Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A new kind of race strategy

 As Rider 3 mentioned in a post earlier this week, the first races in eastern Washington begin this weekend. Yes, some riders here have already chosen to drive six hours each way to take part in office park criteriums, but I got over doing that a long time ago.
For this reason, and others, like say our abysmal winter, the fact that I have a four year old and an exceptionally busy job, my training has been a few standard deviations to the left of consistent. In any case, I’m really, really far away from being in racing shape. And I don't mean that in a "I'm really out of shape, but watch me slay all this weekend. Seriously, I'm not in very good race shape.
Rather than making the choice that I know some riders (i.e., Rider 3) are making to skip this weekend’s festivities, I’m considering an alternative. And no, I’m not going to mix up a sweet cocktail of EPO, insulin, testosterone and whatever other oxygen vector drugs I can find.
, however, considering a chemical alternative. One that will leave me extremely tranquilo.
That’s right, I’m thinking about taking rohypnol right before the start of the road race
. If you’re not familiar with “ruffies” it’s a drug kids take (or give to others) to induce short-term amnesia. Thanks to many a nefarious frat boy, rohypnol has earned its nickname as the date rape drug.
So here’s the plan: I’ll ruffie myself (is this a verb?) and save myself all kinds of long-term emotional damage. I think this is a great solution. I’m pretty sure that I’ll need to push myself into the stratosphere of hypoxia just to keep up with the main group. This will be absolutely unpleasant, and the memories and recollections of this weekend’s racing could very well lead to a long-term relationship with a psychiatrist, or at least a psychologist. Maybe even a Buddhist, botanist, plagiarist or someone else whose profession ends with an ist.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still work hard and get the long-term benefit of destroying myself. I just won’t need to remember it.

I know, I know, there’s so much you get to learn about yourself in a race. Suffering builds character and all that jazz. But you know what? Suffering is far more enjoyable when you’re in shape.
But I digress. There are other benefits to my ruffies strategy. For example, you know those rides where your “friends” recount again and again that time in the race when they made their move and shattered the group, while also pointing out that was where you were spit out of the group faster than Dick Cheney would run from a gay bar? Well, I’ll be able to cut off that chamois sniffing conversation as soon as it starts. “Sorry, I don’t remember it at all.”

In case I can’t score any ruffies in time for the weekend, I’ll instead pray for horrific weather. Screw it. Let’s go all in. Bring on the wind, the sideways rain, a hailstorm or two and a few strongmen sticking it in the gutter. If I’m going to suffer monumentally so should everyone else, right? And really, the harsher the conditions the better I usually fare.

Until then, here’s to ruffies.


Team Kit

This weekend my riding plans were stymied by the weather (and my son's soccer game), but mostly the weather. Have I mentioned that I am frustrated by the weather? We had a spot of sun this morning, prompting me to begin composition of an ode to the golden orb, but at the same time it was below freezing and the sun is gone as I write this. I have begun to obsess about the difference between our "normal" temperatures and our current temperatures. Shall I go into extraordinary detail for you? How about a spreadsheet with hour-by-hour variations? No, then I will proceed with something else.

This weekend, I hit the trainer both Saturday and Sunday. I did so, however, in a different fashion than normal. When I ride my trainer, I tend to grab shorts that I like the least. I think that I am saving my favored shorts for outdoor rides, but I'm not sure I can really explain this. I also usually ride in a jersey. A little while ago I decided to just ride in the t-shirt I was wearing and I remembered why a jersey is nice. It turns out that cotton t-shirts and poly/lycra jerseys react differently to sweat. It's almost as if someone thought about this and made the jerseys that way on purpose. Anyway, as with shorts, I tend to grab older or less favored jerseys.

Saturday morning, however, was very different. I was pleased, nay proud, to pull out my brand new Team Two Wheel jersey and a brand new pair of Giordana Carbon Red bib shorts. These were passed out at the first ever Team Two Wheel Family Appreciation Night. Our TTW family appreciation dinner could use a blog post of its own, but it will have to wait for another time. Suffice it to say that more food and more wine was consumed that was appropriate for training cyclists. In my rowing days we used to have a motto we kept in mind, "Live Like a Monk, Train Like a Madman." In this case, we were living like a sect of monks who find divine inspiration in a bottles of Leonetti wines. You can see, however, after that evening that the training portion couldn't be ignored even though rain/snow/sleet/hail/frogs were all forecast. So, it was with great joy and anticipation that I pulled on the new team kit and hit the trainer.

Here is the e-mail that I sent out to Rider 1, Rider 2 and Two Wheel Transit's owner after my trainer time:
I rode my trainer for 90 minutes this morning and our team kit is awesome. My power output was huge, I was hardly breathing and the wheel started to smoke.

Well, not really, but the jersey is comfortable and the shorts are really nice.
We are going to post some pictures of the new kit and our t-shirts (available by e-mailing us) very soon (Hey, I'm looking at YOU Rider 1!), so I will save the details, but I really like the Giordana shorts. I don't know why I have had almost every other brand, but never tried the Giordana. I was missing out on some very nice shorts: solid construction, great placement of seams and fabric types, awesome pad - the whole package. Among the three of us, we got different kinds of shorts, so we will have to weigh in on all of them, but I love the Carbon Red bib shorts.

So, after that experience on Saturday, on Sunday morning I looked out the window at the newly fallen snow on my lawn, the slush cascading out of the sky and the 34° temperature and decided a bit more trainer time was in order. It also occurred to me that I had another piece of team kit: a skinsuit. Now, before those of you who ride with me turn your eyes in horror, I promise two things. First, there are no pictures below, and second, I have arranged for lead and trailing vehicles to be with me at all times I would ride outside in the skinsuit. While "Wide Load" vehicles would work effectively, these trucks will have flashing lights and customized signs stating, "Warning - Skinsuit on unsuitable body type ahead!" This may prove to be an unfair advantage at a time trail if these vehicles motorpace me to the front like a Belgian race official when a Frenchman is out front, but trust me, the UCI will find a loophole to justify it for the safety of the other riders and innocent bystanders.

Now, of course, you are wondering why would I get a skinsuit at all. Fair question. Here is the answer: I was tricked into it. Maybe peer pressured into it is a better way of looking at it. And despite all the advice that middle schoolers shouldn't make decisions based on peer pressure, I have had a lot of experiences I wouldn't have had otherwise if not for peer pressure. How can you know it isn't a good idea to ride your bike down the slide at the park unless you try it? Anyway, Rider 1 and Rider 2 are the type of folks who are fast and can conceivably benefit from skinsuits, so they wanted them as part of the team kit. They said I had to have one if I was going to be on the team, so what the hell, I got one.

I have watched a lot of professional cycling on television. Being early to this game, I probably have seen most of the professional cycling that has ever been shown on american television. You think I'm using hyperbole to make a point, but it is really true. Anyway, I have seen pro riders putting on or peeling off the tops of skinsuits and now I know why they look so damn foolish doing it. It is an absurdly difficult thing to do even when you are a 5% body fat pro, so my physique combined with my flexibility and lack of experience made for an interesting process. At one point I was wondering what the paramedics were going to say.

After I got it on, it was frankly just as perplexing. I find it interesting that if I buy a nice shirt they want to know my neck size and sleeve length. If I buy a sport coat they want to know my chest measurement and offer me a coat in various lengths based on that. When I got this skinsuit, I had a choice between five total sizes. I think that even five people my same height would have different needs, much less finding five people my same weight. When your shorts and shirt aren't connected, you can make due with some variation, but I think that when you make them one-piece, it might need some more sizing consideration.

The other thing that is completely normal (I suppose) for a skinsuit is that it really fits when you are in the riding position and less so for the standing-up-walking-around-the-kitchen position. Either that or the skinsuit model for the XXXXL model is shorter than I am, at least in the torso. In either case, mine didn't feel that comfortable for standing (let your imagination help you understand the problem), but I was surprised at how comfortable it was when I got on the bike.

The skinsuit is also from Giordana. The pad is different from my shorts, it is a bit less fancy from appearance, so I would guess it goes into shorts at a lower price point from the Carbon bibs, but it was also very comfortable. I only spent an hour on the trainer Sunday, but I got in some intervals (I know they work, but do they have to make you feel so miserable? They do have to? Oh.) to make up for the short time I had to devote to it. The skinsuit felt very sleek and interesting and was comfortable once I got into it. I did have one issue with the skinsuit though, beyond the body contained in it. That is that the lower portion is the correct color for all cycling shorts (you don't have to ask, do you?), but the top is white. The color and fabric combine for the effect you want to have at a wet t-shirt contest, but it is not a pleasing effect for a hairy-chested, middle-aged, large male cyclist. I'm just saying. And, unfortunately, so did my kids. Don't worry though, they're in therapy.

