no one line

Recycled Content #2
June 25, 2009, 2:22 pm
Filed under: Recycled Content

Welcome to No One Line’s Recycled Content Number Two!

A buddy of mine is a geek when it comes to bikes – and guitars, and (shamefully), cars too. He loves knowing about types of tubing, wall thickness, tube diameter, relative strengths and weaknesses of different tubesets, and he keeps on telling me to get a bicycle made out of Reynolds 531. So it’s with him in mind that I sit down to read an article from several years ago in which the author is sent on assignment to test ride seven Mondonico road bikes, identical in almost every respect – except, they are made from different types of Columbus Tubing. Can he tell the difference?

For the math dorks in the house, Cozy Beehive offers a mathematical approach to impacts on a helmeted head.

Ever wonder why it’s kind of easy to be a bit obnoxiously righteous as a cyclist in NYC? Streetsblog has a piece on a cyclist who tapped a car that was parked in a physically-protected bike path and, in return, was assaulted by the driver and then charged by the police. Assholes are everywhere, which in turn makes it a challenge not to be one on the road. Stay safe, y’all.

Congrats to Mellow Velo. That photograph makes you look like the bride of the bike (which I heartily approve of), but don’t you think the bike should have worn a more traditional, tux-like black-and-white bartape and saddle?

And, finally, with the Tour de France coming up and a crisis in Astana, we can expect my fitness to take a questionable turn as I go right from work to Lakeside Lounge, to enjoy Versus recap and two-for-one happy hours.


Excitement: Results and Potential
June 24, 2009, 2:01 pm
Filed under: climbing, race, road race

The weather has been ridiculous lately, with rain all month long, and so even though the sun is shyly, tenatively shining from behind thinning clouds I’m still keeping my fingers crossed that track racing will not be rained out, like it’s been for the past two weeks. Track racing is an hour of hard training, guaranteed. A good warm-up ride out to the track, a few races with regular hard efforts, sprints, and, if I’m lucky, a long race made up of constant suffering.

If you’re lucky, or if you live in New York City, you can have all of your training take place in racing. It’s a little bit more expensive, but a lot more fun. To that effect I’ve had a good week of training via racing: Saturday was a Prospect Park race in which I planned to spend the first half going off the front and the last half watching from the start/finish, saving my energy for Housatonic Hills on Sunday. That race tested the legs in the hills and found them sufficient for the task of staying with the front but not for whittling it down further – it came down to a sprint of about two dozen. A fast, technical end – a downhill false flat flying toward the start finish, a ninety degree corner, and a 300-meter sweeping uphill sprint. I took the corner third wheel but missed the wheel of the attack going up the inside, jumped into the wind with 200 meters to go, and watched, sprinting and cramping, as two more racers came around me, knocking me down to fourth. A fine finish nonetheless.

Thursday, I plan to ride up to Rockleigh, New Jersey, to give the crit there another whack. Last time I had a whopper of a sprint but poor position and only managed eighth. I’ve got an odd habit of either having the sprint or the positioning but never the two at the same time and I’m trying to rectify that – I wouldn’t mind a win. On Sunday comes one of the races that I’ve been enjoying more and more throughout the season – the Cadence Cup Series at Prospect Park. My club has been showing out in full force for these, bouyed by some good results early on and the very compelling promise of increasingly adept teamwork. In the second race we put our teammate Yack into the Green Jersey for sprinter’s points, and in the third and fourth we’ve kept him there. While I’m generally on the lookout for results I know it’s time to lay it down to keep Yack wearing that jersey, and I’ll be a part of our large, guns-to-a-knife-fight leadout train for him.

Now that, my select and loyal readers, is exciting.

Leading up to Housatonic Hills I was excited but nervous. Could I do well? I should improve on my results from my last major road race, and if I don’t it’s an opportunity wasted. Fourth is good and I’m pleased but I saw second place tantalizingly close (first place was taken with a commanding sprint from a BVF rider).

But with the prospect of laying it down directly for a teammate the nervousness of letting myself down dissipates, and it’s not replaced by nervousness about letting somebody else down. Why exactly I can’t say – maybe because it’s all still pretty new to me.

Sunday – I can’t wait. And speaking of excitement for things to come, good things are in the works.

photo above by Marcia Van Wagner.

Welcome to No One Line
June 15, 2009, 1:34 pm
Filed under: General

This is a placeholder for the cycling blog No One Line. For current content, click the link. Everything will be moved on over here when I am good and ready.

Tour of New York
June 15, 2009, 1:22 pm
Filed under: road race, road racing, sprints, tactics

We had numbers in this race, and I knew who to mark in the event that a leadout train failed. I stayed sheltered, and felt strong. I’ve been sprinting well. I can do this. I was in position. Brooklyn Velo Force had a strong train going up; our train was running strong at the front. Westwood Velo moved up and things got chaotic, dense, elbows bumping and everybody struggling to hold position and suddenly it wasn’t fast enough. Our train fell apart. The front got jammed up and was very tight.

