Friday, July 31, 2009

Dr. Spalm Returns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for asking.
Dr. Spalm

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Craigslist Favorite

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

A few things from the bike shop.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Fun with perspiration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 27, 2009

Tour de France

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 24, 2009

Bike Polo Follow Up

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

We are all looking forward to a quick visit.


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

Bikes, mallets no problems.


From Rides


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

Is that clear?


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

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

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Two Wheel Adventures - Bike Polo

From Rides

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you. Let's move on.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I can't help myself.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Of Bonking

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was not to be.

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

Didn't happen.

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


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

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

Friday, July 17, 2009

Of Steptoe Butte, Bonking and Dead Legs

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

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

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

From Rides

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

From Rides

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Rider 2 Comments on the Return of Rider 3

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

Rider 2

Rider 3 Returns

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

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

Rider 3 Returns

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

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

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Now for something different.

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

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Getting geeky with bike fit and geometry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

This picture should help clarify the last couple of paragraphs:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Tour thoughts

While I continue my bike shopping extravaganza, it's also Tour time. I love the Tour, but it seems like most cyclists I know dial back their riding in July because of it. Note: Watching the Tour twice a day removes any excuse of not having time to ride.

Anyway, some random observations:

Cancellara and Tiger Beat:
My 4 1/2 year old daughter has a monster crush on Fabian Cancellara. I'm not sure how I feel about this, but last night after dinner she said, "Daddy, what do you think Fabian is doing right now?" She then wanted to go out on a bike ride where she was happy to be referred to as Spartacus. Of course her last pre-schooler infatuation was with Darth Vader. Go figure.

Craig and Bob vs. Joey and Chandler:
Have you noticed the precious braclets than Bob Roll and Craig Hummer are wearing? My guess based on ads running on Versus, is that they're Road ID bands. But every time I see them I can't help but think about that Friends episode where Joey and Chandler buy matching gold bracelets. In fact, I think Bob and Craig could make a mint doing some gay porn together. Craig already has the outfit.

I love TTTs...sort of:
I'm a huge fan of TTTs. I loved them as a rider. Sort of. If you haven't done one before, the TTT is hands down my vote for the hardest event in cycling. I've had people ask why it's harder than an indiviual time trial. My opinion is that as you're nearing the front you start riding way above threshold, then have very little time to "recover" before your next turn. I put recover in quotes because recovery means riding at a TT pace. I still have great memories from my team days of following my Shaklee team in the team car (this dates me, I know), watching the boys absolutely kill each other. It was a beautiful thing.

Isn't it interesting, as enthusiasts, how we're drawn to the most atrociously difficult events? Seriously, the mountain stages are awesome, but I can't remember the last time I looked forward to doing a 15K climb.

Gotta love Columbia:
I haven't seen a team ride in such a dominant fashion since Mapei's classics teams in the go-go 90's. Sadly, I think they're going to be shattered in weeks two and three of this year's Tour. But Cavendish...holy smokes. His acceleration is absolutely unreal. I've often said that great athletes walk the fine line between confidence and arrogance. Judging by the interviews I've seen with him he hasn't seen that line for a really long time. Whatever though. For the time being he's backing up his hubris.

Contador vs. Lance:
How'd you like to hang at the Astana breakfast table? It would be almost as much fun as inviting Anne Coulter and Bill Clinton over for drinks.

On a more important note, hopefully I'm ordering a new bike today...

Monday, July 6, 2009

Supporting the economy

So, it's time to pick out a new bike. This is a big thing for me.

You see, I haven't bought a bike since 1990 (a very cool "jungle green" Landshark, by the way). And even then, I paid so little for it that it was barely a purchase. It's just that 1990 was the last time I paid ANYTHING for a bicycle.

I know, I know, you feel really bad for me. I can hear you thinking, "poor Rider 1 has to pay for a bike for the first time in almost 20 years. On the other hand, I'm so glad my purchases over the years allowed the bike industry to throw free stuff his way for so long. He totally deserves it."

Geez, why are you being so sarcastic? Give me a break!

As sad as I was to lose my last bike, I love new bikes. So I'm trying to look at the bright side and think about all the cool stuff that might like to live in my garage.

