Friday, May 29, 2009

Friday Round-up

I have a confession. I have lost the right to be a cycling blogger as I have apparently fallen off my bike and can't get on again. It has now been one solid month since I was on my bike. Those of you who are astute will notice that this month contains Bike To Work Week. Those of you who are close readers of this blog (Hey Dad!) will also notice that my lack of riding has not stopped me from jabbering about cycling most of the time, but I have to confess, the well is running dry. I think in addition to having something to say about riding, it is also the time on the bike that gives me the time and space to ponder something to have to say and the combination of organizing my life to have time to ride and the ride itself combine to allow for the creativity and energy to say something. Apparently stress and tequila are not suitable substitutes for sleep and cycling. Who knew?

Anyway, my lack of riding hasn't keep me from still thinking about cycling every day. So today I thought I would share some of the things that have crossed my way and made me think about cycling recently.

Websites - I love that the Giro is being covered daily on Universal Sports. But I can't obsess about mountain stages and watch them from 4.30 - 8 am the way I can with the live TdF stages on Versus, so I have to decide whether to NOT look at any cycling websites during the day and watch coverage that night, OR, steal a lot of the entertainment factor of watching and read about it ahead of time. The best compromise is reading the Live Coverage on They do a minute-by-minute coverage that must be like what people experienced sitting next to the radio and filling in the gaps with their imaginations. I can't see the stage, but I can see it in my mind. It is oddly fulfilling.

BikeSnobNYC - BikeSnobNYC is a man among men. Actually, I would guess that in real life he is small and slightly effeminate, but not too effeminate. Like Rapha effeminate, where you get the masculinity of being dainty, but only sorta. Anyway, the point is that he is a cycling commentator to be admired as he stands above the rest. While he gets a bit too deep into NYC arcania sometimes for me to fully comprehend (being a farm-fed westerner and all), and his knowledge of graphics arts and 80's and 90's punk/rock/metal music would indicate a professional or semi-professional knowledge that again is too deep for me to fully grasp, he is spot on with his observations of our cycling silliness. Also, today, he has a link to many male cyclists fantasy. Let's just say that Menchov didn't have the right viewpoint to fully grasp, no, fully appreciate his podium companions.

FatCyclist - Yesterday's post on racing, but not racing, is the best of Fatty. He sees and wonderfully articulates the stuff we experience on group rides, but may not understand or appreciate until Fatty elucidates it in his own way.

Boulder Report - I usually make snarky comments whenever I mention Bicycling Magazine, but today, I am going to forgo that opportunity and just compliment them on the Boulder Report. Great commentary, great writing, very interesting.

Competitive Cyclist - The What's New is the official column/blog of CC. They are the ones that mentioned the Boulder Report, but they are also a great look at the inside world of the cycling business (not to mention occasional forays into full-blown 80's racing nostalgia).

Livestrong Videos - The Boulder Report does a great job of discussing LA's media mastery, including his refusal to talk to reporters but tweeting and vlogging to his heart's content, but putting aside that issue, take a look at the videos with some great cycling personalities. Micheal Barry is today, and his bookishness comes through strongly. Jens Voigt was earlier this week and his humor comes through strongly. Dave Z. was a bit earlier and what can you say about DZ other than he should have a radio or tv program like Mystery Science Theater 3000 where he just says stuff. I would be inclined to get stoned for the first time in a couple of decades and just listen.

So, here are some of the ways I have been keeping cycling close in my heart, and now, this weekend I get to keep it close to my ass again. I am truly looking forward to it.
Rider 3

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Ride to the Demo Ride

Like we discussed in yesterday's post, today is day one for the Trek Demo Trailer in Spokane.

If you're interested, we're planning to leave Two Wheel Transit at 5:30 to ride out to Riverside State Park, demo some bikes, then ride back downtown. Just in case, the shop's address is 1405 West First Ave., on the west side of downtown Spokane. Two Wheel's phone number is 509-747-2231.

And isn't the weather incredible this week? I rode the Hangman Valley loop last night after work. I can't believe how green the valley is and how perfect the temperature has been for riding. My euphoria somehow got the better of my good sense though. It felt so good riding that I decided to ride the long climb out of the valley in my 53 x 17. I did it, but 14 hours later my lungs still hurt from the effort.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Trek Demo in Spokane

Here's a reminder that if you're in or near Spokane, that you should definitely stop by the Trek Demo in Riverside State Park this week.

The Trek crew is setting up near the Bowl & Pitcher on Thursday from 4 - 8 p.m, and Friday from Noon-4. 

I'm pretty excited to try some of the new gear. If you've been reading this blog you probably know that I spent some time in the bike industry. And in fact I spent time in the bike industry working for Trek (among other teams) and that I still ride a Trek. 

But my road bike is four or five years old, and my mountain bike, well even though I still love it, is often referred to with "vintage" as a modifier. 

A dirty, dirty bike

Last summer I spent some time riding in Colorado on the newer full suspension mountain bikes (and was totally impressed), but it will be my first time on one of the new Madones. Word is that they'll have the 6.9 Madone on hand, so perhaps there will be a chance to give the new Dura Ace a try too.

I'm interested to take a spin on the new road bikes. I've heard good things about them, but am looking forward to a nice apples-to-apples comparison. Also, since they're there I'd like to try out the Gary Fisher Superfly 29er. Yes, I know we typically write about road bikes on this blog, but mountain biking is still near and dear to my heart. 

