Thursday, April 29, 2010

Shallow thoughts

What have I become?

When I moved to Spokane--and this was more than a decade ago--my outlook on riding and bike equipment was a far cry from where I am today.

This difference, highlighted mostly by being pragmatic to a fault, was likely rooted in spending so many years around bike racers that could ride faster than most of us could imagine. My reality was that I had seen more races lost by using fancy equipment than races won because of it. I had heard riders complain incessantly about shorts, saddles, shoes and handlebars--generally the limiting factors to being comfortable on a bike. Yes, pro riders had preferences when it came to Shimano vs. Campy, but really, no one really gave a rip as long as the mechanic did a good job tuning their bikes.

Alas, things have changed. Maybe it's Rider 3's fault. I'll say it--he loves nice gear. And this is a good thing. Or maybe it's my own journey towards chamois-snifferdom. I appreciate nice gear too.

I think the turning point for me was my birthday two years ago. My wife bought me a Rapha jersey, complete with pink accents and contrasting armwarmers. Rapha--it of the clearly articulated branding, a drool-worthy tagline (glory through suffering) and outrageous prices. It was a perfect gift in some ways. In a million years I wouldn't have spent this kind of ching on so much bling, even if it is understated bling.

But holy crap, I love the jersey. It's one of the best fabricated pieces of clothing I own, riding clothing or otherwise.

So, in this spirit, today I've dropped in a few images of stuff I'd love to have in my garage. Do I need these? Not in most cases. Do I think they'd be fun to have? Undoubtedly. Go ahead and mock. I may in fact have become "that guy," but frankly don't really mind.

Monday, April 26, 2010

New Wheels

This blog covers a wide variety of topics, ranging from bicycling to cycling and everything in between. Sure, sometimes we get off topic a bit, but it all relates to cycling in some way, at least in my Joycean stream of consciousness way. One thing we don't do, however, is serve as a direct advertisement for our primary sponsor Two Wheel Transit. We don't pitch the specials of the day or go too over the top. Our readers know that we look to Two Wheel for all of our two wheel needs and we are glad to talk about the stuff we ride and race, but no one wants to tune in for a straight-off commercial endorsement. Instead, you would rather hear about Dr. Spalm's latest advice, right? Speaking of which, Dr. Spalm was forced to leave the country under a dispute over his immigration status and his purported marriage to an American citizen, but we hope he will be back at the typewriter soon. So, what is the point to this overly long introductory paragraph? The point is that we don't shill for Two Wheel, but that doesn't mean that they don't deserve their props and today they deserve props.

Last week I busted a spoke out of a Campy Neutron wheel. I have had the wheel for a number of years, first as my primary wheelset, then as a back-up set, and for the last few years as the primary wheelset on my rainy season-commuter bike. In other words, I got lots of life out of the wheelset, but I was surprised that the busted spoke revealed a wheel so torqued that it couldn't be brought back into round. Willy did, in fact, replace the spoke and get it round again, but it was at such a high tension that he thought the wheel was toast, which was born out while it was still in the wheel stand. The spoke popped at high velocity before it came out of the truing stand and the rim is now destined for the rubbish bin.

No problem, though, right? I have other wheels. So, I decided I would put my Bontrager hoops on that bike and suit up my Trek with my racing Zipps for a bit while I decided what to do. Great idea except that the Bontrager rear wheel had a warranty replaceable crack in the rim. Hmm. Now I was down two rear wheels in two days and running low on options.

Up until now, Two Wheel was just doing their normal amount of good service. They were trying to get me on the road quickly again and then they took care of the warranty issue promptly. The superior service kicked in when I decided, with my wife's kind insistence (or acquiescence - is there a difference?), that I get a set of heavier-duty wheels that would be suitable for this bike and serve as a relatively bomb-proof set for things like Ronde Von Palouse.

At that point, the world became confusing. Not only are there lots and lots of factory-made options, there is an even larger group of choices for a set of hand-made wheels. Then it isn't just picking a set of wheels, but picking a rim, hub, number of spokes, etc. It turns out that I just wasn't equipped to make the call on this decision without a lot of input. I needed the advice and input of every person who happened to walk by while I was in Two Wheel Transit, I needed hours of internet research, I needed multiple e-mails and conversations with Rider One, and then I needed more conversations with the guys at Two Wheel. Dave and Willy both offered opinions and input on multiple choices and options. And finally, today, Geoff, Willy and Dave tracked down more answers and more options.

I will share a smidgen of what I explored. I was interested in or looked dozens of options, but the narrowed field included Mavic Open rims or wheels, Hed Kermesses, DT Swiss wheels (in part because I had focused on their hubs), a collection of Velocity rims narrowed down to Aerohead/Aerohead OC or Synergy/Synergy OC, and Bontrager Classic wheels. I was sorely tempted by the handmade wheels using Velocity rims, DT Swiss hubs and made by Willy, but I decided that the lower price point and excellent warranty of the Bontrager Classic wheels made the most sense. These aren't wheels that are going to set any pulses racing, but they should be stiff, sturdy and abuse-resistant. I should get many miles out them problem-free and they are backed by a great warranty if I do have problems.

The thing, though, that stands out for me is the way that the guys at Two Wheel patiently answered all my questions and repeatedly offered their years of experience in giving their opinions (including years of making wheels, not to mention repairing them). If all purchases took this much time and resulted in this little exchange of cash, they wouldn't be in good shape, which ultimately is the test of their customer service approach. They knew this wasn't a transaction they were going to make much money on, but you could never tell that from their patience and detail in helping me make this decision. I genuinely appreciated their assistance and am looking forward to the new wheel and I appreciate knowing that whatever comes along, Two Wheel Transit is going to do whatever they can to help out and keep me on the road. It's a good feeling.

Thanks to Geoff and Tomas and particularly to Dave and Willy.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Weekend Mandate


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Oh to be 25 again.

Ahh. 25. Such a good time.

No, I'm not reminiscing about being 25 years old, although that was fun too. Instead, I'll share some thoughts about something I think more riders should tap into.

Back in the day, as in the day that I treated bikes like tools (cool tools!), when getting a flat on a group ride meant, more than likely, a solo ride, and I lived in Colorado where roads were covered in gravel, thorns, sand, etc., I trained exclusively on 28c tires. With steel beads. And Mr. Tuffy tire liners.

I hated getting flats. Plus, on chip sealed, cracked, mountain roads, they were simply a better tire. Those 28c Contis were cheap, handled really well and were fantastically more comfortable. Trust me on this, a couple of extra millimeters of tire width makes a huge difference.

Somewhere between then and now I changed my stand. Maybe it was getting older. Maybe it was riding less and finding myself struggling to keep up on certain climbs. Maybe it was convenience or the fact that I'm at a place in my life where buying an extra tire doesn't mean I can't make rent. Maybe all of these things. In any case, I've been riding 23c tires for years now and have been fine with it.

Until last weekend.

Ahead of that evil thing known as the Ronde van Palouse, I decided to slap on a set of 25c tires. In general, the slightly wider tires mean a bit more sidewall flex, which means fewer flat tires. A broader contact patch also means better handling and traction on dirt roads and washboard. In the race the tires were great. The bike was great. My body? Not so great. Let's put it nicely and say that my bike isn't what held me back.

As an aside, I think others in the race should have followed my equipment choice lead. The number of flats in the first gravel section were quite amazing.

OK, flash forward a couple of days and I was late (as usual) to get out for a ride, scrambling for daylight. So I tore off the weekend's race number and left for an hour of power. Climbing up the South Hill I was amazed at how good the bike felt. Comfortable. Stiff at the bottom bracket, yet vertically compliant! The marketing messages were all suddenly true!

In fact what happened is in my rush to get out the door, I hadn't switched the wheels on my bike. Which meant I was still running the fat rubber. And I'm not going back.

Seriously, you need to try this. Running 25c tires is entirely worth the non-penalty. Here's the math. The 25c tires I'm using (Continental GP4000) are a whopping ten grams heavier than their 23c counterparts. Ten grams. To put that into context, pick up six or seven paper clips. There's your ten grams.

But, you might argue, they're slower because of the added rolling resistance. No, actually they're not, at least not according to the pencil-pushers that examine stuff like this. This aligns with my own sense of things as well.

Handling? Again, just my opinion, but noticeably better when cornering, on dirt roads, etc.

Comfort? This to me is the biggest win. So, so much better, especially on chip seal where there's high-frequency vibration, and on the cracks and ruts that define a lot of the riding in our region.

Finally, flat resistance. I don't like flats, but based on what I see on most weekend rides I frequent, I might be alone in this. I can just about guarantee that you'll get fewer flats with a wider tire. Why? Because you can run slightly higher pressure while also getting the benefits of more comfort and better handling. Also, the tire's casing flexes a bit more, allowing the tire to deform around sharp stones and such, vs. being punctured by them. This is a good thing.

So, my advice is to give fatter rubber a try. You'll be just as fast, get fewer flats and will be more comfortable. Most riders I know run through at least a couple of sets of training tires a year. Next time, test something new.

The good news is there is better availability than ever for wider, high-performance tires. In fact Bontrager just came out with a new tire I'd like to try when the Contis I'm running now wear out. The gang at Two Wheel Transit will, I'm sure, be happy to tell you all about them.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Mind the Gap

As much money as I earn as the primary blogger of Team Two Wheel and in my post as Ambassador to Two Wheel Transit, I have decided to continue working in my "regular" job. Think of it like the janitorial engineer who wins the Powerball-Mega-Sweepstakes-Winathon and still decides to show up for his regular job of scraping up gum, emptying trash cans and cleaning up the urine where guys misfire. I'm kind of like that guy.

Why should you care? You shouldn't. But the last couple of weeks and until the end of the month, I have extra gum, trash and urine to deal with, so it has and will limit my attention to this beloved blog. Rumor has it that Rider One might contribute and we might vote as a team (we are a democracy; we tried being an oligarchy and I really wanted to set up a theocracy, but in the end we agreed to be a democracy) to make Rider Two do something other than show up in those videos wearing an outhouse on his head. Just because those two ride bikes fast and strong doesn't mean they shouldn't pull part of the load here, right?

Anyway, I digress. Again.

Cyclists, I suppose like every group, hobby, sport, avocation or oligarchy, has its own lingo and catch phrases. I read one last night, reading, as I often do, anything related to cycling as I drift off to sleep (then wake up, get off the couch, throw away the beer bottles strewn about the floor and then go to bed), which reminded me of my ride yesterday and today. That phrase, as you may have guessed, is "Mind the gap".

This is not actually anything you hear said very often, because having someone say it to you is a) a bit insulting usually and b) something screaming in your head if you have any pack sense. For the uninitiated, this phrase is used when a pack is rolling along and a "gap" begins to open from one rider or part of the group to the next rider or part of a group. Yesterday I saw a gap open just as I was rolling along mostly in a 2x2 line because two guys were having a conversation and their attention drifted for a moment. That kind of gap is usually "minded" quickly because when the guys notice the gap opening one or the other will bear down and catch up, not wanting to split the pack.

The difficult situation is in a race when the gap opens, not because of a moment of inattention, but because a rider is at his limit and can't keep up anymore. The hesitancy is always to figure out which is going on, because racers don't want to waste the energy of going around, in the wind, and closing the gap if the person in front will step on it and close the gap for you. The downside to waiting, and it is more of a danger the faster the gap opens or the windier it is, is that the gap will open up enough that you can't catch back up to the group in front.

In big races this is known as "making the selection", since some riders will keep up and will be in the hunt for the podium places later, while others will drop off and will have to wait to fight another day. In a group ride this process is much more fluid, friendly and less fraught with consequences. Today, for instance, I managed to make up a 10 minute gap on a group ride just because the pack up front slowed down dramatically. How did I end up with a 10 minute gap? A flat, a wheel change, waiting for someone else? No. Frankly, is it any of your business? Did I mention that I am an "Ambassador" and not a racer?

Anyway, when you are riding, Mind the Gap.

Also, I wanted the Spokane cycling community to know that Dee has not given up riding, as we have all suspected for so many months and maybe years.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Anthem of Rider One

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Ronde von Palouse

Here are some pictures of the Ronde von Palouse that I think help capture the flavor of this very tough and very cool bike race. They aren't in chronological order and I don't know lots of these folks, but I hope you enjoy the pics. Click on them to see a larger version.

From Rides

Michael Emde chasing back after a flat and another rider waiting for a wheel on top of that rise.

From Rides
Rider 1 spun out in the soft gravel and lost a lot of ground in a few moments of trying to stay upright and get going in the right direction.

From Rides
Love that smile. Can you tell he is hurting?

From Rides
Race organizer, Mike Sirott, jumping out to offer yet another wheel change. Way to go Rocket Velo!

From Rides
The essence of the dirt portion. Riders strung out all over hell and gone.

From Rides
Team Elephant - Representing Spokane's Only Local Bike Manufacturer. How cool is that?

From Rides
You can't see it, but it is windy. Very windy.

From Rides
You can't see it, but Rider 1 is blazing. Very blazing.

This was a very cool race and once again, thanks to Mike Sirott and the whole crew at Rocket Velo for organizing this race. Thanks, as usual, to Baddlands for racing the prior week. We now return to our normally scheduled programming.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Tuesday Night Racing Update

For you boy- and/or girl-racers out there, you'll need to wait one more week to toe the line at Spokane's weekly Tuesday night world championships.

There's more info at the Baddlands web site, but sounds like the county couldn't get the paperwork sorted in time for us to go flog ourselves. I trust that flogging will begin next week in earnest though.

Craving more details? Start here:

Weekend Wrap-up

Here is a lightening quick wrap up of a bike cycling weekend.

