Thursday, April 30, 2009

Race Virginity

A week ago Tuesday while I was signing up for the Twilight Series race I noticed that the woman in front of me seemed to be a little anxious. She was talking to Karen, the head official, wondering if she was doing the right thing by trying this racing gig. Karen assured her she will be fine and will enjoy herself. At this point my mind began to wax sentimental of my first ever race on a hot afternoon June 1986. The bike shop I had purchased my first road bike at and haunted for the last 10 months told me I should give racing a try. The owner stroked me with the usual complements such as you are fit enough, you ride real strong and other customers of his who raced don't have the talent that I possessed. At this point I must sheepishly confess the man was blind both literally and figuratively. Now blinded with ego I agreed to give it a try. The race was to go off at 6:00pm and it was a 10 mile time trial starting at the Bowl and Pitcher in Riverside Park. I arrived at the start to register around 4:30 only to find no sign of a bike race. I waited for 40 minutes until I notice a lady pulling up with a car that had an Arrivee Cycling Club sticker in the back window of her car. When she got out of her car I asked her if she had anything to do with the race. She said she was and in fact was in charge of registration. "Well I would like to sign up for it." I told her. "Man are you early. You must be a four" she said. "A what?" I asked. "A four, you know your cat." she answered. "Cat?" I replied. "Oh man you are as green as they get." she stated. As I filled out the paper work she kept giving me words of encouragement. She must of thought I needed them and I couldn't figure out why. Upon reflection, my shaky hands and the constant questions about the registration form she may have felt I needed encouragement. Soon the whole area was surrounded with cyclist. All were conversing in a language that I couldn't understand like-"Are you running a straight block?" and "I can push a 53x13 on this course". The next thing I witnessed is the younger riders lining up for the race official rolling their bikes backwards in a straight line. What the hell is going on? Is this some kind of cult? The shouting of my name pulled me away from the freak show and to the start line. I can remember everything about that last few seconds before I launched off into my cherry popping race. I was straddling a black Miyata 912 equipped with Shimano 600 EX (Before index shifting) and wearing Rhode Gear shorts, black and white checkered jersey and Vittoria shoes. I tighten down my toe straps(before clipless pedals) and hear the count down 5,4,3,2,1...... Crap! I have cotton mouth and I have no water in my water bottle! GO. I hammered like it was the last 200 meters of a sprint. Now I was anaerobic and dying of thirst not even a kilometer from the start. I kept shifting gears trying to find one that would give me speed without blowing up my legs.(I never did find one). This course had two turn around points. One at the 2 mile mark and the other at the 7 mile mark. At the first turn around I was on the wheel of my 30 second man and about 200 meters after the turn around I past him. This gave a new found motivation. I pushed even harder than I had before. My mouth was becoming even dryer than before. I was breathing heavy but very rhythmically like the timing of that song I hated so much. Styx's "Come Sail Away". "Oh great!" I thought to myself. Now I have that hideous song stuck in my head and my mouth feels like a desert. Before I knew it I was approaching the next turn around and I was catching my minute man. About 400 meters after that turn around I past him. I dug deeper and my thirst became stronger. With about a mile to go I was so parched I began dry heaving. The polluted Spokane River that ran parallel with the course began to look good to drink even thought we were down river of the sewage treatment plant. With my eyes watering from the gaging I could see the finish line. It was the longest 400 meters of my racing career. When I crossed the line I saw a woman preparing to start her race. She congratulated me and asked if I was ok because I didn't look so good. I open my mouth to speak and it sounded like Velcro. Through hand jesters I conveyed I needed water. She handed me her full bottle water and I downed it like frat boy does a beer bong. She yelled at me, "Hey, don't drink it all." It was too late. "What am I going to do now. I should be starting any"........ "Laura Grey to the line please. Last call." "Thanks you prick." I wished her a good race but I believe it fell on deaf ears. I finished second that fateful day and have always remember to have water in my bottles. be on the other side of being a race virgin.

Race Report: Tuesday Night at SRP

Damn you, Gabe Varela.

It’s been a while since someone flat out rode me off of their wheel, but that’s exactly what you did Tuesday night, you little f*cker.

A decade (or more) ago I was the one with the capacity to torture the guys with families, big jobs and a propensity for malted beverages and prosciutto. But no excuses, that effort uphill into the crosswind just about killed me. 30 miles an hour. Are you kidding me?

I knew you were going to attack when you did and I was right on your wheel. I knew the attack would stick. And I knew that if I didn’t go with it I’d spend the rest of the race chasing and racing for fourth place. Again. Unfortunately knowing that I need to go with an attack and staying with a break during the hardest part—as it’s forming—are two very different things.

This week’s Tuesday Night Extravaganza of Suffering was held at Spokane Raceway Park. The weather was less than pleasant: 45 degrees with a steady 30 mph wind. Intermittent sprinkles made it even more enjoyable. What’s sad is that these are typically good conditions for me. And unlike last week, I showed up on time and got in a decent warm up, so had fewer excuses than usual.

I’d love to make some excuses though. Let’s see, did I get blown off the front end of the break because my bike is two pounds heavier than some? No. Was it because I rode my ancient training wheels? No. What if I had a different bend to my handlebars? Negative, ghost rider. Some guys wore skinsuits in 45 degree weather. Would a skinsuit’s aeroness have helped? Absolutely not.

No, my problem was simple. The strongest riders did well tonight, and I’m clearly not a member of that club right now.

The race was flat out attrition. After the first two-and-a-half mile lap there was a lead group of 12. After two laps there was a break of three (plus me getting dropped from it), with a chase group of 10. A lap later the break was 20 seconds up the road, where it would stay for the rest of the race, with eight chasers. At the finish I was tired, distracted and didn’t have my heart or head in the game.

I rolled over the line fourth in the sprint that wasn’t really a sprint to take seventh place. This sounds better than it was. Mostly I was sprinting to get my bike into my car and turn on the heater.

So kudos, Gabe. You were the strongest man out there Tuesday, and you’ve completely demoralized me.

I either need to start training consistently or take up golf. Bike racing is hard.

And to Rider 2, who stayed at home instead of showing up to race, I hope you made progress on that needlepoint project you're behind on. Or was it a quilt?

Blogger's note: Ordinarily calling someone a f*cker is grounds for serious offense. In this case though it's meant with total respect. No offense either to Rider 2. He's such a nice guy and generally undeserving of being called out. But still ... Finally, to other riders out there I don't plan to recount every time someone tries to ride me off of their wheel, so please don't make it a point to try to do this to me with the hopes of becoming a legend to the readers of this fair blog. 

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.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Sufferictionary: A collaborative effort begins

A basic analysis of this blog, and in fact most discussions of bike racing and go-fast riding, reveals a common thread. To many of us suffering is tied closely with our lovely sport.

To the uninitiated this sounds worse than the reality. In fact working hard and pushing your limits creates great memories, sense of satisfaction and provides all kinds of interesting insights into your character (or lack thereof).

But I’ve often thought that suffering is far too general of a term. In fact suffering on a bike need to be qualified—it needs an adverb to its verb, a Sonny to its Cher, a Bruyneel to its Armstrong.

So with today’s post I’d like to suggest a new type of dictionary. Ideally this will be a collaborative effort to begin defining suffering in more detail. 

After all, Rider 3 has reminded us that a blog, by definition, should be random and whimsical. I’m not sure about the whimsical part because in my experience that’s a word used primarily by HGTV hosts to describe quilts or county-kitchen decorations. But in any case, here's an initial list to get the proverbial juices flowing:

Out of shape suffering: A variety of suffering that is more often than not accompanied by ample self-loathing.

