Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Once Was: Wheaties - Schwinn

There once was a team known as Wheaties - Schwinn. They were a domestic squad during the 1988 and 1989 seasons, and succeeded the Schwinn - Icy Hot Team. Combined, the two teams contained many of the top racers in the United States, in both road and mountain biking disciplines, from that era. The latter included Julia Ingersoll, Tim Rutherford, and Johnny Weissenrieder, the former included Jeff Pierce, Thomas Prehn, Steve Speaks, Danny Van Haute, Mark Whitehead, and Alan McCormick, among others.

The 1989 team contained Frankie Andreu, Thomas Armstrong, Tom Broznowski, Chris Carmichael, Thomas Craven, Volker Diehl (GER), Michael Engleman, Gibby Hatton, Tim Rutherford, Doug Smith, Steve Tilford, Michel Vaarten (BEL), Shawn Wallace (ENG), and Mike Carter. Wins that year came for the team at the Coors Classic (Stage 2), Cascade Classic, the Georgia Cycling Series (Stage 2), Tour de Trump (Prologue), Charlottesville, and at Destelbergen in Germany. 

The years of Wheaties - Schwinn were an unquestioned high point in American racing. Considering the strength on the team, one might be surprised that they aren't more widely recognized; much of this can be attributed to the success that Greg Lemond, and the 7-Eleven Team were having in Europe. The Wheaties - Schwinn's greatest claim to fame may be that so many of their riders would accomplish so much more over the next few years with other teams. That or that Doug Smith was the first cyclist to be featured on the cover of a Wheaties cereal box.

Anyway, what brought this little reminiscence up was finding the photo above in one of those cycling training logs, the kind you can still buy these days. I only bought this one (copyright 1990, used it in 1993), but all the older historic photos inside (by Rich Cruse and Jim Safford) make it an interesting piece of cycling ephemera.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Honored to Know You

You know, sometimes I am just happy to be out riding my bike, living life as it is meant to be lived, enjoying my surroundings and the company I am with. Sometimes pride enters into the picture. Not the kind of pride for scooping up the sprint honors at the edge of town, but for accomplishments of another sort.

photo courtesy of Richard Mayo

You may recall that one of our local riders, LaVonne Koester, lost her life on the road earlier this year during the Tour de Palm Springs. Almost immediately riders from the Psycho-lists, and Cycling Connection, dedicated themselves to raising funds for the American Diabetes Association and their annual fundraiser, the Tour de Cure. This was a cause dear to LaVonne's heart, and one that the group composed of friends, acquaintances, and fellow riders raised over $25,000 for. Yes, Twenty-five Thousand Dollars. On Sunday morning, kited out in specially designed jerseys proclaiming that they were "Jerry's Kids", the group did LaVonne proud, did themselves proud and, even though I was elsewhere that morning, did myself proud, at least from an "I know them" perspective. They might get a bit wild at times (from what I hear); it probably has something to do with the name, but they can pull themselves together when the reason is right. That's it, I simply felt their efforts should be acknowledged. You guys and gals exhibit the best of what it means to be a bicyclist.


Sunday, April 27, 2014

2014 SoCal Cup Criterium #4: A SPY in the Midst

Masters 35+ podium

seven BBI-SIC riders at the front - that is a train, with the eventual Masters 45+ victor, Craig Miller, last in line

incoming, around turn two during the Cat 4 race

Rachel Cross, the Women's Cat 3/4 race champion

five away, the victorious break in the Masters 35+ race

Cat 3's in 'V' formation head into turn one

The usual roster of protagonists from Surf City Cyclery lined up in the Masters 35+ race. Their strategy of controlling the race from off the front played out early when three of their men instigated a break, Kayle LeoGrande, Patrick Bos, and Robert Kamppila. The trio were joined by Max Hernandez of Incycle Racing p/b Full Circle Cycling, and Jonathan Davy of SPY Giant Ride. Those five never looked back, well actually they did but, they need not have bothered. Their gap grew with each lap until the question shifted from "would they be caught" to "would they catch the peloton?" The answer to that latter question was a definitive yes. LeoGrande took the win with enough of a margin for one of his famous victory salutes; Bos came second, and Davy crashed the Surf party by grabbing the third spot of the podium. 

