blog 1) that I should not believe any information in their e-mails and should self-determine the circumstances of the ride; 2) that Ice Fishing and cycling don't mix well; 3) that this was a very long and hard ride and 4) they use bad language on their rides.

Why would I ever want to go ride with these guys?
Prefer Langlauf

Dear Langlauf Preferrer - We must each make choices in life. Sometimes those choices are good ones and sometimes they are bad ones. In this case, Rider 1 made a bad choice to not give a correct weather prediction and then made an equally bad choice to blame anyone who believed him. That said, however, anyone walking outside knew that it was not 45F, so I don't feel too bad if you showed up and kvetched about this particular point.

It is true that most seasons do not allow for people to ride bikes and ice fish at the same time. This may mean that it is better to wait to ride your bike until after the ice fishermen have stopped drinking beer and sitting on ice and they have instead started drinking beer and sitting in their boats. The problem is that you will be suffering while those out for early rides will be punishing. Again, we each have choices to make in life.

As for their language, we can hope that this story was either apocryphal, hyperbole or that this rider is now banned from the group for such transgressions of polite society. We can also hope that this anonymous rider makes better choices in the future.

Yours truly,
Dr. Spalm

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A Great Day for Ice Fishing

The five other riders that agreed to show up for today’s ride may have some reason to be a bit annoyed with me this evening. I sent out a note encouraging others to join us, in part to bask in the glorious 45 degree weather that was a certainty based on the forecast. Turns out I was looking at a web page with Seattle’s weather, not Spokane’s. It was most definitely not 45 degrees.

Then again, there should be some sense of personal responsibility. I don’t think I know a single cyclist that doesn’t have a series of online weather pages bookmarked, have at least one thermometer at their house, or doesn’t have the cable channel number of the Weather Channel memorized.

But it’s always better to go outdoors to ride, and really, it wasn’t that cold. Of course it was cold enough for ice fishing, but who’s keeping track. 

I'd love it if someone could explain the appeal of ice fishing. I'm sure there's satisfaction in getting hammered (allegedly) and spending the afternoon attempting to snag a creature that may or may not be sentient, while it exists in a state that's as close to torpor as it can get. Actually, that doesn't sound satisfying, but then again I find it fun to ride around in Lycra in freezing conditions, swilling energy drink that causes tooth decay, and finishing wanting to get to a state that's as close as possible to torpor. 

From Team Two Wheel

Uncle Larry, Bob Who Loves Climbing and Nick the Legend turned out to join for 50 miles of fun. Riders 2 and 3 were there too, of course. Rider 3 and Nick earned a few extra suffering points by battling in the wind on their cross bikes. And especially when the wind picked up halfway through the ride, something tells me their more upright positions and 38c tires made the ride that much more brutal.

To irritate people (in a kind way, of course) I sometimes pop out a few lines that certain coaches, and some riders, like to spout off about. “What you’re feeling right now is the sensation of weakness leaving your body,” is one. “Pain only makes me stronger,” is another. When you’re suffering, comments like these are not constructive.

Today’s gem was “Cycling doesn’t create character, it reveals it.” Without missing a beat another rider replied with, “So I guess it’s been revealed that I’m a total p*ssy.”

Amen, brother. I’m tired.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Not Funny - Spokane Bike Summit

If you are looking for humor, you will have to go elsewhere today, because this is a highly serious report on Spokane's first ever (first annual?) Bike Summit.

SBC, not to be confused with the FBC, was organized by the Spokane Bicycle Advisory Board. It was a gathering of people representing many of cycling's facets. There were people interested in bike commuting, bike racing, bike safety, bike education, bike advocacy and bike trails. There were mountain bikers, fixed gear/single speed riders, racers, leisure riders, and tri-athletes (don't confuse these people with bike racers; rather than training and racing in packs, they "enjoy" bikes by distilling the entire experience into riding solo, leaning on aero bars and concentrating on when they will get in their next swim or run work-out rather than get caught up in small details like bike handling). Every age and physique was represented including the highly fit and compact ideal bike rider type; the aged and overweight non-ideal bike rider type; the young and seriously hip (speaking of which, if you are seriously hip, does that conflict with your detached ironic hipness?); the bike wrenches and the bike tools; the people who ride three thousand miles a year, the people who talk about riding three thousand miles a year and the people who ride three thousand beers a year.