Blog post synopis - TTW Team Kit - Awesome. TTW Team Skinsuit - Awesome in theory; On Rider 3 - minimize exposure to sensitive individuals and children.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Weekend Ride Report / Frozen Flatlands

I love Spokane. I really do. So that is why it is painful for me to say this: Spokane Sucks.

Maybe it's a form of cabin fever, but I am getting so sick of the weather that I, a Grade AAA Spokane booster, am thinking about places to move where it is not snowing on the last days of March, where the overnight temperatures are not below freezing virtually every day of March and where my weekend riding will not yet AGAIN be cut out by lousy weather.

Okay, I am willing to admit that Spokane is not having the worst weather in the country. There are serious floods, snow storms and even reports of the first tornado of the year. But I'm not in any of those places, because you can be sure I would be complaining bitterly about all of that too. When roads are under water or being blown by tornadoes, it is also hard to ride, but I'm not those places so I am going to feel free to complain about the weather in this place.

Another issue is that we started this blog at a time when cycling is a bit difficult in Spokane. In January we got enthusiastic about the upcoming riding season, got Team Two Wheel going, started blogging and started riding or wanting to ride. The daily focus on cycling that this blog has produced has also increased my desire to get out on my bike. Therefore it is all the more frustrating that we have had a particularly lousy, crappy, awful, horrible, rotten, no-good riding year so far. It's a damn shame. Next time I start a bike blog I am waiting for nice weather.

Another side effect of this awful weather is that training for, and my personal enthusiasm for, our first race of the season, Frozen Flatlands, put on by the Baddlands Cycling Club, is very low. Two years ago I was focused on being race-ready by the time this event came around. I had ridden the 48-mile course 4 times before the race and had had lots of good back-to-back training rides. This year, I have not ridden the course once. I have gotten in only 2-3 50-mile rides since January and have had maybe 2 weekends with back-to-back good rides. A quick perusal of ride reports will focus on cold weather, wet weather and my ass getting dropped. This is not a good run-up for the first race of the year.

In our area, some bike race organizers have come and gone, but the only weekend race we have each year is Frozen Flatlands. I very, very much appreciate the work Baddlands does to put on this race, but I do wonder why it is so early in the year. I'm sure that someone could explain it to me, but as I contemplate the snow on my lawn and the six days until the race, it does make me wonder. I know that Rider 2 is signed up for the full Omnium, and I think Rider 1 is also. Maybe I should show my support for the race by volunteering, rather than showing my support by taking up space as pack fodder for the first half and then watching the fit guys walk away after Williams Lake. I'll let you know.

In the meantime, I will try to think of something not bitter to blog about next time.
Rider 3

Friday, March 27, 2009

Dr. Spalm Answers a Question

Dr. Spalm - Rider Three mentioned a rider "proving his manhood" by charging off and that the group he started with dumped him. I always thought rides were basically a survival-of-the-fittest deal and that's the way it goes, but he sounded like someone should have waited. What's the deal? I don't think Quicksilver would have made the same comment.
Me Strong, You Weak.

Dear Mr. Strong/Weak - You are correct to notice this dichotomy that is often present in sports activities. I am paid to produce these responses on a per-word basis, but I am not compensated for reading the other drivel on this page, so I am not familiar with the specific situation, but here are my comments on this topic generally.

Whenever males congregate to engage in an activity, there is a process whereby the members of the group determine the pecking order between the participants. Sometimes this is an explicit process, for instance the challenge ladder for most racket sports or the Silver Back Gorilla killing weaker troop members to take their mates. Other times this is more subtle and less clearly delineated, whether in a group of migratory birds that have characteristics of both team and dominant behavior or among over-the-hill drinking buddies each sure that he is the one most attractive to the college-age server. In every instance, however, this is present to some degree.

In cycling, there are also delineations among different activities. For instance, mountain bikers have more of a start/stop approach to rides, so that the group congregates occasionally to discuss the ride or route. In part this is because communication forward and back is more difficult and a group tends to spread out to give each rider a view of the trail. The distance between stops will vary significantly depending on the skill and fitness level, degree of familiarity with the trails and whether one member brought along his cousin who bought a department store mountain bike the week before. But I digress.

For road riders, there appears to be a delineation between those who race with a number pinned on their jersey and those who only race without a number pinned on their jersey. Those who line up for sanctioned races tend to recognize the clear cut signs that they are in a "race", while they tend to think of other bike activities as "training" or "riding". Categorizing their time on the bike in such groups enables them to understand which times they should be competing directly with the other riders around them and which times they should not.

There are many riders, however, who have no interest in attending sanctioned races. There are many legitimate reasons for declining to participate in races and the vast majority of cyclists don't ever compete with a race number on their bike and jersey. The subset of the most interest, however, to those of us who study human behavior, are those who do not pin on a number and yet still "race" their group of riders. The benefit of this style of racing is that it most suits the individual's proclivity not only for the ride, but even within portions of a ride or even moment by moment. Said riders can travel along for miles and miles "not racing" and then as the group goes up or down a hill, this individual can instantly self-proclaim the time for a "non-race race", preferably by sprinting away from the group. The benefit of this non-race race is that in addition to the starting line being a mystery to all except the rider declaring it so, the finish line is equally arbitrary and can appear literally anywhere, although usually its appearance is foretold by another rider being in a position to pass the declaring non-racer.

The internal conversation would go something like this:

First 45 minutes - "I'm feeling good today, so I better sit in a protected spot out of the wind the way the professional team leaders do."

As climb approaches - "This ride has been too easy. I don't know why those guys in the front are complaining about the wind so much. I haven't noticed it back here."

At the base of the climb - "I think I'll show those guys who is the strongest today. I'm the best and everyone should know it. . . Here I go!"

90 seconds later - "Damn I'm good. LOOK AT ME!"

90 seconds later as another cyclist closes in - "Well, that's enough for today. I sure showed them! I guess I should slow down so I don't get too far out front."

This process can be repeated multiple times in one ride or there may be just one glory portion, it depends on the rider situation. This situation can also be replayed by different riders at different portions of the ride, so that many non-racing racers can enjoy the victories throughout an extended group ride. While this may muddy the establish of dominance among the competing group, there in no question in the internal dialogue of the non-racing racer.

So, Mr. Strong/Weak, there is clearly not a simple answer to your question, nor is Dr. Spalm capable of offering a simple statement when a longer and more convoluted one will do. So, please remember these basic rules of the group ride.

1 - Races, as defined by a commonly known start and finish line, are survival of the fittest gatherings. The first one across the finish line (regardless of the work done by or worth to humanity of the individual) is the one who wins.

2 - Smaller Group rides among friends are also survival of the fittest gatherings, but only to the extent that someone has to buy the pitcher of beer or round of espressos after the ride.

3 - Larger Group rides among riding acquaintances are also survival of the fittest gatherings, but only to the extent that you adhere to the mores of the particular group. Failure to adhere to such mores can mean that you are "accidentally" left out when news of the ride is going around.

4 - Group rides that are specifically called "No Drop" rides are not simply survival of the fittest rides as one or more members of the group will take responsibility to help out riders who are dropping behind or having difficulty.

5 - Group rides that are not specifically called "No Drop", but which some people want to be "No Drop" will cause feelings of anger or hostility by those being dropped. And no, Rider 3, I am not specifically referring to you, so you and your pack of lawyers can call off the libel accusations before you even start.

6 - In all group rides, look for the strongest riders to not be the ones showboating off the front because they are confident in their strength and they don't need the Pretty Pony moment to prove it.

I trust that this answers your question, except to say, you are right, Quicksilver wouldn't make such a comment as Quicksilver is a man of few blogging words and would instead ride his bike.

Dr. Spalm

If you have a question for Dr. Spalm, please leave it in the comment box or e-mail it to one of the members of Team Two Wheel. Not because of the volume of mail, but only because of the appropriateness for further commentary, some questions may not receive personal attention. Dr. Spalm is not available for private consultation, but will accept additional writing engagements at his traditional per-word compensation.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Competitive Cyclist

First off, yes, this is a Team Two Wheel blog, so we typically write about local stuff and when we talk about bike stores or cycling equipment, we tend towards our LBS (Local Bike Shop) Two Wheel Transit. I think, though, that Competitive Cyclist deserves a shout out for a few reasons.

Reason No. 1 - The CC website. The link is right there and you should feel free to take a look. Just promise to come back in an hour or two when you have satiated yourself. Whether you pick the road bike side or mountain bike side you will find something you want to buy or at least you want to dream about buying. The site is organized well, is multi-functional (which to me means you can access the information in lots of ways) and the descriptions of products are pitch perfect. I have spent hours fantasizing about products I need, particularly wheels, while looking at this website. Speaking of which, I have a two step plan to end up with the perfect set of wheels. I'll share it with you because that is the way I show I care about you, the faithful TTW reader.

Step One - Win Lottery.