A selection of ninety-one photos from the Masters 45+, Cat 4/5, Masters 35+, Women 3/4, and Cat 3 can be seen by jumping to the Flickr album. More to come...

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Kohoutek 2014 @ Pitzer

I have mentioned it before, and am sure I shall mention it again. One of the best things about living in Claremont has got to be the sheer number of cultural activities that take place virtually any weekend of the year. Beside city run events and those of various other organizations, there are the Claremont Colleges - not one, not two, but six - each with their own schedule of events. 

Early this afternoon as I was weaving my way through the campuses after checking into the Earth Day Festival downtown, I stumbled upon the Kohoutec Music and Arts Festival at Pitzer. Today is the second of the two day Fest: There is a full slate of music, dancing coeds, a menagerie, bears in trees, moon bounce, food, dancing coeds, an exhibition of photographs from China, and if you know where to find it, free food (for a limited time, time which has almost run out). Judging by the music I was hearing early in the afternoon, I am guessing the party can get going pretty good. Check the info on Facebook, or website, before you head on over. Or just forget about that and go before it is too late.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Friday Query: Somebody, or Anybody?

There is this old rail line at Wheeler Avenue in LaVerne. It is unused with rough, buckled and uneven pavement. There is often gravel on the roadway, so you have to look for the sweet line, it can change ride by ride. One of those chunks of gravel targeted my front wheel; there was an ever-so-slight delay during which time I thought I had escaped. Fifty feet later, riding on the rim, was proof otherwise. Man, I hate flatting on group rides. Like happened last night. 

But before I get to that let me briefly take you back in time, and ask a question: Are you a somebody, or are you an anybody? I have done a lot of different group rides over the years, some large, others small, some social paced, others extremely fast. Generally speaking, everyone tends to know one another on the smaller ones, and when someone suffers a flat the ride will stop en masse. It is one of those cool little camaraderie, no one left behind, we are all in this together, aspects of cycling. It makes you feel like somebody when everyone stops and waits as you fix your flat, cut out a broken link of chain, or what ever.

Then I started doing larger rides, like the Montrose Ride. I began to notice that the ride did not stop for just anybody. I also noticed that when it did stop it would be for the riders who were well-known, while for others it would tend to roll on. Mostly the stop or no-stop decision depends on who is around the flatee at the time, and in turn how loudly the "flat siren" is vocalized. For "somebodys" known by all, the siren is "FLAT", and resounds rider to rider until it reaches the front of the bunch, the drivers who bring the ride to a halt. If the flatee is one of the "anybodys", the siren may only be a "flat", not able to reach the front, which continues pushing on its merry way. The difference between somebody and anybody. Fortunately I don't recall ever flatting during the Montrose Ride so never had to face that moment of truth - somebody, or anybody?

So back to last night; there I was, the bobber near the end of the trawling line. Only one rider was behind me, Shark Bait, at the very end of the string. As I listened to the air quickly evacuating my front wheel, Shark Bait went by me and I was on my own, casting a forlorn shadow underneath a street light in LaVerne with six miles to home. There was no shout of "FLAT", not even a "flat" - apparently I had become one of the "anybody" masses.

I had taken the front wheel off before realizing that I had forgotten to switch the saddle bag back over to tonights bike choice; I had a tube in my jersey, but no way to get air into it. Faced with a very slow ride home, I called the home phone: No answer. I called the wife's cell: No answer. I started cursing, and people opened their curtains, looked out their windows to see what the fuss was all about. Just another bicyclist. Luckily for me, Big E was having an off night and was a couple minutes back. When that super bright headlight came into view my hope was renewed. My savior had arrived. A quick change and we were back on our way. The bunch was long gone, but in place of the speed-fest, our relaxed pace allowed stories to be exchanged, stories of the '80s / '90s SoCal racing scene. That made up for the loss; the silver lining supposedly contained in every dark cloud.