So, more to come, but in the mean time here's a link to more information, maps, details, etc. And please note that the location is in fact at the Bowl & Pitcher, not Nine Mile. Call Two Wheel Transit at 509-747-2231 if you have questions:

I can't help myself

We could talk about the Giro, or Tom Boonen's coke problem, or my lack of riding, or the perfect Spokane weather for riding, or the explosion of cycling information via Tweeter, or even about organized rides coming up, or races coming up, or my own lack of racing, or new equipment I am talking myself into needing, but instead, I find myself thinking about the ubiquitous Lance Armstrong again.

I had doubts about his ability to come back at age 37 and in a new environment including more testing and the passport control, but I am beginning to believe he is going to be an impact player in the Tour this year. First, he is not far off the pace in the Giro and is indeed getting stronger as the race progresses. Second, he definitely had to pace Levi up the climb yesterday, showing an eclipsing of form from one to the other. Third, Bernard Kohl seems to have proven that the passport program is as easily defeated as the prior systems, so that shouldn't be a stumbling block. Fourth, the serendipitous collapse of Astana will allow Bruyneel and Armstrong to reconstitute the team around LA's gi-normous marking potential and, showing that he could be the least lucky rider in the world, allowing them to dump Contador just a few weeks prior to the TdF, providing the all-for-Lance, Lance-for-him approach that they favor. I think this all ads up to LA on the podium. Yet to be seen if he can make it 8, but in January I scoffed at the notion. Today, I'm not so sure.

On the topic of LA, however, I have to ask: what is the deal with his bikes? Aren't they getting crazier and crazier? Does he need a new custom painted or custom decaled bike for each race? And if so, why not for each stage? Let's really get to it and starting having LA ride a different bike every day. In fact, why not individually decorate and have him ride every production Madone 6.9 in his size and then sell those as one-off custom bikes through Trek dealers? For an extra fee he could run off a few bikes on sizes up and down, just for people making enough of a donation to Livestrong, no?

Here is the latest "creation" in the world of art meets sport meets mega-conglomerate marketing (and we know it's working because we are talking about it - next up, what is the deal with Kate & Jon?):

From Misc Bike Pics

From Misc Bike Pics

And, of course, you have to have a matching helmet, right?

From Misc Bike Pics

Maybe next they could set up a poll and ask fans what graphics they would like to see on LA's next bike. Any suggestions?
Rider 3

PS - Happy 20th Anniversary to Rider 3 Wife!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A long break

It was a long break. And no, I don't mean break as in breakaway, I mean a long time away from the bike. And as good as that steak at NY's Four Seasons was, it didn't do a lick of good for my form.

Like Rider 3 alluded to the other day, work and family obligations have joined forces to conspire against saddle time. Other than feeling a bit out of sorts, I survived this bike vacation and upon returning to Spokane was itching to get back on my bike.

And this past weekend had a nice present in store for me: Perfect weather. 

Late-May in Spokane is something special. Rolling hills of green wheat, gentle winds (as opposed to the gale force variety that's typical in the early spring) and sun. This weekend was perfect. At least the weather was perfect.

I rode solo on Friday for 90 minutes or so. It felt like I was on someone else's bike. My seat felt too high, the bars way too far away and small hills felt like big mountains. Three weeks off will do that.

Saturday was better, but Quicksilver (who is leaner than I've ever seen him, btw) and Nate made my life pretty miserable. A 30 minute block at threshold will do that...I followed up Saturday's ride with some solo time on Sunday, doing a series of hill repeats that left me more than a little shattered. But I also started feeling like myself, like the cobwebs were finally getting cleaned out.

All of this was just a warmup for Monday. I was tired and sore, but the day was just so perfect. About 25 people showed up to help celebrate Memorial Day. 

We rolled out of town, the sun shining on the group happily chatting away. Conversation died down a bit up the day's first climb, but resumed a mile or so later once we crested. 

It was fun to catch up with Tony, a teammate from last season and one of the nicer guys in the group, as we rolled along at the front, warming up our legs and getting things moving at the right speed. 

The Rambo Road/Tepee loop is one of my favorites in the region. For some reason it's not popular with local riders, but to me it should be a Spokane staple. The loop has a bit of everything. Flat farm roads, some steep climbs, an arrow-straight and fast downhill, ponderosa forests, basalt cliffs and coulees, river vistas, and plenty of green meadows. Some of the ride is exposed, other times you're under a canopy of trees. 

I'm not sure why I didn't bring along a camera. It's too bad because there was great light and amazing scenery.

Anyway, I love days that underline why this sport is so perfect. Three hours after I left home I found myself tired, but not completely wrecked. Nothing a plate of mexican food didn't fix, anyway.

By the way, some foreshadowing is in order. We just took delivery of our new Giro Ionos helmets and Havik glasses. Initial thoughts are all positive, but we'll get up some more detail once we have more time in them.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Random Cogitations

Per the Blogging Code, we are required to post random collections of thoughts on regular intervals. Here are my latest random, but now collected, thoughts on various topics.

Giro d'Italia - I know the Tour de France is the grand-daddy of them all, but is there more beautiful scenery than that behind the race in Italy? The country-side is breath-taking, the roads wonderful and ridiculous and totally inappropriate for 180 cyclists and the 100 support cars it takes for a major tour. I do think that promoters need to take into account the safety of the riders, but I can't blame them for cramming the Giro onto some of these great roads. There just isn't a better way to instill a desire to travel for me than to watch this race.