Step Two - Read all the descriptions at Competitive Cyclist and Pick Wheels. Oh sure, sometimes I go back and forth on which pair. Do I need Lightweights or Reynolds for my climbing wheels? Do I need some Zipp 808's for time trials and ass-kicking Saturday shop rides? Should I pick some Campy's for my everyday wheels or some Bora's because no one else on this continent has them?

I don't know yet, but the interesting, detailed and "honest" assessments remind me of a cross between J. Peterman and BikeSnob. Great information, some real view point and lots of reasons to buy. BTW, the reason I put "honest" in quotes is that we have to be realistic. CC isn't a product test site; they sell this stuff. But I appreciate that the description really does tell a story and gives you insight into the product and your deep-seated need to buy.

Which leads to the Reason No. 2 - Their business model. Tell me whether this sounds like a good business plan. Charge full retail price at your website and depend on national sales of a product that needs regular local maintainence. What? You think that won't work? You are wrong. It does work, or least the emperical evidence either proves that it works or that CC is owned by a Trust Fund Baby. If you follow the link, you will see the coolest bike warehouse this side of QBP.

Personally, I am glad that there are dentists and AIG executives who still have enough money to buy souped-up Cervelos and Lightweight wheels to have put CC into a new building. Someone needs to live the dream to keep it alive in all of our souls. It's the antidote to Orwell's nightmares.

Reason No. 3 - "What's New" Under the "News" tab, there is sub-heading called "What's New". You would expect this to be some industry press releases and an 18-month old notice about the company picnic. Well you are WRONG! Instead it is written by an owner of CC and it includes fearless and straight-forward discussion of the bike industry, bike racing and whatever comes across this guy's mind. I may not agree with every opinion, but I love reading his opinion no matter what. Here are a couple of examples from the most current missive:
To all of the people out there who a throwing fits because our Shimano Dura Ace Di2 front derailleur and rear derailleur prices are "higher than MSRP!!!" it's because we're adding the cost of the transmitter cables, the battery, the battery mount, and the battery charger. We make that clear as day on our product pages, but we also realize that reading and/or paying attention to something for longer than 2 seconds is indeed an acquired skill.
Just to be clear, this means that this guy is calling his customers idiots. Hey, customers ARE idiots, but most of us don't have the cajones to just say it. Chapeau my CC friend, Chapeau.

Now, lest you think this is an unmitigated love fest, I have to tell you that I simply don't understand some things, like this section, also from the most recent entry:
Hincapie Jeans. Thanks to a friend-of-a-friend connection, I scored a free pair of these. I've always been a Levi's guy (more by default than by conscious choice), and the difference between Sears-sourced 505's and my Hincapies are like going from 105 to Dura Ace. The fit is totally different: Most notably, the distance from the waist to the crotch is measurably shorter (a pal told us this is how "designer" jeans are cut). And the denim isn't just denim. There's a small hint of stretch to them -- like there's lycra or something beyond just denim there. The stretch makes them more agreeable as you put them on, and if you have any physical oddities (be it mammoth quads, or just a beefy Italian rump like yours truly) there's none of the discomfort you get from new-and-intractable denim like you get from Levi's.
So, again, to clarify, this guy at other times talks about how much he loves the Belgian Classics and the hard-man aspects of cycling, but who is taking the time to tell us he loves spandex-enhanced designer jeans. Man, I've got nothing against a bit of well placed homo-eroticism, but this guy isn't blogging about his outfit for the Morrisey concert, he is selling high-end road bikes. After reading this, I don't want a pair of Hincapie jeans any more than I want a pair of Hincapie veins, but I gotta give the guy props.

So here is the shout-out to Competitive Cyclist. If you want some insight into the bike industry and some comments from a guy who lives cycling, check out "What's New". If you want a great description of a huge range of cycling gear from a website that absolutely puts every other bike gear website to shame, not to mention most websites in most industries, take a look at Competitive Cyclist when you've got some time and some cash to burn. And if you've got a better plan for getting the perfect set of wheels, let me know.
Rider 3

PB - If it occurs to you that someone who is in the same room as you are can do a better job fitting your bike than someone on a website, you might still consider doing business with your LBS.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Quicksilver Responds

As a group, we are finally getting on with riding bikes instead of blogging about bikes. That's good with me.

I see that Rider 3 mentions me in his posts about this weekend's rides. I also see that his motor gave out both days, but his keyboard keeps clacking along no matter what.

My guess is that Dr. Spalm's prescription would be, "Next week, more pedal pushing and less pencil pushing." I'm just saying.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Ride of the Damned - A Story in Two Parts, this being Part Two

This a tale of two rides, the first ride being in yesterday's post and the second ride being contained herewith. As I told you yesterday, they were the worst of rides and the worser of rides. Saturday's ride was started with hope and zest, the way a dewy marriage does, and ended in bitter recriminations and despair, the way . . . never mind.

Anyway, if you read yesterday's post with an eye for detail and attention, and did some extensive "Map-My-Ride-of-the-Damned" work, you would see that we rode about 50+ miles in something under 3 hours (I've stopped using a cycling computer or heart rate monitor, so I'm not sure). For me, this included some periods of hard work, a useless pseudo-time trail and breaking wind for most of the last hour (What, did Craig Hummer just write that last sentence?). Suffice it to say, it was a hard ride and I was feeling it in my legs the rest of Saturday. Nonetheless, I had made a plan to ride on Sunday, and since the time was adjusted so I could make it, I had an obligation to be there.

Sunday morning was wet. Wetter than had been forecast. While I had breakfast with the family, I couldn't help but notice the rain which didn't seem to be lessening as the morning wore on. As I drove in from the Spokane Valley, I called Rider 1 to see if he was having second thoughts. His answer was obvious and correct, any ride is better than no ride. He followed up with, "If it keeps raining, we'll just ride for a little while."

The four of us that actually showed up for the ride must have been the most optimistic people on this planet. I drove through 12 miles of rain storms to get to the meeting spot. M.K. checked the doppler and saw nothing but rain. Rider 2 showed up in shorts (not tights, no knee warmers, despite being 40° and raining) and a jersey with no rain coat. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, we all assumed that by some miracle or other divine intervention, the rain would stop and we would be glad to have gone for a ride.

It was not to be. As Rider 2 pointed out, it was one of those rare, rare days when you wished you hadn't gone for a ride.

Mostly out of pity for my spent legs and waning fortitude, we decided to head through downtown and get on the Centennial Trail. We decided to go "for a while" and see how we felt. I can tell you how I felt: cold, wet and miserable. But then it got worse. Seriously.

You've heard people say things like, "I couldn't have been any wetter," but it's usually hyperbole. In this case, it was literally and absolutely true. We could have jumped into a swimming pool with our bikes, swum around for 10-15 minutes just to be sure that everything absorbed as much water as possible, gotten out and gone for a ride and we would have been just as exactly and completely wet as we were after this ride.

Two Wheel Transit doesn't carry an inventory of winter riding shoes, but they ordered in a pair of Northwave Celsius GTX shoes for me. I love these shoes. They are great and do exactly what you would expect from a winter riding shoe in cold weather. I discovered today, however, that there is one downside to a shoe that provides this much protection and this much of an enclosure. If you are unfortunate enough to have a massive amount of water run down your legs, it will eventually fill up these shoes and their protective enclosure from cold air turns them into tiny traveling bathtubs for your feet. To their credit, when I removed the shoes I could see steam rising out them, so they did their work to the best of their ability, but they are winter shoes, not spd-compatible galoshes.

I can also tell you when the shoes hit their total water carrying capacity. At one point on the ride, Rider 1 made a joke about Rider 2 being the only one without fenders. He said, "One of these things is not like the other." He could have been talking about me instead. I was with three fitter, faster riders and it was crystal clear.

Our ride took us into the Spokane Valley towards Idaho. We decided to ride out for 45 minutes and then turn around. I took short or non-existent pulls and was looking for shelter whenever possible. As we made our way home along Upriver Drive, we were strung out somewhat in an echelon. The echelon was due to the wind and rain coming up from tires even with fenders. Despite the misery of three of us, Quicksilver was pulling at the front with dreams of Belgian riding dancing in his head. I was on the back end and closer to the curb trying to maintain just enough visibility to not be a danger to myself and I was trying to "just hang on for a few minutes more." That is the period of time where one part of your brain is saying, "nope, had enough" and the other part is saying, "just a little bit longer." If it weren't for the battle in my head, I would have had nothing else to think about except the pain and misery I was enduring. So I had that going for me.

I had hopes that if we made it back to Avista, we would slow down, so I was digging into my tiny coin purse of courage to keep on M.K's wheel. What I didn't see was that there were a number of long puddles in my line that the other three were staying either out of or in the shallow portion. As I hit the deeper portion of the puddle, it dropped my speed just enough that I was gapped and that was all she wrote. The rubber band had snapped. I had given all I had to give and my legs were naught but cold, tight impediments to my cycling. To add insult to injury, the increase in water spit across my shins, drained down my legs and filled up the bathtubs connected to my pedals.