Keep in mind, I am not finding fault here, nor directing it at anyone. Last night I quietly pulled over. I could have let out a loud "damnit" to draw attention to my plight but chose not to, as I think most riders would do in similar situations. So, should you choose to respond, here is the Friday Question: Does the group have a responsibility to stop for simple things, like flats, or is it the personal responsibility of each rider? Much depends on the type of ride, of course; I would never expect a race/training ride such as Buds, or the Rose Bowl, or the old Griffith Park Ride to stop, but what about other types of rides?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Republic of Nico Roche

They may need to make more of these than originally planned; NIco's fan club alone might swoop the available stock. If they miss any, everyone else will presumably be able to purchase them from the RocaSports website beginning this weekend, though I am not sure if they ship overseas. Would be good to have if he ever comes back to do the Tour of California. Cycling has a long tradition of fan clubs dedicated to riders in the pro ranks. I imagine there will be quite a few of these waving around when this years Giro d'Italia makes its start in Ireland next month.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Matter of Importance: Finish the Ride

It may just be the most important ride you do all year.

Sometimes in life it becomes necessary to take a stand, to make a statement. A loud statement. Increasing numbers of hit and run collisions involving drunk and negligent drivers, hostility against cyclists, and weak penalties against perpetrators of these violent crimes, has prompted voices in the bicycling community to rise. It is something almost palpable in its intensity. Drivers of motor vehicles may have become inured, numbed to the hostility that takes place around them - hostility and violence that results in some thirty-five thousand deaths each year, and a hundred thousand more serious injuries. Those motor vehicles are machines of isolation, nurturing self-centeredness. When was the last time you exchanged greetings with a driver stopped next to you at a red light? A year ago, five, ten, or more? When was the last time you exchanged greetings with a bicyclist stopped next to you at a red light? Today, yesterday, every day you ride? That ability to connect face to face is what is unique about  our community, what fosters camaraderie, gives us strength, makes us feel. So when we read about another bicyclist being killed as a result of a hit and run, or someone is severely injured due to the careless inattention of another moronic driver who just does not care, the community collectively shudders and mourns.

Like most weekends in Southern California, there is a lot going on as the last weekend of April approaches. There are races and group rides, and things that have absolutely nothing to do with bicycles. By all means do those, but save just a little time on Sunday for Finish the Ride. It is past time to make a statement, to emphasize that the status quo, the continuing needless loss of life and limb is unacceptable. Make a statement with Damian Kevitt, make a statement for Luis 'Andy' Garcia, make a statement for the community, for yourself. It may be the most important ride we do all year.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Fast Bike, Slow Bike

Cue the old codger voice-over: One thing I have noticed as a result of accumulating the miles over the past few days from the saddle of the ol' yellow Basso - riders coming up today have it easy. Times have changed.

In its heyday, the Basso was a svelte stallion. It was light, and that lightness made it quick out of the gate. With an 12-21 rear cluster and 52-42 up front there was nothing, between chasing Mr. Rogers at the Rose Bowl and chasing Tony up LaTuna Canyon, that it could not handle. Keep in mind the 21 was the bail out gear, the gear of last resort, and only used in extreme situations. Granted 52-12 was not going to win me many sprints, but it was just fine for sitting in. It was all we needed. Though maybe not all we wanted.

Fast forward to the present - carbon fibre this and carbon fibre that have made todays bikes a mere shadow of the weight they once were. That light weight translates into speed; todays bikes take a fraction of the effort to move. By comparison, the Basso now accelerates with all the speed and grace of a Budweiser clydesdale. Once it gets going it is buttery smooth; it is the get up and go that does not quite match up. When I pull into the stable at the end of a ride, the legs feel like they have put in twice the distance they actually did, you know, all wobbly and robot-like. What happened, I ask myself, knowing full well that the Basso would not be able to respond to the question? Certainly the steel didn't gain weight over the past twenty-five years. Neither would the accumulation of years cause it to move slower.