The SBC was held at the Steam Plant Grill, Spokane's most cycling supportive restaurant featuring covered bike racks and support for Bike to Work, SpokeFest, the Out There Monthly Wednesday Night Mountain Bike series, Team Two Wheel, the Pedals2People Paris-Roubaix fundraiser, the Emde/Fitness Fanatics Team, meeting place for the Baddlands Cycling Team, probable sponsor of the Gonzaga Cycling Team and organizer, along with Coeur d'Alene Brewing Company, of the once held and future Tour of Pain.

There were presentations by people about the Bicycle Advisory Board, SmartRoutes, development of an umbrella organization for trails and recreation parks and the City of Spokane's plans.

The highlights for me were 1) listening to the self-introductions and 2) the revalation of the night, that a Gonzaga Cycling team existed. The self-introductions were interesting because of the range of people and interests. I had no idea that some of the groups represented existed, which would include the Gonzaga Cycling team. These guys said they have been in existence for three years, although this may have a youthful attempt at humor, as there is no empirical evidence of their existence beyond this bare assertion. No mention of their race results has been published and no GU jersey has ever been spotted in the local races, among the local rides or even, to the best of my knowledge, on the local trails. Clearly more investigation needs to be done on this topic, probably by Out There Monthly or Paul Turner, the Slice author and curmudgeonly bike commuter.

The idea behind the Spokane Bike Summit was to create awareness of the many cycling initiatives in the area, create connections between some of the groups and individuals and create energy around ways to make Spokane a better cycling community.

While there were a few topics discussed group-wide, most were in small groups around the room. Here are a few things I heard:
1) Did I mention that Gonzaga has a cycling team?
2) A 12-person company exists in Spokane that develops phsyical education curriculumn, including cycling curriculumn, for school districts around the country. Who knew?
3) That the Paris-Roubaix Pedals2People fundraiser will be held at the Steam Plant Grill.
4) Discussion of a downtown twilight criterium on the Friday or Saturday night ahead of SpokeFest.
5) There is interest in developing middle school or high school oriented racing teams.
6) That people in Boise, Idaho are sending a U-23 group to race in Europe (link), which means that Spokane really does need to develop middle school or high school oriented racing teams, as Boise is kicking our asses in this area.
7) That there is a lot of interest in providing more accessible information about group rides of all kinds.

I know that there were more serious minded conversations about trail development, bike routes, children's fitness and bike safety, but those conversations were taking place further away from the beer.

I don't have an official list of organizers, but I believe they included Bob Lutz, John Speare, Eve Nelson and Bill Bender. The evening was funded by a number of groups, whose names should be included here, but posting is pending a complete list. [Here is the complete list (Thanks again to John) Spokane Regional Health Dept, Bicycle Alliance of Washington, Bike To Work, Spokefest, Anonymous donor, and the City of Spokane.] Special mention should also be made of the efforts, fueled by a couple of shots at the Peacock Lounge, of impromptu group facilitator, Tom Reese.

I am looking forward to finding out what cycling idea was birthed last night at the Steam Plant Grill and which we will all be talking about next year. In the meantime, as Freddy Mercury says, "Now get on your bikes and ride!"

Friday, February 6, 2009

Team Two Wheel 2009 Predictions - Rider 3

Inspired by Bob Roll, here are some of Team Two Wheel's predictions for 2009.

From Rider 3:

1. There will be serious efforts to put together at least one of John Speare's suggested races from his Out There Monthly February column.

2. Rider 2 will be greeted more than once as "Quicksilver".

3. Rider 2 will only think it is funny the first time.

4. SpokeFest will have 2,500 riders and the weather on September 13 will be perfect. Again.

5. Frozen Flatlands will have to use a snow-plow to prepare part of the course. Again. Mark Starr of David's Pizza will do the honors. Local riders will beg Baddlands Cycling to consider hosting a weekend race later in the year.

6. The P2P Paris-Roubaix fundraiser will move to the Steam Plant Grill. Fabian Cancellara will win the race. Again.

7. BikeSnob NYC will visit Spokane, anonymously, to see what cycling outside Brooklyn has to offer. Rider 1 will consider outing him just to make his prediction come true, but he won't.

8. Everyone who reads this will want to buy a "Fortitudine Vincimus" t-shirt when they become available later this month.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Team Two Wheel 2009 Predictions - Rider 2

Inspired by Bob Roll, here are some of Team Two Wheel's predictions for 2009.

From Rider 2:

Real men speak on their bikes, not in a blog. And stop calling me Quicksilver.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Team Two Wheel 2009 Predictions - Rider 1

Inspired by Bob Roll, here are some of Team Two Wheel's predictions for 2009.

