Friday, November 30, 2012

Civil War: Change Cycling Now and the UCI...

The line has been drawn, the artillery arrayed, troops are mustered with guns primed. Opposition, in the form of Change Cycling Now, have quickly been marshaling their strength in an attempt to combat a status quo which they argue has failed to properly govern, and has thus brought the sport of cycling to the brink of disaster. The silence, thus far, coming from the office of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) has been, as the saying goes, silently deafening. Sometimes silence is a sign of careful contemplation, studious consideration. Other times it bodes ill, a sign of withdrawal, and a mustering of forces before a strike against a perceived threat, or enemy. Sauron quietly built his army behind the wall of Mordor before unleashing it against those who would oppose his rule. Popular culture often mirrors real life, and history presents us with far too many parallel moments.

A healthy organization should welcome the value of well thought-out and considered ideas from concerned and informed sources. But as recent (and some not so recent) events have revealed, the UCI is not well. Talk of cover-ups, lack of control and half-hearted attempts at problem management, unequal prosecution and treatment of riders, suggests a leadership that is unsure of itself and of its role. In its state of illness it has become reactive, rather than proactive. Lack of direction has compounded problems, where a clear and forceful, yet fair response might have put paid to the controversies long before reaching the point they have.

What I have been reading in the larger media suggests the sport of cycling's governing body is coming dangerously close to becoming a king without a country. The nobility is fleeing for greener, less tainted pastures and taking their money with them, the people, without whom there would be no sport, are more disillusioned than ever. Enter the heavy cavalry in the form of Change Cycling Now, who entered the fray just this week. Many of the groups initial members - Paul Kimmage, David Walsh, Michael Ashenden, along with Jaimie Fuller and Antoine Vayer, were previously outspoken in their individual campaigns against the ill-effects that the widespread use of performance enhancing drugs as well as mismanagement, were having on the sport. Add to these original five the likes of Robin Parisotto, Greg Lemond, Gianni Bugno, Jonathan Vaughters, Eric Boyer, Dr. John Hoberman, Jorg Jaksche, Hajo Seppelt, Emma O'Reilly, Andy Layhe, Scott O'Raw, and Festinagirl (who I admit I was not previously familiar with, not being a part of the Twitteratti), and suddenly the possibility for a unified voice and message in the name of clean sport has become real. 

Some people may balk, and deride, the idea of individuals who were once part and participant in the corruption, to now have a voice in the process to clean the mess up. Their experience though, as insiders, is what makes their participation invaluable. Their understanding of what took place, how, when, and where will contribute to a more complete picture of the problem. Their experiences, from the inside, that neither you, nor I, nor anyone else looking in from the outside, or at best from a distant amateur fringe, could only hope to speculate about. This group will have no decision-making authority, but make no mistake, whatever message they deliver after this weekend's meeting, will carry great weight. Will the UCI acknowledge the group, consider its message, or will they retreat into a defensive corner? From what I see, there must be change, too much momentum has been built to go back. Nor can the sport move forward without realistically addressing the problems of the past, and putting in place measures to ensure they don't repeat in the future. 

For more information, Change Cycling Now does have its own Facebook page. Stories have also been published this week at Velonation, Velonews, the Sticky Bottle, Twisted Spoke, and no doubt many other places as well.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Bonelli, Up Close and Far Away...

Even in this late month of the year the prickly pear pads are topped by multitudes of tunas (fruits), swollen crimson and plum. Not enough birds, ground squirrels, coyotes, humans, or whatever else eats them, to harvest and devour the entire crop I guess. I must have been moving especially slowly at the time and was able to notice one especially vivid-hued fruit. Or remains of one to be exact; it had clearly been devoured with great relish. It could have been exploded from inside out. All that remained was part of an empty husk, white veins a contrast to fuschia skin. A spatter of the sweet juicy pulp on a nearby pad and needles.