Yes, kids today have it pretty good. It is little wonder the current generation of upstart racers seems so much quicker. And it is not just the lightness, the gearing plays its part as well. While my generation was struggling to crank over those biggest of gears because that was the way it was done (never mind you, I know what that says about thinking for ourselves), today's kids have other models to learn from. And not just the gears - don't forget the crank lengths. Why I was perfectly happy and well adjusted with my 170 mm's, Mr. Smooth pedaler, until it was pointed out that I could add more power, more speed to compliment that smoothness, if only I would move up to 172.5 mm arms.

So bikes have changed over time, and maybe the way we ride them as well. Do bikes, like people, get older and slower? Or does comparing old and new cloud any comparison we might try to make? Would all these questions be moot if I simply turned the Basso into wall decor, and only rode the KHS?

Well, of course nothing has really changed for the old filly. It is as fast as ever it was, maybe even faster, since its component build is better (presumably) and certainly lighter. Twenty or so years of riding lighter bikes has a way of skewing perception, playing tricks with one's memories. Or, was the Basso and all its older steel contemporaries always rather sluggish and slow? Did we never realize that because, well because there was nothing else to compare it to. Did we just never notice until they became old and creaky, until the new kids took over? The Basso may not be the bike of choice when I saddle up these days, but there is something to say for that quarter-century pairing; we have aged together, and pretty much in tandem. The Basso may not be as speedy any more, it struggles perceptibly to get up to speed. But then if I am going to be truthful, I don't seem to be as speedy, and I certainly struggle more to get up to speed.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Monday Blues: Blue Sky, but Black Water

 At some point during my educational process (still ongoing) I learned that 1. water is colorless, and 2. the color we do see is a reflection of the color of what is most prevalent around it. Blue, grey, and green, tend to be most common, as might be expected. For some reason, though, there are those bodies of liquid that don't adhere to that rule. Take the little reservoir behind the dam in San Dimas Canyon for example. Its shallow depths always seem to be a dark inky black. The conditions of the day do not seem to matter - it can be grey and overcast with filtered light, or it can be bright and sunny - the water will be black all the same. One interesting side effect of that inkiness - when conditions are right, the surface becomes quite a good mirror.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Weekending C&V: A Davidson Impulse

Bill Davidson has been hand-building bicycles out Seattle since 1973. During that time he, and his staff, have built over six-thousand custom bikes. That works out to roughly two hundred per year, though I imagine the first year, or few, did not approach that output. Davidson frames have become well respected for their ride-ablitiy, their comfort and handling. The bike shown here, which I recently saw at the Claremont Velo, is fully decked out with pretty jewelry - Campagnolo components - from top down. Customization of Davidson frames extends beyond the forming of raw tubes, of course; you wonder what the inspiration was for the fade paint scheme, like a white hot flickering flame perhaps, transitioning from red to yellow, and hot white. There is no fancy lug work on this one like I have seen on some others, and the Campy is not flagship (the shifters are mismatched), it is just pretty standard in that regard. My Basso uses the same basic lugs, which makes them kind of blue collar I guess. In fact, I guess they were probably born about the same time - c.1990.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Thursday Night Ride: This Spot Will Do

What was I going to do? Biologists tell us that bees are under pressure all around the world. I don't know what convinced the little bugger that my handlebars, and that spot on them in particular, would serve as a good landing platform. I let it take a moment of rest; why not? After all the Thursday night ride was at its first regroup, and there was no rush. It had been a long day - for me, nine hours at the computer, the whole time looking forward to this ride. The bee had probably been even more busy, flowers are in bloom all over the place after all. The overcast sky made the hour seem later than it was, and the wind. The wind was blowing making it oh so difficult to get back to the warmth of the hive. There was some need to get moving before darkness fell completely but, can you realize how difficult it is to make any headway with those little transparent wings?