From Rider 1:

1. Lance Armstrong will manage to finally get some media coverage. It's about time.

2. The Vertical Earth Cycling team will expand again giving us the opportunity to race against a team that makes up two-thirds of the entire field.

3. Rider 2, a.k.a., Quicksilver, will dominate many group rides and pick up a couple of race wins this year.

4. The identity of the scribe of BSNYC will be revealed.

5. Michael Barry will get a big win!

6. or Bicycling will review a Pinarello and include a stupendously stupid statement similar to this, "With every turn of the pedals, I could feel the bike's Italian heritage . . ."

7. Dr. Spalm will be offered a book deal.

8. Two Wheel Transit's new shop in Browne's Addition will be really, really cool.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Bob Roll's 2009 Predictions

These are Bob Roll's 2009 Predictions posted on Just to be clear, no one on our blog made them up, they really, truly are Bob Roll's predictions:

Like resolutions, January is the month for predictions and here are mine:

1.The racing, and I mean all the races, will be as good as it has ever been since the beginning of time. The early season stage races will be hard fought, fair, and give us all a chance to see our heroes back in action. The rest of the season will be the form of ecstatic delirium not seen since the renaissance.

2. This year the Tour of California will feature more than 3 miles of sunshine. The 08 race was contested under a never-ending downpour as if the Winnie-the-pooh-esque black cloud followed the riders everyday except the prologue time trial. And even if the sun doesn’t shine, the glow from Lance’s US debut will shine a bright light upon the whole event.

3. So many people will have sued Michael Ball that he will have to sue himself. Everyone however will be astounded when he finds a co-sponsor to keep the team in the game.

4. Lance Armstrong, and Alberto Cantador will seriously lock horns during the Tour and although Johan Bruyneel will nearly have a nervous breakdown, we will be treated to a teammate clash of titans not seen since the great Lemond and Bernard Hinault dual of 1986. This no hold bars, tooth and nail brawl will be the best tour in years.

5. Team Katyusha will set the new record for most dollars spent on salaries verses fewest wins out on the road. They have no GC men, no time trialist, no classics specialist, and a bunch of fast sprinters with no lead out men. Team Katyusha will prove that deep pockets are no substitute for a well balanced team.

6. Lance Armstrong will win at least one race in 09. It may not be the Giro or Tour but he will destroy the field in the Leadville 100. Lance put himself through the 08 Leadville suffer fest but was narrowly beaten by MTB legend Dave Weins. Sparks will be flying off the loam in Leadville even if it is raining.

7. There will be more Americans in the front group at the end of this year’s Tour de France mountain stages than any other time history. Not only Lance, but Levi Leipheimer, Christian Vandevelde, George Hincapie, Chris Horner, and if he rides, Tommy Danielson all factor into the tour’s toughest stages.

8. Astana will sweep the Tour de France podium. With all due respect to Carlos Sastre, Cadel Evans, Dennis Menchov and much to the chagrin of the French, the Astana riders are the very best in the business.

And finally number nine.

9. The specter of drugs will continue to cast a long shadow over the sport of cycling, but other sports will have to step up their anti-doping efforts. It will become obvious that cycling, regardless of its reputation, is actually the cleanest professional sport, and the most authentic spectacle of any sport in the world.

Do you have any cycling predictions for 2009? If so, leave a comment. I will collect the best predictions and post them later.
Rider 3

Monday, February 2, 2009

Dr. Spalm Answers Reader Questions

Dear Dr. Spalm:

Mine is a two part question:

a) I detest indoor workouts. Will nordic skiing 50k or so 2-3x/wk thru the winter provide me with an adequate training base for the upcoming season with the Morning Ride group?

b) When I commute on my single speed from town to my workouts up on the ski hill, how do you recommend carrying my 210cm skis? I have difficulty keeping them balanced in a backpack or panniers when I stand, and I find bike trailers totally uncool. Any suggestions?


Dear Bjorn – You must have thought that Dr. Spalm was “Bjorn” yesterday if you think his is going to fall for the multiple false premises in this question. First, I happen to know Morning Riders and you, Bjorn, are no Morning Rider, or else you are hiding behind a pseudonym because there are no Bjorn’s presently in the Morning Ride. Now, if Bjorn was a nom de plume, I might accept that.