Race Coverage - Speaking of watching this race, isn't it time for another rant about how hard it USED to be to find information about professional racing? Now settle down while I light my pipe and tell you kids about the old days. Why, we used to have to adjust the rabbit ears on the television to catch the CBS Wide World of Sports scant weekly coverage of the Tour de France! You don't know what rabbit ears or what Wide World of Sports are? Why you young whipper-snappers, let me tell you a thing or two!

Okay, I'll skip that particular extended rant, but we have a SECOND television channel covering professional cycling, we have live streaming internet coverage FREE, and there are multiple websites offering live and/or same-day results, analysis and discussion. It is wonderful and overwhelming.

Lance Armstrong, Danilo DeLuca, Ivan Basso - Should these guys be grouped together?

Jens Voigt - I smile every time Jens comes on the screen. Indeed, WWJD?

Horrillo - Horrible. Best of luck to him.


Turns out it is not nice to damn one's work and family, nor is it easy to damn one's obligations without the benefit of a medically identifiable addiction. Oh well. I know cycling time is coming back soon.
Rider 3

Thursday, May 21, 2009


Okay, I am back, and I have some cycling thoughts, but in the meantime I need some help from my local Spokane cycling brethren. I lost a pair of grey and black smartwool socks on the way to work the other day. They fell out of my pocket along with a pair of wool underwear.

If you have seen them, please let me know.
Rider 3

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


I would like to report that I was on a 10-day bike trip, or even a 10-day vacation, or even a 10-day anything, but the truth is that the dog ate all my blog posts for the last ten days. Or chewed through the cord so I couldn't post?

Okay, maybe that's not the truth. One truth that does rear its ugly head is that life gets in the way of cycling. It turns out that the corrallary to this truth is that life gets in the way of cycling blogging also. So, between various family issues, work issues and whatnot, it was hard for any of us to find time to get to the blog. Rider 1 was traveling for family and work, and I, Rider 3, was buried but still here in lovely Spokane. Rider 2, aka Quicksilver, decided that Twitter was too wordy for him, so he hasn't been much help lately, although he is the only one with any cycling fitness (maybe there is a lesson there, I'm not sure).

On the two-wheel front, I did get a quick jaunt on my motorcycle to attend a meeting in Pasco. I realize that many fans of bicycling are such because it reduces or eliminates the use of combustion engines, but I like to think that motorcycles are dramatically more efficient combustion and therefore reasonable, but I also have to confess it feels like a form of cheating on my bicycle. Unlike the impact I would assume that cheating on your spouse has, cheating on my bike causes me to miss it all the more. As glided up some beautiful, curvy hills on my motorcycle, I couldn't help but think about how fun the hill would be to climb on my bike. I thought about how much I would enjoy the scenery, the roads, the new places if I had been there on my bike. On the other hand, covering 180 miles after an all day meeting and still getting home for a late dinner is just not possible on a bicycle, even for Quicksilver.

So, I am hoping to get on my bike later this week and getting back into the saddle, and, I am hoping to get the yoke back on and get to blogging. In the meantime, here is something to put on your calendars, the Trek Demo Factory tour is hitting Spokane on Thursday, May 28, 4 - 8 pm, and Friday, May 29, 12 - 4 pm. I understand that they will operate out of the Bowl and Pitcher area, but will confirm the logistics. What I do know is that they will have a whole slew of Gary Fisher mountain bikes, Trek mountain bikes and the range of Trek Madone road bikes. I have yet to blog up my own riding experience with the Trek Madone 6.9, but it can be boiled down to one word - AWESOME.

No matter what you ride, you should take the time to check out these bikes. Their engineers know their shiz and the bikes they are turning out ride so well that won't believe it if you are on anything a few years old or older.

Check back in 10 days for more updates. Or tomorrow.
Rider 3

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Musings on PRO

Has anyone else noticed the use of the all-cap PRO in a number of cycling blogs and publications?

As far as I can tell, the trend was started by Belgian Knee Warmers. Since then I've seen it a bunch of places: In Bicycling, on blogs like Competitive Cyclist, etc. 

I have some thoughts on the use of this all-caps word, but first, as usual, I need to digress and share some context.

I lived in Boulder for about 10 years where I fortunately and unfortunately spent a lot of time with other cyclists. If you haven't been to Boulder before you need to understand that in the Gore-Tex Vortex, style trumps everything. The way you look, what you wear, what you're riding, where you eat, what you eat, your accent or lack thereof and more all contribute in some twisted way to Boulder's unique social stratification. In Boulder, wearing this year's Oakleys or Pearlizumi isn't cool enough. You need to get your hands on next year's stuff, even though it's unavailable. 

Anyway, while in Boulder I observed many a Category 1 prima donna primping in front of the mirror for a good half hour. And no, they weren't prepping for a night out at the Rio, they were prepping for a group ride. They had to get their cycling cap angled just right. Or their trucker hat. Or wait for their new and extra-tall socks to finish drying, even though their closet drawers were stuffed with 50 other pair, but that were 5 mm shorter. 

At the time--this was in the late 90's--it was all about being "euro." It was sad to watch the amount of energy guys would spend to try and look like what they thought was some ideal for a cyclist. Mostly they ended up looking like idiots with their sweaters tucked into their pants, listening to bad electronic music they pretended to like, while talking about how "super" racing was in Europe. (This is another euro thing. Super is an essential adjective/adverb. "He was super strong." "It was a super long climb." "That's super fantastic." "She was being super lame.")