Early season suffering: A combination of wind, cold, and rolling hills that invariably make legs feel especially heavy, thick and uncomfortable.

About to get dropped suffering: The rubber band is about to break. Not fun.

Hypoglycemic suffering: A type of suffering characterized by bloating, tunnel vision and an inability to ride more than 13 miles per hour despite not being out of breath or your legs hurting. Typically comes after multiple bonks (U.S. bonk, not Australian bonk) on a single ride.

Spite suffering: Suffering brought on by digging deep to ensure a rider one doesn't particularly enjoy riding with doesn’t win a town line sprint or a race. There’s a unique feeling to this toxic mixture of lactic acid and anger. Example here.

Pride suffering: Similar to the above description, but rooted more in digging deep not to embarrass yourself.

In shape suffering: Die, come back to life. Die, come back to life. Die, come back to life. And on and on it goes.  

No-chain suffering: The Holy Grail of bike racing. It’s a travesty for any rider that doesn’t get to experience this transcendent state at least once per season. Characterized by a niggling awareness that you are tired and quite uncomfortable, yet none of those sensations matter. A rider experiencing this kind of suffering can easily make other riders suffer much more. Climbing, descending, crosswinds, sprinting…it doesn’t matter. It’s like there’s no chain on the bike. It is said to be a beautiful thing.

Interval suffering: Have you ever wondered how long three minutes can feel? Welcome to eternity.

Trainer suffering: This is often a combination of interval suffering and early season suffering. To make it even more fun, it is often accompanied by extreme genital numbness.

Do you have other examples? Use the comment section and we’ll do our best to figure out a way to compile the list into something cohesive.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Return of the Cycling Widow

Dear Cycling Widow - As the nice weather comes along, I am more motivated to be on my bike and want to start riding longer on the weekends. Any tips for me as I ramp up the miles and hours in the nicer weather?
Signed, Loving the Weather

Dear Loving the Weather - I'm glad you love the weather so much because it is also causing the grass to grow, weeds to appear and the shrubs to need trimming. I hope you are saving a bit of energy for taking care of the yard because I am sick of hearing how tired you are after a 3 hour ride. Maybe you should consider getting the yard work done BEFORE the 3 hour ride if that will use up the last of your energy. Maybe you should consider that after I work my full-time job, act as the primary parent to our children and take care of our house I am having a hard time fitting in all of the YARD WORK while you are on your bike and the kids are needing full time attention. Did you ever stop to consider THAT while you are trying to "ramp up your miles"? I'll show you what needs ramping up!

Dear Cycling Widow - I am fairly new to the sport of cycling but I find it is really consuming. I want to either be riding or thinking about riding or talking about riding or buying something for my riding all of the time. Is there a cure for this problem?
Signed, Loving it!

Dear Loving it! - The answer is divorce. It won't change your obsession, but at least it won't be your poor wife's problem any more.

Dear Cycling Widow - I've been cycling for a while and think this is the best sport in the world. I've been spending more and more on the bike and I think it would be great to have my wife along so I've decided to suprise her by buying a bike for her. Should it be a starter bike or should I go ahead and spend the money on something that she will enjoy as she progresses?
Signed, Looking forward to riding with my wife

Dear LFTRWMW - In considering what bike to buy for your wife, a couple of things come to mind. First, has she done or said anything to suggest she wants a bike! And second, if not, then WTF? Did your wife buy you quilting books when she decided to make one with a friend? Did she sign you up for Yoga Couples when she decided to take some classes? Are you joining the gals for some chardonnay and book chat once a month now? Just because you enjoy it doesn't mean she wants you to "surprise" her by spending your joint checking account on another bike when she hasn't once said that she wants one. Fine, you get credit for noticing that she is left out and for wanting her to be along, but let's be reasonable here.

Dear Cycling Widow - One of my riding buddies has decided that the best way for him to get more riding time is to get his girlfriend a bike and have her come along. He hasn't seemed to have noticed that our riding group is all men. Should I point this out?
Signed, Enjoys "guy" time

Dear Caveman - "Guy" time? Seriously? Have you not noticed that there are women riding bikes all over? There are female racers, female commuters, female road riders and mountain bikers, female casual riders and female serious riders. Do you not think a woman can keep up with your group or do you think a woman's breasts interfere with her ability to steer a bike and therefore is a danger? If you are threatened by a woman tagging along to your group you should make sure that everyone is off the same mindset before you dismiss 50% of the population from qualifying for your ride due to the presence of ovaries. And if you are all of the same mindset, you should wake up and smell turn of the century.
Cycling Widow

Thursday, April 23, 2009

First Timer - Version 2

I seem to like stories in two parts. Not sure why. When they do that with sit-com episodes it drives me crazy, but maybe that's because I have to wait a whole week to find out how the zany adventure will end. In this case, I suggest just checking this blog every other day just in case I am rambling on in a somewhat related two part way. Actually, I would not suggest checking in on this blog at all unless you share the sickness that I have, which is regularly thinking about cycling, looking out the window and contemplating the weather - for riding purposes only, or as a substitute for buying something bike related on a daily basis. I've tried it, and I can tell you it is not a good way to improve one's marriage. True story: my wife once forbade me from going into Two Wheel Transit with any credit cards or a checkbook. Any cash I had in my pocket was fair game, but it did limit my buying for a while.

Yesterday, putting aside the problem with getting most of the facts wrong, I told the story of a young man doing his first road race and coming through with strength and glory.

Today's tale is a about a rider who is less young and is seeking less glory (at least today), but is new to the sport. For the last number of years, a guy who I will call Steev (but keep in mind that this is not his real name), would intermittently tell me that he was interested in taking up cycling. We would see each other a few times a year and at most of these times he would say something like "I really want to get a bike. Will you help me?" I would answer, "Sure Steev (but keep in mind this is not his real name). Just give me a call and will hit the bike shop." Even though Steev (keep in mind that this is not his real name) was ernest in his comments, another year would drag on and Steev (keep in mind that is not his real name) would still be bikeless but interested.

So, last April I was at social gathering and Steev (keep in mind that is not his real name) told me, again, that he wanted to get a bike. Since I love going to bike shops and I like Steev (keep in mind that is not his real name), I told him, again, to just let me know when we wanted to go and I would be glad to tag along and give him some advice. This time, however, to my great surprise I actually got a follow up call and Steev (keep in mind that his not his real name) wanted to go bike shopping the following weekend.

Now, if you knew Steev (which is hard to know if you do or not, since I am not using his real name), one of the things you would know about him is that he doesn't do things by halves. He is a definite in-for-a-penny-in-for-a-pound kind of guy. So when we went to the shop, he didn't just look at the bikes, he came prepared to jump in and buy a bike. And not just a bike, but also everything he needed to go riding. In fact, his leap was so effective, that we literally drove about three miles from the shop and took our first ride that day and Steev (keep in mind that is not his real name) looked like a page out of Colorado Cyclist. Which is reasonable to say since just like a model on the pages of a catalog, every single item on his body and his equipment was all exactly the same age - brand new.

One side note, and the reason it is nice to have a good and twenty-four year long relationship with your LBS (local bike shop). When it didn't work out to get together on Saturday to buy a bike and Steev's gear (keep in mind that is not really his name), the owner of Two Wheel Transit, Stephen (that is his real name), agreed to meet us on Sunday afternoon when his shop was closed and IN THE TWO HOURS BEFORE HIS DAUGHTER'S FIRST BIRTHDAY PARTY. Now that, my friends, is customer service (and evidence of a very understanding wife).