The bunch was stopped for just a few minutes, just long enough for everyone off the back to regroup. I let the bee sit there for that brief period of time; maybe that was all it needed to get back home. When it came time to kick off with the group, a little puff of breath encouraged the little crooner in velvet jacket to hurry on its way. We both had some hurrying to do, it was something we had in common. The reasons may have been different - necessity for the bee, desire for myself - but the action was the same. The little rise up to Gladstone was next, and always prompts someone to attack. A slower mile and a half through old town San Dimas, but then the speedway of Covina Avenue and Badillo Street. Yes, we both had some hurrying in our immediate futures.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Bonelli Spring: Cistus, Eschscholzia, and Pepsis, Oh My

Everything that could possibly bloom right now is in full-flower, or leafing out bare branches. Rock Rose, Elderberry, California Poppy, Mustard, California Black Walnut. Tarantula Hawks are on the hunt, poking into holes in the ground in search of prey. Downey feathers of young birds of prey can be spied with an eagle eye. Grass is narrowing the, normally wide, fire roads into single and double tracks. Waist-high mustard covers certain hillsides. It is a beautiful Spring at Bonelli, but as you know they don't last long; before much time has passed the heat will clamp down, drying everything out, returning the palette to Summer browns.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Hakkalugi Rebuild I: Headset and Fork

Here you see the first two components to be added to the Ibis. From an earlier post, you already know I was unable to keep the original fork; I think the Surly substitution will fill in well. The new fork was been topped off with an orange Chris King headset giving you all the indication you need as to the new color scheme - think Irish tricolor - green, white, orange. I can't regret the black too much, it exists in the decal already and sets the other colors off. If you are going to build up a frame from scratch, have a vision and stick to it. If you have any advice on orange components (or have any lying around) send them my way.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Monday Blues: Connecting Dots...

That is the new connector from the southbound 605 to the eastbound 10, as seen from the San Gabriel River Trail several weeks ago. Looking at it as I rode along at an easy pace, started me thinking about expense. How much do you think that bridge cost? When you consider everything from the engineering, to the labor, and the materials it would not surprise me if this one bridge cost more than the entire thirty-seven miles of the SGRT which, after all, is mostly a three inch thick layer of asphalt laid atop the levee. Is it worth the expense? If cars, as we know them today, are nearing the end of their reign, when do we begin to view constructs like this as wasteful and unnecessary, and begin to invest in what comes next?

Blue: A color, a mood or emotion, a genre of music. Tune in each Monday for another installment of the Blues, with a cycling twist.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

2014 LA-Roubaix with Jon Riddle, LACBC and Crew

 Paris-Roubaix may have its cobbles, but LA-Roubaix has its beat up, potholed, unevenly patched, washed out, and just plain deteriorated roads. I have never ridden the cobbles of the Arenberg, so all my experience of them is hearsay. Comparing sand-filled depressions to muddy verges, the sharp edges of potholes and crumbling tarmac to the sharp edges of cobble pavers, might be like apples to oranges, but I imagined (and felt) more similarity than difference today.

this, like most such rides, began with a gathering - this one outside Trails Cafe at Fern Dell

taking a turn onto the closed Mt. Hollywood Drive

Once again Jon Riddle, author of Where to Bike LA, led this months LACBC ride which traversed hill and dale and city street. It was a twisting, turning route very similar to the annual Feel My Legs, I'm A Racer, many of the same areas of the city, but without the extreme challenge. (By the way, word from the organizer of that ride is, it will be held during the summer this year; watch for the announcement.) It took in Los Angeles's two largest parks - Griffith and Elysian - as well as the congested neighborhoods of Echo Park, Silverlake, and Chinatown. There were familiar sights, such as the Observatory, the Cornfields, the Olympic bench, various views, but there were also many new ones such as Angels Point, the Shakespeare Bridge, Fern Dell, the gold-suited Elvis riding by in the other direction along the shore of Echo Park Lake, the Haunted Picnic Table, and various views. Alright, we didn't quite get to the Haunted Picnic Table, but it was just around a bend we didn't take on Mt. Hollywood Drive.

Many of the people who came out today were veterans of Jon's monthly rides - I suspect that, like me, they appreciate the opportunity to explore areas of the metro area they would not otherwise get to experience. It is a big ol' city and these rides are one of the best ways to discover its hidden treasures. 

Considering the condition of some of the back roads we followed, I was pleasantly surprised that we, as a group, experienced not a single flat. After traversing some of the worst of Griffith and Elysian Parks, we were riding along the gravel maintenance road at LASHP when I suddenly realized I was pressing my luck, and hopped up onto the much smoother decomposed granite path. No harm done. Although, since many of the worst roads descended from summits, a lot of bikes are going to need new brake pads - not many were willing to run those curves at speed.