Of course every now and then a bunch of said riders would actually make their way over to Belgium or France or Spain for a few months. And 9 out of 10 of them would come back totally demoralized, quit racing and trade in their bikes for a Vespa.

OK, I'll get off this tangent. My theory is that "euro" was the precursor to "PRO." And the irony is that every time I see a PRO reference it screams amateur. Or is it AMATEUR?

For example, I was reading a certain online retailer's popular blog recently. It referenced the very cool and PRO setup of running a compact crank with 51x36 chainrings. Really? This is PRO? Now I think compact cranks are a great idea, but when is the last time you saw a pro riding them? 

Or head over to the weightweenies forums. It's filled with PRO references. But most of the things they allude to--like "that red SMP saddle looks totally PRO on your new Crumpton frame"--is pretty far from pro.

Anyway, hate to be a hater, but PRO is a pretty odd trend to me. Please, stop typing it.  

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Reasons for riding

Last week, this week and next are shaping up to be problematic for riding. Last week was taken out by a last minute trip to Vancouver, B.C. to attend to a few family matters. This Thursday I leave for New York for a week for a series of work meetings.

Of course this will leave me with almost three weeks with limited saddle time. Say goodbye to halfway decent racing form. I'm less worried about that though. I can always fake it in a race--use my head and not my legs. I'm also well past the years where racing priorities were put before every other priority in life.

What I don't like is that too much time away from the bike leaves me feeling a bit incomplete.

I started taking bike riding seriously when I was 13. I entered my first bike race the next season. I'm 37 now, so you can do the math about how many years I've been riding, and more significantly how many years cycling has been an important part of my life. Save for a few years in the late-90s following complete and total cycling burnout (working in the racing industry can do that), I haven't gone long without riding, thinking about riding or talking about riding.

Why? What is it that draws me to cycling? What draws others?

I suppose everyone has different reasons. For some, after years of running or football or tennis injuries, it's simply a kinder, gentler way to maintain fitness. For others cycling might be a way to spend time with friends. A way to get to work or to pick up the day's groceries. Some feel like it connects them with the outdoors.

There's nothing wrong with any of these things. I value all of them. But for me, and for a lot of riders I know, there's much more. "Riding is my church and every day is Sunday," a friend once said to me.

He was only half kidding. Cycling was his religion. It's where he found balance and joy, where he thought about the things happening around him, and for my friend the way he approached cycling was the way he approached life.

I don't know if it's because I started riding when I was so young, but there's something about my legs going in circles that completely grounds me. The repetition of movement does something to my brain, creates a state that I haven't found in any other activity.

And when I can't ride for a few days or certainly weeks, I don't feel right. I'll certainly survive the next week or so and will probably have the chance to get in a couple of rides somewhere along the path.

But I'm curious. Why do you ride?

Friday, May 8, 2009

Bike to Work Week

Next week is the official Bike to Work Week. I think this is a week when the various factions of cyclists come together to appreciate the bike for it's most basic function - transportation. In Spokane we have a dedicated group of people who work almost year round to bring you multiple events and locations for Bike to Work Week. If you are reading this, there is a high probability you have a bike and only a bit lower probability you have a job. And even without a job, you are probably going someplace next week where you could leave the car at home and ride your bike. If so, find your own Bike to Work Week organization, register your support and get out and ride.

Here is a list of the events taking place in Spokane. For more information, take a look at Bike to Work Spokane, where they urge you to "Work to Eat. Eat to Live. Live to Bike. Bike to Work."

What’s Happening May 10-16

Education Fair: Sunday, May 10, River Park Square, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Free and open to the public--everyone welcome!
Work off that Mother’s Day brunch with a little ride downtown.

  • See a display of the latest commuter bikes from local bike shops
  • Pick up safety information
  • Sign up for local rides and bike clubs
  • Register for BTW Week if you haven’t already.
  • Bike corral available on Main Avenue in front of River Park Square.

Bike to Worship, various dates: Ask your faith community if they are participating.

  • Bethlehem Lutheran: Sunday, May 10.

Blessing of the Bikes: Sunday, May 10, 3 p.m. Details being finalized with Pastor Erik Samuelson of Bethlehem Lutheran.

Kickoff Breakfast: Monday May 11, Riverfront Park, 7-9 a.m. REGISTERED PARTICIPANTS ONLY. We need your RSVP.
Come downtown if you can for our big kickoff!

  • Pancake breakfast courtesy of Mountain Gear
  • Coffee from Thomas Hammer
  • Live music, prizes, a few short speeches and some fun announcements, and lots of camaraderie
  • Gather for our "group portrait" at 7:45 a.m.

Walk & Roll to School Day: Wednesday May 13 at participating Spokane Public Schools.

  • Participating schools
    • Elementary Schools: Adams, Bemiss, Cooper, Grant, Lynnwood, Regal, Stevens, Westview, Wilson
    • Middle Schools: Chase, Glover, Sacajawea, Salk, Shaw
    • High Schools: Ferris, Havermale, Shadle
  • If you’re in another school district or your school isn’t participating, we hope you’ll still encourage your kids to bike to school, and talk to your school leadership to help this event grow in future years.

Energizer Stations: Wednesday May 13, 7-9 a.m.
Gathering points around the county (bike shops, schools, businesses who want to sponsor them) for snacks and meet-ups for Bike Buddies.