Being with riders who believe in sticking together and getting the weakest guy home safely, they slowed down and limped me home. At one point we transitioned off the Centennial Trail into the University District. Knowing that I was holding everyone up, I picked up the pace the best I could and led the way. It was just then that I realized I was on my own personal Ride of the Damned. The only reason I was in front was because I was the weak link. They were soft pedaling behind me and chatting as I had a look of grim determination on my face. I was with the others, but completely alone. There was little dignity to be maintained, no redemption possible and the hope for salvation was found only in Rider 1's wise wife's affirmation upon our return, "Fortitudine Vincimus". By Endurance We Shall Conquer. Not today, but these days add up and eventually it all seems worthwhile. Eventually we shall rejoice in the memories and be thankful for the increased endurance when it appears to us.

Here endeth the stories of the Damned.
Rider 3

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Ride of the Damned - A Story in Two Parts

This a tale of two rides. They were the worst of rides and the worser of rides. Let me begin, as so many tales do, with an unreasonable hope that will ultimately be dashed against the shoals of despair and roads of asphalt.

For riders in the southern climates, this year's riding and racing season began around Thanksgiving. For those of us in Spokane, a Thanksgiving or New Year's Day ride is often possible but it is a triumph of spirit and will over the elements. And yes, I recognize that riders in Saskatoon think we are pansies since they don't start riding outdoors until the annual Saskatchewan Moose Husbandry Festival, which coincidentally coincides with our Fourth of July, and their season usually ends at the start of the Saskatchewan Ice Festival, which coincides with our August 1st. But this year in Spokane we have had a wretched and unending winter that has let loose hail, snow and cold rain day after day after godforsaken day.

So, when the promise of decent weather on a Saturday morning presented itself, it was a welcome relief and indication that we Spokanites might actually experience a change of season. As men of action, one of the members of Team Two Wheel took to electronic notification to our various friends, companions and fellow riders. We agreed to meet at The Scoop, an ice cream and coffee shop known to be friendly to cyclists, and roll away at noon. At the appointed hour it was a welcome sight to see 22 riders rolling up from literally every direction to take part. We had a range of riders, from some members of the GU cycling team to some members of the AARP cycling team. The weather was decent, in the mid-40's and it appeared that we picked a nice break in the intermittent rain.

There was brief discussion about a route, but no one was particularly committal. With a general sense of "Let's go" or "You lead the way", we headed out. There was minimal discussion of "about two hours" and "we can pick a spot where some people can head home and others can go longer". With a plucky sense of adventure suitable to a Gilbert and Sullivan production we followed Quicksilver off the South Hill, through Vinegar Flats and to the West Plains. Personally, I am never thrilled to heading up Thorpe Road, because it is not so steep as to be an actual hillclimb, but it too steep and too long to ignore. I gamely kept pace with the group, but was troubled to see that I was huffing and puffing mightily while my compatriots were talking pleasantly. We regrouped at the top, a welcome relief since I had exerted myself to stay with the front group, and moved on. The next bit along Spotted Road gave us a tail wind and we charged along 2 by 2 feeling good about being outside on our bikes in the nicest weather we had experienced yet this year. I noticed that our speed was high, but then again, so were our spirits.

Following well known roads, albiet with a few more noticable lumps of hills, we made our way to Cheney. There was still enough zest in the group to have some members sprinting for the City limit sign. At this point, though, there were the first rumblings about when to "turn back" or just what route. In a spirit of comraderie, some suggested we all stick together and a suitable turn off would be forthcoming. It was a few miles later that the first signs of fatigue started to be noticeable. Along the roller strewn Salnave Road, the group broke up for the first time. I was in the rear and was glad to no longer be holding on to the faster bunch. I knew the quickest route back, but the reality is that by turning left, instead of right, in Cheney, we were adding many miles to the route no matter what.

Somewhat to my surprise, I found the front group waiting for us on Clear Lake Road. We pulled up to the group and put a foot down for members to deal with various nutritional and natural functions. To my further surprise, Rider 1 posited that "some" of us, meaning me and whoever was foolhardy enough to go with me, should ride down Clear Lake Road while Rider 1 and 2 offered suggestions to the GU cycling team members on team time trial techniques and they tried to chase us down. My immediate response to this was something similar to "What if I don't want to be your f___ing rabbit? Okay, that was actually my exact response.

Nonetheless, always endeavoring to be a companionable individual, I agreed and invited some of the group to go with me. Keep in mind the following important facts when we consider the next thing that happened: there were 22 of us total; Rider 1 and 2 had volunteered to work with 3 members of the GU team, which basic math would indicate left me and 16 others who were available to ride up the road; and that just prior to this proposal, I was part of the "second" group, aka, the ones who didn't have the legs to stick with the first group. Therefore, it is completely logical that only one person was willing to come with me. Thankfully for me, he was a strong rider. We took 30-60 seconds pulls and worked well together right up until the time I was ready to blow chunks and collapse beside the road. Nonetheless, we upheld our honor and made it to the intersection with Medical Lake Road ahead of everyone else. So, honor fulfilled, legs completely depleted. No problem except the 20 miles to get home.

At this point, the group agreed to make its way to Medical Lake, where the hearty souls looking for a longer ride would go one way and the rest of us would head home. Rider 1 and 2 took the "hearty souls" option. I took the "head home" option.

As one exits Medical Lake, you go down a small hill and head into an exposed area, which today, had a reasonable head wind. One member of the group, who shall remain nameless, decided that after sitting in the group the whole day, this was the time to prove his manhood and he went full gas down the hill and charging into the plains. Decision time for most of the group; dig deep and grab a wheel or let go. I drifted back to find a suitable wheel, held on a for a bit and saw our group of 12-14 strung out over a distance. Instead of being a "group", we were suddenly clumps of 2-3 with small gaps between. I looked back and saw someone trailing off quickly and realized that I hadn't seen a couple of riders I was sure were in the "head home" group. I assumed that the group would see the wisdom of finishing the ride together and would wait up the road a bit, so I dropped off the back to pick up one rider and wait for the other two.

After soft pedalling with one rider for a few minutes, I realized that I was mistaken about the other two being behind or that they had gone another direction. So the two of us picked up the pace so the rest of our group wouldn't have to wait too long. I shouldn't have worried about the rest of the group, since, as it turns out, they certainly weren't worried about us.

As a result, my companion and I never saw the group again and we turned into our own small Ride of the Damned. It turns out, though, that my companion was Damned not just by the wind and softening legs, but also by the Man with the Hammer. The Man with the Hammer is a French phrase for "bonking", not to be confused with the French pastime "boinking". For the one reader hereof who may not be familiar with the term "bonking" (Hi Mom!), it technically means that you have depleted your muscle glycogen. Non-technically it means the tank is empty. You feel as if you can't turn the pedals and sitting by the road is the only reasonable alternative.

With a promise that the ride was "mostly downhill", I promised this rider that if we could make it to my house I would give him transportation to his home, which effectively cut about ten miles out of his return journey. He motored on to the best of his ability, but it was diminishing ability. Having been in that spot I was as sympathetic as I could be, but there is no other way to do it but just pedal along as well as you can. We had the misfortune of adding a rain to the final 20 minutes of our ride, but salvation finally came for the Damned in the form of escape from the elements, a warm home, some food and drink, and motor transportation home.

It reminds me of another ride, from Hope to Despair, but that is a story for another day.
Rider Three

Part Two, Sunday's Ride of the Damned, tomorrow.

Friday, March 20, 2009

D2 Shoe Review

The superginormous secret is revealed!

I know many of our readers have had trouble sleeping lately as they wondered what the fancy-looking box I posted about earlier this week contained.

Well, all of your questions will now be answered. The container is actually a crush box from D2 Shoes (FYI, this is pronounced D squared). So today I’ll fill you in on the ordering process, and also a bit about why I’m ordering them.

First some background
As Rider 3 has referenced at least once on this blog, and virtually every time we ride together, I am particular about certain things about my bike and gear. The key words in this previous sentence are “certain” and “things.” For whatever reason (maybe it’s the four knee surgeries I’ve had?) I’m very sensitive to changes in my position, and I acknowledge that I am especially picky about the gear that represent my link with the bike: namely my shoes, my handlebars and my seat. I also like a helmet that fits and vents well. As Louis Sullivan said, form follows function. Then again Frank Lloyd Wright said that function follows form. Anyway, one or both of these dead architects is right.