From that first ride last April, Steev (keep in mind that is not his real name) and I started riding together at least 3-4 times a month, sometimes more. We started out with an easy 15 mile ride and keep increasing time and intensity over the next few months. As the summer wore down, Steev (keep in mind I have cleverly disguised his identity by not using his real name) decided that he wanted to ride a century to celebrate his initiation into cycling. We took a serious look at where we were with mileage and a serious look at the calendar and amount of nice weather left, and put together a plan to ramp up the mileage and be ready to "comfortably" ride a century. Sure, your first century should be hard and an accomplishment, but I also didn't want Steev (whose real name is not used in this story) to hate his bike at the end of 100 miles.

Steev (which is not really his name) jumped on the plan like the in-for-a-penny-in-for-a-pound guy that he is, and we were soon on the way to being ready. We invited along Rider 1 and on the appointed weekend we had perfect fall weather for a 100-mile cruise on the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes (a trail that should be known throughout this country for it's near perfection - nice trail, amenities, incredible lakes, rivers and wildlife and for being 74 continuous miles in each direction).

This year, while die hard cyclists were starting to ride in bad weather, Steev (a cleverly used name to disguise his real identity) was caught up with his professional life as a captain of industry (or is he a titan of commerce?, not sure). Nonetheless, his biking enthusiasm was reignited and we went out for our first ride together last weekend. It has now been followed up by two early and cold Morning Rides, one of which included Steev's first ride up Hatch (did I mention that is not his real name?).

So now, I have established a rather lengthy introduction to my main point, which is this. If you could write up a text book on how to be an introductory cyclist, Steev (no, I'm not giving away his identity this late) would be the guy pictured on the front cover of said text book (now THAT would give away his identity). He managed to not geek out reading every word of advice on the internet and in BikeSnob's beloved Bicycling Magazine and he managed to not believe he was the second coming of Lance Armstrong on his first ride. He was interested in learning about cycling and interested in testing himself to see what he could do on the bike, but in a way that was both enthusiastic and reasonable. He wanted to fit in with the experienced guys, but not pretend to be one. He truly wanted to earn his spot in a group ride and understand what that meant.

At this point, I am ready to dispatch my pupil to cold cruel and wonderful world of cycling. He has learned all that I have to offer and in about three weeks he will be kicking my ass up every hill. Good luck as you continue your cycling journey, my friend (who's name is not Steev), you have officially graduated from the Rider 3 School of Cycling.

First Timer - Version 1

I have a couple of stories about riders doing their first. In this case, it's a first road race. But let me give you my Tuesday night race report: Damn.

Should I elaborate? How about, damn this gut and aging legs of mine.

Elaborate more? Sure. Big T is a bike mechanic at Two Wheel Transit and he took care of a minor issue on my bike Monday. I arrived late at the race site on Tuesday, but fully functioning thanks to Big T, and we chatted as we rolled from staging through the neutral zone. This is when he told me that it was his first road race.

We rolled out from the neutral zone and the speed increased from 16 mph to 16.2 mph. I had arrived late and had no warm-up at all, so 16 mph in a group was easy, but I was concerned that we would roll along this way for 4-5 miles and then the hammer would come down quick and hard, at which point I would blow chunks and then blow up, or maybe those things in reverse order. I decided to roll to the front and increase the speed so that we were at least "working". Instead, I found that the group mostly wanted to stay at their rolling stroll, so I ended up off the front with two other aging soldiers. We hung out there for a bit and then the group caught us and, in a good race tactic, a group took off immediately. It turns out it was three guys from Rocket Velo. After the three worked together their lead would go up or down, but they were in sight of us. One of the three got tired (and it was windy, windy, windy out there) and so two kept at it. They kept at it from about mile 3 until mile 23 of a 25 mile race. The two were Pat, who joined us for the inaugural TTW Shop Ride, and Big T, doing his first road race. Their teammates effectively blocked at times and no other team was willing to put 3-5 guys up front and do the 3-5 minutes of sustained work to pull them back.

I kept thinking they would get tired and we would sweep them up, but they doggedly kept at it through the section directly into the wind, up some rolling hills and then down a long descent. (Side note, this downhill is when a Vertical Earth rider tried to take about 37 of the 45 of us out of contention by thinking he should use some extra downhill momentum to cut through a gap half his size. Since we all have to go to work the next day, thankfully his poor decision didn't result in anything serious.) As the course headed back into town, Pat and Big T were finally caught with 3-4 miles to go. Usually at this point those two would sigh deeply, feel disappointment at getting caught and feel relief at not trying to hold off the group. This is then usually followed by letting the pack roll through and hanging on to the end. Instead, both of them stuck near the front and, to my amazement, Big T pulled us not only for the last three or so miles, but then also was right there for the wind-up on the sprint. He was nipped at the line by rider who had been the subject of a prior post and ended up third. Pretty damn impressive for a first road race.

Now I can get on with hoping he will move up to the B pack, from the C pack, while I continue to look for the magic in my legs. The good news for me, and this will only make sense to regular readers, I felt much better than my Sunday ride, but the bad news for me was that I felt markedly worse than my Saturday ride. I was in a great position 1 kilometer out and in a good position 500 meters out, but then the big motors started winding up, I just didn't have the punch to keep up. Know that only the first five positions get more than the obligatory "showing up" point, I quietly faded and stayed out of the way, not feeling up to fighting for a top ten instead of a top twenty.

The good news? There is another race next Tuesday, and the Tuesday after that, and the Tuesday after that. Just like the optimistic kid said when presented with a room full of horse shit, "With all this crap, there must be a pony in there somewhere!", I'll keep searching for my Tuesday night pony.

Congratulations Big T - Nice ride!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Race Report: Tuesday Night at Chapman Lake

I decided to pin up for this week's Tuesday night extravaganza of suffering. And I had such ideal preparation. I've ridden twice in the past week and have been suffering through a springtime chest cold. Good times.

The good news is that there's zero chance that I was coming in overtrained.

So I showed up at 5:40 for a 6:00 start. That left me ample time to register, pin on my number, change into riding clothes, switch the brake pads and wheels on my bike, find a pump, pump up my tires and get to the line. 

Of course, what it really meant was that it left me barely enough time to register, pin on my number, change into riding clothes, and have Quicksilver and Nick find a pump, pump up my tires, change my brake pads, and switch my wheels. It's nice to have nice friends.

Warming up is overrated anyway. In retrospect I should have done some mountain climbers on the start line. It would have totally intimidated the other teams.

I'd love to provide an exciting blow-by-blow of the rolling chess match that is bicycle racing. Sadly, last night's reality was that the race was boring and frustrating. A group of three rolled off in the first couple of miles. I tried to bridge up to them (now THAT is the way to warm up!) but we were chased down within a half-mile or so and never made it. 

So here's how the rest of the race went. We'd chase, then things would get disorganized and everyone would sit up. Then we'd try to get the group organized and start to chase, followed by more disorganization and everyone would sit up. Then someone who refused to pull would attack, get chased down instantly, and everyone would sit up. Are you catching onto the trend yet?

OK, not to get preachy, but there were a couple of teams in the race that need to revisit team tactics 101. Case in point, after one of the many micro-chases I asked a fellow worker-bee how many teammates he had in the group. 

"Where are they?"
"I think they're tired."
(Well we're chasing and it's a bike race, of course they're tired.)
"I don't think they want to get dropped."
"Well, go back there and tell them to get up here and bury it at the front until they get dropped. What do they want to do, hang on to finish last in the sprint? Get them to help you."

My motivational speech evidently didn't have the desired effect. Oh well, it's all in good fun and I'm sure next Tuesday will provide another teachable moment.

Anyway, the final 5 or 6 miles was fast and curvy, with a few rollers. I followed an attack about 4K from the finish, did my best to drive the break, but (surprise!) we got caught and everyone sat up. At that point I said to Quicksilver that I was cooked. I kind of thought he was going to try and pull a Cancellara in the final K (except at a somewhat slower speed), but alas it wasn't to be. 

Thankfully I recovered enough to win the field sprint for fourth place. Mio dio, I do enjoy a fast sprint.

Never the Arrow

A break of three others had just finished a minute or so up on the main field. We were cooling down after the field sprint, talking about the race, the sprint and squirrelly riders.

I complimented my former teammate's new bike, which was rolling on a pimpy set of Zipp 808 tubulars. I asked him how he liked them and he said some version of "They're great, but I need to figure out a way to make them go faster."

Amen, brother.

Always the Indian.
Never the arrow.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

More Weekend Update

Yes, there are worthy topics to discuss on a cycling blog, like Tyler Hamilton, Theo Boss and L-B-L, but instead I like to focus on myself. So here is Sunday's recap. First, though, keep in mind that Saturday was the first day of "I feel good, nay great" that I have had this year.

Sunday - Due to family commitments, I needed to ride early and thankfully the weather cooperated, so I met Quicksilver a bit before 7.30 am to go ride the Four Mounds course featured in the Washington State Road Racing Championships. BTW, this event is hosted by Rocket Velo, who also supports the most active discussion board around here. Chapeau, Rocket Velo. That being said, I should also comment on their choice of course. Damn you, Rocket Velo!

You don't have to be prescient to see what is coming next. Even if "Four Mounds" doesn't mean anything to you, it should be clear that the use of a clever literary device like "foreshadowing" by reminding you of my great day on Saturday that I was not going to follow up with anything good on Sunday. Saturday was like Icarus cruising around and noticing how all the people on the ground looked like ants. Sunday was like Icarus cruising around and noticing how the wax was melting off his wings and that the ground was getting a lot closer very fast.

Spokane is blessed with a lot of great riding. We have flats, hills, almost car free roads for hundreds of miles, trails and lots of whatever a cyclist is looking for. We are like Portland except that we have less rain and our riding is better. We are like Austin but without all the cool music and our riding is better. We are like . . . you get the point. Anyway, one of the other things Spokane was blessed with years ago was the Olympic Team Road Cycling Trails in 1984 and 1988 and the course they used to test the legs of the very best amateur cyclists in the United States of America was the Four Mounds course.

The devilish part of Four Mounds are not the actual mounds themselves because, well, they are mounds. You can cruise up and down lots of mounds and not feel like an Iowa flatlander in Leadville. No, the devilish part is getting UP to the damn mounds. There are a few routes up to this area, but for a Spokane cyclist they translate something like this: Charles Road - awesome descent, what? you want me to climb that thing?; Coulee Hite Road - awesome descent, what? well at least it ain't Charles Road; and finally Four Mounds Road - not an awesome descent - it's too damn steep, what? why the hell would I decide to ride a bicycle up that beast?

Well, the reason I decided to ride up that beast is that when Rocket Velo started getting the word out about the race at the end of June, Rider 1 suggested that Team Two Wheel focus on it. So, in a fit of enthusiasm, I said something like "Sure, let's go ride it this weekend and talk about it." Actually, the full meaning and intent of my answer was something more like this, "Sure, let's go ride it this weekend and talk about whether it's a race that is suitable for us and let's completely ignore the fact that we are all three more in the power rider category than hill climber category and that this route has a very, very steep 1.5 mile climb about 5 miles before the finish line and, oh yeah, Rider 1 & 2 are power riders meaning that they are good all-arounders with good sprints and I personally am a power rider meaning I have no skills other than pushing my gargantuan carcass along flat roads, but sure, why not, let's go ride Four Mounds."

So that's what we did.

Or rather, that's what Quicksilver did. He rode the Four Mounds course. He also told me stories in a calm voice indicating that his breathing was even and relaxed. The whole time. Now it is possible that his breathing wasn't even and relaxed as we actually climbed the Four Mounds hill but I couldn't confirm that since I wasn't close enough to have heard him signaling me with an air horn, much less noticing his breath. Also, I was in a hypoxic state where the world was swimming around. I only took comfort in the fact that the movement around me indicated that I was still upright, since it is hard to balance a bike at that speed. I think it looked like I was practicing my track stands - a little forward and then a little back - but somehow I eventually track stood my way to the top.

From there we continued doing what we had been doing before. I was regretting agreeing to sully my memory of how good I felt on Saturday by punishing myself with every pedal turn and Quicksilver was rolling along in his conversational breathing mode, probably wondering why he had decided to ride Four Mounds with me instead of doing something with more aerobic benefit for him, like doing his laundry.

We did ride for about 3 hours, although my guess is that we only covered about 30 miles at the speed I was going. We eventually made it back to our meeting spot, where Quicksilver headed left towards his home and I continued straight, for about 900 feet, where I got off my bike and ate and drank everything I had left with me in hopes of making it the last three or four miles to my house. Remember Saturday when I came into the kitchen with a smile on my face? Gone. It was back to complaining and collapsing. And yes, I did kick the dog.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Weekend Update

I followed the wise words of Quicksilver this weekend: more riding, less blogging.

We had our first nice weekend of weather here in Spokane and I took full advantage. Here is quick update for those following along at home (or, more likely, at work):

Saturday - One of the cycling group mail lists I am on now (speaking of which, what a great advancement for cycling - remember when we all had to call each other or have an immutable plan?) posted a ride for noon, which was followed by a ride at 8 am and then finally a ride at 10.30 am. Obviously lots of conflicting schedules, but it was great to see three groups going out from two different locations on one e-mail list.

I was running late and joined the 10.30 am group en route. The plan was to ride to Cheney, follow the upcoming Tuesday night race course (Chapman Lake) and then head home; about 3 hours and 65 miles. As I met the group, I was surprised at its size, about 20+ strong. I accidentally ended up on the front with Quicksilver and I discovered to my great surprise that I felt good on my bike. I assumed it wouldn't last long, but it was nice to have a decent temperature and finally feel capable of turning the pedals in a semi-competent fashion.

We made our way up the the Cheney-Spokane road to head into Cheney to pick up the race course when most of group turned towards Spokane to make for a shorter ride. I think some of them needed to hem their skirts that afternoon, so we didn't want to interfere with that by riding bikes, of course. Down to about 8 riders we picked up the course a few miles later when one rider flatted. While we waited for the flat to get repaired half of our group also decided to take advantage of the unplanned stop right next to the Fish Lake trail head to head back to Spokane. Thus, it was down to Rider 1, Rider 2, yours truly and J.C. (not Jesus Christ, just to be clear).

As we rode along I realized something extraordinary; I still felt good. Actually, the longer we rode, the better I felt. I have had this happen in the past, but it is certainly the first time in 2009 it has happened and frankly, I don't think it happened once in 2008. I'll have to recount the 2007 and 2008 riding seasons sometime, but suffice it to say, after slogging along on lots of tough rides and lots of "don't worry about me I can make it back to town on my own" and "you go ahead on the hill, since I can't keep up and that old lady on the three-wheeler needs to get around me", I was pleasantly surprised to discover I was feeling good about pushing the pedals around at a reasonable cadence and power.

The ride around Chapman Lake and back into town wasn't remarkable for anything other than a decent temperature, some sunshine and that I was left sucking the hind tit for the majority of the ride. All three things happening for the first time around here this year.

