no one line

Time Off
April 26, 2010, 12:26 am
Filed under: no one line

Loyal readers – I have a few of those, you know – will notice my decreasing frequency in posts. It’s spring – I’m out racing bikes, working two jobs, and working on the intricacies of life.

So I’ve decided to formalize some time off from writing No One Line, lest I leave anybody wondering.

I’ll leave you all with some parting thoughts.

  • I think it’s pretty funny to be yelled at for not pulling through when my teammate is off the front. Of course I’m not going to work.
  • Not everybody who wins a race is a sandbagger. Therefor, it’s stupid to call everyone who wins a race a sandbagger who should upgrade. But people persist on the illogical notion that the only winners are undeserving ones.
  • On a recovery day a few weeks ago, I felt like I had something to prove, so I went and I rode up “my climb” over a minute faster than I had ever done before. This satisfies me that I’m making some progress. Pyramid intervals reinforce that. I”ve been trying to shock my legs to life.
  • It’s been a really cool Spring Classics season.
  • Something happened, and, I, uh, I think I’m a Cadel Evans fan. It feels strange to admit it, but lately I’ve been rooting for the guy!
  • In amateur races, what’s the point of wheel support if they won’t pace you back to the field?
  • In response to the search term that apparently brought one Internet User to this blog (“Was Marco Pantani a good sprinter?”): Marco Pantani was a climber.

I’ll be back – when I’m ready. In the meantime, make sure you balance miles per hour with smiles per hour.

Thank You Mr Brown
February 3, 2010, 4:00 pm
Filed under: bikes, fixed gears, fun, no one line, the cycling world

Today is the second anniversary of the death of Sheldon Brown.

It seems strange that a bicycle mechanic from Boston would gain international attention to the point that “Sheldon Brown” would become a verb in internet lingo. Its meaning is simple: look it up on Sheldon Brown’s website, because he has the complete information and concise instructions.

What length bottom bracket spindle do I need? Sheldon Brown it. I want to build my first wheel – how? Sheldon Brown. How do I measure chainline or BCD? Sheldon Brown. Always.

His popularity grew in part because of his article Fixed Gear Bicycles For The Road, which was a portal into fixed-gear cycling for many novices. His article had it all: explanations of fixed gears from soup to nuts that managed to be both basic and thorough. No better portal to cycling could be found: the combination of a knowledgeable wrench with a flair for archival and arcane memory, skilled at clear communication; and the fixed gear bicycle, which in its simplicity and unique, unusual ride experience got countless people back into the saddle after long absences, reigniting passion for the bike the world over. Forget rants about hipsters. When I started riding one, I knew that riding a fixed gear was fun and unusual and it was the start of an ongoing love affair with cycling. The gateway to much more.

For that, I have Mr. Brown to thank.

I’ve always tried to approach death and grieving in combination with thanksgiving, and while Mr Brown died before we met (though after several email exchanges, during which he was friendly, open to persistent questions, and informative), I regretted never meeting him and appraising his eccentricity in person. But I’m thankful that when my curiousity was roused and I googled “fixed gear” lo these many years ago, his website was there to greet me and to provide both enthusiasm and a rich volume of information.

What an introduction to the cycling world.

Thank you, Sheldon Brown.

January Wrap-Up
January 31, 2010, 11:07 pm
Filed under: General, no one line

With the Tour Down Under providing fodder for early-season speculation (not to mention fashion criticism), us warmsick Northerners (under home arrest due to 12F temperatures) are starting to have enough reason to get excited for the coming race season. Personal, professional – it doesn’t matter. Whether you like your racing on the television (and internet) or in a colorful peloton all around you, knowing that it’s just a month and a half until Things Start Happening is bound to get your heart rate up.

Podium Cafe‘s interview with George Hincapie managed to get me excited for spring classics a full two and a half months before they roll around. On the sobering end of things, Tom Zirbel announced that his B sample tested positive for DHEA. Those with too much time on their hands scrambled to their preferred message board, trotting out either brickheaded condemnations or tenuous scientific claims. Things don’t quite add up for an out-and-out condemnation, and to Zirbel’s credit, he is forthcoming and doesn’t limit his media exposure to PR-friendly soundbites swearing his innocence.

While we’re forced to make do by bundling up and braving the temperatures – or just sitting at our computers – those lucky dogs actually got to ride and race bikes in Australia, where Andre Greipel (who looks like a skeleton robot when he wins) proved dominant despite the fizzling of HTC-Columbia’s leadout train. Early season speculation in full effect, I wonder if Hincapie’s departure from HTC-Columbia will ruin their train (and Cavendish’s dominance of Tour de France sprint stages). I wonder if Greipel will take a run at Cav’s job, or leave HTC altogether for a shot at the Tour de France.

It’s too early for such things, though – though a glance at the calendar is a reminder that fitness must be deep and the racing season is approaching.  The cold weather must be braved. And truth to tell, even at this time of the year, I’d rather brave the cold weather than the toxic menace of messageboards populated by shiftless idiots, babbling incoherent vehemence in their cabin fever.

Winter Hibernation
January 5, 2010, 10:49 pm
Filed under: no one line

Happy New Year, everybody.