Suddenly BVF’s two sprinters were on the front with 500 meters to go, and I had some daylight to the right. So I jumped, went across the road, hard, and tried to hold it. Opened a gap. Peeked under my armpit. Watched it start to close. Saw a guy come up on my right hip. The line was right there. Then more guys.

I was swallowed twenty meters from the line.

Maybe I salvaged a top ten. I came close to winning. Sigh. There’s always next time.

I think it was a good move. Our train had started to disintegrate in the ragged, aggressive front. BVF’s sprinter wasn’t going to jump from that far out. I felt strong; the pace had slowed. It was worth a shot. The opportunity was there and I took it. What should I do next time?

I think I should be a little more patient; another hundred feet down the road, if that kept up, and I could have jumped clear to hold it. Maybe. If somebody else hadn’t taken initiative by then. Maybe they started sprinting, saw me dangling out there, and laughed.

I’m glad I tried it. Sitting in and waiting for a possible sprint victory is tough – it’s tough with ringers like Lombardi and Aracena in the field, it’s tough on the psyche, the notion that I spent twentyfive bucks to risk my bike and my neck cruising around Prospect Park for over an hour so I can race for a minute and a half.

I’d rather upgrade on points than on top ten finishes, and to do that I’m going to have to take risks. So I should try it. Attack. More often. Go ahead. I think about a guy who races out at the velodrome, Tadeusz Marszalek. He’s a great racer to watch because he attacks constantly. I’d rather race like him, not try to sit pretty and then hope that by some accident of registration I’m the best sprinter in the field. Because I’m not.

The right attack might get me that podium. Not this time, though.

Two teammates went down in the madness of the final moments before the sprint uncorked in earnest. Shoulder injuries. Kerry and Todd, best wishes for your rapid recovery.

Old Timers
June 11, 2009, 2:23 pm
Filed under: no one line, track racing, velodromes

Doing some circles outside the velodrome to keep my legs moving between races during a recent installment of the Twilight Series, an old-timer approached me and asked, “Hey, do they have any of these kind of races out in Jersey?”

“No,” I said, “This is the only track around. The nearest one is out in Trexlertown, Pennsylvania.”
“So, not out in Jersey?” he repeated.
“They used to have these races out in Jersey, I can’t believe they don’t have them anymore.”
“Well, this is the only track around, these days.”
“Do you win any money at these races? Any money in them?”
“No – I guess we just do it for bragging rights or something,” I replied.
“You know, I used to race. Not anymore. I’m ninety-three years old! And back then if there was any mention of money they’d take away our racing card!”

We chatted for a while longer and he told me that he used to race at the old New York Velodrome (that would be the old one in Inwood, not the hopeful/future New York Velodrome), they Coney Island Velodrome , and the Newark Velodrome, out in Vailsburg Park. He even raced at the old Madison Square Garden, home of legendary six-day races. “Before the six-day races,” he said, “there would always be amateur races, and I’d enter those! I’d come in third place, fourth place. Madison Square Garden was the only place you could earn money as an amateur, and I’d win fifteen or twenty bucks, which wasn’t bad back then…”

I introduced myself and he gave me his name, Gimelli, as I shook his arthritic hand. He reminded me of my grandfather, who passed away a year and a half ago – not because of similar looks, but it was his baseball cap, his skin of wax paper and wrinkles, and the creaky enthusiasm in his voice that congealed into a sort of familiarity. He was racing this sport in the 1920s, and it just seems fascinating and somehow supernatural for me to converse with somebody who, as a kid, could very well have been in my shoes, talking with somebody who lived through the Civil War. I had a million questions for Gimelli that I didn’t get to ask – how’d you start riding? What was the bike like? Why did you stop? What were the crowds at Madison Square Garden like? Did you train? Did you smoke? What was the building like? What were the people there like? What did you feel, think, see? What was the city like? Who did you talk do?

I felt like I was in a Utah Phillips story, knowing that the past didn’t go anywhere, that it’s with us if we find it. It reminded me of sitting with my grandmother at her kitchen table, clutching cups of tea when we weren’t holding each other’s hand, me writing down recipes that she was reciting off the top of her head.

But it’s a tenuous process, ties to the past, which I learned the next time I lined up on the rail. He walked over from the bleachers and leaned on the rail next to me, across the fence. Maybe he came up to me because I was familiar to him from our last conversation, but maybe there was only a faint recognition picking in his mind, because when he leaned on the rail he asked me, “Hey, do they have any of these kind of races in New Jersey?”

“No,” I replied after a moment. “This is the only track in the area.”
“Do you win any money at these?”
“No. I guess we just do it for ourselves… or for bragging rights…”
“I used to race. I’m ninety-three years old, and back then, if we mentioned money, they’d take our racing card away!”

The race began and I threw myself into a 15 lap Devil’s Scratch, properly exhausting enough to make me nearly vomit at the end, so it was a while before I was able to give this man the proper amount of thought. I enjoyed talking to him, and missing the old people who were in my life that I loved to much. And I gave thanks that my grandfather and grandmother lived out their days with continued mental acuity, though the discomfort of progressively diminishing health.

The past doesn’t go anywhere.

Smack-talk? No! Pack-talk!
June 9, 2009, 5:37 pm
Filed under: race, road racing, track racing

A blog post about intentional contact while racing led to comments about other ways to effectively communicate in a pack, and Aki mentioned something that I’ve realized for a little while: bikers can be vulnerable. He wrote:

I stopped yelling for a while, but I do it if it’s a critical point and no one’s moving. Usually someone does because the cry is enough to put them over the “should I go or should I stay” cusp.

A field can be so large and the dynamics of the pack can confuse a racer; people trying to make sense of a race situation through the haze of speed, fatigue, efforts, and recovery can be manipulated. Many people just feel better about doing something when they’re told to – when a command to do something resonates with their inkling that something must be done, it overrides their deer-in-the-headlights instinct toward inaction. People are susceptible to suggestion. “Close that gap!” “Go go go go!” Oh, I’m supposed to go now! That guy said it, so everybody must know it, so it must be true!

A track racing buddy of mine pushes a large gear and fairly regularly makes strong, late accelerations, going off the front with around two laps to go. They are exciting moves that don’t usually stick, but do shake things up a lot. Knowing his tendency for this, I’ve been able to use him to my advantage a few times. “Wind it up!” I’ll say at the right point, calling his name and hopping on his wheel. I get a generous draft from his tall frame as he runs the field ragged once he gets his 49/14 turning.

Beyond manipulating my fellow racers, I find vocalization to be helpful communication. At one of the first track meets I went to, one of the older racers was talky on the banking and I found it to be a good way to ground myself in a tight pack – I know where Luke is, because he is telling me where he is. So I do it, too: “Hup hup hup” if I’m moving up and want somebody to know that I’m on their hip; or, “inside, inside, inside.” It doesn’t really matter what I’m saying, just having some volume so that people don’t assume it’s safe to move off their line to follow another wheel forward.

Maybe this would be obsolete in a more advanced field than Category 4, but I approach packs full of strangers as dangerous until proven otherwise, and will take all precautions to make my location known. I’ve heard people express the sentiment that talkers are bothersome. I don’t care. I’m a talker. Chatting with a teammate on the way back from a Watermelon Crit, he told me that another member of the club had identified me as “that small guy who couldn’t stop talking” while racing.

I laughed. Right on the money.

Dissonance in Harmony
June 9, 2009, 3:32 pm
Filed under: no one line

I am halfway to an upgrade to Category 3 on both the road and the track, and I took the subway to work, again. Take the A Train was echoing in my head as I swiped my MetroCard and daydreamed about a bike with full fenders and a June that wasn’t 58 degrees and rainy.

With my household currently reporting from the front lines of the latest public health crisis and my tolerance for the omnipresent noise and fuss of New York City reaching another nadir I was stuck taking the pulse of my season again: if I get sick, it would put a damper on my development. If I don’t ride it will put a damper on my fitness. If I ride it will put a damper on my speed.

The irony is that despite fretting about causes and effects, I love being in the full-blown onslaught of the season. I love racing three or four times a week, when I can. I loved last Thursday’s 85 mile day – riding up to a crit, racing, placing, and riding from northern New Jersey all the way back to Brooklyn. As much as my constant insatiable hunger is somewhat perplexing and occasionally frustrating, it’s kind of enjoyable. I like stepping on the bathroom scale and seeing surprisingly low numbers. I like looking at the last week on my riding spreadsheet and seeing surprisingly high numbers.

But most of all, I like riding. Even when I’m not racing. I like getting out of the city, clad in my team kit, light and carefree, and turning my tire toward open roads. Refilling at shops. I like the pause for coffee and a muffin when I’m not checking my watch and wondering if I’ll be back in Brooklyn in time to fulfill my other obligations.

For many years, music was my restart button. When my brain began to feel tied in knots, spending an hour completely immersed in an album would leave me feeling stunningly refreshed; that, or picking up my guitar, playing along with the radio, singing a series of my own songs – the ones that were good, that were honest and accurate, that I kept feeling. Now, it’s a five-hour bike ride, the rhythm is my cadence, the melody is the ambient drone of tires on pavement and the harmony of my friend shifting gears beside me as we approach a hill or sprint for a light.