I have a reputation for being very pragmatic about the bikes I ride. The number one rule? It has to fit. Everything other criteria is distant. Also, while there's some truth to being able to buy your way to better fitness, unfortunately I'm also realistic about this. And it drives Rider 3 crazy.

Rider 3 has an exceptionally nice bike. A couple of them, actually. So does Rider 2, actually. Anyway, I've been known to say things like, "That bike is awesome. It won't hold you back at all on the next climb."

The typical reply is something along the lines of, "F*$k you."

Fair enough.

Other rules: New technology is great, but it has to actually solve a problem. For example, electronic shifting. What problem, exactly, is this fixing? I understand that the front derailleur is self-centering, but so what? Eventually electronic shifting might replace cables, but in the mean time I don't care to pay a $3,000 upcharge to beta-test product for Shimano. Another example, the Mavic R-SYS wheel. So let me get this right. It's arguably the least aerodynamic wheel on the market, has a disturbing tendency to self destruct, and isn't much lighter than a more traditional wheel. Oh yeah, and it's brutally stiff and fantastically expensive. Sign me up!

Speaking of light weight, there's no doubt that a light bike is an advantage. But it's not the end-all-be-all criteria. On the other hand, riding a steel frame that's three pounds heavier than a carbon frame, and that's not as stiff and not as forgiving, doesn't make sense either. Trust me, I have lots of perspective on this one. I've ridden and owned a ton of steel bikes over the years. I appreciate them for what they are, but from a performance and comfort perspective, they're just not as good.

I'm off on a tangent again. The new bikes are so, so good now. I spent this past weekend in Orange County visiting family. I also have a good friend down there that loaned me his new Cervelo with Campy Super Record. Riding a sub-15 pound bike is so much fun. That bike was stiff as hell, comfortable, and the new Campagnolo group is really slick. I'm fortunate in that I've ridden enough gear over the years that it takes me about two blocks to adjust from Shimano to Campy to SRAM or whatever. But the new Super Record stuff is really smooth. I'd be happy to go into more detail about this some other time if anyone is interested. Love the shifters though.

The bike I just had destroyed--a five-year-old Trek Madone--was a very nice bike. Still, it fit me well and handled exceptionally. Not the most forgiving ride though. It definitely had the tendency to beat me up. The new bikes are a different animal though. Manufacturers, for the most part, have figured out how to tune carbon.

So, spending some time at Two Wheel Transit last week I started considering a few new rides. Pinarello makes a very nice looking frame. It's also fantastically expensive, and I'm not sure about the wavy stays and fork. I know they're supposed to absorb road shock, and they look cool, but seem to be mostly about style. On the positive front, they're light, and the geometry would work really well in terms of getting my position right. Friends I know that ride them love them, too.

TWT also had a couple of nice looking Eddy Merckx frames. Mostly though, it looked like they piggybacked an order at whatever Taiwanese factory produces some of Pinarello's frames. Not on my short list, anyway.

Then there's the Seven or Parlee route. Very nice looking, simple frames, but it's not going to happen. Way too expensive, and really the technology is years behind what you get from a Trek or even a Cervelo.

Speaking of Cervelo, what do you think about their marketing? I love it when they say stuff like, "half of our employees are engineers. That says a lot about our company." On the other hand, they have like 35 people that work for them. So, yeah, half your company is engineers, but it's kind of a dubious honor. Kind of like when a company says, "combined, we have over 300 years of industry experience." In other words, you have a lot of inexperienced employees, or a handful of really old ones.

I really shouldn't pick on Cervelo so much. I love that they're so supportive of pro racing and they do make nice bikes. I've ridden a couple of them for enough miles to get a strong impression. And while they're not on my short list, I'm sure they make plenty of people happy. Good for them.

Back to my purchase. So then there's Trek. Originally I was thinking of getting something new, given that I've been riding Treks for 12 or 13 years. But Rider 3's bike is so freaking sweet. And then last week Trek released its new version of the Madone. I'm seriously leaning towards this now. It's very light, the geometry is perfect for me, and the technology behind the bike make it, I think, the best-engineered bike out there. Plus, Trek's warranty program rocks.

Lots of decisions. Any opinions?