A little further away and, remember we haven't even entered winter yet, grass has begun pushing through the soft soil at shady verges. Goodbye autumn, hello wint spring? These are things to notice up close. Change focus, and notice the more distant views. Follow the slow, wary trot of coyote along the trail around a small inlet and look across the calm waters between the falling leaves of California walnut. The lake is quiet and still on this morning - no boats moving about, just a few fisherfolk throwing their lines from the damp shoreline, and waterfowl touching down or skimming along the surface.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Potato Mountain: Where The Fair Wind Blows...

I have often remarked upon how the sense of adventure is a big part of the reasons I ride

Generally it is much easier to fill that sense from the saddle of a mountain bike. It allows me to leave the easily accessible behind, bid a brief farewell to the predictability (relatively speaking) of pavement. A once-a-week spin on dirt re-entered my ride schedule a few months ago. I am not going to try and fool anyone into comparing Marshall Canyon, the Palmer-Evey, and the summit of Potato Mountain to an alpine trail in the Rockies for sheer wildness. There are those places along the way, though, that can make you forget the city is a fast descent away, and others with panoramic vistas which make the distance seem much further.

On Monday a thick fog had settled over the valley, but had slipped away from the mountain slopes as I ground along the P-E and then up Potato. As I climbed higher I could see it sliding down ridges to the west, while mountain peaks to the south and east, seemed as if islands thrust up from a grey, thick sea. There was not so much as a fair wind to disturb the calm - the fog an arrow straight line running east to west, with only blue sky above, and islands bobbing in the distance.

the toyon is spotty right now, though this one was very holiday-like

The way that you wander is the way that you choose,
The day that you tarry is the day that you lose.
Sunshine or thunder, a man will always wonder,
Where the fair wind blows.
(Tim McIntire and John Rubinstein, from Jeremiah Johnson)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Rides of Song and Story...

There was a time - I worked in a library for sixteen years - I came to realize that all librarians talk to themselves. I don't know if this is due to being surrounded by so many words, hour after hour, day by day, or if the habit comes carried over from so many conversations held with library patrons, researchers, or something common to the personal makeup of the individuals, but librarians are masters at that game.

unlike Maria and the von Trapp kids, I may sing,
but the words will never make it past my lips

If someone were to conduct a poll among cyclists asking how many help the long miles pass with the aid of a song (or songs) running through their heads, I suspect the number would be somewhat comparable to the number of librarians who talk to themselves. I have known people who could reel off song after song without missing a pedal rotation, or a beat for that matter; they have minds for things like that. I, on the other hand and with very few exceptions, can only sing along when a song is actually being played. Oh, I know tens, maybe up to or even over a hundred, different fragments of lyrics, but without John, Peter, Alice, Sammy, or Mama Cass singing along at the same time, I will be darned if I can pull enough lyrics out of the air to make a full song. Therefore, what tends to happen, when I am riding along in song mode, is that I replay a certain lyric over and over, ad nauseum until I have had all I can stand and desperately try to come up with another. This isn't always easy, because nine times out of ten, the song the needle in my mind has been stuck on is the last song I heard before heading out. No picking and choosing about it; it's that last one or nothing. Coming up with a suitable replacement while riding is no simple matter; I don't know why, but clearly I would make a lousy lead vocal.

This then, is where those sixteen years of library work come in handy. When songs fail me I can fall back on Plan B - self-conversing. You'll know me on the road but, please don't interrupt when I am talking to myself. Some of my best, most brilliant ideas have come to me while riding, or at least a plethora of mediocre blog posts.

clearly Mr. Alda and i have something in common

Monday, November 26, 2012

Monday Blues: Green Goes Blue...