Watch the LACBC website for next month's ride. I am going to jump the gun a bit and announce that ride is scheduled to tackle GMR and GRR, and will be co-hosted by the Pomona Valley Bicycle Coalition.
Vista del Valle Drive - this centerline, like the pavement upon which it was painted, has not been maintained in decades, nor open to motor vehicles

one of many viewpoints of Los Angeles during today's ride

back into the city

was actually taking a photo of the old brick building, but Frieda got in the way

regroup in Elysian Park with Dodger Stadium in the background

concrete and open hills - the city, Los Angeles River, and Elysian Park

one of my new favorite view points of downtown

conference at the Cornfields, aka Los Angeles State Historic Park, closed as of today to begin construction of its new landscape design

riding by the lake at Echo Park

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Thursday Night Ride: Lies, All Lies

I'm not sure what to call this ride any more - in my local ride list I call it Erik's Night Ride, but I have also heard/seen it referred to as the Claremont Night Ride, the Psycho-lists Night Ride and the most recent moniker, courtesy of Jason, the Crazy Legs Ride. Take your pick, they all refer to the same thing.

a "rider high" view

Since the time change a month ago, the ride has branched into two groups - one a little bit slower and more relaxed, the other a little bit faster. The social group pulling out at 6:30, the harried group leaving fifteen minutes later on their slightly longer, one-less-regroup route. I guess it kind of depends on how many people show since last nights group of sixteen formed up into a single unit. Fair enough, that is a good size for a group. The question was, would it be the relaxed group, or the fast group? If it was the relaxed group then the projected average speed of fourteen to sixteen mph, was an outright fib. The twenty mph fell right on the median for the faster group.

With a good night's sleep between me and the reality, I can say with confidence, that I had a great time. It has been at least two to three months since last I did this one, and in that time, it seems the ride had added some new adherents. Or maybe, since I am such an infrequent participant, it is myself who is perceived as a new adherent. Whatever, there is no discrimination here. 

With the little battle between Richard and the latest phenom in the SoCal women's peloton, Riley, there was guaranteed to be some speed work. Throwing in everyone else who wanted in on that action, and you have the makings of a pretty quick night. Honestly, I didn't have to do a darned thing, just sit in and go along for the ride. To get something out of it, though, they did grant me leave to lead up Mountain near the end of the ride. If you want to control the tempo, just sit at the front and don't let anyone move around you. My guess is, we were supposed to ride at a more relaxed pace there, and my 90% max, was 50% for everyone else. Damn, my self-perception just took another hit with that realization. Oh well.

I always end this ride saying that I am going to make it a weekly habit. No different this time. I shall return. Hopefully next week.

my lead out train got a little bit ragged at this point

Upcoming: L.A.-Roubaix

Was a time I loved riding the hills in and around Griffith Park. Living in Burbank, they were especially convenient. I could ride there in five minutes for a fast circuit of hill climbs and fast descents, and still be home well before the sun set. Perhaps just as good, many of the roads in the park were, and still are, closed to motor vehicles - it was freedom, man. 

Anyway, if you can break away from watching Paris-Roubaix on the computer Sunday morning (13 April) Jon Riddle, co-author of Where To Bike LA, is hosting another of his monthly rides, this one in and around those very same hills I used to frequent. The hillsides should be decked out in their Spring finest, and the temps are looking like they will be perfect. I'm expecting another good day in the saddle. Check out all the relevant information by clicking here.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Bud's Ride: Hello! Horray!

if you squint really hard, you may just be able to make out the peloton in the far distance

The Bud's Ride leaves Claremont at about 5:20 Wednesday evenings. I head out the office back door at 5:30 sharp. Clearly there is a bit of a disconnect there. For a month now I have left by the back door with the full intent of rushing over to Bonelli Park for the lap portion of the ride but, until this night, have always decided it a lost cause.

Hello! Horray! Let the show begin
I've been ready.
Hello! Horray! Let the lights grow dim,
I've been ready.