Does your business/workplace/organization want to host an Energizer Station? Email us:

Check back for the list of locations, and see our Google map. We’ll keep updating this; there are others in the works.

We are listing them by neighborhood for those sites inside the City of Spokane, by city for others and listing the site host.

  • Cheney
    • Specific spot still being identified: Spokane Mountaineers
  • Chief Garry Park Neighborhood
    • Centennial Trail at the Greene Street bridge: Todd Dunfield & Friends and Spokane Community College
  • Cliff/Cannon
    • Deaconess Medical Center
  • Downtown/Riverside Neighborhood
    • Coffman Engineers and Winston & Cashatt, Bank of America Building plaza
  • East Central Neighborhood
    • The Shop, 924 S. Perry
  • Emerson/Garfield Neighborhood
    • Coffee Social, 115 W. Indiana
    • REI, 1125 N. Monroe
  • Five Mile/Prairie Neighborhood
    • Five Mile Park & Ride: WOW Women's Cycling Club
  • Liberty Lake
    • Bike/pedestrian bridge over I-90 at Harvard Road: Cycle Sports
  • Lincoln Heights Neighborhood
    • Bethlehem Lutheran Church, 2715 S. Ray
  • Manito/Cannon Hill Neighborhood
    • The Scoop, 1001 W. 25th Ave.
  • Rockwood Neighborhood
  • Spokane Valley
    • Allstate, 10525 E. Sprague, across from Rosauers/behind Senor Froggy: Allstate. They'll give a water bottle to anyone arriving by bike all week May 10-15, too!
  • University District:
    • Logan Neighborhood: Hamilton Street/Centennial Trail overpass: Gonzaga University
  • West Central
    • The Porch, 1804 W. Broadway
  • West Hills Neighborhood
    • Aubrey L. White Parkway & Rifle Club Road: Spokane BOMB

Guided Commuter Ride: Wednesday May 13, meet 7:45 a.m.

The Spokane Bicycle Club is leading a Audubon Park to Downtown Bike to Work route. Free/open to all.
Time: Meet @ 7:45 a.m. Ride starts @ 8:00 a.m.
Where: Audubon Park West Lot
Distance: 4 miles to downtown.
For more information:

After-work Wrap-up Party: Friday May 15, Steam Plant Grill, 4:30-6:30 p.m. REGISTERED PARTICIPANTS ONLY. We need your RSVP.
We’ll give away the week’s grand prize--a folding commuter bike--and other prizes.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Step 10 - Giordana FormaRed Carbon Bib Shorts

If you tuned yesterday, you got to see how we arrived at the arrival of a pair of Giordana FormaRed Carbon Bib shorts into my cycling life. (Like most males, I compartmentalize my life so that the shorts entered my cycling life. If they had entered the remainder of my life, I would have had to tell my wife how much I spent on them or suggest that she spend a similar amount on something that was meaningful to her. I can sense most of the males nodding their heads.)

But I digress.

I purchased a pair of Girodana FormaRed Carbon Bib Shorts. This is their top of the line short and they retail for $250. Right now you are thinking one of a few things: a) Wow, a lot cheaper than the top of the line Assos; b) they are how much!?!; or c) I am so glad I prefer wool knickers and BVD's over those goofballs wearing lycra. I can see how you can come to these reactions.

If you had the first reaction, you pay attention to the various lines of cycling clothing and either want to pay the most for something as a replacement for quality or you recognize there is value in some higher end garments. If you had the second reaction, you are right, it is a lot of money, but the members of Team Two Wheel discovered that each of us has cycling shorts that we have been wearing for longer than the period of time we have known our wives. Collectively that is more than 40 years and I personally, well, more accurately, with my wife, will be celebrating 20 years of marriage later this month. So, for me, buying shorts is usually a long-term proposition and they can have a profound impact on how comfortable I am for the hours on the bike and for a good number of hours off of the bike. Anyone ever suffer chaffing? How about chaffing on some bits of one's personage that are particularly sensitive and should not be chaffed? I rest my case, which leads me to the third reaction. For the three of you who prefer the BVD's and wool knickers, I would say that I am glad you found a solution that works for you and allows you to smell like wet llamas after you ride, but for the vast majority of people, there is a reason that lycra (and carbon) shorts and new-age chamois/padding is a good idea.

So, let's hear about the shorts, I can hear you saying through the magic of blogging.

I am not sufficiently technical to give you the various numbers and proprietary fabric information, but what I can say is that these shorts are uncommonly comfortable. They are made up of different fabrics and have a liner fabric in some places. The purpose is to provide appropriate compression in places, appropriate breathability or wicking in places, and to keep the shorts in the right place while you ride. Coming from some less structured bib shorts, these do feel different as they are tighter and they don't "give" uniformly. They are designed that way. And, like the skinsuit described earlier, they are not designed for chamois time in the coffee shop; they are designed for chamois time on the bike. And for that they are about perfect.

Speaking of perfect, does this guy look like the perfect cyclist, or just the idea of a perfect cyclist? I think maybe he is a bit overmuscled on the top end, but hey, I keep tellling my teammate to tone it down a bit.