The four of us made it back to H195 in good fashion. While the three of them headed up the Fish Ladder home, I made a turn the other direction and soft-pedaled home. I came into the kitchen with a smile on my face and my wife was unsure what was happening. So far, it has been mostly collapse and complaint after riding, so it was a nice change of pace. I didn't even kick the dog.

So, to recap Saturday - lots of riding, felt great. Saturday's recap blog - insulted women, christians, suckling sows and animal rights activists.

I wonder what Sunday's recap will hold?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Hamilton Tests Positive / Pro Night Canceled

It is hard to imagine that you haven't checked the blog each day for cycling commentary, but just in case, here is a reminder that Pro Night with Kit Vogel is canceled for this Friday. Kit has had a family emergency that will prevent her from making it to Spokane this weekend. Due to the short notice we were not able to secure a replacement speaker, so we will reschedule with Kit some time when she is available and we will put together another program soon.

In other news, bike enthusiasts everywhere can continue to have their joy sucked out of professional cycling. When Tyler Hamilton was first accused of doping violations it was almost unthinkable that this boy scout troop leader type cyclist would ever consider such a thing. Today, it seems unfortunately inevitable.

For a bit of irony, check out Rudy Pevange's comments in the First Edition Cycling News FROM TODAY literally hours before the Hamilton story was released, "The others - [Ivan] Gutierrez, [Tyler] Hamilton and [Francisco] Mancebo - have suffered so much of their history that they will never touch doping again." This is in the midst of comments about the common knowledge of blood transfusions in 2006.

More discussion is due on this topic, but for now, let us mourn the passing of Hamilton's dignity and our collective appreciation of his prior achievements, most or all of which are called into question as this story continues to unravel.

On a more positive note, let's ride our bikes! At least around here, the weather is looking great.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Blog General News

First of all, I personally want to thank Quicksilver for his insightful commentary on his trip to Germany. Actually, I don't. You see, I had this idea that he could tell us a bit about bike culture in the Fatherland and we ignorant Americans could learn a bit of the Euro outlook from one of our own. Instead we got these snarky mini-blogs. Did I suggest a Twitter blog each day? No, I did not. When I take my trip to Pasco next week, you can be damn sure I won't spend my time trying to enlighten Quicksilver on the nuances of their bike culture either.

On a light note, I wanted to share a bit about our blog. Somewhere I saw that the terms of my "agreement" with Google Analytics, who tracks visitor information, includes a prohibition on sharing some of the information. I didn't see that part, but only because the agreement is 17,000 words long and I was only on that page long enough to find the correct button to click to get off of it. If someone could let me know the salient points, I would appreciate it. Until, I am going with the ignorance is bliss approach.

The idea behind the blog was to talk about cycling generally, our rides and some of our thoughts, as well as tell people a bit about LBS, Two Wheel Transit. To my great delight, this little bloggy blog has now been read nearly 10,000 times in 48 countries or territories across the world. Not bad for a blog that started in late January. For a while we had no readers in Russia, so giant land mass was not colored in on our map, but thankfully we have now had two visitors from the Motherland. I would still like to get Greenland filled in (we've got Iceland, thank you), so if you know someone in Greenland, tell them to fire up the whale-blubber generator and point their favorite browser to us.

The next most interesting thing about the blog are the search words that people put into Google (and others) and then find a link that they use to get to our site. The lead in this category is clearly the Fizik Antares review done by Rider 1. Apparently this is a hot topic, because a lot of people have come by to take a look. The D2 Shoe review is also way up the list. We are also a source, for no good reason, on the Gonzaga Cycling Team. Apparently we should feature some of their riders, because people are coming to the site looking for them.

As we move down the list, Craig Hummer makes a number of appearances, as in "Craig Hummer", "Craig Hummer Twitter", "Craig Hummer Sports Broadcaster" and "Craig Hummer's Blog". Two things, first, I am glad that anyone looking for CH information will stop by here and find out what a knob he is, and second, no one has done a search for "Craig Hummer fur-lined speedo" and stopped by. Maybe someday.

Kirsten Gum has also generated a number of visits, but they are a bit different in nature. Here is the list of terms used in connection with Kirsten Gum: "bust size of", "cover of tri", "blogspot", "drunk driving", "in a bathing suit", "measurements", "what is bust size" and the most disturbing, "panties". It makes me feel sorry for female celebrities. Speaking of female "celebrities", something else that makes me feel bad, someone was actually looking for pictures of Rasika Mathur nude. Why? Seriously, is that a good idea?

Here are few more oddities and I want to emphasize these are actual words used to search for things that resulted in people visiting our site (along with my own comments):
  • can't separate felted sock (a logical way to find our blog, right?);
  • funny team names for four wheeling;
  • how to ride in the wind go faster;
  • lance armstrong private jet (TTW, your source for pictures of lance's toys!);
  • ambassador fishing wheel (a what?);
  • rider stand up 2 wheel;
  • shaved cycling (let's not think about this one);
  • so you think football players are tough chasing a ball around for 90 minutes? well we chase a yellow jersey up and down mountains for 3 weeks (proof that not everyone understands the idea of "googling"; it's different than editorializing);
  • something that means two completely different things;
  • urban dictionary nether regions (thank goodness Kirsten Gum had nothing to do with this one);
  • what those huge motorized wheels are you can ride on the lake are called (yeah, what are those called?);
  • wheel of math - and companion - math of cycling;
  • 2 pig wheel pulling a wheel;
  • 3 wheel stand up bike (the opposite of a recumbent I guess);
  • adjusting fork rake (is this a good idea?);
  • bike to support overweight rider (hey, thanks!);
  • paraphrase of mother, I cannot find my wheel (nor can he find his senses);
  • ride and be damned (right there with you brother);
  • spray tan münchen (huh?); and,
  • what are the rides in Italy with the two wheels and you have to stand up (this is why head trauma victims should be kept away from google).
I can only guess at what some of those things are, but mostly it worries me. However you got here, though, thanks for stopping in. Particularly if you are from Greenland.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Quicksilver Travels. Day 9

Chatty Cathy, aka Rider 3, insisted that I blog about my trip to Germany. Fine.

Today I flew home from Amsterdam to Seattle and then came home to Spokane. There was no bike riding.

I hope you enjoyed my travel blog.

Tuesday Night Racing

The Baddlands Cycling Team held the first of the season's Tuesday Night races last night. The locations vary and last night's race was held at Spokane Raceway Park. In addition to the all-American quarter-mile loop and drag strip, the car racing venue also boasts a 2 1/2 mile "road" course. Even with it a bit torn up, Baddlands made good use of the available asphalt. We then had to make good use of the available daylight.

Since yesterday morning started out with a couple of inches of fresh snow on the Spokane area and rain threatened intermittently all day, I was pleased and surprised to see the large number of racers turn out. In years gone by these races were done in three packs, A, B & C, with the women generally joining the C pack. The A pack was often around or under 10 riders, with the B & C pack around 15 up to 20. A big turn out for women was 3. Last night they added a Women's pack and there must have been 20-25 women in it. Interestingly, the entire pack was made up of one team, Riverstone Woman's Cycling. That does decrease the use of team tactics, but it was an impressive showing.

I arrived to the course late, one of a series of less than savvy decisions on my part, so I'm not sure how big the B pack was, but the A pack was about 20 and the C pack closer to 30.

How did my racing go? Let's use the term racing in it's loosest definition and then I will proceed. As in, I did pin on a number, I did go around the course with a group of people most of whom I have never shared pleasantries, and there a number of pointless accelerations and pseudo-attacks. Sure, this could describe a Morning Ride outing, but you forgot about the race numbers.