Here in chilly New England, it’s time to sit back, take a good luck at late autumn training, and tweak my plans for the next few months. It’s also time to troll through BikeReg for the dates of major races, and as I look at my new frame, I imagine sprinting and climbing on it in these major races, and my heartrate goes up a few notches.

It’s winter.

This blog has been quiet for a bit, but with the New Year comes new gear, new plans, and a whole lot of new excitement. Deciduous trees, though they look dead and dormant in the winter, are actually using their stored energy to grow their roots deeper and stronger underground, laying the foundation for further spring and summertime growth in their branches and leaves.

That’s just what cyclists do: we lay the base of subtle strength in anticipiation for greater heights and higher reaches of the warmer months.

The Consensus Line
November 18, 2009, 4:42 pm
Filed under: no one line

A recent post by Joe Parkin reminds me of something that I recently learned in a handful of cyclocross races: the consensus line is not always the fastest line. There may be a faster way through a turn than the line worn into the muck and matted grass.

Parkin wasn’t talking about cyclocross, just amateur racing, when he said that there’s a lot of bullshit that passes for conventional knowledge, bandied about by people with little experience. Edward Abbey quips that folk wisdom is nothing more than expedient stupidity; like the line in the ‘cross course, conventional knowledge can be flat-out wrong.

Some people yell “Hold your line” like it’s a Tourette’s tic without ever knowing what it means. Some people buy Zipps before they buy Friel. Some people scoff at racing in the lower categories in an attempt to distance themselves from newbie-status, but nothing says mediocre more than a Cat 3 asserting superiority over a cat 4. And to me, the best part about racing is that it can be incredibly fun and fulfilling at any level, and while I look forward to moving up in the ranks of this sport, I have no intention of deriding where I started from.

What do you think: what gets bandied around as conventional wisdom that you would readily discard?

November 6, 2009, 3:18 pm
Filed under: no one line, training

Despite an injury to a major typing finger, I’ve returned from spending many chilly autumn days restoring an old farmhouse in Duchess County, New York to update No One Line. No, I haven’t been too busy to post because of being best friends with Joe Parkin; rather, work and the necessities of setting up life in a new place have kept me away from idle hours at the keyboard.

Instead, I’ve spent my leisure time absorbing Joel Friel‘s The Cyclist’s Training Bible. Its audacious title is accurate; any rider new to serious training is bound to hear “Want to get faster? Read Friel.” I train with neither a heart rate monitor nor a power meter, as he recommends, but the book still offers a lot of potentially useful information. It took a bit of time wading through the chapters before getting to the bits that made all those pages sort of crystalize, but once I felt I absorbed it, I realized that the book contains information on what exercises will develop what areas, where to locate which developments within a larger training structure, and how to plan a season. It takes work, but it’s valuable.

And with that absorbed, I’ve been sliding back into the waters of serious riding, starting with the all-important Fun Riding. Friel calls it a Preparation Period, before the building of the base. Some off the bike workouts, combined with, for me, the re-experiencing of the joy that comes with throwing a leg over the saddle and discovering new places. There are farm roads here that lead out to nowhere, to climbs with thousand-foot elevation gains, to roads along ridgetops. There are flat river valley dirt roads perfect for stomping around on my cyclocross bike, fording muddy puddles and sliding around wet silt while orange-vested hunters call their dogs back from their run through endless cornfields. I could explore forever.

Yesterday morning, a buddy and I woke up early at the worksite. I slammed back a cup of steaming coffee and we launched our cross bikes at the equestrian trails running through the woods, bunnyhopping up to plank-bridges over small streams, picking our way through rocks and roots, and taking arcing lines through patches of mud. We were just out playing bikes, and it was excellent.

Leaving New York City…
October 16, 2009, 8:09 pm
Filed under: no one line

The rumors are true.

Updates have been slim lately because of the transitional mess I’ve been inhabiting. To wit: four sets of apartment keys, zero bicycles, and too many nights spent in too many different places.

All that’s about to change, finally. Northampton, Mass, here I come.

Wish me luck.

I’ll be back – to visit.

Happy Birthday to No One Line
October 7, 2009, 4:09 pm
Filed under: no one line

No One Line recently turned 1 year old; consider the new layout and the new location to be a birthday present of sorts.

This blog started with this post a year ago; I’ve filled it with a little over a hundred posts of cycling miscelanity and inanity, ranging from waxing obsessive to  the occasional race report; from light local news to occasional Pro commentary. Among the rough are the occasional pieces I consider to be, for me, diamonds: among them, Racing and Renaissance, Old Timers, and On Losing Part II. Among the noise of a huge cycling world is the clear signal of race tactics that makes this sport as mentally engaging as it can be physically demanding.

And despite being occasionally lazy and self indulgent, I’ve even managed to attract a few readers. Thanks for visiting, and I hope you stick around for another year.

