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

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