Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Dr. Spalm Answers your Questions

Dear Dr. Spalm - I have noticed that the Cycling Widow is a bit angry about everything. The last time she answered questions, she was mad that one guy was buying his wife a bike and then equally pissed that another guy didn't want a girlfriend riding with his group. Do all women hate cycling that much or hate men or just what should I take from that?
Signed, Confused

Dear Confused - As you know, Dr. Spalm is vaguely European in his attitudes and he gets paid by the word. Also, Dr. Spalm, like most famous boxers, likes to refer to himself in the third person. He does this for a number of reasons, but chief among them is that "Dr. Spalm" is two words, while "I" is one, and, as you will also remember, Dr. Spalm is paid by the word. Now, with the preamble sufficiently covered as to potentially be obfuscating my point, I will turn my attention to the specifics of my answer.

First of all, no matter how many words Dr. Spalm wrote (and it is fun for Dr. Spalm to consider the resulting paycheck), it is not possible for Dr. Spalm to explain any woman, much less the specific case of the Cycling Widow. Men having an understanding of women is an age-old problem and not one likely to be resolved in a blog post for a local bike shop and group of cycling ambassadors.

Second, I do not think it is fair to assume that all women hate cycling, nor that the Cycling Widow hates men. It would be wholly reasonable to assume that the Cycling Widow does not enjoy our beloved two-wheeled sport as much as most of us do, as it appears that the Cycling Widow is in a relationship with someone who does not take fully into consideration her feelings or sense of timing.

Third, as someone who holds vaguely European attitudes towards women, Dr. Spalm should point out that women typically fall into one of four categories: mother, wife, mistress or Margaret Thatcher. It is beyond Dr. Spalm's ability to place the Cycling Widow with absolute certainty in any of these categories, but she certainly appears to have characteristics of both "wife" and "Magaret Thatcher".

Fourth, I have been asked by the sponsors of this endeavor to point out that 1) there are many female cyclists; 2) there are many women who are supportive of the cycling habit of their significant other; 3) there are many men who are both supportive of the cycling habits of their significant others and who sometimes feel abandoned by the cycling female counterpart; and 4) this answer does not represent the views of any of the spouses of Team Two Wheel riders. Team Team Two Wheel riders have reported that they are blessed to have tremendously beautiful, smart and supportive spouses.

Dr. Spalm - I've noticed that my helmet has a rank smell that I can't seem to get out. Since the helmet is mostly non-absorbent foam and just a thin liner, why can't I wash out the smell?
Signed, Stinky in Spokane

Dear Stinky - First of all, Dr. Spalm feels compelled to explain to you that your helmet is not made of non-absorbent foam. In fact, Dr. Spalm feels compelled to tell you that non-absorbent foam is not a substance that exists outside of your imagination or your mangled language.

Bike helmets are typically made of expanded polystyrene. Occasionally, in this case meaning rarely, bike helmets are made of expanded polypropylene. For the purposes of clarification, expanded polypropylene sounds like an explanation of Rider 3 putting on his high-tech long underwear, but it is not. Despite their rarity, expanded polypropylene is an excellent helmet material because it does not show the same crush characteristics as the more common expanded polystyrene.

Some important expanded polystyrene facts: density = 1050 kg/meter cubed; Young's modulus, or elastic modulus if you prefer = 3000 - 3,600 Mpa; Tensile Strength 46-60 Mpa; and a melting point of approximately 240 degrees Celcius. Lastly, expanded polystyrene is made up of 90-95% polystyrene and 5-10% gaseous blowing agents. Which is funny because a classmate in a symposium once suggested that Dr. Spalm was made up of precisely the opposite fundamental characteristics, 90-95% gaseous blowing agents and 5-10% polyester. I was, of course, insulted as I never wear polyester.

Now, Stinky, you may be wondering what this has to do with the "funk" you have in your helmet and Dr. Spalm will now explain the connection. It has no connection whatsoever, but Dr. Spalm does feel compelled to both bloviate at times (I get paid double for words that Team Two Wheel has to look up in the dictionary) and further establish his impecable scientifice credentials. Having done both, I will now turn my formidible intellect to your question.

The liners in many helmet, as well as the materials in many athletic garments, are now imbued with fibers or elements that are intended to ward off the growth of microbial agents that then grow in a warm, moist environment, the byproduct of which is an organic smell. That smell is most commonly refered to as "stink" or "body odor". In yet another example of the ludicrous statement and philosophy, "better living through chemistry", it turns out that this body odor can be washed out virtually an infinite number of times as the garment deteriorates. In contrast, helmet liners and garments with these specialized fibers will resist smelling bad while the antimicrobial fibers maintain their integrity. After that point, however, the breakdown of the antimicrobial fibers will cause the garment or liner to have a "funk" that is functionally part of the fabric and therefore cannot be removed. Please keep in mind that you, the American consumer, will usually pay more for this privilege.

Lastly, if you will consult your own question, you asked "why can't I wash out this smell", which I have answered fully and completely. You did not ask how you can remove the smell, which is a different question and thus requires a different answer. Since Dr. Spalm has answered your question, he is not obligated to continue to answer his own questions and some would call into dispute the integrity of an answer paid for by the word when the writer started adding questions and answers of his own volition. For instance, I could extrapolate from your question that you want a method to remove the smell, but I might also extrapolate that you want you other garments to have this same distinctive smell and I might give you tips on this process. Either would be inappropriate and abusive of my relationship with my patrons.

In either case, enjoy your expanded polystyrene cranial impact force absorption and redistribution device and whatever smells that may be associated therewith.
Yours truly,
Dr. Spalm

If you have a question for Dr. Spalm, please submit it either as a comment or to one of the listed authors of this blog, except for you, Charles Baldwin on Lexington Street. Dr. Spalm will not continue to provide you with answers for your high school chemistry courses.

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