I decided to ride my bike to the venue. I like to forget each year how long it takes to do this, so thinking that 30-35 minutes would do it, I left my house 55 minutes before my start time. I intended to leave earlier, but I also decided to change out my race wheels after the time I planned to leave. Mistake 1, which lead to Mistake 2, leaving too late. It turns out that it took me about 53 minutes to get to the course. Thankfully, the race officials were understanding of my lack of planning as they had met me before and were used to such antics. At least I had my race fee.

In the three minutes I had, I registered, pinned on my number and stowed my pack. I also realized that I was a bit tired, sweaty and cold. Thankfully the pack was slated for about 30 minutes, so I figured I could endure most of this.

The first lap I rode in the rear third, in part because I was still figuring out if I was ready to race and because it has been two years since I pinned on a number out there. After riding the first lap, which served as my preview of the course, I wasn't feeling sparky, but I wasn't feeling bad, except that, and this is a silly thing about which to complain, but my socks were too thick and it meant my shoes were pinching and my toes getting numb. Looking back, I like to think this is the reason I didn't finish higher. Let's be clear, it had NOTHING to do with it, but I still like to think that it did.

After the first lap I moved up a bit higher in the pack and rode the next four of our seven minute laps in the front third. I tried to stay out of the wind and get used to being in a pack again. It turns out that being in the "aged" side of the pack and overweight is not the best recipe for racing success. I should call Lance and let him know. The variety of pointless accelerations were not too bad, as I was able to keep up. Accelerations on a bike can take a variety of forms. The best ones are surprising and the increase in speed is quick and sure. Mine were more like a snowball rolling down a hill. A bit hesitant at first, gaining speed slowly and then amazement at how something that large seems to be moving fast.

The feeling of racing deserves books and blogs and paragraphs of their own, but I think that racing is always humbling. It is always difficult and, for me, there are always points where it takes much more mental effort to maintain your place than muscle effort. Last night, as we took our last lap, the pace kept creeping up, as usual, and there was more jockeying for spots. I realized as we entered the last third of the last lap that I did not have the jump in my legs to really be part of a sprint. I momentarily made the decision to pull out of the pack to avoid being in the way or needing to dig deep to fight out the fifteenth spot. Just as this thought flitted through my head I also decided that I was letting my mind get to me and I might as well hang in there and see it to the end, particularly as the end was only 120 seconds away. Unless you have raced, though, it it hard to realize how much pain you can pack into two minutes.

Anyway, I ended up with what I would call a "position based" 9th. I had a good position into the last tricky corner. While I lost some spots on the acceleration out of the corner I held on to the last of the group and nine of us ended up with a significant gap on the 20 or so behind. The finish was windy and uphill, so it was a long drag. I was not gaining on 7 and 8 enough to catch them and I had 30 meters on 10 - 12, so I cruised across the line at the tail end of the first group, which was fitting. I often find that if I am in shape, my goal is the be the slowest guy in the fast group. I succeeded at that.

My buddy PW says that winning a race like this is akin to the pride of being the tallest midget in the circus. Last night I may not have been the tallest, but I got out in the midst of the three rings for the first time in a long while.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Sorry for the late notice, but Pro Night with Kit Vogel is canceled for this Friday. Kit has had a family emergency that will prevent her from making it to Spokane this weekend. Due to the short notice we were not able to secure a replacement speaker, so we will reschedule with Kit some time when she is available and we will put together another program soon.

Sorry for any inconvenience.
Rider 3

Quicksilver Travels. Day 8

Chatty Cathy, aka Rider 3, insisted that I blog about my trip to Germany. Fine.

Today I traveled to Amsterdam. There were lots of bikes. For me, no bike riding.

Pedals2People & Weekend Ride Report

Saturday - The weather was tough for bike riding on Saturday. Early morning downpour followed by wind and intermittent rain for the remainder of the day. Due to work and kids I rode by myself.

The primary thing of note on this ride was the wind. I usually like riding in the wind because I am large enough that my power is somewhat effective against the wind, whereas anything uphill becomes power-to-weight. I lose on this scale. On Saturday though, the wind was blowing hard enough that there wasn't any sense of "pushing" against the wind. Instead, the overall effect was "why have my legs abandoned me?" I know that rationally I would have been able to deduce the impact of the wind. I could look around and see trees, grass, occasional flags, or whatever blowing straight back at me. Instead of taking "comfort" from this, as in, "oh, the wind is blowing like a __itch, so I guess I'll just slog along", instead there was a veritable chorus of "you can't ride a bike!", "you have no legs!", "why don't you just put the bike away and focus on your other hobbies, like drinking beer?" that were all I could hear in my head. I should have known better, since this was one of those days when even downhill into the wind I had to pedal. No coasting without slowing to a virtual stop.

Nonetheless, I made my way out to the Valley Chapel hill and took a very slow, extended trip up that sucker. As I was contemplating my lack of cycling ability and my corresponding lack of value as a human (these things correspond when you are beat down on a bike, right?), I decided that I had tortured myself enough and it was time to head back into town. I stopped pedaling and the wind brought me almost to a stop as I looked over my shoulder to make sure I could cross the road and head back. As I turned, I was suddenly struck by how quiet it was. I was amazed at the way the cacophony of noise that was failing to silence my depressive thoughts was just gone. Nothing. Moments after I made my turn-around, the very slight slope had quickly caused me to pick up my pace. As I started to roll along the Palouse rollers back to the top of the V-C hill, I found myself shifting through my gears to something bigger and bigger. Uphill, downhill, didn't matter, I was eating up gears and gaining speed. I shifted into my biggest gear before the top of the hill, coasted down for a number of minutes and then stayed in my biggest gear for a total of 18 minutes. I don't know whether that strikes you as much, but for me, it was a source of the divine spark. It turns out I CAN RIDE A BIKE! Yes, sir! As long as I have a howling wind at my back and a downhill slope I can go on forever!

I was still a pile of mud when I got to the soccer field to watch my son's game, but as I stood in the wind on the sidelines, I realized that it wasn't a good wind or a bad wind, but just a question of which direction you were going.

Sunday - I am looking out for the Cycling Spokane blog on the Paris-Roubaix ride and fundraiser, or the Pedals2People official take on the happenings, but let me add just a brief comment (yes, I can be brief).

11 am - Pulled up to the Sandifur Bridge. Under-dressed and no rain gear. Sky: dark and threatening. Two others were waiting. John Speare, local cycling spiritual leader, had set a 24-mile route to give us our own taste of dirt and mud to get ready to watch Paris-Roubaix.

11.15 am - We headed uphill to join the Fish Lake trail. The non-John Speare rider called out that the pace was a bit high for the first ride of the year and he would just meet us at the Steam Plant Grill. I wanted to go with him, but I felt obliged to keep up with JS.

11.30 am - We were still riding uphill.

11.35 am - We turned uphill from our current hill to follow an unholy triumvirate of Scribner, Jensen and Goss roads. All dirt, gravel, uphill and occassional snapping of dogs (all behind fences, this time).

11.45 am - At this point, it was clear that this was the perfect P-R ride. The worse the road was, the farther JS pulled away from me. I was Hincapie to his Boonen.

11.50 am - JS tells me that the ride from this point on is paved roads and downhill.

11.52 am - We take a right turn onto a dirt road. JS has lost his credibility.

12.00 pm - We finally have covered our last of the dirt and start the long haul along Cedar. The wind is finally behind us, pavement is below us, the dogs are still separated from us and I feel okay. JS reminds me that the drop down Cedar hill is one of the best in town. He is right.