Years ago I was in the fortunate position to get a lot of equipment for free. Shoes, bikes, clothing, helmets, glasses, etc. Free stuff is great. Mostly. I  say mostly because I can guarantee you that there isn’t a single pro team that doesn’t have riders that complain about the fit of their clothing, their chamois, their helmets, their saddles, and more. A delivery of new equipment to the team was often followed by riders taking part in practices most manufacturers preferred not to know about. Dremmels and files were taken to helmet vents to make them bigger. The inside of shoes were sliced to allow  for toes to be jammed in comfortably. Stock insoles were replaced with orthotics to make shoes more comfortable (or shoe covers were used to mask another manufacturer's products, even in 90 degree heat), arm holes on jerseys were tailored to fit freakishly skinny riders, and more. And still the complaints followed. One person would be mad because the jersey zipper with big teeth was too obtrusive. So new jerseys would be made with smaller zippers. Then another rider would get upset because the smaller zippers would jam. And on and on it went. I don’t blame the riders. Putting in big miles with an uncomfortable saddle (or shoes or jersey or helmet) isn’t very much fun.

So what does this have to do with me? Well for years, and when I write years I mean like 10 or 12 years, I have really wanted a set of custom cycling shoes. I’ve heard riders high enough up on the athlete food chain to have sets made for them by Sidi or Northwave gush about how amazing they were. And while I’ve had some shoes I’ve liked/tolerated, nothing has ever fit me exceptionally well.

During my time riding I’ve had a lot of shoes. How many? Too many to count or at least to remember. A quick recollection though includes shoes from Detto, Vittoria (with wooden soles!), Diadora, Time, Brancale, Shimano, Northwave, Carnac, Sidi, Nike, Duegi, Specialized and a few others. I even had a set of absolutely hideous Alpinestars kicks way back in the early days of mountain bikes.

Part of my shoe fitting challenge is that I have a very wide forefoot, but a narrow heel. So a wide shoe often means I experience heel lift. But shoes that fit my heel are typically too narrow up front. And I’m sure you’ve noticed how expensive shoes are. I don’t have a problem spending money on shoes (or saddles), but I do have a problem spending a lot of money on shoes I’m not happy with.

The D2 process
So a couple of weeks ago I finally decided to plunk down for a set of custom shoes. But which ones to buy? The two brands I considered were D2 and Rocket7. I know people with both. I liked the way the D2 shoes looked more, but initially I was going to order the Rocket7s. They’re in Washington state, and I like the idea of supporting a semi-local company, and they get great reviews from people I trust. If you’ve seen the new “Nike” shoes Lance is wearing, you’ve seen Rocket7s (allegedly). Unfortunately they didn’t return my calls or e-mails.

D2 on the other hand were, and continue to be, exceptionally responsive. This is important to me, especially when I’m plunking down this much money on a set of shoes. Plus, like I said the D2 shoes are very cool looking. I love the sailcloth they use for the harness of the shoe. Very slick stuff. 

I ordered their shoe fit kit online. Two days later it arrived. In between that time I picked colors for my new shoes using their handy little online shoe designer.

Opening up the fit kit revealed two large pieces of foam, a set of instructions, paper for tracing your feet, and a series of tools and guides for said tracing.

From Team Two Wheel

My friend, and rolfer extraordinaire, Jake McBurns, helped me with the process. In all it took about 30 minutes to complete. We first traced both feet using one of the tools, and took some relatively simple measurements with the included paper tape measure to record the width of my feet, circumference of my arches and heels. Then it was on to the crush box.

The foam is pressure sensitive so it’s important to follow the instructions very carefully. It was a straightforward process. We made a couple of marks on my feet with the included depth gauge to ensure we made a consistent impression, then I sat in a chair while Jake pushed my feet into the foam.

From Team Two Wheel

I planned to include a couple of additional pictures, but when I looked at the pics I realized I haven’t trimmed my toenails in a while, and they looked kind of disgusting. Trust me when I say skipping the photos is all for the best. Plus, the D2 site has plenty of good examples (of what to do, not of nasty toenails).

Then I was off to work, where I used this ancient thing called a “fax machine” to send off the tracings to D2 to make sure they were appropriate. 30 seconds later, Dan Kurtanich (one of the “D’s” from D2) called to say they looked great. He also freaked me out by telling me I should have the shoes within 6 months. He was kidding.

From there FedEx came to pick up the fancy box. Three days later Don Lamson (the other “D”) called to talk through the specifics of what I was looking for in a shoe. He said he was very surprised I was wearing a size 45.5 Sidi, because according to what he measured with my foot molds I should be wearing more like a 44.5. But because I have such a wide foot his guess was that I was more comfortable in a bigger shoe to get the width I needed. He said they’d use a EEE last for my shoes. My take on Don is that he’s obviously done this a lot and is a very quick study. He pretty much nailed my situation by reading an e-mail and studying my molds and foot tracing.

By the way, D2 has 9 different widths they choose from, and 42 sizes. It sounds like they also make a completely custom lasts and patterns for people with freakishly odd feet.

Don also suggested I use a new shoe they don’t have information about on the D2 site, called the Super Criterium. Sounds fast, eh? It’s their most performance-oriented model. I’ll take any help I can get...

Don was friendly and professional, and it turns out we have a few people we know in common, so it was fun to make that connection too. He’s been in the industry a long time. And while I’ve been out of it for many years, it’s a small world.

So, the shoes should be complete sometime next week. D2 is in Colorado (where they have weather I have been desperately missing lately!) so I should have them in hand within the next week and a half. I’ll certainly post some pictures and initial thoughts once I get them.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Pedals 2 People

Pedals 2 People, or "P2P" to those in the know, is a Spokane non-profit. Their mission statement says it all, "Our mission is to use the bicycle as a tool to empower people and build healthier communities."

Last year they focused on sending bikes to an African village. This year they are focusing on projects closer to home. To raise money for their projects they have two things coming up.

Second, but involving more beer and bike racing is a fundraiser at the Steam Plant Grill.

From Misc Bike Pics

First, potentially involving beer but definitely involving fun and fundraising, is the P2P Garage Sale. Here is their message:

Hey P2P supporters!

We're having our annual garage sale Saturday April 4th, from 9am -12pm. Come by for some super deals on bikes, parts, and even a dorm fridge. Last year's sale was a huge success, and we're hoping to have another great sale this year. All proceeds benefit P2P programs.

The address is 4218 S Garfield, and the garage is located in the alley behind the house. Please park on the street and not in the alley.

As always, we couldn't exist without your support--Thanks!

p.s. Please forward this email to your friends :)

liza mattana, spokane, wa


So, what more do you need? A great cause and some great deals. Go check it out and build up an inventory of the pieces you need for your next project.

Until April 4, we locals can rejoice in the promise of the temperature reaching 50° for the first time in 2009. As Freddy says, "Now get on your bikes and ride!" Or as Quicksilver would say, "Less blogging. More riding."

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Mystery Box

What could it be? Any guesses? 

I can tell you for sure that it's something I'm very excited about. No, it's not a magical container that houses certain people's fantasy genie. It's not a delivery of stimulus cash from the federal government either. Or a new Campy Super-Record gruppo (although buying one would require some serious cash).

From Team Two Wheel

More information will follow in the coming days. 


Fizik Antares Review

One of the cooler things Two Wheel Transit has at the shop, at least to someone like me who is exceptionally picky about my seat, is the stockpile of demo saddles they've been accumulating.

From Team Two Wheel
Just in for spring...isn't it sweet?

Because here's the thing. It's impossible to know which seat you'll like just by reading a review. You might be able to get a sense of what a seat will feel like, but unless you ride it for a while you're taking a gamble. And given the price of seats it's a big gamble.

I was in the shop the other day picking up some new cables and housing to replace my fantastically filthy and high-friction set, when I noticed three bright orange seats. A closer look showed that they were all marked "test."

Too cool.

I'm always on the lookout for the perfect saddle. For years I rode a San Marco Concor. Unfortunately age, or extra weight, or position, or something, made it less comfortable than it used to be. So a couple of years ago I switched to a Fizik Aliante. 

This is a good saddle for me. In general I like a swoopier seat--one you sit in rather than on. Before choosing the Aliante I rode around on a Fizik Arione for a couple of weeks. I wanted to like it, but unfortunately it didn't work for me. My taint still sometimes throbs when I think of our time together. And no, I didn't nickname the seat Anton.

The Arione, Aliante and Antares all have different shapes. Here's a pic of all three. I should have taken a better snapshot at Two Wheel, so apologies for the odd image.

The Arione is the longest and narrowest of the three. It's very flat front to back, but is relatively dome shaped looking at it from behind. the nose is narrow and barely padded, hence my throbbing taint. I promise, that's the last time I'll write taint. Sorry, did it again. The Arione also has a bit of a hammock-effect when you sit on it. That is, it sags in the middle, much like a Sella Italia Flite, and unlike something like a Concor that has a good amount of structure to it. If you're familiar with these seats you'll know what I mean. Critical dimensions don't tell you the story about how a seat feels when riding, but if you're interested it's 128mm wide, 302 mm long and 240 grams.