From Product Testing

Now in comparing various shorts, I tend towards the middle upper range, where I figure I'm paying less than the top end, but at a price point where most of the functionality is built in. I have confess to you, though, in this small and quiet setting, that I have a pair of upper end Assos shorts. They were a present from my wife (you see how you get to 20 years?) and children when they wanted to both indulge and reward me. The Assos shorts are similar in some ways - they also have more compression and have different "give" in different panels. I think the Giordana pad is more comfortable and the shorts are more comfortable for a longer period of time. Now, I could forgive the Giordana's if they lacked something that I got from the Assos, after all, these shorts sell for $120 LESS than the Assos, but instead, I would take the Giordana FormaRed Carbon shorts at even dollars. So, maybe $250 seems steep, but when they are functionally equal or superior to a $370 short, I have an easier time convincing myself that they are a good idea.

Carbon Fiber - I should mention the carbon part of the carbon shorts. I honestly don't know if it is just marketing gimmickry, but the shorts actually have a carbon component. Some layer of the fabric has carbon fibers added to change the stretch characteristics of the fabric. I can't swear that the carbon fiber is doing that job, because I don't know enough about it, but I can tell you the shorts do stretch differently in different directions and in different places. When I hear there is carbon fiber in the shorts, I think of bits of something like my experiences with 1970's fiberglass digging into my skin, but I assure you, there is nothing here that gives credence to that particular and odd worry.

Pad - As we left the natural and some unnatural chamois, synthetic pads got thicker and thicker, until a few years ago they hit maximum and started back the other way. I have some shorts with pads that are too thick and others that are too thin (and yes, I do have natural chamois lurking in the closet and, even worse, the faux chamois that was just as hard and unpleasant - why was it ever a good idea to put a beef jerkey-like substance in your pants?). Anyway, the Giordana pad is thick enough to offer great long-term comfort, but not thick enough to feel like you are sitting on a diaper. The pad has gel, multiple layers and densities and I'm sure some engineer who spent three years designing it will be disappointed that I just "like" it and can't explain it better, but it's the truth. The other thing about pads is that some are too big overall, others too small, some too far forward or too far back; I suppose all based on some personal issues about fit and riding position. However you want to explain it, though, this pad is like the Goldilocks pad - just right. Not too big, not too small, just right and, for me, in just the right spot.

Overall - So, at this point, the Giordana FormaRed Carbon Bib short has now attained "most favored short" status and it is either grabbed first or it is saved for the longest ride of the week (along with racing). I also have to confess, since it is just us and my wife gave up reading the blog (except for the Cycling Widow), I just bought two more pair. I realize this will strike some (most) people as excessive, but I found that once I had these shorts, I really didn't like riding in most of my other shorts as much, so I wanted a couple more pair so that I would have them for most rides. I haven't purchased any shorts in a number of years except part of team kit for prior teams, so I was lacking in this area. At least that was my rationalization.

I hope that Rider 1 and Rider 2 will weigh in with more information, maybe more marketing speak and maybe more specific detail, but we all agree: these shorts are awesome. Like nice components, if you shop smart, you get what you pay for and these shorts deliver.

From Product Testing

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Giordana FormaRed Carbon Bib Shorts

When it was time to create a team kit for Team Two Wheel, we talked to our LBS shop owner about the brands he likes and who does limited number custom jerseys. He didn't hesitate at all and turned us towards Gita Sports and Giordana. Not being your "regular" bike shop rats, but instead a certain type of high-brow bike shop rat, I wanted to do some investigation.

Step One - Ask Rider 1. He happened to be standing next to me at the time. His response was something like, "Giordana stuff is great! When I managed the ________ team (fill in the name of some 80's national caliber team the name of which only true bike geeks would recognize), we used all Giordana stuff and the team loved it. When you make your living on a bike, you get picky and you can't believe some of the stuff I got asked about, but the guys always liked their Giordana stuff." That sounded promising.

Step Two - Ask Rider 2. This step was a bit more suspect because Rider 2 really likes some bike stuff, but he is also very particular about things. I don't think that there is an ancient Italian man living inside Rider 2, as that would be very strange indeed, but there are indications at times that this is the case. As a result, he can be very particular and always with a good reason. When questions like this come up, Quicksilver has been known to say things like, "Well, when I was racing in 199__, I knew this guy who had a cousin that bought a box of _____ from this other guy who ______ and then we traded that for some new racing kit because the other pair of racing shorts that I really loved had actually flown out the window of a borrowed panel van when I was on the way to a race in Oregon, but those were the best/worst/tightest/loosest/scratchiest/comfortablest/fuzziest/chunkiest shorts I ever had." In other words, you don't really have any idea what Rider 2 might say in response to a question like this, you just know you are going to enjoy hearing it and you know he will have an opinion. In this case, his response was a bit more generic than I am used to, but the bottom line was, "great, I love their stuff." Another good sign.

Step 3 - Look at the catalogue provided to us by Two Wheel Transit. Look in particular for product photos similar to the body paint bib short ad by some other brand (Thanks to Michelle for sharing your work!). Realize that while Giordana is an Italian product, Mario Cipolinni is not their art director. Continue a more serious look for product information to familiarize oneself with the line-up of shorts and their particular pitch.

From Product Testing

Step 4 - Jeeves it. Just kidding, I googled it like the rest of America when we want to know something or need to plagiarize a term paper. I came across some but frankly not a lot of information about Giordana shorts.

Step 5 - Get Rider 1 to design team kit, get fantastic service and follow-up from Gita Sports contact doing a semi-custom jersey with our team logo (see masthead above), and our three sponsors' names - Two Wheel Transit, Desautel Hege Communications and the Steam Plant Grill.