authors' photo from Tour of California 2012

As announced last week, Irish track standout (and not shabby on the road) Martyn Irvine, will be donning blue as a member of the United Healthcare team for 2013. The UHC squad is adding a number of new riders to their roster, and the already strong team should bring even more depth and diversity to their road campaign next year. 2012 was a successful year for the team with wins, and placings, coming across Europe and America. Among those wins were the National Criterium Championship (Hilton Clarke) as well as Team Champion at the same race, stage 5 of the Tour of Britain (Marc de Maar), stage 6 of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge (Rory Sutherland), stage 1 (Jay Thomson), stage 6 (Jason McCartney), and stage 7 (Kai Reus) of the Tour of Portugal, stage 1 (Rory Sutherland) and stage 4 (Jake Keough) at the Tour of Utah, the Boise Twilight Criterium (Hilton Clarke), overall GC (Rory Sutherland) and team GC at the Tour de Beauce, the Air Force Cycling Classic Crystal City Cup (Jake Keough), Air Force Cycling Classic Clarendon Cup (Robert Forster), Spartenburg Regional Classic (Jake Keough), Tour of the Gila, overall GC and stage 1 (Rory Sutherland),  Presbyterian Hospital Invitational Criterium (Hilton Clarke), and the Cigar City Brewing Company Criterium (Hilton Clarke). In addition, the team's riders managed podium finishes at such prestigious European races as the Three Days of De Panne, Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali, and Nokere - Koerse. With thirteen returning racers - Hilton Clarke, Marc de Maar, Jake Keough, Jonny Clarke, Phil Diegnan, Jeff Louder, Ben Day, Chris Jones, Brad White, Adrian Hegyvary, Karl Menzies, Davide Frattini, and Robert Forster, plus eight new additions - Irvine, Lucas Euser, Alessandro Bazzana, Aldo Ilesic, Kiel Riejnen, Danny Summerhill, Luke Keough, and John Murphy, the United Healthcare team looks likely to continue and add to their list of results throughout the year.

Lorraine O'Sullivan photo via An Post on Flickr

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Grass Chopper of Mateusz Chmura...

"Imagination is more important than knowledge"

From the moment I first saw Albert Einstein's quote in print, these have been words to live by. Not to discount the importance of knowledge, but you can always look up a fact in a book. Imagination is what turns those facts into creation. It is often said that cycling is composed of a percentage of physical action combined with a percentage of mental conditioning. A portion of that mental percentage must be made up of imagination. Imagination is what takes you places you have never been before, challenges you to greater speeds, or longer distances. Imagination takes us down roads where sights and sounds, smells are foreign to what we are used to in our daily lives, it encourages us to ride outside the bounds of what is normal and everyday.

"Grass Chopper" is quite an example of what the melding of knowledge and imagination can create. It is evocative of its organic namesake; the very same bug that creeped me out as a kid doing yard work during the hot days of summer, or that wiped out the few bits of corn we planted just last year. I almost expect it to hop, or unfurl some hidden wings and fly, rather than roll along the ground. Created by Polish artist and designer Mateusz Chmura. If you click on the link you can see his work - the beetlebike is pretty cool too.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Friday Feedbag: Rolling...

This Friday Feedbag is a short one, it only has a single item in it, but it is a clever one - a short PSA called "Rolling", from the New York organization Transportation Alternatives which highlights what else, transportation alternatives:

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Upcoming: Governors Ball...

If you do any mountain biking in the Southern California region, it is likely that you have run into (hopefully not literally) a person belonging, or at least a reference, to the So Cal Trail Riders. It is not a club, it is not a team; it is a simple forum, a way for people to get together and do what they love - ride in the dirt, along the fire roads and trails of Southern California. Not only is the forum a great source of where to ride information, but it is also a valuable source of technical / bike repair info as well. I have been on the forum since 2006, far from one of the first, but old enough that I can use the phrase "been around". I was never the most active, but I have done some of the rides - Marshall Canyon, Peter's Canyon, the annual Take A Kid Mountain Biking Day, I even won a bike at a raffle / bbq. They have put together some great all-member rides in the past, and though my focus over the past few years has returned to the road, I am going to try my hardest to make it out to this:

I am quite sure it will be an occasion to remember. I imagine the ride will be low key enough for just about anyone. Whatever else happens is anyone's guess. Check the STR forum website for more information.

Finally, I wish everyone have a Happy Thanksgiving. Whether you are in the US and celebrate, or somewhere else around the world, I imagine we all have something to be thankful for. Gobble, gobble.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Claremont Racing II: Tag Team at the Colleges...

We are all familiar with the Little 500 Bicycle Race made famous by the film Breaking Away. That team-effort race had its start in 1951 and sees teams of riders competing against one another in tag-team fashion; one rider will circle the course for any number of laps before handing the bike off to a teammate. The race continues in that pattern for a specified number of laps.

The Claremont Colleges Digital Library contains several photographs showing the action during similar races along, what appears to be Platt Blvd between Harvey Mudd and Scripps Colleges, and were taken between the late 1950s and early 1960s. The races clearly involved hand-offs, or bike exchanges (which don't always go smoothly), though unlike the University of Indiana's Little 500, these races were not run around the school track, but on campus streets. It would be interesting to know during which, and how many, years these races were run, how teams were formed, length in distance or time, etc. The races would seem to be true grassroots efforts; people will always want to race, no matter what the pros do to ruin things at their level.

There are only a few photos in this bicycle race collection, and many of the same digitized images are found in other university collections, such as the University of Delaware. I am not sure if an alumnus gave copies to multiple schools, or what, but there you go. Most of the images show the action from a more distant perspective (the second one above is as close as you get), but the action is only one point of interest. They also provide glimpses into student life at the time, provide a time capsule of campus evolution, and link past to present. And then there are the bikes; while some of them appear to be more race attuned, others are typical student commuters with fenders, chain guards, and head lights. I could swear, some of them can still be spotted around the campuses today.

Early in 2012 (February) I did a short post on Claremont as a hotbed of cycling. From infrastructure for everyday commuting by bike to collegiate and professional racing, cycling has long been prominent in the city. Lately I have become increasingly interested in researching the history of racing within the city, from the racers, teams, organizers, and the races; there will be short posts like this one, and then at the end (however far ahead that may be) I will put it all together. Part I in the series is here.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

I Spy: Critters with Hats at the Roadside...

I quickly swung around to snap this guy's photo yesterday morning before he had time to run away. Noticed him sitting at the side of the road out in front of a house. He seems too perfectly situated there, right at the edge of asphalt and cobbled gutter, to be an accident. Someone walking by probably placed him so that he could watch the flow - there are always a lot of walkers, and cyclists on this street. But how did he get there? Dropped by a toddler from a moving stroller, perhaps? Maybe left behind as a young 'un clambered into a car seat? Tossed out the window by a terrible-two? Maybe a dog's plush chew toy, dropped in favor of following a scent? So many possibilities, the one I like best though, has someone placing him there just for fun, for human-powered people like me to spot and wonder. Don't think I would have noticed him if I had been driving by.

Sorry For The...

Blogger problems; you readers have probably not noticed anything wrong, but I have. For some reason I have not been receiving email notifications of comments lately and as a result my responses have been lagging more than I would like. Additionally, my reading list does not seem to be updating properly so current links to some of my other favorite blogs are not showing: For instance if you look over to the right (under Site List: Adventure) you will notice that BikELove-Scotland has apparently not posted anything new in more than 4 months time. Well, that is just plain wrong, and far from the truth (sorry Gavin). I am also noticing a problem with site statistics, but that is nothing you would be concerned about. Guess I need to send a note off to Blogger. Honestly, Blogger is normally problem free, but every once in a while...

Monday, November 19, 2012

Monday Blues: Nothing But Blue Skies...

blue (bloo) n. 1. Any of a group of colors that may vary in lightness and saturation, whose hue is that of a clear sky. 2. An object of the color blue.
blues (blooz) pl. n. 1. Feelings of sadness, melancholy, or depression. 2. A melancholic musical form 

Life in Southern California. I have been here my entire life and have experienced more than my fill of smoggy, hazy days, but it doesn't take long for a newcomer to realize that a little wind and rain clear up the skies like nothing else. The past week has seen some fantastically blue sky, and if you happen to have been around any water, that blue has been reflected off the surface of lake, ocean, or puddle. I was able to enjoy the blues on two sides of the metro Los Angeles area; at Bonelli Park where Puddingstone Reservoir displayed its winter best, and at Seal Beach where, if not for the hazy outline of Catalina Island getting in the way, there was almost a classic sea-meets-sky moment.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Where To Bike Los Angeles...

Ever find yourself getting a little bored of riding the same old routes every weekend, saddling up with the same old group, seeing the same old faces? Well I hope not. But if you do, I suggest checking out the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition's (LACBC) monthly rides. They may provide you with a different pace, likely a different place, and certainly different faces riding next to you.

heading up Washingtonia robusta-lined Azusa Avenue

regroup atop the Santa Fe Dam, with distant views all around

Touring Los Angeles County is, I believe, a new series of monthly rides around the county hosted and led by the LACBC and Where To Bike Los Angeles authors, Jon Riddle and Sarah Amelar. This morning's ride provided a great little escape from the Sunday norm. Yesterday's rain gave way to dramatic clouds and on-again, off-again sun - perfect conditions really, for a ride through the San Gabriel Valley. Starting and ending in Glendora, the route took us through some of the foothill communities, down along the San Gabriel River Trail (SGRT), up the Rio Hondo and, even further up, into Monrovia Canyon Park. Having lived in the general area for the past sixteen or more years, most of the roads and paths were familiar. The one stretch that was new to me, the path along the Rio Hondo from the bosque del Rio Hondo, through El Monte and up to Peck Road Park was a nice surprise. Another nice surprise were my fellow riders. I expected mostly locals, but people came from, not just near, but from further afield too. That is a nice thing about the LACBC rides - they attract riders from all over, providing opportunities to ride places we may rarely ride, or may not be at all familiar with. Three quarters of the way through the route we took a short break at Merengue, a Cuban bakery and cafe in Monrovia, which has become a cycling favorite for many group rides through the area. With the one real climb of the day (to Monrovia Canyon Park) coming right afterward, it was a perfectly timed stop.

distinctly un-urban section of the route through the bosque of the Rio Hondo

what is it? guess (and see below for answer)

concrete channel of the Rio Hondo, and a nice smooth path

Lake at Peck Road Park, northern end of the bike path

I want to give a special thanks to Jon Riddle, not just for leading today's ride, but also for providing me with a copy of his co-authored book, Where To Bike Los Angeles. After I have had a little time to peruse all the information in the book, you can expect a full review of it here. For now suffice it to say that if you are looking for new places to ride in Los Angeles County, the guidebook is certainly worth looking into. So too are the monthly rides (the December ride sounds fantastic); I imagine that, like todays ride, they will cobble together sections of routes you may never have ridden before, take you past sites you have not seen, and introduce you to people who share the same cycling passion as yourself. That, after all, is what these rides are about. If you are a member of LACBC you should already get notices about upcoming rides, it you are not a member (and why are you not?), you can always check the website for upcoming events - the rides are free to members, plus a guest.
Answer to the above question: Protection from model airplanes.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Interbike 2012: A Few Different Roads...

Let me first apologize for the delay in this post, I had meant to put it up long before now. Like an old leather saddle, I have sat on it while the world has continued to speed by, and the topic has been made somehow irrelevant by now. Anyhow, the time has finally come to bring the curtain down on the showings from Interbike 2012, and do so, on the road, in all its myriad forms:

The BMC Urban Challenge (above) is not new to the show, but I missed it last year and it deserves some attention. Kudos to the company for bringing some sporty flair to a more upright, get-around the city bike. It was shown built with Gates belt drive, Alfine hub and disc brakes for some extra stopping power, because this isn't your typical urban clunker - you will want to go faster on it. Fenders, finished to match the frame, are stylish, but also functional and will help keep the street gunk of your nice office clothes.

If speed does not necessarily factor into your thought process when considering an urban bike, or at least not high up on the list of priorities, you might want to give the tried and tested Linus brand a look or, as I previously mentioned, the new kid on the block (or at least in the States), the Opus brand from Canada:

Don't know how much coffee I have spilt for want of a simple holder

 Opus, bells and whistles for a stately-paced commute

waste not. Brompton shoves a repair kit into an otherwise unused space

you could probably load up a Velo Orange with enough stuff for a weeks-long trip

i have had my mind set on a Yuba for some heavier-duty hauling, but if the Surly Big Dummy came stock with a pair of antlers i could be nudged over that direction

i didn't live in Claremont when William McCready, owner/guru at Santana Cycles, served as a member of the City Council, but the story i heard is that this ultra-tandem was built to seat each of the five council members, and ridden in the annual 4th of July parade. one year the ride did not go so smoothly, there was a tumble, and the council now pedals along on something a little more stable.

Folding bikes become more subtle in their mechanism all the time; case in point is the Ritchey Break Away:

As for the speed machines, those designed for racing and training, I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite. Fondriest, Pantani, Lightspeed, Opus, Eddy Merckx, and Neil Pryde were all showing bikes that I would gladly ride any day of the week. If you throw in the big producers on top of that heap, the Pinarello's, the BMC's, the Specialized's, well. Point is, it is really difficult to pick one over another. Never-the-less, I am giving the nod this year to an old standard remade - the Ritchey Road Logic. As super fun as it would be to speed around on any of those other high-tech, super light carbon dreams, my eyes just kind of glaze over when looking at them. Like the speed at which they fly past they just sort of blur one into another, and it takes something like the Logic to refocus.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Broncho vs. Bicycle...

Before Capt. Jack Sparrow, there was Capt. Jack Crawford. I first became familiar with the earlier Captain when I "discovered" some pieces of ephemera related to him in the archives where I worked. Most notable among those was a piece that he had penned called Broncho vs. Bicycle. John Wallace (Jack) Crawford (1847-1917) was a Civil War veteran, western calvary scout, and performer with the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show. He also dabbled in the art of the word, writing books and poems; it has been noted that Bob Dylan's "Only a Hobo" was inspired by Crawford's poem, "Only A Miner Killed". Crawford's fame with a pen earned him the moniker, the Poet Scout. Many of his poems were drawn from real life experiences, or relate to many of the people he knew during his lifetime, including William F. (Buffalo Bill) Cody, and George Armstrong Custer; "Only a Miner Killed" was written to point out the vast contrast between the life (and death) of a person of wealth (Cornelius "Commodore" Vanderbilt), and one of poverty (an unknown miner).

The first that we saw of the high-tone tramp
War' over thar at our Pecos camp;
He war' comin' down the Santa Fe trail
Astride of a wheel with a crooked tail,
A-skinnin' along with a merry song,
An' a-ringin' a little warnin' gong.
He looked so outlandish, strange and queer
That all of us grinned from ear to ear,
And every boy on the round-up swore
He never seed sich a hoss before.

Wal' up he rode with a sunshine smile,
A-smokin' a cigarette, an' I'll
Be kicked in the neck if I ever seen
Sich a saddle as that on his queer machine.
Why, it made us laugh, fer it wasn't half
Big enough fer the back of a suckin' calf.
He tuk our fun in a keerless way,
A-venturin' only once to say
Thar' wasn't a broncho about the place
Could down that wheel in a ten-mile race.

I'd a lightnin' broncho out in the herd
That could split the air like a flyin' bird,
An' I hinted round in an off-hand way,
That, pervidin' the enterpris'd pay,
I thought as I might jes' happen to light
On a hoss that'd leave him out o' sight.
In less'n a second we seed 'im yank
A roll o' greenbacks out of his flank,
An' he said if we wanted to bet to name
The limit, an' he would tackle the game.

Just a week before we had all been down
On a jamboree to the nearest town,
An' the whiskey joints and the faro games
An' shakin' our hoofs with the dance-house dames
Made a wholesale bust; an', pard, I'll be cussed
If a man in the outfit had any dust;
An' so I explained, but the youth replied
That he'd lay the money matter aside,
An' to show that his back didn't grow no moss,
He'd bet his machine agin my hoss.
I tuk him up, an' the bet war' closed,
An' me a-chucklin', fer I supposed
I war' playin' in ded sure winnin' luck,
In the softest snap I had ever struck,
An' the boys chipped in with a knowin' grin,
Fer they thought the fool had no chance to win.

An' so we agreed fur to run that day
To the Navajo Crossin', ten miles away,-
As han'some a track as you ever seed
Fer testin' a hoss's prettiest speed.
Apache Johnson and Texas Ned
Saddled their hosses and rode ahead
To station themselves ten miles away
To act as judges an' see fair play.
While Mexican Bart and Big Jim Hart
Stayed back for to give us an even start.

