no one line

27 times the opportunity
December 18, 2009, 3:52 pm
Filed under: General, politics

For all of the bike-nerd talking about materials, butted tubings, carbon weaves, integrated headsets, and aerodynamic wheels you’d think that this stuff was actually important in some way. Indeed, some people really think that bikes are a revolution of sorts, and the potential is there. While retrofitting American cities to be more conducive to automobile travel – in order to mitigate the inefficiencies and toxic effects of automobile reliance – is no doubt a way to bring this country into the 21st century, a very real, very immediate way that the presence of a bicycle can change a society can be seen in the Africa Bike project by BicyclingMagazing and Kona. Bicycles, as simple, reliable transportation in areas that are struggling to maintain and develop, can vastly increase the ability of health care providers to provide health care.

And while every classics season or Grand Tour I’ll eagerly click through whatever cycling-news venue is carrying the coolest pictures of pro rides sporting the latest industry developments, the really cool area of technological development of bicycles is in bamboo (interestingly enough, also present in pro racing). What’s the point of nonsense like this? Well, Bamboo bikes can have a significant impact on the developing world, and the mobility they afford can provide owners with 27 times the economic opportunity that they previously had.

The reason that all of this is compelling is the fact that bamboo, unlike steel, aluminum, or carbon fiber, is a frame material that can be locally grown. This drastically reduces the production overhead necessary to produce bicycles, enabling their production in developing societies. It’s the classic teach-a-person-how-to-fish scenario. Bamboo can bring bicycles, economic opportunity, and health care to the parts of the world where they’ll make the most difference.

Where bicycles actually are a revolution, not just a hobby or a way to feel ‘green.’ Kudos to the Bamboo Bike Project, to Calfee, to Bicycling Mag, and to Kona for their work.

Al is the King of NYC Roller Races
December 11, 2009, 7:11 pm
Filed under: fun, pro crap, race, rollers

My good buddy Al is the King of NYC Roller Racing. At last night’s roller races, he beat (ahem, BEAT) Olympic-level and professional track racer Bobby Lea and got to the finals, where he had a lead on Andy Lakatosh (as in, Andy Lakatosh!) before, well, finishing third to Lakatosh and somebody wearing stars and stripes – all things considered, a good result.

The cool thing about roller racing is that it’s a rare way in cycling to go head-to-head with people who are way out of your league, but whom you still have a shot of beating. Rollers offer little resistance, which all but removes power and strength from the equation – it is, in essence, a test of pure leg speed and its secondary requirements – stability, souplesse, and concentration, the latter of which is incredibly important in convincing your body to sustain 150+ RPM for almost a minute.

Obviously, Al wouldn’t be able to take these beefcakes on the track. But on rollers? Well, if it takes some National Champ and a pro to send Al all the way down to 3rd place, well – there’s no one in New York City who can take him. And he got to throw down with some national calibre races, and hold his own. And that is pretty damn impressive.

2012 Giro to start in… Washington DC?
December 11, 2009, 1:44 pm
Filed under: pro crap

The New York Times reported that organizers of the Giro d”Italia are in very serious talks with Washington, DC about starting the 2012 race in DC. (I’m sure that this was reported in a bevy of cycling news publications, too, but that it was reported in the NYTimes is a nice inclusion of cycling among more popular – in America – sports).

I would like the organizers of the Giro, and anybody who’s making decisions on behalf of DC, to take note of this:

I will travel to watch a prologue run on American soil. I don’t know where I’ll be living in 2012, but you can make no mistake of this. I will travel to watch the Giro. I will make a weekend out of a prologue time trial. I will spend money on your local event sponsors, I will scream for the cameras, and I will get all hero-crazy over all those lycra-clad freaks of nature whose job it is to run their bodies in to the ground for a month in May.

Not only that, but I’ll bring friends. We will be a convoy – nay, an army, piling our bikes into rented cars (no doubt dinging spokes in the process), cramming our bodies into whatever space remains, meeting up at rest stops to remind each other how giddy we are. We’ll get to our destination late at night, where ever we’re staying – a friend’s house, or some hotel or motel. Some will unload the cars, some will go pick up the others from the busses, and some will assemble our bikes for our morning ride. We’ll feel marvelously PRO, just a little bit, when we amble on a lazy several-hour ride that will (to be honest) be more of a can-we-find-any-pro-teams-out-riding reconnaissance trip than a training ride. We’ll sprint for town lines. We’ll come back and eat a lot of food, drink good beer or wine, and get ready to watch the prologue the next day.

It will be the highlight of our goddamn year. It will be awesome enough that during the other Grand Tour – you know, the one with the more prestigious color for a leader’s jersey – we’ll only be thinking about the Giro and how good it was for us.