For good or bad I have been ready for this thing, the weekly pounding. I figure I can get home, quickly kit up, take a running start out the door, furiously pedal along Bonita, and get there before it all wraps up for the night. I should be ready, as ready as possible, after the six mile warm up.

Ready as this audience that's coming here to dream.
Loving every second, every moment, every scream,
I've been waiting so long to sing my song
And I've been waiting so long for this thing to come.
Yeah - I've been thing so long I was the only one.

The best scenario: I could get to the finish straight along Puddingstone, as the bunch comes flying along, wind at their backs, with a lap still to go. They will be a tiny bit worn, and I will be relatively fresh. When tonight I turned onto P'stone and saw riders lounging on the grassy median, I was a little worried that maybe I had misjudged the time, and missed the finale.

Roll out! Roll out with your American dream and it's recruits,
I've been ready.
Roll out! Roll out with your circus freaks and hula hoops,
I've been ready.

Ready for this audience that's coming here to dream.
Loving every second, every moment, every scream,
I've been waiting so long to sing my song
And I've been waiting so long for this thing to come.
Yeah - I've been thinking so long I was the only one.

I sedately rolled westward, a scattering of riders would roll past in the other direction. As I neared the airfield control tower the bunch, such as it was tonight, hove into view. A median stood between me and a change in direction. Could I make it to the left turn lane before the group got there, make my turn, prepare for warp speed? Heck no! The bunch flashed past, before I could shoot through a gap to the back markers, and accelerate. By then the bunch was pulling away by the second and there was no chance of catching up. Alice Cooper's Hello Horray played on in my head as I watched them disappear into the distance.

I can stand here strong and thin.
I can laugh when this thing begins.
God, I feel so strong.
I feel so strong.
I'm so strong.
So strong.
God, I feel so strong,
 I am so strong.

Two minutes more, that is all I need. Next week, I don't say hello to the wife, nor the son. Not even the dog. That should give me the time I need to make that u-turn before the peloton arrives.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


We all have these words, or simple phrases, that we use to describe our riding on any particular day. Since our riding tends to follow a cyclical pattern of highs and lows, these run the gamut, a full spectrum between good and bad. We hope there are more good than bad, and we strive to make that so. The bulk of the days fall within a range around an adequate median; every so often there will be days far better, and others far worse.

"Sloppy" is one of those descriptive words that infrequently creeps into my vocabulary. However rare its application may be, I never-the-less loath it for what it means. Generally speaking sloppy days come out of the blue, without warning, or at least none that I have been able to discern. The effect is like being hit by a pound of ground round, slathered with special catsup sauce - all over the place. Sloppy days are characterized by a sense of awkwardness, poor rhythm, mashing squares rather than turning circles, shifting in the saddle. Little things that nag. Sloppy days can make it difficult to find the sweet line through that turn you know as surely as you know the date of your anniversary. Sloppy days wear on you minute by minute; once the thought takes hold, it roots and blooms, then fruits like a self-fulfilling prophesy. At that point there is no escape.

Sloppy days may be accompanied by a lack of energy, and leave me feeling as if my fitness is off, or that I am riding slowly. Funny thing about that last, though, I can flatly state that there is no correlation between slop and slow. In fact, sloppy days tend to result in slightly higher average speeds. My guess is, I will ride harder on sloppy days in an effort to shake free of the malaise. Or, could it be the other way around? Does the effort of pushing harder, exerting more, lead to a feeling of slop? I have always suspected the former since good days should be those during which everything clicks along smoothly - the days in which I ride in "the zone". Since sloppy days tend to carry a slightly higher average speed, it is hard to call them bad days. They are just sloppy. There is a subtle difference. I can say to myself "man I am riding sloppy today", and then ride another fifty miles. A bad day I might say "geez, I'm riding bad today", and call the day done at twenty miles.

Sloppy days tend to be solo days - I don't think I have ever had a sloppy day while riding with others. There is probably some scientific explanation for that - you know the group bringing out the best in us, or something along those lines. It may also be due to the greater prevalence of solo days, after all the annual run of sloppy days can usually be counted with the fingers of a single hand.