I got aboard o' my broncho bird,
An' we came to the scratch an' got the word,
An' I laughed till my mouth spread from ear to ear
To see that tenderfoot drop to the rear.

The first three miles slipped away first-rate,
Then broncho began fur to lose his gait,
But I wa'n't oneasy an' didn't mind,
With tenderfoot more'n a mile behind.
So I jogged along, with a cowboy song
Till all of a sudden I heard that gong
A'ringin' a warnin' in my ear,
Ting! Ting! Ting! Ting! too infernal near,
An' lookin' back'ards I seed the chump
Of a tenderfoot gainin' every jump!

I hit old broncho a cut with the quirt
An' once more got him to scratchin' dirt;
But his wind seemed weak, an' I tell you, boss,
I seed he wasn't no ten-mile hoss.
Still the plucky brute took another shoot,
An' pulled away from the wheel galoot,
But the animal couldn't hold his gait,
An' somehow the idea entered my pate
That if tenderfoot's legs didn't lose their grip
He'd own that hoss at the end o' the trip.

Closer and closer come tenderfoot,
An' harder the whip to the hoss I put;
But the Eastern cuss, with a smile on his face,
Ran up to my side with his easy pace -
Rode up to my side, an', durn his hide,
Remarked 'twar' a pleasant day for a ride;
Then axed, unconsarned, if I had a match,
An' on his breeches give it a scratch,
Lit a cigarette, said he wished me good day,
An', as fresh as a daisy, scooted away.
Ahead he went - that infernal gong
A-ringin' "good-bye" as he flew along;
An' the smoke from his cigarette came back
Like a vapory snicker along his track.
On an' on he sped, gittin' further ahead,
His feet keepin' up that onceaseable tread,
Till he faded away in the distance; an' when
I seed the condemned Eastern rooster again,
He war' thar' with the boys at the end of the race,
That same keerless, unconsarned smile on his face.

Now, pard, wh'n a cowboy gits beat he don't sw'ar,
Nor kick, if the beatin' be done on the squar';
So I tuck that Easterner right by the hand
An' told him that broncho awaited his brand.
Then I asked him his name, an' whar' from he came,
And how long he'd practiced that wheel-rollin' game.
Tom Stevens, he said war' his name, an' he come
From a town they call Bosting, in ol' Yankeedom.
Then he jist paralyzed us by sayin' he'd whirled
That very identical wheel round the world.
Wal', pard, that's the story o; how that smart chap
Done me up w'en I thought I had sich a soft snap;
Done me up on a race with remarkable ease,
An' lowered by pride a good many degrees.

Did I give 'im the hoss? W'y, of course I did, boss,
An' I tell you it wa'n't no diminutive loss.
He writ me a letter from back in the East,
An' said he's presented the neat little beast
To a feller named Pope, who stands at the head
O' the ranch where the cussed wheel horses ar' bred.

So, there you have it; like many of Crawford's poems this one has a basis in fact, in real people and events of the times. That "feller named Pope" for instance, refers to Colonel Albert A. Pope, who in the 1890s established a bicycle trust which controlled the bicycle patents in the United States. As a result every US manufacturer paid Pope about $10 per bicycle. His own brand, Columbia, is still around (indeed, my beater bike while in school at UCSB was a Columbia). Pope went on to found the League of American Wheelmen, which as we know was one of the first, and leading advocacy, groups for improved roads.

As for the "consarned Eastern rooster", Tom Stevens was the first person to circum-navigate the world by bicycle, doing so between 1884 and 1886. His story has been written up in numerous places, including the book, "Around the World on a Bicycle", written by himself. Fascinating stuff; in 1889 he led an expedition to East Africa in search of explorer Henry Morton Stanley of "Dr. Livingstone, I presume" fame. So, you might wonder, did Crawford ever meet Stevens? Yes, though the meeting would not have taken place until after the poem had been written. Pope, who was a friend of Crawford, requested that Capt. Jack write and read a poem before the Bicycle Club of Boston, who were to honor Stevens at a special dinner meeting. Thus "Broncho vs. Bicycle was created.

illustration of Tom Stevens from Harpers Magazine

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Cycling to School Infographic...

