Sunday, April 29, 2012

New Kit?

Thinking about ordering up this custom kit:

What do you think?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Describing Climbing

I've been doing a Crit race in the D flite every week and I have found out that I am really slow. I always seem to find myself in a solo break off the back and basically time trialing around the course to the finish. I am having fun and it is improving my cycling ability and for me I guess that was the point anyway. A couple of races ago, I hung with a group until about the last two laps so that was encouraging. I also touched the wheel in front of me and almost went down, but somehow saved it and stayed on the bike. That was fun.

In addition to the racing, it is that time of year when most of the snow has melted on the mountain roads and it's time to start heading uphill. I was going to try and write something about climbing. Something that could describe climbing on the bike. For me climbing is hard. It take a lot of effort and it hurts my legs. Also, just as with racing, I am very slow. But again, I am having fun and it is improving my cycling ability and for me I guess that is the point. Its hard to describe, however, so I will just post some pictures and maybe you will get the point.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Razing The Bar

I spent 2 hours and 15 minutes out on the bike yesterday carefully cultivating my tan lines. It was a bright and sunny Easter afternoon and I can't remember the last time the weather was that perfect for a ride. The wind was magic too. It seemed to push me around most of the time changing direction as I did to push me on the flats or push me up the hill. The only time I had a headwind, I was heading downhill so it really didn't matter. I was going to take it real easy but I felt good so I decided to work a little harder than I had planned and ending up dripping sweat all over my knees and top tube on my way up the hill out to Copperton. I had decided to head up the New Bingham Highway and ride out to the old Ore House Saloon.

On the way out there I had a lot of time to think. I thought about why I am spending money and time racing my bike this year. I read somewhere once that the only reason you should race is if you believe you can win. I've been thinking about that a lot over the past month. Mostly because I don't believe I can win. I don't know what I was thinking when I decided to race this year. I knew I was slow but I didn't know I was this slow. I'm really slow. And so I've been wondering what exactly I am trying to accomplish and I tried to lay it all out for myself.

First I'm trying to be a stronger rider when the road goes up a hill. When I first got on a road bike I could barely make it up an overpass. The first time I did the City Creek Bike Sprint I was the very last road bike up the hill. After that I decided to ride up any hill I thought I could make it up and some that I didn't think I could. I figured that racing would help me get up the hills. Second I'm trying to make my longer rides more enjoyable with less fatigue and more hills. I have a series of 8 Dream Small Rides planned on various dates from May to September. All of them are long enough and all of them have a good amount of elevation gain. I figured that racing would help me with those.

And I think racing will help me with those things. In fact I know it will. And I know it will also help me improve my time in the Utah Tour de Donut and the Snowbird Hillclimb. And I know it's going to get me up the hill faster at this years City Creek Bike Sprint. So, is it worth it? Suffer more to suffer less? Does it make sense? I think it's worth it. And I know I'm having a blast doing it. A slow blast. I think it does make sense. Mandatory V. I may not win a race. I may not even finish with my group. But I know it will harden me up. I know it will make me a stronger and faster kind of slow.

It had been a long time since I had rode out to the old Ore House Saloon and I had never ridden there on a bicycle. Usually when I pedal out there I just take the turn and loop around onto the Old Bingham Highway before I actually get into Copperton, so yesterday I was surprised that the hill kept tipping up all the way through town right up the mine where it dips down at the end of the pavement. And when I got to the end of the pavement I was surprised again.

The old Ore House Saloon was gone. Someone had razed the bar. So I parked my bike next to the big chunk of ore that was still there and took a picture of what used to be. I chomped down a chocolate chip granola bar as I thought some more about suffering more to suffer less. I decided that it's OK to race. It's OK to be a faster kind of slow. It's OK for me to raise the bar. I figured that that is a win and I turned around and headed back down the hill and back toward home and Easter dinner as I continued to carefully cultivate my tan lines.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Humble Braggadocio

photo courtesy of AFP
Today Tom Boonen won Paris-Roubaix. He has now tied Roger De Vlaeminck's long-standing record of four wins in this race. In fact Tom Boonen has won every northern classic in the last two weeks: the E3-Prijs Harelbeke, Gent-Wevelgem and the Tour of Flanders. He has also become the only rider to win the Tour of Flanders and the Paris-Roubaix double in the same season twice. Today he won by riding away solo at the pavé section of Auchy-les-Orchies à Bersée with around 53 km left before savoring victory alone on the velodrome in Roubaix. For Tom Boonen it has been a few weeks of super strong performance.

Yesterday I raced in the Hell of the North circuit race. This was my first ever circuit race and my first race that hasn't been a crit or a hill climb. It was a little cool with a slight breeze and sunny skies and the dirt and gravel section was fast and perfect. I came in last place. From the gun, the rest of the Cat 5s just kind of slowly rode me right off their wheels and I couldn't catch my wind or push the pedals fast enough to stay on. So I slowly faded off the back and changed my race tactics from trying to stay attached to simply not getting lapped. For me it has not been a few weeks of super strong performance.

photo courtesy of Graham Watson
“Today was one of my best days in my career,” Boonen said. “I wasn’t really thinking about these records and victories." (Quotes are courtesy of Brecht Decaluwé and He also said "If I look on these past two or three weeks it’s been amazing. It’s my second double. Now I’m the only guy that ever did this double two times." Apparently caught up in the moment of his greatness he went on: "I realize now that I’ll probably be one of the best, maybe the best, guy on the cobblestones that ever rode on these roads." Wow. Talk about your braggadocio.

photo courtesy of AFP
In contrast, after Hell of the North, I thought "Today was one of my most embarrassing days spent on the bike." I didn't even make it to the first corner with my group. "I wasn't really thinking about records and victories. I just wanted to hang with the group. Any group. And failing that I just wanted to stave off being lapped by my group." I also thought "If I look on the past two or three weeks I haven't been very amazing at all. I've been spit off the back in every contest I've entered and been left to solo off the back as the only rider that appears to be pedaling in quicksand." Apparently caught up in the moment of my mediocrity I went on: "I realize now that I'll probably be one of the worst, maybe the worst, guy on these crits and climbs and races that ever rode on these roads." Wow. I'm slow.

And you know what? That's OK because I'm having a hell of a good time being slow and spit off the back and apparently pedaling in quicksand. I'm having a hell of a good time being one of the worst, maybe the worst, guy that ever rode on these roads. A hell of a good time.

stinking it up at the Hell of the North

Monday, March 19, 2012

On Like Donkey Kong?

"It is on like Donkey Kong." I'm not sure what that means, but Marek said it and I believe it and it sounded cool. I can't remember what year that was when I read that, but right at that moment, I decided that I would race in The Hell of the North circuit race one day and that one day is coming up in a couple of weeks. I have got my Maxxis Re-Fuse 700X25s and I am waiting on my puncture resistant tubes with the 48mm presta valves to get delivered to me soon. I have been pedaling my bike around in circles, mostly by myself, in the RMR Crit Series and even though I am still slow, I am in the best cycling shape of my life. Basically I am ready.

Every time I come back from a race my wife asks me "how did you do?" The answer is always the same. I hang in there for a lap or two or three and then I slowly peel off the back and the elastic snaps and I end up pushing the wind all by myself as I ride as fast as I can to the finish alone. Then I usually get more words of wisdom from my wife: "Did you have fun? Did you do your best? It is what it is." Perspective I guess. And I'll be bringing that perspective into The Hell of the North with me and my new(er) bike. I am ready to have fun and do my best. It is what it is. The Hell of the North - it is on like Donkey Kong.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Relative Safety

I was coming up on a red light. It's a red light that I have grown to despise. There's never much traffic there because it's just a seldom used little shopping center feeder street that crosses the busy main road into a little residential feeder street on the other side. In my opinion I don't think they should have put a traffic signal there. There's just not enough cross traffic to warrant it. Plus anytime the stupid thing turns red on the busy main road it seems like it stays red forever. I hate stopping and waiting and having to restart. It wastes my time and it costs me momentum and it  wastes my energy.

So today I was on the busy main road and approaching the red light and I could see a little tiny bit of traffic coming off the shopping center feeder street and turning left onto the busy main road but I knew that it was safe for me to go ahead and roll through that red light anyway. I didn't want to lose my momentum and I didn't feel like stopping. I didn't feel like I should have to stop. I didn't deserve to stop. I felt like I was special and different and that the rules of the road didn't apply to me because I was smart enough to see that even though the light was red and there was traffic both clearing and approaching the intersection I knew that I could safely make it through.

click to enlarge
So I slowed slightly and went ahead and rolled right through the red light and the cross traffic. Everyone around or in or near the intersection basically panicked. The traffic flow was disrupted with cars stopping and drivers not really being sure what to do as I decided that I would live by my own rules of safety on the road. I saw the panicky look of fear on every face clearly as I rolled on through. Others almost had accidents with those that suddenly stopped not knowing what to do. I almost felt bad but I couldn't be bothered to slow down too much. Much less stop.

I figured something out as I was rolling through that red light when I didn't have the right of way today: there is no relative safety. In other words traffic safety is NOT relative. It actually is absolute. The rules are there for very good reasons and predictability is one of the most important. The rules are there to maintain orderly traffic flow and keep all road users safe. The rules bring order out of potential chaos. The rules make sense and when someone violates those rules it destroys the ability to use the road safely and predictably and with minimum risk. Breaking the rules creates panic and fear and danger and I guess that would be OK if I was an anarchist but I'm not.

So I figured out that I'm actually not special and different. No road users are. I learned that I probably shouldn't just pretend that traffic rules are relative because they are not. I learned that I shouldn't make up my own rules as I went along in traffic to suit whatever mood or whim or safety bias that I had. That attitude is rather stupid and the reasons given to justify it are pathetic. It's both immature and irresponsible. It's best to obey the rules.

If I don't obey the traffic rules then how can I expect anybody else to? If I can't stop and wait at a red light how can I expect Ricky Rednecky to give me three feet when passing me as I'm riding my bike? I can't and he won't. I learned that there is no relative safety. Safety is absolute. When I got home after rolling right through that red light I parked my big green van in the garage and went inside the house and I was sure glad that I wasn't doing something stupid like that on my bike.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Friday, March 9, 2012

Memo To "Real" Cyclists

Every time I see a "real" cyclist I feel like I need to encourage them to do some upper body work. Lift weights for crying out loud. Eat something. I can hear their collar bones snapping now and they haven't even crashed yet. I must not be a "real" cyclist because I don't even think I CAN break my collar bone. I've tried. Multiple times. There's just too much protective fat enveloping it. Plus I try to work my upper body some. Nobody has ever been guilty of telling me I need to eat more.

I've smacked the pavement a number of times over the years and each time it's my palm, wrist, forearm, elbow and shoulder that takes the brunt of the impact. I have the scars to prove it. Usually it's on my left side from trying to protect the drive side of my bike as I'm hurtling toward the ground.

Bradley Wiggins
Nothing ever too serious but one time a couple years ago hard enough to crack open my helmet. Between being tired and trying to move my bidon to the rear cage, it seems I smacked into a dollop of left over cement blob that had been left to harden in the shoulder of the road. 

I wasn't looking. I didn't see it. I had only one hand on the bar, or more accurately, on the left hood and I smacked the road hard and slid about 20 feet after landing on my palm, wrist, forearm, elbow, shoulder, hip and head. One hand on the hood and cement blobs and 26 mph don't mix very well.

Michael Olheiser
I jumped up, checked over the bike, brushed off the road rash, snapped my useless helmet on my stem, grabbed my rear derailleur and yanked it out as best I could and coasted down the three remaining miles of hill to the nearest bike shop to get my derailleur hanger straightened, buy a new helmet and clean my scrapes up in the restroom.

My collar bone was wondering "is that all you got? Meh. Piece of cake." Got the bike fixed up enough and rode it back home. I was stiff and sore the next day but no real harm done. Except for the cracked open helmet and a few items of kit. Oh and the abuse to the bike. It made me thankful that I'm not a "real" cyclist. It gave me some consolation for always being the last guy up the hill and for being the big guy that's usually popping off the back. It made me glad (kind of) that you don't have to squint to see my upper body like you have to do with a "real" cyclist.

So, if you're a "real" cyclist, let ME inspire YOU. Do some upper body work. Eat something. Stat. I need you to slow down a little so I can keep up. I need you to get to a point where I can make it up the hill with you.

I learned a valuable lesson that day. Maybe I can share it with you "real" cyclists. The only thing that should be cracking is your helmet or your bike. Lift some weights. Please. Eat some food. Please. I'm getting tired of hearing your collar bones snap.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Mr. Lonely

This week I'm working hard on the bike. I found out last week that racing in a crit can be a very lonely experience. I don't want to be lonely any more. I want to be surrounded by friends that enjoy pulling me around the course. I must get faster.

I spent most of the race in a one man break - off the back. The nice thing about these photos is that you really can't tell one way or the other. But I know. I get the feeling that I'm going to spend a lot of time this spring and summer doing intervals and hill repeats as well as the races and the Dream Small Rides.
photo courtesy of DNA Cycling