Ronde von Palouse - This was an awesome and brutally tough race. I just didn't have the legs or mindset for riding and after watching the race, I was really glad I left it to tougher men and women. Most races have a pack that will stick together for a large part of the race, and often for the whole race. Ronde von Palouse was a race that blew apart every pack very early on and left each group scattered literally across numerous miles. The dirt portion was "only" four miles, but those miles got very, very long when you were riding them. I saw more flats than I have ever seen in a race and packs more broken apart than I have ever seen. My guess is that next year more people will be sporting wider tires and a few more tubulars.

I took a lot of pictures and will get them posted later this week. Team Two Wheel didn't have great results: one mechanical, one mental and one drop-out.

Paris-Roubaix - There was a good turn-out at the Steam Plant Grill for the coverage of Paris-Roubaix, but I discovered a problem. I think that I take bicycle racing a bit too seriously. I was gratified to have two guys near me that take it more seriously than I do, so that it was appropriately enabling, but I realized that I really like absorbing races like these in a much more controlled environment. One where I can hear everything, run the DVR back occasionally (and skip commercials), and give over fully to my bike geek side. At the Steam Plant there were numerous distractions, people to talk to and more people that I should have talked to, but it was hard because I just wanted to be staring slack-jawed at the race.

The race, by the way, was not a typical P-R. No bad weather, no inopportune crashes or wheels broken for the leaders. It was a race clearly won by the strongest rider. The mystic of P-R is that the strongest men lead, but it usually takes both strength and luck to win P-R. This year, in a remarkable performance, Cancellara just needed his awesome strength. It was a repeat of his form from the prior week at another beautiful race, Tour of Flanders. When Sparticus targets a race, everyone else needs to shoot for second.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Sunday Ride / Sunday Paris-Roubaix Watching Party at Steam Plant Grill

A Strange Weekend of Racing

Rider 3 has already provided a couple of typically entertaining recaps of his weekend of racing, so I thought I'd get in the action too. After all, we took part in different races, although with similar outcomes, at least part of the time.

You probably have picked up on this by now, but our mighty Team Two Wheel has a fair amount of bike racing experience. Rider 2 and I perhaps have a bit more, but all of us have been around the proverbial block.

So given this, the past weekend was somewhat bizarre. Rider 2 probably put it best when he said something to the effect that we all should have paid attention to the omens when they first started showing up.

To wit:
  • Just prior to the start of his time trial, Rider 2 clipped his foot out of his pedal while rolling to a stop, placing it on the sidewalk. In doing so he tripped the race's chief official, who yard-saled, crashing to the pavement. She evidently wasn't terribly pleased with him.
  • Feeling crappy during his time trial, Rider 2 realized at the finish that his rear brake had rubbed on the rim his entire ride. Seriously rookie error. From a guy with 25 years of racing under his chamois? And he still finished in 4th place.
  • Rider 3 meanwhile realized the night before his race that his tubular tires were threadbare. The night before the race he realized this?
  • But if you think that's bad, check this out. Somehow, even though I spent the morning scrambling to get ready for an afternoon road race, I FORGOT TO EAT LUNCH. Also forgot to bring any food with me to the race. Seriously? How old am I?
  • And then there was this bonehead move: I was sick for 3 weeks in March, during which I rode a total of two times. Then the week before Frozen Flatlands I went on a family vacation where exercise was limited to walking from one restaurant to another. So I went into a hard race with at best one match to burn. And what did I do early in the road race? Yep, I followed a series of ill-timed attacks, and once our break was caught I blew up and got dropped. So much for using my head, which is typically the one and only thing that gets me through hard races.
  • Then on Sunday, 20 minutes before the start I realized I had left my jersey at home in the dryer. I seem to remember fining riders for stuff like this back in the day. Another rookie mistake.
OK, so it was a weird weekend. Now that those excuses are out of the way, here's a brief report on the weekend's racing.

As you know by now, Frozen Flatlands is the kickoff to eastern Washington's race season. The kids might say that the flatlands part of the race's name is a bit ironic. For once they'd be right. (By the way, I blame Alanis Morisette for the public's apparent total ignorance of the definition of irony. "It's like rain on your wedding day," isn't ironic. It's unfortunate. Anyway...) There's not a lot flat about the race. OK, it's not mountainous, but constantly up and down. And this weekend was hellawindy.

Like 30 mph windy.

With hail.

And cold.

And more wind.

Nope, not a terribly flat course profile.

Nasty. In fact it's the kind of weather all of us (well, at least Rider 2 and I) love to ride and race in. As long as we're feeling strong. The thing is, racing in hail and nastiness is
miserable when you're 100 meters behind the caravan for mile after mile.

FF starts with a 20K time trial. It's followed a couple of hours later by a 50ish mile road race. Tough first day, no? Sunday features a somewhat less hilly, but definitely not flat, 25 mile road stage.

I opted to skip the TT for a number of reasons. First, I was still less than healthy, so starting a TT in sub-freezing weather with 35 mph wind didn't sound like a great idea. I've also been scrambling to get our house on the market. Finally, my wife was hankering for a morning yoga class. So I did my family duty and nodded out of the TT.

Saturday's road race:
Going into the road race I didn't really know what to expect of myself. I certainly wasn't anticipating a win, but thought I'd at least finish with the front group. Like I already mentioned though, this didn't happen. I followed a couple of moves in the first big crosswind sections, but our little group was reeled in just before we made a right turn into a brutal headwind. Then I got dropped.

The one silver lining was that I was gapped with two very nice guys, Ted and Alex. They're also two typically strong guys, but my guess is after finishing second and fourth in the TT were blown.

My conversation with Ted, in fact, was limited to something to the effect of his comment of "bad legs." Short and sweet, and enough said.

We actually worked well together, and for four or five miles kept the main group close. One of the more frustrating things in cycling is getting dropped, only to put yourself on the rivet while riding 50 meters (or whatever) behind the main group. Totally unsustainable in a nasty headwind and we worked a hell of a lot harder than the riders in the main group.

In the end, Alex and I ended up riding in together. There was so much collateral damage in the main group that somehow I scored a handful of points at the finish, but I was tired, disappointed and demoralized. And I own Alex an energy bar. My stomach started growling about an hour from the finish, and thankfully he helped me out.

Rider 2 did us proud though, finishing third in the Master A category and among the top riders overall in the combined Cat 3/Master A field. In fact Masters riders were first and second overall in Saturday's road race.

The energy was light ahead of Sunday's short, 25-mile road race. Most comments I overheard involved the word "tired" somewhere in the sentence, but that said, I wasn't sure how the race would go. Balls to the wall? Sit and sprint? Early break rolling off the front and staying there? My plan was to not be stupid. This is hard for me though.

In the end, it was one of the most negative races I've ever done. If you're not familiar with this expression here's how things go down in a negative race. The group rolls along at 20 mph. Someone attacks. The group then goes 30 mph until the attacker is caught. Then the group goes 18 mph until someone attacks.

Hat's off though to Eric Schuman from the Lenovo team. He attacked alone, over and again until the group got bored of chasing him. In the end he was joined with another rider. Eric ended up in second for the day, so kudos to him. Thanks for not being a pansy like the rest of us, and being willing to actually attack the race.

To tell you the truth, I didn't expect the break to make it. Even at 3K to go the main peloton was fresh, and maybe 10 seconds down on the attackers. It's a fast finish and I expected someone to get aggressive. But like I wrote earlier, it was one of those super-negative days.

This race has a tricky final kilometer. The road is narrow--three abreast at best--and we weren't exactly moving quickly, so position was everything. I was a few rows back from the front, where I could see Rider 2, who I wanted to try and help in the finish. But there was no moving around. My bad.

In the end Rider 2 went on a flyer with about 800 meters to go, immediately opening a big gap. But there was a headwind and eventually the group decided to finally start racing. Somehow I popped through a hole, and for some strange reason the boys sat up for a second with 200 meters to go, just as we caught Rider 2. Even though it was early (the finish is uphill), I started my sprint then, almost closing the gap to one final rider.

So second in the field sprint, second in my official racing category and fourth overall among all riders. Ordinarily maybe a result to be disappointed about, but after my "performance" the day before I was more than OK with it.

And thanks to Chad for loaning me a jersey!

OK, tomorrow is another day for battle: Ronde van Palouse. I'm wildly underprepared for a day of hell. Wish me luck.
Rider 1

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Two Cycling Events

Tonight there is a celebration of the City Council decision to move ahead with the exploration of a "Complete Streets" ordinance for Spokane. The City Council decision is just the first step, but it nice to have a City Council that is interested in forward-thinking and planning for a future that takes into account all of the users on our city streets and not just the equation of moving cars at the highest speed. In any case, tonight at the Steam Plant Grill, 5.30 - 6.30 pm, a group of like-minded folks will raise a glass in honor of this important step. Come join us!

And, after that, come back to the Steam Plant Grill on Sunday, April 11, to watch the Paris-Roubaix coverage, 3 - 5 pm. There will be pitchers of beer on special, probably including the just-released Maestro's Brew, created to support the Spokane Symphony (Not many breweries and symphonies team up, but why not?), and plates full of sliders. It's not the same as a bag-full of burgers from Dick's, but it will be warmer and dry.

If you caught the coverage of last week's Tour of Flanders (Ronde van Vlaanderen for you hardcore-types), the race was simply awesome. Tom Boonen and Fabian Cancellara did everything you would hope to light up the punchy climbs and motored to impressive results. David Millar got some attention and it made for a great race. With these guys on form and American favorite George Hincapie desperate for his most-desired victory and in on-fire form, it should be a great, great race.

All ages welcome and no cover charge. Just firing up the televisions and drinking beer (or not) the way true 'mericans are supposed to enjoy sports. Even the sissy ones like cycling.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Rookie Mistakes

I am currently reading Johan Bruyneel's book "We Might As Well Win". Well, I'm not "literally" currently reading the book since I am obviously speaking words into your brain right now, but you know what I mean.

I will save the book review for later, but one of the chapters I just read was about the sayings in cycling that seem so simple and yet are so important, like "eat before you are hungry, drink before you are thirsty"; "stay out of the wind", "only ask a witness for the prosecution a question when you already know his answer", stuff like that. Johan's point is that these things seem simple, but it is hard to remember them in the crush and rush of a bike race.

I should have read that chapter before my weekend at Frozen Flatlands, then I wouldn't have had to make a bunch of rookie mistakes, or as someone said this weekend, "What a Cat 5 boner that was!" Again, not literally.

Here is my list of stupid things I should not have done to get more benefit out of my racing experience at Frozen Flatlands.

Show up for the time trail AHEAD of my start time. What?, you say. My start time was clearly stated about 18 hours before the race time. I was at the race site at least 90 minutes ahead of my race. I showed up at the start line approximately 2 minutes after my start time. And no, for those who aren't familiar with Pedro Delgado, you don't get a "mulligan" or a new start time. You roll up to the start line, put your foot down so it is not a rolling start, and you ride with your original start time. In other words, when I was one linear foot into the time trial, my time was already at or past 2 minutes. This was stupid.

Spend time with any equipment you are going to race. As previously blogged, I was traveling for most of the week ahead racing. I put tires on my race wheels, a cogset on the rear wheel and wiped down the time trial bike after dinner on Friday. I got on the bike for the first time in over two years on Saturday morning in the 60 minutes before the event. I then remembered what I was going to do to the bike after the last time trial - replace the handlebars that put me in an excruciating position and that have a tendency for the arm supports to unexpectedly give way and rotate on the center post. This was stupid.

Dose your efforts. On the long road race, I was, sadly for me, dropped by the front of the pack on an uphill surge. I knew this might happen, but I was hoping it wouldn't until the Williams Lake hill and I figured it was training no matter what. After getting dropped, I managed to claw my way into the wind and catch up to another rider. The two of us worked together to catch up to a third and then the three of us did the same to catch two more. At that point, we had two groups of three that we could see ahead of us with the remaining lead pack ahead of them. I thought that if we could put together a pack of 11 we might not see the lead group again, but we would get around the course in decent fashion and pick up the second dozen spots in the race. Not great, but nothing to cry about. So what did I do? I took a monster pull to get my group up to the next three on the road just as we turned a corner into the teeth of the wind and a short climb. Instead of moving to the back of the group and latching on . . . I opened a 5' gap, that instantly turned into 10', 20' and then a few seconds . . . and then I was screwed. Instead, I could have taken shorter turns, paid attention to the hills coming up and dosed my efforts. That was stupid.

Show up with a racing jersey. Oh, wait. That wasn't me. That was an unnamed teammate.

So, the Frozen Flatlands wrap-up? First, thanks to the officials and the men and women of the Baddlands Cycling Team. They put on a great event (although could we talk about a later date on the calendar?) and they single-handedly pulled road bike racing through the doldrums so that there is a growing group of people putting on more and more events each year. Second, they say there is no whining in bike racing, so I won't whine. I accept the blame for my own fitness and my own rookie mistakes. Will I look to change a few things next year? Yes. Will I hope for better weather? Yes. Will I try to avoid any stray dogs on the course? Yes. And will I try to avoid making rooking mistakes? Yes, I will try.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Uncle Larry

Even in this age of information, we humans still like to play a game similar to "telephone", the nursery school game in which one person whispers a word in the ear of the person next to him or her and then the word is whispered from ear to ear around a circle. It rarely, if ever, gets back to the person who started it without the word changing, sometimes multiple times.

In the case of an accident, the same thing happens and it happened again at Frozen Flatlands. Let me be clear, I don't think that anyone was making things up or trying to not be completely truthful, but it is interesting to hear the various stories.

Here is what I heard straddling my bike before the Sunday race: Uncle Larry was involved in a bike crash with three riders which was caused by Larry hitting a dog. Larry was badly injured and is going to need reconstructive surgery on one of his hands.

Here is what I heard a few hours later: Uncle Larry hit a dog while he was in a group of riders and was involved in a bad crash which resulted in serious injury to one of his hands and a broken arm that was going to require surgery.

Here is what I heard after mixing a few tequilas and post-race dehydration: Uncle Larry was taken in a space-ship for human testing and using manipulation of the time/space continuium the aliens put Larry back into the race pack approximately one second behind himself causing him to crash into himself at which point the aliens, again using manipulation of the time/space continuium, place a dog at the scene of the crash causing everyone to assume that the dog caused the problem instead of Larry running into the mistimed version of himself.

Here is what I heard when I e-mailed Uncle Larry and asked him what happened: I was approaching the 3k to-go sign at the intersection of Mullinex Road and Dover Road when a space alien . . .

Let me start again. Here is my paraphrasing of Larry's e-mail: I was approaching the 3k to-go sign at the intersection of Mullinex Road and Dover Road. I was overtaking another rider in my class (50+) at 35 mph. I had a big tailwind and had just looked at my cyclocomputer when a dog came out of cover on the left and crossed the road in an attempt to bite a rider. I had about one second between seeing the dog and running into it. The dog was taller than the front axle because if it had been lower the bike would have vaulted but instead I did a superman flight off the bike (Larry knows these things since he is an engineer). Another rider in his group, a teammate, then ran into and over Larry.

The result was road rash from Larry's left knee up to his left elbow, including his armpit (I'll bet Larry shaved his legs, but I doubt any male cyclist thought to shave his armpits). His hands took the first big hit resulting in one dislocated and fractured finger and missing skin the size of a 50-cent coin on the palm/heel of each hand. He also has an assortment of bruising, sore ribs and various aches and pain. Not surprising at all.

Being a cyclist, Larry also reported on the condition of his bike. This is the sort of thing that non-cyclists don't understand at all, but readers here will understand. Larry is a bit of a gear-nut, with a constant rotation of bikes. In this case he was riding his Trek Madone 6.9 and you will be glad to hear that the initial survey is that the frame and fork are fine. I don't know what wheels Larry was riding, but the front wheel also appears to be fine. There were some scraps and dings on the bike and shifters, but surprisingly little serious damage considering the speed and impact.

Lastly, before you ask, I don't know the status of the dog. I know that Larry was not charitably disposed towards the beast, who appeared intent on putting his chompers into a bit of cyclist flesh just before the impact, and I know that I don't feel charitable towards the owner of this dog, but I don't have any other information on the poorly timed Kujo.

So, thankfully, Larry will rise to fight another day, although it sounds like it will be in the warmer weather and unfortunately losing some of his hard won fitness that he was carrying into the spring. The good news is that he won't be facing surgery and the aliens got everything they need so they won't be back soon.

Frozen Flatlands

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, and the Frozen Flatlands by any other name would be just as miserable, awful, long and not flat.

How was my Frozen Flatland's experience? Not as bad as Uncle Larry's (who's woe will be detailed shortly), but let me just say that I am glad that I think of my role with Team Two Wheel as that of an ambassador for the shop, and not a racer. Which is good, because I would be in serious risk of losing my contract otherwise.

Shall we focus on my poor preparation or my rookie mistakes in discussing my experiences over these three days? Let's start with poor preparation. First, I wasn't fit enough for a 47 mile race that is made up primarily of rollers with one "wall"-style climb about 40 miles into the course. And if I wasn't fit enough for that endeavor by itself, I definitely wasn't fit enough for a 12.1 mile time trial on the same day, much less one that involved gale-force winds. To compound my inadequate fitness, I spent the week before the race traveling on spring break and without my bike. Instead I took a couple of hour-long runs and got in an hour-long swimming workout. Maybe the right stuff for a triathlete, but those were runs number 6 & 7 of 2010 and my first swimming workout in about 35 years. Let's just say that I was not as cycle-ready as I could have been, shall we?

Just to draw out the interest of the faithful readers of our blog, I will give you a brief overview of my three races, followed later by an update on Uncle Larry and then the full list of rookie mistakes I made (and one made by a teammate).

Saturday Time Trial - Lousy, followed by poor finish, accented with horrible weather.

Saturday Long Road Race - Lousy, followed by not finishing, accented with miserable, horrible, no-good, rotten weather.

Sunday Short Road Race - Okay, followed by dropping out of the pack with three miles to go because I lacked the legs to contest the field sprint and the heart to torture myself over the last set of rollers.