Make it happen.

And then the next year, do it in New York City. On closed streets throughout downtown.

A New Build
December 8, 2009, 7:57 pm
Filed under: bikes, products, road bikes

Here’s the deal, world. I will go to my grave insisting that I am a not the new-bike-each-season type of jerk (I say “jerk” out of jealousy, which is a form of love). Now, I know that the evidence against me is pretty staggering. Let’s see – two seasons of track racing on three different frames. Starting my first full road season on my third road frame in a year and a half. But I swear – I’m a cheapskate. There were extenuating circumstances!

And here’s another extenuating circumstance. I’ll race next year on a Skeletor, from Spooky Bikes. I rode home from their facility in Easthampton, MA with the frame over my shoulder, excited as all hell. I won it at SpookyCX in Easthampton, a few weeks ago. All pre-registrants were entered into a raffle, and what happened went something like this.

Promoter: “[Blah blah blah], Category 4 men, to the line, please!”

(everybody scuffles and shuffles forward. I take a spot on the side, in the first row)

Promoter: “As you all know we’re raffling off a Spooky Bikes frame today.”

Everyone: “Whoo! I hope it’s me!”

Promoter: “With Mathmumble Mumblesomesuch please step forward?”

Me: “Uh, was that my name?”

Promoter: “Sure!”

Me: Why am I getting a call-up? Are there call-ups? Did I somehow score points in this series at some point? Seems unlikely…

Promoter: “You won a bike.”

Me: “What?”

Promoter: “Everybody chase that guy. He just won a frame.”

Me: “What?” I throw my arms into the air, victory-style.

Them: Laughter and raging jealousy.

Me: “Holy shit!”

Even getting called up to several feet in front of the field wasn’t good enough for me to get a decent hole shot, and I settled in ten back as the field rocketed through the fast course. It was the funnest ‘cross course I’ve ever raced – which I can say because I didn’t get a chance to race Tracklocross – and I had a big smile throughout. The course had lots of fast, sweeping hardpack, some good terrain, and I passed  more people than passed me, kept hunting a podium spot, but wound up finishing 4th.

Afterward, I settled down near the Spooky Bus to talk things over with Mickey, the mad genius behind the company, and in short order I was convinced that this rag-tag outfit of ruffians really knew what they were doing. A visit to their shop a week later only had me further convinced, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on my frame.

I’ll build it up classic cheapskate-style – the parts from my CoMotion, of course, and an Alpha Q fork that I got for cheap because it needs a minor repair. Of course, I’ll crow loudly the day it’s finished – probably with pictures from an inaugural ride. It will be a little bit, maybe a few weeks or so, but it will happen pretty soon all things considered.

And I’ll review the bike here on my blog, but you can expect me to be pretty positive about it. I’ve already been given lots of reason to be impressed with Spooky’s business and products. You can take my nonsense with a grain of salt if I’m recommending a frame or a company before even riding their darn frame, but hey – go visit them yourself, spend a half hour talking with Mickey, and see if you’re not in my shoes.

Fenders. Or, Cyclocross Season is Over
December 1, 2009, 5:26 pm
Filed under: cyclocross, training

I’ve made a great step as a cyclist. I put full fenders on a bike. “Wait, how can this be?” you ask. “You’ve never had fenders on a bike?” Nope. I’ve had those mediocre clip-on affairs attached to the seatpost of my daily riders, but even after spending winters working outdoors, on my bicycle, I’ve never had a full set. Because, until now, I’ve never had a bike that has provisions for full fenders.

This means that cyclocross season is over. My right forearm is still sore from hoisting the bike – my shoulder is bruised from the beach run at yesterday’s StatenCX (last year’s race in Staten Island was my first cross race). I’ve compiled some good results, and some terrible ones. And I’ve had a few damn good weekends.

I’ve got a handful of 4th place finishes under my belt, and some more experience, which will be helpful for next year, if I decide to go for a full season. Cheshire, last weekend, was a miserably technical course with a brutally long run-up. Spooky ‘Cross, in Easthampton, MA, had plenty of racecourse on fast, hardpacked trails. I’ve made it to the far end of a sandpit on my bike. And I even won a frame from the kind folks at Spooky, which I can’t wait to pick up, build up, and tear around on. I’ll go with their Skeletor.

This morning, my sweetheart and I went on a cold two hour ride in twenty-something temperatures as the sun was climbing over the hills that ring the river valley. I anticipate being able to ride even in the rain – hey, even Cavendish fenderizes and utilitizes his bike for the winter -since it’s time to update the old training spreadsheet, think about base periods and build periods and weekly hours, and ride with an eye for the 2010 road season.

I’ve got hills around here. I’ve got time. Come April, I’m going to be lean and mean.