The Aliante has a bit of a "tail" at the back and a relatively narrow nose. Also, the padding is substantial and soft by performance-saddle standards. In fact it's one of the softest seats I've used. If I have a complaint about the Aliante it's that it's too soft. I'd like it to be just a bit firmer. In my experience the softer seat leads to funky hot spots and numbness. Everyone is different of course, but this is my experience. Critical dimensions are 135 mm wide, 265 mm long and 210 grams.

The swoopy lines of the Aliante

The Antares differs from both the Arione and Aliante. Sort of. It's right in the middle in terms of length, but wider than both and very flat side-to-side. It's relatively well padded (very well padded compared with say a Sella Italia SLR), but also extremely firm, and has the widest nose of the three. Critical dimensions are 140 mm wide, 275 mm long and 177 grams.

From Team Two Wheel
Like I say, it has a very flat cross-section

First impressions:

The biggest first impression? It's orange! How cool is that? Well, it could be cool on the right bike, but on my less than subtle red, white and blue Madone it looks hideous. Love that.

I had to raise my seatpost about 4mm to account for the difference in height between the Aliante. No worries there.

Riding on a firmer seat was immediately noticeable. Even more so because I was forced onto the trainer yet again thanks to 15 degree weather. The seat's width worked well to support my sit bones, but initially it felt weird, like the wide back of the seat transitioned too quickly to the narrow front. You might be able to see what I mean just from the above picture. It felt like there was only one place to sit on the seat, if that makes sense. 

As the ride went on though I started to feel more comfortable. I changed the angle of the seat a few times--something that eventually helped. And I didn't find my nether regions going numb, even after a pretty intense 90 minute trainer session. 

I put in another session on the trainer Friday, still feeling so-so about the Antares. 

Then Saturday I did a bit more than three hours on the road. It was a solo ride, tons of wind and a bunch of up and down, so to me anyway it was a pretty honest test. I did a series of hard efforts on the flat, and also some extended climbing. And I liked the seat. Did I love it? Not exactly, but with a bit more time I think I could definitely get used to it. This surprised me a bit because it's a much different seat than the Alliante, at least looking at the numbers. It's definitely firmer, but provides nice support. 

If you're in the market for a new seat, do yourself a big, big favor and get down to Two Wheel to demo a few options. And thank Steve and company for the program. I was surprised to learn that they have to buy all of their demo seats from the manufacturers so it's definitely an investment on their part, and explains why I haven't run across similar programs at other shops.

Paris-Roubaix P2P Fundraiser

From Misc Bike Pics

Monday, March 16, 2009


According to A.Word.A.Day by Anu Garg, the word "Subintelligitur" means "something that is not stated, but understood".

I confess that I had never heard the word "subintelligitur" and, frankly, I may never actually hear the word. I suspect that neither Phil or Paul will say it and if Bob Roll says it he will mangle it in a way that I won't recognize it. If it pops up on the Daily Show or The Soup, it will surprise me.

The point, however, is that it is a word that nicely sums up much about riding and racing a bicycle. Or at least it used to. In the "old" days, which means here at least 5 years ago and probably more like 10 years ago, if you wanted to ride a road bike and be taken seriously by the serious biking crowd, there wasn't a good way to know what you were supposed to do. It was much easier to tell what you weren't supposed to do. You weren't supposed to do anything that you were doing.

If you were out on the road and came across a group riding together, they would feel free to let you know, through various sneers, grunts and silence, not to mention occasional gesticulation, that you didn't measure up to their subintelligitur standard. You may not have had the right clothes or the right bike. And, even if you had these things, you still may not have understood how to properly wear the clothes and ride the bike. There seemed to be a dividing line that you were not welcome to cross.

One of the clear dividing lines between road riders and mountain bike riders was that all road riders were assumed to be snobs and all dirt riders were assumed to be friendly. To this day I have roadie friends who are convinced that all mountain bikers are hippies with multiple tattoos. It doesn't matter how often I tell them you can be a hippie OR be tattooed, and that you don't HAVE to be both, but they keep their roadie blinders on.

All of this reminds me of a class I took in college: deviant psychology. It was not just about the fun side of deviance, much to my chagrin, but it also included discussion of deviant subgroups and populations. It turns out that sociologists have studied closely how deviant cultures work, how you gain admittance and how they reinforce their standards. Mostly, this standard is subintelligitur, or unstated. The power of the group to self-regulate comes from the subintelligitur standard. If there were a guidebook, then we would all be able to become members of the group, or, importantly, be able to pose as members of the group. As an example, after Trainspotting, we all had a better idea of how to become heroin addicts. It took the mystery out of it, so we all felt free to pronounce the word "shight" and mainline a bit of brown sugar if we felt like it. I'm sure it was a disappointment to those genuine trailblazers of the heroin movement who didn't want every Tom, Dick and Ewan pretending to be doing smack.

And here is where we get back to cycling. I'm not saying, by the way that we are all deviants, but we are being examined. There are approximately 6 billion words every day being put up on cycling blogs (It is mindboggling to think of all the words being blogged when you add in the scrap-bookers, quilting guilds and Ann Coulter). And of these 6,000,000,000 words, many of them are examining, discussing and even deconstructing our subintelligitur. If one were to take, for example, multiple useful work hours out of each day and apply them to studying this world of words, it would be possible to put together a guide to how we cyclists act, how we train and ride, how we race, how we shave our legs and how we talk smack rather than doing smack. Maybe we should rename our blog "The Subintelligitur" and be that cycling guidebook.

While we ponder that though, thanks Anu Garg, for teaching me a new word that isn't Latin and helps me describe cycling.
Rider 3

Friday, March 13, 2009

Reprint of Advertising

Normally we wouldn't just reprint advertising, but here are the excuses: 1) Pearl Izumi is carried at Two Wheel Transit; and 2) well, see for yourself.

From Misc Bike Pics

We now apologize to anyone we have offended.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Dr. Spalm Reconsiders

Dr. Spalm - Please take a look at these pictures I snapped outside of Two Wheel Transit. They clearly show that the proper way to carry skis on a bike is to utilize the pannier system. Your backpack advice was stupid.
Dangerous Advice is Very Erresponsible

From Misc Bike Pics

From Misc Bike Pics

Dear D.A.V.E -
I am not sure where you learned to spell, but being a reasonable man, I am willing to reconsider my prior advice. I do see that these skis appear to be reasonably secure and not obstructing the movement of this rider, but before I concede the point thereby giving credence to the idea that I am fallible, I would like to make at least two points. If I think of others, as I am paid by the word, I will also be forced to add these. In other words, if you need to secure supplies, refreshments or a rest period before proceeding, please do so.

First, I am not sure that I can consider this picture evidence of an improvement to my advice because of the rider. It would appear that this individual is potentially suffering from an inbalance of the the mind, but thankfully not of the body, as he is riding his bike on an obviously iced road. Second, the look on the face of said rider in your first picture indicates that either he is surprised that you were taking his picture or that he has brain fever. Medically speaking, I find either equally plausible. As such, there are indications that this rider is not a well man. I hesitate to further my medical diagnosis on such scant photographic evidence, but if it is good enough for Dr./Senator Bill Frist, I guess it's good enough for me.

Second, I am not sure that I can consider this picture evidence of an improvement to my advice because of the picture taker. You, sir, were standing in the aforesaid iced road and taking pictures of a cyclist going down the road. Without being able to see your visage, I can only assume you have a flushed appearance and potentially are running a temperature. Again, my diagnosis runs towards brain fever, although I can't fully rule out consumption.

Third, and I did warn you that I would be coming up with additional reasoning as I went, the issue posed to me was whether the reader in question should put his skis in a trailer or on his backpack. It was potentially inadvisable of me to follow his invalid proposition that he did not "like" using his panniers, but I was new to this advice column and confused by the question. In fact, now that I consider the confusion further, I seem to recall that I had an elevated temperature at the time and may have been suffering from brain fever. Much like a Dickensian novel, it does run rampant at times throughout select populations, although as I consider this from my outpost in Lucerne, I'm not sure of the connections between these particular cases.

In summation, I absolutely stand by my original advice that it is much preferable to attach your skis to a backpack instead of pulling a trailer, but I do allow that if the question is expanded to include all reasonably available means of transporting skis, the pannier option is superior. That being said, I find it unacceptable that you would suggest my advice is "stupid" and therefore I will not be sending you the normal cash honorarium that is usually offered to those posting questions answered herein. I would remind you, as your mother apparently failed to, that politeness is to be valued in a civilized society.

Now, as to the question that will undoubtedly follow this column, I will say this; No, there really is not a good reason to be carrying skis on your bicycle. If one has this urge, I suggest you put away your bike and contact appropriate medical authorities. If you tell them that Dr. Spalm believes you have brain fever, they should be there to take care of you promptly.
With all due sincerity,
Dr. Spalm

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Magic Socks

In addition to reading Cycle Sport on the toilet, we cyclists share other traits as well. This one, however, I may only share with baseball and poker players.