Did I mention that I am "ambassador" for Two Wheel Transit and not a racer?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Complete Streets

Frozen Flatlands will have to wait until tomorrow, but the Spokane City Council discussion of Complete Streets won't.

Here is Bike to Work Barb's explanation:

Here is Cycling Spokane's comment from Dean Speare:

And here is mine - Get to the City Council tonight if you can and show your support for Complete Streets that take into account bikes, pedestrians, mass transit AND cars, instead of considering "just" cars!

My step-dad has long said that we have plenty of traffic engineers at the City of Spokane, what we need is a pedestrian engineer. We are making progress on that thought process, but the law needs to change with it.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Shop Ride Review

Despite the looming bad weather, 19 hearty souls appeared for the 2010's first Shop Ride from Two Wheel Transit. We really should credit the ride with 20, but I will get to that in a moment.

As previously reported, the first shop ride of the year was set for 5.30 pm on April 1. Let me repeat a couple of important points there: "5.30", "pm", "April", "1". Even though it is in the past, it is still important for our story.

So, as I said, there were 19 (or possibly 20) people who showed up for the shop ride. All three members of Team Two Wheel were in attendance, one of the owners of Two Wheel (Geoff), a couple of GU cycling team members (one of them 2nd in last week's Bellingham race - didn't catch K.C.'s finish), a couple of Baddlands riders and that left the majority as guys (sorry, no ladies on this trip - they may have been more mindful of the bad weather) who like to ride.

It was a good and compatible group, but I think that there were really two stand-out heroes of the day. The first shall be known as "D". D did a couple of triathlons last year with a 12-mile bike portion. He is interested in improving his cycling speed and fitness and thought that a group ride would be a good way to do that. He is relatively new to town and also wanted to meet some more riders and learn a bit about the routes around here. I think that part all went well, but a combination of a prior work-out that day, a rubbing brake pad that wasn't detected and fixed until late in the ride, and a more vigorous pace and distance than he was used to and D found himself struggling whenever the route headed upwards.

Now, every cyclist knows what this feels like. There really is a special kind of misery that goes with that sinking feeling as your legs and lungs refuse to cooperate as a group of riders seems to effortlessly ride away up a hill (I expect to have that feeling this weekend at Frozen Flatlands at Williams Lake!), but I also think that it takes a special reservoir of courage to keep with it and keep trying no matter how fruitless it appears. And that, my friends, is exactly what D did. No whining, no complaining; just kept riding the best he could and giving it what he had. He kept a good attitude and finished the ride.

His reward was pizza waiting for us at Two Wheel Transit. The benefit to having Geoff along, besides his pace setting and breaking wind, wait, I mean, anyway, at the end of the ride Geoff had arranged to have some pizzas delivered to the shop so that everyone who wanted was welcome to come in and have a bit of refreshment and hang around for a few minutes. It was a nice way to end a cool, but not wet, first shop ride of the year.

Now, about our mysterious 20th rider. This rider is a well-known, well-liked, fit and fast cyclist. He has a respected profession and, in fact, I recently saw him in Spokane Coeur d'Alene Living Magazine in a "Best of" story. In light of the cycling and community stature of this individual, I don't want to embarrass him, so I will simply refer to him as Dr. SJ. So, why, you ask, does Dr. SJ get to be a counted/not-counted member of the ride and how, you ask further, does that make him a hero of the ride? Well, my friends, Dr. SJ showed up for the shop ride on April 1st, at 5.30. Unfortunately for both him and us, it was 5.30 AM and not PM.

We should let that sink in for a moment.

For those of you around Spokane, you know that it was dang cold at 5.30 am yesterday. You also know that it was dang dark at 5.30 am yesterday. You also know that not one other sane person was on the street, much less on a bicycle, at 5.30 am yesterday. Nonetheless, Dr. SJ heeded the call for a ride and showed up at what he thought was the correct time. I'm not sure how he thought pizza fit in for the 6.30-7.00 am finish time, but you can't let little inconsistencies get in the way of a man's desire to ride his bike in a group.

So, to a ride hero who kept riding when he felt like stopping, and to a ride hero who went riding when no one else was looking, we salute you and thank everyone who showed up for the ride.

We will be having shop rides on the first Thursday of the month for the next several months, so put it on your calendar for Thursday, May 6 at 5.30 PM (please note the correct half of the day!).

See you at Frozen Flatlands this weekend!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Today is the Day

Today is the Shop Ride. Meet us at Two Wheel Transit, 1405 W. First. We will plan to leave at 5.30 pm, ride about 20 miles (as described below) and enjoy some cycling.

It's April Fool's Day, but no foolin', just a group ride. Come join us.