Second, you have said that you detest indoor workouts, but your question belies this. Anyone who would suggest that they are cross country skiing 100-150 k a week (that is 62-93 miles for you non-Europeans), who rides a single speed up the Alpe d’Huez of the Inland Northwest, and is either 6’5” or old school enough to still have 210 cm skis (that is 11’ for you non-Europeans), is clearly a person who enjoys suffering. Lastly, you suggest a desire, rather than a resignation, to ride with the MR. Thus, you are a person who indeed needs suffering and thus you cannot simultaneously suggest that you detest indoor workouts, as they are suffering in the purest form.

Nonetheless, I will address, at least briefly, the essence of your questions. As to an adequate base for joining the Morning Ride, this is a surprisingly fluid requirement. It appears some years that every MR rider shows up for the earliest March rides as if they are in late season form. Other years, every rider appears to have maple syrup running in their veins into late May when the weather finally feels good. To prepare for this, I suggest you resort to one of the mainstays of winter preparation. First, send out word to your mates that you are amazed at how little time you have had for training, riding or doing anything but consuming winter calories. Also, remind them of how miserable riding is until the overnight low is at least 50F. This will cause complacency and help them justify staying off of their bikes. Second, train in secret. Train like a madman, live like a monk. And tell no one. Even your significant other should not know so that she doesn't accidentally let it slip at her afternoon Bunko and Gin "meeting" to the significant others of any other Morning Rider.

As for your second question, balance is critical for bike handling, so learn to live with the skis in your backback (the proper way to carry them, and never, ever in a trailer). Or, do what Dr. Spalm does, hire someone to drive your skis up to the hill. This way you have the benefit of your workout on the way to the hill and none of the inconvenience. Your driver, whether your spouse or a hired Sherpa, can also keep extra clothes, supplies and a propane-operated espresso machine to fuel your post-ski workout ride back home. As for the inevitable follow-up question regarding the "green-ness" of having a car meet you, I would remind you that Dr. Spalm is vaguely European, which means that a) while he believes in global climate change, he knows that all of the Continental efforts will be swamped by the Hummer and SUV use of Americans; and b) he is used to using public transportation for any non-cycling needs and thus can afford such indulgences.

Dr. Spalm - Can you explain why amateur cyclists shave their legs?

- Sasquatch in Spokane

Dear Sasquatch - First of all, welcome to Spokane, Mr. Williams. I loved you as Mork. Not so much at Patch Adams.

As to your question: Can I explain why amateur cyclists shave their legs?


Since I get paid by the word, I will elucidate further.

Unacceptable reasons to shave your legs:

1 - Shaved legs are more aerodynamic.

If sneezing is the difference between you being a weight that wins bike races or not, then by all means, shave off the 3 grams of hair on your legs, reap the 0.00001% aerodynamic increase and don't forget to sneeze.

2 - My legs look better in my cycling shorts.

Really? If this is your reason for going hairless then please have your legs waxed and don't forget the bronzing spray. You should be in the local gym taking steriods and gazing at yourself in the mirror and not taking up room on the local roads that real cyclists could use.

3 - I want to be taken seriously as a cyclist.

Respect is earned, not given. Floyd Landis won his first bike races wearing plaid socks and overalls. The first guy across the line or up the hill gets respect regardless of how hairy his (or her) legs are.

Acceptable reasons to shave your legs:

1 - Road rash. Scrapes and falls happen in cycling and shaved legs are easier to clean up, bandage and scab. It may not sound pleasant, but it's true.

2 - Cleanliness. Shaved legs are easier to clean up. This is particularly necessary if you are finishing a race and have a drive home. A wash cloth and water can clean up your legs and other bits to reduce some "issues." This begs the question of how high legs get shaved, but there are some things that Dr. Spalm won't discuss except in the privacy of a paid consultation.

Excellent reason to shave your legs:

1 - Your Director Sportif expects it. This is really the only excellent reason to shave your legs. The massages are easier, and the road rash/cleanliness reasons count much more when you are making a living on your bike.

Until next time, I remain faithfully yours, Dr. Spalm

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Solo Saturday: Suffering in the Wind

It seemed like a logical decision. I had just made the turn to head down a descent that, if it’s what you want to do, will allow you to go faster than any other in the region. So I started sprinting.

And I had a 30 mph tailwind. With my chest on my handlebars I couldn’t see my bike computer, but shifting my weight back to a somewhat safer position
before the steepest part of the hill, I was pretty sure I saw 59 mph.

Riding in the wind has its benefits. Most of the time though, like the previous hour and a half, battling the gusts is difficult at best.