While a sloppy day may show up without warning, there is no question that they are symptomatic of a greater problem - inconsistency. Inconsistency is the antithesis of proper training, and unlike sloppiness, inconsistency is a problem which will ultimately affect performance.

Interestingly, sloppy days only ever seem to last a single ride / day, there is no spill over into a second twenty-four hour period. However, because they are symptomatic of inconsistency if irregular riding continues for multiple weeks, sloppy days can appear multiple times during that period - just not consecutively. Since sloppy days depart as quickly as they arrive there is little concern associated with them. More than anything they are simple brief annoyances. A shrug of the shoulders, and then back to the riding.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Monday Blues: The New Vittorian

Two weekends past I was clacking around lower GMR, at the SDSR time trial start gate, when I began to notice a dragging sensation each time I moved my left foot forward while taking a step. Had I unwittingly stepped in gum? Had a tree branch become lodged in my cleat? I lifted my foot from the ground to have a look, and didn't notice anything out of the ordinary. I walked on some more, but the sensation remained. I sat down on a guardrail for a closer inspection and, sure enough, what I saw is what you see above. The sole of the left shoe had almost completely separated from the upper and was stiffly flapping with each awkward step.

The fifteen year old Vittoria's, after being resurrected from some box at the back of the closet mid-point last year, had completely given up the ghost. Except for that sole, they are still in respectable shape. Oh, the velcro doesn't hold like it once did, there is some scuffing, and what was once white plastic at the heel had turned coffee-junkie-yellow with age, but that is all cosmetic. I suppose I could have bought some powerful shoe glue, but in the end I decided it was time for something new.

Luckily my LBS (Coates Cyclery) is now a Vittoria dealer and they stock several different models, from the commemorative lace-ups to the high tech. I opted for something in between - the V-Spirit. They are priced in between the lace-ups and the upper crust Hora models, and very competitive with any other brand out there. They are comfy too, very comparable to my old Specialized ones. Plus they have that hard heel which won't disintegrate like a soft leather heel. Certainly worth checking out if it is time for some new hoof binders.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

April 2014 CicLAvia: Wasn't I Surprised

Wasn't I surprised to find that this edition of CicLAvia did not start, nor include a hub, a street crossing away from Union Station (I missed the festival the last time it followed the Wilshire route)? This necessitated a short exploration through the shear-walled canyons of downtown, with only one missed turn, before discovering the eastern hub of the route. A little daunting when I first realized this, but then pretty cool, actually.

Wasn't I surprised to find that a fair number of other festival-goers also failed to adequately prepare? The little school of fish we latched onto would coalesce and split, almost block by block, as riders followed their own best guesses about how to get to Wilshire.

Wasn't I surprised to discover that being lost on a bike, is not the same as being lost in a car? Frustration, no. Exploration, yes.

Wasn't I surprised to discover that it is quite easy getting around downtown by bike on a Sunday morning, as well as on a Sunday afternoon?

Wasn't I surprised by the relatively lengthy mandatory walking sections at each end of the route? Though I heard questions about its necessity, almost everyone respected the simple dismount rule.

Wasn't I surprised by the big dig, site of what will become the tallest building west of the Mississippi? This one should probably begin with "wasn't I amazed?"

Wasn't I surprised upon reaching LACMA and the old May Co building, after only eight miles of saddle time, that the western end of the route had been reached? Short but sweet.

Wasn't I surprised to discover that the Breaking Away exhibit at the western terminus, was promotion for the new Motion Picture Museum planned for the May Co building? Clever, very clever. They could have picked any film really, but this being cicLAvia, the selection could not have been better. 

Wasn't I surprised to (re)discover that stuff bubbling up at the LaBrea Tar Pits stinks? It did not matter, of course, as a vast swarm of festival-goers enjoyed the sunny day on the grounds of the Page Museum, gazing into the murky, foul waters, wondering what else they hide, following the tracks of saber-toothed cats, laughing and smiling along with all the people playing in the park.

Wasn't I surprised to discover that, though the route passed by a number of examples of iconic LA architecture, my fellow riders were still the main attraction?


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