I have a pair of socks about which I am now superstitious. Most people who know me will agree that I am usually the kind of person who shuns things that don't have a rational or scientific basis; things like superstitions, ghosts and enlargement pills. Sure, we would like to discover these things work, but instead you just get stuck with a monthly bill on your credit card.

So anyway, last night I was finally getting on the trainer (did I mention that Spokane's contribution to global climate change has been to suck up snow and cold temperatures the way the Yankees suck up free agents?). I grabbed the top jersey from a stack and was pulling it on as I headed to the basement and a DVD of Floyd Landis winning or not winning the Tour. As I pulled on the jersey I realized it was one that features a crazed Bozo the clown face. This is jersey that I used to pull out on days when I was feeling good. It was too aggressive and a tad obnoxious to wear for a friendly coffee shop ride, so it had to be reserved for those days when I felt like riding at the front, taking monster pulls and living up to the sentiment of the shirt. I had one cycling buddy who recognized this and took to warning the others in the group when I showed up with the crazy clown on my chest.

And yes, for those of you following along at home, this jersey has not seen a lot of action lately. Let's just say the last time this jersey was seen in the local peloton Tyler Hamilton was better known for falling on his collarbones than failing on his drug tests, but I digress.

The crazy clown jersey was obvious. I put it on when I was feeling strong and feeling like proving it. As a result, it wasn't a separate force, it was just a reflection of how I felt. This is unlike my pair of magic socks.

Much like a young Harry Potter, my magic socks didn't start out powerful. They developed and grew. They also snuck up on me. I don't know how long it took, but over a period of a couple of seasons, I realized after a ride where I felt great or had raced well that I was peeling off one particular pair of socks. The socks themselves aren't much to look at, but they were a single pair I got in the swag bag from a ride, so they stuck out more than a plain white pair would (or plain black if you are Lance).

After I noticed this, I started to pay a bit more attention and to my amazement, every time I wore this pair of socks I had a great ride, one that was seemingly above my fitness or training level. And here is where the problem lay. Once I realized it, I wasn't sure how to treat the power of these socks. Should I slack off on my training and just depend on the power of the socks? Should I only pull the socks out when I really, really wanted to have a good race? Was the power of the socks finite, so that I may have wasted many "great" rides when I was just out dorking around? Like a quantum particle, did the act of observation change the socks?

I don't know about you, but for me, this is an exponentially greater number of questions than my socks normally create.

After pondering the power of the socks, for a few rides, when I was getting ready and I wasn't feeling great, I would decide to use the socks like a performance enhancer. I would use them like a testosterone patch for my soles, so that I had new-found power at my disposal. To my amazement, they continued to perform. I was flabbergasted that these socks seemed to have the power to turn a bad day into a good day. And at that point, I reached paralysis. I couldn't let the socks down. I couldn't bring myself to have a bad ride with the socks, as if I owed the socks more than that. I could no longer just wear them like every other pair of socks in the drawer. These socks had brought me much good fortune and had never let me down. And if that is the case, how could I bear the burden of continuing this unbroken string of success with the socks? I couldn't. And to this day, I still can't. The socks now sit in the drawer, power level uncertain, but with the weight of expectation making them so heavy that I can't bear to lift them out of the drawer.

Thus, this is a cautionary tale. Be careful of the power you find in your cycling apparel. For while it may be better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all, it is just not the same with a pair of magic socks. It is better to have won and lost, than to have the burden to never let them down.
Rider 3

Monday, March 9, 2009

Bike Math

Sunday's anticipation to grind out a three plus hours of a training ride was destroyed by mother nature. I received a text from Rider 1 that said "Is it just me or is it really snowing?". My reply was "Poo to you with knobs on Mother Nature".

A thought immediately ran threw my pin size head that some lucky bastards yesterday just turned the styles at Mason Lake in the first of three consecutive races on Saturdays . I (no self pity here) am stuck in snowy Spokane. Sure I could have traveled over there and race but as we all know if you have a family and value them then you know bike math. Love of family + love of cycling = x hours of time in the saddle.

The key to this equation is actual saddle time to the rider is not equal to the sum of the saddle time perceived by the family. For example, any time spent on the phone talking to a fellow cyclist about the training ride you just finished five minutes ago counts as saddle time. There are many more but due to the fact that even blogging about cycling counts as saddle time I won't list them all. Here are just a few to help you get the picture. Feel free to add to the list by commenting to this blog.

These are not listed in time value order.
-Traveling to and from a race
-The race itself
-Visiting your favorite bike shop
-Reading Cycle Sport on the toilet
-Watching the first, second and third same day coverage of the Tour
-Working on your bike
-Talking about your bike
-Talking about Riders 1 and 3' s bikes
-Walking with your wife at Spokane's First Night and looking in the window of Two Wheel Transit
-Doing your laundry which happens to be next to "the bike room" and your family happens to hear the sound of a Campy freewheel spinning in your bike stand
-Screaming during marital relations "53-11"

This is nothing new to those who have been riding for years but to you newbies please use bike math to help shorten the learning curve of balancing family and riding.

Rubber side down.

Rider 2

Monday Miscellaneous

The title of this post is "Monday Miscellaneous", but that is because "Monday Bitching about the Weather and the Time Change" seemed a bit too on the nose. Let me begin by reminding our gentle readers that it is March 9. March is a transitional month; one in which we see the last of winter fading away and the beginnings of spring. We should see some early flowers, hear the birds chirping in the mornings and begin to sense the deep primal satisfaction of the growing season returning. Instead, snow is falling, we have an artic blast on its way to our region and so far today the only deep primal feeling I had was to throw my alarm clock through the window.

A couple of weeks ago, Bill Bender, a Spokane cycling spiritual leader, told me that the "Morning Ride" (a ride group known for daily 5.45 am suffer-fests) had never failed to end its winter hiatus later than the first day of March. Having tagged along to this testament to testosterone at times, I usually hear about the rides and know that a few hearty souls show up with lights and tights to get through a few rides while the weather and the sunrise take their time getting together to make it more enjoyable. This year, however, every weekday of March has started with temperatures ranging from 15-25 degrees and almost all of them with snow or rain. The last two days we have been greeted by snow on the ground and the forecasted lows for the next two days are being discussed in the 5 - 15 degree range. Our average temperature this time of year is a low of 30 and a high of 50. This makes it not unreasonable that I am extremely frickin' fed up with the weather.

I am ready for at least one bike ride that doesn't involve seven layers of clothing and the possibility of frostbite. The last few weekends, at the same time I am making plans for bike rides I have simultaneously been thinking that it is too cold to take my kids cross-country skiing. Is this a sane position? Doesn't this make cycling an obsession, or an illness, rather than a recreational activity? The answer is NO! It makes the damn weather the problem, NOT ME! It's time for the weather to shape up and get over with this endless, absurd cold and misery to make way for Spring.

And, today, to add insult to potential frostbite injury, we are feeling the full effects of setting the clocks back an hour. Is this really a rational thing for a civilized society? I try to never feel the full brunt of self-awareness, but I recognize that I am not a morning person and that the thickness that I feel behind my eyeballs is causing me to be slightly grumpy. Today, however, that thickness is not being felt as a direct result of imprudent personal decisions (like deciding that tomorrow is recycling day so I might as well go ahead and empty the tequila bottle). Instead, it is being felt from the impact of staying up to my normal "body" time and still being forced to get up to the "clock" time.

Seriously, can anyone explain to me how moving the clock is improving the quality of my life or my energy consumption? I understand the idea that in the days when we used leftover pig fat for making candles and it was our only source of light that maybe it made sense for us to collectively move our schedule to accommodate the hours the sun was in the sky. But is there any indication that we are collectively using less electricity, gas or pig fat today as result of daylight savings time? I'm thinking that farmers in the fields are more impacted by when the sun is up than by the time on the clock and I'm thinking that I am not sleeping through too many daytime hours no matter what. If there was a personal or societal positive impact by this change on our clocks, then fine. But right now all I am getting from it is a feeling of not enough sleep and being fed up with the frickn', stupid, everlasting, cold weather and lack of sun which is keeping me from riding my bike.
Rider 3

Friday, March 6, 2009

The True Number 2

This is truly rider 2. Known to some (very few) as "Quicksilver". I am neither quick or silver. I am though the eldest of the Team Two Wheelers. First things first I would like to thank my ghost writer for filling in for me. My lack of effort in posting is due to nothing better than laziness. I have composed many blogs in my head while riding to and from work in the bitter cold and the pissing hand freezing rain. By the time I get home all is lost after feeding the dogs, chatting with the spousal unit before she goes to work, making dinner for the soon nest fleeing son and myself, doing the dishes and showering the days work off my ass. I am sure by now your saying "Boo-hoo for rider 2". I hear ya. There is no room for self pity in the cycling world. Suffering, sacrifice, self motivation, perseverance that is what its all about.