12.30 pm - We make it to the Steam Plant Grill ahead of schedule. I am tired but very happy that we didn't get more than a few rain sprinkles on us, I mostly kept up on the dirt and didn't embarrass myself by falling off or flatting with inappropriate equipment.

1.00 pm - People start to roll into the Steam Plant Grill to eat and drink beer. A mix of Pedals2People supporters, FBC riders, racers, Bike To Work types, and others all helped to fill up the lower level and stake out spots in front of the seven televisions, all tuned to the race.

2.00 pm - Paris-Roubaix coverage starts. A hush falls over the crowd. Not really.

3.00 pm - P-R starts to get serious.

3.15 pm - To my disappointment, Big George Hincapie falls out of contention. To my younger son's, Fabian Cancellara does shortly thereafter.

3.45 pm - Tornado Tom does it again.

4.00 pm - After an excellent Scottish Ale, an IPA, and a bacon-cheddar burger to make sure that I can't keep up on the next hill, we are ready to call it day. Pedals2People collected some funds, the rest of us had fun, and everyone who didn't have to mount a bike to ride home in the rain storm waiting outside was gratified.

Thanks to everyone who turned out for the P2P P-R fundraiser at the SPG. Let's do it again next year.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Quicksilver Travels. Day 7

Chatty Cathy, aka Rider 3, insisted that I blog about my trip to Germany. Fine.

Today was my last day in Nurnberg. There was no bike riding.

Shop Ride Review

Friday after work we semi-organized our first Team Two Wheel Shop Ride. We met at Two Wheel Transit at 5.30 pm for a ride around the Seven Mile loop or Riverside State Park loop. We had one recent transplant to Spokane, who shall remain named Willy, who had never been on this route. This is functionally the SpokeFest loop and the same loop about to featured in a Visit Spokane e-blast of some sort. I'll keep you posted on what comes of it. (In the meantime, Visit Spokane has quite a few bike related blog posts and a podcast on Riverside State Park mountain biking (warning, don't go looking for expert trail riding instruction - hey, calm down you three, I'm just sayin'). Here's a podcast idea: Come along on the next Shop Ride).

Anyway, eleven of us rode away from the Two Wheel Transit in surprisingly nice weather considering what has come before. Mostly with arm warmers but at least not all in tights and seven layers, we made for a compatible group. There were discussions in the shop about who was going to appear and at least one elderly lady with a 3-speed comfort bike asked about the ride, but she apparently decided that it was more important to show up at her canasta group. I mean, who wants to miss out when Mildred is making virgin daiquiris and petit fours?

We had two females, so way to go ladies for representing the fairer sex, a couple of people who have race experience, a couple who have never raced, one who told me he hadn't been on a group ride in a few years, and a couple who were newer to town. Keep in mind that some of these descriptions may overlap. I am working on how to include a Venn diagram of our group, but don't have the blogging skills for that yet. By the way, you all know what a Venn diagram is right? Those circles that overlay each other in part to show that all bears shit in the woods, but not all shit in the woods is from bears . . . but did you know the accurate definition of a Venn diagram is "a graphic representation of all hypothetically possible logical relations between a finite collection of sets"? I didn't either.

We made an on-the-road decision to include the jaunt up to the Nine Mile Bridge because the group was rolling along nicely and the weather was just so appealing after a miserable, cold, wet, snow-filled winter. We doubled back to the Seven Mile Bridge, had a couple of cramps through Riverside State Park, but all made it up Doomsday Hill in good shape.

After arriving back in downtown, there was discussion of a bit of socializing over malted beverages, but yours truly had to head home for a family obligation (did you know this weekend is Pagan Springtime Festival?), so I can't report on the finale to the ride which was rumored to be at Beneditos Pizza.

All in all, a good time and a nice ride for those with the right kind of plucky spirit to show up for the first ever Team Two Wheel Shop Ride. We don't have a date set yet for the next ride, and there was discussion of adding a mountain bike ride, so keep posted for details as they become available. We have to find out the day of Mildred's next House of Canasta party first.

Up Next: Friday, April 17, 6.30 pm - Pro Night with Kit Vogel of BikeFit. Kit has an amazing background and experience in bike fitting. I don't think there will be any Pink Floyd or Rush, but there will be lasers and you will be amazed at the science behind getting a bike fit right. You will also be amazed at how little of the euro-pro race look is really appropriate for 98% of riders looking for both speed and long-term comfort. There is no charge for this event, it is just a hang around the shop and listen to Kit talk and answer questions kind-of thing. So if you weren't invited to Mildred's next House of Canasta event (Mildred, I'm still sorry about the Depends joke I made. I hope you will forgive me some day), come join us at Two Wheel Transit, 1405 W. First Avenue on the west end of downtown Spokane.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Quicksilver Travels. Day 6

Chatty Cathy, aka Rider 3, insisted that I blog about my trip to Germany. Fine.

Today I traveled to Dresden. There was no bike riding.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Quicksilver Travels. Day 5

Chatty Cathy, aka Rider 3, insisted that I blog about my trip to Germany. Fine.

Today I was in Nurnberg. There was no bike riding.

Final Reminder - P2P P-R SPG!

From Misc Bike Pics


Friday, April 10, 2009

Quicksilver Travels. Day 4

Chatty Cathy, aka Rider 3, insisted that I blog about my trip to Germany. Fine.

Today I was spent the day in Munchen. There was no bike riding.

D2 Shoe Review: The shoes arrive

The FedEx guy played an April Fool's prank on me. Given how many cycling shoes I've had in my life, it's surprising how excited I was to get home to check out the new kicks.

Earlier in the day I received an e-mail that told me the shoes had been delivered. So arriving home the first thing I did is ask my wife where she had stashed the box. But she hadn't seen it. No sign of it on the porch, at the back door, anywhere.

A call to FedEx didn't help either. They said they would begin the tracking process, but worst case it would take a week to figure everything out. 5 minutes later though we saw the box from D2...on my neighbor's porch.

Did I mention I was excited?

I'll write a follow-up review once I've had more time riding the shoes. Although I have about a week into them and raced with them last weekend, I'd like more time to provide deeper insight.

In some ways though it's going to be hard to compare these to any other shoes I've worn. The usual shoe-review drivel doesn't apply. These dogs are a different breed. When you have a set of shoes with lasts and soles picked and tailored around a mold of your foot, it's a very different experience.

For now though here are a slew of pics and some first impressions:

First off, the shoes are fantastically light. Rider 3 (who stopped over on his way home from work, nice guy that he is) was especially impressed with this. Now, one of the guys at D2 said he's heard people say they can climb a gear higher once they get the shoes, but I also remember getting new sneakers when I was a little kid and telling my mom that I could "run faster, jump higher!" than ever before. These are really good shoes, and I'd love it if they could make me climb faster, but I'm not sure they're THAT good.

The orthotics feel great. I've had a number of sets of orthotics, but never a set that are cycling specific. The difference between these and an over-the-counter set like Superfeet, eSoles, Specialized, etc. is massive. They're not even in the same conversation, really. And I have a set of Shimano heat-moldable M-300s. Again, the insoles don't begin to compare.

The orthotics aren't perfect yet though. I sent them back to Colorado for a minor adjustment. I'm fine with this though, and in fact most orthotics I've had have needed a tweak here or there. 

This is the first set of shoes I think I've ever had that fits well through the toe box. I can't tell you how nice this is. Of course it required a size 4E last, but whatever. And the heel cup is perfect. I'm totally locked in. This is the first time for sure that I've had a wide enough shoe up front without significant heel lift. 