I confess, I never rode my bike to school. It is possible there may have been some special occasion that would have had me riding for a day, but I don't remember anything like that. Elementary school was just a short walk up the street, high school was right across the street. Junior High, it is true, was a good mile and a half away and riding would have been quicker, but I walked those three years as well. I like to think all that hoofing ultimately instilled in me the idea of being self-sufficient, or at least to whatever degree that is possible for an urban-dweller.

For years research has been conducted, stories written, and similar graphics compiled presenting information showing how far the English speaking nations lag behind other nations of the world. I suppose if you added in stats for the number of kids who walk as well, those numbers might look a little better, but not by much. I hate to think that we are continuing to travel that same unfortunate path, that we are instilling the idea of motor-dependence, and all its associated ills. That is why it is important to support organizations like the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, or even help out with a local organization like the Claremont Safe Routes to School program, or whichever similar group is nearest to you.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Backpedal: Happy 50th Greg...

The Backpedal Series will revisit some of the more popular posts from the Claremont Cyclist. They may be posts that I liked, even though they weren't widely read, or they may be posts that struck a chord with the blog's readers and picked up larger numbers of hits. Some of the posts may contain new or revised information as facts have come to light.

I was recently poking though some blog statistics and was somewhat surprised to see that the post I rather quickly cobbled together last year, marking the 50th birthday of Greg Lemond, had quietly become the second most viewed post at the old Claremont Cyclist. The current crisis in pro cycling and Greg's vociferous arguments for change have brought him back to the forefront of efforts to clear out the sports riffraff and keep it relevant. So, what with that and the new Rapha video circulating around the wi-fi waves, in which the guys are shown riding and talking with America's cycling legend along the roads of his old stomping grounds, I decided it was an opportune moment to backpedal for a second look at this, originally posted on 24 June 2011:

Yes, the most influential American cyclist of the 1900s turns 50 years young this weekend (Sunday). Lemond ushered in a new era in cycling, not only in the United States, but worldwide. From athlete pay, to aerodynamics, to an elevated status of American racers, the changes and adaptations he brought to the sport are tied to its historical progression.

American sporting perceptions aside, or maybe because of them, Lemond, as an American, will forever be linked to some of the most noteworthy sporting accomplishments of all time. As a result his successes, his near-successes, even his failures have resulted in some of the most iconic images in the history of the sport of cycling. A few of my favorites are here.

I began my own racing career during Lemond's reign and, lamentably, never amounted to much by comparison. Though we are separated by only a year - I, the younger (at least I can lay hold to that claim) - I, like the vast pit of American sporting public, was largely unaware of the sport of cycling prior to the ascendancy of Lemond. It was Greg Lemond who ignited a passion in racing which has not dimmed, led me to immerse myself in cycling history, to the names Desgrange, Coppi, Anquetil, Merckx, Hinault, Kelly, and the many others, before and since. So, Happy Birthday Greg. Slainte.

The above video is kind of interesting. It actually shows little of Lemond, though he won the stage and moved into the top spot on general classification. What is interesting are some of the personalities being interviewed (including Lemond): Alexi Grewal, Connie Carpenter Phinney, and Andy Hampsten. It is a fun little trip back in time if you have not seen it.

Perhaps for obvious reasons (I was in the midst of my own comeback to the racing scene at the time), one of my favorite quotes from the above book:

"But I like the fact that a lot of people don't think I'm going to come back. It just gives me more incentive to prove them wrong. I do well in pressure situations. People think, he's not going to do well when there's a lot of pressure. But I do better when that type of battle is going on..."

And as for that Rapha video I mentioned at the top you can check it here at the Rapha site, assuming you have not seen it yet. I never weary of telling how I once rode with Lemond on a pre-Nevada City Classic ride, about the year 2000; although with some 100 or more riders as company, there wasn't much opportunity for chat. No where near as memorable as the Rapha ride, in other words.


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