Here’s my philosophy on riding in the wind: You should learn to love it. To embrace it. To let it make you bulletproof. Because almost no one likes riding in the wind. It destroys people mentally. Living in Boulder for 10 years, where the Chinooks consistently howl off of the Front Range of the Rockies, and now in Spokane—where it's almost as windy—forces you onto the sharp end of the stick. A lot.

All meatheadedness aside, today was hard.

Rider 3 was on the nordic trails with his offspring. Rider 2 spent the afternoon "entertaining" his family. Rider 2 loves Germany, so I'm sure the entertainment involved schnitzel, some kind of sausage and his Jens Voight shrine. That meant a solo ride today.

This was most definitely a mixed blessing. On one hand I really like riding alone. It’s important to have time alone—time without distractions from phones, music, interruptions, work, etc. Also, my form is more than a little bit behind this year, so it would be good to be able to go my own pace.

On the other hand the frigid conditions we’ve had have broken a bit. But along with the warm front that brought in the balmy 30-something degree weather came the wind.

Rolling out of town it was 37 degrees. You can sort of see this in the picture. You might also notice the flags. Yikes. The thermometer could just as easily been showing wind speed.
From Team Two Wheel

Going north, towards a decidedly hillier area, might offer occasional shelter from the gusts. This was a nice thought anyway.

45 minutes or so into the ride I turned left, was smacked in the chest with the wind, and headed towards the most significant climb of the day. Oh joy.

The four-ish mile climb up Seven Mile Road brings you to an area of rolling hills known as Four Mounds.

The climb is actually a series of progressively steeper climbs linked by short flat sections. On a good day I really like this hill. I can typically find a nice rhythm. Not today though.

From Team Two Wheel

A future post will most certainly categorize the many kinds of suffering in cycling. Early-season suffering is a very distinct kind of pleasure. Legs feel thick and heavy, and I, anyway, get to threshold very, very easily. I think this is also known as being out of shape.

Early-season riding creates plenty of opportunity for self-loathing. Your head fills with thoughts about apathetic training, thousands of extra holiday calories, and resentment about the work needed just to get to the level your competitors/teammates/riding friends reached a month ago.

Did I mention it was windy? They’re hard to see, but check out the real estate signs. They were floating between a 30 degree angle and completely parallel with the ground.
From Team Two Wheel

The steepest part of the climb is at the top. It’s not good when your heart rate is 178 and the steep part hasn’t started.
From Team Two Wheel

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to get irritated when you’re going uphill? My rear wheel has a hop in it, and its bump, bump, bump, while I climbed bugged me more than a little bit.

After cresting the hill there were a few choices. Rather than ride a loop that joins the hill I had just climbed in about halfway down, I decided to tack on a few more miles and headed to Charles Road.

I followed a twisty, rolling ribbon of road towards the barn that marks the corner where I’d turn. With each bend the wind drastically changed my speed, making it was hard to find a steady tempo. Looking around I thought about how different the landscape would look in the spring. The harsh glare of snow and ice will soon be replaced with tall grasses, wildflowers, seasonal wetlands and cattle.

From Team Two Wheel

The Charles Road descent is about a mile and a half long. The first 1/3 is steep, bringing you up to speed quickly. The second 1/3 has a straightaway that’s really steep, bringing you into a gentle, wide turn. The last part is gradual, but by the time you get there you can be going pretty quickly if that’s your preference.

I started to describe what happened on this road at the beginning of this post. I made the turn and the tailwind made it very, very quiet. Sprinting for the first 50 meters and moving over the front wheel helped pick up speed more than usual.

Going into the steeper section brought another big acceleration. My bike felt like it was floating—not in a scary way, but it was such a quick burst of speed.

I’m not sure, but I may have gone faster than this once or twice before on a bike. Either way though, it was definitely fast. Here’s a picture of my computer at the end of the ride, showing max speed.

From Team Two Wheel

The rolling section after the descent brings you to the base of Nine Mile Dam.
From Team Two Wheel

The last hour of the ride was relatively uneventful. Riding along the river was beautiful and I found a good rhythm. Then it was up Doomsday Hill and through West Central. I pegged it over Monroe Street bridge to keep up with the cars, then resisted the urge to stop at the Rocket Bakery two blocks from home.
From Team Two Wheel

Signs of a winter ride.

From Team Two Wheel

So all in all a good Saturday ride. 3 hours and 50ish miles. After a quick sandwich and a shower I fired up the moka pot. Coffee really is an essential part of the ride.

From Team Two Wheel