Step 6 - Wait, impatiently.

Step 7 - Place order for bib shorts for me and Rider 1, along with a pair of non-bib shorts for Rider 2. Undoubtedly there is a story that goes with this decision.

Step 8 - Wait, impatiently.

Step 9 - Have jerseys arrive, followed quickly by shorts arrival.

Step 10 - Love the stuff and then blog about it.

See remainder of Step 10 on this blog, tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Who do I have to outrun?

As the droll are wont to say, I kicked the slats out of my crib the first time I heard this joke,

Two guys are hiking when the look up and see a bear charging towards them. One starts running away while the other immediately starts pulling off his hiking boots and putting on running shoes. His friend yells, "You can't outrun a bear!", to which he replies, "I don't have to outrun the bear . . . I just have to outrun YOU!"
I'll wait a moment while you recompose yourself.

I went for a ride this Saturday that felt very similar to this joke. Let me explain in laborious detail. For many of the last weekends, I had a fairly broad period of time on each weekend day that I could ride, but the last couple I have had a narrow window in order to get in my miles and then get to a soccer game, meeting or family occasion. This weekend was one of those, so even though there were a few group rides already arranged, Rider 2 and I decided to head out at a different time. We invited anyone who wanted to go and only one other rider showed up. Last time, about 15 showed up, so either our time just didn't work or our ride was just less appealing. (I have suggested that Rider 2 be a bit more diligent about his personal bathing habits, so now maybe he will listen to me.)

Anyway, the three of us headed out towards Medical Lake and then along the Troika course back into town. Rider 2 estimated this total ride at about 65 miles, but neither of us have bike computers, so I can't verify the total distance, but the note-worthy point to this ride was that we managed to ride along with a tailwind for about 30-45 minutes and then with a head wind or strong cross-wind for the next 2 1/2 hours. I realize that you go faster with a tailwind (although I, like all cyclists, like to ignore the tailwind when it is occurring and instead focus on how fit and fast I am feeling that day), but the unfair ratio of time with the wind to time into the wind definitely took its toll.

The Troika course (a local triathlon for those unaware) travels from Medical Lake, where the swim takes place, to downtown Spokane, where the run takes place on the Centennial Trail (or at least it did 15 years ago when I did the bike leg for a team - since then I have tried to literally and metaphorically distance myself from triathletes, swimmers and runners). A significant portion of the road ride takes place functionally along one road that seems to cross the entire West Plains area and manages to be completely exposed for almost the entire length. Throw in a number of rollers and you have a recipe for a tough ride. On Saturday, we had sustained winds in the 20+ mph category, so there was no avoiding it. At one point I commented to my comrades that you know it is windy when you can't coast downhill into the wind; we had to pedal to keep up any momentum. Another time I was in the shelter of a 30 minute pull by Rider 2 when I commented that if it were only raining he would REALLY be enjoying the day.

So how, you are now asking, is this ride anything like the outrun-a-bear joke? Because I only had to be stronger than our third rider in order to be having a good day, right? The rider who came along, named for our purposes "R", had only ridden his bike 150 miles so far this season. He is obviously a strong rider and a fit guy, but it takes a certain amount of "insanity" or "cyclist" as it should sometimes be called, to answer the call of Rider 2, a known strong rider, to tag along for a ride that is 43.3% of your entire season's mileage (yes, I just did the math). This meant two things from the very start of the day; one - he was going to get tired and use up everything he had before the day was over; and two - we've all been there and there is no shame in it.

Personally having experienced the back of the pack, being dropped, being shattered, being the weakest guy, being the slowest guy, being the least fit guy, being the anchor (you get the idea), many times, I am deeply sympathetic when someone else is not having a good day or is having a good day, as R was, and then just getting to the bottom of the tank.

In a race, the goal is to keep up with the guy who is pushing the pace (or be the guy pushing the pace). As long as you are hanging with the group, you are still in the race. At some point the line is drawn not in the sand, but across the road, and you know who came in first and not first. In a group ride, there are more subtle indications of how you are doing, but the long and short of it is that if you are somewhere between the lead guy and the last guy, you are still "in" the group. The bigger the group, the easier it is to be "in" the group.

On Saturday's ride, I knew that I wasn't going to be in front of Rider 2, unless he had pneumonia and a fractured leg at least, and it didn't look hopeful as I saw R ride up, until I heard about the lack of mileage. At that point, I had a strong suspicion that as long as I didn't get too far behind on the hills, I would be okay the longer the day went on. In other words, I didn't have to outrun the bear, I just had to outrun R.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Bloomsday Report

For regular readers, the headline will come as a shock, because Bloomsday is a "running" event and not a cycling event. This is true. It is a very nice community event and for reason that must need further study, Spokane is not only home to the largest timed running event in the WORLD, we are also home to the largest 3-on-3 basketball tournament in the WORLD. Why? I could conjecture at length, and often do, but I don't have a good understanding of this phenomena in Spokane. It is just a fact that we are a community of people who like participating in mass events and they don't get any more "mass" than Bloomsday. Approximately 50,000 people turned out to run, jog and walk 7.5 miles.

Speaking of "mass", regular readers are also probably wondering if I, Rider 3, actually laced up the trainers and ran this event, particularly in light of the less than flattering comments made repeatedly about the size and girth of said individual.