Revenge of Bear Mountain
September 17, 2009, 8:03 pm
Filed under: no one line, road race

I don’t think that Bear Mountain will forgive me. When I first saw the profile of the race course through Harriman State Park (not actually all that close to Bear Mountain), I thought, “It looks pleasant, but wouldn’t it be nicer if it actually had a hill or two?” When I raced it, that long, slow drag up the Tiorati climb – never particularly steep, but long enough to hurt – was kind enough to point out the error of my ways. If it wasn’t clear the first time, it was more than obvious the fourth time, and I finished the race cramping badly, albeit with a decent result. It was good enough to give me some confidence for the fall incarnation of the race, and I figured that the uphill finish this time around would suit me.

The race’s formal name is the Nancy Morgenstern Memorial Race, named for a local racer who died on 9/11, but I had been referring to it as Revenge of Bear Mountain. Foreshadowing? I guess that race wasn’t done surprising me. Unlike the spring’s social pace for the first half (or more) of the race, this weekend’s race was hard from the gun and we climbed Tiorati Book Road really fast. It felt really fast, anyway. Maybe I’m not in top form. I don’t care. It was fast and hard. Struggling to close gaps only ten miles into a 56 mile race? That’s not good.

The second time up it we caught the Masters’ field, which should be an indication that we were moving pretty quickly. Unfortunately, the overtake was a complete mess, and I wound up getting stuck behind Masters and follow vehicles as the fronts of the fields mixed and ten or so 4 riders went up the road with who-knows-how-many Masters riders. Trying to find another match to light to jump up the rest of the hill, I was nearly run off the road by a support vehicle (not to mention the two SUVs behind it, crawling up the hill), and had to settle for settling into a rotation with four or five other riders who were highly motivated by the extent to which they were pissed off at the mess that knocked them away from the front of the race.

We were almost back on when, flying through a roundabout, we all had to grab brakes and adjust our arcs to avoid a towncar that marshalls hadn’t bothered to stop. There are only so many times you can be demoralized, and if they all come in the span of a few miles of very hard riding, well, their effect is exponential. When we got to the feed zone, I was frustrated, and I threw in the towel shortly thereafter (but not before grimacing, or growling, or something, for the photographer…). If I had a more thoroughly competitive spirit, I’d even have been thoroughly pissed off.

Imagine how I feel when I see the results and realize that one of my companions in the chase managed 10th place. And me thinking that half the field was still up the road. I shouldn’t have dropped out. Live and learn.

It’s an interesting welcome to the tail end of the season.

Goodbye IRO
September 10, 2009, 8:35 pm
Filed under: bikes, fixed gears, no one line

My faithful everyday bike, which hasn’t really seen a whole lot of use in the past year, is going to a new home.

I got this bike in 2005. Prior to that, I had a junky fixed gear conversion, and wanted something a bit more held-together. It was the first time I had bought myself something nice – other than my guitar amp. I used it to go on my first “long ride,” from NYC’s Chinatown to my parents’ house in Bergen County, NJ. Almost twenty miles, stopping every now and then on the West Side Bike Path to tug the toestraps tighter. That ride made me decide that I wanted to be a little bit healthier, to get better at riding this bike.

Then I took it with me to live in Bridgeport, Connecticut, where it was a valuable companion in that lonely city. I used it to explore the seaside, the factories, the quiet and ramshackle neighborhoods. When my time there was up, I took it to the Bronx and discovered the fun and odd world of urban cycling. I got hit by a livery cab making a capricious u-turn underneath the elevated 2/5 on Westchester Avenue, which led me to get chewed out by a rookie cop posing tough for his partner, and hugged by the tearful, fearful, and carelss driver who was so relieved I was okay (and I was relieved that the bike was fine). I rode the Tour de Bronx and hoped that I’d be introduced to the person riding the yellow KHS. I rode Critical Mass and met the rider of the KHS. She doesn’t have the KHS anymore, but a few other really nice bikes are filling up our bike room.

Soon I was swinging my leg over its handlebars for alleycat races. Some respectable finishes made me catch a racing bug that led me to get a track bike, a road bike, and a cyclocross bike – after racing the IRO on the Kissena Velodrome, taking it up and down 9W, and throwing some knobbies on it and racing it at StatenCX. Anywhere I went it took me there first.

It’s gone through saddle swaps, a myriad handlebar configurations, and more wheel swaps than I can count. I think I even had matching wheels on it for a month or two. Once, in a pinch, I attached a threadless stem to its seatpost, put some bullhorns in it, and taped a bunch of cargo to this impromptu rack. I slowly and haphazardly added stickers. Spending two winters working food delivery shifts helped transform it from the pretty (if simple) thing I adored to a rugged tool that got thrown against poles, covered in snow, and rattled senseless over cobblestones. Other bikes got babied – the Pogliaghi, the Felt, the Co-Motion. And then, they too went through a similar transformation. At Fawn Grove I winced as gravel bounced all over the race course, flying off tires, not because they were slamming into my shins (though they were), but because they were slamming into my road bike’s downtube. And halfway, as my body was well in the red, my head changed, and the bike had become what the IRO had become – a tool.

But with a new bike on the way, built for more specific uses, the IRO has got to go. A bike stable should keep sentimentality to a minimum, I think, and even when living space isn’t at the same premium at which it used to be, the inclination toward maximum-bike ought to be curbed.

It’s not the bike – it’s the memories.