29 June 2008

Do you really think that this helps???

First the iReporter (CNN's naming of regular folks who file things with them and then they use for content on their website) on this little story calls himself the Shelbinator. Strike one my friend, strike one. No grown man should be called the "fill in the blank"-inator, unless your name is Arnold, and you're the governor of California. Strike 2, you're having or taking part in a critical mass ride. Strike 3. The cops busted things up a bit, and hassled everyone, as I think they should. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a cop lover or anything like that, but critical mass rides are stupid, and don't help anyone. Why you might ask? Let me answer.

First, critical mass rides were devised to try and show the people of "insert name of your favorite big city here" that cyclists exist, and should be recognized, and while I applaud that effort, there are better ways of doing it. Throwing a bunch of people on bikes, and clogging up city streets for hours at a time hardly endears cyclists to motorists, and actually, it ends up making them hate us more. Why do critical mass rides continue then you might ask? Well, mostly because the people doing them aren't the people who ride their bikes a lot. They're normally hipster kids, or older adults (people in my age bracket) who need to find some sort of "cause" to champion. The hipsters do it mostly because they know it's a form of civil disobedience, and they're begging for the cops to get involved with it. The other adults, as I said, are looking for a cause, and they think that this is a good one. I'm glad that they think of cycling as a cause, but from those of us who are out on the roads riding 6 or 7 days a week, will you knock it off? Why? Mostly because you guys in your khaki shorts, skinny jeans, and capri pants are not helping people like me who do ride a lot. You're not helping us at all. As mentioned before, when you create this mess called critical mass (normally from what I've seen the rides tend to go down roads that cyclists don't tend to use much at all, but rather are used for this ride to create the biggest traffic back-up possible), drivers get really super duper pissed off at the people doing it. Hell, when I'm out riding and training people get pissed at me for holding them up for 15 seconds, let alone minutes, or hours while a bunch of people who barely ride bikes go out and make motorists more and more angry.

Here's the thing. I'm convinced that critical mass rides have the direct opposite effect of what they're supposed to do. They do make motorists pay attention to cyclists, but in a bad way. Next time they see some guy riding down the side of a road, they remember being held up in traffic because you critical mass punks wanted to "protest". You talk about cyclist deaths on the road, and while tragic, yes, most of them are accidents, and accidents, when you put fast moving 3 ton vehicles up against something that weighs maybe 180 pounds with rider and bike, is going to make the vehicle the winner. What we need are more community outreach programs. What we need is cyclist awareness training, if you will, for motorists. We need to work to make recognizing cyclist rights on the open roads something that is impressed upon drivers in your home state when they receive their license to drive. We need communities to approach and embrace cyclists. We need more cycling travel lanes (like in Europe) where you can ride your bike fairly safely, or even just wider roads. We need cycling activism, and critical mass isn't it.

Critical mass doesn't help, it hinders, and it also makes people who ride and train all the time, targets for those who have been angered by your actions. Before taking part in a stupid critical mass ride, think about what you could do that would be a better use of your time and how that actually relates to cycling, and not just because it's something "cool" to do. Write your local department of transportation, write your local senators and representatives to your state Congress. Do something worthwhile. You, who do these stupid critical mass rides, are endangering me, and the people I love more when do it, so please, knock that shit off.

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28 June 2008

How many???

How many different ways is this video wrong? Let me count them shall I?

1. Hipster glasses (black rimmed, and sort of thick Buddy Holly style).

2. No shirt.

3. He's indoors.

4. Messenger bag with all the accouterments (all of that crap hanging off of it).

5. Rollers.

6. Chopped bars with Oury grips (I hate that the hipsters discovered Oury grips about a million years after they came out on mountain bikes, you hipsters ruin everything, and you know who "you" are).

7. Helmet on his head (remember, he's inside trying to ride some rollers).

8. Improper bottom wear. Where are his capri pants and skinny jeans with a pegged leg?

9. And just overall, no sense of balance.

In hindsight, after watching the video, it's probably a GOOD thing he had his helmet on because there is no doubt he's an absolute moron who is lucky to remember to breathe during the course of a day. We don't want him to get any inner cranial bleeding or something like that, which would make his hipster condition worse. I long for the day when fixed gear bikes were for off season training, and NOT for riding to the coffee shop. And with that, I bring to you, the video that I'm bleating about above (see below).

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23 June 2008

Went racing...

So I went racing last week. Yeah, I should have written about this before, but hey, oh well, you'll get over it in the end.

There is a local sort of velodrome here in AVL, well, actually it's just an old short track that they used to race cars on. I'm not sure exactly how they did that, because it's hard getting a bunch of bikes on there, can't imagine cars, but I digress. One of the local bike clubs, the ABRC, holds a bi-weekly race series out there. It's sort of like a short crit race more or less. I decided to pedal over there, sign up, and take a few laps. I also decided, why prolong the suffering? Hell, I'll do the "A" race, or the race that is supposed to be the hardest, and the longest (60 laps). It said that to do the "A" race, you had to be a cat 3 or better, and that I am, at least on my racing license. I laid down my 10 bucks, took about 16000 warm up laps (it was nice to ride somewhere totally flat for once), and then lined up for the start.

I got into the field about halfway into the line up. Not on the front, not on the book. Whistle blows, we're off. Acceleration goes up to about 30, and stays there for awhile, like, 10 or 15 laps. There are sprints every 5 laps. Nope, not getting involved, or trying to get involved in any of those for now. When the sprint time comes though, there is a surge, and everything gets strung out. I'm hanging on the back, punching tickets, but keeping in touch with the wheel in front of me, and even though we're trucking, I'm not really super duper out of breath, or hurting that bad. The accelerations for the sprints hurt real bad, but everything else was just pedaling through the corners, and staying tight. I'll say this, it was some good speed work.

The first time I look up at the lap board as we come through the start finish, it say 30 to go. Yeah, we ticked off 30 laps, and it didn't even seem like we had been racing for that long. I started to think to myself that I could finish this race off, and finish it on the lead lap with most everyone else. 4 guys took a lap on the field, which effectively ended the race for everyone else (this was based on points, not who came across the line first, and since you only get points for the top 3 for every sprint, and points for the top 3 at the finish, you get the point - no pun intended). I look up again. 10 laps to go. Yeah, I can finish this race, and will finish this race. Last 2 laps we pulled at around 35 MPH (according to my friend Brian who has a computer on his bike, I do not - it clutters the bars and disturbs the line and form of the bike. We all come across the finish line, race over. We averaged just over 29 MPH for the 60 laps, and I hung on to finish with the majority of folks who were out there. Not bad for not racing much since 2005. Sure, there were no turns really, and it was pancake flat, but it was still as hard as woodpecker lips, and I felt good in completing it. 

Next race out there, 2-Jul-08. I'm going to be there for sure.


22 June 2008


This is posting #250 for me since I started this little project. Thought I would put that out there.

I got hailed on today. This is really a first for me. I've been snowed on. Iced on. Rained on. Spit on. And just about any other "on" you can think of while pursuing outdoor activities in my lifetime, but today, was the first time I got hailed on. Truth be told, it hurt like a mo-fo. Bear in mind, these were not big hail stones, about the size of say 2 pencil erasers taped together. Add in the rain, the thunder, the lightening, the hail, the wind, and the sudden temperature shift (I'd say it dropped by about 20 degrees from warm and somewhat humid to, holy shit I can see my breath in June in NC in about 2 minutes), and you have a pretty miserable one mile's worth of hiking. 

I went out for a 10 mile trek through the woods in and around Boone, NC today. I've been hiking almost every weekend when I go to see the wife, and this weekend, I decided to do a little extended hiking. 2 miles of my normal 5 mile loop. When I started out at the campground, the sky was blue, the sun was out, and there were little white puffy clouds all around. I figured, hey, don't need the rain gear. Big mistake methinks now. I got around to about mile 10, it got really dark, and really quiet. I stopped, put my iPod deep into the recesses of my bag, busted out the built in rain fly, wrapped up my pack, threw it back on, and started running through the rest of the trail. It was the typical, "Drop. Drop. Drop. KABOOSH!!!" when the bottom dropped out. I really couldn't see maybe only 4-5 feet in front of me. Luckily, I was only about a mile from the car. By the time the bottom dropped out, with the rocks, and roots in the way, it wasn't really safe to run, so I slowed to a really fast walk. As I emerged out of the woods near the start of the campground, I could see people ducking for cover, grabbing small children, and scrambling for the sanctuary of their cars. I, on the other hand, had to keep walking in the rain. Then, about 4 minutes out from my goal, that's when the hail started. Damn, that stuff hurts when it hits you in the head, and there was plenty of it. By the time the storm settled down, there were huge piles of it on the grass. It looked like someone had dumped out their large cooler full of ice onto the lawns of the park. It was crazy looking. After I get near to my car, I took temporary shelter in the women's bathroom with about 7 other folks who were also out hiking at the time, and a couple of nice dogs. I had also mistakenly just worn a t-shirt, which was now soaked, and with the temperature dropping, it was getting sort of chilly. There were a couple of times when the storm let up a little bit, and I thought about making a dash to the car, and then it would strengthen again. It was pretty damn amazing watching the pellets of ice fall and hit the ground, and the plastic roof of the bathroom. It was freakin' loud.

Lessons learned from this hike. Bring rain gear. You never know when you'll need it. Get some sort of synthetic fiber shirts to wear hiking. I've got the quick dry shorts, I don't need to be wearing t-shirts when I could use something more breathable, and faster drying. And maybe bring a helmet for next time. I've seen worse weather though, like the time I was on top of Mt. Washington in NH, and the clouds rolled in, and it started snowing. In August. I actually had proper clothing then though. But that was pretty wild. 

The really cool thing about driving to Beech Mountain on the weekends to see the wife (well, other than going to see the wife of course) is to drive through the little tiny, and twisty mountain roads that I have to take to get there. This is where the WRX tends to really excel, and by excel, I mean, I can rail that car through there at high speeds, tires squealing, and it LOVES it. I swear it does. I always try to not get behind anyone going into the mountains, because then I can wind it up, and have some fun driving through there. The best part is that the road surfaces are really well maintained, and the pavement is looking good. I highly recommend getting a car like mine out there on these roads. You'll see what they were built for in the first place. Other acceptable cars in this category would be something like a Mini Cooper S, Lancer EVO (IX, or X would do just fine), STi, VW GTI, and I'm sure there are a few others in there that I'm forgetting. It's fun, really super duper fun. Try it. You won't be sorry.

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20 June 2008

About group rides...

After speaking to my friend Jason the other night about this topic, and how these things sometimes brought out the worst in us (group rides), I decided to write down some thoughts on this. I think I've done this before, but with the summer heating up, and the local wanna-be hammerheads starting to show up for the group rides during the week, and on the weekend, I thought a little refresher on the etiquette of group rides was in order. Please, if you're heading out for a group ride this weekend, follow these sage words of advice, people will appreciate it.

1. Do not attack at a stop sign, or at an intersection where half of the group is left waiting for cars to go through. This not only proves that you're a toolbag, it will earn you many enemies. Aside from that, it's just a douchebag of a thing to do.

2. Do hold your line, and try not to be too sketchy. I say this because if you are sketchy, you will soon get that moniker affixed to your person, and nobody will ever want to ride around you, and this makes it tough when it is windy out there and you're trying to catch a draft.

3. Do point out things in the road that might take someone down. Little things such as gravel, or a crack, don't bother with it. Large things like say, a tree branch, you might want to point that out. Do it subtly though. Don't yell about it, or make noise, just take a hand off of the bar for a moment, point down, and be done with it.

4. Number 3 brings me to my next point. Calling out of cars. Such as, "CAR BACK!!!", or "CAR FRONT!!!", or even, "CAR ON THE SIDE!!!". Hey, yelling jackass, we know that there are cars out here. Why? It's a freakin' open road. Get a grip, and shut the fuck up. We don't need you Mr. Johnny Information yelling about cars. As with most regular riders, we just assume that there is ALWAYS a car, or cars, in back of us. It makes it safer. Aside from that, it's just annoying, so stop it.

5. Number 4 brings me to number 5 (crazy how that numbering system works isn't it). But this goes along with the yelling of things. When the whole group is coming to a stop sign, or a red light, stop yelling "SLOWING!!!". We know that we're slowing down, and hence why the speed dropped. If we know the route we're riding, we know where the stop signs and stop lights are, we don't need you Mr. Stop Sign to tell us about it. This trait is also annoying.

6. The only ONE acceptable thing to yell about when riding in a group, is the ever dangerous, "DOG LEFT!!" or "DOG RIGHT!!". This is acceptable, only because it does actually serve a purpose. Sometimes those lovable pooches out in the country side are silent killers, and if they're creeping up on a group of say, oh, 40 or so guys in spandex, and bright colors, they like to give chase. I can't tell you how much pain one can go through if taken down by a dog, but let's just leave it at the calling out of dogs, as loud as you can, is NOT annoying, and necessary for the well being of the herd.

7. Do crack jokes. Sure there are some serious assholes out there who think that the Saturday group ride is the end all, and be all of competitive cycling, but. Don't. Be. That. Guy. Be Jokey McJokester out there. People appreciate that more than the ultra serious uptight roadie prick. At least I do. And if someone tells you to shut up, put a frame pump in their spokes just to show them how serious you are. OK, kidding about the frame pump in the spokes, but it is tempting from time to time.

8. Be kind to newbies, and try to teach them the ways of the herd. You too were once someone who didn't know what the fuck they were doing, so try to coddle the newer ones out there, give them some friendly advice, and hope to hell they listen. If they don't, frame pump, in the spokes. That'll show 'em. 

9. Don't bring your TT bike out on a 50 mile group ride. There is a time and a place for a TT bike, and that's, yes, in a time trial. Another acceptable use of your shiny and aero TT bike is when you're training and riding alone, or maybe with just one other person. This is absolutely no reason at all to ride your TT bike on a group ride. If you're feeling like doing that, either don't do it, or go and do your own ride. We don't need some asshole who thinks he's Fabian Cancellara riding in his aero bars, not being able to see very well in front of themselves, taking down a bunch of people. Aside from that, if you're riding your TT bike, you MIGHT just get pegged as a tri geek, which is a fate worse than death itself. If you are a tri geek, either don't ride your aero bars, or get a regular road bike, oh, and ditch the 650 wheels, they're not faster. Oh, and one more thing, if you are a tri geek, put a shirt on, you know, one with sleeves and pockets in the rear. They're called cycling jerseys for a reason.

10. If you have a road bike with clip on aero bars, either take them off, or don't use them AT ALL on a group ride. Seriously. If I see you riding in your aero bars, I'm going to smack you in the back of your helmet for being stupid.

11. Do wear a helmet on all group rides. You never know what cat 5 wanna-be is going to show up, and take down about 40 people in one fell swoop.

12. If you don't have a helmet on, and you run into a group ride, and want to tag on, sit on the back. Don't get in the middle, don't get on the front, sit at the back. It's safer back there punching tickets.

13. Don't wear your iPod when riding in a group. Don't get me wrong. I'm a HUGE fan of riding with an iPod blasting in my ears when I'm on the bike. Alone. Don't do it when riding in a group. You look stuck up, and pretty much like a dick.

14. Don't answer your cell phone during a group ride. Yes, I have seen this. And I hate people for it. Matter of fact, if you're in a group ride, you don't need to have a cell phone with you at all, there are a bunch of other like minded individuals with you, and can take care of you should something bad happen. OK, maybe bring it with you, but keep it in the "OFF" position until it's needed for use. Exceptions can be made for say, Doctors who are on-call or some stupid silly bullshit like that.

15. If the front part of the group is riding a rotating paceline, and you don't know what one is, stay at the back with the other people who don't know how to do it. It's better that way for those of us who DO know how to ride one. Watch. Learn. And then try it out the NEXT time you're on a group ride.

16. Don't cross over the yellow line in the road. Why? There are cars coming the other way, and you'll get killed, and possibly might could get someone else killed in the process. Stay on the right side of the yellow. This is especially important when going for those all important town line, and or county line sprints. Cross over, and you deserve that Mack truck that just flattened you like a pancake.

17. If you don't know the route, either ask someone who does, or be fit enough to finish with the group. Simple as that. If you get lost, it's not the group's fault, it's yours for not being strong enough to hang.

18. If you see another cyclist on the side of the road, as you sweep by, ask him/her if they need help. If they do, stop, help them, and continue from there. Karma will be kind to you for this, and aside a fellow cyclist in need is a friend you want to make, because you don't know when you might need the same help.

19. If you are in a group ride, and have several teammates there as well, and one of said teammates gets into a "breakaway" on said group ride, and you're left back in the bunch, do not, I repeat DO NOT go to the front of the group, and block other people from riding hard. This is a common race tactic in cat 5, 4, and 3 races, and it's a fine form of douchebaggery that actually does really deserve a frame pump to the spokes. Look guys, this is a group ride, a training ride. If you've got 6 guys clogging up the front of the group, nobody gets a good training ride. This isn't a race, and even if it WAS a race, this would still not be acceptable. I have seen people who made "the break" only to get caught later yell and scream at their teammates as to WHY they weren't blocking the forward progress of others, and that they would have won if they had done their jobs. Yep, these are the same guys who don't race much, or haven't raced much in their lifetimes. You do that blocking shit in an actual race, you get a reputation really quick as a team that is good to attack over and over again until their last rider is shellacked out the back of the bunch. Just don't do it people. Don't. 

20. If you must spit, or hork a booger while riding in the group, either do it on yourself, or do it so that it doesn't get on the person behind you. For spitting, in between your arm, and your leg works great. It hits the road, and nothing else normally, well, maybe your bike, but it's your bike. Spitting off to the side, only gets into people's faces, and that makes for mad people. Same for snot rockets. If you must, and you're in a group, turn your head towards the middle of your person, and blow one on yourself. Gross? Definitely, but again, better than hitting the guy behind you. 

21. Don't attack up every little knob on the route like they were Alpe d'Huez. Nobody is impressed that you can climb really fast on a 250 meter long bump in the road.

I think that's all I have for now. Review these rules. Do you agree? Do you disagree? Do you want to add some addition rules of your own (that's what the comments section is for). You let me know, but I think these do pretty well cover it. Oh, and you're welcome.

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19 June 2008

Fix pushers...

I love this video and the not so subtle swipes that it takes at hipsters, and specifically hipsters who ride fixed gear bikes.