Below you can check out the material on the heel cup. This is new for 2009, and feels a lot like the material you'll find on the toe of a hockey skate. I'm not sure if D2 will appreciate this comparison, but it looks tough, is extremely supportive, is stiff in the right places and looks fly to boot.

I love 3 strap shoes. In my opinion it's the most comfortable set up. Unfortunately, 3 strap shoes have been relegated to the least expensive models in most manufacturers shoe lines. Plus, with a shoe that fits as well as these, you barely need the straps. Seriously.

How trick is the sailcloth? The yellow and black stripes are fibers of kevlar and carbon fiber. It's light, extremely stiff, yet molds around my foot perfectly.

Also new this year is a change to where the sailcloth is used. If you look at the shoes in the gallery on the D2 site  you'll notice that the sailcloth attaches to all three straps. Now it's just the top two. I asked Don at D2 about this and he explained that it's to give the front of the foot more room to swell during hot weather. This makes perfect sense, and it's an experience that most riders have had to work around at some point.

More to come once the orthotics come back and I have a few hundred more miles on the shoes. In the mean time, enjoy a handful of happy snaps.

From D2 Shoes
Not the white arrows on the sole. This is no align the cleats just behind the ball of my foot.

From D2 Shoes

From D2 Shoes

D2 is using a bit less sailcloth than last year's model.

From D2 Shoes

From D2 Shoes
LOVE the heel cup. The material is soft, but the cup itself is extremely supportive.

From D2 Shoes
Not a great shot, but I'm looking forward to riding with these.

From D2 Shoes
The heelcup uses a new material this year.

From D2 Shoes

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Quicksilver Travels. Day 3

Chatty Cathy, aka Rider 3, insisted that I blog about my trip to Germany. Fine.

Today I was in Nurnberg. There was no bike riding.

Upcoming Events

We interrupt your usual broadcast for these important messages.

Friday, April 10, 5.30 pm – Team Two Wheel “Shop Ride” – We will start at Two Wheel Transit at 5.30 pm and ride the Riverside State Park/Seven Mile Bride loop. No drop, casual pace (at least at the back). Rumors about a beer afterwards.

Sunday, April 12, 1 pm – Pedals2People Fundraiser – Come watch Paris-Roubaix at the Steam Plant Grill, party starts at 1 pm, Paris-Roubaix coverage on all tv’s starts at 2 pm. $2 suggested donation to P2P; Steam Plant Grill will make a donation to Pedals2People for each pint of beer or entrée, all ages welcome.

Next Friday, April 17, 6.30 pm – Team Two Wheel “Pro Night” – Kit Vogel, bike fitter extraordinaire, will give a presentation and demonstration on some of the basics of bike fitting and why it’s important. If you think the “guy at the bike shop” can fit your bike, you will be blown away by the lasers and knowledge that Kit brings to the subject. Here is Kit’s education background and a link to her business:; Director of Education, Bike Fit Systems, LLC, Doctorate in Physical Therapy, University of Southern California, Masters of Science in Biomechanics/Human Movement & Performance, Teaches clinically-based bike fitting classes to physical therapists/clinicians throughout the country (16-18 CEUs/class), Guest lecturer for University of Washington Physical Therapy Program.

Questions, e-mail me at

Rider 3

Versus Cycling Commentary, Part Two

Adrian Karsten
From Misc Bike Pics

Adrian Karsten hosted the Tour de France coverage on ESPN, so he may not belong on this list, but he was the guy who sat with Phil and Paul for the earliest regular coverage. He was a football player turned ESPN color commentator. He also committed suicide just before he was scheduled to go to prison for tax evasion. This brings to mind a couple of things. First, my grandmother has a saying that was applicable here. Keep in mind that my grandmother was of the always-wears-pearls-and-pumps set, but she once said of someone, "He was a son-of-a-bitch while he was alive, and he still a son-of-a-bitch now that he's dead." So, the fact that Karsten offed himself shouldn't change my opinion of him, but on the other hand, I don't feel like making fun of him anymore.

Al Trautwig

This will surprise some of you, but I try to not ALWAYS operate from a position of ignorance. So, instead of finding a picture of Al and making fun of the fact he was a spray-tan fan way before it was cool, instead I will quote this from the Al Trautwig Wikipedia page:
Trautwig was from 2004 through 2007 a cycling commentator for the Versus cable network's coverage of the Tour de France. Despite his years of experience as a broadcaster, he was sometimes criticized by cycling fans, for his occasionally uninformed commentary, and his tendency to compare the Tour to various mainstream sports he covers.
Huh. I didn't know we criticized him for his "occasionally uniformed commentary;" I thought we made fun of him for his inability to learn anything. He seemed so genuine in his lack of understanding form day to day and from year to year. Somehow he thought his role was to bring the "everyman" perspective to the broadcast and that to do this, it was important to never, ever be tainted by knowledge of the sport. And no, we didn't like his comparisons to mainstream sports because, for the most part, we don't like those sports which is why we are watching cycling on television. Do they do hockey comparisons during soccer? Cage fighting analogies during football? Sports analogies during NASCAR? No, because these things aren't comparable.

Oh yeah, here is the picture of Al. You know you wanted it.
From Misc Bike Pics

Craig Hummer

What can I say about Craig Hummer that can't be perfectly summed up by this:
From Misc Bike Pics

Oh, I guess I found a few words to say about Craig Hummer, like these:

Thoughts on the Tour of California

Dr. Spalm Discusses Craig Hummer

Things More Annoying Than Craig Hummer

Rasika Mathur

You know, I'm sure that there are people who found Ms. Mathur funny. They are wrong. She was a useless addition to the Tour of California. Like REM, I had lost my religion, but I just found it again. I am praying fervently that Rasika Mathur is not part of the Tour de France coverage team. Amen.

Frankie Andreau

From Misc Bike Pics

I think Frankie is probably a good guy. I feel bad about the situation he got into with Lance, his wife and various lawsuits. I also feel bad that I don't like him more than I do as a commentary person. It's not that he is bad, because I don't think he is. It's just that he isn't that good. A guy who knows this much about cycling should be marvelous. He is closer to the days in the saddle than Paul or Bob, but he has a hard time translating it into his comments. I think most of the time he is trying too hard. I suppose it's a cut-throat business, since some female Indian comic is waiting in the wings to take your place, but Frankie needs to relax. I also suppose it's hard to relax when the GREATEST CYCLING STORY OF ALL TIME LANCE ARMSTRONG is gunning for you and anyone who hires you is subject to scrutiny from GCSOATLA, but Frankie after a couple of beers is probably the commentator I want to hear.

Kirsten Gum

From Misc Bike Pics

Oh Kirsten Gum, we hardly knew you. Oh sure, we knew about your days doing NASCAR commentary which were ended by an inadvisable DUI in the early morning hours before you were due trackside, but did we really get a chance to know the real you? Maybe we did, but when the internets were going crazy calling for your head and drumming you off of OLN, we had NO IDEA what a load of buffoons were going to come along to replace you. Would anyone in their right mind really trade Kirsten Gum in for Al Trautwig?

There is a saying that you can't really appreciate what you had until it's gone, and with Kirsten, it's true. Yeah, she needed to keep learning and she needed to keep quiet and let the Phil and Paul show go, but in hindsight, she was SO MUCH BETTER than most of those that came afterward that I have been missing her more and more. And just to be clear, it's not all about the boob job. I would be glad to have her back regardless of the size of her chest. But that's just the kind of guy I am.

So I guess Kirsten is off doing some other shows, at least one featuring deep sea treasure hunting, but if I have to pick between Craig Hummer in his speedo or Kirsten Gum on the beach, it's no contest.

From Misc Bike Pics