My objective is to capture what I think the true essence of this beloved sport. The sport I have lived and breathed for over half my life. I am going to bore you with a little history of how and why I love cycling so much. When I was 2 years old my parents like most bought me a tricycle. I don't remember much about the early years so I am relying on my parents to embellish... I mean fill in the blanks. Apparently, during Easter of '65 I was more interested in the pedaling action than collecting colored oval shaped objects that smelled of something I have left in my shorts two hours previously. My oldest cousin at the age of 16 noticed my lack of participation in the pagan ritual and ask if he could assist me in achieving the speed that I so desired. I politely shook my head yes with a big ass grin and he placed his adolescent hands on my back. I was preparing for warp speed by tucking low, clinching teeth, and peering my eyes just over my chromed handle bars. On my command he began to push me as fast as his 6 foot frame could go. After what seem to be a mile to a 2 year old he gave his last ditch effort of acceleration and

extended his arm. This felt like what later in my life my father the fighter pilot would describe to me as a after-burner kick in a F-101 fighter. Realizing of course as a submissive child that I was rapidly approaching the border of forbidden territory on a tricycle I made a abrupt left turn. The laws of physics were not establish in my young mind so you can only imagine what happened next. So, after many minutes of sobbing and a few kisses from Mom I was okay. The road rash I had sustained on my face was merely an improvement according to my siblings. As legend has it I was back in the saddle before the tears had dried. My Mother has a picture to document the event with me standing in the front lawn holding an empty Easter basket and sporting my rode rash. And so it began.............

Rider 2

Friday Update

It has been a busy week around the Team Two Wheel house this week. Rider 1 took care of a lot of team business, Rider 2 finally graced us with another post and Rider 3 showed off his fancy non-cycling erudition with a banking related post. Don't worry, Rider 3 is now on probation as a result. We are supposed to be about cycling 24/7. There is no point in letting the world around us interfere with our cycling-centric outlook.

Cycling in Spokane has been dismal this week, with more rain/snow/sleet and cold temperatures in the weekend forecast. Combine that with the daylight savings time change this weekend and not only did Punxsutawney Phil predict six more weeks of winter, it could be that long before the Morning Ride finally gets going.

Last in this tiny tidbit of posting, we are glad to inform you of something you couldn't care less about, which is that our US Cycling "Club" was approved this week, so we will be bonded, stamped, gold-sealed and completely official by the time the TTW jerseys arrive and we suit up for our first race. With that in mind, I think I will skip work for the rest of afternoon and go ride in the remaining bit of clear, cold sunlight before it starts raining or snowing again.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

And now for something completely different

DATE: MARCH 5, 2009

As a participant in the Department of Treasury TARP Capital Purchase Program, your institution is also entitled to participate in additional support programs. As you know, Senior Officers of CPP institutions are now subject to limitations on executive compensation. This requirement has caused a number of questions among Senior Officers and, not surprisingly, from their spouses and dependants. As a result,the Department of Treasury has developed information for executives who now find themselves needing additional information about how to cope with their reduced circumstances. We have prepared the following letter, or Statement Of Procedure for Occupational Reduction, known as SO POOR, for your benefit.

As a beneficiary of our SO POOR program, we would like to introduce you to certain information of which you may not be aware. This information has been gathered from a number of sources, including customers whose borrowing was based on optimistic business plans, underemployed workers purchasing additional “primary” residences to flip in hot real estate markets, builders and contractors with significant spec. home inventories and workers who were previously providing luxury goods and conveniences to bank executives.

The SO POOR information covers some basic needs necessary for your new life as an employee forced to live on compensation at or even, for some unfortunate executives, below $500,000 per year or less than $42,000 per month. Subjects will include housing, clothing and food.

Housing. Some SO POOR executives find that they need to consider their living situations. We have early reports that some of these executives have been forced to part with their 5th and even 4th homes. While real estate developer projections indicated that home prices would continue to rise indefinitely and eventually reach infinite pricing, it is now apparent that these projections were somewhat overstated. The difficulty for SO POOR executives is that while realtors are currently willing to debase themselves even further than previously recognized in order to obtain sales listings on these additional excessive homes, current indications are that there are no buyers for these homes. As a result, increasing discounts from previous value estimates are required. For additional information on this topic, please see your REO portfolio.

Clothing. Many SO POOR executives have had difficulty explaining to their tailors and spouses that clothing continues to maintain viability beyond their currently expected life cycle of three months. While spouses and dependents will indeed need to adjust their expectations and standards, we have scientific evidence that clothing can be worn multiple times and indeed for multiple years, not months or weeks as previously thought. One handy tool in having this conversation with your spouse is to have them to engage in conversations with “normal” people with whom they have contact, for instance one of the house staff, one of the yard staff, one of the country club staff, one of the other country club staff or even front line employees at the BMW/Audi/Mercedes dealership. Your spouse can casually inquire as to how long these people have had the clothes they are wearing. The answers will undoubtedly provide valuable information about clothing, the concept of washing one’s own clothes, and can even lead to basic social interaction with people previously unseen in the social milieu.

Food. While housing and clothing examples are not provided with your SO POOR package, certain food items are included. In part, this is done because many SO POOR executives and spouses are not aware that food can be purchased in packages for further preparation. Most SO POOR executives are aware of the existence of grocery stores, having financed the establishment of power centers and super stores, but were not aware of the implications of these establishments. Having only experienced food service in restaurants, take away meals and fundraiser dinners, you may not be aware many people purchase packaged and fresh food in these “grocery” stores, which is then transported to their homes and “cooked.” Occasionally SO POOR executives are aware of Dean & Deluca and therefore consider themselves aware of the variety of foodstuffs available, however, there is a greater variety than exhibited in this retailer.

The items included in your package include the following:

Spam – Having had box seats for a Broadway production of Spamalot, some SO POOR executives have heard this word, Spam. Beyond a comedic device for vaguely effeminate stage players, it is also an actual food item. This item is included first on your list because it contains a “User Guide” on the end of the can and it is virtually impossible to mis-prepare this food, as it can be eaten directly from the can or heated in virtually any fashion. Upon opening, the can may not appear to contain anything that humans consider edible, but please be assured that it will not cause any immediate harm. It is best to ignore the actual ingredients and endeavor to eat this food stuff as if it was a truffle-laden aspic similar to those served at the country club.

Top Ramen – The Top Ramen is included as it is the least expensive food stuff available in the grocery store. It does involve “preparation”, so please carefully consider the instructions, which are included on the back of the package. Just after the difficulty of preparing Spam, this product involves primarily boiling water. Please note, the package must be opened first. It is not intended to boil inside the package, although admittedly it does not change the flavor very much. This food is also included because any dependents planning to attend college will undoubtedly find themselves with classmates (typically those on scholarships) who “live on Ramen”. Yes, unfortunately, they do mean this literally. Most people recover from the side effects of this over a period of years.

Hamburger Helper/Sloppy Joes – This food item can be considered in the advanced food preparation category for those not accustomed to cooking, so please familiarize yourself with Spam and Top Ramen procedures first. The original concept for Hamburger Helper was for families on a budget to yield more food from a protein source by mixing it with lower cost or lower quality items. Think of this meal as a lower tranche of a mortgage-backed security. There is some good stuff there, but it is primarily surrounded by junk.

Jug Wine – Obviously SO POOR executives are quite familiar with wine, however, most are not aware that wine can be purchased without the helpful aid of a sommelier. Indeed, many people purchase wine directly from retail outlets and it can even be purchased “on sale”. You will note that the wine in your package has a few characteristics with which you may not be aware. First, while you will need to open this wine by yourself (remember, no sommelier will be involved), do not attempt to open this with a corkscrew. It has a “screw” top, which means you twist the top off. Second, we left a price tag on this wine so that you can familiarize yourself with the concept. The tag represents the actual price of this wine, not a per glass price and not the sales tax amount of your customary bottle of wine. Do not be alarmed, as this wine is still considered to be safe for human consumption. Lastly, however, it is not appropriate, no matter what the economic circumstances, to keep a jug of wine in your desk drawer.

Conclusion. We hope you find this Statement Of Procedure for Occupational Reduction helpful. As a SO POOR executive, you will experience many changes in your lifestyle and spending habits, but take heart, many people have successfully sustained themselves on salaries even lower than your reduced wages. Also, while most SO POOR bank executives had not previously noted that the economy has cycles, they are taking solace in this concept now. This means that your wages and salary are likely to soar once again, assuming that is, that your position survives this current cycle. For more information on this concept, please see the follow up to SO POOR, our Statement Of Supplanted And Displaced executives, or SO SAD.

Department of Treasury
Bureau of Helpful and Sarcastic Advice