Well, my dear readers, the answer is yes, yes I did "run" Bloomsday. I use that term in quotes because nothing I did on the first Sunday in May would consitute running, but it does merit distinction from the walking done by those with strollers or hip replacements or both. As a young man I participated in a collegiate sport that involved year-round training. As part of our program we would be sent out on regular runs (which was better than "stairs", but that is another story). My buddy Brad and I would decline to go on a run, but would readily agree to go on a "trudge". It is like a run, but done at a slower, more lumbering pace. Actually Brad could run if he wanted, but he didn't enjoy it very much, so our tromping through those Seattle neighborhoods was a good replacement for the run that everyone else did.

As I finished up a long, grueling ride with Rider 2 on Saturday (blog preview - let's talk about windy rides and the concept of strength in numbers), I summed up my participation as such, "I hate running and I hate crowds, but I love my son." Those who know me best will express disbelief that I am capable of "love" but it is true that it was only my regard for my teenage son that would cause me to endure such multiple miseries. When I agreed a month or so ago, it was with the caveat that we do some running together so that Bloomsday was a bit more than JUST a torture-fest (Can I use that word in light of our domestic torture policy discussion? Again, the answer is "yes", but it is in poor taste). Well, I am sorry to report that we only did two runs together, one of which resulted in a bloody heel that meant 10 days of no running in order to get it to heal. As Lombardi put so well, "Many have the will to win; few have the will to prepare to win." I lacked the will to prepare for Bloomsday and knew the result would be suffering through the 7.5 miles and then lots of additional suffering for the next couple of days while my legs worked through the abuse.

Sure enough. My prediction was eerily accurate. It was not easy or pleasant, but I endured, I didn't hold up my son too much. Now, however, my legs are a moment-by-moment reminder of my lack of preparation. I like to think it's good for me, but that is just my self-delusional way of getting through the next few days of pain, tightness and inability to stand-up, sit-down, walk or lay still without discomfort.

Bloomsday tally: 1 baby blue t-shirt and 2 sore legs.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Guest Column - Joe Johnson, SRCVB

Joe Johnson, young turk at the Spokane Regional Convention & Visitor's Bureau, and frequent contributor to the Spokane Insider's Blog, asked around for some suggestions for local Spokane bike routes. Here is his report and a good way to avoid those 50,000 Bloomsday idiots in running shoes instead of on their bikes this weekend (except for the last suggested route which closely follows the Bloomsday course).

Insider Bike Routes
Looking for the inside scoop on the best places to ride? Check out these favorites from the locals who ride them!

"Ever since I moved back to Spokane and discovered the Spokane Bluff off of High Drive, I can’t ride my mountain bike anywhere else. This undiscovered gem has everything mountain bikers are looking for. Nice vertical for heart pounding descents and lung burning ascents. Several loops to choose from that take 45 minutes to one hour. Well maintained trails by local riders and the Spokane Parks & Recreation Department. As well as nice social interaction with local bikers, runners and hikers. Of course, being able to ride out my back door to the bluff makes it that much better. When you talk about the quality of life Spokane has to offer, I feel like these trails are part of the soul of the community. Now, I just wish I could ski it!"

Chuck Carter, Regional Sales Manager, Red Lion Hotels

"It’s hard to narrow down! But I do like riding the Hangman Valley loop. Starting off at the intersection of 57th Ave. and the Palouse HWY., I head south for great views and nice gentle rolling hills. After hopping on Valley Chapel Rd, drop into the Hangman Valley area for a nice downhill grade all the way to the golf course. From here you’ve got a smooth ride through the beautiful Hangman Valley. At Hatch Rd you’ve got a decision to make. If your legs are feeling strong, saddle up for the tough climb up Hatch to 57th Ave. Or you can head north on HWY 195 to the Old Inland Empire Highway and on into Browne's Addition for a quick trip to The Elk. Mac & Jack’s tastes sooo much better after a good ride! Then you can climb back up the south hill to 57th Ave. Either way, you’ll get a great ride with some fantastic views."

Mark Star, Owner, David’s Pizza

"Beacon Hill has something for everyone that loves riding on dirt - anything from big drops for your free-ride bike to super buff single track for your cross country bike. If you’re looking to ride drops and wooden bridges, park your car at Boulder Beach on Upriver Drive. And if you’re looking for a good cross country ride, you’ll want to start at the Esmeralda Golf Course parking lot. All trails have been well maintained by the Fat Tire Trail Riders Club making it really easy to put in multiple hours on Beacon Hill riding different trails. In fact, Beacon Hill attracts people from Seattle to its trails for downhill runs all weekend during the spring, summer and fall."

Ben Tobin, Owner, Bentography

"I really enjoy the SpokesFest loop. Starting downtown, the loop makes its way through Peaceful Valley to Government Way, along the Aubrey L. White Parkway, across the Seven Mile Bridge and back into downtown along the Spokane River through Riverside State Park. This ride has everything you would want in a Spokane bike trip. It starts in our urban area and then leads to some of our closest natural areas. A lot of this course is along the river and most of it is either on trails with no car access or with very little motor traffic. Last cycling season I took a brand new rider on this loop for his first ride, I experienced it with 1,500 of my closest friends during SpokeFest and I burned it up with a group of fast guys a few times after work and just before a beer. That’s Spokane cycling to me!"

Gage Stromberg, Steam Plant Grill, Wells & Company and NAS Pension Consulting;

For more of the inside scoop on Spokane check out the Spokane Insiders’ Blog.


Joe Johnson

Destination Marketing Associate

Spokane Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau