A Bicycle’s Creed
Monday January 03rd 2011, 10:18 pm
Filed under: Anecdotes

This is my bicycle. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My bicycle is my best friend. It is my life. My bicycle, without me, is useless. Without my bicycle, I am useless. I must ride my bicycle true. I must ride straighter than the cars who are trying to kill me. I must pass them before they pass me. I will…

My bicycle and myself know that what counts on these streets is not the commuters we pass, the tracks we make, nor the destination. We know that it is the way we get there that counts. We will ride…

My bicycle is human, even as I, because it is my life. Thus, I will learn it as a brother. I will learn its weaknesses, its strengths, its accessories, its bars, its soul—its bottom bracket. I will ever lock it against the ravages of theft and vandalism as I will ever guard my legs, my arms, my eyes and my head against damage. I will keep my bicycle clean and ready. We will become part of each other. We will…

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This is not my bicycle, but there are only a few like it... Tommasini with Columbus MS tubes



“Daily” Mile
Thursday June 17th 2010, 8:11 am
Filed under: Anecdotes

I like putting my routes and posting my distances in a place I can look back and review. I was referred to a website that lets me do this. I don’t have any real GPS that transmits the route, mileage, altitude or anything like that into it, I do it manually. I find this lets me learn more about the streets I’m biking on, fills in the grey areas of whatever city I’m living in. I learn my way around pretty quickly as a result I think.

I do all this on a website called DailyMile, check it out, don’t worry, you can’t find out where I live from the data there. Also, I ride everyday, and logging every commute I do to work tends to the redundant….



Bridge
Thursday April 22nd 2010, 9:03 am
Filed under: Anecdotes

This morning on my regular commute across the 2nd street bridge I noticed an interesting incident. Just as I am a quarter of the way up the Louisville incline of the bridge I see another cyclist up ahead, traveling in the same direction as I am, towards Indiana. There’s a large pick-up truck in between us, they’re about forty yards ahead. I noticed the cyclist, because I hardly see other bicycles on the bridge, especially not in the street.

All of a sudden I see the dude on the bike stop abruptly and the truck come to a quick stop behind him. As I continued approaching it appeared the guy’s chain had come off his bike—lame, right? (Here’s a time you want your bike mechanically sound if there ever was.) In order to get out of the truck’s way, bike dude steps up to the sidewalk just as the truck begins to blow his horn, exactly: get out of the way.

Mere seconds later I am about to pass the stalled commuter, I loudly ask him if he’s alright and if he needs any help. No reply. I’m no more than three feet away from him and he doesn’t respond. It was as though he didn’t hear me. In fact, it’s likely that he didn’t due to the headphones in his ears. I’m wondering if he even heard the truck’s horn behind him moments ago. He probably did, but I’d be willing to bet he didn’t know the truck was as close to killing him as he thinks. I’d bet he wasn’t aware at all of the truck’s presence at all.

And the point of this post is this: if you’re going to ride your bike among traffic and survive, you have got to be aware of your surroundings. I don’t care how low you’ve got the music or whatever playing, you’re not as aware as someone without headphones. In fact, having headphones on at all makes you look totally oblivious to what’s happening around you. It’s probably one of the more stupid things you can do on your bike. If you’re riding amongst traffic, or the potential for there to be traffic, and you’ve got headphones on, I just called you stupid.

Is the music so important? Be aware of the music and the sounds of your environment, and enjoy that for a change! Be smart for a change!



Customer Service
Sunday March 21st 2010, 10:30 am
Filed under: Anecdotes

The other day my wife and I walked to the nearby Chevron gas station where we commonly pick up beer for the home. I’m not a big proponent of supporting gas stations in any way, but this particular one has a pretty quality beer selection in their “beer cave” out of which we grabbed a twelve-pack of PBR (quality, right?). Everything was normal for your typical gas station purchase. Even to the point of the cashier talking on the phone as she was ringing us up. I hardly thought anything of it until the manager, whom I’ve had good friendly conversations with before, walked up next to us and berated the cashier.

“What are you doing? You’re being rude to these customers, your attention should be focused on them.”

She ended her telephone conversation and gruffly finished our transaction, and we left with our beer.

The entire interaction made me think though how nice it was that that attention to customer service was actually important to the manager. That’s because good customer service is an important matter. We’ve all had bad customer service experiences I’m sure. Since I’ve begun working in bike shops I’ve seen a progression towards delivering better customer service in myself. Not that I ever talked on the phone in front of a customer like the above example, but I know at times I can deliver less than patient service. This surliness that can be sometimes evident may be waning. It’s certainly not going to disappear entirely I’m sure, but I think I’ve learned a patience and a hospitality that a paying customer would value. It is, afterall, all about them, right?



Gravity
Thursday December 31st 2009, 8:00 am
Filed under: Anecdotes

As elegant and beautiful as bikes are, they sure are prone to clumsiness when not aided by their human handlers.

Without our constant assistance the bicycle is just an awkward heap of metal prone to the ill effects of gravity. I hate getting so frustrated sometimes battling that.

Oh, Happy New Year, gravity will probably be just as strong next year as it this, let’s all work on balance a little harder!



OVCeXperience
Wednesday December 09th 2009, 11:53 pm
Filed under: Anecdotes

Last Sunday was the Storm the Greens Ohio Valley Cyclocross Series finale, which was also set as the Kentucky Cyclocross State Championships.

Here’s a little interview conducted after the race with Cat 4 Kentucky Cyclocross State Champion Michael Webber. He’s telling us a little bit about his first ‘cross season, what it’s like to race for the first time, and well, here it is:

PrestaShrader:
Alright, Michael, congratulations on the big win. So what’s it mean to be State champ?

Michael Webber:
Thanks, it meant a lot to win my category at Storm the Greens. Not only was it the state championships, and the series finale, but it was also the last race ever at Louisville’s River Road Country Club. It was also my last chance to race against a few rivals I’ve been battling against all season. Beating them was a great feeling, doing it in this race was a big deal in a way. At least in my mind it was—you know, overcoming challenges and whatnot.

Being state champ is icing on the cake really. I think it’s funnier than anything being that I’m not from the area. I wore my medal proudly nonetheless.

PS:
That’s right, you’re not from Louisville, or anywhere around here. Where are you from?

MW:
Most recently from  Seattle where I lived for something like ten years, but originally from Maryland.

PS:
And did you do much racing in those parts of the country?

MW:
Nope, just random alleycat races in Seattle and the daily “racing” to work as a bike commuter.

PS:
Well, this is one hell of a first season for you then. Does commuting by bike work into your training for cyclocross?

MW:
That is the extent of my training actually. Since the beginning of this season, back in August, I have looked into a few training regimens here and there, but really found them all to be a little too serious and not-”fun” for my style of riding. Basically, I’ve learned sitting on a trainer for really any length of time is boring as hell. (I did however use a trainer before Storm the Greens to stay warm, that seemed to be a good call).

Just riding the bike worked well enough for me. ‘Cross bikes are great commuters, especially when making use of people’s front yards as rideable terrain. Occasionally, I’d work some harder sprints into my ride to or from work, getting the heart rate up with intervals between sections of stop lights downtown, or long intersection-free areas of the town of Clarksville on my way to work, but generally speaking, I just ride everyday. I guess that’s what’s referred to as “base miles”. Good for me, right?

PS:
So it seems you haven’t taken cyclocross very seriously then? I know I raced this season too, and honestly, I haven’t had any extra time to really even post to this site.

MW:
No, even while I haven’t taken it wholly seriously, it has seemed to occupy a lot of my time and thoughts. It became a little too all-consuming surprisingly. Since the season had started back in September, I basically raced every weekend. That’s a lot of registration fees and travel expenses too. I already sort of miss it, but am also glad to be done with it for a while. It’ll be nice to have a weekend again.

I think where I took it seriously was in the mechanics. I’ve learned that ‘cross is rather demanding of your bike and components. This is one of the reasons I wanted to get into it, to get some insight and experience into what works on a bike that’s being used for racing. I’ve replaced numerous brake pads, through wear, but mostly through experimentation. I’ve had pedal quandaries and potential solutions, as well as crank and chainring issues. I’ve even managed to demo some sew-up carbon wheels to get an opinion on them; I just about rode the entire season on the first set of wheels I ever built. Lot’s learned from those.

PS:
Really, tell me about those wheels. What are they? What’d you learn?

MW:
They are 6500 series Ultegra hubs “double-laced” to MAVIC Open Pro rims; 32 hole. They were decently lighter than the stock wheels that came with the Jamis Nova Pro that I bought for this season. Like I said, they were the first set I’ve ever built and the pattern was introduced to me by a shop out in Seattle. This guy said he’d lace the spokes this way specifically for ‘cross racers out there, he taught me his technique and they honestly seemed to hold up pretty damned well across the season.

The “double-lacing” refers to the way the spokes cross each other as they travel from the hub to the rim. Instead of a typical 3-cross lacing (over-over-under) the spokes are woven a little bit more (over-under-over). Theoretically, I guess it extends the hub flange making the wheel stiffer and supposedly stronger. The most obvious benefit I experienced with it was the race in Indianapolis where a fellow racer, while blocking my passing, put his foot/pedal into my front wheel breaking three spoke nipples. This lacing pattern seemed to keep the spokes within the plane of the wheel to the point that I didn’t immediately notice I had “lost” any spokes at all. The wheel was still rather “true” as well. The wheel is not perfect by any means now, but I was able to replace the spoke nipples and bring it back to life to race on it again.

PS:
Ouch! How’d you fare in that race?

MW:
Not terrible considering, but sixth place. I think if there were another lap, I’d have caught back up to the lead group. No real injury though.

PS:
Across the season, any injuries?

MW:
Nothing substantial or lasting really, just sore muscles on Mondays.

PS:
How was the competition in your races?

MW:
Pretty good from what I could tell, it being my first season and all. I learned very quickly that there exists a strong Junior team that races in the beginner Category 4′s. Those Red Zone kids have a lot of experience and have some speed. Across the season though, I found that the ones to beat were beatable. Get ahead of them and lay on the power, I found that I could then stay ahead.

‘Cross itself has a way of beating you otherwise sometimes though. Case in point with the Indianapolis race, a set of broken spokes putting you back six places; it can be an easily lost chain, or flatting (never happened to me), bad preparation, or a course that doesn’t suit your skills. With the 4′s though, it’s a shorter race, there’s not always enough time to get back into podium position. What’re you going to do? It’s racing, and all those are just excuses after the fact.

PS:
So, if you didn’t take it as seriously as some do, what was your motivation to go for podium at all?

MW:
I guess to see if I could. I’ve never raced before and my results became a barometer of how good of a competitive racer I could be. I’ve never really thought of myself as overtly competitive, but… I guess maybe I am. That was probably brought out a bit at the first two races of the season in Landen, Ohio. First race, I was holding a great position, second or third, when this dude nudges me off a tight track into a fallen tree. A competitive nature—read: vendetta—was born out of that circumstance (ninth place finish). The second race of that weekend, was when I was introduced to the Red Zone kids, one of which I was neck and neck with throughout the race. I just couldn’t keep him behind me, not even at the sprint finish where he took 14th putting me at 15th. I got competitive with myself on that one; getting beat by a 13 year old was a little demeaning. I learned later he had quite a bit more experience than me.

Other motivators were definitely the team I’d just joined. Go Rogue! Oli telling me how good I was going to do, and then resorting to threats if I didn’t get on the podium. Sherri screaming at the races, startling others in the field. The heckling from teammates and co-workers was only a little influential probably. There were also opposing opinions given to me continually throughout the season as to what category I should be racing in; be it 4′s or 3′s. I wanted to upgrade, but only with justification, and I honestly never wanted to justify it without getting on the podium at least once. By the time that happened—first place in Columbus—the season was nearly over, I may as well have stayed and compete for the overall series’ points. My second podium placing was also first place for the state championships—I’ve never won anything like that before in my life. I’ll upgrade for next year.

Feeling like I was a part of the community was a good motivator too. The whole OVCX was cool, meeting rad people in other cities is always kick ass, having the home court advantage of River Road Country Club was cool; momentarily getting heated at it’s imminent demise was interesting. (It will of course be the best introduction to cyclocross for myself—and evidently many others—bummer to see it go, but there’s better terrain to tear up for ‘cross in this town).

PS:
What’s next?

MW:
One more race for fun most likely, the Cyclo Claus coming up mid-December. After that, not much until next season in the 3′s. Maybe I’ll try some mountain biking come spring, there’ll be plenty more base miles from commuting in this damned cold winter, and perhaps some brevets on the road bike. See you out there!



Leave It to the Experts.
Tuesday October 20th 2009, 6:27 pm
Filed under: Anecdotes

Was just told about this old John Candy skit. Roy’s Food Repair. Funny stuff.

I love the Paul Simon bit with the pretzels. Real sorrow at being straight and truthful about being unable to repair the pretzels for a reasonable fee. “These pretzels are made by machines. I could do the work, but it’s by hand! Now that’s man-hours!”



Harbin Harpin’
Monday October 12th 2009, 11:58 am
Filed under: Anecdotes

With Sundays off to race cyclocross, yesterday was my day to ride. With a borrowed car we headed up to Fairfield, Ohio, to Harbin Park for the last day of the UCI3 cyclocross festival. Arriving at the park a mere thirty minutes prior to race start time (due to getting lost following the vague directions provided by the race organizers) I didn’t have a lot of time to pre-ride the course, get dressed completely, or eat anything. The pre-race jitters were full-on. The post-driving rage was equally full on. I like a good hour at least to decompress after driving for a long time—this is one of the reasons I don’t like to drive. Getting lost before a race truly brought that rage to the front of my psyche, I usually have a better grasp of my emotions—as seen in the next paragraph. I’m still debating whether or not that anger was good or bad for the race, I’m leaning towards bad though.

While I’m mentally complaining that I wasn’t able to wholly pre-ride the course at the Cat 4 start area I’m told that I don’t have my transponder chip for the race timing. Great, so it’s a mad dash back to the registration booth where they earlier told me they didn’t know when we got our transponders! I’m riding back to the booth, I duck under the course tape and my water bottle gets pulled out of my jersey only to hear some fat guy heckle me with, “way to drop your bottle, dude!” To which, in my aggravated panic, I reply, “way to organize a race, fucking douchebag!” An immature response to an immature comment. Tit for tat (I guess…) *

Back at that start line, I’m amazed I’m on the front row. Sweet, but with that placement I can’t relax, it feels like an obligation. An obligation to a performance I’m not sure I’m ready for. So, to get ready, as the officiant is blabbing on about whatever, I start breathing again, steadying myself mentally. Oh shit, I didn’t stretch whatsoever, that pre-ride was bogus, etc. etc. Breath. Breath. Then the whistle….

It was good start, albeit casual, but I made the turn in about 6th or 7th I’d guess. The first few technical turns were slow, and the first entry into the long sprint was terrible. I felt cooked already, but somehow, I didn’t back off too much. My first entry into the uphill sandpit was grueling, but I rode it with only a couple guys ahead of me. Then more technical turns and quite a bit of slipping—I wasn’t trusting my tires; I never really did for the remainder of the day for some reason. Except when I was in the downhill sandpit, every time I entered that I felt as though I was ripping through it fast as hell. Control was extremely loose, but still present. I only fishtailed into the barrier separating the two pits once—I think startling a rider on the other side—I rode it out pretty well though. Riding out the slipping and sliding is what it’s about I think, something I feel confident with, just not as much experience with yet.

The circuit went into some more technical turns then into a nice sequence of  uphill grass, cement descent, nice fast turn into grass/mud, then uphill cement. It felt great to accelerate up that climb. Then the fast grass/dirt down and up which claimed at least one collarbone. This whole sequence and it’s subsequent barriers (while tall) I felt decently strong throughout. But still the lingering emotions from the morning were still holding me back. The mental affecting the physical. Riding through the uphill sand the second time proved completely worthless, the pain and exhaustion from the exertion was stupid and lost me a position.

At one point during the second to last lap another racer (a +35′er) and I began encouraging each other, we stayed close the remainder of the race. It was helpful to have some grounding that way. First and second were pretty much out of sight, and my mark was still behind me, so I was in a good position. I feel that I need to overcome the tendency to stay behind these people, overcome the doubt that I can pass and keep the lead. At any rate, having a “partner” like that temporarily was awesome, if only for the immediate dissolution of that partnership the moment the sprint finish becomes evident. I thought we duked it out nicely even though he was a fraction of a second across before me taking the fourth place finish overall (different category).

* As far as my offense of cussing out the pre-race heckler who turned out to be a race official, I was dealt a $20 fine and the obligation to apologize. I understand the professional attitude everyone should present at an event like this so I made forth with the apology and agreed to the punitive fine, but that’s only because I want to continue to support this sport and it’s associated organizers—I’ll consider it a donation. However, I think I’m right to complain and state that considering my category (Cat 4) and it’s non-UCI status (as far as I know) and my lack of a UCI license, I don’t think it acceptable that I pay a UCI fine. Furthermore, I don’t think it right that a race officiant should be able to get away with heckling race participants, keep in mind we’ve paid an entry fee and are therefore “customers”. You don’t insult the person who bought a bike from your store, do you? We’ve paid an entry fee that should be covering the expenses of organizing the race, and in this situation, this race (and evidently the weekend’s entire festival) was quite poorly organized in my opinion. Honestly, why wasn’t I immediately given my transponder the moment I registered. Why didn’t the registration official know where or when I get my transponder? Why were more specific driving directions sent the morning of the race that I didn’t get until I got home that night? Directions that were more clearly written than the directions listed on the event’s website. And shouldn’t the transponder be able to count how many times a participant crosses the finish line? Meaning a lapped rider shouldn’t be counted as coming across first? But I digress.

The race course was, like everyone told me the week prior, an awesome circuit. Considering the poor organization, aggravation, and chaos prior to my start time, it was a great time and I’m quite satisfied with my results—I finished 4th in my category. I achieved my personal goal for this day’s race which was to come ahead of one rider in particular. People keep mentioning my ability to upgrade to the Cat 3′s and I don’t agree, I’m not quite ready for that yet, I still need more races under my belt and basically more experience (maybe a lighter bike and definitely more training for power and endurance).

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Other notable scenes from the day:

- Seeing the elite dude taking a pounding to the chest on the sand pit separating barrier, getting up, and riding off pumping his arms in the air. This was much to the crowd’s amusement.

- Seeing two broken collar bones, one of which was witnessed in the “making” at the elite sprint finish for tenth place. Ouch!

- It was thrilling to watch the pros riding: Powers, Trebon, Compton, etc. and the awesome sprint finish of Laura van Gilder overcoming Sue Butler. Such power!

Some photos I took here.



Stop
Friday October 09th 2009, 7:19 am
Filed under: Anecdotes

The other day I installed a set of these on a customer’s ‘cross bike:

Photo compliments of QBP

I was totally blown away by the sheer nothingness of their weight. According to TRP, they’re only 103grams. I am pleased to be handling and working with such high-end gear at the shop I’m at now, regardless of my attitude about super light-weight components. I am beginning to see the light—to a degree.

Such is the case, I’ve just installed some new brakes on my ‘cross bike. Compared to those above, (and the bike more specifically) mine may as well be on a tank. Forty + minutes of riding on rough terrain as fast as possible, I can see the advantage of having a lighter bike.

Up until now, durability has always been my philosophy. It still is, but now that I’m racing it makes more sense to me now. I will say this however, who needs to stop in a race? Brakes only slow you down. That’s the advantage my brakes have: that wet weather yesterday, I didn’t have any brake traction on my commute home. Beat that!



Forty Minutes of Pain
Saturday September 19th 2009, 5:09 pm
Filed under: Anecdotes

Today I raced for the first time. It was great, it was excruciating, it was cyclocross.

I started off strong, I held first place for the first two laps, then dropped to third, up to second, then back to third for the final lap. I was holding third pretty well until some sandbagger drove me through a patch of loose gravel on a short, narrow, cement section. This gravel unfortunately terminated into a log and brush. Full speed ahead I hit that log—no dismount, not even operable brakes—just head over handlebars followed by body and then bike on top of me. Cussing, I get up and try to go only to discover the chain had come off. Damn it Paul! After getting the chain reconnected with chainring I take off—vowing against any DNF’s or DFL’s today.

I placed ninth and am mildly alright with that. I’m in pain, I’m wheezing, my wheel is near taco’ed, and I plan to do it all again tomorrow, only backwards (so I hear). This kind of activity deserves psychiatric inspection I’d think.